Three Weeks of Frugals

I’ve been really busy working, even overtime. GASP! Which always makes for infrequent posts. Sorry. But I have been keeping track of the frugals along the way to report back to you.

~ the first of the month I turned off my air conditioner and opened the windows. The temperatures have fluctuated from 50’s to 90’s. When it was cold, I put on a sweater. When it was hot, I turned on a fan. I can’t wait to see my next power bill. And I love the fresh air.

~ I have been packing lunches. I seem to go in cycles with this depending on how much energy vs. money I have.

~ One of the band members inexplicably gave us a whole frozen chicken. My son says it’s an “inside joke” of the band mates. Hmmm. OK. Here is the joke on the grill.

Chux on the Barbie! [Did I get that right, Aussie readers?]

Chux on the Barbie! [Did I get that right, Aussie readers?]

~ I took five minutes to discuss my driving patterns ( I drive about 250 miles per week for work) with the gentleman selling me tires. He listened to me and recommended the $510 tires instead of the $680 tires. And they are probably safer for me too.

~ My 12-year-old compost bin is deteriorating. Partly due to age and sun exposure. Partly due to the raccoons and possums pulling the door off to get to the goodies inside.

You can see the door is cracked in several places.

You can see the door is cracked in several places.

A new one, exactly like this one, at Aldi was $40. So, I “borrowed” the black duct tape from my son again and taped that sucker back together.

Good as new (almost.)

Good as new (almost.)

~  I made Senate Bean Soup with about 60 cents worth of Navy beans, some carrots, celery and garlic that were about to go bad and some salt and pepper. So, 8-10 servings of meals from vegetables rescued from the compost, 10 cents of spices and the beans. Dinner and lunches for most of the week for less than a dollar.

~  my oldest son is giving me his old IPhone 5s. In researching carriers who will provide service for this phone, I discovered that I can reduce my monthly phone payment by about $35. I’ll know for sure how much when I sign up for the new plan.

I just love being efficient with my expenditures.

Silver Linings


Looking for silver linings one of my favorite mental exercises. Finding the good and positive aspects of a difficult situation is antithetical to self-pity and a companion to gratitude. When you spend a lot of time with people who are dying, as we hospice staff do, you see people can find joy even in deep loss.

I don’t have any serious difficulties in my life right now, but the exercise works for minor irritations too. Here are a few silver linings I have found in the last week or so.

~ the band members are leaving my white towels black with the dirt from the guitar strings. At least they are washing their hands.

~ we are very short-staffed at work right now. My employer is offering extra money for certain shifts.

~ I’m still cleaning the basement of my friend, and I have several car loads of stuff to haul out. Part of that is wood scraps and I will have free firewood all winter.

Frugal Things I’ve Done in the Past Week

Since we are talking about money and savings…here are a few things I have done in the past week that are frugal..and one frugal Fail.

The road to failure...not just a path...

The road to failure…not just a path…

~ I completed a complex two-step process that will reduce my health insurance next year by $40/month. Savings $480.

~ By combining two coupons that were shoved through my mail-slot against my will, I enjoyed a ham sandwich and 30 oz. bad-for-me diet soda for $1.62. Savings $3.79.

~ As noted in previous post, fixed my lawn mower for $1.79. Savings? New mower $150. What would the repair have been if done by shop? No clue.

~ Free crossword and Sudoku puzzle in the weekly free paper. I would not have paid for this, so maybe all it saved me from was a nice nap.

~ Cooked dinner at home for my boyfriend. If we had eaten out, likely $25-$40. I was going to grill chicken wings, but they were 17.3/oz (about the same cost for chicken breasts which have no bone waste! So I bought the chicken leg quarters for 7.4/oz. Even with the tail and back bones–still less waste!) Dinner ingredients: $8.50.

~ I routinely use 1/2 of the recommended laundry detergent. I have a hard time estimating how much this saves, since I buy cheap detergent anyway. Maybe $20/year in detergent. But my washer repairman says, since I do this (and leave the washer door open between washes) that I save myself having to buy the “front loader washer cleaner” which may be another $10-$20 per year.

~ Speaking of adding water…when my hair conditioner bottle starts to get low, I add water to the bottle, and just increase the volume of what I put on my head, until the conditioner/water ratio is what the rinse water would be. I dunno, this might save me $5-$10/year.

~ Bought 4 items of a personal care nature that I would have bought anyway….. and got a store reward card for $5, which paid for 1/2 of 3 months of the one prescription medication that I use.

Frugal Fail: I bought the single sheet toilet paper as it was 2 cents less per roll than the 2 ply. I. Hate. The. Single. Ply. It would be worth 5 cents per roll to have the 2 ply. However, as my penance…..I will use up the entire container of single-sheet toilet paper before I buy more.

Fixing the Lawn Mower

An advantage of using simple tools is that they do not have as many parts to break and often they can be repaired by someone who is not mechanically inclined (moi.)

My lawn mower is fourteen years old this summer and with regular oil changes and blade sharpenings, has been working fine. Until last week, when the plastic part that controls where the clippings go broke and fell off. Along with the spring that held the two parts (shoot out and straight down for mulching) on the mower.

At my local hardware store, I found a spring that was the right diameter, and close to the right torque and for $1.79, I thought was worth a try.

The parts: preassembly.

The parts: pre-assembly.

The big “shooter” piece was totally broken and would not stay on, but I never used it anyway. However, without its weight, the flat flap piece that it used to keep in place, lifted up during use, allowing the clippings to shoot out onto the house and my neighbor’s car. So, I added a layer of duct tape.

No cost to me. I pilfered it from son's stash.

No cost to me. I pilfered it from son’s stash.

And it works great. Total cost of repair $1.79 and my time.

Double College Budget

Evaluating the need for every purchase.

Evaluating the need for every purchase.


Reader harknessglee asked for information about my budget, being part-time and retirement savings. Here’s my budget, my strategy and how it’s working.

Last year, my income was approximately $50,000 and 11% or $5,500 went into my retirement accounts. I get reimburse for mileage driven for work, which ends up being another $6,000/year I can add to the cash flow. I used to get child support, which stopped when youngest son moved out, and should (in theory) resume, now that he has returned (I have not included that income in these totals.) I ended pulling $14,000 out of savings accounts to pay for tuition for the 2015-2016 school year. The other $10,000 I am paying is coming out of my net income.

I am scheduled to work part-time, three 8 hour shifts. However, the reality of how my employer structures the work load means that I usually work an average of 33-36 hours per week. This is due to how the work is assigned and that there is usually overflow to the work day. Also, sometimes work is offered at a “high bonus” rate if they are short staffed (which happens amazingly often.) I can pick up these extra-pay shifts as they fit in my schedule. Occasionally I will work more than 40 hours/week. This is way better than “full-time” which often is 50-70 hours/week with the overtime being mandatory.

The Monthly Budget

House (principal, interest, insurance and taxes)         $952

Utilities (averaging for the year)                                      $265

Car (maintenance, insurance, fuel)                                 $300

College tuition                                                                     $934

Health Care (deductibles & co-pays)                             $220

Kids (clothes, gifts, music instruments)                       $250

Fawn (clothes, wine, books, gym fee)                            $260

Home maintenance (repair of home, new furniture) $250

Grocery & household (printer ink, cats)                       $500

Some of these costs are fixed, like the house payment. Some are vary with the time of year, like the utilities and Christmas and birthday gifts. These are averages. Obviously, if I get hit with a big dentist bill, I have to reduce elsewhere in the budget and/or take money out of savings.

I know that other people would not favor paying for their kid’s college over their own retirement savings. And other people would put all their extra cash into travel accounts. That is the beauty of knowing your own values/preferences and having the self-discipline to stick with your priorities.

I feel kinship with people who live simply to fund travel, to reduce their carbon footprint, or to retire early. All are worthy goals.

I would love to hear what you are saving your money for.

(Almost) Free Decor

August has been a busy month for us. We took a trip to Tennessee to visit the grandbaby. Boy she has fat cheeks! And the house is quite full, with the return of youngest son last month and the college kids home also. Now everybody is returning to school, which also involves road trips. Some just for a day, some for two.

So while I am busy having a life, I don’t have much time to write about it. I don’t want you all to think I have forgotten about you, so here is a fluff piece to keep you entertained for a bit.

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After a heavy wind storm I found this nest on my front lawn. No sign of its former occupants. I thought it was pretty so I brought it inside. It seemed a bit empty to me, so I went to the local New Age/crystal shop and bought three blue rocks for a dollar each. I am displaying this charming piece in the corner hutch where the cats can not get to it.

bird nest in hutch

bird nest in hutch

Appropriate Décor

Long time reader Kelly, expressed that a piece of wall art that reminds one to “Live Simply” is just as valid as a landscape painting or any other pictorial representation of something that inspires us.

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She is completely correct.

[And that should end the story right there…but this is my blog…and I am an “over-thinker” or so I have been told many, many times]

If that wall “art” [sorry, I just can not drop the ” marks to call that Art] inspires/reminds you to live simply, then, “YEAH!” Go you. Continue on.

But, since it is my blog, I get to have a whiney diatribe…..

How many times in the past year have I, the hospice nurse, been in a home, whose well-decorated walls instruct me and others to “Live….Laugh……Love!?”

But as the Ecclesiastes instructs us—–there is a time and a place for everything. Including dying and crying and hate. Sometimes the Wall Art is giving us incorrect instructions. As a hospice nurse, my patients are close to dying, sometimes they cry and it is entirely appropriate. Sometimes they hate…but I always prefer it when we humans find a way to love one another.

I accept Kelly’s correction, that having the motto “Live Simply” up on the wall may inspire some of us to do so. Then, nail it up there and enjoy.

I think, if I need to put up instructional motivational words on my wall, they should be the Paul Tillich quote:

“The first duty of love is to listen.”

Prodigal Son

Last night at 8pm, my youngest son showed up at my back door. Homeless. Shoeless. In need of a shower.

dirty feet

So he got cleaned up and I fixed him something to eat and then we went to buy him some shoes.

Apparently, the modern day equivalent of a fatted calf is $250 of clothes at Target.

He is staying here for a couple weeks, until he and his mates get their apartment.

Living Room Remodel

The Living room remodel is done.  I count 9 summer items. In the fall, the fireplace screen and tools come up from the basement.

New couch and pillow

New couch and pillow

Newish red leather chairs and table. One table candle. (I don't count the books--they are consumables, i.e. I read them and pass them on. If I ever encountered a book I could not live without, I would add it to the count.)

Newish red leather chairs and table. On the table, a candle. (I don’t count the books–they are consumables, i.e. I read them and pass them on. If I ever encountered a book I could not live without, I would add it to the count.)

View of the fireplace with two fake plants and the horse head. I don't count the mirror anymore. It is wired to the house and will stay here when I move. Like the light fixtures. I don't count them either.

View of the fireplace with two fake plants and the horse head. I don’t count the mirror anymore. It is wired to the house and will stay here when I move. Like the light fixtures. I don’t count them either.

View of the living room facing  southwest.

View of the living room facing southwest.

Simple Living in 2 Steps

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Step One: Do not buy this ridiculous piece of decoration.

Step Two: Find other ways to simplify you life.