Monthly Archives: September 2012

What Would You Do?

What Would you Do?

There’s a survey consumer data gathering site, which shall remain nameless. I signed up or started to but after they asked for my personal info, they asked for that of the other people in my household. Okay, I get that.

But it wasn’t a secure site, or at least it wasn’t an “https” site. So, I bailed and sent their customer service person an email (If you have any questions .. . .) that asked the question, “Is there a secure way I can sign up?”

I got back a cut/paste of their privacy Ts & Cs.

That’s wonderful, but it didn’t answer my question. So I sent an email yesterday back to the same person, pointing out that she hadn’t answered my question, and I still wanted to know if there was a secure way to sign up?

I got back a form letter thanking me for my input.

At which point I decided the person I was corresponding to was 1) a moron 2)fictional 3)trying to do way to many tasks or 4)technically unable to answer the question.

I am loathe to send yet another letter, but I’m tempted to research and find the woman’s manager and send them the stream of emails. At this point, an honest “I don’t know” would have been better. I went from interested to annoyed (initial letter/response) from annoyed to almost mad. It still isn’t worth my time to actually get mad, but I DO have better things to do than play multiple choice with this woman until I get my question answered.

So, what would you do?

J

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More money saving, just in time to fix __________

To save money, spend less.  Do this by using cheaper substitutes, doing without, or getting an item cheaper. I wrote a previous blog that talked about these ideas.

Here’s what I’ve done lately to cut our expenses.

  • Diluted the laundry and dish soaps.
  • Stayed home.
  • Went through the house earmarking things to sell.
  • Transformed the drippings, onions & some meat from a roasted lemon chicken into lemon chicken soup with egg & rice.
  • I put aside the bones & skin from the picked chicken for the stock bag.
  • Bought 5 packages of cookies and 4 pieces of cake for .50 each at a bake sale and froze them. I can’t make baked goods for these prices, from scratch or a mix. Everybody wins: I get HM baked goods, the charity sells a lot of goods, likely donated, and I spent way less. (I ate 1 pkg of the cookies the other day, they were great.)
  • We’re using part of the stored wood stash on the new entry & walkway project.
  • I’ve been making more of our bread. (I need to make ALL of it!)
  • I harvested dill, lettuce, and raab seeds today. I’ll either use them to grow food indoors this winter or plant them out next spring.

What didn’t work? Our furnace needs to be serviced, sigh. Our bed broke last night. (DH fixed it.) The washing machine is still occasionally making loud THUMP noises, we’re not sure why? It feels as if everything is breaking, at once.

Our slide in, one-piece stove/oven we bought when we moved here. It was long ago enough that parts are no longer available. I want a stove top and wall ovens when we redo the kitchen. And, of course, being me, the stove top I want is an order-only item, and pricey, sigh. That’s a long-term “save for it” thing. Meanwhile, we might buy something else as a fill in piece. Not this month. God knows we can’t afford anything else this month!

J

A money saving strategy, mine.

There’s very few of our day-to-day bills we control. The price for electric, phone, the mortgage, fuel, etc. are set by others. We can control how much we use/buy, but not the price paid per unit. We are responsible for our frivolous spending and the food budget, which is why I think most people start trying to control their finances with the food budget.

Given these  possibilities:

  • 1) We may not have $ available at some point in the future, or very little.
  • 2) We don’t have sufficient land to raise enough to support us, even if we clear cut, raised chickens, etc. It would be nearly impossible to grow/produce enough food here to feel us year round.

I came to this uncomfortable truth:

  • 3) I need to get our bills/debt down and make as much $ as I can ASAP.

One way I intend to do this is to lower our dependence on supermarkets.

Two main ideas/facts occurred to me.

The first and easiest step  is to reduce the amount of waste. Did you know Americans throw out about 40% of the food they buy? [Want to save a large chunk of your food bill? Stop throwing food away.]

The second was to reduce the most expensive foods we buy. Seems obvious, right? But it isn’t meat, chocolate, or even coffee! Frequently, per pound, the most expensive stuff we buy are spices and/or condiments. I can grow or make many of these cheaper than I can buy them at the supermarket.

So I’ve grown more herbs & spices this year. The tarragon, oregano, chives, thymes, parsley, mints, and argula were successful. The basil had problems I don’t understand, the cilantro did so-so, as did the lemon balm, sage, and dill.

Chamomile was a flop, I’ll try it as a house plant. It was spindly, produced few flowers, then died. The stevia did well enough that I’ll bring it indoors as a houseplant this winter.  We’ll see how it likes it indoors!

The lemon verbena became a BUSH, a wonderful surprise for an herb I’ve always sort of nurtured along and gotten very little. It will be mulched deep with the sincere hope that it will overwinter successfully and come back next year.

I’ve been drying herbs all summer, so I won’t buy parsley, basil, oregano, sage. That’s a win. The house pot pourri, which I’ve always made from whatever we had is strongly lemon this year: lemon thyme, lemon verbena, spearmint, lemon balm. Our sheets will smell yummy!

 

The condiments I haven’t done so well with. I haven’t made anything like the chutneys, jams (well I did, but we ate it), etc. that we will use year round. And frankly, I don’t have the patience for large-batch food processing. I get tired of standing in my kitchen, my feet hurt, and I stop being careful.

So the next piece is to put food aside monthly: can, freeze or dehydrate in small batches, year ’round. I have a monthly “in season” list for produce, meats, cheeses, etc. I have recipes in a data base by when their main ingredients (or most of them) are in season. I just haven’t put the two pieces together.
I need to.

I have a watermelon I bought to make jam with 2 weeks ago that needs to be used before it becomes compost! That will do both things: reduce my food waste & put a condiment aside for winter. Can’t you imagine how yummy watermelon jam will taste in December when it’s bleak and snowy outside?

Do you have money-saving strategies? I’d love to hear about them!

6008!

Well, this sure took long enough to get done!

Even with buying some stuff at a show yesterday, I’ve managed to get to over 6,000. I expected I would, soon, as I only had 20 or so to go to make that goal.

The new target is below!

J

Hints & Tips: Buying Books

Find out when the book you want was first published, approximately. Sometimes copies of books which have been reprinted many times are expensive in their early printings (near when they were first printed) and newer printings, but not those printed in between.

For example, Oz books were published near the turn of the 20th century. Early and First Editions can cost a LOT of money.

During the 1960s, Reilly & Lee reprinted most of the Oz books L. Frank Baum wrote, although those might be pricey, they shouldn’t cost as much as the first or early editions, in most cases.

Later, around 1980 or so, Del Rey reprinted the series yet again, as large format paperbacks, they likely won’t cost as much as the first or early printings either. But a new book is likely to be around $30, at a guess. Just to see if I’m right, I’ll look up a random Oz book.

Baum wrote 14,  but at #6 he tried to end the series, if I remember correctly, so we’ll use that book as a test piece.

Baum, L. Frank – Emerald City of Oz, originally published 1910 by Reilly & Britton. There’s one reading copy  (“It’s had a hard life.”) for $20, the rest start at $200 and go up.

The 1960s reprint (1964) seems to go for around $60, a good bit less than the average $200 price of the early printings, yes?

The DelRey paperback (1993) starts at $1 and goes up from there.

No, these are NOT the only editions of this book. There are ebooks, POD copies, etc. with prices as varied as you might imagine. My point in using the above book was that books and their prices fluctuate and vary, especially when it’s a book that’s frequently reprinted, as the Oz books are.

So, if you want to read all of them, any format is fine. If you decide you want a set of actual books, it can save you money if you know when the book was originally published, so that you can look for later, complete editions, like the 1960s reprints and the DelRey trade paperbacks.

Collecting first editions can be fun (and also expensive). If you just want to own the books, it can be done for a great deal less by buying reprints. If you’re a first edition collector? Well, buying reprints allows you to wait for that perfect copy, or the deal of a lifetime!

Today’s adventure

Okay, yesterday I (ulp!) wrote the check for getting the sills fixed. Then I paid the dentist the money we owed and bought a new sonic toothbrush. After THAT the bank account was feeling a bit lean, as you might imagine.

Last night, just before we sat down to dinner, I threw 3 towels in the wash. During dinner there was this loud THUNK-THUNK-THUNK that wasn’t normal. I went over to the washer, stopped and opened it. No obvious problems, closed it, restarted the machine and closed the door to the laundry room.

This morning I went into the laundry room with the latest dirty clothes and went

squish!

Not a wonderful way to start your morning. (I’d just gotten my 1st cup of coffee.) So, gee, the laundry room got cleaned this morning. All the wet, sopping stuff came off the floor and got hung up outside. The towels got put in the dryer, the portable heater got put in the laundry room.

While I was at it, I cleaned out whatever dust bunnies I could find and for good measure cleaned the glass shelves and window too.

I’m beginning to feel like the Flanders & Swann song, “The Gasman Cometh” was written about us. The song, if you don’t know it, is funny indeed. The intro to the song has a phrase that has been circling through my head all morning, “…unending domesting upheaval…”.

So that’s today/this month? Unending Domestic Upheaval.

J

Hints & Tips: Cleaning

Aside from books always being a part of my life, it seemed for a long time I got jobs to clean things. I’m actually pretty good at it, ironically enough. The ones marked with a star I got when cleaning things commercially. Anyway, here’s some cleaning tips:

Cleaning an ashtray? If you’re sure everything is cold, dump the contents into the trash and wipe out the ashtray with a slightly damp rag.*

Another way to clean chrome is with rubbing alcohol.*

Taking a shower? Wipe the steam from your mirror/chrome with a chamois. Free, fast, and no chemicals!

Got a pan with a layer of grease in it? Pour salt in the pan enough to absorb the grease. Put the greasy salt into a plastic bag and tie it up. Then clean the pan as usual.*

Waxing the floor? Put TWO layers of wax on the high traffic areas, you’ll have to rewax the floor less often. One layer is usually enough elsewhere.*

Washing windows? Use a little liquid dish soap, water and some ammonia. No pricey fancy blue water needed!*

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head!
J