Archive | September 2014

Zero to Fixed

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A couple of weeks back, I arrived at Walmart with the kids in the bike trailer to find that one of the snaps holding closed the cargo compartment had broken. Fortunately, I was still able to complete my mission because the cover provided enough support that the bags didn’t fall out, but it was not a long-term solution.

I wanted to fix it, but I had no idea where to start. What were the snaps called? Did they come in different sizes or kinds? Did I need a special tool? When I’m totally at sea like that, I usually start, if possible, by posing some questions in an online forum. I am regular over at the Mr. Money Mustache forums (having worked my way up from “stubble” through “bristles,” “handlebar,” and now “magnum,” whatever that is), so I took my problem to the “Do It Yourself Discussion” section. You can read my original thread here if you’re curious.

Evidently, I wanted 5/8” heavy duty snaps, also known as canvas fasteners and readily available for boat repair. And the broken part was a “female” side. Male sides come in two sorts, a press-in type (for putting in fabric) and a screw-in type (for joining fabric to a solid surface, like the metal trailer frame).

My repair kit. The bottom middle contains the press tool and anvil.

There are two different kinds of inexpensive tools for this purpose: snap pliers and snap presses. The former work alone, while the latter require the use of a hammer. I considered these Dritz snap pliers, but they only came with press-in screws. I wasn’t sure if the new screw would be compatible with my screw-in male end, so I wanted to make sure that I had the screw-in kind as well. So I decided to get this little Seasense kit, which comes with several females, both types of males, and a press tool.

A minor setback was that it did not come with directions, but this helpful website made it quite clear. I let the kids out to play, assembled my tools, and was done about thirty seconds and three swings of the hammer later. The job was easier because the broken female end was broken in such a way that it popped out easily; otherwise, apparently I would have had to drill it (?!).

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The freshly repaired snap. The new female end is on the left; the right side is the original screw-in male end.

Since the trailer appears to date to the late 90s (Burley couldn’t give me an answer—they did not recognize the model name!), I suspect I’ll need this skill again. The total cost to me was about $12, plus perhaps an hour of research time.

What have you taught yourself to fix lately?

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Goal Setting: Is It Working?

A couple of weeks, I posted about trying to use goal-setting to push myself to get more done.

As usual, I’m getting mixed results. On the one hand, making a list of weekly goals does help move tasks that have been languishing on my long to-do list. I have, for instance, mended a purse that’s been on the list for months. On the other hand, making a list of tasks does not, by itself, create more hours in the day. What it does do is help select a task to fill a certain period of time. Right now, for instance, I am on hold with my health insurance company (current length of call, 54 minutes 25 seconds) and have already crossed a few small items off the list while waiting. The pre-curated list helps me just pick something.

This is my general procedure:

  1. I have a designated time every week (Monday afternoons; I tend to think of a week being Monday-Sunday) when I make up a new list of goals.
  2. I put 10-15 items on it in a mix of difficulty levels/time taken. Some are tiny, specific items, like signing up for CreditKarma, while others are more long-term, like how much money I’d like to make.
  3. I keep a master to-do list of items that I would like to get to eventually, and I draw my 10-15 items from that list.
  4. I never add to my weekly list after I’ve made it unless there is something truly time-sensitive; this week, for instance, I landed a job interview to prepare for. If necessary, I then take something else off the weekly list. If something comes up that’s not urgent–for instance, my aunt sent me a present this week and I need to write her a thank-you note–I add it to my master list.
  5. I never look at the master list except when I am preparing my weekly list. This forces me to concentrate on the items on my weekly list.
  6. I don’t put normal chores on the list. I know I need to make a grocery list and shop, no need to write it down.
  7. When I have several hours to work, I will sometimes make a mini-list of tasks to accomplish during those hours.

As I’ve been doing this for a few weeks, I’ve made a few refinements in how I allocate tasks. I’ve been separating them more. For instance, I wrote “write two blog entries” the first week, but I wrote just one. One goal failed, zero goals met. But if I make those two separate tasks, and write just one, then I have missed a goal but also met one.

I’m also changing how I make goals for earning money. I was setting just one lofty goal, and frankly I haven’t even gotten close. From now on, I’m going to make one low goal, say to earn $200 pr $225 depending on what else is going on that week, and a second goal, say to earn $250. Then if I earn $221, I’ve met one goal and failed at another. Otherwise, no matter how little I earn, I’ve only missed one goal. That should keep me motivated even if I know I won’t make my “top” goal.

Readers, any advice-setting goals for me? How do you keep yourself motivated to get things done?

Mending Roundup

I’ve been busy with needle and thread this week and last, getting some repairs out of the way and off my desk (where I have been carelessly piling them). And I mean a literal needle. While some of this (all?) would have been easier to do with a sewing machine, I don’t find it efficient to use mine for small jobs. For one thing, I can’t use it while watching my children for fear they will interfere with it somehow and get hurt and/or break something. For another, I have no good place to keep it set up, so I store it in my closet. In its original packaging. So setting it up is a minor pain. If, on the other hand, I sew by hand, I can take my sewing to the park with me.

So here’s what I’ve been up to:

Replacing camisole strap adjusters

61gmPf71gQS._SL1500_The strap adjusters broke on one of my sundresses, but it turns out you can buy replacements at any fabric store–I got these Dritz ones. I successfully repaired it, but made a couple of rookie mistakes that I’m going to share with you in hopes of saving you from making them, too:

  1. Not realizing I need both ends of the strap free. The strap needed to be re-sewn to the front of the dress, so I cleverly did that first… then realized I would need to cut it off again to replace the strap adjuster. Oops.
  2. Not replacing the circle part at the same time. As soon as I had finished the project, I realized that the little circle on the back (joining the strap to the much shorter strap attached to the back of the dress) was broken. So now I will have to cut the strap off again and start over. I don’t think I’ll have to cut if off the front of the dress, at least.

I found that I needed to look at an example to figure out how to thread it. Unfortunately, both sides had broken, so the dress itself had no working adjuster. I resorted to looking down the front of my shirt to study the adjuster on my bra. Had I worn my Genie Bra, I might have been thwarted altogether!

Sewing up a seam

Mr. FP scored a free T-shirt at a street fair, but a shoulder seam was not sewn all the way. I stitched it up for him. I have trouble working with knit fabrics on the machine anyway, so maybe it’s just as well I did this by hand.

Fixing a leather purse

Mr. FP bought me this leather purse from a street vendor in Rome, but one of the straps popped out of the little pocket holding it. The lady at

I glued this strap back into its socket. But will the glue hold? Stay tuned.

I glued this strap back into its socket. But will the glue hold? Stay tuned.

Jo- Ann recommended a glue called E6000, which seemed to do the trick.

Ironing on patches

This was not successful. I didn’t expect an iron-on patch to last forever, but… two washes? I liked the way it looked (I out a brown corduroy patch on khaki toddler pants to cover a whole in the knee), so I suppose I will just sew it on. I probably will need to get the sewing machine out for that one. Sigh.

What are you fixing this week? Or have you given up on something and thrown it out?

Lazy Mom’s Overnight Oatmeal

Perhaps you’ve wondered, “Why doesn’t the Frugal Paragon post recipes like other mommy/frugal living bloggers?” The answer is that while I have many talents, I am not a particularly good cook.

And the recipe I’m about to share with you isn’t even something I eat personally. It seems like of slimy to me. But it is super-easy and cheap and my toddlers love it.

The basic premise of overnight oatmeal is that you soak it instead of cooking it. So in the evening, I mix together a cup of yogurt, a little jam, three ounces of milk, and three-quarters cup of rolled oats. It looks like this:

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Isn’t your mouth watering already? I put it in the fridge overnight and by morning, it looks like this:

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Other recipes often call for Greek yogurt, but frankly I find that too expensive to feed the boys. They also usually call for less yogurt and less oatmeal, say a six-ounce yogurt container and half a cup of oatmeal, to make two servings. But my kids are big eaters of anything in the yogurt and oatmeal families, so I had to up the quantities. This will feed two very hungry preschoolers, or three who eat like birds. I usually serve with a banana on the side and, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, some chopped walnuts or pecans.

Frugal Paragon Overnight Oatmeal

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • spoonful of jam, honey, or other sweetener, to taste
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 3 ounces milk (1/4 cup plus two tablespoons). Double the milk if using Greek yogurt.
  • Nuts or other mix-ins (optional)

Combine the first four ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate overnight. Spoon into bowls and serve. Top with nuts, chocolate chips, etc. if desired.

September Goals

Yesterday I assessed my August goals and got mixed results. Now that the school year has started in earnest (Mr. FP is a teacher, so we still run our lives on the academic calendar), I’m going to try setting some more serious goals and see where that gets me.

Income: Earn $400 more than I spend on childcare, whatever that may be. (I am toying with the idea of pulling the boys out of their preschool as I’m not sure I’m happy with it.)

Spending: Limit grocery spending to $500. Mr. FP has been doing our shopping, but he is very busy with the school year now.

Lifestyle: Reduce Little Brother’s dependence on Pull-Ups. Use them only for trips to the Y and overnight; by the end of the month, try to have him sleeping in two pairs of training pants with plastic cover instead of Pull-Ups.

Other: Get life insurance. Read three books. Make weekly to-do lists for chores and household tasks.

I’m serious about that last one. A couple of bloggers I admire, most notably the Frugal Girl and the Prudent Homemaker, always blow me away with their to-do lists and lists of tasks accomplished. I keep a general to-do list, but have been inconsistent about assigning tasks to particular weeks or days, and things languish. The idea is that if I make a weekly list, maybe I can do a better job of enforcing myself. Here’s this week’s list:

  • Find pediatrician and make appointments for boys
  • Follow-up on speech therapy for Big Brother
  • Go to Jo-Ann’s for supplies; hem jeans. Sewing machine maintenance. Mend 2 pairs pants and 2 dresses.
  • Find a life insurance broker
  • Take old clothes/shoes to donation box
  • Get fingerprints done for job application
  • Goals blog post (done!)
  • Order bike lights (done!)
  • Earn $275
  • Look into fixing broken leather purse
  • Inventory boys’ winter clothes
  • Mop (done!)

It’s am ambitious list by my standards–if I can’t do it all, then I’ll know to put less on next week’s list. What are you up to this week?

August Review

I got all vacation-y in August. Some of my goals I blew out of the water; others wound up in the “fail” column.  Here’s how it breaks down:

Income

Goal: $670

Actual: $479.62. Ouch! I still made more than I spent sending the boys to preschool, but just barely. Too many “work” days got eaten up with errands and so on.

Spending

I did stay out of Costco all month. Mr. FP used up all the gas and bought more (sigh), but now that he has settled into the school year a bit, he will be biking to work more often. With the boys and me being on vacation for twelve days, we easily kept the grocery bill under $400.

An unexpected expense arose: I had to spend over $200 on a Flovent prescription as my asthma was quite bad. I was puffing on my albuterol three to five times a day, which, if you know anything about asthma, is dangerous and irresponsible. We have only catastrophic health insurance right now (but many plans have a prescription deductible anyway), so I had to cough up for the full amount. Flovent is a pricey one, but it’s a lot cheaper than wheezing myself into the ER!

Budgeting

Successfully tracked spending, including cash gifts and expenditures. Haven’t actually put that into a budget yet.

Lifestyle Adjustments

It would be a stretch to define Little Brother as “potty trained,” but he’s making good progress and is wearing cloth training pants during the day. We’ve been using Pull-Ups for nighttime and things like going to the Y, so the goal for this month will be to reduce that sharply.

Other

I arranged for a library volunteer position and have already gone in once. Sold the baby monitor; nothing on the gate yet. Read a whopping nine books. Yes, nine!  Admittedly, many of them were “genre fiction” (i.e., Agatha Christie novels and trashy romances) that I read on beach vacation while the kids made sand castles and my sister served me a daiquiri, but by no means all of them! Some of them were “real” books.

Stay tuned tomorrow for fresh goals, as one of my goals is to, well, set more goals. How was your August?