Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waking Up On A Cold And Frosty Morn

Dear Cheapskate,

I know. Why get out of bed in the morning? Why?
It's cold out there, out in the frigid bedroom air! (You don't use heat, do you? Especially not at night? Heat costs money!!) It's too cold to stick even the most brave and curious of body parts, your little arm, out from under the warm blankets. Would you subject your arm to such an insult? No, of course not! What to do?

I have a couple of suggestions.

1) Don't get up! If you telecommute via iPhone, or, even better, are unemployed, just stay in bed! Wrap yourself in an extra blanket and sit up if you desire. Keep some snacks by the pillow - a bowl of almonds and raisins is nice. Lean your back against a pillow, read a book.

2) If you must get up, sleep in your clothes. Say you go to sleep on a Tuesday. On Tuesday night dress in your Wednesday clothes then get in bed. Delicious warm bed. Wake up Wednesday ready to go! No need to expose your bare skin to the inclement bedroom. You're warm and dressed already.
If your clothes are too uncomfortable to sleep in, change your wardrobe. I recommend sweatpants. Business suits, jeans, anything tight or prone to wrinkles - get rid of it.

3) If you refuse to sleep in your clothes (you are so stubborn!) keep them next to you under the covers. In the morning get dressed under the covers before you get out of bed.

4) As a last resort, scream. Scream and run for it. Throw off the covers, rip off your flannel pajamas (scream with extra gusto as the icy blast hits your naked body), yank on some warm clothes and a down vest, shiver, do some jumping jacks until you warm up enough to stop screaming, and you're good to go.

But what about the water pipes, the spider plant in the macramé hanger by the window, the "Cheepie" the pet parakeet? They need heat don't they?

Friday, October 22, 2010

What The Food Inustry Doesn't Want You To Know About Popcorn!!!


I love popcorn.

I don't love:
  • The mess and the colories making popcorn the old fashioned (yet delicious) way - in a pot of oil on the stove.
  • Paying the big bucks for bags of microwave popcorn.
  • The fuss and noise of an air popper.

What to do??? Don't eat popcorn, right?


Cheapskate, I have made the discovery of the CENTURY!!!! I can't believe I didn't figure this out sooner!
You can microwave regular old popcorn for mere pennies!!!!

Here's how:
1) Buy a bag of regular popcorn - the bag with just the kernels, nothing special. It's cheap.

2) Put some kernels into a Tupperware-type container.

3) Place the lid loosely on top. IMPORTANT: Do not seal the lid on or it will explode. The idea is to contain the popcorn while allowing air to escape.

4) Place in the microwave and look and listen for it to be done. CAUTION: Steam is very hot.

5) Voila!!!! Incredilbly cheap and easy popcorn!!!! No bags, no oil, no popcorn popper, no muss, no fuss.

6) Add toppings if desired.

7) Experiment with how much to put in the container and how long to pop. (I put 1/4 cup kernels into the 1 quart container - it doesn't take much.)

Microwave bag: 50 cents
Microwave kernels: 5 cents
300 bags per year
SAVINGS: $135 per year!!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How To Have Ragin' Paaaaartay!

Dear Cheapskate,

Parties needn't be expensive!  I suggest a party for one. Throw yourself a nice party. Splurge! Treat yourself to something special, like three-bags-for-a-dollar marshmallows from Grocery Outlet. (I saw them today. Go! Run get them!) This will be such a cheap party!

What? You don't think it's a real party unless some guests attend? Ok, fine. If you absolutely must have a party for more than one, here's how to do it:

A party!!

Have your party from 3-5pm. These are “between meals” hours. The object it to confuse your guests about the expectation of a meal. Is it dinner time? Lunch time? Neither? Since they’ll be served only a few snacks your guests will be happier if they aren’t unpleasantly surprised by the lack of a meal.

This happened to me recently when I flew on an airplane for the first time in many years. The last time I flew, back in the 1950’s I think it was, I had a piping hot, delicious meal plus all the extra leftover desserts. I received a box of crayons, a deck of cards, some wings to pin on my shirt, and a pair of cozy foot warmers, plus I got to visit the cockpit and meet the captain. Imagine my shock last month when all I got on the plane was a lousy little bag of peanuts. And I didn’t get to meet the captain!!!!!!!!!!!

Do not shock your guests this way. It would be poor manners to shock your guests.

Serve chips and hummus. You can get an enormous bag of tortilla chips at Costco for under four bucks. Use my hummus recipe (below). Multiply the recipe by ten and you should be good to go. Total cost for snacks: about $9.

In your invitation (use evite or some type of free invitation) indicate “BYOB”. Hopefully your guests will be big on drinks and you’ll end up with a lot of leftover booze.

If you’re worried about having enough glasses (serve tap water), save up empty jars for this purpose. Start saving now!

For fun! If, like me, you’re not used to entertaining, it’s wise to brush up your wit in the days before your party. Look up some jokes online so you can get the conversation rolling with gems like, “Why don't aliens eat clowns? Because they taste funny.”

It’s best to have an ending time. If your guests stay too long they may begin to expect a meal. And if they ate a lot of your snacks the effect of the beans should be kicking in so you may want them out.

I know this will be a fun party!!! Who wants to come????

Cheap Hummus
1 cup dry garbanzo beans
Cook in the pressure cooker with water for 30 minutes
Drain and put them in a blender with
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini or peanut butter
the juice from 1 or 2 lemons (get free from neighbor's tree)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika

This post first appeared on The Frugal Hostess.
If you threw a party like mine (the non-loner kind of party, the party with actual human guests) and you still have any friend(s) left, go to the Frugal Hostess's blog and read all her posts. You'll find out how to have a real party!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How To Pay For College: 5 Tips

Dear Cheapskate,


Did I scare you?

Imagine you're stranded in a disabled U-boat, a mile beneath the ocean's surface, running out of food and oxygen, you're sweating, listening helplessly as the pinging sound from the enemy battleship above gets closer and closer... The terror!*

Cheapskate, if you're sending Little Johnny to college you know the terror.

"How will I pay for it?"
"I'd rather die than go into debt."
"Maybe the kid can join the Army instead."
"Why did I have kids, again?"

Cheapskate, fear not. Up periscope! Launch torpedoes! Prepare to surface! College can be cheap!!


1) Have Johnny attend the local community college for the first two years. Here in foggy California community college is a bargain. It's only a few hundred bucks rather than forty thousand smackers! Johnny lives at home for free and saves a bundle on dorm fees, too!

Ok, let's be honest. Johnny can't stand living at home and would rather live in a sewer pipe than live with mom for one more minute.

Mom was kind of looking forward to having the whole house to herself! Shhh. Do NOT tell Johnny!!!!!!!

Luckily, both  Johnny and mom are motivated to tolerate each other by their infinte cheapness. Mom tells Johnny his room will always be his (though she can't wait to make it into her study or rent it out!) and Johnny refrains from scowling at mom too much.

2) Apply for financial aid. The lower your income the better.

3) Johnny has a part time job during the school year. Not only does he save up money for the final two years of college away from home, but you have the house to yourself more because Johnny's off working at the Stop 'n Spend!

4) Do NOT take out a loan!

5) Send Johnny to the cheapest college you can find.

Cheapakate, how do you save money on college?? Do tell!!

*I so totally know about submarines. Look, there's me with the other 4-year-olds in a submarine! I was part of a little known experiment during the cold war. A band of highly trained 4-year-olds were sent on a secret submarine mission in the Baltic Sea! We're clutching the torpedoes! Dive! Dive!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bad Ideas


I'm cheap. You know I'm cheap. But am I too cheap? Never!! Absolutely never! Never ever!

Except that one time.

This is embarrassing. Maybe I shouldn't tell you this.

While riding my bicycle I became hungry. As I reached into my back pocket for a life-sustaining, 3-for-a-dollar, power bar, I spied an unopened package of peanut butter crackers on the side of the road. You know those orange day-glo cracker sandwiches? They were unopened!! Why not pick them up and eat them for free? What could be the harm? They were unopened! I'd save, like, 33.3 cents!!!!

I took a big bite.

Have you ever snacked on road tar mixed with powdered laundry detergent and poison? The crackers looked like crackers but baking on asphalt had transformed them into something else.

I knew I shouldn't have told you about this. I hope you still love me.

Cheapskate, have you ever tried to save  money and realized it was a big mistake? Do tell!!!!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Things Not To Buy: Anything In A Commercial

Dear Cheapskate,

Do you wish, with all your might and main, that you lived the life of that happy person in the commercial? The slim business woman eating that burger? The charming fellow drinking that beer, driving that car, wearing those cool shoes? Even though you're a cheapskate, it kind of crosses your mind that maybe, just maybe, you should blow two days of your $5 budget on a box of chicken nuggets?

Let me tell you about commercials. Zeus (that's Zeus, the god, not Dr. Suess, the author) throws a lighting bolt and the commercials appear! All over the place - TV, internet, billboards, magazines... for the good of mankind!

Just kidding.

When you buy something that appeared in a commercial you are paying for the item plus the cost of the advertising. I read somewhere that when you buy a new car (Don't buy a car! Not even a used car!!) you're paying $2,000 just for the advertising plus another $1,500 towards some auto worker's retirement! If true, that's $3,500!! You could buy ten used cars for $3,500!! Even you are given a car for the price of $0, it's still expensive because of gas, insurance, etc.

Notice anything else? Junk food, fast food, weight loss food, beer, cars, anti-aging lotions... This is all stuff you don't need! If you needed it, they wouldn't have to advertise it to make you think you need it because you'd already know you need it.

If you see something in a commerial and you buy it:

1) You're paying for the advertising.

2) You don't need it!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Finders Keepers

Cheapskate, are you there? Is anyone reading? I feel so sad and morose, probably because I have quit eating sugar. Cheapskate, your eyes are bugging out - I know you can't believe it. Until last week I lived on sugar. What is life without sugar??? It's nothing, I tell you!! Nothing!!!!! But, my dear Cheapskate, you can help! Leave a comment and I will feel so much better! Say anything, anything at all, just let me know you're there!!! Are you there?

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

Dear Cheapskate,

Usually, when finding things, the losers are not "weepers"; the losers are "yay-I -got-rid-of-that-crap"-ers. But if those who formerly owned your finds do indeed weep, so be it.
"Finding things" is a great way to aquire things for free.

Often, especially in summer, aka "stuff on the curb" season, people leave their unwanted items in a cardboard box on the curb. This is a great way to find things as there is no question the items are available for the taking. I recently found the following:

Antique tatted doilie
Cat toy
Airtight and airproof container
Broken electonic fake fish tank (unfixable so I threw it away)

Tip: Use discriminating taste or you'll end up with a house full of junk.

Oh, wait, what? You've never heard of tatting? Seriously? Do you think those lace doilies just appeared out of thin air???? No, great great great grandma sat in her wingback chair by the fireplace, peering into her lacework by candle light, her hounds lying obediently at her feet, and tatted those doilies with her little tatting needles!!!  And that makes me wonder, what kind of insensitive monster would leave great great great grandma's hand-tatted doily on the curb????

Sometimes I find things that others have lost. If I am sure the item has no hope of being reunited with it's owner, then the rule of Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers comes into play.

Things I've found recently:
A dollar!
Fleece jacket
Miss Piggy Puppet
Hair Ties

When you find things, not only are the things completely free, they're not much trouble (you didn't have to go shopping, you found them as you went about your business), and you find things you didn't even know you needed!!! I did not know that I needed an electronic fake fish tank. I mean, I had no idea. I didn't even know there was such a thing!!!!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Frivolous Friday: Biscuits for the Cheap and Lazy

Dear Cheapskate,

Need a decadent snack? You don't have to make a special trip to the store and you don't have to spend a lot of money. Try these butter biscuits which are basically just warm butter sponges. Load them up with melted butter! (And you thought I lived an austere life of deprivation, but no! These biscuits are pure luxury!)

Microwave until soft: 1/2 stick butter (yes, melting butter is biscuit blasphemy because it affects the flakiness but I'm too lazy to cut up cold butter)
Mix in:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (could use 2 but 1 is half the price)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup water with a squirt of vinegar (could use buttermilk but I'm too cheap)

Plop globs onto a cookie sheet (no buttering the pan, no cutting or shaping the dough - too much work)

Bake at 375 for about 18  minutes

Tip: Turn on the oven as you put the biscuits in. Do not preheat! Use that preheating heat to cook the biscuits. No wasted heat! Preheating is for spendthrifts!

Cost (if you bought the flour in bulk, the butter at Costco, and the baking soda at Grocery Outlet): 48 cents
That's 7 cents for a giant biscuit!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Movies! Books! Puppet Shows! Concerts! Poetry Slams! Dancing Girls!

Ok, not dancing girls. Except maybe in a tap dance class, which could happen.


I'm talking about the public library. Never pay for books or movies. Borrow them from the library! If, like me, you live a couple of blocks from a tiny branch library, a library with a small selection, fret not. Go online, order the latest best seller (or moldy old poor-seller) from the main library, wait for the happy email notification, then go pick it up at that little library! They'll rubber band your name onto it!!!!

The library offers all sorts of other stuff, too, like stories and shows for little kids, art exhibits, lectures by famous authors, movies with popcorn, chess, free lawyers and tax help, internet access, puppet shows, magic shows, "Dial-A-Story", workshops on writing, speaking Spanish, jazz combo, quilting, and knitting.

All totally free!!


I pay a $116 per year library tax with my property tax. I have to pay it whether I use the library or not, but I do use it a lot!! It's a bargain! If I bought all the books and movies I get from the library it would cost a bundle.

Savings: Thousands of dollars

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marriage. Hunh! Yeah. What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing!

Dear Cheapskate,

Save a ton of money by implementing the following tip:

Tip: Don't get married.

Aw, Cheapskate, you look so upset! Are you deeply offended? Have I gone too far? I knew this would blow your mind! If you're serious about saving money think of marriage not as a romantic endeavor but as a money sucking scheme.

[Note that though this author is twice divorced she is still absolutely, totally, 100% UNBIASED!! Isn't that great!?!!]

Reasons to NOT get married [Completely objective!!]

Spending and Debt.
Is the prospective spouse a cheapskate? Is he as deliriously frugal as you are? Probably not. (Who is?) Do you want this spendthrift near your finances?

Financial Aid.
Do you have kids in college?
Check out these financial aid FAQ's.

You could be stuck with your spouse's medical bills! Then again, maybe you can find a spouse who will provide you with precious medical insurance. [If anyone knows of the availability of this type of medical-insurance-providing prospective spouse please send info asap to and disregard the rest of this post.]

Reasons TO get married.
Publicity stunt.
The right to visit your spouse in the slammer.

Cheapskate, I can see that you are still very offended.
Have you been happily married for many, many years? Did it save you money? Do tell!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lotion Revolution!

Dear Cheapskate,

Disaster! I'm out facial lotion.
Nightmare! Grocery Outlet is out of my lotion of choice, the 99 cents stuff, my maximum allotment for facial lotion.

I read the ingredients on the side of the jar. The main ingredient in my lotion, apparently, is mineral oil. I searched online. The most expensive lotions (like, $500?!?)  feature olive oil as an ingredient.
So, why not just use olive oil??? I already have olive oil. I don't even have to go to the store, forage for aloe vera plants, pillage a bee hive for wax, or otherwise expend effort gathering ingredients.

Cheapskate, stop laughing. Do you have a good reason to not try using olive oil as a facial lotion? Bold ideas like these change the world so wipe that smirk off your face.

I slathered it on. It spreads so you only need a few drops! I wondered. Will this burn my skin? Will I get zits? Will someone try to put me in their salad?

So far it works great! My skin is so not dry! And, ok, I'm not kidding when I say "not dry". It takes a while to soak in. Like, hours. I imagine this might interfere with one's makeup, if one wears makeup.
I am confident, however, that as a preeminent trendsetter, I will be the envy of all and soon it will be unfashionable, embarrassing even, to appear in public without an oily sheen to one's face.

It's official. Olive oil is now my official facial lotion - and body lotion and foot lotion, too! If bio-diesel cars can leave a trail of odeur de vegetable oil their wake, why can't I?

Jar of cheap lotion: 99 cents
Jar of expensive lotion: $500
Olive oil: 99 cents
Savings: $0 to $499

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Dandelion: Worthless Weed or Delicious Dinner?

Dear Cheapsakte,

You're so smart, you clever thing! Yes, dandelions are edible and delicious!

Do you carefully cultivate your garden only to have slugs eat your lettuce? Do you dig, plant, fertilize, water, and toil, only to reap a few lousy green beans? Do you make grueling trips to the tool lending library for trimmers and diggers? Grow dandelions!

Is it difficult to grow dandelions? What special equipment is needed? A crack! All you need is a freaking crack in the concrete. Do nothing. No watering. Nothing. And there's your dinner.
Guess what! It's tasty. Eat the flowers and everything. Why make a trip to the store and waste $5.99 on spring salad when you can simply pluck your greens from the driveway for free?

What other urban weeds are edible? Do you know??? There must be a ton. Let's forage!

UPDATE: Whole Foods SELLS dandelion greens for $2.99 a bunch!!!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Gross Me Out The Door!

Dear Cheapskate,

What's Crackalackin'?

Did you collect Garbage Pail Kids cards in the 80's while listening to Cyndi Lauper sing "She Bop" and teasing your hair? Did you think, "Damn Skippy, these cards are awesome! Snot and puke are hilarious! Hahahahaha!" Did you clutch your stomach and double over laughing? If so, you're reading the right blog post.

Cheapskate, if you are delicate, like I am, please read no further. If you must read on, I beg you, please, please, have your smelling salts ready. Consider having a physician stand by. I don't want the shock to fell you. I don't want you to wig-out.

I have discovered or invented several wonderful but grodie ways to save a ton of money. I'm not saying I do these things myself. Maybe I do and maybe I don't. Maybe I just know someone who does. Maybe these things are done only in novels written for children. Who knows?

Toilet Paper.
Use one square. Are you a 25-squares-at-a-time yanker? Your toilet paper will last 25 times longer by using only one square per episode!
$100 per year with '25 squares' method
$4 per year with '1 square' method
Savings: $96 per year

Dental Floss.
Use the same piece of floss over and over and over until it breaks. Don't use it a mere once then toss it. A decent piece of dental floss is good for at least ten flosses!
$60 per year with 'disposable floss' method
$6 per year with 'reusable floss' method
Savings: $54 per year

Chewing Gum.
It's reusable. It loses it's flavor after ten seconds of chewing anyway so why not start with a tasteless piece for free? Stick your chewed gum on the bed post for safe keeping then pluck it off when you're ready for a chew! One piece of gum will last for days!
$50 per year with 'disposable gum' method
$5 per year with 'reusable gum' method
Savings: $45 per year

Cheapskate, I know! These ideas totally wail!!

Do you know any other disgusting yet brilliant ways to save money? Gag me with a spoon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

For What Ails You

Dear Cheapskate,

Once in a while, I ail. I ail and when I ail I'll do anything to make it stop. If I'm not prepared for an ailment before it strikes, I could, in a fit of misery, do the unthinkable: spend money!  On September 26th, 2009 I spent money on a pepto bismol-like substance that wasn't even on sale! Cheapskate, I hope that nothing ails you and that you feel healthy and happy.

But just in case, be sure to have the following in your medicine cabinet:

Petrolium Jelly
Baking Soda
Corn Starch
Hydrogen peroxide
Super Glue
Duct Tape

No need for pricey anti-fungals, anti-histamines, or anti-aliasing. Over the many, many, years of my very long life I have gleaned the following home remedies and old wives tales:

Ithcy Feet a.k.a. Athlete's Foot
Soak your feet in salt water and/or rub them with hydrogen peroxide.

Bee Sting
Plop a paste of baking soda and water onto the bee sting.

Poison Oak (I hope I never get this again, ever)
Immediately wash skin with soap. Plop a paste of baking soda and water, or cornstarch and water, onto the rash.

Put petrolium jelly up your butt.

Diaper Rash
Put corn starch on your butt.

Runny Nose
Don't eat milk products.
Boil water and breathe the steam.

Chapped Lips
Put petrolium jelly on your lips.

Drink a little baking soda mixed with water.

Eat soda crackers a.k.a. saltines. Drink gingerale. Don't eat fruits or vegetables.

Superglue your skin together.

Sore Throat
Gargle with salt water.

Eat a spoonful of lemon juice and honey.

Burns (minor)
Immediately run cold water over the burn.

Morning Sickness
Eat soda crackers or carrots.

Put duct tape on your wart.

Just snap out of it! (This actually works sometimes, bion.)

Eat raw fruit. Eat prunes.

Do you know some other home remedies? Do they work? Please comment!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dishwasher Detergent And Your Dishwasher: A Fascinating Study

Dear Cheapskate,

Do you wish, every time you pour dishwasher detergent into the little indentation in the door of the dishwasher, that you didn't have to shell out for dishwasher detergent? I do.

So I tried some things.

I washed the dishes au naturel, in water only, with no soap. The dishes were still greasy.

I used a substitute: One drop of liquid soap and two tablespoons of baking soda. This worked ok! I would save oodles of money! I'd buy baking soda in bulk and save even more!!

I did some second grade math.
Baking soda in bulk is 89 cents a pound.
Sun (aka "brand X") detergent is $3 for 4.75 pounds at Walgreens, that's 63 cents per pound!! Cheaper, even, than the clever baking soda substitute!!
Safeway brand is $3.49 for 4.68 pounds, or 75 cents per pound.
Cascade is, like, $6 for 4.69 pounds, or over $1.25 per pound - don't even look at the Cascade, not even on sale. You're paying for the advertising.

Conclusion: Sun is the cheapest dishwasher detergent, even cheaper than home-made.

Cheapskate, I know what you're thinking.
Does one use the same amount of baking soda as dishwasher detergent?
Are baking soda and dishwasher detergent the same weight per volume?

I wondered, too.
I washed the dishes using a mere two tablespoons of detergent. The dishes were perfect! (If "perfect" means "mostly clean but you still have to wipe off some crud, as usual".)
I weighed 1/4 cup of baking soda. It was exactly 2 ounces.
I weighed 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent, expecting it to weigh more, but no, it was also exactly 2 ounces!! The baking soda and dishwasher detergent are the same weight per volume! The diswasher detergent is cheaper than baking soda!!

Tip: Buy brand X dishwashing detergent, preferably on sale.
Tip: Use only two tablespoons (or less) of dishwashing detergent. Do not fill up the whole cup. The box of detergent will last twice as long if you fill the cup only half way!
Tip: Make sure the dishwasher is crammed full before running it. We have a saying in my house, regarding dishes in the dishwasher: "You can always add one more."
Tip: Do not substitute dishwasher detergent for baking soda in your cakes and cookies.

Water, Energy.
Cheapskate, you think too much. You always have just one more question, don't you? Put your hand down - this isn't school; this is a blog. Does the dishwasher use more water than washing dishes by hand? Is saving a few pence on soap cancelled out by the cost of running the dishwasher? Here are the facts (I got this info online so it must be true):
The dishwasher uses less water than washing by hand!!

Here's a great article about dishwasher usage: Does Using a Dishwasher Actually Decrease Water Use?

Whew! Now I don't feel guilty about using the dishwasher!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sleep, Sleep, You Are Getting Sleeepy...

Dear Cheapskate,

I am so sorry to hear about your insomnia. Are worries about a spendthrift mistake keeping you awake? Did you blow half of your daily $5 budget on a lousy, useless piece of cheese cloth with weave so large the yogurt seeped right though and you wish you had your money back? That's $2.50 gone!  No wonder you can't sleep.

Cheapskate, I've had my share of insomnia and I have ways to beat it. Free! No need to spend money on sleeping pill presciptions, dream doctors, teas guaranteed to ease you into a gentle slumber, aromatherapy, a Chillow (mighty tempting - it's a chill pillow?) or a sheet of magnets to place under you mattress.

Cheapskate's cure for insomnia.

1) No caffeine.
None. Seriously. Not even in the morning. Not even chocolate. Not even if you're one of those people who say, "Caffeine doesn't affect me."

2) Exercise.
Hard aerobic exercise. Ride your bike up and down steep hills. Run stadium stairs. If you already exercise a lot, do that plus something else. Make it hurt.

3) No naps.
Not cat naps, no chair naps. Even a short nap will screw up your sleep.

4) Bed is for sleep only.
Don't do anything in bed except sleep. No reading, no eating crackers (goes without saying), no jumping, no watching movies on your laptop, no singing. If you can't fall asleep, get out of bed. Teach your  body that bed is for sleeping and you won't tolerate anything but.
Cheapskate, I know what you're thinking. And yes, there is another activity that you can do in bed and yes, that activity will help you to sleep. Go for it.

5) Regular sleep schedule.
Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. If you go to bed early or sleep in, you'll have sleep trouble again! Even if you didn't fall asleep until 3 in the morning, get up at 7 anyway. Get your internal clock working.

6) No drinking after 6pm.
I don't mean alcohol. (Never drink any alcohol.) I'm talking about liquid, like water, coconut milk,,, Do you want to fall into a delicious slumber only to be jolted awake by a call from your bladder? No, I didn't think so.

7) Temperature.
Open the window, close the window, add blankets, remove blankets. Whatever works.

8) Comfy bed.
If you don't have a comfy bed, get one free on craigslist or freecycle. Rig one up! I pile up blankets under my sheets for extra softness.

9) Reduce stress.
I know, easier said than done. Don't watch a scary movie or call your enemies just before bed. If you can never sleep the night before a bike race, quit bike racing!

10) Pep talk.
Say to yourself, "It doesn't matter if you don't sleep, you'll function just fine tomorrow! Don't worry about falling asleep!"
You know you're totally lying but you fall for it anyway! You sucker.

This is what I do for insomnia, for free!!

What do you do for insomnia?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Appliance Reliance

Dear Cheapskate,

Do you have appliances in your house? A water heater perhaps? A stove, dishwasher, garbage disposal, washing machine...? Have you replaced a thermocouple or cleaned out an air gap? Replaced a hose here and there?
I hope you didn't need to.

I loathe the work of fixing things. But do you know what I loathe even more? Paying someone to do the work of fixing things!

Cheapskate, I have a repair person - it's me. Or, sometimes, it's an unfortunate friend or offspring who happens to be nearby at the time of the appliance crisis and who is a reluctant recruit. (And I wonder why I'm so alone?? Why does no-one drop by???)

When an appliance gets stopped up, stuck, leaky, spews smoke, makes a clunking noise, or flies across the room, here's what I do: I go on the internet and learn how to fix it. I find the online owners manual or search with keywords like, "doesn't drain", "stuck", "no power", or "shooting flames".

Now that I've learned a few things, (like, for a stuck disposal, I first push the red button, then try using an allen wrench, then a broom handle!) it gets easier and easier.

I save so much money fixing things myself!!!

You handy(wo)man, you!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Frugal Hostess is Cheap!

Dear Cheapskate,

Today we're honored to have the famous Frugal Hostess write about being cheap! I ALWAYS read her blog. We're so lucky!!!!! Read her post below then go to her blog and read everything else!

Our guest blogger writes:
Don’t Waste Your Money
By The Frugal Hostess

Pre-Shredded Cheese, Pre-Sliced Apples, Pre-Cut Veggies: These products are a waste of money. Seriously, are you really that busy that you can’t spend three minutes shredding up some cheese? The cost is almost double the regular block of cheese or whole apple, and the product is sprayed with chemicals that keep it from sticking together or turning brown. How about you just slice an apple up when you want to eat it – or just bite it, you big baby – and hold the NatureSeal? (NatureSeal is the white powder made up of ascorbic acid and calcium salts that keeps pre-sliced apples from turning brown. Gross, right?)

Fat Free Half and Half. What a crock. Half-and-half is half milk and half cream. Take a minute to think about that. Does it make sense that it wouldn’t have fat? Of course not. Fat free half-and-half is really high fructose corn syrup dosed to taste like cream. How dreadful. This is obviously a product that is too good to be true. How about you just drink real cream like a normal hedonist? (Same goes for that flavored or shelf-stable kind. You must be kidding.)

Books. The Frugal Hostess wishes that books could replace dollar bills as currency, because she’s sure that this change would result in her being an instant millionaire. Books are so great and so worth having. However, if you read quickly, you could end up spending a hundred bucks a week on books. Try looking for reading material at the thrift store, where paperbacks are usually less than $2. Or go to the library and experience our tax dollars at work funding the free download of porn on the computers.

Flea Shampoo. Soap kills fleas. Like, any soap. So the idea that you have to get special flea shampoo for your dog is dumb. Just use regular shampoo or dish soap.

Unscented Products. Listen, TFH hates to break it to you, but an unscented product smells like crap. Unscented laundry detergent is one of the worst smelling concoctions you could ever smell. Unless you are allergic or something, don’t fool yourself into thinking that unscented equals lack of scent; it just equals lack of a good scent.

Bubble Bath. Dish soap. Better bubbles, lower prices, and you can multitask if you’re behind on dishes.

Flowers from the Florist. Get flowers from the grocery store. If you don’t like the mixture they’ve thrown together created, feel free to switch them around. It never fails that The Frugal Hostess wants orange and red flowers and every bunch has two purple stems. Just trade those out with the orange ones in the next bunch.

What are some other total and complete wastes of money?

The Frugal Hostess is the figurehead of a lifestyle brand for poor people. She writes about inexpensive entertaining and other things that are cheap but not easy on her irreverent food blog at

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Travel for Cheapskates

Dear Cheapskate,

My strategy for saving money while traveling: Don't! Don't travel!! I stay at home. I love staying home! I just want to be at home.

Some people, espeically, I've noticed (in my world), young people and middle aged men, have a great wanderlust. These people must travel. They'd go nuts staying home. I have consulted with an expert, one Peter Bryson (one of said "young people") who travels super cheap! Next Wednesday, Mr. Bryson embarks upon a one month three country tour and his total cost will be $439!! Total! That's even cheaper than staying home!!!

Mr. Bryson generously reveals his simple secret:
Get a one month Greyhound bus pass for $439. Combine the costs of transportation and lodging into a single manageable sum by traveling at night and sleeping on the bus.

Cheapskate, hold on. I hear your questions.
But what does he eat?
Does he ever take a shower?
Does he get a crick in his neck from sleeping in a seat?
Doesn't he want to travel during the day and look out the window some time?
Does he stay in the bus for a whole month without getting out?
Who takes care of his cat while he's gone?

Mr. Bryson responds with a link to his blog (and notes that he doesn't have a cat):

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Garden Slug: A Worthy Opponent

Dear Cheapskate,


Lighting fast. Whip smart. Tricky as hell.

You probably thought they were slow and easy to smush. You were wrong.

Last night, as I lurked with my flashlight and specially designated "slug fork" to battle the beasts, I noticed two slugs racing each other across the path. Yes, racing. I could see the slippery trails of slime in their wake. They appeared to be moving slowly but this is part of their trickery. They move fast only when you're not looking. Try this: Look away casually, then whip your head around. By the time you're looking they've slowed down again. Try sneaking up on them from around a corner, or jumping out from behind a bush. They still appear to be moving slowly because they're that tricky. You can't catch them moving fast, but they do move fast. Really fast. When you're not looking.

They also pretend to have dainty appetites. Don't believe it. They can devour 1000 times their weight in one night. Five of them will gang up on one little bean sprout and eat it to the ground. With absolutely no remorse!

I know this because I pick them off one poor defenseless bean plant with the slug fork and then five minutes later the slug army of reinforcements has resumed devouring that very same defenseless bean plant!!!

So, how to defeat this wily foe?

1) Desperate, I went to Home Depot planning to use my store credit on some kick-ass chemicals. I would nuke them. But the $10 box of chemicals promised to kill the slugs AND the earthworms, my pets, the neighbors kids, and every other living thing so I didn't buy it. I was too cheap to spend the $25 for the less lethal chemicals, even if they would defeat my evil sluggy foe.

2) Beer. I hear they will happily crawl into a bowl of beer. Who wouldn't?? But I'm too cheap to buy beer.

3) A bowl of sugar and yeast mixed with water caught about fifteen slugs! The black bowl worked much better than the clear bowl.

4) I will pick them off by hand, every night, until they learn: Do not mess with my plants!!!

Does anyone have a better battle plan? A cheap one??

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shhhh: Discount Candy Day

Dear Cheapsakte,

The following is top secret information but I love you so much that I am sharing. Don't tell anyone!!!!!!  Get close to your screen and don't let anyone see! I'll whisper.

Shhh. Tomorrow is Discount Candy Day, my favorite holiday!! Tomorrow is the last Discount Candy Day of Discount Candy Season.

Discount Candy Season begins on November 1st and ends the day after Easter, which is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, in case you were wondering. Keep that in mind when planning your life around Discount Candy Day.

On the days after Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day and Valentine's Day the stores put their holiday candy on sale for half price!! Get up early and go get it!!

Rule: Do not go to the stores I am going to!! That candy is mine!

Yes, it would be cheaper to not buy any candy at all. But you have to live some. Sheesh!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rag Bag

Dear Cheapskate,

Did I hear you right? Can it be true? Some people don't have a rag bag?????

Wait while I run cold water over a rag from my rag bag. I need it on my forehead to recover from the shock.

Ok, I don't actually have a rag bag, I have a rag shelf. Shelf, bag, whatever... rags are indispensable! Instead of throwing away old clothes and towels, especially T-shirts, toss them into the rag bag. There are so many uses for this material and you'll save a ton of money!!

  • Use them as a substitute for paper towels
  • If you have some pretty ones and a lot of patience, make a quilt
  • Use them to clean your bike
  • Wash mirrors
  • Clean your bathroom (see genius cleaning tips from the frugal hostess - I don't think she'll mind the link here)
  • Wipe up the soy sauce that spilled when you opened the refrigerator too fast
  • Fold a piece into a little pad to protect the side of your truck from the bungee cord
  • Stuff your bra
  • Use little pieces as floor protectors under furniture
  • Tie a white one to a stick and wave it around when you need to surrender
  • Cut into strips and tie off your limbs to prevent snake bite venom from spreading
  • Cut into strips and tie together to escape out a window like Rapunzel
  • When you lose a button, find a replacement from a shirt in the rag bag
  • Use a piece to make a patch on clothing
  • Cut into strips and boil before giving birth, a la Gone With The Wind
  • Polish the silver
  • Cover yourself with a very large rag, such as an old sheet, when you need to go as a ghost
  • Wax your car (if you have a car)
  • Cut a piece of elastic from a waist band and use it to dangle a cat toy from a cat tower (see photo - I did this today)
  • Blow your nose, wash rag, re-use (save toilet paper)
  • Polish the furniture
  • Stuff into holes under doors to keep the cold air out
  • Shred and use to stuff crafts projects, such as sock monkeys
  • Make a sock monkey out of an old sock
  • Make a sling shot out of a stretchy T-shirt
What else can rags be used for?? Please comment before my ideas get even sillier.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Things Not To Buy: Anything From A Convenience Store

Dear Cheapskate,

Tip: Never, ever, buy anything from a convenience store.

By "Convenience Store" I mean any little 7-11 type store, any gas station store, and any "Mom and Pop" (or in the case of my 'hood, a "Geezer and Nephew") corner store.

Last Thursday, while traveling to Napa with my son (he's alive!) for his job interview, we stopped at a Rotten Robbie to fill up our water bottles (free) and to use the bathroom (free). We observed harried commuters parting with their money! Cars were lined up to buy gas. (The cars weren't buying the gas, the people were buying the gas.) Our bicycles didn't need any gas. We got to Napa (40 miles) for free!

Inside this money-sucking establishment a gaggle of bookpack-wearing, ipod-listening middle schoolers were also busy parting with their money. A 13 year old girl ahead of me in line (I had to wait to get the bathroom key -

"Do you have a water fountain?"
"A wa-ter foun-tain?"
"A what?"
"Never mind. Can I have the bathroom key?"
"The bathroom key?"
Grudgingly hands over the bathroom key.

spent $6.05 on a handful of candy bars!! Ok, yes, candy bars are mighty delicious, but $6.05?? Where did she get $6.05, anyway? If she put $6.05 into a bank account every day then at the end of the year she'd have $2,208.25!!!

If she had planned ahead and bought the candy bars 3-for-a-dollar at Grocery Outlet she would have saved $5.05 per day, or $1,842.25 per year.

On a recent trip to Grocery Outlet I  saw an enterprising middle schooler stocking up on 3-for-a-dollar candy bars to sell at school. Nice little business!

Tip: Every single thing at a convenience store can be purchased for a fraction of the price elsewhere.

Tip: There is nothing you actually need at a convenience store. Want, yes. Need, no. (Moon pie, pig ears, beer, coke slush puppy, Hulstler magazine, RV magazine, lottery ticket, energy vitamin pack, car freshener for that "new car" smell, jerky, cigarette lighter...)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pets: Entertainment

Dear Cheapskate,

Cats like to watch birds and squirrels. It's great entertainment.
I like to watch cats watching birds and squirrels. It's great entertainment.

It's easy (and cheap) to lure brids and squirrels. Simply toss leftover bread scraps onto the porch.

Fun ensues.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When Your Slab Fails You: Redux

Dear Cheapskate,

This morning, early, well before the hour when the sun attempts to peek through the fog and well before the hour when I usually wake, I drove to the Greyhound station to pick up my son.
Made it to the Greyhound station.
Plus one block.

Long story short: I am now walking the walk. I no longer possess an automobile. It's all walking or bike riding for me. I have sometimes been self-righteous and hypocritical, bragging about how little I use my car and how we should all do away with cars for the sake of the planet while still using a car.

"Ha!" you say. "Let's see how you like really not having a car, smartypants!"

Yes, we shall see.

I'll save at least $100 a month on car expenses, plus I'll save because it'll be difficult to buy stuff. If it's raining or dark, for example, I will be disinclined to walk or cycle  to the store and thus I will not part with my precious money. If I'm hungry enough, I'll go, or I'll finally eat that old stuff in the freezer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Number One Beauty Tip

Dear Cheapskate,

Number One Beauty Tip: Only look in the mirror in dim light.

I got this idea from Blanche duBois. She only met her suitors in locations with dim light in order to appear more young and attractive.

The best thing for your vanity is to look into the mirror sparingly, and only in dim light. I do this and I always look GREAT! At least I think I look great and that's what matters. In dim light I have no wrinkles, no blemishes, and no scars. My skin is smooth and my non-existant makeup is always perfect! My DIY haircut looks ok and my nose doesn't even look that crooked.

How does this save money? In oh so many ways!

Electricity: First thing in the morning, it's half light or foggy, DO NOT turn on the bathroom light! Save money on electricity! Keep that light dim.

Gear: Use a regular mirror, preferably coated with fog from the shower and obscured by rust spots. God forbid the magnifying mirror, lighted mirror, or "vanity" lighting. Don't spend money on any of this stuff.

Makeup: I feel no need to buy expensive hydrating lotions with pseudo-scientific names, anti-wrinkle creams, or botox treatments!! This save a bundle of money.

Here's the trick though. When you go out into the world, be careful or you may accidentally catch your reflection somewhere in harsh light, like, say, in your rear view mirror on a sunny day. This can be quite a shock. If this happens, tell yourself that even Angelina Jolie would look bad in your rear view mirror. Then run home and admire yourself in the dim light.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How To Be Cheap Even In An Emergency Situation

Dear Cheapskate,

Sometimes you have to fly to LA at the last minute because your son is in the hospital in critical condition. You don't have time to prepare a cheap itinerary. You can't book a cheap flight in advance or let your aquaintances with whom you have the slimmest of ties know that you will be mooching off of them.

Tip: Even though you are frantic, take a few minutes to research flights. Prices for last minute flights varied from $150 to $500.

Tip: Grab power bars from the freezer, the ones you purchased at three for a dollar. These will sustain you for days, as I found out.

Tip: Save the free peanuts from the plane to add variety, later, to the diet of power bars.

Tip: If you forgot your tampons, load up on the free ones from the airport bathrooms.

Tip: Spend the night in the visitor's lounge at the hospital. I put three chairs together and used my backpack as a pillow. In spite of the wooden chairs realigning my spine and in spite of activies throughout the night such as people coming in to purchase sun chips from the vending machine, restock the vending machine, and sweep the floor, I slept surprisingly well. And for free! More importantly, my sick son had the comfort of knowing I was there in the next room.

Tip: Don't buy anything from the vending machine. It's expensive.

Tip: Bring a little blanket which can do double duty as a little pillow.

Tip: Bring an emtpy bottle that you can fill with tap water so you don't have to purchase drinks.

Tip: Ask around for a free ride back to the airport.

My only expense was the cost of the plane flight.
The son is recovering.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Cover Crop: Fava Beans

Dear Cheapskate,

I'm finally planting my winter cover crop which I learned how to do at this great free workshop:  Bay Friendly

The thing is to plant fava beans and then have the nitrogen in the roots improve the soil. My soil needs a lot of improvement - though I've lived here over a year I'm still uncovering various lovely syringes as I dig. Life in the city. Gross... Are the fava beans up to the challenge?

The seed stores will sell you 57 grams (1/8 pound) of fava beans for $2.80 plus tax.
Berkeley Bowl, in the bulk food bins, offers fava beans for $2.59 per pound with no tax!!!!

That's $22.40 plus tax per pound from the seed store
$2.80 per pound from Berkeley Bowl

Save $19.60 per pound!!!!!

Seeds are a rip off!

See how to grow cheap Cat Grass and Save Your Own Seeds!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Itchy Feet

Dear Cheapskate,

Itchy feet. I know. Too much information already. You're scared I'll go into a disgusting description of moldy feet.

Take your chances! Read on.

Q: Do itchy feet keep you up at night?

Q: Does the exhorbitant cost of anti-fungal cream keep you from owning a tube of the precious stuff?

Almost Free Solution: Rub your feet with hydrogen peroxide.

Free Solution: Rub your feet with tea tree oil you score on freecycle!


And, oh yeah, Happy New Year.