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Viewing the 'frugal actions' Category

Lowered Expectations

September 15th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Although we used half as much water as last year our water bill came out to be about the same. This tells me the recycling and yard waste got pricey.
I'm on track to exceed paying 7% of my total debt by December 31. That is a lowered expectation as none of my debts have amortization periods longer than 12 years.

What isn't a lowered expectation is the reward I dangle for the boy if he manages to score in the top 10% of kids in his grade for end-of-course state standardized test performance. This year he gets a treat of his choice as he actually did that in one tested subject. So a little budget blowout.

I originally offered him tickets to a NHL game at the city closest to us but found that the cost of tickets before service charges and Harmonized Sales Tax is $115-$160/person. This doesn't include food, souvenirs, currency conversion premiums, parking, gas or overnight stay (closest hockey city is in another country). Plus the tickets sell out fast. I dunno why Pittsburgh, a city with half the population, can afford two of the priciest NHL players in the league (Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby) and have half the ticket costs of Vancouver, yet have Stanley Cup rings, and in Vancouver one defenseman took a salary cut (earning 12% of what Malkin or Crosby earns) to extend his contract with the franchise. The Vancouver Canucks hockey club has 400+ consecutive sellouts in an arena with over 18000 capacity, so you can't tell me there's no interest in hockey up here.

My kid said he'd be fine going to the other country and having treats at a 1940s-style soda fountain/ice cream parlour , with rickeys, malts, egg creams up there (they even dress like soda jerks with the paper wedge hats and smile when you call them soda jerk). We do not have Farrell's or Brooklyn Farmacy or Serendipity 3 or Crown Candy or The Fountain on Locust or anything fun like that. Our favourite custard place within 3 miles of us is closing at the end of the month.

The political action company left me alone, two days after my previous posting. Wonder if they read it.

I vowed to put my found money toward debt repayment: I've managed 27 cents. I am no baselle. The supermarket where my son and I scavenge the self-check stations has now put multiple bright yellow stickers on each station reminding shoppers to pick up their change. Probably because of us. There are some university students renting a house down the street who almost always spill money on the sidewalk. My kid found a $10 Canadian bill in downtown Vancouver so he's a prodigy. I take him with me for grocery shopping because his superpower is finding money or cheap deals and coupons or good lotto bets.

Jenny I've Got Your Number 867-5309

August 31st, 2013 at 06:52 pm

This is the funniest and real retail coupon savings hack I've read from Lifehacker. For those club savings offered by retail loyalty cards linked to a phone number, or even when corporate retail cashiers ask you for your phone number, give them the area code you're currently shopping in and eight six seven five three oh ni-yee-ine...

Another little hack, although I suspect this is limited to people in Buffalo, Detroit, Bellingham, and Escondido/San Juan Capistrano/San Diego, Corpus Christi...
ask the retail staff if they accept "the colourful currency." I've now had "the colourful currency" accepted south (a mile, 1.6 km) from where I live.

I've been thinking of what to do next month. So many ways I could improve myself: I may purge -- I could get a lot done. I have to design my kid's after-school schedule. Maybe one challenge a day, then build up. One thing he wants is Tim Horton International stock. He has some stock already in a no-brainer company, but this one I want him to study. I want him to learn how to find an annual report, and to read one. Then I'll teach him what ratios are worth looking at, and why. I'll show him some calculations to determine the future value of this stock, and appropriate buy points. This sounds heady, but when it comes to money my child is precociously sharp.

We're not moving north. My spouse is working on his resume for a FT job at the company for which he presently contracts (he used to be a FTE). He'd have to commute in every day. We'd either stay put, or move a mile north, or (gulp) southeast (12 mi SE: I have no basis for comparison with any other state of the union, and 90+% of them are southeast of us, so don't think I mean your habitat).

My credit union has cut our savings account interest rate down to 4%. I may toss some money into my son's account to get some of that six percent action.

another month another grand of debt chopped

August 1st, 2013 at 10:02 am

I've paid 6.6% of my total debt in seven months. I like seeing zeros in my mortgage balance, it's like smelling mint or lemon in a bathroom or kitchen: the illusion of accomplishment or in this case reduction.
Sometimes if I feel rich I will round down the payments to the nearest dollar.

Invested in a Motorola Surfboard cable modem now. DH said they were $80 at Fry's (his equivalent of the ball playplace one'd find at a McDonald's or IKEA), but I looked at RadioShack (they do have pretty good deals): alas, no pricing available as online supply was sold out. Thanks to the website's "find in stores" feature, I found one place within five miles of my zip code. I was accosted immediately by an obvious trainee -- we didn't find it on the shelf, he tried to interest me in a pricy modem-router combo. I stuck to my request, even sounding autistically persistent ("Gotta Watch Wapner! Yeah, definitely"), after minutes he retreated and emerged with my product. I looked it over and told him there was no price, I couldn't get the price online and I'd buy it only if it were under $90. Indeed RadioShack had the same price as Fry's so if you are ditching your rental modem, go to either place.

"See? All that work earned you a SALE. Aren't you proud?" The store manager was amused. He looked at the modem. "Replacing Comcast modem?" "Yes." "Gonna save $7/month rental? HIGH-FIVE!!" Yes, we high-fived, the RadioShack store manager and I. That was sweet: when we bought our $22K car, we got only handshakes from the dealership owner and the salesperson. Obviously the store manager was more emotionally invested in our purchase than was his trainee.

My bills, extending my financial freakout period to two months: $299.30 for optometrist exam, $223 annual insurance (expected), and $134 license plate tabs for scooter: yes, tabs more expensive than a year's worth of scooter fuel.

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!

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?

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.

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).