Saturday, March 28, 2009

Electric traditions

Turn off the lights! At least for an hour tonight, at 8:30 P.M. wherever you are. Sure, it's about global warming, but let's use it for ourselves. Why not? An hour without electricity is like a dollar saved. More or less. It depends on how much electricity you use on the average and what your rates are, but turning everything off for an hour can't do anything but save you money, so why not?

As a matter of fact, this might be a good tradition to start. An hour a week without TV, radio, computer, electric lights, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, blenders, microwaves, electric stoves... if that sounds restful to you, why not do it? Make it educational for the kids or romantic for the spouse or just a quiet time for yourself.

After awhile, you may want to increase it to an hour and a half, or do it twice a week, or only once a month. Make it work for you and your family so it's just a tiny bit challenging but not too much.

Why not?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The ever present credit card

I was recently asked if I thought credit cards should be banned. Wow... I never even thought of it.

What good would banning credit cards do? The problem isn't the availability of credit, it's the lack of self discipline and responsibility that allows abuse of a credit card.

And who would ban them? Should the government be responsible for parenting the entire population of the US??

Some people just have trouble controlling their spending and if they don't have credit cards, what are they going to do? I'll tell you what they do. They overdraw their checking accounts. They borrow money from family and friends. They get advances on their paychecks.

So maybe the government should require basic financial responsibility courses in high school. D'ya think it would ever fly??

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Double Duty

I once knew a well-to-do woman who did laundry in a wringer washer, then used the soapy water to mop her porch and kitchen floors. She also washed her hair brushes and combs, tied in a cloth bag, with a load of white clothes. A washing machine to her was a machine to wash anything that would go in it, and left a container of soapy water that could be used for whatever cleaning was needed.

If we look at everything from that viewpoint, we can find a lot of ways that will save us time and money.

For instance, vacuum cleaners are first "vacuums," then secondly "cleaners." A vacuum can be useful for several things, like sucking air out of storage bags to save space, or catching and trapping insects. Turn the vacuum around and use the blower side to blow lightweight trash from garage floors and sidewalks. Many manufacturers make inflatable furniture and pool toys, etc., with openings that accommodate a vacuum cleaner hose.

Heat from a cookstove is welcome when the weather is cold, but have you thought of using the same heat for other things while you're cooking and/or baking and warming the house? A suspended rack or hook will dry herbs and a plate on a shelf above the stove will dehydrate just as well as an electric dehydrator. It's not very frugal to use the stove for this purpose when you're not cooking or baking, but when you do, why waste the heat? When you finish cooking, move the foods back to the dehydrator. You can make the heat work three times!

We can learn to see appliances and other tools for what they are instead of just what we use them for traditionally.

Because a fan cools us, doesn't mean it can't warm us. A fan can also be used to dry clothes on a rack with less cost than using a dryer. Besides moving dry air into moist areas (wet clothes), a fan can move moist air into dryer areas to keep a bathroom or kitchen safer from mold or mildew. With a fan you can also winnow seeds and grains, dry your hair and remove smells and smoke. Cars have fans; so do air conditioners, heaters, clothes dryers, hair dryers...

Refrigerators just cool food, of course... but they also have level (outside) tops, which makes them good for storing or even displaying things. Why not use the top to keep your coupons? Traditionally, a magnet on the door holds the shopping list and another one holds notes to other family members.

And on and on...

Monday, March 2, 2009

The way it was

I started to answer a question in the Dollar Stretcher forum "What They Did When Times Were Hard, but this is probably not the answer she wanted, so I changed my mind and decided to post here instead:

I can't remember a period when things were tougher than usual. Daddy worked on a ranch so we had the house and utilities free, but he made $300 a month (this was 50 years ago) and raised 8 kids. A 10 person household can eat a lot, but we never did without. Mom baked bread, gardened, picked wild food, canned, made butter and cottage cheese (we got real milk). We ate a lot of beans and potatoes, but they were good. A bowl of pinto beans, a pan of hot cornbread, homemade cottage cheese and wild greens is the best kind of meal.

One thing our family did, and many others did whether they "needed to" or not - and one that you very seldom see any more - is that we kids worked. Not only did we do our chores, which meant we carried in wood and water, fed the chickens, gathered eggs, helped with the garden, took care of the younger ones, we found ways to make money. By the time any of us graduated 8th grade (it used to go from 8th to high school at 9th grade), we were buying our own clothes and helping whenever it was needed. We felt a responsibility toward the family because we were it. Kids don't get to do that any more.

Mom was never a seamstress, but she could patch and make aprons, potholders, mittens from old sweater sleeves, rugs from rags and on and on. Not because it was a fun crafty thing to do, but because we needed those things and the money was not there to buy them. If it had been, she would have used it for something more important.

Daddy did all of his own mechanic work, of course, like everyone else we knew. Anyone would have been the laughingstock of the community if he took his car in to have an oil change and a lube job, or even to tune it up. It's harder to do some things like that now with computers in everything, but it saves when you can.

We didn't have a closetful of clothes. We had enough and no more. It really doesn't take 15 pairs of pants, a couple dozen shirts and a dozen pairs of shoes. We had three pairs of good jeans, five shirts and a pair of shoes. We wore the jeans twice and sometimes three times, the shirts twice. My sister and I had a couple of dresses, but since we didn't wear them often, that was plenty.

Mom washed with a washboard, and later on a wringer washer. We didn't have a water bill, but washing like that takes much less water and detergent that automatic wasters. Washers, I mean. She never owned a dryer, didn't need one. She hung clothes outside to dry, winter or summer and this was in Wyoming where they know what cold is. At one point, she had lines in the unheated second floor, but that was after most of the kids moved out, because that's where we slept.

Every morning, we'd put a large rock on top of the living room heater and every night Mom would wrap it with a rag so it wouldn't be too hot. We'd put it in bed before we crawled in... sheer luxury to put cold toes against a toasty rock, or to pull it up to huddle against until the sheets warmed up.

So what did we do when times were hard? We never noticed.