Frugal Friday May and June

I missed last month’s Frugal Friday, so today’s edition has to cover two months of developments on the frugal front. However, for better or worse, it does not look like I missed very much while I was gone.Toilet Paper Brandon Blinkenberg

The usual recurring themes recurred. Free Money Finance linked to a post at the Printer.com Blog that rated commonly used fonts on the amount of ink used.

Penniless Parenting had a post revisiting that old chestnut, reusable toilet paper. Of course, we all do that already. But she did have a nice idea for a nifty homemade dispenser, with pictures.

On a similar theme, 1000 Ways to Save A Buck issued #27, teaching your cat to use the toilet. Now, obviously, that level of effort is entirely justified by the vast sums you will save on kitty litter. But if you do this, you will not be able to follow this quick and easy method for making the stuff yourself. (Shred newspaper, wash, soak and drain twice, add baking soda, squeeze out moisture, crumble over a screen and let dry for a few days. For details follow link.) Moreover, there is just no way you will get the cat to use the cloth toilet paper. Cats are fussy.

Speaking of training the smaller creatures in the house, Free from Broke broke new ground in How to Teach Your Young Children How to Budget. Their brilliant system involves giving your three-year-old poker chips as a reward for performing odd jobs around the house. Those chips can then be cashed in for various treats according to a posted price list. 20 minutes of video game playing is two chips, a trip to the museum is 12, and so on.

Free from Broke tells us that giving a three-year-old an actual cash allowance is less desirable because they won’t “understand” it. That may be so, but there are more obvious benefits to paying the little ones in your own household fiat money. Once they have mastered the basics of budgeting, teach them about inflation by arbitrarily raising prices for some treats. Then introduce credit, allowing them to charge items on their toy Visa card, until they max it out, when you can start accepting their treasured items at Mom’s pawn shop. For older kids, you can introduce credit crunches and, if neighboring families play along, international trade using both fixed and floating exchange rates.

Wise Bread brought another tip on saving money raising kids. In order to avoid wasting money on uneaten food, before serving it ask the little ones if they want to eat it or not. I think this would work even better if you made them pay for it with chips. And if they want good service, they better tip well.

But children are not merely a money sink. Surviving and Thriving points out that they can also be a frugal source of amusement. S&T suggests attending Little League Baseball games. They are “like an extended bloopers reel on YouTube, minus the annoying music and captions.” You’ll laugh yourself silly watching little boys humiliate themselves in front of friends and family. In winter months, I suggest elementary school plays.

Frugalists in search of ready cash might want to consider selling unwanted possessions. Live Real, Now shared some basic tips for selling on Craigslist. Accept only cash. Never meet buyers at your home. Instead, meet outside in a public place such as “a busy gas station parking lot.” Bring a large and intimidating “friend” with you to the meet. Live Real, Now says these tips will work with most things you might want to sell, but I think they would be particularly appropriate for certain agricultural products you grew yourself or obtained in bulk from producers in more southerly climates.

Speaking of agriculture, May and June are prime gardening months, so there were several posts on frugal garden tips. Provident Planning shared six homemade weed killer recipes. The first one is boiling water, which will, indeed, kill most weeds it is poured on. But there are drawbacks. A batch goes bad very quickly (i.e. it cools) and making it is not entirely frugal if you have to burn gas or use up electricity. Not to worry, Provident Planning suggests reusing the boiling water used for cooking. Just pour off the spaghetti through the colander into another pot and run outside with the boiling water. What could possibly go wrong?

A gardening post that disappointed me came from Miss Thrifty. The title mentioned a “pond-bath,” making me expect a cutting edge bit of frugality about saving money by washing in all-natural and organic bodies of water. Alas, it turned out to be about the only slightly less rustic idea of using an old bathtub as a backyard pond, rather than the other way around. Oh well.

Other frugal posts worthy of mention include a recipe for homemade soft scrub, a discourse on the morality of riding the train for free if the conductor fails to punch your ticket, advice to go to work when ill to avoid taking sick days (and save time and money by avoiding the doctor’s office), and a new frugal retirement destination: Detroit.

Hopefully, July will inspire more original work in the frugalosphere.

[Photo – Brandon Blinkenberg]

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