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Category Archives: A Penny Saved

Someday has finally come!

CC and I have been saying for years that we were going to sale out and move back to the country where we belong, but we kept putting it off for this reason and that reason.  Lately, my health has become such that putting it off is no longer an option.  We have to get out of the rat race and move to a more laid back life.  We’ve had some concerns about uprooting BG, but in the end we don’t think it is really going to be a bad thing.  Let’s face it, we’ll all be much happier when she’s got more room to run around.  There is going to be some adjustment, but honestly there isn’t one of us that this move isn’t going to help.

We’ve put the house on the market and despite the fact that we’re in the process of sorting and packing, it will start being shown today.  I’m embarrassed for people to see it looking like it does, but who knew we had so much crap!  I mean, I knew we had a lot of stuff we didn’t need, but this is ridiculous.

I’ve found shoes that wouldn’t have fit BG last year and the worst part?  She never wore them!  They were in a box full of clothes that we were waiting for her to grow into.  We never even opened the box when any of it would fit her.  In our defense, she has a grandmother that sends several boxes of clothes every month.  Still no excuse.

 

We also have a lot of duplicates.  We have them because this one doesn’t do this very well, but it is great for this and so on.  For a laugh, I took a moment and looked at what a good one would cost that did all these things well.  I wasn’t laughing.  For the price I spent on all the cheap ones, I could have had one good one that did everything well.  I know exactly how it happens.  I see the price of the quality item and quell.  Instead, I buy the cheap one and when I get it home, I’m not happy with how it does this or that.  Then I go out and spend more money for one that says it fixing that problem.  The only problem with that is that is doesn’t do something else as well as the first one, so I wind up keeping both of them.  If I had just spent the money in the first place, I could have had one that did everything well.  I know, you know what I’m talking about.  I didn’t use an actual item in this example because there were too many of them.
The whole process would be too depressing, if it were not for the fact that getting rid of the crap is such a relief.  You literally feel like you’ve shed actual physical weight.  This feeling of relief made me realize that all those self-help and organization gurus are absolutely correct; having less is more freeing.

What this means for us moving forward boils down to several key points.

  1. Assess everything that we want to bring into the house for function and quality.
  2. Assess everything we have on a regular basis to see if it is still relevant to our lives.
  3. Change our mindset of more being better.  (Quality beats quantity.)

The thing that I’ve learned from this is that spring cleaning is not a joke.  It is important in this day and age to assess constantly.  We, as a society, live in houses that are so much bigger than what we really need that we accumulate stuff we don’t need.  Let me explain.  There are three of us and we’ve been living in (half of) a 1700 square foot house.  Half of that total is downstairs.  Do you know how much we actually used downstairs?  Two rooms; one was the laundry room and the other was filled with our books.  We’ve gotten rid of no less than three huge boxes of books just because we don’t read them, they aren’t that good, and we don’t want to move them.  That’s sad.  We’ve had those books for at least the three years we’ve lived here and we don’t even want them!

So let’s look at the math.  Assuming that the library and the laundry room take up half of the basement, that’s about 425 square feet.  Add that to the upstairs that we actually use and you come up with 1275 square feet.  That’s not that big of a house by American standards.  CC and I discussed it and what we came to realize is that if we had more land outside out house, we’d spend more time outside, which means you could probably shave even more off that number.

Smaller house – less money spent.  Less crap – less money spent.  Less money spent – less money needed.  Less money needed – more options for everything!  Think about it!  If you didn’t have to pay for all that crap that you really don’t use or want, would you still have to work as hard?  Would you be able to live on the income from the job that you’d really enjoy, but maybe doesn’t pay as much as you currently need?  Could you cut back to part-time?  How much (in money and other stuff) is your lifestyle costing you?  Do you really love it that much?

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2015 in A Penny Saved, Thoughts

 

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Sharpening Not Just Your Knife

My father and grandfather could keep a pocket knife sharp as a razor with an Arkansas stone (a type of wet rock).  I’ve never been able to reach that level of sharp.  EVER!  With anything!  I’ve spent tons of money on all kinds of things to sharpen my knives because I’ve been totally spoiled by my dad and granddad.  I can not abide a dull knife.

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I keep several in a favorite coffee cup in the kitchen.

CC’s dad used the bottom of one of my coffee cups to sharpen one of his knives and I had to try it.  It works.  It works well, except it is unwieldy and I wanted something that was smaller and easier to take camping and such.  Then I read something on a blog about using ceramic insulators as a sharpener.  I already knew from my research that ceramic is one of the greatest sharpeners, so…  A quick trip to eBay revealed ceramic insulators for sale for a cheap price.  I paid $5.00 for a dozen.  I then went to Home Depot and bought a wooden dowel.  Cutting the dowel into pieces, I inserted them into the insulators as a handle and TA-DA!  I have sharpeners that keep my knives razor-sharp.

I would like to note several things.  I spent the time to research before buying my knives and bought quality knives.  I managed to catch a block set of them on sale for $30.00, as a close out item.  I’ve had the set for more than ten years and the only issue I have had is the wooden handles have to be oiled periodically.  If I had it to do over, I might go with a different type of handle.  Then again, I might not.  I like natural materials.  I didn’t want serrated knives because they are a pain to sharpen, if you even can and most just don’t cut as smoothly as a honed hollow ground blade.  Don’t know what a hollow ground blade is?  You might want to research that.  The point that I’m trying to make is spending the time and money on quality decreases the quantity that you will end up using up.  (Think smaller footprint on the Earth and less aggravation for you!)

These are not wonder sharpeners in one regards.  If you do not know the proper technique for sharpening, I highly suggest you jump on YouTube and check out some videos.  Sharpen more than your knives, sharpen you mind by learning something new.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in A Penny Saved

 

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Wishy Washing

One of the ways I’ve reined in our spending is soap making.

Have you recorded how much you spend on what and how frequently? $4 per bar, $10-20 for laundry detergent, 88 cents for the cheapest hand wash dish soap and another $4 for the dishwasher detergent. I hate to bean count, but at some point I have to treat my family to wise business practices. When something that literally goes down the drain rings up $300 of the grocery budget every year I have to take notice. That’s a month’s worth of groceries!

I started out in January 2013 with Super Laundry Sauce (blender method). Then DG found Rural Spin’s Green Tea Blender Soap and we’re turning out bath bars. And we found recipes we want to try for dishwasher detergent, too.

But once I’ve been at something for a few rounds I invariably start tinkering. Really, it’s all a part of learning, and I hope that you’ll do some creative learning and tell us about it. That’s how complex evolution and higher thinking continue. Evolve or die.

I looked at making my own powdered laundry detergent but found that aside from weight, pre-packaging and spill clean up there aren’t many advantages. Quite the opposite, in fact.
But then again, Super Laundry Sauce isn’t perfect either. It can be messy, doesn’t dissolve and leaves smears on DG’s uniforms; the process is mildly inefficient and while sweltering through summer insomnia I discovered that the chemistry behind it is flawed (sorry, no links)- more on that once I’ve finished my trial runs.

And just so you’re aware, it looks like a meth lab or explosives if you don’t keep your storage cabinet, containers and loose chemicals well labeled and cleaned. Hit up google, it’s entertaining and educative. Various chemicals and some weird stuff in old peanut containers with a crust around the lid. Yeah. Too bad I can’t turn this into an amusing continuing ed opportunity for the local fire department any more.

But the goal is making it better, right?
First I threw a measure of SLS in an old jar with a cup of water and shaking. And hey, it was an improvement over plain paste. It’s just a little messy and time consuming, especially when BG only needs 2 seconds to sneak down stairs and set the water heater to self destruct.

Next up, diluting it via counter top blenders and stick blenders. OK, except for the time and noise – the Basement Troll works nights, and frankly I’m too lazy to spend half an hour every week on something so mindless.

Enter Home Depot. Or as I hate to call it, the Tim Taylor Method.
DG, in her infinite and varied wisdom, pointed out that Gnome Depot has 5 gallon buckets, lids and drywall mixers – paint stirrers on steroids.

A quickly drilled hole in the lid and a drill chuck adapter for the mixer and I was set. OK, I lied. I tried 2 gallon buckets – messy and not enough output. And I already had a 5 gallon with a hole from my failed hand washer project.
Oh, and use a siphon because pouring is messy and means dealing with a fourth of a jug of foam.

I tried my neighbours discarded laundry detergent dispenser/container for storage, but it was tough to clean out and I had to shake it every time. If you haven’t read elsewhere, home made liquid laundry soap separates. I’m working on a cure, but in the mean time I use a 1 qt peanut container, marked per load. For the bulk I just use a well rinsed gallon milk jug.

Now I can muck up a month’s worth of laundry soap in 5 minutes.
Stay tuned for the sciency stuff and hopefully a video to come.
-Cappy

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in A Penny Saved

 

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