Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

Last summer, after our big, sick Elm tree was taken down, we immediately noticed a difference in the temperature inside the house.  Without the shade of that big old tree, it was a scorcher!

We have large windows facing south, so the summer sun affects the comfort of three of our most used rooms.  I have blinds in one room, so we can avert the sun’s rays there, but in the other two rooms, I have curtains.  The windows are three large panes across and it is not only hard to find a single shade that wide, but it is also extremely expensive!

I checked into shades that would fit each panel, which are easier to find, but still very expensive.

So, online fabric store to the rescue!

With the help of my daughter, I found thermal shade material and a coupon for free shipping!  I spent $15.00!!

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

I got enough material to cover each pane of the windows.  All I had to do was cut the material to fit.  No hemming required, because the backing on the material is kind of rubbery.  Then, I sewed some metal washers onto the top edge of each panel and pounded a couple nails for each panel, into the window frame.  Voila!

Cheap and Easy Thermal Shades

I used metal washers simply because I had a lot of them, they would work, and I didn’t have to spend money getting something else!

Checking on the price of a variety of thermal shades, I found the average price to be around $50.00 per panel. (Yikes!)  For six panes, that would be $300.00.  I spent $15.00!

MONEY SAVED: $285.00!!


Homemade Crocheted Afghans

My post How to Donate More Than You Can Afford got me thinking about how much I enjoy crocheting and how warm and snugly crocheted afghans are.

Homemade Crocheted Afghans

Once you understand the basic stitches and how they go together to form different shapes, you can create a variety of warm, handmade treasures for you and your family to use and enjoy!  Even if you know 1 basic stitch and only have 1 color of yarn, if it keeps you warm and happy, it’s worth it!

Homemade Crocheted Afghans

My biggest concern is usability and warmth, but I really have fun the colors and patterns.

Everyone in my family has a handmade afghan from me and I have several that we use in the house.

I even have a couple full side bed afghans that keep us toasty warm on cold winter nights.  They are very heavy too, so you feel like you’re swaddled underneath them.

Once you understand the basic stitches and how they go together to form different shapes, you can create a variety of warm, handmade treasures for you and your family to use and enjoy!

Recently, I crocheted a yoga mat for myself.  It’s nice and cushy thick, and is a very comfortable mat that I use every evening, plus I thoroughly enjoyed making it.

Crocheted afghans are very time consuming, so you’re looking at the cost of yarn (look for yarn at thrift stores to cut the cost), plus many hours of your time.  If it’s something you enjoy doing, then it’s a pleasurable pastime that rewards you with a usable afghan that will last for years!

Homemade Crocheted Afghans

Knowing how to crochet is one of those skills that is useful in a frugal homesteading and self sufficient setting.  Remember that any skill learned is an asset to your lifestyle.  No one can take that away!

I am not going to go into how to crochet because there are many get tutorials on the internet and I’m left handed, so it would all be backwards anyway! 😉  But, here is a good tutorial on how to crochet.

I hope I have convinced you to learn to crochet and if you already know how to, I hope you take out the yarn and start on a new project.  I recently took out a couple of our crocheted afghans and put them on the couch.  Now, every evening we sit all snuggled up together watching some TV and talking.  Very cozy!!


How To Donate More Than You Can Afford

There are times when a community or family puts on a benefit event to help someone who is in need.

Our hearts go out to those people and we want to help, not only because it’s human nature, but also because we can see ourselves in those situations and can empathize.

Every little bit helps, but I never have enough money to donate to causes to make me feel like I’m helping out very much.  However, I did learn a very nice way of donating more than I can afford!

I look for silent auctions or bake sales.

I realize that other people have more money to donate than I do, so I can help out more by supplying items for people to buy!

homemade afghan

A few years ago, a benefit was being held to help defray medical bills for a relative of mine.  The only money I could have donated was $20.00, but I saw they were having a silent auction.  I donated 6 handmade afghans I had crocheted and later found out that my afghans had raised $250.00 toward defraying those medical bills!  Win-Win!

I love crocheting afghans every winter, plus I love to bake!  It’s an easy way for me to be able to help people out much more than I could otherwise, and I’m more than happy to do it.

No matter how much or how little you make, you can always help someone out.  That’s what it’s all about!

homemade afghan


Modifying My Hopper Bird Feeder

bird feeding station

I love feeding birds!

It’s fun to watch their antics, their personalities and their pecking orders.  Every morning, before I make my pot of coffee, I am drawn to the window to see what the birds are up to and to record which birds are in the yard.  Some of the migratory birds are starting to come through now, so there are new species to watch.

Inevitably, if you feed birds, you will also feed squirrels.  Those little darlings will not be gracious enough to leave the seeds alone.

Usually, I put safflower seeds in the open feeders to keep the squirrels away, since  safflower seeds are too bitter for them.  I thought the only drawback to that was the extra cost, but I made a discovery.

When we went to Iowa last fall, I filled all the feeders with sunflower seeds, which was all I had on hand.  When we got back, we had Blue Jays visiting our yard, which they hadn’t done all year!

So, in trying to win the battle against squirrels, I seem to have lost the war.  I now wonder what types of birds we could have had all summer if I hadn’t been stingy with my sunflower seeds.

I decided to try an experiment and feed the birds (and squirrels) with black oil sunflower seeds.  Hopefully, that will attract a larger variety of birds!

I also decided to modify my hopper bird feeder we put up last Spring, when we made our homemade rain barrel.  The perch was too small for larger birds like Cardinals and Blue Jays to comfortably eat, but it was an easy fix!

bird feeder

I took some pickets from an old wire and picket border fence that I wasn’t using anymore.  I just made simple corners with 3 nails to each corner.  One thing to remember when nailing is which boards are supposed to be nailed to the outside.  I did it wrong the first time (senior moment), but it was gorgeous outside, so darn it, I just had to stay outside a little longer! 😉

modifying a bird feeder

When I got it nailed together properly, I just slipped it over the top and finessed it into place.  My measurement was snug enough that I didn’t need to nail it onto the feeder, but I did anyway because the weather will be sure to loosen it at some point.

The modification was FREE!  I always have jars of nails and wood laying around.

The modified feeder will now let me feed a larger number of birds for less money!

Safflower seed is $1.32 per pound

Sunflower seed is $.38 per pound

I use on average, 200 pounds of bird feed per year.

MONEY SAVED $188.00!!

homemade rain barrel, how to make a rain barrel

How to Make a Homemade Rain Barrel

Making a homemade rain barrel is cheap and easy.  I have been happy to have mine during dry periods and my plants have been loving the rain water I’ve captured!

Homemade Rain Barrel

My daughter’s fiancee, Tom, took the lead on this project.  He put up a birdhouse for me and assembled my rain barrel, while Amanda and I planted the garden this Spring.  What a great day that was!

Amanda and I had gone to a hardware store and bought a durable, plastic garbage can, a spigot and an off valve.  That’s it!

Tom drilled a hole for the spigot and value to fit into and used a little plumber’s tape to make a seal.  Then, he cut a hole in the lid and attached an old fan case to the inside of the lid, to catch leaves and debris.  It was that easy!  (Tom, let me know if it was more difficult than you made it look!)

I attached my hose, positioned the rain barrel under the gutter that I didn’t fix quite right and waited for the rain!

When it rains, I will usually run out and flip the lid upside down so the rain running off the end of the gutter has a larger target to hit.  I know rain isn’t supposed to run off the end of a gutter.  I didn’t fix my gutter properly the first time and now going back up and re-fixing it is WAY down on the list of things that are important….so, I just make the best of it by catching the rain in my barrel!!

The water does get algae in it and it smells a little funky, but the plants absolutely LOVE IT!

Homemade Rain Barrel

Here are 4 things I have especially enjoyed about my homemade rain barrel:

  1. It saves a natural resource that I have put to good use over the summer.
  2. It saves me lots of money.
  3. It keeps chemicals like fluoride out of my garden.
  4. It reminds me of the great day we had working in the yard together!

The cost of my rain barrel was $32.76.  Buying one new and ready made would have been around $100.00, so I saved $67.24.  But here’s the shocking part.  My August 2012 water bill  was $115.00.  My August 2013 water bill was 46.50.  A savings of $68.50, so it paid for itself by double!

MONEY SAVED $135.74!!

how to clean a vacuum

Vacuums Need a Little Lovin’ Too

We kind of take for granted that our vacuums clean our homes, but every so often they need a little attention to keep them running well too.

If your vacuum is just not picking up the dirt like it used to, it probably needs a good cleaning.

About every 3 – 4 months, I take my vacuum apart and really clean it up.  By the time I’m done, it looks and works like it’s brand new!

Once a year I will buy new filters for my machine, but the other times I clean them.  I just wash the filters and get as much dirt of them as I can.  I’m sure it’s not what the manufacturer recommends, but I’m cheap like that and it works for me. ;)

Vacuum Filters Cleaning Vacuum Parts Toothbrush for hard to reach places

How to Clean a Vacuum

  • Take all the parts that you can, off from your vacuum. (If you still have the owner’s manual, this will help you)
  • Wash with warm soap and water, all the parts that are washable.  The paper filters I will usually just scrub with a dry brush or toothbrush to get the worst of the dirt out of them.  Take the attachment hose and run water through it, then hang it up somewhere to dry.
  • Dry all of your parts….for at least 2-3 of days!  Make sure everything is nice and dry before you put it back together so nothing gets moldy.
  • If you’re cunning, this drying stage can be protracted to a week, maybe two! 😉
  • Clean the outside and inside of the main body of the vacuum.
  • Put it all back together.
  • Now you have a nice, clean vacuum, so take a picture…. ’cause it will last longer.

Cleaned Vacuum Parts

Once a Year

  • Buy all new filters
  • Buy a new belt

This little bit of maintenance really helps your vacuum last longer and you will notice the difference in how much better your vacuum works.

No money saved right now, but extending the life of your vacuum will reward you down the road.  Fewer vacuums bought, and fewer vacuums ending up in the landfills.

home made laundry detergent, frugal living

How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent is a personal choice.

So why should we accept the chemical-doused soap that is offered us in stores?

I have allergies and asthma and the first whiff I get of those detergents gives me a headache.  I wondered what nasty chemical was triggering such a dramatic response from my body and why would I want to wear that smell in my clothes?  I figured it was body’s way of telling me to turn and run, so I turned to making my own laundry soap.

Now I have clean, fresh smelling clothes and no headaches!

Here is my favorite recipe for powdered laundry detergent.Home Made Laundry Detergent

  • 2 bars Ivory soap
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda

Grate the bars of soap, into a tub, with a kitchen grater.  I break then shavings up a bit more with my hands.  Measure the borax and washing soda into the tub and mix.

That’s it!  Just pour that mixture into some type of container and you’re all set.  I use and old plastic pitcher with a lid and an old measuring cup as a scoop.  (Yay for repurposing!)

I use warm water for clothes and hot water for bedding and towels so the soap dissolves easily.  My clothes come out smelling delightfully fresh!  If you want a light scent for your clothing, you can always add some essential oils to the detergent, or put some essential oils on a wet washcloth and toss it in with your clothes when you dry them.

An important side note:  There is an ongoing debate within my family regarding what type of soap to use.  My daughter firmly believes the Fels-Naptha is the better soap, stating that it’s a little harder to grate and it has a stronger scent, but it cleans grease far better than Ivory.  I’ll have to try it ;)

Another nice advantage to making your own laundry detergent is the money you save!Detergent Costs

The average “Free and Clear” detergent costs about $13.00 for 32 loads. The average family does about 6 loads of laundry per week, spending around $130.00 per year on detergent alone. Home-made laundry detergent costs only $7.50 for 32 loads!   A SAVINGS OF $70.00 A YEAR!