April 29, 2011

Getting Ready for a Graduation Party - On a Budget


We are on a tight budget in May as we will be hosting a graduation party for our youngest son.  I've been buying ahead and planning ahead so that I can get the most for my dollar.

In our community a high school graduation party is a big deal.  When I graduated from High School I had a little open house and we had cake and ham sandwiches.  Now there are over the top graduation parties that can rival a wedding reception. 

Parents rent any available party venue for the graduation party or they have the party in their home.  If they have the party in their home, they will spend a lot of time (and money) getting the house ready and to also get the home improvement projects done that they have been putting off.  One year we went to a graduation party that had a "Hawaiian" theme. I thought graduation was the theme. 

We have received several party invitations in the mail.  Most of them have been custom made by a printer.  I made the invitation on my computer and I scanned in my son's graduation picture and printed them off here at home.  The card stock was leftover from my card making days.

The only project that I am getting done before the party is the painting of our living room.  One half is done and it is absolutely beautiful.  Now on to the other half which I want to have done by the end of next week. (I will post pictures when it is finished.) 

We need to plant some flowers and bushes, but I have no intention of doing this before the party.  After all, everything goes on sale really cheap after Memorial Day and his graduation is the week before.  The exterior of our house needs to be repainted and our light fixtures in the kitchen are ugly and need to be replaced.  But again, I don't care if our house isn't picture perfect in time for the party.  It doesn't bother me. 

When you have a graduation celebration open house, you have no idea how many people will come.  A lot of people have the food catered in, but I prefer to do my own cooking, except for the cake.  I have placed an order for the cake - 2 sheet cakes and 1 "centerpiece" cake.  Unfortunately it is very expensive - $175.  I thought about ordering the "centerpiece" cake and then making cupcakes, but my son asked that we have the sheet cakes.  I will save money in other areas.

For the rest of the food we are grilling hamburgers (the stockpile of hamburger in my freezer will be put to good use).  I am making the hamburger buns and have all of the ingredients in my pantry.  Then we are having a pasta salad (I have most of the pasta in my pantry) and tortilla roll ups (colorful tortillas spread with cream cheese mixed with dry ranch dressing, chopped red pepper, olives and chopped green onion).  I was going to also serve potato chips but I don't think it will be necessary.

For drinks we are having pop and bottled water.  I bought the pop today as it was on sale.  I already have bottled water. 

As to decorations - well, the centerpiece cake as far as I am concerned is the decoration as it will be in the center of the table. But I did save graduation decorations from our oldest son's high school graduation party.  There is no class year on any of these decorations so I can use them again.  Dollar Tree sells helium balloons for $1.00 so I will go out and buy 3 to place on a post on our front porch.

I already have a cloth tablecloth that we can use.  As to the plates, napkins and forks, I am going to purchase colorful graduation napkins and I also have plain white napkins (Marcal) that I bought on sale with a coupon.  The plastic forks are pretty cheap at one store and I will pickup some cheap plastic recyclable plates at another.

We are expecting anywhere from 100 to who knows.  At my oldest son's party we had around 125 people.  Our youngest son knows more people. 

I've done my best to pick a menu that won't break the bank.  I am making the food except for the cake and I have been buying items as they went on sale so we won't have to buy everything a few days before the party.  

As to the budget, I will be paying $175 for the cake.  The pop cost me $45.  The meat was purchased months ago, as were the ingredients for the hamburger buns.  I have allowed myself a budget of $350 for this party which means I have $130 left to spend on what I need. 

I have been to graduation parties that have cost over $1,000 with catered food and fresh cut flowers in vases for decorations.  I have been to modest parties such as what we are having.  I have always enjoyed the simple parties the most. 

On the day of the party my husband will be grilling hamburgers in the backyard and any men that come will probably congregate around the grill talking to him.  My best friend is taking the day off from work to help me in the kitchen.  People can eat inside or out in our backyard.  We are not renting a tent for the back yard (yes people even do that).  If it starts to rain, they can mill around the downstairs of our house or eat on our front or back porch.

Moving Tightwad Post to Monday, May 2nd

I procrastinated today with watching the Royal Wedding and working on my painting job in the living room so I am going to postpone our Tightwad discussion for today to Monday, May 2nd. 

April 28, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 15 - April 28th


There are some great tips in today’s reading. Have you ever thought about mixing leftover paint to use on a project or what about making some of your own convenience food?

Let’s get started.

PAGE 117 – MIXED EMULSIONS

“In every basement, just to the left of the tattered lawn chairs awaiting rewebbing, sits a stack of paint cans, left over from dozens of household projects. A new project arises; you scan the cans and discover that you don’t have quite enough for this particular task. So you buy another can, use three quarters of it, and add it to the pile. Eventually, sick of the mess you decide to take the whole lot to the dump, even though a lot of it is technically, toxic waste.”

Okay – everyone out there that has paint cans leftover from a project raise your hand.




Yes, you know I have my hand raised. Amy’s solution is to mix the lot and get it used up.

Amy reported that a solid waste facility in Washington state, was accepting cans of paint and then they were mixing the cans, sealing them and they gave it away – over 12,000 gallons. Now I’m sure they took like colors and mixed them or you would have some pretty ugly paint if you just mixed everything together.

Obviously combining latex with latex and oil based with oil based. If you mix exterior with interior and use it outside, be aware that it will lose durability. You can use the mixed paint for the undercoating and the “pure paint” for the topcoat with good results.

Using mixed paint means that you will need to be a little less picky about a paint shade and color. Asks friends and neighbors if they have paint they want to get rid of or perhaps mix and share.

I keep cans of paint in my basement for touch ups. The leftover paint from my living room will be used in a portion of the hallway off of the living room. But I do have paint leftover from the entryway and I plan to use it on the walls to my basement. As you may recall the colors I used in the entryway were shades of yellow and shades of blue. I am going to stripe the walls on the stairway to the basement by painting the top with the light shade of yellow and continue down to the darkest. Then I will paint the steps with the blue shades, starting with the darkest shade on the top step and rotating the three shades down the stairs.

The ceiling of the basement stairs are the underside of the stairs to our second floor. I will paint those the same shades of blue as the stairs. The walls are plaster on the top and as you go down the stairs they are made up of old horizontal boards. Right now they are painted a weird lime type green.

My basement is an “old house” type basement so this will make it look a little funky and kitschy which I like. I also plan to take any other leftover mixed paint to paint the wooden walls on some of those basement rooms. I may even add a little fun graffiti.

You can use leftover “mixed” paint to paint furniture, lawn furniture, birdhouses, old chairs and so on. Just look around your house and see what you can do with the leftover mixed paint.

PAGE 119 – SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE

Many readers sent Amy information about the SHARE food program. You get a box of food at a reduced price and you have to pick it up at a specific SHARE location.

You sign up one month in advance with a host organization and you do two hours of community service. You then qualify for the box of food.

Amy listed the ingredients in a box of SHARE food and their price if bought separately. She calculated that it would only save her family $4.14 and if they had to do two hours of community work, it wouldn’t be worth it.

I disagree with Amy on the community work. I teach Sunday school at our church and have helped with the after school kids program at our church along with other volunteer programs at our church. I do these anyway and I could use the time I spend on these activities to qualify for the community work.

Amy does go on to say that SHARE is a good idea for people who don’t shop like they do. Also SHARE does supply only nutritious foods so it ensures that people with poor food buying habits get nutritious meals.

People going through hard times can isolate themselves and perhaps the community work would force them to get out and perhaps make some friends.

Here is a website for SHARE Iowa which gives you an idea of what is in each box of food and the costs. You can also check Angel Food ministries at this site.

PAGE 120 – SENSIBLE SUBSTITUTES

Amy gave recipes that she used to replace some convenience foods. Aside from saving some money, homemade mixes save on packaging, there are no artificial ingredients, homemade almost always taste better, buying and keeping staples on hand to make the mixes saves on shopping time and requires less space, homemade can be modified to taste or to meet dietary restrictions such as reducing salt.

Seasoned Salt

8 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoons garlic powder


Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container.

Taco Seasoning Mix

6 teaspoons chili powder
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
5 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons onion powder
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container. This homemade mix is twice as strong as the store bought so use half the amount.

Tomato Soup

1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste
24 ounces milk (refill tomato can 4 times)
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon celery seed

Put tomato paste in a small saucepan. Add the milk using the can, rinsing thoroughly. Add the salt and the celery seed. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally.

Onion Soup Mix

3/4 cup instant minced onion
4 teaspoons onion powder
1/3 cup beef flavored bouillon powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container. To use add 2 tablespoons mix to 1 cup boiling water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. This makes a stronger soup than the store-bought mix, so you can use less.

Chocolate Syrup

1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cocoa and the water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil 3 minutes. Add the salt and the vanilla. Pour into a sterilized pint jar and store covered in refrigerator. Keeps for several months.

Seasoned Rice Mix

3 cups uncooked regular rice
1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
6 tablespoons instant chicken or beef bouillon powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container. To use put 1 cup mix, 2 tablespoons margarine and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or til the rice is tender. To more closely approximate Rice-a-Roni, substitute 1 cup of broken pieces of uncooked spaghetti for a 1 cup of rice.

I have used all of these recipes, except the tomato soup recipe, and they are very good.

PAGE 124 – TIP ONE - SAVE A BUNCH

If you keep bananas in a closed plastic bag, they will keep at least two weeks on your counter. I was able to get some of those Hefty Extend bags for free with coupons. They did extend the life of bananas but not by two weeks.

PAGE 126 - TIP TWO – FOAM FOR FREE

A reader wrote Amy to tell her that he needed some foam to wrap around some PVC water pipes for insulation. He called a local carpet store and they let him take discarded foam pads from their dumpster. He cut the pads into strips and wrapped the strips around the pipes.

PAGE 127 – TIP THREE – KITTY COMB

A reader wrote in to say that she almost killed her cat from using flea products that had harmful chemicals. Now she uses a flea comb and she began by combing her cat four times daily. She got an average of 20 fleas a day for two weeks. Within a month of this, every trace of a flea was gone.

Tomorrow read page 128 through 138.

April 27, 2011

Tightening the Belt Further

We have had quite a number of unplanned expenses over the past several weeks.  Everyone has them, so that is nothing new.  We are paying these unplanned expenses but we are also trying to cut back anywhere we can because we have some additional expenses coming in May.

My husband told me last week that we definitely need to keep on only spending $25 for groceries this week.  That same day my clothes dryer started to act up and I am babying it along.  We don't have money for a new dryer but the good news is that we can go without a dryer. 

Now I am going from a tight budget to an extremely tight budget for a period of about 5 weeks.  By doing this we will free up a little extra money to put towards bills and to also pay for our son's graduation party in May. 

I have said it before and I am going to say it again, having a stockpile of food has totally saved us over and over again.  We have been eating from the pantry and freezer for almost 6 weeks and I am only now noticing a dent that has been made in my stockpile. 

Tonight I was watching a couple of episodes of Extreme Couponing and while I don't coupon near the level of these individuals, I do my best to save what I can.  Unfortunately none of our grocery stores double coupons and I believe that is an absolute necessity to be an extreme couponer.  On tonight's episodes one person said that having a stockpile on hand means security if there is a job loss.  I agree whole heartedly. 

While I don't have the stockpile that the extreme couponers do, I have one that is manageable for us and has saved us money.  It does go to show that you can still get decent deals without double coupons. 

In our family we are not experiencing a job loss, just a further tightening of the belt to pay for additional expenses.  Having a stockpile has saved us and I take pride in that.  I am providing for my family and I am prepared when finances are being stretched. 

I think I'm on my way to becoming a Proverbs 31 woman. 

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 14 - April 27th

Without much of a preamble, let’s get straight into the reading for today. I love the article Amy wrote on Selective Squeamishness. Here we go.

PAGE 106 – CHEAP SLEEPS

Amy talks about finding cheap places to sleep on a vacation. For her family of 8 they have no desire to go on a long trip and if they did, they have relatives that have told they would be happy to host them.

Amy gave some options for cheap travel lodging.

I’m going out on a limb here with Amy’s article as I have no idea if all of these options are still available.

1. College Dorms – Most rooms are empty during the summer.

2. YMCA Lodging.

3. Hostels

4. Vacation Home Exchange

We stay at hotels on vacation and we get discounts through AARP or AAA. We check to make sure we are getting a good deal on the room and we always make sure we are getting free breakfast and coffee. At breakfast I always take a banana or apple along with a bagel for a snack during the day.

When we were first married our vacations involved travelling to visit family, (my parents or my in laws) so we stayed in their homes. Other times we would tent camp.

My advice is to do some research. One time we were going to rent a cabin but found out that a hotel room each night was cheaper than the cabin. That was fine with me as there is one thing I don’t like to do when we are taking a vacation break, and that is cook and clean.

PAGE 110 – THE FEMME FRUGAL

Amy wrote in this article about saving money on sanitary products by purchasing a reusable rubber cup called the “Keeper” to replace tampons. She and her female staff members tried it and liked it. They saved money and kept more garbage from the landfill. This rubber cup comes in two sizes – before childbirth and after childbirth.

Amy also suggested that if you didn’t like this idea, but needed to save money and also wanted to keep more garbage out of the landfill, you could make your own sanitary napkins.

I am coming to the point in my life that I hope that I won’t need these products much longer. Yea!!!!! So, I would not invest in a rubber cup to replace tampons. However, for a light day, I have definitely thought about making my own sanitary pads.

Here is the “Keeper” at Amazon.

And here is another version called the “Diva.”

PAGE 112 – THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING GROCERIES

Amy wrote an article about how manufacturers’ are shrinking package sizes. And it is still going on today. It makes you wonder if pretty soon there won’t be anything in those packages at the store.

Amy reminds us to use unit pricing to compare prices from brand to brand.

PAGE 114 – CARPET TACTIC

Call carpet stores for carpet samples. You can use them in cars, bathrooms, doorways or cut to fit benches or chairs. When I was in college I bought a bunch of these carpet samples for about 10 cents each. I think I spent around $4.00 for 40 of them and used duct tape on the back to “attach” them. The end result was a huge area rug that went in my dorm room over the cold tile floor. When I left college I sold it to an underclassman.




PAGE 114 – SELECTIVE SQUEAMISHNESS

When one of her children didn’t finish an apple, Amy would put it in the fridge and then make a personalized microwave apple crisp for that child later on. When she shared this with a neighbor, the neighbor responded with “I wouldn’t put her germy apple back in the refrigerator!” Amy wondered if this woman ever kissed her child if she was afraid of germs.

Amy termed this Selective Squeamishness. When she was on the “Phil Donahue Show” Amy shared that she would take a cookie with a burned bottom and scrape off the burnt area so it could be eaten. The audience responded with “Eeeew.” My grandmother would do this with toast if it got burnt and then she would butter it and hand it to us. We didn’t think anything of it. Makes you wonder if these people would have ever made it through the Depression.

On the same show Amy explained how you could take the jam that remains in the bottom of a jar and warm it, add milk to the jar and shake it and then freeze it for a popsicle. The audience groaned.

I remember watching this show that day. I had just bought her first book and I was excited to listen to the interview. I was shocked at how the audience reacted to her, but I do remember something Phil Donahue said at the end of the show. He told the audience something to the effect of yeah, you may disagree with Amy and think she is different, but I bet you don’t have your house paid off and a lot of money in the bank like she does.

“People have expressed squeamishness over my practice of making soup from leftovers, yet if the same soup had been assembled from virgin ingredients, they would regard it as good home cooking.”

Some people would never wear garage sale clothes because they feel that they are germy. However they will try on brand new clothes in a store that have probably been tried on by other people.

Germs are unavoidable in our lives. We can get them from telephones, eating in restaurants, on door handles and kitchen counters.

“The things that we regard as odd or germy are often unique to our culture.”

“So . . . next time an idea about saving money seems gross to you, consider whether you are merely being selective, and whether you accept a similar activity as okay. In other words, think before you squeam.”

For tomorrow read pages 117 through 127.

April 26, 2011

Grocery Expense for the week of April 18th

My grocery expense for last week was $23.16.  I purchased some bread, fresh produce (lettuce, red pepper, bananas, fresh pineapple, apples) and milk with this amount. 

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 13 - April 26th

If you live in a small apartment, have you ever thought about how much money you could save on food if you were able to purchase a small chest freezer and fit it into your small living space? Amy makes this point in one of articles in today’s reading.

Also there is a great tip in today’s reading for a homemade laundry pretreatment.

PAGE 98 – TAKE CHARGE OF CHARGES

One of the basic tenets of tightwaddery is to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to get rid of the extra charges attached to your mortgage.

1. Private Mortgage Insurance – If you make a down payment of less than 20% then you most likely will have to pay private mortgage insurance. The purpose of this insurance is to pay the lender if you default on your mortgage. Once you build up your equity beyond 20%, this insurance is no longer required. This does vary from state to state so contact your lender to see what percentage in equity you must have in your home before you can drop this extra expense. You could save an average of $600 annually. When you reach the point of dropping this insurance, apply the amount you were paying to P.M.I. to your mortgage.

2. Many banks require an escrow account in which you pay the monthly equivalent of your homeowner’s insurance and your property taxes. Some states require the lender to pay you interest on the escrow account while other states do not. In order to earn a little bit of interest on your money, contact your lender to see if you could set up your own escrow account or can otherwise arrange to pay the property taxes and insurance yourself. You could collect your own interest money on a savings account into which you deposit this money.

Explore these options prior to getting a mortgage. You should really do your best to put 20% down or as much as possible.

PAGE 99 – TIP ONE – TRASH DANCE

A high school teacher wrote in to say that she always volunteers to help with the clean up after the dances as they throw out all of the decorations. She scavenges as much as she can and reuses the metallic paper, ribbons, streamers, bows, stars, bells and plastic flowers throughout the year.

PAGE 100 – TIP TWO - A CLEARER MIRROR

To make a mirror fog free, simply spread liquid soap on the glass with a cloth to cover it completely. Then polish dry with another cloth.

PAGE 100 – TIP THREE – LAUNDRY PRETREATMENT

A High School Home Economics teacher sent in this homemade laundry pretreatment recipe.

Combine 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup ammonia (sudsy or plain), 1/2 cup Wisk liquid laundry detergent and 1/2 cup water.

Spray on grease or food spots or dirty collars and cuffs. Wash garments as usual.

PAGE 101 – APARTMENT LIVING AND A FREEZER

When Amy was single and living in Boston, she didn’t own a car and used public transportation. She never lived near a large supermarket and the groceries she purchased had to be hauled onto public transportation and then up flights of steps to her apartment. No wonder she used convenience foods and ate out a lot.

Years later she looked back and thought about how a small freezer would have benefited her during that time. By having a small freezer you could make a lot of meals and put them in the freezer for later use, thus avoiding eating out and spending a lot of money. It would pay for itself in no time. They sell small chest freezers which fit into small spaces.

I have thought about this too. The years that we rented and lived in apartments we could have benefited from buying a small chest freezer. We lived in small apartments and we could have fit a small freezer in each of them. It may have ended up in the living room with a tablecloth over it, but we would have still had room.

I remember back about 28 years ago I worked with a woman who lived in an apartment with her husband. They had purchased second hand a small portable washing machine that hooked up to their kitchen faucet. They were able to wash small loads at a time and then they hung the clothes up to dry. In no time they had recouped the money that they had used to purchase it as they no longer went to the Laundromat.

It is the same with a small freezer. You are able to save money and it is these sensible purchases that can put you on the road to putting money into savings even while living in a small apartment.

PAGE 103 – SLASH YOUR TRASH

Frugality naturally creates less trash, but even frugal people can learn to generate less than they do. Remember, dumping items in the landfill costs money and worse yet, it is bad for the environment.

Here are some tips for saving on trash fees:

1. Buy used items. Secondhand items rarely come with packaging.

2. Omit convenience foods, most of which have excess packaging.

3. Eliminate as many disposable items as possible such as paper plates, disposable diapers and so on.

4. If given a choice, buy products in recyclable containers.

5. Buy concentrated products.

6. Buy bulk foods. A 25 lb. sack of flour produces less packaging waste than five – 5 lb. bags.

7. Bring your own bags when you go shopping.

8. Participate in your area’s recycling program.

9. Reuse everything as much as possible. An old athletic sock makes a great dust rag.

10. Compost your grass clippings, leaves and food waste.

11. Buy with durability in mind. Avoid buying things such as toys that break easily.

12. Reduce your incoming junk mail.

13. Cancel magazine subscriptions and borrow from the library.

14. Instead of throwing things away, give them away.

15. Make the extra effort to repair things before throwing them away.

16. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to get a permit for a burn barrel to burn nonrecyclable paper.

17. Compact your trash by flattening it, cutting or breaking it into smaller pieces.

18. Try to locate a scrap metal dealer in your area.

19. Grow and preserve your own food. Canning jars and freezer containers can be used from year to year.

20. Think hard about if you need the latest recent gadget or invention.

PAGE 105 – THE NAKED TOOTH

As with everything, you don’t need to use a lot of a product just because they show it on TV. You don’t need a gob of toothpaste on your toothbrush. A dental hygienist told Amy that about 1/4 inch is all that is needed. She also told Amy that actually you don’t even need toothpaste to brush your teeth and get your mouth clean. What you need to do is to practice proper brushing and proper flossing. “If you use the proper stroke and brush for a total of five minutes, getting every tooth, you should be able to remove most of the plaque.”

Now I think it is important to add that toothpaste freshens your breath and it also contains fluoride for your teeth. However, if you have a child that gags a lot and doesn’t like the feel of foamy toothpaste in their mouth, perhaps they could still have good dental health if they brush their teeth for 5 minutes without toothpaste and then use a little bit of toothpaste to quickly brush their teeth. You could slowly decrease the amount of time they spend on brushing with just water and then increase the time they brush with toothpaste.

If you are faced with buying food and can’t afford toothpaste, you can always use baking soda on your toothbrush along with brushing your teeth with water only. But I would not advocate going without toothpaste for long.

For tomorrow read pages 106 through 116.

April 25, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 12 - April 25th


Amy Dacyczyn must be an interesting person to sit next to at a church buffet. She has a wealth of knowledge and I'm so thankful that she shared that information in her books. 

I decided two months ago that it was time to re-read Amy's books in light of today's economy in order to glean more frugal tips.  I'm glad I did as I have gained new tips to use in my house and I have also gained the encouragement I need to keep doing what I am doing.

Today’s reading is pretty interesting. Amy covers shopping at Warehouse stores and she also did a test on whether store bought mixes were cheaper than from scratch. Also there is a discussion on negotiating and on how to make your own bug repellants. 

My comments are underlined.  I would be interested to hear comments on today's reading, particularly on those who shop at Warehouse stores.

TIP ONE: BIRTHDAY BUCKS

A reader wrote in to say that her children had birthdays in the same month. These kids were surprised when their great Aunt sent them homemade birthday cards made out of construction paper and in each card was a few dollars. The Aunt had gone to buy them cards and when they rang up the price of each card, she decided to make the kids a card and send them the money she would have spent on the cards. The children were pleased with the homemade cards and the cash.

This is one of my pet peeves – prices of greeting cards. I used to make my cards when I was very much into stamping and crafting, but now I go to Dollar General and get cards for 50 cents. I agree with this article as spending all that money on a card is ridiculous.

TIP TWO: CUT A RUG

A reader took up the wall to wall carpeting in her bedroom and when she did she realized the portion of the carpet under her bed was like new. She cut it out for an area rug. Binding is available at carpet or fabric stores and can be glued on.

We were given a large carpet remnant about 14 years ago. At the time I was going to put it in our basement but after we picked it up I saw that it was a brand new piece of carpeting and it was a perfect fit in our oldest son’s room. The color matched his room as if we had picked it out ourselves. However, the edges were raw, so I went out and bought some brown duct tape which matched the carpeting.

The carpet is brown and tan “speckled” short nap carpeting. I used the duct tape to “bind” the carpet. As I applied the duct tape to the top of the carpet I made sure it was even by ½ inch all the way around the top and then I folded it over to the back of the carpet. It worked beautiful and it looks like we had it bound. When I tell people that it is duct tape on the edges they have to touch it before they believe me.

We always thought we would replace the carpet but we haven’t because it hasn’t worn out and the duct tape looks like binding, so we have kept it that way.

PAGE 90 – THE FINE ART OF NEGOTIATION

America is one of the few countries in the world where shopping is a passive sport. In many countries even if you are buying a piece of candy, you haggle for the price. It is a way of life.

Amy and her husband learned a long time ago that it doesn’t hurt to ask and her husband as a result has bought a new outboard motor for his boat for only $900 when it was priced at $1,250.

One of Amy’s readers wrote in to say that he haggles for everything. Here are his tips:

1. Everything is negotiable. When he goes to a retail store he will talk with the manager and ask him/her if they will take a lower price on an item.

I’m a wimp when it comes to “haggling.” However last week I did something that I normally don’t do. I went to buy some coffee that was on sale and when I got to the checkout I noticed that the expiration date on the box was March 24th. I asked the assistant manager if she would consider selling it to me at a reduced price since it was past the expiration date. At first she said she couldn’t do that and she went back to find the same coffee that hadn’t expired. She came back and told me she would sell it to me for half the price. I was pretty happy with that.

2. Negotiating is a human transaction. Don’t barge up and start haggling, instead start a conversation and chit chat first.

3. After this, gently guide the discussion to the item at hand.

4. Don’t rush to discuss prices.

5. Once you hear the proposal, never counter it immediately. By waiting and considering the proposal, you show respect to the seller.

6. When you do respond, give your reasons, and then make your counter offer.

7. Suppose you go through all of this and you end up with a gap between what you will pay and what the seller will take. You can sweeten the pot by offering a noncash commodity to sweeten the deal.

Either you are comfortable in doing this, or you are uncomfortable. If this makes you uncomfortable but you want to give it a try, go to a garage sale and find something you want to buy. Let’s say the price is $1.00. Ask if they will take 75 cents. If they say no and you still want it, go ahead and buy it and remember that at the next garage sale they may be willing to negotiate. If they say yes, then you saved 25 cents.

PAGE 93 – BUDGET BUG BUSTING

REMEDIES FOR OUTDOORS

1. Make a garden spray from 1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent and 1 cup vegetable oil. Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of this mixture with 1 cup of water and spray it on your plants.

2. Fire Ant Hills - Wait for a day when the ground is dry and rain is at least a day away, and then gently sprinkle a teaspoon of instant grits on each fire ant hill in your yard. The worker ants carry the grits to the queen, who eats them. When she drinks water, the grits expand in her stomach and kill her. The remainder of the hill dies within a day.

REMEDIES FOR INDOORS

1. To get rid of fleas in your home, fill a pan with soapy water and place under a night light in any room that you suspect contains fleas. Make sure it is the only light in the room. The fleas will jump at the light, fall in the pan of soapy water, and drown.

2. Make ant repellant by combining 10 1/2 ounces of water, 3 ounces of Tabasco sauce and 2 1/2 ounces of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap (available at health food stores). Spray where ants enter the home.

3. To get rid of roaches, make roach dough. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup shortening. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup flour and 8 ounces of baking soda. Mix in just enough water to make a dough like consistency. Put small balls in plastic sandwich bags and place in roach infested areas. You should probably keep them out of areas where children and pets play.

It works because it creates gas when eaten. Roaches can’t belch, so their digestive tracts explode.


PAGE 94 – MIXES TAKE A BEATING

Amy read an article that said that store bought mixes were cheaper than making those same items from scratch. Amy decided to “get to the bottom of this apparent tightwad heresy.”

Amy purchased the cheapest cake, biscuit, corn muffin and brownie mixes they could find in a supermarket. She even bought refrigerated tube biscuits. Amy calculated the cost of the eggs and milk and such that they used in the mixes. After they baked everything, they weighed what each mix made and compared it to from scratch recipes.

Scratch recipes tended to have more body and are heavier. They are more filling.

In the end Amy found that most scratch mixes were more expensive than from scratch unless they were bought at a great sale and used a coupon. Also they conducted a taste test with her staffers and all of them preferred the from scratch versions.

I make the majority of my mix type items from scratch because I then know what I am putting into a baked item. I can use a mix of white flour and whole wheat flour if I want to and I can use the sweetener of my choice.

I have my Kitchen Aid mixer sitting on the counter underneath the cabinet that contains all of my baking supplies. This is my baking center as I have come to call it. It is easy to make up anything from scratch when everything is located in the same spot.

Also, you can always make your own mixes to save time. I have done this in the past for such things as a waffle and pancake mix. When I was first married I was given the book “Make a Mix Cookbook” and also “More Make a Mix Cookbook”. It is the “Bible” of cookbooks for making your own mixes. You can also go online to find some homemade mix recipes.

Since I have flour, sugars, leavening, flavorings and extracts on hand, I find that making my own mixes is easier than going out and buying them. I also enjoy from scratch cooking.

PAGE 97 – WONDERING ABOUT WAREHOUSE CLUBS

Amy wrote that Warehouse clubs have some things that are cheaper and some things that are not. You have to know your prices in order to compare from store to store. That is why Amy recommends making up a price book.

Amy discovered that in her area there were too few good deals for them to sign up and pay the annual membership fee. Warehouse stores can be a valuable part of your shopping network, with an emphasis on “part.” No single source has the cheapest price on everything. Know what items have the cheapest price and plan to stop in and get them once a month.

I don’t shop at Warehouse stores as the nearest one is almost 70 miles away. With the price of gas it would be foolish to drive that far for a couple of deals. I have found that by buying items when they are on sale, I can beat most warehouse store prices. For example, I get shredded cheese on sale for $1.25 an 8 ounce bag ($1.00 before food prices went up) and I believe that beats most Warehouse stores. I buy 12 double rolls of toilet paper for around $4.99 when it is on sale. So for me there is no way I would travel to a Warehouse store as the cost to get there would be prohibitive.

Tomorrow we will read pages 98 through 105.

April 22, 2011

Dealing with the High Cost of Gasoline



Being as I live in a small community, I find that the way to save on gasoline is to give up driving and walk or ride a bike (as the weather gets warmer).  Until then I fill my car up to a smidge above 1/4 of a tank.  Lately this has cost around $13.00.  Then I do my best to make that 1/4 tank last as long as I can.  If you have a 1/4 tank of gas in your car, you begin to re-think your driving routes and how much you actually need to drive.

My husband had to fill up his truck today. He has a Ford Ranger.  It cost close to $60 to fill it up and we live where gas isn't as high as other areas of the country.  We have had a considerable amount of expenses over the last 6 weeks and now with gasoline creeping up higher and higher, it is getting a little bit scarey. 

I don't throw in the towel and give up.  Instead I "soldier" on, reading the Tightwad Gazette books and looking at several blogs that I follow for any tips that will save me additional money to counter what we are now paying for gasoline.

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 11 - April 22nd

Today’s discussion is short as the information that Amy gave on saving money on funerals may be a little outdated and also the laws on funeral and burials varies from state to state. But since people die every day, you have to be prepared financially for paying for a funeral. Sooner or later it will happen.

Well, that’s a wonderful morbid discussion for Good Friday so let’s start off instead with food coloring.

PAGE 81 – LOW-COST COLOR

Amy uses paste food coloring for frosting or cookie dough. She compared the price of paste colors to the liquid food coloring that comes in those little bottles. Paste food coloring costs less because you get far more paste coloring in a container and also it takes far less to color a batch of frosting, as an example.

Paste food coloring will last for years. Also in addition to the paste colors being cheaper they are also richer than liquid colors. For example the liquid red will make pink, but won’t produce a true red frosting.

PAGE 82 – SIX WAYS TO RE-USE OLD BLUE JEANS

It is hard to explain how to exactly make these items, but Ann has given instructions (not very detailed) on how to make a workshop/gardening apron, a tote bag, a neck-roll pillow, wall organizer, jean vest and a purse.

Use your imagination and go on line for other ideas. You can find all sorts of ideas on line for what to make out of old jeans. I have a few pairs of jeans set aside to make a new skirt. Hopefully after my son’s graduation and party (in one month) I will finally have the time to sit down and make one.

There is something about jeans that makes me reluctant to get rid of them as they are always so sturdy and can be made into other useful items.

PAGE 84 – HOW TO SAVE ON FUNERALS

Sooner or later all of us will have to plan a funeral for a loved one. My husband and I have had some discussions about our funerals. My main consideration was to make sure that my best friend picked out the outfit I would wear in my casket as my husband is almost all color blind.

In all seriousness, it brings me a great deal of comfort knowing that we have discussed this and that he has left me a letter in our safety deposit box outlining other wishes he has.

Amy suggested that you write to the Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies for answers to any questions. Now with the internet you can Google to find answers to any questions you may have regarding funerals. Also many funeral homes have websites.

Memorial Societies are membership organizations that work with consumers to keep funeral costs low.

Sit down and talk with your spouse or other loved one about what you want in a service and other arrangements when you die. As an example, I don’t want my husband to spend a ton of money on a casket. For me it is ridiculous to spend a lot of money for a body I no longer need. But that is just me; others may want an expensive casket. Talk about the service you want. My husband is serious when he told me he wants the funeral luncheon to be catered by “Burger King” as that is his favorite fast food restaurant. Everyone is to wear a crown at the luncheon.

He in turn knows what I want and because we have discussed this, it will bring a little more peace of mind when the time comes.

Laws have changed since Amy wrote this article and the laws differ from State to State. However, one thing remains certain, funerals can be costly. When I worked on estates at the law firm I worked at, the average price of a funeral was around $8,000 including the memorial stone.

Amy outlines some options such as cremation versus burial, donating your body to medical science and having a funeral later. I urge you to do some checking in your local community as to the average price of a funeral and look at all of the costs such as having the funeral at the funeral home or in a church, the cost of music and the pastor. Some people opt for only a graveside service.

My experience firsthand with planning a funeral was for our baby girl. She was born March 1, 1984 and she died 3 hours after her birth. We had a grave side service for her and the funeral cost around $900 and that didn’t count the memorial stone. It was around $200 extra.

My husband and I have insurance that will cover the cost of our funerals. We also have Last Wills and Testaments for after we die and we also have Living Wills and Powers of Attorney for while we are alive. A discussion about funerals should also include these documents as being equally important as the planning of a funeral.

We will continue our Tightwad Gazette II reading on Monday, April 25th with pages 88 through 97. Have a wonderful Easter weekend everyone. I am looking forward to spending Easter with my family. Tomorrow I will finish some painting and will also enjoy an afternoon of cleaning and baking.

April 21, 2011

Tips from the Early Years of my Marriage

Back in the early 1980’s I started to collect some tips for saving money. These tips were supplied by women at my church and from women’s magazines.

I would write the tips on an index card and file them alphabetically in an index box. At some point I lost this box, at least I thought I had. I came across it recently when I was going through some boxes of books. Opening that box brought me back to the early years of our marriage when I was hoping that I would be able to quit my job and stay home. As I looked at the tips I realized that I had forgotten so many of them.

Here are a few:

Coffee Carafe: Remove stains with a wet cloth dipped in baking soda.

Eggs: Add hard cooked eggs to sandwich spreads to stretch the meat.

Floor Wax: Dilute floor wax with two parts hot water. It will go a long way and dry faster.

Kitchen floors: Stick moleskin to the bottom of your table and chairs to prevent marks on the floor.

Floors: To remove soap film, mop with ½ cup vinegar and 1 gallon lukewarm water.

Floor Wax substitution: Add ½ cup cornstarch to a gallon of lukewarm water and mop. It will make your floor shine.

Black Heel Marks: Remove from floor with a damp cloth and baking soda.

Citrus Peels: Freeze lemon and orange rinds. Grate frozen as needed.

Fruit Juices: Save unused canned fruit juices and freeze. Put on broiled chicken or use in a fruit punch.

Wrapping Paper: Use newspaper and red ribbon for an all occasion wrapping paper.

Inexpensive Gift: An index box of family recipes

Clogged Iron: Pour white vinegar into the iron and let it steam for about 5 minutes. Unplug the iron and let it cool for awhile. Empty vinegar and rinse the iron thoroughly by pouring water in and out.

Iron with built up starch: Scrub cool iron with nylon net or toothbrush and a little baking soda.

Jams and Jellies: Put bits of jams and jellies in 1 jar. Use melted as a baste for chicken, ham or lamb.

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 10 - April 21st


Today’s reading covers several tips and such but probably the best is doing what Amy calls “creative deprivation” when raising children. Let’s face it, it can be easy to over give your kids toys and let them sit in front of the computer or t.v. for a long time. In the end you are better off not over doing it and letting your children learn to appreciate things more. In fact I would say that children who learn this, will be the children that grow up into adulthood learning delayed gratification and will not have a consumer credit problem.

Well, let’s get at it.

PAGE 72 – FREEBIES – This article is outdated. To find free services such as tax advice, planning a trip or getting a free credit report, you do not need the addresses of the services that Amy gave. Now all you have to do is search the internet.

PAGE 74 – WE ATE LENTILS . . . AND LIVED

“Lentils are a cheap, filling source of protein, and because they don’t require soaking before cooking, they are the handy fast food of the legume family.”

I love lentils but no one else in my family does. I buy Progresso lentil soup when it is on sale so I can get my lentil fix. I grew up in a family that ate lentils and beans and we loved those frugal meals.

Amy tried several lentil recipes sent in by readers and the following two recipes passed the Dacyczyn family test kitchen.

Lentil Burgers for Bean Haters

2 cups cooked lentil – bulgur mixture (equal parts of lentils and bulgur – bulgur wheat can be purchased at health food stores.)
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
4 tablespoons mixed Italian herbs
4 cloves garlic (or 4 teaspoons powdered garlic)
2 eggs (or 2 tablespoons soy flour and 2 tablespoons water)
1/2 cup milk

Mix the first six ingredients. Mix in eggs. Add milk and mix well. Chill ½ hour. Make into patties and fry 10 minutes per side, or bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees, 10 minutes on each side.

Burritos

Combine 2 cups cooked lentil-bulgur mixture with ¼ cup taco-mix seasoning (purchased in bulk at a warehouse store, ¼ cup costs about 35 cents).

Make tortillas as follows:

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup cold water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Add water, mix until just combined. Divide into 10 balls and roll out flat. Fill with filling, roll up and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

*My tortilla recipe has additional steps such as rolling out and quickly cooking on a griddle, before filling and baking.

PAGE 75 – WHAT TO DO WITH . . . .

Ketchup gunk left in an empty bottle: Pour ¼ cup hot water into the bottle and shake vigorously until the gunk combines with the water. Pour the water into your freezer container for leftover soup. I do this and it gives a nice flavor to my homemade vegetable soup.

No longer needed Crib Sheets: Graduate them to car use. Crib sheets fit neatly over the backseat to protect it from spilled toddler drinks and crayon marks.

Old Mylar Balloons: Cut the seams off and use the two pieces to wrap small gifts. Place the gift in the center, pull up the mylar and tie with a ribbon.

Juice Lids: Glue a piece of magnetic tape (cheaper than magnets) to the back and a child’s picture to the front.

PAGE 78 – WIPE THE WIPER

Clean windshield wipers with vinegar and water in order to clean away the dirt and grime that accumulates on the wipers. They will be almost like new when you clean them with this solution.

PAGE 78 – CREATIVE DEPRIVATION

Amy went to a garage sale one day and a child was selling all of his GI Joe dolls, bazookas, rocket belts, tanks and everything else he had that was GI Joe. The son was selling the toys at ridiculously low prices and could care less about the toys that had cost hundreds of dollars.

Parents tend to give their children toys in excess and it doesn’t stop at toys. Parents allow their kids to be parked in front of a t.v. for hours. As a result of this kids come to view this excessiveness or overload as normal.

Amy instead is raising her children in what she calls “creative deprivation.”

“The idea behind creative deprivation is that every event should have space around it, so that the event can stand out and be appreciated.” Years ago a child received few toys and music was a special event because it could only be heard when musicians were assembled. Now flashy entertainment can come in to our homes 24 hours a day.

The best parents place limits on the stuff and the stimulation. They are tough enough to slow down the goodies – they limit what they give their children and they limit their access to the t.v. (and computer).

It is also wonderful to see a child thrilled by a simple pleasure. For our family it is a quick pick up game of basketball or the enjoyment of brownies fresh from the oven. It is going out to eat once a month instead of 3 or 4 times a week. Our family appreciates the fun of eating out since we do it so rarely.

The more you give your child gifts or experiences, the less they appreciate them. Limit the things that kids don’t need, but don’t limit what they do need.

We take trips in the summer that require a day or two of travel. When we had a minivan, we did not buy one with a d.v.d player. Instead our boys read or listened to some music or we talked and had a lot of fun talking about what we were seeing on the highway. We teased each other and played travel games and not once did we ever miss watching a movie to pass the time.

Tomorrow we will discuss pages 81 through 87. The topic of funerals comes up. No one likes to discuss this topic, but sooner or later we have to face it.

Extreme Couponing on TLC

Last night I watched TLC's Extreme Couponing and it left me longing for stores in our area that doubled coupons.  To my knowledge there isn't a grocery store in the State of Iowa that doubles coupons.  Back in the 1980's we did have stores that would double coupons on a particular day but no more.

So I am curious, how many of you live near a grocery store that doubles coupons?

April 20, 2011

Easter Menu


Putting a big holiday meal on the table the moment you get home from church can be challenging.  I have learned over the past couple of years to keep it simple.    Being in the kitchen and running around trying to get a lot of food on the table and getting all frazzled can spoil the day. 

Here is my Easter Menu:

Spiral Ham
Crockpot Cheesy potatoes
Steamed Mixed Vegetables
Tossed Greens Salad
Dinner Rolls and Hot Cross Buns
Bunny Cake

I will bake the hot cross buns Saturday afternoon.  The cheesy potatoes are made with cream of chicken soup, cheddar cheese and frozen southern hash brown potatoes.  They will go in the crockpot at 8 a.m. The spiral ham will go in the oven around 10:00 a.m. and will be in the oven while we are at church.  When I get home from church I will put the mixed vegetables on to cook and put the dinner rolls in the oven to brown. 

My FIL and MIL minister to a small congregation at a church 30 minutes south of us.  My MIL will be bringing the dinner rolls.  My DIL is baking the bunny cake that is a tradition in her family. 

As to the cost of this meal, I purchased the ham back in February when it was only 99 cents a lb.  That was a great deal.  I need to buy the hash browns for the cheesy potatoes and lucky for me a 32 oz bag is on sale this week for $1.50.  I have the cheese and the soup on hand.  The mixed vegetables are in the freezer and I have the ingredients for the hot cross buns.  The only other thing I need to buy are the fresh greens for the salad.  And that is it. 

Many years ago I would make two kinds of vegetable dishes along with two kinds of salads and even two desserts.  No more.  I enjoy a simpler menu that isn't hard to prepare.  A simpler menu also means I have more time to enjoy the company of my family on Easter Sunday.

Here is my recipe for Crockpot Cheesy Potatoes:

1 (2 lb.) package of frozen cubed hash brown potatoes
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted and divided
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup crushed corn flakes

In a large bowl, combine the hash browns, soup, milk, cheese, 1/4 cup melted butter, onion, salt and pepper.  Pour into a greased 5 quart crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 4 1/2 to 5 hours or until potatoes are tender. 

Just before serving, combine the cornflake crumbs and remaining butter in a pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes or til golden brown.  Stir the potatoes and sprinkle on the crumb topping.

Hint:  Buttered crispy bread crumbs can be used in place of the cornflakes.  Also, I place two paper towels over the crockpot and then I put the lid on top of this holding the paper towels in place.  This will absorb the liquid that accumulates on the lid that will spill back onto the food.  You will need to change this every now and then.

Grocery Spending for the week of April 11 - Broke the Budget


I broke my food budget last week. You knew it was going to happen didn’t you? Someone who buys things on sale is sooner or later going to have to take advantage of sales even when she is trying to use up what she has on hand to save money.

My budget was $25 and I spent $65.90. What happened? A great sale happened and it was well worth it.

Wal-mart stores around the country are going through some extensive remodeling. I went to Wal-mart on Saturday to buy some ink cartridges for our printer and to also pick up a loaf of day old Italian bread. (I have not had time to bake much bread lately because of my painting projects.)

As I got closer to the food section of the store I noticed large shelves in the middle of a big aisle. These shelves were filled with reduced priced foods, none of which were anywhere close to their expiration dates. Here is what I purchased:

25 lb. bag of all purpose flour – reduced to $6.00 (I bought two.)

1.5 lbs. Soy Flour – reduced to 50 cents (I bought two.)

5 lb. bag of whole wheat flour – reduced to $2.00 (I bought the last bag.)

5 lb. bag of yellow cornmeal – reduced to $1.00 (I bought the last bag.)

Argo Aluminum free baking powder – reduced to 75 cents (I bought two.)

20 lbs. of rice – reduced to $11.48 (I bought one.)

There was a sale on a 4 lb. box of strawberries last week for only $3.99 at one grocery store and I also purchased two 3 lb. bags of boneless skinless chicken breasts for $3.99 per bag. The strawberries and the chicken were at a very low price and I didn’t have either on hand.

I froze the chicken and I washed the 4 lbs. of strawberries. I sliced some of the berries for strawberry shortcake for Sunday’s dessert. The rest of the berries I hulled and placed on a cookie sheet. I stuck the whole lot of them in the freezer.  After they were frozen, I poured them into 3 bags ready to be used whenever I need them.

Other than that I had the usual on my list which was milk, fresh vegetables and fruit. I am still saving money by purchasing these items ahead and in bulk. I am going to donate some of the flour I already have on hand (in 5 lb. packages) to the local food pantry.

The flour that I purchased over the weekend will be put in the freezer for 24 hours (My DIL’s freezer as I don’t have room.) and then I will store it in plastic ice cream pails with a bay leaf in each. I will do the same with the rice. All of this to keep the bugs away and it always works.

I have looked at the grocery ads for this week and I will spending about $5 more this week of my $25 budget to accommodate Easter.

April 19, 2011

Hospital Gowns Completed

I posted last month about my DIL sewing a couple of pretty hospital gowns for two friends that were expecting babies.  You can read that post here.

She finished the hospital gowns and here is a picture of one of them.  


The sleeves and hem are trimmed in blue binding. She used complementary green thread to zig zag stitch the binding in place.
There is a pretty jewel tone button at the V neckline. The shoulders have velcro in them to accomodate an i.v. and also for nursing the baby. 


And for later on, my DIL has provided a pretty ribbon tie for the gown.

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 9 - April 19th

It’s kind of hard to type tonight. My right arm is sore from painting. Yes, I am still painting. Faux painting takes time but it is turning out so beautiful. I’ll post more pictures later this week.

Let’s talk about frugality, cutting back, new ways to save, tightwaddery and living below your means. Amy Dacyczyn gives us a new slant on saving money. She was and isn’t afraid to save money in ways other people wouldn’t consider. I enjoy reading her books because she thinks of things that I would never think of and sometimes we need someone to lead the way.

 

PAGE 65 – THE FRUGAL FIXER-UPPER

Amy recalled an episode of “This Old House” that she had watched on PBS. They had fixed up a 200 year old house and commented on how beautiful it was even though they had gone over budget. Their budget was $100,000 and they had spent $200,000. Amy said that this episode and the show gives the image home renovations should be discouraged as they are very expensive.

Amy says not true as she observed a lot of renovations throughout her life. Here is what she learned:

1. By fixing up an old house, you could “technically” own a home that is more than you can afford. You can buy a fixer upper with a small mortgage and put your surplus income towards renovations, eventually owning a more valuable home. If you do it right, you can save money.

The one thing about fixing up an older home, you can use recycled materials and you don’t have to be a high skilled carpenter to match existing old house carpentry.

2. Because a fixer upper is almost always an old home, you should appreciate old house character such as bumpy walls, sloping floors and doors that don’t quite fit. If you want a new looking house, then don’t buy an old house and try to make it look new.

To do it yourself, you need some handyman skills, patience, persistence and a lot of time. You also need some imagination to see through all of the old linoleum and ancient crud to envision a cheerful kitchen. I think you need to believe in yourself and also recognize what you can and cannot do. I do a lot of research on the internet. That is how I learned to tuck point bricks and to also repair holes in my plaster walls.

When I was working on the faux painting in my entryway and now in my living room, I calculated what it would cost me to have wallpapered those rooms instead. It would have cost me over $1,000 to buy the wallpaper and then I would have to pay to have the room papered. The faux painting technique I am using makes the walls look like they have been wallpapered and I have done it for around $300 for both rooms.

But I still had to believe in myself because I was not so certain I could do it. Now I look at those walls and I still can’t believe I did it!

3. Shopping for a fixer upper requires a different strategy in home buying. Get a list of potential houses and do a drive by. Many drawbacks can be spotted as you drive by the house. When you see possibilities, call a realtor to show you that house. Amy and her husband took 15 months to find the home that they eventually bought. It took that long because there were a lot of homes to look at and they knew that their potential home was the home they were going to live in for the rest of their lives.

4. Location is the most important aspect of any house, even a fixer upper. Remember that when you renovate your house, you don’t want it to be the most expensive home in the neighborhood. When you do look through the house with a realtor, conduct your own home inspection that might rule out a purchase. If everything seems okay, then hire a professional building inspector.

Avoid homes that require major changes such as a complete alteration of floor plans. Also you don’t want to remodel a home that has had new remodeling done such as kitchen cabinets. You paid more for the house because of that remodeling.

5. After you buy the house, develop a detailed plan. Know basically what you want to do, from start to finish, before you lift a hammer. Know what you can do yourself, and what you need to hire out. Some things you might need to do before you move in such as replacing a furnace or dealing with lead paint.

After you move in, tackle the eye sore projects first. Do small sections at a time. Don’t start anything you don’t have the time or money to finish. Allow lots of time to make decisions.

Fixing up a house is not for everyone. It takes a lot of patience and time to work on a house especially when you’re living in it. I am the voice of experience. Right now I am the person doing the remodeling projects in our house. That is what I knew would happen when I chose not to look for another job. We knew I could do the majority of what had to be done. These are painting projects and tuck pointing projects. My husband can do some of the work as he has the time, such as installing new light fixtures.

My parents fixed up an old house and it took several years. They did all the work themselves. There were many projects that took a long time so it meant that we had to live in a house where some walls had the plaster knocked out of them and you could see the lath work.

When my dad was laid off he had the time to do the demolition and then he would go back to work to earn the money to buy the lumber and sheet rock.

I knew that when we purchased our house that we would have to take it slow in the remodeling as we had time and money. Many people thought that we would go out and get a second mortgage and have the home totally redone in the first year. That is what people were doing then, but we refused to do that.

Our home has what I would say some “ugly cosmetic” issues. The ugly vinyl flooring in the kitchen and the ugly Tiffany style lamp hanging directly over the stove does not mean I can’t cook in the kitchen. I just look past it to what it will look like eventually.

So if you like everything to be perfect or if everything has to be done right away, a fixer upper is not for you. But if you can live with the imperfections and are willing to put in some time and money, perhaps you should consider a fixer upper.

I look at our home and the great deal we got on it. I also know that we need a new roof and will need a new furnace in a couple of years, but that happens with all houses. I also know that the lower mortgage means that I can be home and work on this house and make it our home with my quirky color schemes and different style of furniture. It’s ours and its imperfections are what make an old house so endearing.

PAGE 69 – USED SHOES . . . ARE THEY GOOD OR BAD?

As Amy said “this black and white opinion, that all used shoes are bad for kids, has always been a mystery to me. Although it is logical that an extremely worn, hard soled leather shoe could cause problems, it didn’t seem possible that all used tennis shoes, flip-flops, slippers, sandals, and twice worn patent leather church shoes would cause lifelong foot trouble.”

She consulted a podiatrist and he admitted that he knew of no studies showing that used shoes harm the feet. He also went on to say that the most important reason not to buy used shoes is that he felt that the only way to insure a proper fit is with the help of a trained salesman.

So if you think about it, this doctor wouldn’t approve of going to any store to try on shoes yourself.

She talked with another doctor who said that proper fit is more important than whether a shoe is used. After talking with several other “experts” the opinions were divided on whether or not a child should wear used shoes or not.

This is one of those gray areas that everyone needs to decide what they are comfortable in doing. I have worn used shoes before and it always seems like it takes a couple of wearings before I feel they are “broken in.”

PAGE 71 – WRAPPING VERSUS UNWRAPPING: THE SLIPPERY TRUTH

There has been a theory knocking around the tightwad communities that if you unwrap a bar of soap and let it “dry” for several months, it will extend the life of the soap. Amy wondered if this was true.

One source said that keeping the soap wrapped protected it and unwrapping it would speed up the aging process. So, which is correct?

Amy did an elaborate experiment and basically the unwrapped soap lasted a little bit longer, but not much. Amy figured out the savings
per year in their household would be about $1.15 annually.

The only unwrapped soap I have ever had on hand was the bar of soap I kept near our baby’s changing table. I would keep the diaper pins in a bar of soap until ready to diaper a baby.

Our next Tightwad Gazette reading will be for April 21st. Read pages 72 through 80.

Tomorrow we are celebrating my husband’s birthday with our family.  I know I won’t have time to read and post my synopsis so I have moved our reading discussion to April 21st. 

April 18, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 8 - April 18th

It’s good to get back to reading the Tightwad Gazette. Today’s reading has a variety of articles from recipes to a discussion on the economy.

PAGE 58 – BUT WHERE’S THE PRIZE?

Homemade Cracker Jacks

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups popped popcorn
1 cup peanuts (optional)

Combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over low heat until the butter is all melted. Cook without stirring for 3 minutes. Add the baking soda and vanilla. Pour onto the popcorn and peanuts, and mix until evenly coated. Bake 15 minutes at 300 degrees. Break into pieces.

If you pop your popcorn in a saucepan, you can use the same oily pan to make the candy coating mixture. The oil helps it slide right out.

PAGE 59 – CHECK OUT THE CHECKOUT

Even back in 1995 when electronic scanners were coming into use, Amy reported that you had to “babysit the checkout” to make sure you weren’t over charged or that an item wasn’t accidentally scanned twice. The same went for using coupons that are scanned in. You have to make sure that they are accepted in the scanner.

Well the same vigilance still applies today. I watch as items are being scanned to make sure that the prices are correct. I ask the checker if she will please wait until I get everything on the conveyer belt before she starts scanning so I can watch to make sure I am being charged the correct price. It probably takes an additional 15 seconds wait for her/him and they are happy to comply. Then I watch the screen as everything is scanned and as the coupons are scanned. If there is a mistake, it can easily be corrected.

Last fall I reported on my blog that I had for several weeks found mistakes on my grocery receipts at one grocery store in town. I would pack the groceries in my car and take out the receipt to double check. Then I would find mistakes and go back into the store to customer service to get reimbursed. After about 7 weeks of this I e-mailed the store manager to tell him that I could see why some people would feel the store is cheating them and that I felt they had a problem with entering the prices into the system. He e-mailed me and then called me to talk with me about my experience.

The store manager told me he had a meeting with the employees that morning and that he felt the problem had been corrected. (I hope no one got fired.) After that I didn’t find an error until about 1 week ago. So, whatever he did worked. Oh and because I had brought it to his attention, he gave me a $75 gift card to shop at the store.

PAGE 60 – THE WANTS BULLETIN BOARD

For small groups or organizations you may to set up a “wants” bulletin board. Amy said you simply post some wants or something you are looking for and people read the board to see if they have any of those items. For example, Amy posted that she was looking for size 7 jeans for her daughter and a friend noticed it. The friend told Amy she was going to hit some garage sales on her way home from the meeting and she would look for size 7 jeans and buy them if Amy wanted her to.

Facebook is a wonderful place to post something you want or perhaps something you need to get rid of. I haven’t had any responses yet, but we have a piano to give away and I posted it on Facebook.

PAGE 61 – IS FRUGALITY BAD FOR THE ECONOMY?

“It’s true that plenty of economists believe we need to get that American consumer confident and spending again. This thinking, that we can spend our way to economic prosperity, leads some to believe that those people who don’t spend money but save it instead, contribute to recession. In fact, the reverse is true. Spending too much, and spending badly, got us into this mess. Frugality, in the long run, will get us out.”

Amy wrote this back in 1995 and it deserved to be quoted verbatim. Does it sound familiar? Have we not heard these same comments in the past few years since we have lived through the “Great Recession?”

Here’s why frugality will get us out of this mess, per Amy:

1. Businesses need capital to start up or to reinvest for greater productivity. This kind of borrowing is good debt, because in the long run it will create economic surplus. In 1995 there was a shortage of capital for two reasons – a. Americans saved very little money and b. What is available is sucked up by the American government for overspending.

2. The average American has huge debts.

3. “The focus on spending our way to prosperity denies much deeper underlying reasons for the recession, such as the laws that make relocating manufacturing jobs to Mexico attractive for business. Consumer confidence will not bring back the thousands of manufacturing jobs we’ve lost in the last ten years.”

Spending only brings short term economic gains. “More money was in circulation, which meant more jobs, and that meant more money, and that meant more jobs.” It was short term as people went into debt to buy stuff. Businesses, such as developers, borrowed money to build office complexes when there was no market for them.

“By trying to accelerate a recovery artificially, by going into debt on a government, business and personal level, we eventually lost economic efficiency, because a larger and larger percentage of our money has had to be siphoned off to pay interest on debt.”

Okay, I know, that was a lot of quoting Amy Dacyczyn but I felt this was one article that needed to be quoted. Can you see the similarities in what she was describing during the recession in the mid 1990’s to what we are going through now? Or should I have said what we are being told now?

I know of two people who lost their jobs in the last 10 days. I know of several people who are unemployed and they are struggling with finding work. It doesn’t help that they are over 50. I’m not sure what is going to happen over the next several weeks with all of the “work” that needs to be done in D.C. There is a great feeling of anxiety as we don’t know what to expect.

“So don’t rationalize spending because it’s good for the economy. And don’t feel guilty about being frugal because it’s bad for the economy. A healthy economy is made up of economically healthy citizens.”

PAGE 63 – CREDIT CARD THEORY
Amy started the article talking about how many families have a lot of credit card debt at high interest rates. On average these families are paying close to $450 annual in credit card interest. Again, this is back in 1995, but it still rings true today.

But – credit cards are handy for identification and in case of emergencies. So Amy says that if you want to carry a credit card with you, pick the right card. Shop around and be sure to pay your credit card balance every month. If you carry a card with a higher balance, perhaps you can do a balance transfer to a lower interest rate card and get it paid off sooner.

Remember the days when you would get a credit card application in the mail at least every other day? Those days are gone but credit cards are not gone. I carry a credit card in my name so that I was able to establish credit in my name only, separate from my husband. This was important to me. The balance is paid off every month and I make purchases that we need. It could be groceries or some paint for my living room or a gift I ordered on Amazon. I don’t run it up and think of it as a savings account. I use it for what I would purchase anyway and get it paid off right away.

Credit cards need to be handled responsibly or you could get into debt quicker than you can say “bankruptcy” if you aren’t careful.

PAGE 64 – LOAF LESSON

A reader wrote in to say that when she cuts homemade bread, she cuts the entire loaf at a time. She collects all of the crumbs on the cutting board and puts them in a bag in the freezer where she keeps her bread crumbs for any recipes.

PAGE 64 – MEWS NEWS

Here’s a cat litter tip from a Reader. Use newspaper cut into strips for cat litter. It smells better, is cleaner, and can be changed often. First, you mix the strips with the real litter, and then use less and less litter, then just newspaper. It’s good for eyes and lungs, because there is no dust.

PAGE 64 – NOT MILK DUDS

One reader said that when she goes to the grocery store she looks at the expiration dates on the milk. If there is milk there that is going to expire that day or the next, she asks if it can be marked down and they cheerfully do it for her. She takes the milk home and puts it in the freezer for later use.

For tomorrow read pages 65 through 71.