Saturday, January 06, 2007

Make a Rug from Old T Shirts

I love being able to re-use material from old clothes. It makes my frugal heart happy. One of my favorite re-dos is using old T shirts to crochet rag rugs.

I think everyone wears T shirts sometimes. So, most of us have old T shirts that either developed a mysterious stain, shrunk, or came out of the wash with a hole (I guess that's a sign that the T shirt has been worn out).

If you don't have any old T shirts, check your local thrift store. They usually sell them really cheap. We have a Habitat for Humanity store nearby and that is where I shop (for all kinds of things). Habitat's prices are much more reasonable than Goodwill, and I can get T shirts there for $1.19 each.

Anyway, this is how I make rag rugs from T shirts:
  1. Make sure the T shirts you are using do Not have side seams.
  2. Cut off the top of the T shirt containing the armholes (sleeves) and neck.
  3. Cut off the hem.
  4. Begin cutting around the T shirt, allowing a width of at least 1/2 inch.
  5. Continue cutting around and around, creating a long "yarn" to crochet.
  6. Roll the T shirt yarn into a ball.
You don't want side seams in the T shirts because once you cut across the seams they will come apart. This means you will have to sew them all together again. Sewn seams can be used in crocheting rag rugs (you will be sewing ends of several T shirts together to make the rug big enough), but it is much less time consuming if you have one continuous piece of "yarn" from each T shirt.

You can use the material from the top of the T shirt, but you will have to cut back and forth once you remove the sleeves and neckline. Cutting back and forth creates an extra flap of material at each end that will have to be rolled around itself as you are crocheting.

This flap may cause a "bump" in your finished rug, and it is not always possible to get the flap rolled tightly so it sticks out. If you don't mind it, then cut out the sleeves and neckline, then cut back and forth to use all of the material in the chest and upper back area of the T shirt, as well.

You will need approximately 10 large T shirts to make a 28" X 20" rug. If you buy the T shirts (from the thrift store) to make your rug, you can plan the design and colors to compliment your decor. If you just use what you have, take a little time to think about which colors look best together, and crochet in that order.

Once you have the T shirt material cut and rolled into balls you can begin crocheting.
  • Chain 20 stitches
  • Single crochet in each chain
  • Single crochet twice in last chain stitch
  • Work down the opposite side of the chain and single crochet in the bottom of each chain stitch
  • Single crochet twice in the end stitch
  • By the second or third round you will inc twice at each end to keep the rug from curling up
  • Continue sc around the rug, increasing twice on each end
  • As you finish a roll of T shirt yarn, sew or tie a new roll to the end and continue crocheting
  • To finish, slip stitch into 2-3 sc then pull the strip to the back of the rug
  • Sew the end under a stitch in the back to hide it

These rugs are great to use in the bathroom because you can throw them in the wash each week without having to worry about a rubber backing like you do with store-bought rugs.

A few Tips about crocheting with T shirt material:

If your T shirts have those rubber designs, pictures, or logos, this will create an added non-slip texture to the rug. If you don't want the rubber to show you can fold the strip as you crochet it so that the rubber is on the inside.

Decagon shaped rug illustrates rubber designs incorporated into rug

The wider you cut the T shirt "yarn" the thicker your rug will be. I wouldn't recommend cutting it wider than 1 inch, though. The wider it is, the more difficult it is to crochet unless you fold it before rolling into balls.

You can cut the ends on a diagonal before sewing them together if you want to make a near-invisible seam. Overlap the end of the last roll with the beginning of the next one and cut diagonally. Line up the diagonal cuts (this will create a 90 degree angle when the ends are held together) and sew them with matching thread. Roll this seam inward when you crochet it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Budget Styles - Create a Hybrid

Two of the most interesting budgets I've come across are the Balanced Money Formula (BMF) and the 60% Solution. Both of these budgeting styles break your income down into fewer categories than traditional budgets and offer a quicker and easier method of staying on track.

In the BMF, the goal is to separate your bills into into just 3 categories: Must-Haves, Savings, and Wants. Each category gets a percentage of your income. Must-Haves gets 50%, Savings gets 20%, and Wants gets 30%.

Must-Haves are the things that you must pay for in order to ensure your survival. Bills like rent (or mortgage), utilities, insurance, food (just the basics), and auto expenses are Must-Haves. In other words, you must have them in order to survive and continue making money.

Savings is pretty much self-explanatory, except that additional debt payments are also considered savings. This is because making more than the minimum payment on your debts frees up your money in the future.

Wants are those thing that make your life fun, or more pleasant, but you could live without them. Bills like cable TV, additional phone lines or cell phones, long distance calling plans, entertainment, yearly clothing allowances, dining (eating out), and internet service are Wants. You could live without them if you had to (you might not like it but you could).

The 60% Solution is similar except it doesn't separate Must-Haves from Wants. In the 60% budget, you separate your Committed Expenses (both necessary expenses and fun/entertainment expenses) from your other expenses and commit no more than 60% of your income to this category.

The remaining 40% of your income is doled out in 10% chunks each: (1) Retirement, (2) Long-Term Savings, (3) Short-Term Savings, and (4) Fun Money.

I've tried both of these budgeting styles and found that although they both work, neither of them suits my lifestyle completely. So, I just created a hybrid.

I use only 3 categories of spending: Expenses (a hybrid of Must-Haves and Committed Expenses) , Freedom Accounts (a hybrid of Short-Term Savings and Wants), and Savings (a hybrid of BMF Savings and Long-Term Savings).

Check out these budgeting styles and see if they work better for you than traditional budgets. You may find them easier and more effective for your lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Free Credit Report - Get Yours!

Has everyone taken advantage of the Free Annual Credit Report? I hope so. Not only does this report give you a good indication of how your credit shapes up, it also gives you the opportunity to have errors removed.

When I checked my credit report last year I found a $79 bad debt that didn't belong to me. I had no idea who this company was nor what they sold, much less had a debt with them.

The cool thing about checking your credit online is that some of the reporting bureaus (I know TransUnion will) allow you to contest a charge right there online while you are looking at your credit report.

It comes in handy. I just clicked the "Request Investigation" or whatever it was called and filled out the form that followed. Within about 2 months the debt had been removed. Evidently the company had no evidence that it was my debt.

I'm sure it's not always this easy to fix errors on your credit report, but TransUnion does at least require the company reporting the debt to have supporting documentation to prove the debt is yours.

How cool is that! Someone who makes an effort to protect you (instead of the big companies) is rare now-a-days.

I recommend that you stagger your requests for your credit report with each agency. First, request a report from TransUnion, wait 3 months and request a report from Experian, then wait 3 more months to request the report from Equifax.

This way you will be checking your credit 3 times a year, which makes it less likely that an error will stay on your report long enough to do much damage. And, you won't be paying a credit monitoring company to keep track for you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Home Ownership - is it Really Less Expensive

There is so much to do and so little money to do it with. Yes, I'm whining. Yesterday, I saw that my Home Repair savings has risen by $100, so I took out my "To-Do" list to see if there was enough money to make one of the most pressing repairs.

There still isn't enough to do a major overhaul on the porch (the most pressing repair), but that's not why I'm whining. I'm whining because that "To-Do" list is never ending.

After doing some calculations, I realized that by the time I save enough money to make the most pressing repairs, regular maintenance for everything else will be due.

This got me to thinking about how expensive it really is to own your home. Conventional Wisdom says that you will save money and build wealth
by owning a home and building equity, not by renting and giving someone else your money.

But, I'm beginning to doubt so-called conventional wisdom.

Now, certainly, renting is giving your money to someone else in exchange for housing, with no end in sight. And it is logical to assume that owning your home - not having housing payments - during your retirement years puts you in a much better financial situation. But, does it really?

Well, I guess that depends on the maintenance costs of your home, and on how high your property tax might rise during your retirement years.

And - here is the kicker for me - how will you be able pay someone else to do that maintenance once you're old and not making money any longer? Are you assuming that you will still be able to do your own maintenance even into your 60s and 70s?

I'm assuming that you are somewhat like me ( meaning you aren't going to have a million dollars to spend during your retirement). So, how are you going to pay for the roof that needs to be replaced, the new hot water heater, porch repair/replacement, vinyl floor repair, carpet replacement, resurfacing grungy cabinets, leaking/rusting faucets, new elements for the stove?

And, how are you going to keep up with yard maintenance?

Some of us may be able and willing to push that mower around when we are 60-70 years old, but I'd say that it would be a real toll on most of us.

Pat Veretto, at Frugal Living found that she could do much better by selling her home, investing that money, and using it to pay rent. She not only came out ahead financially, she no longer had to worry about making home repairs, keeping up with maintenance, or dealing with the cost and physical toll of lawncare.

It makes you think. Are we really in a better position financially when we take on the cost of ownership of a house and yard? Is the cost of property taxes, appliance maintenance and repair, home maintenance and repair, and landscaping really less expensive than renting?