October 5th, 2010
Autumn is well upon us, and people who have been struggling to stay afloat in this lousy economy all year are now faced with the prospect of the coming holiday gifting season. Which can be daunting in the best of times, but can be positively depressing for those not used to not having cash or credit for the consumerist frenzy. This post is about helping to trim the gift list if you haven’t done so already, plus how and where to find gifts for loved ones that they may cherish forever, help maintain and spread the joy of the season, and not cost an arm or leg.
1. Analyze your gift-giving habits, trim the tree.
In our free-wheeling consumerist culture the Christmas shopping season represents half or more of retailers’ annual intake and an average middle class family’s greatest expenditures on unnecessary items for the year. If your family is struggling, the credit cards with their usurious interest rates have already been cut into small pieces and thrown away, consumer loans have been paid down or frozen in place, and promises to self not to spend more than you’ve got have been made. Don’t change a thing just because the holidays are coming!
If you have a lot of friends and extended family for whom you’ve bought gifts in years past, networking with them early is a good idea. See if doing something other than gifting this year could be a thankful relief to them as well as you. Pot-luck holiday get-togethers are fun, and no one person has to provide all the food and drinks. “Re-Gifting” parties can be great fun too, where you give some trinket you got from someone else in the past (it’s been just taking up room in the closet or on the shelf ever since) to someone else. Chances are someone will remember who gave Fred that hideous tie he’s never worn and laughs will ensue. The holidays are for fun, so have some!
If you’ve got children, find out what they want most instead of just gathering their wish lists of every toy they’ve seen advertised on TV. For children old enough to know Santa isn’t Bill Gates, one big gift can be better than ten little ones. Items like bicycles, roller blades and other sports equipment can be purchased second hand and refurbished, maybe personalized with glitter paint and trim. Go for things they’ll really use and enjoy, stay away from basic junk.Alternatives, Brand New Used, Clothing, Crafts, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Gifts, Holidays, Shopping, Thrifting | Comment (0)
March 18th, 2009
The news these days is chock full of dramatized street theater as the “haves” fight about ridiculous things like super-bonuses for AIG grifters, amazing world-class ponzi money-laundering schemes, and how we on the low end of the totem pole get to pay through the nose (as usual) to bail these crooks out. At this point it’s not even a partisan fight, it’s just rich versus poor. As usual. We who have been actually harmed by these interminable games of economic Risk are just trying to survive with the basics – food, clothing and shelter.
While I hope that anyone who regularly reads this blog has already bought their seeds and planted their ‘taters, there are things we usually have to purchase – or trade for – because we don’t produce our own at home. Sure, it doesn’t take more than a quarter acre of yard to keep a fresh milk goat or half a dozen chickens who give us eggs for free, but often people will be unable to even do that much. Keeping that goat fresh requires breeding once a year, and then you’ve got to either deal with a smelly billy goat or transport to where the smelly billy goat is standing stud. And what about the kid? That’s something my family could never quite conscience (these youngsters, if not also female, are usually slaughtered for meat). And don’t let anybody fool you. Those chickens CAN fly (sorta). At least to get over the fence into your neighbor’s yard.
If you are lucky enough to still have a roof over your family’s heads, there are ways to save a great deal on foods you can’t produce in your garden but need to keep everyone healthy and satisfied. Nothing makes us feel wealthier than a truly fine and healthy diet. Plus, that alone can save us multi-thousands in chronic diseases we really don’t have to get in the first place. The first of these is to join a local CSA. With this membership, which is critical to purchase right now if you can, you get a portion of the crops and products of local farmers near your home. Even if you garden, this can help fill out the take so you’ve got more to work with. Buying local directly supports your local farmers, and helps them to purchase the seeds and equipment they need to keep on producing.Alternatives, Bulk Buying, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Garden, Nutrition, Recipes, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comment (0)
November 14th, 2008
As we move into 2008′s extended holiday period, more than a few families are wondering if there will be a Christmas this year. Sure, some retailers are going all out to stay open long enough to see if anybody’s buying this year, but with consumer credit at a virtual standstill, international trade languishing on the docks and jobs being lost by the thousands every week, it’s a no-brainer that this Christmas isn’t going to be ‘the usual’ consumer spending orgy of Christmases past.
Presuming that your family still has a home, can heat it, and enough income to put food on the table, there are ways to have a festive, meaningful Christmas without going further into debt and without ending up with cheap Chinese junk that nobody really wants or needs.
The best thing you can do for your family is Make Your Own, and involve the kids! We save old Christmas cards in a box in the closet, pull them out around Thanksgiving and use them, plus various saved papers, made papers, trims, sequins, glitter, buttons, studs, etc. to make brand new Christmas cards for the people in our lives. Scissors and glue, a paper cutter, maybe some cutsey hole punches and lots of odds and ends, these cards inevitably get saved by every Mom, Grandma or other friend/relative who gets them! And kids are especially creative in this area. Sure you’ll have to clean up the mess, but a great time was had by all.Alternatives, Art, Crafts, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Gifts, Holidays, Recipes, Recycling, Sewing, Shopping, Thrifting | Comments (4)
June 4th, 2008
Clean, Green Living in 3 Cheap, Easy Steps
Part 3: Discouraging Bugs, Treating Boo-Boos
In this last installment of the series examining inexpensive and natural alternatives to the many household products people spend so much money on through the year, I want to look at the basic summertime first aid kit.
My family lives in the “deep woods” that Deep Woods OffTM was invented to de-bug. We have lots of company during the summer season, adults and children. There’s not much one can do about nasty encounters with aggressive poisonous snakes (copperheads are much more aggressive than timber rattlers, who live in the area but are hardly ever seen) or bone breaks or serious puncture wounds or cuts. Those just have to go to the ER, best thing to do is make that happen as quickly as possible. But there are a host of lesser injuries and situations that can be treated adequately at home, without the fancy, expensive products that contribute so much to a weekly grocery bill.
In the first installment of the series I listed the basic ingredients to purchase – brand name or generic (I get generic, but brands aren’t that much more expensive) borax, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, basic soap flakes (or liquid soap made from your disintegrating bath bars), and added ammonia. In the second installment I gave some recipes for laundry soap, kitchen and bath scouring powders, drain cleaner, surface disinfectants, etc. Now, using the same ingredients (plus a few things from the garden) let’s make the first aid kit and general insect management substances…
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May 28th, 2008
Clean, Green Living in 3 Cheap, Easy Steps
Part 2: Keeping Things Clean
In Part 1 of this 3-part series I listed some basic ingredients to purchase that can do double or triple duty in your home cleaning, disinfecting and treating small first aid issues while saving you big money and at the same time NOT polluting your home or our collective environment.
In this part of the series I’ll list some easy recipes for mixing your basic ingredients into useful household products. This doesn’t take a lot of time or heavy effort, and can be done on a weekend afternoon easily once every month or two (as they get used up), or mixed on the spot for particular jobs.
In The Laundry Room: Everybody must do laundry. Whether or not you’ve got an infant in diapers (cloth is best!) or small children who love to make mud pies, or older kids who sweat a lot, or just working adults who must wear good clothes or uniforms daily in their jobs, you’re going to have to wash clothes. And while the price of food and gasoline keeps rising out of sight, most people already know that good laundry products are a significant chunk of change out of the budget.
I mentioned in Part 1 how to make liquid soap out of the dregs of bars that melt all over your tub and sink by just putting them in a container with water and letting them dissolve. That’s good hand soap that can be put into a dispenser, but can also provide the basis of laundry soap if you’ve enough of it. I have a friend who must travel for her job, and who collects those little motel soaps through the year, gifting them to me at Christmas so I’ve got sizeable baskets of rock-hard teeny-soaps still in their wrappers. I use these to make liquid soap, and liquid soap to make laundry soap. Alternatively, you can use Fels Naptha laundry soap bars, which are inexpensive and go quite far. The three bar package can make about 6 gallons of laundry soap, which should get most households through at least that many months even if there’s a lot of laundry to do! Ivory soap bars or flakes work very well for baby laundry, and is still among the least expensive of basic soaps you can buy.
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May 20th, 2008
Clean, Green Living in 3 Cheap, Easy Steps
Part 1: The List of Ingredients
Now that it’s late May, it’s time to stock up for the summer – and our many summer visitors – on things like bug repellant (we really do live in the Deep Woods), anti-itch solution, insect sting remedies, poison ivy treatments, cut and scrape treatments, etc. The basic summertime First Aid Kit, all ingredients of which will be used as regularly as the usual household cleaners, deodorizers, detergents, polishes and disinfectants get used all year round.
Might as well get items that do double or triple duty as household cleansers and disinfectants as well as personal skin and hair care products too. I’ll use this post to make the basic list of things to buy, and later posts will give specific recipes and hints on how to use them to best advantage. And the best thing about these products? They’re Green and Eco-Friendly to boot!
Baking Soda: It all starts with good old baking soda. You can purchase generic or the primary name brand we recognize (Arm and Hammer). It’s cheap either way, and the same product though generic will tend to clump and solidify quicker and easier. Compared against the multitude of specialty chemicalized products you could be buying to do many of the same tasks, you could save hundreds of dollars a year with a cleaner, fresher house and a healthier family to show for it!Alternatives, Conscious Living, Do It Yourself, First Aid, Green Living, Recipes, Shopping | Comments (6)
March 14th, 2008
The Beauty and Style site List Maven has posted a linky article entitled…
It’s truly imaginative. I particularly like the crocheted plastic grocery bag necklace, though I use my plastic grocery bags as trash basket liners if I forget to take my many forever re-usable canvas bags to the store with me. And I’ll definitely have to make my grandson those computer key cuff links for the prom, since he’s determined to win the Duck brand Scholarship for best Duct Tape tuxedo…Filed under Alternatives, Brand New Used, Crafts, Do It Yourself, Fashion, Green Living, Humor, Recycling, Thrifting | Comment (1)
February 28th, 2008
Part 3: Items 11-15
NYC Bread Line
Installment three of this series of 20 ways to live on little-to-nothing. In these we’ll look at some basics about food, using all of your abilities, and taking honest stock of exactly what you need to do in your life to get through the hard times. If you get hit hard by what’s happening – and cutting back on luxuries just won’t fix the problems – you’ll need to learn to rely on yourself.
11. Taking Honest Stock
If you don’t want to go all Gypsy (and have a family to support), you can still take control of your situation. Keep a careful record of where the money goes over a month. Examine your ‘necessary’ expenses (home, utilities, car, insurance, food, gas, any other fixed expenses). If the ‘necessary’ expenses are larger than net income, it’s time to get out from under the big ones and take a good look at less expensive ways to live. You can live through hard times, but first you have to acknowledge you’re in hard times.
Housing markets are bust right now, so it’s difficult to sell your house even if you were willing to take an equity loss. Same is true for cars and light trucks. It can be the best option to make a clean break and declare bankruptcy, which can allow you to start fresh with a whole different way of approaching life.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Debt, Do It Yourself, Economic Recession, Garden, Surviving | Comments (5)