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Another “Money Diet” Guest Post, this time by Marsi!

September 25th, 2009 12 comments

Here is a guest post by Marsi, a fabulous writer and editor many of us have begged to start her own blog, but she is probably too busy, so we’ll have to be satisfied with this wonderful guest post. Thank you Marsi!

marsi-pic1 

The Money Diet Does Laundry

 

“After enlightenment, then laundry.” (Zen proverb)

 

          Although the U.S. is showing signs of emerging from the serious recession of the last two years, many of us still feel its effects in our own personal economies and are looking for ways to save money where we can. When you consider that major appliances (such as washers and dryers) consume approximately 9 percent of the average household’s energy, the laundry room is as good a place as any to make small changes that can save you money. Today, I share with you some of my tips that might help you realize some savings and, I hope, make the drudgery of laundry a little more pleasant.

 

Wash in cold water. Would you believe that 95 percent of the energy expended in using your washer comes from heating water? According to the Saving Electricity website (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html), a warm/warm wash-and-rinse cycle costs 39 cents per load, whereas a cold/cold cycle costs a mere 3 cents per load — for an average annual savings of $143. In my experience, washing in cold water gets my laundry just as clean as warm water, while better preserving its colors and sizing.

 

Consider buying a front-loading washer. Because front-loaders use significantly less water and energy to operate, the long-term savings of replacing a top-loader with a front-loader add up over time. If you need to replace your washer, it’s best to do so with a front-loader. Although it may cost an extra $200 up front, it will pay for itself in long-term energy savings. Also, a front-loader is much gentler on your laundry because it doesn’t use an agitator, which can pull and damage clothing, so your clothes last longer — a hidden savings itself.

 

Drip-drip dry your laundry. Kick it old-school by installing a clothesline in your backyard. My rowhouse has a huge balcony in lieu of a backyard, which is perfect for a multiple-line retractable clothesline. I use it three seasons a year, from spring to autumn. Indoors, I also use a folding laundry rack for smaller items (such as socks and underwear) and delicates. I have found that not putting my shirts in the dryer keeps their color and texture intact for much longer, which saves me money as well.

 

Make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener. I came across great recipes for homemade detergent and softener two years ago on Modern Cottage (http://modcottage.com/?p=117) and have used them ever since. Modern Cottage estimates that each batch (which yields approximately 35 loads) costs a mere $2 to make, versus nearly the $10 for the equivalent in Tide. My family and I have detected no difference in the cleanliness and freshness of our laundry; if anything, our clothes seem fresher and less dingy because they don’t have build-up from fabric softeners. The cleansers are so mild that they’re perfect for baby clothing, and if you have sensitive skin or allergies yourself, you’ll be pleased with the results as well.

 

As you can see in the photo, I store my laundry detergent in a cute tin from Cost Plus World Market and have decanted my fabric softener into a decorative bottle. They add a nice touch to my laundry room and are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than big plastic jugs of detergent. Although young Wolfgang doesn’t contribute much in terms of labor to my laundry efforts, he — along with everything else in my Laundry Room Still Life — certainly improves the view while I go about my task. 

 

Laundry Detergent (adapted from Modern Cottage)

 

2 bars Ivory soap, grated (comes out to about 2 cups)
1 cup borax (available in the laundry aisle of grocery stores and Target)
1 cup washing soda (in the laundry aisle of larger grocery stores, also may be available in some hardware stores)

 

Blend it all together into a bumpy, granular mix. Add drops of essential oil (lavender is my favorite) to scent your detergent, if you wish. Use 1 tablespoon of detergent for a light load, and 2 tablespoons for a large or dirty load.

 

Note: I urge you not to destroy your food processor by using it to grate bars of soap. Please trust me on this. If you have a standing mixer (such as a KitchenAid) that comes with a metal grating attachment, you’ll make quick work of this task. If not, please do it by hand with a cheese grater and enjoy the firmer biceps that undoubtedly will be yours after this exercise. Do not use any appliance that has plastic moving parts because grating soap overworks the motor, causing the plastic parts to break or melt. Please, use only an appliance that has metal moving parts to grate soap.

 

 

Fabric Softener (adapted from Modern Cottage)

 

1 gallon distilled white vinegar

25-30 drops essential oil

 

Use 1/4 cup per load to eliminate static, soften laundry, and rinse away soap residue.

 

 

My First Guest Post!: The Money Diet

September 19th, 2009 7 comments

I am thrilled to have Stephanie from Bonjour Madame, someone I admire enormously, write my first guest post.  Thank you so much Stephanie! You are always an inspiration to me. I won’t waste time with my words, but rather defer to hers. Enjoy:

The Money Diet

Kristi graciously asked me to guest post on the topic of money. Specifically “The Money Diet.” I would like to state that The Money Diet or Regime Fric is something I read on the French Chic (Yahoo) boards years ago and it was originally written by a talented writer and board member, Marline. It inspired me so much to change the way I treated money and that change stuck with me and changed my financial life for the better. I’d like to share why it inspired me so much.

Marline approached this strategy in such a way that made the project fun. She related the money diet to strategies outlined in Mireille Guiliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat” book.  As women, we can probably all relate to an actual diet.

Step one …”round up the usual suspects”. What are you buying repeatedly? Especially those things that you already have enough. If you don’t know what these are, keep all of your receipts for three weeks. Review all of your receipts and start writing down the trends. Take note of not only what you are buying, but how often and how much. For me, it’s lipstick, skin care, books, magazines,tea from the coffee shop, and clothes. Write it down.

Step two … where are you spending? Is it online, the mall, extra items in the grocery store, bookstores or coffee shops? Write it down and devise a plan to avoid these temptations. These are your offenders and while you are paying off debt, should probably be avoided. Stop going to the mall. I’m being sarcastic, but it’s amazing how well this works! Just avoid that particular place that you overspend. Realize mindless shopping is an attempt to fill a void in your life.

Step three … have patience and develop rituals. While you are not spending on needless items, put that money toward paying off debt until it’s gone. Embrace organization and cleanliness. If you take care of what you own now, you will appreciate it more and realize you have everything you need already. Organize your bills. Make bill paying a pleasant experience. It can be done! Fix a cup of tea, put on relaxing music, place your bills on your clean table, use a nice pen, and relax a little.

Step four … picture yourself where you want to be financially and have a goal. It’s important to have a dream for your future both involving sound finances and a splurge. What do you want to do? Take a trip to Paris or Rome? Buy a fabulous pair of shoes? It can be big or small but it must motivate you. Mine is another trip to Paris. I think about strolling along the Seine, sitting at a cafe, shopping for something special in Paris (and paying cash) and it always stops me in my tracks with whatever I’m about to buy.

Consider writing down on paper your new story. How do you want to be financially in the future? Write down how you will treat money, organize your finances, live stress and debt free, and have extra money to do the things you’ve always dreamed about. Make it fun and be specific. Use your imagination!

Finally, these are a few of my tips that I’ve learned throughout the years from experience. Always live below your means. It’s the only way to have extra cash to save for your future goals. If you are constantly spending everything you make, it will never happen. Resist the urge to continue trading up your house and know that it is possible to pay off your mortgage in much less time than your original loan. Aim high!

Learn that it’s OK to be different. Even when your friends think your decisions are strange, learn to be at peace with it and know that what you are doing is the right thing for you. Make a list of free and inexpensive things you can do that enhance your life and do them regularly. Create a savings account for your specific short term goals. I’ve got one titled “Paris” and it’s an absolute joy to make deposits into this account. It’s separate from other investments and savings accounts.

One of the things my husband and I do too often is eat out. I actually prefer to eat at home because it’s healthier and more relaxing. I can control the ingredients and practice becoming a better cook.

If you like a more technical approach, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”. It will explain how to get out of debt and approach it with great intensity. It’s a great book. I tape his show on the Fox Business Network every day and watch them when I have free time to continue to stay motivated, even though I am debt free. I need constant motivation to continue to save for what is important and staying focused on a more frugal lifestyle helps.

I also recommend that you visit the FC boards and search for these older posts by Marline. They are treasures and I hope that she knows how much of an impression they made on me years ago.

Stephanie
http://bonjourmadamestephanie.blogspot.com/











What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.