Saturday, April 28, 2007

Four dollars a gallon...

They say it could happen, at least in some places in the US. $4 a gallon gasoline may not sound like a lot if you're from another country, but we're not used to it and it's going to hurt.

Although we've kind of got used to the idea of higher and more unstable gasoline prices, we'll be upset by even higher prices. Most - or at least, many - places in the US don't have adequate public transportation, and there is little demand for it.

Why? Because we're so independent. We like having our own transportation so we can go where we want to, when we want to and get home with two minutes to spare if we like. We don't mind paying for mandatory insurance, new tires, oil changes and car washes. Just don't ask us to pay much for gas.

Things get out of whack now and then when it comes to priorities, don't they?

Independence is good when it's not extreme, but extreme is hard to define. I don't have any answers and I'm not suggesting that we go to all public transportation, but maybe... just maybe. Maybe we could step back from the independence microphone long enough to see that sometimes it makes sense to dig in, shoulder the responsibility and give up just a little freedom - not much, just a little.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I forgot to post the review links! :(

My bad. I forgot to post a link to the first review at the Dollar Stretcher Community. Here it is, belatedly, but it's still not too late to take a look at it.

4-17-2007 The Simple Dollar

I'm so late that there's another one up already.

4-24-2007 Project Laundry List

I have a list of the sites you gave me plus the ones the community offered. I'll be working through it, though a warning may be in order. Not everyone is cooperative when I ask for an interview and I don't want to review a site without talking to the site owner. Sites are created by people, after all, and knowing the person behind it is much more satisfying than just knowing the site.

I have had a lot of fun and learned some too, by checking out those links. If you know of yet another one, by all means, let me know, either here, on the community or by email (in my profile).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Raising Frugal Kids

Speaking of main things, for most of us, our families are main things. Raising kids to be money wise in this world isn't easy to do. Unless they're totally isolated from other kids, TV, magazines and malls, they're going to run into the gospel of materialism.

This gospel teaches that the more you have, the happier you are, and the goal of life is to be happy, so go buy it. Sure, it's nonsense, but kids don't understand that.

Teens and young adults especially - speaking generally here - have a hard time dealing with peer pressure, even if they've never been taught frugality. If being frugal is in the mix, it's a hard thing indeed. Not only do they have to buck the system, they have to buck their own knowledge of "what's right."

Fitting in is important for these years and we need to recognize and allow for that.

Allowing for that doesn't mean that we condone wasting money, but that we gently and persistently direct their thoughts to imaginative and money saving alternatives. (Careful, though... your teen won't ever think that wearing last year's styles is "cool.")

Look around and catch the latest fad that could be frugal. Last year's wave of neck scarves - longer than long, sometimes ugly as could be (sorry, personal opinion) - is a good example. Learning to knit your own scarf could lead to other do-it-yourself pursuits.

Kids have parents for a reason, and that's to guide, discipline and instill values. If you are frugal, the chances are that your children will be. It may be after a good spell of rebellion, but they'll come around.

It wasn't just religion King Solomon was talking about when he said, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
(Proverbs 22:6)

Regardless of your religious persuasion, the wisdom of that thought should give you courage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

So what's the main thing?

We could say "saving money."
We could say "making more of what we have."
We could say "using less."
We could say "learning what we don't need."

At the heart of living frugally is not doing without, although we do that at times. It's also not just saving money or using less, although we do that. We make more of what we have, too, but that's not the main thing.

I had to think about this one for awhile and what I came up with was this.

The main thing is living without financial stress.

For you, it may be different.

Financial stress spills over into so many areas of our lives that it can ruin otherwise happy lives. It can destroy relationships and ruin our health. It can make us nervous wrecks so that we can't do our jobs right. It can keep us from sleeping, make us overeat and provoke us to be rude.

Who wants to live like that?

Keep the main thing the main thing. Frugal living is a lifestyle that can make a difference.

Yes, I preach it; I believe it. :)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bedtime story

Bottom sheets with a wide hem? Ok, I fixed it. TOP sheets have nice, wide hems. That's what lack of sleep does to you and it's not frugal at all, because I find myself turning on lights at odd hours of the night, munching crackers and whatever else I can find. Anything but sleep.

I've had milk, chamomile tea, valerian, rose, peppermint... whatever. Nothing works but antihistamine. Over the counter antihistamines are nonfrugal solutions, so I asked my doctor and she gave me a prescription which was cheaper than anything I've found. 125 tablets of Hydroxyzine for $12.00 is a pretty good buy, especially when I use a half tablet at a time. The problem is... well, if I could just wake up, I'd tell you about it...

I'm kidding. But on the rare occasion that I take it, it does make me loopy for about 24 hours. I wake up around bed time the next day.

So is it frugal? Maybe healthwise. I read that you don't get the full benefits of sleep until after about two and a half hours of it. Since I sometimes sleep in one hour shifts, this is probably worth it.

Anyway... I don't turn on the lights at night for one whole night. No munchies, either. That's got to count for something.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Frugal Sheets

I ran across a sale on sheets the other day. It's kind of unusual to find that kind of sale this time of year, but it looked as if they had been cleaning out their inventory, maybe to make room for more summer gear.

At any rate, there were some pretty twin size sheets for $5, so I grabbed up a couple of matching top sheets.

Did I hear someone asking why two top sheets?

To begin with, good new material costs more than $5 for 66 X 96 inches (about 2 1/2 yards 66 inches wide). For another thing, the material is hemmed in a good, wide hem that works perfectly for curtain rods.

Besides curtains, you can make a lot of things from sheets, as I discovered and talked about in this article: Bed Linens: Not Just for Beds

So... I bought two. I brought them home and spread one on the bed to see how it would look. Gorgeous! So I went back and bought another one. I will have new curtains, a summer spread and pillow shams, a dresser scarf and trim for a throw rug for $15 plus tax.

That's a frugal bedroom makeover, if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cheap weed killer

If you know me at all, you know that I like weeds. Some weeds, anyway. Some... well, I guess God has His reasons for them.

The ones I wonder about are the ones that insist on growing in any tiny crack in the sidewalk. Talk about survival! There must be a lesson in there somewhere, but most of the time my mind is on getting rid of them.

I confess, I have tried Roundup (long ago!) and it worked. I didn't feel good about using it, and I hated to pay the price for it, so it was only one bottle, one time. I know that vinegar will kill weeds, but I'm really tight fisted, so I hate to pay for a gallon of vinegar and "waste" it killing weeds, although I have done it.

What next? Boiling water! Yes, I'd heard of it before, and yes, I'd even tried it, with some success, but when they started talking about it on the forum, I decided to give it another shot.

It worked! Grass and weeds both turned limp, then yellow, then they just lay down and died. Talk about a cheap weed killer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Best frugal tactic

You know you're too much of a bargain hunter when you receive a "$10 off a $20 purchase" card and immediately start thinking of what you need at that particular store, even though you've never been there before.

I mean, you have to say the advertising is working, isn't it?

The card is still on my desk, though. I may look at it until it expires, thinking of how I could save half the price of... whatever. But then I remind myself that I could save the full price by not going there.

Staying at home is still the best frugal tactic I know.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Looking forward to harvest

I've been kind of scarce around here this week, due to not feeling well, but today I'm almost raring to go!

The weather broke for a rain instead of the possible 9 inches of snow that was predicted for this area, so it's still spring. Either way, it's moisture that we can use.

I haven't got any more yard work done, but I did notice there are more dandelions out back and a few wild salsify plants, also known as goats-beard, or oyster plant. It's called oyster plant because the roots taste like oysters and make a great fake oyster stew for those of us who are landlubbers. I'll let them grow until this fall, when the roots have stored nutrients for the winter.

Also growing there is mallow, but I don't know which proper term is used for it. It has a round, but not flat, leaf and a small purple to white flower. The seed pods are called "cheeses" because they're round and flattish. (I'm doing so well with the English language this morning, don't you think?) Anyway, the seed pods can be eaten and have a slightly nutty flavor.

Besides the dandelions, salsify and mallow, in my back yard are also roses which are edible (flowers, leaves and seed pods (rose hips)), day lilies (edible flowers and roots), and mint. Yet to come are purslane, (leaves, stems and seeds) and amaranth (leaves and seeds).

I'm gearing up for a good harvest this year, both of wildlings and domesticated plants. It's frugal to take advantage of wild food, because you don't have to do much of anything for them to grow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Prestigious Debt?

Something struck me the other day. Credit cards are often whipped out like keys to a new Jaguar. People like to show off what they can go into debt for? Weird world we live in... anyway, instead of going through the whole rant again, here's a link to something I wrote about it: How Can Debt Be Prestigious?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Favorite sites?

What's your favorite frugal living, penny pinching, dollar stretching, cheapskate, money saving sites?

I'm asking because we're going to start reviewing sites at the The Dollar Stretcher Community soon.

It doesn't have to be a big site. As a matter of fact, smaller sites stand a better chance of being reviewed because I want to bring people's attention to resources they may not be aware of.

Do you have a frugal site or blog that's worthy of a little more traffic and that provides interesting content? Let me know. If you don't own it, but know about it, let me know, too. You can post it here: Favorite Sites (Besides The Dollar Stretcher!), then watch the forum for the review.

Wouldn't it be cool to have all of the frugal internet sites reviewed? I know... I dream. I do wonder though, how many real frugal sites and blogs there are. Or maybe I don't want to know, going into this project!

Monday, April 9, 2007

The cost of biscuits

My daughter is working as a cook in a popular local place once owned by Doug Kershaw. You might not know who he is, but I like to name drop anyway. ;)

The restaurant used to give free biscuits with their breakfast meals, but no more. They don't have the manpower to make their own biscuits, so they buy them at 20¢ each. Each.

I may be living in a world of my own. Does that sound expensive to you, for assembly line style biscuits? The cost of ingredients has gone up, as well as transportation and labor, but 20¢? That's $2.40 a dozen. Can't you buy them cheaper in the grocery store? Store brand, generic?

I don't know how much they sell them for, but I should ask. Or maybe I should go into the biscuit baking business.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hunting for a Frugal Easter

Celebrating Easter can be expensive! But you know what a cheapskate I am, already, so I don't have to go through the homemade (excuse me, hand crafted) baskets and homemade candy and the lack of bright shiny plastic toys my kids got.

I'm happy they're older now and I don't worry so much about Easter baskets, but still, I enjoy giving them containers with a little special candy in it and they've come to expect it. (The oldest is... well, I'd better not say, but she lives out of state with her family and I don't make a "basket" for her any more.)

Anyway, for the two that I still do Easter up for, I try to find containers they can use after the holiday. In the past, these have been colored glass baking pans, boxes meant for dresser top storage and funky, plastic storage cubes. This year I'm visiting the local Goodwill, Salvation Army and ARK in search of appropriate containers.

Just for fun, I'm setting a limit of one dollar each. The hunt ought to be fun.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Crackers, Again

A disclaimer: These are still not the same as the saltine crackers you buy and I haven't made ghee yet to try, as one of the comments from this post recommended, but I will, one day. I can only eat so many crackers!

Anyway, the cracker recipe I wound up liking best doesn't make very many crackers. I made some changes to the original. Maybe after a few more tries, they'll be better.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola on one batch, olive oil on another and couldn't tell the difference)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt. I made it a generous teaspoon.
  • 1 teaspoon yeast. Again, I made it generous.
  • 1/2 cup of cold water. I skimped on this the first time because the dough seemed as if it would get too mushy, but the second time I used it all and the crackers crisped a little better.
  • Extra salt for the tops wasn't mentioned in the recipe, neither was pricking them, but I did both.

Add the yeast and salt to the flour and mix it well, then pour the oil into that and mix. I wound up using my hands for this part, so be prepared. Add cold water a little at a time, mixing to keep the dough as smooth as possible, then cover and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. I found that a half hour was better.

Roll the dough out very, very thin, and try to not get the edges much thinner than the middle, because they will brown too fast. Sprinkle with salt and cut into squares or other shapes. I used a pizza cutter, but a knife should work fine. Bake on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 12 - 16 minutes.

As I said, they're not like store bought, but that's a plus in many ways. I doubled the recipe successfully. They do tend to crumble easily. I've had some stored in a plastice container for about two weeks and they're still fresh.

Are You That Frugal?

"You know you're frugal when you..."

I wrote that some time back, for About. Imagine the feelings, if you will, to find it has become one of those circulating emails in certain circles.

After I reread it, I thought that you also know you're frugal when...

Your favorite picture is one you cut from a calendar and put in a salt dough frame.

It's a great day for you when you discover there's change in the washer and it isn't (wasn't) yours, but you don't know whose it is.

You get one of those ugly freebie T-shirts and can't decide whether to sleep in it or wear it to the store.

You spend an hour in front of the mirror trying new hairstyles so you won't have to pay for a haircut yet.

You try to convince your kids (or grandkids) that playing with hand made toys is the latest cool thing.

When your non frugal friend visits for a week, you hide your best rags so she won't use them to clean up something yucky. (She knows you don't use paper towels, but has no concept of how to treat rags.)

I'm sure there are more, but I have to go. They're giving away pencils at that new store across town and I have a free ride to get there...