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December 2008 - Posts - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

December 2008 - Posts

  • One woman's trash is some man's treasure

     I've been furiously de-cluttering my house in order to ring in 2009 in a clean and tidy house. The area I left until last was my icky (some say creepy) basement. It's dirty (half dirt/half cement floor), dark, dusty, and dank. I have some cans of paint and tools stored down there, but mostly it has been a place where I've tossed empty boxes (from ebaying mostly) and avoided at all possible costs. 

    This November, however, I got a new furnace (boy has it helped in oil conservation -- I've gone from burning more than a tank a month to about 1/2 a tank a month). So that event spurred the total clean up. I posted ads on Craigslist and Freecycle for the boxes and packing materials and had people take a lot of them. Then the guys who took out the boiler cleaned up the dirt and hauled that and the rest of the empty boxes away for recycling.

    I still had a couple of barrels' worth of debris, a whole lot of scrap lumber, miscellaneous odds and ends that I haven't used in seven years (beach umbrella, motor oil, electrical bits and bobs), and a bunch of copper piping. I know that copper has some value, so I posted an ad on Craigslist to see if I could find someone who would clean the rest of the junk out of my basement in exchange for the copper piping. I had a bunch of responses, and went with a very nice (and strong) gent who hauled EVERYTHING out, saying he knew someone who would buy whatever I had to dispose of.

    So, the old saw, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" holds true here. If you have stuff that you think is of no value, don't put it in the landfill as the first response -- there may indeed be someone out there who would like to take it off your hands at no cost to you..... even if it's a pile of dirt!

  • Christmas giving

    Although my friends and I decided not to give each other presents this Christmas, I am finding myself able to still give. I've been cleaning out room after room of "stuff" that is perfectly good, but that I absolutely don't need or want or use.

    I started off bringing stuff to Savers (a thrift shop that benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs), but then I moved on to Freecylce and Craigslist, and am finding it very satisfying to give to others that way. I've been scouring the "wanted" postings on both those sites and seeing what I have that matches what someone else wants, and have also just posted plenty of "offered" ads for my  things. It's a really nice way to get rid of stuff I don't need, help others, and keep some items out of landfills. 

    I think I will try to make this a Christmas tradition.

    Merry Christmas to all of you in the Dollar Stretcher Community, and best wishes to the world for a much better new year in 2009. 

  • Digital TV conversion

     I bet I'm not alone in the Dollar Stretcher community as a person who doesn't have cable and owns an old televsion set. Over the summer, I sent away for my digital converter coupon, and recently purchased my converter box. Even with my $40.00 off coupon, I still had to pay $20.00 for it. I did some consumer research, and found the most recommended box was the RCA one, but none of the local stores carried it, so I got the second-best Zenith one instead. My local PBS station was switching over early, and I didn't want to lose it.

    I lost some channels and gained some channels in the conversion. I only have very basic rabbit ears for my antenna, and I have heard it suggested that if I got an amplified antenna I would gain the channels I've lost. I don't really watch much tv, so I think I'll just keep what I have, unless I come across an amplified antenna at a yard sale or thrift store for a few dollars.

    The reception is super-clear, but sometimes it gets pixelly and breaks up. What I really like is that my local PBS channel has a bunch of extra channels -- one that's mostly cooking shows, one that has lots of craft and sewing shows, and one that has PBS World -- with really great documentary programming. 

    So I'm enjoying the new digital world with my 10+ year old tv. It's kind of like having cable for free. There are lots of wires and things involved, and I have to unplug the box and plug in the vcr if I want to watch a video or dvd, but that's okay with me. 

  • Home-made facial cleanser/mask

    I found this recipe on various web sites, and saw it in a magazine. I've been making this for a while now, and have found it's the most effective anti-acne remedy I've tried. No one ever gives a recipe that you can follow, so I'm going to do my best to make it replicable:

     Put 10 aspirins (uncoated, unadulterated -- just plain old aspirins) in a ramekin. Add just enough warm water to dissolve them (if you add too much water, you won't have a mask), then add about two tablespoons of honey, and mix it all up. It should be sort of grainy -- it's a scrub-type cleanser.

    I put it on while I'm soaking in the tub, and then massage it around to rinse it off. It really keeps my acne-prone skin clean, and it's a whole lot cheaper than the Dr. Haushcka products I used to buy. They say that the more local you get your honey, the better it is for you, so try making it with local honey. 

  • Simplifying

     As I was clearing out my penultimate remaining junk room (such a danger in a big house -- just stashing stuff in piles and closing the door to deal with "later"), I was listening to NPR and there was a feature on people who are called "the new simplifiers" -- people choosing to get rid of excess, opting to limit their usage and material footprint on the world -- dollar stretcher type people.

    I was doing my own part to simplify -- I made a huge box of old paperwork to be shredded (old contracts, students' records, bank records -- things that couldn't just be recycled), tested all the old ink pens (most didn't work and I threw them out, but made a big pile of the ones that did), and put all the office supplies in a box and brought it down to my office space (I will never have to buy another paper clip as long as I live, made a HUGE box of things to bring to Savers (before the end of the year, so I get my charity tax credit), and listed a few things on freecycle (already got emails from people for two of the things -- including empty boxes and packing peanuts).

     At some point in a more prosperous future, this room will be a bathroom. I think having all that junk in there blocked me from thinking about it becoming that, and having it really empty should help the transformation occur (if only removing all the junk would make the $3,000 or so it will cost to turn it into a bathroom magically appear!) 

    I also have an ever-increasing pile of things that I think have some sort of value and that I hope to sell on ebay. The pile is sort of daunting, though, and I think I might embrace the holiday spirit and just box them up and bring them to Savers or list them on Freecycle. I'm really ready to have all this excess material "stuff" out of my environment. 

    Simplify! Simplify!

  • More free Christmas fun

     The Air Force Band of Liberty gave a free performance in my town last night. It was delightful! There were lots of families there with kids, older people, younger people -- slices of the whole community. They played mostly holiday songs, with some sing-a-longs and a fun rendition of the old "off we go into the wild blue yonder" song.

    Tonight, I'm going to "Lessons and Carols" at my church, but it's open to the public and lots of non-members of the parish attend. It's a wonderful Christmas tradition and lets everyone sing along with the really talented cathedral choir. 

    There are lots of these free performances and sing-alongs throughout the holiday season. What a great way to spend time with your family or your community to celebrate and share Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of the year) without spending money, just spending time with other people.

     

  • Christmas 2008, so far, so free!

    Well, my friends and I are not exchanging gifts (and I have no family), so that's a big expense gone. But there are lots of other things that creep in during the holidays that often tempt me to spend money that could otherwise be put towards bills, debt, savings, all sorts of things. So here's what I've done so far this year to resist:

    No new decorations. I have *plenty* of ornaments, snow globes, etc. I usually buy some live greens, but this year, I just picked up some pine branches in the woods and trimmed some of my own and my neighbor's shrubs (with permission, of course) and stuck 'em in pots of dirt. I've been watering them, and they look great. I resisted the sale of wreaths at my school, and am slowly putting out some of my existing odds and ends for decorations. Very low-key, and FREE.

    Christmas cards -- I always buy Christmas cards. I love stationery, and love sending letters and cards, and always buy cards after Christmas (and always pick up lots of greeting cards at the thrift stores I go to, and they often have holiday cards in them), so I have a stockpile of them. Plus, I always get some in the mail from charities. So this year, I used my existing stock and STILL have plenty left over for next year. I won't buy any more cards until they are close to running out. No hoarding! I also used those return address labels that charities always send out. I do have to buy stamps, but the rest has been FREE.

    No work gifts, secret santas, or raffles. I'm just opting out. I don't want the junk that comes with these totally un-Christmas-like traditions (and that I always re-gift), and I don't want to spend $10.00 for a pointless gift exchange. I've just said "no," and it feels really good.

     No big splashy parties. I am going to one friend's house for Christmas Eve dinner, another's for Christmas night, and I'm hosting a brunch on New Year's Day. These are all potlucks (and gift-free), and except for the one I'm hosting, the cost will come out of my normal grocery budget. I can't think of a better way to spend the holidays -- with people I love, sharing food together that we have created. Just like Thanksgiving!

    Making a little money, too. I'm still listing stuff on Ebay and Craigslist, and what doesn't sell I'm just giving away on Freecycle or at the thrift store. Ten dollars here or there will help pay for the brunch (and will definitely pay for the postage stamps), and maybe get me to be in fact at $0.00 for Christmas 2009.

    I feel like I'm more in touch with Christmas by opting out a bit of the consumption.

  • Soup is good for what ails you

    I've been making soup like crazy this fall/early winter. It's such an inexpensive way to make a big batch of food that will last for a long time. It's also very comforting in this New England clime, and it's nice to share with people who have caught the nasty cold that's making its way around these parts.

    I've made a pledge not to throw food out, so as soon as some of my veggies start to look a little glum, I cook 'em up into a soup and add some of the split peas or dried beans (have to soak those overnight and then boil them up a bit first) for a hearty, protein rich batch of soup.

    I'm a vegetarian, and I don't use bullion cubes, so to start all of my soups, I sautee onions and garlic in olive oil and butter in the bottom of my heavy cast-iron/enamel soup pot. When they're cooked up, I add dried herbs (my favorite combo is lots of thyme and oregano), and whatever other veggies I'm throwing in. When they've all been tossed in the oil and water, I cover the whole thing with water and bring it to a simmer, then throw in the dried split peas or reconstituted beans. I often roast a squash in the oven and then put it in the soup (has a really nice deep flavor when roasted).

    Here in southern New England, we have lots of discount fruit and veg stands -- I stop into one near the dairy where I buy my farm fresh milk, and get a good week or two's worth of fruit and veggies for about $12.00 -- $15.00. Much of the produce is local, and some of it is a little banged up, but it's very good and about half the price of the supermarkets. 

    I made a batch of soup yesterday with onions, garlic, oregano and thyme, carrots (don't peel them, put them in whole), potatoes, roasted butternut squash, split green peas, and chickpeas -- it probably cost about $3.00 (plus the gas to cook it for about an hour), and I'll get four or five servings this week, plus another four or five at some later date, because I always freeze or give away half of each batch.

    A delicious, and deliciously frugal meal.

  • Preparing to be credit-card free

     After thinking about selling my house, I have decided to stick it out at least another year and am in the process of refinancing. The lower interest rate will save me quite a bit each month, and I am "rolling in" a home equity loan ($14,000) and the last remaining credit card I have ($10,000). The new monthly payment will be $600 less per month than what I've been paying. 

    I have paid off all my credit card debt at least three times in the past, then racked up more of those bad boys. I am older and wiser (maybe not wiser, but definitely older) now and hope never to travel down that path again. I do have a business credit card (one of my various jobs is a business that I own) that I can use if an emergency happens.

    Something that I have often done in the past when my debts/expenses have decreased is to lessen up on my workload. I'll stop one or consulting or teaching gigs. This time, I'm actually trying to *increase* my workload. I will still have a mortgage (now for another 30 years) and I still have my enormous student loans (currently in deferment for another year). And as long as I live in this house, I will have repairs, renovations, and expenses. So, my hope (despite the fact that we're in a depression -- oops, "recession") is to find some more odds and ends of work and sock the money away into a combination of savings (for future house projects plus as a cushion if I lose jobs or have unforeseen expenses) and extra mortgage/student loan payments.

    I am, however, wondering if I should keep the one credit card I do have, once it's paid off. My credit scores are 738, 766, and 740 (discovered during re-fi process), and while I really really don't ever want to apply for a loan again (will pay cash for my next car), I think credit scores are used in other areas, and I would like to have the best score possible. I think having the one card open with a zero balance would be beneficial to my credit rating, but it *might* also present a temptation for reckless spending.... Any thoughts from you frugalistas out there?

  • No gift Christmas

    My closest friends and I have agreed to have a no-gift Christmas this year. For me, that means a no-gifts-at-all Christmas because I don't have any living family members, and since my boyfriend dumped me on Thanksgiving, I certainly won't be giving him any gifts. I had wanted to share a home-made gifts Christmas with my friends, because I really enjoy gift-giving but the group decided on none at all.

    My near friends (in the neighborhood) and I do a lot of potlucking, and as I'm trying to stay busy, I'm planning to host at least one holiday get-together and have it be a nice, simple, thrifty potluck. I was thinking of having a theme of asking people to bring a dish of food that cost less than $10.00 to prepare.

    My little circle and I usually rotate from home to home for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, etc. -- we like to entertain, eat, and chat! Another holiday tradition I will be keeping is the New Year's Day brunch that I host, and I will try to bring some thrifty theme to that.

    What are other people doing for thrifty holidays? How many of you are opting out of gifts all together?

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