Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Paid too much for that whistle

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 27, 2010

One of my f/b friends posted this story told by Ben Franklin, and I liked it and wanted to pass it on:

Here is the story as told by Benjamin Franklin:

“When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.

This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.

As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.

When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, this man gives too much for his whistle.

When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, “He pays, indeed,” said I, “too much for his whistle.”

If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, “Poor man,” said I, “you pay too much for your whistle.”

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, “Mistaken man,” said I, “you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.”

If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, “Alas!” say I, “he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.”

When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, “What a pity,” say I, “that she should pay so much for a whistle!”

In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.

Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the world so tempting, for example, the apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought; for if they were put to sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the whistle. “


It all adds up

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 8, 2010

Recently, I bought a Kill-a-Watt, and I’m very glad I did. It’s basically a little electronic meter you plug into your wall, and plug your electronic stuff into, and it tells you how much electricity it uses. Very simple concept. I first read about it many years ago in The Tightwad Gazette, but never got one. Whenever I would see one advertised, I wanted to get it, but never did until finally a couple of weeks ago.

While you can’t use it to test 220-volt appliances (like my dryer and stove), nor wired things like lights, ceiling fans, and central heat and air, if it can be plugged in to a regular two or three prong outlet, you can see how much electricity it uses.

One downside to it, is that it covers up both outlets, so if you have two things plugged into one outlet, you have to have one unplugged (unless you have an extension cord to reach it) while you test the energy usage of the other.

At $20, it will take me a little while to recoup the cost in electricity saved, but I think it’s worth it. Technically, I could have saved my money and just kept stuff unplugged and saved the money that way, but I would not have known if it were really worth it. For instance, leaving my microwave plugged in all the time draws a small amount of electricity — about 0.048kwh per day, which works out to about $1.40 per year, since my electricity costs about 3 cents per kwh. It’s worth that small cost to me, to avoid having to plug and unplug it every time I want to use it. My coffee maker costs about $3 per year, in latent usage plus making a pot of coffee per day (it’s a small pot — about 4 cups). Considering that I have a little clock on it and can set it to brew the coffee to be ready when I wake up, even if it cost $3 per year just to keep it in, it would be worth it to me. [I actually don’t like coffee, but this is for my husband when he wakes up.]

My husband was not pleased initially when I bought it, because he thought I was going to nag him about how much electricity things use, and make him stop using things like the space heater in the bathroom. That was not my intention at all — it was just to see what stuff uses, especially things like the computer and peripherals, or to see if our refrigerator was sucking electricity and needing to be replaced (it doesn’t), and if I could save money by turning stuff off either during the day while he’s gone to work, or at night when we’re not using it.

I haven’t completed the tour of the house to see how much stuff costs (the nightlight works out to about 30 cents per year, even plugged in constantly), our box fans and bedside lamps are also pretty low-cost, especially considering how little we use them. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the bathroom space heater only uses about 3 cents worth of electricity for 15 minutes of use. Honestly, I thought it was going to be worse than that. It all adds up, though — it would cost over $1000 in electricity if it were running on high 24/7. But, since we only use it once or twice (perhaps three times, depending on how cold it is in there and whether the kids take a bath) per day, and only during the winter months, it’s still worth it — and may even be a bargain, when you consider the cost of heating the entire house enough so that it is warm enough in the bathroom not to be chilly when you’re soaking wet.

Two things that I’ve seen already that can be unplugged to save money, with very little impact on our lives, are an air purifier (that I don’t think even works well), and some electronic devices we rarely use. The air purifier alone uses $3-4 of electricity every month, so just knowing that, we can recoup the cost of the Kill-a-Watt in about 5 months. I make DVDs out of VHS tapes, and have kept the VCR, camcorders, and the MovieBox gadget that connects these analog devices to the computer plugged in all the time. That made sense when I was transferring my own home movies, and those of my mom’s, etc., but I’ve not been doing much of that lately. I discovered, thanks to the Kill-a-Watt, that we can save $20 a year just by not having these things plugged in.

My office was a little convoluted when it came to what was plugged into which strip, and it turned out that in addition to those gadgets I mentioned above, we also had several other devices plugged in that we weren’t using. Since I’m not sure what was plugged in where, I don’t know how much electricity each thing used, so I’m going to have to retest. But this is another reason I’m glad to have gotten the thing — it helps to clear up the junky looking mess of wires (a little bit, anyway) behind our desks, because I actually stopped and took the time to figure out what was running. I could have done this without buying the gadget, but I hadn’t — it was the impetus of buying the gadget that made me really look at this.

I just did this a few hours ago, and am retesting my computer setup. Currently, I have my monitor, printer, and computer plugged in on one power strip, with the power strip plugged into the Kill-a-Watt. I’ll see how much electricity it uses while running, and then how much it uses when I shut things off for the night. It could be interesting. Since it’s all on one strip, I know I can flip the rocker switch to turn everything off at once, so it will use zero electricity overnight. I may just do that, once I see how much latent energy it pulls. Then tomorrow, I’ll figure out my husband’s power strip, which also has the modem and router plugged in. I’m guessing that we can drop our electric bills by nearly $10 per month, just by being conscientious about our usage — particularly our computers.

One thing that makes it a little difficult to see about latent energy usage is that it is usually so low that it may sit at 0.01 kwh for several hours, so it may make some things look like it draws more latent energy than another thing, when in reality, you just happened to notice it right after it turned to 0.02 kwh. But that’s still awfully low — 30 cents per year if it draws only 0.01 kwh for 24 hours, vs. 60 cents per year at 0.02 kwh.

Minimum Wage

Posted in frugal by Kathy on January 1, 2010

If increasing the minimum wage is always such a good idea and helps those who most need it, why not raise the minimum wage to $100/hr?

The obvious answer is that the price of everything will increase astronomically, and those making minimum wage will *still* be making minimum wage, and will *still* be at the bottom and will be the *worst* hit of all workers as price escalate exponentially, since employers will have to dramatically raise the cost of everything to pay their employees.

Are minimum-wage earners *really* better off now that the federal minimum wage is $7.25, as opposed to when it was $3.30 when I was first working? If so, how? If so, why do they need yet another increase? — shouldn’t they be twice as well off, since they’re making twice as much money?

“Oh, but think about inflation!” you may say. Yeah, that’s *exactly* what I’m thinking about — raising minimum wages makes everything cost more, as companies have to charge more for their goods and services in order to pay their employees the higher minimum wages and/or the higher non-minimum wages and salaries that are actually or tacitly tied to the minimum wage. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” but a rising minimum wage lifts all prices. And hits those hardest who are at the bottom, since they pay the largest percentage of their income on necessities.

Colorado recently lowered its minimum wage, by 3 cents per hour, which of course does add up — to about $60 per year, if you’re working 40 hours a week. What does $60 per year buy these days? Are there ways to cut back and save $60 over the course of the year? For almost every single person in America — you bet! If you’re having trouble figuring how to do that, take a look at The Complete Tightwad Gazette (or any of the single three volumes, because it might actually be cheaper to buy them separately than together, depending on who is selling them and at what price). Actually, if your first impulse is to buy the book, that may be an indication of your first problem — check your library out first! Then your local thrift store or used book store — save shipping, and you may find it cheaper there. Amazon is selling used CTGs starting at $14, and then you have to pay shipping as well; I found my used copy at a thrift store several years ago for $5. Granted it will be worth whatever you pay for it, if you put it to use, but why spend money you don’t have to?

In the Colorado article, a man is quoted, reminiscing about when he made minimum wage, “You’d… have enough money to go catch a poker game or take your girl out to a dinner.” Surely cutting out those things a few times a year or even entirely would save $60. Most people probably spend over $60 a month on their cell phone bill and could probably cut that down, if they had to (things like dropping unlimited texting, reducing your cell-phone minutes, disconnecting your internet capabilities, etc.). Not that I’m against cell phones — my husband and I have the minimum cell-phone plan our carrier offers, and it’s right at $70 a month including all taxes and fees, but we don’t have a house phone at all, and we figure this is the cheapest way for us. Downgrading your internet package or entirely eliminating your cable plan would also likely add up to more than $60 per year — we’re talking about $5 a month, which I daresay that most people spend more than that on soft drinks and candy. We don’t have a TV at all, so our “cable bill” is our internet bill. My husband plays online games with his brothers, so he insists on having the highest-speed internet, which is about $60 a month for us. We could pay half that and still have a decent internet connection and still be pampered.

But the thing to keep in mind, is that for the most part, we’re not talking about people struggling to make it, whose only source of income is minimum wage. By and large, people who make minimum wage are teenagers — they live at home, and minimum wage is pocket money for them to do whatever they want — they can spend it, save it, whatever. As Dave Ramsey says, he never worked for minimum wage in his life — he mowed grass and raked leaves as a teenager (and also to bring in extra money after he went bankrupt, as he worked his way back to becoming a millionaire again), and started in real estate as soon as he could sit for the license (age 18), and was buying and selling houses while he was working his way through college. He says (paraphrasing) minimum wage is for teenagers, and if you’re making minimum wage as a breadwinner, then you need to figure out how to get a better job — you need to look to the future and make some goals, and not sit there whining about making minimum wage and waiting for the government to solve your problems. And that if you don’t like making minimum wage, then figure out how to land a job making more than minimum wage, because “making minimum wage” is not a good life-long strategy.

I like what Thomas Sowell says about minimum wage, in the Wikipedia article:

Economist Thomas Sowell has also argued that regardless of custom or law, the real minimum wage is always zero, and zero is what some people would receive if they fail to find jobs when they try to enter the workforce, or they lose the jobs they already have.

No, you do *not* “need” a TV

Posted in frugal, politics by Kathy on April 8, 2009

Someone on one of my cheapcycle or freecycle lists just posted a request for a TV or DVD player, stating that she “needed” them. Nope. Sorry. That does not qualify as a need. It’s a want, not a need. Learn the difference, people! Maybe if more people had properly separated wants from needs we would not be in the “credit crisis,” “mortgage meltdown,” “stimulus” nightmare. You need food, clothing, shelter, etc. TVs and DVDs are optional items which are luxuries. Argh!

It depends on your point of view

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 15, 2009

On my other blog, I previously mentioned the Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar from Arkansas who currently have 18 children (the oldest is married; and the youngest just a couple of months old; they will continue to have children as long as possible). Anyway, I got a comment from someone who said she believes the Duggars have a right to have that many children, but thinks that they are “selfish” to use “more than their share of the earth’s resources.”

I thought about that sentence a lot. Certainly a family with 17 children uses more resources than a family with two or four children; but I think it deserves a closer to look to see if they are really using “more than their share” of resources. First, it assumes that there are limited resources, rather than renewable resources, which I think is a faulty assumption. Most of the resources used are for things like water, food, oxygen, and clothing — all of which are renewable and/or reusable resources.

Since the Duggars are frugal (living within their income and paying cash for everything), I would assume that a large portion of their clothing comes second-hand, and/or is all passed down through all the children until it wears out. Families with just a few children usually do not wear out clothes, so may end up throwing them away. Which of these processes uses more resources — brand new clothes for each child, or handing down clothes through 5 or more children?

We are not facing a water, food, or oxygen shortage — and even if we were, each human should be able to get a share of these necessities, regardless of how many siblings he or she had. I know that some people think that we are overpopulating the planet, but that is a matter of opinion, and I’ve read numerous times that we actually have more than enough resources — that all humans could stand in the state of Texas, with a three-foot “body buffer zone”; and our country could produce enough grain to feed the world — or something like that. Anyway, the problem with starvation is not that there is no food that could be given these people, but usually that food that is supposed to be used to feed the hungry is held in warehouses by despots who want to starve people into submission.

But, let’s look at the per capita use of resources, to see if the Duggars are using more than their share. Somehow, I daresay that this family of 18 (counting the parents and only 16 of the children, since one is a newborn and one is out of the house and on his own) uses fewer resources than 6 families with 3 members; or than 4 families with two parents and two adults, plus an extra couple of kids thrown in somewhere. By the same principle that school districts use to justify the use of the large school buses, rather than using minivans or cars to transport a large number of people at once, the case could easily be made that all the Duggars in one van uses the same amount of resources as two (or possibly fewer) family minivans or other large vehicle (such as an Explorer or Suburban). My sister has a 7-passenger van (not a minivan, but the larger kind), which she drives everywhere, even when she’s alone because it is her vehicle, while her husband drives a 4-seater truck back and forth to work. They have two children. A family in our church which also consists of father, mother and two children, has a Suburban which they sometimes use for just the four of them. Somehow, I bet that these two vehicles (which typically only carry 4 people each at a time) use about the same amount of fuel to go the same distance as the Duggars’ family van. If this is true, then they move the same number of people the same distance for half the cost. Even if I’m wrong, and it’s not half as cheap, I really doubt it’s more expensive for the Duggars’ transportation expenses than the average per capita transportation cost times 18.

The same thing applies to food and water. I would be surprised to find that the Duggars’ per capita food budget is more than the average per capita national food budget — and assume it to be far less, because of all the frugal methods they employ, such as buying in bulk and getting a great price.

But the real thing that gets me about comments like that, is that it focuses attention on people who are living frugally, and the assumption is made that they are wasting resources, while little or no attention is given to people who have small families but are extremely wasteful. For some reason, Paris Hilton comes to mind. I wonder how much she spends on food. She’s skinny as a rail, so she ought not eat much, but I bet it’s very expensive, and also that she’s very wasteful. Also, she probably spends thousands and thousands of dollars on her clothes every year, if not every season. It wouldn’t surprise me if what she spends — and a lot of other super-wealthy people too — I’m not just picking on poor little ol’ Paris — for food, clothing, housing, transportation, etc. is more than the entire Duggar family’s. But she’s just one person.

Now, she’s got the right to use her money however she wants; and as far as “resources” go, a cup of water is the same whether she drinks it or one of the others, even if hers costs $10 a bottle. The actual “resource” of water is the same. But if she flies a private jet every other month to Europe or Australia or even just cross-country, I would guess that she uses more fuel in a month, or at least in half a year, than the entire Duggar family does in a full year. But nobody’s getting on Paris Hilton for wasting that much in fuel. And let’s not even get into the topic of upkeep of her various mansions. I can only imagine how much electricity it takes to keep a 40,000 square-foot house cooled.

So, before people talk about large families consuming “more than their fair share of resources,” I want them to talk first about the wasteful spending of the average small family, or even of single people, who may spend more per capita than most people spend for their whole family.

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Even if it’s a good deal, should you buy it?

Posted in frugal by Kathy on January 19, 2009

One of the blogs I keep up with lists a bunch of “deals” — freebies, coupons for free or nearly free items, Walgreens specials, and also her own personal Walgreens trips, where she proudly announces that she bought $115 worth of stuff and spent $6.

Sounds good, so why not?

First, when I check the things I have or can get coupons for, they’re usually not that great of an item to start with. For instance, our family rarely uses much in the way of medicine, so who cares if I can get 10 bottles of Robitussin for only $5 (after all rebates and refunds and coupons)? I don’t need ten bottles of Robitussin. I’d be surprised if we use even one per year. So, I’d have nine bottles of Robitussin to get me through the next nine years… except it goes out of date in a year or two. So, you’re spending $5 on two or three bottles of Robitussin, when you can get the generic for $1 apiece, any time, without having to crowd my limited space with big bottles of something I’m not going to use.

The same goes for “gadgets” — they take up space, I’m not likely to use them, and even if they’re “good” at what they do, the peripherals end up costing a lot — for instance, I’ve got a coupon for a free food vacuum sealer thing, and I’m considering getting it, but probably won’t. While it might help reduce freezer-burn, I have a method which is already pretty dang good, and it doesn’t cost me a cent. Plus, to use this gadget, you’ll have to purchase the special bags to go with it, and I daresay those are a bit more expensive than freezer bags.

While I kind of drool over her ability to get so much stuff for so little, when I look at the actual items she gets, I just kinda go, “huh?” Because almost without exception, these items are something that I would usually not purchase anyway, or I shouldn’t purchase them because they’re junk food. So, even if it only ends up costing me 50 cents to purchase something, if I don’t need it, shouldn’t eat it, or wouldn’t get it anyway, instead of “saving” me whatever amount of money it is between the usual price and the register price, I actually spend 50 cents that I otherwise would not have spent. And it’s for something I don’t need, shouldn’t eat, or wouldn’t get. Just because it’s “a good deal.”

I totally racked up!!!

Posted in frugal by Kathy on November 2, 2008

Yesterday, I went out yard-saling, and found so much stuff!!!

I live in Mississippi, so, yes, it’s still warm enough to have a yard sale on the first day of November. It would not be unheard-of to have yard sales year-round, although we live in North Mississippi, so it does get cold and even snows a few times in the winter. Yesterday, it was chilly in the morning, but was about 75 degrees by the middle of the day.

In our area, we have what’s called “First Monday,” which started out over a century ago as a local cattle-trading meeting for the area farmers. It took place on the first Monday of the month, at first it was on the square, and then eventually moved to its present location. Over the years, it has changed from livestock to a monthly flea market in the same area. And it happens on the weekend of the first Monday, but unless that weekend is a holiday weekend, it really is only open on Saturday and Sunday — on the actual Monday, it’s a ghost-town. Some dealers sell dogs (I always think they run puppy mills, and feel terribly sorry for the cute little puppies, and all the other animals in cages), rabbits, roosters, or even goats; in the springtime — especially Easter, they have a lot of ducks, chicks, and rabbits. But most of the dealers have your basic flea market-type stuff — old glassware, kids’ toys, antique farm implements; and some have salvage food (still in packaging, but most likely out of date or perhaps the box was damaged so the grocery store had to toss all the contents) or cosmetics (hair-care products, toothpaste, etc.); while others sell cheap Chinese-made things — pop-up hampers, pencils and pens, etc. And of course, there are also people who only have fast food — pork skins (yuck!!), hot dogs, corn dogs, popcorn, drinks, etc.

Because the first of the month is when all the people on government assistance get their checks (either the 1st or the 3rd of the month; or if either of those days falls on a Sunday, then they will get it the day before), and because this stuff is cheap, people come out in droves! Since people are already out (and have cash, thanks to the government checks!), it can be a very good day to have a yard sale. (But, when Monday falls on the first day of the month, people who don’t get paid or don’t get their check until then will typically be out of cash and those weekends are not so good.)

So, for yard-salers like me, First Monday weekend is one not to miss. You may think I’m horrid for giving my children presents I got used at yard sales; but a lot of the stuff there is in very good condition, and when I pay just a couple of bucks for something, I know I’ll get my money’s worth; when I pay $20-50 for toys, it’s a toss-up. Now, onto the stash:

From various yard sales:

  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, paperback, good condition, 50 cents
  • two Christian relationship books I’d heard of and wanted to read — one geared toward men, the other toward women, by Gary Smalley, a quarter apiece
  • 4 candy molds for chocolates (for my mom), $1
  • a small bag of mixed toys that had some of the old-fashioned Little People toys like my husband and I played with when we were kids — my mom still has some of the things at her house — $1
  • free Mrs. Fields cookies in their packaging, just out of date
  • a small bike for my older son (seat torn a little; may need to buy training wheels) — $6
  • a Sit-n-Spin, with batteries (my kids love the one at my mom’s house) — $3
  • a Pooh counting book with audio — 50 cents
  • a large-ish toy (not big enough for ride-on, but close) for the sand box — 50 cents
  • a Take-Along Thomas playset piece (no track, no trains, no coal-loader, just the building) — $1
  • a “Tot Spot” folding chair (like this, but different colors) — $1
  • a black purse, excellent condition — $1
  • an 80s version Trivial Pursuit game, box a little worn, but in mint condition inside — the little wedge pieces had not even been removed from the little stick — $2
  • at a “stuff a bag for a dollar” yard sale, I got a long sheer curtain (to replace the current short curtain in our bedroom), and then filled the bag with a T-shirt for my mom and a sparkly shirt for my niece (it’s much too “old” for her to really wear, but she’ll have fun dressing up in it) — $1
  • a brand-new still-sealed basket of play food — $3
  • a good-quality big backpack (to replace my worn-out smaller backpack that is my diaper bag — it also came in handy at our First Monday excursion — I put our stuff in it, my younger son on my shoulders, and my husband carried what wouldn’t fit in the backpack and was in charge of my older son) — $2
  • inside the backpack was a beautiful, soft Pooh-bear, which my older son immediately claimed (I had seen it inside the bag, and had intended on saving it for his birthday or Christmas, but emptied the bag in front of him); a few different craft items (paint-by-numbers type things); some girly stuff — brushes, combs, mirrors; and a few miscellaneous items — absolutely free!
  • a 100-piece puzzle of David & Goliath — 50 cents
  • a small “white-board” (I’ll use it like people used to use the old-fashioned slates [remember Laura Ingalls Wilder or Anne of Green Gables?], for my kids to learn how to write their letters and numbers) — 25 cents
  • two cheap curtain rods that go with the brackets I already have on some of our windows — 25 cents
  • a curtain set (valance, two floor-length panels) which should go with our bedroom —  (this looks like good-quality, and I shudder to think what the lady originally paid for it; even if it was just from Walmart, each piece probably cost between $10-20) — $1
  • and I saved the best for last! — a Duplo (larger-sized Legos) table that had the top come off in two pieces for storage underneath, with 4-color Duplo boards on each piece, and on the reverse side of the top, a painted-on road. It was the same that the pediatric dentist had in his office, but in better condition. My kids will be able to use it for a train table, drive their cars on it, or build with Duplos (I’ll have to get some more). In the table there were a few Duplos, some cars to go with it, and a few odds and ends (including some things that were thrown away). While the condition was not excellent, as I noticed afterwards (two of the Duplo boards had fallen off and will need to be re-glued, the corners showed some definite signs of wear from being moved, bumped, and played with), I think it probably cost at least $300 when new, and when I asked the price, was fully expecting her to say somewhere in the $30-50 range, and was already thinking about how to talk her down. I think my eyes bugged out of my head when she said, “five dollars.” Then she said in a tired voice, “I’m just ready to go home,” and gave a tired smile. My kids will play with this thing for years. It is definitely worth — $5

Then we went to First Monday, where we got

  • black socks for my husband, 3 pairs to a package, 3 packages for $5
  • several wire baskets for frying things in oil (my mother-in-law envied me mine when she was here, so we got her a set plus a few more in case other people want them); also usable for any sort of straining or storage (I think they were $1 apiece, but they could have been $1.25)
  • some pencils (about a nickel apiece) — $1 per package
  • hair gel (50 cents apiece, and my husband liked it when we got it last time)
  • hair color (I have a gray streak, plus many other strands throughout… hope it doesn’t turn me blonde or red — a little worried about it being salvage, hope not out of date or somehow messed up) — $1
  • some gourmet coffee (not sure how much, but think $1 per package)
  • a couple of DVDs for the kids, new and sealed — $5 apiece
  • sheet set for our king-sized bed, new, in the package, with pillowcases, actually match/similar to the color on our walls (I’m not too picky about this; and the last sheets I was able to find were navy blue, and our walls are green; I prefer to match or coordinate when possible, but I’m too tightwaddy to spend that much money on it, when cheaper but non-matching ones are available… within reason, of course — I usually prefer neutral tones anyway, so I’m not going to be clashing hot pink with fire-engine red anyway) — $20

I think that’s about it! I had a great time yard-saling (my husband took our boys to a father-son thing at our church Camp — he doesn’t like “roughing it” so didn’t want to spend the night in the cold, but was more than willing to take them up for some games and stuff in the morning, so I got to stop at all the yard sales I wanted without the kids getting crabby, or worrying about them needing to go to the bathroom or being hungry or thirsty), and I got some great bargains! I’m so jazzed about that table!! I want to give it to my son for his birthday this week, but am going to try to talk myself out of it, and reserve it for Christmas as a present to both boys. I’d already gotten everything I needed for his birthday anyway, so definitely should keep it until Christmas… but it’s so tempting to give it to him now! 🙂

Some days it’s just not worth chewing through the leather restraints

Posted in frugal by Kathy on October 25, 2008

(I don’t know why, but this phrase just appeals to me on some level.)

Today was one of those days, in one respect. I like to go to yard sales, and get stuff that way rather than buying stuff new from the store. My mom gets the local paper (it’s published twice a week — oh, yeah, big local paper) 🙂 and there were several ads for yard sales. I was excited, because many times there are only two or three listed, and I knew that for so many that were listed, there are usually several more. But two of them were too far away for me to go jaunting out there just to see what they had (nothing in the descriptions sounded like it was really anything I was looking for). Still, I went to the rest, plus stopped at several other yard sales that I happened to see along the way. (And had a couple of wild-goose chases when I followed signs that must have been for last week. Sigh…) And I only got something at one of them (probably 10+ yard sales in all). I was looking for boys’ toys, and the only yard sales that had toys were either all girl toys or were baby toys. All the rest had predominantly clothes (looked like sizes I didn’t wear) and household items (which I don’t need).

I ended up buying a pair of matching lamps for my bedroom (I’ve wanted a lamp for my side of the bed for a while, and we can move the other lamp to the spare room), and a purse. Now that my kids are so close to being fully potty-trained, I am going to use my current diaper bag as only a reserve bag for in the car, and actually have a real purse for the first time in about four years! Now that I don’t need half a dozen diapers “just in case”, I can just stick one or two in my purse and leave the diaper bag in the car or at home. I won’t know what to do with myself! 🙂

Whatever happened to Amy Dacyczyn and The Tightwad Gazette?

Posted in frugal by Kathy on October 3, 2008

Somebody came across my blog asking that, and although I don’t know the full answer (only the Frugal Zealot herself knows that), I do know what she said in her final book — The Complete Tightwad Gazette, which included all three of the other books, as well as the final editions of the newsletter and her farewell column.

Basically, in addition to feeling like she had covered most topics (in one book, she likened it to learning multiplication tables — once you know the basics, you can apply those principles to other problems), she was feeling drained. Their tremendous success (appearing on Parade magazine soon after finding out she was pregnant with twins, about a year or so after she started The Tightwad Gazette newsletter) enabled her and her husband to fully retire after 6&1/2 years of doing that. But her newsletter subscriber base didn’t just mushroom — it exploded after that Parade magazine interview, and stretched them all really thin. She says that in that first year afterwards, her kids were lucky to be able to pick the color frosting on their birthday cakes, instead of having a full celebration which they typically did (for $25 or less). And after so many years, there were only so many topics to cover without repeating the same information, which she promised herself she would not do — especially after the books came out, and made the information in the newsletters permanently “out there.”

Here is an interview she did earlier this year with the blogger The Simple Dollar, in which she talks about life since retirement (basically, what she did before, just without writing about it, and presumably with most or all of her kids out of the house, since they’d be 18 or over… well, maybe the twins are just 16).

So, basically, she retired when she retired, and continued her frugal ways, resuming the anonymity (more or less) that she had before launching The Tightwad Gazette. But for all of us who “knew” her through her newsletter or (like me) her books, we feel like she’s a friend we’ve just lost touch with, and reread her old letters to connect and reminisce about old times — old times that it feels like we’ve shared together… but never actually did, oddly enough. 🙂

“Love food hate waste”

Posted in frugal by Kathy on June 22, 2008

Somebody sent me this link, which seems pretty cool. It’s from the UK, so I’m going to have to translate centimeters and grams, but that’s okay. It’s a website devoted to using up food and leftovers, so that it’s not wasted. Always a great idea! Sure, we have plenty of food, but it doesn’t make sense to waste it.