From the category archives:

home oeconomy

14 Crazy Alternative Uses For Coffee

by anna on May 25, 2009

New here? You may want to subscribe to the (free) ABDPBT Personal Finance RSS Feed. For an explanation of how RSS subscriptions work, please see this explanatory post. Or, you can also sign up to receive new ABDPBT Personal Finance posts by email (also free).

[singlepic=51,560,560,,center]Photo by emolawn

For this week’s Monday list post, I’ve once again culled the interwebs View definition in a new window to collect crazy repurposing tips for common household products. Somebody, somewhere, must like these tip lists as much as I do–I know it, because there’s a bazillion of them everywhere. Now, I should note that I’ve not used most of these tips myself, except for the first one, which I highly recommend. But the rest? Who knows. Where appropriate, I’ve included objections that people might have to the uses, as well as a little commentary for your amusement. If you have any alternative uses for coffee that I’ve missed, please do add your ideas to the comment section. Enjoy!

  1. To eliminate objectionable odors.
    I use a mesh bag filled with whole coffee beans to destankify the diaper pail, but you can use whole coffee beans almost anywhere that you want to eliminate dank odors. Throw a few beans in stinky shoes, or in a gym bag, or in the bottom of your regular trash can. The beans will make the room smell like Starbucks for about a week, but after that they just absorb the smell. Listen, if it works for drug-sniffing dogs, then you know it will work for diaper stank. Other sites I’ve perused have suggested using coffee grounds to keep refrigerator odors under control. The idea is to put grounds in a pair of old nylons (does anyone wear these anymore?) or a sock for this purpose. I would probably use baking soda before coffee, personally, but if odors in your refrigerator are a big enough problem to require coffee to cure, you might want to look into a different place to keep your diaper pail. Because: 1) what else could be producing that bad of a smell, assuming there are no dead bodies in your refrigerator; and 2) do you want to eat something that smells like this?
  2. To scrub your dishes.
    Word has it that old coffee grounds can be used to scrub hard-to-clean dishes. Via Lifehacker, you can pack the grounds into a piece of square cloth and gather the ends with a rubber band to make a little scrubbing bag. Apparently the coarse texture is perfect for creating enough friction to get your pots and pans clean. And if that doesn’t work, you can always soak the pan with a dryer sheet. Or throw the pan out.
  3. To remove food smells from your hands and/or to soften your hands.
    If you are cooking and have garlicky hands, rub coffee grounds on your hands to eliminate the smell. Using the grounds as a scrub for your hands will soften them as well. Of course, then your hands will smell like coffee, so I guess it’s just a question of which smell is more objectionable to you.

  4. To repel garden pests.
    If you put some coffee grounds in with your plants, garden pests will stay away. Though many people suggested this idea on many different sites, several people also objected because the coffee grounds might be toxic to animals that go in the garden. I don’t really see a cat or a dog eating dirt mixed with coffee grounds, but then I didn’t realize until too late that cat shit is considered to be a delicacy on Planet Golden Retriever, either, so what do I know? Another side effect of putting coffee grounds on your plants that isn’t so widely discussed is the possibility of your plants wanting to wear horn-rimmed glasses, and starting to stay up late discussing Kierkegaard and smoking cigarettes with unemployed philosophy majors.

  5. To increase carrot and radish harvest.
    Mixing carrot and radish seeds with dry coffee grounds before planting them encourages their growth. Why? I don’t really know. But apparently, the coffee can offer protection against pests and animals while they are growing, and because carrot seeds are very fine, they are more likely to stay where they are planted if they are mixed in with coffee.
  6. As a flea rinse.
    According to Natural Home Magazine, you can dilute coffee grounds and use them as a flea-repelling rinse for your dogs. The instructions are to rub the grounds through the dog’s fur and brush to distribute. The advantage of this over using Frontline? I guess it’s theoretically less toxic–but as people point out, dogs can get very sick from coffee, so this seems like a bad idea to me. I’m sure it’s not good for them to ingest Frontline, either, but at least Frontline won’t turn their fur a grainy brownish consistency.
  7. As a facial mask.
    Caffeine is useful for reducing puffiness, so if you add an egg white to 1/4 C of coffee grounds, you can make a homemade, anti-puffiness facial mask. There are no instructions for how long to leave on said mask, but I’d say not more than 15 minutes, unless you want to smell like a greasy spoon diner.
  8. As an exfoliating, anti-cellulite treatment.
    Using old coffee grounds as an exfoliating scrub can slough away dead skin cells and break up cellulite pockets under the skin. Mix some coffee grounds up with body lotion, and rub it into the backs of your thighs and anywhere else you find cellulite. The caffeine will increase blood flow on the affected areas, as well as increasing circulation and reducing the appearance of cellulite immediately underneath the skin. It is recommended that you leave the mixture on for a half hour, and then drink a lot of water afterwards.
  9. Coffee flavored ice cubes.
    Using coffee grounds to make coffee-flavored ice cubes for iced coffee in the summer is advised by a commenter at Lifehacker. The benefit is that then you can have cold iced coffee that doesn’t get watered down.

  10. Removing Sharpie marks form dry-erase boards.Yes, this happens all the time. You know, when you’re using a permanent marker on a dry-erase board, because 1) I’m always around dry-erase boards, and 2) I’m always falling prey to pranksters who leave the permanent markers where I’m sure to use them on white boards. And how useful of an idea it is to rub something dark and black all over a smooth white surface in order to “clean” it? Super useful.
  11. To Stop The Bleeding.
    Here’s another gem from the Lifehacker comments: “Coffee grounds are a natural anticoagulant and can be used in an emergency to stop bleeding.” Right, I won’t dwell on the many alarming questions this comment raises (What bleeding? Do you live in an action movie?), but just remind you that “anti-coagulant” means to stop blood clotting, not to start it. So what coffee would be useful for is to thin the blood in the event View definition in a new window of a potentially fatal blood clot. That is, it would be useful if you could put coffee on the blood clot, which you wouldn’t be able to do. Either way, somebody track that IP address, please.

  12. As fertilizer.Coffee grounds not only repel garden pests, they also serve as good lawn fertilizer. Apparently, the nitrogen-phosphate-potash ration in coffee grounds is similar to that found in commercial fertilizers, and it is free. If you don’t have coffee grounds (or enough coffee grounds) to use as fertilizer, you can get them for free from your local Starbucks, by the way.
  13. Composting and Worm Harvesting.
    You can learn how to compost with coffee grounds here. If you are trying to harvest worms for fishing or for making better soil, you can throw in old coffee grounds for them to eat.
  14. To stain wood and/or cover up scratches on furniture.
    You can use coffee grounds to stain wood, adding more or less water to make it lighter or darker. On a related note, coffee will work as an all-natural dye for scratches on furniture: Just rub wet coffee grounds across the scratch.

7 Crazy Alternative Uses For Olive Oil

by anna on May 18, 2009

[singlepic=42,560,560,,left]Photo by eric-snaps

Question: how much do I like posts on frugal websites that brainstorm new uses for common household items? Answer: Almost as much as I like lists in the abstract. Sometimes the lists are just plain old crazy, but sometimes you learn some new, Hints-From-Heloise-brand advice. For this list, I’ve culled unusual uses for olive oil from various sources all over the internet, and added a few of my own uses that I’ve gathered over the years. As for some of the new uses I’ve found, I’m not so sure I’ll be trying them myself, but I’ll keep collecting them just the same.

  1. Soothing Earaches.
    Warm some olive oil and use a syringe (the kind you use for giving babies medicine) or an eyedropper to place 2-4 drops of the warm oil in a child’s ear to soothe an earache. Adults should use 5-10 drops. This idea comes from a pediatrician at Columbia University Medical Center. Stop looking at me like that.
  2. Deep Conditioning Treatment For Hair.
    I’m not sure that Sean would approve of this treatment, but word is that you can soak your hair in extra-virgin olive oil, and then wrap it with a warm towel for 20 minutes to get it extra soft. Some people suggest that you keep wrap your hair in a towel or a shower cap and leave it in overnight for best results.
  3. Polish Your Stainless Steel Appliances.
    You know how stainless steel gets all marked up with fingerprints after about two seconds? Well, if you use a light layer of olive oil, you can polish away those marks and keep them from coming back as quickly. I should note here that I’ve used windex for this and it works pretty well also.
  4. Skin Moisturizer. The fatty acids in olive oil will help to soothe your dry skin and cuticles. Just apply it at night before you go to bed. I believe that they mean mostly for your legs, hands, feet, etc., rather than your face. But, I should say that on one of my eighty five million online dates, I went out with an ER doctor who told me a story about anti-aging products that is worth repeating. He said that once, there was a woman who came in to the ER who was in her 80s and everyone was shocked because she looked 30 years younger. All of the staff was talking about it, they couldn’t believe how young this woman looked. Finally, somebody got the nerve to ask her what her skin care secret was, since her face was so remarkably line free. She said it was mayonnaise. Mayonnaise! She smeared it on her face every night for like 50 years. I have a feeling olive oil might work the same way, but it also might make you break out. And it definitely will make your pillow smell like salad.
  5. Shoe Polish. I had a roommate once who would shine up her shoes quickly each morning with a dab of EVOO on her shoes. I’ve actually tried this and it does keep the leather looking new and supple.
  6. Split Ends Treatment. If your hair is due for a cut, try olive oil on the ends to keep them looking less frayed. Wet hair and put on bottom of hair right before you go to sleep. Let it soak in all night for best results, and make sure to wash your hair in the morning.
  7. Makeup Remover. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. That said, putting olive oil on your face is something you probably want to do at your own risk, for the reasons stated above.

[singlepic=34,560,560,,center]Photo by chiseled marble

I know somebody who is getting a divorce. I’m sure you do as well, but this person’s financial situation is somewhat unusual in that there are a lot of marital assets, and the spouse has used real estate and arrangements with his/her employer to hide additional assets from the eyes of divorce attorneys. This is a pretty common tactic for people who have a lot of assets and any experience with divorce, and since I’m not a party to this marriage I don’t know how this was arranged without both spouses knowing. I don’t know if it was 100% deceit on the part of the spouse who hid the money, or if the other spouse’s ignorance of all of the money concerns helped the deceit along. As is the case with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, not that this excuses criminal behavior against your spouse. But it brings up some interesting issues regarding marriage and money that I thought I’d discuss today.

Before I got married, I was advised by more than one person to maintain a separate savings account for myself. Though it was never made explicit, the assumption was that this separate account would contain money that was “mine” and “mine only,” and my husband (then fiancé) would not know about it or have access to the account. It would be, in effect, an emergency fund for me if there was some reason I needed to escape the marriage for any reason.

Though this advice was given with the best of intentions, by people who had experiences that made them believe it was a necessity, I ignored the advice for several reasons. First, because my husband and I completely merged our finances before we got married, and hashed out a household budget that accounted for both of our incomes and expenses, long before we were legally expected to do so. It was my contention then (and still is) that an essential part of getting married is the merging of two lives, and if that union excludes finances, then it cannot be said to be a wholehearted union, since you are holding something back. I don’t really believe that you can say you are in it for the long haul, when you feel like there is something you cannot share.

This is a pretty conservative, red-state stance for somebody like me to take. Particularly when you consider that both of my parents are divorce attorneys. But I have always wondered how much the divorce rate might be affected by these kinds of arrangements–I really believe that each couple should be allowed to decide what their marriage is going to be for themselves, but on the other hand, if we don’t give ourselves fully to a commitment, is it likely it’s going to stick? I don’t know.

The separate account argument takes various forms. Sometimes it involves a pre-nup that states that assets remain separate in the event View definition in a new window of a divorce in order to protect children from previous marriages. Sometimes, it is his-and-her accounts, with some kind of arrangement for splitting the bills based on percentages and relative incomes. Sometimes, it is just a private account with money stashed away “just in case” something happens, which in my mind is both the most problematic of forms and the most interesting. Because it shouldn’t be ignored that there are those occasions where an abused spouse has found themselves financially trapped in a marriage, with no way out, and a separate account in those cases might be the thing that allows them to escape.

In short, I find my views on commitment, feminism, and the realities of marriage in the post-modern era are at odds on this issue.

But here is how I handle the quandary of money in my own marriage. I am the one who manages the finances in our house, and Mr. Right-Click reads the budget each month so that he knows where everything is going. We both have names on and logins to all of our accounts, checking, savings, retirement, etc. We regularly check in with each other regarding expenses and balances. It would therefore be impossible for either of us to find ourselves in the situation that housewives (in particular) from an earlier era might have, viz. where they have no access to or authority with the household money and are completely dependent upon the other spouse for financial support. Of course, these things are always affected by the particularities of the marriage at hand. When there is family money coming into a marriage, the laws are different regarding what happens in a divorce. If there is a huge disparity in incomes, this also might come into play as far as how the money is handled. But I think that a smart person in a marriage–whether happy or otherwise–always avails themselves of information about the couple’s money. This system works well for us, and it is what I would recommend to people who are getting married. What works for you?

Related Posts with Thumbnails