Monday, February 25, 2013
Monday, January 12, 2009
CUTTING CORNERS ON THE CELLPHONE/CABLE
When I was a kid we had one phone in the house. It was in the kitchen. It was yellow, it was a rotary phone and it had a cord that was so twisted it couldn't be untangled. In those days, you couldn't just go to the store to buy a phone, you had to order one from the telephone company. When I shared the memory of the yellow wall phone with my mother she said, "I couldn't figure out how to get rid of it. It was so old, they no longer had that department. We left it there when we moved."
Ah the joys of having only one phone. And what about cable? I was in my teens when cable arrived. It took awhile to convince my father to pay the monthly fee, but he caved after he discovered that he could now watch hockey 24/7 on our solitary black and white television set.
Chris, Deiredre and I were transfixed by cable. We watched the making of the HBO LOGO special over and over and over again (and I think that was the only thing on HBO back then) We watched our new cable channels so much so, that one morning my mother came storming into the livingroom and yelled, "Are you watching THAT ESCANOG CHANNEL?" We all looked at her. What was Escanog? There was no Escanog channel we knew all 25 channels by heart. Finally she said, "ESCANOG- the adult channel." Deirdre said, "Umh-IT'S NOT CALLED THE ESCANOG CHANNEL." How eight year old Deirdre knew which channel it was no one asked. But, doesn't it all harken back to such a technologically innocent time? One phone, no cable....no wonder we all fought so much.
There are ways you can cut back on your tech addictions. Check out this fabulous article I found in my hometown paper the New York Times MANY WAYS TO PLUG IN TO TECH SAVINGS . And let me know what other tips you have might have.
Cheap S. Kate
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
BE YOUR OWN CLEANING LADY
Be your own Cleaning Lady
I had the same cleaning lady for ten years. Every Thursday around four, Magda would show up. She had been an electrical engineer in Poland and had come to the United States in the early 1980’s, but had neglected to ever get a green card. I liked Magda. She liked my son. Admittedly, her habit of throwing him up in the air and then catching him while flipping him backwards shouting, “You are strong baby, yes.” made me a bit nervous. After I would grab the baby away from her, she would go after Brudda, my Yorkie /Jack Russell mix. Holding him high above her head, she would pretend that he was the little Russian Dog that was sent into space. “Look at you fly. Just like Laika. High past the moon. Swoosh.” Brudda wound up on Prozac soon after. It would sometimes occur to me when I would find Magda slowly turning the pages of The Romanov Family Album, weeping, that perhaps, just perhaps, she was supposed to be cleaning my house. When she did get around to it, she had two products she swore by –an exceedingly noxious tile cleaner, and a floor product that managed to strip wood. Finally, I’d had enough. Magda had broken too many things, destroyed too many surfaces. I was sad to say goodbye after ten years, but in the end I had to admit that the $90 a week that I paid her could be used to start a retirement account for myself instead of supporting her elderly mother in Poland.
How much money would you save a month if you let your cleaning lady go? I saved almost four hundred dollars a month by cleaning my own apartment. I also found that I showed up on time, and did a better job. This is not to say that cleaning is easy or even fun. You can argue that you don’t have the time. You do have the time, remember? You have bankable time. You have the time saved up after you cut back your TV watching and internet surfing. And if you withdraw 3 hours from your bankable time, you will have the time you need to clean.
After finding the time to clean, my biggest problem was the toxic smell left behind from the cleaning products Magda had used. After some research and experimentation, I came up with some simple formulas for cleaning products to make at home. They are much cheaper and I found them to be a lot less toxic. For about thirty dollars, you can have the cleaning supplies you need for a year.
When I started making my own supplies, Timothy who was 4 at the time, watched me and asked me what I was doing. He told me, “Mama they sell that stuff in the supermarket. I can take you there and show you.” I made him understand that I wanted to use something that didn’t smell so bad or make my eyes tear; he asked if he could help me make my own cleaning supplies and then volunteered, “We can take it to supermarket and sell it there.” I love my little green entrepreneur.
5 large spray bottles
• A 12 lb bag of baking soda
• 1.32 gallon jug of white vinegar
• A small bottle of Dawn dishwashing detergent .
(Dawn is an excellent grease cutter.)
• 20 Microfiber towels (available for purchase at a warehouse club for under $11.)
• A bottle of mineral oil 10 oz.
• A bottle of hydrogen peroxide 16 fl oz.
• 1 indelible marker to label each spray bottle (Also write the ingredients for each cleaning solution directly on the bottle. It makes it easier to refill.)
• Feather duster
• Measuring cups, spoons and one funnel. (All can be bought at a dollar store.)
Window cleaner (spray bottle#1)
1/2 teaspoon of Dawn
3 tablespoons of vinegar
2 cups of water
All purpose cleaner (Spray bottle #2)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
Squirt of dawn
2 cups hot water
This is fantastic solution to use on just about anything, but do not use any vinegar-based solutions on marble. It will stain it. The one below works wonderfully on my marble countertops.)
Marble Cleaner (spray bottle #3)
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide
Furniture polish (spray bottle #4)
1/2 teaspoon of mineral oil
1/4 cup of vinegar
Add a squeeze of lemon or orange
This makes a creamy scrub and is far less noxious than what is on the market.
1/2 cup of baking soda
big squirt of liquid detergent
Add some water sponge scrub in tub, rinse and wipe down
Toilet bowl cleaner
1/4 cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar
Put in bowl in order listed above. Let foam for three minutes and then scrub with a toilet brush and then flush.
Here are some more household tips that most effectively use your new non-toxic, less noxious solutions.
Cut one lemon in half. Microwave on high for 2 minutes on a paper plate. Take lemon out. (Careful, it will be scorching.) Wipe down. This is great for splatter stains and getting that popcorn smell out.
For the wooden floors I use Hope’s Floor Revive. It costs around $6 per 16 fl oz. Two bottles will clean around 1,000 square feet. It’s expensive, but it saves the $4 per square foot of finishing cost of refinishing. This can be done every three months. I usually mop the floors every other week with plain water. This keeps the floors hydrated and doesn’t strip the finish.
Tip - Before you clean
Spend ten minutes in each room and put stuff away. In ten minutes, I emptied the dishwasher, cleaned up the pet toys, put Laurie’s clothes in the hamper where they belong, but somehow she cannot find, got the recycling ready for Timothy to do when he gets home for school
Cheap S. Kate
Sunday, January 4, 2009
READ BESTSELLERS FOR FREE
When I was a kid I loved to read anything I could get my hands on--these included books by V.C. Andrews -the Tolstoy for housewives. For those of you who don't know VC Andrews, she wrote this wonderful book called FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC about a woman who remarried and didn't want her new husband to know about her children so she kept them in the attic and well, when they hit puberty--love blossomed. Everyone in my family shared my addiction to books, and to feed our habit, we belonged to three libraries. Why three? Unfortunately, when each family member takes out fifteen books at a time, the late fines are going to add up. So depending on how much we owed, we would go from library to library until my father could come up with the cash to settle the fines and free up some more books. I would die of shame when Dad was confronted with late fines for the Secret Habits of Amphibians, The Memoirs of Winston Churchill, Amelia Earhart/Mystery Solved!, and Polly Counts to Three. I would stare at my beat up supermarket sneakers as Dad pulled out three dimes meant for the parking meter and say, “I don’t seem to have any cash on me.”
Would the surly librarian give us one more grace week? Sometimes she would take a long gander at me and my siblings. My brother, dirty butterfly net in one hand and a jar containing some strange creature with a twenty-six letter Latin name that only he could pronounce in the other; my four year old sister dressed in some cast off Rockette-like costume complete with fishnet stockings; and me, dressed like an eight year old cowboy who had been to Vietnam. After sizing us up, more often than not the librarian would say, “One more week, Mr. Ryan, but after that I’ll have to suspend your family’s library privileges.”
The next week, Chris and I would run out of the car with arms loaded and throw the volumes down the iron mouth of the book drop. Dad would floor the Volare and head off to yet another library in the next town to rack up some more fines. (The irony of this story is that after my father retired, he went back to school and became a librarian.)
The National Endowment for the Arts released the results of a survey called “Reading at Risk.” It stated that fewer than half of Americans read novels, short stories, plays or poetry. Well, perhaps it's time to change all that. And I know you're thinking, 'Hey books cost money. How am I going to read bestsellers for free?' It's simple all you have to do is go down to your local library and if you don't have one already get a library card. At the Brooklyn Public library, I recently reserved online and picked up the following books all for free.
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman (list price $14.95)
Compelling story about a couple of zookeepers in Warsaw who saved Jews by literally hiding them in the animal cages. Also, a fascinating look at the Nazi obsession with bringing back extinct breeds of animals. (A Mengele like zookeeper plays a minor, but devastating role.) All this set against a blow by blow account of the Warsaw Uprising.
Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster (list price $14.00)
A man reconnects with his family with interesting at times predictable results. Quick read.
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates
A suburban couple goad and drink themselves into 1950 oblivion. Makes John Cheever look upbeat. (list price 14.95)
Easter Parade Richard Yates (list price 14.00)
Two sisters choose one train wreck relationship after another and find comfort of the Southern kind. What is it with Yates and his literary affair with bourbon? He seems to like mad women and drunken scenes. It gets tiring to say the least.
Alice by Stacey A.Cordery (list price $18)
My God, I loved this book. A renegade who drove her father, Theodore Roosevelt over the bend--"I can either control the country or control Alice, I can't do both." Well into her nineties Alice Roosevelt Longworth truly was the politico hostess and player who ruled over Washington's elite. If you like books like this also check out
Emily Post By Laura Claridge (List price $30) Did you know the queen of manners was a divorced single mother? Great read about the gilded age.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
A fifteen year old boy sleeps with a former Nazi guard. He attends her trial. I found it a bit morally confusing. And truth be told was uncomfortable about the author drawing the Nazi guard so sympathetically. Not a fave. (List price $13.95)
My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme
What a delightful memoir of post-War Paris. As soon as I finished I got out one of her French Chef cookbooks and made a Coq au vin. It took nearly three hours, by my God was it good. (List price 14.95)
The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones
Ms. Jones was Julia Child's editor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I found her early recount of living in Paris compelling and was mystified how little she spent on her personal life. But, a good read still. (list price 14.95)
So I got well over $100 worth of books for free. The caveat is I usually have to wait at least two weeks for popular books to be returned by other readers. But, I am still the same wide eyed kid at the library complete with the fines.
Now if you'd like to buy the books check out Experienced Books. You can buy the books listed above for a fraction of the price and if you sign up for their emails--once a week you'll get an offer for 30% off.
Want some suggestions on what to read--check out goodreads.com. It's kind of like Facebook except with books.
Want to pick up free books at random places around the world? Check out Bookcrossing.com
Want to swap books for free? Do what my Mom does--go to paperbookswap.com
And please let me know what you're reading because I'm desperate for suggestions. I love biographies, fiction, non fiction, cookbooks, backs of cereal boxes....
And if you want to subscribe, scroll down and hit subscribe
Also, I'm back to posting three times a week--so check back Thursday and Friday.
Cheap S. Kate
Labels: bookcrossing.com, experiencedbooks.com, goodreads.com, Judith Jones, Julia Child, my life in France, paperbackswap.com, read bestsellers for free, revolutionary road, richard yates, the reader
Thursday, December 18, 2008
HUGO MAN OF A THOUSAND DISGUISES
I have been getting a bunch of emails--requesting I resume the blog and include one more heartwarming story of a typical Ryan family Christmas. So here's one to warm your frugal little hearts. I will start posting regularly again the week of Jan. But, faithful readers keep those comments coming!
Growing up, every Christmas I can remember we each got an excess of presents. I often wondered how my parents were able to provide such bountiful Christmases year after year, especially since money was so tight. When I asked, my Dad said, “Odd-Lot. All your presents were bought at Odd-Lot.” Aka land of recalled toys. This may explain one of my most beloved, but odd presents- “Hugo the Man of a Thousand Disguises”. Hugo was a bald man with no legs and a shirt that screamed gulag. He came with a toupee, a mustache, an eye patch and scar makeup kit. Why my parents wanted me to grow up to be a makeup artist to fugitives escapes me, but I spent hours tarting up this rubber convict--so much so that he could have been a featured player on the TV show 24. My toys may have looked different from those of our friends, but it didn’t mean they were any less beloved. And I guarantee you that January 1st, they were paid off in full.
The America's Cheapest family spends $90 on Christmas shopping. And while that not sound appealing to some, they have a good time finding bargains. Here's a link to the frugal holiday shopping about how this family supports itself on 44 k a year
Monday, December 15, 2008
THE LITTLE SILVER TACKY CHRISTMAS TREE
PAID FOR WITH GREEN STAMPS
When I was a baby, my father left his incredibly lucrative and fulfilling job as a social worker in the South Bronx. (“I’d knock on the door and run Kathleen.”) We Ryans have always had a soft spot for civil service. My brother just retired after twenty years as a NYPD narcotics detective. (“I’d knock on the door and then break it down Kathleen”). A friend of my father’s told him that the US Navy was training college graduates to do computer programming. So with two children under the age of three, my father signed up, and we were all hauled off to New Jersey. While the program had a small allowance, my parents were pretty much broke. When Christmas rolled around my mother was despondent. They didn’t even have enough money to buy a Christmas tree. How would she provide Christmas for her family? But, ever resourceful, my mother gathered up all her green stamps and cashed it in for a tree made of silver foil. After she assembled it she cried. It looked cheap and ridiculous. My older cousin Jacquie who helped my mother out from time to time took one look at the tree. She went to the five and dime and bought white paper doilies. With a pair of scissors and some white lights, she transformed the tree into something to behold. And “Christmas was saved.”
Think back to that one special Hanuakah or Christmas. Was it all about the presents or about the specal rituals like playing dreidel with cousins or leaving a plate of cookies for Santas? You can cut back on all the presents and still make the holiday memorable. I told the story about how Cousin Jackie saved Christmas a couple of weeks ago at her brother's funeral. It was an incredibly horrible time, but as I told the story my parents lit up, my Aunt came over and Jackie smiled. She hadn't thought what was she did was anything special. And yet, family memories make the holidays. (Judging from the two pictures I found on the internet, I was not the only one with a silver xmas tree from Green Stamps.)
HINT OF THE DAY
I found these coupon codes on youbemom.com. They should work for the last minute shopper in you. Lids - 15% off $40 (exclusions apply) - exp: 12/31 - code: COUPONCABIN15LIDS The Limited - $10 off $50, $20 off $60, $30 off $100 - exp. 12/31 - code 814, exp. 12/24 code 697 or 687 The Limited - 5 In-Store Printable The Limited Coupon - exp. 12/24 (50% off any Outfits, 50% off any pant or skirt, 40% off tops, $30 off dresses $60+, or BOGO Jewelry) LL Bean - $10 Gift Card Coupon (exclusions apply) - exp: 12/24 Lord & Taylor - 15% off most purchases - exp. 01/04/09 Lord & Taylor - Friends & Family: 25% most items - exp. 12/15 Lucky Brand Jeans - 30% off any single item (file type: pdf) - exp: 01/07/09 Macy's - Friends & Family 20% off most items - exp 12/15 Metrostyle - 25% off coupon - exp: 1/07/09 - code: MSMYCAB ModaQueen - 5% off $500 ack To Basics Toys - 15% off $75 coupon - exp: 12/17 - code: DEAL15 Carter's - $10 off $50 purchase - exp. 12/31 Childrens Place - 15% off coupon - exp: 12/23 - code: GGAC8 Crayola - 20% off coupon - exp: 12/31 - code: DECK8 Diapers.com - $10 off $49 & Free Shipping Coupon - exp: 12/31 - code: FREETODAY Disney Shopping - 15% off any purchase - exp: 12/24 eToys - $5 off $100 coupon (exclusions apply) - exp: 12/31 - code: CPNCABN8 GoToBaby - 10% off coupon - exp: 12/31 - code: xmas10 Kazzo Toys - 15% off $50 coupon - exp: 12/25 - code: CJ50B KB Toys - $5 off $40 coupon (exclusions apply) - exp: 12/31 - code: ETNLTR KB Toys - $5 off any purchase when you sign up LeapFrog - 25% off & Free Shipping Coupon - exp: 12/19 Leaps and Bounds - 15% off $100 coupon - exp: 12/31 - code: KIDS15P LEGO Shop - $5 off $20 coupon - exp: 12/31 - code: bscd27 One Step Ahead - 15% off $60 coupon - exp: 12/31 - code: 15PBABY Red Wagons - 5% off coupon (new customers only). - code: f
Cheap S. Kate
Friday, December 12, 2008
FRUGAL HOLIDAY GIFTS WITHOUT APPEARING CHEAP
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Dear Ms. Kate,
I traditionally buy holiday gifts for my client base at this time of year. Usually Fruit/chocolate baskets from Harry and David or bottles of wine. Can you recommend a subtle way to cut down costs.
Ms. X Spender
Ah, Ms. X Spender you make my heart swoon with your frugality. Since you like to give baked goods and wine. This is what I would suggest. Go homemade! Make brownies and large chocolate chip cookies, put them in a container, tie with a bow and write a heartfelt note. For the price of one Harry and David basket you can make presents for everyone.
Homemade chocolate chip cookies have a special place in my heart. When I got married this summer at my reception, my friend and production stage manager for 25 QUESTIONS FOR A JEWISH MOTHER made homemade chocolate chip cookies. Along with bottles of Proseco wine, I had a swanky and fun reception.
Now I picked these two baked items because even the worst baker can bake these with success. Here is the classic TollHouse Recipe I found on Youtube.
For the Brownies buy box mix. Yes, do the box mix. Brownies need to be gooey and delish and the mix delivers.
Now for the packaging. Wrap each cookie in storebrand wax paper and put in Chinese food take out boxes. I found 50 for under five dollars on line at Papermart.com
For wine I am not an expert. But, I found a great cheap wine website
Hope this helps!
Cheap S. Kate
HINT OF THE DAY
Want to give unique handmade presents, but don't know how to knit, sew or do anything? Visit etsy.com. From handmade Superman capes to coffee tables, this website makes my heart sing.