It's summer. Time to water plants. Here's how to save and recycle water. Run a downspout into an oak barrel or garbage can. (You may want to do this on a side of the house that doesn't show much.) Then use that rainwater to water your plants. The barrel or can is wide enough to drop a bucket or watering can into.
Instead of buying expensive cleaning solutions and products, you can save a bundle by using this simple household chemical: bleach. Clean, sanitize, brighten, disinfect. With just bleach and water.
Nearly two years ago in effort not to become a brunette (my second child seemed to have stolen my blond hair) and still pay the mortgage, I started highlighting my own hair. $12 for L'Oreal sure beat $150 (suburban Chicago price) at the salon. But now, I've found a way to slash even that cost!
I went to a beauty supply store and bought the higlighting powder and mixing lotion. (Not the technical terms). I also bought a measuring cup for the liquid and a better applicator than what I had saved from the L'Oreal kit. For about $25, I'll get 3 - 4 highlighting applications. Wow! They also sell caps where you can pull hair through if you like that method.
Now, highlighting is not that easy, and I won't say that my work is as good as the salon's trained professional but for $6, I'll live with quality difference.
Having observed my former long-term stylist over the years, here are some tips I've witnessed.
1) Highlight SMALL pieces at a time. I have found that a small circular brush gives you much greater control and a better chance to avoid huge clumps of lighter hair that would not fit a definition of a highlight.
2) Separate the sections (top, back, sides) first.
3) Put solution on the entire piece that you're working with to avoid extreme variances in color - this is not like touching up roots.
4) If some pieces are getting too light, use a wet towel to wipe off the solution.
5) Use latex gloves or have a sink of water to rinse off your hands frequently. Dry your hands before touching your hair again.
6) Don't rush - make sure you have time.
I have not used foils, but if you're that good, do it. The back is the hardest since you can't see it. I use a mirror, go very slowly, and pray. It comes out ok (front and sides are admittedly better) and I think about the cost savings.
The cost benefits are big, and I've actually been complimented by people cutting my hair on my color, so consider it the next time you want to add some sunny highlights to your hair.
When I was growing up, some products didn't exist. Namely, liquid soap and liquid toilet bowl cleaners. We had bar soap and my mother used Comet to clean the toilets.
What's old is new again.
You can get 12 bars of soap for what it costs for one bottle of liquid soap. The cost savings are unreal. And I know bars can be messy if they sit in water, but come on, think of the savings. I use liquid by the sink because I can get the soap by using the back of my hand and then not spread bacterial around as much as I cook or clean, but the bathrooms and showers will now use bar soap.
The powdered cleaners cost well under a dollar. And last longer than their liquid cousins. Now granted, it's harder to get the cleanser right under the rim of the toilet bowl, but you know what? The liquid cleanser didn't clean it, the brush did. So pour some on the brush and clean away. Powdered cleansers are also much more effective on getting rid of stains.
Everything old is new again.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the discount supermarkets in the Chicagoland area. Since then, I've tried a system for shopping at these stores.
I make a list - and stick to it. Then I go every two weeks. I do a circuit. First to Aldi, then to UltraFoods to get the items not carried at Aldi and brand names.
So far it's working and I AM saving money. Aldi's private labels are good and taste very much like the national brands. The savings are worth the effort. Anything I can't get there (usually cereals, specific brands, and less basic items), I can get at Ultra.
I bring my cooler to keep frozen and refridgerated foods cold during this trip.
While it takes some time, I'm only going now every two weeks. I hope I can make this work during the school year when it's a bit harder to find large blocks of time, but hopefully by then I'll have this system finely tuned!
My summer game this year is how to save on the AC bill. So far, my experiment (or game) is working pretty well as I've only run the units a few times.
To be fair, as your results may differ and your system different, my house is well insulated. I also have a wrap around porch on the south side of the house. I have two AC units, one for the downstairs and one for upstairs. I also have two attic fans. So I have some advantages.
Here's what I've been doing. First, I watch the weather forecasts like a Hawk. If the temperature during the day is going above 80 degrees, I shut all of the windows. I leave a fan on my by my dogs' kennels to keep them cool. If the evening is cool, I'll open the windows all around the house. Sometimes, I'll wait until late evening when the temperature has dropped enough (at least low 70s is preferred unless you've got some great breezes). The house cools down to start the cycle again.
If it's going to be fairly hot, then I'll set the AC upstairs on for the day at about 80 - 82 degrees. That keeps it from getting really hot and doesn't run too hard. At night, I'll lower it because it's not fighting the heat outside. Maybe I can turn it off completely. Only if it's above 90 degrees will I run the downstairs unit, then in the same way.
For example, I did this today. While it got up to about 86 degrees, the downstairs was only 78 degrees and upstairs was 81 degrees. And I had never even turned on the AC. It had been cloudy for some of the day which helped, but the house is ok, and with a fan, perfectly comfortable.
I've found that fans - ceiling and others - help and cost less than running an entire compressor and house unit. After I get a full month's bill - maybe two - I can see what I'm saving. But I know I'm saving a fair amount since the units are running so little.
For years I've belonged to Costco. I don't buy as much there any more - not because of savings - but because you must buy in bulk, spending more at the time than if you bought a smaller quantity. I vaguely remember college finance courses and the time value of money. In other words, there is a cost to your money, real and opportunity. If you invest it, invest it early before you spend. But don't spend in advance. You could save the money and invest it and earn interest. In more practical terms, especially in this economy, you may not be able to spend more now even for savings - the money just ain't there.
Now, I wanted to see if I would actually save money even though I had to buy a membership for $50. First, I looked at their gas. It's cheaper by about $.05 - $.07 than the discount places I usually go (about $.10 - $.12 over the big name gas stations). In order to break even saving $.05 a gallon, I'd need to buy 1000 gallons. Since I normally buy about 18 gallons a time, that means I'd need to purchase gas 55 times to break even. In a year, I'd probably buy about 45-50 times. So that saves some but not the whole fee.
Lately, I've been taking over the counter medication. At Costco, they sell 3 weeks supply at the same price for 2 weeks at a leading chain. In that case, I'd break even over my membership after 12 weeks.
So between these two items alone, I feel that my membership is worth it.
Now, I haven't factored in the time value of spending the money up front, but the savings look to be sufficient to make up for it.
After hearing many commercials by Aldi Foods on the radio, I went to check a store out today. It's different than most grocery stores, supermarkets, and even other low-priced food retailers. Their whole system is designed to save labor, reduce employees, make it fast, and provide rock-bottom prices. I'd say they're pretty effective.
First, you pay a quarter to get a cart. The quarter remains visible the entire time but you can't get it back out until you return the cart and insert a chain. That releases the quarter. By doing this, they save on hiring people to gather up the carts. Shoppers avoid runaway carts and dinged cars.
To check out, they only accept cash, debit cards, and food stamps. Checks take time and credit cards add fees. So to keep fast lines and no added costs, they don't accept those methods of payment. Cashiers take your food from the belt and put it back in your cart. You bag or box it yourself. Bring your own or you can buy them at a low price. I didn't realize it so I used the big boxes that goods came in. Loaded them up and carried them out. It worked out fine. And I'll say, the check out line was FAST.
Regarding prices, they lived up to the advertising. They only carry private labels except for a few promotional items. They also carry few options. This seems very reflective of their European roots as Aldi is owned by a German company. In Europe the grocery stores are smaller and have much fewer options than we have here. 50 different kinds of pasta sauce? Forget it. They had marinara, meat, and alfredo. Personally, I have simple tastes and that's all I need. You won't find everything you need, but you'll find most of it.
I found the prices any where from 10% to 50% cheaper than the supermarkets. Actually, it was pretty impressive. And my shopping was fast because I didn't need to agonize over choices. White bread, check. One type, no decision. Fresh meat was more varied than I expected. Frozen meat did have a fair number of options. Produce seemed more limited to seasonal items and year-round things like bananas and potatoes. But the sweet corn I picked up for $.10 an ear was great - fresh, big, fully formed.
So check out Aldi and see if one is near you.
I also stopped at a Chicago area no-frills, super-discount supermarket,Ultra Foods. If you must have brand names, go to a store like this as they beat the major chains hands down on brand names. Aldi was still about 10-15% cheaper on the private labels. Regarding my earlier post on Target, Ultra was similar on the brand names but has a much bigger selection.
My problem now is to figure out how to get to these stores on a regular basis. Remember that saying: you can save time OR money. Neither of these stores are really close to my home, and often, I don't have the time to get there when I need things. So I'm going to have to figure out a way to get there and stock up. I'll need a plan. Perhaps a menu plan and biweekly or monthly trips. I'll do some research on those tricks and report back.
The SuperTarget nearby opened up a grocery area. Now, it's not as big and robust as a grocery store. Or even the grocery departments at WalMarts and Meier. But the Walmart nearby me has very little in terms of food stuffs and the nearest Meier is nearly an hour a way. I had some coupons and I checked it out.
The prices were very good compared to the large chain supermarkets. I'd estimate about 15% cheaper.
Supermarkets have notoriously thin margins, so I wondered what Target's strategy is on offering groceries as a loss-leader. It must be to get you in the store, hoping that you'll pick up a higher margin item (like clothes - which are ridiculously marked up) while you're there.
So if you are disciplined, have a list of staples and buy them from Target. Don't be distracted by the latest dishes, cookware, sundress, etc. Get in and get out. (That said Target does have good prices on those items - but the key is to PLAN for them, not to impulsively buy them as you pick up a loaf of bread. Impulsivity = unnecessary spending.)
I'll confess when I was first told to unplug stuff to cut the electric bill, I scoffed. I need to save money than $1 a month. But as I talked to people and did some research, the savings could add up. I'm not going to save a fortune, but why waste even a few dollars a month on idle electronics.
So I unplugged the blender (which had a small LCD screen), the electric calculator, the Xbox and Wii while not in use, the printers I rarely use, and few more items.
It will be hard to judge the savings, but it's worth a shot. I'll let you know how it goes.