Friday, August 28, 2009

Food: Mueslix

Dear Cheapskate,

Do you eat Mueslix? I do. It's superior in both taste and nutrition to granola, but at $4.39 per pound it's pricey. Have you looked carefully at the ingredients? It's mostly oatmeal. And raisins. I don't even like raisins! So I mix my own. It's much cheaper and even tastier!*

Here's my recipe:

1 pound rolled oats @ $1.15 per pound
1 pound barley flakes @ $1.39 per pound
1 pound rye flakes @ $1.39 per pound
1 pound date pieces @ $2.29 per pound (I have a sweet tooth)
1/2 pound shredded coconut @ $2.19 per pound
1/2 pound almonds @ $3.33 per pound @ Costco

Cost per pound: $1.80

This is less than half the cost of buying the Mueslix pre-mixed with yucky raisins!!!

You save 59%!!!!


*Do they still make Applejacks? Nothing is as tasty as Applejacks. Except maybe Captain Crunch. Or having a bowl of chocolate chips for breakfast. Having a bowl of choclate chips for breakfast would be good.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finding Things: Bowls

Dear Cheapskate,

I was walking down the street yesterday when I saw a carboard box on the sidewalk. One of those wonderful cardboard boxes full of giveaway stuff! I always take a peek, even when I'm in a hurry. I can't help it.

I had been wanting some little bowls. Little bowls for my dainty portions of salad and mueslix. (See upcoming post on DIY mueslix! It will be exciting!)

There they were! My new bowls!! One is a Batman bowl and one is a Simba bowl. Who wouldn't want to eat out of a Batman bowl or a Simba bowl? Why are are grown-up bowls so boring, anyway?


Saturday, August 22, 2009

When your Slab fails you

My dear fellow Cheapskate,

Last night I had a stunning, world-view-shattering experience! I am still reeling from the shock. Forgive me if I mumble as I have not fully regained my faculties. Here's what I learned:

My trusty 1990 Honda Civic might possibly not last forever!!!

I know!! I couldn't believe it either! Who knew??

Here's what happened:
I dropped off my two spendy kids at the movies. (The third, my favorite, thrifty, after-my-own-heart kid, decided to stay home to save the ten bucks...)
Then my car wouldn't start! Because I'm a cheapskate, I have cheap roadside assistance insurance, and I had to wait three hours for a tow truck!!
Three hours is a lot of time to sit in one's car and ponder.

I read the owner's manual cover to cover. I learned how to change the fuses, something I've been meaning to do. If I get some fuses the windows might open again!

It got too dark to read about how to change the tires, so I tried to take a nap but the cops came and tried to intimidate me with their powerful flashlights. (Why do they have "BERKELEY" emblazoned on their vests in two foot high letters? Is it so if they accidentally wander into Oakland we'll know which team they're on?)
So, no nap. Instead, my mind was abuzz. How could I avoid this miserable situation in the future? The answer was obvious: Dye my hair blue, get a jumpsuit with the name "Katt" (my nom de car mechanic) embroidered over the breast pocket, enroll at Wyotech, and become a car mechanic. Ooor, don't own a car. No car, no car problems, no car pollution, no car expenses! I noted my mileage and made some calculations.

Monthly car expenses:
Registration: $2
Gas: $32
Insurance: $25
Average Repairs: $39
TOTAL: $98

That's, like, $1,200 per year!!!

Do I really need a car? Does anyone need a car? Does anyone really need much of anything? It's handy to have a car, but I would survive without one.

Conclusion: Keep this one until it can no longer be resuscitated. Then - no car.

UPDATE: I got to ride in a tow truck!!! How cool is that????!!???

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Going Out to Eat

Dear Cheapskate,

I'm going to give it to you straight. One word on going out to eat:


Listen, Cheapskate, stop with the excuses. And for heaven's sake, is that a tear? If you want to save money, you simply can't go out to eat. At all. Ever. Not even for a burrito. And no, not even for a McDonald's hamburger. Not even when they're two for a dollar.

There are some situations where you may feel compelled or obliagated to go out to eat. Do not succumb. You don't have to. I have some helpful suggestions for getting out of going out to eat.

1) It's a date.
If someone invites you out to dinner, and even if they are going to pay, tell them you'd prefer to have the cash. Offer to cook them a home-cooked meal of lentils and garden green beans in exchange for the cost of going out to eat. If you're like me, you'll need to unload some green beans anyway. Or show up for the dinner with a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. If this person is worthy of you, they will understand.

2) The "Yay, it's so-and-so's birthday work lunch."
I once had one of those mindless jobs - sitting in a beige cubicle staring at a computer monitor. Every so often I felt obligated to go to one of these lunches. If you must go, don't eat. If necessary, say you have a stomach ache. If you eat even one bite of bread from the bread basket you will be expected to pay a full share of the meal. Do not eat even one bite. Don't order a drink because this will have the same effect of reqiuring you to pay for a full share of the tab. When it's your birthday, don't tell anyone. If they find out anyway, tell them you have a stomach ache and can't go out to eat.

3) You're away from home and hungry.
Tough. It probably won't kill you to be hungry. I mean, people fast on purpose for their health so do you think missing just one meal is going to hurt? Carry a couple of apples in your backpack for emergencies like these. Plan ahead and bring a peanut butter sandwich. An added plus: You will enjoy your dinner even more if you skipped lunch.

I wouldn't own a house now if I had blown money going out to eat. Think about why you are saving money and this will help motivate you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pets: Cat Grass

Dear Cheapskate,

Have you ever spent $3.99 on one of those little pots of lush green cat grass at the pet store? You thought, boy, my faithful cat would love to munch on that cat grass. And really, money is no object here, because what is money compared to the happiness of my precious pet? Then you saw, next to the little pots of cat grass, little bags of cat grass seeds for sale? You thought, I could save money growing my own cat grass, which will make me happy, and my cat will be happy, too! We'll both be happy!

You can indeed grow your own cat grass!! But not by buying those seeds you saw at the pet store. Oh, no. I have a much better idea.

My dear Cheapskate, I have a fantastically cheap idea for you today.

I did what you did. I went to the pet store. I saw that cat grass. I saw those seeds. I saw the price of those seeds ($2.95 for one ounce of seeds!), and I thought - what kinds of seeds are these exactly? What is cat grass, really?
I read the label: barley, oats, wheat.

Barley, oats, wheat??!!?? This is what this fancy, special, mysterious, cat grass is made of? For $2.95 per ounce? That's, like, $47.20 per pound! (As a highly motivated cheapskate, I have learned to do such calculations quickly in my head. You will, too. I promise.) Can't I buy oatmeal from the bin at the grocery store for $1.25 per pound? Don't they have whole grains there, too, in those bins? Cat grassy grains like barley, oats, and wheat???

I rode my bicycle as fast as I could to Berkeley Bowl (a very cool grocery store) and I ran to the bins section. (Wear sneakers for optimal running.) I bought 32 cents worth of whole oats, 43 cents worth of wheat berries, and 39 cents worth of whole barley. (I also had the free cheese sample while I was there.)

I planted a little pot using a fraction of my seed supply, watered it every day, and voilĂ ! It grew! It grew into beautiful, tall, green, delicious (according to Beaubeau - I didn't taste it myself) cat grass. And I'm not even good at growing things!!!

I know you can't believe it - all that cat grass for $1.14. But wait, there's more. This was a year ago and I'm still using that same supply of seeds and there are still a lot of seeds in those little baggies! That $1.14 worth of grain grows a LOT of cat grass!

Tip: As soon as one pot of cat grass is tall and ready to give to your cat, plant seeds in a second pot. When the fist batch is eaten or has turned brown, the second will be ready.

At the pet store: $3.99 every two weeks for cat grass. That's $103.74 per year.
Plant edible grains: $1.14 for (eternity?) a year.
Savings: $102.60 per year!!!!

And think of all the time you saved not going to the pet store, and the money you saved because you weren't at the pet store so you weren't tempted to buy a bunch of junk you didn't need while you were there!

And you grew your own grass!! How cool is that???? You farmer, you.

PS The pot and dirt were free. I'll tell you how to get free stuff like pots and dirt in another post. I know you can't wait!!!!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Dear Cheapskate,

I thought up a brand new cheapskate thing today! I'm so proud of myself. I'm talking about Q-Tips. This is the sort of disposable item that I don't usually buy - I would never buy paper towels or paper napkins, for example. But Q-tips are indispensable, for me, for removing eye makeup.
How often do you use only one tip and then chuck the whole thing into the garbage when there's still a perfectly good tip left on the other end? A perfectly good tip wasting away in that nasty bathroom garbage bin. (Note I have refrained from describing particular items in said bathroom garbage bin. Use your imagination.) That's my $$$, earned doing soul sucking tasks for the man, being tossed thoughtlessly away. I'll keep those soft cottony tips, thank you.

The Tip on Q-Tips: Cut them in half!

That's right. By cutting them in half so that there is only one wonderful cottony tip per stick, you throw away only used tips, and you DOUBLE your money.

Calculation: $10 for a giant two-pack at Costco, purchased once every two years. Savings: $10 over two years. I save $5 per year!! Ok, reality check, that's not a lot of money. That's 1.37 cents per day. But I'm a CHEAPSKATE. I want that $5. I'll pay that $5 down on my house, or waste in on chocolate, or whatever.

My dear Cheapskate, stop! I can hear you snickering.
"Right, like, saving 1.37 cents a day is going to enable me to quit my job. Ha ha," you're saying.
Here is your very important lesson: You must change your thinking. You must never say, "Oh, that only costs 1.37 cents per day." You must always concentrate on the money you are saving. Every time you use a cut-in-half-Q-Tip think about how you are saving $5, or 50%!

Never spend money you earned by working. Our goal is to save save save and get that money working FOR you!

Next challenge: Come up with a free, home-made, Q-Tip substitute.

Dear Aspiring Cheapskate, I am bursting with ideas for you! I have so much to tell you about vegetables, cat grass, split peas, earthquake retrofits, transportation, home ownership, Bay Area bridges, CHOCOLATE kisses, and oh, so much more.

I know you can't wait. There is so much to come. I'm only getting started.