Frugal Friday Wisdom

It seems that every month Frugal Friday includes at least one, and sometimes  two, hot new frugal tips from Wise Bread. Nothing surprising in that, as Wise Bread is a multi-author powerhouse of money insight. They also maintain the official list of top Scary Halloweenpersonal finance blogs. (And modestly rank themselves at only #5.)

If this month’s frugalosphere performance is any indication, they may be soon moving up a few notches. I counted no fewer than four separate frugal tips worthy of passing along here.

Give kids cash for Christmas. Dollar-for-dollar, they will appreciate it more and it is much cheaper to ship and wrap than other gifts.

Make your own infused liquor. Wise Bread provides a recipe: put the thing with the flavor you want to add into your booze, let sit for a few days, and then strain the lumpy stuff out again. I never would have figured that out on my own. Most frugal suggested flavor source: leftover Halloween candy.

Wise Bread told us How to Live in a Big City on a Small-Town Budget. The first tip is to make sure that big city is Chicago, not New York, LA, or San Francisco. I hear Milwaukee is nice too.

And WB had an insightful discussion of the age old controversy: Canned vs. Dried Beans: Which Are Cheaper? Their research shows that although canned may seem cheaper by weight, you are paying for a lot of water that way. On a bean-for-bean basis, dry is a better buy. Sure, you have to soak them overnight, but if you normally buy three cans a week (and who doesn’t?) this could save you $25 a year. “It may not sound like much, but when you consider that it is only one item out of possibly hundreds that you purchase over the course of a year, it all adds up.”

Other blogs paled in comparison. Not Made of Money shared the little known fact that “Appliances that are turned off and still remain plugged in consume 75% of electricity usage.” I guess global warming will be easier to fight than I thought.

No Credit Needed gave us DIY directions to make a rain barrel for very little money. The first item on the list of materials is a 55 gallon barrel, which you get for free from your buddy who works at an auto-repair shop.

If you are toying with the unfrugal idea of leaving money to your kids in your will, don’t do it. As Watson Inc. points out, “Competent children don’t need an inheritance, and incompetent children don’t deserve one.” In other words, if they can make money in their own, then they don’t need yours, and if they can’t, well then who cares about those losers anyway?

Everything is negotiable was the bottom line of a post at The Sun’s Financial Diary Mastering Negotiation to Save Money. The three places where negotiation skills can be useful mentioned in the post are overdraft fees, student loans, and taxes.

Budgets are Sexy reminded us that not spending your money once is not enough. You have to not spend it repeatedly over a sustained period. And to achieve that, you need to hide your money from yourself. The author suggests putting it in a bank that is 30-50 miles away with “really crappy online access.” Just remember not to activate the ATM card or order checks. Several commenters recommended banks that helpfully make it particularly difficult to get your money back.

Free Money Finance had tips on how to graduate college in three years, so you can “get your degree and get on with life.” This post should be emailed to all freshmen. Take it from me kids, grown-up life is way way more fun than boring old college. The sooner you get here the better.

And finally, a true story of frugalism in action. The author of Money Beagle needed a new lawn sprinkler. He found them on-line for only $1.49 for a two-pack, plus $5 shipping. Needless to say, he ordered six. But then, disaster struck. One of the six did not work, leaving him with only five functioning sprinklers, just four more than he needed. The story does have a happy ending, though, as the place he got them agreed to send him a refund check for $0.75.

That may not sound like a lot of money, but in the context of all that you spend, it adds up.

No Comments

  • By bex, November 5, 2010 @ 5:11 pm

    Trust me: you will NOT save money by infusing your own liquor…

    Flavored vodka is the same dang price as plain vodka. I do this all the time, but only to make hard-to-find vodkas (like grapefruit or coconut).

    It’s cheaper to just not drink.

  • By Investor Junkie, November 5, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

    @bex: I believe that is the whole point of this post.

  • By Patrick, November 5, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

    Awesome post, Frank. You’re firing on all cylinders today.

  • By Blake, November 5, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

    @bex: Typically, though, the flavored vodkas have 5-10% less alcohol by volume. If you took 40% vodka (say, Absolut) and imbued your own flavor, you’d still have close to 40%, minus a tiny little bit for whatever flavor molecules are now taking up some of the space in the mixture.

  • By Starshard0, November 6, 2010 @ 1:21 am

    I wish people would have sent me cash for Christmas when I was a kid. I hardly ever got anything I wanted.

  • By CalLadyQED, November 6, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    How did Bad Money Advice not make the top 100? It’s a travesty.

  • By jim, November 6, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    When I was a kid I did prefer cash to crappy inappropriate gifts.

    I’m guessing the 75% electricity item is just poorly worded. I’m hoping they meant that an individual appliance could be using 75% as much electricity when off as it does when on. Thats actually true for a rare few appliances.

  • By Frank Curmudgeon, November 6, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    Rare indeed.

  • By Frank Curmudgeon, November 6, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

    CallLadyQED: I think you have to ask WiseBread to get on the list. My back-of-the-envelope would put BMA in the high 80s, which isn’t much of an ego boost and would bump some poor guy, who might care, to #101.

  • By jim, November 6, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

    So I looked through this list of devices that shows how much power they use in off/standby states and about the ONLY devices that use 75% or more power while “off” is cable modems, cable set top boxes, DVRs, satellite TV boxes. You certainly don’t want to unplug a DVR. The modems & TV boxes have long start up times and may have TV guide data in memory so powering off those would be a major inconvenience.

  • By mc, November 6, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

    “Appliances that are turned off and still remain plugged in consume 75% of electricity usage.” This is apparently a FAST-GROWING HOAX (I have heard it with lower, but still significant, numbers). Anything consuming electricity gives off heat, light, or some other form of energy. If your cell phone charger (for instance) isn’t warm when idling, it’s wasting less than 1/4 watt and you need not unplug it. The cost of the wear and tear on the plug and outlet is probably greater than the cost of the electricity you’d save. I teach electrical engineering and have made some measurements of such things.

  • By mc, November 6, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    …The point is, these idling devices are nowhere near 75% of the electricity consumption of your house. They are probably nowhere near 7%. Your air conditioner and refrigerator totally dwarf them.

  • By jim, November 7, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

    mc, I don’t think it is a “hoax” which would imply that people are intentionally perpetuating a mistruth. But people are misunderstanding and just exaggerating and overstating the impact. It is true that many electronic devices still draw power when off. My old 19″ tube TV uses 8 watts when its off. (I measured it with a meter) But you’re right that most devices only draw a little power if any when off and our normal power usage is far greater. My house full of electronics probably only wastes $2-3 a month with all the power consumption of the things in standby mode. There is waste, but its not huge. Little things like cell phone chargers normally use a fraction of a watt while off. I think this topic gets a lot more attention cause its seen as waste that is avoidable without real sacrifice or cost like turning down the heat or buying efficient appliances.

  • By Frank Curmudgeon, November 8, 2010 @ 9:32 am

    I’m not sure that hoaxes need to be intentionally untrue to be official. Somewhere somebody came up with the 75% number. Whether that was done because they wanted to deceive people into joining the cause or because they have very poor math skills isn’t relevant.

    Things like cable modems, DVRs, and satellite boxes are never really off in the conventional sense.

    I’m waiting for somebody to propose federal legislation to ban unnecessary LEDs.

  • By Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers, November 8, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    For whatever reason, the amount of energy things waste seems to get puffed up a lot. When I wrote an article on the myth of saving a bundle by turning off a computer (, I STILL had someone insist that turning off their computer at night was cutting their electric bill in half (apparently they live in a cave with no lighting, appliances, etc).

    The company I work for happily quotes savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in savings. Well, sure, but we’re talking about roughly 200,000 computers :)

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to save energy – but I think people sometimes have a tendency to exaggerate a single into a grand slam.

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