Frugal Friday for the Holidays

November brought a wealth of new frugal tips, many of them seasonally themed.

Wise Bread kicked the month off right by reminding us, as if we needed it, thatCattle Crop early November is  the right time to  buy Halloween costumes and decorations. But beware of those topical items that may not work next year,  e.g. the white sequin glove coming out of a grave.

Wise Bread also shared a timeless list of 20 Money-Saving Ways to Reuse Old Pantyhose.  Sure, some of them are pretty obvious, like using them to store onions and potatoes, but several are of the forehead slapping why-didn’t-I-think-of-that variety. Used nylons can be used to make homemade soap-on-a-rope, as plant ties, and even as storage for those "menacing foam packing peanuts."

With the change of seasons came a raft of posts on how to save on heating bills. Not Spending Money shared Seven Ways to Stay Warm in a Cold House. The best of the bunch is the suggestion that you spend more time outside, so your house will seem warmer when you go in. Of course, I have to take these tips with a grain of salt as the blogger in question confesses that properly heating her home in winter is one of the "little luxuries" that she splurges on. I wonder what else she refrains from not spending money on. Food? Clothing? Medical care?

If you really want to learn how to spend less for heat, ask a Canadian. This month The Canadian Finance Blog shared no fewer than 15 ways to save money on heating. Insightful highlights for me were ways #3 and #4, closing your exterior doors and windows. I guess that sort of thing is just second nature North of the Border.

Not exactly seasonal, but a sign of a changing climate of a sort, was the resurgence of posts about the joys of buying houses. Bible Money Matters made 2 Compelling Reasons To Buy The Most Expensive House In Your Neighborhood. Not to give the whole thing away, but the reasons are that you’ll spend less if your neighbors are poorer than you, and buying a house that would be worth a lot more in a better neighborhood is a bargain. That second principle strikes me as a good way to evaluate any potential purchase. A BMW 7 Series may not seem frugal at first, but consider how much more expensive it would be if it were a Bentley.

Switching gears from big purchases to small ones, Out of Debt Again asked How Much Do You Care About Expiration Dates? "One of the hallmarks of being frugal, at least in my opinion, is not caring a great deal about expiration dates." I couldn’t have said it better myself. And the author also reminds us that while regular milk will go bad, raw milk "will just sour naturally and is actually a rather delicious product." Yum.

Another great pillar of frugality is coupon clipping. Recently, however, many stores have switched to electronic coupons you have to print out yourself. As The Sun’s Financial Diary points out, this presents problems because of the added costs of ink and paper. That’s quite a conundrum, but the post does share a good tip: fill your printer’s paper tray with old junk mail.

And then there is DIY. Lifehacker told us how to make our own medicine ball (they "can run well over $20" in stores) by slicing a basketball open, filling it with sand, gluing it closed with Liquid Nails, and covering the whole thing with a lot of duct tape.

But the biggest thing in frugal DIY this month has got to be Provident Planning’s monthly update of their project Raising a Cow for Beef. To be fair, this is not something we city dwellers can do easily. The Provident Planning author lives in a rural area full of dairy farms, so he knows a little something about cattle. For example, he shows off his inside knowledge by referring to his male bovine as a "cow".

The young steer in question, appropriately named "Bambi", was received for free by his current owners when 10 days old. At that time he "faced a grim future". But now he can look forward to 18 months of living alone, chained up in what appears to be a small concrete yard, before being slaughtered.

And finally, this month’s survey of the frugalosphere ends with news of an Opportunity to Pay Zero Federal Income Tax in 2010 from My Wealth Builder. It’s complicated, but the key trick is that to reduce federal taxes to zero, all a married couple needs to do is earn less  than $24,917 in taxable income.

No Comments

  • By Jim, December 4, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

    Why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone? If you raise a cow INSIDE your house then the body heat of the cow will cut on your heating bills. You could probably claim a % of your homes square footage as a home based farming business deduction and get a tax dodge too!

  • By G. Jules, December 4, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

    I believe they actually did something similar in Switzerland, Jim, by putting the livestock barns below the main human living space so the livestock could provide an additional source of heat. Imagine the savings!

  • By Joe P., December 4, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

    What I am wondering is whether they will actually be able to get themselves to slaughter their pet cow that they raised from the age of ten days old – and, if they do, how they’re going to feel about beef afterwards.

  • By Paul Williams @ Provident Planning, December 4, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

    Hey, Frank! Thanks for the link. :)

    I chose to use “cow” in the title of those posts not because of my limited knowledge but because of the general public’s limited knowledge. Most people who are merely interested in what it takes to raise a cow for beef aren’t going to search for “steer”. It’s an SEO thing. It also doesn’t matter, because “cow” can mean either male or female – check the definition here. You’d also notice I specifically referred to him as a “steer” in my October post.

    As far as his “grim future” and current living conditions go, how much do you actually know about raising cows? If he had been sold, he would have become veal. He would have lived in a hutch with much less space than he has now (and he still would have been chained). When older, he would have been moved to group housing, which is dirtier and provides less individual care. He’s not in a “concrete yard” now – it’s a barn. And he’s on the chain so I can easily take him out to grassy places to graze. So no, he won’t be freely roaming the fields of Lancaster County for the rest of his days, but he is being treated much better by me than he would have at some commercial farm.

    Finally, those articles have absolutely nothing to do with frugality. We chose to raise Bambi because I thought it would be fun and my wife agreed. I highly doubt it’s going to save any money over buying beef, and I’ve already stated this in my articles. Also, nearly everyone in my church is involved in dairy farming somehow, so it’s nice to be able to share in that experience somewhat. Yes, I’m tracking the costs and time, but that’s just to document my experience.

    I understand your sentiment that many frugality tips are just plain ridiculous, but I’m not advocating raising your own cow/bull/steer/whatever for beef as a good way to save money. I’m simply sharing my experience with the process. I just thought it’d be an interesting project to share with my readers.

  • By Paul Williams @ Provident Planning, December 4, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

    @Joe P.

    Don’t worry. We won’t have a problem eating him. It’s not like I sit with him on my lap and pet him until he falls asleep…

  • By Naomi, December 4, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

    People trying to save money? Fools!

  • By Tyler, December 4, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

    I probably should point out, as a guy raised with cows basically in his back yard, that a cow is actually more expensive than the meat you can get out of it.

    The only way to make money on buying a cow is use that cow to breed other baby cows. Also, I am really sad that I know this.

  • By Four Pillars, December 4, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

    Closing windows and doors can save money on your heating bills?

    I need to see the studies that prove that!

  • By grumpyoldwoman, December 5, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

    Don’t those Canadians who save money on their heating bills by bundling up and turning off the heat for long periods have to consider the cost of frozen, broken pipes? Or are they doing without water, too?

  • By CalLadyQED, December 6, 2009 @ 3:53 am

    I read a story years ago about a family that tried raising their own beef. I think they named the first steer Hamburger. :)

    Btw, Frank, you’ve made me feel rich. In order to owe no taxes, I guess I’d have to marry someone how made about -50% of what I make. Then it’d add up to less then $24,917. :P

  • By Kalani, December 7, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

    Yeah, I like the idea of raising the cow inside the house. That would generate all kinds of heat. Also, thanks for the link :)

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