I visited the local Goodwill to buy a short-sleeved shirt, something summery and tropical looking. I found the perfect shirt, and it cost just $5. Easy. So with some time to kill I decided to look around the store.
Among the various computers and televisions, I saw two cordless telephone handsets with their plug-in chargers that were exactly the same as the kind we use at home. Yes, we still have a landline. I plugged them in, turned them on, and they seemed to work fine. Of course, I couldn’t make a call because they were still “paired” to a base unit that was nowhere to be found. I didn’t need a new base unit anyway. But a couple new handsets would be useful. For one thing, we’ve never had a phone in the basement; more than once I’ve been doing laundry or working on my computer in the basement (the only one for which the kids don’t know the logon password) and heard the phone ring upstairs but not been able or willing to go upstairs to answer it. Well, that’s why we have an answering machine.
In deciding to buy the two handsets, I was making the bet that I’d be able to “register” them to the base unit in my house. That’s the problem: cordless phones need to be registered to the proper base unit, meaning that they communicate with that base unit and forsake all others. (If we didn’t use this system of cordless phones being registered to their base, then they would simply connect to whatever base is nearest or has the strongest signal, which might mean your neighbors’ phones connecting to your base or vice-versa.) In order to use a cordless phone that has been registered to another base, the existing registration has to be erased and the phone needs to be put into “ready to register” mode. That doesn’t happen automatically. It requires some button pushing! Would I be able to accomplish this phone-tech feat?
O Wonderful Internet! In about 5 minutes online I found instructions on how to “deregister” the handsets from their original base unit and register them to mine. They both work perfectly and will probably provide many years of service. Pretty good deal, for about $9 for both.
Eventually, you’re going to need a button. Or a bolt. It’s a pain to have to make a special trip to a store to buy the one button you need to fix the shirt you need today. Likewise, when you find you need a bolt or a screw for some minor repair. It’s especially frustrating to have return to the same hardware store that you had been to just 2 hours earlier because you need one more bolt to finish your project.
If you have a jar full of buttons, there’s a good chance you can find one that’s close enough to do the job. A jar full of bolts and nuts, screws, and similar hardware is also very useful.
This is more a matter of saving time than money, but your time is worth a lot of money (isn’t it?). When you’re throwing away old clothes or old furniture or anything that has buttons, bolts, screws or any other kind of fasteners (and when you see these things that other people have thrown away), take a look and see if you can salvage some of those useful fasteners and add them to your home store.
Whenever I throw away an old shirt, I remove all the buttons and put them in the button jar. If I have several matching buttons I sometimes keep them together on bit of string or thread.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve added to my nut and bolt collection by just taking a few that are easy to remove from furniture that my neighbors have thrown away. I’ve also taken knobs from drawers and cabinets that I’ve found on the curb. And some hinges. And many of those cool IKEA fasteners and the little dowel rods. (It’s good to have carry a Swiss Army knife or multi-tool for this sort of thing.)
Keep stocking your home store with buttons and bolts that would otherwise end up in a landfill and it will serve you well.
At a church meeting I recently attended, someone made a pot of coffee. When the pot was empty, another pot was made. After the meeting was over, the coffee pot was still about 1/3 full. No one wanted another cup. I don’t normally drink the stuff. (What kind of person, I wonder, would take beans from some plant, roast them until they’re nearly burnt, grind them into powder, pour boiling water onto that powder, then drink that water?) I had my own water-bottle, filled with iced tea, which I had finished. Before someone could dump the unwanted coffee down the drain, which was about to happen, I quickly rinsed my water-bottle and poured the coffee into it. As soon as I got the coffee home, I put it in another container and refrigerated it. I wanted to minimize the risk of the water-bottle I use for iced tea being ruined by the coffee taste, so I washed it as soon as it was empty. The next day I had all the iced coffee I wanted, for nothing more than the cost of some ice and milk.
The moral of the story is that if you look around you can always find things that people are getting rid of that can be of benefit to you if you do the work of obtaining them and re-purposing them. Get in the habit and you can get lots of things for free.
It’s damn annoying that some of the “disposable” pepper grinders (the kind made by spice manufacturers and sold at grocery stores) can’t be easily opened so they can be refilled and re-used when they are empty. I recently found myself with an empty disposable pepper grinder at the same time that I couldn’t locate my salt grinder. I thought I could wash it and fill it with sea salt, but … it’s made so as to be very difficult to open.
Here’s the trick: Soak the plastic top in very hot water for several minutes. This makes the plastic just a bit more flexible, which should allow you to pull the plastic top off the glass jar. Just hold the glass jar in one hand and the plastic top in the other and pull them straight apart. Then you can dry it and re-fill it. Once it’s refilled, to put the top back on, just press the top firmly onto the jar.
On Friday, on the spur of the moment, my wife decided to gather a minivan full of things we don’t need, and, the next morning take them to a local church that was renting tables at their church yard sale. We paid $40 for the use of 2 tables, which we filled with our used children’s books, kitchen gadgets, dishes, and plates, Christmas decorations, and assorted other items. Our rule was that we were only taking things that we no longer needed or wanted. These things would be sold at the yard sale and if unsold would end up donated to Goodwill or put in the trash.
We priced things to sell. An entire table was filled with items that we initially priced at $2 and after we passed the sale’s halfway hour, we reduced them to $1 each. Later we sold the remaining items 2 for $1 and in the final 15 minutes we sold them 4 for $1. Parting ways with these things was the goal. We filled the other table with things that were priced between $3 and $10. Some people were happy to pay the price we asked, but many times we accepted offers that were a little lower. When someone made an offer on an item that had gone unsold after it had been seen by dozens of people, we were ready to accept it. We also had a box of small odds and ends (kids arts and crafts supplies, paper goods, small items) that we gave away for free. Kids liked looking through the box, which kept their parents looking at what we were selling. There was also a girl scout leader and a couple of grandmothers who appreciated the free items. At the end of the day we gave several books away to kids who seemed happy to get them.
The point of packing everything in the car and taking it to the sale was to get rid of things. We tried not to put much stock in our own opinion of how much a thing was worth. Something is worth what someone is willing and able to pay for it.
When the sale was done we had more than $100 (after deducting the $40 we paid to rent the space). You might say that’s less than $10 per hour considering the time it took. But money isn’t the only thing we got. We had some very pleasant conversations with neighbors and old friends. My wife networked with some people in the same line of work. We bought a couple items at very good prices.
One consideration was whether we were better off renting a table at the local church, which cost $40 — or should we have held the sale in our own yard, for free? My opinion is that the $40 for the space in the church parking lot was worth it. The church is on a busy corner with lots of traffic. The parking lot full of people and tables overflowing with things for sale certainly attracted attention. We had potential buyers looking at our tables during most of the sale. Our house is on a side street with little traffic. It’s easy to imagine that we would ended up spending lots of time alone waiting for buyers if we’d held a solo sale in our own yard. The people organizing the church yard sale advertised with street signs and online announcements, which we would have had to do ourselves if we held our own sale. Overall, I’m happy to have spent the $40 in order to make > $100. It feels good to convert a lot of stuff we don’t need into money.
For quite a while I’ve wanted a mirror for the bathroom door. I want a real mirror, one made of glass. Not one of the cheap glassless mirrors that are sold at discount stores. But real glass mirrors are expensive, so I’ve had my eyes open. One afternoon, as I was driving through a residential neighborhood, I saw a pile of things on the curb that looked like they were garbage from a bathroom remodeling job. And there was a large glass mirror! It looked like just what I was wanting — and the price was right: free! It was a beveled mirror without any frame that could have been easily mounted on a door. I got out of the car to look at it and soon saw that one edge had a small chip missing, which created some sharp edges. So, it was no good. (Or so I thought.) I left it on the trash pile.
Later, as I got to thinking about it, I realized that the mirror would have been usable if it were possible to cut an inch or so off the edge with the chip. That would result in a mirror with 3 beveled edges and one flat edge. That would be okay, though. I could mount the mirror with the nice beveled edges on the top and sides and the flat edge on the bottom where it would be less noticeable. Question was: would I have to take the mirror to a professional glass cutter? or could I do it myself?
A few minutes on youtube and I had the answer. Several videos showed that DIY glass cutting jobs are easy with a few simple and inexpensive tools. For the cost of a gass cutting tool (which is far less than the cost of a mirror), I could have a nice mirror for my bathroom door — and I’d have a new tool that I might be able to use sometime in future.
Live and learn.
I’m still looking for a mirror.
One of neighbors moved away, leaving a huge pile of things on the curb in front of her house. I took a look. Saw an old 1960s-era electric clippers hair-cutting set. I didn’t see much point in taking it, as I already have one. But it did contain a pair of scissors that were in very good condition. There was also an old floor lamp, which I didn’t want, but it did have a light bulb in the socket. I took the bulb home and it worked. Scissors and light bulb. Together worth at least a few dollars. Not bad for about 2 minutes work. On an hourly basis, that’s around $100 per hour. That’s why I keep my eyes open.