Monday, July 21, 2008

Phone, phone, go away...

I would just like to take this opportunity to say that people spend a ridiculous amount of money on phones! Personally, I hate talking on the phone. Don't get me wrong, the phone can be a very useful and wonderful thing. I'm glad that I have use of one, and one that works I might add. I lived in a 3rd world country where some of our friends didn't have a phone, and where there were certain parts of the city we could never connect with. It was most aggravating.

That said, I think cell phone and land line companies have us all brainwashed into thinking that we HAVE to have all these "cool" extra features on our phones. You know what? You really don't. One of the most clever tactics they have is saying that they have these great packages where if you buy "X" number of features you can save all kinds of money. You want to save money? Here are a few ideas:

Use a calling card

I have my brother and sister-in-law to thank for this one. Here's the disclaimer: I'm sure it varies somewhat from company to company so you'll have to check with your individual phone company. It is often far cheaper to use a calling card for your long distance than to go with a particular long distance carrier. When you set up your land line they probably asked you what long distance carrier/plan you wanted to go with. Whether you use the long distance on your land line or not, chances are there is a fee for the carrier/plan you chose. You need to specifically ask to have that long distance service removed (not to be confused with having long distance calls blocked for which there is a fee) and you could save some money. There are lots of places online where you can buy cheap long distance calling cards for as low as $.019 per minute.

Do you ever really answer call waiting?

Maybe there are people out there who do. I would venture to guess, however, that the only reason they do is so they can get the annoying beeping to stop. It's not because they WANT to talk to that telemarketer on the other line. Things like call waiting, caller ID, and the myriad of other features you can ad to your phone are all convenient, but cost money. If you want to save some money try taking all the extra features off your line.

Ditch the cell phone!

Again, let me just say that I don't like talking on the phone, so I really can't relate to these people I see chatting on their phone in the grocery store, while they're driving, or while jogging (I REALLY can't relate to those). I hear stories from parents saying they had a cell phone bill in the hundreds because their child did too much texting, or because of a cool ringtone they downloaded. That's insane! We're going to have a generation of kids who don't know how to speak English, or have any people skills! But I digress...

Up until earlier this year we did not have a cell phone. You would not believe the weird looks we got from people when we said we didn't have one. It was almost as good as the look I get when I tell people I use cloth diapers (a topic for another discussion). Cell phones have their place - they are very nice to have in the case of an emergency, and sometimes for business reasons. Most of the time, however, a cell phone is something that one can easily live without. And if you ditch the cell phone, think of the money you'll save every month! We finally had to give in and purchase a cell phone because my husband needed one at work. We went with a prepaid cell phone, which unless you live on your phone, can save you a lot of money.

Once again, it comes down to wants and needs. And it doesn't have to mean wanting to have a cell phone versus needing to feed your family. Sometimes it's just a matter of choosing between wanting to spend $50 a month on your cell phone and preferring to have an extra $50 a month to go towards something more important - like a future purchase that you'll be able to pay in cash instead of on credit.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Christmas in July

I've never been one to think about Christmas at any other time of the year than Christmastime. I think it's because I thought that if I waited until then I would feel more of the Christmas spirit. Sadly not so. This month's Enrichment activity was "Christmas in July" and I was asked to bring a number of homemade gifts that I have made over the years. So I brought one of the I Spy bean bags that I made millions of last year, plus some homemade stationary, fun little boxes to package store bought chocolate in, 6 bean soup mix in a jar, and a few Christmas cards. It has actually been really fun! I think I may just continue with this momentum and maybe Christmastime will be happier and simpler.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Save some green while you clean!

I was online looking up my new favorite homemade household cleaner and figured, why not blog about it? I don't spend a lot of money on cleaning supplies. I'm also not extremely comfortable with all the toxic chemicals and antibacterial products on the market. They are not without their place. I have bleach at my house that I use occasionally and a couple of other products.

The main motivation for looking for healthier cleaning supplies came when we were living with Paul's parents. Paul's mom cannot tolerate any kind of strong smell, whether it be natural or man made, so obviously most commercial cleaning products were out of the question. You can easily spend a fortune on buying "natural" or unscented cleaning supplies, but why? Some of the cheapest and most effective cleaning supplies are things that you already have at home.

I use a combination of vinegar and baking soda frequently to clean sinks and the bath tub. Baking soda is abrasive without damaging and the combination of the two cuts through the worst of soap scum. (If it sounds like I don't clean my bathroom often enough, you're right!)

Making your own window cleaner is a snap! There are quite an array of recipes out there that contain many variations upon a mixture of water, vinegar, and detergent. The simplest recipe that I found is 2 tsp of white vinegar to 1 quart of warm water.

Here is the recipe for my favorite new cleaner:
2 tsp borax
4 tablespoons white vinegar
3 cups hot water
1/4 tsp liquid castille soap (optional)

Put in a spray bottle and voila! I also added a few drops of essential oil (lemongrass, although I want to get some orange or lemon) and it smells divine! And it works REALLY well. Apparently Borax has disinfectant properties too. I use this on kitchen countertops, on my vinyl tablecloth, spot cleaning the floor and the high chair tray.

Here are just a few things to have in your homemade cleaning supply closet:
salt, baking soda, lemons, vinegar, Borax

Another thing worth mentioning is my steam cleaner. I was given one as a gift, but I honestly believe they are worth the investment. Nothing is simpler or more effective than using plain old steam. They work really well.

Here are a couple of good websites:

Friday, July 11, 2008


A couple of days ago the kids and I decided to go to the park. My rule is that we can go to the park if we walk, which for us takes about 10-15 minutes. I do this for 2 reasons: I want the exercise, and it saves on gas. I wasn’t convinced that they would go for that because it has been quite hot here, but thankfully the park is well shaded which provided some relief. As it happens, this was the one day where I wish I had driven because my daughter fell off the monkey bars and hurt her arm, so I ended up walking home with her and my son while my other daughter stayed and played with a friend. When I called later that day to tell my daughter I was going to walk to come and get her, I got a phone call a couple of minutes later saying that her friend’s mother had offered to give her a ride home. Her friend’s house is only a 5-10 minute walk from here, so I was mildly amused when she said that the mom had asked her if our car was broken.

Now maybe she was being thoughtful because it was hot, and she knew that Lindsey had hurt her arm (but was since feeling better). But it got me thinking about how people seem to have forgotten walking – our oldest and most reliable form of transportation. There is pro-exercise ad campaign in our area that shows a mom and her son in their car, and they literally pull out of their driveway and drive to the house next door where she drops her son off and says, “Call me when you’re done.” Most of us aren’t quite that bad, but it was an effective way at illustrating their point.

Rediscover walking! Get a little exercise, and save money from less gas used and less wear and tear on the car.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

Everywhere I turn there is talk of cutting back: smaller cars and less driving, less eating out, fewer and closer vacations just to name a few. Personally, so far I haven't had to do a whole lot of cutting back. Do you know why? I have been living pretty frugally out of necessity for the past almost 10 years now. Although I am far from perfect, there is a lot that I have learned and would like to share. And I am always looking for new and better ways to save some money.

This blog isn't only about being frugal though, hence the name. Being frugal all the time can make a personally seriously uptight, and feeling deprived if you're not careful! The thing is, I think people are a little confused about the difference between wants and needs. If you can figure that out, instead of feeling deprived you realize just how many choices are available to you. It's a matter of deciding what is most important to you and what would be a wise use of resources, whether they be money, time, or the environment.
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