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Blog: Pam's Pennypinching With STYLE

Pam's recounting of how her ancestrally thrifty habits have helped her in modern life in ways none of her foremothers could have imagined!

Showing 10 posts from July 2008 for this blog.
Vacation After-thoughts - How to SAVE
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some thoughts on how you can save on your vacation.

  • Stay somewhere close - we only used 2 tanks of gas! Check our your local points of interest.
  • You can get deals on commemorative items by looking for last year's - sometimes they are 50% off!  I got an artistic tshirt from a museum that way. (I DON'T EVER pay $20 for a tshirt!)
  • Look for rummaging areas & even sale items in antique stores.  I landed a couple of pairs of earrings for $3/pr. (Would have been much more elsewhere & they are clips, hard to get nowadays.) Also got some antique lace for a few dollars.
  • Check out local thrift shops!  We got lots of great stuff - even a little ring for $4.50 which I swear has a real peridot (my birth stone.)
  • Look around for motel/hotel discounts.  We asked at a gas station & ended up getting the best lodging for the least money of the trip!
  • Combine your business/hobby with pleasure - We went up for a gig for my husband Mark's music  - for which we made some $ and were fed - and we kept on going further than we normally do for our vacation time.
  • Save those soap/shampoo samples,etc.  You can use them or donate them to a shelter for the homeless or abused women, and so on.
  • Look for local festivals - we found a Farmer's Market in Lompoc.
  • Look for deals in tickets to Fairs - The Ventura Country Fair in our neck of the woods has $1 on opening day (& a week later) - a Seniors Day - and other discounts. 
  • Good deals on top music at fairs, too.  The Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys are playing at the Ventura Co. Fair - and at $9 for admission - those tickets are a good deal!
  • Remember to pick up those pencils/pens/post-its/memo pads, and other giveaways at local events.
  • If your motel has an ice machine, fill your drinks and ice chest up with ice before you leave in the AM. (We used a recycled foam shipping container for our little car ice chest.)
  • Bring your own food and picknick when you can.
  • If there is a continental breakfast at your motel/hotel - get up early enough to take advantage of it!  And maybe you can get some fruit for the road, too.  (One of the places we stayed had a wine/cheese tasting in the PM, that was nice, too.)
  • If there are wineries around, you might want to check out the tasting areas for free/inexpensive fun. (There is an area in both Santa Barbara & Santa Ynez.)
  • Check out parks you go by for future reference.  We discovered one lake was nice and quiet during the week - whereas the weekends seemed frantic....
  • Pick up info on local attractions whenever you can.  We found a map of the wine areas which we will use again! There were also brochures with little maps of the area(s) included, which were enough for our purposes. (Remember the days of free maps?)
  • If you are 50+ check out senior discounts - Might think about joining the AARP, too - as they have motel/hotel discounts.

Just some ideas.  It made up feel as if we were REALLY on vacation this year - and without breaking the bank, either.


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Notes from the Road
Sunday, July 27, 2008

Greetings from Lompc, CA - between Santa Barbara & San Luis Obispo - (the name is from the Spanish mission La Purissima - & there is a park with a well-preserved mission complex there.) Poked around some funky thrift/antique stores upon arrival & snagged a beautiful leather handbag with a Bloomingdale's label amidst all the plastic - for $4 - as well as a nice belt - $1 & some paperbacks 25 cents each - On to the next one where I got some knitting needles(?) at $2/pr & an Indian skirt for $1!!

We then visited the weekend Farmer's Market & found another antique store having a sale & I found some bargain clothes including an Indian sundress for $4 & a pendant for $1 - and some real French L'air du Temps perfume ($2).  I wish I could afford it - because real Fr. perfume is the BEST. (And Mark got a stool for his music gig.)

Then had BBQ in a funky old bar - GIANT turkey legs! and saw some real silver CLIP earrings at an antique vendor - which I told Mark could be a birthday present - for $10!!

Saturday we worked - but I thought I had lost my mascara & ran into Big Lots to get something & found Revlon mascara on sale for $2!!

They also had Revlon color palettes of coordinated colors with a mirror for $.50 - and some vitamins.  Seems they are having a drug store clearance.  More Revlon stuff.  So check it out.  Mascara nowadays is at least $7-8 so when I see a bargain I snag it - ditto lipstick, etc. It does make one impulsive - but I can't bear to spend $7 on a lipstick!

I see from their flyers that they have Fruit of the Loom (I think) bras on sale for $5 - and Timex watches for $5, too - I have enuf of those - but check it out.  I think of Big Lots more for big things these days  - as opposed to the old Pic N Save - but I should keep an eye out on their smaller stuff.   

The gig went well - and I enjoyed the sunshine and the ocean breezes.  Nice folks & a nice day.  (And I wore my $4 sundress with the $1 belt and the $1 pendant with a linen shirt as a jacket - got compliments, too.) We are on up the coast for the rest of the vacation days we can squeeze it.  No pix - as I am on the laptop!

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More Frugality
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The news of the financial downturn is getting to me, too - I find myself counting my financial freebies/deals etc. to reassure myself.

Been checking in on and  daily for freebies - seem to be getting samples everyday in the mail.  Just got another moisturizer and some Tide and some liniment.

Also found which provides free phone service - The # is in Seattle & goes to your email inbox.  You get 20 messages. I recommended it to a friend who is wandering about and gave up his cell phone! Now there is no excuse not to be in touch.  Good for the kids?

Cashed in some of my mypoints for a Shell Gift Card - only 2 gals of gas - but it's reassuring....& there is a Shell station right around the corner...

Also, with some research discovered that there are FREE senior citizen activities around me.  One I can walk to!  I am getting ingo from them to take yoga, etc.!! One advantage of being 50+... I advise you to do some research in your own area to see what's available.

My acting workshp at the S.M. Emeritus College is super! even though I have to schlepp across town for it!  And I got word on a cheap tap class in Pasadena for srs., too....

We artistic types are always semi-retired, anyway. The caliber of the folks at my scene class is really great.  One guy won 3 Emmies for writing comedy on the Carol Burnett Show! The irony is that my older actor friends are doing BETTER as they age, because they have Soc. Security income coming in and healthcare to supplement their artistic earnings, as no one stops working, really....

I can see seniors working as extras just for the hot meals and being companionable sitting in the sun!

Also collecting the upper end of the fast food coupons especially for my husband, who can't be trained to bring his own lunch. 

We are going off for free camping courtesy of the Lompoc Valley AA Group, which is celebrating their 50th anniversary.  My husband is playing his 12 Step songs (they are really very good) and we are being fed and pitching a tent.  It's the beginning of a week's vacation on the Central Coast & on our boat.  I will noodle on my concertina during Mark's breaks. (Another bargain - a $200 instrument I got at a local thrift shop which we made minor repairs to!) These little busman holiday gigs are fun. And that's also reassuring to know that we can keep that enhancing part of our lives.  Viva la musica!

Oh - and Mark is making his own CDs of his 12 Step Songs to sell at a modest price at his appearance.  It's taken his time, but even with the cases, the reproduction cost is about $.50 per CD & as I recall the pros ask at least $1 per and you have to have a BIG run.  He is only running off 50 or so - But they do look nice with the inside labels he has made for the jewel cases.  If we sell them, $1 will go to the Lompoc AA Grp. & the rest for our GAS $. 

Have to practice my concertina!  I really have to record all my Celtic material - when I was all set a few years ago didn't have the technology that I have home now.  It's great for the artiste, all this stuff - you have no idea! And packing - ugh.







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Busy Wkend Aftermath
Monday, July 21, 2008

Had a busy weekend what with my Emeritus College scene showcase - It went well in the new Edye Theatre of Santa Monica College - even computerized lighting?  And real union techs who went on mandated lunch breaks?  Very professional, really.

Found out that someone else in the showcase won 3 Emmys for writing on the Carol Burnett Show!  Not to mention that my scene partner was in BARFLY and was up for an Emmy nomination - & I have "been in award-winning productions." So it's not amateur night (or afternoon).

The heat wave is over & I think the swamp cooler experiment did help to alleviate the heat.  Will put it in motion again when the temp rises.  Every little bit helps.

After the showcase we went to downtown Santa Monica and walked around.  There was a thrift shop, so I had to stop in.  The pickings were less than elsewhere - but I did snag a Nicole Miller sequined tank top for about $4!  I say, all my designer things are from thrift shops!

Leslie Earnest, the L.A. Times reporter who wrote the article about frugal shopping that I was in - had another article on frugal fashion for back to school in the paper on Sunday - once again in the business section.  She wrote about how vintage is back in style - but the poor teenagers were shopping at the upscale vintage marts like Wasteland  (in fashionable Melrose Ave. territory) - rather than getting in on the ground floor of vintage, as I like to do. 

I found a vintage silk kimono jacket up in Ojai for $12 a few weekends ago & they were oohing and aahing about $35 Members Only jackets? 

And they spend $12 on pseudo-silver jewelry rather than looking for the real thing? Or putting together something from Michaels - curious.  But I don't spend much on my t-shirts, either - they never last long before the stains get to them - When I see good deals, I stock up on a variety of colors.  Same thing with the tank tops at the 99 cent store!  I have a whole bunch of them from last season I am still wearing.

I love the thrift shop in Santa Paula we go to now and then - I got jeans for $1 and the same for a nice gauze shirt I can wear with my Nicole Miller dressy tank! And a pair of cute orange shoes for $2 - and a nice bag for $3....

Not the same cachet as Melrose's funkiness - but not the same prices, either, & in the end who will know the difference?  You have to start somewhere, I suppose.





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Swamp cooler update
Thursday, July 17, 2008

The water level in all my pans is going down - so it's evaporating and that must help - I am also covering up the middle of the top of our gas stove where all the pilot lights are - to try to insulate IN the heat that comes from them (they are as low as possible & still hot...)

I should look for some cheese cloth that I can wet and drape over the window fan - even with everything the thermometer was at 85 yesterday! The sun beats down on the uninsulated roof and comes in the windows of our W-E. exposure.  And I wear minimalist clothes. (My husband loves it!)

Trying to put frozen bottles of water or beer cans filled with frozen water in front of fans - but doesn't last long...

Have to admit I slept the the AC on in the bedroom last night - extravagant, but I do like it & it's hard to get up to turn it off! 

One thing about the general energy crisis - it is easier to coordinate schedules to eliminate driving if not necessary.  My husband came home early and worked here yesterday.  Nice to have his company.

And my acting partner is going to come down here from her home in the valley and then go on to a SAG meeting down here.  We rehearsed the other day at a room with AC at the church....It's nice to have access to other facilities. 

My husband kept on telling me that 85 wasn't hot (and it's not as hot as the tropics, surely - and DRY) but as a Northerner by blood, I still find the heat trying - and just doing something about it makes me feel better.  The placebo effect? 

Cooler today - but the pans of water continue - I find that if I keep the apartment cool over time, the temperature doesn't get as high.  If I let it go, the heat just seems to sink in and cook the place - which makes it harder to cool off.  I am sure some more scientific mind could explain all this heat/energy transfer and conservation!

I just got the ideas from watching an old PBS Huell Howser program about how in the days before AC they had these "desert submarine" buildings in the S. Calif. desert - which were big swamp coolers you could sleep in - to survive the summer heat! And that led to noticing how some cultures put wet burlap on the windows for cooling....but we have to watch out for the floor - so hence the bowls!!


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DIY mini swamp coolers?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Inspired by a tip at last week - I am experimenting with putting water in front of my many household fans to act as mini-swamp coolers!  I have one in front of the fan by my desk - and I have used the shallow decorative chip tray we got as a wedding present for the water and have put one of my articificial bonsai trees in it (plastic and indestructible). I have also tried putting some strips of paper towel on the fan itself and ice cubes in the water, but the ice cubes melt so quickly.... 

My husband thinks any cooling I feel is mostly psychologically - but on the other hand he likes the effect of a little lake in the living room! I also have bowls in front of other fans and in front of the fan on top of the frig (the kitchen gets very warm) I tried a small frozen plastic bottle of water.  It fits better up there and it's one way of recycling those water bottles, as you can't re-use them as I have found out (due to leakage of the plastic components - which is unsafe).

This is all because our one living room air conditioning unit gets overwhelmed in the afternoon when it heats up - we direct the cool air with a fan (my husband's bright idea) but it's still a trickle.  And I am not sure whether this wiring in this old place would support another AC unit.  When we have too many appliances on in the kitchen we blow a circuit breaker!

As I have mentioned before, we also have a lacy "veil" curtain on the front door, so I can open it a bit and make use of the updraft in the hall to further circulate air - while having privacy at the same time. (Beaded curtains serve the same purpose.) Also traps most of the bugs.  But when it gets hot, the air in the hall is hot, too, in the middle of the day - so then I close the door until the evening when it cools down.  Luckily we get the tail end of the ocean breezes here at night and it almost always cools down - so I keep the fans on to cool off the apartment overnight. 

Did a utility survey for the local S. Calif. Edison and apparently we use a lot of electricity - but with no insulation, as this is a building more than 50 years old, we do the best we can! At least I have the tree outside my living room window - which does help cut the sun, besides being so pretty. Will keep you posted on my swamp cooling experiments.  What are you doing to keep your cool?

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More Wkend Scores
Monday, July 14, 2008

Scored a lot of good stuff this weekend.

  • My husband cashed in his Kohl's gift card (which I had given him for his birthday & which I had earned from my participation from  He went to the 80% off rack and got 2 nice pairs of slacks for work and a nice nautical-style golf shirt.  All together a value of about $100 - and my husband got it for the card + $5 for tax!!
  • I went to the obscure 99 Cent store on the way to the boat to look for some more C0Q10 - as they had it for 99 cents (usually $25!!). And I found it and bought 8 ( value @ $200)
  • Also found some Bayer plant stenol combination - which keeps down cholesterol - at 99 cents - that's about $15 at least and I got 8 = $120+ And we also found papertowels, lipgloss, a candy bar, juice and 2 pairs of sunglasses -

All for $26!!!

Have to say that I so rarely go to normal stores that the prices at Kohl's were almost a shock.  Sunglasses on sale for $12?? Handbags for $40 which I could get for $10?? Cropped jeans for $50+ and mine were $5 and $7!!!

Also went over to Michael's, the craft get large knitting needles for a project I want to do with the mohair yarn I had scored at a thrift shop. (with some other nice yarn at $.50 a ball!!) Michael's even had some simple knitting patterns on the shelves - free - I can always use more EZ ideas!

I hadn't been in the jewelry department for a while - and wow!  you can get everything there - all sorts of pendants and chains and nice beads.  I bought a Buddha pendant on sale and some real nacre shell accents. It was amazing to compare the components at Michael's with the complete retail jewelry at Kohl's - What a markup!  If I had a teenage girl we would be spending a LOT of time at Michael's!!

A guy at church who is studying to be a pharmacy tech had said that the 99 Cent Store vitamins would be old and weaker.  I have had great success with them.  And the COQ10 and the Bayer combo all had expiration dates at the end of this year.  I did some internet research, and discovered that the expiration dates were even more conservative that I had thought.  Apparently, the US Army stockpiled meds and wanted to know how long they were still good - and they were good for years past the expiration date!  Even at a hospital site - I think it was John Hopkins - they came right out and said that very few old medications were not OK to take!  You just have to store them away from moisture and heat and if the pills have deteriorated, it is a sign of some deterioration. 

I found this reassuring - because I have an batch of old anti-depressants which I have used in emergencies - and when I have run out.  I felt ok - and seems that there isn't a problem with that.  Especially good, because the insurance company keeps such a tight rein on the prescriptions - so I don't have much in reserve, despite the fact that it's recommended in your emergency supplies.

So - Ka Ching! We spent the equivalent of $50 (actually $25 in cash) and in turn received  about $400 worth in goods!  Can you imagine.


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Summer in the City (& elsewhere)
Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Summers are always hard for me - I have what I know know as hyperhidrosis (meaning I sweat a LOT on my FACE) - so I have had to compensate for that. (See my article on Super Sweating on!) 

I  always am dragging along iced tea to drink  - as the heat + my medications always make me so DRY.(And who wants to spend $1.00+ for 2 cents worth of tea in a cup? Altho sometimes I am caught & I rationalize it by saying I can re-use the cup, lid and straw - which I DO.)

And then my allergies have just popped up again!  Can;t figure it out by the pollen count - not so high - (I check them with a pollen count from which I get via email) but there have also been fires up N. of us in Santa Barbara - we could see the haze over the city as we drove back in from the beach. So particulate matter is up (I looked that up on the internet, too.)

At any rate, I got sideswiped, blindsided by an unexpected allergy attack.  Sunday morning, despite taking Zyrtec, usually good for my eyes, my eyes felt as if they had sand in them - and I get 1/2 blind. too.  I used my drops - the Opcon-A (otc) and the Similisan and put stye/opthalmic vaseline on my inner eyelids (which get irritated) - (which the mds ever told me about!) and I also popped my homeopathic remedy - (I am using A. Vogel's Pollisan Allergy relief now, as it is cheaper than Allergyaide by B&T) and then I resorted to cold tea compresses on my eyes for about 45 min or so - when all else fails, I can get some relief from the cold tea!  Then I souped myself up with caffeine (I have a caffeinated spray with vitamins) and managed to get through the day, which included mental work -

Took Tavist when I got home - and things did abate - slept a lot.  Still problems on waking (Have an air cleaner & A/C in the bedroom) - Went into the living room & put on the aircleaner there + A/C -took Allertonic drops, + BioAllers drops for grass and tree + nettle drops (they use that a lot in Europe) .  Another dose of Tavist (1x per day & I got a deal on some at the 99 Cent Store - good til the end of the year) - Note:  I don't take the drops in the evening because they are stimulating.  P.S. I have also been using my Nasalcrom spray to alleviate my itching nose!

Big sigh - now, after an iced coffee, I am beginning to feel human - but what an effort!  The other alternative is to give up and take Benedryl, which knocks you out - and just go to BED.  I am also, of course, taking all my vitamins: B and C and E and fish oil and eyebright (has quertcin - good for allergies) and ginko and Cat's Claw and ginseng for the immune system - and calcium/magnesium/zinc and garlic and the CoQ10 I snagged cheap last week!!

I also took some Wellness formula by Source Naturals for their adaptogens!! (I don't want to get adrenal exhaustion from all this stress.) 

See why I spend a lot of $ at the health food store?  And then I go look for bargains elsewhere - or my bill at the health food store would be up in the $100s instead of 1/2 of that! (At the boat I used the multi vitamin sample I got from Naturemade - less to pack!)

You see, I masquerade as a fairly healthy person - but I have been taking precautions of one kind or another for YEARS - so long, I am almost used to it - but as I age - they just seem to pile on!

So this is my summer heat and allergy lament! 

  • But even here you can think thrifty, no? 
  • (fyi I got the eyebright, the ginseng and the Cat's Claw on SALE -
  • and I get garlic at the 99 cent store and ginko, too.
  • Got a couple of boxes of Tavist at 99 Cent Store
  • Also scored 99 Cent coQ10 last week!
  • Otherwise we look for 2 for one vitamin sales at the drug store 
  • I get discounts on the Naturemade program - I like their CholestOff. 
  • And I got a free 2-wk supply of multivitamins from Naturemade, too
  • And I save coupons for eyedrops
  • and got a free little sample of the new Bosch & Lomb Alaway drops - find it online. 
  • And when I saw little  99 cent store trial bottles of the old Murine, which you can use all the time - I stocked up on a few to carry around in my makeup bags for emergencies! A whole bottle of that is about $4 now!)
  • I even used to make my own boric acid solution by mixing a tsp. of pure powdered boric acid to about a pint of hot water & keeping it in the frig.  But then boric acid got expensive - so back to drops I went!)
  • Oh, and I keep the swelling at the bottom of my eyes down by putting a dab of witch hazel (Dickinson's is really the best)on them under my daily eyecream (& I lubricate liberally when my eyes are irritated!)
  • Use petroleum jelly on my upper eyelid.

My husband says I am a walking pharmacy - but I get so cranky when I am all irritated and uncomfortable, that he really should be grateful for my nostrums - which do create a degree of good humor!



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Monday, July 07, 2008

Tried this free webpage builder at

And I said I would comment - except that I didn't understand it!

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The 4th
Thursday, July 03, 2008

Should be packing - but wanted to dash off a pre-4th of July blog -

Keeping on with normal cyberpursuits - Went deeper into (recommended by another thriftyfunner) and under the "Money" section found 2 places to sign up for being a cyberJUROR to make $ - Signed up & heard back from one - Any little way to make some $ - My husband found a $10 check handing around I got from somewhere & I don't remember what it was FOR. 

If the gov't asked me what the value of this all would be I simply couldn't tell them - but I bet it all adds up! And it's fun.  I do do some free online "gambling" - the latest is Winster - but, you know, I have always say that the greatest gamble is my LIFE - so I don't have so much of an urge to get outside thrills. 

Mark just found a nice pseudo-oriental runner at a dollar store (for $15!) and I customized it by coloring in some parts of the cream design (it's cream/black/maroon) to make it look more like my late-lamented REAL Persian rug, which finally succumbed to some nasty MOTHS. Alas. 

I used a blue permanent marker, which picks up the traditional blue/maroon color scheme of the oriental rug pattern.  Looks much nicer & less like a machine rug, if I do say so myself! You can also touch up old faded patterned rugs - dealers have been doing it for years....but don't touch a rug you may think has some real VALUE.  But if Fido has been munching the edge - or it's a bit worn (like the edge of my dark blue rug in the living room) - you can touch the area up and no one will be much the wiser!

Enjoy your 4th.  We look forward to the BBQ & fireworks!


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