Eight Quick Takes on an Icy December Day

We woke up this morning to the peculiar tinny sound of freezing rain on the windows and sides of our house. The windows on the east side of our house are glazed with ice, so all of us climbed back into bed for a while before getting up to have a very lazy breakfast.

Days like this are often incredibly lazy, filled with idle thoughts and idle activities, and today is no different. My mind is filled with an assortment of thoughts that could possibly be fleshed out into posts, but instead I decided to just write a paragraph or two about each one.

Since this is my first Christmas in financial security, how do I avoid the desire to go overboard? I’m basically just limiting any extra spending to just my parents and my wife this year, and even then, it’s because I have some very specific gifts in mind for them that have some personal connections as well. For my son and daughter, I am giving them something special for Christmas, but they won’t see it for a long time – an extra contribution to their 529 accounts.

Frugal Ideas for a Winter Day

Make Hot Chocolate

Here’s that hot chocolate powder mix recipe that you’ve clamored for. I get a large bowl and put five cups of dry milk, a quarter cup of powdered sugar, and a third of a cup of powdered dairy creamer. I then get a pound of dark chocolate (a couple bars of Hershey’s Dark will suffice), then grate it into a powder using a box grater (you might want to use a blender or something). I pour in the chocolate powder, mix it all up until it’s consistent, and put it in a jar. It takes about fifteen minutes or so.

Pay Online Bills

Online bill pay is an amazing time saver. I can’t imagine having to write this many checks each month. It’s much easier to just type in the dollar amount owed, hit submit, and have my bank take care of it electronically. I use ING for this, and their interface for it is just stellar.

Melt the Ice Outside Your Home

I need to melt ice and I don’t have any special salt. So what? I’ll just get a couple gallons of water really hot, mix in a cup of table salt, and gently pour it down my driveway. The ice melts away quite well with this mixture (not as well as salt specifically for ice melting, but not bad), and it flows, which means I can basically start pouring it at the edge of my garage. If I need more, I go make more, but it’s best to give the mix some time to work between pouring (let the salt work on the ice).

Pay Off Debt…But Be Reasonable

I sometimes get so fired up about paying off debt that I almost make foolish choices. When I got down to just a little bit left on my last student loan, I really wanted to take a big chunk out of my emergency fund to get rid of it. Had I done that, though, Murphy’s Law dictates that something disastrous would happen. Of course, just to reinforce that idea, my truck had some serious problems shortly after that, delivering a $1,500 repair bill to me. Thankfully, I hadn’t touched the emergency fund, so it was no problem.

Master a Video Game You Already Own

I’m having more fun mastering video games than buying another new one. My pace at buying games for my Wii has been far, far slower than with previous game consoles. What I’ve found, though, is that I’m actually having more fun with fewer games. I’m spending a lot more time with each one, mastering it and digging into the nooks and crannies. In fact, I probably won’t buy a new Wii game for a year and I won’t get bored, as I have a handful of games yet to master. There’s no need to blow a lot of cash on a lot of games – just buy one that you will really enjoy and invest the time in to master.

Put Up Your Christmas Tree

We’re going to put up and decorate our Christmas tree today. Our favorite decoration is actually a long string with popcorn on it, and about every ten or fifteen kernels we put a dried cherry on it. The best part is that after Christmas we can just drop it all in the composter (save the string). Our only other decorations are lights and a few sentimental ornaments. Very simple, classy, and not very expensive.

Make a Home-Cooked Meal

We’re iced in, don’t have much to do, and we probably won’t turn on a television all day today. The only exception might be if we choose to play a video game – otherwise, I bet it doesn’t even turn on. Meanwhile, I’ll probably finish Cannery Row, we’re going to have a homemade chicken marinara dish for supper, I’m going to make some bread, and I’m also going to make a homemade Memory game for my son and teach him to play it. I’m really beginning to believe that life is better without television.

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