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Archive for June, 2013

Free Adventure Sunday

June 30th, 2013 at 03:35 pm

I drove us up to a big beachside park one county north (again), and we fortuitously drove right past an artesian well, so we stocked our water bottles with fresh spring water en route. We hiked down to the beach area, saw a BNSF train go past, mucked around, and then walked back up close to a mile, uphill. DH and I are so in need of cardio workouts: my uterus loves me, but my legs do not.

Not free, but we visited the retail outlet of a successful ice cream wholesaler company out in the boonies, which delighted DH (Kentucky Bourbon flavour) and DS (cookie dough).

My lungs are still recovering. Not used to doing that much work. Interesting to see if my energy and metabolism spike.

I may ask FreeCycle populace for some large jugs with lids so I can get more spring water for drinking. Our county water is chlorinated and fluoridated.
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Halfway to go until the Dirtnap for Dollars 2013 ends. Still in the lead but it's tiny, not like last year's runaway stretch. Very slow first six months!

Berry Picking Adventure Time

June 29th, 2013 at 08:36 am

Yesterday afternoon DS and I ventured to the rural county up north for strawberry picking. The conditions were perfect: sunny weather with ripe, gorgeous red fruit. I found the best rows to pick in, getting five pounds within 45 minutes, and I was selective about my berries too. The boy managed one pound.

DS found a woman's credit card so we're going to the credit union's head branch up there to return it. A quick internet check shows the woman lives close to the berry farm and the credit union, but it's safer to return it to the credit union as she may have moved.

We went to an old-time ice cream shoppe in the nearest small town for Coke floats. I hardly ever have pop, once a month, but on a hot dry day I well understand how Coca-Cola got to be popular. It doesn't take much to send DS into ecstasy: baseball, ice cream, and sunny days.

Our dinner expenditure came to under $10: I was busy washing and hulling the strawberries for freezing and didn't have time for cooking, so I made chicken salad which we had on croissants. I like no-cook summer meals.

Round up of interesting freebies and articles

June 26th, 2013 at 04:59 pm

List of Free Science books online. Science books for the beginner here.
Math books here.

True Cost of Our Vices. I have some quibble with this: no setting for the one glass of wine every two weeks or once a month, and if one 8 ounce drip coffee at home costs $1.35 (2 oz of coffee may cost that much, but ground and percolated gives you three cups, doesn't it?) then my family is spending too much on it. Also assumes 2-3x/week minimum fast food option, 7 lotto tickets/week minimum option, 2-3 cans of pop/week minimum option. So $503 annually of our money goes to coffee sweet and hot, and maybe $200 for the wine, fast food, pop and lotto combined in a year.

If frugal movie night isn't even Netflix or the local library, you'll like Flavorwire's list of the 50 Great Movies you can legally watch for free!
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How I saved money today:
1. Learned that our toll road sticker was not deactivated when we sold the car, even though the car was removed from our account. My stomach churned when I saw our state Dept. of Transportation automatic withdrawal of $30. We went in person to a customer office with our account printouts showing we were being billed for someone else's car. When I provide the Proof of Sale Receipt (I'll do that tomorrow) the charges get reversed. Fortunately only $4 worth of tolls had been incurred over the last six months.
2. Bought a clarinet for $40 instead of $125. The seller even had it out where she could find it easily.
This is going to save us $$ on monthly rentals. Boy is sulking because it looks used, but we told him Artie Shaw and Louis Armstrong did not have new instruments when they were preteens.
3. Scrabble Club director kicked in $3 addition to the $15 domain renewal fee I incurred. Coffee or lotto ticket?

My wee gratitude list

June 24th, 2013 at 08:31 pm

The lesser of two evils won the Stanley Cup. I am celebrating with a Pop-Tart, because I'm broke.

On Sunday, we were shopping for groceries racking up the big sales so we could get a $7-off coupon, gas rewards, etc. when the woman ahead of us said "oh this coupon expires today and I won't be able to use it. You have it." We saved 40% off our grocery bill and now have 20 cents/gallon gas rewards. Whee!

Remember a few posts back my contribution about privacy? I just learned about the Deep Web and it feels like 1992 all over again as I look at this strange, brave new world. I'm excited about what I learn: probably because there are no cookies, pop-up ads, etc. It's as if my third eye was decalcified!

I am listening to an album put out by an obscure Japanese psych band (oooh, so hipster!) and it is so good it makes me forget about Talk Talk. The band is Apryl Fool and their bassist went on to become an important part of Yellow Magic Orchestra and did some other excellent solo projects. Terrific rainy day music.

I am making a list of the diners in Vancouver I'm going to eat at, and the books at the Vancouver Public Library that are not carried down south (London publishers). I get to take the car up with me which is great because there is no bus transport where I'll be staying.

Researching bitcoin. And as I just typed that my PC emitted some loud alarm type noise... weird.

Only tangential to budgeting

June 21st, 2013 at 03:26 pm

I had something immensely long to share, but figure only four of you read this, and only one of you would actually manage the whole thing, therefore I have given it another page. This week, with the return of some bad habits, I find myself incapable of making a decision when all of my options do not rescue me from malaise and discomfort.
Therefore I must identify and label my malaise and remove it momentarily so I can make decisions.

I restarted YNAB, and I'm not doing as badly as I thought. Except the gold and silver declines are an especial gutpunch today.

Quarterly brainstorm of money saving

June 20th, 2013 at 03:44 pm

Much of this is going to be "duh" to you black-belt budgeters out there, but hey, maybe some of my "duh" is novel to the white-belts so it evens out.

Buying online.
I decided to do this with vitamins, a CD I've wanted for years, and a pen, and I saved $37, leaving me with $64 outlay, including tax. Sure I've purchased online before, but only items I could not get locally.

Riding a bike. When next I move to a place that is not within a kilometre from a major commercial shopping area, post office, community centre, library, 24-hour supermarket, and not really hilly, I would ride a bike. But walking a kilometre is no big deal. Unless it is uphill and I am gasping for breath when I am 2/3 of the way up.

The Paul Mckenna will-power trick
The TV hypnotist has a clever trick to kill cravings. In a nutshell, you squeeze your thumb and finger together as tight as you can then think of a place you would most like to be or a moment you would most like to achieve. Hold the thought and repeat. Then every time you get a craving for drink, cigarettes [British slang was used for this which means something some Americans may find offensive], food, whatever, you squeeze the thumb and finger and recall the place or moment. The idea is that you have more chance of achieving your goal by recalling your aims and foregoing the craving.

Water down juices
Tap or filtered water is best, but have you ever taken spirulina powder with water? Gag gag gag. I aim for 28 grams juice for every 140 grams water. 80% of my beverages is water, flavoured with lemon and lime, or with apple cider vinegar, or Vitamin C.

Reuse bath towels.
Sounds gross at first, but think about it – you are clean when you get out of the shower. Hang up towels after each use to thoroughly dry, and only add them to the dirty clothes pile after every three or four uses. I have to open the window for the towels to thoroughly dry.

Baking soda.
I've posted this before, but it is so great. I washed my hair with baking soda last night: the argan oil shampoo and conditioner I have at present tend to collect oil at the roots. I conditioned the ends with coconut oil, bathed in lavender epsom salts, used some sea salt in a scrub with unscented liquid castile soap and a few drops of rose essential oil, squirted a solution of baking soda and water on my scalp, and had a cheapo beauty treatment. My hair is so soft and clean this morning.

Borrow this book from a library, or put it on your wishlist for someone to buy for you, the adventurous and keen DIY homeowner:
Save $20,000 with a Nail: More Than 1,900 Practical Tips for a Problem-Free Home by Reader's Digest.

What I'd like to try
Swapping bread for eggs with people. I know of two families who raise chickens. I have a child who'd like to experiment with making pastry and bread products. One loaf of bread for one dozen eggs: branch out into nonwheat flours like spelt, bulgur, rice, coconut...

Metal Detecting
Just learned there is a Cascade Treasure club in our region. Sure the detector itself is expensive, but think of all the hiking in the state parks and city parks, beaches... Maybe time-share the metal detector. Sure the $400 outlay for a detector from Sears might not be saving money, but you get a hobby, a workout, and the serendipitous thrill from treasure.

Speculate on Bitcoin
There was a rise-and-fall on Bitcoin speculation recently. I must investigate more on this, and maybe talk with my investing friend with this.

DIY Products
Oh man, I just bought some Method hand soap and now I wish I hadn't now that I know I can make my own

What off-the-beaten-track tricks have you learned of and/or use?

Trying to run with feet of cement

June 19th, 2013 at 09:35 pm

Found eleven cents walking from my parked car to the salon, hoping for a bang trim. I joke with my kid that we use the found money to pay down our six-figures-left-of-the-decimal mortgage.

How can I go on with my hair for six-seven weeks just fine and then all of a sudden my bangs and the condition of my hair need some TLC? The salon was closed so the spending is postponed. I never really save money: I just reallocate and postpone my spending. I bought one bulb of garlic. My spouse took off to go buy some Twizzlers so there goes my barely spent any money day. Why do I have money bulimia?

Buying a clarinet for my boy on Saturday. The cost equals four months' rental, and the clarinet has had six weeks' use, so I think it's a good deal. It's definitely for the same music experience level as my boy.

I know I am old and crotchety: today's mainstream music all sounds the same, I gripe about the dumbing down of society, so maybe I should fully accept my age and seriously consider an adjustable rate mortgage. What is sad is that two years ago we thought we were doing really well to refinance our mortgage, shaving 9% off the mortgage principal and interest but keeping the payoff date, and now our spending scrapes up against our budget like muffintop belly fat on a tight pair of jeans.

My shopping successes

June 19th, 2013 at 09:07 am

Found the best savings out of my 2-for-1 supplement coupon at a favourite store.

Saved 37% from my Safeway groceries order last night.

Will be buying a clarinet for the kid at a cost that equals about four months' rental cost.

We were at a national chain pet supply store yesterday looking for flea control treatments. We didn't do our research, so looking at hooked cards reading "take this card to the register to purchase the product" didn't have the ingredient and application info we were looking for. So we wrote down the three most likely products to purchase, went to the library for a 15-minute express internet session to look at reviews and product information, then found that online retailers had cheaper prices, so we ordered online.
I'm convinced that national chain stores are largely for the "buy it now" crowd who've researched their products ahead of time. If I did not know about Hartz products making animals really sick, I'd have been less concerned about the toxicity of flea control products and their applications and would have purchased the cheapest product at the national chain.

This one boggles me: ordering a math workbook from Canada was cheaper than ordering a math workbook from the US. Shipping and handling was $5 less from Canada, and there was no tax.

Summer is here, funds for summer are not

June 14th, 2013 at 03:09 pm

67 minutes my boy's in for summer vacation. I am determined he will not loll around in his room playing games all the time, and when I finish "I, Claudius" I can set an example for him.

Considering the principal paid since April 1999 on the house is a letdown: 170 mortgage payments, less than 46% principal paid. I know people who refinance for thirty year terms, they can't be expecting to make mortgage payments in their seventies, wouldn't it be a comedown to start at a low principal payment and have tens of thousands of dollars in interest? Why don't they just go for 5/1 ARMs?


Also not working this summer, but will sharpen my database skills. I'm housesitting, or at least accepted an invitation to housesit, up in a Vancouver suburb for a week-and-a-half: my idea of a good cheap vacation. Dunno if the boy is coming up with me.

In which I geek out and get a free snack, plus surprise $!

June 12th, 2013 at 10:06 am

Two weeks ago I learned my city is one of two hosts to a monthly event where teams solve puzzles. That monthly event transpired last night, at a bar disclosed in a video puzzle of "Twin Peaks" clips.

I was by my lonesome, but the puzzle coordinator set me up with a friendly couple and away we went, solving puzzles of varying difficulty (the last one was fiendish: I used a chart to complete it). I liked that the couple was bright and capable of solving, but was happy to cut its solving time by adding a third person.

We actually did finish 2.5 hours afterwards (the couple was there for its second time), with correct answers. I don't know if we won, probably not, but the couple was so thrilled they paid for my snack and my drink. I insisted at least on a tip.

I will bring someone with me next time though. I do so much better on these puzzles with an extra brain.

If it weren't for the fuel-up ($38) and the groceries ($28) I would have had a no-spend day.

Update: Just fetched the mail. The credit union says it had overcharged us for credit report fees in our July 2011 mortgage and are refunding us $298.14!

I've got to label my self-hypnosis recordings and play that money magnet one daily for a few weeks...

Sweet frugal new-to-me food tips!

June 9th, 2013 at 06:59 pm

If you have a Cuisinart or KitchenAid chopper, you can grind regular sugar into superfine for use in recipes. Lavender tea cookies and homemade strawberry lemonade are two such summer recipes that call for superfine sugar.

This one is from Dr. Robert Lustig: reduce the quantity of sugar a baking recipe calls for by one-third -- you won't miss it.

Because not everyone needs to see all you do online

June 7th, 2013 at 10:42 pm

(THIS IS NOT SPAM, MY 7 YEAR ANNIVERSARY WAS THIS WEEK!)

No 100% privacy, true, but these are free and effective resources full of applications for the freedom-loving, privacy-protecting disillusioned netizen:

Crunchbang.org Tips for privacy

World's most private search engine - ixquick.com

School of Privacy - be safe and secure online.

Cryptocat instant messaging that's encrypted, so only you and your fellow communicant can read your messages.

These are free of course.

Sorry I was misled into thinking National Donut Day was Free Donut Day. They were free if you went to Krispy Kreme but we didn't go there. Donuts taste really fantastic when I have them once every couple of months. I know, I am a bad Canadian. I need the CanAm kid to remind me how trips north are incomplete without a pilgrimage to Tim Horton's (I never went to a Tim Horton's until I moved down here).

vent unrelated to finance

June 6th, 2013 at 10:25 pm

it's the heat. I was going to rant but by the third sentence I know someone out there would take offense whether any was truly meant, so here's a vent. This has nothing to do with anyone that I know of on SavingAdvice. You'd have to be a misanthropic hostile hypersensitive fragile person to take this personally.

I resent having now to pay for content I didn't have to pay for 10-20 years ago: Usenet, region-restricted content, virtual private network subscriptions so I can see region-restricted content.

Naively I did not mind using hotmail and gmail for accounts because I thought that ads were used to make $ for the cost of the e-mail accounts. I had ad-blocking software so who cared. Then the government, who hates whistleblowers and anyone trying to get from point a to point b without having a GED failure in uniform and gloves clumsily making doctor-touchy moves, collects cellphone data (I don't care so much: the US govt can't collect my Canada-phone data) and who knows what from our e-mail accounts.

So I head to TOR. I get Vidalia bundle, and think oh maybe a tormail account too. But the Thunderbird mail reader from Mozilla does not work when I use TOR's help instructions. I try binreader to read usenet for free, but binreader isn't working for the same reason Thunderbird isn't: something about proxy server connections being refused even though I checked my firewall settings and allowed each new program to pass the firewall, and usenet isn't much for free anymore. All the info is scattered in internet forums.

And I'm sick of the "like us on Facebook" requirement for sweepstakes companies used to just have us mail in for. I have only one person on my FB friendlist, someone who lives in another country (not Canada) and I've had great conversations and a lengthy (25-year) friendship. No companies, no fan pages. Just trying to be ultradull.

I used to be all up in the net. For twenty years maybe. Now I think I either want to be on the Canadian spying side of it, or mostly out of it. Or maybe I want to know how to configure SSL, know my transport layers and protocols and ports, port forwarding, encryption, VPN tunneling, and go übergeek so I can talk to smelly, fuzzyfaced Utilikilt™ dweebs uncomfortably at schmoozing parties and they wouldn't talk to me anyway because my center of gravity has changed and I have boobies and a ring of gold on my left hand. I hate how much I have to learn to rise above the teeming mass of "data" and reclaim a moue of the fun and information I used to have back when the internet was cool.

Oh and if you've read this far today: almost had a no-spend-day. Splurged on frozen custard. I did not have any caffeine today and oddly my body has not suffered from withdrawal. I guess if you have half-cup four times a week before 10 am you're not exactly a jitterbug.

Unusually lax or distracted about finances

June 3rd, 2013 at 10:34 am

For the second time ever in my household's history, I paid the mortgage late. Two days late, so hoping for no penalty. I thought I paid it on Saturday online, then I got distracted with about six open tabs on my browser, and it timed out.

I suspect my brain needs more training on how to focus on more than a handful of numbers going down at a time.

My next challenge is to live on $50 a day for twelve days.