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First Harvests

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for April, 2003

First, my apologies to fans of the Wearin' of the Green. A number of readers noted that I omitted Saint Patrick's Day from my suggestions for March fun. Very sorry, and I did wear my green coat that day (to have a tooth filled by my Irish dentist).

At the risk of boring my non-Northern hemisphere readers, I'm going to look again at my own backyard. We've had a long, cold, snowy winter, and spring is finally here. Most of nature's bounty won't be ready for a few months yet, but some things are ready now or in the next few weeks, and do they ever brighten up a dreary winter's meal. To eat or to look at let's celebrate them:

* Fiddlehead Ferns: something of an acquired taste, but pretty good fried up with onions and served with a grain. Go out to the marshes and pick your own, or check the supermarkets.

* Crocuses are brightening the fields, and by the time you read this, they may be joined by daffodils. Color! Oh, I love it!

* Rhubarb: This sour treat is great in pies--but it also adds a surprise punch to stir-frys and casseroles. My kids will eat it straight, directly out of the garden. Caution: *Never* eat the leaves, which are poisonous.

* Forsythia's golden color makes a wonderful table centerpiece

* Chives are among the earliest herbs, as are wild sorrel (those tasty weeds that look a bit like clover and taste like lemons)--and then garlic scapes start in a few weeks later

Enjoy them; we've earned it.

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Special Bonus Tip: If You're A Homeowner in the US

Instead of this month's freebie resource, I'm going to tell you how I earned over $10,000 an hour for two hours work last week--by refinancing my house. I hadn't looked at mortgage rates in a while, and was astounded to see they're at their lowest level in about 30 years. I remember in the early 1980s, rates were as high as 18%. When I bought my first house, we paid 10%, and later refinanced down to 7.5%.

A little less than 5 years ago, we bought our current house. At that time, we thought we were doing really well to get a 6.75 fixed-rate, 20-year note. This week, we changed over to a 5% fixed-rate 10-year loan. We'll pay about $100 extra per month, and yes, the closing will cost a couple of grand. But oh, my goodness, we've shaved five years off the payback! So, that's $37,000 we won't pay out, minus 12,000 that we'll pay with our extra $100, and minus another 2000 for closing costs. The net result? We saved about $23,000!

This was through our own local bank. Don't pay any attention to the spam mortgage offers that fill your e-mail box--go legit. It's worth investigating!

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