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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


On one facebook group I am on I have been asked to post a money saving tip each day.  I usually try to keep it fairly short, which as my followers know is really hard for me.  The original tip I thought of for posting today started out a small thought but the more I thought about it the more I realized it needed to be a longer post than a morning tip of the day.

Anyone who has been around me knows that since I have been following the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps I’ve been squeezing pennies so tight I’ve made Lincoln cry and then used those tears to water my garden.  We are nearing our goal of being debt free at a more rapid pace because of it and I am thrilled, but the constant reading of labels and such sometimes gets to me.

“What do you mean reading labels?” you ask.  Reading labels, price tags and use information can be an essential part of saving money.

Everyone knows the question “When is a sale not a sale?” where certain items are concerned and some “gotcha” sale things are easy to spot.  Like the 5 for $$$ items that if you don’t buy all 5 you have to pay a jacked up price for items 1-4. 

Another is figuring price per ounce/unit.  A prime example of this was a “sale” I found on cream the other day.  Yes, cream is expensive, but I do use it in my day to day cooking because just a small amount of it can make even a cheap potato taste luscious—more on this in a bit. 

Back to buying cream, which I often do.  It was “on sale” for $3.66 a quart.  Big sale sign touting what a good bargain it was.  However, sitting one shelf below it were pint containers for $1.39 each, every day price.  Hmmm, math nerd here.  Two pints equal a quart and 2 x $1.39 = $2.78.  I bought four pints and we had homemade ice cream to celebrate Labor Day weekend. The store was banking on people seeing the “sale” sign and them not doing the math on the every day pint price.

By reading and spending a little time in doing so I essentially saved $1.76 before tax.  Mind your pennies…

However, if I had been pricing a name brand cream and using a coupon, the quart might have worked out cheaper.  These are basic grocery shopping facts that most everyone already knows.

Now granted I could have skipped the cream altogether and gone with a cheaper alternative (this is the get to in a bit part).  However, the taste would have changed considerably.  A great example of that is the ice cream we made.  It is after all ice CREAM.  Yes you can make it with just about any type of milk, including evaporated milk, but the taste is NOT the same.  Neither is the texture. Why go through the steps to make an inferior quality product?  We don’t make it often, so when we do we want it to be a great tasting special treat.

Cookies, and other foods made with real butter have a completely different taste, texture and quality to them than ones made with the cheapest margarine you can find.  Some studies have found that eating “real butter” is better for you, while others say margarine is better for you.  That choice is yours and for you alone to decide.

Around here I absolutely hate food waste, one of the biggest blow to a financial budget can be the waste of anything, especially food.  So I use real products, albeit often the store brand, to cook with I find far less of it goes to waste if I use real butter, real cream, real vanilla, etc.

 If you end up throwing out the leftover mashed potatoes because no one really liked the flat taste of the margarine and skim milk in them how have you saved money over using a dab of cream and some butter?  I know my family will re-heat the mashed potatoes I make to go with a lunch, or I’ll turn them into potato pancakes or potato salad—in fact I plan leftovers for just that purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, in certain recipes, especially the ones for camping, I will use the dehydrated foods from my food storage, but there is always real butter riding along in the camper to add the touch of flavor we want.

But reading labels and prices isn’t just for groceries. You need to apply it to EVERYTHING YOU PURCHASE!!

Here are a few other examples.

Winter is coming on and the thoughts of heating that one room that is always cold comes to mind.  So you head out to Wally World, Lowe’s, Home Depot, online, wherever, to look at space heaters.

Oh my, look at all the different types and prices!  Which one is the best buy for the money.  Time to read the box.

You should know the size of the area you want to heat.  No sense in getting one that will heat Radio City Music Hall if you are only trying to heat a tiny bathroom.  So know your space.

Check what type of power source it requires, while most on the market at the afore mentioned places are for 110 some are at 220.  220 requires special wiring and that means an electrician and permits in some areas.  So those additional costs need to be added in. 

While looking at the power source also look at the power usage.  This is a HUGE thing to consider.  You want the most possible heat for the least amount of electricity usage.  

Will the unit need to sit on a special mat? If so that cost must be included.  How far from the wall and other structures must it sit?  Do you have that much space where you are planning on sitting it?

Automatic turn off if it should be knocked over? You really don’t want to burn your house down, so this is an important feature.  Houses are really expensive.

Cool touch on the outside?  A burn to human or pet is not only painful it can get expensive.

Is it going in an area that there might be moisture?  If so does it, or your wall, have a ground fault protector? If not you could be in for a “shocking” experience.

Once you have read and compared all these items you might find that for safety sake, comfort AND overall money savings the more expensive heater may be the best choice after all.

When looking at fans and air conditioner next spring/summer many of these same factors come into play.

Carrying on with the theme, most people reading this either own or at some point in the future will own a printer for their computer.  Cheaper is quite often definitely NOT better where printers are concerned.  Again read the label, not only the label of the printer, but the label of the ink you will be using with that printer.

Over the years we have owned more printers than your average person, but then I write a lot and so does ds, plus all those mystery shops require a lot of printing. So one of the very first things we check when shopping for a new printer is the ink and/or toner costs.

The cheapest printer we’ve ever owned was also the most expensive to run.  It was free the friend even delivered it to me.  I soon figured out why she was giving it away. 

I first thought it was because it printed and nothing else, no scanning, no copies, just printing and only in black and white.  It was a simple barrel printer and it would meet our needs for printing out mystery shopping paperwork. 

It was also small and fit in a small barrel bag which was perfect since this was at the time we were traveling and doing mystery shops to survive unemployment.  

It also only printed about 50 pages per ink cartridge! That wouldn’t have been bad if the cartridges had been cheap, but it turned out it was some of the most expensive ink on the market at that time. 

It wasn’t long before the math nerd here did the math and realized that by doing a mystery shop for printers, where the company paid for part of the printer purchase—that was a sweet shop, and buying a printer that used much cheaper cartridges that printed multiple more pages ( a whole lot more) per cartridge was going to save us money in the long run.  We purchased the new printer.

A note here, because we do travel a lot and our printer does go with us I do purchase extended warranties on printers, despite what Dave Ramsey says on the subject.  The extended warranties for printers are generally fairly cheap and in the last four years I have had my printer replaced with a brand new printer FOUR times.  Of course I’ve had to purchase a new extended warranty each time, but I save over half the cost of the printer each time above the cost of that warranty.  In fact the printer I am using right now is headed in to be replaced soon because the display screen has ceased to work and it’s not even traveled an inch. 

Reading the electric usage on items around here extends to EVERYTHING we use that is electric.  A cheap crockpot that uses three times the energy over one that is a few dollars more gets by passed for the more expensive one with a good warranty because I use my crockpot all year round and a lot.  The energy costs far out way the small difference in original purchase price.

While my blow dryer is used for drying wet baby birds and not my hair, I still check the power usage.  All those watts can add up to a huge electric bill if you aren’t careful.

Mowers, cars, trucks, chain saws, we look at fuel and oil usage.

Another thing we check is ease to repair and the cost of replacement parts. When a horse kissed our heated outside rear view mirror on our truck we were astounded when we were told the part alone was over $700! For a mirror! We have learned in the future to avoid fiber glass “hips” on dually trucks because they break easily and you are looking at a hefty repair bill to replace that quarter panel, they can’t be glued back together, where with a set of metal hips you can knock the dents out and keep on trucking.  Knocking dents out my guys can do, replacing quarter panels and painting them, well that generally takes a pro where we are concerned.  Anyone priced the hourly labor costs for a quality body and paint shop lately.  It will make you gasp, and the employees aren’t the ones being paid that huge hourly wage generally.

Had we known all of this we would have reconsidered the truck we were buying.  However, otherwise it has been a very good truck that now has nearly 200,000 miles on it and we plan on keeping it for a very long time.

Clothing is another thing to read the label closely on.  We have maybe three things in this house that say “dry clean only”.  That is by choice, those three things are suits for the men. 

We avoid items that are not colorfast.  After all who wants a load of pink underwear?  If it requires ironing, it’s not coming home if I can help it!  Ironing is not only time consuming it uses electricity that I’d prefer to not waste.  I use to do ironing for extra income, but no longer.

Appliances, again read the label for all the previously mentioned things, but also for what type of machine it is.  Is it completely computerized?  If so it dies you are going to be out a repair cast generally bigger than one that isn’t. 

Do you really need a blender with 30 speeds? I am still using a circa 1970’s Oster Kitchen Center that has about 8 speeds and a pulse for all my major cooking days.  I have nearly all the attachments for it and I find those 8 speeds do everything I need.

New dishwasher, washer or dryer in your future?  Think about how you use those machines right now.  How many settings do you truly use?  If you are like me, regular load and an occasional delicate load.  So why do I need a computerized washer that has 8 different types of loads?  If I want to pre-soak I simply fill the load as normal, add my presoak and turn the machine off for awhile. 

Dishwasher, I never use the soak and hold cycle.  Generally when I am sterilizing jars to can with I am only using a few jars so I do those on the stove rather than run a full sanitize load in the dishwasher. 

Now I do use (about once a year) the self cleaning feature on my oven, so I will spring for a little extra for that.  Same for the self defrosting on the refrigerator and freezers when I am purchasing those.  Time is money after all. Plus I’m lazy and those jobs take a lot of time and effort.

So here we are many words later and the message is still simple.  READ YOUR LABELS, BE INFORMED BEFORE YOU BUY! Because if you do, you will save a lot of money in the long run.

Jan who says Lincoln’s tears have to be used sparingly because they are salty in OK


Thursday, September 5, 2013


On the Dave Ramsey group I am known as the official dispenser of “Pollyanna Pills.”

This is because like Pollyanna in the Disney film by the same name played by Hayley Mills I try to find the silver lining in everything I can.  When we suddenly became unemployed I stated it was probably the best thing that ever happened to us. Guess what, I was right, it was.

Because of that sudden change in our financial status that lasted for 18 long months we became closer and worked harder as a family unit.  Our lives have improved in all aspects as a result.

However, just like Hayley Mills’ character even I have down periods.  We are so close to being debt free I can taste it, but for a while now it has been so hard to stick to the plan.  I was tired after four long years of “doing without”.  Most folks don’t take near as long as we are taking getting debt free, but most weren’t as far in debt as we were, and most don’t lose their jobs just two months after starting the Total Money Makeover.  We’ve actually done well.  I truthfully and thankful for what all we have accomplished and how close we are to being debt free.

So why was I feeling so down? I pondered this for several days then one morning as I was getting dressed for daily chores I realized it was because I was MAKING myself feel poor.  Yes, MAKING myself.

I looked at the clothes I was dragging out of my seriously overstuffed closet to put on.  A stained and holey t-shirt to go with equally worn out shorts and socks from the bureau across the room.

WHY? Why was I even considering wearing these things?  It definitely wasn’t from a clothing shortage on my part.  Goodness I couldn’t even get my hand in the closet to get the t-shirt it was so tightly packed and we are talking a huge walk in closet with closet organizers!  There were enough clothes in there I could go  a few years without wearing the same outfit twice!  WHY?

It hadn’t been that long since I culled some clothes and “straightened up” but here I was grabbing the same stained t-shirt I had been wearing, washing, repeat once a week for months.  Why?

I didn’t use to EVER wear anything that was stained or had holes in it. Why was I doing so now?  This was a serious question. One so serious I sat down and mulled it over.

Finally I came up with the answer.  Because I had decided on some level I HAD to do without because we were so far in debt, we were “poor”.  How stupid was that?

One of my favorite Dave Ramsey quotes is “Poor is a state of mind. Broke is, 'I'm just passing through.'" So how had I let this sneak up on me?  We weren’t poor, we were broke.  Broke is temporary.  

I looked again at the clothes I had laid out for the day and thought “I can do better than this, I AM better than this!”  Struggling with the tightly packed closet I dug until I found a comfortable unstained, hole free t-shirt that I wouldn’t mind if I did ruin it and put it on instead.  Over at the bureau I dug through the over flowing drawers and pulled out decent clothing from the skin out and then I got dressed and put on decent shoes instead of my worn out Crocs. 

Suddenly I felt so much better.  I looked better and my gloom was lifting.  I realized again that I had been making myself feel down.  I declared out loud to the cats surrounding me wanting breakfast “NO MORE!  I’m through with feeling poor!”

As soon as morning chores were over I started first on the closet, then later my bureau drawers.  EVERYTHING that was stained, had holes, too big, too small, came out.  It was sorted into stacks

1.     Rag bag.  Those 100% cotton items that would make good cleaning rags.

2.     Recyclable fabric.  We have a local charity that will take those items, tear them up and recycle the fabric.

3.     Wearable, but not by me.  These items were for the local charity resale shop.

4.     Non-burn.  Too bad for the other stacks and yes I did find such items.

The volume I pulled out was astounding I could not believe I had kept all those depressing items in my closet. More than once I asked myself again "Why?"

As I sorted things out I also sorted in the closet.  I organized my clothing in the following order:

1.     To wear around the house.  These were unstained hole free items that were comfortable, but that I probably would not wear out in public.  Items like free advertisement t-shirts from all the different seminars and events we’ve gone to.  Perfectly good shirts, but really not the style I want to show out in public.  Shirts I wouldn’t mind if I ruined them while scrubbing out a coop or doing other dirty jobs around the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch.

2.     Go to town clothing.  Pretty self explanatory.

Once the main cull out was done I went back through the remaining two groups and broke the two groups down even further.

1.     Short sleeved

2.     Long sleeved

3.     Sweats

4.     Holiday

Those four groups were also basically color sorted.  It all sounds a little excessive I know, but what that organization did for my over all attitude was HUGE! Suddenly I felt completely back in control.  I was “donating” to charities, I was dressing nicely, instead of like a poor person and I could actually maneuver clothing in my closet easily instead of breaking my finger nails while trying to get something in or out of it.  I could still dress for over a year if we should suddenly find ourselves without electric and water to do laundry. As I stood back and looked at the organized long racks of clothing I felt pleased.  I felt in control again.

This got me to thinking about other ways I had been making myself “feel poor”.  Hmmm, there were the broken or not working properly household appliances I had been doing without.  Next step was to do the required repairs on those.  Repairs that very often turned out to be free to do.  A prime example of those was the clothes dryer that was taking several times through to dry a single load.  I convinced the guys to pull the dryer out and look for a clog in the vent line.  Viola! A quick drying load! Think of the electricity we will save.  Plus the time of going back and forth to the utility room to “re-do” a load. 

The house was starting to look a little ran down, so we started on fixing that.  Example: the front porch had suddenly started coming apart.  We had the lumber leftover from another project on hand to fix it.  It took the guys two days in the heat, but now I have a wonderful safe from porch again, for FREE.

As I continue to look around for other ways we’ve been making ourselves “feel poor.” I thought I should address this issue with others.  Surely we weren’t the only people that had slipped into this mindset.  Upon chatting with others I found many people had fallen into the same trap.  Thus this post and a challenge. 

“How are you making youself feel poor, and what can you do to correct it?”

Jan who will be screaming that she is debt free before too much longer in OK