About Me

Life is learning. Life is change. Life is good. Life doesn't have to cost a lot. I want to make my life greener, healthier, and thriftier. And I want to enjoy doing it!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Things I Learned The Hard Way Part One: Shopping

There are so many things I had to learn them the hard way ...  Basic, frugal tips and techniques that I had to figure out for myself; some based on the principle that price is not always the bottom line, others relating to doing instead of buying.  Today's post is the first of several "roundups", if you will, of the things I wish I'd been taught before I left home instead of having to figure them out on my own.

For example, dollar stores.

Dollar stores (at least in Canada) are great places to pick up stationery, school and office supplies, gift wrap/bags/boxes, cards of all kinds, insulated lunch bags, cotton swabs, cotton balls, bar soap, travel sized shampoos/conditioner/lotion, razor blades, sport socks, storage containers, laundry baskets, plastic or wooden hangers,clothespins, sewing notions, craft supplies, tea towels, facecloths, hand or kitchen towels, freezer bags, glassware, candles, incense, matches, foil products, party supplies, ashtrays, ice trays, sponges and cleaning brushes, hair ties/clips/pins/bands, combs and hairbrushes, toothbrushes, kids' party favours, toothpicks, and all kinds of housewares, kitchen gadgets, and holiday decorations.

Dollar stores are not a good place to go for first aid items (other than elastic bandages and the cheap bandaids the kids go through a gazillion of), food, or anything else that goes in your mouth, such as toothpaste, vitamins or supplements, or OTC medications.  They are also not a good place to get your blank cd's/dvd's/videotapes/audiotapes, batteries, light bulbs, extension cords, or anything that plugs in or uses batteries.

Then there are the supermarket store brands, and the "no-name" or generic items.

Store/house/generic brands can be good value for the money, but you have to try them and compare them with the brands you used to buy.  What at first looks like a great price may not work out so well in the long run ... 

I found that while the generic frozen vegetables were just as good as the higher-priced brands, the canned vegetables were not; they were usually mushier, saltier, and had much less flavour.  Generic canned soups, though, are generally good, as are generic dry soup mixes.  Generic spices are just as good, and can be bought in bulk in most supermarkets here.  The same goes for soup mixes, pastas and noodles, baking supplies, pickles, nuts, raisins/dried fruit, peanut butter, hot and cold cereals, rice, beans, dried vegetables, holiday candy of all kinds, and syrups.  Generic ketchup is thin and watery; don't waste your money.  I'm still looking for generic soy sauce, which we go through at an astonishing rate.  Generic dryer sheets (if you use them) are good value as long as you get the unscented ones.  Generic vitamins, supplements, and OTC medications are by law  (at least in Canada) exactly the same as name brands.

The no-name products I find to be a waste of money:

Any liquid cleaning product  -  dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo  -  they are all so watered-down that by the time you've managed to get the job done, you've used so much more than you would have with a good name-brand product that it's actually costing you more.

Almost all paper products  -  toilet paper, paper towels, tissues  -  so thin and skimpy, and so much less in the package, that again you will end up using more and so spending more.

Pet food.  Mostly cheap fillers.  If you love your animals  -  and if you don't, you shouldn't have them in the first place  -  do not cheap out on their food.

I'm not going to mention thrift stores or yard sales today  -  they're for a later post.  Some of the other topics I'm planning to cover are:

Making do and making it work
Learn to do it yourself
Get creative with what you've got

Stick around!  You might even learn something  -  or teach me something!  Questions, comments  -  share your less-than-common frugal tips, tricks, and insights.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Week Of Ups And Downs

Well, it certainly was an ... interesting week ... and a painful one, since I paid the property taxes on Friday.  Ouch.

Work was crazy busy  -  not a bad thing overall, since they don't pay me to sit around doing my nails.  We do get frustrated with the slowness of our ancient computers, but we're supposed to be getting new ones in the fall, so we grit our teeth and soldier on.  It does make for a fair bit of overtime, and the money's always useful!

Sad times downtown Wednesday night.  I'm sure by now everyone has seen news images of the "Stanley Cup Riot".  What didn't come to light until the next day was that the whole shebang was pre-planned by a small group of anarchistic hooligans, and literally any excuse would have done.  The hockey final was handy, but they were just as willing to use the fireworks competition, or Canada Day events ... morons.  Although I don't live in Vancouver proper any more, I will always think of it as my home town.  I'm saddened and angered by the idiots who went out of their way to provoke senseless violence, wanton destruction, looting and burning cars  -  but heartened by the much greater number of people who showed up spontaneously the next morning to clean up.  They are the real people of my home city, and they are all heroes in my book.

My good friend D and I are doing a "Harry Potter" movie marathon  -  one movie every Saturday night, in order, leading up to the last movie in the theatre.  Is it dreadfully geeky of me to be unreasonably excited over this?  The first half of "Deathly Hallows" was extremely well-done, and in my opinion they couldn't have picked a better place in the story to stop.

The only project I've worked on this past week is the gradual whittling down of a huge pile of mending; none of it is mine, but since J and Big Guy cook for me, I can't complain.  At least they both do their own laundry ...

This being Father's Day, we asked Big Guy what he wanted for dinner.  Turns out he wants takeout fish & chips from his favourite place, so I'm off to pick up the food in a little while  -  trying to time it so that the food is still hot and fresh when J gets home from work.

I got a very nice surprise at work on Friday.  Last week I had helped a friend with something  -  nothing major, just some advice and pointers based on my professional knowledge  -  and out of the blue, she sent a beautiful bouquet to me, with a sweet hand-written thank-you note!  I was delighted, and astonished, and almost a little embarrassed  -  I didn't really do that much.  But it is nice to be appreciated.

Tomorrow our new export csr starts  -  and I get to train him to do things my way.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nothing Much, Really

There really hasn't been anything worth talking about this past week ... unless you're a hockey fan.

I'm not.

I commute though a sea of Canucks jerseys and raucous fan-type noises, and I don't enjoy it.  Good thing I have an mp3 player and good Skull Candy headphones ... otherwise I'd be sorely tempted to call in sick and work from home on game days.  At least there are only one or two games left  -  one if the Canucks win tomorrow, two if they lose and have to play the tiebreaker on Wednesday.

And yes, I do have the good sense not to say (in public anyway) "It's just a game."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Debates & Decisions

When it comes to money, Big Guy and I are not always on the same page ... sometimes I don't think we're even in the same book!  This can often lead to what I prefer to call "spirited debates".

Our television is twenty years old.  Granted, that's still two years younger than my car and fifteen years younger than the freezer, but it's starting to suffer from electronic senility; the picture wobbles now and then, the vertical hold is losing its grip,and volume control is becoming a sometime thing.

However ... the big chest freezer, as noted above, is almost twice as old.  And it is also starting to show its age.  The gasket is starting to leak (unless you lean really hard on the lid when you close it), it takes longer to freeze things all the way through, and doesn't freeze anything as rock-hard as it used to.  This is rapidly  -  in my view  -  going to become an active health hazard due to incomplete/insufficient freezing of food, and I can see myself very soon simply refusing to eat anything that was in it.  Plus, due to its age, it cost a lot more to run, even full, than a new one would.

Now, we rely very heavily on that freezer.  We buy in bulk on sale, we cook and I bake in bulk, he hunts, we go fishing, we have a garden and fruit trees  -  we need a freezer we can depend on.  And this one is rapidly approaching the point where we can't depend on it.

Here's where the "spirited debate" ensues ... 

He sees the television in the living room every day.  He doesn't see the freezer in the basement every day.  Therefore the television takes up more space in his conscious mind, and so to him is more of a priority on the list of things needing replacement.  Every point I try to make about food safety versus mere entertainment is countered with "There's nothing wrong with that freezer" or "A little freezer burn never hurt anybody" or "Ice cream is supposed to be scoopable" or "That just means things don't take as long to defrost, that's not a bad thing".


Big Guy's take on things is that we need a new television but I want a new freezer for no good reason that he can see.

My take on things is that we need a new freezer, and a new television after we replace the freezer would be nice if we can afford it.

And people wonder why he doesn't know I have a nice healthy savings account ....