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”.

The Triangle of Life

I learnt from a mate recently about what he terms ‘the triangle of life’. Let me explain – the theory goes that if the proximity of where you live, work and do your shopping (i.e. the triangle) is smaller, i.e. closer together, you will more likely be happier than if the triangle was bigger.

Now without diving deep into philosophical discussion, I instead opted to view it from a totally different perspective… what I realized and no prizes for guessing what it is, it that the smaller the triangle the more frugal you can become, it obviously makes sense money wise, but it also makes sense in helping to save time as well.

When you live close to work & where you shop, you save time because now you can afford to sleep in more. Rather than driving you can now just as conveniently bike or walk, if you took it to the next level you can sell the car and save the garage space!

One other added benefit is that walking and biking is infinitely better for your health than driving. This really is a win win win win scenario.

Personally, my own assessment of my current triangle is that it is relatively small compared to the other triangles I’ve had in my life. I live 1km away from work and 6kms from where I shop and I quite like this setup. My previous triangle was even smaller; 500 meters to work and 700 meters to the shops. The only drawback was the high cost of the rent I was paying at the time. So as it is in life there are always tradeoffs. You can have the smallest triangle but at what cost?

How small is your triangle? and how much can you save by going smaller?

Pull up bars that don’t fail or take up much space.

There are quite a number of doorway pull up bars available on the market these days –

Another popular design is the P90X type –

Never doubted they could work… but there is another option, the frugalman version –

If you have a couple of spare clamps hanging around, all you gotta do is clamp them as shown in the pictures as hand holds and voila! Pull up bars that are tough as nuts and can be put up in a flash. Hang some rope down and you can fashion yourself some Olympic rings! I’ve simply used some offcuts of timber but you can make them as pretty as you like. Make sure you use some timber where you clamp onto the wall to help protect it.

***Warning – now admittedly my version of the pull up bar is really only useful if your wall is constructed out of masonry, anything less and the clamps will most likely crush whatever it is clamping onto, especially plasterboard over timber framed walls, this is because the clamps can exert and amazing amount of force. This can be a good thing though, for one it will hold up your body weight and more, I’ve piggybacked my girlfriend and hung onto just one clamp and was able to hold without any problems***

Watch out for future posts, as I will be showing you how to create the same fail safe pull up bars for walls that are not masonry and vulnerable to crushing by the clamps.

MYO/DIY/PIT Towel Rails for Serial Renters and Nazi Landlords

If you are looking to install some extra towel rails and 3 or more of the following apply to you –

  1. You are a renter.
  2. Your landlord won’t allow holes in the wall.
  3. In fact, your landlord is Hitler reincarnate that will cast their eyes over every inch of the house looking for screw holes to hold your bond to ransom.
  4. Don’t have any power tools.
  5. Don’t mind when function trumps fashion.
  6. Like the idea of ‘efficient use of space’.
  7. Like convenience & simplicity.
  8. Would like to feel productive today.
  9. Prefers simple over complex.
  10. Likes cheap but prefers classy.
  11. Was never taught how to tie a bowline, an easy-release knot or the use of rope as a pulley and would like to learn.
  12. Knows that by learning the above they are learning the often forgotten art of pioneering.
  13. Want to have the option of adding your own personal touch.
  14. Trying to save money.
  15. Hate wasting money.
  16. Knows ingenious when they see it.
  17. Wants towel rails that can be easily put up, removed and reused over and over again.
  18. Wants a towel rail that is multi-functional.
  19. Can spare 5 minutes of your time.

… then I have just the towel rail you are looking for.

Frugalites, I call this the ‘Renters Towel Rail Delight’

 

I call it the ‘Renters Towel Rail Delight’ because its main selling point is that it doesn’t rely on any permanent fixings and it can be put up, removed and reused over and over and over and over again. Once you’ve installed one, you will likely develop OCD and try to put it up everywhere… so don’t say I didn’t warn you J

All that is required is brickies line (about $5) which you can get at any handyman store and some spacer blocks. I’ve chosen to use some scrap ply that I had lying around, but you could really use whatever it is around you as a spacer. If you wanted a rustic look, you could perhaps use some broken tree branch with the diameter of your liking and cut them up into little blocks. If you don’t know how to saw wood you could just as easily scrunch up some newspaper and use that as a spacer. If you like the touch of fabric, use that. If you wanted to make it look interesting, just go into a thrifty store (e.g. salvos or vinnies) and pick something that’s to your fancy. Really, the sky is the limit with this one.

Once you have the above at your disposal, it’s time to put it together.

Here you will roughly cut to length your brickes line, about 2.5 widths of your door. On one end you will tie a bowline. Why a bowline? See dot point 11 & 12 above. The bowline is one of the most useful knots you will ever learn, the main advantage of a bowline is being able to tie a fixed loop to whatever size you want and that can be easily undone. Once you’ve tied a bowline on one end you simply wrap it around the door to your desired height. Now all you got to do is tie it off. It needs to be tight and you want to tie it off with a knot that can be easily undone.

If you leave the as it is, you can basically use it as a way to hang postcards and sheets of paper – see below.

Before you add the spacer blocks you will need to cut a notch on the side so that it ‘catches’ the line. A hacksaw for this works best and has just the right size kerf to hold the brickies line.

…and voila!… you have your first frugalman towel rail! J

…frugalman towel rail won’t stop your door from closing J

…comes double sided too! J

…did I mention they make great racks for your pot lids as well… J

 

The Slimmest Wallet in the World.

Lately I’ve been bombarded by these Bellroy Slim Leather Wallets ads… quite annoying because their wallets aren’t that different to any other slim leather wallet I’ve seen at your average department store, at nearly $80 pop it’s actually more expensive and when I compare it to my very own wallet, mine can only be described as anorexic and beyond cheap, but hey they do have good marketing – that I’m willing to give credit for. So it got me thinking if there were other companies out there marketing their wallets from the same angle and perhaps offering something revolutionary that I haven’t seen before.

I did some desktop research for “slim wallets” and I have to say it’s a fairly competitive market. There are a lot of established wallet companies that have since added a slim wallet line up. Interesting to me though was the half dozen or so new niche wallet companies out there that are simply marketing it from this one angle one design slim wallet concept. Many of them seem to have had their beginnings on kickstarter as well.

So in summary of my research I found the following slim/thin wallets available –

  1.  


     

  2. The Big Skinny Wallet – Around $25 various designs

     


     

  3.  


     

  4.  


  5.  


     

     

  6. The Supr Slim Wallet – TBA not available yet as of this posting.

     


     

  7. And the list goes on and on…

Now, I don’t own any of the above wallets, probably never will, so I’ll just comment on the design without mentioning its usability. In terms of revolutionary design it all but eliminates Koyono and Supr Wallets. All the others still look like a normal wallet. In the case of the slimfold and big skinny the tradeoff by being slim is that they are big which depending on tastes can detract from the intent of having a slim wallet in the first place. The Koyono is revolutionary purely based on the fact that it is open on two adjacent sides of a rectangle. It supposedly relies on the friction of the flaps to ‘keep it together’. The Supr wallet is revolutionary in its simplicity and choice of material – a small elastic pocket and nothing else. The Supr wallet could have easily been made with any other flash material, but I think the choice to use an elastic material is genius because it expands with the number cards you put in and it will always remain ‘tight’.

In light of the above if I ever had to choose, which I wouldn’t because I’m quite content with my own wallet, but if I did, I would probably pick the Supr Wallet, purely and simply because its design is most similar with my own.

All this leads me to the wallet that I actually use and our first Frugalman hack <drum roll please>…


I call it the $3.48 Brocollini Wallet –


…also known as the 3B Wallet for short… get it! 🙂

Is the 3B Wallet revolutionary? Not really… it’s just a rubber band upcycled. It’s what I call ol’skool. Your grandfather probably had something similar though back in the day they it was all cash –


Well it worked for your grandfather and I can say with great satisfaction that it still works today for your cards. What’s more it will actually work with both cards and cash combined, though it does exclude the use of coins. I don’t have a photo to show you but you simply fold the cash in half and slip it in between the cards that you have. If you only have 4 cards like I do, it means you will have 3 ‘pockets’ to fold your cash into. The rubber band may not look like a lot but it works magnificently to keep your cards/cash together and provides enough pressure to ‘keep it all together’ securely. I’ve been using my 3B Wallet for the last 12+ months (before that I was just using a stationary bulldog clip, but I found the hardness of the clip uncomfortable while sitting down) and I have never had any card or any cash for that matter slip out. For those who think it is not secure enough, you can either trust me or just try it for yourself. It really does hold it all together.

The ease of use is also another added benefit; however it does require you to use it in a certain way, a bit like learning how to use a zippo lighter, there is without doubt an art to it. Once you get it, it is both satisfying and liberating. As the saying goes the more knowledge you have the less you carry. Photos won’t do it justice and what will take a 1000 words to describe to you on how to use it, I am better off at just shooting a Youtube video to demonstrate it… So watch this space.

There are a couple of things to point out that will help you transition from a Costanza wallet servant to someone who is a skillfully trained 3B Wallet master –

  1. Learn to use less cards.

    In my 3B Wallet I have 4 cards, a proximity card for work, a personal credit card, a shared debit card with my partner, and a driver’s license. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need anything else. I used to have a rewards cards but I was able to obtain the key ring version instead. If I needed to go to the library then and only then would I bring my library card. It all has to do with how you arrange your cards with your lifestyle. So the first step is to learn to use less cards and only include the day to day cards in your 3B Wallet, alternatively consolidate all your credit cards into one. Now, this is not to say that your 3B Wallet can’t hold no more than 4 cards, to the contrary the 3B Wallet can hold as many cards as you can throw at it. In this sense it is similar to the Supr Wallet in that it will expand with the number of cards you put in and because of its elasticity it will still keep everything together and keep it tight. Most rubber bands are natural and one advantage of this over the Supr Wallet is that it has superior elasticity and the ability to remain elastic longer than stretch fabrics.

     

  2. Learn to hold coins in the pocket of your pants.

    Like learning to ride a bike or artfully using a zippo lighter, using a 3B Wallet will take some practice so that you don’t look like a fool at the counter. As mentioned already, it doesn’t accept coins for very obvious reasons. What this means is that upon receiving loose change, you will need to put it into your clothes pocket or simply take the charitable approach and drop it into a donation bin. Even better, you can simply learn to reduce loose change simply by transacting less with cash. In today’s world nearly all retailers provide credit/debit card transactions, most retailers even sport the new pay wave technology where you just hold your card up to the sensor to complete the transaction.

The function and performance of your wallet is related to how well it is able to keep your monetary instruments together, a traditional wallet certainly achieves that, however, what a 3B Wallet does is that it achieves the same thing with less. So rather than putting your monetary instruments in a pocket (which in essence is what your wallet is) and then putting it into another pocket, the 3B Wallet simply ties your cash/cards together with the bare minimum so that ultimately you not only will have the slimmest wallet you will also have the slimmest pockets.

Based on –

  1. Cost – $3.48 AUD (cheaper when in season)
  2. Health benefits – did you know that it can help prevent macular degeneration!
  3. Functionality
  4. Artfulness – takes practice and something to be proud of.
  5. Zen-like aesthetics – This is one of the easiest ways I know to become more Zen-like. It doesn’t get simpler than this.
  6. Comfort – there is nothing ‘hard’ about it; and
  7. Philosophical satisfaction – You’ve just read it

I’m not sure Frugalman can use anything but a 3B Wallet. It is without doubt the slimmest wallet in the world.

When something is free and can achieve the same compared to a bought item, take free.

***I’m almost tempted to set up a kickstarter project for my 3B Wallet as a parody… and what a lovely way to spread some broccolini love at the same time***