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My take on articles and ideas presented on Dollar Stretcher.
  • CFLs, LEDs, ILBs?

    Where "ILB" means incandescent light bulbs, as in old fashioned incandescent bulbs. We were told that they were forced into obsolensce the first of this year. We were lied to or someone got his facts all twisted up, because incandescent light bulbs are still available and there are even some fairly cheap ones around.

    You see, they were not made illegal, but new laws concerning energy use are much more stringent. Maybe they thought an incandescent light bulb couldn't be made that would use less energy, but they were wrong.

    So why should you use incandescent bulbs? Well, they're still cheaper, to begin with. It makes sense to put them in places where they're not used often. Also, clip on lamp shades don't fit over either CFL or LED bulbs and they're easy to dispose of. Another reason is that the light from an incandescent bulb is more natural.

    A CFL light is in the blue spectrum, no matter how they try to manipulate it. It's the nature of the beast. Incandescent light is in the red spectrum, no matter what the outside of the bulb is colored; the true nature of the light cannot be changed.

    What does that mean to you? If you have trouble sleeping, it could make the difference. Blue light is perceived by the brain to be daylight - when we don't sleep. Red light (as in sundown, firelight, etc.) is perceived as evening or going to sleep light.

    There are some published arguments for CFL and LED lights, but very few for incandescents, and of course you need to make up your own mind. Just be aware that you do have options.

    Posted May 16 2014, 10:41 AM by Pat with no comments
    Filed under:
  • Living in a Small Home

    If the walls of your home seem to be closing in on you and you have nowhere to store things, the ideas in 5 Ways to Live in Small Spaces will definitely help! After you've found the drawers, hung the shelves, raised the bed and done everything else to give yourself enough storage space, you might still feel as if you're living in a small shoebox jungle.

    If that's the case, don't look for more storage space, but look for ways to make your storage space disappear. Too much "stuff" even if it's "stuff" that you use on a daily basis, makes a room look cluttered. Hiding it behind curtains, behind couches or under beds opens up the area visually so that it doesn't seem like it's packed full.

    Boxes and plastic bin storage containers come in all sizes, so take measurements before you go looking. Find pieces that fit behind or under furniture to hide them entirely. Put small containers on a bookshelf along with books. Use large ones, covered with a cloth, as side or coffee tables. Two or three milk crate type of containers, topped with a piece of plywood or even heavy cardboard, then covered with a cloth makes a table. A fitted cloth makes it look neater and stays on better. It's not hard to measure the sides and tops, then cut and sew pieces to fit together. It can even be done by hand.

    When you minimize visual clutter, you maximize the space your eyes see and your home will look and feel larger.

    Posted May 09 2014, 10:47 AM by Pat with no comments
    Filed under: ,
  • Frugal Lawn Care

     Does anyone really enjoy taking care of a lawn all summer? Will you please come and take care of mine? That's one of the things that I do not like about warm weather. We feed it and water it and baby it, then we cut it. And then we do it all over again, all in the name of... what? Keeping up with the neigbors?

    Whatever the reason you do it, you're sure to spend some money on it. Since I'm kind of a penny pincher, especially when it comes to things I don't appreciate, I have learned a few things about frugal lawn care.

    1. Get rid of weeds safely and cheaply by spritzing them with full strength, hot vinegar. It works well on young weeks; not so well on old, tough ones. That's a good incentive to keep up with things.

    2. To clear out an area completely, use salt water. This will kill anything that grows, so be sure you want it that way. It's good to treat the ground before laying walkways or eding close to fences.

    3. Fertilize your lawn with what you have. Do you have a fish tank? The water from that is an excellent fertilizer. Dilute it 1:10 and spray it on. Don't toss an empty milk container without rinsing the remaining milk. Add a little more water and use it immediately on the grass. There are many other natural and cheap fertilizers, so do some research before paying out good money on chemicals.

    4. If you have to water your lawn, do it in the morning to avoid troubles with fungi. Deep water less often and your lawn will stand a drought better (or do better when you're away for a week).

    5. Fairy rings and other fungal attacks can often be controlled and overcome with cornmeal. Simply scatter it over the area the way you would scatter granular fertilizer. If the problem persists, look for dehydrated molasses to mix with the cornmeal.

    Got grubs? Here's how to deal with that: Controlling Lawn Grubs Organically

    If you decide to use those chemicals anyway, do it the cheap way: Lawn Care Chemical Savings

    Or do without that grass altogether! Alternatives to a Grass Lawn

  • Sleep Problems

     According to Statistic Brain nearly a third of Americans do not sleep well. Sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome are conditions that add to the near epidemic of insomnia. Bad habies, work hours and the food we eat are all culprits, but those things do not account for all of it.

    A lack of sleep seems to be more of a problem for civilized societies, so that might give us a clue as to other reasons. Many studies point to the fact that we humans have natural sleep/awake rhythms that can be upset by light. When your eyes see light in the blue spectrum, such as natural daylight, your brain interprets it as awake time. When the light is in the red spectrum, as in sunset or the glow of a fire, your brain interprets that as sleep time.

    Most of us live indoors for the most part and have only brief times of natural light experience throughout the day. Furthermore, TV and computer screens emit light in the blue spectrum, and we tend to use both in the evening. That tells our brains that day is not over yet, no matter what time of day or night it is. To compound this, much of our artificial lighting, especially fluorescent lighting, is made to mimic the natural blue spectrum lighting of the outdoors; just what we don't need at 10 PM.

    So there could be your problem. The solution? Avoid using the computer and turn off the TV at least an hour before bedtime. Two hours is better. Avoid bright flourescent lights during that same time frame. Winding down with candles or kerosene lamps might be extreme for most of us, but choosing lamp shades that filter light with red or orange tints could help.

    A red lampshade may not fit your decor, but you could use one that could be put away at other times. That would be a lot more frugal and safer than sleep "aids" which can be addictive, if only in the sense that sooner or later you cannot sleep without them. Melatonin can help, but it's difficult to get the right dose, and again, you become dependent on it, since the more you take in pill form, the less your body produces.

    If you suffer from sleep problems, become active in solving them. Popping a pill should be the last resort. There are many things you can do to help yourself sleep through the night. Lighting is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Foods for the Sleep Deprived
    Can't Sleep!
    To Sleep or Not to Sleep
    How to Buy a Mattress
    Help! Sleeping Through My Alarm

  • Do You Shop at Dollar Stores?

     I have done this over and over... buy something at another retail store, then go to a Dollar store for something else and find that whatever it was that I bought was at a much better price there. What can I say? I'm a slow learner, I guess.

    Anyway, don't do as I do, do as I say. Go to the Dollar store next time you need soap, light bulbs, seasonal or special day decorations, pencils, lampshades (Yes, I found one for a small lamp for a dollar!), snacks, canned food....

    The reason Dollar stores are called Dollar stores is because they sell things for a dollar. Take a handful of dollar bills and take advantage of that!

    Discovering the Dollar Store

  • Paint Your Patio!

     Probably the single redecorating or home improvement item that makes the biggest impact is paint. A new, bold color or a new, sedate one will make all the difference in the world to your home. Your patio is no exception. Don't live with a drab, boring patio because you can't afford to buy new furniture or redo the floor. Just paint.

    Paint anything that's paintable, and that includes some floors, wood, plastic or metal furniture, plant pots and other decorations. Half walls and lattice can be painted, too. Choose your color and get a few paint brushes and some rags and you're on your way to a brand new patio!

    Then if you really feel the need to do more, you can still decorate it frugally by finding furniture and other items second hand. A little elbow grease and maybe some paint? It's the frugal way!

    Sometimes just a good cleaning spree can do wonders for a patio, too, but patio furniture might be a challenge to clean. If it simply won't clean up... paint it! 

  • Yes, You Can Grow Food!

    No matter where you live, you can grow some of your own food. You may not be able to grow everything you eat, but you can grow some of it and every little bit helps in the food budget, in your health and in plain old enjoyment.

    How can I say this without knowing your situation? I can because you can grow something, no matter where you are.

    So you live in a apartment with two windows and they're on the north side, where it gets shaded from the building next door? You can still grow spinach, radishes, beets and salad greens in containers inside. The light from the window will be enough, plus some lighting that you already use. Just be sure the plants are close to the lighting in the room. They don't need a lot of light, but they do need some.

    Okay. So you live in the desert, where the normal summer temperatures run over a hundred degrees and there is no soil, only sand? Containers to the rescue again. Buy potting soil and some compost or good fertilzer and you're all set. Put the containers on wheels and you can move them in and out as the weather dictates. (No, don't go and buy a fancy dolly to put under them; use a child's wagon or whatever you have handy.)

    Container Gardening can make growing food possible no matter where you are.

    Do you belong to Pinterest? Pin your favorites from the cleaning section of the TDS library and you could win a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

    Details here: http://www.stretcher.com/stories/14/14apr07p.cfm

  • The Cheap Easter Basket

    Those woven Easter baskets are cheap to buy, but the cheapest ones don't last for more than one Easter. A frugal parent knows that you should put away the Easter baskets to be reused, but if they have fallen apart since last year, then what?

    Instead of buying yet another cheap basket, or worse, plopping down good money for more quality, why not make your own?

    If you do any kind of crafting at all, you can probably find patterns or ideas to make baskets inexpensively, but even if you don't have a craft to fall back on, there are ideas that you can use.

    Those large magarine or cottage cheese tubs can be decorated with paint or glued on paper or cloth. You can punch holes in them and run ribbon or lace through them in various patterns or glue more boyish pictures to them.

    Sand pails and shovels are still good substitutes, so why not make your own for a little one? Again, take a large plastic food tub and paint or decorate it. Punch two opposing holes near the upper edge an insert a piece of small rope or heavy twine for a handle and knot the ends firmly. For the shovel, use a scoop from the laundry detergent or an unwanted spoon.

    If you knit, sew, braid rugs, do plastic canvas needlepoint or weave, it's not too hard to figure out how to make a basket.

    Thrift stores have Easter baskets, so if you don't want to make one, you can find one fairly cheap right now. Put in some homemade grass (from your paper shredder) and some homemade goodies. The Easter Bunny will be proud of you.

    Easter will soon be upon us, so it's time to plan! There are a lot more inexpensive Easter ideas here: 

    Frugal Easter Basket Ideas 

  • Frugal, Natural Good Health

     Spring is finally springing! After a long, cold and snowy winter, most of the nation is beginning to see peeps of spring time here and there. The lawn is looking greener, early flowers are blooming or thinking about it, garden centers are coming alive and we are waking up from our winter hibernation. It's time to get back on track, get some real rest, some good exercise, and lose a few pounds if you need to. No weight loss club bills though, and no special dinners. Forget the saunas and the fancy jogging suits and the membership to the health club.

    Getting in shape doesn't have to cost you anything, and that's pretty frugal. Like everything else, getting in shape has become big business. We're sold diet food, vitamin pills, mineral tablets, exercise equipment, exercise clothing, and snake oil. (Well, it's not called snake oil anymore, but it's probably the same stuff.)

    You can't buy your way to good health! Good health is an attitude more than anything else, and frugal people already have a running start on that attitude. A few simple rules and you'll see what I mean:

    Don't overdo anything, including eating, relaxing and exercise.

        Exercise? Yes! Exercise to the point that it stretches your abilities a little, but don't overdo it to the point that you're in pain or exhausted. The reason is that you'll avoid that exercise in the future, or what's even worse, it will hurt you to the point that you can't do it.

    Remember how to play.

        When was the last time you played ball with the kids? Or ran and jumped to catch a twig from a tree? Or skipped just for the sheer joy of it? Laughing is good medicine, too, so play and have fun! You can do it alone, but if you're afraid of people looking at you as if you're nuts, find a friend who will go to the park to play with you.

    Get real.

        You don't need a new treadmill to walk when the whole world is waiting outside, and you don't need a sweatband and a ten dollar water bottle if you never break a sweat or leave your yard. Be realistic in what you actually will need.

    Eat good food.

        Healthy, sensible foods are usually the cheapest anyway, so why buy special frozen dinners that don't even taste very good for three times the price? Stick with grains and vegetables and fruits and take it easy on the meat and sugary, fat laden snacks and desserts.

    Use your brain.

        A five pound bag of sugar weighs exactly the same as any five pound weight, and plain old 'goofing around fun' burns calories, relieves stress and lifts your mood. Water is still the best drink and your mother was right when she told you to get enough sleep.

    Then take a look at this. We're giving away a Gaiam Balance Ball Chair !

    Top 10 Weight Loss and Fitness Myths

    The Health-Wealth Connection

  • Container Tomatoes

    When my daughter lived in an apartment, she had a nice balcony where she gardened in containers. Since she loves tomatoes, of course she had to plant a couple. The biggest problem was that her balcony faced due west and here it gets blazing hot in the afternoon on a west facing balcony!

    Tomatoes are hot weather plants, but even they don't care for temperatures much above 90. As a matter of fact, they won't set fruit well if the temperature is over 90, so she didn't get the best crop. Still, it was fun for her and it definitely spruced up her balcony!

    If you can rig up enough shade, you might do better on a west balcony. Natural shade is best, so placing taller or wider plants so they shade the tomatoes at the hottest time of the day would help keep them cool. In lieu of that, shade cloth rigged to protect them is better than nothing.

    You don't want to shade the tomatoes all day, though, so choose a day when you're home all day and watch the slant of the sun to get it just right.

    Tomatoes don't like wet feet, so don't overdo the watering, but remember that containers dry out faster than the ground. Containers made of unfinished clay wick away the water much quicker, so you will need to water more often. Test the soil by sticking your finger in it. It should look damp an inch or so down. If it doesn't, it's time to water.

    Other containers can be used, of course. Buckets, lined baskets or boxes or whatever you can find. How about an old boot? Or a plastic bottle? Just be sure the containers have drainage. Poke holes an inch or so from the bottom to allow excess water to drain away.

    If you want to know more, our readers have some unique and encouraging ideas on how to grow tomatoes in an apartment

    image courtesy morguefile.com 

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