Sunday, December 13, 2009

Extremely Useless Frugal Living Tips

I feel like I'm part of a flight of lemmings, the recent economy has us all trying to think of ways to save economize.

However, I've been working on frugal tips for a long time, close to 20 years. Reading the blatantly obvious and superficial frugal living tips posted on the web are a huge waste of time. Most are obvious copies of tips from other publications.

Here is a list of some frustrating and useless tips.

1) Grow your own vegetable and herbs to save money.

Have you ever made pesto or pizza Marguerite? These recipes will kill most pots of basil after one or two dinners. And some of us who live in expensive portion of the country are paying top dollar for real estate. You want us to devote it to growing tomatos?!!!

2) Buy in bulk

Hey, I'm single. It will rot if it is perishable. And if it isn't perishable, it will cost you extremely expensive real estate if you live in an expensive portion of the country. How much pantry space do I want to devote to beans?

3) Buy in bulk and divide it up with friends

I've tried this. First, your schedules don't really ever match. Second, do you ever really agree brands and types of food? Astonishingly, people get really picky especially on items like TP or soap.

4) Clip coupons.

Hum. It takes about an hour to clip the coupons from the local circular... then add some time to each trip to the store to match the coupon to the desired items... Average savings for me... less than $3 everytime. It is easier and requires less focus to just use mass transit or a bicycle to get to the store. You save gas money, eliminate the need for a gym and since you have to carry all the stuff back, you limit any impulse items.

5) Make "free" presents for others by baking cookies or knitting socks or whatever...

Free??!! Have you seen the prices for butter or wool recently? What is your time worth even if you are unemployed? However, I agree this can be lower cost than an equivalent purchase.

6) Winterize or insulate your house to save heating/cooling costs.

This is not a useless tip. It's extremely valuable. However, it's been repeated so often, I hate it. Kinda like Madonna's "Material Girl". And, yeah, it's the first thing I do whenever I move into a new place.

7) Cook at home instead of eating out

See comment about tip 6. And doesn't this depend on what kind of groceries you purchase?

8) Use less energy by 1) washing in cold water or 2) use a clothes line instead of a machine

Obviously 1) you are not allergic to dust mites and 2) it isn't raining outside and 3) if you hang it to dry inside, you're still not allergic to dust mites...

9) Buy energy star appliances

By golly, is changing your appliances really that frugal? What if I change jobs and have to move?

10) Buying a coupon book to save money

Check those books with an eagle eye. I was offered a restaurant coupon book with close to 60% discounts had I used all the coupons. However, internet reviews of these restaurants revealed most were... less than exciting. Much less exciting than eating at home.

11) Avoid daily cups of coffee from those national chains....

Argh. Enough already. I never started this nasty expensive habit. You want good coffee? Use a french press.

Some frugal living tips that worked for me.

1) Accept lower quality of life and figure out how to get around this.

I paid less for a condo that was close to the railroad tracks and to the airfield. Yes, it is noisy. I wear earplugs at night that I picked up at the Amazon Friday sale for 75% off. You get used to the noise during the day.

And it doesn't have laundry hookups but has laundry facilities in the building next door. I spent $14 on a special laundry bag which will haul heavy loads more easily. But my place is quieter. And costs less.

I rent out my spare bedroom. What did I pay more for the spare bedroom? To get into the 2 bdrm, 2 bath single family entry level market and keep my property values stable.

On the plus side, it's really easy to use the train to commute to work. Free, too since my employer is generous enough to distribute annual train passes to employee.

2) CFL's have been written to death. LED's aren't really ready for prime time (although this may change within the next year). I use LED night lights with motion detectors. It extends the life of the CFL's by eliminating the need for quick short bursts of light (less than 15 minutes).

3) Rechargable batteries with a "smart" charger (one that will monitor the battery and recharge/discharge as needed)

4) Insulate your windows (after you've already weatherstripped). You can use insulating panels but the downside is complete light blockage or inconvenient removal. Others use window quilts or Roman drapes. If it is physically possible, why not just tuck your curtains under your blinds? It is quite effective.

5) Drinks are always expensive. Downgrade across the board. If you are drinking bottled water, switch to filtered water. Use the less expensive filtering option that gives you great taste. Those filters aren't really extracting all that much lead, arsenic or cadmium out of your drinking water because it's pretty safe to start with. What, you thought the water treatment plants don't have filtering technology?

6) Dieting is one of the most effective ways to lower your grocery and medical bills! Never eat out - the food is very fatty. And eat less! I'm not joking. I brown bagged my lunches, cut the volume of food consumed by 2/3 and went from gaining about 3-5 lbs per year to losing over 10 lbs per year. I don't have to cook as frequently.

7) Eating healthy is another effective way to lower your grocery and medical bills. Substitute beans for meats, oatmeal for processed cereals...adding poached chicken to my roster of recipes has been a real money, time and calorie saver.

8) You wanna save energy? Don't want to pile on another blanket/comforter and spend lots of money, ya da, ya da? Wear a sweatshirt and pants to bed. Want to take it to the max? The body loses the most heat from the head, neck, hands & wrists and ankles and feet. Wear gloves, socks, arm/leg warmers, a hat or scarf to bed. However, I am not so extreme that I wear my boots to bed.

9) Good cookwear saves time, money, is more energy efficient, offers higher performance and lasts longer. I once tested a decent quality vs. high quality skillet. The high quality skillet cooked the food in 1/2 the time. Plus the high quality skillet has a lifetime warranty. I'll be sending it back to the company for replacement. Just as soon as it wears out. I'm sure it will one of these decades.

10) The Internet offers free e-books, free movies and TV. Have you considered canceling your cable subscription?

11) Due to a generous employee phone plan, I eliminated the land lines at home (also at work but that didn't save me any money) and consolidated my personal and work cell phone accounts into one. It is a little confusing getting work calls when you're on vacation but I'm saving at least $40 per month. Check with your employer. Or consolidate your cell phone plan with family members.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to move your address book on the MacIntosh

If you are like me you don't like to create a special backup or export file for every application. You just backup the entire hard drive to an external hard drive. This does add a few steps towards recovery of your address book when you upgrade to a new computer.

To recover your address book, you will need to do the following.

Go into your external hard drive and locate these files


Copy these files to the equivalent location on your new Mac.

From your backup, copy this directory


to the equivalent location on your new mac.

You are done.
Hope this helps.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tires and the Ozone Layer

I'm a tree-hugger. I'm even willing to embrace them despite their obvious attempts to assassinate me regularly by blasting pollen in my face. So, I dutifully recycle, print duplex, and try to think about creative ways to use all those glass jars I've got. I brought my first CFL bulb close to 20 years ago. Obviously, I try to minimize my driving and it should not shock you when I fess up and say my 7.5 year old car has less than 35,000 miles on it. So I was distinctly annoyed when I discovered a crack in the sidewall of one my tires. The rating on the tire was about 50,000-60,000 miles.

What gives? Defective tires? Should I sue?

Consulting the ever-wise Click & Clack auto column, led to quite a trail of web discussions on the interaction of UV radiation, ozone and rubber. At the molecular level it's a bit complicated but at 30,000 feet pretty simple. After about 6-7 years, tires take enough UV damage that mileage is irrelevant. The rubber breaks down due to oxidation and your tires crack into pieces. The heaviest damage will occur at the sidewalls where the highest sun exposure occurs.

Grumbling about how my lifestyle changes had not delayed my tires from entering the wastestream and emitting mild screams of pain after missing the $70 coupon off the price of new tires at Costco, I vowed I would do sometime to extend the life of this new set. A fresh start.

Basically, I started looking for sun tan lotions for cars.

It really helps if you use the right keywords, try " UV protectants cars" in your search engine.

I promptly ran into numerous warnings about the products in this category. Apparently, while all of these products contain UV protectants of various efficacy, many also contain petroleum distillates which will damage your tires.

Damage as in dissolve the rubber.

Gah. Could it be true?

Off at the nearest Wally world, I started reading labels. Indeed, many of these products for tires boldly proclaimed the presence of petroleum distillates in their ingredient list.

What to do?

When in doubt, go to the people who will follow a product to the death. Who will form societies to discuss and compare the performance of UV protectants for tires. The fanatics. The antique car owners...

There I found several recommendations for a mysterious product called "303 Aerospace Protectant" designed to prevent UV damage on a variety of materials including tires. Not only had this product picked up recommendations from the websites of fanatical car/boat/RV owners but manufacturers were endorsing it. This seemed to offer better odds than picking up a random bottle off the shelf...

With confidence, I purchased a trial sized sample and applied some to the tires. I was quite proud of my strategy to extend the life of my tires and was sure they'd last at least a year or two longer. Well, I was sure until I picked up a nail in the sidewall of one of my new tires. Now, I wonder how long the warranty on my tires will last

Stick around, I still have 3 original tires. In only 4.75 years, we'll see if this product lives up to its reputation.

In the meanwhile, the stuff can be used to protect all your plastic, vinyl, rubber, fiberglass and a host of other materials. It goes on somewhat glossy and stays that way for quite a while. My dashboards have looked shiny and new for close to six months after the last application before I had to dust and refresh the application.

Not that it's about the gloss... i mean eventually the UV radiation will damage the plastic in the dashboard too...i apply it to surfaces where gloss is not an issue....really....honest...