It’s almost always good to reassess actions and behaviors. This year I had some frugal thoughts that I have re-thunk. Seems they might not have been so frugal after all, or maybe they just didn’t work. Some require more thought.
The Herb Pot: For a fundraiser for the high school my son would be attending in the fall, last spring I purchased plants, both edible and non-edible. The (expensive) floral hanging baskets did not fare well, but I was able to fill them with artificial greenery and silk flowers to provide some solace. The tomatoes did flourish (see below). The herbs went into a pot on the patio, partially shaded by the crabapple tree. They did very well, even though the chives were the garlic version, picked up by mistake, so we didn’t get as much use out of them as I’d hoped. The rosemary and oregano were to winter over inside the back door. But, before I could actually bring in the pot (as opposed to just looking at it and reminding myself that it had to be lugged in), it snowed. And in a major way. The vortex of drifting on our back patio makes the Tazmanian Devil sulk. Well, I thought, perhaps the rosemary will survive. Enter the rabbits. They live nearby and make rounds every morning, which is most evident when it snows. The drifting formed a nice little ramp to the top of the pot (24″), and they were able to walk right up, clear away the snow, and munch down to the dirt. So much for my rosemary. Next year I think I’ll put my pots on wheels so that I have no more excuses not to bring in the herbs.
The Sprinklers: We went on a three-week vacation this June, which we’d never done before. Because of past years’ heat and drought, we programmed our yard sprinklers to turn on at a decent schedule. I positioned the pots of tomatoes and the one surviving hanging basket so that they would get watered. Wouldn’t you know it? It rained half the days we were gone! The water usage was just a tad high, and the yard was sopping. Well, the trip was that once-in-our-lives trek around the circle of national parks and monuments, so we won’t be doing that again, or anything similar for a while, so next year we surely won’t make this move.
The Birdhouses: With the sopping yard came mosquitoes, which we get every year, despite the wonderful landscaping and grading that we inherited. We also inherited lots of lovely plants that attract insects, on purpose. A few years back I discovered that the former owners had maintained a purple martin house in the yard. The very, very deep ground sleeve is still there, but we let the shrubs grow very tall along the fence there. So, I decided it would be a good idea to become landlords and encourage their recolonization. The price of purple martin houses is way beyond what I imagined! And the poles cost more than the houses! I’m not even sure yet if I could get a high enough pole that would also handle the depth of the ground sleeve (more than 6′). Scratch that for ’09. During the bleak coming winter months, I’ll be researching and hunting around for a deal on these things so that the martins might return. I’m told we have a good chance, since a neighbor a block away has a colony.
The Insulation: We knew from Year One here that something was wrong at the front of the house — sauna in summer and a meat locker in winter. When we finally had The Windows replaced, that helped, but just a bit. We discovered the problem when we were replacing clogged soffit vents: no insulation was installed at the joists! Nada, zip. (The fact that it was not to code does not surprise us.) My solution was to install, through the soffit vent openings, faced insulation where it should be. I could not reach the offending openings, though, so I called Mr. Handyman to rip down the soffits, install the insulation, and reinstall soffits, facia and guttering. FORTUNATELY, the guy they sent, Jay, had another solution, which was exactly my original solution! His arms were longer. Total cost for the two hours of work was $187. Total estimated cost for a rip-out re-do was over $8,000 and three days.
The Groceries: I tried and re-tried many grocery strategies this year. At the end of the year, though, I’m back to what works best for me. Aldi, BagNSave, and an occasional loss leader if it’s along my way. I’m back to avoiding WalMart, HyVee and Fareway. Next year, I may attempt price matching again, at Target. We’ll see. It didn’t help that prior to our vacation, I cleared out the freezers (in case the power went out). I still only have them half full. And that’s okay, but it reflects that I just haven’t found the deals that I had in the past.
There were many other things I have evaluated over this year. The recipes alone! The amount of work put into a service to others that went completely unappreciated. My weight loss plateau (although 25 lbs. is nothing to sneeze at!). Leaving that great-paying temp job with unreasonably unpredictable hours.
Share your best and worst frugal decisions of the year! What worked and didn’t?