Monday, October 19, 2009

How Much Does It Cost 2009

Take a stroll through WalMart or a Dollar Store and look at all the tons of cheap consumer goods available. Cheap toys, cheap clothes, cheap kitchen wares and cheap electronics. How can anyone produce a snow globe and sell it for $1.00? How can anyone produce an AM/FM radio for $4.99 or a DVD player for $29.00?? The reason these goods can get to the store at such low prices is by practice of "Externalizing Costs". Companies move their manufacturing to Third World countries to take advantage of cheap labor and lax manufacturing rules.

For example, if your company produces a product that causes large amounts of dioxin to be released as part of it's process then it is much cheaper to move to a country that allows the dioxin to be released freely than it would be to work in a country that demands that the dioxin be recovered and processes to limit toxicity. This is why most plastics used in electronics are created and molded in Mexico, China and India.

If your company want to sell cheap handmade quilts or rugs, then you set up your manufacturing plant in a country that has a labor force available with no governmental demands of real wages or worker safety. Pakistan and Turkey have been perfect for this because orphanages in these countries are overcrowded and so underfunded that they have become self supporting private businesses. Orphans have no protection under the law and can be made to work long hours for food and shelter only.

Next time you run out to WalMart to get cheap stuff, ask yourself how much it really costs.

7 Real Costs that are not included in the Price of Consumer Goods.

1) Pollution at the site of the materials origin. Water, air and ground pollution as a direct result of mining and plastics manufacturing and refining. Thousands of families are exposed to toxic levels of lead.(2)

2) Work force health and safety. Exposure to mutigenic chemicals affect generations of humans exposed to chemical processing without regard to future complications. Underage workers literally worked to death without any legal protection. Workers killed by exposure, heatstroke and neglect. (1)

3) Landfill space and illegal dumping. Manufacturing processes cause huge wastes that must be landfilled for centuries or more commonly, just left where they are dropped.

4) Loss of wildlife habitat in areas surrounding manufacturing centers. Huge swaths of land are lost to pollution surrounding manufacturing plants. In many cases, this land will take hundreds or thousands of years to recover.

5) Immoral Energy Production. Third world manufacturing plants burn plastic waste products to create electricity and heat for use in their manufacturing plants. Tons of waste are pumped into the air without any attempt to clean the smoke.

6) End of cycle disposal. Once a gadget is done being used it must be disposed of and possibly recycled by poorly paid workers who are once again exposed to all kinds of nasty chemicals. (1)

7) Child Labor. Children, ages 5 to 14, are forced into the labor market as cheap labor to do repetitive and toxic jobs shunned by adults. These children are often chained to their work stations and routinely starved until they can't work anymore. Then, they are turned out to die on the street. Many of these children have been stolen from their families but most are sold or rented out by their parents for cash. (1) (2) This isn't confined to 3rd world countries. In the US, children work at dangerous jobs without access to schooling, all to keep prices down.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Work Habit: Rabbit or Turtle?

Something that is slowly being lost and may never be recovered: The Work Habit.

We can all think of a person we know who gets up at 5:30 am and gets to their job at 7, works all day, every day. Or, someone we know, starts work at 8pm and works the night shift. How do they do it? How do they avoid the drinking at night that makes them oversleep in the morning or stay clean all day so that they can go to work in the evening? How do they do it everyday, for years?

The answer is The Work Habit. Some people(more in earlier generations than we see now) leave school and go directly to their career. They have had a habit of keeping regular hours for years and they continue that. These people become the backbone of the workforce. Even though they may have less education and tend to be unimaginative, they get promoted because they are dependable. The Work Habit serves them well, in place of the traits that might make them more productive workers(like the rabbit and the turtle). These people are the turtles and they usually win the race.

What has happened in the last generation is that we have favored the rabbits, the academic stars who "have it all". They accumulate a ton of education, get praised for innovation, and excel early in life because their natural tendencies give them an advantage in our dumbed-down education system. Most college classes start at 10am and if one is missed, its no big deal. If they miss too much, they can make it up with "extra credit" done on their own time schedule. Rabbit learn how to game the system but they fail to learn the Work Habit.

After school is done, reality comes to visit: employers expect people to show up on time, everyday. There is no "extra credit" in the workplace. If a person had trouble making it to a 10am class on time, starting work at 7am is going to be very hard. If a person is accustomed to putting off projects until the last minute and then depending on the grading curve, deadlines are going to be very hard to meet. Despite an excellent education, the rabbits fall behind in the real world because they never learned to embrace the basic Habits that make a good worker.

Employers can sort the turtles with the Work Habit from the rabbits that lack the Work Habit and tend to choose the turtles as employees. We see it all the time--young people with great educations who can't get a job.

The signs are always there for the employer to see:

The rabbit shows up last(maybe even a few minutes late), with a cup of coffee--this person chose a stop at the coffee shop over showing up to an appointment early. The turtles showed up for their interviews 10 or even 30 minutes early.

Rabbits have had heavy class schedules and also have huge education debts. Turtles have the minimum requirements, plus internships and have worked all during college. They tend to have much lower debts.

The rabbit has a flashy resume that is heavy on academics but light on experience and recommendations. The turtle has an industry standard resume that exactly meets the expectations of the interviewer and is heavy on experience and recommendations.

The rabbit knows the industry he is interviewing for and can impress the interviewer with past projects and accomplishments. The turtle knows the company he is interviewing for and will impress the interviewer with company-specific information. Rabbits show up for interviews. Turtles prepare for interviews.

The rabbit is time conscious(he may have another interview the same day or other plans after the interview.) The turtle devotes all of his attention to the interview as if he knows he will be hired.

After the interview, the rabbit moves on to his next interview. The turtle follows up(maybe 2 or 3 times) and knows who to talk to when he calls to check on the hiring process. The turtle may even continue to follow up even after the job is filled to try for the next opening with the company or in case the first hire doesn't work out.

Rabbits jump from interview to interview. Turtles get hired.

All of the things that make the Rabbit excel in school; being faster, being smarter and being able to change directions on the run, fail in real life.

All of the things that help the Turtle finish school; showing up on time, every time, finishing projects, following through with plans, and planning ahead, favor the turtle in real life.

Show me a recent grad who has had 10 interviews and no offers--Rabbit. This is also the person who, while being unemployed, stays up late, gets up late and has no direction other than showing up for interviews. This person doesn't even attempt to create a Work Habit to help him be a better employee.

Show me a recent grad who had 3 interviews and is working--Turtle. This person works at getting a job, gets up at the same time everyday, limits late nights, volunteers while he is waiting to interview and keeps in touch with the people who can get him a job. This person creates and maintains the Work Habit which will make him an excellent employee in the future.

Tips to getting a job

Whole books are written about how to get a job, many of them leave out the basics:

Teach yourself the Work Habit by establishing regular work hours in your life. Get up and go to bed on a regular schedule. Be ready for work during regular work hours. Continue honing your work skills while unemployed.

Research the companies that you want to work for and focus on a few: Refine your goals from, "I want to be a Programmer", to "I want to be a Microsoft Programmer." Hone your resume to appeal to the company you want to work for.

Refocus your resume to address the company you interview with.
Learn about the company before the interview.
Show up early, ready to work.
Wear clothes that are appropriate to work in, as if you will start working directly after the interview.
Do not schedule any other appointment for the day of the interview.
Do not look at the clock like you have someplace better to be in 5 minutes.
Leave your phone at home, in the car or turn it off as soon as you enter the place you will have the interview.
Bring only what you need for the interview, no coffee, no toys, no other distractions.
If you don't really want to work for the company, don't schedule an interview and waste the interviewer's time.
Follow up within 24 hours of the interview.
When it is apparent that someone else got the job, inquire about internships and other job openings within the company.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sew Frugal--Having a sewing machine on hand can save big bucks! Tips to Buying a Cheap Used Sewing Machine.

A sewing machine is quietly reappearing in American homes as frugal folks try to stretch more use out of their clothing as well as tackle craft projects rather than forking out more money for home decor. New machines cost $150 or more and may be more of an investment than you are willing to make on an item you will need to learn to use. One alternative is to find a serviceable used machine. Used sewing machines seem to be everywhere but getting one that will actually work may be a little tougher. I recently replaced my 2005 EuroPro machine with a 1965 Brother Sewing Machine and as far as these machines go, I couldn't be happier!

First of all decide what you would like to be able to do.

Making repairs or altering clothing, or making simple home items like curtains really only requires a "zig-zag" sewing machine. These have been available since around the time of Moses and are the most common used machine available. Machines built prior to 1980 =/- are usually less complicated and tougher. This is what prompted me to replace my new machine with an older one. 3 layers of denim brought my EuroPro to a permanent stand-still, but my 1965 Brother will sew right through the seam on a pair of jeans with ease. On the other hand, the Brother absolutely hates fleece and sheer materials--the thread gets all bunched up and makes a nasty mess but the EuroPro had no problem with those materials(before I tried to use it on the denim--it doesn't sew at all now.)

Making clothing or baby clothes from scratch is possible on a "zig-zag" machine but the additional "free arm" option will make it much easier to get cloth in the right position under the needle. A "free arm" machine has a narrow base under the needle to accommodate sewing around a sleeve. Machines without this feature are called "flat bed" sewing machines. In general, flat-bed machines will be tougher, but free arm machines will be more versatile.

Another type of machine that is a time saver for making clothing is a serger. There are not many of these in the used market but they can be found used at reasonable prices at a Sewing and Vacuum Store or by watching craigslist or similar "for-sale" ads. These machines are much more complicated than 2 thread machines. Either buy one through a shop or make sure it is in perfect working order before you buy it--do not be afraid to ask the seller to show that it is working.

What to look for when buying a used sewing machine:

Mileage doesn't matter much on a sewing machine but respect and care matter a lot. When you look at a used sewing machine look for signs that it has been taken care of. Surface dirt is not a big deal but any signs of rust is a deal breaker. Open the side cover and look at the needle arm--there should be no rust any where.

Turn the hand wheel on the right side. It should move smoothly. If it feels rough or clicks at all as it turns, forget that machine.

Look at what is included with the machine: there should be at least 1 box of accessories and a users manual. Individual presser feet, light bulbs, a tiny bottle of oil, 2 screw drivers, and other parts should be in the box. Owners who take care of their machines with keep this stuff with the machine and it is a good sign that the machine has been taken care of. Be wary of buying a machine that is missing the accessories--plus the spare feet to make button holes and to turn a nice hem are expensive--$5-$50 each--not having them is going to get costly when you need them.

Plug in the machine and turn it on. The light should work--if not, be cautious. I have never had a light burn out, usually the only way to damage one is by dropping the machine.

Try out the power foot pedal--if the machine responds smoothly and has met the other criteria, it is probably going to be a good machine.

To give an idea of how cheaply you can buy a servicable machine: I bought my Brother in a cabinet, with 2 boxes of original accessories and a dozen extra bobbins for $15.00.

Advice to people who may be new to sewing:

Read the book. Take your time. Oil the machine according to the guide in the book. Try a couple of little projects(potholders are a good start!)

Find your local Sewing Machine Service Center and get your machine tuned up if needed. Every fabric & crafts store will be able to tell you who fixes and maintains sewing machines in your area.

Is it worth it to use a sewing machine? Generally, yes.

Hem pants at home or pay $8.00 to have it done.

Sew diapers at home for a buck or two each or buy premade cloth diapers for up to $20 each.

Make a potholder for $0 or buy a new one for $5.

Once you get used to having a sewing machine around, you really won't know how you got by without one.

BTW, if you ever have to give a wedding gift or shower gift, a sewing machine will knock their socks off!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Frugal Halloween Costumes Start With Sweats & Tees!

There are many commercial costumes available at the local stores, however between the cost, and lack of imagination, and the fact you end up with a half dozen kids all looking the same at a party. Nothing beats homemade. Below is some basic ideas for you to play with. All are cheap, easy, and allow for tons of imagination.

Frugal Plan Ahead TIP: Use new or old sweat clothes or tee shirts with contact paper decorations Plain white contact paper can be decorated to the theme or use colored contact paper.
After the event, peel off the contact paper. No Mess and No Damage.

Price Is Right Contestant: Paste some white numbers to a rectangle of green cardboard and add a strap to hang it around your neck. Add a paper name tag and act really excited to be playing!

Alvin(of the Chipmunks): Pin a big yellow "A" to the front of a huge red sweatshirt. Add a red baseball cap and sing loud and bad!

Star Trek Red-Shirt Guy: Use a red sweat shirt with black tape to make the classic designs. A little foil and a safety pin for a communicator badge and be sure to disappear from the action after the first scene!

The old stand by a Ghost: Grab a old white sheet, cut out the eyes. Be sure its is short enough not to trip you. Take scrap piece of sheet, and sew up a simple treat bag.

Why be the same old plain ghost? A ghost going out in public might like to get dressed up a little. Use the same old white sheet, cut out holes for the eyes and a small slit for the mouth. Then dress it up a little. Put eye shadow and lashes around the eyes. Lipstick for the mouth. Put a little color on the cheeks. How about earrings and a necklace ? You could color in a beard or mustache. Use something besides just a white sheet to be a little more fancy

Clown: Sweat clothes that are too large. Decorate by using either fabric paint, or markers or use contact paper for colors that are removable. For those who dare try tie-die. Tack on some large pop-poms, add a cheap wig, hat, and make-up. You may also stuff the extra space in clothing with tissue. However this could be messy, if you need to make a "pit-stop".

Scarecrow: Over sized flannel shirt, faded blue jeans with patches, rope for belt and to tie at the cuffs of his jeans and sleeves, stuff the shirt and jeans with plastic grocery, or paper, a little bit of straw (or shredded brown plastic bags) to hang out of jeans and shirt. Add a little bit of make-up.

The American tourist: Guys loud Hawaii shirt, shorts (if weather permits), Large straw hat. Gals bright loud dress, flats, big sun hat, straw bag. Don't forget to have a camera, and maps hanging out, and that look of being lost. Guys can use a tourist bag, (like you get from travel agents, and gals can use the straw bag for their treats.

1960s Hippy: This one is hard, after all its all back in style! What is real, and what is costume? ;-) Tie die clothing, long wig (in the old days we called a "fall", sandals, headband, anything with fringe on it (vests, purse...) light colored sun glasses. Add an overwhellming amount of patchuly oil or sandlewood oil, if you dare!

Old man: Dark pants (cuffed), and jacket, most any dress shirt, man's flannel hat, walking cane. Gray the hair, with any of the commercial temporary colors, or dust with a little flour.

Old woman: Old style dress, just below knee, knee-hi stockings rolled down a little, oxfords, large black purse.

Your chance to be a real nerd. Slick back the hair, grab some pants that are too short, white shirt, white socks, penny loafers, or lace up oxfords, pocket protector, with lots of pens, dark rim glasses (don't forget to tape the corner, or at least paper clip it) briefcase, or backpack for treat bag.

Japanese Doll: My daughter won with this costume! Her face was painted white, she had red rosy cheeks all shaped in a circle, Hair in buns, thong slippers, and a kimono(chinese dress)

Miss. America: Use a old bridesmaid dress of formal, add a pair of gloves, a tiara, some oversized jewelry, and heals. For the banner, a piece of wide ribbon, and write "Miss. America" in glitter.

Soda pop can: Use a round barrel, cut a hole in the bottom. You cut holes for arms and your head. Paint it the colors of a pop can. Presto! You have a pop can!!!

Static Cling: Wear anything a solid color is good all white or all black. With safety
pins pin anything to yourself i:e: socks, underware, bounce sheets, etc. You can also spray your hair straight up in the air. From: Maria

1950’s “Sock-Hopper”: It’s quite simple, just a round skirt, a white short-sleeved shirt, and some saddle shoes. (If you don’t have saddle shoes, plain buckle shoes are fine.) You could add some cat-eye glasses if you want. Tie their hair in a ponytail, and wrap a scarf around it.

Mummy: Wrap yourself in white bandages (rolls of gauze) Use splotches of green paint for "mold". Use white make-up on face with "age lines" drawn on. The stiff-legged gait works perfectly. Quasimodo the Hunchback of Notre Dame: Build the "hunchback" out of foam or cardboard. Find an old coat several sizes too large to accomodate this. Old, ratty clothes are great! Wear a snaggly wig and keep putting hand up to ear and muttering "eh?".

Pirate: Form a fake wooden leg by wrapping one leg in brown felt. Wear sailor pants or jeans with a striped top. Tie a bandana around your head, wear an eye patch, carry an empty bottle marked XXX (for the "rum") and mutter "aargh" a lot. Ask for "Trick or treat, matey!"

Crash test dummy - After! There is a commercial costume for this, but a good one can be made with sweats and tape to make the markings on it like the crash test dummies. Use bandages and fake blood to decorate. Fashion a seat belt out of webbing and an old buckle and pin in place. (or go to a junk yard as ask for an old seatbelt).

Train Engineer: A pair of blue jeans, a blue Jean jacket, a red and black bandana. a blue and white engineer hat, a whistle, and play lantern

Mother Nature: Silk flowers and silk plant leaves in a variety of shapes and colours an old skirt and vest, a face mask, twigs (collected from your nearby park or in your own backyard) to make a nest, a foam bird that you can find at any craft store, glue gun and wire or pins. Decorate the vest & skirt with the silk leaves in a random pattern and glue into place. Decorate the skirt with flowers growing out from the leaves already put in place. Use the remaining leaves and small flowers to decorate the face mask. Gather your twigs and secure with wire to make a nest. Place your bird on the twigs and secure into place with the wire. You can add some leaves and peat moss as a filler. The child can wear a dark colored turtleneck and leggings under the vest and skirt for the evening walk to get treats.

Skunk: Black sweats with a white strip of tape or contact paper down the back.. be careful everyone may run!

Bunny: Pink, brown, or white sweats, add a powder puff or large pom-pom to the backside, and a set of ears make from construction paper and a plastic headband. Now just hop on out and enjoy.

Turtle: Green with a piece of poster board attached to the back. Simple cut the poster board into a large oval, make random marks like a turtle shell, and paint.

Puppy: Brown, tan or white, either paint, or pin paper spots on. Make floppy ears and bobby pin to hair over your ears. The tale can be most anything, depending on what type of doggie you wish to be. Add a little make-up.

Kitten: Gold, brown, tan, white. Make ears from construction paper, attach to head band or bobby pin in to hair. Sew a simple round tale, and pin on.

Spider: Black, For the legs grab some cheap black hose, stuff with any thing dark and light weight. Either sew, or staple to keep stuffing from falling out. Pin to clothing, add a little make-up

Lady Bug: Use a pair of black sweats and black sweat shirt (and a pair of black shoes). Use a large piece of poster board or cardboard and cut out a large oval. Paint it red with black dots. Staple black elastic pieces (in a loop) onto the board to make arm holes. For the antenna attatch craft pipe cleaners with black pom poms on the ends to a headband.

Snowman: Use white sweats and pompoms for the coal. Add some makeup and a top hat. Use orange construction paper to make a carrot cone for a nose-just roll up the paper, trim and staple on some elastic to hold it in place. Don't forget the scarf!

Cereal Killer: Attach little cereal boxes to a shirt, cut a slit in the boxes, glue in plastic knives into the holes, drip red paint running down from the knife hole in the box.

Black Eye Pea: When I was younger, a teacher from my elementary school dressed up as a "black eyed pea" and it was so cute, my mother dressed me up the same way the next year. It is simple and cheap. Wearing all white, with black tennis shoes, I cut out the letter 'P' from black construction paper and pinned the P's all over the white outfit. I painted a black spot over one eye ("black eye" ... get it? :) hee hee) and I was a "black-eyed 'P' "

Butterfly: Put on black sweats and black shoes. Use a piece of poster board and paint wanted color cut them out in an appropriate wing shape. punch two holes toward the edges of the wings. put black ribbon through them and tie around waist. attach pipe cleaners and pompoms to a plastic head band.

Rubics cube: Using a large card board box and five different colors of contact paper or construction paper (contact paper is easier to stick on) enough to do 5 sides, black pants and long sleeve shirt. this was done very inexpensively and we had a lot of fun with it.

Dice: Grab a friend and take 2 cardboard boxes, paint them white. Cut out several black circles (From construction paper) and glue them in the appropriate places to make you and your friend a pair of dice!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time to get ready for Winter!

Whether we like it or not, Winter is on the way here in Seattle, which means cool temperatures and wet conditions.

Some things we are doing to get ready:

Wrapping the Hot Water Tank--even though ours is in an enclosed laundry room, we can still save a little by wrapping it up.

Trading out the summer/winter clothes. Make sure everything is clean before packing it up, and get rid of the stuff that is worn out so you don't have to deal with it again in the spring.

I do a lot of knitting and quilting in the winter(Keeps your lap and legs warm!) so anything that is worn out will get added to the scrap bag. Even stained clothes make great rugs when cut into strips.

I am also making Snuggies for the whole family this year. Yes, they are silly and the commercials for these things are ridiculous but the concept is pretty smart. I have a few old fleece blankets so I plan to make these pretty much for free. The Pattern is very easy too!

We installed a Programmable Thermostat last fall and I dug out the paperwork and re-programmed it 2 degrees cooler than it was last year. We are also putting up Window Quilts this year to cut down on the drafts. We have a 6 room apartment but we only heat the living room and bathroom, so I hang drapes in the doorways to keep the heat where we want it. The other rooms are kept at 55 degrees.

We have hardwood floors, so I am also pulling the rugs out of storage. We only use them in the late fall and winter and they are all washable. When the weather turns nice in the spring, they all get washed, and line dried before returning them to storage. My rugs are nearly all handmade--done in past winters out of scraps and rags--it is amazing how many memories are sewn into these simple floor coverings; cotton onesies that were outgrown and worn out, tee shirts from places and events I attended, my college sweatshirt, the shredded seat covers from my first car--sheesh! One comment I will make about rag rugs made on a loom like many of mine are--skip the crappy cotton warp thread--string technology has come a long way since our ancestors started making rag rugs! I use Nylon Twine for my rugs. This product is meant for salt water fishing net and will last longer than the cloth rags! One $10 roll is enough twine to make a rag rug 4 feet wide and 43 feet long--do not skimp in the basics or you will be sorry!

Check and re-check the Emergency Supplies. I have used up most of the Emergency Food I stored last fall(Rotated to keep it fresh) and now it's time to re-stock. I put 48 meals worth of easy food and 10 gallons of water all in one place with flashlights, candles, matches, and all the other supplies we might need if the power is off for more than a day. I have 2 portable gas stoves that I use for Canning Classes, so I only needed to buy a 4 pack of fuel this year. Note on these types of butane stoves---if you buy one, fire it up when you get home-let it burn for at least 20 minutes and shut it off. Check the fuel can--it should be ice cold. If the can is warm AT ALL--take the stove back and buy a different brand. Keep testing until you find one that keeps the fuel ICE COLD. Many cheap knock-offs are on the market and the results can be devastating when the fuel container overheats.(Graphic Pictures!)

Hot chocolate and Spiced Tea are very popular in our house when the weather is chilly so I make up big batches of homemade mixes to keep these treats easy and frugal.

I will add more tips, for getting ready for Winter, soon!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Frugal Hand Sanitizer!

Alcohol deemed effective for hand sanitizing.
The CDC and many other Government Agencies are recommending alcohol based hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of the Flu virus. Most hand sanitizers kill bacteria, but only concentrations of
60% or more alcohol kills viruses.

Anyone who has purchased these products(if you can even find them!) know they are expensive! Like many other products, most of the cost is for advertising, bottling and shipping.

Purell $4.49/8 ounces 56 cents/ounce

Germ-X $4.49/8 ounces 56 cents per ounce

Germ-X pocket size $2.29/2.5 ounces 91 cents per ounce

Since those extra costs are not going to get your hands cleaner--skip them and make your own Sanitizing Hand Cleaner--refill the old bottles and save some big bucks!

These products all have the base ingredient: denatured or "rubbing" alcohol. The formula for this type of alcohol is dictated by the Federal Government so every source of this type of alcohol is the same--buy the cheapest you can find!

So far, the cheapest source I have found for denatured alcohol is at the hardware store in the paint thinner department. My local Lowe's Hardware has it for $6.69 per quart or $15.28 per gallon and it is 90% alcohol(with exactly the same methanol and acetone added as you would find in the pharmacy as "rubbing alcohol" except that rubbing alcohol is typically 70% alcohol and has water added to bring it down to that concentration.

Inexpensive Alcohol Based Sanitizer
makes 12 oz.@ 63.25% alcohol for about 8-13 cents per ounce.

1/2 cup cool water
1 cup denatured alcohol (90%) Available at hardware stores as a paint stripper.
10 drops fragrance oil - optional
1 drop food coloring - optional
Vitamin E oil, green tea extract, tea tree oil, etc. - optional.

Combine ingredients and stir. Store in a spray pump bottle. Will last indefinitely.

Household Bleach is the Best Virus Killer
Store-brand chlorine bleach can be used as a disinfectant by mixing 1/4-cup chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of cool water. --Ratio of 1:64 . Bleach has been found to be the best civilian sanitizer and is a very common base for antibiotic cleaners in Third World Countries because it is very, very cheap. To extrapolate this into a homemade hand sanitizer we can start with a bottle of inexpensive hand lotion and add bleach to it.

Bleach Based Hand Sanitizer

Dump the contents of a bottle of hand lotion into a mixing bowl, add bleach, mix well and return to the bottle. Be sure to mark the bottle "With Bleach Added: 1:64"

Bottle size
--------- Amount of Bleach to Add
8 ounce
--------------3/4 Teaspoon
16 ounce
------------1/4 ounce (1 1/2 Teaspoon)
32 ounce
------------1/2 ounce (1 Tablespoons)

Extra benefit: This small amount of bleach will leave your hands very clean and make your nails super white!

Some people are pretty allergic to chlorine bleach and they should go with the alcohol based sanitizer instead, but for sheer virus killing properties, bleach is always the best product for the job.

Friday, August 7, 2009

11 Real Jobs You Can Start From Scratch With Little Investment

1) Child daycare. Each child you care for should amount to about $200 per week in income depending on where you live. In Washington we can care for up to 6 kids at a time--$1200 a week is nothing to sneeze at!

2) Doggy Daycare & Walking. Here in Seattle, people pay nearly as much to drop off their dogs for the day as they do their kids. What's really weird tho is that childcare workers make minimum wage-$7.75 per hour. Doggy Daycare workers and dog walkers make $15.00 per hour! Another facet of this idea came to my attention: Sick pet care--a lot people have pets that have been sick or had surgery and need to be watched during the day. Most pets really hate being left at the vet so pet owners are willing to pay $50-$75 a day to drop off a pet with someone who will take care of them through the day in a quiet & private setting. Toss an old blanket over the sofa for a comfortable spot and walk as needed. Sanitize everything between visitors. Advertise the service with all your local vet's offices.

3) Sewing and mending services. People pay $5-7.00 to replace a jeans zipper and $6-10.00 to hem a pair of pants. A custom prom dress runs $200 and up.

4) Have bake sales. Cook up a bunch of goodies and then have a combo garage and bake sale. I always make more money on the baked goods than I do on the garage sale but people will not stop to look unless I call it a "Garage Sale." A dozen homemade cookies is $5.00 or more. I have also sold dozens of homemade cook books for $3-$10 apiece!

5) Grow plants and have periodic plant sales. I recently purchased 1 very over grown spider plant at a store and split it up into over 100 small plants. In the spring these will sell for around $2-5 apiece!(Update: I listed these on eBay about a month later and sold all of them to a florist shop for $100+shipping(taking care of 100 houseplants was more work than I planned and I was glad to ship them out!)

6) I do eBay but in a rather unique way. All of the stuff I sell on eBay I get for FREE. Examples are woodland ferns, native plants, Ivy, driftwood, etc. Take a walk with the kids and make it a treasure hunt. Stuff that are weeds and junk to me are exotic to people in New York! I once sold a seal skull(found on the beach) on eBay that stunk so bad I had it buried in the yard during the time of the auction! It sold for $75+ shipping and I wrapped it in 5 layers of garbage bags to mail it!

7) Make jewelry out of beads and wire and put them on consignment at spas and jewelry stores. Copper jewelry is always popular and the materials can be purchased at the recycling center for a couple of bucks a pound. A copper bracelet will sell for $5.00--I can make 20 of them per hour.

8) Learn a skill like desktop publishing or transcription or web design. The more flexible and knowledgeable you get the more jobs you will get.

9) Schedule appointments for a local builder. Many companies need phone people to set up appointments for inspections, construction estimates, etc.

10) Figure out what you love to do and then work out a way to get paid for it. If you love soap operas, find someone to pay you to write about them. If you love crafts, make them and sell them!

Bonus: Look around for a place that can host classes and teach what you are best at. I have taught classes on sewing, home canning, dog grooming, and once taught a class on how to detail your car if you want to sell it.

Good luck!

Monday, June 29, 2009

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Canned Food Rip Off--What is the "Recommended Fill Weight"?

Food Prices are a huge concern for a lot of people right now but how do we know what we are getting? Lately, I have noticed that what is on the can is not really what is in the can!

Letter to Moody Dunbar Food Company:

I recently bought 2 40 ounce(1.13 kg) cans of Dunbar's cut yams at my local Grocery Outlet. I am very disappointed to find out that each can only contained about 750 grams(27 ounces) of product. Is this typical of the product or are the cans I bought underfilled?

product: Cut Yams
Imprint: DJ27C ALD7

Thank you for your time.


Answer from Moody Dunbar:

The 27 ounces you found in each of the two cans is actually a little more than the recommended amount. The attached chart was copied from the US Grade Standards for Canned Sweet potatoes - it shows a recommended fill-weight of 23.8 ounces for the 40 oz. can (referred to in the chart as a #2-1/2 Tall).

40 Ounce Cans Contain 23.8 Ounces? To be fair the nutritional label did say that the can contained 7 1/2 cup servings which would be about 28 ounces but saying 40 Ounces on the Label seems misleading to me and I told the Company that.

Also, this table seems to be a Trade Secret since I can't find similar information for other foods like canned corn or green beans. How much actual corn is in a 15 ounce can of corn?

My Answer:
In that case, shouldn't the label say 23.8 ounces net weight? 40 ounces net weight seems very misleading to me and I have never seen this recommendation table before.

According to Wikipedia: net weight refers to the weight of the product alone, discounting the weight of its container or packaging.

Your can says, "cut sweet potatoes packed in syrup" which I read to mean the product is sweet potatoes and the syrup is packing and not included in the total weight of the product.

This table is rather misleading and makes it impossible to compare the prices of raw vegetables to the price of processed and canned vegetables which I did when I purchased this product.

Sweet potatoes are currently 99 cents per pound at my local store and considering 5% waste, the price per ounce is $.06513. 40 ounces of canned sweet potatoes for $1.79 is a good deal at $.04475 per ounce. but 23.8 ounces for $1.79 at $.07521 per ounce is not a good deal.

The point of shopping at a discount grocer is to get better grocery prices but if the net weight shown on the can doesn't give me any information to compare prices with, then how do I know if I am getting a deal or not?


Final Word From Moody Dunbar Foods:

The term “Net Weight” is a legal term that refers to the total contents by weight of the product in a package. In the case of canned vegetables, the package net weight includes the product and the packing fluid. The weight of the product after the fluid has been drained off is call the “Drained Weight”.

The FDA and the USDA establishes the content and format of the information placed on our canned sweet potato labels. So, the reason our labels look the they way do is because We are required by law to follow the FDA and USDA food labeling laws.

The only company I could find that lists "Drained Weight" is Trader Joes where a 15.25 ounce can of corn contains 8 ounces of drained corn.

So, fellow frugal shoppers, how do we compare prices if the "Net Weight" is meaningless and the "Recommended Fill Weight" is different for each product and seems to be a secret?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Water, Water, Everywhere....

W A T E R ....

The whole world is facing a shortage of clean water and in western lifestyles, water is a huge key to our comfort level. Consider how advertising has nudged us into lifestyle changes in the last 30 years--very few of these are possible in an area that has a real water shortage:

Showering twice a day--morning and night.

Washing hair anywhere from 5 to 14 times a week forces us to buy conditioners as well as shampoo. Interestingly enough most shampoos are formulated to remove other hair care products like hair gel better than they are formulated to clean natural hair oils.

Hot Tubs, jacuzzis, multiple showerhead stalls--every luxury magazine on the stands shows huge bath tubs to be the epitome of luxury even when the whole world is begging for drinking water.

Washing clothes after every wearing--in an age where the average western worker goes to an air-conditioned office 8 hours a day, is it really necessary to wash clothes after every wearing?

Changing sheets daily or weekly--our basic fear of germs and bugs has been turned into a marketing ploy. This site actually says we need to own 3 sets of sheets for each bed and change our sheets every week. One set was the norm 50 years ago and most people didn't even have their own beds 100 years ago(many still don't!)

Floor cleaning--sweeping daily used to be the norm, now steam cleaning is the "best way" to clean floors? Notice the fear-based language used on the steam cleaning link--asthma & allergies--damp moping would do the same thing for a lot less money and energy.

Toilet Flushing--use 1 1/2-5 gallons of water to flush away 6 ounces of pee? How did that get to be the standard?

HOA mandated lawns and landscaping; Even water starved places in Western countries cling to these outdated home owner association rules! In parts of Australia and in many parts of Arizona, California and Nevada it is an offense to let your lawn get brown even in Cities where watering your lawn is illegal 6 1/2 days a week.

Car Washing has become an obsession and many people visit the carwash more often than they take their kids to parks. Where I live in Seattle it is common to see people leave the food bank and then stop and pay $6.00 for a carwash on the way home.

Pressure Washing Houses--There are over 5100 companies within 10 miles of me that pressure wash houses. Considering that pressure washing can significantly reduce the lifespan of a roof or siding job and the amount of rain we get, this seems like a ridiculous amount of pressure washers to me. Yet, somehow, pressure washing has become a part of regular home maintenance and some of my neighbors can get fined by their HOAs for failing to do it regularly.

All of these things have been transformed into normal activities by advertising and in the future we will see a trend toward the opposite side--less water usage. Products to look for in current advertising and near future advertising:


Dual Flush Toilets

Stink-Free underwear

Mist Shower heads

Waterless Car Wash


Swallow Toothpaste-no rinsing(and the advertising will say it is better NOT to rinse)

Compost Toiletries Products(actually seen this one as Pee & Poo bags--use once and then compost instead of flushing. These will be approved for areas that already have curbside compost containers)

Personal Water Filters(instead of bottled water-now being tested in Africa) Look for these in Flavored Versions with or without vitamins.

Sheets and towels with antibacterials built in so that they can be used for long periods of time without being washed.

Laundry detergent with super cleaning and future protection--clothes will still pass the sniff-test after wearing, thus saving money and water.

Dryclean Sonic Washers-already in use in Japan.

Unwashed food at the grocery--new advertising will stress that washing food strips the nutrients out and that food should only be washed right before eating or cooking--this will transfer the cost of washing(and the liability) from the producer to the consumer.

Compostable "Dish Liners" a new name for paper plates that will make dishes reusable between washings. These will be thinner and very cheap so they will seem more desirable than washing dishes every time they are used.

Bowl obscuring toilet products will hide the contents as well as deodorize and kill off all harmful germs. Maybe a dark colored bio-oil that floats above the mess to provide a visual and smell blocking barrier on top of the water.


Dry Wash Shampoo-- Powdered product to shake in and brush out.

Scotchgard Fabrics-- stays cleaner and cleans easier

Home Drycleaning kits--new advertising will show that they work just as well for washable clothes as they do for dry-clean only.

No rinse cleaning products-these have been around for decades but new advertising will stress how safe they are to use--no "harmful chemicals".

Astro-Turf yards--no mow & no water but they still conform to most HOA rules.

Plastic and silk flowers are being advertised as "beautiful without all the water and chemicals needed to produce flowers."

Dress Shields save on cleaning costs by shielding the underarm area from sweat--these will be popular for men and women alike.

Nude Gyms--no workout clothes to wash, followed by a dip in a cleansing antibacterial pool where the water is reused indefinitely--this might actually replace daily showers for many people as the idea takes root.

More dehydrated foods--pasta(like ramen noodles) and beans that only need a small amount of water rather than being boiled in larger amounts.

Washer cycling systems that reuse gray water instead of using all clean water. Example: Kitchen faucet overrun will be saved for clothes washing and then used again for flushing(and maybe used again in the home garden).

Side by Side Public Water Systems can replace the potable water systems we now have. Recycled gray water can be piped in for use in washing, flushing and outdoor use while clean water is piped in separately for showering and drinking.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gaithner is Making Direct Payments To Selected People--Just Supply Your Name, Bank Account, Ect.

I got this letter from the International Monetary Fund--They want to send me some money!

--- On Tue, 3/24/09, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND <> wrote:

Subject: Release Of Your Payment As Instructed By President Barack Obama
Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 7:10 AM

Our Ref: IMF/US


We have actually been authorized by the newly appointed President Barack Obama
and the governing body of the INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND to investigate
the unnecessary delay of your inheritance fund/Lottery winnings and contract payment,
recommended and approve in your favor.

Since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, we discovered with dismay that
Your payment has been unnecessarily delayed by corrupt officials of
the Bank(AIG, I Presume.) who are trying to divert your funds into their private
accounts, to forestall this, security for your funds Was organized in
the form of your personal Identification number (PIN)this will enable
only you have direct Control over this fund, we have also agreed with
the WORLD BANK and UNITED NATION ORGANIZATION that we will handle this
payment ourselves to avoid the hopeless situation created by the Officials of the bank.

We obtained an irrevocable payment guarantee on your Payment from the
you that based on our recommendation/instructions; your Entire Inheritances fund
has been credited in your favor through the above certified means of payment.

You are therefore advice to send your contact details to TIMOTHY GAITHNER Secretary of the
Treasury department
, United States:

EMAIL Address:

You will be given an option of payment which you are required to indicate
and also send the following information as stated below to them
as directed above:


We expect your urgent response to this email to enable us monitor this
Payment effectively thereby making contact with TIMOTHY GAITHNER, as
Directed to avoid further delay.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Myths in the 5 Myths of Nuclear Energy Propaganda

Horror Story Appears in the Washington Post: The 5 "Myths" of Nuclear Energy.

How to read suspected propaganda material:

Propaganda is the dissemination of information aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviors of large numbers of people. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense presents information in order to influence its audience.

Some of the techniques include:

Half-truth: For example, Three Mile Island 1 is still working, BUT TMI2 continues to require constant monitoring that will be required for at least another 50 years and will need to be completely sealed for long term storage when TMI1 is decommissioned and retired. The cost of clean up through 1993, for TMI2, was $975 Million Dollars. Current monitoring is included in the operating costs of TMI1.

Oversimplification: For example, *But the problem isn't the material's half-life -- it's the level of radioactivity it possesses.* Yes, carbon 14 is useful, radioactive and harmless, **but no one is using it in nuclear reactors!** Every fuel used in nuclear plants IS DANGEROUS.

Appeal to fear: Saying that nuclear power doesn't cause global warming is an attempt to directly prey on the general fear of climate change with a few mountain decapitations and sludge ponds thrown in for good measure. This argument is based on making the reader more afraid of current energy sources that they are of nuclear power.

Demonizing the enemy: Notice the writer's use of "quasi-religious", relying on the fact that a large number of readers will have negative feelings to that phrase and to the association that environmentalists are "quasi-religious".

Flag-Waving: It's OK that the US has nuclear power and nuclear weapons as long as no other countries try to do it too? If nuclear power is so terrific, we should build a plant every 100 miles all over the world, right?

5 Myths of Nuclear Power was written by Todd Tucker. His new book, Atomic America, discusses a nuclear accident in Idaho in 1961. Today that site has 52 reactors, of which 3 are reported to be working--the other 49 are slated for long-term storage(when that becomes available.) He also served in the Navy on a nuclear submarine.

The Truth about Nuclear Power is:

1) Nuclear Power is EXTREMELY expensive, and no power plants would have ever been built as an energy investment without Governmental Funding for weapons application. Electricity is just a by-product.

2) Nuclear Power uses a LOT of water, and affects the whole ecosystem around it. Down wind areas get more rain and more snow from the water vapor created. The river where the cooling water is taken and returned will be warmed for miles downstream, killing many species and promoting others. Accidental releases of radioactive water has happened many times in the past and will happen in the future. Water taken from a river and exhausted as excess heat is no longer reliable for agriculture--the level and flow of the river will be permanently lowered.

3) Unlike buying and installing a wind turbine or solar plant, the cost of a Nuclear Plant NEVER ENDS. The materials will need to be decommissioned and stored forever--that takes manpower and money. If we change our minds about a solar plant, it can be taken down and moved somewhere else--a Nuclear Plant is going to be a Nuclear Plant forever.

4) All man-made machines are subject to human shortcomings and human mistakes. Just like in the Simpson's--if you have a single idiot in the Plant, mistakes are going to happen and no human is perfect 100% of the time no matter how smart or diligent they are.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ADA's Dirty Secret--Tooth Decay is not only preventable, its curable!

What causes tooth decay.
Dental cavities are caused by a bacterial infection called Streptococcus mutans. S. mutans is not present at birth but is usually acquired by children in early childhood or infancy, many before tooth eruption.

How we are exposed.
Human beings get infected by the most innocent of sources, the mother's first kisses.
Adults may have a high concentration of S. mutans in their mouths. Bacteria can be transmitted from a parent or another intimate caregiver to an infant or child via saliva, for example, by allowing infants or children to put their fingers in the parent’s mouth and then into their own mouths, testing the temperature of a bottle with the mouth, sharing forks and spoons, and “cleaning” a pacifier or a bottle nipple that has fallen by sucking on it before giving it back to the infant or child.

Even if an infant or child is already infected with S. mutans, transmission can increase the concentration of bacteria in the infant’s or child’s mouth, increasing the likelihood of tooth decay or resulting in more severe decay. Therefore, it is important that parents and other intimate caregivers practice good oral hygiene and avoid behaviors that could transmit S. mutans to an infant or child. (source)

Other problems caused by Streptococcus mutans.
S. mutans is manageable and considered by dentists to be natural when confined to the oral cavity but is a serious infection when the bacteria migrates to any other part of the body. Infection of the heart valve by S. mutans is a life threatening disease that can be initiated by improper procedures at the dentist's office. All people with pre-existing heart valve problems such as mitral valve prolapse are encouraged to take antibiotics such as
Amoxicillin or Clindamycin prior to dental work to prevent the S mutans infection from traveling in the bloodstream and affecting the heart. (Guidelines have recently changed, so consult your doctor and/or dentist before getting any dental work done.
People with prosthetic joints may also be recommended to take antibiotic premedication prior to dental work to prevent S. mutans from migrating to the joints and causing or compounding rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatments for Streptococcus mutans infection.
In 1983, I Zickert, C G Emilson, and B Krasse authored a study on "Correlation of level and duration of Streptococcus mutans infection with incidence of dental caries." The study showed "the value of antimicrobial treatment in the prevention of caries."(source)

In 1975, R T Evans, F G Emmings, and R J Genco showed that a vaccine(composed of dead cells) to S. Mutans prevented infection by S. mutans in the oral cavities of monkeys--study has not been reproduced on humans. (source)

Other Citations specializing in "Oral Health Training For Health Professionals"

Economics of treatment verses cure.
Dental cary repair represents a large portion of any dentist's business and is the largest portion of any dental office's income. The cost of actually filling a cavity is nearly insignificant compared to the average cost of a visit to the dental office, so there is a strong resistance to changing the way people are treated for tooth decay.
Today, it is common for a patient to be belittled for their failure to brush and floss "enough". There is no specific guideline for how often or how long to brush and floss but "3 times a day" is a typical recommendation. Truth is that no matter how much you brush, as soon as you get a cavity, "you haven't brushed enough", "you haven't flossed enough," or you "haven't done it correctly." Dentists use this argument to put the blame on the patient rather than mentioning the true cause of caries, S. mutans, and how to slow the infection or kill it for good. Why? Because it is not good for the bottom line to tell a patient, "You can prevent future cavities by taking a vaccine or antibiotic and then rinse your mouth with an antibacterial on a regular basis." But, it is very good for the bottom line to blame the patient and then continue to fill cavities with $5.00 worth of materials and charge $250 for the service.
One of the reasons why this has worked out so well for Dentists(who make nearly as much doctors with about half the education and no late night emergency calls) is that when people are having a toothache, they will pay anything they have to make it stop. The ADA also has a very powerful Lobby in Washington DC that has exempted them from price controls on services and exemption from providing emergency medical treatment to anyone who needs it.

Slowing the effects of S. Mutans:
Until dentists are willing to prescribe a routine of
Amoxicillin or Clindamycin to kill the bacteria at its source or rally behind a vaccine(and effectively kill off 50% or more of their business) there are a few natural products that kill or slow the growth of S. mutans. One of the most effective is peppermint oil which is why so many tooth pastes taste like peppermint--unfortunately most modern toothpastes use artificial flavor so this benefit has been lost.
Other antibacterials:
Licorice contains glycyrrhizin, the power behind cavity prevention. Cavities are a result of lingering bacteria in the mouth- the main condition rooted in bacteria production is delayed and prevented by licorice.
Only 15 milligrams of licorice powder eliminates 99.9 percent of Streptococcus mutans, a common bacterium that could release harmful cavity-causing acids.
Before cavities appear, bacteria in the mouth produce acids that create holes in the top layer of the teeth. Streptococcus mutans is particularly harmful and causes a large percentage of these holes.
Importantly, the extract does not kill the other bacteria in the mouth necessary for good oral health.

Cinnamon EO is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral and astringent.

Peppermint EO is antibacterial, analgesic, and antiseptic.

Spearmint EO is antibacterial, anti-catarrhal, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic.

Citrus EO is antibacterial, anti-depressant, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, and restorative.

Ginger EO is antibacterial and antiseptic.

Brush to Clean and Kill
Learn how to brush your teeth and kill S. mutans at the same time.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How Home Weatherization Could Save The Economy.

There are 150,000,000 homes and apartments in the USA and 99% could be retro-fitted to save or even create energy. Obviously, the needs of each dwelling need to be evaluated to put together the best package for the climate. Some possible projects could be:

Water Tank Wrap
Roof Colored to Match Climate(Dark roofs in the north--white roofs in the south)
Ceiling insulation
Wall insulation
Double or Triple Pane Windows
Addition of a Sun Room
Floor Insulation
Update old HVAC systems with more energy efficient models
Replace Oldest Appliances
Replace all light bulbs with CFLs
Update all toilets and faucets to Low-Flow fittings
Add Fireplace Inserts
Replace door gaskets to stop drafts
Educate homeowners on "Peak Usage Times" and install appliance timers where applicable
Addition of solar panels and wind turbines where feasible

The average time spent on each residence would be about 50 hours with an average of $2000 in time and materials--that alone creates millions of man hours in the workforce--the resident could help where practical to keep the costs down.

This idea would create a minimum of 1 million construction jobs for at least 3 years with an average of $20.00 per hour wage. As building starts regain footing, these construction people can be slowly returned to those higher paying jobs.

It would also create another 1-2 million manufacturing jobs in window factories, door factories, plumbing supply factories and dozens of other manufacturing factories. The key to this is really in favoring the local suppliers so that the project employs as many people as possible.

And it would support service jobs as the paychecks started coming in on a regular basis. The paychecks would be spent in restaurants and on consumer goods.

The best part is that the people who live in the houses and apartments can pay for this themselves with the savings on their energy costs. Once the energy package is paid for the savings continue for years.

We don't even need a "Bailout" to do this. All we need is Government Guarantees for the Power Companies to use to dole out retrofits to home and apartment residents in a way that the loan is tied to the power bill of the home, so that if the person moves, the next resident repays the loan with their energy savings. Payments go back to the Power Company and when all the loans are repaid, the Power Companies release the Guarantee. The payments need never exceed the savings, so there would be no burden on the resident only a potential for savings when the loan is repaid in full.

The effect on the power grid and on our carbon footprint would be astronomical! Each house and apartment could cut energy costs by 30-50% if properly updated.

It would be easy to pick out the building in the most need of retrofitting by thermal satellite imaging--start with the worst buildings and work up the list until the USA is invisible on thermal scans!

Please let me know what you think of this idea!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Losing Your Job? Time to Bootstrap!

"When you get knocked down, just pull yourself back up by your bootstraps."

Bootstrapping, (a specialty sector of Microbusiness that requires very little to get started) has been a part of American Culture since the very beginning. Very few early settlers came to America to get a job with the local equivelent of WalMart. They came, in droves, to start their own farms and businesses, and most did it without loans or great resources. They did it by seeing and recognizing a need and filling that need by the sweat of their brow.

Even if unemployment rates go to 20%, that means that most people still have jobs and they will always need people to do the things that employed people never find time to do-take care of children and pets, landscaping, home repairs and renovations, cook and clean. As long as their are people, some of those people will need sevices and products. The key to Bootstrapping your own microbusiness is to figure out what people in your area need and how you can fill that need.

Setting up a Microbusiness can be the best way to financial security in these uncertain times. It may seem too expensive or just plain impossible to be your own boss but thousands of people make the jump every year. Ideally, a microbusiness is started as a side job in addition to your "real" job but in the case of a layoff, a microbusiness may be the perfect way to plan out a better future while enjoying the cushion offered by unemployent insurance.

Very few people get rich with a microbusiness but you get to work your own hours, most business will be paid in cash and the harder you work, the more you make--which beats working harder so your boss can make more!

A Few Ideas For a Bootstrap Business:

Neighborhood Newsletter/Newspaper. Sell advertising and collect news in a specific area. Distribute copies to that area and offer subscriptions. Profit depends on how many ads you can sell. Startup needs: Computer, printer, software.

Dog walking/Pet sitting. Take care of neighbors pets during the day or over night as needed. Startup needs: Fenced yard, spare room or garage, a few kennels.

Sick Pet Care. If you don't have any space or yard, you can still do sick pet care. People call you when their pet has had surgery or is recovering from illness. Only 1 or 2 pets are cared for at a time. Daily charge is $20-$25 per day or more. Startup needs: Old blanket to toss over the sofa that can be washed between pets. Handout business cards to local pet shops and veterinarians to get started.

In-home child care. Run an ad and offer to babysit. Daily charge is $25 or more per day. Startup needs: A few toys, classified ad.

Parking lot cleanup. Clean small parking lots that are not big enough to call a broom truck. Startup needs: Broom, dust pan, garbage bags.

Garden Hoe. Offer to do minor maintenace on gardens for neighbors, hoe gardens, trim bushes, pick up trash. Startup needs: small hand tools, gloves.

Garden installation. If you are already a vegetable gardener, your neighbors may be eager to have you install a food garden for them.

Sewing and mending. People pay $2.00 to replace a jeans zipper and $4.00 to hem a pair of pants. A custom prom dress runs $200 and up.
Startup needs: sewing machine, sewing supplies, a little skill.

Garage/Bake sales. Cook up a bunch of goodies and then have a combo garage and bake sale. I always make more money on the baked goods than I do on the garage sale but people will not stop to look unless I call it a "Garage Sale." A dozen homemade cookies is $5.00 or more.

Catering. If you have a knack for special foods, sell that skill for parties. If homemade bread is your thing, set up a delivery route to get fresh bread out to paying customers.

Micro Nursery. Divide up your house and yard plants and have periodic sales in your yard. Add bedding plants in the spring and summer.

Calling Agent. Offer to schedule appointments for a local builder. Many companies need phone people to set up appointments for inspections, construction estimates, etc. Charge by the number of calls made or ask for a commission.

Housekeeping. Clean houses or specialize in cleaning up apartments between tenants or new construction cleanup. Startup needs: general cleaning equipment.

Visiting Companion. Visit elderly people in their homes. make a meal or two or help with cleaning up or just sit and play cards and talk. Startup needs: Pass out business cards to doctors offices, senior centers and pharmacies. Find your local senior services group and register with them.

Micro B&B aka Boarding House. Set up a spare bedroom as a guest room and offer get-aways. If you don't want to invest in the nice guest room trinkets, call yourself a Hostel and register on the national Hostel sites. You can get away with 4 bunk beds in a bedroom and the guests tend to clean up after themselves!

Here are some ideas I have found on other sites:

Be a Tutor.

Run a Welcome Wagon

Helpful Links:
Microbusiness Development Centers in the US

NOTE: I have tried to only list the best home business links. If any of them turn out to be scammer site, PLEASE TELL ME IN COMMENTS. I will remove the link asap. Never, under any circumstances PAY to join a "club" to make money---SCAM!

Have any ideas for a microbusiness that can be started for under $250? Please post them in comments! I would love to see what other people are doing in this nasty job market.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The New Economy-Tailor Your Business to Survive.

One of the problems with big businesses is that it takes so long for them to change to fit market conditions. The usual big business response to a a failing economy is to cut jobs. That response makes the economy that much worse so the big businesses fall in on each other like so many dominoes. Big businesses waste money on advertising programs that are out of date, pushing luxury items to a consumer base that is cutting corners to survive, again the delay time is the killer for big business. Instead of looking to the future, they are stuck 5 minutes in the past. Instead of leading the way in trends, they are held back by past performance and unrealistic sales goals. This stubborn adherence to the tombstones of past profit margins will be the end of them and really that is a shame considering how well big business can manage large numbers of trained, work-ready, people.

In light of the coming economic changes, I suggest that businesses also change the way they operate.

Heavy manufacturing could switch 1/2 of their workforce over to energy technologies. Let GM build wind turbines. Let Chrysler build solar energy plants. If there isn't a market for the machines, then set up power plants and sell the electricity. Require local power companies to buy percentages of the power at slightly over base cost so that companies can afford to keep building and employing people.

Big Box stores should be focusing on basic durable consumer goods like solar panels, food preservation systems, Do-It-Yourself kits, and support for these products. If I could get a Circuit City credit card to buy a computer or big screen TV--why can't I buy solar panels instead? Why not hydroponics equipment to grow food at my house?

Massive grocery stores can help buy converting all store roof tops into greenhouses. These stores waste a lot of energy in the form of excess heat, so this is a natural way to use the heat one more time.(This goes double for Google's Blade Farms which produce enough heat to supply thousands of homes as well as acres of greenhouses!) Food grown would only need to be transported to the produce department rather than halfway around the world.

Contractors can pull back from building new houses and offer more basic services such as retrofitting existing houses with white roofs and energy efficiency packages--90% of American homes need this service at a reasonable price. In many cases programs already exist to help seniors and low income people buy these improvements for their homes and even for their rental homes.

Landscaping companies can focus on lawn removal and food garden installation. Help people start gardens and offer reasonably priced consultation. The time of gouging for these services is over...just help people get started for a price that makes it affordable for the people who need it.

Auto dealers can help by renting some of their unwanted trucks by the hour, so people can use them to haul supplies for home projects. Most people can't buy a truck but would rent one if they were easier to get and affordable.

Cities and States can help by making more land accessible to grow food. What is the use of acres of grass in a park when people are going hungry? Most parks already have water systems installed, so open them up to groups of people for gardening and even small livestock projects. Currently community gardening programs are overwhelmed with waiting lists of a year or more in most cases. This proves we need to devote more City owned land for these programs.