Save Money By Contacting Companies When Things Break

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:51 am on Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I don’t know about you, but things don’t seem well made anymore. They often break right after you get them.

I’m not talking about when I accidentally break something I bought–I wouldn’t blame anyone else for that. I’m talking about when things are so cheaply made that they fall apart on you, usually in just enough time that they’re still new, but you can’t easily return them to the store.

In the past when this happened, I would get angry, throw the thing out, and either do without it or buy it all over again. But my mom changed my attitude about that.

Last year, she bought my son a VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Train Station Playset. About two months after he started playing with it, the train broke. It just wouldn’t turn on anymore.

What a piece of junk! I thought. A $50 toy that lasts less than three months?

When my mom asked if my son was enjoying the train, I said, “Oh it broke. He only used it a little bit and the train stopped working. I don’t really want to buy a replacement train, so I guess I’ll just donate what’s left of the playset to Goodwill.”

But my mom said, “No, don’t do that, I’ll write the company and get a replacement train.”

So she wrote VTech an email saying how much my son enjoyed the product, but the train broke. Then she asked them: would they send her a replacement train?

And you know what? They did. The train came in the mail, it works fine, and my son loves the toy.

So I made New Year’s Resolution (in addition to organizing my house and baking bread): In 2015, every time something breaks because it’s poorly made or has some other malfunction, I’m going to write the company and ask for a replacement.

Earlier this month, I had my first chance to make good on my resolution. In November, I went to Michaels and bought a frame for a poster. Last month, my son knocked the poster over. It flopped slowly over in a way that might have cracked the glass of a normal frame, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the glass shattered. It was like Hollywood breakaway glass. It flew all over the bathroom, into the kitty litter, behind the toilet. It was a mess, and worse–it was dangerous. The glass was brittle, thin, and sharp. Thank God my son didn’t get cut.

Here’s a picture of the glass after I cleaned it up:

Now, if my son had just cracked the glass, I would have sucked it up as our having damaged the frame. Again, I don’t expect a company to replace something that I broke through carelessness or bad luck. But the glass in this frame was a safety hazard, and I felt the company should know about it.

And after all, I’d paid $30 for the frame, and now I had to buy another one.

So I wrote Michaels an email explaining the situation, including the CPU from the frame so they knew what product I was talking about, and asked what they could do for me. It took five minutes to write.

Today I got a reply from a Michaels Customer Care employee, who said:

I have sent the issue to our Buyers, so they are made aware of the issue and can address with the vendor. If you could please provide me with you address, I will see what can be done regarding providing a replacement or credit for the frame.

Well! Isn’t that nice?

Throughout the year, I’ll share other stories of contacting companies to get replacements when things break before their time. We’ll see what they do.

How Much Would You Save If You Ditched Cable?

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:26 am on Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How much is cable TV and a few streaming services like Netflix and Hulu really costing you? Slate has a calculator that lets you figure out the cheapest way to have TV. Useful!

How Much Money Does Making Bread Save You?

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:10 am on Monday, January 5, 2015

While I’m still working on organizing my house, my other New Year’s Resolution is to get better at making bread. While I’m certain it’s worth it to bake bread for the sheer deliciousness of it, I’m not sure it’s worth it financially to replace store-bought bread with homemade bread. Let’s investigate, shall we?

Here in California, I typically buy about three loaves of bread a month at about $4 each. That’s $12 a month, or $144 a year. In the grand scheme of expenses, that’s not very much money.

Ah, but ideally I would be making “artisan” bread, and that easily costs $7 a loaf here. (I know!) So that’s $252 a year.

For Christmas, a friend gave me the Della Fattoria Cookbook. I tried their White Boule recipe and was very pleased with it. The bread tastes great, is easy to make, and meets my definition of “artisan.”

And the ingredients were all things I buy in bulk: all-purpose flour, yeast, sugar, olive oil, sea salt. Here are the ingredients and their cost per ounce:

    Instant yeast 0.28 ounce / 2 1/4 teaspoon = $.09 total
    Warm water (100°F/38°C) 16.6 ounces / 2 cups = free
    All-purpose flour 22 ounces / 4 1/2 cups = $.69 total
    Fine gray salt 0.5 ounce / 2 1/4 teaspoon = $.14 total
    Granulated sugar 0.3 ounce / 2 1/4 teaspoon = $.02 total
    Extra virgin olive oil 2.5 ounces / 5 Tablespoons = $.35 total

    Total amount to make a loaf of bread: $1.29

If I made three loafs a month, that’s $3.87 a month, or $46.44 a year.

That means, if I made “artisan” bread every week instead of buying it, I would save about $205 a year.

That means baking bread would save my about 78%.

However, the wild card here is time. Baking bread is time consuming. However, I work at home, which means that I can steal 5-10 minutes throughout the day to knead dough or put it in the oven. Instead of cigarette breaks, I can take bread breaks.

Also, I suspect that as I get used to making bread, it will become an easy routine that won’t take a lot of my brain space or effort to do.

Also, I could make two loaves at once and freeze one.

So. I’m intrigued. I think I’ll try making bread for awhile and see if it becomes a habit that sticks.


What about you? Do you think it’s worth it to make your own bread?

Frugal Tip: Cut Up Tubes To Get Every Drop Inside

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:15 am on Friday, January 2, 2015

Here’s a frugal tip that I can’t believe never occurred to me before. When you’re down to the dregs of a plastic container, simply cut the container up so you can scrape the excess out. That way you can get to every last drop.

I’ve got a tube of moisturizer I’m going to try this on today.

For more frugal tips, click here.

Cheap Wax From The Thrift Store

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:30 am on Tuesday, December 2, 2014

If you’re interested in No-Mess Candle Making, here’s a tip for getting cheap candle wax: check out your thrift store. They are full of half-burnt candles that usually sell for about $.50 or less.

These candles are cheap for a reason. Few people want a gummy, sticky, weird-looking candle in their house. But if you’re buying the candles for the wax, it doesn’t matter what the candle looks like since you’ll be melting it down.

I’d wager that short of reusing the wax in old candles you already have, this is the cheapest way to get candle wax.

Just make sure to smell the candle before you buy. It’s best to stick to no-scent wax in this scenario, unless you want your newly made candle to smell like a thrift store.

Make Your Own Charlotte Olympia’s Cat Shoes

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:27 am on Tuesday, November 4, 2014

These Chralotte Olympia Cat Velvet Flats are great looking. The problem? They cost $660. (Really??)

Screw that. Make your own. Born By The Seine shows you how.

The tutorial doesn’t say how much these shoes cost to make, but I bet they were a few bucks cheaper than $660.

The Many Lives of My Dumpster-Dived Bureau

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:09 am on Friday, October 3, 2014

savvyhousekeeping dumpster dive diving bureau

Awhile ago, I found the above bureau in a dumpster. Someone had decided to get rid of it, and instead of selling it or donating it, they decided it should end up at the dump instead.

There was nothing wrong with it, and I happened to need a bureau, so we brought it home, cleaned it up, and used it in our bedroom. Use number 1.

Not long after that, I refinished the bureau. In fact, it was the first thing I ever refinished, which means that not only did I gain a bureau from this dumpster dive, I learned a new skill. (I kind of did a crappy job, to be honest, but this is how you learn, right?) Use number 2.

We used the bureau for four years, then we upgraded our bedroom set and no longer needed it. But my husband needed something to hold his tools, so we moved the bureau to the garage and loaded it up. Use number 3.

Then last August, someone gave my husband a nifty cabinet for tool storage, so we decided to get rid of the bureau. I put an ad on Craigslist and we sold it that same day for cold hard cash. Use number 4.

So to recap: we got the bureau for free and used it for six years. During that time, it had four separate uses that benefited us, not the least of which is that we came out of the endeavor with a profit!

Compare that to people who buy furniture for high prices and then throw it out when they are done with it. This is frugality in action, don’t you think?

If you have a similar story, please share!

Food Preservation Round-Up

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:16 am on Friday, September 19, 2014

Ah harvest. It’s time to do something with all that produce you grew. Here’s some recipes and how-tos to help:

Save Money By Dehydrating Fruit

Make Your Own Sundried Tomatoes

How I Made Blackberry Jam For $.69 A Jar

Orange Marmalade

Pepper Jam

How To Freeze Tomatoes

How To Freeze Basil

Make Your Own Zucchini Pickles

How To Freeze Basil

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:11 am on Friday, September 12, 2014

savvyhousekeeping how to freeze basil preserving

As I have mentioned, I have a lot of basil this year. My method for preserving it is simple: freeze it in ice cubes.

The best thing about this method is that you can use the basil as needed. All I have to do it remove the ice cube from a bag, stick it in a strainer, and let it melt. The basil will be wet and soft and taste better than dried. It can be added to any dish that calls for basil.

How To Freeze Basil:


    Ice Cube Trays
    Scissors or knife
    Plastic bags or other freezer-safe containers


Cut the leaves off the basil plant. Discard the stem (they are great in vegetable broth). Cut the leaves into pieces and push down so they are packed into each indentation of the ice cube tray.

Slowly fill the tray with water, then freeze until the ice is solid. Remove the basil-ice from the tray and transfer in a plastic bag for storage. Use the basil as needed.

5 Ways To Save Money In College

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:39 am on Thursday, September 11, 2014

When I graduated from college, I learned I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Here I was just starting out in life, yet I was heavily in debt and had to start paying right away. It was depressing and scary.

So I feel for the people in this NPR piece who are struggling with student-loan debt. Some of them owe $80,000 or $100,000. While that’s excessive, the burden for paying for college is worse than when I was in school, and the price of education is still going up.

It took me 10 years to pay off my school debt. I don’t regret going into debt for my education–getting a college degree is one of the best things you can do for yourself–but I could have owed much less if I had gone about things differently.

So learn from my mistakes. Here are 5 Ways To Save Money In College:

1. Pay Attention To The Loan Terms.
Don’t just sign papers. Try to get loans that have low interest rates, or better yet, no interest rates–they do exist for student debt. Understands the terms of the loan: what are the monthly payments? What are the penalties if you don’t pay? How long can you defer payment after you graduate? It’s important to know what you’re paying for school, if for no other reason that it’s a motivator to do well in class. You certainly won’t want to pay for the same class twice.

2. Reconsider The Dorms. Let me put it this way: when I graduated from college, the vast proportion of my debt was from living in the dorms. Had I gone right to living in a house with roommates, as I did later in college, I would have had a LOT less debt to deal with. There are benefits to staying in the dorms, and many schools require you stay there your first year (although I find that rules are usually negotiable), but dorms are often overpriced for what you get. You may do better living off-campus, so do a cost comparison.

3. Cut The Meal Plan. Make sure you are paying for what you will actually eat. My first year, I paid for eating in the cafeteria three times a day when I really just ate there once. That was a waste of money. Also, consider feeding yourself–a microwave and a small fridge (if allowed in the dorms) may be cheaper than a meal plan.

4. Be Smart About Books. Textbooks are notoriously expensive, so don’t just buy them in the student bookstore. Shop around. Most college towns have bookstores that sell used textbooks for cheaper than the school, and there are websites that sell used textbooks for a fraction of the retail price. There are other options too–you can share a book with a classmate or get it out of the library, although this can be difficult and annoying during exam times. Another option, and this worked for me, is to wait until you get to the class to see what the professor actually uses. Many times, they will assign books that they barely glance at during the class, so wait to see what the syllabus says before purchasing. It can save a surprising amount of money.

5. Don’t Procrastinate. Late fees. Parking fees. Handing in student aid forms after the deadline passes. Not getting a scholarship because you didn’t apply in time. All these things have one thing in common: procrastination. And procrastination is expensive. I racked up hundreds of dollars in parking fees because I was too lazy to get the change I needed to pay the parking meters. Eliminating procrastination can save thousands over the course of a college education–and isn’t a bad policy for studying, either.

So there are my tips. What tips do you have for saving money in college?

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