Archive for August, 2007

Cleaning with Water – the Universal Solvent

Paired with yesterday’s post, I now introduce tips on how to clean extra well with water (out of the same pamphlet):

-If your hands are badly stained from gardening, add a teaspoon of sugar to the soapy water you wash them in

-A teaspoon of ammonia in a little water cleans hairbrushes and combs; rinse thoroughly

-To deodorize your house, boil a pan of water to which you’ve added cinnamon, ginger or cloves

-Make your own window cleaner with 1 quart of water, 1/2 cup of ammonia and 1/8 cup vinegar

-To renew a straw broom, soak it for 30 minutes in a solution of 2 quarts warm water to 4 tablespoons ammonia; rinse in clear water and hang to dry

– To remove lime scale from a tea kettle, loosen by boiling water and vinegar in equal amounts; let stand overnight, then scour and rinse

-Clean darkened aluminum plans by boiling in them 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar mixed in a quart of water; 10 minutes should do it

-To clean sterling silver, boil it along with Irish potatoes (you’ll need to throw away the potatoes afterwards, so I recommend only do this with potatoes you were going to throw away anyways)

-When boiling potatoes, macaroni or spaghetti, save the water.  Cool to room temperature and pour on houseplants; they like starch & you’ll save water

-Instead of dusting, wash small water-safe objects in warm, soapy water and set on towel to dry

-A paste of baking soda and water, applied with scouring pad and elbow grease, will clean stove broiler pans

-Soak colored cottons overnight in a strong salt water to keep them from future fading

-To clean oven, warm oven for several minutes, then turn off.  Place small dish of fulll-strength ammonia on top shelf.  Put large pan of boiling wwater on bottom shelf and let sit overnight.  In morning, open and air for a while before washing oven walls with soap and water; even baked-on grease should wipe away

-To clean a smelly microwave oven, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to 1 cup water and boil in microwave for 4-to-6 minutes; wipe out oven with dry cloth

-To eliminate yellowing from white appliances, try mixing 1/2 cup bleach, 1/4 cup baking soda and 4 cups warm water; apply with sponge and let sit for 10 minutes.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.

-For grease-cutting clean-up, mix equal parts water and household ammonia

-To rid cutting board of food odors, scrub with paste of baking soda and water

-When washing crystal, rinse in 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water; air dry

-Make your own spray cleaner by mixing 3 tablespoons ammonia and 1 teaspoon vinegar to cool water.  Add a drop of green food coloring to give it that storebought look!

-A good way to pack fragile glassware is to wrap with wet newspaper and let it dry; the paper acts as a cast.  To remove, soak it back off

-Clean ceramic tile with 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup ammonia per gallon of warm water; wear rubber gloves and apply with brush or sponge

-Sanitize damp sponges and dishcloths in microwave for 30 seconds

-Make your own windshiled washer fluid that won’t freeze by combining 1 quart rubbing alcohol, 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent.  Good to 35 degrees below zero.

-A folded damp cloth under a mixing bowl keeps it from sliding or spinning around when stirring or beating contents

I love these tips since they’re usually less expensive to do or make than fancy chemicals from a store.  Also, they’re probably safer.

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Cooking Tips with Water

I recently went to the Visitor’s Center near Pyramid Lake and I picked up some brochures there about what else: water!

Here are some cooking tips that involve the use of water:

-To prevent four or starch from clumping when adding them to any hot liquid, mix them first with a little water in a bowl or small jar; then gradually stir into the hot liquid

-for vegetables that grow underground, place them in cold water and bring to boil with lid on; for veggies that grow above ground, place in boiling water and cook uncovered

-to unmold refrigerated gelatin, dip the mold into lukewarm water, or nestle mold in a warm dishtowel until contents loosen.  Be sure not to let any water come in contact with the gelatin itself

-keep lemons and limes fresh by submerging them in water in a covered and refrigerated container

-before squeezing lemons, submerge in hot water for five minutes; you’ll get more juice

-soak garlic cloves in cold water for a few minutes to remove skins

-to peel tomatoes faster, dip them in boiling water for about a minute, then remove and peel

-to peel oranges or grapefruit quickly and separate sections cleanly, cover with boiling water and let stand five minutes; then drain, cool and peel

-for fluffier scrambled eggs, add a few drops of water when beating (or milk works for me!)

-to remove bitterness in eggplant, soak in salt water for up to  one hour; pat dry and cook according to recipe

-when baking bread, a small dish of water in the oven will keep the crust from hardening

-to make dough stick when sealing pie crusts, eggrolls or wontons, dip finger in bowl of water, then run fingers along edges; pinch edges shut

-a few drops of lemon juice in the water will whiten boiled potatoes or cauliflower

-when slicing cake, rinse knife between slicings to prevent cake from sticking to the blade; same is true when scooping ice cream

-when poaching eggs, add a dash of lemon juice to the water to keep the whites from spreading

-test the freshness of eggs by placing them in a large bowl of cold water; if they float, don’t use them.  Shells are porous and take on air; the older the egg, the more air it contains and eventually it will float.

-to get extra flavor from your dried herbs, soak them in water first, one teaspoon of water to one teaspoon herbs

-you’ll get more volume from egg whites if you set refrigerated eggs in warm water for 10 minutes before using

-you can remove most of the fat in ground meat by boiling and straining it.  Then return meat to skillet and add herbs, seasoning and sauces to replace the flavor of the lost fat

-to keep celery crisp and handy for healthy snacks, cut off base, rinse, and stick stalks in a jar or glass of water in the refrigerator door rack

-before scalding milk, rinse the pan in cold water to prevent sticking

-when measuring shortening or peanut butter, rinse the cup or spoon first and they’ll slip right out

-when creaming butter and sugar, rinse the bowl with boiling water first; they’ll cream faster

-if frosting starts to harden before the cake is frosted, add a drop of water

-potatoes soaked in water for 20 minutes will bake more rapidly.  Before frying, let raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least 1/2 hour to enhance crispness.

These are great because I really love to cook.  Ok, I admit that using more water isn’t exactly the most frugal of things.  However, imagine the time you save when preparing food.  This will make it more attractive to cook at home and will save you money on eating out.  Also, for some of these tips that don’t have direct contact with the actual cooking of the food, you can use water that’s been previously used after washing dishes or what-not.  If you don’t want to reuse the water after using these tips, you can always pour it out on plants and give them a good watering.

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Kiplinger’s Magazine Free Financial Advice

I get a subscription to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and I noticed an awesome thing in the latest issue:

Kiplinger’s Jump-Start Your Retirement Plan Days

Basically, on Thursday, August 30, you can phone in from 9am to 6pm ET at 888-919-2345 and an advisor from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) will be on stand-by to answer your financial questions.

You can also email your questions in early at jumpstart@kiplinger.com and you’ll get back an answer on that day also.

It’s great because these advisors usually charge between $100 and $250 an hour and on this day it’s completely free!  And it’s for anyone, not just those who subscribe to the magazine.  If that’s not frugal I don’t know what is!   I’m definitely going to ask some questions to see what answers I get back.

However, keep in mind, some questions may not be answered because the situation is too specific or there is not enough information to.  But, hey, it’s worth a try!

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The Difference between being Cheap and being Frugal

I was recently talking to a friend about some ideas on how to save money that were really easy to do and he laughed at me saying, “so you want me to be cheap huh?”.

A lot of people equate frugality with being a cheap-skate or a scrooge-like character but there is actually a huge difference between being cheap and being frugal.

In my opinion, being cheap is to buy the least expensive item every time no matter what, to deny any money for pleasurable activities, to be ungenerous with others, and to cut corners in order to save money.  Basically, people who are cheap have minds that are constantly obsessing and worrying and stressing about money.  Their whole world begins and ends with how much money they’ve managed to stockpile.

Being frugal is a whole different deal.  Frugality, to me, implies a knowledge that money is a useful tool to make your life and the lives of the people around you more comfortable, whether that be for the present or the future.  When someone is frugal, it means they are not spending money for frivolous reasons but putting that money away for a specific purpose, whether it be paying for a reliable car or their children’s college education or their own retirement.  They don’t deny themselves happiness but merely find different ways to enjoy themselves without spending needlessly and when they do buy something, they pick the best quality for the best price.

So, ask yourself why you’re saving money?  Those reasons should tell you whether you are being cheap or frugal.

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5 Frugal Lessons I Learned on Vacation

Vacations really are only limited by your funds.  Here are lessons on frugality that I learned while on vacation:

Have Cash with you

There were a lot of small shops and stalls that had the same products as some bigger stores but at a much lower cost. Sometimes, they even have really fun souvenirs or unique gifts. Most small shops, though don’t accept credit cards and even if they do, I always feel bad because they have to pay so much credit card fees. Also, a lot of small restaurants only accept cash also. So, it makes it a lot easier to buy what you need when you need it.

But not too much cash!

However, having too much cash makes me really nervous especially when I was riding on the subway during rush hour. It’s actually quite stressful and makes a vacation no fun if you’re constantly thinking and worrying about pickpockets and thieves and other such things.

Have strong stomachs

Some of the best tasting and least expensive food I’ve eaten have been at roadside stalls and tiny restaurants squished between bigger buildings. They usually have the most authentic food also. The only problem is that without a strong stomach, you’d probably end up with indigestion at best or food poisoning at worst.

Or strong shoulders

If you don’t have a strong stomach or you just want to be on the safe side, it’s a great idea to bring food for yourself. Go to a local supermarket and get some fresh fruits and veggies for snacks or some bread and ham for a quick, easy, inexpensive lunch. I still suggest eating some local food for dinner at the least but to save your stomach, maybe eat half of the meal and save the rest for later. Also, it’s best to bring along water. This is because you don’t want to end up buying really expensive water at tourist traps and it save you from drinking possibly tainted water if you’re going to be trekking around in less that sanitary places. What this means, though, is that if you’re walking around, you’re going to be lugging all this food (and water which is ridiculously heavy) in a backpack. Good news is you’ve saved a lot of money and you’re going to be really in shape by the end of your vacation.

Research, research, research

The best thing to do is really to research the place you’re going as much as you can. There are always plenty of museums or fun places to go with free admission. Some museums are only free on certain days. Even better are festivals, parades, or fun events (ie. movies, ballet, stage performances, music) that are free or inexpensive. These are really fun and don’t cost much. However, the only way you’ll know about them is if you research it!

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I’ve just gotten back from my vacation.  One of the stops I made was at the Rockefeller Center and there was plaque of J.D. Rockefeller’s words next to this place with a lot of flags.  Curious, I read it through.  Here’s what a very rich man said about money:

“I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business, or personal affairs.” – John D. Rockefeller

 So, sometimes when frugality seems hard and pointless, reflect on his words.  I mean, he must know something about money.

Read the complete words of the plaque here.

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Vacation!

I will be go on a family trip to the East Coast for the next 11 days so I will not be updating.  Please check out my previous posts.  When I get back, get ready for some fun posts!

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The Benefits of Recording MPG

Whenever I go fill up the tank of my car, I like to use my credit card to pay for the gas.  I do this for two main reasons: cashback bonus for gas and I get a fancy receipt.

I like the receipt because it tells me the gallons filled, the unit price, and the total price paid for the fill-up.  After the fill-up and before I drive away from the gas station, I take a few seconds to jot down my mileage from my odometer onto the receipt and I paperclip the receipt with other gas receipts in my purse.  Whenever I find the time, I take out the stash of those receipts and record them into a small notebook.

However, lately, I’ve been wanting to know exactly how much MPG I was getting.  This knowledge is really useful in many ways.

Makes you more aware of your driving habits – driving habits can really influence the MPG.  Better driving habits lead to less fill-ups and less accidents.

Notifies you when the car needs to be tuned up – sometimes the car gets old and inefficient which can be seen in a drop in MPG.  If you’re not too knowledgeable about cars, like me, this at least gives you a handy dandy way of listening to your car without taking stuff apart.

Saves money – simple: higher MPG=less fill-ups, less fill-ups = less money paid for gas.

But how do I calculate that in the first place?  I’ve recently stumbled upon a really great online tool to help calculate and keep track of mileage.  It’s called My Mile Marker.  It’s really easy to sign up and use.  You can track multiple cars with the same account and it also uses the information I was jotting down anyways.   It projects the cost and mileage for a year as well as calculates average MPG.  My favorite thing about it is its reports.  It has two reports: MPG and mileage, both of which are easy to read and if you mouse over the data points, it tells you the exact number of that point and the date you are looking at.

Most importantly, as I seem to keep stressing, is to just get into the routine of keeping receipts and jotting down mileage.  Once it’s a habit, everything is easy and doesn’t really take a second thought.

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A Mental Habit of Frugality

From an early age, I’ve somehow understood that money was tight for my family and that it would always be that way.  I wasn’t deprived of anything I needed but I understood I couldn’t always have anything I wanted.

As I’ve observed my parents over the years, I’ve developed an automatic habit of frugality.  Growing up in mostly second-hand clothes, I can’t bring myself to buy a shirt over $10 or pants over $20.  When I buy groceries, I automatically calculate and compare the unit prices.  My arm reaches automatically for generic brands.  This is good in that I automatically save money.

However, this hurts me in many ways.   I may end up buying a lot more than I planned on simply because “they were on sale!!”.  Also, I purposely deprive myself of fun things because I can’t justify the cost.  However, this just ends up with me being miserable in the end.  I’ve had to teach myself to splurge on myself a little and try to lessen the overwhelming feelings of guilt. Mostly though, I end up buying crap stuff simply because it’s “cheaper” and suffer with constant breakdowns and mechanical failures.

I think that even if I become wealthy, it’ll be very difficult for me to break that mental habit that’s so ingrained in me.

Perhaps if frugality is difficult for you at this time, it’s good to force yourself to get into the habit enough so that it become natural.  However, make sure you’re not doing it simply for frugality’s sake.  It’s only worthwhile if you’re really saving for a goal or through necessity.

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