Coffee heat rising

w00t! Frugality works better

I just cleaned 1,860 square feet of flooring without using more than a microtherm of natural gas to heat a pail of water…in one hour flat! Not only that, but laydeez and gents, that floor is CLEAN!

One idea for the Month of (not-so-)Extreme Frugality was to sweep the floors—which are tile throughout the house—with a broom, not with the big Panasonic vacuum cleaner or the little Eureka vac-broom. Then to carry through with the remaining two routine steps of floor-cleansing: dust-mopping and wet-mopping.

Dog hair, for those of you who have never had the privilege of living with a dog that thinks it’s a sheep, gathers on hard floors in balls and piles up in dunes. Unlike sand, though, dog dunes drift on the breeze, especially the breeze from a vacuum cleaner motor. So, absent a very practiced technique, vacuuming the hair-strewn floor usually causes the dog dunes to go airborne, floating up the walls and drifting in disintegrating clouds across the room, to settle behind doors and sofas at some later time.

Not so with a straw broom.

Brushing up the wads of dog hair and the small stones, leaves, and skiffs of dirt the dog and the humans tracked in proved to be very easy and very fast. And less back-breaking than usual: though I did have to bend down to sweep mounds into the dust pan, I didn’t have to yank out and re-plug a stubborn electrical cord in every room, hold the cord off the floor and dodge around it, or struggle with attachments. So there actually was less bending and wrestling than with a vacuum cleaner, and because the broom refrained from blowing dog hair into the air, it worked more efficiently. Plus a broom weighs far less than a vacuum cleaner or even an electric broom.

Normally it takes 45 minutes or so to vacuum the whole house, and by the time that’s done, I’m tired. Brooming the floor took a fraction of that time. By the time I finished dust-mopping (which has to be done after vacuuming, too, because the vacuum doesn’t lift the fine pieces of dirt, and the dog hair resettles onto the floor), I had hardly broken a sweat! Wet-mopping an entire houseful of tile is never fun, but it’s a lot less miserable when you don’t start the job already pooped out.

I started around 3:30, spent some time chatting on the phone with the pool dude, and finished at 4:30 sharp, still feeling reasonably fresh despite the warmth of the season’s first summerish day.

This seconds my opinion of installing hard floors as one of my most cost-effective renovations. Not only are they easier to clean than carpets and way cheaper in the long run (because they never have to be professionally cleaned or replaced), in day-to-day use they’re cheaper, too: you can clean the entire house without ever using any electric power!

If Anna H. Banana were not having a little stench issue in her old age, I wouldn’t have had to use hot water for mopping, either. So, those of us who can restrain ourselves from taking in pets could, in theory, keep a house floored entirely in tile, concrete, or wood clean and sanitary without ever expending a watt, an ohm, or a therm.

Five budget busters

Oh My Aching Debts has issued a PF Blogger’s challenge to list our five biggest budget breakers. Here are mine:

House

apr13pool1Having trained myself to stay out of Home Depot and Lowe’s except for very targeted purposes, the unending house costs are under control. More or less. But all it takes is one good-sized expense to blow the budget. This month, for example, I had to pay about $250 for the annual HVAC inspection and service contract renewal on the units at my house and the Investment House. It’s not going to break me up in business, but because the first air-conditioning weather will arrive this month, it could put a strain on the budget. Especially since I have a big hit in the next budget-breaking category.

Dog

apr13dogThe aged German shepherd is a constant drain on the budget. Her thyroid meds run $30 a month, one eye med is $60 a pop, the other is about $40 for a tiny vial. Dog food is $30 per bag, plus meat or canned fish to cajole her to eat the stuff. And last week she had such a severe episode of pain I had to put up friends to help lift her into the car and drag her to the vet, who had to interrupt surgery to treat her. The cortisone shot worked. But the vet didn’t even have the heart to tell me how much it cost. I expect to have to dip into the emergency fund to cover that little misadventure.

Hair

Cutting off the low-maintenance mid-back-length hair, donating it to charity, and getting a cute low-maintenance short style was a good thing to do. After a certain age, a woman with long hair starts to look a little strange. You go from getting what-is-she-trying-to-prove stares to fishy poor-white-trash looks. Shop clerks assume (correctly) you can’t afford to get your hair styled and either won’t wait on you or, when forced to do so, look down their noses at you.

I love the snappy hair style and I love the fact that strangers have started treating me politely again. But it’s expensive. You don’t get a no-blow-dry, no-curling-iron style that looks good at just any Supercuts. It takes a killer stylist to do a short style that looks good, stays looking good for some weeks, and doesn’t make you look like you wish you were one of the boys. Such artists don’t come cheap. Day before yesterday I had to get my hair cut. Shane has raised his price again: with tip, I shelled out $75. That’s just for a hair cut: no color, no perm, no nothing else.

Now we’re at $250 for the air conditioner, $75 for the hair, and God only knows what for the vet. At this point we know I’m over budget, but the scary thing is, we don’t know by how much because the vet is scared to tell me. And I’m scared to ask.

Costco

apr13stuffThere’s only one way to survive a Costco run with your budget intact: wear blinders.

As long as I take a list and stick to it, Costco saves me a lot of money. Stocking up on a month’s worth of food and lifetime supplies of staples, personal care, and cleaning goods keeps me out of grocery stores. The result is significant savings in food and household bills.

However, “stick to it” is…well, the sticking point. Costco lines its aisles with things you never imagined you needed so much as you think you need them when you see them. Last time I went to Costco I bought the recent biography of John Adams, five No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, a posthumous collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s amazingly minor writings, a floating swim pool chair with built-in cups to hold one’s gin and tonic, and three pairs of swimming goggles (hey! these are things no one should be without!!!). The time before, I bought a $45 dress that doesn’t fit.

Today, whenever I get up from in front of the computer monitor, I will return the dress. Meanwhile, the ninety bucks or so for the other ephemera will come out of this month’s budget. The budget is $325 – $45 + 90 (= $370) in the hole. Plus an unknown veterinary bill.

Plants

apr13mexicanprimroseMy weakness is flowers and herbs. I can’t pass a box of bulbs without buying a fistful of them. I live for the roses to bloom. I justify the oregano, marjoram, tarragon, parsley, basil, thyme, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, and heaven only knows what else is growing in the yard on the grounds that I use them in cooking. And those inexpensive, wildly colorful glazed Thai pots at Home Depot…to die for!

Trouble with container gardening is that containers require potting soil ($) and fertilizer ($) and, once the heat reaches about 98 degrees (which it will do today, and where it will stay until the end of September), daily watering ($$$). Trouble with ground gardening is that flowerbeds call out to you to fill them with more flowers. Every season.

Luckily we have only two seasons in Arizona: summer and winter. But what grows in the winter dies instantly on a single fricaseeing day in April. And what grows in the summer turns to black Jell-O when the first light freeze comes in.

apr13camomileThese factors make a Home Depot junket an exercise in Herculean will power. This year I’ve managed to keep the gardening impulse under control: I haven’t purchased one new rose (only because I’ve run out of space to plant roses); not one new plant pot; and only a few herbs, two tomatoes, a handful of bulbs, and a couple of packets of wildflower seeds.

But…the year is young, and so is the budget.

Fellow Busted Budgeters (that I’ve spotted so far):

Mrs. Micah

Bible Money Matters

Mommy Gets Paid

categories: budgeting

3 Comments from iWeb site

Pete @ biblemoneymatters

Thanks for the link!I can definitely relate to the one about the dog.We’ve just got through with several expensive visits to the vet.But hey, we love that little pooch, and she’s worth it!

Monday, April 14, 200807:12 AM

Mrs. Micah

I can see how tempting Costco would be…I’ve been there once, but I wasn’t buying anything which helped. There was a lot of exciting looking stuff.

Tuesday, April 15, 200804:14 PM

Aaron Stroud

I really found myself identifying with this post. My wife and I built a house last year, so we’re constantly discovering new things we “need” at home. Our dog is aging as well, but fortunately she doesn’t have any expensive needs at the moment.

A trip to Costco or a Wal-mart is definitely an expensive proposition. The past few weeks we’ve been stocking up on pots, seeds, plants, fertilizer, etc. It can get expensive very quickly.

Funny’s ten money principles

A major cause of stress in Western societies is money: getting it, spending it, keeping it. Studies have shown that people in Bhutan, Brunei, and Malaysia, hardly centers of conspicuous consumption, rate as happier than people in “developed” countries like, oh, say, the United States. One way get our angst under control is to get our earning, spending, and savings under control. It’s amazing how much calmer you feel when you have a grip on your financial life.

Here are ten principles of sane frugality. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore these concepts, and Funny about Money will regularly post tips to save you money and make your life simpler.

  1. Make a budget you can live with.
  2. Live within your means.
  3. Pay off debt.
  4. Never pay finance or bank charges.
  5. Build an emergency fund.
  6. Invest.
  7. Buy it second-hand.
  8. Make It from Scratch.
  9. Do it yourself.
  10. Stay out of the herd.