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Confessions of a Cheapskate


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I am notoriously cheap. I live on a monthly budget significantly less than many people earn in a week. I do this not only because it allows me the freedom do my own thing but because it’s fun to see just how low I can go financially and still be physically comfortable.

I do a lot of things differently in order to save money so I thought I would write a post detailing some of my little quirks. Here are five things I do to live high on little money:

I Live in the Hood

Well, close enough anyway. Rather than pay more for a prime location I rent a small home in the poorer section of town. This allows me to spend a smaller portion of my income on housing. Who cares about the crazy stuff my neighbors do? I’m just as strange as they are so I fit right in and besides, I enjoy the shows they sometimes put on when the drama hits the streets!

My Security System Has Four Legs

…And bites if you aren’t supposed to be here. Yappy, scary dogs are not only a huge deterrent to thieves, they’re cheaper than ADT and play fetch as well.

They also keep you warm during cold winter nights. Win!

I Don’t Own a Car

I live in town, do most of my shopping online, have a shopping cart for trips to the grocery and ride with friends and family if I need to take a trip. It’s much cheaper than owning a clunker and I no longer have to worry about my van getting dinged in the parking lot. It also feels good to not have any maintenance or repair fees!

I May Be Cheap, but I Still Enjoy Luxury

Life should be enjoyed, not endured. Therefore I treat myself and my kid to nice haircuts, occasional meals out and to judiciously chosen items like fingernail polish and cosmetics. These treats are savored for their rareness and enjoyed for all they’re worth!

In essence,

If I can live comfortably without something, I do.

Why waste time and money to buy and care for stuff you really don’t need?

Do you have any cheapskate confessions? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Peanut Butter Puppy Cookies


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We love our pets and the dog treat industry knows it. Walk down the treat aisle at your local pet store and you will discover not only an incredible variety for your pets but an astounding price point as well. In this economy most of us cannot afford $5-$10 or more for a simple treat to give Fido and fortunately we don’t have to. With a few supplies and an oven we can whip up a simple doggie treat that we can not only create to size for our extremely tiny or large pets but that fits our budget a LOT better than current pet treat prices. As an added advantage you will know exactly what these cookies contain as well as what they don’t–no added sugar, no artificial colors or flavors–just simple goodness at a cost of a few pennies and a little time.

Things You Need:
Mixing bowl
Spoon
Baking sheets
Knife or cookie cutter

2 Cups Wheat Flour (or 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 Cup Quick Cook Oats (can use old fashioned oats but avoid instant)
1/3 Cup Peanut Butter (Whatever you have, chunky or smooth it does not matter)
1–1/4 cups warm water (steam rising from water)

Note: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step One:
Place flour and oats in the bowl and mix.

Step Two:
Add Peanut butter and water.

Step Three:
Stir until well mixed. All the flour should be scraped off of the sides of the bowl. Add a little more flour if the dough is sticky.

Step Four:
Place dough on a well-floured surface and knead for one minute, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Step Five:
Roll or pat out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. A uniform thickness is important for even baking.

Step Six:
Cut the dough into pieces using a knife of a cookie cutter. For little dogs use a knife to cut a 1-inch grid for treats just right for those pocket-sized pets. For larger dogs you can make a grid of 2-inch squares for a small bite or go even larger depending upon the dog and your preference.

Step Seven:
Place treats 1-inch apart on baking sheets and place in preheated oven.

Step Eight:
Bake treats for 20 minutes.

Step Nine:
Allow to cool well before serving.

Tips:
These treats keep really well in the refrigerator or freezer but can be stored on a shelf if kept extremely dry. To ensure sufficient dryness for long-term storage you can place overnight in a dehydrator.

Every oven bakes differently so you may have to cook these for shorter or longer times. The treats will be golden brown when done.



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How to Preserve Colored Hair


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The other day Katie decided to take a big leap: she finally colored her blonde hair blue.

This is a bit drastic but I can’t say anything: when I was her age I sported a Mohawk among other things. As a result I was the crazy mom who did the deed after she bought the box of dye with her birthday money.

She's even got some fake glasses to look like some anime character

She’s even got fake glasses to look like some anime character

Extreme hair colors fade much quicker than natural ones so Katie and I have brainstormed ways to keep it bright for as long as possible. Here is what we are doing:

  • Dry shampoo when possible. Instead of using regular shampoo on her hair when she bathes, she now uses oatmeal to give her hair a dry shampoo once or twice a week. This allows her to stretch her regular washes out to minimize fading.
  • Wash in cool water. When she does wash her hair she uses cool water instead of warm. The cooler temperature minimizes fading which also extends the life of the color.
  • Use shampoo designed for color-treated hair. We use Suave brand color safe shampoo. It is cheap and does just as well as the more expensive brands. We used Suave for years so we are also familiar with the product, though this is the first year we have tried the color-safe version.

It has been a couple of weeks since she made the plunge and her hair still looks as fresh as it did when we first colored it. According to Katie, her friends who decided to color their hair after she did are already experiencing some fading, so I guess our tricks are actually effective.

Of course, all of this stuff takes a bit of work, which is why I generally stick with browns when I do the dye thing. I like the fact that my roots don’t show as much when my hair grows out.

Do you know of any tips to extend your hair color? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Washboards


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The other day Katie and I encountered Mr. A while were walking home from the store. He had a huge cart stuffed full of goodies so before we caught up with him Katie and I were taking guesses as to the content of his cart.

I yelled at him to wait up so that we could see which one of us was right (we were both wrong) but I got a pleasant surprise: that cart contained not one, but two antique washboards!

When Mr. A saw my delight he immediately offered them to us for our laundry needs. I cleaned them up and put them to use.

washboard

Now when I do laundry I give each piece a quick scrub using the washboard, allow them to soak and then scrub them again before I rinse them. My laundry is now a bit cleaner—and the work is definitely easier.

Thanks to this I am able to take my time while I determine my next step in the washing machine department. There are a number of nice little apartment sized washers on Amazon and even a nice washer/dryer set available online from Walmart.

Of course, I may end up coming across another wonderful deal on a used one in the meantime—if I do, I won’t pass it up—but these appliances are definitely giving me something to look forward to. In the meantime, I can wash at home and go to the laundromat occasionally.



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Potatoes


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We eat a lot of potatoes in our home. The main way we eat them is baked. We wash the potato, stick it several times with a knife and then microwave it with the baked potato button on our microwave. We add butter, cheese, ranch, bacon bits (just whatever we have around the house) and chow down.

A baked potato is more than a side here. We consider them to be a whole meal. We take spells where we eat this several times a week but lately we’ve only been eating them once or twice a month. I will purchase the smallest bag of potatoes I can at the store to keep them from going bad on our slow spells.

I also enjoy frying potatoes. I peel them, rinse them off and fry them in a skillet with the bacon grease I have saved from previous meals. These are fantastic by themselves or with a bowl of brown beans and a slice of corn bread. Sometimes I will slice up a single potato and fry it up with an egg or two to make potatoes and eggs – a staple from my childhood.

Chop a potato into small pieces, add some sliced hot dog (or spam, bacon, ham or whatever meat we have available), cook thoroughly and then toss in an egg to make a Poor Man’s meal. I like to season this with some salsa if I have it but most times I just put in a dram of ketchup. I got my Auntie hooked on this meal.

I occasionally slice them up into wedges, drizzle with oil and seasonings and bake them. Katie isn’t too crazy about them this way so we don’t do it very often. When we had a fryer we used to have french fries a lot but I can’t see buying a fryer right now and this doesn’t work too well on my hot plate so we buy big bags of frozen french fries and bake them instead. There is a noticeable difference in taste from the bags to baking a fresh potato in a fry shape – and we aren’t fond of the difference (well, Katie isn’t – I can eat almost anything).

Do you eat potatoes a lot at your home? Do you consider them just a side or a whole meal? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 



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The Library Book Sale


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Every single year my local library hosts a book sale. Proceeds from this sale go to fund the library and the numerous programs that they offer.

I go to this sale every year; any books I purchase are read and donated back so that they can sell them again.

This year I had a surprisingly large pile of books to contribute. I didn’t count exactly how many there were but I had four plastic grocery bags stuffed full. They were so heavy that I had to haul them there using my handy dandy shopping cart.

Something clicked within me this year as I browsed the selections. While there were several books that seemed interesting I found myself rethinking any potential purchase. Would reading this book really benefit me?

Most of the time the answer was no.

I only ended up buying three books this year. I purchased an old dictionary (while online dictionaries are wonderful sometimes you want to physically look up a word), a thesaurus (yup, this writer possessed neither dictionary nor thesaurus) and a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale which I’ve wanted to read for ages.

My new (to me) books

My new (to me) books

My total cost was $3. I’ve already been using the dictionary and thesaurus. I’ve even managed to read several chapters into the NVP book by reading a chapter at night before bedtime.

Even better, I’m now four bags of books lighter thanks to my donations.

While I doubt that I will ever completely eliminate print books from my life, it feels good to know that my collection hasn’t grown any larger in the three years I’ve lived here. In fact, it has shrunk as my needs have changed.

What do you do with your unwanted books? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Simple Curtains


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I’ve not used curtains much in this old place. I’ve been too busy enjoying my life to even bother with them. That said, over the years I’ve debated on purchasing some to brighten up the place.

While going through my sheet tote I encountered a treat. I still had some of my white sheers from Western Kentucky! Not only that, Katie had tossed in some white lacy sheers that she had found during the time when she lived with her father.

They don’t match but being the same color they still go together. I looped the two sheers from Paducah, converting them into valances for my front door and the window that holds my air conditioner. The lacy sheers are now being used to cover my front window.

They really cheer up the place!

They really cheer up the place!

Nighttime view

Nighttime view

I made the valance by running the rod through both the top and bottom pockets.

I made the valance by running the rod through both the top and bottom pockets.

This little change has made a world of difference in my little living room. It is much more cheerful now. Even better, I’m now actively using items that had been previously stored and forgotten.

What stored items have you put to use lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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My Crazy Daily Notebook


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notebook photo retouched

I wrote a post a while back about how I use notebooks in my daily life. However, I never really covered exactly how I use them because I didn’t believe that there would be much interest.

The other day a friend of mine stumbled upon my main notebook and leafed through it, fascinated. “You use the Bullet Journal method!” she exclaimed.

I had never heard of the Bullet Journal so I had to look it up. Basically it is a notation system devised to help you keep track of stuff you need to do as well as notes in a highly configurable format. It relies heavily on symbols to help the user keep track of their notes.

After some investigation I realized that I do use a variation of the Bullet Journal method but with some differences:

  • Since I write copious notes every day, I assign a single page per day just as if it were an official day planner. If I run out of space I stick a post-it note to the page and keep scribbling. As a result I don’t have the calendar page for each month with the days listed to keep track of my schedule. I do that on my daily pages. Important dates are highlighted on my notes page for that month however.
  • I write the date (yearmonthday) at the top right corner of each page. Beneath that I write the day.
  • I can’t have my notes and tasks touch. I guess I’m like the kid who can’t allow foods to touch—it grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. A a result, notes are placed to the sides of my task list (or below if it is a light day). Sometimes I use post-it notes when I run out of space on the page or it is a really busy day.
  • If I have to keep track of doing something multiple times a day (like reminding Katie to take her medications) I draw a box on the edge of the page with a spot for each time the thing has to be done. A check mark is placed after the time that each task is completed.
  • On the top of my page are my current goals. These can be quite personal, so I blurred them out on this snapshot (along with the very personal note I scribbled at the bottom).
  • Beneath that I write my To Do List. I write everything down, including silly things like make the bed, feed the pets or even fix a cup of coffee. These are the items that get me started in the morning, easy tasks that show my progress during the day and help keep this girl on track. Each item gets a line drawn through it as it is completed so that I can see my progress, and if I run out of space I stick a note on top and keep going.
  • If I decide not to do something, I strike it out and then draw an X at the end of the line (like this-X). This tells me that I don’t need to bother with it because I don’t want or need to.
  • If I decide to do something the next day I put an arrow at the end to let me know (like this->). This tells me I’ve moved the task.
  • Notes, appointments and whatnot receive a double arrow (like this->>) to let me know I have migrated the note to the appropriate spot, be that a special page, new notebook, or whatever.
  • I leave pages in the back for my sections like shopping lists (I plan some purchases for months before I either make them or decide not to), phone numbers, project notes and whatnot. These get entered into my ToC (Table of Contents) in the front of each notebook for later reference.
  • I also keep a Wish List and another page for goals I want to accomplish. These are marked off depending upon whether I achieve them or decide I no longer want them using the same method I use for tasks and notes.

 

If I didn’t take copious notes I probably wouldn’t need something so extensive but I got into the habit years ago thanks to my Auntie showing me her method for keeping track of life. This method evolved from her tips and productivity tips I’ve encountered over the years.

Until fairly recently I used to use a notebook until it reached the end, writing in the days as they arrived but that resulted in some confusion when it came not only to planning, but when I had to switch notebooks in the middle of a month. As a result this notebook spans three months, while my next one has four so that I can finish the year.

That last notebook will be tight (I have just one page left free in this one, and it only spanned three months) but I want to start the New Year on a fresh notebook so I will make do by adding notebook pages if needed (like I will do on this one). Next year my notebooks will span three months each to minimize migration. I doodled a lot in this one so if I minimize my doodling I should be fine with that number.

I could probably get more use out of my notebooks if I switched to college (narrow) ruled composition notebooks but the wide ruled notebooks have exactly 25 lines per page. College ruled notebooks have 29 lines, which activates my OCD.  I only lose four lines per page so it’s not a big deal even if Katie calls me picky for digging though a pile of notebooks just to pick out the wide ruled ones.

I’ve also switched entirely to the black marbled covers on my notebooks. I like to decorate them with inspirational images that I print out and the black marbling makes an awesome background.

How do you keep track of the stuff you need to accomplish every day? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

 



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Nominate Your Favorite Simplicity/Minimalism Websites Today


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It has come to my attention lately that the current lists available for minimalism/simplicity websites are out of date. I would like to correct that but to do so I need your help. It is my desire to compile an updated list and to publish it at the end of this year.

Here is what you can do: Place the links for your favorite simplicity/minimalism websites in the comments section of this post. Add a short description of the website and why you feel that it should be included.

To make this fair, I am not nominating this website (since it’s mine). If you feel it should be included in the list, give me a shout out and I will do so.

Please note that I moderate comments on this website manually, so if your nomination doesn’t appear in a day or so message me here and I will track it down.

Let’s help others improve their lives by crafting a resource that they can use!



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Car Free: Stormy Emergencies


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Katie had to stay after school the other day to make up some tests. Normally this isn’t a big deal; she does what she needs to and walks home afterwards. However, on this particular day a tornado warning occurred.

With the town sirens blaring I was left frantic. Had my Katie left the school yet? Was she walking home in the wind and the storm? I tried to message her but didn’t receive a response. Panicked, I called the school. She was there and safe, huddled in the hallway with the other students.

Eventually the all-clear sounded and Katie got in touch. She was fine, but her teachers wouldn’t allow her to leave the school without a parent.

I gathered up my umbrella and headed out. On the way there I encountered a friend who asked me what in the world I was doing out. I explained the situation and he insisted on giving me a ride up there and taking us home.

Gotta love my awesome friends!

So the Universe is still taking care of me during this car free adventure. I’ve had my share of challenges but everything is working out wonderfully.



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