Tag Archives: recycling

Thursday Odds ‘n’ Ends

Once again, bits o’ news too small for their own posts:

  1. Good news for our budget: We received an email yesterday from the school district that once again high school students will receive free monthly bus passes. Yeah! That’s $52 (cost of two monthly youth passes) we won’t need to fit into the budget beginning in September. The free passes have been very successful in getting and keeping kids coming to school and their other activities, and have taught scores of kids the value of using public transportation. Also, our mortgage company actually let us know that we can cancel our PMI in October, which will lower our mortgage payment by nearly $100. Yeah again!
  2. I pick up pennies: I’ve written earlier that I will stoop to pick up a penny off the ground to add to our change jar. Yesterday however, I not only picked up a penny but also found a $10 bill on the sidewalk, and on the way home from our evening walk Mr. Losing It and I found a bag with $1 worth of recyclable bottles and cans (we wear gloves when we turn in the cans/bottles so are not too icked out by others’ recyclables). Easy money for our change/$1 bill savings!
  3. Was it worth it? Meiling returns tomorrow from five weeks of study in China, and to go by her emails it has not been a good trip. She is covered with bed bug bites, has been sick (cold and flu-like symptoms) the past three weeks, suffered so greatly from asthma and altitude sickness that she couldn’t enjoy a much-anticipated side trip to a mountain village, and has never gotten over her homesickness. Sigh. We’re hoping in spite of all this her Mandarin has improved, and that there were some positives (a friend’s daughter went last year, wrote home the whole time how miserable she was, then came home and scored the trip a “10″). We’re all looking forward to having her home again!
  4. Camping upgrade: To save money this year, we will only be camping for three nights versus our usual seven, and will set up our tent versus staying in a trailer as we have in the past. We booked and paid for an inexpensive tent site but because of some last minute cancellations we were just upgraded to an electric site courtesy of our camping group! Sweet!

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Saving, Vacations

It All Adds Up

I keep track of change “deposits” on the pink card.

You know how it is, when you buy a cup of coffee here, spend five dollar there, make a quick run into the grocery store for a couple of things and suddenly that extra $20 you had  in your wallet is gone?

It’s the same with saving. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but a dollar here, some change there, and suddenly we’re talking real money.

We’ve been putting aside all $1 bills and change for almost two years and have saved over $2000.  It’s not a huge amount of money, but nothing to sneeze at either. When I use my debit card I always round up to the nearest $5.00, and any change and $1 bills are put away. We’re not too proud to pick up found change, even if it’s just a penny, and we also turn in cans and bottles every few months to save some more. We bundle the $1s into $25 packets, and when we have $100 off it goes to the bank. When the jar is filled (or I can’t lift it any more), it goes to the bank (well, our credit union – they count our change for free).

Another 3 months or so worth of cans and bottles to be recycled.

I tried to save $5 bills for awhile, but they took too much of a bite out of our budget. But the $1s and the change are easy to set aside, and aren’t missed. And we’re the richer for it.

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Filed under Saving

Some Cheap Things We Do That Drive the Kids Crazy

Our daughters have been great team players in our efforts to live more simply and frugally on this journey of becoming debt free. For the most part they’ve embraced the cutbacks, haven’t complained and have even come up with ideas for saving. But they haven’t been entirely happy about everything we do, or all of my ideas for cutting back or saving. For example, the other night I scored a huge pan of Chinese food that was leftover from the potluck dinner we attended. Part of the food that evening had been catered in – twice-fried chicken, lo mein, fried rice and stir-fry vegetables – and there was plenty left over. It was going to be thrown away, an absolute crime in my book these days, so I asked if I could take it home. I got a couple of funny looks from the “you take potluck leftovers?” crowd, but our girls were thrilled and enjoyed two days of tasty leftovers. I was a hero because I’d thought to score those leftovers.

What they weren’t crazy about though was that Mr. Losing It and I also asked if we could take all the empty cans for recycling. They too would have been thrown out, but in Oregon you can get back five cents for each can, and with 36 cans to be recycled I didn’t want to let $1.80 go into the trash. We have recycled cans and bottles for years, and I am not above picking up stray cans I find when I’m out walking. The girls tell me I’m cheap, but we’d pick up a nickel off the ground so why not a can worth five cents? I’ve also been known to stop if I’m driving by and see boxes of glass beer bottles out for recycling. The girls all duck down so no one will see them, but the last time I stopped I got over $6 worth of bottles to recycle. That $6, I reminded the girls, will cover the cost of a fruity drink with an umbrella in it some evening in Hawaii. I’m not as obsessive about picking up cans and bottles as I once was, and I don’t pick cans and bottles out of the trash, but otherwise every nickel counts and they add up quicker than you would think.

Our girls also don’t like that we no longer buy Kleenex or any other kinds of tissues (paper towels, either). We instead use cut-up t-shirts for handkerchiefs and rags around the house. The girls are terrified one of their friends is going to discover this cheap and potentially humiliating secret of ours some day. We do have nice cloth napkins for when company comes, and use regular toilet paper, but I otherwise can’t justify the cost and waste of paper tissues and paper towels these days.

Another cheap thing I do that sort of drives them nuts (and I can’t figure out why) is to ask for and bring home tea bags if any are left over at meetings or gatherings where coffee and tea have been provided. Lots of places, I discovered a while ago, throw the individually packaged tea bags away rather than reuse them (I was shocked to discover this), but I am happy to ask and often end up with a nice selection of gourmet tea bags. I think the girls would care less if I could find the type of tea they like (green tea with jasmine), but other than buying tea bags for them and loose lychee tea in the summer (it makes the best iced tea) I haven’t bought tea bags in years.

Mr. Losing also occasionally brings home some of the small condiment packages he gets at work. He’ll find he picked up more than he needs for that meal, and rather than throwing them away he brings them home and we put them away to take camping with us. The girls think this is another cheap thing we do, and roll their eyes when they see a packet out on the counter, but for me, free packets of catsup, mustard, relish and mayonnaise are a lot easier to pack and store on a camping trip than jars of condiments.

Do you have any frugal or cheap habits or ideas that make your family cringe?

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Filed under Living a Frugal Life

Sad To Leave, Happy To Be Home

At the shrine across the street from our son's apartment

Mr. Losing It and I made it home on time last Thursday, and have s-l-o-w-l-y been recovering from massive cases of jet lag. As always, we did fine traveling west to Japan, but are having a difficult time getting back in sync after our eastward journey home.

To say we had a fabulous, wonderful time in Japan would be an understatement. Saying good-bye to our son and daughter-in-law, and our adorable grandson was very difficult; I still get choked up when I think about them and how much we miss them. They spoiled us rotten while we were there, but more than anything we just liked being with them and hanging out at their apartment, playing with and holding our grandson.

But I’m happy to be back with our girls again – we missed them so much while we were away. They all had a wonderful time with their aunt, and she spoiled them while we were gone. She also spoiled me (and our budget), by not using much of what I had stocked up for her before we left, buying even more food and supplies while she was here, and leaving most of the money I had left for her to shop with while we were gone.

This is the first vacation I can remember when we actually stayed within our budget. In the past I have been known to go crazy with the shopping, but that didn’t happen this trip. We went with a list and stuck to it, and only had a couple of unexpected expenses. Our son and his wife provided all of our meals other than breakfast, which of course helped us out, and other than one set of train tickets one day they took care of other expenses as well (admissions, etc.). Most of the time though we hung out at their apartment and got in some quality Baby Time, or walked around their neighborhood. There was a surprising amount to see within walking distance in their busy downtown location, such as a beautiful shrine right across the street, the Tokyo Tower, another huge shrine just up the street (Zosoji shrine), and a former Imperial pleasure garden. We also walked over to our son’s office one day, and downtown to a shopping mall to visit a giant bookstore, but even just a trip around the block was interesting and filled with things to see and ponder.

Japan was expensive, much more so than we imagined. The cost of living in Tokyo is probably more expensive overall than out in the suburbs or countryside, but a trip out to our daughter-in-law’s parent’s home showed us even those areas are not that much better. I’ll have a post up soon about prices there, but I came away grateful for how low our cost of living is here in the States compared to what it would be in Japan.

I was very impressed with how well the Japanese conserve energy and recycle, and wish we did as much on a national level. Although you see plenty of cars and trucks, most people in Japan use public transportation and/or walk or ride bicycles to go to work or go shopping. For example, my son makes a 25 minute walk to work every day and back in the evening, going up and down several hills, which is fairly typical. It’s possible there because everything is very compact, but I think we could do more of that here as well. Plastic bottles and cans are ubiquitous (for tea and water) in Japan, and yet they are all recycled. I never saw a plastic bottle in the trash or left in the street, and can count the number of cans I saw on the street on one hand with a couple of fingers missing. Everywhere we walked there were bags of bottles and cans ready to be picked up for recycling, as well as paper and other recyclable goods. They have been separating their trash for recycling for more than 20 years; it’s just a part of life there. Buildings and train stations have cut back on the amount of energy they use: Lights are dimmed, and things like escalators are turned off on weekends and in the evenings to save energy. Offices have reduced air-conditioning use, so most businessmen and women now sport “Cool Biz” wear. Men wear slacks and shirts without a tie or jacket, or suits made from lightweight, breathable fabrics; women wear lightweight dresses and sandals. Although the March earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown make conservation even more of an issue for Tokyo (and all of Japan), the truth is that these efforts to reuse, recycle and conserve have been in place for several years. It’s very impressive.

So now it’s back to regular life here at Chez Losing It, and back to frugal, simple living and debt repayment. But what a trip we had!

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Filed under Living a Frugal Life, Vacations

Saturday This ‘n’ That

  • The Weigh-In: 146.7!! That’s 2.5 pounds less than last week, a good thing. I have been walking for approximately one hour every evening (I missed one day this past week because it rained), and have stuck to my eating plan like glue, so it’s encouraging to see the pounds coming off again. I don’t think I was eating like I should have been while we did the food stamp challenge last month, but we will have more fresh fruit and vegetables this coming month which should help me keep going.
  • Oregon is one of the states where you can recycle cans and bottles (including water bottles) for 5 cents each. We don’t buy or drink sodas or buy bottled water, but we will pick up the odd can when we’re out walking. Yesterday as I was coming home, our neighbor across the street had a big bag of cans out on the curb, and I asked if we could have them to recyle. He said sure, and asked if we wanted some more. I said OK and ended up with 14 HUGE bags of cans and bottles! There’s at least $2 worth if not more in each bag. Our new summer project will be to sort them all and get them recycled; the money will go into my stand mixer/camera fund. Update: I opened up one bag (not the largest) to sort, and there was over $5 in refundable bottles/cans. If all the bags are the same or about the same, that will mean nearly $80! And the neighbor was just going to throw them away!
  • Twin Peaks is just as entertaining (and weird) today as it was when it first came out. I got the full series from the library and my middle daughter and I have been watching an episode or two every day (my oldest and youngest won’t watch; too scary for them). I always want a piece of pie and cup of coffee when I watch, for some reason.
  • July is a three-paycheck month for Mr. Losing It. The paycheck at the end of the month will go towards some necessary car maintenance, our annual camping trip in August (food, supplies and the deposit for 2011), and the rest will go toward debt repayment. No offers yet on our hybrid, but I put a two week-ad in the local paper that will start tomorrow, so hopefully that will get things moving.
  • I did a BIG grocery shopping yesterday at Albertsons, Trader Joe’s, Costco and WinCo. I opened an account at the bank branch in Albertson’s with $80 on Thursday and spent $75.41 at Albertson’s. $75 of that was put back into my new account yesterday, which I then spent at Trader Joe’s ($78.24).  I spent $142.06 at Costco, and $42.47 at WinCo. I replaced/refilled most of the staples I used up last month, and bought lots and lots of fresh fruit which we have all been craving. I still have to make a trip up to Grocery Outlet today for a few more items, but we are now quite well stocked for not only the next two weeks, but the month!
  • Last but not least, here is the menu plan for the next two weeks. Items on hand are in italics and no dates have been assigned for maximum flexibility (other than we’ll be having the hot dogs and potato salad tomorrow for the 4th of July):
  • Patty’s Killer Noodle Salad with Chicken
  • Chicken tacos; refried beans
  • Stuffed tomatoes; bread; cheese; salami; green salad
  • Panzanella with beans and feta cheese
  • Hot dogs; potato salad; vegetable tray
  • Grilled hamburgers; sweet potato fries
  • Lemon chicken thighs; quinoa salad
  • Vietnamese-style salad rolls
  • Chicken lettuce wraps; potstickers
  • Ginger pork sandwiches; cucumbers; Asian coleslaw
  • Grilled ginger-yogurt chicken thighs; biryani; garlic naan bread
  • Caprese panini; bean salad
  • Zaru soba; grilled Japanese-style chicken thighs; Japanese cucumber salad
  • Barbeque chicken pizza; green salad

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Filed under Menu Planning, Miscellaneous, Saturday Weigh-In, Weight Loss Maintenance