Thursday, January 9, 2020

Newspaper Hacks

I have never used that word before. A "hack" sounds to me like suspicious behavior, but it's trendy now!

Newspaper isn't as common as it once was when everyone subscribed to the local paper. There always seemed to be piles of newspaper to be recycled or got rid of somehow. Even if you don't subscribe to a newspaper, there are flyers and sales sheets printed on it. Get your hands on some and try some of these.

Papier mache. Remember? You tear newspaper into strips and soak in water, then add white paste and use it as a sort of modeling clay. When it dries, it hardens and holds its shape.

Fire starter. It's basic. Just crumple a few sheets of newspaper tightly, put some kindling over the top and touch the paper with a lit match. Add wood as needed.

Insulation. Newspaper is an excellent insulation, although not approved for housing because of its flammability. Use it in your shoes, under your mattress in a cold bedroom, under throw rugs or anywhere a little warmth will be appreciated. 8 to 10 layers will make a big difference.

Keep your feet warm. Not only by using newspaper as insoles. You can make toasty warm houseshoes by starting with several layers of newspaper. Put them on the floor, then put your toe toward one corner with your heel toward the opposite one. Push your foot closer to the heel corner, then bring up both side corners over the top of your foot and secure with tape or string or yarn. Bring the front corner up over your toes and the back corner up over your heel. Gather the newspaper together at the ankle and tape or tie. You can cover this with cloth or burlap or whatever you have and you will never have such warm houseshoes.

Use newspaper to create or copy patterns. Whether you're sewing, knitting or doing other crafts, newspaper is perfect for making patterns. If it doesn't work out, toss it and grab another sheet. Use a marker to write without the words getting lost in the print.

Use newspaper to make a template before attempting to cut flooring to fit around door jams or other uneven areas like pipes and fancy work.

Newspaper makes a great, disposable mat for muddy, wet boots and shoes. Keep one by the door when the weather is bad. It's a good mat for the kids' craft projects, too (adults', too!).

Newspaper is a good mulch for between rows of vegetables. You can sprinkle a little dirt over it if you don't like the looks. It will keep a lot of weeds from growing.

Of course, you can dry windows and mirrors with it. You can also use it to polish bathroom fixtures and the trim on your vehicle.

What else? Do you use it for other things? Let us know!

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Year musings

I was just looking through some Pinterest posts, vintage, antiques, retro... and I found many things that I have and still use. What does that make me? Old fashioned? An oddball? Or... maybe frugal?

I don't know. I saw a manual clamp on meat grinder. I have one downstairs that hasn't been used for awhile but if I need it, I know where it is. I saw a coffee grinder - manual, of course. I have one and use it regularly. I don't drink coffee, but I make a coffee like drink from dandelion roots and sometimes grains.

I saw a Cosco red step stool/chair. I have one, thanks to my son and daughter in law.
Old fashioned Christmas candy, of course. I have some left from Christmas and some stashed away for next year.
Tinsel "icycles" for the tree. I have a box and used some last year.
Hot water bottle - I gave one away recently, preferring to use 2 liter plastic bottles because you don't have to get the water as hot and they last a long time. Good for cold feet, in bed or out.

I have an old fashioned egg beater, where you turn the handle and it turns the beaters. I have a pencil sharpener mounted on the corner of a bookshelf, where you turn the handle and it turns the blades. I even own a wringer washer.

"Time saving" appliances can cut us off from the real world. What's the satisfaction of sharpening a pencil if it's done so fast and with so little effort than you can ruin a pencil in just a moment? Or beating eggs in a mixer where you don't even have to pay attention.

I know... our grandparents and great grandparents probably thought the same thing when horseless carriages were introduced. And they were right. We ride the skies and have no idea what's beneath us. We ride in air conditioned or heated vehicles at ridiculous speeds and know nothing of what goes past us in seconds.

I'm not trying to guilt anyone into giving up anything - that's the way the world runs now - but this year, why not take the time to do something with your hands? See how it feels to turn an old fashioned ice cream maker this summer. Sew something by hand instead of a sewing machine.

I think that's what is meant by the phrase "smell the roses." 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

After Christmas Savings

I don't mean from the store.

You might have already thrown out the wrapping paper and the bags and the tissue that stuffed them. I haven't yet and I hope you haven't! If you had big gifts that were covered with wrapping paper, you can cut out the ragged and taped edges and save the best parts to wrap gifts in next year. Some papers can be ironed but others will melt. Some paper hardly wrinkles.

Wrap the salvaged paper around an empty tube or over an existing tube of paper.

Bags, of course you saved them, didn't you? Make sure to remove all tags. Most tags can be pulled or cut off.

Tissue paper! Why would you buy it again next year? Tissue paper can be ironed and used again and again. A steam iron works best, on a medium setting. If there are a few wrinkles left, they won't be noticeable when they're crinkled up in gift bag.

Lay them flat, then fold gently and store for next year. Why not?

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Dish Detergent and Frugal Living

I got a sample of Dawn dish detergent awhile back but I hadn't used it yet - guess I was waiting for hard times or trying a new method of being frugal. Just for fun, I tried to see how long I could make it last. Wow.

I've washed dishes three times with it now and there looks to be at least enough for twice more, maybe three times. That's from a "one use" sample. How much do they want us to waste, anyway??

I wash dishes by hand in a large stainless steel bowl that's still smaller than a standard dishpan (if there is such a thing), so it doesn't take as much dish detergent as a sink full of water would. Even with a full sink of water and detergent, it wouldn't take the whole sample's worth.

So, who's the odd one out? The frugal soul who refuses to waste even a freebie, or the generous soul who swishes it downstream without a second thought?

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Little Extra

Every year about this time I start thinking of ways to increase the "little extra" income to help cover holiday expenses without having to dip too far into savings or ordinary income.

That means I am a little more serious about making pocket money to cover Thanksgiving and Christmas expenses.

Over the years, I have done some "rewards programs" like Swagbucks and MyPoints and it really helps. This year, I discovered another one that seems easy to make a few dollars now and then, and they pay fast, like within a couple of days, if not faster.

It's called Grabpoints and I really like it. If you're looking for a way, or another way to earn a few dollars, check it out. Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The real cost of canning food

I watched a video where a woman set out to prove that canning your own beans is cheaper than buying them already canned. She was careful with her dollars and cents, buying a bag of beans from a dollar store, then showing the price of one can of Great Value brand beans at 58 cents.

I don't know if this is the going price for canned beans. It seemed a little low to me, but I don't ever look at them, so I don't know.

She measured out a half cup of beans to a pint jar 9 times with a few beans left over, then she filled her jars with hot water and canned them. (This is not the USDA recommended way, but many people do it like this.)

All good, right? So she was happy that she wound up with 9 pints of canned beans for a dollar, while it would have cost her $5.22 to buy them. She only spent a half hour of work and the rest was up to the canner. It all sounds very good, and, yes, she did save money. Just not as much as she thought she did.

Let's do the math.

Pinto beans at one dollar plus tax, depending on where you are, anywhere from 0 to 12 cents.
Cost ot rinsing and processing water may be tiny, but it's there.
Cost of pressure cooker can be spread over many times, but it depends on how often and how much you can.
Cost of jars, the same
Cost of lids and rings are around $3,00
Cost of fuel, either electricity or gas, to bring a pressure cooker up to pressure and keep it there 75 minutes, which is how long it takes to can beans. That depends on the fuel and your local rates.

Even at that, she saved money and I do recommend that you try canning beans if you'd like them for recipes or to season quickly for a meal, but remember to think of everything else, too, and not just the cost of the food itself.

Spending pennies adds up, just like saving pennies does.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Frugal Dry Skin Remedies

If you have trouble with dry skin and it seems like lotion only makes it worse, it might very well be. Lotions have so many ingredients that it's not uncommon for some of them to irritate skin. Stick to natural or simple products when it's possible and you might find your dry skin improves quite a bit.

Here are a few ideas that could help.

Use Vicks for extra dry areas like knuckles and elbows. It just takes a little bit. Rub it in thoroughly. This is especially effective at night when you won't be washing your hands for awhile.

Use Vicks on rough, dry feet after a shower or after soaking your feet in warm water. Rub it onto your feet and put socks on to keep it from getting in your shoes or on your floor. This is a treat on a cold winter's night.

Coconut oil is a good, lightweight moisturizer, but it won't last if you're using your hands much. Save it for when you're relaxing. It smells good and it's goodness soaks into your skin.

Use olive oil immediately after a shower while your skin is damp. It takes very little, so don't use too much. If you do, wipe off the excess with a cloth.

When you're cooking, don't wash your hands every time you turn around, unless, of course, it's to remove meat or something you don't want to mix with other foods. Keep a cloth handy and wipe them instead.

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will make a difference. There are so many choices when it comes to drinks (coffee, tea, sodas, juices, milks) that we forget that plain old water is the best. Water without anything added is the best hydration.

Protect your skin when you are going to be in the sun, wind or cold for very long. Use any natural oil or fat.

If your lips are dry , try Vicks, olive oil, lard or shortening, butter or vegetable oil. Experiment to see which one you like best. Commercial lip balms often make your lips worse over time.

All of these things are very frugal, since it takes a very small amount to treat your skin and quite often, they are things you already have so you don't have to buy anything extra. What little you use on your skn will never be noticed. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Savory pumpkin dishes

Pumpkin is more versatile than we usually give credit for. It's fallen out of favor for some reason, but it shouldn't have. Not only is is healthy, it's tasty in a variety of ways and it's frugal. Fresh pumpkin is very seasonal, although you can buy canned pumpkin year 'round. Canned pumpkin is a poor substitute for fresh and it's more expensive, too.

If you can, get a pumpkin from the farmer's market or a pumpkin patch or grow them yourself. If you can't do any of those things, get one or two at the grocery store.

Try pumpkin cooked and seaasoned like mashed potatoes.

Slice raw pumpkin thinly, salt lightly and roast like you would pumpkin seeds.

Add cooked pumpkin to a meatloaf instead of tomato sauce.

Alternate sliced pumpkin, potatoes and ham in a casserole.

Cook pumpkin, onions and ham or sausage together for a warm and hearty soup.

Go back and get another pumpkin so you will have one for pies, bread and cookies!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

How to Save When You Don't Have Money to Save

If you're living paycheck to paycheck or it seems like there's more  month than there is  money, it can seem like an impossible task to ever save enough to get ahead.

You can do it, though, with some self discipline and a little creativity. The first thing you need is to have to want to. Once you can say you honestly want to, then you can do it.

You might have to start with a dollar or even less. Where to find it?

Do without that cup of coffee.
Use a coupon if you can find one for something you need
Walk instead of drive whenever you can.
Take $5 with you (cash) to a garage sale and only buy what you need if it's at a good price
Got a Kindle? Read free Kindle books instead of buying them. (Look up "free Kindle books" on Amazon, but double check the price before "buying.")
Change your seasonal looks by using different accessories instead of buying new clothes.
Do it yourself whenever you can. This includes yardwork, mending, painting, building or repairing.
Cook from scratch instead of buying convenience food, but check prices first.  A certain cornbread mix is actually cheaper than buying cornmeal. Of course, you might use cornmeal in other things, so take that into account.

Every time you do one of these thing to save money, take that money and put it aside, no matter if it's only a dime. It will add up and faster than you think.

Most banks won't allow you to open a savings account with only a few dollars so keep your cash in a place that's not easy to get to until you have enough to open an account. Online banks can pay the highest interest, so look around and find the best.

Put the money into the bank. At the end of the month or whatever time period that suits you, take your saved cash and put it into your regular bank, then go home and immediately transfer it to your online savings account.

You can do it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Back to School - Being a Student Online is More Frugal

Kids going back to school - bright colored pencils, new shoes, notebooks and bookbags. Almost makes you wish you were getting into something new, doesn't it?

Most people say they feel enlivened by the return of cooler days (I know - not yet!) and look forward to doing something new or different. It could be the perfect time for you to study something new or to fill gaps in your education with a few online courses, or even more - gain a few college credits or get a complete degree.

Going back to school may be a tough financial road to walk if tuition fees are over your budget. Even getting a GED costs, and more so if you need to attend classes to brush up on required subjects. There are ways to study cheaper - on the 'net.

Online education has grown up from the 'email your answers' courses of a few years ago to sophisticated materials and scripts that grade and advise you as you go. This allows in depth study and along with email interaction, it's like having your own private tutor - but better. Learning at your own pace in your own time makes a lot of sense, frugal and otherwise.

Cost of courses? Anywhere from free to a few thousand dollars. You can even pay as you go on some of them.

Reasons to get an education online range from saving money to saving time, too. A stay at home parent can get a degree without ever having to hire a babysitter or buy a new wardrobe, to say nothing of bus fare or gas for the car, and in some instances you won't even have to buy textbooks. You'll still be at home with your children, and still be there to do things to save money around the house.

A full time worker can spend an hour or so before or after work studying without much of a disruption in normal routines, besides all the advantages above - no transportation, babysitter or clothing expenses. Of course, full time students will have the same advantages, too, and be able to move through courses as quickly or slowly as needed.

Although it seems easy and is inexpensive, it takes a certain kind of student to be able to take full advantage of online learning. Can you do it? Do you want to? Is Distance Learning for Me? will help you answer those questions. (You can skip the part about "Moodle".)

If you need a highschool diploma or a GED:

The price of taking GED tests varies from state to state from nothing in Connecticut to $160 in Virginia. Add to that the price of any courses or studies you might have to take and it can seem daunting. A highschool diploma is a near necessity and a GED is still cheaper than 4 years of highschool.

There is an impressive array of courses for almost anything, whether it's a trade or a college degree, online. You might want to check your local or state schools first to see if they offer online courses. If you want to work toward a college degree, make sure the online study is accredited because if it isn't accredited, you won't be able to get a real degree. Also, make sure that you can transfer those credits to a brick and mortar school if you want to. It's always a good option to have.

You'll have to do some work to find a school that fits your needs. Look for "online accredited schools" or "trade schools online." Guide to Online Schools  is a good place to start, but don't stop there. Take enough time to know what you're getting in to, then go for it.