Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day!!!!

For reals.  Happy EarthDay!
I'm celebrating with a couple dozen new plants to plant from realfoodgardens.blogspot.com!!
Thank you to them for the lovely plants.  The owners threw in an extra berry start AND a jug of soapwort laundry soap (well, everything-soap).  That more than covered the price of admission (meaning gas to get up there an back).

Here's the plant list I went to pick up:
10 hops 
2 black aronia 
1 wallis cherry 
4 Black jewel raspberry 
4 Oak leaf blackberry   
2 Chokecherry  

The berries are nice and thorny and HUGE.  I added a soapwort plant while I was there and while I think it might be tacky to point out the actual price for the lot, it is also about the only way to show how thrifty it is: 80$ and I came home with 25 plant starts.  The 23 listed above plus an extra berry and a soapwort.  Most of the berry/tree starts had to be bent over to get them in the subaru.  These are not tiny plants.  They are nice big plants in pots.

Excellent way to honor Earth Day.  Use a bit of fossil fuel for a permanent food (human, animal, bee, worms, etc) source.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Queen Is Dead...Long Live the Queen

The queen bee.  And all the other bees.
Just the Italians.

I have 2 bee hives.  Carniolan and Italian breeds.  Well, had. 
Both were doing well a month ago.
2 weeks ago the Carniolans were doing well and the Italians were dead.   Dang.

The grant that got me the bees in the first place got replacement bees for those of us who lost bees over the winter and into spring.  These are from a local beekeeper who has many many hives.

I'm not sure of the breed yet, but they are definitely AGGRESSIVE!!
3 stings!  ON MY STOMACH!  Geez Louise.  Itchy like crazy but not overly painful.  I respect that sort of aggression.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Some of the Worst Frugal Advice I've Been Given

We all know that there are many ways to save $$ or cut costs or make more money.

Frugality in my view, as part of working toward simplicity, has to do with deciding what I value, what I want out of life, and what makes me "happy."  It's also about having the money to put it where my mouth is when need be.

So, given those things, I like to keep my money life simple.  No complicated financial deals.  No high risk investments that I have to keep track of.  I don't have a natural understanding of those things and taking the time to get that understanding would cut into time doing things I enjoy...depressing foreign films and staring at bees or the creek or sledding.

All that as a disclaimer.  Perhaps for YOU (dear imaginary reader), the following would be good advice.  For me, it was the worst.

1)  Don't pay off a mortgage! 
This is based on the assumption that I would take the money I could have spent paying down the mortgage (which was at 6.75%) and invest it and earn MORE than 6.75%.  I didn't have those skills or knowledge of financial investments.  Those skills don't interest me. 

There was also the argument that I would lose the tax deduction.  About 1/3 of the mortgage interest payment did come back to me as a tax deduction, but that's chump change at my home buying level.  2/3 of the interest payment went right into the pockets at whatever company owned my mortgage at the moment.

Let's add into all this the fact that gainful employment is not a given.  If you, I, miss a mortgage payment (or a HELOC...ugh), you, I, can lose the house.  At that point, you, I, would be out all the money paid in on interest and equity, lose the deduction, AND have to find a place to live.  A job loss can mean much more than a job loss if one has a mortgage or HELOC (which is just another name for mortgage)

And then there is peace of mind.  Without a mortgage, I now have much greater peace of mind.  If I lose my job, that is all I have lost.  No worrying about finding the mortgage payment, liquidating other assets to save the house, or the like.  I still have a home.  I can decide to sell that home but I can't lose it to the bank for nonpayment.

2)  You can pay for ______ with a HELOC and SAVE MONEY!!!
OR...I could NOT put my home at risk for whatever I'm paying for.  How about that?  See #1 for how I feel about mortgages and I can't see anyway that a HELOC is not a mortgage.  The house/home is at risk over a missed payment.  That is the key element of a mortgage to me and I'd rather buy a car with a car loan (miss a payment, lose the car), than a HELOC (miss a payment, live in the car).  Or better yet, save up and pay cash for the car.

3)  Just buy it! You'll feel better!
Uh...right.  If you are buying something to feel better, perhaps solve the emotional trauma THEN go shopping.  Also, personally, I don't really make choices based on feelings.  Feelings change.  Thus, they are not a basis for choices.  Then again...I do sometimes buy things just because they are awesome but it's a mistake, hence, bad advice.

4)  You don't need to read all the paperwork, just sign here!
This was said to me by the mortgage broker.  I informed her that I would indeed be reading the ENTIRE document before I signed it.  She said I could sign it, take it home and read it, and then call her if I had questions.  Right........NOT.  She acted like I was wasting her time.  Good thing I didn't care.

5) Buy the extended warranty.
Now, there may be a case where this is a good idea, but in my view, it is rarely a good idea.  Do your research ahead of time and hope for the best.  In researching actual repair rates I've often found that I could pay for a major repair for the annual cost of the extended warranty. No gain.  In reading the fine print, the extended warranty often has so many holes in it, that it wouldn't cover the most common repairs...unless I upgrade to the gold-plated extended warranty.  Nope. 

6)  Do things for the next owner of the house/car/whatever
Not for me.  I had a car hit by hail.  LOTS of hail.  Tons of hail.  Big a$$ hail.  Every single metal panel was dinged and dented.  The glass survived.  I was advised that rather than pay off the car loan, I should get the hail damage fixed so I'd have a better trade in value.  Um...the math.  I paid about $6000 for the car.  The hail damage was for $3400 and change. And, I drive cars until the wheels are about to fall off, or in a few cases did fall off.  That is more cost effective for my lifestyle.  I have no need for a pretty car.  I took that check to the bank and paid off the car.  I drove it for many more years.

When building or fixing up a house, I also believe in doing what is right for me, not what some imaginary future owner might want.  Screw them.  They may not exist and how do I know what they would want?  I am planning a new home right now and it will be what I want.  I did that with my current lodgings and you would not believe how much other people think it is "cool" and offer me cash for it.  Had I listened to those who talk about "resale" I would have had a bland standard boring plan, not the unique interesting fun one that I do have. Stick to your own style or the place will have no style.

Six is a good number so I will stop now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Frugal Cheat Sheet

HA!  Tricked you.  Because a "frugal cheat sheet" would really just say "spend all your money on crap and then borrow money at a high interest rate, preferably as a HELOC so if you miss a payment you lose your home, repeat until you are dead."

This is more of a few frugal life hacks (frugal-life hacks? frugal life-hacks?  Cripes.  Forget it.)

These are things I do that I now find easy and tend to save me some cash and I actually enjoy them a bit. 

1) keep a list of stuff you want/need but don'/t have to have immediately.  When you see a thrift store, yard sale, merchandise-graveyard (I'm looking at you Tuesday Morning, Ross, and T.J. Maxx and the rest of your ilk), look in those places first.  And for a while.  E.g. I've been wanting to try thermos cooking again.  So I put "thermos to cook in" on the long term list.  It's been a few months but a good quality option for 2$ popped up the other day.  I don't make special trips to thrift for this stuff, just check if it's on the way to elsewhere.

2) eat what you have.  The "pantry challenge" system has saved me a bunch.  I like to stock up but once I'm there, time to stop shopping and just eat what I have.  Right now I'm well stocked.  There have been excellent sales at scratch-n-dent grocery stores and regular stores that I also hit, with a list, if I happen upon them.  Always start with the discounted food shelves in the back...I have gotten great stuff there.  You need to be a little flexible but it works.  I have a list item "flour" rather than "king arthur organic spelt flour."  If I see a flour that will work, preferably organic but not always a crucial criterion, I can get it.  Once stocked up with the thrifty groceries, then you eat them.  I can go about 2 weeks right now without going to the store for anything but greens and fresh fruit and of course I COULD live without those if I really didn't have time or money. 

3) stop at stores when you are going past anyway.  I don't make many special trips to buy things.  I have my master list with me on an ipod I got as a gift when a friend upgraded.  If I see a store, I check the list and the store.  Then I move on.  This saves me gas by not making the special trips, and money since the list is with me and I'm not there just to browse around, I'm there with a target or two, and I'm on the way to somewhere else.

4) feel free to cross things off the list.  If things are on the master list or the grocery list for a while and I don't get them, and don't miss them or find I already have something that works fine for this supposed "need" or "want," then the item gets dropped.  The list is not a commitment to buy.

5) develop a route on errand day.  OK, I totally just said I don't make special trips.  True-ish.  On the weekend I hit the laundromat as the main goal (clean undies are a NEED not a want).  While there, i can walk to my storage unit and trade out winter/summer clothes or whatever else needs to be swapped out or culled for donation.  That usually takes up the wash cycle.  In the winter I use the dryers since I don't have room to hang 2 loads inside.  During that dry cycle, I run my recycling, on foot, a couple blocks up to the recycling center and drop them ...while checking the free book bin and the free bucket bin but trying to take only items on a list or with immediate uses.  Back to the laundromat, fold and go.  Next is the furthest thrift store which is also by one of the cheap-o groceries.  Then if really need something, another thrift, and any other stores in that town but in a clear loop, not random starfish like driving patterns.

6) know your gas stations.  This applies more to me than to most.  I drive 30,000miles a year or more.  I know, I know...the environment and the potential blood clots.  But, we makes our choices and we lives with them.  About 10,000 miles a year are work miles and tax deductible, but that's still a lot of personal miles.  Anyway, that means I spend quite a bit on fuel.  So I know the gas stations in my region.  I also know how far apart they are and keep an eye on my gas tank levels.  I don't go below a quarter tank because that is just a stupid game.  I make a note of fuel prices on my way to a place, check at the place, and then fuel up at the cheapest option if I need gas that day.  It can save me up to 25cents a gallon.  I usually need 10 or 11 gallons.  $2.50 twice a week (or 3 times...) is 250$ a year or so in savings.  Some say it's not worth my time, but those people are stupid.  OK, not stupid.  Those people aren't me.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Farewell My Culvert-bine

Ok, that title sucked but have you tried to rhyme or pun with "culvert"?  I could have gone with "pipe" as in "Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe" but that was even less accessible and would have required a Magritte type illustration.
 Image result for ce n'est pas une pipe


It's also not true because the pipe is still there. It just doesn't work that well anymore.  Water goes through.  It also goes BESIDE and possibly underneath.  That is like super not good.  For reals.  There is also a large chunk of dirt and rock that went...presumably...through the pipe.  Or beside.  Given the conservation of matter, it went somewhere.  That is not the real issue.  The real issue is that the dirt and rock is NOT where it was: The upstream end of the aforementioned culvert.  It eroded out all the way to a tire track in the two tracks that I refer to as "my road."  That's not good.  It's too wet to drive on for the moment, but even when it's dryer, I don't think I will be trusting this.  More dirt and rock could fall and the tire follow those, and the subaru will be stuck. 

It is time to squeeze the budget and buy some new pipe.  I don't even know where to get that shit.  oh well.

Friday, February 3, 2017

She Thrifts...She SCORES!

I needed brown slacks for an upcoming trip where my aunt (Hi Chris!) warned me that we're going to a "NO JEANS ALLOWED" restaurant. I thought I had an outfit that would work.  But then I tried it on...it "fit" but it made me look like I had narrow shoulders and a giant rear...basically the opposite of my actual linebacker-build.  So, I needed a new pair of pants to go with the 25cent thrift shirt I got a few weeks ago (Eddie Bauer cranberry colored button down blouse).  I tried the goodwill and sure enough, REI brown pants in my size!  They look new but no tags.  20$ to start...that tag color was on 1/2 price...down to 10$.  I whipped out my "20% off coupon" from donating stuff ...BAM!  8$ pants.  Nice.  

I do realize that these aren't formal.  And yet, I'm going to wear them.  They are a nice chocolate brown, smooth fabric, and easy to pack. 

 In summer I bet they will be my "go to" pants for days at work.  I always need sturdy outdoorsy pants for the archaeology parts of my job.

The 25cent shirt may never be matched. It is an actual nice shirt.  Not a "sturdy" shirt.  Pretty rare that I get one of those but seriously.  25cents!  New.  Eddie Bauer.  And it fits.  It will cost more to wash it than to buy it.  It and the pants are thin fabrics so they will pack nicely for the trip.

I've got another trip in March and I'm sure the outfit will get wear then as well.

I think the pants will go nicely with my various REI and Eddie Bauer work button downs with pit-zip vents. Those are the bomb for the hot flashes.  I wish they weren't nylon, but what are you going to do?  So far they are wearing well and easy to wash even in a sink.  They dry super fast.  I should plan that walking trip across Scotland while I've got these nice packable garments.

With 3 shirts, jeans, the brown pants, and a few tank tops to wear under, I can get by for weeks. (also socks, undies, bras and shoes....obviously)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Things I've Learned from Judge Judy

I've been youtube binge watching episodes and clips of Judge Judy shows.  It's not a good thing to do with my time...so I'm trying to find some redeeming value for my many wasted hours.

Turns out there are indeed some good financial lessons on Judge Judy:

1) NEVER EVER CO-SIGN a loan for anything, ever.  If the person can't get credit from professionals, or rent an apartment on their own, or get utilities turned on...whatever...then do not put your own money at risk.  If you cosign, the loan or utility bill or rent or whatever is actually all yours when they can't find the other signer.  So DO NOT CO-SIGN ANYTHING EVER.

2)  DO NOT pay anyone's bail.  They aren't going to pay you back.  They are going to say it's a gift.

3) DO NOT GET A CELL PHONE FOR ANYONE.  Or pay their cable, or any other media/communications type thing.  Just don't.  They will run up the bill and not pay it. 

4) DO NOT LOAN MONEY, and when you do, get a signed note with a specific pay off date.  Never ever let them say "I'll pay you when I can" or "I'll pay you when I have the money."  That just makes you a sucker because they will never be able to or never have the money. 

5) DO NOT SHARE HOUSING WITH ANYONE NOT ON THE LEASE because you are just screwed.

6) DO NOT TAKE ANYONE ON VACATIONS THEY WILL NOT PAY FOR IN ADVANCE.  They will just say that it was a gift and you will be screwed.

7) YOU CANNOT GET MORE THAN A CAR'S BLUE BOOK VALUE IN COMPENSATION FOR AN ACCIDENT.  It does not matter what sort of fancy wheels/stereo/paint job you paid for after market, she's going to award you fair condition blue book value. 

These are all things I knew, but it seems that most people who end up on Judge Judy do not know these things.  And are not going to learn them.