Apr 10 2011

trash or treasure? [day 319]

There’s a lot of stuff that might be considered trash, but before you throw something away, think about the possible uses for it.  These are partially full cleaning supplies and pesticides, well, there’s also a random bottle of unopened champagne too.  Just because it’s half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective) and you don’t want it, dosen’t mean someone else can’t use it.  I list this on freecycle and it was gone in a matter of hours.  Yes, it’s my waste, but it doesn’t need to end up in a landfill or disposal center.

Before you throw things away, here’s some things to think about.

  • Repurpose. Could I repurpose this for something else?
  • Sell. Is this something that I could sell?
  • Give. Is this something I could give away?  Do I know anyone who might use this or need this?  Will a thrift store take it?  Remember, your trash might be some else’s treasure.  Put it on freecycle.  If it doesn’t go on freecycle, it might just be trash.
  • Green. What is the best environmental way to get rid of this item?  Can it be recycled?
  • Good. Is there a way to use this to bless someone else?  Can you give it to a fundraiser or charity?
  • Plan. Why did you buy this in the first place?  Have you made a plan not to buy it, or anything similar again?
  • Repurchase. If you need this item or something similar in the future, is there a smaller size or is it something you can borrow?

Yes, this is a lot to think about each time you plan to get rid of something, but if you start doing this, it will change your habits.  It will be easier to get rid of things because you will have a process and your shopping habits will change, as you will think long-term about something before you buy it.  It’s a win-win.  :)


Mar 14 2011

iphone flip case [minimalist challenge item #25]

[item] Faux leather iPhone flip case

[purchase info] Purchased new for about $4.00

[time in my possession] Approximately 3.5 years

[last used] About 2 years ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Freecycle

[info] I had bought 2 cases online.  These look nice but they’re not too functional.


Mar 2 2011

a new hand-me-down [day 280]

This Children’s Place t-shirt is for sale NEW, and not a used hand-me-down, even though it says it’s a hand-me-down.  Am I missing something here?  I don’t get it.  Why would someone buy this new?  If you buy it new, your kid is walking propaganda that you’re a liar.  Also, if you’re buying new stuff, why would you want it to say that it’s a hand-me-down if it’s not?  I guess you could buy it, put it on your kid for a few minutes, wash it, then give it away?  Still not getting it.  I like the recycling and reusing message on the shirt, but really?  This should be a custom made t-shirt… on a used t-shirt.


Jan 31 2011

I don’t like to drink bubble bath [day 249]

I met with some friends at a local coffee shop a couple of days ago.  Coffee shops are good… the implied earthy feel, the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, the trendy decor, the comfortable seats, the people watching entertainment and the busy sounds of much needed liquid caffeine being altered into complex 8 word requests from the addicts.  I say all of that as I sit here drinking my one-shot, non-fat latte.  A latte I made at home for a fraction of the cost of a coffee shop latte.  Yes, I’m sitting at home, alone, looking at the mess I should be picking up, laundry I should be washing and saving money by not going to the coffee shop to blog.

Because I don’t like paper waste, I bring my own cup or mug to anyplace that will fill it, as opposed to a paper or styrofoam cup.  I brought my retro orange mug into the coffee shop, and thinking about the 2 lattes I’ve had already, I really didn’t need another.  But I also wanted to purchase something, as I’m sure they don’t appreciate me bringing in my own cup with my own drink.  (yes, I admit, I’ve done that before)  I decided to get a tea bag, as it’s probably the cheapest thing they have and I can use it a few times before it just makes hot water look dingy.  So I got a tea bag that was some sort of green tea.  ”That will be $2.44…” the cashier said with a smile.  ??!!?  $2.44 for a tea bag?  I paid, irritated with myself for not looking for a price before ordering this.  I got my tea, in my retro mug and took at seat in the loft.

As I sat down and started to take a sip of my steaming hot tea, the shocking aroma of lilac stopped me immediately.  I was pretty sure I was about to drink hot bubble bath.  I took a deep breath and tried it.  It didn’t taste as horrible as it smelled, and for $2.44, I’m going to drink it.  I tell my kids not to be wasteful, so I’m gonna suck it up.  (pun intended)

I drank about 3/4 of it and spent a lot of time thinking of other uses for this tea bag.

Green tea?  Not so much.  Bubble bath?  Possibly, but it would stain my tub.  Fabric dye?  That would work, but I can’t think of anything I need to dye that color.  A drawer sachet?  I do not want my clothes smelling like that!  Air freshener?  Not a chance.  Perfume?  I could send it to my mom’s friend that used to wear vodka and lilac as perfume.  She my enjoy it.  Aroma therapy?  No, this would be like aroma torture.  Decor?  I’m creative, and even I can’t make this work as a decor item.  Any ideas?  It’s still sitting on my counter.

My idea.

I’m not opposed to spending $2.44.  I am opposed to spending that because I didn’t need anything to drink.  What if these coffee shops had a program to buy something for someone in need?  I go there, use their free wi-fi, take up table space, meet my friends there that are spending money, but my purchase is for a homeless person to have a cup of coffee or for a donation of their coffee to a local food pantry?  This could be a win-win-win.  I have a good place to meet friends, the coffee shop builds their business, someone in need gets a little help and our community is a better place.  Works in my head.  :)


Jan 24 2011

how many kids does it take to screw in a light bulb? [day 244]

My kids keep leaving lights on all the time.  Mostly in their rooms, but also other rooms, where I don’t have energy efficient lighting.  They weren’t always this way.  To make a point about electric costs and being wasteful, I used to charge them 25¢ each time they left a light on in the bathroom or in their bedroom.  At first, it was a nice offset to my utility bill, as they left the lights on frequently.  After a period of time, I got less money, as their habits started to change.  Over time, I stopped asking for payments, and over more time, their habits returned to forgetting to turn off lights and being wasteful again.  Time to regroup.

I could start charging them again, but I felt we needed something different.  Light bulb!!!  I had an idea.  I will educate them by showing them the utility bill, explain kilowatt hours and challenging them to a low utility bill.  If it’s lower than our projected amount, they get a fun dinner at Gattitown.  Also, because I thought they needed something tangible and a little out of pocket cost, I made them each buy 2 boxes of CF light bulbs.  This would allow me to switch out more of the bulbs we use frequently to save on energy costs.

We got the bulbs at Aldi.  They’re much cheaper there than anywhere else I could find.  You don’t have to buy yours there, but at least look to find them on sale, as many of the major retailers will run sales on them.  Aldi’s prices are half of what the other retailers charge for these.   I couldn’t find much info on this On brand off brand.  Ha!  Get it?  So far, these work as well as the other brands I have.  And I do have some of these I’ve been using for a while and they work great.

First, we replaced the 6 bulbs in the kids bathroom.  I replaced them with only 4 bulbs, and it’s still to bright, so much that the kids are complaining about it.  I’ll take one out, and that will have decreased the bathroom lighting cost overall by 87.5%.  Then I replaced all the lamp bulbs and the lights over my stove top.  I tried to replace the kitchen halogen lights, which have the standard bulb socket, however these won’t work, as the ballast on the bulb is too large to fit in the opening.  Bummer, because that would have been the biggest savings of all.

And don’t worry, I found a good home for all of the old bulbs, as they shouldn’t go to waste.  :)


Jan 22 2011

a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth.  Continue reading


Jan 19 2011

recycle your electronics for good [day 238]

I saw this recycling box at the local camera shop.  No, I wasn’t shopping, I had to go there for work.  I was surprised to see the red dot that says, “10% of proceeds will go to charity”.  10%?  There are a lot of collection boxes where all of the proceeds go to charity.  I know there’s some cost involved with the recycling or repurposing of electronics, but this is clearly a retail profit center.  I’m not against retailers making money, but if you have a choice of 10% or 100% of proceeds going to help people, wouldn’t you rather choose 100%?

The really important thing here is that these electronics don’t end up in a landfill.  Most of them contain toxic materials that pollute our drinking water and our environment.  As long as the dumb phones, VCR’s, camcorders, old cameras and old computers stay out of the trash, I can live with a little bit of retailer pocket padding.  If you have a choice of 10% or 100% though, go for the 100%.


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading


Dec 24 2010

twas the night before Christmas… the culturally correct version [day 211]

Let me me be perfectly honest here.  I really hate holidays.  And, I’m an equal opportunity holiday hater, I don’t like any of them.  I love Christmas, that is the true meaning of Christmas, but I hate the cultural crap that comes along with it.  I just want to skip all this and move on to the new year.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of money I don’t have, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sweets, I don’t want to do the holiday dog and pony show, I don’t want to go to holiday parties alone, I don’t want to go to them with a spouse I don’t have, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. I do not like green trees, this sham or culture’s Christmas, mad I am.

Some people think the Grinch stole Christmas, nobody cared, so he gave it back and everyone lived happily ever after.  That’s the fictional version of the story, because you and I know darn well, that if someone stole all of the things in our house and all the gifts from under the tree, we would not all be in the street holding hands and singing.   The story would be a little different…  Here it is, in the form of “Twas the night before Christmas.” Enjoy…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town

Many creatures were stirring, using credit around;

The plasma tv was unloaded with care,

In hopes that the credit bill was lost in the mail;

My kids wanting toys, finances in red,

While visions of electronics danced in their heads;

Me on my laptop, looking for deals,

Wondering where I will get the next meal;  Continue reading


Nov 18 2010

to infiniti and beyond… [day 175]

I decided to take my 14 year old car in to be repaired, as it’s been 5 years since I’ve had any major work done to it.  Of course, I do keep up with the oil changes and regular maintenance items.  My car is old,  and runs wonderfully well.  It’s an Infiniti QX4, a car I’ve had for 10 years now.  I’m not only a fan of their cars, but also their service.  The dealership service usually costs a bit more, but they’ve always been good and honest.  To me, that’s priceless… however it’s still painful when the invoice comes in.

I brought it in for a few reasons, one being to check the oil situation (blogged a couple of days ago after being refused an oil change), the other was the shocks.  Since they’re the originals, I’ve basically gotten 4 lives out of them, but my car on the highway is like riding a wave runner through a wake.  My good friends, sitting in the back seat, decided to rock it back and forth and I thought it was going to flip.   Continue reading