The Dreaded Dusting Chore

Do you ever wonder what’s in dust? Do you care? I looked it up and common, household dust contains more than just dirt. I really don’t want to know any more details about the  dander, fibers and meteorite particles covering my furniture.

Tools have been conceived for the express purpose of moving dust around and, if we’re lucky, actually picking some of it up. I once had a feather duster. It was the perfect device to cause an accumulation on the furniture to become airborne. Swell.

My mother used dusting rags. She would spray them and dust the furniture. They were kept specifically for the purpose of dusting and were stored on the same shelf as her can of dusting spray. Periodically, she washed them and put them back on the shelf. I did that, too until I discovered dusters. Once I crossed over to dusters, I couldn’t go back.

I’m not here to bash dusters. They’re great, but there are some drawbacks to their use:

  • They can’t be cleaned because they are meant to be tossed after use.
  • They cost quite a bit to replace. My last box of 10 dusters cost $7.97. That’s nearly $.80 each. If you use one duster per week, you’ll spend over $40.00 each year on dusters.

The replacement cost prompted me to search for another solution. There are some clever people online who have designed DIY dusters that work very well. I followed this tutorial with some minor adjustments that made the dusters fit my handle better. Here is a similar duster.

duster1

When I made my dusters, I used a piece of fleece that was left over from another project. This act alone helps solve two problems in my house: the need for a frugal solution for dusters and a reduction in the overwhelming amount of fabric filling my closet. (I don’t know how I managed to collect so much fabric.)  It’s just a small piece of fabric, but I view it as another step on my journey to an organized sewing room. I do realize that I may never reach that destination.

duster2

Of course, dry dusting just moves the stuff around and scatters it in the air to settle in another place, or go up your nose and into your eyes.  A damp duster picks the mess up much better than a dry one, so spraying it lightly is good. I’ve found this recipe for dusting spray on several blogs, so I don’t know who to credit for it.

DIY Dusting Spray

1 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
10-15 drops lemon essential oil
Spray bottle

Combine the ingredients in the spray bottle. Shake well.

The oil will separate as the mixture sits, so remember to shake before each use.

Happy dusting!

Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

One of the best cost-saving measures that I have implemented is cutting the amount of food that I cook. Most recipes are for 4 servings and sometimes more. We couldn’t eat the entire recipe, so the left-overs often sat in the refrigerator until they no longer resembled food. (I do miss the fun of guessing what the furry blobs in the container once were.)

Here is a take on stuffed peppers that is a little different. If you want a milder dish, then substitute bell peppers for the poblanos.

Stuffed Peppers

 

Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

1 tablespoons oil
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped apple
1/4 cup raisins
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup beef broth
2 poblano peppers cut in half, seeds and membranes removed
1/4 cup Mexican-style shredded cheese

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown ground beef in oil until no longer pink.
Add onion and garlic. Cook until soft.
Add apple, raisins, cinnamon, and beef broth. Simmer until liquid is absorbed.
Arrange the peppers, cut side up, in a baking dish. Fill peppers with ground beef mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the peppers are tender.
Top each pepper with1 tablespoons of cheese and continue to bake until the cheese is melted.
2 Servings, (2 half peppers each)

Fearless Gardening

Since coming to Texas, I’ve been a complete failure at growing vegetables. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did grow a pretty good pumpkin a few years ago.

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But, on the whole, my gardening has not been that successful.  Few things I learned by gardening in other states seem to apply here.

The result is that a fear of the vegetable garden has crept into my heart. I’m determined to face my fears and charge head-long into the turbulent soil. I’m labeling this the “Year of the Abundant Zucchini.”

I started on the Texas Ag Extension website and their invaluable Vegetable Variety Selector. This is a great resource for those of us in Texas. Outside of Texas, check the listings of Cooperative Extensions Services at the USDA. I selected varieties that were listed as doing well in my county and purchased only those seeds.

It often gets too hot too fast here in north Texas and vegetable plants suffer. I’ve started things indoors before, but this year I am doing more. These little newspaper pots are easy to make plus they are nearly free. There are instructions here and here. Pick your favorite method and fold away.

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Soil for starting seeds should be very light and doesn’t really qualify as “soil” at all. Again, there are a number of mixtures you can try but equal parts Perlite and peat moss works well. Once the time comes to plant outdoors, the whole pot can be put into the garden.

So, here are my little pots and my hopes for a fearless gardening experience this year.

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Wow! It’s Retirement

My father once told me that people need to learn how to retire. He said those who retired without a plan for what they would do died sooner. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that life needs a purpose, even for someone who is retired.

We’ve all spent the years working, raising our families and doing the necessary things in life. Now, it’s time to be a little wild. The definition of wild will vary, but you know what I mean.

Looking online for ideas has been less than satisfying. The search for retirement information is often limited to financial planning. We get it about the finances. Either we have enough or we don’t and the only remedy to a shortfall is more money. That’s what these sites say—save more or earn more. Such insight.

In this day and age of writing for search engines, the sites with the best SEO win so trying any type of search for retirement information leads us frequently to financial planning sites. It seems that the owners of the retirement related sites think that financial planning is our only concern.

I was getting nowhere fast in my search for interesting ideas, so I tried some different search terms to see what happened.rollercoaster

awesome retirement: brought up a couple of sites but quickly reverted to financial planning
retirement find passion: better but still not there; finding your passion is a common theme on lots of sites

There is no shortage of people who want to help you plan your life. I’m not sure when the profession of “life coaching” came into being but it’s certainly prevalent now. A simple search about creating a rewarding life brings up plenty of sites with lots of life coaches willing to help for a fee. It’s a valuable service, but in my case, I think the hunt is going to be rewarding, too.

What I’m really searching for are ideas for a spectacular retirement. We are still able and, for the most part, healthy so an average retirement won’t really fit. There are probably a million and one things we could do. The problem should be choosing rather than finding out about stuff.

What we really want and need is an exciting pursuit that makes people say “Wow!” when they hear what we are doing. It doesn’t take much for a reaction like that, but it does have to be a bit different than what everyone else is doing. That one thing that is a little different is what I’m searching for and what I’m trying to achieve.

Jobs Can Be Cool

Paris

It’s our intention to create earnings in retirement for a couple of reasons: to keep busy and to preserve our savings. A job just won’t be the answer for me long-term. As we all know, jobs can be very inflexible. That’s not to say I won’t be employed in some way. There are interesting opportunities out there for short-term, temporary employment in wonderful places.

I’m not sure when I came across Cool Works. It was many years ago when I still had a child at home and  I couldn’t take advantage of any of the offerings. I forgot about the site for quite a long time and I couldn’t even remember the name of it. A few searches brought it up and I’m so glad it still exists.

If you are looking for something seasonal then this is the place. They list job openings at National and State parks, resorts, and other interesting places. They include a category titled “Older and Bolder,” which lists opportunities for retirees. These aren’t career jobs. Usually, they consist of front desk, waitstaff, store help and the like, but who cares what you’re doing when you can look out the window at Mt. Rainier or the Grand Canyon?

 

Budgeting for Certainty

In a world of uncertainty, one thing is certain: when you retire, your income will change. Even if the expected change is small, it’s good to plan for it. The last thing anyone needs is a surprise.

The thought of creating a budget makes me groan audibly. Could anything be more dull? Well, maybe the old paint drying thing is more dull but I avoid that, too.

Here are a few things to help get through this drudgery:

Help from the US government:
http://www.consumer.gov/articles/1002-making-budget#!what-it-is

A nice worksheet to help you sort things out:
http://www.consumer.gov/content/make-budget-worksheet

A few tips from the Dummies series:
http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-create-a-monthly-budget.html

Using Excel:
http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelArticles/how-to-make-a-budget.html

Ya Gotta Start Somewhere

Years ago I started making my own laundry detergent. I could afford to buy it but I felt I was no longer getting the most for my money. Since the phosphates were removed, laundry took more time and care than it used to.

I searched the Internet for recipes and found a couple that I tried. This one is the one that I settled on. It’s easy to do.

laundry1

DIY Laundry Soap

2 cups finely grated laundry bar
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

Thoroughly mix together.

laundry2

You only need about 2 tablespoons per load of this mix. Hard to believe, I know, but it works. It’s not a laundry sensation, though. Stains still need to be treated. Colors still need to be separated. Some things may need a pre-soak to come clean.

So, it’s not a miracle cure for laundry woes but this mix wins the cost war handily.

Recently, I did some cost comparisons for laundry detergent that I might buy if not for my homemade mix.

Sun Concentrated was an affordable $.07 per load. Gain comes in at $.017 for each load. Tide Original closes the door with $.18 per load.

I am sensitive to the fragrance in many products, so I buy the type without added scents which are usually liquid detergents rather than the dry.

Purex Free and Clear rang up at approximately $.08 per load. All Free and Clear inched the cost to about $.10 per load. Tide Free and Gentle tipped the scale at nearly $.21 per load.

The DIY mix above comes in at $.04 per load and doesn’t leave any scent on my clothing.

With just the two of us in the house, we only have two or three loads of wash per week’ so our savings aren’t huge. But, at 3 loads a week, the least expensive, fragrance-free detergent would cost us $.24 per week, or $12.48 per year. The DIY mix is $.12 per week or $6.24 per year.

Is that going to move us on up? Probably not, but it’s a single snowflake in our snowball.

 

Hold on for the Ride

tricycle

I saw Easy Rider when I was 16. Of course, you were supposed to be 17 to see it without an adult but, oh well. I got in any way.

It was a great movie then. It spoke to teenagers. It tried to showcase the alternate lifestyle that Hollywood thought we all aspired to achieve.

The movie was on television recently and I watched it again. Have I changed that much? It was lame, at best. The dialog was bad. The acting was bad. The plot was too predictable. My how our tastes change with age; all the things we thought were cool aren’t really cool at all.

You can’t go home again. Nothing is the same and never will be. Somehow we think that while our life has moved on, some things will be the same.

Have you ever reconnected with an old friend? Thanks to Classmates and Facebook, I have found people from high school and even a few from junior high. In all cases, once you get past the “what have you been doing for 40 years,” there isn’t much to say. Life went on, and I wasn’t in theirs for decades. The memories of our time together, if they still exist, are fuzzy. They didn’t stand still waiting for me to return.

So now, I think that life should be all about new things. There are more years behind us than ahead, so why waste any of it? New experiences, new skills, new friends, that’s where I’m going.

New things have to include the possibility of living on less money and that means changing things we do everyday. I’ve already begun to do things differently but, as the day of complete retirement approaches, I need to step up my game. Retirement looms. It’s ominous. It’s not for sissies.

Complete retirement means the day my husband finally bids adieu to his job. Not only does his paycheck stop but we face the demise of the benefits, too. Don’t get me started on the state of health insurance now. It’s one of the biggest hurdles to retiring before 65. But, that’s a discussion for another post.

I’ve lived frugally for decades. I started out of necessity when I was young and money was scarce. It became habit and I continued throughout life but I never truly embraced all I could do to save money. It’s easier to pick a product off the shelf but it’s better to make your own.

It’s unlikely that anyone can jump into total frugality all at once. It takes some experimentation to find the solutions that will work for you. Not all will. Experiment freely. You won’t be out much money or time.

Ease into frugality. Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one area to work on and find solutions that work for you.

Cooking from scratch
DIY cleaning products
DIY health and beauty products
DIY garden care
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without

Not all efforts will work for you. Just because a cleaning solution gets rid of grime doesn’t mean that it will be the best answer for you. If the ingredients are hard to find or include something that is irritating, that’s not going to be your answer. Find something else. I’ll show you the things that work for me but a quick Internet search will find dozens more answers.

This is fun. This is cool. Try it. It’ll be a great ride.

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