One final tip from the latest book, New Frugality.  If you can, buy college in advance.

Between 1982 and 2007 the cost of fees and tuition rose 439 percent.  Even when adjusting for inflation, the increasing cost of college education is greatly outpacing the purchasing power of the dollar.

So, if it is a foregone conclusion that screeching diaper-clad sleep thief will end up in a dorm someday,  you can purchase it down in advance.  Sometimes, you can even lock in today’s price and future proof yourself.

There are 529 plans, which offer tax-free withdrawal on earnings in the account, since the profit is earmarked for a future college education.  Some states also offer prepaid college tuition accounts, where you can lock in semesters today even though they will surely cost ridiculous amounts tomorrow..

On a side note, did you know that Augustana costs around $47,000 a year?

Another financial tip the new book, New Frugality.   You’re smarter than a wall-street money manager.

Index funds duplicate the performance of a particular stock market index.  The most famous equity index fund is the S&P 500.  It is made up of stocks of the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies.  They’re on that list because they are the 500 BEST COMPANIES!

“Indexing is commonly referred to as passive investing.  No professional money manager is trying to beat the market, rapidly buying and selling stocks. Yet index funds routinely outperform most actively managed funds.  Why?  A big advantage is their low cost.  The annual fee for investing in the S&P 500 is some 0.10 percent versus an average of almost 1.5 percent for actively managed funds.  Index funds have no research analyst costs or multimillion dollar money manager salaries to pay.

Mark Kritzman of Windham Capital Management simulated an imaginary investor using index funds, mutual funds, and hedge funds.  Index funds had the highest rate of return at 8.27 percent, since the actively managed mutual fund’s costs are 3 times higher, and the hedge fund six times higher.

According to millionaire philanthropist Robert Wilson, “I’d say as a general rule put it in index funds.  I don’t see why small investors should horse around with money managers.”

Another tip from the new book by NPR personality Chris Farrell, New Frugality… freeze your credit card.  No, not do a security freeze to prevent people from accessing your credit file, another great idea.

He means take the card out of your wallet or purse and put it in a container full of water.  Then give it the ol’ Han Solo treatment in your Frigidaire.

“Put the credit card away when you’re eliminating debt.  One technique is to store the card in the freezer.  That’s right, place the credit card in a container of water and stick it in the freezer.  You have to wait for it to thaw before you can use it again.  It gives you the time to think whether you really want to use it.  Yes, the card will work once it’s thawed.”

The next few Frugal Librarian blog posts are ideas gathered from Chris Farrell’s new book, The New Frugality.  Farrell  is the host of the public radio program Marketplace Money.

Bud Hebeler is a retired aerospace engineer from Boeing that founded the conservative financial advice website analyzenow.com. Below are some of his top savings tips:

-Arrange for automatic savings deposits from your paychecks
-Sell things you don’t really need on the Net or elsewhere
-Downsize your home or rent. Renting provides mobility to get jobs elsewhere in the country
-Grow your own vegetables
-Buy items with cash
-Rule out cars, cell phones, or iPods for children—or even for yourselves
-Make do with old computers, and software. Use no downloads requiring payments
-Try to get lower-cost TV, Internet, and telephone services
-Turn down the thermostat and wear sweaters

Library patrons don’t often get a chance to see how the dollars and quarters accrue in their favor.  Spend a couple minutes plunking in values on this Library Value Calculator assembled by several libraries across the country to get an accurate representation of the kind of value you as a consumer have reaped.

For example, if you have used the library to answer two reference questions, borrow two books, check out two movies, and use the internet for two hours, count yourself a savvy spender friend.  You’ve just saved 114 dollars.  Before you call these figures inflated and self-serving, go to a doctor, lawyer or body shop and see how quickly their services tally up.

Being a library cardholder is not just good citizenship, it is smart money.

Suppose its time for that blog post again…

Our tax forms arrived a little bit late this year, but we just assembled the displays at Main and Fairmount.

Outside of the IRS office, libraries are the only place where you can get forms if for some reason you still haven’t attempted filing online.  Though a slower and typically less-accurate process, some people prefer the paper method.  We stock the federal and state forms as a service, though the chute gets narrower every year as they try to corral the populace as a whole into e-filing.

New this year is the:

Schedule L (Standard Deduction for Certain Filers – it isn’t as simple anymore since there are new add-on deductions on top of it) and

Schedule M (Making Work Pay Credit)

Shelter for the SpiritVictoria Moran believes that housekeeping is actually a form of affection for your home. All caregiving (for people or things)  should  lead one to gradually love what one cares for. Thomas More says in the introduction to Shelter for the Spirit,  “Ordinary chores satisfy primal longings.”

This book is not about practical tips and tricks, or full of lists of the many tasks you need to do, year-round. It’s more about changing your attitude and savoring everyday acts. This is an inspiring work for those of us stressed and depressed about how much endless, repetitive work is involved in taking care of a house.

The author says, “Human beings need a place to foster an inner life….It is about reclaiming home as the primary center for our spirituality, our resourcefulness, and the best moments of our lives.”

Besides the high-flown spirtual benefits of creating your own personal haven, you, as  Moran says, “feel more in control of your life when your house is in order.”

Published by Martha Stewart, Simple Home Solutions is divided into Kitchen, Home & Garden, etc. No one produces more elegantly laid out, beautifuly lit photos than Martha herself.  This is the old-school Martha, not the newer glitzier version. She was truly the master of the quietly serene way of life.

This is a  timely book, because, ultimately,  Martha is very frugal.  Some of my favorite tips are: to put rubber bands around a lid and a jar to open a stubborn jar lid, remove sweater pills with a fine toothed comb, put candles in paper towel tubes to store them, hang chalk to de-humidify a closet, or loosen a lock by rubbing a pencil on a key. One tip I actually did (and it works great) is to apply self-adhesive felt pads to the bottom of coffee makers or other counter utensils to make them slide across the counter top.

Some criticize Martha for her perceived elitism, but she also celebrates the ordinary. For example, the book explains how to root the very commonplace coleus and  how to smooth caulk with a plastic spoon. Even if you don’t act on any of the tips, it’s a soothing world to visit.

If you spend a little time in the regional news, you might know the spread of the Asian Carp has reached epidemic levels.  It has the discriminating diet of a billygoat and the reproductive powers of a bunny rabbit.    It is a hearty old beast, reaching up to 40 pounds apiece by eating nearly half their weight in plankton to the detriment of all the indigenous species.  One characteristic trait of the flying fish is its utter bewilderment by boat motors, causing them to leap out of the water and strike passengers.

How did we get them?  These bottom feeders were imported to Arkansas in a contested decision to have them clean out the waterways.  A flood deposited them in the Mississippi where they have proven quite hearty in a variety of water temperatures.

An estimated 20 million pounds of asian carp are in the waterways where the Department of Natural Resources is taking drastic steps to keep them out of Lake Michigan.  Ideas are in the works to harvest as many as possible for homeless shelters, prisons, and even to be ground into fertilizer and animal feed.

Outside of some pockets of Chicago’s Asian communities, there doesn’t seem to be a market for commercial fishermen to sell this catch.  This confuses the USGS’s Duane Chapman, who has put a very informative how-to series on youtube on how prepare the asian carp, which he feels yields very tasty and high-quality fillets despite an undeserved bad rap.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Fact:  There once was an ugly and plentiful fish no one would even consider eating called the Patagonian Toothfish. Some savvy marketers got together and it now commands a high price on restaurant menus under a different name… “Chilean Sea Bass.”

chickensCity officials in Davenport, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids aren’t the only ones to be considering how to deal with the recent vogue of urban chickens. The locovore movement and a struggling economy have combined to produce the “It” Bird, as Susan Orlean calls chickens. There are those that say that the Obamas should have a few at the White House. You can even find plans on the internet for building a coop out of Ikea furniture.

Orlean, author of the Orchid Thief, turns her eye to small-time chicken raising  in the September 28th  New Yorker. She traces the history of keeping fowl  in America, how they went out of favor in the fifties and  how they were gentrified by Martha Stewart’s gourmet chickens and pastel eggs. You may or may not know that Iowa is the home to the “largest rare-breed poultry hatchery in the world.”

Orlean herself finds the perfect solution for her needs…just a few chickens (guaranteed to be hens) and a small plastic coop. ( A British company called Omlet manufactures the Eglu).

If the subject intrigues you, check out The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Megyesi, Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock by Jay Rossier, and, of course, Raising Chickens for Dummies.