New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 7

Frugality continued

Some Special Tips for Home Buyers or Remodelers

If you are lucky enough to have the funds to do some remodeling or as was my case, I had to replace a kitchen counter and floor in order to sell my house, then these next tips are something you should consider.

  • • Do not go for the Granite or Marble counter tops. These are expensive and if you are a “greenie” they are not all that green. Their quarries are just as polluting as a strip coal mine and they too are finite earth resources. Same with most tile products not made of recycled materials. Instead you can use counter top products made of recycled paper, concrete, glass, porcelain and tile. Although the “green industry” has grabbed onto these products to facilitate their “Mega Buck, Mega Profit” mentality, they are still cheaper in the long run, last just as long if not longer and help to reduce the off-gassing of chemicals into your home. In my case I really saved by purchasing two $60.00 concrete kits which let me re-surface my old 60’s Formica counter top. It looked like a modern concrete counter top when I was done and the cost was way less than actually replacing the countertop.
  • • I also had to replace the flooring in the kitchen/family room recently and I didn't have much money to do this and I wanted a quality, bio-friendly product. For about 6 months I called and collected the scrap flooring from builders and floor stores. In my case this was bamboo. These flooring scrapes would have ended up in a recycling center or the land fill and most were free. When I was charged it was along the lines of $5.00 a big box full. When I had enough scrapes I had the floor laid, sanded and re-stained. Different bamboo sources, shorter board lengths and varied widths, different grains and even different colors since not all the original stains were the same. One very unique, natural, renewable, durable floor that only cost me for the installation, as I did the sanding and re-staining.
  • • Paint in neutral colors is the cheapest way to add a fresh look. You can strip it horizontally or vertically; make the room two tone with some walls a different shade or color; or you can enhance the size of a room by painting a lower half a different color than the upper half or ceiling.
  • Select a structure with the least amount of walls, doors, halls and archways. By archway I mean one that is door to double door width, not the kind that are the width of an entire room. The more walls, halls, doors and archways the harder your heating/cooling system must work, which means the more it will cost and the faster the system wares down costing you in replacement or maintenance dollars.
  • Look for homes that have deep seated windows as these reduce the extreme temperatures between inside and outside.
  • Check the orientation of the house to the path of the sun to take advantage of passive solar qualities for cheaper heat and cooling bills. Be sure to consider the building material and exterior color. Brick becomes a thermal mass if it is medium to dark colored, which radiates heat. This is not being green, this is being smart.
  • Keep an eye out for smart, low maintenance landscaping instead of a picture perfect much work needed yard. Less work, less money, less water, less fertilizer.
  • Stick to room sizes that meet the necessity of your lifestyle and don't let the advertising and marketing people 'talk' you into something you will rarely if ever utilize, like super large bedrooms or baths. Remember the larger the rooms, the higher the ceilings, the more it is to heat and cool. Do you really want to spend heating/cooling money that way instead of a vacation?

Before you remodel, build or buy do a Home Usage Audit of your current home.

How much time do you spend in the master bedroom other than sleeping? How much time do you spend in the spa bath other than the daily “3 S’s”? How often is that formal living and dining room used? If you find you have a lot of space in these rooms but rarely use them beyond their specialty needs, then you are wasting heating and cooling dollars – big time! Not to mention the time wasted to clean and maintain these rooms.

Here are some detail tips on doing a Home Usage Study (and be honest).
  • • List all the rooms in your home
  • • Measure each room for square and cubic feet
  • • List how you use each of these rooms and how many hours you spend in each. For bedrooms do NOT include sleeping. For Bathrooms do NOT include the daily personal hygiene routines. For Kitchens do NOT include the prep time of the three squares a day.
  • • List what you like and dislike for each room
  • • List how much time is spent maintaining/cleaning the room.
You may find like I did that I used my dining room 3-4 times a year and it was because it held my large table for my guests. This lead to getting a home with a large kitchen area that could hold my large table. My living room was only used during this time too, just because I needed the space as everyone could not fit in the family room. So my new home does not have a living room. The kitchen/family room is plenty large enough for these few times a year functions. My old master bedroom was huge, yet I rarely did anything but sleep and get dressed or when sick watch TV in it. I rarely used the separate shower or the space in the master bath. Didn't need a walk in closet once I got rid of items I hadn't worn in years. Reduce a room size and save on heating and cooling.

If you want to see the costs involved per room, take a year’s worth of heating and cooling bills and divide by the total cubic feet (not square feet) of your home. That gives you a good ball park to the cost of heating and cooling per cubic foot. Then take the cubic feet of each room and multiply by the estimated cost per cubic foot and you will see just what each room is costing you. So if you don’t use that room very often, the cost of heating and cooling a seldom or unused room sticks out like a sore thumb.

Learning from History

Take a close look at old buildings and homes from the 1700 and 1800’s. Many had deep seated windows to avoid the worst of the winds affects and to help shade the window from the sun. Most had a louver window above the doors and archways to facilitate air circulation. (The more air circulation the easier and cheaper to heat and cool.)

Older homes had smaller rooms. If you can tour one take a closer look and you will see that south facing rooms had more windows and a fireplace, while the north facing rooms had windows but no fireplace. This was true for both bedrooms and parlors. The smaller rooms between bedrooms were often the closets of the day before indoor plumbing.

Many also had summer and winter kitchens. The summer kitchen could be in the basement or outside on a covered porch on the north side, while the winter kitchen was inside on the south side of the house, close to the main living areas.

That’s because in the olden days people “moved” within the house for summer and winter to facilitate the passive heating and cooling of the sun. The south side of a home is generally warmer and the north side cooler and since most fireplaces and kitchen stoves were the heat sources of the home.

Just about every home had a root cellar or cold room for storing the harvest. Most had some kind of smokehouse built on top and these were on the north side of a home.

In northern areas most homes had an enclosed foyer or entryway to assist in keeping the temperature inside at a more even level. In rural areas the back entryway became a laundry/mud room to isolate dirt and reduce the need to sweep, mop and clean the house. This wasn’t just to save time; this was driven by the need to use their time wisely and save money.

These building arrangements or floor plans made a lot of sense for comfort as well as money savers.

With the advent of indoor plumbing and coal and gas heating, the first big shift in these floor plans was to enlarge the rooms into fewer larger rooms and stop moving around the house with the seasons.

Rural homes were a little slower at making this shift however they did start to keep the kitchen on the north side of the main floor with the general family living area open to it and the concept of the “open floor plan” was born.

Over time, what with the industrial revolution, the advent of big cities and the birth of suburbs we humans lost the common sense knowledge that cold air sinks, hot air rises and the north is cooler than the south. We also forgot that air circulation or lack of it can make a room too warm or cool and result in “layers” of warmth.

We have forgotten what it takes to grow and preserve our own food or weave our own cloth and sew our own clothes. We don’t remember that bartering and trading were the norm and standard practice, not credit cards and supermarkets. We never had to haul water from a stream or dig our own well.

Growing up in the “have” it all world of today, our youth have forgotten the hard times of the Great Depression or what it took to just survive back in the 1700’s. Yet some of us have stopped to think about all of this. We are the homesteaders, the country folk, the Preppers or survivalists and we are learning from the past and putting that knowledge to good use. Yes, history does teach and us smart people are learning and doing.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get creative”

From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading Prepper

Links to other Great Depression and Frugal Money Saving Ideas

What the Great Depression Can Teach Us About Food and Frugality
Frugal Food Tips From the Great Depression
Hard Times Bring Back Old, Frugal Ways
Learning Frugality From Our Grandparents
The Great Depression A reminiscence
What the Great Depression Can Teach you About Managing Money Today
Frugal Tips: How To Make 10 Ordinary Things Last Longer
Common sense: The new frugality
Living in a Frugal Way
Frugal Living, Saving Money, Promoting Thrift and Happy Homes (Great site, lots of frugal subjects, ways and means!)
For a whole bunch of great ideas on Frugality see Almost Frugal:
  • Back to the Frugal Basics: Building a Budget
  • Back to the Frugal Basics: Creating a Plan
  • Concepts in Frugality: Hoarding
  • Concepts in Frugality: Rethink Your Thinking
  • Concepts in Frugality: Know What You Want
  • Holidays by Hand: Ribbons and Thread
  • How to Look Fabulous, Frugally: Part Three

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 6

Frugality continued

Cardboard Boxes: I shop several times a year at a warehouse store and end up with quite a few of these.
  • • Make storage or recycle open top bins. Cover the box with old comics, aluminum foil, and decoupage with fabric or wrapping paper scraps. Line the inside with old plastic bags (shopping, garbage or whatever). Label the outside if you want. Now store whatever or start recycling.
  • • Use smaller boxes like shoe boxes for bio-degradable plant starter pots. Punch holes in the bottom for drainage. Line bottom with a sheet of newspaper. Add soil and seeds. About the time most seedlings are ready for planting the 'pot' is ready to disintegrate, so plant away!!! If you are starting your seedlings early on a cold to cool enclosed porch. Use an old Ziploc bag to cover the box and help keep them warm and frost free.
  • • For large appliance and furniture boxes see if there are any kids in the neighborhood who would like to 'play' with them. Show them how to turn a box into a fort, house, vehicle or cave by helping them decorate it with paint or magic marker. Use pieces of smaller boxes for wheels, etc. Then sit back, watch and have a few laughs!!! Be sure to take pictures. When it is all torn up, just recycle. At least you got a double use out of it first.
  • • These large boxes can be turned into hanging clothing storage boxes by notching the sides and adding a wooden dowel.
  • • Since these kinds of boxes are usually heavy duty cardboard, cut to the proper height, decorate the outside if you want and then use to contain shovels, rakes, hoes and other like items.
  • • Decorate shoe boxes and use to organize photos or trading cards. They make great sewing pattern holders too.
  • Spools of thread: These can be used to make a number of old fashioned toys.
  • • For toys they can be painted, covered with scrap cloth and strung together to make people, strung as beads for big clunky jewelry. Some types can be etched or carved into stamps that can be used with finger paint.
  • • Decorate them so they can be ornaments or garland for the tree.
  • • Many also make great bobbers for stick fishing poles.
  • • Create a floating line by stringing together and putting across a pool or stream to make a boundary for a game or just – “You can't go past this boundary” marker.
Old Clothing: We all have miss-matched or mate-less socks or socks with holes in them. Thin and holey t-shits, stretched out elastic shorts, pants and stuff. Don't throw them out.
  • • Socks make great hand puppets and stuffed animals. Additional socks, old t-shirts, underwear and fabric scraps also make great stuffing.
  • • T-shits and any cotton underwear make great cleaning rags or stuffing for toys, pillows and the like, even the pillow or pillow cover itself.
  • • Turn old jeans and shorts into tote bags or purses. I had a friend who put hangers inside some old shorts after sewing the leg bottoms together and turned it into a planter. She did some similar things with other old shirts, shorts and skirts and made them into her 'clothing' planter/garden boarder fence in her backyard. Another friend turned these into hanging wrapping paper, spice and canned goods holders.
  • • Get some old wood, add clothes, spray with any starch or waterproofing product, stuff add a hat, gloves and have a scarecrow, use as a backyard novelty/decoration if you don't have a garden.
  • • One friend of mine collects old clothing and cuts them into quilting squares and such and uses them to make the most marvelous quilts and cloth mosaic wall hangings.
Plastic bottles and jugs: Although we tend to try and avoid these, we still end up with way too many.
  • • Fill milk and juice jugs with water, sand or quickcrete, loop a string/rope thru the handle and tie to a tarp, pool or vehicle cover or anything else that needs to be weighed down.
  • • Fill gallon jugs with quickcrete to use as an anchor for canoes or small row boat.
  • • Cut the top off a jug to make the top wider, but don't cut the handle off. Makes a great scooper for dog food, dirt and sand or for snow when building snow forts.
  • • Punch a few holes in the bottom of a can or plastic bottle, decorate. Lay a strip of newspaper to bottom, add soil and a plant. You can even bolt a few different sizes together to have several plants in a planter grouping.
  • • Use the larger soda, milk and juice jugs by cutting the top off to the width of the jug then use as a miniature or single plant greenhouse for those early plantings.
  • Soup, vegetable and coffee cans: These can be made into a few interesting items.
  • • Take a metal or strong wooden pole about 4 feet long. Fill cans with quickcrete and insert to each end of pole. Let harden and you have a homemade weight bar. Smaller cans can be filled with quickcrete and used as hand weights.
  • • Use smaller cans to collect your grease. Put a hole in the bottom, put a string thru the hole and knot it. Seal with duct tape or wax. Add your grease drippings. Add some wild bird feed every once in awhile. When full, freeze. In the winter take out. Use a can opener or tin cutter to remove bottom and push the frozen grease out. Hang from a tree and watch the birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Note: If in bear country be sure place it far enough away from your back door.
  • • Kids can turn just about any size can into a pencil holder.
  • • Make an old time phone with two cans and some string for the kids.
  • • Make a wind chime out of several sizes of cans and a coat-hanger.
  • • Coffee cans with lids are great for storing nails, nuts, bolts and all kinds of things.
  • • Out of squat sized cans (pineapple) make a hot plate burner. Add rolled cardboard same height as can, put a wick in the middle and add melted wax. When the wax is set, light the wick, place under a foil pan and use to keep the food warm.
  • • Multiple sized cans can be turned into a Hobo Oven or Stove. Just do a search on the internet for instructions.
Outdoor planters and pots: Just about anything that can drain or have holes put in it to drain and hold dirt can be a planter or a plant pot.
  • • Old boots, shoes, cans, plastic containers: A child’s doll buggy or shopping cart; An old Tonka big boy dump truck; an old lunch box or even an old cloth lunch bag; Used pocketbooks, purses and tote bags; Old jewelry boxes; Old tires and hubcaps. Take a footstool that is too weak to hold weight, turn it upside down, weave old plastic bags together to form the sides; A drawer from a dresser or an old dresser or bookcase on its back. One friend bolted together a bunch of old hardcopy, hardback books to make a planter. You name it and it can probably be turned into a unique plant pot or planter for indoors or out. Use your imagination and save on trash.
The summer was a blast and we made lots of money. I bet you all have even more ideas to help us all shave a few dollars from our everyday expenses. Above all, these ideas will either save you money or make you money. So who cares about a little name calling, you get the last laugh on the way to the bank!

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 5

Frugality - Continued

Gardening and Landscaping

• Consider your landscaping. If you just like good looks but don't want the work - zeroscape. Use only local or native plants. Plan your yard or garden based on what your needs are AND what is good for your location.

• I live in the high desert of New Mexico. So I have very little grass and it is blue gamma and buffalo, native to this area. I use handmade rolling container “waffle” gardens for my vegetables. These above ground planters are on wheels made of scrap lumber, a neighbor’s old pond lining and straw bales that are plastered over. I even decorated these with old broken wine, beer, pickle, etc. bottles to make Mosaic southwestern designs on the outside of the planters. What in ground plants are in the yard are watered with a sub-surface drip system that reduces evaporation and are set on a timer.

• In the desert use “sunken” or “protected” bed gardens to keep the wind off your plants so they use less water. Use drip irrigation instead of surface spraying that allows for more water to soak into the roots of the plants rather than evaporate into the air, lowering your water use and in my case the water bill.

• Like to grow fruits and vegetables? Don't get stuck in the row rut. Do intensive or companion gardening. Fewer pests, less fertilizer, less weeding, less water. Example: Sunflower, corn, squash or zucchini with pole beans. Carrots with tomatoes. Plant in small groups or waffles with a path in between. Spread like kinds of plants to avoid cross-pollination.

• My neighbor has his own tool that chops/grinds/mulches his yard trimmings. He also uses it for meat, poultry and fish bones since he buys in bulk or a half a steer at a time and then adds to his compost.

• Desert Water Features. Old water bottles were cut up into halves and, along with crumpled tin cans and added to the inside of a plaster mold of boulders. The base was a 42 inch old kiddie pool with a 30 gallon fish tank pump and some clear fish tank hose. The plastic bottles and cans filled the inside of the mold and the water trickles down them. They can't be seen, as it just looks like a pile of boulders with a small crack down the front, but you still get the soothing sound of trickling water. This is my water feature. You gotta remember I live in the desert and didn't want to have to worry about a lot of evaporation and wasted water. So this gives me the soothing sound of water but very little evaporation. I only fill the well once a summer. The local roadrunner has discovered this water feature and with his long beak can get inside the crack and take a drink. It drives the squirrels and chipmunks nuts!

• Old baskets, lunchboxes, bowls, cans, boots, purses and the like can be lined with plastic grocery bags or used Ziploc bags, rubber mats, etc. and turned into planters or flower pots.

Neat Crafts and Uses for Common Trash Items

I was lucky enough one summer to volunteer for a community summer program for middle school children. The kids spent the last few months of school collecting all sorts of things that were going to be or were thrown out in the trash. Then we all figured out what we could do with all this stuff. Through various crafts we made new items out of the trash and sold them at the end of the summer as a fund raiser for the next year’s summer project.

Below are some of the items we collected, re-made and sold.

Bin style toy racks: If you have one of these left over from a child or grandchild that is not quite good enough to be donated and reused as it was originally intended; you can use it for the following:
  • • Organize your crafts and hobbies in the bins
  • • Organize tools and other home improvement items. You can reuse Ziploc bags to hold nuts, bolts, washers, screws and then place in bin. Note: To clean the Ziploc bag so it won't smell, soak in ¼ cup bleach to 1 quart water for about an hour and turn inside out to dry before using.
  • • Turn it into a recycle center. Reuse plastic shopping bags to line each bin. Fill with paper, plastic, metal and glass. Each bin/plastic bag is ready for recycle pickup and is small enough to be easy to handle from children and adults alike.
  • • Turn it into a canned goods center. Organize your soups, vegetables, etc. in the bins.
  • • Organize your sewing or knitting yarn in the bins.
  • • Turn it into a stackable container garden. Drill holes in bottom of bins. About 1-2 inches apart. Line bottom with used thin (one sheet) layer of newspaper or scrap fabric and used dryer sheets (to keep the soil from escaping), add soil and plants. Great for strawberry's, herbs, mint and any non-deep rooted plant.
  • • Put it in your closet and turn it into a shoe, handbag and accessory rack. Belts, scarves, hankies and the like.
  • • Turn it into a magazine rack for those you wish to keep. Organize by magazine name or type.
  • • Use it to store office supplies for your home office. Paper, notepads, hole punch, stapler, paperclips, envelopes and the like. Note: Use old wrapping paper, used aluminum foil or paint to decorate the bins. Note: If painting the paint will last longer without flaking if you rough the surface up a bit with sandpaper before painting.
Panty Hose: They always seem to run way too soon. Don't just throw them out. These have many uses.
  • • Cut up and use as stuffing for pillows, toys and the like.
  • • These make great filters that can fit over almost any surface. They work great to skim the fat off the top of sauces or to wash and drain fruits and vegetables or capture lint from the dryer vent.
  • • Stretch over an old embroidery hoop and use as a grease guard over a pan when frying. Note: These will melt if they come in contact with the heated pan surface, so I make sure the hoop matches the inner rim of the pan. That way the hose do not actually touch the pan, only the hoop does.
  • • Use to hold socks, good panty hose, delicate undergarments and other small items to keep them together and protect them when washing.
  • • Use as a patch for screens. A little super glue works great to hold the patch in place.
  • • Use as the holder of your spices that you do not want to stay loose in soups, stews and sauces. You can tie it off with a little cooking string.
  • • Make a sachet of herbs and or dried flowers to keep drawers sweat smelling.
  • • You can weave them together to make the bag portion of a tote bag and then braid some for the handle. Sew together with heavy duty thread or leather binding. Voila a - super strong tote bag. Note: You can dye to any color you like, embroider on it or paint on it with fabric paint or line it with patchwork fabric scraps, to spice it up.
Ziploc bags: Yes these can be reused for several things, even food.
  • • Clean the bag by turning inside out and soaking in 1/4 cup bleach to 1 quart water for about an hour. After drying, these can then be reused for additional food storage, even meat, as long as the seal (the zip part) still works like new.
  • • Put paperclips, buttons, thread, zippers, nuts, bolts, screws, pens, pencils, snaps, small game pieces and the like in them to keep things organized.
  • • Use to protect the items in your luggage when traveling by putting your deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, medicine bottles and the like in them. If camping, use to hold the soap and other small items.
  • • If the bag has split seams or small holes, use it to line the bottom of a plant pot/container by adding more holes (so the planter can drain excess water) then add your soil and plant.
Spice Tins: Empty of course.
  • • Paint them after washing and add letters, numbers or other images on them for building blocks.
  • • Believe it or not these make great small water features. Remove the plastic top and have the water run over them. The sound is unique and quite soothing. Depending on the water feature kit you get (they usually contain the pump, tubing and electric cord) and the collection bin/tub you use these become one of a kind in house water features. Mix and match with other water cascade items to make different sounds.
  • • Make a wind chime by painting and stringing with fishing line.
  • • Make a rain chain. I painted mine before adding an old dog chain and it works great as well as being unique.
  • • Make decorative lights. For a community farmers market we punched some holes in the tins then strung them with an old strand of Christmas lights and hung them around our booth. The glowing spices and herbs made a great accent to go with our produce stand. Note: We used the 'pour' side of the lid to insert the bulb.
  • • Turn them into garden plant labels. Either use the correct empty herb or spice tin for your spices and herbs or paint and then label. Use a tin cutter to cut a slit in the bottom of the tin and insert a Popsicle stick or old unmatched flatware, and then put in the ground by the plant.
  • • Make ornaments for your tree out of them. These can be painted or decorated or used as is.

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 4

Frugality - Continued

• Low water use commodes or devices. The ones with assisted power flushes are worth every penny. The one I purchased only uses 2 cups for regular flushes and 4 for what I call 'sticky pooh' flushes. These new commodes take up less space in the bathroom to boot. If you can't afford a new commode add a brick or other weighted object to the tank to displace more water. Or get a toilet tank insert. My daughter found one in Canada. It fits inside the existing tank like a plastic tank. It only holds about a quart or two of water and you hook the flusher/damper thing to it. Hers also has a battery pack (9V). When she flushes this power flushes using only a few cups of water instead of the whole tank and only cost her about 50 Canadian bucks.

• Eliminate all drips - indoors and out. Washers are a cheap investment that saves lots of money in water bills. One summer when I replaced all of mine, my water bill was $3.00 lower each of the following months. I knew one indoor faucet dripped but I never realized I had other hidden drips until I did this.

• Take advantage of crock pots, pressure cookers and cast iron Dutch ovens. IE: Avoid major appliance use like ovens if at all possible, especially in the hot months. Plan oven use so you are making more items and freezing or canning for later use. Start with the lowest temperature foods first and work up to the highest. By reducing the pre-heat time you are saving energy and thus money. Using the oven less in summer decreases the times the AC compressor will come on, saving more money.

• Reduce the use of disposable items. Swifter, paper dust rags, towels, napkins, placemats, plates, utensils, cups, bowls, etc. If cold water washing, it is cheaper to wash these and reuse than it is to use and throw away. Remember in my city we are charged by the amount and weight of trash we put on the curb each month.

• I have made my own “Swifter” dusters and mop rags from some of those miracle micro fiber cloths. These I can use and wash instead of use and toss. Great money saver.

• Filter your drinking/cooking water instead of buying bottled water. It is much cheaper to wash containers or replace filters than it is to use bottled water. If you have several 2 liter to 1 gallon reusable containers for in the house frig and larger 5-10 gallon containers for storage, you can facilitate your water storage rotation by filling the smaller containers from the larger ones.

• Reuse whatever possible. I reuse Ziploc bags among other things. I turn them inside out and put thru the dishwasher or soak them in a bowl of water with a little bleach then reuse them. If the bag was used for a food item that I don't trust the cleaning of for reuse with another food item - I use the bags for storing thread, buttons, hooks, nuts, bolts, nails, zippers, game pieces, etc. Multiple uses before it is recycled. You can reuse dryer sheets by soaking them in diluted liquid fabric softener, letting dry and using in the dryer again. I get about six uses out of each dryer sheet. I have even used them on my Swifter dusters!!!. You can also put some diluted fabric softener in a spray bottle and then spray the used dryer sheet before reuse. They work great. Or use them as the stuffing for stuffed animals and pillows, etc.

• Recycle whatever possible. A friend of mine built me a small Recycle Center. It has 4 drawers. The bottom holds paper, and then comes glass, then metal, then plastic. Each drawer holds one of those plastic grocery store bags. So ALL gets recycled and each is small enough that even my 3 year old grandson can take out the recyclables. Newspapers are great for cleaning windows!!!! Then recycle them. Or use the newspapers in the garden. Lay on top of the soil and anchor with some small object, punch a hole for the seed, plant and leave. The paper will decompose and protect the young seedling until it does. Boy do I really miss the 80’s when Wal-Mart had a recycle collection bin in their parking lot that gave you credits to their store when you deposited recycle materials.

• If clothes are too worn to be useful as clothes. Find a craft club that turns these into other useful items like rugs, cushions, carryalls, etc. or keep them for your own washable utility rags. Old jeans, shorts and sweatshirts make great carryalls or hanging storage organizers. Material scraps make great stuffing for cushions and pillows or for decoupage craft projects.

• Avid reader? I am. To save money I take my used books to a book swap or a used book store. Then purchase my new reading material there at the same time. Many hospitals, dentists and doctor offices will take your old magazines for their waiting rooms. This saves money on the actual purchase as well as on my trash collection bill.

• Old CD's and DVD's even old LP's that are no longer usable but still have their shape can be made into coasters or hotplates. You glue a same size piece of cardboard to it and then cover with scrap fabric and or paint. For hot plates I usually add some bunting as well to the top and some crumbled up cork from wine bottles. Or you can string them together to make window dressings, kinda like those 70’s bead curtains.

• Not many big fat catalogs out there now days, but in the past I used to take the old Sears, Montgomery Ward or JC Penny catalog and turn it into a door stop. You fold half of each page down from the top at an angle. Fold then glue or staple the front cover to the back, with a piece of knotted rope thru the middle and paint. There ya go a door stop.

• Old computer equipment can be recycled now days. Some manufacturers actually offer rebate and discount programs if you trade in your old computer and purchase a new one of theirs. Try to find an organization that takes them if still workable. They “clean” them up and give to low income children. No these kids don't end up with the latest, greatest or fastest but they do get to hit the internet, write and print reports and make graphs. So yes that old word processing and spreadsheet software is reusable too. Community centers in low income neighborhoods or churches that do work in 3rd world countries often take these usable older computers as well. Many even offer a tax credit for the donation. I will grant you the money savings, if there, is minimal but since you are replacing the thing anyway , why not help someone else who is not as well off as you are.

• As flowers start to wilt, take a used dryer sheet and wrap the flower heads in it. Then tie a scrap of fabric around it with a ribbon. These make great scented sachet for drawers, closets and suitcases.

• Turn old ceiling fan blades and pine cones into decorative fireplace fans.

• Turn the tops of old TV trays into fancy plant coasters or boot trays for those wet and muddy shoes and boots by the door.

• Old flower pots (glass, plaster, plastic or ceramic) can be broken up and used in the bottom of new flower pots or as mosaic pieces for table tops and plaster walls, etc.

• Use microwaveable containers and plates instead of plastic wrap for keeping splatters and such from going all over the inside of your microwave. Plastic wrap is expensive and the cost is only going to climb since it is a by-product of oil and in my case adds to the trash expense since most are not recyclable.

• Change outdoor lighting to motion and or dusk to dawn lighting so they are only On when needed and you don’t have to remember to turn them on and off. Many of these are solar powered which even in Alaska get enough sun to power the lights.

• Have a water well? Instead of an electric pump, get one of the new fangled kind that mix yesterday’s technology with today’s a “wind turbine” electric pump. The wind charges a battery that powers your water pump.

• To save money, good quality aluminum foil can be rinsed and re-used before it becomes a health hazard or too brittle and must be recycled.

• When it is time to thin closets or storage areas or you are replacing some piece of furniture in your home have a garage sale. Or if that is too much work for you use places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, DAV, Freecycle, CriagsList, Vincent De Paul Society and other similar organizations or internet sites. Even if some repair needs to be done, many of these places will take the item anyway; some even pick them up from your home. My neighbors and I plan a block garage sale once every two years. We all help to set up and man the sales tables and then split the profits. Or if the item is still in good condition look for consignment and other like type stores that give a credit to their shop or percentage of sale in exchange for the item.

• Compost instead of garbage disposal. There is even a new product for in-house composting. My friend has one, it doesn't smell and it looks like a trash compactor. Once the compost is complete - out to the garden. Compost yard waste instead of sending it to the landfill. There are many new composters that look nice and don't stink. There is even a product for composting doggie do-do. I am told it works for used cat litter too. Another friend of mine uses an old plastic container and adds all his meat and bone scraps. Then when it is full he “nukes” it in the microwave until it is ash and dumps it in his outdoor compost bin.

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 3

Frugality - Continued

• Get shower heads that are not only low water use and aerate the water but have a turn off valve on the head so when you wash your hair or body you turn the water off while soaping. This way the temperature is set when you switch it back on to rinse. Less water use, less of a water bill at the end of the month. Even if you have a well or capture runoff water for showers, this will save on the water used so in dry times you are way ahead of the rest of the people around you.

• Take advantage of runoff or rain water by capturing it and using it in your garden or for showers or baths, dish and clothes washers. I have talked to many people who avoid doing this saying the containers are ugly or too expensive for the underground type or they don’t want to be considered a “greenie”. Phooey! These save money on your water bill and are so easy to make that my neighbors 10 year old son made me one and decorated it. Looks like a fancy planter with no plants.

• For more beauty or style from your gutter drains, make a rain chain. We don’t get much rain where I am here in New Mexico, but I purchased a rain chain that some middle school kids made out of empty spice tins one summer. It not only looks great and is a conversation piece, but it works like a charm too.

• Utilize Smart Switches and Power Strips to turn off appliances and electrical devices that are not in use. Remember that most of today's TV's, PC's, DVD/CD/DVR/VHS players, microwaves and coffee pots are pulling electricity even when not in use. Anything that has an 'instant on' feature or built in clock is always pulling electricity. I had to order a coffee pot that had a timer instead of a clock from a French company, as I couldn’t find one here in the states. All I wanted to do was plug the thing in and set the timer to start 8 hours later so the coffee was ready when I woke up. I didn’t need another clock in the kitchen as I already had the clock on the microwave, the clock on the stove and a battery wall clock.

• Study your lighting. Most times you can stay with a lower wattage bulb if you have the proper reflector for it. Think of a lighthouse. It is a very small bulb in lighthouses. The penetrating light comes from the reflector and lens which magnify the intensity of the light, not the actual wattage of the light bulb. I found I saved about $1.00 the first month on my electric bill and that was without switching to a CFL bulb!

• Switch to low energy use bulbs. Compact fluorescents (CFL) and LED. There are two ways to look at this LED expense: Most lighting fixtures take screw in bulbs. When you purchase LED bulbs that fit these kinds of pre-existing fixtures they cost a lot per bulb even if they do last twice as long as the CFL bulb. So your expense is on the back side each time you purchase a replacement bulb. Or you can purchase a fixture that is made for LED bulbs, the standard cheap kind that snap in (kinda like Christmas twinkle lights). This fixture will cost you more up front but you can usually recoup the cost after 4 or 5 light bulb replacements. Plus, more LED bulbs are dimmable than CFL’s. I made this switch to save money on my electric bill. In the last year I have saved around $100 on my electric bill.

• Use wind up “Big Ben” or battery alarm clocks instead of the electric type. How often do you use the radio option on the clock to wake you up or listen to music? Clock/Radios are one of those items that are always pulling electricity even when you are not using the radio part of it.

• Turn lights off when not in a room. You can get expensive and “techie” by getting the kind of wall switch that has motion detector/timer that will automatically turn off after someone leaves the room. I have no idea how cost effective these are as with just me now, it is far cheaper to just turn the light off myself when I exit a room for any length of time.

• Make the most use of natural lighting and reflecting that lighting around a room. Light colors, sheer and privacy/thermal drapes that you open or close as needed for light or to retain/reflect heat. I have single pane windows from the 60’s when my house was built. I had estimates done to replace the windows to the new thermal kind - $9,000-15,000 for all 11 windows and a sliding door!!! I purchased thermal backed curtains and double rods for each of these windows. The thermal cost about $200.00 and were placed closest to the window itself, my existing more decorative curtains were on the outer rod. The first month I saved almost $25.00 on my AC bill and the first winter I saved even more. You just have to remember to open and close the thermal curtains as needed.

• If your thermostat is near the door see if you can move or cover it. This reduces the number of times it will get a blast of hot or cold air which triggers it to start your furnace or AC unit when people enter or leave via that door. If you have enough space by your door make a screen out of old windows or doors and place in front of your thermostat or doorway which will form a “movable foyer” and divert these open door air bursts from the thermostat. Or just hang the decorative screen or old window or door on the wall in front of the thermostat with a small 2-3 inch spacer.

• Insulate and seal windows and doors. This can be accomplished with a little putty, thermal drapes/shades or weather stripping. If you need to replace an exterior door, get an insulated or solid core one. Instead of replacing windows or using thermal curtains, get storm windows. There is a new type that is applied inside instead of outside, these seal the existing window and can even add the look and feel of window molding. Much cheaper than window replacement but not as cheap as thermal curtains.

• Energy Star appliances. That old frig may be doing a good job but it is costing you each month in electrical costs and maybe even spoiled food. If you must hang onto an older frig or freezer, replace the door molding to increase the insulating properties. Refrigerator/Freezers no matter what age cost less to run if the freezer section is on the bottom and not the top. Chest freezers or bottom freezer drawers on refrigerators are cheaper to power than upright models. Remember cold air sinks, so use that to your money saving advantage.

• Organize the frig and freezer so the most frequently used items are closest to the front and door. Remember cold air sinks and that means any refrigerator or freezer that is upright will lose at least 70% of its coldness when the door is opened for a minute or more. This means the compressor will come on costing you more money on your electric bill.

• Microwave/Convection ovens are more cost effective than a toaster oven or large range oven if backing/heating a small item. If you are alone, like me, a small toaster oven is a good alternative, however unless you spend the money up front to get one that actually tightly seals the oven section when in use, the savings will be very, very small. I ordered an Avanti one for $79.00 (including shipping) and have not regretted it in the last 3 years. The oven section to this particular item was also a convention oven when the temperature was set above 300 degrees.

• Rechargeable batteries. New laws and government regulations now require special disposal of used batteries from AAA to vehicle, boat and RV batteries. Save even more money and get a solar recharger that you can place on a porch or sunny windowsill.

• Take advantage of solar power, from solar outdoor lights, to panels, and other passive solar techniques. Like having light reflective shades/drapes for summer and dark absorbing shades/drapes for winter. Solar powered outdoor lights (dusk to dawn or motion detection). Use indoor light sensing type hall and bath night lights. In most cases (but not all) these will go off during the day when there is plenty of natural light.

• Programmable thermostats coupled with getting used to less drastic interior temperatures. Cooler in winter (68), warmer in summer (75).

• Cold water washing and rinse of clothes. Line dry instead of using the dryer. Then get one of those dryer lint vents that filter and can return the heat back into your house or direct outside in the summer. But why anyone would use a dryer in the summer is beyond me.

• Use the shortest and most efficient cycle in dishwashers. Or consider this - I had to replace my dishwasher recently and got two drawer dishwashers. One drawer is smaller than the other. I use this one most often as it is just me in the house now. But when I have guests I use both. Less water, less detergent, less energy, lower bills and the detergent lasts twice as long.

• If you have an old fashioned fireplace, get the most of its heat by getting a passive “heatalator” wood grate. These have tubes that curve up and over the top of the grate to passively funnel the heat back towards the opening of your fireplace instead of up the chimney. The one I have cost under $45.00.

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 2

Frugality - Continued

Below is a list of items I have done over the years that have become second nature. As you get farther along the list you are moving thru time with some of the newer technological advancements. Many of these ideas and suggestions are geared towards the Urbanite; however a lot will apply to suburban and rural people too. At the very least these should spark an idea or two that will work in your living environment. All of these items, when put into practice, will save you money and that is what counts most.

• Before you purchase anything ask yourself “Will I die if I don’t have this?” and “When, what, where will I use this?” This will reduce impulse buying.

• Here is a blast from the past: If you have a mud room, take better advantage of what it was made for. Put a coat rack and bench there that can house boots and shoes. Take off your boots or shoes when you enter. This will stop the mud from being tracked through the home, less cleaning, less labor, less costs. My grandparent’s mud room was actually part of the laundry room with a ¾ bath there. When one came in from the fields, boots were removed, clean cloths picked up and granddad went right to the shower. When he came out his cloths were in the laundry basket to be washed and he was clean as a whistle. The floor also had a drain in it so if the mud was really bad, you just hosed it down or if the washer flooded; you swished the water down the drain.

• Plan errands so the trip takes the least amount of mileage as possible. To facilitate this have an Errand/Shopping List on the frig that you can add to as you notice you need an item. Limit shopping trips to no more than once a week, once every two weeks or more is even better.

• Car pool if possible. I organized a monthly car pool for shopping in my neighborhood. We take turns taking everyone around all the warehouse stores, malls, home improvement stores, farmers and flea markets and such. We make one circle around town to hit each one of these places. It is almost a full day event. We regularly shop the used book and furniture stores too. A side benefit is getting to know and networking with your neighbors.

• Walk, ride a bus or train, bike instead of drive whenever possible. I have purchased an adult tricycle that has a folding basket and rear axle and is lightweight enough that I can get it on the bike racks on the busses in town. I often walk to the grocery store with a folding cart when I do my shopping. Much cheaper than driving your vehicle and you get the added bonus of some exercise. Remember a healthier you means your medical expenses will be less too.

• When you grocery shop, eat before you go, be sure to read the labels and take a calculator. Figure out the price per serving. What looks like a bargain probably is not; it will either be a higher cost per serving or contain some kind of filler or ingredient that you don’t need.

• Bring your own bags to stores, particularly the grocery store. Right now, our 2010 NM Legislature is looking at taxing plastic grocery bags so being a cloth bagger or bringing your own plastic bags could potentially save money depending on the tax rate if this bill is passed.

• Save your grocery bags from stores and use around your home for small trash can liners. Or use them to hang and store extension, other electrical cords, rope and other items. Take them with you when go back to the store.

• Utilize local produce and products where possible. The quality is usually much better, your local merchants and farmers get the money instead of a big corporation and (how’s this for you greenies) the shorter the distribution to point of sale, the lower the carbon footprint and gasoline used.

• Save items like toilet paper, vitamins, over the counter health products, pet food and cleaning products for the warehouse or big box and overstock stores (Target, Wal-Mart, Big Lots). Because they buy in larger quantities, these are usually cheaper there.

• Look for Dollar and discount grocery stores. Again these are usually overstocked items or almost expired sell by items, but you can usually save at least $5.00 on the products you can purchase from there.

• Find the local “day old bakery” outlets in your area. You can often get bread and treats at half price. Sure they are just at or past their “sell by” dates, but you take them home and freeze them and save a small bundle in the process. I do this with tortillas too; they freeze great with some wax paper between each.

• Buy bulk where possible, redistribute to containers for immediate use and store or freeze the remainder. I buy spices, cereal, grain and rice in bulk. Put what I need in the kitchen in smaller reusable containers and store or freeze the rest. Re-filling the immediate use containers as needed. This works really well for any food storage needs as it facilitates rotation of food stuffs. Join with family, friends or neighbors and purchase a whole steer or bulk quantities and divide between you, this is cheaper than each of you purchasing in the small size for just your individual families or over stocking an item that will not get used in time.

• Study your eating habits and get a Country, Amish or Fannie Farmer’s cookbook. We Americans tend to have a greater portion of meat in our meals than any other country. Yet we really can get a better balanced meal with less meat if we prepare and serve it more effectively. This is not only good for health it saves us dollars to boot! I’m not talking No meat, just less meat. In most countries meat is only about ¼ to 1/3rd the total meal content. In the U.S. this is more along the lines of ½ our meal content.

• Avoid processed foods. You are paying almost double the price for the convenience. Is the money spent really worth the time it saves? Not to mention that processed and convenience foods tend to have more salt, sugar and other un-pronounceable additives which usually are not all that good for you and have very little nutrition.

• Look for products with the least amount of packaging. This means a lot of my meat, poultry, sea food, fruits and vegetables are purchased from local vegetable stands, farmers markets and the butcher section rather than the pre-packaged sections of the supermarket. It also means I have less trash to put on the curb and be charged for. In one local grocery chain I found out the bacon from the butcher section was cheaper per pound than getting the exact same bacon pre-package in the breakfast section.

• Plan your meals in advance and then prepare them on the weekend to have handy during the busy time of the work week. This saves time, energy and money. Think about it: If you are putting together leftover roast into a stew or making a large batch of bread or soup, the energy needed to cook these items is less, when done back to back with no cool down, than it would be to make each meal all through the week. Plus you can use this time as family quality time by making it a weekly event. Your children not only learn something from you that they will need in the future, but you get to talk and discuss the week with your family too.

• If you have the time, bake your own bread, rolls and buns instead of purchasing at the store. Set aside a day to do this and freeze for the rest of the week or month. I have found that many of the breads I like to bake I can make batches of dough in advance, wrap in wax paper, then place in Ziploc bags and freeze, so when I need to during the week I thaw, let rise and bake.

• Be open to store or generic brands. I don’t like too many store brands as they either have too much salt or some other imitation food item, but in a lot of cases they are great and just as good as the name brand at ¼ to 1/3 the cost. Purchase small quantities for taste testing to determine if it is worth it for you and your family to switch. I have usually found that dairy products, cereals, canned goods, paper products, spices and other staple baking needs are a good buy without sacrificing quality.

• Save the vegetable scraps from preparing salads etc. Put them in a zip lock bag and freeze them or dehydrate them. Use this for soup and stew stocks. You put them in cheese cloth and cook or boil with the item you are making. Then compost it.

• Use the cardboard tubes from toilet paper, paper towels and wrapping paper for seedling plant protectors. By the time the seedling is big enough not to need them they have decomposed. Or use these as “toys” for small rodent, lizard and bird pets. Many love the paper for nesting material after they are done hiding and playing with them.

• If you have a paper spreader, use the shredded paper (paper only not plastic) for pet bedding or packing material when shipping gifts. Once paper is shredded and if the dyes used in the ink are not caustic, this can go in your compost pile too (avoid glossy colored paper). And don’t forget, shredded paper is still paper that can be recycled.

• Buy used instead of new where possible. You might even luck out and end up with a valuable collectible. A little elbow grease can save you a small fortune. Most of my bookcases, dressers, ottomans and a table or two were purchased this way. I have purchased used dining chairs from several sources. Then I just sand and re-paint or stain and make new seat covers. The chairs don’t match in style but everyone loves them. I think this kind of reuse is now called “shabby sheik”. If I had purchased these new I would have spent over $1000, instead I spent about $150 and that includes the make-over supplies. I don’t know how many work jeans and sweaters I have purchased at Goodwill or the like for a few dollars each. When you know something is going to be used for “hard labor” why pay the big bucks?

• Try to purchase multi-functional appliances and furniture. The less clutter, the cheaper and easier it is to heat to cool your rooms and for someone as lazy as me, the less cleaning is needed. Under bed dresser platform beds or storage bins. Folding tables that can be a sofa or Huntsman table until unfolded and it stores the chairs to boot. Futon or Murphy sofa beds with drawers. The drawers can hold the bedding. A can opener that is also a bottle or plastic bag opener or knife sharpener. I am still hanging onto my old (from the early 80’s and no longer sold the last time I looked) Sunbeam multi-functional kitchen center. It is a mixer, dough maker, blender, food processor and meat grinder all in one appliance.

• Reduce clutter. Your heating/cooling systems are doing their job based on the CUBIC feet in a room. (Yep ceiling height is a factor.) That includes cabinets, drawers, bookcases, hutches, closets AND their contents. If you haven't used something in the last year or two and it is not a collectible or sentimental – find another use for it or get rid of it. You are paying to heat and cool items you are not utilizing. Not to mention cleaning them. I have turned most of my T-shirt collection, that is too small for me now, into throw pillow covers and donated the rest of my seldom to never used/worn items. My heating bill was reduced by $3.75 the first month. When I went through my kitchen I found two good sized boxes of kitchen gadgets that I used once and never again. Sold them in a garage sale. Wow, all the space in my kitchen cupboards was new!!!!

• Turn off faucets when brushing your teeth or shaving and use a cup of water or washrag or sink only partially full of water instead. This may only amount to a $.15 per use but 15 cents a day times 365 days is $54.75 a year, now triple that for three times a day and you save $164.25 per year!

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way - Part 1

Frugality - A Homesteading Preppers Way

I was reading a blog posted by HumbleWife the other day and it got me to thinking about all the things I have learned in life regarding frugality and to how it applies to us Homesteaders and Preppers.

I am a firm believer that history teaches us invaluable lessons and gives us tips’n’tricks to survive just about anything our human civilizations can throw at us. So as I got to remembering my youth and researching, I realized this is even truer today than “back in the day”.

Then I realized that like many common words in use today, we humans have altered the meanings or in some cases formed new words to describe old words and their meanings. If you don’t believe me, use an old 1700 or 1800’s dictionary and look up words like: frugal; commerce; church; state; health; liberty; freedom; rights; happiness; central; federal; tax; tariff; thrift; meager; sparing. Then look the same words up in a dictionary of today. We have altered the meanings of these words or given them new names. (Ok, Ok, I got a little carried away and political here, but I am sure you get my drift.)

The word “frugal” can be an adjective, noun or an adverb. It is traced back to the 1500-1600’s and was almost always associated to the general economy. Here is a little refresher course:


Nouns are parts of speech commonly referring to a person, place, thing, state or quality. They include:
• concrete nouns (pencil, horse)
• abstract nouns (hatred, love)
• proper nouns (William, Sydney Opera House)
• countable nouns (pebble, coin)
• common nouns (table, book)


Adjectives are descriptive terms that modify the meaning of a noun. For example: brown dog, large building, tall tree.

A part of speech that denotes existence, action or occurrence, verbs are more simply explained as “doing words”. Examples: the verb to be, rise, jump, have, carry, sing, run, lift.


A part of speech that modifies the meaning of a verb, adjective or other adverb. For example easily, very and happily in the sentence: They could easily envy the very happily married couple.

Definitions of Frugal

1. Practicing or marked by economy; living without waste; avoiding waste; thrifty; thrifty - careful and diligent in the use of resources; as in the expenditure of money or the use of material resources.
2. Not costly; meager; Costing little; inexpensive; sparing, stinting, scotch, economical; a frugal lunch.
3. The quality of being frugal; prudent economy; that careful management of anything valuable which expends nothing unnecessarily, and applies what is used to a profitable purpose; thrift; --- opposed to extravagance.
4. A sparing use; sparingness; as, frugality of praise.

Now take a look at the meaning of frugal and apply it to the “green” movement. They are going by new words used to describe old word meanings and actions.

I was raised by parents and grandparents that survived the Great Depression. They taught me to make things last and to reuse whatever I could. This was something my grandparents were raised with before technology and they taught my parents and my parents taught me.

As I got older and combined these lessons with my love of wildlife, I guess you could say I turned into a conservationist. Not only that, but I was always interested in alternative energy sources because my grandparents farm was very rural and they lost their electricity regularly every winter. They took advantage of wind, solar and geo-thermal energy before it was the “in” thing to do. They just figured what is the point of paying for something that you can get for free with a little sweat.

These simple habits are now called a number of things, from frugality, to being green, to just plain smart thinking in hard times. Therefore, by my standards, these lessons learned from my elders are now literally a survival tactic for today’s world.

Whatever you want to call this attitude, it is a part of my nature now. This just saves money, gives me a sense of freedom and makes sense, not only in these current hard times, but it helped me a lot when I entered my budget crunch years. I had to find ways to save money and reduce my expenses. My city trash was billed on volume and weight, so I had to find ways to reduce it. Reducing waste led to reducing power usage and alternative power. During this time my area entered a drought, I had to save on water bills too – all before “reduce, reuse, recycle” or being “environmentally friendly” became the fad of the day.

As a result of what I did (and still do) to conserver my funds, some people call me an environmentalist or “Greenie”. Whatever, I am merely a person who is always looking for the cheapest (while still having my TV, PC and CD's, etc), easiest way to live with the least amount of money, time and effort in doing so, while gaining and maintaining as independent and self-sufficient lifestyle as possible. To do this I utilize old ways and modern technology. To me this is just a smart, common sense approach to life and it fits in well with Preppers and the self-reliant lifestyle.

The bottom line is if you are interested in getting the most bang for your buck and stretching your dollars then let the name calling roll off your back and just do it. Don’t let the marketing and advertising of the “green” movement or our “use and toss” consumerism turn you off to these money saving ideas. Stop and think, then do, as these are just plain common sense money saving tools!

Practicing this type of frugality on a regular basis for many of us will require some kind of lifestyle change. As with just about anything, the best thing to do is to start simple and it will lead to other ways to obtain your goal. You may only get a small amount of savings with each of these suggestions, but when added together over the long haul, you can really appreciate Benjamin Franklin when he said “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Budgeting for Mere Mortals - Part 3

Sticking To It – Pitfalls and Tips to Succeed

The previous steps have actually given you your budget. Your budget should have monthly and annual goals, where the monthly gives you the means to make small steps towards the overall annual goal. Like saving a certain amount of money for that big vacation or weekly food savings for using towards preparedness items you wish to accumulate. Now is the time to Stick To It! Any budget is only as good as it is accurate and your ability to follow it. It’s like a diet; you have to start with more than just good intentions in order to see it through to your goal.

To succeed you need to have a positive attitude with defined realistic goals. You want to get out of debt soonest. You want to build that house in the country in 5 years. You want to travel to Europe as soon as you retire. You want more monies for your child’s college fund. Whatever your goals are they will be your motivation, so the more realistic, the better.

This is where that Savings Jar or can comes in handy. If you put your savings in there and then every month or so count it and put in savings – you can visualize almost daily that you are accomplishing your goal and that in itself is a very powerful motivator. You not only feel your accomplishment, you can see it!

Several things led to my getting in debt and I am willing to bet that everyone one of us has had these issues more than once in our lifetimes, in at least a small way.

Easy Access to Credit is the pits and we are bombarded via advertising and marketing to get this credit card or take out this loan to get this much deserved “thing”. Just for one day pay attention to the commercials, magazine, newspaper, billboard, radio and TV ads. Or what about all that “junk” mail in your mailbox for low interest loans and credit cards or purchase plans for some expensive product? My trick was to lower my credit card limit and add an “emergency line of credit” that required a phone call from me to instigate and then put my credit card in a safe deposit box at the bank where I only pulled it out when I had to travel for work or pleasure. Since most of the major general credit cards are accepted at almost all types of establishments, I also got rid of all my gas and department store credit cards.

Another thing that threw me for a financial loop was that the Information Technology Revolution hit me from businesses to my wallet like a runaway freight train. IE: I had direct deposit and ATM cards; I lost control as I could not actually see the cash going out the door. I did not have to plan for when the bank was open for business to cash or deposit the pay check. I could do that online or from an ATM, 24/7, 365 days a year. This was very bad for me. What I did to counter this was to give myself a “weekly cash allowance” and I left my ATM card at home instead of in my purse. This way I was more or less made to use only cash for an entire 7 days at a time and not the plastic. Plus it was easier to set and keep to a specified targeted amount for each week of “miscellaneous” spur of the moment expenses.

Temptation was also a hurdle, especially when I was younger because I always had some friend come along at the last minute and suggest a spontaneous fun trip to here or there, from a backpack trek through Canada to the grand opening of some play or restaurant, to a new ski resort for a weekend getaway. So keeping my credit card at the bank and my ATM card at home helped me to reduce these impromptu spending sprees. Lucky for me I was never tempted by the latest fashion or fad and didn’t have that problem to deal with. Believe me the temptations I had were bad enough!

One friend kept a separate little Passport type mini wallet in her purse that held her credit card and an index card. The index card had the uppermost figure she could pay off when the bill arrived and every time she used the credit card she wrote the date, item and amount on the index card. This “chore” became a habit and gave her an immediate visual of what she was spending her financial future on. She quickly realized that that pair of shoes or dinner out with friends was something she was going to be paying for, for a very long time, if she couldn’t pay the entire credit card bill at the end of the month. She also found she started to have spare cash which allowed her to achieve her big goal of going to the Louvre in France one summer.

Another temptation of mine was spending to feel good. When I first became a single parent I was not in a very good state of mind and comfort became my motto, for me and my children. Buying myself or the kids what we wanted made me feel good - until the bills came in. So I started to take a few dollars out of each paycheck and set it aside. Then I used that money for fun stuff for me and my children. Bottom line is to recognize when you do this and find some little trick that will assist you to not stumble and fall to this temptation, otherwise you may spend the next two years trying to pay it off with 20% interest.

Psychological Button Pushing is another hole I fell into on more than one occasion. This is where advertising and marketing pushes some subconscious emotion that has us feeling we NEED that shirt, house, car, vacation, kitchen gadget or whatever in order to be happy or survive. So we buy it. Then we not only pay and pay on the thing but we eventually find out that we have only worn it once or used it once or half the rooms in the house are utilized only a few times every year or so, or only two or three of those options on the vehicle are ever used or (ugh) we gain too much weight. Even politicians are very fond of this “tool” to get you to vote for them or their cause. Unfortunately there is no easy cure-all for this problem, except becoming aware it is there and in use in almost all aspects of our lives and to keep a proactive “eye” out for its use so you can walk away from it.

No matter how you look at it, a good budget that you can stick to is a NEED for survival in today’s day and age. Dreams stay dreams and never become reality or we always fall short of goals or expectations. We cannot begin to be emotionally or physically healthy and happy if we do not utilize a good budget successfully.

Now is the time to take the tips here and get going on your own budget so you too can lead a happy, healthy and fun life for you and yours.

A dream is just a dream unless you commit to making it reality.

From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading Prepper

Budgeting for Mere Mortals - Part 2

Making the Budget Requires Analysis of your Financial Health

Once you accomplish these prerequisite steps it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty of analyzing your income vs. expenses to create a budget. I have found that by creating the Wants vs. Needs list and the Moderation List before creating a budget, increases the success rate for the budget you do create. Creating a budget has several consistent steps no matter where you go to for information and ideas on budgeting.

Gather every piece of financial statement, bill and information you can on both income and expenses. Utility bills, credit and loan bills, investment statements, payroll stubs (that include all tax and benefit deductions you make), last year’s income tax information, bank statements, grocery receipts, clothing receipts, entertainment receipts, vehicle maintenance, gas receipts and the like. It is wise to have a year’s worth as this will give you the most detailed look at seasonal expenses that can be averaged out to monthly amounts for the budget. But in a pinch 6 months worth can be made to work. Just remember the more information, the more accurate your budget will be and the easier the budget will be to follow.

Create a detailed list of all your sources of income from the documents collected above. Think of this list as a table or spreadsheet. List the months across the top (columns) for the amount per month and the income source along the side or rows. Be sure to include any self-employed or outside sources of income. If your income is in the form of a regular paycheck where taxes are automatically deducted then be sure to use the net income, or take home pay amount and not the gross.

Create a detailed list of all your expenses. Again make a table or spreadsheet with months and expense type for each amount. It is here that some things you only pay once every 3-6 months or so, like life and auto insurance. Maybe your state has an annual vehicle inspection that must be done. Or you may have an annual medical physical or dental check-up. List these in the month they are due or you usually have them done.

Determine which expense and income sources are fixed and which are variable. Take each of the above sheets and put all the fixed first and then all the variable. For instance utility costs are variable, while auto insurance costs are fixed. If your salary is not based on hourly wages worked or commissions, then it is fixed, otherwise it is variable.

Basically fixed expenses and incomes are those that stay relatively the same each month and are required parts of your way of living. These are usually essential yet not likely to change in the budget from month to month.

Variable expenses and earnings are the type that will change from month to month. In the case of expenses this is where we looked at our Moderation items like utilities, groceries, gasoline, entertainment, eating out and gifts.

Add each year’s worth of expenses and earnings for the year, then divide by 12 to get an average monthly amount. This is your Estimated amount of income and expense, the first major figures for your budget. Do this for both your general overall and with the detailed individual expense and income types. Some items like auto insurance or property taxes you may only pay 3-4 times a year. No problem, the figure this calculation will give you is what you need to set aside each month to make those payments, be they every month or scheduled throughout the year.

These average monthly expenses and income figures will help you determine where you can and or need to cut expense, so that your budget can be realistic and easy to follow.

Closely study the average expense amount to the average earnings amount. This will help you to prioritize any excess in your expenses for Moderation and then re-allocation of the monies saved for other items that are important to you like retirement savings, accumulating food storage, a child’s college education or paying more on credit cards to eliminate that debt faster and the like.

If this comparison shows a higher expense column than income, you need to review your Moderation and Variable lists, make more cuts and see if this makes up the difference. If it does not, time to get really honest with yourself and re-evaluate your Needs and Wants to make even more changes. This is where you may find you need to downsize your home, or sell your new vehicle to purchase a cheaper model or used version or downsize your annual vacation to one much less expensive. In really extreme discrepancies, you may need to utilize a financial or debt counselor to assist in building a plan to get these figures equal. If this is the case always check with the Better Business Bureau before selecting your advisor.

Put the Budget In Writing

This is where a spreadsheet or table document will be most helpful. It is far easier to stick to a budget if you can see it and track your progress towards your goals easily.

There are many budgeting worksheets and the like on the internet and freely offered by banks or other financial institutions. However, I have found that the K.I.S. (Keep It Simple) principle is the most successful. I prefer Spreadsheets, like an Excel Workbook, for this as you can have all the general and individual detailed “tables” or forms in one file. However if you would rather use word processor tables – go for it.

Budgeting for Mere Mortals - Part 1

Over the years I have experienced a number of different “stations” in life. I have been young, single and doing OK. I have been young and single doing great. I have been married and a mother, doing OK. I have been a single parent and NOT doing OK. I have been a single parent and doing great. And I am now a single parent of adult children doing OK. The one common trait I have learned as I reflect back is that the one time in my life I felt the worst and had the worst health was when I was in debt.

I may be at a point in time in my life that I am no longer making the big bucks, while the cost of living is increasing by leaps and bounds, but I am out of debt and my health has never been better. I am enjoying life despite the tribulations of the economy around me. There is no more monkey on my shoulder that is weighting me down or holding me back. I am more independent and self-reliant. My dreams and goals are within my reach, thanks in part to my budgeting goals and stubborn tenacity. Yours can be too.

Let’s face it budgeting is like cleaning the toilet; it’s a pain and must be done or we just don’t feel right. Life is just too darn short to spend most of it not feeling right. So how do we attack this financial chore and keep our sanity? The first and hardest step to me is self examination of your own lifestyle.

Life Style Self Examination – Needs vs. Wants

I am a visual person when trying to grasp a difficult problem, so I tend to make lists to visualize each related issue. I do this with self-examination too. Take a sheet of paper and then look at yourself and visually and physically write down your Wants and Needs. Keep in mind that Needs are what you as a human cannot survive without, like food and water. Wants are your desires and wish list items, but they do not sustain human physical, spiritual or emotional life.

This is hard because when it comes to say food, for example, we Need food but having Sirloin Steak or caviar 5 days a week is a Want and not a Need.

We Need shelter. That shelter must be healthy and sturdy. It must keep us dry, warm or cool and reasonably comfortable. It is a Want to have a spa bath off a master bedroom suite that is large enough to hold the entire family without bumping elbows. It is a Want to have the heat turned up to 80 in the winter so we can run around naked or in summer clothing while in the house.

We Need clothing to protect our fragile human bodies. We may Want that designer pantsuit or mink coat, but we do not Need them to survive.

We Need liquids, water in particular but we may Want, milk, juice, wine, soda, beer or fancy bottled water. We humans love variety, but we do not Need it to physically survive.

Where this really gets difficult is when we look at items in our life styles, like comfort foods. We love comfort foods but do not need them to physically survive. Yet at some point a certain amount of comfort foods are needed to keep our spirit or emotional state healthy. This is where Moderation comes into play and we humans historically have a very hard time with moderation.

When budgeting, the Needs and Wants List has to include just about everything along with the kitchen sink, so be as detailed and honest as possible.


Taking your Wants List, write down how often you indulge in Wants. Go ahead and include a weekly bubble bath or spa treatment, the weekly movie or dinner out and deserts or junk foods. Be honest and list all these “Comforts” for your emotional health that you indulge in and where there is an expense, list these costs. You will use this later to calculate the costs for a month and year.

Now apply Moderation to them. If you get your hair or nails done every week or month, list how much money you would save if you reduced that to every two weeks or months. Most likely you will find out that your emotional health does not suffer and now you have extra monies for other things, be them wants or needs.

Do the same for your Needs List. This is where you include mortgage or rent, utilities for heat/cooling, lighting, cooking and storing foods. Watch out when you reach clothing and be sure to only include the Needs and not the Wants or Desires. No name brand designer tags, those items belong on your Wants Lists.

If you are like most people there will be a few Wants or Desires with costs where the costs can’t really be separated out, like: TV or Stereo, where it is hard to tell how much the electrical cost is compared to the Needs electrical costs. Or items like satellite or cable TV, lighting or phone services (landline and cell) or internet services, appear as Needs but most of the time are not. Other items like milk or juice you may see as Needs, but are really Wants because as long as we have water and eat properly we get all the fluids and nutrients we Need from other food items. Do however separate French Fries, chips, dips, soda and alcohol, top grade meats and deserts out, or the purchases/rentals of DVD’s and CD’s.

Utilities can be reduced by lowering the thermostat in the winter to 67 or 68 degrees and raising it to 75 in the summer. Using a glass for brushing your teeth or filling the sink with water for shaving and washing your face or reducing shower time from 15 minutes to 10 minutes and baths from every night to every other night.

Further utility savings can be accomplished by applying the myriad of “green” energy techniques and gadgets. But don’t be too drawn into these gadgets, some actually cost more money than the savings they provide. For instance replacing all single pane windows in a house costs thousands, when for a few hundred dollars and a little human involvement, you can replace all your drapes with thermal backed drapes and open and close those drapes accordingly each day.

You should now have a deceit list of items to apply Moderation to by, say cutting each item in half. Or if you feel you must wean yourself, cut them by one quarter the first 3 months and one third the second 3 months. Put the savings into a jar or tin can labeled Moderation Savings. So if your electric bill gets lowered by $2.00 a month, that goes in the Savings Jar and do not spend it for at least a year. Take a look at this Savings every few months and record the amount of savings. Or if you don’t want to wait that long, at least keep a record of how much you save after several months and extrapolate the annual savings. I did both.

A key aspect of taking control of your financial life is to Get Organized. Now I am far from an organized person, despite what my family and friends believe. You see I am a “pile person” by nature. I have piles that are for bills, piles for shopping coupons, piles for paycheck stubs and the like. So my first challenge was to get all this stuff into some organized fashion and in a relatively safe storage place.

I did this by putting my piles into large manila envelope and then the envelopes in one cube type cardboard storage box. This took several weeks and several re-distribution sorts until I had the information in groupings that would allow me to accomplish the next critical steps to a budget so that I could design one to meet my needs and stick to it too.

  • First it was two envelopes: expenses and income.
  • Then those were broken down into some specifics like: Mortgage, Auto, Groceries, Medical/Dental, Credit Cards, Utilities (which included phone and cable TV), Pay Stubs, Income Tax Returns and so on.
  • Then I got even more detailed and had envelopes for each utility, each child, auto maintenance from insurance and the loan, groceries were separated from food stuffs and health and beauty stuffs, RX’s also had their own envelope, Child Support became separate from pay stubs and stock interest and so on.

Once I was actually on a budget and debt free, these envelopes became file folders and the general break down envelopes became my weekly and monthly collection envelopes, which I keep in very easy to see and reach and use on a daily basis locations. For instance the envelope for all expenditure receipts like groceries or RX’s is in the kitchen, the rest are in a box in my study. I no longer go more than a month before recording and filing these items away. Tax time has become a breeze and I need very little time or effort to save for a new goal. I am also achieving more goals than I ever did in the past.

Whatever you do, find a technique and storage place that works for you and then stick to it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Share your experiences with me on Urban Homesteading

Hello I am A former 60's Flower Child, Urban Homesteader, don't believe in political parties, DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Former IT Help Desk Engineer. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches.

Share your experiences with me on Urban Homesteading

Friday, January 8, 2010

Urban Suburban Rural Security Landscaping and Lighting - Part 2

To keep burglars from reaching upper windows, remember the 3-7 Rule and keep ladders and your tools (garden/homesteading) out of sight and locked up! Windows in outbuildings on the compound should be at least 10-12 feet higher than the ground level outside the structure. This deprives the intruder from seeing inside and from having easy access to get into the structure, while still allowing plenty of light to shine in. Don't place sturdy trellises and gutters against walls of buildings that might be climbed to gain upper floor or high window access.

If your house is near a road or in a neighborhood, make sure your landscaping provides a clear view of your house from the road. Hidden homes are ideal for burglars. One of my friends on a semi-rural farm in Tennessee used to have several large evergreen trees and bushes, blocking most of their house from view from the road. Thieves took advantage of this one time when they were away. They have since cut them back.

So even if you live in the country it is not wise to have a thick border of shrubs blocking the view of your house from the road. If you do, it is best to keep them pruned low enough to allow visibility. Remember that 3-7 Rule. Or have some kind of wireless alarm or motion detector lighting that will go off and alert you.

As a homesteader or rural living person, even if your house is hidden from the road due to a long driveway, it would be wise to have a good clear view of all entry points around your home or inner compound and a wireless driveway alarm or two, to avoid “surprise” visitors. If you have additional buildings in your compound like barns and work sheds, it would be a good idea to utilize additional wireless driveway alarms and motion detection dusk to dawn outside lights for blind spots and the like. The additional seconds that these devices give you to protect yourself and yours, could be life savers. One of my friends in Idaho has wireless, motion detection sprinklers that go on when tripped. As he put it “a very cold, soggy, running away icicle intruder, that made cracking noises as he ran, is easier to hear, spot and catch than a dry quiet one.” Needless to say his intruder experience occurred in the winter.

As an additional incentive, a friend of mine in Wyoming uses the lights and alarms around his vegetable garden and orchard. He set the wireless audible alarm to blast (like an air horn) at the site instead of in his house and the motion detection lights to strobe –he says this has scared away bear, cougar, deer and elk. Not to mention that it alerts him, even while inside the farmstead sound asleep at o-dark-thirty. He is off-the-grid so the energy needed must be minimal or solar.

Urban, suburban or rural it is always wise to have good lighting in dark corners around the home and in the immediate yard or compound. Solar powered dusk to dawn lighting is the best and shouldn’t drain your energy supply. Even the fancy “up lighting” for trees and tall shrubs will help deprive intruders of a place to hide and many are solar powered as well. Not to mention that they make the compound look good to boot! My dear Montana homestead friends have these up pointing under the second story windows to rooms they do not have populated on a routine basis as well as on trees around their compound. They give them festive colors around the holidays. Looks great.

The next step to security landscaping is thorny plants. It’s easy to see why intruders hate these plants because we hate to prune and trim them for the same reasons. But if security and defense are your wishes, these are great protectors and they look good to. Be forewarned: I had to look up the more official names and descriptions to most of these plants, so get someone in the know to help you.

Professional landscapers have often said that planting thorny thicket hedges, etc. is a very reliable way to secure your yard or home from intruders. However, careful planning and pruning is needed or these same hedges can become cover for intruders instead. Don't plant these kinds of thorny plants where children play, climb or dig with their hands. These shrubs can and do draw blood! Thorny plants also tend to collect trash and leaves. So make sure you wear thick gloves, longs sleeves, long pants and sturdy shoes, when pruning or removing debris that gets caught in the branches of these babies.

If you live rurally, the fruit that some of these plants produce may draw four-legged interlopers closer to your home and livestock than you would like. So research and plan carefully.

As with any plant, be sure to ascertain the plant’s growth habit and size at full maturity, before purchasing or planting. You want to make sure it’s scale and pruning needs match your lifestyle and your home. Also beware of non-native plants and try to find out if they will become intrusive in your environment. If they do, they will become way more work for you than the security they provide. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Some plants that are likely to wound intruders are: dwarf conifers, such as bird's nest spruces; low growing shrubs, such as English yews and globose blue spruces (Picea pungens), also known as "Glauca Globosa"; or thorny plants that stay small, about three to four feet high and wide. One shrub that people aren't likely to hide behind, with its tight mass of thorny leaves, is Rotunda Chinese holly; hardy oranges (Poncirus trifoliata); and devil's walking stick (Aralia spinosa) are also good.

On the west coast and Rocky Mountain region, there is a wide variety of thorny landscaping plants to choose from.

Pyracantha and Barberry are two fast growing, evergreen shrubs with wicked thorns. Both can reach heights of about 15 feet and can be pruned into a tight, impenetrable hedge. The pyracanthia has red, yellow or orange berries in the fall. The Barberry is characterized by their three-spined thorns. These are excellent to use along the perimeter of your property, smaller varieties are effective under windows.

Roses are beautiful solutions for creating security. One friend of mine planted a 75 foot rose hedge along the fence wall of his west side home (west of the Rio Grande), which has been effective in keeping people from hopping the fence from the arroyo that borders that side of his property.

Another variety of rose, called the Japanese rose, or rosa rugosa is a suckering shrub which can spread quite fast. It can grow between 5-7 feet in height, forms dense thickets and has zillions of wicked thorns on its stalks. This rose blooms once a year and is very attractive to nesting birds.

Oregon Grape is a large evergreen shrub mostly found in the Northwest. It has a leaf like a holly, but produces small blossoms in the spring. In the summer, the berries resemble small concord grapes. Oregon Grape is one of the few plants that seem to do well beneath pine trees and in areas of little shade. This shrub grows to 4-6 feet in height, with a spread of up to 10 feet. These are excellent perimeter shrubs as well and practically impossible to crawl through. I had a cousin who made it through one of these as a kid. He still has the scar on his back as proof.

Holly is another variety of thorny plant. There are nearly 400 varieties of both trees and shrubs growing anywhere from 6 to 60 feet in height. Holly produces a bright red berry, which is mildly toxic. It's not a plant recommended with small children in the yard.

If your home is along an irrigation road, canal, arroyo, gully or alley, a row of blackberry or raspberry bushes provides a practical deterrent for any trespasser. These are fruit producing, suckering vines that can be trained to grow along a fence, like chain link. Left alone, they can turn into thickets as high as 10 feet. Berry bushes spread quite easily and are difficult to get rid of once established. They are best planted in areas where they won't interfere with other landscaping, gardening or agriculture.

Bougainvillea is a thorny vine with purple or yellow blossoms that can grow to lengths of up to 35 feet. It prefers warmer climates, and blooms frequently. Bougainvillea is ideal for fences and trellises.

Natal plums are another variety of southern plant that prefers warmer climates. This evergreen shrub reaches up to 7 feet in height, with a spread of 8-10 feet. It's characterized by a unique mounding shape and white, star shaped flowers.

For desert residents, spine tipped yucca and prickly pear cactus are excellent plants for chasing off would be burglars. Prickly pear cactus are especially effective beneath windows. Many of the berry, holly and Pyracantha grow well in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas too.

If you want thorny trees try: Hawthorne, this dense hedge grows 20 to 25 feet high and produces fragrant pink and white flowers. It has sharp thorns, which can range from 1 to 5 inches in length; Hardy Orange is a fruit-bearing tree often used around prisons. These grow 15 to 20 feet high and wide and are covered to the ground with lacerating thorns; Black Locust is resistant to rot and pollution and produces creamy white flowers and a pair of short thorns at the base of each leaf. My grandson calls them “surprise needles”, as they are somewhat hidden from view.

Basically, unless you surround your home with an electrified, walled, gated, razor wired, mined and moated compound, you'll never be able to keep people completely off your property and even then I doubt 100% is possible. But, by planting thorny shrubs and placing lighting and wireless alarms in areas where trespassers tend to collect or cut through or can hide, you will make your home, yard or compound less of a target for two and four legged intruders and at the very least, be alerted to the intrusion in enough time to protect and arm yourself and yours.

From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading, Prepper