Archive for frugality

How to save money: Stop driving like an idiot

As I drove to work in the morning, I saw a car shaking a little erratically as it suffered behind a car a bit too slow.  It switched into the other lane of a two lane road but again it was stymied by another slow car so impatient, it switched back almost clipping another car in the process.  Over and over again, the car switched  lanes back and forth and in the end, had ended up back where it had originally started.  Now, I’m all for switching lanes once or twice if I’m really stuck behind an incredibly slow vehicle but this was just getting ridiculous.  I wanted to pull that guy over myself and sit him down and tell him to just “Stop!”.  Besides, he could save a lot of money if he just had a little patience.  How?

Save on Gas

All this rapid acceleration and decceleration was just wasting a lot of gas which with it being $4.50 or more per gallon around here was a LOT of money.

Save on Auto Service

I’m not an automobile expert here but I’m sure that all this swerving back and forth has got to be tough on the tires.  Not to mention this guy may have been lucky not to get hit by another car this time but things are unpredictable and I’m sure he’s gotten or will get into a few accidents that could have been wholly preventable.  This means getting his car fixed over and over again when he didn’t have to.

Save on Auto Insurance

Speaking of accidents, even minor accidents when happening multiple times will make an insurance company take pause.  The insurance companies still want to make sure they have a profit in the end and if they’re always paying claims since most of the time, it’s this guy at fault, then they’re definitely going to raise his premiums.

Save on Medical Bills

Ok, if this guy gets in a car accident, he has a likely chance of getting hurt or at the minimum: whiplash.  Also, this guy’s rather impatient and even his car seemed a bit stressed.  Stress, whether it be from daily life or simply the fact that he has to pay more on gas or auto service or auto insurance, is definitely not good for one’s health in the long run (heart disease or high blood pressure to name a few).

This guy could potentially be paying hundreds of dollars more and all he gets in the end is that he arrived at work 5 minutes earlier than he could have.  Is it worth it?  That’s for him to decide.

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I love being an alumni

As soon as I graduated from college, I splurged on a lifetime membership to my college’s alumni association.  It was quite a chunk of change, about $500 of money I didn’t really have, and I remember getting the letter in the mail welcoming to the association and sitting there think, “why the heck did I spend the money on this when I have so much other stuff I’d rather buy?!”

But, now, I’m actually quite happy I spent the money that I did.  The main reason?  I’m saving so much money because of it!

I haven’t had a chance to use most of the discounts, or gone to any alumni events, or any college sports games but the one thing I have used my membership for is 10% off continuing education classes.  I’m currently enrolled in a continuing education certificate program through the college and if I complete the program with the bare minimum requirements, I will have saved a total of $550 which is more than I actually paid for the memberships.

Not to mention that after completing the program, I will have the chance to embark on a career that I love and will get paid to do it!

Maybe I’ll go to a sports game sometimes.  Can’t beat free entertainment.

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I’m driving in my car and that’s that!

Ok.  I’m going to take an unpopular stance here. I refuse to take public transportation to work even though gas prices are soaring.

Here are my reasons:

1. It’s uncomfortable for me. There are some public transportation around my workplace but none really nearby.  The closest metro station is a 20-min FAST walk which would be difficult for me to do since I insist on wearing heels everyday to work.  Yes, I could wear tennis shoes and then switch them out when I got to work but I just don’t want to lug tennis shoes around (they don’t fit in a purse) and show up all sweaty to work.

2. It’s inconvenient for me. I don’t want to wake up earlier than I already wake up (5:30am) just to catch a bus to make it to work on time (and if I miss the bus then I’ll be stuck waiting for the next one).  I often take classes after work but I don’t want to lug books with me and switch multiple buses and walk just to make it to class on time also (and yes, buses do get stuck in traffic to, though the metro doesn’t).  I also like the flexibility of having a car so I can leave work early if I need to or stay at work late if I need to rush on a project. Plus, I like to catch some snoozes in my car during lunchtime (can’t really sleep on my desk without it being a bit awkward)

3.  It’s safer for me. I work in a not-so-nice area in the middle of Los Angeles.  In the winter, it’s often dark when I get in to work and dark again by the time I get out of work.  As a single young woman, that’s just darn creepy walking outside.  With my car, it’s parked in an enclosed parking lot so I can quickly walk to my car and go straight home.

4. It actually saves me money. This is the kicker for me.  I generally pay about $45 a week for gas (yes, it still makes me cry a little when I fill up once a week).  Taking public transportation, I would have to probably take an extra hour or more waiting and taking public transportation everyday.  Even if I value my time at my entry-level salary from when I started my job (thank goodness it’s a bit higher now) which is $14.50/hour, for that extra 5 hours a week I would be doing basically nothing super productive , that’s wasting about $72.50 worth of my time well over the $45/week I pay for gas. Yes, I could be reading a book but I’m the type that tends to get nauseous if I read a book in a moving vehicle.  Plus I’d have to pay bus fare on top of it all.

So, by taking my car instead of public transportation, I save money, save my time, and I save my sanity.

Could I be doing more to save the environment and going green?  There are plenty of other things in my life that are “green”.  Could I commute?  Probably if any of my coworkers lived near me.  We’d end up driving quite a bit out of the way just to pick the other person up.

But, before you come down on me with the green and frugal wrath, in a few years down the road, my boyfriend and I are planning to get married and since we both don’t have the funds for another car at this point in time, we’re probably going to be driving around LA to both our jobs in my old clunker of a car.  Unless I can somehow convince him to take public transportation!

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, a story of salvagers

Salvage day means a lot of people across my small city dumping out large pieces of “trash” out in front of their house. Old furniture, random pieces of wood, lawnmowers, and anything else too large for most people to dispose of.

But they say: One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Not 5 minutes after I drag a ripped up screen door to the front of my house, a pick-up truck piled high with other goodies zooms up. A man jumps out, grabs the screen door, rips the torn screen off, throws the frame in the back of his truck, gets back in, and zooms away.

All around the city, vans and pick-up trucks roamed the nearby streets looking for something to spruce up or sell.

It was a good deal for all sides. I got rid of something I didn’t want for the price of time and a little muscle-work. Someone got something they wanted for the price of gas. And the city got everyone to beautify the city just a little bit more. Of course, the city had to pay a bit more to take away the large pieces that the salvagers didn’t bother with. In the long run though, with a prettier cleaner city, housing prices will stay high in my little city, and everyone benefits.

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Are sales really sales? A tale of shoe shopping.

Payless is an incredibly tempting place to browse for someone who adores shoes as much as I do. The prices are great and very occasionally, I can find something that I really love. Payless often has their BOGO sale which is their “Buy one, get one half off” sale.

One time, I went with my sister to shop. She browsed the aisle looking for a pair of plain black flats while I whirled through the aisles pulling down boxes left and right. Eventually, she settled on a pair of shoes while I had found two pairs to my liking that I could wear to work for a total of three pairs of shoes. However, I realized they were having the BOGO sale on and I frantically combed the shelves for another pair of shoes to take advantage of the deal.

Until, suddenly I realized: Why am I trying to find another pair of shoes that I don’t need and that I don’t even like just to take advantage of a 1/2 off deal? Instead of saving money, that would just be spending money that I didn’t need to spend.

In fact, did I really need 2 more pairs of shoes when I could just buy one and get great use out of it?

So, I deliberated, shoved one pair of shoes back on the shelf and bought myself a pair of shoes and my sister a pair of shoes (1/2 off!!). I had a great new pair of shoes, my sister was happy, and I saved a bunch of money. All in all, quite happy.

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Frugal splurging on clothes

This last Saturday, I went to purchase something for Mother’s day that my mother has been wanting for quite some time.  However, while in the store, I succumbed to really truly pretty clothes and ended up buying quite a bit for myself.  Though I hang my head a bit in shame about how impulsive the purchases are, I do have a few guidelines in purchasing clothes to get the most out of them :

I buy classic pieces that fit well

The clothes I purchase are all in classic shapes that I know will never go out of style.  This allows me to never grow tired of them and to wear them regardless of the prevailing fashion trends. Since they fit well, they always make me look decent which is more than I can say for some of the trends out there.  Also, I dress so that I can go from work to casual with just a few additions or deletions of accessories and makeup so I make sure that the clothes can easily transform with whatever situation I need.

I wear them a lot!

I get a lot of use of the clothes I do end up purchasing.  I even have some clothes that I bought 8 years ago that I still wear on a regular basis (one of the few benefits of reaching my adult height rather early).  This makes the cost per use for each piece of clothing extremely low and actually well-worth it in the long run.

I mix and match

Recently, there has been a fashion movement toward mixing High (expensive brand-name pieces) with Low (…not as expensive pieces).  I grinned to myself since I’ve been doing that all along.  I’ve invested in a few quality pieces of clothing but when mixed with some good finds from thrift stores, I look good but not too matchy matchy and I save a lot of money.  I also tend to buy clothes in neutral colors much to the dismay of my mother who gives me looks of exasperation whenever I show her a new little black <insert piece of clothing> that I bought.  However, because the palette is so neutral, mixed with a few essentials in bright pops of color, I can mix and match to my heart’s content and create multiple outfits with only a few pieces of clothing.  This way, I can look like I have an enormous walk-in closet at home when in reality, all my clothes are stuffed in a few drawers at home.

I take good care of my clothes

Since my clothes need to last through a lot of wear and tear, it’s important to wash, iron, and hang up/fold all my clothes in the correct way.  Oh, and I tend to shy away from anything that needs dry-cleaning since I feel that that’s just a money-sucker.

And if you must buy something super-trendy, don’t worry, take care of it, and someday either the trends will cycle back or you have something fabulously vintage.

If you love clothes and fashion the way I do, this is the best way to indulge a little without blowing a wad of cash with little return.

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The Power of Marketing

I was at Urban Outfitters recently looking for the type of quirky and unique gifts that they usually carry for some upcoming birthdays.  Then, I spotted what was an amazing marketing technique: make people spend money for nothing!

How did they manage to do this?

I’ve always like to look at the “Grow your own <insert noun>” where you stick the little figure in the water and watch it expand like magic!  However, this time, I found a package that said “Grow your own invisible boyfriend”.  Basically, it consisted of cardboard packaging with nothing in it.  And they’re charging $6 for it.

Funny?  Yes.  $6 worth of funny?  No way!

Most of the time, when I’m out shopping for friends, it’s a struggle to balance what I think is a unique fun gift with what I think is way overpriced.  In this case, it wasn’t a struggle at all.  I chuckled a little, put it back on the rack, and headed in the opposite direction.

This reminds me of the children’s story: The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The man was so blinded by what others were saying and advertising about his fabulous new set of “clothes” that he didn’t notice he was parading down the street naked until a little boy managed to point it out.  Sadly, the fact that they were able to actually sell it in the stores for $6 means there are people out there willing to buy it for a good laugh.  I hope someone can point the foolishness of that kind of shopping choices out to them.

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Getting Gum Out of Clothes

One of my friends called me up and the first thing he says is:

“I sat on gum.  How do I get it out of my pants??”

I did a little research and here are the top 3 ways to get gum out of clothes using normal everyday items you should already have around your house.

1. Stick the gum in a freezer for about an hour or until hard.  Use a butter knife and pry the gum off and scrape the residue off.  Wash normally.  Note: may not work for clothes that are thin because it may cause holes to form from the scraping.
2. Warm up some vinegar  and soak the gum in it for a bit. After the gum is soft, it should come right off with a little scrubbing.  Wash normally.  Note: this can get quite strong smelling so have good ventilation.

3. Take some creamy peanut butter and rub it on the gum.  The oils in it should loosen the gum allowing it to be scraped off.  Wash normally.  Note: don’t use on clothing that you don’t want peanut butter or potential oil stains to get on (though the oil stains should wash off).

Any other ideas?

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“Quit Buggin’!” DIY remedies for natural annoyances

Taken from the CosmoGirl article “quit buggin’!”

Sting/bite cream

What you need: 1 tsp. meat tenderizer, water

What to do: If you have pain, itching, or swelling from bug bites or stings, mix the meat tenderizer in a small dish with 2-3 drops of water to create a paste. Dab the mixture on top of your bite or sting and leave it on for at least 30 minutes, then rinse. Apply this as often as necessary for relief.

Why it works: The meat tenderizer’s enzymes may help draw out the insect venom.

Bug repellent

What you need: 1/2 oz. unscented body lotion, 3 drops each of eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and citronella oil

What to do: Mix body lotion and all of the oils in a small dish. Then rup it over your entire body before going outside.

Why it works: Eucalyptus, pepperming, and citronella are all natural bug repellents, and they don’t smell gross!

Poison ivy serum

What you need: 1 cup water, 1 cup apple cider vinegar

What to do: First, do not scratch your skin or you’ll spread the rash to other parts of your body. Mix the water and apple cider vinegar in a cup or bowl. Dip dish towel or paper towel in the mixture and dab on the affected areas. Let it dry, and reapply it as often as it takes to relieve the itch.

Why it works: The acids contained in the vinegar will cool the rash, which will help reduce the itching and irritation you feel.

Athlete’s foot

What you need: 1 clove peeled garlic

What to do: cut the garlic in half and rub it over the infected areas of your foot, between and around your toes. Leave on the juices for 30 minutes, then rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly. Do this once a day for a week. Always dry in between your toes after showering and change your socks at least once a day. Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every single day.

Why it works: The oils from raw, fresh garlic will reduce the itch and may even help kill the fungus

Skunk smell remover

What you need: 2 cups hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 tbs. liquid dish washing soap, plastic gloves.

What to do: If your pet’s eyes are red or if it’s bleeding, take it to the vet immediately! Otherwise, if it’s just a stink, mix the ingredients in a bowl, put on plastic gloves, go outside, hose the affected animal down, and pour half the mixture on and scrub like a shampoo. Rinse and dry, then repeat.

Why it works: The soap breaks up the skunk spray to let oxygen in. And the peroxide-baking soda combo produces oxygen, which removes the odor.

Any others you can think of?

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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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