• Like a bad penny, debt always turns up…

    unless we change how we interact with money, of course!

    The Bad Penny is dedicated to two pursuits: getting out of debt and staying out of debt! It recognizes that frugality and caring for our planet go hand in hand, and that our unsatiated need for stuff is hurting us in so many ways.

    Easier said than done!


    I am not a finance professional. I write about the world as I know it, and my advice may not be the best course of action for you! Please seek qualified advice for your particular situation.

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The Great Clothing Swap – Swango.com

My son is growing!  Suddenly, almost overnight, his size 18 month pants and shirts are all too short!  And not just a little – I didn’t notice until one day I put a shirt on my son and the sleeves were a good inch above his arms.

Now this I was not expecting.  We’d purchased 2T clothing from the end-of-summer clearance racks, so we have plenty of t-shirts and shorts.  But it’s still March, and I’m sure some of you are looking out the window at the same thing I am – a foot-and-a-half of snow, and more swirling down.  So we’ve been keeping our eyes out for 2T pants (he has lots of shirts that still fit.)

So today, when I found an online clothing swapping site called Swango.com I was very excited. I see lots of clothing for the whole family, although at the moment there isn’t a lot of maternity. 😛

Just like many online swapping sites, the site works on a system of credits.  Each item you list will initially earn you a free credit, with a maximum of ten free credits.  When you sell an item, you and the buyer split shipping costs, and the buyer pays a $0.99 transaction fee that goes to swango.com.  I really like the fact that Swango uses the transaction fee to cover making the site run smoothly (by using paypal checkout) and also donates part of it to a charity that provides clothing to families in need.

You can use the credits you earn to “buy” clothes!  A brand new Gap onesie I’m eyeing would cost me 2 credits.

Swango, of course, is just one way to swap clothing – Ebay, Craigslist, freecycle, thrift stores, family…there are so many others.  And the benefits to swapping instead of buying new are plentiful:

~ swapping keeps clothing out of landfills – because if you never purchase new clothes, you never have to dispose of them!  Plus, you save the chemicals, raw goods, and other parts of the manufacturing process.

~ it’s cheaper!  It’s often just a couple dollars (compared to tens of dollars for new) or even free

~ swapping in many places means you will get something that is almost as good as new.  Swango.com previews listings and may reject those they feel are not in good condition.  I can’t tell you how many clothes I have inherited off of freecycle that were brand new, and many that were just as good as they would look after my son wore them a couple times!

All that said, I can’t wait until summer and garage sale season.  I haven’t found a really good thrift shop that carries clothing around here yet, but the garage sales are great!  Now, if only this snow would melt!


New Books!

I excited today – I received two new books in the mail!

One is Living More With Less by Doris Janzen Longacre.  One of my desires is to figure out how to live simply.  I’m simply amazed at how much stuff we amass in our house, even when we are trying not to bring new things in the house.  Hopefully this book will contain some good, practical information that will help me streamline our possessions and let someone else have the things we won’t use or don’t like.

The other one is called The Prosperous Peasant by Tim Clark and Mark Cunningham.  I actually won this one over at the Get Rich Slowly blog.  If you haven’t read what J.D. has to say, you ought to take a look.  He gets into many more technical financial issues than I tend to – things like investing and retirement.  Almost always a very interesting read!

I did want to mention that if you like to read, PaperbackSwap is an excellent resource. That is where I got the first book I mentioned today.  It’s really simple, and it’s basically free!

The basics:

1. You register on the site with a valid mailing address and valid email address.

2. When you post 10 books you would be willing to give to someone else, you will get two free credits.  The books must meet certain requirements – they can’t be written in or missing a front cover, they can’t be in poor condition, but “well-read” is okay.  Individual members may require more – for instance, I have a requirement that there not be an obvious cigarette smell on the book since I have asthma and the smell may exacerbate it.

3. When someone else requests one of the books you’ve listed, you package it and ship it to them.  When you ship it, it takes one of the recipient’s credits away and holds it in “stasis” until the recipient gets the book.  When the book arrives, the recipient marks it as received and you get their credit.

4.  If you find a book you want (and it’s pretty easy to find one!) you request it.  One of your credits is taken and held until you get the book, and you then mark it “received” and the sender gets the credit.

5.  Books are always worth one credit.  Audiobooks are worth 2 credits.

6. The book you want isn’t available?  You can “wish list” it.  The site works on a “first-in, first-out” basis – if you are the 27th person in line, then you will wait until the 27th copy is posted to get the book.  It’s really not too long before you get the book, since there are usually multiple copies floating around!

There are a lot of other features on PaperbackSwap, but I don’t want to mention everything here.  I’ve been on PaperbackSwap for 2 years now, and I’ve saved so much money on books I wanted to buy – and because it’s so cheap (the cost of shipping a book out is usually $2.13) I’ve been able to read books I wouldn’t have bought, but may have gotten from the library.

Speaking of the library, it’s also a great resource, obviously!  My previous library was very small, and the other branches were also small.  They didn’t carry many books in the genres I was interested in.  My local library here in Ohio is actually connected to the Cleveland branches.  Not only do they carry many books that pique my interest, but they can order pretty much any books since they are part of a large city system!

Of course, used books and library books save money, but they also save our houses!  Fewer books reside on my shelves now, and more valuable credits exist in my PaperbackSwap account.  Less clutter, more organization!  And though I’m the type that gasps at the thought of throwing away a book, I know there are people that do it.  Perhaps reusing will keep some books from ending up in the landfills!

It’s going to be -2 degrees tomorrow, and I know our temperatures aren’t unique.  This week will be a great week to snuggle up under a blanket and dive into a great book!

On the Path to a Paper-less Kitchen

One of the principles of both environmentalism and of frugality is easy: “Don’t waste.”

If you don’t waste it, you don’t have to buy more. You don’t have to use up more resources. You don’t have to throw more away.

In that mindset, a few months ago I started avoiding the use of paper towels and napkins, among other paper products. In fact, I went so far as to go out and buy a pack of bartender’s cloths at Walmart for several dollars.

The Bad Penny's

I’ve also salvaged dish cloths, including many my mother-in-law gets during Christmas from her 3rd grade students. It’s not a pretty picture, but you can see my towel drawer above.

I avoid using these for the really icky things – the mice the cats like to kill and leave for us, blood from hamburger meat that gets on the counter. In the case of the blood, I don’t trust that our washer gets hot enough to kill any pathogens involved, and as for the mice, well…the thought of something touching my counter that picked up a dessicated mouse – no matter how many times it’s been washed – is just really disgusting!

I keep a small plastic wastebasket under the sink, and I throw the used cloths in there (another reason not to use it for hamburger blood!) When I go around collecting laundry, it’s just another stop.

To be honest, it’s so ridiculously easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it before. It really doesn’t add any strain to my workload, because normally the small cloths will nicely fill up the last little bit of the washing load. And it sure beats going up to the Sam’s Club every couple weeks to buy another pack of paper towels!

But does it save money? Definitely.

We were buying about 4 – 12 packs of Bounty paper towels at Sams Club every year.   That’s $60 a year of paper towels. We were going through about a roll every week.

In the past six months since we’ve started using cloth, we’ve only had to buy a pack once – when we moved into this house. We still have about 5 rolls left. That means we’ve used about a roll a month! We’ll only buy one pack of Bounty in the entire year, saving us $45 (and considering our grocery budget right now, that’s a large amount.)

Of course, we have to look at the cost of the cloth, too. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for our 10 bartender’s cloths, but I want to guess it was around $7. The rest of the towels were given to us or we’ve had them for years. Washing doesn’t cost any extra, because I’d be running that load with or without the cloths, so there’s no need to add anything for that.

This year on paper towels, we will save a net amount of $38 compared to last year. Next year, we’ll spend even less since we won’t have to buy more towels. Not to mention the amount of trash reduction! (It scares me to picture taking three of those 12 roll packs and just throwing them away. That’s a lot of trash!)

I’m keeping my eyes open for more dishcloths that  people are getting rid of!