Tag Archives: frugality

Love Letter to My Own Dear Self


This post was written and scheduled before I began my new blog schedule, which explains why it’s not of particular interst of rubber tramps, nomads, travelers and van dwellers. I’ll be back on track next week.

Dear Me,

Hand with oil pastel draws the heartI know I don’t often tell you how much I love and appreciate you. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity and criticism and to forget to express gratitude for all the good. So on this day of hearts and flowers, I want you to know there’s so much I like about you.

I love your laugh and your sense of humor. When you think something’s comical, you don’t hold back; you’re not afraid to laugh long and loud. It’s awesome that you’re funny and make other people laugh too. You see what’s amusing even in sad times and amidst irritation. You know how to lighten a situation with humor, a trait your coworkers always appreciate.

I admire your love for the underdog. You have compassion for every homeless person on the street, every panhandler, every sign flyer. You don’t see the poor as a huddled mass, but as individuals, each with a story. You care about all of them. Remember when the dental office lied about the cost of their procedures, then tried to manipulate you into paying too much for services you didn’t want? You weren’t only angry about what they’d tried to do to you. You were also outraged because they are scamming poor people with few choices who may not know how to protest. It’s awesome that you can recognize and speak out about the suffering of others.

I’ve seen you give the shirt off your back to a man who was cold. (You had a t-shirt on underneath and more shirts at home, but it was a favorite shirt, and you were chilly as you walked back to your house.) I’ve seen you give a dollar to a sign flyer when you were mostly broke yourself. I’ve seen you give something you loved to a friend who admired the item. I know you don’t like to brag about your generosity (you’re modest too!), but I see and appreciate the way you share.

Your creativity is fantastic. Not only can you take a few old catalogs and some glue and turn out a beautiful collage, you can problem-solve to make real life better. I’ve seen you make a tasty dinner from a few random ingredients. I’ve seen you extend the life of your favorite jacket by sewing thrift-store patches over stains. I’ve seen you turn an old skirt into a curtain. You’re blessed with an imagination that allows you to see how what you have can be changed into what you need.

Your creativity pairs nicely with your frugality. If you have a need, you don’t rush out to buy a brand new something. You think about what you already have that might solve the problem. You shop at thrift stores and free boxes until you find what you need, or you try to do without. You never buy new clothes, and when new shoes are necessary, you look for a good deal on EBay. You find the free activities in every town you visit, and you know how to cook dinner in the park so you can avoid paying for restaurant food. You never met a bargain bin, reduced-produce shelf, or day-old bakery rack you didn’t like.

I know you are a loving friend. You write cards and letter to people you know will never write back Three Red Heart Balloonsbecause you hope getting mail will brighten someone’s day. You work hard at being a good listener, whether a pal is telling you a funny story or lamenting a sad situation. You call people; you comment on Facebook; you stay in touch.

You’re a great writer, and you keep getting better. Your growth as a writer is evident to anyone who reads your blog regularly. Your writing ability was fine when you started, but the consistent practice has brought you to a higher level. Readers are engaged with what you have to say; you know how to pull them into the story. You’re learning how to be more concise, and you’re not afraid to try new ways of weaving stories so your readers don’t get bored after three years of regular posts.

Of all the things I like about you, your hope is what stands out most. You’ve had hard times, and there are probably more on the way, but you haven’t given up. You may not always believe life will get better, but you hang onto the belief that life could get better. You haven’t given up on improvement. You may say, What’s the point? but you haven’t yet concluded that there is no point. Sometimes your hope is big, but even when your life is at its worst, you hold onto at least a glimmer of optimism.

I know sometimes you want to pull away and hide when you feel unloved and unwanted and unappreciated. Please remember, you are always loved. I love you. I appreciate you. I’m always here to take you in my arms, rock you gently, kiss your tears away.



beautiful, hands, heart

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/hand-with-oil-pastel-draws-the-heart-6333/ , https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-red-heart-balloons-704748/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/sunset-hands-love-woman-5390/.

House Sitting Savings


People often ask me if I get paid for house and pet sitting. The answer is: usually not. House and/or pet sitting is not going to pay my bills. The most I’ve ever been paid for my pet sitting duties was $10 a day (which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when I sat somewhere for two or three weeks, I ended up with a little pile of money).

Instead of thinking of house and pet sitting in terms of what I earn, I started thinking of it in terms of what I save.

#1 I don’t pay rent while house sitting. According to the Department of Numbers,

Median monthly gross residential rent in the United States was $934 in 2014 according to the Census ACS survey.1

That’s $233 a week. In 2016, I house sate for approximately eight weeks, saving me the $1868 I would have paid to rent a house. Of course, four of the weeks I house sat were in California where the Department of Numbers says

The median monthly gross residential rent in California was $1,268 in 2014 according to the Census ACS survey…1

so I would have been paying approximately $317 a week there. I would have probably paid more to rent a motel room–even a cheap motel room–for that period of time.

#2 I don’t pay utilities while pet sitting, yet I utilize electricity, natural gas and/or propane, and water while staying in someone’s home. I take as many baths and showers as I want (although I seldom do so every day), cook on the stove, store food in the refrigerator, charge my electronics, turn the lights on, and use the heater or A/C if necessary, all with no out of pocket expenses.

#3 Of the eleven places where I’ve house sat, only three lacked a washer and dryer on site. Where such appliances were available, I was invited/encouraged/expected to use them. At most laundromats I’ve frequented recently, it cost $1.75 to $2 per load to wash and 25 cents per eight minutes to dry, which usually works out to about $2.50 to wash and dry a load of clothes. At my last house sitting job, I washed four loads of clothes (in three weeks), saving me the $10 I would have given to a washateria. I estimate doing laundry while house sitting has saved me at least $30 in laundry costs in 2016.

#4 I don’t pay for internet. I get mobile data on my phone, but I don’t do much more than check Facebook or email on it. When I’m working on the blog or doing anything else that requires internet access, I typically sit at Panera or another coffee shop with fast internet service and electrical outlets. One of my requirements for taking a pet sitting job is the availability of fast internet service in the house so I don’t have to go anywhere to utilize WiFi. House sitting not only saves me the money I’d spend on a monthly internet plan, it saves me the money I’d spend on coffee and/or food if I sat for hours at a coffee shop or restaurant.

#5 I don’t pay for satellite/cable TV either. When I’m in the van, I don’t even think of watching television, but when I’m in a house, I do partake. Of the eleven houses I’ve stayed in while pet sitting, seven offered some sort of television package. Maybe I shouldn’t count the TV I get while staying in someone’s house because I would never spend my own money on such an unnecessary (for me) expense, but I’ll mention it as I do tend to watch when it’s available.

#6 When I’m house sitting I cook instead of eating out. The simple foods I cook (beans, rice, eggs, veggies) are less expensive than the cheapest fast food and healthier too. Cooking on a camp stove is often more of a hassle than I want to deal with, but cooking in a real kitchen is no problem, so I don’t feel the need to eat out.

#7 While pet sitting, I’m usually hunkered down in the house most days while I write or read or do crafts. Staying “home” means I’m not out using gasoline. Every day I don’t drive saves me money.

#8 When I mentioned the idea for this post to a friend (a homeowner), she reminded me of the maintenance costs of owning a home. When I’m house sitting, I’m not worried about missing shingles, leaking pipes, burnt out light bulbs or broken down appliances. If something goes wrong in a house while I’m there, I simply contact the home owner and ask for instructions; I don’t have to pay for repairs.


I took this photo of the view from one of the houses where I sat with two adorable little dogs.

#9 I can’t slap a price tag on some of the perks I’ve received as a house sitter. One house had huge windows offering a stunning view of the Rio Grande. It also boasted its own outdoor natural hot mineral water soaking pool. Other house sitting locations have offered jaw dropping views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. House sitting has brought me close to places otherwise off my beaten path; I probably would not have visited the Calaveras Big Trees State Park had I not been staying in a house nearby.

Of course, it’s flattering to be trusted with people’s earthly possessions and beloved pets. Few moments are sweeter than when a cat who’s been labeled aloof jumps up to sit on my lap or when a cute and fluffy dog curls up to sleep against my leg. Sometimes house and pet sitting really is priceless.

Pantry Challenge


Pantry Challenge sounds like a program from Food Network or Cooking Channel, but it’s not. (If it were a program, I’d probably watch it; I really enjoy cooking shows, especially the ones involving competition.)

According to the Medium Sized Family blog,

a pantry challenge is when you choose not to buy groceries for a set time…Instead, you use up the food in your house until there is nothing left to eat.

For a variety of reasons, I decided to do a modified pantry challenge during my second house sitting job this past November.  (I’m calling it a modified challenge because I wasn’t dead set on not buying groceries until I had nothing left to eat. I just wanted to make big dent in what I had before I shopped again.)

First of all, I was going to spend three weeks in a small town sixty miles from the nearest city. I suspected food prices were going to be high in the little town, and I was right. Since I arrived in town two hours before my appointment with the people I was house sitting for, I browsed at the town’s regular grocery store and the town’s health food/natural food/ hippie food store. The prices at both places were substantially higher than what I’d grown accustomed to paying at the outlet supermarket chain I’d shopped at all summer. I was glad I’d gone with my instinct and stocked up on everything from eggs to zucchini in the city where I was able to get things at a lower price.

Saving money is a big reason people do the pantry challenge. Jessica from the Good Cheap Eats blog says,

By focusing on what you have you will save money in not buying more. You also avoid the grocery store which means you reduce your impulse purchases, again saving you money.

Impulse buying can definitely be a problem for me, so I know Jessica is right that I save money simply by staying out of the grocery store. I can easily imagine myself popping in to the store for just a package of tortillas, then deciding to buy milk, which would mean I needed cereal, and on and on. Deciding to use what I had before I bought anything else certainly kept me away from the temptation to buy items I didn’t really need.

I believe in stocking up, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can get a bit out of hand. When I was living on the mountain, I didn’t want to run out of staples, like black beans for instance. So every time I went to the discount grocery store, I’d throw five or six cans of black beans into my shopping cart. I knew I wasn’t wasting money because I’d eat those beans eventually, but I had no idea how many cans I was really hauling around. My pantry challenge allowed me to do a much needed inventory of my food supply.

This is my pantry, the plastic tubs that hold my food

This is my pantry, the plastic tubs that hold my food.

The easiest way to manage the challenge was to haul my pantry into the house. My pantry consists of several transparent plastic storage tubs made by Sterilite. I have two large tubs (one for proteins and main dishes, the other for side dishes and fruits and vegetables), two medium tubs (one for my dishes and bowl and utensils and cast iron skillet, the other for breakfast food and tea) and two small tubs (one for condiments and spices, the other for snacks like granola and energy bars).

One reason I chose these particular tubs were the latches that secured the covers. Several of the handles have broken off, so they are less desirable than they once were. On a whim, I contacted Sterilite and asked them if I could buy new latches. A customer representative contacted me a couple of days later and asked where exactly the latches had broken. I explained the situation, and she said while Sterilite does not sell replacement parts, she would send me new latches free of charge. SCORE! I guess it never hurts to ask.

In addition to these transparent tubs, I have three smaller tubs that hold up my bed and serve as backup food storage.

Bringing the tubs inside encouraged me to clean them. The tubs (especially the lids) were really dirty after being in the van all dusty summer. Having the tubs in the kitchen, near the sink, made cleaning them much less of a hassle. I took all of the food (mostly canned goods) out of the tubs, took inventory, organized the items into categories that work for the way I cook, then scrubbed the tubs and lids with soap and hot water. I let them dry completely before I put any food back in them.

Since I was on the cleaning train, I took the opportunity to wash my two small plates, bowl, spoon, knife, three forks, cutting board, collapsible funnel, folding-handle camp cup, and tiny cheese grater. When I’m in the forest, I mostly use the spray-with-soap, spray-with-water, wipe-with-paper-towel, method of cleaning, so it was good to be able to soak everything in hot soapy water, then do a thorough scrubbing.

As I did my inventory, I was able to isolate the food I don’t want to keep. I’m pretty good about eating what I have, but there were a few items I’m going to donate to a food bank or a free pile. I have a couple of cans of cream of mushroom soup I bought on sale 2-for-$1, but didn’t care for when I cooked with one can of it. I have several bags of banana chips that I don’t much like and a can of tomato sauce I can’t think of a way to use. I bet someone will be happy to have the stuff, and I’ll be glad to pass it on.

I’ll head to the land of scratch-and-dent groceries soon. It’s good that I’ve used up most of my canned goods and know what I can use more of, because it’s almost time to stock up again.

You can learn how to prepare for a pantry challenge and learn why one frugal blogger doesn’t do the pantry challenge anymore.

I took the photo in this post.


Bargain Beans


When I returned to the city nearest to my campground, I was glad to find a new bargain grocery store. The year before, I didn’t like any of the grocery stores in town because everything seemed really expensive.

The new store isn’t a scratch and dent store; I don’t think anything is outdated. However, many items are about to reach their expiration dates, so those items are cheap in order to sell them off quickly.

I’ve gotten 8oz packages of (not delicious) vegan “cheese” shreds for 99 cents, four cans of peas for 77 cents, popchips for 59 cents a bag, two packages of flour tortillas for $1, and two boxes of Stove Top stuffing (name brand!) for $1.

beansThe best bargain I found at the store was a stack of cans of organic pinto beans for 27 cents each. What! Hell Yeah! I scooped up nine of the ten cans on the table. (The tenth can was dented in a way I didn’t like, so I left it.)

Even though I’m not a fan of whole pintos over rice or in burritos, I bought the bargain beans anyway. Why? I knew I could easily mash them up and turn them into my own version of refried beans.

Here’s how I did it:

#1 Heat oil in cast iron skillet

#2 If desired, add minced garlic (fresh or dried) and/or minced onions (fresh or dried) to the oil.

#3 While oil is heating, drain and rinse beans. (I learned recently that drained and rinsed beans cause less gas.)

#4 Add beans to oil IMG_6680

#5 Mash beans. (I use the back of my spatula because that’s what I’ve got.)

#6 Beans will probably be quite thick. Add oil and/or hot sauce to thin slightly.

#7 Keep mashing.

#8 Add water to thin beans even more if necessary. (I like mine rather thin.) Keep mashing and stirring until beans are the desired thickness.

IMG_6684Voilà! Refried beans.

You may think this post is all about beans. It’s not. It’s really about creativity.

Back in the day, when I first read The Tightwad Gazette by the Frugal Zealot Amy  Dacyczyn, the most important thing I learned is that creativity is a crucial component of frugality. To be frugal, one can’t just rush out and buy something to meet every need that arises. To meet a need, one should look at what’s on hand or can be acquired inexpensively. One should try to think of a way to meet the need with what one already has or can get without spending much cash. [amazon template=image&asin=0375752250]

The same principle of being creative applies when one finds bargains. One must figure out ways to use what one can acquire inexpensively.

In my situation, I looked at the very inexpensive pintos and thought, What can I do with these beans so I will enjoy eating them? I realized I could mash them and add onion and hot sauce, then eat them in a variety of ways (with eggs and cheese on breakfast burritos, with hash browns and cheese, in bean burritos).

I used creative thinking to turn my bargain beans into deliciousness.



Spending Report for April 2016


If anyone doesn’t know or has forgotten, one of my goals for 2016 is to keep a record of every penny I spend this year. (To find out how this project came about, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/31/spending/.) At the beginning of each month I give a report on what I bought and how much I spent in the previous month.

I’m pretty sad about my spending report for April 2016. I was doing really well until I was told I needed four new tires. (Read about my tire saga here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/29/tires/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/30/tires-a-cautionary-tale-continued/.)

My insurance came due in April too. I prefer to pay for six months of insurance at a time so I can save money. Because I moved my insurance to a new state when I renewed my policy, my premium for six months increased $120

As follows is my spending report for April 2016.

4-1-16  Today I spent 50 cents for hot water when I took a shower at a campground. Total spent: 50 cents

4-2-16  Today I went to town. I always seem to spend money when I go to town. Total spent: $26.54

79 cents for a brand new collapsible funnel

$20 for gas

$5.75 to the supermarket for cookies to contribute to a party and ice

4-3-16  Nothing spent

4-4-16  Nothing spent

4-5-16  I went back to town today. Total spent: $10.55

$3.50 to the post office for postcard stamps

$2 at thrift stores, for, among other things, two Rubbermaid containers for with lids for holding ice in my cooler and a Klean Kanteen water bottle in fantastic condition

$5.05 for food at the discount grocery store

I did NOT eat at the pizza buffet today. I wanted to. I really, really wanted to, but I told myself no.

4-6-16  Today I headed to the big city for a house and pet sitting job. Total spent: $51.65

$40 on gas in the van

$11.65 to Wal-Mart for double sided tape (which is crap–I should have paid for higher quality), interdental brushes, a tub to go under my bed to hold up the board under the memory foam so I don’t spend the entire night trying not to roll towards the front of the van, and two pairs of boot socks which were on sale for $1 a pair.

4-7-16  Back in the city, I hit a couple of thrift stores and bought some groceries to get me through my time house sitting. Total Spent: $23.82

$19.32 for groceries

$4.50 for art supplies for chicken project and yarn.

4-8-16  Nothing spent

4-9-16 Today I bought my four new tires (cringe) and handed a dollar to a man flying a sign. Total spent: $416.83

$415.83 to Discount Tire for tires

$1 to panhandler

4-10-16  I need boots for my summer job. I went online today and found a pair on Ebay that were still in great condition and substantially less than they cost new. I also went to Panera (where I was given a free bagel every day of the month of April) to write for a few hours. Total spent: $54.85

$46.40 for work/hiking boots

$8.45 to Panera for a drink and later a salad

4-11-16  Today I moved to the Airbnb room I rented to stay in while I worked scoring standardized tests. (If you wonder why I haven’t mentioned paying for that rental, it’s because I haven’t yet. I borrowed money to pay for the room, and haven’t repaid the money yet. That payment should show up in the May spending report.) I mailed two packages and bought some groceries before I moved in. Total spent: $50.72

$9.82 to post office

$2.98 for brown rice (There was a GREAT sale going on; two pounds of rice for $1. I should have bought ten pounds)

$37.92 to discount food store on groceries

4-12-16  Nothing spent

4-13-16  Nothing spent

4-14-16  I ran some errands after work. Total spent: $27.49

$6 to Goodwill for jars to use in making ghee, and for two shirts and a pair of jeans (The clothes were only $1 per piece!)

$1.49 to the supermarket for half a gallon of milk

$20 for gas

4-15-16  My big Friday treat was dinner at Taco Bell. Total spent: $2.37

4-16-17  Today was half-price day at Goodwill. After work, I hit a couple of stores. Total spent: $7.95

$2.49 for a birthday present book

$5.46 for two books for me, yarn for infinity scarf projects, and an sleep mask made from corduroy for a young man I know who is soon going off to collage

4-17-16  Today I made ghee, and had to buy butter and cheesecloth at the supermarket. I haven’t decided if the project was a success or a failure. Total spent: $11.69

4-18-16  Nothing spent

4-19-18  Driving to and from works uses gas. Today I had to put more in the van’s tank. Total spent: $20

4-20-18  I stopped at Dollar Tree after work to get an envelope in which to mail the chicken art. There was nothing big enough for my chicken art needs. However, I found nice adult coloring books and bought three as gifts. I also bought a stylus to use with my new phone. Total spent: $4.32

4-21-16  I could barely stay awake at work today and had to buy a cup of coffee from the machine in the break room. After work I found the box I needed to mail the chicken art. Total spent: $1.72

55 cents to coffee machine

$1.17 to Wal-Mart for box to ship chicken art

4-22-17  Today was payday. In celebration, I ate fried chicken and steak fries I picked up at the supermarket when I was buying tea to get me through the sleepies at work and a couple of other food items. Total spent: $11.73

4-23-16  Nothing spent

4-24-16  Today I went to the grand open of an international supermarket. I bought sriracha sauce, a pack of toothbrushes, and a tube of sunscreen. Total Spent: $5.48

4-25-16  Today I mailed the chicken art and paid for six months of insurance (cringe). Total spent: $380.95

$8.45 to post office to mail package

$380.95 for six months of insurance

4-26-16  Nothing spent

4-27-16  My temp job ended yesterday and I moved out of the Airbnb room today. I stocked up a the discount food store and took care of some things with my van registration and residency. Total spent: $79.46

$47.46 to discount grocery store for food

$32 MVD

4-28-16  Today I went to a junior high school play and took care of some more van registration details. Total spent: $33.95

$5 admission to play

$28.95 to MVD

4-29-16  My monthly phone payment was charged to my debit card account. (I get a discount for using autopay.) Total spent: $34.99

4-30-16 Last day of the month, and I bought supplies I’ll need for the summer.  Total spent: $36.58

Total spent in March: $1.294.14

Excuse me while I go off somewhere and feel depressed.

To read my other spending reports, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/01/spending-report-for-january-2016/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/01/spending-report-for-february-2016/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/02/spending-report-for-march-2016/.






Van Organization: Pockets, Clips, Hangers, and Holders


A few days ago I promised I wasn’t going to tell folks how to organize their vans. I’ll keep that promise because I know that what works for me may not work for somebody else. I’m a huge believer in folks working with what they have and what they can get free or cheap.

Recently on a Facebook groups I belong to, someone posted a video (that I didn’t watch) about how a person could do a van build for only $384 (or whatever), which is all well and good if that’s what someone’s into. But when I got my first van, I was homeless and had just enough money to purchase the van, buy insurance, pay for license and registration, and eat for a few days. I did not have not have $384 (or $38.40) to make any improvements to the van. I had a sleeping bag to throw onto the bench seat folded down into a bed. A friend gave me a shallow plastic tub that slid under the bed and that’s where I stored my clothes. I slowly added items (such as a stove, a cast iron skillet, curtains) to my home as I could afford them. Usually I shopped at thrift stores.

All this to say a wad of cash isn’t necessary for the beginning van dweller. (I know, a wad of cash is often useful. I won’t argue that. But “useful” and “necessary” are two different things.)

I think one of my most useful skills is the ability to figure out how to use what I have, what I’m given, and what I can get for cheap. I’ve used this skill to organize my van.

Last year, the Lady of the House gave me a big piece of cloth with three pockets on it. (I think it was intended to go over the arm of a couch or recliner and hold the remote control, the TV Guide, and other items useful to a couch potato.) She thought I could maybe use it in the van to hold things. I thought it was a great idea, but didn’t know where to put it. At first I rigged it so it hung from an 18 gallon plastic tub, but whenever I took the lid off the tub, my organization quite literally crashed to the floor. Then one day I was looking at the decorative pieces of wood on one of the van’s side doors and realized I could hang the pockets there and hold them to the wood with binder clips.

In these three pockets, I keep things I use regularly. Tape, scissors, soap, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, lighters, and pocket knives are all within easy reach.


Pockets are held onto decorative wooden pieces by binder clips. In the pocket attached to the bottom of the door, I keep rags handy, as well as the curtain I hang over my side windows at night.

On the other side door, I’ve used binder clips to attach a dry erase board and a pad of sticky notes. The decorative wooden pieces also hold pens so I can always find something to write with. IMG_5636


This photo shows binder clips holding up a curtain.

I thought to use binder clips because I already had them around. I somehow (I don’t remember how or when) came up with the idea to use binder clips to hang curtains in the van. Large binder clips are the perfect size to hold curtains to the pieces of wood around my windows.

I could say that  binder clips are the answer to problems with organization and everyone should attach thin, flat pieces of wood to their van and use binder clips to hang things there. But that would be silly and maybe expensive. Instead, think about what you want to hang. Then look around your van and figure out where you could hang things using inexpensive, easy to find items.


This photo shows shower curtain hooks holding a shopping bag (on the far left, barely in the photo), carabiners, a hobo bag style purse, necklaces,and a camping mirror.

Another common household item I use to hang things in the van is shower curtain hooks. The top of the hooks fit remarkably well between the decorative wood and the wall. (My van is full of decorative wood, I am realizing as I write this.) From the bottom of the hooks I hang my mirror, jewelry, carabiners, and lots and lots of shopping bags. (I have a shopping bag holding my towel and toiletries. I have two shopping bags holding yarn and my round hat-making looms. I have three shopping bags holding dirty laundry. I have a hobo bag style purse I can grab when I need to tote around lots of stuff. All of these bags are hanging from shower curtain hooks next to the walls of the van.)

I want to brag a little about my paper towel holder. For the longest time, there was no good place to put paper towels in my van. A new roll of paper towels is fat and difficult to store. I usually just tossed rolls on top of a tub, which typically meant they were soon on the floor. But I hated to use paper towels that had been on the dirty floor. Yuck!

At the 2015 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) (read about it here:  I had a discussion with other van dwelling women about paper towel storage. Using a bungee cord was suggested, and that sort of worked. Eventually (and sometimes it didn’t take long at all), the bungee cord would come unhooked, and I’d find the paper towels once again on the floor.

I got so of my paper towels falling down, I marched into a Stuff-Mart, determined to buy a paper towel holder. Much to my astonishment, I couldn’t find one in the store. I’d been looking at thrift stores too, but no luck. Apparently people with paper towel holder don’t part with them.

A couple of days ago, I stopped at a thrift store which was closed when it should have been open. To console myself, I poked around in the free box in front of the store. In the bottom of the box, I found a metal paper towel holder, complete with screws taped to the back. Yippie!

I tried to put the screws into the decorative wood above my plastic drawers. The wood was just a little too hard. I had to postpone my project for a couple of days, but finally, finally, I borrowed a cordless drill from a neighbor and got that holder hung. I hope taking this step finally keeps the paper towels off the floor.


I took all of the photos in this post.

Spending Report for March 2016


For anyone who may have forgotten and for folks who just recently began reading my blog, one of my goals for 2016 is to keep a record of every penny I spend this year. (To find out how this project came about, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/31/spending/.)  On the first of each month I  give a report on what I bought and how much I spent in the previous month.  (To read January’s spending report, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/01/spending-report-for-january-2016/. To read February’s spending report, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/01/spending-report-for-february-2016/.) As follows is my spending report for March 2016.

3-1-16  My only expenditure today was my phone bill. Total spent : $27.78

3-2-16  I had the van’s fuel pump replaced today and ran some errands. Total spent: $276.89

$267.13 to my mechanic to have a new fuel pump installed

$5.42 for a shirt to wear to a job interview

$4.34 for supplies from Dollar Tree

3-3-16  I ran errands and paid my mailbox rental today. Total spent: $53.28

$19.47 for mailbox rental

$1 to Goodwill for a shirt I LOVE

$1.10 for parking

$2.16 for lunch at Taco Bell

$29.55 for groceries at discount (scratch and dent) supermarket

3-4-16  All I bought today was gasoline. Total spent: $37.93

3-5-16  Today I stayed where I was house sitting and wrote. Nothing spent

3-6-16  More writing and not leaving the house. Nothing spent

3-7-16  I had to bring the van back to the mechanic due to a fuel spill on Friday, He fixed the problem, but to be sure, he had me fill the gas tank as full as I could get it. Total spent: $33.60

3-8-16  Stayed busy writing. Nothing spent

3-9-16  More writing. Nothing spent

3-10-16  Writing. Nothing spent

3-11-16  Nothing spent

3-12-16  Today I worked at a carnival selling lemonade, but I didn’t buy anything but a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop to get me going in the morning. Total spent: $3.44

3-13-16  Since I only drank half the cup of coffee yesterday (it was STRONG), I made iced coffee with the other half this morning, and I didn’t have to buy any more. Nothing spent

3-14-16 This evening I stopped at the supermarket for toilet paper and picked up two packages of reduced- for-quick-sale organic cheese. Each pack of the cheese was marked $1. When I scanned them at the

This is the bargain cheese I scored for 12 and 1/2 cents per package.

This is the bargain cheese I scored for 12 and 1/2 cents per package.

self-checkout machine, it spit out a coupon for $1.75 off two packs of that brand of cheese.  My total cheese cost was only a quarter! Total spent: $1.75

3-15-16 Today I participated in a mock Jury. I was way early, so I decided to wander around in the air-conditioned luxury of the supermarket in the same shopping center as the law office where the mock jury was being held. In the supermarket, I saw phones compatible with my cell phone service (Net10) on sale. Smart phones that were usually $49.99 were on sale for $9.99. I’ve been using the same phone for almost four years (that’s 392 in phone years),  the letters were worn off some of the buttons, and I was concerned the thing was going to give out on me in some random town and I’d have to pay a lot to replace it. Also, yes, I was seduced by the   smart phone bells and whistles. Total spent: $14.12

$10.86 new phone

$3.26 to Dollar Tree for screen saver film for phone and other supplies.

3-16-16  Today I went to the post office. Total spent: $6.08

3-17-16  Today I took a shuttle to Las Vegas, and bought cheese puffs during our refueling break. My friends treated me to dinner. Total spent: $2

3-18-16  My friends and I went out to dinner at Red Robin, where one of my friends got a free burger for his birthday. Total spent: $13

3-19-16  Today I went to Costco with my friends and bought a sun hat better than the one I had. Total spent: $14.05

3-20 through 3-27-16  During the rest of my time in Vegas, I didn’t spend any money. My friends treated me to custard one afternoon and dinner one more time, but mostly we were busy volunteering and cooking food for the participants, which we also ate. Nothing spent

3-28-16  Today I mailed two collages and a necklace and used the last of a restaurant gift card. Total  spent: $7.94

$4.50 postage

$3.44 for tip and candy at restaurant

3-29-16  Today I browsed at a thrift store, bought some stamps, and bought some food. Total spent: $12.50

$3 to thrift store for fifty postcards, a plastic accordion folder to hold clippings for future collages, and other odds and ends

$7 to post office for twenty postcard stamps

$2.50 to discount (scratch and dent) grocery store

3-30-16 Today I activated my new phone and paid for thirty days of service. I also treated my friend to lunch. Total spent: $57.89

$38.89 for thirty days of phone service

$19 for lunch for two, including tip

3-31-16 Today I mailed a book and some photos, washed my curtains and rugs, bought groceries, and went back to the thrift stores. Total spent: $33.28

$5 to laundromat for washing and drying

$11.33 for groceries at regular grocery store

$4.85 at discount (scratch and dent) grocery store

$4 at thrift store for plastic container for ice, zippered purse for new cell phone, carpet, and postcards

$2 at Catholic thrift store for three one-gallon glass jugs (25 cents each!), a bag for holding plastic bags, and small plastic container for holding ice.

Total spent in March: $595.53

I am knocking wood and hoping I’ll have no more van repairs to pay for in April. It would be nice to save a little pile of money.

Spending Report for February 2016


Folks who follow my blog know that I set a goal for 2016 of recording all of my spending. (To find out how this project came about, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/31/spending/.)  Each month I give a report on what I bought and how much I spent in the previous month. (To read January’s spending report, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/01/spending-report-for-january-2016/.) As follows is my spending report for February 2016.

2-1-16 Today I mailed books to folks who requested from me through BookMooch and a package to a friend. Total spent: $21.28

$19.90 to the U.S. post office to mail packages

$1.38 to Fry’s for two packages of tofu on sale for 69 cents each.

2-2-16  Today I had to pay my mailbox rental, and I bought some hemp cord . Total Spent: $27.27

$19.47 for mailbox rental

$6.39 to Wal-Mart for hemp cord

2-3-16  Today at Goodwill I bought a wooden bowl and supplies for a craft project. Total Spent: $8.80

2-4-16  Nothing spent

2-5-16  Nothing pent

2-6-15  I bought lunch, browsed in thrift stores and had the oil in my van changed today. Total Spent: $34.07

At the first thrift store, I spent $1 on a pair of pants and 50 cents on a book to give to a friend.

It was half-price day at Goodwill. I spent $5 for three books and a Scala brand raffia hat.

I spent $5.43 for a pizza from Little Caesar’s (and it was delicious!)

I gave Meineke $22.14 for an oil change. The guy doing the oil change told me transmission fluid was leaking and tried to get me to pay an additional $39 for them to figure out where the fluid was coming from. I told him I would take the van to my regular mechanic.

2-7-16  I ordered blue hemp cord for a custom necklace. Total Spent: $7.80

2-8-16  I spent the day with a friend who’d invited me to see The Lady in the Van (starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings) with him. Since he said he’d treat me to the movie, I treated him to lunch. Total Spent: $19.92

2-9-16  I handed a dollar to someone flying a sign. Total Spent: $1

2-10-16  Today I went to the post office, then used a coupon for free pancakes at IHOP.  Total Spent: $24.39

I gave the U.S. post office $19.36 to mail more books.

I spent $3.03 on a glass of orange juice at IHOP and left a $2 tip.

2-11-16 Today I used birthday coupons. Total Spent: $24.06

I got a free pastry (big enough for two servings) at Panera and spent $1.94 for a coffee to go with it. (Purchase of the coffee was not required to get the free pastry.)

I did have to buy something at Arby’s in order to use my coupon for a free milkshake. I spent $2.12 on curly fries.

I also spent $20 on gas for the van.

2-12-16  Nothing spent

2-13-16  Nothing spent

2-14-15  A friend and I spent the day in Jerome, AZ. Total Spent: $20.51

I spent $7 on admission to Douglas Mansion Museum.

I spent 51 cents on a souvenir penny to send to a friend.

I spent $13 on lunch, including tip.

2-15-16 I brought the van to a transmission specialist today to have the leak(s) repaired. There goes any thought I had of spending less money this month. Total Spent: $538.75

The transmission work cost $531.99.

While the work on the van was being done, I hung out at Denny’s and spent $4.27.

Later I used an about-to-expire buy-one-get-one-free coupon for shrimp tacos at Del Taco. I spent $2.49 for dinner.

2-16-16  Today the Lady of the House and I went to the Goodwill Clearance Center. I shopped with a $10 gift card that had been given to me. Later I washed and dried a comforter at the laundromat. Total Spent: $7.41

I went a little over my $10 gift card budget at the clearance center and spent $1.41 cash money.

I spent $6 at the laundromat washing and drying the German down comforter I bought with the gift card.

2-17-16  I went off to BLM land to spend a few quiet days. I had to mail a package and get supplies before I left civilization. Total Spent: $40.98

I spent $20 on gas at the Circle K.

I paid the U.S. Post Office $13.80 to mail a package to a friend.

Ice and supplies cost $7.18.

2-18-19  I was in the middle of nowhere today. Nothing spent.

2-19-16  Another day in the middle of nowhere. Nothing spent.

2-20-16  I went to Goodwill to find a cover for my comforter. Later, I unexpectedly ate dinner at a restaurant with my host family and their extended family. Total Spent: $18.50

At the first  Goodwill, I caved in to consumerism and spent $6 on four bowls I like a lot but don’t need (I may return them) and two books.

At the second Goodwill, I found a 100% cotton, Company Store brand cover for my comforter for only $2.50. (It was half-price day again.)

Dinner was at the Spaghetti Factory, and I managed to keep my dinner and tip to $10 by ordering an appetizer for my meal. The folks I was eating with didn’t want the ice cream that came with their meals, so I scored a free dessert.

2-21-16  Nothing spent

2-22-16 I had a birthday coupon for pancakes at IHOP. I had coffee to go with the flapjacks, and I left a $2 tip. Total spent: $4.59

2-23-19  Nothing spent

2-24-16  Nothing spent

2-25-16  Today I was out and about. Total spent: $5.52

I gave $1 to a lady flying a sign.

I spent $4.52 at Safeway on food for my lunch.

2-26-16  Nothing spent

2-27-16  I was out and about again today, and bought food for lunch at Trader Joe’s. Total spent: $4.05

2-28-16  I went to a potluck today. I cooked potatoes. A ten pound bag of potatoes only cost $1 more than a five pound bag, so I got the bigger bag. I only used half of the potatoes, so I know what I’ll be eating for the rest of the week. Total spent: $26.19

I spent $20 on gas for the van.

I spent $6 on ingredients for my potluck dish at Safeway.

2-29-16 I gave $1 and change to a panhandler in a grocery store parking lot. He caught me off guard while I was on the phone, so I didn’t count the change before I gave it to him. Let’s call it 50 cents. Total spent: $1.50

Also, I know at some point in February I spent $2.37 on three more packages of tofu that were on sale for 79 cents each. I forgot to write down that purchase, so I don’t know when I made it.

Total spent in February: $838.06

On the last day of February, I found out the van needs a new fuel pump. The expense will go on March’s tally. It’s always something.





Spending Report for January 2016


For folks who are new to my blog (and to refresh the memories of those who maybe have forgotten), one of my goals for 2016 is to keep a record of every penny I spend this year. (To find out how this project came about, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/31/spending/.) Each month I will give a report on what I bought and how much I spent in the previous month. As follows is my spending report for January 2016.

1-1-16  I thought I’d get through the first day of the year without spending any money, but realized late in the afternoon that the auto-payment for my phone went through today. Total spent: $27.78

1-2-16  Today I stocked up on food for my trip to Quartzsite. Total spent: 38.08

$13.66 to Trader Joe’s for toasted sliced almonds, unsweetened organic coconut, cashew pieces and tofu

$15.61 to Fry’s Food Store for food and toilet paper

$7.56 to Sprout’s for shelf stable tofu

$1.25 for seven gallons of water

1-3-16  Today I visited friends and offered to bring over pizza for dinner. I stopped at the supermarket by their house and picked up a bulk-size package of dehydrated has browns. Total spent: $19.62

$10.83 to Little Caesar’s for dinner for four people with leftovers

$8.79 to Smart & Final for dehydrated hash browns

1-4-16  Today I finished my shopping and ran errands with the Lady of the House. Total spent: $27.14

$7.24 to Dollar Tree for food and trash bags

$19.90 to American Discount Food for food (including 2 pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, 2 boxes of Quaker Real Medley’s cold cereal, and a large container of Tillamook yogurt)

I successfully browsed in a Goodwill without buying anything.

1-5-16  Today I left for Quartzsite. Total spent: $2.99

$1 to the Lady of the House for vegetable broth to contribute to the soup dinner at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR), since I forgot to pick up a contribution during all my shopping

$1.99 to supermarket for ice on my way out of town

1-6-16  Finally, nearly a week into the new year and nothing spent because I kept my butt at the RTR all day

1-7-16  Nothing spent

1-8-16  Today I went into Quartzsite to run some errands. Total spent: $21.44

$2.72 to post office to send book requested through BookMooch

$12 to food outlet store for food ($11) and hair care product ($1) (Note: I’d hoped hair care product would make my hair beautiful. It does not.)

25 cents to vending machine for one gallon of water

$2.15 to Dollar General for ice

$1 to guy flying a sign

$3.32 to Burger King for 9 piece chicken fries and large fries, with coupon (Note: I only got food at BK in order to use the internet. The internet service was terrible and the chicken fries were kind of gross. What a waste of money.)

I successfully browsed in a thrift store and spent no money.

1-9-16  Nothing spent

1-10-16  Nothing spent

1-11-16  I went into Quartzsite again today. Total spent: $7.71

$2.50 to Community Thrift Store for yarn, notecards, and bag to replace my deteriorating craft suitcase

$2 to grocery store for ice

$3.21 for cheese and cabbage

1-12-16  Nothing spent

1-13-16  Nothing spent

1-14-16  Today was another in Quartzsite. Total spent: $17.99

$8 to food outlet store for food

$2 to Pilot for tortilla chips to have with my dinner

$2.99 to Pilot for internet access

$5 for craft supplies (6 glass pendants)

1-15-16  Today I spent no money, even though I went into Quartzsite.

1-16-16  I went to Quartzsite again today because friends wanted to meet at the free pancake breakfast at La Mesa RV. Total spent: $3.50

50 cents to Salvation Army Thrift Store for two troll dolls (gift)

$1 to Reader’s Oasis Books for 2 bookmarks (one for me, one for a gift)

$2 to grocery store for ice

1-17-16  Nothing spent

1-18-16  Nothing spent

1-19-16  I was in Quartzsite again today. Total spent: $70

$60 to Pilot for gas

$10 to food outlet store for food

I browsed at two thrift stores today and spent nothing.

1-20-16  Today was my last day in Quartzsite. I shopped at the PowWow gem and mineral show for shiny rocks to resell down the road. I spent a lot today. Total spent: $71.13

$2.49 to Pilot for ice

$3.64 to Carl’s Jr. for food while I sat in the dining room for hours and used the WiFi

The following amounts were given to various vendors:

$3 for three stone animals (gifts)

$5 for twelve charms (4 for crafts and 8 for gifts)

$6 for six stone cabs and a approximately 30 pieces of tiger’s eye

$40 for twenty septarian concretions

1-21-16  Today I drove from Quartzsite to Yuma to visit a friend. Then I drove from Yuma to Ajo where I spent a few days. Total spent: $20.93

30 cents to vending machine for one gallon of water

$15 to Love’s for gas

$5.63 to grocery store for cheese, clove of garlic, an apple, and orange juice

1-22-16  Today a nice friend bought me lunch. I spent most of the rest of my day in the public library. Total spent: $2.99

$1 to thrift store for notecards

$1.99 to supermarket for ice

1-23-16  Today I spent nothing, even though I was in town and there was a farmers market going on.

1-24-16  Today I took a shower at an RV park. Total spent: $3

$2 to RV park for shower

$1 (in quarters) in machine to dispense hot water (Note: I wasn’t sure how many minutes each quarter would get me, so I put in four all at once. I could have gotten plenty clean for 50 cents, but since I had already spent the money, I enjoyed all that hot water.)

1-25-16  I was in town again today, mostly at the public library. Total spent: $11.99

$10 donation to worthy cause

$1.99 to grocery store for ice

1-26-16  I was in town, mostly at the public library today. I completed a big project today and thought I’d eat at a restaurant to treat myself. It was early in the afternoon, and I had plenty of time to get to my camp spot and cook food. I had a lot of food in the van, so I decided to go to my camp spot and cook brown rice and have beans and rice and cheese for dinner. Then I thought I’d pop into the food outlet store and get a snack, but then I realized I had plenty of snacks in the van. I headed to my camp spot without buying anything. I figure I easily saved $12 by cooking dinner instead of eating out and snacking on food I already had. Nothing spent

1-27-16   I was in town today. Total spent: $12.42

$1 to vending machine for five gallons of water

$1.50 to café for apple fritter (Note: This fritter was not even good, and I was immediately sorry I had spent the money.)

$4.30 to to food outlet store for snacks (I gave into the temptation of the bargain. At least I bought healthy items that won’t go bad any time soon.)

$2.12 to bookstore for postcards

$3.50 to post office for ten postcard stamps

1-28-16  Today my friend and I went to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Since she has a senior pass, we did not have to pay the $12 entrance fee for the car. When we left, my friend treated me to lunch. What a nice friend. What a nice day. Nothing spent.

1-29-16  Today I left Ajo. Total spent: $23

$23 to Love’s for gas

1-30-16 Nothing spent

1-31-16  Today was the last day of the first month of my project of tracking my spending. Total spent: $36.75

Since my phone is on a 30 day billing cycle, I again this month spent $27.78 for phone service. I won’t have to pay this expense again until March.

$7.97 to Goodwill for a book by one of my favorite authors (99 cents), a brand new skein of yarn (99 cents), and a two-drawer module for the van ($5.99)

$1 to kids selling lemonade on the corner

Total spent in January: $418.46

I predict I will spend less in February, since I won’t have to pay my phone bill, and I have no plans to buy more shiny rocks. Since I’ll be camping less in February, I’ll buy less ice. Also, I’m well stocked on food and shouldn’t have to spend much to eat in February. However, I do have several packages to mail, and will need an oil change and fuel injector cleaner for the van. I’m excited to see how little I can spend in February. (To read Feburary’s spending report, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/01/spending-report-for-february-2016/.)