Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Ant vs. The Grasshopper: A Bedtime Story for the Frugal

 The Ant vs. The Grasshopper

It is now past 10 p.m. I am pooped...and again today I realized I am the ant.  Sometimes I wish I could be the grasshopper and sing all summer...but I am an ant and I just don't sing quite the same song as the grasshopper.  But I sing in my own special way.

I have spent much of the week freezing and canning items from my garden and others.  While I was making jam– I calculated that each jar cost me $.75 to process (that made me sing my own special song, while I compared it to what the grocer's charges for the same item).  So my hard work will add up eventually and I'll be glad this winter to see the savings and enjoy the harvest.  However, when you've been at it for five days in a row it gets a little wearing and sometimes I'd like to unzip this ant suit and try on a grasshopper one just for a bit....

And then I remember I did try on the grasshopper suit for a little while and it was too tight and I couldn't breathe and it was really scary in there, and even though on the outside it looked like I was having a jolly good time and my songs were really exciting– the jolliness was short-lived, especially at the end of the month when the bills came due and I didn't have enough songs left to pay the piper.  Thankfully, I got out of that grasshopper suit and I felt much better in my own skin (my own frugal skin).  

You see once upon a time... while I was an ant, my husband lost his job the same day I found out I was pregnant with baby number two (seriously...same day)...and for an instant I panicked...and then I started to breathe again.  I remembered that "hey, I am an ant and ants store away and work really hard so when winter comes they can relax and make it through."  Winter lasted for about five-months and here is the kicker...we saved money during that time...we had learned so many ways to scrimp and save over the years (practicing our ant ways) that we pulled out our frugal black-belts and saved money on one teaching salary and a little bit from Uncle Sam.  The winter is over for now...sort of...I don't teach anymore and so we are back to one more substantial salary.  So I continue my ant ways and store away because I don't know when winter will come again and I want to be prepared...and that way I can live happily ever after, even through those rough cold winters.

The End.

Be an ant my friend.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tightwad Gazette - Amy Dacyzcyn

If you are new to frugality you may not know about The Tightwad Gazette.  Get a copy (if you don't have one already).

This week I'm busy preserving the bounty of the season and so I thought I would introduce you to my hero.

Enjoy this clip...and put some August's harvest in the freezer (at least)'ll find joy in the wonderful taste of the previous season this winter (and the savings).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Dirtiest Word...Clutter: The School Days Edition

School has started and while kids may be sullen..."woo hoo" was my response.  Summertime boredom got the best of this household towards the end.  Two days into the school year and already the school clutter has began... backpacks, lunch pails, shoes and little bits of paper can take over your house if you are not careful.

Last year we struggled to come up with a system to reign it all in but I think this year we have it under control. Perhaps these ideas will stir your creative juices and you too can escape the clutter that comes with gooey art projects and athletic equipment.

1. Get the kids in on the action

There is no playtime in our house until...the lunch box is emptied next to the sink and put away, the shoes are put in a basket next to the door, and any papers mom or dad need to sign are put in a designated spot on the kitchen counter (next to the phone in our house).  *At this time we don't need a basket to keep these papers sorted but I have one ready for when we do.

2.  Worksheets

At first my daughter was heartbroken when she would see worksheets in the recycle bin.  However, we had a discussion about how we can't bring in "new to us" things unless we get rid of our old things (we have this discussion frequently at our keep the clutter at bay).  I do not keep printed worksheet but I do hang onto stories for awhile (more about that later).  I now take worksheets if they are clean on the backside I use them for scratch paper or even as printer paper.  No sense wasting anymore precious trees and it saves me money too.  Since worksheets tend to be a standard 8 1/2" x 11" they can be stacked and stapled at the top to make a great scratch pad or pad for your child's future artistic endeavors.

3.  Art projects, stories, pictures

I'm a bit sentimental about my children's art projects and I want to keep them all (but I can't or we wouldn't have anywhere to sit).  I pick the best of the best during the school year and store them in a large box (copy paper boxes work great).   After school is out for the year and my child has moved onto new things I go through the box and really become selective on what I keep.  I then punch holes in those pictures, stories, etc. or put them in page protectors and keep them in a three-ring binder.  My kiddo likes to look at her old work and see how far she has progressed.  Also, with this method it is easy for me to get even more selective later on when the binder is getting full and pull somethings out.

4. Reminder notices and calendars

Put any important dates from school on the calendar immediately.  Also make a place to tack up any fliers or calendars that you may need to keep.  I literally hot-glued clothes pins to an old cork board so I have lots of "clips" to put all the school notices and to keep them away from other papers that my husband or I may need to have up and out.  My daughter of course painted the board and clips and so it is very colorful to say the least.

Best wishes during this school year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Time Back to School Shopping Blues?

Summer Time Back to School Shopping Blues?

So... as I registered my daughter for school today and dropped a couple hundred bucks– I was so relieved to know that my wallet was safe from any future school “necessities” for awhile.
School Registration–  completed late (oops)
School Supplies– completed  mostly last year and a little bit this year
School Clothes– completed throughout the year
In order to make our family’s school dollars go further I shop throughout the year.  After school starts– go figure– supplies go on sale (usually these sales include paper products and pencils).  Of course you can’t beat crayons and markers when stores advertise them as loss-leaders and so it is best to buy these when they are advertised low.  I simply get a copy of my daughter’s school supply list for the next year. (I was a teacher and know that it is rare for a teacher to drastically change a supply list in a following year.)  I am then able to scout sales and maybe buy some nicer products, I wouldn’t have previously purchased retail, at this time.  For school supplies, my daughter didn’t get everything new this year.  Her backpack is a good quality JanSport bag (clearance item) and should las several year ( we have purchased cheaper bags in the past and they break mid-year) so this saved us dough by reusing.  Also, her pencil box and scissors will be reused.  As a teacher I watched so many students throw out supplies that were barely used or not even open– there responses were often “I’m going to get new ones anyway.”  These items were new except they were purchased last August and not the upcoming one (of course I dug them out of the trash and found good homes for them)– where came the mentality that school supplies can’t be reused?  In our house reuse is just using also your noodle. 
Additionally, school clothes go on sale after school starts.  Does your child really need sweaters and jeans when it is still warm at the beginning of school?  If you wait it out and shop when retailers start to cut prices the savings can be substantial.  Personally, I get most of my children’s clothing marked down at thrift stores, consignments stores, garage sales, and outlet stores (off-season).  I average between $2 to $3 per clothing item and my children do not look like the children’s version of “What Not to Wear.”  I am very selective and thoroughly check out items for good seams, stains and holes prior to purchase.  Underwear and socks (purchased new) are our costliest items for children clothing.  Also, to avoid having to buy a large amount of clothing mid-year, I purchase staple items: jeans, long-sleeve tees, and shoes, one or two sizes ahead.  So for example my daughter wears a child’s 6 currently but I’ve got jeans in both  size 7 and  size 8.  Since I purchase so far in advanced I can be choosy about quality and price.  If at all possible really begin your school clothing shopping for next year in early March– that is when all fall/winter merchandise hits bargain basement prices.
So while you can’t turn back the clock and prepare for this year, last year... you can try to avoid doing the bulk of your clothing shopping until mid-September or early October.  And of course you can check out discount school supplies a few weeks after classes begin.  

Monday, August 8, 2011


While my blog is about home and frugality– I wanted to share this video today.

The act of fracking is not frugal.  The costs related to environment and life are too substantial to allow this to continue.   Webster's defines frugal as : characterized by or reflecting economy (see economy: thrifty and efficient use of material resources ) in the use of resources.  It is  not in any way an efficient use of water, the most precious resource on earth, to say well oops we contaminated it and continue with these risks.  I've attached the government link to senators and representatives– a short e-mail questioning why fracking is being tolerated is an easy action you can take.  I will be e-mailing today.  If you e-mail as well and get a response I'd love to hear what your senator or representative has to say.  I'll get back to money saving and simplifying tips next time.  Thanks for reading.

E-mail Your Senate

Write Your House

Monday, August 1, 2011

Use This, Not That: A Guide to Trimming Your Financial Waste-line

Men’s Health magazine produces Eat This, Not That, in a notion of flattery (kind of) I bid you Use This, Not That: A Guide to Trimming Your Financial Waste-line.
Use This, Not That: A Short Guide to Trimming Your Financial Waste-line
Rinse Aids
Don’t use expensive rinse aids in your dishwasher– 
use non-diluted vinegar instead.
Simply fill up your rinse aid dispenser as you would with a rinse aid and substitute it with a generic run-of-the-mill, inexpensive white vinegar
Fabric Softeners
Don’t use fabric softener–
use nothing on days when their is average or above average humidity in the air you don’t need it (for days when you will deal with static add white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your wash)
Plastic/Saran Wrap
Don’t use plastic wrap to store your leftovers–
use plates instead.
If you have leftovers in a bowl simply find a plate (dinner plates for big bowls; saucers for small bowls) and place it on top your bowl bottom down and store as usual.  If you have leftovers on a place take a plate of a smaller size and place it face down over the leftovers and store as usual.  For odd size bowls and plates for short term storage use a clean cloth napkin or relocate to another dish.
Cotton Balls
Don’t use cotton balls–
use small cut up piece of cloth diaper material (or other thick cotton).
Cut up thick fabrics like a clot diaper into approximately 2”x2” pieces (if you fear fraying you may stitch up the ends but I haven’t had a problem with this yet)– use as you would a regular cotton ball and throw them in the hamper for a wash.  *My cotton pieces have been air-dried and this may have prevented the fraying.
Baby Wipes
Don’t use baby wipes–
use wash cloths.
I have a set of wash cloths specifically designated as baby wipes.  They work much better than wipes (I don’t need three wash cloths to get the job done like I have needed with wipes).  I have a lidded bucket (salvaged from the trash-an old kitty litter bucket) that I throw dirty rags in.  I wash these with my cloth diapers and I add vinegar to the washing to disinfect.  Air dry in the sun for a better smelling rag.
Paper Towels
Don’t use paper towels–
use cloth napkins and rags instead.
See my previous post?????
Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags
Don’t buy wrapping paper and gift bags–
use newspaper, leftover artwork, etc.; reuse shopping bags; new or second-hand pillow-cases.
Most gift wrap is not recyclable and so it just adds to our waste– plus it is very expensive.  Use comics fro the newspaper or having your child enhance regular newspaper print with watercolor paints is a great way to wrap gifts.  If you have too many pieces of artwork coming home from school use those projects to wrap gifts as well.  Larger pieces of wrapping paper can be made from taping or glueing various pieces together.  If you receive a nice paper bag when making a purchase save it– you can cover up the stores logo with decoupage or pasting a child’s artwork over these marks (these really can make nice original bags).  Finally, if you have an odd sized gift put it in a pillow case and tie a bow around it.  You can pick up gently used pillow cases at thrift stores and garage sales for usually under the price of a gift bag.  Or if you have not yet discovered the joys of second-hand merchandise pillow cases do go on clearance as well.  The recipient can either use the case for a pillow or to wrap another gift.
Notepads or sticky notes (3M Post-it Notes)
Don’t buy notepads for jotting down messages and note–
re-use junk mail, kid’s schoolwork, and any other pieces of discarded paper.
I think a lot of times we forget that paper is two-sided.  I seemed to have forgotten this for years and then it dawned on me if I collected our paper out of the recycling bin, flipped it over, and stapled the top I would have a it began.  Our family knows to put scrap paper on my stack for future notepad-ing, for reuse in our printer or memo sheets.  Large pieces of paper not nice enough to be safely copies again are stapled together– smaller pieces (half sheets or pieces that may have a scribble here or there are chopped up and put in our junk drawer to be used instead of Post-It Notes (if I need it to stick somewhere I can use a small piece of tape or a magnet).  
Storage Bags
Don’t buy (very often) storage bags such as Ziploc–
re-use cereal bags and other bags that food comes stored in.
Cereal bags and other bags from processed food come in are usually made of a very thick plastic.  If you nicely trim the tops of these bags when opening and then hand wash them they can make wonderful storage for items destined for the freezer.  Spray with vinegar and water mixture to disinfect.  Turn bags inside out for drying. Use a twist tie to seal them up or fold the top over and close with a clothes pin to store items.  For those storage bags you do buy they too can be washed and reused. *Do not reuse bags containing meat products or cheese.