May 2009 - Posts - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

May 2009 - Posts

  • What I'm doing differently

     There have been so many stories in the news, on blogs -- everyhwere -- about what people are doing differently in the midst of this "economic downturn," and lots of speculation about what habits will last and what will disappear once the economy recovers.

    I started living within my means over a year ago, and made many of the changes talked about in the news. I cancelled my cable, got rid of the Internet at home, went to cheap-o telephone service, cancelled my beloved artisan bottled water delivery, put all my electronics on power strips, and eventually paid off my credit cards (such a good feeling with all the news about increased fees for good customers). These are (I hope, I hope, I hope) life habits that I will always maintain.

    But I'm still looking for ways to stretch my dollars. I'm going to greatly expand my vegetable garden this summer (we had frost last night, so I won't be planting until after Memorial Day, just like all the old Yankees advise) and do itas much by swapping as possible. I have set myself a $20 limit for plants this season. I'm sewing more to mend things that I might have turned into rags before (mostly pillowcases and socks).The home-made cleaning and health and beauty products are a huge savings, and I continue to research recipes for things I can make myself. I always look for free first, second hand next, and buying new as a last resort.

    And I'm using coupons more. There aren't usually that many coupons I can use, but there are usually a few (some weeks go by with nothing in the Sunday paper for me), and when there's a coupon for batteries or toilet paper or some other common staple, I make sure to cut it out and file it in my little coupon file. The grocery stores around here have started putting triple coupon or $1.00 double coupon promotions on, so I make use of those and am building up a stock of those products. Plus, eggs and frozen pizzas sometimes appear in coupons. And I'm looking on manufacturers web sites for coupons for items I use. And I NEVER use a coupon for something I wouldn't have bought anyway unless it is free.

    Lastly, I've started entering sweepstakes. I'm sure more and more people are joining me, so the odds are poor, but somebody's got to win, right? I always check my receipts for sweepstakes opportunities (CVS, Home Depot), and enter online. Parade magazine and Cooking Pleasures magazine also have ongoing sweepstakes, where you can log in every day and enter. It takes less than five minutes a day, and I could really put either a paring knife or $50,000 to good use.

    I wonder what other frugalistas are doing differently in the "downturn"?


  • Frugal gardening tips

     Spring has sprung here in New England and the farmer's markets, farm stands, and greenhouses are displaying their wares. A friend just spent $200 in one day on plants -- all annuals! Yikes! Here are some tips to keep your garden costs low.

    Plant swaps -- look in the newspaper or at the library or call your local gardener's association. This is a way to thin out unwanted or multiplied plants from your own garden and bring in some new ones. I have some lovely dead nettle that spreads like wildfire (or like dead nettle), ivy, hostas that multiply like crazy, and beautiful blue colombine. I thin out my patches of this and trade for veggie plants or whatever catches my fancy!

     Charity plant sales -- if you can't get a plant for free, you can still get it for less than commercial nurseries want to charge.Look in the papers for fundraising plant sales -- especially from local gardening or botanical societies. You can usually buy the plant right from the grower and ask questions about care, etc. These plants always cost much less, are very healthy, and you're supporting a good cause.

    All-perennials, all the time -- I used to find it so hard to remember that "annual" meant a plant only lived for one year. Maybe it's a slick marketing trick. :) Just get perennials for your garden. They are usually a one-time investment (although I do sometimes have perennials that fail to return over the winter), and they usually multiply, allowing you to cull your crop and bring the excess to plant swaps (see above). Non-food annuals seem like such a waste of time and effort to me. I guess i'm a lazy gardener, but I like to see my plants coming up each year without doing a whole lot of work, and without spending anything.

    Go native -- Plants that are native to your location will do better than exotic non-native plants. You are less likely to have to replace native perennials than ones that have come from elsewhere. You can also likely find these on the side of the road, or in the woods (ferns, lilly of the valley, violets, etc.), where you can pick them if you know it won't harm the eco-system.

    Plant food -- the only annuals I get are  food-bearing plants: tomatoes, lettuce, squash, herbs, etc. Get these at swaps if you can (they're probably heirlooms, organic, etc.). If you're really frugal, or have a greenhouse (I live downtown and do all my gardening in containers), you can keep the seeds and grow your own heirlooms, too. The cost of one tomato plant at a charity sale is usually one or two dollars. So for an investment of less than $20.00, a person in New England can have a bountiful crop of veggies. 

    Craigslist -- Check the "Free" section on CL for plants. People often re-landscape and will give away plants to anyone who will come and dig them up. I've gotten (and swapped) great stuff here.

    Free dirt -- If you need dirt (like I do in my container world), ask around of your friends with in-ground gardens. They will often share.

    Containers -- I'm transitioning away from inexpensive and eco-friendly terra cotta pots, because they freeze, crack, and break over the winter. Even though I'm anti-plastic as a rule, I'm switching over to those lightweight styrene or plastic pots, because they last a long time. I have several that are ten+ years old. Also, be creative -- use old 5-gallon paint buckets (great for tomatoes), tin cans, or other non-breakable containers. Look for these at tag sales, too.

    Compost -- our town gives away free compost, and one can certainly make one's own.

    Happy gardening!

  • Homemade cleaning products -- laundry and dishes

     I've been making my own personal and household cleaning products for a while now. I've shared some of the personal care items (the famous salty toothpaste, vinegar hair rinse, shampoo and body wash), and thought I would share these household cleaners with the Dollar Stretcher Community.

      Laundry detergent

    1 cup grated castille soap (I buy it in bulk at www.soapsaloon.com)

    1 cup borax (laundry aisle of grocery store)

    1 cup washing powder (laundry aisle of grocery store, Arm & Hammer brand)

    Mix it all together and use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load. Easy, eh?

    Laundry whitener

    A few drops of bluing (found in the laundry aisle of my grocery store) added to water brightens your laundry without bleach.  Adding a few drops of bluing to a mix of 1/2 cup bleach and 1/2 cup water super-brightens your whites.

    Dishwashing detergent for dishwasher

    1 cup borax

    1/2 cup baking soda

    1/2 cup washing soda

    Dishwasher rinse

    Use straight white vinegar (distilled) instead of that expensive Jet Dry stuff.


    I really like making my own products for many reasons -- I know they aren't tested on animals, I'm not using tons of plastic (I put everything into re-usable glass containers), they're really really inexpensive, and they're not using tons of caustic chemicals. 

    If you don't like these recipes, there are lots of others out there! Happy washing!

  • Insurance or savings account for my new cat?

    My beloved cat of 16 years died last fall, and I (and my dog) missed her terribly, so I decided to get a new cat from my local animal shelter. The dog's not so thrilled yet, but I know she'll come around. 

    The cat, Jerome, is healthy and happy. I brought him in to the vet yesterday. I asked the vet about pet health insurance, since all of my pets have had costly medical problems, and I thought insurance might be a good thing to get while Jerome is still young and healthy. The vet said it's a personal choice -- she suggests that people put a little money away into a savings plan for the pet for emergencies, but if that's hard to do, then insurance can be a good option. My dog's emergencies have run into the thousands of dollars, so I think the insurance might be a better bet for me.


    I'm looking at different plans --  there are a lot of options out there -- and wondered if any of you folks in the Dollar Stretcher community had any thoughts -- especially from those of you who've gotten medical insurance for your own pets.

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