Thursday, April 29, 2010

Linky-Loo Friday

Today's post is from Leah Ingram at the Suddenly Frugal Blog.  

11 Tips for Prepping Your House for Summer Energy Usage

There are simple steps you can take to get your home ready for summer energy usage–specifically checking your home’s heating and air-conditioning system. These 11 tips come courtesy of, a solar energy and green lifestyles portal.

1. To begin, change your filters in your heating/cooling system. Change them regularly – at least monthly.

2. Next change your thermostat over to “cool” and test the system by turning the temperature down. If the air conditioner does not turn on, first check to make sure no breakers are tripped. If you can’t figure out the problem, call your heating and air-conditioning repair person. (Don’t have one? Try ServiceMagic, which has always treated me well.) Calling early may keep you from making an “emergency” call when the temperatures are soaring and the repair people are super busy and expensive.

3. If your cooling system turns on, make sure it is putting out adequate cooling. If it’s not, and you can’t figure out the problem, call your heating and air-conditioning repair person. Set the thermostat at 78 degrees.

4. If your air conditioner needs replacement, do it before the hot weather hits. This way you’re not wilting because the heating and air-conditioning repair people are very busy.

5. Your air ducts may need testing for leaks and then sealed. Your attic insulation probably has compacted, so you need to add an additional 5 to 8 inches. Your windows and doors and other parts of the building envelope may need caulking and weather stripping. Think about solar window film to keep out the heat.

6. Consider changing your old thermostat to a programmable one. You can save up to $100 a year by using a new set-back thermostat. If your thermostat is really old and uses a mercury switch (a glass tube filed with yes, mercury, a silvery substance), call your local public works department to find out how to dispose of this toxic material–or log onto Earth 911 to find out where you can dispose of it locally.

7. Installing a whole-house fan that uses cool air in the evening to cool the entire house and push hot air out of the attic area can keep your house comfortable for less cash.

8. If you cover your air conditioner’s condenser unit (the part that is outside the house) for the winter, take off the cover and clean the coils. Clear areas around the condenser unit so that it has full air flow.

9. Ceiling fans can help reduce your need to use the air conditioner. (Make sure you give them a good dusting before turning them on for the first time.)

10. Take down the old storm windows (if you live in areas where you need them) and get those screens cleaned and ready to put up.

11. And don’t forget your car’s heating and cooling systems.  If you haven’t turned on your car air conditioner for months it may be out of coolant, so check it before taking a long, hot, summer drive.

What other tips do you have?  Leave a comment below :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I paid how much?

It's been pouring buckets most of the day with the usual gray skies to go along with it.  Late last week I got a flyer from Kohls with a $10 gift certificate attached.  I told myself that I'd post it on my Facebook and see if any of my friends could use it, we didn't need anything.  The days went by and I kept forgetting.  This morning my youngest grabbed it and started to put it in his mouth and I took it from him.

After I looked at it more closely I saw that you didn't have to spend a minimum.  So, I could get something for free.  Then it hit me!  Some of the Hubbs' undies are looking less than appealing these days and I had just pulled a load of them out of the dryer.  I took it upon myself to throw 3 pairs away (yes, he'll be mad once he realizes).  Are you following me here?  I took the kidlets to Kohls this morning and bought him 2 new boxer briefs for 43 pennies!
I sure hope Kohls and other department stores send me more free money to buy us undies/bras and shoes, woot!

What would you have spent that $10 on?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reel lawn mower

So, this past weekend Dave went to start up our Craftsman lawn tractor to cut down the proverbial forest in our back yard.  Well, it didn't want to start.  He started tinkering with it and pulled the starter and it's a mess.  He called Sears and they want $130 for a new starter *cough*.  Yeah, um that's a lot of money for 1 part, especially for a LAWN MOWER.
(Ours looks like this one but it's green)

So today as I was outside with the kidlets and I decided I want to get a reel lawn mower.  It won't need parts (well, likely) and it's free to use besides the initial investment.  There are 2 nice ones on Craigslist that I've emailed about.  This will allow me about 2 hours each week to myself with my iPod plugged in.  I need some alone time and this will be the perfect excuse, plus I'll get plenty of exercise.  Did I mention that Dave laughed/scoffed at the idea at first?  Well, he shut his yap once I told him that I would be cutting the grass from now on if we could buy one of these.  He liked the idea of that :)
So, what kind of lawnmower do you have?  Do you like it?  If you don't like it, what would you rather have?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great post from Angela at My Year Without Spending

"Why are you frugal?" Because there's no point in being frugal for the sake of being frugal. There needs to be a reason, which ranges from sheer necessity (for example, you live on a fixed income or you're trying to support a family on minimum wage or you've been laid off from your job) to all manner of lifestyle goals and ideals.

One of my readers suggested that if I was uncomfortable with the term "frugal," perhaps I should substitute "resourceful." I like that. It brings to mind a sensible person, cheerfully making do with their circumstances. Creating a gourmet meal out of forgotten pantry items, making a cozy home in the wilderness, sewing stylish clothing out of burlap bags. Sort of a cross between Marmie from Little Women and MacGyver (ingenious uses for everyday items).

So WHY am I resourceful? There are many reasons, but they mostly revolve around wanting to create a lifestyle that meshes with my values and goals. The values have to do with non-consumerism and protecting the environment and trying not to use more than my fair share of the earth's resources. The goals involve wanting to work less, while at the same time doing work I enjoy and having control over my own schedule.

It all comes down to priorities. Mine have just never been to have a big house, an expensive car, lots of jewelry, or STUFF. They've always had more of an experiential element, and include doing work and activities I love, having time for my husband and friends, and not being tied down to a schedule. Also, living on less lets me feel more in control and less panicked if my husband or I get less work or if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Having money for an emergency and not living on credit means that we're not so dependent on jobs or the economy.

If I gave the impression yesterday that I was frugal just so I could spend money on travel, boots, and spas, that's not the case. I do splurge on some things, but they're not the overall point of a frugal or resourceful lifestyle. Joining The Compact was an extension of the way I was already living rather than a radical experiment, and I've realized that even more because nearly five months later, I've had hardly any challenges or temptations to wrestle with.

I'm not trying to recruit members for The Compact, but I guess in a way I AM trying to relate how simple it is to live on less. Maybe give a little hope to people who are doing it by necessity. How it can actually be creative, invigorating, and yes... fun! Because believe me, if you saw our lifestyle, I don't think anyone would call it deprived. Except for maybe someone like Donald Trump, who I would consider the exact opposite of me. It's hard to believe we're the same species, really. The only thing I can think of that we have in common is a thick head of hair. But then again, his is probably fake.

Why are you frugal, or semi-frugal, or resourceful? Or do you prefer another label entirely? Please tell us your thoughts in the Comments section.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cloth Diaper Foundation's Green Mama Benefit

 Green Mama Benefit Auction
The Cloth Diaper Foundation (formerly Miracle Diapers) is having a benefit starting April 22nd aka Earth Day.  It combines Earth Day and Mother's Day and ends April 30th.  I encourage you to bid on items to support this wonderful organization that provides cloth diapers to those in need.  If you have any spare cloth diapers lying please donate them to this wonderful cause.  They also have a retail store here, if you're looking to buy :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Back from a trip

Hi all!  This past week I took the kiddos to visit my friend who recently moved to Salt Lake City.  We had a fun-filled week and plenty of stress at the airport.  I learned never to fly Southwest Airlines ever again because their pilots are not trained on everything.  We sat at the airport for 3 hours waiting for them to land all the while every other airline was landing and taking off.  But, I'll spare you the gory details ;)  My friend and I took the kids to a few local thrift shops (see links below) and I scored some deals on cotton PJs (for the upcoming warm weather), some swim trunks for Baby J, and plenty of short sleeved shirts.  I crammed it all in my cumbersome bag and brought it all home to wash, which is what I'm doing today.

We also hit up the Zoo and the Aquarium, which my 2 yr old adored.  She really loved the monkeys and elephants.  The attractions in SLC are much cheaper than say Seattle.  The admission to the Zoo and Aquarium were just $9/adult and 2 and under are free.  So, my friend and I got to go for $18 and we didn't pay anything for the kidlets.  As for Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo it's $11/adult.  Furthermore, for the Seattle Aquarium it's $17/adult.  Also, we didn't have to pay for parking in SLC, woot! 

The thrift stores we visited:
Thirft Town (my favorite for selection and prices, but the staff wasn't too friendly)
Deseret Industries (my second favorite, the organization was lacking, but made up for by a wonderful staff)
Kid to Kid (eh.  The prices were really high for 2nd hand and the staff seemed a little stuck on themselves)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Farm strong

So, the hubbs and I have been contemplating joining a gym again.  We quit after we had baby J, I hadn't gone in some time and Dave wasn't making the time for it.  We were busy and still are.  So, a few weeks back The hubbs read an article about Farm strength.  It's a new idea that may be gaining popularity as families trim their budgets.  So, you're asking what is it?  Well it's based on the idea of doing what farmers did back in the day and what they do now.  Those guys (and some gals) are in awesome shape!  They work HARD everyday and have a body to show for it.  So, we're planning setting up a spot in the backyard to encompass a farm workout.

Check out these websites to get a look into what it entails:

It's something both of us can do while the kids are outside playing.  Plus, we'll save $40/month although we will have to buy some things like rope and such.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This week's deals

Since we're trying to de-clutter, Peter Walsh says to not buying anything that isn't a need.  Well, the kids need some more long sleeve shirts because the weather isn't warming up like I thought it would.  I got all three of these for $1.14 including tax.  What a score!

I also found about a SUPER deal on Seventh Generation products from this blog I follow, Organic Deals.  They posted that Toys R Us is clearancing most/all of their 7th Gen products.  So, I called my local TRU and they said that all of the cleaning products were $1.98/each.  I got all of this + the Kiss My Face products for the same $1.98/ea.

Photos and a weather report

Good blustery morning to everyone!  All week our weather has been crazy to say the least.  Right now it's snowing and the wind gusts are up around 60mph.  Just 10 minutes ago it was beautiful sunshine and windy of course.  I grew up in a "weather family" and there is a long line on my mother's side that has been fanatical about the weather.  My great grandparents used to measure the rain and always try to figure out how much to water the plants after good rain.  My GG also put out buckets to catch the rain water so she could water her plants later in the week...very crunchy if you ask me.  The 'trait' was passed down to my grandfather and of course my mother.  Since we were kids the weather channel was usually on during the day.  Now, my brother has taken the reigns (well my mom has yet to give them up) and he has an electronic weather station and is often watching the weather on TV or the internet.  They like to stay abreast of any uncertain weather.

I'm not as hard-core as them, but I check it in the morning if I'm taking the kids to the park.  I've found myself checking it more lately because the the weather has been so ridiculous.  For example, when I started writing this about 3 minutes ago I told you it was snowy and very windy.  Now, it's just spitting rain and about 20mph winds.  O, and the sun has peeked back out.  Do you like tracking the weather?  Do you plan your outings around the weather or do you just go with the flow?

For the second part of my post I wanted to ask everyone's opinion on photo-processing.  I love photo center.  Almost every week they have SUPER-DUPER sales on photo printing (to get you into the store to buy other stuff, which I don't generally do).  Today they are running a sale on photo collages, they're 80% off.  I ordered two 8x10 for $1.73.  All photos I print are of the kidlets and for us to have and family/friends.  Anyways, back to my question.  Do you think getting photos printed is breaking The Compact? 

Have a great day today!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This week's CSA box

Yummy yummy in MY tummy!

I know the picture is pretty bad, but my camera is at my BIL's getting worked on.  
This week we got:
2 LOCAL Organic Green Danjou Pears
1 Pound Organic Blood Oranges
1 Organic Pineapple
4 LOCAL Organic Pink Lady Apples
2 Organic Ataulfo Mangoes
1 Pound Organic Kiwi
2 Organic Medium Navel Oranges
2 LOCAL Organic Red Danjou Pears
1 Pound Organic Strawberries
2 Organic Ruby Grapefruit
1 1/2 Pounds Organic Minneola Tangelos
4 Organic Bananas

I grabbed a bag of carrots before we left the grocer and they're delish ;)

And yes, my floors are vintage 1971 and they will be replaced sometime in 2010

Do you have a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) near you?  Have you thought about joining?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tips on running a sucessful garage sale

My mom has always had 1 or 2 garage sales every year since I can remember.  I've learned a lot from her over the years on how to run a sucessful garage sale.  Remember, all those quarter shirts add up to some nice cash over the course of a day.

So here are my tips from watching my mothering and some of own ideas:

1. Ask your neighbors and family or friends if they want to sell anything.  This makes the sale look bigger and better to passerbys. 

2.  Advertise, advertise, advertise.  This means putting an ad in your local newspaper AND a craigslist ad.  It's well worth the extra few dollars to get the big ad in the newspaper. The ads need to have your address, the times and items.  If you have big ticket items than be sure to list them.

3. Organize your items.  Don't just throw them out in the lawn and expect people to bend over and sort through them.  Nearly everything should be on a table and everything should be priced.  That can mean you tag each item or the whole table of clothes $.25/ea.  People don't like asking how much something is, they will just walk away instead.

4. Pricing.  Nobody likes driving to your house and finding out that you want to charge too much.  If you want stuff to sell, you've gotta price it as such.

5. Signage.  I highly suggest having color-coordinated signs, meaning all of your signs that you have placed around your neighborhood and on the main drags + the one in front of your house, need to be the same color.  If everyone in your area is doing a sale that day people will get lost following different signs, so make yours all one color w/ just "GARAGE SALE" and an arrow.  Boxes are best to tape to with rocks in the bottom.

6. Be prepared.  This means several things.  Everything should be priced the night before.  Your friends and neighbors should have already brought their stuff over priced.  Everything should be waiting inside your garage or somewhere safe and then head out about an hour early to pull everything out and sell to the "Earlybirds".  Also, be sure to have plenty of change handy, but secured.

7. The customer.  Whether its the blue-haired granny from down the road, the aspiring eBay seller, or the kids from next door be sure to give everyone a warm welcome.  This makes them feel welcome in your yard and encourages them to ask questions rather than just walk away.

8. My preference.  Whenever my mom and I have a sale I always ask her to have it 1 day.  This makes people have a sense of urgency.  When the customer scans the newspaper or Craigslist and sees your "1 DAY SALE" vs the other persons "Friday, Saturday, Sunday SALE" they think to the themselves "Well, I better get to this one since it's only 1 day.  I can hit up the other ones later this week."

So, do you have any tips for a successful garage sale?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Peter Walsh

I'm sure most of you have heard of him, he's on TLC's Clean Sweep and he's the author of several books, one of which I have checked out of the library.  It's called It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.  The premise is de-cluttering your home/office/garage or what have you.  The reason I got this book was because we have a small home and too much stuff.  The hubbs and I have lived here for 6 years and have accumulated tons of stuff.  I'm not a good housekeeper and have struggled for many years in that department.  Since having Baby J, I've turned it around somewhat, but my sewing area is a wreck, the "office" to put it lightly is a mess, and the kitchen seems to be a catch all for all things that don't have a 'place'.  I love my hubby dearly and he's a very neat person, but he likes things.  He still has every CD he's every purchased (think 250 or more) + he loves movies, so he has at least 100 DVDs.  He also loves history and has a Master's in it so he has lots of books and movies and what not that pertain to his teaching.  So, what am I getting at?  Well, it's time to get this stuff out of here.  I'm tired of my clutter, his clutter and the kids' clutter.  It's all too much!  We only have 900sqft on any given day to live in.  With 4 humans roaming around, that's ends up being a lot of stuff we need.

The good thing in reading this book is realizing how much stuff we think we need.  Tonight the hubbs went through all of his DVDs and has so far gotten rid of a large stack of them.  This has been very hard for him and I'm so proud.  He also went through all of mine and got rid of 75% of them.  We agreed that if we want to see them again we can just rent them from Netflix.

My mom and I are planning a garage sale this Friday, if the weather permits.  Whatever the hubbs doesn't want to put on DVDSwap will go in the G-sale.  Later this week I'll be posting my hints for having a top-notch garage sale that will make you some serious cash :)

We have a long road ahead of us but it will be so rewarding at the end.  I'll keep you all posted on our progress as we go through the house and garage.

What are the areas in your home that tend to get cluttered?  Do you collect anything that you could pare down?

Happy Easter everyone :)