Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thrifty Tip : Non-Toxic and Inexpensive Carpet Cleaning

I have a carpet cleaner, and I love it.  But I don't love the $8+ price tag for carpet shampoo, especially since it doesn't always deliver results, and some people suggest that using carpet shampoo actually leaves your carpet MORE dirty in the long run as it turns the fibers into sticky little dirt magnets.  So, what to do?

This is where plain old, ordinary white vinegar is a shining star yet again.   Add a cup or so of white vinegar to the water tank of your shampooer and clean the carpet like normal.  No, the vinegar smell in the air will not stay around after the carpet is dry, even though you will smell it a bit while you're working.  If you'd like, you can add a teaspoon or two of dish soap, laundry detergent or even your own shampoo, but don't go crazy as you don't want a lot of suds happening.  You can also add your favorite essential oil for scent or for disinfecting.

Other recipes:

Disinfectant Organic Rug Shampoo

Use this recipe to disinfect your rugs from pet accidents or if it is often walked on while people are wearing shoes. This shampoo can be used in any carpet cleaner.
Mix equal parts vinegar and hot water. This amount varies depending on the size of the carpet you're cleaning and how much liquid the rug shampooers "soap" tank holds.
Add five drops of tea tree, lavender, Eucalyptus or thyme essential oils per eight ounces (one cup) of liquid.
Clean your carpets according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Thorough Carpet Cleaning Instructions and Recipes
( - read all the way down the page for more ideas)

There are five phases to getting your carpet really clean and keeping it looking like new.
  1. A thorough vacuum, preferably with a vacuum that has a beater bar to remove as much dirt, dander, and dust as possible
  2. Lightly pre-spray the carpet with my home-made prepared solution then wait 30 minutes
  3. Shampoo the carpet with my carpet shampoo in the machine
  4. Rinse the carpet with my rinse formula
  5. Make sure you have good ventilation to dry your carpet - open all windows and doors to get good air flow. If you carpet takes too long to dry you can end up with mildew and brown stains, so if it's cold turn on the heater.
Recipe for pre-spray: use an enzyme laundry powder and mix to the ratio as for clothes in cold water. This breaks down grease, dirt and dander.
Recipe for carpet shampoo: Palmolive Green dishwashing liquid (or Cussons or similar - but Palmolive is best) and washing soda (aka Lectic Soda; soda ash; sodium carbonate). The mix is 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid and 1/4 cup soda to 3 gallons (about 11 liters) water. This is where the action is and wow can't you see it in the throw out water.

Recipe for rinse: mix 1/4 cup "white" vinegar per gallon of water (3.7 liters). Cheap white vinegar is perfect. This step is very important as it removes any residue and prevents the brown staining that can occur. The browning happens because the carpet has been over wetted and dissolved dirt in the fibers is drawn to the surface again. The vinegar mix is slightly acidic and prevents this from occurring. It also deodorizes the carpet. Worried about the smell? Don't be, it goes as soon as the carpet is dry.

Because I have so much traffic, muddy paws, dogs lying about on the floor, etc. I do my carpets between 2 to 3 times a year. In between I regularly vacuum (twice a week) and to keep the carpets fresh, monthly I give a generous sprinkle of bicarb soda (aka sodium bicarbonate, baking soda) work into the pile with the beater bar (vacuum turned to nozzle) wait 30 minutes then vacuum. Buy generic home brand - it's the same as the more expensive brands. For a nice smell add 20 - 30 drops of you favorite essential oil and work into 500g before sprinkling.

TIP: place cardboard coasters under any wooden legs of table etc., otherwise the wood will almost irreparably stain your carpet.

Oh, by the way, this mix can be used on upholstery too! But as always check in an inconspicuous area first. Happy Carpet Cleaning! (10/20/2008)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Money Management Part Nine - Retirement Planning

This is a short post.  I will not make any claims to being an investment expert, and you should talk to a professional about retirement and estate planning.  But I didn't want to leave everything hanging with my friends Jack and Jill - I wanted to see them through to the end and find out where they would end up.  So, here is a brief recap of their timeline and a trajectory for their future:

Jack and Jill’s Timeline

June 2010 – bought their house and bought appliances on 18 month no-interest, no-payments plan
June 2011 – Richard gets them to track spending for a month.  (Kids are 2 & 4.)
July 2011 – They collect their credit reports and debt information to understand their financial picture.
August 2011 – Jill starts working from home part-time, and their new budget is implemented.
November 2011 – They worked hard and paid off their furniture account before the interest came due.
December 2011/January 2012 – Jill banked her $500/month for their emergency fund.
December 2012 – They have paid off Line of Credit, MC and Visa by now.
October 2013 – They have paid off Student Loan and Car and are now debt-free aside from their mortgage.
October 2014 – In one year they have banked six months of expenses.  Now they start investing for retirement and college.  (Kids are five and seven.)
January 2015 – They implement a new plan to pay down the mortgage using Jack’s raise.

Let's look at the future...

May 2022 – Their mortgage is paid off, thirteen years early and with over $50,000 interest saved.
June-August 2022 – They celebrate by saving for and enjoying a great family vacation (kids are now 11 and 13).

September 2022 – Now that they are no longer paying $1310.33 on their mortgage every month, they increase retirement investment to $1000/month, and the college accounts to $400/month.   To date, the retirement account currently has $111,360 and the college account has $26,202.  They have $960.33 per month freed up to do wish as they wish.  Their first goal is saving for Jill and the kids to travel to an African orphanage and work their for three months.  Jack will join them for four weeks, using his vacation time from work.  They also start saving for their next car purchase.

September 2027 - $78,618 has accumulated in the college account.  The kids are now 18 & 20.  18-year-old Bobby decides to attend college, while 20-year-old Sue has a small wedding and buys a house.  College is paid for in full with a half-share of $39,309 with plenty to spare.  He decides to take some of the remainder and by a car, which he gets a discount on for paying cash, and to put the rest in the bank for his own emergency fun.  The wedding and house downpayment are covered by the other half.  Way to be free from the start!

Onward to retirement...

December 2045 – Jack is 65.  After investing $1000/month for the last 23 years since the mortgage was paid off, the retirement account now has $2,844,602.  He decides to keep working half-time til age 70.  Cut investment amount to $500/month for five more years.

December 2050.  Merry Christmas, Jack and Jill.  Jack retires at age 70 with $5,053,712 in the retirement investments.  They move the money into an account with 2.25% interest compounded daily.  The interest on the account pays them $108,537 per year without touching the principal, which they excitedly plan to disburse as part of their estate to their children, grandchildren and several charities.

December 2045 – Jack is 65.  Retirement account has $2,844,602.  They move the money into an account with 2.25% interest compounded daily.  The interest on the account pays them $ 61,092 per year without touching the principal.  He supplements this income by working part-time, and with a small pension.

December 2045 – Jack is 65.  Retirement account has $2,844,602.   He stops investing additional money, but leaves the investment active.  The annual interest earned on the investment is $341,352, which even after taxes provides them with a very comfortable living.  (Especially since they have no mortgage or debt.)  They have the time, energy and money to enjoy their growing family, and look forward to an annual family vacation.  They re-invest lump sums on occasion, and have designed their final wishes to ensure their grandchildren’s educations and their children a head-start on their own retirement savings.  (Not that they’ll need it.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recipe : Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

I made these for St. Patrick's Day but didn't get a chance to post the recipe yet.  It's borrowed from here:

I won't call it a cheap recipe by any means, and they do take some time to make - but in the end it's worth the time investment. They were really yummy!  I would like to see the brownie part be a little softer, because I found them a little dry.  But that might just be from them being kept in the fridge for so long, too.  If I make them again I'll try adding a bit of oil or applesauce or something, just to see what that does to the end product.  And the frosting - mix it nice and thick as it needs to support the chocolate on top.  If you have a crazy sweet tooth like me, double the frosting recipe to make a really sweet treat. ;)

Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mint Layer
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1-2 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
a drop or two of green food colouring (optional)

Chocolate Glaze
3 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon butter

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in large saucepan on stove top.
Remove from heat and add sugar, cocoa, and vanilla.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Add flour and baking powder, and stir until batter is smooth.
Stir in nuts.
Spread evenly in a 9-inch square greased pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out 'almost clean'.  (Do not over bake for a moist brownie.)
Remove from oven and cool completely.

For mint layer, ombine softened butter, icing sugar, milk and peppermint extract and beat until smooth.  Add a little more cream if frosting is too thick. (Add green food colouring, if desired).   Spread frosting over cooled brownie base and chill.

To make chocolate glaze, melt chocolate and butter in glass bowl in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  Spread evenly over mint layer and chill for 30 minutes before slicing.

Definitely Kid-Approved!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thrifty Tip : Homemade Citrus Cleaner

This great tip comes from "The American Home" - go check out her blog for lots of great old-fashioned tips, tricks and recipes!

SIMPLE CITRUS CLEANER made from Vinegar & Orange Peelings

Add the clean and washed peelings from 4 oranges to one gallon of white or apple vinegar. Allow the vinegar to sit for 6 weeks. Then strain through a cloth and pour into spray bottles to use for cleaning all through the house. Mopping floors, cleaning woodwork, and cleaning counter tops are just a few of the uses we have found for this homemade cleaner. This cleaner is quite strong for example to mop floors use a 1/2 cup of cleaner with one gallon of warm water! The smell is wonderful and for a few coins you have created enough cleaner to last quite sometime.

HINT: You may use any citrus peelings you have to create this wonderful cleaner.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recipe : Authentic Molasses Cookies

No picture for this recipe... I kept meaning to take one but the cookies kept disappearing.  Go figure.

The recipe comes from here:   This is a gem of a website with a ton of recipes that make me a wee bit nostalgic for home - many of these recipes are common to Nova Scotia as well.  Definitely a site worth spending some time at.

They describe it like this:  "Wafer thin and crisp, these are like no other molasses cookie we've ever had. The dough stores well in the refrigerator and can be sliced and cooked in minutes."  VERY accurate description.  Use Fancy Molasses for a milder flavor, or half Blackstrap Molasses if you want them to be fairly strong.  It's also a really fun recipe to make, if you like watching peculiar chemical reactions taking place in your mixing bowl.  LOL

Authentic Molasses Cookies

1 cup molasses
½ pound butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup sugar
¼ cup hot water
4 cups flour
2 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat the molasses to a boil. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted. Place the sugar in a deep bowl and add soda to the hot water; pour water into the molasses. Pour the molasses mixture into the bowl of sugar and thoroughly mix. Add spices, flour and salt and mix with molasses and sugar. Pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper or waxed paper and refrigerate for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 325.  Remove dough from refrigerator. Remove from loaf pan.  You can cut the dough into thin slices -- or roll out thinly and use cookie cutters. Bake on a non-stick surface, parchment paper, or a greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

Cool on a rack as soon as done.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recipe : Ultra Chocolate Muffins

Based on a recipe from Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving.  I didn't have any chocolate chips so I increased the cocoa to 1/2 cup and they were very chocolatey, great for dessert sprinkled with icing sugar, almost like mini-cakes.  :)

Ultra Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12 regular muffins or 6 jumbo muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vinegar
chocolate chips and/or nuts (optional but yummy)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients.  Add to the dry, and add chips/nuts.  Mix well until blended, but do not overmix.

Pour into greased or paper-lined muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes (more for jumbo muffins).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Money Management Part Eight - Free and Clear

January 2015.  Jack and Jill now have kids who are six and eight years old.  In the last five years they have paid off all their consumer debt, their car and Jack's student loan.  They have established a $1,000 emergency fund in the bank and have over $18,000 in a money market fund that they can access in case of a financial or family crisis.  They have started investing for their retirement and for their kids' education.  Jill is still doing some bookkeeping work from home, bringing in about $500 per month.  And Jack's career is doing well.  He just received a promotion and with it a small raise that brings his income to $67,000 per year, or $5583.33 per month.  He and Jill are discussing what they should do with this extra money.   Jack suggests calling Richard and Jane to come over for a visit.  They've just returned from spending three months on a third-world missions trip, and the friends have been meaning to get together anyway.

"Hey, Richard!"  Jack greets his friend.  "How are things going?"

"Fine, fine, thanks for asking.  And you guys?  How's life treating you?"

"Great!  I just landed a promotion, in fact.  Jill and I were just discussing what we should do with the extra income, and of course your name came up."

"Well, you've been at this for a while now.  What do you think you should do with it?"

"There are a couple of options.  The car is coming on what, seven years old now.  It's soon going to need to be replaced.  We could increase our investing.  We could use it to pay for sports for the kids..."

"Can I make a suggestion?"

"Please do!"

"Throw it at your mortgage.  That's the last thing holding you back from real financial freedom.  You've taken care of everything else - now it's time to take on the dragon.  How much of a raise are you talking about here?"

"$483.33 per month."

"That will make a nice dent.  Remember that spreadsheet we were using for your debt snowball?  Get that out and start punching in numbers, and see if you don't find some motivation."

They chatted a bit longer, than Jack went to find Jill and the spreadsheet.  They sat down together and started filling in numbers, playing out 'what-if' scenarios and coming up with some interesting results.  When Richard and Jane arrived, they jumped right in.

"If we put this whole raise onto your mortgage, and you just continue as you've been...." Richard looked up.  "What other sources of income would you consider throwing against this?"

"Income tax refunds seem like an obvious choice,"  Jack replied.  "I know a lot of my co-workers use that money for RRSPs, but at the rate we're already investing, I'm happier to use it to get us closer to financial freedom."

"Sounds good to me, too."  Richard nodded, filled in some numbers, then brought out his computer.  Now let's take a look at this.  Right now, continuing your mortgage payment according to your contract, you'll have it paid off in April 2035.  And you'll pay a total of $111,849.18 in interest."

"Ouch - that's practically paying for the house twice!"  Jill was surprised.

"Don't I know it," Richard agreed.  "'But let's start doing the math.  We'll assume a $4,000 tax refund each April, plus another $5799.96 each year from Jack's new raise.  That's $9,799.96 paid in a lump on your mortgage each April.  Depending on the terms of your mortgage, you might be able to make extra payments more often, but we'll assume right now that you can only do so once a year."  He put the numbers into the computer.  "Now, take a look at this!"

"Unreal!"  Jack blurted out, amazed.  "We just saved... is that right?  Over $50,000 in interest?"

"Yup.  Not to mention cutting thirteen years off your mortgage.  By this plan, you'll have your house paid off in 2022 - just seven years from now, instead of twenty.  That's harnessing the power of compound interest and putting it to work for you instead of against you.  By steadily reducing the balance, you are slowly and steadily reducing the amount of interest that is accumulating.  You can make this even better if you invest that $483.33 every month in something that will earn you interest, then withdraw the balance in April to pay it onto your mortgage each year.  Every dollar counts!"

"Niiiiiice."  Jack looked thoughtful.  "I wonder what else we could do with this?"

"And what we could do after this!" Jill exclaimed.  "That would free up another $827.00 each month that we could use to crank up the kids' college accounts, to buy a vehicle..."

"Or to be more generous than you've ever been able to be in your life!"  Jane cut in.  "That's the final step on this journey - once you are no longer a slave to debt, and you become master of your money, then you can do the things you've never been able to do before.  Cut your work hours and spend time volunteering.  Make donations to charity that you've always wished you could.  Go on a missions trip.  Adopt sponsored children.  The sky is the limit!"  It was obvious how passionate Jane was, and how much she loved their new, debt-free life.  They still lived simply by some standards, but they had everything they needed, some of what they wanted, and they were free from the stresses that held so many of their friends back from living fully.

"You know what, I think I finally get it," Jack said thoughtfully.  "I had wondered so often what it was that was different about you guys. You always seem so... content.  This is it, isn't it?  You found freedom."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipes : Cracker Pudding

This is another of my grandfather's recipe.   When I was going through Gram's cookbooks, I found a few that were written out in Grampy's writing, on bits of cardboard, backs of envelopes... this is one of them.

Cracker Pudding

2/3 cup soda cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups milk, scalded
1/4 cup melted shortening
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix crumbs, sugar, salt and milk.  Stir in melted shortening and beaten egg yolks.  Add vanilla.  Pour into greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Remove from oven.  Cover with meringue made from egg whites, icing sugar and lemon juice.  Return to oven and bake until browned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Money Management Part Seven - Investing for Future Goals

A year later, Jack and Jill had paid off all their debt except their mortgage, and had accumulated over $18,000 in savings.  Their feeling of freedom was growing by the day, and their financial stress was so much less than it had been just a few years before.  They had been enjoying social times with Richard and Jane through the year, but it was now time for another "official" meeting.  Jill phoned Jane.  "Pizza night tonight?"

"Sounds great - should we bring the books?"  Jane laughed.  "I bet I know what we're going to talk about after supper!"

"You got it.  See you around six?  I'll get the dough together - can you bring some toppings?"

"Sure thing- it's a date.  See you then!"

After supper the kids settled in to enjoy a video together and the adults settled in to work on the next stage of the plan.

"So - what's next?"  Jack asked.  "Where we are today is so far removed from where we started, I know that we should trust whatever you tell us to do!"  Jill nodded in agreement.

"Well this is where it starts to get fun.  We are going to start building some wealth for your future."  Richard laid out a new copy of their budget.  Jack noticed there was a new category added - Investments, $850.00.

"What's this?" Jack asked.

"That is your investment in your future.  Now that you've got no debt, and you've got some comfortable savings, it's time to plan ahead.  First, we get you putting 15% of your income into longer-term investments."  Richard paused.  "Think for a minute.  Five years ago, could you imagine this being possible?"

"No way.  We had too much money tied up in payments and interest.  It would have sounded like a cruel joke if you'd even suggested it."  Jack looked down at the paper and then back up.  "But here you've got it sorted out so it's not just possible, but there's even money left over!"

"Gotta love it, eh?"  Richard sat back in his chair.  "I've got some investment people that I like to work with and they've treated us really well.  I'll hook you up and get you on track.  Something you need to really pay attention to is your rate of return vs inflation, and these guys are great at that sort of thing."

"Return vs inflation?  What difference does that make?"  Jill asked.

"That is something most people don't even think about.  Inflation has averaged about 3% in Canada.  In order to actually come ahead on your investments, your return has to be more than that.  If you're investing at 2%, and inflation is 3%, then you're actually losing 1% on your investments."

"Scary.  Suddenly those so-called high-interest bank accounts out there that are offering up to 3% interest don't sound like such a great deal anymore."  Jill sighed.  "So, what do you recommend?"

"I recommend you get involved with a professional, and I'll get you the name of my guy before we leave tonight.  But in general, look for solid investments that have a long track record of performance.  You don't have money that you can afford to risk losing, so you want to stay away from the investments that might be just a flash in the pan then disappear.  Mutual funds can be a pretty good investment.

Here's something pretty cool I heard today on Dave Ramsey's radio show.  If you start at age thirty, investing $600.00 every month until age seventy, with no panicking.  Have 'Nerves of Steel' he says.  You keep doing that, in an investment with an average annual return of 12%, and you'll have seven million dollars for retirement."

"Wow.  Now that's something."  Jack was impressed.  "Well, I'm not thirty anymore, but we're looking at more than $600, so maybe it will balance out for us in the end.  I'd be happy to see half that much in the bank at retirement!"

"You said it, friend.  I ran the numbers for you on this one - you're 35, and let's assume you work for 30 years and keep up this monthly investment, earning 12% per year.  You'll have $2,644,293 to retire at age 65.  But if you go five more years, you'll nearly double your investment. $4,729,086.  So stay in good shape, eh?"   Richard smiled, sipping on a fresh coffee.  "There's one other thing you need to look at today.  Look at the next line on the budget."

"College.  But they're still little, just five and seven!  We don't need to worry about that now, do we?"  Jill looked uncertain.  "And what if they don't go to college?"

"This is something else for you to discuss with a pro, but you'll be looking for some of the same things.  A good rate of return is key.  Some investments offer matching, but some of those have some wicked fees attached.  You'll want to make an informed decision on this one.  If you want flexibility in what they can use the money for, maybe an RESP isn't the best option.  Look at what's available, and get started.  I put $200 in that spot, but you can increase it later if you get another raise.  If you're wondering, that will give you over $45,000 ten years from now when your first child is ready to talk about college.  $62,000 two years later.  Split that between them, and you've got a good head start on university, or a college education paid for, or a downpayment on a house, or a wedding... you'll be set for whatever path they choose.  And that's assuming you haven't increased those deposits by then."  Richard grinned at Jack.  "I also increased your allowances a bit."

Jack laughed.  "You mean, I can stop taking peanut butter to work every day?"

Additional Reading:
Get Smarter About Money: Investing
Dave Ramsey's Investing Philosophy
Investment Returns

Online Tools:
Bank of Canada's Investment Calculator
Savings & Investment Calculators Canada's Mutual Fund Resources Centre

Investment Options to Consider:
Tax Free Savings Accounts
RRSPs and Related Plans

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poo Free - Homemade Shampoo Recipe

Poo Free - Homemade Shampoo Recipe
by Jill Cooper

Poo Free... Ahhh... I know that sounds strange doesn't it? This really isn't an article on what to do when constipated and I don't feel the urge to write on that subject at all. No, this has to do with shampoo.

Years ago, I mentioned in a post about how I had a great aunt who was about 90 years old and had never shampooed her hair and everyone was horrified at such a thought. Even when I mentioned that I only wash my hair twice a week they thought that was awful.

Well guess what? The latest new buzz phrase is "poo less hair". The people that talk about it think they have invented a new thing. They have "discovered" what my aunt knew almost 100 years ago - You don't need to use shampoo or soap to clean your hair.

Actually I have thought about trying it myself for quite a while and I'm not sure why I didn't just jump in and do it a long time ago. But I finally did and I love it.

No more shampoo or conditioner for me. I have been "poo free" for a couple of weeks and still can't get over how great my hair looks.

Now I can hear some of you saying, "No way. I have oily hair and have to wash it every day and need the shampoo to get rid of the oil." Please read on and consider what I am explaining.

I have very oily, fine, limp long hair. At times I have to deal with fuzzing and all kinds of weird things. To comb my hair out is a pain because of tangles. That is why I am so in awe.

How it Works

It works on the principle that the more oil is stripped from your hair the more oil your body will produce to replace it. It is a cycle. It works something like nursing a baby. The more you nurse the more milk you produce and when you stop all your milk goes away.

We have gotten into a shampooing frenzy, shampooing our hair every day to clean it, so we have started an awful "not good for our scalp" cycle with our bodies. Most shampoos are really bad about stripping the oils out of your hair, causing your body to produce more.

Guess what the number one selling hair product is on QVC (or home shopping network)? Wen. It is a "no shampoo" treatment for your hair. The price? Almost $35 for 16 oz. (about 2 cups) and for long hair you have to use 48 pumps of it. Do you know how expensive that is?

The treatment I'll share below does the same thing at a cost of about 3 cents for the same amount and you use significantly less of it.

What's The Worst that can Happen?

I asked myself, "Why did I put this off so long? What is the worst that can happen?" I might have oily hair for a week or so and have to wear my hair in a pony tail. It won't cost me a thing.

What do I have to Gain?

I will have healthier hair and save, in some cases, lots of money on shampoo, conditioner and hair products for the whole family. I am finding that I don't have to use any products like mousse or gel because my hair is holding its curl better. This means I will save by not having to use or buy other products and I'll also save time. Usually, within an hour, my hair would have lost all it's curl and if I was going someplace later I would have to curl it again, damaging my hair more.

I Did It.

I jumped in and did it. The only thing I regret is that I didn't do it years ago. Some people say their hair needed a 2-6 week adjustment period but I didn't need one, even with my oily hair. The first time I didn't use shampoo my hair looked even better than before. It combed out more easily with almost no tangles at all and it looked unbelievable. As I said, an added side bonus I hadn't expected is that it keeps the curl and style better than it did before, so I don't have to mess with it as much.

I am also going a little longer in between washing it and this is only after two weeks of doing this. I can't wait to see what it will be like after a couple of months. This has been one of those things that has changed my life. I know that it may sound silly but you know how having a bad hair day makes us ladies feel. I don't think I can ever have a bad hair day again!

What Do You Do?

There are different ways of doing this but I like to keep things simple so this is what I do. I also brush my hair before I start.
  1. Mix 1 Tbsp. baking soda with 8 oz. hot water and stir or shake until well dissolved. You can use a funnel and put this in a container like a squirt bottle.
  2. Mix 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar in 8 oz. water. Again mix and store in a squirt bottle.
Essentially, you just replace the baking soda mix for shampoo and vinegar for conditioner. Wet hair well, rub in some of the baking soda and mix into your scalp well. Rinse. Then squirt it with the vinegar mix, rub it in and rinse.

I have long hair and the 8 oz. lasted me about 4-5 washings. If you use the same proportions, you can mix a larger amount and keep in a larger bottle if you want.

Questions Answered

If your hair seems a little oily, only add the vinegar rinse to the ends of your hair. You could also use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

If you see a white residue, you may be using too much baking soda. The proportions I listed seem to be just right. Some people place the baking soda in their hand and make a paste to rub into the scalp but it is hard to get the right consistency and I think it is harder to distribute evenly on your scalp.

Some people have found after using this method for a while that they only have to rinse their hair with water because the ph and oil becomes so perfectly balanced. I haven't been using it long enough yet to know about that.

I know some of you have used regular or apple cider vinegar for a rinse and liked it, and I have too, but adding the soda for shampoo is wonderful.

In Closing

Try it and see. If you are still too afraid to do it, try it on your children or husband for a week or two and see what happens with their hair.

It isn't like you are investing large amounts of money or time into something. It is very simple. All I can say is I can never go back myself. My hair is so much more manageable and looks so good now that I don't want shampoo near my hair.

I hope you give it a try!


Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. For more bath and beauty recipes, check out the Pretty for Pennies chapter in the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt, by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recipe : Sweet Potato Fries

Because if you're going to make the chicken nuggets, you might as well go whole hog :)

Sweet Potato Fries

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into French fry sticks
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp pepper

Toss sweet potatoes in a bowl with olive oil, garlic, paprika and black pepper.   Spray a baking sheet with non-stick vegetable spray. Spread fries out so they will be crispy and brown.

Bake for 30-45 minutes until crisp, browned and cooked through.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Recipe : Baked Chicken Nuggets

Why buy processed chicken nuggets that are loaded with soy filler anyway, when you can make up your own in no time and for not much more money?  (Or, for less if you get chicken on sale!!)

Baked Chicken Nuggets
4 Servings, about 3 ounces each

1-1/2 pounds chicken thighs (or other chicken pieces), bone and skin removed
1 cup cereal or bread crumbs
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp Italian herb seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Place remaining ingredients in a bag or container, close tightly and shake until blended.  Add a few chicken pieces at a time to crumb mixture. Shake to coat evenly.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease a cooking sheet.  Place chicken pieces on cooking sheet so they are not touching (use a rack if desired for more even browning).  Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.

Variations I have seen include adding finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese or cayenne pepper to the coating mix, marinating the chicken pieces for 2 hours in buttermilk first, or dipping in a milk/egg mixture before coating.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Recipe : Chocolate Rice Pudding

Chocolate Rice Pudding
4 Servings, about 2/3 cup each, plus 4 servings for another meal

4 cups milk
2/3 cup white rice, uncooked
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 eggs
1/2 cup evaporated whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1 tsp vanilla

1. Place milk, rice, and sugar in large saucepan. Simmer over medium heat; stir continuously.

2. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered until rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Check to make sure rice doesn’t scorch. Add chocolate and stir until melted.

3. Beat eggs, evaporated milk, sugar, flour, and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth. radually beat egg mixture into rice mixture.

4. Stir continuously; cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not allow pudding to boil.

5. Pour pudding into medium bowl. Cover and chill.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Money Management Part Six - A Financial Safety Net

Summer drew to a close and fall came to visit.  Jack and Jill stuck with the plan and managed to pay off their appliances a few days before the loan came due.  "What a relief!!" Jill exclaimed as she spoke to Jane on the phone that evening.  "And you know, the clerk seemed almost disappointed to accept that final payment.  But we celebrated all the way home.  It's nice to know that we dodged that one... the next statement would have been a real shock!"

"Definitely.  I'm so glad you made it in time.  You're making great progress already!  Are you all set for Christmas?"

"We decided to keep Christmas simple this year.  We've been focused and we've made progress that we're really proud of.  But I have to admit that it is really tempting to go find those cards and make the kids' Christmas dreams come true."

"Are they the kids' dreams, or are they your dreams?"  Jane asked.  And Jill knew her friend was right.  She knew that her kids were young enough that they would be happy with whatever they received, but inside she still felt a little guilty knowing that their friends would be getting the latest and greatest.  And she really wanted to do something special for Jack.

"Just keep pressing on, Jill - you are doing so well.  By this time next year, you'll be a completely different place and you'll be so glad you didn't give in to this temptation!  What do you say we take a break, get away from the commercialism for a while?  Let's take the kids sliding and then come back to our place for cocoa?  We can talk about how you're doing and set you on track for your next goal."

"Sounds good to me - how's two o'clock?"


After a few hours outdoor, everyone was tired but happy.  The kids enjoyed some cocoa then retreated to the playroom while the adults stayed in the kitchen to talk.  Jane invited them to stay for supper and started a big batch of spaghetti for everyone while chatting with Jill.  The men took their coffee to the table.

"So, Jane tells me you've got reason to celebrate!"  Richard sat back with his coffee and looked at Jack expectantly.

"Absolutely!"  Jack nodded. "We got that appliance loan paid off just in the nick of time!  Now we're ready to press forward... once Christmas is over, of course."

"What do you mean?" Richard leaned forward.

"Well, you know... Christmas is expensive and all... seems unrealistic to try to keep up like this through December... don't you think?"  Jack hesitated.

"Absolutely - if you're still stuck in the old thought patterns.  Sure, it would be easy to grab a card or two and take care of Christmas the way you want to, but what would the long-term effect of that be?  Don't you think financial freedom is a better gift to yourselves and your kids?"

"Well.... yeah.... of course..."  Jack knew his friend was right, but he was conflicted.  After all, he wanted Jill to enjoy her Christmas morning, and the kids needed nice gifts too, didn't they?   Just then, Jill came over.

"Is there an echo in here?  Jane and I were having the same conversation just a few hours ago!"  She laughed softly and shook her head.  "It really is easy to lose track, isn't it?  Just like falling off the wagon."

Jack looked up at her.  "But... Jill, how will we pay for Christmas if we keep up like this?  I know we agreed to keep it simple, but... "  He pulled out his wallet.  "I've only got $60 in here.  That's not going to go very far."

Jill smiled.  "It turns out that we planned for this.  Even I didn't realize it at the time, but we did!  Jane and I were just chatting and she showed me something - when she set up our budget and debt plan, Jane didn't assign my 'baby cheque' income to anything, and we've been so focused on keeping the budget that I haven't needed to spend it.  That, combined with little savings here and there over the past months, gives us more than enough for Christmas.  We've actually got cash available!"

Jack looked incredulous for a moment, then grinned.  "No way.  Really?  That's unbelievable!  We've never paid cash for Christmas before!"

Richard laughed.  "Welcome to freedom, my friends!  Now, are you ready to take the next step?"  They both nodded eagerly.  "Great - let's have a look at where we are now."    Jack pulled out the sheet with their budget and handed it to Richard, who made a few changes.  "Here's your plan of attack for January - you'll follow this until April when the MasterCard is paid off and then revise it again.  And again.  And again, until all your debts are paid off."

Food $    500.00
Mortgage $    827.00
Property Tax $    150.00
House Insurance $    100.00
Utilities (Heat, Electricity) $    100.00
Other Bills (Phone, Internet, Cable, Cellular) $    200.00
Clothing $      40.00
Automobile Costs (Gas, Repair, Licenses) $    100.00
Car Payment $    280.00
Health/Dental Care $    140.00
Recreation/Hobbies/Entertainment $    100.00
Household (including furniture, supplies, repairs, lawn care, etc) $    100.00
Miscellaneous $      40.00
Gifts  $      40.00
Payroll Deductions (Tax, EI, CPP) $ 1,168.59
Debt Payments
Line of Credit $    270.00
MasterCard $    662.00
Visa $      90.00
Student Loan $    155.00
Jill's Allowance $      20.00
Jack's Allowance $      40.00
Charitable Giving $    393.14
 $ 5,515.73

"That will be so incredible," Jill said.  "I can't wait!"

"Me, either," agreed Jack.  "I have plans for that extra cash!!"   He looked at Richard.  "Er, I mean... what are our plans for that cash?"   They all laughed.

"Well, like I asked you before, is a thousand dollars in the bank enough?  Will that see you through if you get sick and need to take a month off work, or if there is a family emergency that you have to take care of, or if something major goes wrong with the car?  How long will that little fund last you if you have a real emergency?"  Richard looked at Jack intently.

"Hmm.  Not very long.  That wouldn't even cover our mortgage and food for a month."

"Exactly.  So your next step is to create a financial safety net for yourselves.  But for now, you focus on getting these debts paid off.   Say, have you given any thought to your tax refund in the spring?"

"Actually, yes - it should be about $3,800 - and we've already decided that we'll take the whole thing and pay it on our debts."  Jack nodded.

"Awesome - do you know what kind of impact that will have?"  Richard pulled up his computer and opened up a spreadsheet.  He changed a few numbers, then turned back with a grin.  "You just saved yourselves another four months of payments, not to mention saving even more interest."

As the months passed, Jack and Jill stuck with the plan with increasing commitment.  As each debt reached a zero balance, they continued to roll the payments onto the next debt until finally the day came in December 2012 when they paid the final installment on their line of credit.  Christmas was simple again that year, then on New Year's Day they celebrated with a bonfire, toasting marshmallows and drinking cocoa while burning all their old statements.

"What a feeling.  This is incredible!" Jill gushed.  "I would have never, ever imagined we could manage this.  We've paid off over $17,000 in just over a year.  That's amazing!"

"You are doing great," Jane agreed.  "Two more to go - and they will go so fast now!  By the end of this year, you will be debt-free, without even a car payment!"

And so they were.  October rolled around and with it the final payment on the car.  Jack and Jill celebrated that night with a rare night out for the family, taking the kids for pizza and a movie.  Since they didn't do these things very often anymore, it was a real treat for everyone.

The next day, they got together with Richard and Jane again.

"Can I just say, we are so proud of you guys."  Richard opened the door and handed Jill a bouquet of flowers.  He shook Jack's hand and directed them to the living room where Jane had some papers spread out on the coffee table.

"What's all this?"  Jill asked.

"Just a refresher for you... a reminder of what could have been and what you made of it instead.  Remember the minimum-payments scenario?"

"Ugh... absolutely.  Thank you, both of you, for helping us avoid all of that!"

"No problem - it's what we do!"  Jane smiled at her friend.  "Now, are you ready for the next step?"

Jack sat down.  "Lay it on us."  

"All righty then...."  Richard came in with some snacks and a fresh notebook.  "Time to move forward!"

"The next thing we want to do is get your financial safety net in place.  Generally speaking, this should be three to six months worth of expenses, in a bank account or investment that can be withdrawn on short notice without penalty, like a money market fund."

"Six months??  There's no way!"  Jack shook his head.  "How could we do that?"

"The same way you paid off your debt - with commitment, consistency, and intensity."  Richard opened the notebook.  "I've got it sketched out for you here.  Take a look.

"You started out paying $957.00 each month on your debts.  Then Jill added $500.00 to that by bringing in some extra money.  That's $1457.00 that you have available, but that you're already used to paying out.  What we do now is, take that payment and pay it to your savings instead of to debts."

"That makes sense.  How long do we do it for?"

"Well, if we subtract your debt payments, and your payroll deductions, we're left needing $3050 per month for your current living expenses.  So in a year you'll have six months' expenses banked."  Richard handed over the notebook.