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Archive for March, 2010

Put It in Park: Log in Your Miles

March 24th, 2010 at 03:29 pm



How's everyone doing with the March Challenge: Put It in Park?

We're approaching the end of the month, which might be a good time to see if you've succeeded in reducing your miles driven.

I accidentally disqualified myself yesterday when I reset my odometer to track my mileage.

How many miles have you clocked in March?

Frugal Nugget #3: Don't Get in a Lather Over Soap

March 15th, 2010 at 11:34 pm



Listen up, all you frugalites who make your own laundry detergent. It may be harder to justify going to all that trouble once you know that most consumers overdo it on the soap, both in the laundry and in the dishwasher.

According to an interesting New York Times story, appliance repairmen will tell you that adding too much soap to dishwashers and washing machines is the "No. 1 sin."

In the old days, these appliances used a lot more water and detergents weren't so concentrated. Most people use as much as 10 to 15 times more soap than what's required, needlessly wasting their money and shortening the life of their appliances, said Vernon Schmidt, a career repairman and author of Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even a Man Can Understand.

The author advises that between one-eighth to one-half of what's recommended on the product label should do the trick.

Suds, Schmidt claims, don't indicate your clothes are getting clean; suds mean you're using too much detergent.

By now you're probably wondering whether you're guilty of overdoing it. Conduct Schmidt's simple test to find out.

"Take four to six clean bath towels, put them in your front-loading washing machine (one towel for a top loader). Don't add any detergent or fabric softener. Switch to the hot water setting and medium wash and run it for about five minutes.

Check for soap suds. If you don't see any suds right away, turn off the machine and see if there is any soapy residue. If you see suds or residue, it is soap coming out of your clothes from the last wash."


As for dishwashers, Schmidt says, there's no law that says you must top off the soap dispenser.

Check out the full story for additional interesting tips on using your dishwasher, dryer and oven.

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Frugal Nuggets represent the occasional piece of frugal wisdom for those who have mastered the basics.


Join the March Challenge: Put It in Park

March 1st, 2010 at 04:22 pm



Lord, I was born a homebody
Trying to make a living and doing the best I can
And when it's time for saving
I hope you'll understand
Cus I was born a homebody.


Welcome to the March Challenge, the next in a series of monthly challenges designed to get you thinking more about how easily your hard-earned money's spent.

The March Challenge seeks to raise awareness of how much you rely on your car or SUV every day. Sure, you've got to get to work and drop the kids off here or there, but have you ever stopped to think how much those little trips add up in terms of both wear and tear on the car and consumption of gas?

If you'd like to participate in the March Challenge, set your car's odometer to 0 today. Throughout the month, the challenge is to minimize the miles you put on your vehicle, whether by deferring trips until they can be consolidated with other errands or using alternative means of getting where you need to go.

Get creative by considering these options to driving:

* Consolidating driving trips
This is a big one. How many times have you sent your spouse out to the grocery store to pick up a single item? How many times do you run out to go somewhere during a single Saturday?

* Using public transportation
Not everyone has access to trains, subways or buses but for those who do, public transit is one of the most under-utilized, taxpayer-subsidized deals around.

* Carpooling with neighbors or family to run errands
If one of your neighbors is a senior citizen, think what a nice gesture it would be to suggest you hit the supermarket together and take turns driving. If you're willing to help her load groceries in the trunk, you'll earn your Good Samaritan star for sure.

* Walking or bicycling
If you're lucky enough to live near town, keep the car in the garage and get some exercise while you run errands. Although I live in a spread out, suburban town, I often walk to our public library, the movie theater, a Chinese restaurant and a supermarket, when I only need a few items.

If you have more than one vehicle in your household or more than one family member who uses one vehicle, you'll have to sort out how to address that in the challenge. If you use your second vehicle to do all the driving this month, you're not really following the spirit of the challenge.

On March 31, we'll all report our mileage. The winner is the person who has driven the fewest miles between March 1 and March 31.

To get the most from the Challenge, I encourage you to continue tracking your mileage for the month of April (by setting your odometer back to 0 on April 1) so you can see how many fewer miles you can drive when you set your mind to it versus how many miles you drive according to your typical driving patterns.

Deduct Your Commute Miles
I realize that the playing field will not be completely level starting out, because many of us have sometimes lengthy commutes to work that we can't do much about. So I'm going to ask you to subtract from your total miles driven in March the mileage spent driving to and from work. If you don't already know how long a round trip takes, check your mileage when you drive in to work tomorrow.

While nearly all of us have other reasons why we must drive somewhere on a given day or a given week, whether it's visiting family, ferrying kids to softball practice or simply heading out to buy the week's groceries, these are the trips where we can use our creativity and our organizational skills to consolidate and combine driving trips.

Becoming more aware of the miles we put on our vehicles can motivate us to consolidate and shorten our trips and save on energy costs. And who knows? Maybe some of the efforts you made during the Challenge to shave off a few miles here or there will become standard operating procedure in the months to come. While most of us can't expect to give up our cars entirely, small changes do add up. And that can only be a good thing for the budget!

Are you in?