Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some stats (off topic)

In the new year - ketchup, baking soda, salt, and so much more! What CAN you use potatoes for? Stay tuned!

At the beginning of September, this blog was an assignment. Then it became an obligation. Now it has faded into a comfortable routine. "Oh, it's a new week! Time for a new blog!" If you read this blog, I encourage you to post a comment just to say hello. :)

This blog assignment came with a mandate of post lengths, which I'm pleased to say I fulfilled without conscious thought. Here are the final stats:

5 posts 50-200 words long:

1. Intro - 126
2. Save locally! - 191
3. Avon Bubble Bath - 90
4. Save - 50% off all clothing! - 95
5. Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! - 159

5 posts 200-500 words long:

1. DRANO? Why?! - 243
2. Tip Blitz! - 448
3. Thrifty Living with Bart Philips - 356
4. Thanks Mom! (And Dad, and Grandma...) - 284
5. Readers Respond - PLUS a bonus website! - 230
6. Attitude (OFF TOPIC) - 488
8. Student Bottomless Passes!!! - 255
9. Mother Nature Saves City Lots of Money - 247
10. Cheap ways to de-stress! - 406

5 posts 500+ words long:

1. Stain Removal! - 794
2. Ink on Suede; Salt - 597
3. It's Clothes that Make the Professional? (OFF TOPIC) - 606
4. Buyer Beware - of Flimsy Coffee Tumblers! - 615
5. My (So-Far) Adventures in a Blogging Wonderland - 936
6. The Great "Used" Debate - 818

I won't count this post, or future posts, but expect this to remain a 'scrapbook' of the information I find pertinent to savings! Feel free to contribute your own tips!

And thank you for sharing the opening scenes of this adventure with me. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Great 'Used' Debate (795 words)

Well, so much for wanting to get an amazing steal of a deal on a laptop. Instead, for $971.00, I got a free case, a laptop with independent graphics processing, and a 2-year warranty that covers acts of God (i.e.: fires and floods, etc.) as well as my own negligence. I actually do think it was money well spent. I guess I'll just have to be extra-thrifty elsewhere. Like used books, perhaps.

I've always been into used bookstores. One of my favourite stops on Hwy 10 up to Riding Mountain National Park is a store that used to be called Poor Michael's Bookshop in the little town of Onanole (I don't know if it still is, but that's how I refer to it). It's evolved over the years and now has a sort of arts/crafts angle as well as a cafe, but it still stocks a mighty selection of second-hand books and magazines, and my family has stopped there to browse and buy for almost two decades. More recently, I discovered the many used bookstores in Winnipeg and throughout my university years I was a faithful fixture in most of them, both to sell and to buy.

Now, though, I find myself largely on the buying end of things unless I'm looking for a specific out-of-print edition or volume. I've found there's something special about being the first person to own a glossy new book. And as an aspiring author myself, I can appreciate that if I buy a book I enjoy very much, the hard-working author has not gotten a cent out of my enjoyment - something to which they're probably entitled as a result of having worked so hard to produce, then market to publishing houses, then revise said book. It's not an easy process! Surely the creator deserves some reward for having taken so much time out of his/her life to create.

The same, then, holds true for music. Songwriters and performers spend long hours each day on their crafts. If I buy a CD second-hand (something I did more frequently before realizing that the quality is often suspect) or download music from the Internet (I think I can count on one hand the times I have actually done this, since music files take up too much space on my drives and I don't own an iPod), the creator doesn't get anything for my enjoyment of his/her work. Yes, the record companies might have ridiculously unfair contracts which limit said artists to make but pittances off of their own creations, but if I don't purchase the music, the artist doesn't even get that pittance. For the record, I don't know that I'm entitled to comment, since I have never seen a recording contract first-hand. But it still stands that if I'm not paying, they're not receiving.

I think there's less of an argument for second-hand clothing cutting off the creator. I'm pretty sure that for your generic Old Navy or Suzy Shier or what have you, the garment designers are in-house and getting paid like graphic designers do. Besides that, the garments are made en-masse, not by the designers but by sewing machine operators, mostly in countries far from the company's retail outlets and making far less than the minimum wage in the company's client locales. Unlike the writing of a book or the composing of an album, the making of your average pair of jeans or t-shirt is very far removed from an art. It's a process, unless we are talking about one-of-a-kind designer items - and even here I find it hard to justify a $4,000.00 purse. I think if the designer has been paid the $4,000.00 once for that purse, that also pays in full for the other 40 people who may subsequently (and hopefully all legally) acquire said purse in the future - and for $4,000.00 it should last through the next 40 owners!!! (The pricey Bally keychain in the photograph, found by fellow blogger Rachel for a price of $2.00, actually retails for more than $2,000.00!)

And those are just the three things that I most often buy second-hand. There's a whole second-hand world out there - appliances, cars, furniture, dishes, pet toys (eugh...)... I think these are the three most important things to remember about second-hand stuff:

1) It does save the environment some stress - if there was no way to acquire cast-offs that previous owners didn't want, everything would just go to landfills!

2) It saves your pocket - if someone else has already used it, it's not in the pristine condition for which someone paid full price, therefore of course it's cheaper in order to compensate for that.

And 3) Sometimes (as in when I bought a disappointingly beyond-repair copy of Metallica's recording with the San Francisco Symphony, or a shockingly unravel-ly sweater from a second-hand clothing store) you really do get what you pay for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tweet tweet! (off topic)

There are 25 people following @DanielleConolly on Twitter. I feel so loved!

When Twitter first appeared, I had no idea what it could possibly do for me. Ditto Facebook. Why on earth would I want to spend all my time reading inane messages from people I already talk to anyway?

Was I ever wrong!

Not only am I enjoying tweets from classmates, ranging from "im so lost, this is scary" to "Hello to all, I'm part of the Twitter word!", but I'm also 'following' people I never thought I could have 'conversations' with, such as Jian Ghomeshi and George Stromboulopoulos. I can't even begin to describe the joy of reconnecting with former classmates and out-of-town family via Facebook. And the possibilities of connecting with other amazing people -- professionals in my desired field(s) of employment; humanitarians I admire; future employers; etc. -- are almost endless.

So - hi everyone! Welcome to my Twitter feed! Let's hope for minimal spam.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mother Nature Saves City Lots of Money

Are you wondering where the snow is?

So are Winnipeg's seasonal equipment operators - the people who drive our city's dump trucks and snowplows during winter. Usually, Winnipeg would have had one or two large snowfalls by now, and certainly much colder weather than we're currently experiencing. There's a picture of me at age 1 sitting on my parents' front yard, on a snowdrift half the height of their garage door....it was taken on Remembrance Day 1986.

This month, Mother Nature seems to have decided that Winnipeggers deserve a break. We're saving energy, because we don't need to exert ourselves to shovel, keep upright, or simply stay warm on freezing, icy streets. We're saving on our heating bills because we haven't yet had to set our furnaces to max power. And the city doesn't have plow crews out on the streets because, well, there's no snow.

Anybody who spends their time primarily outdoors must be feeling relieved. The Downtown Biz foot patrols are likely enjoying the decreased risk of frostbite, as are people who commute by walking, cycling, or buses that don't arrive on time/often enough. I can't say I mind the unseasonably warm weather either; it means slightly more comfort for those who don't have a safe, warm roof over their heads on a regular basis. Only slightly more - the temperature is dropping below 0C during nights.

But for now - thank you, Mother Nature, for saving us a little bit of energy and warmth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sale: 50% off all clothing!

If vintage/secondhand shopping is your thing, don't miss Value Village's sale! TODAY-ONLY: 50% off all SECONDHAND clothing! This includes shoes and 'accessories' (which I'm guessing are things like jewellery and scarves and mitts, but don't quote me). There are 4 VVs in the city: 1560 Regent, 1729 Pembina, 942 Jefferson, and 1695 Ellice. You've got from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. today, so don't miss it!

I think I'm going to make a serious attempt to replace a pair of jeans that I loved, which were recently overcome by large holes at the knees. :(

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cheap ways to de-stress!

It's almost midway through November, and I find myself tearing out of the house, hair slightly more unkempt than usual, just-printed-and-stapled assignments trailing from my bookbag like streamers. There are bags under my eyes, my computer laughs maniacally at my attempts to get it to do as I wish, and I don't remember what I ate for breakfast. Is anyone else in the same boat?

As students, there's a lot of stress in our lives right now as we try to recall and apply everything that our brains are soaking up in class. We've also made school a priority over working, so we don't have unlimited funds at our disposal. How can we calm down without breaking the bank? Because the beer does add up, guys.

1. Go for a walk! Or a run, or a bike ride, or go rollerblading...half an hour of exercise can get those endorphins pumping and burn away stress as well as calories. (I need to do some more of this, myself!)

2. Have a bath. Sure, showers are the only option when you're pressed for time, but a nice hot soak in the bathtub will loosen up tense muscles. Add some scented bubble bath (guys, I'm talking to you) to truly pamper yourself.

3. Make yourself a nice cup of tea. Coffee and hot chocolate both contain amounts of caffeine that can actually rev up your system and make you feel more stressed. Decaffeinated or herbal teas, on the other hand, don't contain caffeine and can help you feel relaxed. Some teas can even help with insomnia. A personal favourite of mine is chamomile tea - no matter what I'm going through, a cup of chamomile tea will calm me down.

4. Do something other than stare at a screen before going to bed. Scientific research shows that looking at computer or TV screens before going to bed actually makes it harder for you to fall asleep! If you want to increase your chances of getting a good night's shut-eye as soon as your head hits the pillow, turn off those screens and read a book, or the newspaper. Maybe do some journal writing. Whatever slows down your pace at the end of the day - and oh, your iPhone screen counts too!

These are just a few suggestions. Feel free to share your own! Let's get through the next month of CreComm adventures as calmly as possible! (Ha, ha!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Student Bottomless Passes!!!

Image of '09-'10 programming gratefully borrowed from the WSO's website.

You love the sweeping scores on movie soundtracks. You're smitten when the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra accompanies your favourite ballet piece (Moulin Rouge, anyone?). You'd love to attend a few symphony shows...but with tickets costing as much as $60 for a single show (yes, even for students), what's a student to do?

Luckily, the wise people at the WSO have realized that attending classes, studying for exams, and furiously procrastinating on assignments can leave us without much time to earn money for "extras." They present the Student Bottomless Pass, the opportunity to view as many shows as you want in a given twelve-month period, for only $75 per pass. You have to pick up the tickets yourself, but this is a small drawback since once you've purchased the tickets, the WSO will find you the best available seats in the house. And if you hate attending alone, you'll like this last part: bring a friend - your mother, your great-uncle, your boyfriend, your wife's great-uncle - and pay only $10 for the friend's ticket. The friend does not also have to be a student.

(This is the point at which my mother said to me "I could have been attending for $10 a pop the whole time you were in University!" Sorry, mom.)

So if gorgeous classical music is your thing, here's an inexpensive way to get the thrilling orchestral experience. And kudos to the WSO for a smart campaign to hook future listeners now, so that they'll want to pay full prices when they graduate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My (so-far) Adventures in a Blogging Wonderland

"They've got nothing on blogging." (Thanks to Julitofranco for donating this to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil...BLOG! I hesitantly enter this anything-goes world of instant publication.


I’m a pack rat. It has to be said. I have a binder full of papers I hope might one day be ‘useful’ – bits of information on how to save money on X by substituting Y or trying Z. I also have numerous other papers stuck to my refrigerator and pinned to a cork board. And I have books and magazines, also full of great tips. But is any of it in a location/position to help me or anyone else? Not really.


Enter first-year P.R. class in Creative Communications at Red River College. Write a blog, says instructor extraordinaire Melanie Lee Lockhart. Pick a topic that interests you and might interest others, and update it at least once a week with posts of varying length.

No problem, I thought. I have years’ worth of material on how you can save yourself from huge dry-cleaning bills, carpet stains, expensive cleaning chemicals, and culinary disasters. Why not package it as a ‘thrift’ blog? The theme of saving money is always popular! Not to mention that a blog is a nice cost-free way to organize all these scraps and book hints lying around. Pick a ‘subject of the day’, ‘research’ through all my material, hit “Publish” and – VOILA! Organization at its finest.


It’s really not that simple. I have tons of ideas for what to do with the blog, but some are far more complex than can be dealt with in a week – hence they get pushed to the back of the pile in favour of faster posts that can meet the weekly deadlines. Suddenly I feel I can’t deliver on topics I think are important: which stores offer student discounts, how to get the best deals on laptops, the wonders that are secondhand clothing stores. And another thing, just as important as content, is AUDIENCE.


Originally I thought to myself – here I am, just another blogger, why would anyone care? How do I generate more interest? I can have the most relevant information ever, but if I can’t interest people in it, I am lost. Once I started envisioning this blog, it became a sort of forum where people could exchange helpful tips, coupons, and garage sale announcements. It still can be, right? I just need the people.


Step 1: Tell people. Shout to your classmates and instructors and other students in the hallways “I have a BLOG! About thriftiness!” Maybe practice “thriftiness” in the mirror a few times before you attempt this step. Add classmates’ blogs to your blog. Once you show up as a follower of their blogs, they’ll want to know who the weird girl in the ‘Story of the Year’ shirt is, and maybe they’ll like what they read once they arrive at your blog.

Step 2: Show people. Paste the link to your blog into all your chat room names so that either accidentally or on purpose, people will be encouraged to click on it. Add the link to your email signature so that everyone you contact via email gets a dose of your blog. Mention all your blog posts on Twitter and feature a link to the blog on Facebook (which I will do once I get around to joining these sites, Scout’s honour!).

Step 3: Tell more people. Mention to clerks at discount stores that you want to feature their location on your blog, and write down the link for them. People will take interest in your blog if they know the information is connected to them in some way. Let your relatives know what you’re blogging about and encourage them to contact you if they have relevant information – make the blog work for them and they’ll be more interested in it.

Step 4: This one’s still in the works for me, but it’s also important. Find other bloggers who share an interest in thriftiness and link to them. Hopefully, they’ll link back, eventually growing that forum I so naively hoped for when I began to blog.

When I feel uninspired to write in the blog, it’s usually because there’s a topic I feel passionate about, but it doesn’t relate to the subject of ‘Thrift.’ I’ll attempt to find some connection between the two, but if I can’t, often I’ll scribble down my ideas somewhere else and neglect the blog. Such is the way of a narrow focus – cluttering the blog with too many “Off-topic” posts will look unfocused and unprofessional. One possible solution might be to have TWO blogs, but then my blogging focus would always be divided. Better to stick with the one blog and keep the off-topic posts to a minimum.


The solution to my blog confusion is to PLAN. Make a list of topics to put in the blog, put them all in a hat, and draw them out one by one, assigning each one to a particular week. This way an entire month’s worth of blog posts can be planned out ahead of time. Longer topics can be re-arranged to the end of months to allow for advance research. And along with the ‘marketing’ strategies – PRESTO! You have a happy, organized, forum-style blog.

Well…we’ll see how it goes. =D

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Avon Bubble Bath: Get Your Money's Worth

Some uses I've found for Avon's bubble bath (after this, do you really want to use it in your bathwater?):

* clean light fixtures, glass, and china

*wash appliances

* wash plants (?), use as plant fertilizer

* remove grease stains from clothes or upholstery

* clean eyeglasses

* clean jewelry

* wash your pets

* wash clothes/cars/drapes

* wash walls/ceilings/cupboards

Wow! Just one purchase can do that many things....almost too good to be true. I might need to order some and try it...but there are so many different kinds...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

ATTENTION STUDENTS! The Textbook Comfort Index

My friend Bryan McIntosh and I came up with this important textbook rating system when we were both undergrad students at the University of Winnipeg (I was an English student, he a Physics student). I'm reposting it here to help you all estimate the TRUE value of our Photoshop CS4 textbook (haha! kidding), as well as any other textbooks you may have encountered.


Most reviewers out there rate textbooks based on criteria such as completeness of information, supplementary materials, organization, readability, and all that other boring stuff. We've decided to create a new way of reviewing textbooks based on what students REALLY care about: how comfortable the damn thing is when you're so bored and exhausted you pass out on it.
We present:

THE CONOLLY/McINTOSH TEXTBOOK COMFORT INDEX (TCI for all you abbrev. fanatics out there)

We rank textbooks from 1-5 on the following essential variables:

--when push comes to shove and your head hits the book, you're gonna get a rude awakening you don't deserve unless your text performs well here.

A score of 5: The cover is padded.
A score of 1: The cover feels like a spike-studded cement brick.

--forget Bounty: the quicker picker-upper, your text should be able to withstand anything from the pen you dropped to the glass of coffee you knocked over.

A score of 5: It stops floodwaters.
A score of 1: It leaked when you removed its packaging.

--a thicker book decreases the angle of the neck to make for a more comfortable "study break."

A score of 5: IT'S OMG XBOX HUGE!!11!
A score of 1: It disappears if turned sideways.

--Textbooks can be used as weapons by the clever student...if they're dangerous enough.

A score of 5: It requires a permit and government certification.
A score of 1: It won't even give you a papercut.

--it's one thing if the cover's all cushy, but what if you're bored to sleep while the book's open?

A score of 5: The paper is aloe-infused.
A score of 1: It can be used to sand your deck.

--if it's this comfy, you're gonna wanna take it everywhere to...ah...study hard. But
can you?

A score of 5: So easy to carry, you forget it's there.
A score of 1: It digs into your spine like an alien parasite while being carried.

--because you can't study what you can't look at...

A score of 5: It stops traffic...AND gets more dates than you do.
A score of 1: It's gaudier than Cher.

So how do your textbooks rate? Let us know, chances are you might see us in one of your classes if your book rates really well...and if you don't, we're probably in the library, fast asleep on top of it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buyer Beware...of flimsy coffee tumblers!

A newspaper will take two months to decompose in a landfill. A paper coffee cup? will take 20 years. Add to that a report from Reuters' website that about 28 billion paper cups are discarded every year in the U.S. alone...that cup-a-day sure adds up fast. So what's a student to do?

Students looking for a more durable and/or environmentally friendly solution can turn to a coffee tumbler, but some tumblers don't perform all that much better than the paper counterpart. In a random sampling of 10 students carrying coffee mugs, 70% said they’d like a tumbler that doesn’t leak and keeps coffee hot for a longer period of time. So which tumblers can keep up with the rigours of student life? Erika, Sara, Greg, Mike, and I decided we had to know.

Each group member purchased a coffee tumbler from one of five different locations: Starbucks (Starbucks brand, $21.99), Tim Hortons (Tim Hortons brand, $4.69), Sears (Arcosteel brand, $9.99), Superstore (Home Presence brand. $14.99), and Dollarama (no brand/Dollarama brand, $1.25). We did secondary research to find similar experiments, and designed a series of primary research tests that we thought would mimic the 'everyday life' of a student's coffee tumbler.
The tumblers first went through a series of leak tests, being shaken from side-to-side, upside down, and then in every direction in a "crazy shake" test. This was to simulate what might happen to a tumbler that was put in a backpack, or the water-bottle holder of a bike, or just held while someone was running up stairs or for the bus. The results? Dollarama didn't have a cover for the mouthpiece and leaked; Sears had a cover but was still pretty leaky; Tim Hortons, Superstore, and Starbucks did pretty well, with Superstore the winner (we thought we saw a few drops for the Starbucks and Tim Hortons tumblers).

Second were the temperature tests: freshly boiled water was poured into the tumblers, which were left standing at room temperature. Then the tumblers were emptied, more freshly boiled water was added, and the tumblers were placed in a freezer at a constant temperature of -17 C (-1 F). At the end of each of these tests, only two tumblers remained in Starbucks' acceptable temperature range (150-170 F): the Starbucks tumbler and the Superstore tumbler. We judged the Superstore tumbler to be the winner because a thin layer of ice formed on the Starbucks tumbler - probably not too comfy for cold hands in the winter. (The "safe temperature range" is for health reasons - any lower and bacteria could start to grow if milk products were added; any higher, and the coffee might be too hot to drink safely)

Third were the 'drop' tests - to simulate what would happen to the tumblers if someone slipped on the ice or tripped on the stairs. The first test, from standing height, had surprising results. The Sears tumbler lost its plastic bottom piece and lid; Dollarama lost its lid; Tim Hortons didn't lose its lid but cracked down the side; Superstore's lid partially came off though it lost no water; Starbucks was fine. After the stair test, Dollarama and Sears had the same results, except that Sears' bottom piece cracked in two; Starbucks and Superstore were fine.

The final recommendation? Starbucks keeps the coffee slightly warmer (difference of about 9 degrees), but for $7 less, the Superstore tumbler's results were just as acceptable, and so this is the tumbler we declared the winner. Here is a picture of the winning tumbler, the "Eclipse Travel Mug" from Superstore.

(Unfortunately, some coffee tumblers were harmed over the course of this experiment. However, much fun was had by all group members!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Clothes that Make the Professional? (OFF TOPIC!)

I guess this is off-topic week here at Thrift Odyssey, while I try to do some research on replacing my near-defunct laptop (so that I'll have something to post that's more relevant to the blog theme!). In the meantime, here's a post inspired by a discussion with my brother.

Waiting for a bus one day, I saw a young woman approaching. She wore a pair of those fashionable aviator shades, reasonable heels, run-free hose, a nice black skirt and shirt and a business blazer; her hair was impeccable. As she walked by me I thought, "That is a very professional look."

Until I saw the back of the knee-length skirt, that is. The slit ran nearly the full length of the skirt, threatening to turn into a wardrobe malfunction. She continued along the sidewalk and I was left with a different impression entirely: "Now that just tears down how professional the outfit is."

With outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, people have become used to increased freedom of expression, true. But regardless of how others perceive you based on your online presence, your physical presence still counts for a lot. For example, I know my frizzy hair is a going concern because, just like that skirt, it subconsciously suggests to other people that I do not put a lot of thought into how others assess my appearance. And if I'm not taking care of myself, would a reasonable employer believe that I would take care of their business? For good or ill, first impressions still count for so much, and standards still exist for what constitutes a professional appearance and what does not. Is it shallow? Maybe. Is it fair? Maybe not. Is it a reality? Definitely, and even if no one says anything outright to the lady in the skirt, that skirt is changing the way people think about her.

As students, whether or not we are working while at school, the idea of professionalism is nothing new. In my first few days at Red River College, I was bombarded with messages about my professional career having started on orientation day, and how I should treat my time here as though it is a job. Should I, then, be dressing as though I am showing up to a high-profile job rather than appearing haggard, water bottle in hand, at the door of a classroom, wearing ratty jeans and sneakers?

My brother, a student at the University of Manitoba, disagrees. "I'm for a more relaxed dress code, where you should wear a reasonable amount of clothing and have nothing offensive," he told me. He suggests that comfort and professionalism should be able to meet in the middle, with no one needing to wear a full suit or starched blazer everyday but at the same time understanding that unwashed hair and shirts full of holes are unacceptable. "I don't think a professional style of dress begets a professional attitude or a professional anything else," he said. "Sure, it can encourage such [an] attitude, but it certainly doesn't preclude one."

Some workplaces try for a balance. One of my previous employers permitted jeans and t-shirts (though without words of any kind) to be worn on Fridays; another company I've heard of has a Pyjama Day on which bathrobes, fuzzy slippers, and tasteful flannel duds are permitted. The argument here, as my brother puts it, is that " it keeps the atmosphere light, which [employees] work very well in."

While the issue of dress codes is still up for debate, one thing remains certain - appearance is among the most important things on which a first impression is based.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Attitude (OFF TOPIC)

I think this is important, so I've 'reprinted' it from a personal journal that I keep. It's an issue that's close to my heart, you could say, so I feel it's safe for me to veer a bit off-topic and share it with you.

I have this mug that says "Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference." I have to agree, especially after one day last week, when I ran into a girl I went to university with. I remember the two of us attending a symposium on the environment when we were in second-year political science courses together. But where she is now successfully working for the government, I am still trying to get an article on the environment published in the campus paper (so far, without success. It really is hard to get published! Well, at least if you're me.)

I'm finding myself a bit discouraged. Here I've quit a full-time job with the idea that "This is where I want to go in life, and where I'm meant to go in life" and there are so many small roadblocks surreptitiously piling into a haystack. And while I'm perfectly well aware that the universe can only bend so far over backwards for any one person, that doesn't mean I'm going to greet every disappointment with an, "Aw shucks, another one? Rejection just makes my day!"

Or should I? How else will I learn? If no one points this stuff out to me now while I'm still on training ground, do I really want to be dismissed for it later on in life? I want to be able to land on the padded stuff a few times before I actually have to skydive out of the plane. But that's the difference, isn't it? Attitude. If my attitude is ruled by fear, I take tiny steps and don't really get anywhere. The attitude of the former classmate I saw is ruled by confidence, and so she happily steps into the unknown, relying on herself and her ability to network in order to get her through the tough spots. And, of course, allowing herself to make mistakes without self-flagellation afterwards.

I guess that's key. I have to admit to myself right now that I cannot and should not take myself so seriously. Inevitably I will screw up, but as long as that screwing up helps me to catch on, I can recover from my falls - if fans can forgive Kanye West and Serena Williams, surely I can be forgiven if/when I hit the wrong button during a board-op session, or stumble out of the gate instead of performing with flying colours on my first journalism assignments. I know it's not the end of the world, I'm not saving babies here. I just need to have a little faith in myself - and apply a LOT of elbow grease.

Comments, criticism, and "stop whining" all accepted!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ink on Suede; Salt

So far, the only tip I've found for removing ink stains from suede: "dry-cleaning solvent." This concerns me. Not only are dry-cleaning chemicals dangerous to the environment and probably not the safest things to keep around the home (should one be able to acquire them), they also probably aren't that cheap, either. I notice that the sites recommending "dry-cleaning solvent" don't suggest how to buy it, and they all caution that anyone attempting to remove the stain in this way should 'test on an underside seam' first. Definitely doesn't inspire confidence. If I manage to get ink on a suede purse or pair of shoes, I wonder if the eco-friendly Dollar-Wise drycleaners' outfit might have a solution for me. I'd wander down and see. Jasmine has also recommended Norwex cleaning products - if you already have them or are desperate to remedy the spill, you might want to try them out.

Did anyone take part in/enjoy the Free Weekend? I was looking for a computer monitor but didn't find one with the sort of cable I required. Ah well.

My mother surprised me this weekend with a 3-pack of coil bound books, each claiming to have "Over 100 helpful household hints" on how to use three ordinary products: baking soda, vinegar, and salt. Tracey would no doubt have a few choice words for the cover designs of these books, but the hints contained within are pure gold.

"Make your life easier with salt!" the blue book declares (its companions are also present in the primary colours red and yellow, to complete the set). Christine Halvorson, the salt book's author, claims that among other uses, salt can be used to remove sticky spills from the oven - before you need to resort to that highly toxic oven cleaner. Just "sprinkle the sticky area with salt, let it sit until spilled area becomes crisp, then lift off with a spatula when oven cools." Yay! The book also recommends removing fabric stains by rubbing salt onto the fresh stain, soaking overnight in milk, then washing 'as usual.'

The book also suggests avoiding frosty car windows in the mornings by rubbing them with a saltwater-soaked sponge in the evenings. If only that worked...I suspect the inconveniently low temperatures in Winnipeg will just turn the saltwater into another layer of ice to remove, if tried after mid-October.

Enough...for now...about books. I do love easy home remedies for things like oven-cleaning (have you read the disclaimers/poisoning warnings/instructions on those aerosol cans? That stuff is frightening) and stain removal, and drain unclogging, but what I'd really like to know is how to get the most computer for my money. I've had a lot of trouble with my laptop lately (it's 9 years old and was free, so I guess I got what I paid for!) and have accepted I'll have to shell out SOME money. But how much? And what will I get for what money I do need to shell out? I usually cave and fork over more than I should for purposes of ending the frustration of the chase...but this blog IS about my need to develop thriftier habits. If that needs to start anywhere, it's with a purchase as expensive as the computer! Especially since this current computer I have has: randomly disconnected me from the Internet; restarted in the middle of important homework assignments; recently informed me it doesn't have sufficient drive space to house anything manufactured by Adobe; and doesn't recognize my digital camera, hence it's been impossible for me to add to this blog any photos I've taken.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stain Removal!

Before we begin, as a shoutout to Kenton Larsen: Get-rich-quick ideas!

Melanie, thanks for helping out a student! Melanie Lee Lockhart, my Public Relations instructor, kindly lent me her copy of Haley's Hints. For anyone who (like me) isn't familiar with Rosemary and Graham Haley, they're the authors of a book (and Graham is the host of a TV series) detailing a wide range of helpful solutions for common problems - all using items many people have on hand at home. I'm jumping into the middle, since stain-removing tips start at about page 94 in the book, but with chapters like "Kitchen Magic" and "Laundry Day Helpers" this book will get revisited! (You can all hold me accountable to return it to Melanie!)

And now...stain removal solutions that work!

P. 111: Remove chewing gum: "Hold an ice cube against the chewing gum until it hardens. Then chip the gum away." If the item can withstand cold temperatures without breaking, cracking or otherwise coming to harm, I can also recommend putting it in the freezer for about 1o minutes (or more if needed and possible) and then chipping the gum away. Works well on clothing.

P. 109: Cleaning Carpets. A diluted solution of vinegar, soap, and water can help remove stains that weren't found immediately. Wet a cloth with the mixture, hold against the stain for several minutes, then blot dry with a dishcloth. Also remember, when dealing with a liquid spill, DO NOT rub the spill. That will push the spilled liquid further into the carpet. Instead, blot with dry cloths.

P. 94: I wish I'd come across this one sooner! Badly stained tubs: use a scrub brush and a mixture of cream of tartar (a baking ingredient!) and hydrogen peroxide. Other bathtub tips: if you get bathtub ring, it can often be minimized by softening the water - so add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your next bath! "Yellow water stains"? Try making a paste of lemon juice and borax (can also work for toilet cleaning!). What's borax? Look HERE. Bathtub mold? Try scrubbing with vinegar and rinsing with clean water. No dice? Place bleach-soaked rags on the mold-affected area and let sit overnight, then wash off with warm water and liquid detergent. (If the problem is very serious, however, I'd recommend consulting with an expert. Molds can be a health issue.)

P. 95: Porcelain sinks? Fill with hot water and drop in 2 denture tablets! Leave for a while for gleaming sinks! I'd like to add that baking soda helps polish sinks and tubs, not to mention any rusty cutlery or sink/tub spouts! Haley's Hints adds that petroleum jelly keeps shower doors from sticking, and shower rods from rusting. Who knew?

P. 106: Chronic nosebleeds? Papercut led to a stain on your favourite reading chair? Haley's Hints recommends treating blood stains with a paste of cornstarch and water - but NOT for velvet or velour upholstery. If the item is easily and safely soaked in boiling water very soon after it is stained, that's the best way I've found. Popcorn grease stains on the couch after movie night? Sprinkle liberally with salt as soon as the stain occurs, then just brush the salt off once it has absorbed the grease.

P. 114: Scuffed linoleum: Use toothpaste on persistent scuff marks, but try using a rubber (gum) eraser first! If you have any of that 'sticky tack' around - the blue gummy stuff for holding posters on walls without harming paint or paper - it works wonders too!

Other interesting tips from the Haleys that I haven't tried, but gladly will if the occasion arises:
**Clean marks from wallpaper with an eraser OR rye bread!
**Cold tea cleans woodwork!
**Shine brass items with Worcestershire sauce! Or toothpaste, or a lemon-juice-and-salt mixture.

We all know baking soda works wonders as a deodorizer: in the fridge, in the microwave, in the oven...but how about vanilla extract? Vegetarian Times' now-defunct Fridge Notes section supplied this tip as well. More fridge-friendly tips from VT’s March 2008 article “10 ways to green your fridge” by Jacqueline R. Renfrow: "a one-to-one solution of white vinegar and water" for dried-on liquid stains or general cleaning; where an abrasive cleaner is needed: "baking soda and a damp sponge."

Commercials train us to trust that only tough anti-bacterial chemicals can save us from evil bacteria and other nasties. But many such industrial-strength chemicals pose serious hazards themselves. Why not try natural cleaners? They've been around much longer, with good track records and no risk to you, or the environment. Plus, since you've probably got vinegar, baking soda, salt, and lemon juice around anyways, they're cheaper!

The last word is for those pesky red-pen stains on clothing: Hairspray. No, I'm not kidding.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Readers respond - PLUS a bonus website!

Hurray! For your reading pleasure, smart tips provided by other bloggers!

Rachel's shaving-cream secret: I swear by shaving with conditioner, especially the little samples left over in my roommate's hair dye kits. Softest skin I've EVER had, for next to nothing.

Angèle's favourite money-saving card: Another card that's my life saver for a while now is the Student Price Card, always "SPC". It practically pays for itself and is good for a year at so many stores and food places!
(Angèle, did you get yours in the UW student agenda? I don't know that they're available to us at RRC, I'll have to check it out!)

Yvonne's paper-writing fuel of choice is the Falafel Place on Corydon Ave. at Wilton. Sounds like an incredible amount of good food at a student's price! I highly recommed checking out her blog for a detailed description of the full experience.

And last but not least, the Winnipeg Free Press' Reena Nerbas serves up a comprehensive list of home remedies for the home! Check out her website to find out more about her books, and don't miss her column in weekend editions of the newspaper for more great tips! My current favourite: olive oil for doctoring leather furniture. I wonder if it works on shoes...

Coming soon: home stain-removal remedies. I'll post ones that I've tried successfully - unfortunately they haven't all been zingers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thanks Mom! (and Dad, and Grandma...)

"There's nothing left in there!" my father exclaimed upon seeing my mother in the kitchen, extricating the last drop of mayonnaise from the jar with a spatula. "I can't help it," my mother replied, "it's how I was raised!"

My mother's parents were born a scant few years before the Great Depression, and grew up making the best of every little thing they had. She and I have inherited several of these habits, for lack of a better word: saving the crumbs from bags of store-bought bread to make our own bread crumbs, and squirreling away plastic bags that inevitably come in useful 'on a rainy day'. Purchase scrap paper? Forget it! Like mom, I rip up one-sided junk mail for re-use. Campbell's soup labels and stamps from sent mail? Save them for charity! Not to mention an endless array of plastic containers used to hold room-temperature or refrigerated leftovers (but NEVER for reheating!). Unsealed, blank envelopes from greeting cards are also collected for future cards.

Dad has his own stories about growing up with thrifty parents. His mother cut up old flour sacks and sewed them together to make sheets. With seven kids to look after, she made the best of whatever came her way, and I'm amazed to hear about the clever 'second uses' she found for various items. As Dad puts it, "Sustainability and recycling aren't new concepts!"

The next time I see my grandparents (my mother's father and my father's mother), I plan to ask a lot of questions regarding re-use -- the sometimes-forgotten middle member of the three Rs. If you're able to, why not do the same? It'll be a good conversation and might yield some surprising tips!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

teach yourself - thrifty living by Barty Phillips

I found a book with the above title at Chapters - in the 30% off section, no less. I'll post updates from it if anything of special relevance pops up. So far the most unusual thing has been the author's use of the phrase "brood of young" to describe a human family. You definitely don't see that everyday.

From the introductory chapter - Ten Ways to Save Money Now

1. Drink tap water
2. Take a packed lunch to work (or school!)
3. Redeem all the free vouchers languishing in your purse (or on your desk/kitchen counter)
4. Give up smoking
5. Give up your store cards
6. Walk to work/the station/your bus stop
7. Make use of free daily papers on your way to work
8. Switch off your electrical equipment
9. Lengthen the life of your child's felt pens (or of your own felt pens, I presume. The book says to open the bottom of the pen, put a drop or two of vinegar into the ink tube, and shake the pen in order to revive the colour)
10. Make use of your local library

I have a feeling that the book's author, Barty Phillips, is British. It's as much the word use as the numerical savings being listed in pounds sterling that tipped me off, since certain expressions are more common in British English than in American or Canadian. I believe a 'store card' is something like an HBC Mastercard, since Phillips mentions stores charging interest on such cards while appearing to give cardholders a discount on purchases. As for #4, he makes it sound so easy! Maybe there's a teach yourself - quit smoking book by him as well?

And if only we Winnipeggers could take a subway train from 'the station' into the downtown area! Whatever happened to all that money Katz was given for rapid transit? I've heard rumors it went into fixing potholes, but the potholes seem no more fixed than they ever do seem. And now we've been handed another chunk of change from the federal government. I can only imagine where it will end up being spent.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tip Blitz!

Clothing on the Cheap -
Last night I hit up the Regent Ave. Value Village with a friend. For about $25 I obtained a genuine leather wallet and two nice shirts. Not bad, I thought to myself, but at about $6-$8 a shirt, Value Village is actually more expensive than today's BootLegger sale at the St. Vital mall. THREE shirts, at a total cost of $6! Guys, they've got plenty of on-sale men's clothing too. Don't forget to ask if there's a discount for students! Yours truly was way too surprised by the crazy deals to ask if any additional discounts were available.

irewards @ Chapters/Indigo -
I finally signed myself up for an irewards card - something I should have done ages ago since I purchase many more books than I'm willing to admit to myself. The start-up cost is $25 for a year, and entitles a member to 40% off all bestsellers, 10% off all books, and 5% off at chapters.indigo.ca (excluding gift cards). I've already saved $6 on my first purchase. Let's see if it's able to pay for itself! (Answer: considering the purchaser, DEFINITELY) If you buy a lot of books, this might be a good idea, as the membership also applies to their online store and they don't offer any special student discounts.

Shaving cream, the efficient way -
Stacia Franz (click the link to experience her truly wonderful and unique view of her experiences in the restaurant industry) lets us in on how to bypass all those costly and sometimes disappointing shaving creams. I've paraphrased her helpful tip below:

You can get the inexpensive President's Choice body lotion from Superstore, or the cheapest lotion in bulk from Costco. The bottle lasts me a year. I use it as shaving cream, mixed with just a little soap. It foams nicely and the foam lasts. Plus it moisturizes your skin, so you can skip a step by not having to moisturize afterwards - a lot faster!

Thanks Stacia!

And finally, one more way to avoid those chemical-heavy solutions -
If you've bought something new and are concerned about it fading, or you've noticed lately that your fuchsia shirt is turning everything else a faint pink, here's an easy fix: soak the offending item for about 1/2 an hour, in cold water mixed with 3/4 cup pickling salt or vinegar. (I find pickling salt to be more effective but I suspect fewer people will have it on hand) This should help the (remaining) dye bond to the fabric. This is also effective if you've hand-dyed fabric and you want to make sure the colour won't run.

Happy Saturday! As always, comment with tips, questions, concerns.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Save locally!

Winnipeg's First Giveaway Weekend - September 26 & 27, 2009
Yesterday's edition of the Winnipeg Free Press contained an ad for what looks like a city-wide rummage sale. "Gather up all those reusable unwanted items...Place "FREE" stickers on each item, and put them at the curb on your front street. Everyone is invited to cruise the curbs and shop for FREE! Please remove leftover items from the curb by dusk on Sunday", the ad reads.

Contact 311 or visit the city's website for more information. I'll try to have a picture of the ad uploaded later on today.

Student Electronics Savings at Henry's
In the Free Press this morning - Henry's Student Savings Event features Nikon cameras, and mentions a Henry's Student Discount Card. More details can be found at http://www.henrys.com/student, or either of their two locations: 1580 Kenaston Blvd. or 1592 Regent Ave. While the two camera models featured in the ad are priced at savings of $30 (the D60 Digital SLR) and $10 (the Nikon Coolpix L20), the prices for accessories have been quite significantly dropped - a half-price gear bag and discounted telephoto lens are among these items.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DRANO? Why?!

Here's a handy trick that's new to me, but familiar to at least two of my friends. I found it in the January/February 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times, which used to have a one-page section at the back called "Fridge Notes." If you need to UNCLOG A DRAIN, don't purchase all those fancy chemicals. Try this first! Unless your problem requires a plumber, this should work for you. (I have rephrased VT's instructions to reflect my own experience)

1. Pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of salt into the drain. (Key: make sure it actually gets INTO the drain, not just on top of the drain i.e. still in the sink bowl.)

2. Add one cup of vinegar and watch the fireworks! This will bubble and sizzle, perhaps for several minutes depending on how much the drain is clogged.

3. After waiting several minutes, add approximately one cup of boiling water. You may need more, depending how long it takes for what you've added to completely exit the drain.

This not only clears a drain, but also scours it due to the abrasive nature of the baking soda. Your drain will be unclogged, clean, and smell like...well, vinegar and baking soda, but that's not the end of the world! Best of all, you haven't used any dangerous chemicals.

Pass it on! And if you have any additional feedback/tips about this or any other drain-unclogging methods, please comment and share them!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Intro Post!

Hi! I'm Danielle Conolly, a first-year communications student at Red River College, trying to curb some financially unhealthy spending habits. I'm deeply interested in ways that students can find discounts and other money-saving tips. Of course, if I stumble across a juicy discount secret for those not slogging away in the wilds of academia, I'll document it here as well. (And should I find something interesting and entirely off-topic, it may appear...but I promise to warn you first!)

I'm certainly not yet an authority on how and where to get the best deals, but I intend to vastly improve upon my current knowledge, and to take anyone who's curious along for the ride! So, cheesy as it sounds...watch this space for future episodes of Thrift Odyssey!