Monday, November 29, 2010

Saving water is not just for summer

Winter comes and it doesn't seem so important, does it? At least that's the way I've thought of it before, but I've been thinking about this. Sure, the water bill drops when we quit watering our lawns or gardens and quit playing in the water on hot days, but we can make it drop even more.

When the weather got cold, I quit putting a container under the kitchen faucet to catch water that would otherwise go down the drain. I put it back today and will leave it there. What to use the water on? Cleaning where hot water isn't necessary, watering the houseplants, watering trees when we don't have much snow, mopping the floors, washing my hands, rinsing a cloth or cup or whatever. I just have to pay attention so I don't rinse a cup after washing my hands!

Another way to save water in the winter: Make showers quicker and less often. You won't die because you didn't have two showers today. Honest, some people do that. (Shower twice a day, I mean, not die because they can't.)

Save water from cans or pans of vegetables and use it to water houseplants.

Save water from your shower to clean, flush the toilet or do nasty jobs like wash the trash can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A giving of thanks, frugal style

I just can't hold off any longer. Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, whatever - the holidays are rushing in upon us.

Department stores have been displaying ornaments and artificial trees for weeks, the weather is turning steadily cooler, the leaves are almost all gone, and it's almost winter.

We're in that limbo between the first, glorious fall colors and the icy beauty of winter holidays... it must be getting close to Thanksgiving. (With apologies to our Canadian readers, that Thanksgiving slipped right by me! - Somebody remind me next year.)

Sorry, you have to be frugal to appreciate this list of things to be thankful for.

Come on, say after me:

I'm thankful that college kids go home for Christmas and dump their decorations, trees, etc., in the alley before they go - a week before Christmas.

I'm thankful that it's cold at Christmas time so I can knit warm scarves, gloves and mittens from thrift store yarn and they will be appreciated.

I'm thankful for warm clothes that allow me to keep the temperature another degree cooler and save that many more energy dollars.

I'm thankful for flea markets and thrift stores, which are alternates to antique stores, if I'm lucky.

I'm thankful for turkey carcasses, from which I can make my favorite turkey and noodles and turkey and rice soup.

I'm thankful for dollar stores, which allow me to buy holiday nonessentials that won't knock my budget out of kilter.

I'm thankful that living frugally throughout the year lets me face gift-giving holidays without a fearful looking toward next January when the bills come due.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Dollar Stretcher Review

That's the name of my new blog on the Dollar Stretcher Community site. Check it out: The Dollar Stretcher Review

It only has one post as of today, but you gotta start somewhere, right? :)

I'll be adding to it as we go. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This time of year

My favorite things this time of year:

Leaves swirling in the wind and crunching under my feet
Skies the color of baby blue and white cotton
Brown earth, wet and smelling like it should
A certain rush of energy as the cold air sweeps in
Checking the garden and seeing that everything is properly at rest for the winter.
The smell of wood smoke, caught now and then from the neighbor's fireplace.
Trying to decide if the laundry will dry tomorrow if I hang it outside.
Long evenings when I can sit and knit or read without guilt because it's too dark to do anything else.
Getting into a bed that's too cold and waiting as my body heat slowly warms it up.
Getting up into air that's too cold and having to wait for the bathroom to warm up before I can take a shower.
Watching the western sky in the hopes that those clouds will carry snow.
Buying bags of bird seed at Walmart so I can watch the sparrows and finches eat from the kitchen window.
Anticipating Thanksgiving and worrying already about how much of what to make.
Anticipating Christmas.

What's not to like about this time of year?

And it doesn't have a thing to do with frugal, except that very little of the enjoyment costs money.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Save Money around the Home Office

Guest post by Olivia Coleman, author of articles concerning online colleges and universities. She welcomes your comments at

Your home office should be a quiet and efficient place. After all, the home office is where many of us handle our family's finances. We pay bills from the home office. We evaluate our investment decisions. We worry about our budget. Because many of our financial decisions are made in the home office, then we should also make sure that our home offices aren't costing us to lose money. It would be terrible to have money flowing out of the home office unaccounted for. Here are a few ways you can make your home office a more frugal space.

Cut Down on Paper Waste

Home offices use a lot of different kinds of paper: printer paper, notepads, and calendars. Ideally, you can cut costs by going to a paperless accounting system and pay all your bills online. Minimize your printing needs. Cut up old printed paper and keep the scraps together to make notepads so you don't have to buy the expensive ones. Use an electronic calendar. If you can cut down all your paper purchases to just a bit of printer paper every now and then, you'll certainly save some money.

Use Less Juice

Another thing about our home offices is they are full of electronics: printers, computers, lamps, clocks, stereos, cell phone chargers, and paper shredders. Many of these appliances use electricity even when turned 'off.' How do they do that, you ask? Well, because they aren't actually powered down; instead, they go into a standby mode that still draws on your power source. If you can cut off these 'vampire appliances,' then you'll be able to save some money. Connect these appliances to a surge protector strip that allows you to flick a switch to break the connection completely.

Change Your Light Bulbs

Another way to save money in the long run in your office is to change the light bulbs in your office lamps to energy efficient bulbs. While the cost up front will be noticeable, you could save yourself up to $20 a year per light bulb. Often, these bulbs give off the same amount of light as a normal incandescent bulb of higher wattage. And with the advance of technology, they now emit a softer light than that of standard fluorescent bulbs.
Conserve Office Supplies

Finally, you'll want to be smart about how you purchase office supplies. Pens and pencils, printer cartridges, scissors, tape, all of these things can add up to a lot of money. The best way to make sure you're not spending more than necessary is to keep an inventory of your supplies, just like any small business would. That way you won't be tempted to buy a package of pens on sale because you're not sure if you need them or not. Likewise, be sure when you do run out of something you're not buying the most expensive product. Look for sales and shop around.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting in the mood for the holidays?

I've been surfing the internet today, looking for some really good Thanksgiving ideas. Wow, there are some awesome sites especially for Thanksgiving! I found coloring pages for the kids, turkey recipes, history, stories, trivia (which president proclaimed it to be a national holiday?) and a lot more.

Here are the top Thanksgiving sites I've found, but please add your own favorites so we can all enjoy Thanksgiving online.

Thanksgiving on the 'Net

Printable Thanksgiving coloring pages (includes click to color online)
Thanksgiving History

Monday, November 8, 2010

Top Ways to Save Money When Buying a Car

Guest post by Elysabeth Teeko -

It's hard to find a new car unappealing, especially when you're driving around in a vehicle that is a few years old, has a stain on the floorboard, and may be in need of maintenance. When the new car bug bites, you need a solid plan to buy the car you want at a price you can afford. Here are a few tips to help you get the best deal.

Do Your Research

There's nothing wrong with buying a new car, but you need to know that it loses value the minute you drive it off the lot. Unless, you negotiate with the power of a pro, you'll pay more than you should. The following things can help you lower the price tag.
  • Know the dealer's cost for the car and negotiate up from there rather than starting at the sticker value, or the MRSP value.
  • Wait until the end of the month when dealerships and sales professionals may be willing to make better new car deals in order to hit company goals and bonuses.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away if you can't get the savings you want on a car. Another dealership may be in need of sales and offer you the price you want.

Find Deals on Used Cars

Buying a used car means you've saved money, because somebody else already paid the depreciation of the vehicle. While many people used to think all used cars were lemons, buyers can now take advantage of a variety of tools to get the best deal.

  • Use a car reporting service, like Carfax to verify the history of a vehicle. This takes the guessing out of the game and can help you avoid cars that will eat into your savings.
  • Shop for Certified Pre-owned vehicles from dealerships. When you buy from a dealer, you can usually get some type of warranty to help protect you against unforeseen car trouble.
  • Get the car inspected before you agree to purchase the vehicle. While this costs money up front, it can save you hundreds of dollars on car repairs.

Offer to Pay Cash

It might surprise you to know what type of car deals you can get if you offer to pay cash. While this is more common with private sales, cash can still have an influence on a dealership. If you want to see the negotiation power of cash, keep a few things in mind.

  • Don't walk around with cash in your pocket. Most sellers will accept a cashier's check or certified funds in place of cash. The phrase refers to paying for the car in full rather than financing it.
  • Call ahead and ask to speak with a salesperson or the seller. Find out what deals you can get if you pay cash.
  • Calculate how much money you can save by paying for the car in full rather than financing it. In most cases, you'll save hundreds of dollars.

When you understand the best ways to negotiate a car sale, you can walk away with more than a new car: You can walk away with saved money.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I've been workin'

And here's what I've been working on:

This Christian Life

It's sort of resurrected from a site I used to have. Some of the content is from then, some is fresh. You won't know the difference unless you happen to remember it from a few years ago.

It just feels like the right time to get it back online. What do you think of it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Draft dodgers

AKA, draft stoppers, draft snakes or draft guards, these soft log-like forms are great for stopping cold air, insects and dust from entering your home under a door or a window.

As frugal luck would have it, they're easy to make and chances are that you have something already on hand to make them from.

I say "something" because they can be made from a lot of different things. If you're in a big hurry and don't have time to cut and sew, roll up a towel or rug to place under the door.

If you want to make a real draft dodger, you will need some kind of material. Closely woven works best, but if you don't have any, use what you have and of course, used fabric is perfect for the most frugal draft stopper.

Besides that you will need 
  • Needle and thread or a sewing machine 
  • Stuffing, which can be dry corn, beans or rice, cut-up rags or yarn scraps, or (better because of its insulating nature) use newspaper rolled to fit the tube. If you don't want to use newspaper or rags, remember that something rather heavy will keep the draft stopper in place better, but even plastic bags, crunched and rolled tightly, can be used. 
Here's the way I do it: I cut the material at least 12 inches wide (wider if you have a healthy gap to fill) and 8 to 10 inches longer than the bottom of the door.

I fold the fabric in half lengthwise and sew the side to make a tube, then I sew one end firmly closed. I have gathered the material with thread and then tied it closed tightly with ribbon or string but I like the sewn end better.

Then I just stuff it and sew the open end. That's all there is to it.

Keeping out the cold is more important than making something look good, but when you have time, you can decorate your draft dodger with embroidery stitches, ruffles, lace or rickrack, or make a cover for it that can be laundered.

I don't need them at the outer door, but I use them against the bedroom door during the day to keep from heating it. You could use one against closet doors, or any door to a room that doesn't need heat.

Since they're so cheap to make, why not?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday, November 1

This is an interesting day - the day after Halloween, the day before Election Day, the first day of the work week and the first day of the month!

For some, this is the kickoff to the holiday season. It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a little over three weeks away.

The last few years in this area, the stores have offered turkey up to 15 pounds at a set rate, then turkeys over that pound at a couple of dollars more. I can't remember the exact rate it was last year, but it has been 6 dollars up to 15 pounds and 8 dollars for anything over that.

To make the most of this deal, I get the biggest turkey I can find for either price level and I usually get two or three extra, depending on freezer space. Turkey is cheap protein and good food, too.

Election Day, 2010 will no doubt be quite interesting. No matter what happens, I suspect there are going to be some emotional moments, some great disappointments and some great victories. Be sure to be a part of it.

"Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are falling fast."

A couple of lines from "The Months" by Sara Coleridge. I learned it in school all those many years ago. November really is often dull, weather-wise, as we prepare for serious cold just ahead, but that's fine with me, because so many other things are happening, or about to happen.

Don't let the holiday busyness make you forget about saving money by keeping your heating bills as low as you can. I don't mean that you should shake and shiver all winter by turning the thermostat too low, but if you haven't yet, take some time to make sure there are no cold air leaks into your home and that the furnace is operating efficiently.

And finally, today is the first day of the rest of your life. That's the most important thing about this day.