Money-Saving Tips For Gardeners – Plants For Less

If you’re a gardener looking to save money – and who isn’t these days? – here are budget-wise ways to save on plants. Who says you can’t grow a colorful flower garden at half the price? And if you grow vegetables and herbs, you can save on your grocery bills too. Here’s how:

Shop frugally

  • If you’re in the market for perennials, evergreens or flowering shrubs, go for smaller sizes. Plants in four-inch pots and shrubs in one-gallon pots generally cost half of the bigger plants do. When they grow, they’ll soon catch up to the bigger sizes.
  • Buy annuals by the flat. They’re usually 20% cheaper than if you buy individual cell packs.
  • Don’t miss local plant sales held by garden clubs, botanical gardens, or community groups. You’ll often find great plants at hard-to-beat prices.
  • Shop garden center sales later in the season. Look for perennials, trees and shrubs late in the summer and through the fall when garden businesses are looking to cut their inventory. I filled a huge country-garden flower bed with perennials this way.

Grow plants from seed

  • Try growing annuals, vegetables and herbs from seed. For the price of a seed packet, you usually get more than 50 seeds. That means lots of plants for a couple of dollars.
  • Easy annuals to grow from seed are alyssum, cosmos, sunflowers, larkspur, hyacinth bean vine, morning glory and zinnia.
  • With vegetables, try tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, peppers, string beans and zucchini. All are easy from seed if you follow the instructions on the seed packet.
  • Good herbs from seed are basil, coriander, dill and summer savory. Plant a short row every couple of weeks for a steady supply through the summer.
  • Some annuals and biennials are self-sowers, which means they can come back season after season (as long as you don’t weed them out). Try calendula, cosmos, foxglove, larkspur, poppies, spider flower (cleome) and verbascum.

Divide what’s already in your garden

  • You can double or triple your plants for the price of a little digging, and trade divisions with friends and neighbors. Spring is a good time to divide many perennials.
  • Strong growers from divisions are daylilies, asters, coral-bells, heuchera, astilbe, Siberian iris, campanula, hostas, cranesbill geraniums and rudbeckias.

The Humble Pawn Shop Gains Mainstream Acceptance

The United States, as well as most of the industrialized world, has endured the longest and most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The causes of this recession are still being debated, as well as the possible solutions, with no conclusive or unifying opinion. Regardless of the numerous expert opinions that have been offered, there is fundamental agreement that the middle class has been extremely hard hit by these economic conditions. This has resulted in fundamental changes in a group that has been the proverbial “backbone” of American society and is known for playing by the rules and working hard to build a better future for the next generation.

The principal of working at a manufacturing assembly job for 20-30 years and then retiring with a pension is largely a thing of the past. Fewer private employers are offering benefits such as health insurance and the “trump card” of rising home values has largely vanished. Long periods of unemployment, vanishing retirement savings and the devastating effects of major illness while being uninsured have also devastated many middle class families. All of these factors combined have had a remarkable and long lasting impact to principles that middle class have held dear for generations.

While these bedrock principles of middle class America have been under tremendous assault, the ability and/or desire of the banks to lend money to this hard working group of people has also ground to a halt. In the opinion of many former borrowers, their banks seem quite content to invest in large corporate entities, manipulate huge quantities of money for short term profits and simply no longer view the middle class as anything other than a possible checking account with the associated fees and surcharges. Because of this a particular resentment has been fomented amongst those who have been displaced from the former financial norm and alternative methods of financing have risen in popularity.

It is due to these circumstances, and many others, that the humble Pawn Shop has fundamentally changed from the role of “Lender of Last Resort” to a mainstream entity that has filled the role of “The Bank” for many struggling middle class members of American society. The previously held stigma that pawn brokers were experts at obtaining high value items for very little money, by presuming that the customer would default on the loan, has largely vanished. With an average of 85% – 87% of pawn loan customers paying back their loans and retrieving their items, there is hard evidence now that the pawn shop has indeed become a primary financial partner for many struggling Americans.

The recent development of several popular television programs such as “Pawn Stars”, which is currently one of the most popular programs on The History Channel, has gone a long way to further dispel the stigma that has saddled pawn shops for generations. It is through these programs that large segments of the population, who had no idea what services pawn shops actually provide, have become educated and openly accepting of the traditional pawn shop. This programming has reinforced the truth that pawn shops are owned and operated by real people, with high standards of ethics and moral values, who while constrained by the financial realities of running a business, will indeed do everything they possibly can to help their customers.

While many middle class families are choosing to turn unneeded items into much needed cash through yard sales and popular Internet “bulletin boards” such as Craigslist, many families have concerns about the security of these sales methods. In this day and age, the thought of strangers arriving to look at jewelry or a yard full of unknown people at a family sale raises serious concerns for many. Once again the pawn shop fulfills the needs of the customer by purchasing unneeded items such as jewelry, electronics and collectibles in a safe and secure environment, often times paying much more than the seller expected. Factor in the expense and genuine hassle of private selling items and the pawn shop is an unbeatable source of cash for many sellers.

Another fundamental change in middle class America, which has occurred due to the lengthy economic downturn, has been the popularity of being thrifty and frugal. It is no longer viewed as a bragging point to proclaim how MUCH one has paid for a particular item, but now it is viewed as a “Badge of honor” in many middle class social circles to announce how LITTLE was paid. It is in this role that pawn shops have truly gained valuable acceptance. Typically, top quality items can be purchased at pawn shops for 30% – 60% less than even the offerings of the ubiquitous “Big box retailers”. Therefore at a social gathering or during casual conversation, the savvy pawn shop customer easily has the upper-hand in the now popular game of “Who paid less?”

Finally, pawn shops have picked up a rapidly growing demographic of customers who are heavily environmentally focused and also keenly aware of the explosive “Buy Local!” movement. For many purchases the massive amount of packing materials that must be disposed of is nonexistent at the pawn shop. The item is purchased, removed from the display shelf and ready to use without the pile of foam, cardboard, plastic and holding straps that accompany a purchase from a “Big box retailer”. Additionally, through the efforts of groups such as Local First Arizona, recession weary consumers have become keenly aware of the importance of buying from locally owned businesses. Consumers are much more aware now, due to the current economic conditions, that buying local keeps more dollars within their communities and allows the merchant to invest more dollars in hiring, expansion and growth within the community.

In conclusion, it is apparent in 2012 that the destructive economic conditions within this recession will eventually dissipate somewhat and that things will begin to improve. What remains to be seen is what type of middle class will emerge after suffering for such a long time and having to fundamentally change in order to survive? If history has taught us anything, it is that the American middle class is quick to help those in need and does not forget those who have helped THEM in their time of need. If anything of value has emerged from these historically difficult times it is that the principals of right and wrong still hold an important place in the American middle class and this foundation of American society will not forget who has genuinely helped them when the going got tough. It also seems that through this recession, the humble pawn shop has genuinely shed the undeserved “stigma” that has long been a part of the industry and finally found genuine mainstream acceptance.

Remarkable People

Every week I meet hundreds of remarkable people. Many know they are remarkable, some the world knows are remarkable, but unfortunately most don’t yet know that the have potential to be remarkable.

Each of us has the opportunity and ability to live fulfilled, passionate lives. Inside us is the potential for achieving success, success as defined and created by our own initiative, interest, intellect, and action.

A personal coach can help you define and achieve the life you desire. Through reflection, provocation, guidance, and accountability your coach can help you become the remarkable person you are destined to become.

If you have demons shouting scripts into your ears, from inside your head, this isn’t meant as a substitute for therapy or medication. The suggestions here are meant to augment your existing regimen and are meant to make you uncomfortable. From the depths of depression or despair, self-pity rises up and attempts to drag you down. The surest defense against overwhelming and melancholy is to be of service to others. Having a purpose, other than yourself, is a motivation to get up and get on with your day.

All of life is series of small steps, small steps, side steps, a bigger step, a backward stumble and dozens of more smaller steps until you arrive at the destination – joy.

Ask yourself – ” when I think of someone who could use my help, what name jumps out?”. Be honest, you got a flash, an answer that intuition and karma are calling you towards. Accept that name and ask a second question.” what is the least I can do to be of service to them?” Today’s least might be too big a step to undertake but by breaking the task into bite size pieces you won’t bite off more than you can chew.

Imagine that you heard Tom as an answer to the first question and invite him for Sunday dinner was the action. If you are overwhelmed by the thought of planning, preparing, serving and entertaining for a big dinner there may still be a way to be of service and build towards a dinner in a couple of months.

Can you do some baking; everyone has favorite cookies and then call Tom and make a delivery. In this scenario you control the situation and timeline, you reduce the effort but you still add value to someone you is waiting for your assistance (even if they don’t know it is you). The act of thinking about someone else, considering their circumstances, pressing forward and finding a way to make a difference and then acting on it is life fulfilling. You are a better person for your action, you will feel better (not perfect) and Tom will have a glimmer of hope in every delicious morsel.

Baking isn’t the solution to all problems (it just seems like it should be) and when you answer the who and how questions you will likely end up with a different approach. The process of making it bite size is successful when you are honest with yourself.

Write the preferred goal (what you imagined was your call) on the left hand side of a page – Feed Tom Sunday Dinner. On the left side write, honestly where you are today (your current state) Feeling Overwhelmed. Between the two columns begin creating a list of steps that will get you from today to the preferred future. Bake, call Tom, buy lunch, have coffee, arrange a date, grocery shopping, plan a meal, find recipes, prepare food, clean house, purchase wine… As your list grows pick a couple that you ‘feel’ you could begin with. Lets use Call Tom and Bake. Place Call Tom of the right side of the paper and your current state ( feeling unprepared) on the right. What are the steps in between? Look up Tom’s number, think about what I want to say, write some notes for the conversation, pick a time, dial the phone, let him know you care…

The process can continue creating a micro plans that will be the first step to your today’s action.

As I am sure you recognize this s an ongoing wash, rinse, repeat pattern that can be applied to almost all areas of your life.

The two takeaways – think of someone else and act to serve them.

Breathe and Be Better,

Bob