Frugal Friday in the Snow

February brought great heaps of snow to parts of the country not used to it, but being shut in for days at a time must inspire frugal thinking, because it  was a good month for cutting-edge frugalist tips.Birthday party - Tudokin

Laundry continues to be a fertile area for frugality. Keeping Kingdom First carried a guest post that thoughtfully reminded us to make sure our dirty laundry is really dirty. But the author may go too far when she advises that you ask yourself "If I was paying someone to wash my laundry, would I want to pay to have this item washed?" Obviously, if a frugalist were paying somebody else to wash their clothes they would do it themselves to save money. brought us instructions on how to make our own dryer sheets. Finally, a way to save money on these household miracles with a thousand thrifty uses. had a very good month, also sharing a useful guest post on the many advantages of dental tourism, that is, flying to Mexico for a root canal. It was written by the president of Pan American Dental Tours, so he must know what he is talking about. And SA had a third post advising that we Get Politically Active to Save Money. The author shared her experiences saving money by campaigning to save her local library and keeping the county from raising her taxes. After all, what could be more  frugal than lobbying for free services and tax breaks?

Of course, there was a major holiday in February, and many blogs helped out with tips on how to make your Valentine’s day a frugal one. Most of the suggestions were fairly commonplace: celebrate it on the 15th, make dinner at home, give your special someone a "certificate" for "services", and so on. One blog that did break new ground was Almost Frugal, which suggested Google AdWords as a budget gift for your special someone. "Target the keywords your partner search the most, write some ads and you are set."

For year-round savings, Quirky Momma explains that you do not need to buy a newspaper to clip coupons. Just bring your scissors to the library. They won’t mind.

More than a few blogs mentioned it was a good time to buy a Toyota. But PersonalFinanceAnalyst went further, spreading the secrets of really saving money with Cars for Under 500 Dollars: How to Find Them. The author does mention that it takes skill both to find such a car and to operate it safely, as it may be missing such things as second gear. "A novice driver will probably end up in an accident."

Continuing on the car theme, and adding to the growing science of Frugal Thermodynamics, The Simple Dollar had a list of tips to save on your daily commute, including that you should only use the A/C or heater long enough to get the temperature in the car where you want it, then switch it off. After a while, "If you find the temperature getting uncomfortable again, just flip the A/C or heat back on." Of course, if you have one of those fancy over $500 cars, it might be equipped with a high-tech device known as a thermostat.

(Speaking of which, I am no engineer, but I’ve noticed that car engines tend to get hot after running for a little while. Couldn’t somebody rig up a car heater that used engine heat to warm the passengers? Wouldn’t this be practically free, or at least a lot cheaper than heating the inside of the car with electricity, or forced hot water, or however it is done now? Again, I don’t know much about this….)

Wise Bread rounds out this month’s survey of what is new in the frugalosphere with a post suggesting we reduce the number of birthdays we celebrate. They suggest 1-10, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and every one after that. I am not sure I share their enthusiasm. Firstly, it is not clear to me that, with appropriate planning and frugal party skills, a person cannot garner enough presents to make a profit on any birthday. And if your birthday celebrations are doomed to run at a loss, why celebrate any of them?

Of course, there is the terrible problem of children’s birthdays. This is a raw deal for most parents. They are expected to have the little urchin’s friends over and feed them ice cream, cake, and soda. You get nothing out of the deal other than the mischievous joy of handing the brats back to their parents just before the sugar crash sets in. Sure, there are presents, but the damn kid gets those. Parents get nothing.

Which is why I am surprised that the entire month of February went by without a single mention of a frugal strategy I have long advocated: having kids on February 29th. It does take planning, and possibly induced labor, but it is well worth the effort. Instead of having to endure and pay for 13 birthdays (according to the Wise Bread plan) before the kid goes to college you only have to celebrate four times.

[Photo – Tudokin]

No Comments

  • By bluefrog, March 5, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

    Bring your scissors to the library to clip coupons from the newspapers?!! I hope she runs into one of the librarians I know.

  • By Nick S., March 5, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    Typically cars channel the coolant (and engine heat) from the engine cooling system into the cabin to heat the car. That’s why it takes a while for the heater to start working when you start your car in the morning–the engine isn’t warm enough to provide heat for the cabin.

  • By Marcus, March 5, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

    I am an engineer, and I’ll tell you that every car I’ve ever seen DOES use the engine heat to heat the car. They run a fan through a heat exchanger with heated fluids (air or liquids) from the engine and then pass that now warm air to the passenger compartment.

    The only exceptions are heated seats, rear-view mirrors, and the like.

    The point of The Simple Dollar item was likely that the heater running costs some electricity just due to the fan running.

  • By Chuck, March 5, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    Heat in a car is practically free. It works just like you think it should. Turning off the A/C makes economic sense, but turning off the heat never does (it just routes the heat outside instead of inside).

    The “coupons from the library” article also advocates washing dishes by hand, which I’m confident has been debunked a million times over.

  • By jim, March 5, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    I have an aunt and uncle that get their dental work done in Mexico. Its actually a good way for them to save a lot of money and still get quality work done. Course you want to avoid visiting a quack.

    Most cars I’ve seen still have still a manual on/off switch control the heat / AC rather than automatic thermostat. Its odd that such a feature isn’t standard equipment since a thermostat is probably a $1 item.

  • By Scott Simmons, March 6, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    Nick, Marcus, and Chuck: please recalibrate your sarcasm meters. :)

  • By Patrick, March 6, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

    You’re joking about heating the car right?

  • By ctreit, March 7, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

    Dang! I tried four times but the closest I got to February 29th was February 5th in a leap year. The poor guy was already almost two weeks overdue. We could not keep him in there for another 24 days. Now I am stuck with a frivolous life-style of celebrating my kids’ birthdays the regular way. – Well, we do have only frugal birthday celebrations. I don’t see the point of an elaborate celebration when the little fellow turns 4 or any age for that matter.

    For parents like me you could go one step further and recommend joining Jehova’s Witnesses. I hear that they do not celebrate birthdays at all.

  • By Brandon, March 8, 2010 @ 9:17 am

    I have to take issue with some of the birthday celebration suggestions.

    1-10 = ok, you want to give your little kid a birthday party. They are not going to understand the concept of birthdays at 1 or 2 though. Skip them.

    13 – Becoming a Teenager, fair.
    16 – Getting a driver’s license, fair.
    18 – Being able to vote and die for your country, fair.
    19, 20 – I have no idea why these are on the list and my issue with them is really the reason for this post.
    21 – YAY DRINKING! Oh wait, I’ve been doing it for 3 years anyway. Still, good idea to have this one as people will buy me free alcohol this day.

    30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 – Yay, these are the years that remind me how old I am. At least I get cards telling me how over the hill I am at 30, 40, and 50 (any older is just cruel :) )

    and every one after that – Yay, I’m not dead yet, fair.

  • By Brandon, March 8, 2010 @ 9:22 am

    Best comment on the wisebread post:
    But can we add 65? Medicare is a wondrous thing!

  • By downfall, March 9, 2010 @ 11:55 am

    This post is a crowning moment of awesome for sarcasm. Well done.

  • By kitty, March 12, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    This is one of two best blogs with sarcastic posts I know, but the second one doesn’t deal with finances but with music (and is entirely sarcastic unlike this one which has a mixture of sarcastic and serious posts). As this one, the other one also gets its share of readers who needs to turn off irony filter in their browsers.

  • By Michael, March 16, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    Yes, this is yet another article of BAD advice (and we get alot of them). Many have found out that the advice was ugly lies – some little lies, and many huge lies. Where is the GOOD advice for the money deficient?

  • By Marsha Killington, Colonial Heights VA, May 21, 2011 @ 2:52 am

    Michael, you have to use your brains. When you do, you’ll find wisdom in the most unexpected places.

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