Home Improvement

clutching money

The Tightwad Gazette: A Guide To Big Household Savings

Are you thinking of having a second child, but worrying that you might not be able to cover the costs of another baby? Are you dissatisfied with your current job, but heavily rely on it to keep you alive? If your answer to all these questions is yes, you may be just as stumped as many other people.

In 1990, Amy Dacyczyn began compiling The Tightwad Gazette as a response to peoples’ worries concerning money. Originally a graphic designer, she and her husband wanted the financial freedom to raise six children in her own pre-1900 New England farmhouse. They were able to achieve this dream, living a comfortable life with a family of eight. Amy was even able to give up work, with the family relying on an annual income of $30,000.

Reducing your household budget

The book is a compendium of a newsletter that Amy edited throughout the nineties. Along with tips for its readers, it mainly consists of clear and concise articles, with wit often woven into them. Their main purpose is to give practical guidance on slashing the household budget.

Saving on grocery bills

The author suggests that you begin your quest for financial freedom by starting a price book. It is a loose-leaf ring binder, with each page headed with an item you buy, like toothpaste, for example. Every time you purchase this item, you make a note of its price and supplier. Over time, you are able to form a directory that will help you determine the cheapest place to buy toothpaste—and everything else, too.

A thousand dollars an hour?

The price book is a good example of the author’s whole philosophy: never underestimate the huge impact that small savings can make on your finances over time. On the surface, the price book seems like a lot of work for something with little return. However, she claims that five years after setting up this system, the initial few hours you invested could yield you an hourly ‘wage’ of $1,000 in saved money. Other strategies include how to plan major purchases, bulk buying, and a plethora of tips such as washing aluminium foil, reusing wrapping paper, and other money-saving recipes.

Debt as deprivation

The Tightwad Gazette is stuffed with novel and inspiring ideas. The Frugal Zealot—as Amy dubs herself—is the first to admit that this way of life takes time, effort, and the ability to think outside the box. However, she underlines the importance of having the right attitude. “Instead of it being a matter of wearing used clothes, maybe deprivation is having to work a second job you hate, or stress from a massive debt,” Dacyczyn points out.

Although this book came long before the Internet, it does not have the outdated feel that much older “how-to” guides possess. This is because its main strength lies in its unique philosophy that will apply for as long as people need to manage their money.

Give Emergency Locksmiths Belfast a call on 02895-320646, or check out our website to learn about more money-saving tips.…

grocery shopping

Managing Grocery Lists Using a Pull System

Manufacturers of certain products usually manage inventory levels and determine production quantities using what is called a pull system. It is a customer demand system that builds as many items as and when they are wanted. This system helps reduce extra inventory, waste, and streamline operations within the plant. As useful as they are on a larger scale, they can also be utilized within a typical household to effectively manage grocery shopping.

How to implement a grocery pull system

Lead-time and order quantity are two of the most essential concepts in any pull system. Lead-time is the time required to make or receive a product. In terms of groceries, it can be the frequency of shopping trips: whether once a week or once a month. On the other hand, order quantity is the minimum amount of inventory needed on hand before an order—also known as a pull—is made. When it comes to groceries, it is the amount needed before the next shopping trip. These amounts can differ depending on certain factors such as the number of people in the household. A family of four may need a lot more than someone who lives alone. Arriving at the order quantity can be done through trial and error methods to prevent running short of some products and the spoilage of other products in the long run.

Applying the pull system is so simple that it can be implemented almost immediately. Once a product reaches the order quantity level, add it to the shopping list. For example, a family can finish one jar of peanut butter every 3 weeks. Once the current jar of peanut butter is out, the second jar of peanut butter should be pulled out while adding “peanut butter” to the shopping list. Instead of running to the store for one item that has run out, the peanut butter can be purchased on the next planned shopping trip in time before the last jar runs out. Peanut butter is then added to the list when the next jar is pulled from inventory.

Save money on groceries

Fruits, vegetables and other perishable goods may be purchased more frequently. This is why high use or high spoilage items usually determine the lead time, while all other items can be added to the list as they are used. The pull system is also applicable to sundries such as toiletries, laundry detergent, paper products, and other items that are consumed and purchased repeatedly. Savings can be maximized further by using coupons on products that are really needed.

Managing grocery lists with a pull system comes with many benefits. It’s easy to start, customisable for any household, and helpful in reducing last-minute trips to the store. The inventory in the house is lessened as well, so there is less room for spoilage. Lastly, spending is reduced because items are purchased only when they are needed, instead of being stockpiled. These lean manufacturing techniques can make any household as efficient as an industrial engineer streamlining a business. Start using the pull system today. Give us a call on 02895-320646 to be guided every step of the way.…

Going Green and Living Large in a Micro House: Guide to Tiny House New Home Construction and Ownership

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average square footage of single family homes in the United States in 2009 was 2,629 square feet. The size of homes based on square footage according to the same source has been growing since 1960. Yet Wendy Koch, observed in her March 2009 USA Today article, "Americans Are Moving on Up to Smaller, Smarter Homes", that the square footage of new homes has started to shrink as Americans start to build better, not bigger. An offshoot of this overall shift towards smaller homes is the trendy tiny house construction and living movement.

Tumbleweed Green Construction Tiny House Plans

On the cutting edge of rising interest in micro house living is Jay Shafer’s, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Since 1997, Jay states that he has “been living in houses smaller than some people’s closets.” Today Jay’s company designs and market plans for tiny houses. Tumbleweed builds some of the smaller models but for the do-it-yourself types or those who wish to use a local building contractor, the company also sells the plans. In addition Jay travels around the country hosting two day seminars to educate the public on tiny house living and construction.

Tumbleweed tiny houses vary from 65 to 837 square feet. The smaller models that are available pre-built, are trailer mounted and can be towed behind most standard size cars and trucks. Prices for the pre-built homes start at $38,997. Construction costs for larger models based on Tumbleweed’s plans average $100 to $200 per square foot.

Why Live in a Micro House?

Some like Jay Shafer are interested in tiny house living because of environmental concerns. Smaller homes simply have less impact on the environment, require less resources to build and maintain and less land on which to site them. For others cost is the driving factor. Due to economic circumstances or personal finance issues, they are simply looking for the least expensive housing option available. Finally, a few people after seeing a tiny house are attracted simply to the novelty of the idea.

Not everyone would be satisfied having a tiny house as a principal residence yet those looking for an affordable vacation home, guest house option or mother-in-law home addition could all be potential tiny house owners.

Advantages of Environmentally Friendly Small Homes

There are a number of advantages available for homeowners choosing tiny house living, beyond the benefits of the environment in general:

  • Lower investment than for a more conventional sized home
  • Smaller mortgage payments and faster mortgage pay-off
  • Lower upkeep costs
  • Lower heating and utility costs
  • Transportability in the case of the trailer mounted homes
  • Simple to build for those who would rather build their own home than use a builder

Many of these advantages would be very appealing to retirees and others living on fixed incomes. Even those with lower incomes can enjoy achieving the American dream of home ownership.

Tiny house living does seem more than just a passing fad. The owner of the Tiny House Blog claims that the site gets more than 2,500 hits per day. Yes, definitely small house living seems more accurately defined as a trend that appears to be picking up steam.…

3 Steps for Price Matching at Walmart: Save Money with One-stop Shopping

Save money by knowing Walmart's policies, writing out a complete list, and organizing the items at checkout. Each step builds on the other making price matching a simple way to save money. Each step can be used at other stores with a price match policy. Also, be sure to take into consideration the gas savings by shopping at only one store, but using the saving from all of them.

Know Walmart's Policies

Before planning out a shopping trip, be sure to know all of the store policies. While Walmart has a national price match and coupon policy, it is important to verify these at the local level. According to Walmart's website, they will honor preferred shopping card advertised prices. They will not honor internet pricing, misprinted advertisements, competitors ads from outside the local trade territory, double or triple coupons or percents off. Walmart will also not honor buy one get one free promotions or ads that require a purchase in order to receive a free product or receive a certain price.

When in doubt, be sure to ask first. There is nothing more disappointing than checking out with a cart full of groceries and finding out they are going to cost more money than planned. Call the store in advance with questions. Be sure to write down the question, the answer received and the person that communicated the answer. This way, if a question at the store does arise, the phone call and answer are documented.

Make a List

Most people make a list before going to the grocery store, but when price matching, the list needs to be thorough and organized. Start with one store and list all of the items from that store that are going to be price matched. Circle the item clearly in the sales flyer. This decreases the confusion in the final check out step.


When making the list, be sure to write the specific sizes or types necessary to price match. For example, if onions are on sale for 33 cents a pound, this only counts for a group of individual onions. The price will not be honored on a 3 pound bag of onions.

Organize the Checkout

Make like easier for the cashier. Group all items that are being price matched for one store together. As the items are scanned and the cashier asks for the price, the items will be together on the list and easier to read off. Also, the cashier can verify all of the items from one store ad at a time without needing to skip around.

This saves everyone time and makes the checkout process easier for everyone. As items are rung up, the correct prices can be verified so that the customer and the employee can be confident that the transaction is accurate. These three steps make it easy participate in one stop shopping.…

What Are TV Mounting Devices?: TV Mount Brackets Are Used to Mount The TV to the New Location

Almost all modern TVs need to be mounted to the wall or above the fireplace or some other location to stay secured in place. Whether they will be mounted fixed to the wall, or will be allowing an upwards and downwards tilt, or even a full rotation, several standard TV mounts are available to cater for any TV set that can be purchased online or at retail outlets.

Low Profile TV Mounts

Also called flat TV mounts or flush mount brackets they are very easy to install. Some people compare installing them to hanging a picture on the wall. They are the lowest in cost due to the inability to tilt or turn the television set in any direction. Once it is installed and mounted, the TV is set in place and can not be moved without uninstalling the actual mounting device.

One of the disadvantages of having this particular bracket is the fact that it is very difficult to have access to any cables should they need to be switched out at some point. The only way to replace the cables is to actually remove the mount from the wall and then install it again.

However these types of devices are really cheap compared to the other mounts so people on tight budget can still afford them.

Tilting Wall Mounts

These wall mounts are also called tilt TV mount brackets and basically are an upgrade from the low profile version as they allow some vertical movement. The TV can be tilted up to 15-20 degrees upwards or downwards. With these mounts left or right movement or any other rotation is impossible, which makes the viewing angle quite restricted, but not as restricted as with the low profile mounts.

They do cost a bit more than the low profile devices, yet many people can still easily afford them. As opposed to the low profile mounts they allow for an easier way to change cables should the need arise. As mentioned before, the main limitation with them is that there is no possibility of tilting the TV horizontally. This is when a full motion mount will come into place.

Full-Motion Wall Mounts

Also called swivel mounting brackets, these are really the best types of mounting brackets out there, but due to their more advanced and complex features, they are the most expensive as well. With these mounts a full rotation, tilt and swivel is possible. The viewing angle can be adjusted simply because they can sit 5-20 inches away from the wall. This makes replacing of cables extremely easy. However, the initial installation is the most complex and demanding and sometimes it needs the help of a professional in the field.

Before buying a new TV mounting bracket it is important to take exact measurements of the TV screen (width and length) so that the correct mounting kit is bought. As different mounts support different TV weights, the actual weight of the TV should be also taken into account prior to shopping for the new home appliance. This way the purchase of any wrong size or type of mounting devices is eliminated from the beginning.…

Ideas to Organize CDs and Music Albums: How to Sort and Store a Music Collection

An overflowing music collection only means that some favorites get played more often while others may be relegated to the background. It also means that there will be times when finding a particular song or album would be pretty much out of the question. So get started on organizing, sorting and storing CDs and DVDs using these simple ideas.

Sorting CDs

The first thing that needs to be done is to go through every single CD or music album to see if it is listened to. If not, trash or give away to someone who would enjoy it. There are times when an album is bought simply because it is on the charts or is the popular choice. This step will help get rid of all such music albums that are rarely or never listened to.

Organize CDs Alphabetically

One of the easiest ways to sort CDs is to arrange them alphabetically. This could be according to either the singer’s name or the album’s title. It will result in instant organization and be easy to sort through as well. Make a detailed list of all the titles and tracks organized and save it on your computer for easy reference and quick updating. This will also prevent repeat buying of an album.

Organize According to Type of Music

A more comprehensive way of organizing CDs and music albums is to sort them according to type of music. There can be broad categories, such as Rock, Jazz, Country, Alternative, Classical, Orchestra, Musicals or Broadway and Original Soundtracks. The CDs can be organized according to type and then further arranged alphabetically. As mentioned earlier, do create a master catalogue list and save on the computer.

Storing the Organized Music Collection

There are many options for storing a music collection.

  • They can be stored in the original CD cases and arranged in a CD storage rack.
  • If cases are too bulky, the CDs can be labeled and stored in a CD wallet. CD wallets, also, are easy to carry and can be used if the same music would be played in the car and in the house.
  • For bigger collections, a CD or DVD storage cabinet can be used which has multiple slots for a large number of albums. A CD storage cabinet is, also, beneficial since it will allow easy labeling and make it simpler to maintain an organized collection.
  • Most music stores stock a CD or DVD organizer that will make it very easy to store a music collection, big or small.

These simple ideas will keep CDs, DVDs and records well-organized and neatly arranged at all times. Music is meant to soothe and entertain. Having to hunt for the right album or track takes away the pleasure of listening to music. So, get organized and create a well-arranged collection of CDs and DVDs.…

Organized Mornings Lead to Organized Lives: Eliminate Morning Chaos with These Home Management Tips

Through the years those revered homemakers who always had the best dressed kids, the immaculate houses, the cleanest laundry, the best ‘home cooked’ meals and also served as president of the PTA, stuck to a few basic rules, beginning with “Never go to bed while dirty dishes linger in the sink."

Cheerful mornings begin the night before.

Think ahead. Have a plan. And carry it through. If nothing else follow these three rules:

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify
  2. Put it away now
  3. A place for everything and everything in its place (dovetails nicely with rule two.)

Fly Lady, a site dedicated to better home and life management, advocates rituals for various times of the day. When taking that first step toward organization, Fly Lady advocates, “Clean the kitchen sink.”

Clean Sinks Lead to Clean Kitchens

Fill the kitchen sink to the brim with hot water, add bleach and let it soak until the water has cooled. Then drain the sink, scrub off any residue until the sink and faucets are sparkling and sweet smelling. Clean the sink once a month in this manner. More often if you have lost control and need a new beginning.


For Happy Mornings, Begin the Night Before

Think like a security guard and walk a beat each evening. Go through every room picking up and putting away clutter. Put away magazines, dirty dishes, forgotten socks, shoes and things. Then move on into the kitchen. A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen. And when the kitchen is cheerful, everyone who enters catches the spirit.

  • Declutter counters, wash all dirty dishes/run the dishwasher, leave all tidy from floor to ceiling.
  • Lay out what you’ll need for the next morning. Lay out clean dish towel and cloth
  • Set the table for breakfast
  • Pack lunches

Prepare as Much as Possible the Night Before

  • Lay out the clothes you will wear the next day and have each member of the family do the same
  • If you’ll be gone most of the day, prepare ahead for the next day’s dinner
  • Put frozen meat in the refrigerator to defrost
  • Gather ingredients to throw together into the crockpot the next morning
  • Laundry at night, morning's delight — one less chore to worry over

Morning Rituals Build on the Work From the NIght Before

  • Make the bed as soon as you arise.
  • Completely clean and dress then turn attention to the bathroom. Take a couple minutes to wipe down sinks, stow away clutter. Give a quick swish to the toilet. One room down.
  • Head to the kitchen and immediately empty the dishwasher
  • Start the coffee
  • Prepare breakfast
  • Make the crockpot meal
  • Hand out lunches
  • Clean up kitchen clutter, wash down countertops.
  • Fill the dishwasher
  • Feed the pets

Take a few minutes to hug the kids, meditate or glance over a to-do list. Then close the door on a clean kitchen that is ready for the next cooking session or a visit from the PTA president.…

Home Windmills Generate Power, Save Money

Homeowners are experiencing a steady rise in energy bills due to raised prices on electricity. To combat this growing problem, homeowners may purchase new, more efficient appliances. They also may begin turning off energy draining items during the day time or using their appliances at off-peak energy hours when costs are lower.

Enterprising do-it-yourselfers may wish to take their energy efficiency to the next level and generate it themselves on their own land. Installing a windmill can generate enough electricity to power a single family home in suitable conditions. In excellent conditions, a wind generator can exceed the electrical needs of the home and electricity can be sold back to the local utilities company which will then issue the homeowners a check for the overage.

Do I Have Space for a Personal Wind Farm?

Windmills are available in two basic designs: propeller style and “egg-beater”. Propeller style windmills are the most commonly recognized, constructed of two or three paddle shaped rotors on the end of a tall pole. “Egg-beater” windmills use two blades that curve around the central pole and are welded to the top and bottom of the machine. They turn in a cylindrical manner around the center pole when the wind blows.


No minimum amount of land is required to erect a residential windmill. Homeowners should take into consideration how close they want the windmill to their own home and investigate the zoning laws of their town-ship. Many town-ships already have zoning laws in place that dictate the allowable size of rotor blades and the height of the central pole in a residential setting.

The size of windmills placed on residential properties averages between 100 and 130 feet (about 30 to 40 meters) in height and uses rotor blades between 20 and 26 feet (about 6 to 8 meters) in diameter. Smaller windmills are available for those more limited in space or concerned with appearances near neighborhoods. Most windmills are rated by the manufacturer for their intended kilowatt production based on the size of the rotor blades and wind expectations in favorable conditions.

Are Windmills Worth the Financial Investment?

Windmill dealers will be able to estimate for the homeowner how much electricity the windmill can generate annually in good conditions. The homeowner should calculate before meeting with a dealer how much electricity the home uses yearly by examining previous electricity bills. Double check the quoted power output of the windmill with some simple calculations to determine if the estimate is sound. To find out the potential annual output of a windmill, use this formula issued by the US Department of Energy:…

Creating a Digital Photo Archive: Preserve Your Family Photos Electronically

Organizing the family photos can be a daunting task, especially if there are any shutterbugs in your clan. Attics, basements, crawlspaces and closets become filled with shoeboxes and albums packed with photographs intended for generations ahead to enjoy. However, if these family treasures are left to languish in the dark corners of our homes, they are susceptible to damage and, worst case scenario, destruction. Creating a digital back-up is great insurance against this.

Get Equipped!

To make electronic copies of your family photographs, you will need a few key pieces of equipment. These include a high-resolution scanner, personal computer with sufficient storage for high-quality digital files, and if possible, a CD burner and external hard drive. You will also need photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.

Gathering Your Photos

Haul out all of those old albums, Photo Hut envelopes, shoeboxes, scrapbooks and loose prints from closets, basements, attics and desk drawers. Begin by sorting them into categories applicable to your photos. For example, photos of kids, of pets, of your home, garden or sort by events, such as holidays, birthdays, outings, etcetera.


Most home use scanners allow for up to five photographs to be scanned at a time. A typical flatbed home scanner such as the CanoScan LIDE 35 will accommodate five 3 x 5” or three 4 x 6” photographs. Place as many photographs as will fit face-down on the scanner glass. Use your scanner’s software to adjust the settings for the largest size scan and the resolution you want to use. 400 dpi (dots per inch) is a good resolution for family photos. You will need to apply a generic name for each scan. Don’t worry if some of the photographs are oriented sideways or upside down. You can make adjustments later on.


Each scanned file saved on your computer will contain several smaller images. Use Adobe Photoshop of Microsoft Office Picture Manager to crop, rotate and save each individual image according to your personal preferences. MS Office Picture Manager has a nice feature that will enable you to maintain the standard aspect ratios of the original photograph.


Once you’ve scanned and saved all of your photographs, organize them into appropriately labeled folders on your PC. You may wish to burn a copy of the entire folder onto an archive-quality CD, create a slideshow DVD or move a copy of the folder to an external hard drive for added security. You may also like to upload your images to a photo hosting website such as Flickr, Photobucket, Image Shack so that you can easily share them with friends and family members.

Although creating an archive of your family photos can be time consuming, you will no doubt also find it enjoyable to take this stroll down memory lane as you sort, scan and save your valuable remnants of days gone by.…