Category Archives: How to

Apple CarPlay…why bother.

Not sure why Apple is going into the car space with the Apple Carplay. If you have a smartphone you already have Apple CarPlay. Get a nice dash mount, like the exomount and hook it up to bluetooth and your sorted. I travel close to 700km in my car as a building inspector everyweek and my phone practically replaces my car dash. I use Google Maps for navigation; Pocketcast for podcasts; MyCarTracks for logging my distance; Google Music Play for all my musical needs; and Tunein for radio for whenever I want to switch to talkback. If you wanted to take it a step further I’m sure you can find apps designed specifically for the bean counters such as Dash.

Apple appears to be joining forces with automakers to include CarPlay into their systems, The car makers should just concede defeat and concentrate on providing the best value sound system they can and just allow the driver to incorporate their own smart phone into the dash.

A hammock for glamping…

Hammocks seem to be all the rage these days. A lot of the interest seems to have been generated from the light weight backpacking community trying to come up with innovative ways to find a better night’s sleep in the woods with the least amount of weight. Most lightweight components involve the use of nylon for the hammock and the tarp, lightweight but heavy duty cord (e.g. amsteel or dyneema) and various clever suspension systems that range from simple use of carabineers to whoopee slings. A brand name hammock system can be cost prohibitive for the fruglar, but if weight is not your concern like it is for me or perhaps you are more of a car camper, there is a smarter way.

 

Here is what you’ll need – A large thrifty shop in town (it will basically have everything you need at bargain basement prices, well almost everything; I had to buy rope from eBay… )

 

Once inside the shop look for the following –

 

  1. Belts made from webbing x 4 ($2 each)

  1. Heavy Duty Curtains (I got 2 for $25)

 

  1. Rope (You want something with a breaking strength of at least half a ton – In my case I bought 50m of Telstra rope on ebay for about $15)

     

  2. Add all the above together and here is what you want to achieve –

     

 

Don’t worry about the clamps, just pretend it’s two trees J

You will need to know how to make a bowline… if you don’t know how, just google it.

Cut 2 pieces of rope about 50cm and make a bow line at each end.

Scrunch each end of the curtain and with the bowline you have made, wrap it around the curtain twice and take one bowline through the other bowline.

At the tree end, wrap your webbing around the tree and through the buckle and find a stick somewhere on the ground and make a marlin hitch.

 

Now get another piece of rope and wrap a bowline around the marlin hitch and with the free end, thread it through the bowline on the hammock and tie it off! You’ll need to adjust it a bit, but the right hammock position is about 30 degrees to the horizontal. See http://theultimatehang.com/2012/07/hammock-camping-101/ . As a rough guide you can just make a right angle with your thumb and index and sight it against the hammock in the background.

The simplest way to store your bikes off the ground

If you ride a push bike frequently, you’d probably have more than one bike. If you keep your bike indoors, you’d also know they take up a lot of space. One way to save on this space they take up is to keep them off the ground. There are a number of hooks, handles and mounting hardware you can buy that will allow you to do this. A google search will show you just how many variations there are.

If you are thinking of storing your bike off the ground, but aren’t keen to spend the dollars to buy a mount or hook and then take the time to install one. I have an alternative solution for you that I simply haven’t seen elsewhere do on the web. It’s very simple; however it does require that you have a suitable ledge above head height. I present to you the frugalman-makeshift-do-without version of hanging your bike –

IMG_20140529_190848 IMG_20140529_190900 IMG_20140529_190914 IMG_20140529_190920

The great thing about this method is how easy it is to put on and take off. Simply rotate your seat 90 degrees and hang… voila!

You’ll have to excuse the mess in the storage room… still a work in progress…

How to make coffee the frugal way in your Tiny Home

If you are a habitual coffee drinker, there’s no way around it, you need your hit. I know how you feel, I drink two cups a day myself and that’s a requirement.

Here are the ways you can get your hit –

  1. Instant coffee
  2. Drip coffee
  3. Percolator
  4. French Press
  5. Espresso

I think most people will be familiar with instant coffee and buying their espresso from the local coffee shop. Nothing wrong with these methods, but if you champion the frugal lifestyle like we do – you can’t help but think about how these mundane processes can be improved upon so that it aligns with our frugal sensibilities.

All the above methods have one thing in common; they all require the additional input of heat energy in the form of boiling water to achieve the drop that you want. I should also add that some of the above methods also require specialised equipment such as an espresso machine or a percolator. However there is one method I haven’t mentioned that does not require any specialise equipment or the need for boiling water… and that is the Cold Press or Cold Brew method. If you not familiar with this method it is exactly as it sounds. All you do is pour cold water onto your coffee grounds and let it steep, and voila, Cold Press coffee! Well… like all things in life there is a catch and the catch is simple to state, it requires time, 12 hours to be exact. On first thought, it’s not exactly in line with the frugal motto of saving time, but on second thoughts, it all depends on how we prepare it and organise ourselves around it.

Frugalites are not ones to watch paint dry, so if you make the brew the night before, you can go to sleep and by morning it will be ready to drink. Problem solved, and it’s exactly how I choose to make my drop.

There are several other benefits to cold brewing –

  1. Boiling water not required, therefore kettle not required and energy input also not required
  2. No need for bulky machines or specialised equipment
  3. The taste is smoother and less bitter as described by coffee connoisseurs
  4. It’s hip
  5. Perfect for Tiny Homes – In fact, because of all the above benefits, it truly is the only method you should be using to make your coffee in your Tiny Home.

I haven’t included any pictures in this post, because it really is that simple. Just pour cold water onto your grounds and let steep. In the morning the grounds will settle and you can drink it straight out of the cup without filtering just like Turkish coffee. If you want to be a bit fancy you can cold brew it in a French press, this is also quite popular and it’s how I choose to cold press my cup every day.

How to carry your bike on your car frugal style!

Ok first up, this is for folks who already have roof racks.

Now, there are basically 4 ways to carry your bike on your car, you can put it on a –

  1. Tow bar mounted rear bike carrier;
  2. Boot mounted clip on/strap on rear bike carrier;
  3. Roof mounted bike carrier; or
  4. If you have a hatch or wagon, take the front wheel off and shove it in the rear

The problem I had with the above was –

  1. I didn’t have a tow bar and did not want to pay $1000 for one just to carry my bike;
  2. Was not prepared to pay $100 for a rear strap-on/clip-on rear bike carrier in order to test whether or not they were sturdy and strong enough for my liking.
  3. I actually bought a roof mounted bike carrier thinking they would be easy to put on, but I found it extremely difficult to first of all install the bloody thing and second of all it was a strain to put the bike on it because I was constantly trying to balance the bike while clumsily trying to attach the arm to it for stability.
  4. There’s actually no problem with this method, it’s my go to method all the time. It’s very easy these days if you have front wheels that come off easily to shove it in the back of your hatch if you have space. I use to own a 3 door Daihatsu Charade hatchback, it was tiny, but I could still fit a bike in the back no problems (rear seats folded down of course). The problem arises when you need to fit two bikes, or you are not able to fold the rear seat down because you have friends to pick up in the back.

What to do?…

Well to tell you the truth, the solution only came to me while I was servicing my bike. When I service my bike, I lay it upside down where the seat and handle bars thus become the 3 points of ground contact to keep the bike steady, and as I stared at it, it slowly but surely became apparent to me that I could tie it onto my roof racks in the same position without the need for any special mounts.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it tied on like this before and I was sure that as soon as I tried to I would encounter the reason why it couldn’t be done like this, so I gave it a shot.

I lifted my bike in the upside down position and proceeded to plonk it on top of my roof racks. I laid the seat on one of the rails and the handle bars on the other rail. There was a bit of adjusting to get both rails at the right distance apart, but once I got that right the bike was now able sit there by itself – that’s actually the easy part. Without a dedicated mount with clamps/straps/ratchets you need to rely on something else to tie it down. That something else was obviously going to be rope, because that’s all I had. Unfortunately, tying things down with rope is actually not that easy. I was able to tie down the rear section of the bike down with a simple truckies knot, but the front of the bike where the handle bars sat required a bit more forethought. After a bit of research I came to the conclusion that lashing the handlebars to the rails was going to be the most secure.

I found this neat technique for lashing things together called zigzag turns on this site – http://www.asiteaboutnothing.net/cr_most-useful-knots.html#zigzag-turns

This type of lashing with zig zag turns essentially has a ratcheting effect. The more zig zags turns the tighter the lashing.

Once you have it all tied down, it looks something like this below –

God I love rope… one of the most useful things invented by us humans…

As I rode around town with the bike strapped on, every single cyclist I drove past gave me the same look, as in “hmmm interesting way of tying on a bike” look…

 

Frugal DIY Door Stopper

When we first moved into our rental, a number of our door stops were broken. I was able to replace all but the front door with the standard plastic door catchers you can get at Bunnings. The front entry had an old style door stop that proved to be a problem because it was installed quite close to the door edge, and because I didn’t want to drill new holes (a rental no no) if I installed the new plastic door catcher using the existing holes it would completely miss catching the door!

What to do…

Well after thinking about this for a moment I conjured up a lo-fi crafty and nifty solution, I introduce you to the monkey fist door stop –

 

 

 

Ta da!

All up it took me a couple a couple of hours to make it, but that was because I had never made a monkey fist before, now that I’ve made one, I reckon I can knock one up in a matter of minutes. Normally you would wrap the monkey fist with a small round object, like a golf ball or tennis ball, but I had none of those on hand so I simply crumbled up some junk mail catalogues into a ball and used that instead… (another lo-fi solution).

Now you could when looking at this ingenious solution decide that a tennis ball and some stocking could work just as well and you are right, but I love me some rope… I have a knot addiction and my motto has always been ‘you can never have enough rope around the house’. The rope I used was probably about 1 metre long and from memory it was 6mm rope. I bought mine at supercheap auto for 3 dollars and I still have ~9 metres of it left… great value if you ask me.

I followed the following youtube video to learn how to make a monkey fist –

How to build your house without worrying about planning and building codes

Anyone that goes through the process of building their own home will know how much red tape, hoop jumping, paper shuffling, form filling and bureaucratic meddling one has to put up with in today’s modern era of housing construction. Most of it is peripheral to the actual building process itself and irrelevant. It’s also enough to scare most people away and unfortunately this is exactly the unseen unintended consequence.

I’m too young to talk about the good old days, but like almost nearly everything else, I’m sure back in the day it was less about approvals and more about building a home for yourself.

In today’s environment, the myriad of legislation, rules, regulations and codes that govern the building of a home is truly astounding.

To give you an example, I currently reside in Queensland, Australia. If I wanted to build a standard 3 Bed 2 Bath single storey home on a piece of vacant land I need to comply with the following –

  1. Sustainable Planning Act
  2. Sustainable Planning Regulation
  3. Planning Scheme
  4. Planning Scheme Code(s)
  5. Building Code of Australia
  6. Australian Standard(s)
  7. Queensland Development Code
  8. Council Planning Policies
  9. State Planning Policies
  10. Other Miscellaneous Reports required by the above which could easily number in the double digits

Note the plural in some of the above dot points, emphasis mine.

I haven’t even talked about what a developer has to go through to make that piece of vacant land available for you to buy!

All the above adds cost and by the way I also haven’t gone through the myriad of professionals you would have to engage to help make sure you comply with the above. It’s no wonder this country is facing a housing affordability crisis, now that’s not to say this is the only factor or the primary factor in pushing up prices, but it’s an important one. Restrictive planning regulations and release of Greenfield land is another, the fiat money system is another… but I digress…

Anyway this site is about solutions, so how should my frugal brethren provide shelter for themselves in accordance with their frugal sensitivities?

The answer… build a Tiny House on a Trailer! J

Ain’t it grand! I’ll let your imagination interact with the picture you see and hopefully the pin should drop… right about now.

The importance of building it on a trailer is crucial, if you build and fix it to the ground you are technically building a structure which can trigger all sorts of planning and building requirements. If you build it on a trailer that is registered for the road it automatically becomes a caravan… but you and I know it’s more than a caravan it’s a Tiny House J

Building and living in a Tiny House is very much in accordance with my frugal sensitivities and it obviously ticks all my boxes – It saves me time, money and space.

Now admittedly I don’t live in one, but this is very much a goal in my life. Right now I’ve just moved to Queensland where I have started my new job, I’m still getting my bearings in this great place, but once I’ve settled in and when my rental period expires, building and living in a tiny house will be next.

If you are thinking of the same and live around my area, make sure to leave a comment. Two minds are better then one!

For more info on Tiny House’s and what people are doing with this concept check out the Tiny House Blog and Tumbleweed Homes.

 

 

 

How to eradicate Ants and Cockroaches naturally

Boric Acid. More specifically boric acid in powder form.

Living in the top end (Darwin) of Australia, I’ve always been told that ants and geckos are just a way of life. No problems I thought, I can live with that.

In fact I love geckos, I am always amazed at their ability to stick to any surface, and I find them rather cute. Ants, never desirable, but even down south in Melbourne our home kitchen always had a problem with ants so I learnt to live with it. Cockroaches… well that’s where I draw the line. They are simply ugly to look at and if you ever kill one, they sure smell. Unfortunately for the ones that reside in my home there is not one ounce of pity for them, neither from me nor my partner… I’m sure you can understand. This post is essentially for all those cockroach haters.

About 4 months ago I experienced a spike in ant numbers that coincided with a spike in cockroach sightings, it got so bad at one stage that even our bedrooms had them. I put it down to our bin, the lid doesn’t quite close properly and because we cook a fair bit at home, inevitably there are more enticing crumbs lying around. The cockroaches came in all different sizes, some no bigger than a fly and some as big as a small house mouse.

My first plan of attack included the following –

  1. Getting a bin that had a close fitting lid;
  2. Cleaning kitchen surfaces more often and never leaving unwashed dished or food lying around too long
  3. Mortein Bug Spray

…my first plan of attack made not one bit of difference. This got me thinking if there were other alternative ways in getting rid of this problem.

I confided in Dr Google as you do, and lo and behold I found a number of remedies, one which included the use of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) which I describe as death by a thousand cuts. It’s not chemical but mechanical. This alternative sounded like it had legs as it was also backed up by other sources that I trusted, the only problem was finding the stuff and it wasn’t cheap. The other negative of DE is that it loses its effect once wet.

Another remedy I found of interest was the use of boric acid. In particular boric acid powder, this point is important because if you get the granular version it’s not as effective and Borax is not the same as boric acid. It works as a desiccant drying the ant or cockroach from the inside out when ingested. I did some further reading and realized that boric acid has a number of multiple uses, many in fact, including termite treatment for timber. When I realized how relatively cheap it was I was sold. There are essentially 2 ways you can use it, as a solution or as a dry powder. If used as a solution you will need to add bait, generally sugar. If used dry you just dust the powder where you think the ants or roach will pass by. When it walks over the powder they inevitable pick it up and because ants and cockroaches groom they will ingest it. I tried it both ways and I find using it dry the most effective and convenient. It does take a little while for it to show results, especially if you have a large colony, but usually about a week will do. I bought my boric acid on ebay for about $5 for 50 grams and that’s plenty and will last a long time. You can also buy a special duster on ebay for ease of application, but I just flick the powder with my finger. In the 4 months since I first tried it, I have only had to apply it again once and that was recently. This works and I’d recommend it over all other methods. It’s effectiveness, cheap cost, and durability makes this a worthy frugalmanhack.

For more info and to buy Boric Acid check out this site – http://www.boricacid.net.au/

 

 

Natural Mosquito Repellent

If you are ever in need of insect repellent especially to keep those pesky mozzies at bay, try mandarain peel oil. In fact try any citrus peel oil.

About two weeks ago we found ourselves camping at Katherine Gorge and discovered we had forgotten to bring the mozzie repellent. Since the mozzies kept me from enjoying the moment, it got me thinking what else I could use as a substitute. I vaguely remember watching an old Bear Grills episode where he rubs crocodile fat on him to repel the mozzies, then my mind switched to a lesson my boss gave me about rubbing baby oil to stop the midges (i.e. no-see-ums) from biting from the last time we went fishing… I figured since the common denominator was oil, any oil was going to be my best bet. I looked around, but the only oil I could think of was lard in the packet of my 2 minutes noodles… there was no way I was going to rub that on me, far from being a repellent, I’m sure I would have been an attractant to a many number of things out there. Then it hit me, the peel of an orange contains oils that can be squeezed out, I went into my bag of goodies and instead of oranges I found the mandarins. Good thing they were mandarins and not oranges, much easier to peel you see…

After I was done eating them, I collected the peels and started to squeeze the oil from it and onto myself. The peel of one mandarin is all you need, the oil that comes out has an immediate aroma and spreads quite easily on the skin. As I’m doing all of this my mate thinks I’ve gone nuts. Suffice to say he become the control and I the guinea pig. Now one experiment is not going to be conclusive, but I felt I got immediate results, after applying mandarin oil on myself the number of mosquitoes waging war dropped dramatically. You might have expected my mate to be losing in that war since he chose to do nothing but he too was also not bothered by the mosquitoes as much. The only explanation I can give is that since we sat near each other he too was enjoying the repellent effects from my mandarin peels.

I have since researched this further and lo and behold the Internet is full of anecdotal evidence of orange peel oil as an insect repellent – Google it yourself. Again while you wouldn’t treat it as science, it sure doesn’t hurt to experiment and the reason this article is being posted is simply due to the frugalnomics of it. Bringing mandarins or other citrus when camping next time, is now multifunctional, it now provides food and mosquito repellent. This is a no brainer especially for all those weight conscious back packers. As frugalman would say “the more you know the less you carry”.