Sometimes Buying What You Don’t Want or Need is a Frugal Choice

I know, that’s a ridiculous statement to anyone who has an iota of frugality in their body. And in most cases it is ridiculous.

But sometimes we need to think outside the box to get what we really want, and save money in the bargain.

Prime example: I needed a table and chairs for the kitchen in our new home. I considered the size of the kitchen (quite large) and the color of the floors (brown ceramic tile – ugh!), and spent some time looking in stores, catalogs and online before I decided I wanted a farmhouse-style table with off white legs and a wood top, plus six chairs. I found one I liked at a local furniture store, and it would have cost $1000. I just didn’t want to spend the money…

So, off to Craigslist I went, and spent a few weeks checking the listings every day. I found a few that I liked, but they were either too small or too expensive. The ones I liked were listed in the $500 – $600 range – too much.

And then I saw a listing with a table and chairs that looked darn near perfect. The catch? They were selling a china hutch with it. I don’t want or need one, and I wasn’t particularly fond of the one being offered. They hadn’t purchased it as a set, and it was a cheap fiberboard piece, likely purchased at K-Mart or Walmart. Just not my cuppa tea. Besides, the only appropriate place for the hutch in the kitchen was already appropriated in my plans to house the pasta table (a lovely butcher block table on wheels that my mother had handed down to me, and that many friends have tried unsuccessfully to buy from me over the years).

So, ick on the hutch.


All of the pieces – the table, leaf, six chairs and the dadgum hutch -were priced at $200. Two hundred dollars!!!!

So, I made an appointment to see it. Naturally.

I knew I wanted the set the moment I walked in. First, the house was immaculate. That tells me that the owners are clean, and took care of the pieces. BIG bonus points. If the house was a pigsty it would be really difficult for me to buy a button, let alone furniture.

Second, the table and chairs were almost exactly what I wanted. Wood top with a leaf (so it could sit 4 or 6), white legs, and six chairs that are sturdy as heck. There were a few things I wasn’t entirely crazy about – the scale of the legs was large compared to the table – not my preference. And the wood top was basically rectangular, but was beveled and curvy. My clean-lines loving self would have preferred a regular old rectangle.

And then there was that hutch. That I didn’t want or need. Or like.

What did I do? I gave her a deposit right there, of course. Then I corralled my best friend (the one silly enough to purchase a pickup truck) to help us pick everything up and drop it off at the new house – and this was before we moved in.

And that night I listed the hutch on Craigslist, and sold it the next day for $75. In retrospect I should have asked for more, based on the number of inquiries I received. Live and learn…

So, I bought something I didn’t need to get something I did, and wound up paying only a net $125 for a wood table, leaf and six chairs.

And doesn’t it look nice?

6.14.09 Move and After 149


In the Kitchen

Kate at One More Thing is doing a weekly carnival of sorts, choosing a topic for other bloggers to write about.  This week’s topic is “In the Kitchen”.

Being a lifelong picky eater,  and having been single until age 37, I’m not known for my culinary skills.  I can follow a recipe, but spent most of my life thinking, “Why bother?”  It’s much easier to go through a fast food drive-thru than to take the time and energy to cook a healthy meal.

Hmmm.  Could that be part of the reason for my life-long weight struggle?  Ya think?

Because I cooked so little I would get completely stressed out when we would – very occasionally – invite company to share a meal.  Since marrying and having a son I’d definitely expanded my culinary horizons, but had never really entertained at home before.  Our last home was small enough that these visits were few and far between, thank goodness.  I would stress about every aspect of the visit – from the cleanliness of the house to the menu to cooking each item.  Trying to coordinate the meal so that everything was hot and ready at the same time caused me enough stress to send Husband to the garage to look for the wing nut from his 1977 Schwinn, which suddenly became of the utmost importance.

Since we moved into the new house I have room to spare.  We’ve had company every weekend, and sometimes during the week.  This past weekend I’d planned a Father’s Day Brunch, and even though I was sick we went ahead with our plans.

As I was cleaning up I noticed that I hadn’t gotten nervous or stressed this t ime.  In fact, I don’t think I’d gotten nervous or stressed about entertaining since we’d moved to the new house.

Could be maturity, could be that I’ve gotten enough of these visits under my belt to make it that much less a foreign enterprise.

Could be that I love my new kitchen.  Then again, who wouldn’t? At this point I could just link to the post about my kitchen, but I think I’ll just repeat it here:

I posted about the bold paint choices we made for our kitchen, and I finally have some photos to show…

Here’s what the kitchen looked like before we began:
3.10.09 Dad's house 005

3.10.09 Dad's house 007

3.10.09 Dad's house 039

That’s Son in the last shot.  Always happy!

I already had this print hanging in the kitchen in my old house.  That kitchen was painted the same yellow that most of the rest of that house, which is the same color we used to paint over the paneling in Son’s playroom.  It is one of my inspirations for the new kitchen, and this time I wanted to go bolder/  This print isn’t short on bold colors!

6.14.09 Move and After 156

Then I found some inexpensive wood bowls (vases?) in Homegoods, and I knew I had my kitchen color – Volcanic Blast by Behr.  Well, at least one of them…

6.14.09 Move and After 157

Too bright for the entire kitchen, I decided on green to ground the orange.  I picked the green in 5 seconds on the first green color page on Behr’s color wheel.  It’s Herbal Garden…

Here is the kitchen today…

6.14.09 Move and After 150

See the table and chairs I got for a net $125 on Craigslist?  I’ll post about that coup and why it’s a “net $125” later this week…  And after seeing this photo that red bag is no longer hanging from that drawer pull.  🙂

6.14.09 Move and After 151

6.14.09 Playing 024

Those plants were free, and the pots were 99 cents at Ikea.  I was going to paint some regular clay pots using the paint from the walls, but I like the white – and they have cool textures you can’t see in the photo.  And that’s an apple I was cutting up for Son.  Whoops…

6.14.09 Playing 037

The original plan was to paint the inside of the bar area the orange-red, but I changed my mind.  I’m so glad – I just love the way the green looks with the off-white cabinets and the black granite!

This entire room makeover cost under $200, and that includes the table and 6 chairs, the paint and a few accessories.  That’s bang for my buck!

So, yeah, I have a great kitchen.  And I love entertaining in it and from it and around it.

After all, it’s where I now spend most of my waking hours.

Who wouldn’t?

Quick and Easy No-Bake St. Patrick’s Day Rice Krispies Treats


Son’s class is having a St. Patrick’s Day shindig tomorrow, so I stole my friend’s idea and decided to make green, shamrock-shaped Rice Krispies treats.   This is a great recipe for little helpers.  Son really did most of it himself.

The recipe is right off the Rice Krispies box, but you don’t have to use the name brands.  I used real Rice Krispies (they were on sale) and Great Value marshmallows.

You start with 3 tablespoons of butter, which you melt in a large saucepan (next time I’m going to use my pasta pot).

The recipe calls for a 10 oz. package of large marshmallows (approximately 40) or 4 cups of mini-marshmallows.  I had a 16 oz bag, so Son counted out exactly 40 large marshmallows (next time I’ll use more, as we barely had  enough goo) and poured them into the melted butter.

I’m not a Rice Krispies treats fan, so Son has never had them before, either.  He didn’t really understand what we were doing, and why we were going to “boil” the marshmallows.  Still, he stirred…


When the marshmallows began melting we added plenty of green food coloring.  Son didn’t have any idea what St. Patrick’s Day is, so he wanted to add red food coloring, too.  Grabbed his hand Just. In. Time.


You keep stirring until the marshmallows are completely melted, then remove it from the heat and slowly add the Rice Krispies to the mixture.

When it’s completely mixed spread the mixture onto a large baking pan.  Normal Rice Krispies treats are thicker than what I wanted to do for these, so instead of a 13×9 pan I used a larger one.  The box says to use waxed  paper or a buttered spatula to spread out the mixture, but I found it much easier to wet my clean hands and press without an implement.

We waited for it to cool (really only a few minutes), then started to cut out the shapes.  It wasn’t easy – Son had to use his muscle to make the cutouts.  And I had to help a little…


He kept pretending to lick them all. But he didn’t. Pinky swear.


We both had a fun time  making them, and created another wonderful memory.


I hope you enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day, even if it’s just another Tuesday to you!

Be This Way Saves Time in the Kitchen

I’m pretty lazy.  I cook, and sometimes I even enjoy it.  But I’m all about making things as easy and inexpensive as I can, and with the least amount of effort.

So, this is how I do hamburger.

I go to Costco and buy it in bulk.  Costco’s meat is far better than the meat from the grocery store, and their regular price is less expensive than Publix’s sale price, at least most of the time.  I also make sure to buy the least expensive package they have out because I’ll likely have the same number of patties either way, albeit fractionally smaller.

When I get home I go ahead and season the meat.  I’m not very creative in the kitchen, so I season it the same way every time, more or less:

  • Garlic powder (occasionally fresh garlic)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • A splash of teryaki (my secret ingredient!)
  • Onion flakes
  • Lawry’s Salt
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Whatever else I feel like throwing in

Then I immediately form hamburger patties.  This package was $14.18, and I was able to make nineteen patties, bout 75 cents apiece.


I then package them in groups of three, two or one so that I can use only what I need for each meal.  There are three of us and Husband eats two burgers, so I need four if we’re having hamburgers.  If  I’m using it to make meat sauce or homemade Hamburger Helper I need two patties. You get the  idea.


Then I stick them in a bag in the freezer.  This saves me so much time, and on a day like today when 5:15 pm rolls around and I have no idea what I’m making for dinner, all I need to do is pull out two patties, make some spaghetti and once I plate the leftover salad I have dinner in twenty minutes with minimal effort.

Just the way I like it.

A Thanksgiving Kitchen Tip From Be This Way

If you have Tapioca mix that expired several months ago it’s fine if you don’t want to use it, especially when you are taking a chance of poisoning everyone at the Thanksgiving table.

What is decidedly NOT fine is Tapioca, so don’t even think of putting it down your garbage disposal, at least without running the water for a few moments to make sure it all gets through your pipes.

Why, you ask?

Well, Tapioca expands.  And if it’s sitting in the pipe under your sink it will turn into a solid mass the consistency of glue, and you will have your husband cursing you as he takes apart the garbage disposal to dig it out.

Just so you know.

But don’t worry about us.  Making up is always tres’ fun.

90% Well Done

This morning I went to use the microwave and noticed it was dirty. I cleaned it, then noticed that the electric can opener was, too (does anyone have one of these that works well? I never have!). I cleaned that and pretty soon there was no stopping the ball from gaining momentum on the way to completely tearing apart my kitchen. Three garbage bags, 1 large charity box and twelve cleaned and re-organized cabinets later my kitchen is just about ready to be shown. That’s good, since I have appointments with two realtors this week.

It’s hard for me to plan ahead for these things. When I think about a huge job like that I get so overwhelmed I don’t even want to begin. And lately I’ve been doing so much at my Dad’s old house that the thought of packing or cleaning out anything is about as welcome as a hemorrhoid. As a result the upkeep of my house, and the market-readiness work have fallen to the wayside. That’s not right, but it’s the way that it is. Or has been.

But when something just evolves the way it did today I feel empowered and completely forget to be overwhelmed.

I like that feeling.

The only downside is that I still have not found a cure for the 90% Doneness Syndrome. I get 90% of a job done and am left with a pile of things that I don’t know what to do with, or am too tired to deal with after busting my tush all day. Today’s 10% is currently sitting on my dining room table.


Tomorrow. I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

Gross and Not-So-Gross Ways to Save Water, and Money

On Monday my area of Florida will be under new, stricter water restrictions. In recent years, water conservation has become a major priority in states facing severe water shortages, but experts agree it’s only a matter of time before the problem is felt across the country. Here in Florida we are reduced to watering our lawns once a week. In Georgia the situation is so dire they aren’t allowed to water their lawns at all. To view up-to-date drought conditions across the country, click here.

Never one to miss a golden marketing opportunity, Home Depot sent out a great newsletter about things you can do around your home to save water, and it got me thinking about things I already do and could start to do to save water. These tips will not only help me (and you) save money, they’re good for our environment. A few parts of this post are taken directly from the Home Depot newsletter, but I’m hoping they won’t mind since I’ve linked to their site several times…


In-Home Upgrades to Save Water and Money

Whether or not you live in an area that’s currently dealing with water shortages, there are a number of inexpensive and easy-to-install water-saving fixtures that will result in significant water conservation, and money conservation. It might not feel like you’re making a much of a difference, but you will be.

1. Fix your leaky faucets and toilets. Fixing a leaky toilet can save about 200 gallons of water each day. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year which will add to the cost of water and sewer utilities, or strain your septic system. Test your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If after 30 minutes the color has not seeped into the bowl you are leak-free. We fixed a running toilet and my water consumption the next month had gone down a nice big chunk!

2. Installing an aerator on a kitchen or bathroom faucet can help cut water consumption while maintaining a smooth, high-pressure flow. We are going to install these next month.

3. A low-flow showerhead costs a little more, but works on the same premise. I need a strong flow in order to be able to wash my very thick hair, and I’ve had no problem since installing these.

If you’re willing to invest more money you can conserve even more, and save more in the long run. Here are some ways to do that.

4. High efficiency toilets use 20% less water than 1.6 GPF (gallons per flush) toilets and 60% less than 3.5 GPF toilets. There are some nifty toilets available – my sister just bought one where the seat is on hydraulics, so no more loud seat slamdowns, thank you very much. There was also one that had separate flush levers for “solid or liquid” (my brother-in-law asked the saleswoman the question I would have asked – “What do you do with diarrhea?” The woman was not amused…)! But I digress.

5. A water recirculating pump saves water and money. Tired of running your faucet or shower waiting for hot water? With this type of system there’s no more waiting. I likely waste hundreds of gallons every month waiting for my shower and sink water to get hot!

6. A tankless water heater provides hot water only as needed, saving you on water and heating costs. While pricey, they will definitely save you money in the long run. And you’ll never have a hot water heater burst again. I’m dying for one of these, but we’re selling our house so don’t want to go to the expense as we won’t realize the long-term benefit. You can bet we’ll have one installed in the new house!

7. An Energy Star-qualified washing machine can save up to 7000 gallons of water a year. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a brand new washing machine? Who am I kidding? I have to use mine until it coughs up it’s last fabric sheet ball. But when it does, Energy Star here I come!

Also, you may want to check for hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

Keep in mind that various municipalities offer rebates when you purchase water conservation products, so check into that, too.


No money to do any upgrades? No problem. There are plenty of small changes you and I can make in our regular routines that will save water and money.

1. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving. I’ve done this for years, and my son has learned to do it, too. When shaving fill the sink partway with water and rinse your razor with that. My husband is not so good with this, and I admit I don’t do it while shaving my legs – it gets cold in the shower! We need to work on that…old habits are hard to break!

2. Take shorter showers. When I was in college I lived in a house with four other people with one bathroom and a 10 gallon water heater. I got very good at taking short showers (about 3 minutes unless I’m shaving my legs) and shutting off the water while washing and shampooing, and while I don’t shut off the water while washing and shampooing any more, I still take the three minute shower. My husband, on the other hand, takes a 20 minute shower. We balance each other out, but I’m going to ask him to cut a few minutes off his time. I could also start shutting off the water while washing…I’m not making any promises.

3. Turn down the water pressure while you’re rinsing your dishes. It doesn’t have to be on full blast. I also turn it off completely while I’m soaping up a particularly dirty pot or pan, or if I have to rearrange things in the dishwasher.

4. Only run dishwashers and clothes washers when they are fully loaded. But not so loaded that things don’t get clean. I’ve been guilty of that. You could save 1000 gallons a month!

5. Start a compost heap. Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste instead of using a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals also can add 50% to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems. And the compost is terrific for your garden soil.

6. Keep a container of water in the fridge. That way you won’t need to run the water down the sink until it’s cool enough to drink. We use Brita pitchers, as our tap water is legally potable but honestly, I’d rather lick tar.

7. Wash fruit and vegetables in a half-filled sink or large bowl instead of under running water. I have a really large sink, so I put them a large bowl of water to get off most of the gunk, then give them a quick rinse under a low flow tap. My veggies have never complained.

8. Use cold water when cold water will do. In the kitchen, in the laundry, whenever possible.

9. Turn any toilet into a low flush toilet. The idea is to displace the water in your tank, making the tank think it’s fuller so you use less water each time you flush. You only need three gallons per flush, after all. So take a plastic water bottle (up to a 1/2 gallon), drop a little sand or some pebbles into it, fill it with water, and put it in the tank ( making sure not to disturb the toilet’s working parts). Voila!

10. Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet. My husband is notorious for flushing tissues. I hope to convince him this year that it’s just not necessary.

Which brings us to my last and most controversial water-saving method.

10a. If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, wash it down. When I was growing up there was a pretty severe water shortage in our area. I don’t remember all of the things we were told to do to save water, but this one thing has stayed with me throughout the years. In simpler terms, we were instructed to flush when going Number Two, but not flush when it was only Number One. I remember hearing this at school, I remember seeing it on posters, and I think I remember a commercial.

It’s controversial. Many people think it’s disgusting, including my husband. He grudgingly accepts me doing this at night (so the flushes don’t awaken him), but really, really hates daytime mellowing. Out of respect for him I only do it when he’s not at home. And I never do it away from home.


So, there you have it. According to the EPA, the average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill. By making some of the simple water-saving changes mentioned above, you could save at least a couple of hundred dollars per year. And, if all US households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year.

That’s a lot of moolah.

If you have any other tips that work for you, please share! Whether you plan to tackle a few small drips, or overhaul your entire household plumbing system, remember that every little bit counts toward preserving water supplies for tomorrow.


Like what you see? Check out more money-saving posts on my Stretch Your Dollar page!


%d bloggers like this: