Friday, February 16, 2018

Fresh Friday Frugalities

I felt like alliterating.

Here are a few frugal things I've done lately:

1) If I got it, I eat it.  I've made do with the food on hand.  When I've gotten down to the point where that was not working well enough (e.g. yesterday I was down to sardines, balsamic vinegar, mustard and tomato paste), I find something to work with what I've got and make a few more meals.   I got bread and bag-o'salad.  I can have sardines on a salad dressed with the vinegar.  The bread can go with the end of a jar of jam and one of the emergency nut butter packs in the car and voila...sandwich.  The bread and salad were both on sale.   As a treat, and because it was on sale, I got 1lb of sliced roast beef to take the edge of the series of sardines and pj&js.  The grand total was 11$ and with existing pantry stock, it was about 8 meals with bread and sardines left over for another day.  Then I just ate the bread...oops.

2) Alternated which car I'm driving.  I have the truck now.  I jockey the vehicles so I do about 1 fill up per rig per week.  This keeps the batteries from running down in the cold/wet weather and makes me more conscious of planning when to buy gas and where. 

3) Setting "No Spends" goals each month.  This month I'm shooting for 11 days with no active spending.  I'm still burning gas and heating wood and eating food, but by making sure I have many days a month where I do not buy anything or pay bills, it makes me more thoughtful about when I do spend

4) Paying off the credit card twice a month.  This makes double sure I don't pay interest or fees.  When I'm on paying the balance, I also check the number of "reward credits" and when there is the minimum usable amount of reward credits, I trade them in for cash back on the bill.  I use the credit card for fuel, airline tickets etc. 

5) Paying cash for groceries and general household expenses (TP, baking soda and vinegar for cleaning, laundry costs).  I get 200$ cash each time I get paid and that generally lasts me until the next paycheck. 

6) Taking my change in to the bank and trading it for folding money.  I have little change sorter thingies I got at a thrift store.  Each night I'm home, I put my change into these.  They are sized so that once full, that stack goes in a coin roller (which I get at thrift stores).  The rolled coins go in a little tin.  When the tin is full, I go to the bank and get 20$ or more in folding money.  I often put the quarters right into the laundry kit since I go to the laundromat.  Rarely have to buy quarters at the laundromat.

7) Actually use those hotel soaps.  Since I shower at the gym all winter, I use the little hotel soaps.  I wrap the bar in paper towel bits or put it in the little box it might have come with, between showers and it goes in the gym bag in the car.  The gym does have shower gel/shampoo in a wall dispenser in the showers. I use that in a pinch but I end up with full-body itchiness.  I think it's just Tide or maybe some liquid version of Ajax.  Pretty harsh stuff.  I also actually use the hotel lotions.  I keep one in a coat pocket (I have lots of coats...) since my hands are crusty dry all winter.

That's enough for now and are things that all came into play within the last week.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

No 'Poo Update

It's getting toward 10 years of no shampoo.

Since I'm mostly showering at the gym, especially in winter, it's kind of a pain to do the baking soda and vinegar rinse.  It takes a while and I hate to have the shower running for 20 minutes.  In the summer, using a bucket or big bowl of water, it is easier to get my hair wet (natural oils repel water...probably one of the reasons head hair evolved was to keep the brain warm and keeping cold rain/snow off the head helps with that) and I don't have a shower running the whole time.  Shutting the shower off at the gym and hanging out in the stall just raises questions.

So, the system no is to mostly just rinse the heck out of the hair while scrubbing my scalp with my finger tips and nails.  This is followed with a some diluted vinegar in a reused small dish soap bottle scavenged from work.  I can squirt this all over my hair and work it through, let it rest in there while I finish up showering, then rinse and finish with a cold rinse.  I step to the side of the main stream of shower water and just put my head in for the cold rinse.  Fortunately the gym has big shower stalls with room to hang a towel and clothes and get dressed...and to step away from the water during the cold hair rinse.

I brush it well every couple of days.

In the last week I've gotten multiple compliments on my hair.  Apparently this is working.  

I do the rinse bit once a week or 10 days.  Partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm not out working in dusty conditions while sweating.  Winter is good for that.

I am also keeping my hair braided most of the time including at night. My hair tangles easily and in the past I've had whole chunks of hair missing from coat-collar length down due to tangles and rats from rubbing on coats and shirt collars. Even in a pony tail it was suffering snarls and breakage.  Keeping it braided seems to prevent those issues.

It's braided overnight because in the winter I wear a hoody to bed.  Or sometimes a hat.  It's warm when I GO to bed, but not always when I wake up so the head cover really helps.

The braiding, less washing, brushing, etc, has resulted in longer hair than I've had in a while.  I haven't had a cut or trim since 1989 so the length is related to the health and breakage alone.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Three Weeks?

Three weeks?

That's all you can agree on budget/funding/keeping the government open?
We can't do this three weeks at a time.  It's not even a MONTH. I mean...three weeks.  Three weeks.

Keeping people on the edge.  Averting disaster one day at a time.  What a great way tol ive.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Well, At Least We Still Have a Weather Forecast

 So, the government is shutdown or partially shutdown or whatever. 

I am pretty dependent on the NOAA weather forecasts since I live away from a population center and these forecasts can be localized to anywhere in the US by clicking on a map.  This is important info.  Is it safe to drive? To be out? Should I bother going home?

 This notice is at the top of the page where I get the weather:

"Due to the Federal Government shutdown, and most associated websites are unavailable. However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government shutdown."

I wonder if FEMA and the disaster response type agencies are open.   What about services to the poor and the old?

I'm not going to bother the skeleton crews at various agencies by calling and asking if they are at work and if they are being paid.  They have enough problems.

I remember the Clinton era shutdown.  And there have been others.

This is, apparently, the new normal.  


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

FAIL!!! A Thrifty Tale

So, as they say, pride goeth before the fall.  Or rather, confidence goeth before the fail.

A friend (HI!) asked if I could teach her how I thrift shop.

Well, I had a plan.  It didn't work.  I asked about a list and she didn't have one and instead of stopping and doing that, we went in stores anyway.  I didn't think things went all that well, but then again, I've been honing my technique, which works for me, for years.  She has different goals and plans and was new to these thrift stores.

Here's what I think I do to get some good deals thrifting, and shopping in general:

Keep a master list.  I keep it in my ipod (which is ancient and was a gift from a friend so free to me).
On the list are sections like "GROC" and "HARDWARE" and other things.  If I think I need something it goes on the list.  If it's something I need soon, like say toilet paper when I'm on the last roll, then it gets capitalized or moved to the top.  Sometimes both.    If it's something that can wait, like upgraded rubber boots, then it sits at the bottom of the list where I have to scroll down to see it or stuck in a general "thrift" category.  Right now, in the low priority longterm areas are things like a good beekeeping reference book, more comfortable rubber boots, and a scythe or sickle to cut weeds.  Not immediate issues, but if I see a really good option at a yardsale or something, I can get it.

Donate BEFORE I buy. I'm trying to cut back on the crap.  It's a battle against both genetic lines that lead to me.  Hoarders all the way back to primordial soup.  So I have to take stuff OUT before I bring stuff into my life.  There are side effects. It makes me shop in my crap before I go.  If I think I want a new tool or need nails, first I go through the unorganized box of hardware stuff and find something that isn't getting used.  Sometimes I find what I was going to buy.  Or, as happened last weekend.  I might go through a box looking for one type of thing (a sweater...which I found) and find good line level was in with a sweater.  Why?  No one knows.  But I have it now and it comes off the list.   ALSO: If you donate to Goodwill, get a receipt.  There is a 20% off coupon on the bottom.  You get a tax write off for donating and 20% off a purchase if you make it.

Wait a while.   If something goes on the list, other than TP or food, wait a while.  If I see the list later and I don't really care one way or the other about the item, it comes off the list.

Hit the thrift store when you are already in the neighborhood.  I don't make a special trip to shop. If I'm going by, I stop if I have things on the list that might be there.

Review the list before I get out of the car or walk in the store.  A list unused is a pointless endeavor.

Pay cash if possible.  Especially at thrift.  Cash is the most salient type of money for me. I notice cash leaving my hand and pocket.  When I get paid, I get about 2 weeks worth of money in cash, the rest goes in the bank.  I notice when my pocket starts to get empty.  At thrift, pay cash.  Those stores aren't all making big bucks and the percentage the credit/debit costs them matters in the big picture even if it doesn't matter to you personally for that transaction. 

Know your thrift stores. In the local area, I know which thrift stores have better prices and selections on various items.  One has a better hardware section, one has better clothes for outdoor work, another (the most christian based one) has cheap dress clothes and canning tools.  And so on.  I run through all the sections in each, but I can usually count on particular stores for the best prices on various items.

Know the sale of the day.  Most thrift stores have colored tag sales each day to keep stock moving through.  One store has sales by room (it's a big store) each day of the week so it pays to know which day furniture or clothes or dishes will be on sale at that store.  For colored tag sales, if I need a shirt or pants, I only look at the clothes with that color tag.  Jeans are jeans whether I pay 20$ or 5$.  Since I have a list and a long term view, I can wait for the sale.  If there is something I really need I might buy it if it's the wrong color tag.  That's what those 20% off coupons are for if it's at goodwill.  I've gotten carhartt pants and things that weren't on the tag sale because I know those will go fast. 

Check the items carefully before you buy.
-For clothes:  Check the fabric, construction and quality.  Check for tears, stains, missing buttons, bad smells, etc.  There is so much thrift clothing that I no longer buy clothes that just need a button or have a stain.  There will be another shirt or coat or pants next time that is in perfect shape. Many have the tags on them after the holidays or at the end of the "season" when retail stores pass on overstocks. 
ALSO:  check the care instructions on clothes.  There is no point in paying big bucks to dry clean a daily wear shirt I got on sale.  I also don't have room to dry things flat right now so I don't buy things that need to be dried flat.  That said, I might buy things very cheap, e.g. the 25cent bin at St Vinnie's, and just wash as I usually do even if they have special instructions.  For 25cents, I don't need to get much wear out of a garment.   I reuse as rags or fire starters. 
-For dishes, jars, etc:  check for chips.  Run a finger around the edges.  See if it is food safe or if it was maybe meant as decoration.  Smell it.  You can't get stank out of a plastic thermos.
-For furniture, hardware, etc: check the quality and wear and tear.  A hammer with a loose head is not a deal.  Rust can be dealt with sometimes but not all times.  Think about how much effort you want to put into the item for the price and how much use it will get.

Think again.  I start in the section where I actually "need" stuff or have things on the list.  That's often hardware.  If I see something on the list, I check it out.  If it passes the check, I either leave it on the shelf and think about it, or carry it around while I scope out the things on the long term list.  If I forget the item before I walk out, I probably didn't need it.  Sometimes I remember that these items are usually cheaper elsewhere or that I forgot to check the tag sale.  Often, it can wait.

Ask about the return policy.  If I don't already know, I ask about the return policy.  I rarely return things, but if it's a big item, something over 10$, I might need to return it.  If it's "no returns no how now way"...then, I might put the item back and see if it's there next time I'm in town.  Or buy it if it seems like it's needed, on the list, good quality and the right price.  If the policy is "store credit" then it depends on whether I get to that store or am likely to buy there again.  Store credit is useless if one does not shop there.   If it's cash back, that's best but pretty rare.

THEN I buy it if it makes it through all those steps.  Once I buy it I try to notice whether I use it or not.  I'm still using the travel french press (stainless steel...oooo) coffee mug I got fore a couple of bucks many years ago.  That was money well spent.  So were the vintage Norwegian ski sweaters.  I spent was 15$!!!   I wear them all winter every winter...actually, only when it's really cold.  But they show no wear and are still good.   The really cool thermos that is still in the box...that was not a good purchase.  That helps me assess how I'm doing on my list and my purchases.

No wonder trying to pass that on in one quick thrift shopping trip didn't work.  It's a process and it's geared toward my life and habits.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Best Books of 2017! Part 1.

Well, not the "best of 2017" so much as "the best books I remember reading in 2017...

I went through a bit of a dark phase with Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me.  It was, actually, published in 2017.   I listened to it and read it and will many more times.  It is wrenching and beautiful.  We've all lost a difficult person at some point.  The grieving process is more complicated.  Not better or worse than those we simply love or hate, but more complicated.

Then there was/is David Sedaris' Theft by Finding.  This too was published in 2017.  It also deals, partly, with the loss of a difficult person.  Both Sedaris and Alexie write about losing their alcoholic mothers.  Alexie's had quit drinking.  Sedaris' hadn't.   Sedaris also deals pretty openly, as far as one can tell, with his addictions and foibles as a human.  I look forward to the next installment.  I bought it on CD and as a hardback.

Last night I read Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia's The Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990.  Published in 2012This is a graphic novel and I laughed out loud.  Several times.  I might need to own this one.  It is brilliant. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Collision and Comprehensive or Not...and...BRAND NEW USED TRUCK!!!

So, how does one (especially when that "one" is "me") decide whether to carry comprehensive and/or collision insurance.

Up until 4 days ago, I was a 1 vehicle family.  Now, I am a 2 vehicle family, though I haven't gotten the 2nd vehicle home yet.  Remember that old math question about how 1 farmer with 1 boat gets a chicken, fox, and chicken feed across a creek?  Well...that's easy compared to how does 1 woman with 1 car living 25 miles out of town get 1 more vehicle to her property without leaving the original vehicle stranded on the road. 
Here are the options that occurred to me:
1) Hitchhike...but I saw that movie "The Hitcher" with Rutger Hauer and he is one creepy mofo so I don't hitchhike.

2) Drive my current vehicle 25 miles to the dealer.  Drive the new car 1 mile.  Take 20 minutes to walk back to my car, at the dealer where I had to leave it to get the new vehicle, drive my original car 2 miles, walk back 1 mile to get the new vehicle, drive that 2 miles, walk back 1 mile...lather rinse and repeat until I get home having walked 25 miles at 20 minutes a mile (500 minutes, or 8hours 20 min).  That seems a bit more trouble than it is worth.  And, I need to spend another 45 minutes at the DMV explaining yet again that yes, my mailing address is in one county/highway district and my home where the vehicles live with me, is in a different county/highway district.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
So, that makes 8hr 20min of driving/walking home, 30min driving to dealer, 45min at DMV (realistically, 1 hour...).  Total: 9hr 50min.  If I have to pee and eat, 11 hours.  That seems excessive

3) Mooch a ride. My main moochable ride friends who live closest are selfishly visiting their grandkid.  Where are there priorities?  I had a ride Weds but my original car was in the shop getting tires 25 miles the other way.  Thursday I was waiting for heating log delivery and didn't get done with that until my ride had had to make other plans.  Friday, I was 2.5 hours the other way.  Same for Saturday.  Sunday the dealer is closed.  MONDAY I can mooch a ride into town in time to get plates, apply for a title, and pick up the pick up. 

4) If the Monday ride falls through I will call the local taxi (which is a small step up from hitchhiking because the driver looks more like Boss Hogg than Rutger Hauer) and pay to get to the dealer.  Cripes.

ANYWAY:  The brand new used truck...1999 pick up so obviously its name is Prince Rogers Nelson...changes the risk factors for insurance coverage and/or lack there of.

While I was a 1 car family, carrying more insurance to make sure I had a rental car and could comfortably replace the car, was more important (see above: live 25 miles out of town).  If I crashed the car or a moose stomped on it while I slept, I was stuck.  There are rides I can easily mooch to work, but not back and forth to the repair shop or car rental place.  Those are all different directions.

NOW I only have to mooch a ride home.  There should be a working rig waiting for me there.

So, is it worth it to keep paying coverage for a rental car?
If I am more than 50 miles from home then it might be.  But probably not.  I'd be pretty screwed anyway.
If the car or pick up were completely unrepairable, like a roll over or a tree completely crushing the car, or a moose hitting the front end at 60mph, would I replace the rig? Probably not.  I'd take the payout and drive the remaining vehicle until it wouldn't go anymore. What price is that repair?  I DON'T KNOW.  That's part of the decision problem.  The other is calculating my risk.  Then there is calculating my risk tolerance. 

I will wait 30 days to try to figure this out again, maintaining current coverage until then.  That's about when I owe for the next 6 months of coverage. 

Winter is especially risky drivingwise, so I may carry more coverage through winter and drop it in spring.