Monday, September 28, 2015

Tumble time, and what the heck is a peshtemal?

The weather here up until yesterday has been utterly perfect - sunny, clear, low humidity, not too hot. Then yesterday the clouds moved in, with the promise of rain all week.

Which is why I'm extra glad that we got our dryer repaired on Friday! Perfect timing! It was also our 5th anniversary on Friday, and we joked about what it says about us, that getting the dryer repaired was the best possible anniversary gift!  :) (Get the title now? Time to tumble the clothes?)

I still plan to line dry when it makes sense, but I'm so grateful to eliminate one step in my diaper laundry - I was washing them, hanging them to dry, then tumbling in the dryer (that would run but not heat up) to soften them. I know, with my flour sack towel flats, I could get away without tumbling them most of the time, but it really does make them feel feather soft. I like that for the diapers.

One thing that was a trial for my husband while I was line drying everything was the bath towels. He hated how stiff and scratchy they would get on the line, and I hated that they took twice as long as anything else to dry. So I was on the Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook page, and someone brought up how they don't mind line drying towels since they switched to peshtemals, or Turkish towels.


Research was needed. I found out that peshtemals are something like soft, flat dish towels, but HUGE - 37" x 70", plenty big to wrap up with. They are the towels traditionally used in Turkish baths, where (as I hear) it's often steamy. I can imagine what would happen to terrycloth towels in air like that - they'd go sour in 24 hours! These towels are designed to wash clean and dry fast - just like flat diapers!

So I looked around on Amazon, found a package of them that didn't look too overpriced, and added them to my wish list. I figured that would be the last time I'd think about them for a while. But I didn't count on my mom - my 36th birthday just happened on the 13th, and she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. As usual, my mind went blank when she asked me that question, so she said "Never mind - I'll go to your Amazon wishlist!". She's so smart.  :)

I'm fairly impressed with these towels. They're as big as you could ask for in terms of coverage, but they fold up as small as a t-shirt. They dry me off exceptionally well, and two hours after my bath the towel is dry again. I mean, it's weird - I think they dry me off better than the terrycloth towels! And these won't get musty or sour smelling, since they dry so easily. Jake isn't quite sold on them yet, because drying off with these towels feels a little different - like using a bed sheet. I asked him to give them another try or two before giving his final verdict, though.

Most people who use these towels rave about how light and packable they are, and how sand falls right off of them at the beach. I haven't gotten to try it in those conditions yet, but I can see how great these would be going camping. I did put it to the big test - I gave the dog a bath and dried him with one of the towels. Usually a dog bath results in 2 - 3 sodden, hairy towels, which take so long to dry that I don't bother waiting around and usually just wash them right away. (I wouldn't reuse them anyway, but I would let them dry and then add them to the hamper.) This time it took ONE peshtemal towel to dry him (a shepherd lab mix) which dried in 4 hours, and the hair shook off when I flapped it outside before adding it to the hamper.

This is the seller I got my towels from, but I found them even cheaper on eBay if you want to try them out.

Many places charge $20 each, but you can get them for $10 or less if you look hard enough.

Either way, whether I hang them or tumble them, they'll be the fastest drying towels I have!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Phone research

We are still stuck in our AT&T phone contract for a few more months, but now is the time to figure out where we want to go with our phone dollars for the next year or so. I've been doing some research on lesser known providers, and I figured I'd share it here with you, for two reasons. First, I like to share money saving information, and second, by organizing it into post form, I might be able to decide which will be the best deal!

First on the list is always Republic Wireless. For $17.50 a month per line, you can get unlimited talk/text, with half a gig of cell data, but if you route through wifi data is free. And that's how they keep their talk/text costs so low, too - when you're in a wifi zone, your calls go over wifi. As soon as you leave wifi, they go through the Sprint network, which unfortunately can be a little spotty around here. And you have to have their phone, because standard phones are not set up to route calls over wifi.

Pros - way cheap monthly bill at $17.50, high end phones
Cons - would have to buy their phone (some available used on eBay, but new start at $125), Sprint service a little iffy locally

Our service would cost $35 a month, with a startup cost of around $250.

The second plan on my list is Ting Wireless. Ting allows you to bring your own device, so the start up cost could be minimal if you already have a phone that you like. The plans are based on monthly use, and set up in brackets, with a base fee of $6 per line. For example, if my husband and I switched to Ting, based on last month's use, we would pay $12 for the two lines, $35 for 1001 - 2100 minutes of talk time, $5 for 101 - 500 text messages, and $12 - $19 for data, depending on how much I use the navigation feature. $64 - $71 is a savings over our current plan at $125 a month, but it doesn't make my heart pound or anything.

Pros - bring your own device, very clear pricing plans
Cons - Not a huge savings, could get out of hand if we have to talk a lot.

Our service would cost $64 - $71 a month, varying with use.

The next one (I'm tired, I'm not going to count now.) is P'tel. This one starts off at $20 a month unlimited talk/text plans (unless you use a cell phone so little that you want to go with the pay-as-you-go option) which step up to $25, $30, $40, $50 and $60, based on how much cell data you want to use. The nice thing is underneath each plan, they explain "use this one if you're around wifi MOST of the time" "this one if you're RARELY around wifi" etc.

They do offer phones on their site, but you can also just spend $5 for their SIM card and keep using your own phone.

Our service would range from $40 - 60 a month, depending on which plan we choose.

Next is Airvoice, another service that offers unlimited talk/text with minimal data. Their $20 plan only offers 100 mB of data (though as usual, wifi is free), their $30 plan offers 1 GB, and their $50 plan offers 5 GB. For $5 - $7, you can get a SIM card that will allow you to use your current phone.

Our service would most likely be $40 - $60, probably around $50 because my husband doesn't use data much.

Lastly, there's Freedom Pop. This service boasts FREE phone service, but as you might guess, there are a number of gotchas along with this service. To qualify for free service, you need to accept a plan with 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages, and 500 MB of data. Their next plan up is billed annually - $6.67 a month, $79.99 a year, for unlimited talk/text and 500 MB of data. But their "gotcha!" plan is a free trial of unlimited talk/text and 1 GB of data - after that, you're billed $19.99 a month. Which isn't high, but the way they do it? A little shady.

They do allow you to bring your own devices, but ours don't qualify, so we would have to buy their phone at a starting price of $99. Oddly enough, they do allow the newer iPhones, and even sell a gadget that turns an iPod touch into an iPhone, so if you're an Apple head, this may help you save a little of what you just spent on that phone.  ;)

If we chose this service, we would take the "billed annually plan", so it would be a start-up cost of $360, with an annual cost of $160.

As you can see, many of the plans center around the $40 - $60 a month area for the two of us (for one person, obviously, divide by two). The notable exceptions are Republic Wireless and Freedom Pop, which both require a new or used phone purchase. All things being equal, I'm more familiar with Republic Wireless, the main downside with them being that if we bought the phones, tried it, and didn't like it, we couldn't use those phones on another plan - they're hard linked to RW. With Freedom Pop, we could buy their phones, try the service, and if we didn't like it, we could swap out the SIM cards for a more reliable plan.

If I have any readers out there who use any of these plans, please leave a note in the comments and let me know how you like it. (I left off Cricket because it just didn't seem like enough savings.)

Edited to add - Holy mackerel, there are SO many more alternative carriers out there! Here's the Wikipedia page listing all the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) providers out there. They buy airtime from the big providers at a volume discount, then turn around and sell it to the consumer. They have companies that specialize in plans for kids, some that focus on music lovers, some that are a better bargain if you have a family plan, and some that are best if it's just you. But the average prices seems to level out for 2 lines at $50 - $60 a month with most of these if you use any data.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Free book!

Hey guys! Flash giveaway of the e-book version of Hard Core Poor on Saturday - just hustle on over to Amazon on Saturday, and it'll be FREE for anyone to download! This book is jam-packed with as many thrifty tips as I could come up with, and it's available to YOU! All my hard-earned knowledge, research, and mistakes that I made so you don't have to, all distilled into about 300 pages for your enjoyment!  :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Gonna be warm!

We just had all that wood delivered 2 nights ago. There's about 3 + cords stacked now, with another 1/2 cord that will be delivered in a few days.

Let me tell you - knowing that whether Jake finds a job or not, we will be warm? That's reassuring.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Apple harvest

It's been a little quiet here again, mostly because we're still settling into our groove with school and homeschool, and trying to figure out how other things fit around that. But one of the things that I fit in annually is a massive apple harvest!

Our friends have an elderly neighbor who has TWO apple trees in her backyard, and because she has diabetes, she can't use the fruit. So every year, we go with laundry baskets and an extendable reach picking stick, and come home with a load of apples.

 This year I sensibly set up the apple peeler/corer/slicer (scored at a yard sale for $1 years ago) on the back deck, and churned out sliced apples as fast as I could turn the crank.

The slicer turns the apple into one long ribbon!

I put up 4 quarts and 7 pints of apple butter (so far), and we've had the dehydrator working hard to make us yummy apple chips. My husband doesn't like them, but apple chips are a hit with the kids - I'll take whatever encourages them to eat more fruit!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Winter wash

Obviously it isn't winter yet. It isn't even close - the heat and humidity was so intense here this past week that it felt like a bowl of steam was sitting over us. It was that kind of humidity that even makes sounds more muffled, like even sound is tired of trying to get through that air, and just gives up. Thank heavens the humidity finally broke yesterday - we spent our first week of school/homeschool hiding in the air conditioning. By the way -

First day of school
First day of homeschool.

Eh, it works for them. :)

But winter is coming, said the ant to the grasshopper, and we're starting to prepare. Jake has been building a new wood shed so we won't have to dig around under half-frozen tarps to bring in firewood this year, and I've been thinking about how to handle laundry once it's no longer prudent to hang it outside. I know some people hang things to freeze dry, but I find that the water doesn't sublimate from my clothes - they just freeze and then thaw, still wet when I bring them in.

In previous years I would set up drying racks in front of the wood stove, and while that works VERY well to dry them, the racks get in our way on the floor. But hanging by the fire is so effective that I wanted to come up with a way to continue to dry the clothes that way, especially since it adds much-needed humidity to the fire-dried air.

I thought of those drying racks that go on pulleys, so I could hoist the wash up toward the ceiling, but 1) they're pricey and 2) we have a suspended ceiling downstairs, so there would be no place to anchor it.

Then I found a neat product on Amazon -

It's a braided line that has holes in it and hooks at the ends. You hook the hooks around whatever you want, stretch the line across, and hang the clothes on hangers THROUGH THE ROPE! The slots in the rope keep the hangers apart and in their own place, so you can hang a bunch of clothes in less space.

So we did this in the walls in front of the wood stove!

I've used it already during wet weather, and it works even without the fire going.

Hopefully we'll have the dryer working again soon, but I want to have this option available to us.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Part of why I love Aldi

I love Aldi for many reasons - their great prices, the manageable size of their stores (not overwhelming), their gluten free product line, and the quality of their products.

But every so often we get something from Aldi that we just don't like. Maybe it's a bad batch of something we usually like, or it's something new that turned out to be less of a crowd pleaser than I thought. At times like this, I LOVE their "Double Your Money Back" guarantee! They replace your product AND give your money back!

I took advantage of this a few days ago - a batch of gluten free mac-n-cheese that we usually like turned out... well... weird. It tasted like the cheese powder had been replaced with old powdered milk packets. I had 6 boxes of that lot, so I packed up the used and unused boxes and headed off to Aldi. In exchange, I got 6 boxes of GF white cheddar mac-n-cheese AND $7.50, which I used on a package of disposable diapers and wipes for an upcoming day trip - in fact, I still had a dollar left over!

So if you're new to Aldi, don't be shy about trying new things - if they don't work out, you still win!