My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The next verse to the song is harrah, hurray, only not in this house.  I hate ants.  Nothing like sitting down to have an Almond Poppy Seed Muffin and realize those little spots are moving and they aren't poppy seeds at all, but ants that have gotten into your muffin container.  YECH!

A facebook friend asked me today what we do about ants here in our frugal household.  My first reaction was to give her to the link for my ant control blog post of the past.  Only guess what, there wasn't one!  I found one on making fly and wasp traps, and another on controlling fleas and ticks in your pets and treating the resulting hot spots.  But nothing on ants.  How did I not have a post on that already? So here it is,

Everyone has a remedy that someone in their family has used at one time or another. I know my granny, the one that inspired this entire blog, used a thin line of what she called "Red Oil" on the window sills where they came into the house.  "Red Oil" was actually Old English Oil Furniture Polish, the red one.

An aunt would spread a line of salt at doors, window sills and such.  By the way on the subject of salt, it's good on your carpet and furniture to kill fleas and scorpions, it will also kill slugs, but don't salt your garden soil too heavily.

Want a citrus smell in your home, spread finely chopped lemon zest along the ant trails.  However, if you have house cats I would steer away from this one as citrus oil can be harmful to cats. A friend who had no house pets used this one on a regular basis.

An uncle many, many years ago would pour kerosene on ant hills and set it a fire.  Do not do this!!!! It not only is very dangerous, but it is very bad for the ground around it too.

Ants are drawn to a food and water source, so eliminating those will help greatly.  Put leftovers up quickly in air tight containers to deter most " ants, but not all containers seal as tightly as needed to keep the little stinkers out.

I wash my cabinets down with Dr. Bonner's Eucalyptus scented soap mixed in a 1 soap to 10 water ratio.  I keep it in a spray bottle for cleaning daily.  This not only helps control ants, but fruit flies as well.

Not a fan of eucalyptus?  Citrus, (again the warning on cats), lavender, tea tree, or peppermint.  No Dr. Bonners, but you have these scents as an essential oil then mix that roughly 1 tablespoon with a spray bottle full of oil. Witch Hazel mixed in the same ratio is also does well, as will a similar ratio of dish soap and water in a spray bottle.

Fans of vinegar will tell you to use it either straight, or 50/50 with water in either white or apple cider form. Mom did this one.

Food items in your kitchen such as mint, cinnamon, pepper (both black or red), sage, whole cloves (Oranges pierced with the whole cloves is a very good scent and good to deter ants), whole bay leaves and strangely enough cucumber peels all deter ants entering.

Planting in your garden and near you home mints, sage, tansy, and lavender helps keep the pesky things from even trying to enter.

You know how people tell you to make certain all your windows are well caulked to help conserve energy, well it also helps keep out ants, which will help you conserve your personal energy on getting rid of them.

These "remedies" will help keep them out of the house, however if you want to destroy the nests you may want to try these mixtures.

For "sugar" type ants my personal favorite is to mix enough borax (yep that 20 Mule Team stuff sold on the detergent aisle) with honey to form a thick paste.  I put it in bottle caps in our old camper which had ants nesting in the walls after over a year of the camper not being used.  You could also put it on even just a piece of paper or on a paper plate, or any container that will tempt the ants into it.  The idea is to put just enough borax in with the honey for them to gather it and take it back to their nests where all will consume of it and kill the entire nest (s).  Yes, nests.  Ants are smart critters and will try to divide and conquer and set up several new nests, so if using a bait you need to keep baiting for a few weeks so you get them all.

If honey isn't available you can use jam, jelly, syrup, molasses or a simple syrup made with sugar instead of the honey.  I often use honey that has crystallized.

Less sticky, but equally as good is 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of borax (also known as Boric Acid)

You do need to change these baits regularly to  keep them carrying enough borax home.

Not all ants are sugar ants, some prefer protein, so mix peanut butter, or bacon grease with your borax.

If you are using these baits don't be overly diligent about using the above cleaners on your cabinets because you want the ants to take the bait home and if you wash their trails away they won't be able to find their way home

If you see the ants are not taking the bait (either sugar of protein), cut back on the amount of borax you are using in the mixture.  If the ants don't seem to be thinning out any add more borax.


If you have house pets or children then place the bait in a recycled jar or plastic container you have poked holes in the lid to help keep the bait from being easily accessible to them.

If you prefer not to use borax because of the possible harm to pets or children you can also make a sugar ant bait of  2 tablespoons of molasses, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon of yeast.

If you know where the ant hills are you can kill the ants at their source by pouring a tea kettle full of boiling water followed by full strength white vinegar on the hill. You can also mix salt heavily in the boiling water and use that instead of the vinegar.  Warning these two can damage grass and garden plants, so you may want to use 1/4 c of a mild dish soap like blue Dawn mixed with a gallon of boiling water instead.

Ants can stay submerged and survive for long periods, so the water needs to be boiling to be effective.  It is best to do the boiling water remedies for three days straight to insure you get the colony.

One of my favorite go to remedies for all sorts of pests is food grade DE (Diatomaceous Earth) I use it both inside and out, and have even put it on my pets directly.

There are many, more "home" remedies including things like grits, but these are the ones I mainly use.

One final suggestion, if ants in your pets food bowl is a problem, place the bowl in a dish or pan that has water with a little dish soap in it that will create a repellent barrier for the ants, but not where the pets can drink it (most dish soaps aren't harmful to pets in small amounts, but could cause bowel issues).

While ants do have a definite use in nature's grand scheme of things I don't think they need my muffins, or yours.  Let's keep the little guys "marching, around into the ground, to get out of the rain, hurrah, hurray."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Over the years we have had numerous gardens here on the ranch.  Most of which have been in my large garden area and for one reason or another they have always gotten away from me.  I think it was mainly due to trying to do too much at once.

This last winter we moved our geese into that garden to clean it up, and well we have just kept right on housing them there at night.  

Now it is spring and the geese are all comfy in their totally enclosed pen and so we are looking at different gardening options.

There are numerous things to consider when planning a garden of any sort.  Besides soil, sun, and water availability. One such thing is the fact we travel a lot and Sean can only do so much each night after work before it gets dark.  So it has to be an easy to maintain garden for those days we are gone.

Another thing to consider is none of us are as spry as we use to be and we aren’t getting any younger.  So working low, even in my  raised gardens has been getting harder and harder to do.

So in 2015 we are trying a different approach, we are going back to container gardening, but raising it up off the ground high enough that it can be worked either from a standing position or sitting on my gardening bench.

Because the geese are enjoying the larger garden area we decided to put the container garden in the small goose pen where fencing will help keep the geese, when free ranging, from consuming everything in the garden.  

This location will also help keep my over-zealous spring enthusiasm from expanding this garden to beyond the easy to care for dictate. 

Budget, as always, was another concern.  We have already invested hundreds if not thousands in the large garden area in the past and didn’t want to do that again.

So the 2015 Experimental Garden needed to be compact, intensely companion planted, and efficient.

Here’s how it is going so far.

First my husband removed the tree branches that had fallen in the pen over the winter, weed whacked the grass and weeds as short as he could in the long narrow pen and then gathered cinder blocks from around the property that were not currently being used for other projects.

The cinder blocks were stacked two high in a single row every four feet for sixteen feet.  This was to be the length of the garden “bed”.  It doesn’t sound like much, but for what I have planned I feel it will be sufficient.

On top of the cinder block he ran two lengths of landscape timbers with the flat side up to act as support between the cinder blocks.  

As he did this I went around the property looking for suitable “planters”.  Because I was mainly planting tomatoes, which can have a taproot of 21 inches I needed large pots.  Which I already had several of in the main garden area.

One problem, those pots were either too heavy to move, or crumbling due to the years of being out in year round weather.  Most of those were not going to work.  Better to leave them where they were to grow native grasses for the geese in.

At Gary’s suggestion I took a hard look at other options, including some black plastic file boxes.  Their size and shape were great for the use I had in mind, but their color had me concerned.  I didn’t want to bake my garden while it was growing and Oklahoma summers can get intense.

After much consideration I decided to go with them because during the hottest days I can use shade cloth over them and during the cooler fall days they will help extend the harvest, hopefully.

We had nine of those boxes still in useable condition despite being over 20 years old.  That still left a lot of space to fill in on the long narrow support system Gary had assembled.

I found five large round flower pots that could be moved and used.  They were added to the group growing outside the short fence to be lifted into the garden once the base was ready. 

The remainder of the space was filled with 5 gallon soda syrup jugs we had received for free from a local feed store that Gary had previously cut the bottom off of.  By turning these upside down the spout became the drain to prevent over watering.  

Once all the containers were gathered outside the fence they were moved into the little garden where they were placed alternating the white colored jugs between the dark colored containers to help distribute the heat from or the lack there of the sun depending upon the season. The black tubs would be heat sinks so to speak. 

Gary drilled drain holes in the containers that didn’t already have some and we are ready to begin filling the garden up.

This gave me 16 feet of roughly 2 foot wide garden space.  In another subsection of the pen we will place an old, beyond repair,  wheel barrel as a planter.  More on this in a later post.

I already have porch rail flower baskets on my porches so I ordered a roll of coconut fiber to line them with.  The plan is to fill these baskets with items like herbs, radishes, and other shallow growing edibles, including edible flowers.  I will add more about this as time goes on as well.

I had attended the Sand Springs Herbal Affair in April and had been working hard at keeping tomato, pepper and catnip plants alive indoors until the weather leveled out some.  If it ever levels out in Oklahoma.

These would be the first thing to plant, but first I needed to fill all those pots. 
I am a firm believer in organic gardening via the Lasagna Gardening method, be it on the ground, or in a pot.  I had several bags, albeit not enough, of compost and garden soil on hand.  I also had an abundance of pine needles and leaves  That left only peat moss/coconut fiber substitute that would be needed to help hold moisture in the pots. 
By using the soils I had on hand that helped cut the cost of the set-up at to a minimum.  

Up to that point we had spent $14 for the four landscape timbers because all the ones we currently had were being used.  We had also spent $15 on garden plants to that point.

Most everything else I plan on growing from seed and because I am a seed saver and a bargain shopper I have pretty much all the seeds I need on hand.

Therefore the entire cost up to this point of this garden, including the natural moisture control will be under $50 once the coconut fibers are all paid for.

Not a bad start.

Jan who will go into the intensive planting of the pots in her next post in OK

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Achieving Goals and Debt Freedom with the Power of Positive Thinking

A few days ago someone on the list, posted basically the idea that you should just go for it and try something new.  A very good thought.  After all of us on that list hadn’t “gone for it” we wouldn’t be here becoming debt free.

That same night as I listened to coast to coast on the free intune radio on my phone via pillow speakers I realized their subject for the evening went hand in hand with what had been posted, TMMO and all our attitudes on that plan.

The speaker was very interesting he went into various studies that had been on the power of positive thinking, thinking he would disprove the theory entirely.  Only he found that it did work instead.

He cited many instances of the sugar pill as a control group theory, but he went past that and discussed how not only can we improve our situation with positive thinking and prayer (which is positive thinking when you think about it) but how we can hold ourselves back with negative, or the lack of thinking.

The example he cited of that was the hard working hotel and office housekeeping staffs all across the nation.  He pointed out that in reality most of them worked hard and burned far more calories than most people do on a daily basis.  But a study showed that as a whole they seldom lost weight when obtaining this type of work.  Further study showed that it was because  they thought of it as a “job” not exercise and therefore with that mental mindset, even though they were burning more calories than they previously had they didn’t lose weight.

To prove this they did a study where the control group was told nothing of the theory, but the other group was.  The control group lost zero weight, where the informed group lost considerable weight doing the exact same jobs. 

It is kind of the same with following the TMMO.  It is not a new concept.  Dr says that himself “exact same advice as grandma…”, but some people never achieve being debt free and living like no one else, because they are just “doing the job” and they see every tiny set back as a complete failure on their part.  While others see the goal, see the day to day accomplishments, the pennies saved here and there that soon mount up to dollars saved and they achieve it.

He said this concept works on all aspects of our lives.  We should feel good about what we do accomplish each day and tell ourselves this on a daily basis, be positive, not negative.

His suggestions was each day when you lay in bed for those first few golden moments between sleep and being fully away and at it for the day, and again just as you are falling asleep you should tell yourself something positive and repeat it twenty times.

An example” I am a list maker I set 12 goals for myself a day.  Most days I don’t reach all 12 goals because life happens, but then the world won’t end if I don’t accomplish them.  In fact I often get frustrated I don’t get more accomplished.  So I am trying his positive thinking theory. 

So now each morning I say “I did better on my goals yesterday than I’ve been doing” and at night I say “I did better on my goals today than I’ve been doing.”  And guess what I am.  I also repeat this on and off all day, along with “I am burning extra calories by doing this and I will lose weight.”  I’ve only been doing this a short while, so no noticeable weight loss yet, but it can’t hurt to be positive about losing weight now can it?

So I challenge you to be positive about yourself, and achieve your dreams.  Our totally debt free dream is very nearly a reality because we were positive we could do it and you can too.

Jan who is the official Pollyanna of the Dave Ramsey group on in OK

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


People who are on various lists and groups with me are probably getting tired of me saying this over and over, but folks you really NEED to read every bill you get, understand it, question what you don’t understand because in doing so you can save your family hundreds if not thousands every year. 

 Billing errors are a huge drain on our economy.  Most are truly accidents, but others you sometimes have to wonder about.  Some are small others, like some I recently discovered are HUGE!

Here are some examples I have “discovered” in the past and when I suggested to others they check their similar bills they too “discovered” they were being over billed.

Let’s start with utility companies.  One I really keep an eye out for is on the power bill.  Especially a program called “Share the Warmth” or similar titles.  More than once that item has appeared on my bill as a payment due.  It supposedly is for paying the bills for those who can’t afford their winter heating bills, it is NOT a mandatory part of the bill.  It is voluntary.  Only they add it to your bill and you have to “volunteer” to be exempted from paying it.  The amount varies from month to month because it is based on a percentage of your bill.

Not only is their system backwards on how you join it (they sign you up and you have to ask to be removed from it) the money does not, generally, go to those in need.  There have been numerous news stories on this.  It goes into a general fund to cover people who have defaulted on bills and does nothing to help those currently struggling, it goes to help keep the power company’s profit margin up, plain and simple. 

 I keep a very close eye on this because quite frankly to me the cost of the power company doing business is their problem not mine.  I always have it removed from my bill when it pops up.

Land line phone companies are very good at insisting you have to purchase their packages that include conference calling, long distance etc when you get a land line in order to have internet service.  Only you CAN opt out of those services, they simply don’t tell you that unless you ask. Why pay for them when you have all that on your cell phone?  They don’t tell you that you don’t have to pay for a package, they just bill you for it until you protest.  

There is also a process called “Slamming” which scammers use to add to your phone bill without you realizing it.  You sign up for a sweepstakes, they want your phone number to “notify you if you win” but what they don’t tell you is when you voluntarily give them your phone number you are signing up for their “special” call forwarding, long distance or other service.  Because you have signed up for the sweepstakes technically the phone company has to add it to your bill—same with cell phones—until you demand it be removed, and then that can be a very lengthy problem.  We once had to change our phone number to get the company to stop billing us for a service we did not want. Then they tried to send us to "collections" for services not received. 

Cell phones, oh let me count the ways I have found errors on cell phone bills.  International calling—never signed up for it, never used it, but it was included in our package for an extra fee, extra phone line charges when no extra phones were added, activation fees on a phone that had been active for three years, double activation fees, at two different prices, I might add for one new phone purchased, data fees—when we have an unlimited data plan, roaming fees when we never left our immediate area, taxes for another state than I live in, double insurance—on an old phone I didn’t even want insured, deductible on phone replacement when my insurance policy clearly stated there was no deductible.  The list goes on and on, for cell phones.  

My absolute favorite on the cell phone was when we were still paying by the “minute”.  Ds actually worked for that particular cell phone company at the time and his service was suppose to be free even though dh and my phones were by the minute, so it made it made the situation even more stupid.

He made a single phone call to a friend in another city.  The call lasted 15 minutes, we were bill for 45 minutes worth of time in that 15 minute time frame.  According to their phone records he had hung up and redialed over 50 times in that 15 minute time frame.  WHILE talking to her constantly for the 15 minutes.

Yes the bill, showed a continuous speaking time of 15 minutes as well as 50 times of dialing from the same number to the same number in that exact same 15 minutes.  A physical impossibility.  Yet it took numerous phone calls to get a human to understand that it could not be done, especially on a bill that was free to begin with.  We are talking over $100 on that particular incident.

Fine, you say, so that one was over $100, the others they are peanuts not worth my time or effort.  Really?  As Granny always said “Mind your pennies and your dollars will mind themselves.”

But I mentioned earlier thousands of dollars, oh yeah, billing errors that large can truly happen, and in fact do happen on a daily basis all over the US in just about every town, city, borough, you name it.

The biggest offenders I have found are medical bills.  When my father died I was executor of his estate and was amazed as I went through his final bills that the hospital had charged him for meals—when he had been on nothing by mouth the last week of his life—respiratory services, room charges and much more up to THREE DAYS AFTER he had died! Have you priced a hospital room charge lately, we are talking hundreds per day.

I thought that to be a one time fluke, then my grandmother died.  This time it was prescriptions delivered to her nursing home and supposedly dispensed to her days after she had died.  Okay, so maybe that is twice and still that one isn’t in the thousands of dollars.

Then my wonderful husband had a series of illnesses the last of last year and the first two months of this year.  What a comedy of errors. These are some of the items I have found and had corrected so far.  I won’t name hospitals, or doctors but here’s what I have ran into so far, and he is still being treated for some of his ailments. I shudder to think what else I will find as we go forward.

1.     My husband has Medicare part A, which covers the hospital bills only, it works in conjunction with our other insurance provider to pay 100% of the actual hospital bill, IF it is ever applied.  It wasn’t.  Seriously, the hospital never filed for it.  UNTIL I realized they hadn’t and insisted they do so.  The savings, over $11,000 on the first visit and roughly $9,000 on the second.  

2.     One doctor billed us for TWO initial visits.  The key term here is “initial” there can only be one initial visit.  The difference between an initial visit and a regular hospital visit is $180. 

3.     Transitional care to another doctor $470, only it wasn’t another doctor it was our regular doctor.  So who was transitioning where? The office visit should have been our co-pay of $35, so $435 difference there.

4.     Insurance deductibles, folks watch these closely.  Because of when the visits happened we had to meet our deductible twice, because one hospital stay was in 2014 and the other was two weeks later in 2015 for an entirely different reason.  That is understandable, it is two different years.  

    However, our 2015 deductible is $5,000 and we were still being charged for deductible at the $9,000 mark.  The insurance company simply hadn’t noted that we met our deductible with the first hospital stay in early January and kept applying our balance due to deductibles.  That’s $4,000 when I stopped that procedure, how much higher it could of gone I have no idea, but for our math we'll use the $4,000.

5.     Insurance not filed.  Doctor bills have been received where visits have never been filed on our insurance, you often have to really read your bill to catch this one, because unless you compare the office visit charges to what the insurance company says has been filed you can miss this one.  It is especially hard if the bill is many pages long, but it is definitely worth the effort to wade through it one item at a time. That was nearly $300.

6.     Co-pays and deductibles charged by hospitals and doctors upfront, and then they still get paid in full by the insurance, meaning they get your money and the insurance money resulting in you having a credit balance, only unless you read your insurance payouts you are likely to not catch this and request the refund. $450 on our bills so far. Refunds were requested of course. All companies concerned have agreed I have the money coming and will send me a check, they say.

7.     Billing for services not received.  Therapy sessions not given was this offender.  Filed complaint got them backed off $200.

8.     Payments made by us that were “returned to the insurance company due to insurance overpayment”  only at that point the insurance had not paid a penny, and there would be a balance still due for the services rendered after the insurance was paid.   $70. 

There have been other things, but these were the ones that came to mind while typing this.  I truly don’t believe that most of these were purposeful, I simply think it is because people are not doing due diligence on their jobs. While one doctor's office was a huge offender several have had these errors.   Had I not been vigilant in my bill reading we would have been out an extra $25,857 minimum (remember the deductible could have kept climbing).   

That is more than some households make in a year.  That is how much taking time to read and understand our medical bills at the minimum I have saved us so far in just the last 3 months on medical bills.  So is it worth your while to take time, to sit down in a quiet space and study your bills?  Absolutely!

My husband estimates that by reading bills, and RECEIPTS (I  catch items on grocery and other purchase receipts constantly.  Items double scanned, or charged at regular price when they are on sale generally)  for items purchased that I save us roughly $10,000 a year on average.  It generally only takes a few minutes to read the bills and if more of us did, fewer errors would be made.

Jan who says she has a lot better places to put that $25,857 minimum so far this year than in someone else’s pocket in OK