The last one takes the most amount of work, because you actually have to know how much money you spend. It is also probably the most accurate. I made a quick mashup of our expenditures for the last full year (2017). I put essentials on the left and luxuries on the right. Shelter and food are fundamental in my viewpoint, so they get put all the way to the left. I could have split out Groceries and Eating Out to better characterize them as necessity vs luxury, but I was feeling lazy.
Two major expenses that will be dropping off in the next few years will be Childcare and Education/Tuition. The Misc. (pink) category is a catch-all and contains some fat that could be cut out.
Finally, you might notice that I put College Savings all the way to the right, indicating that it is the most cuttable budget item. Let’s be frank. Any parental financial assistance is a bonus. Our goal is to cover all costs after scholarships but if they need to take a loan that’s fine too.
Last year or maybe it was the year before that I snagged an old wheelbarrow that my neighbor was throwing out. The bucket was in fine shape, but the handles had seen better days.
A new wheelbarrow costs around $50. I bought some steel replacement handles for $14.
I could have gone cheaper with some $8 wood handles, but I figured that the steel handles would outlast everything else. Our garage is tight on space, so this cheapo wheelbarrow lives outside all year long in our garden.
Shae and I strive to impart a love for reading in our children. As such, books are one of the primary activity areas in our house (the other is a Lego table).
Unfortunately, kids are pretty awful at picking up and neatly shelving books when they are finished.
I’ve watched both Frugal Boy and Frugal Girl grab the bottom most book and yank it out causing everything on top to come avalanching out. We have neatly arranged the books standing upright with the spines facing out and less than 24 hours later it looks like the above picture again.
The problem was simple. There were too many books and they were not visible enough. A little kid wants to see the front cover of a book. That is how they judge it! The title and author on the spine mean very little to them.
So I started looking around the internet for ideas on how to corral the bookalanche and make it a better experience for everyone. I really liked Simple Families method.
It is simple, practical, and easy! What’s not to love?!
First I looked at clear plastic folder holders like this, but they are $8-12 each and only hold one or two books at most without stacking them two or more deep (which utterly defeats the purpose).
There are some smaller, cheaper options like this sling rack. It measures 24″ x 24″.
I couldn’t help but think that I could build something myself. Thankfully, Ana White already did the heavy lifting by publishing some plans for a book or magazine ladder shelf (link here). I’ve used her plans before when I built a changing table.
For about $35 worth of materials, I was able to build a custom sized piece to exactly fit the intended space. 48″x48″.
I assembled it in the garage.
You may be able to scrounge up the materials from leftovers of other projects.
I brought it inside to test it out with the kids. They seemed to respond very well to it.
It is important to note that the unit leans against the wall and ultimately has to be fastened to the wall to keep it from tipping over. I used a 10° angle on the feet per the original instructions. Ana recommended in a note afterwards that 5° might be more appropriate. However, I have some networking equipment that I wanted to hide behind it, so I stuck with the original 10°.
Frugal Boy is tall enough to reach the top shelf with ease. We can put one or two of his jigsaw puzzles up there and no longer have to worry about lil sis dumping them out all over.
I finished the project up with two coats of paint that I had.
I didn’t see the need to plaster the bookshelf with bright colored alphabet letters. Maybe it is just me being a miserly old man, but I don’t think every surface in a child’s line of view needs to be a shade of neon bright.
SO MUCH STIMULI
Besides, the emphasis should be placed on the books themselves. I think it really comes back to the Simple Families blog post about teaching children some reverence for books. These are treasures that should be cared for, not dumped into a heap.
So far Frugal Boy has adapted very well to the new system.
How do you manage books in your household? Do traditional bookshelves work or have you tried something else?
I admit that I enjoy playing the mobile game Words with Friends 2 by Zynga but my goodness is it chock full of ads. Banner ads along the top and bottom, full screen interstitial ads after every single turn, and to add insult to injury no way to pay to get rid of ads. No, I do not consider their $10 in-app purchase to remove ads for 30 days at all reasonable. This is Frugal Living, there is a better way!
Seriously?! $10/mo to have an ad free experience. That is as much as my phone bill!
I will show you how to install an ad blocker on your phone or tablet that can not only eliminate ads in Words with Friends, but also every other app including your browser!
There are many different ad blocker apps available on the App and Play stores. I personally chose AdBlock by FutureMind (iOS $2). The important thing to find is one that offers VPN, virtual private network, or DNS, domain name services.
Setting Up AdBlock
There are two ways to utilize AdBlock.
As a Safari (browser) content blocker
As a system wide ad blocker
Both of these can be used at the same time. Here is how to setup #1.
Open the Settings app on your home screen. Scroll down until you see Safari. Click on that and scroll down to “Content Blockers”. Finally switch on AdBlock.
Tada! Safari browsing should be greatly improved. This should also eliminate the ultra annoying hijacking ads that look like this:
Setting up AdBlock to block ads system wide, including inside apps such as Words With Friends, takes a little more work but is still pretty easy.
Open the AdBlock app > Settings
Turn on “Enable DNS Logging”
Exit the AdBlock app and go play some Words With Friends. You will still see ads, but not for long. After you have seen a few ads, exit Words with Friends and return to the AdBlock app > Settings. This time click on “DNS proxy log”.
You will see a long list of URLs that your mobile device has contacted. This includes all of the URLs that the game has contacted including ad servers!
Click on any entry that includes the word “ad” in it.
Then click on “Create Rule”
A list of domains will appear from most specific to most general. DO NOT SELECT A TOP LEVEL DOMAIN such as “com”, as that will block ALL traffic to any website ending in “.com”.
Click on “done” to create the new rule. Apps and games will no longer be able to access the domain that you just selected. If an app breaks or doesn’t work right, then you can undo it by going to AdBlock > Settings > Manage DNS Rules.
After you have done a few you can start to see AdBlock working.
You can see that I did NOT block “wordswithfriends.zyngawithfriends.com” as that would likely break the game. I also did not block non ad servers such as “configuration.apple.com”.
AdBlock occasionally turns off. I think that happens when I move from Wifi to cellular data or vice versa. It is easy to see when the blocker is active because a little “VPN” icon appears in the status bar.
If it does turn off, I just reopen the AdBlock app and it will turn back on again.
I have also discovered that after setting up or turning on AdBlock I do need to force close the ad-laden app and restart it to get the ads filtered out.
In the good news department, I hardly ever see ads in Words with Friends now. If I do, it is usually because the VPN has turned off. Now when I complete a turn the screen goes black with a white spinning wheel in the middle for about half a second and then it returns to the game. The top and bottom banner ads are gone and the entire UI looks much cleaner. Oh, and I’m not spending $10/mo for that privilege.
One final word of caution. While there are many Ad Blockers available, I would recommend sticking with a well known one even if it does cost a bit of money. Preferably pick one that uses DNS filtering. There is a fine line between a useful ad blocker and a malevolent piece of spyware that monitors all of your network traffic.
We broke a 119 year old record yesterday when the mercury recorded at -1 degrees for April 2nd. The cold and accompanying snowfalls had cancelled most of the egg hunts in the area. Our neighborhood had an egg ‘handout’. It was fun, but not as good as the real thing. Frugal Boy and I made a giant snowman and other people accessorized it.
Frugal Boy had Spring Break last week and spent most of it at the grandparents house. He had a fantastic time and even got to visit Lego Land.
Shae, Frugal Girl, and I took advantage of the relative quiet to go out on a date. Frugal Girl really liked the crab tacos.