Category Archives: diy

How to Plan an Awesome Retreat – Step 1: Get pumped about something

camp cabinAlong with a few internet friends, I’m planning a retreat for fans of Mr Money Mustache and JD Roth, two awesome bloggers. It’s going down in the Spring of 2014, here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

This isn’t the first retreat I’ve planned, but it has been a while. As a teenager, I planned a retreat for my youth group. Like any large event, it went off with only a few snags, that were mostly invisible to participants. I still get ribbed by old friends about the schedule for the weekend. I made a silly one as a rough draft and turned it in as a placeholder. Whoever was in charge of photocopying thought it was the real deal, so they made copies of it and handed it out to all attendees.

What that old retreat and this new one have in common is that in order to put in the time and energy to making any dream into a reality (whether it’s a retreat, or a startup, or making balloon animals), it’s essential that you pick something you’re really passionate (or pumped) about. For me, that’s financial badassity. Or whatever you want to call it.

I’m gonna do a few posts while I figure this retreat-planning thing out (again). At least I know how not to make retreat schedules this time around.

Leave a comment if you’re interested in attending and want the deets when they’re available. Or if you have questions about planning your own retreat.

Advertisements

Sriracha Popcorn Recipe

popcorn This is a first for my blog, I think. A recipe!

One thing I hate is when there’s not enough contents left in a bottle of sauce or tub of yogurt to do anything with it, but too much to throw out without feeling guilty.

We had this exact situation in the Foundry household a couple nights ago, when I found the sriracha (Thai hot sauce) bottle sitting next to the sink (in Venessa’s patented “Joe, I put this here so you’d wash it out” spot).

I couldn’t let this precious mouth-watering nectar go to waste, so I decided I’d try to make popcorn with it. The popcorn turned out AWESOME, Venessa mentioned it to a friend on Facebook (giving it a lukewarm review. Thanks, honey!), and a friend of that friend requested the recipe (despite the lukewarm review). Since facebook is private, I figured I’d put it here to share it with the world.

Two servings of Sriracha Popcorn:

Ingredients:

  • Popping corn – a handful
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)* – 2 Tablespoons
  • Sriracha – 2 squeezes
  • Butter – 2 Tablespoons
  • Salt – to taste

* [edit: Venessa told me not to use EVOO because of its low smoke point. But I used it and things turned out OK. Caveat emptor.]

  1. Put a medium sized pot on medium-high heat and pour in enough EVOO to barely coat the bottom (about 2 good “glugs” out of the bottle).
  2. Pour a handful of popping kernels into the pot and put the lid on it. It always makes more than you think it will so err on the side of caution.
  3. Watch the pot carefully (watched pots never boil water, but they will pop the heck out of popcorn). When the popping starts, grab the pot and the lid and give it a few good shakes (using a potholder).
  4. When the popping slows down to about a pop per second, turn off the stove and empty the popcorn into a serving bowl.
  5. Salt to taste. A large 3-finger pinch should do it.
  6. Put the pot back on the stove, but leave the heat off. Put about 2T of butter into the pot. The heat of the pot will melt the butter. It may spray up so be careful. (1T of butter is like the size of the pat that they slice off the stick in butter and bread commercials. Also most butter wrappers have a little measuring guide printed onto the side.)
  7. Squeeze 2 squeezes of sriracha into melted butter. It may spray up again so be careful.
  8. Put the popcorn back into bowl to soak up the sriracha-butter magic you just made. Shake it around and pour it back into the serving bowl.
  9. Prepare your mouth for the imminent onrush of awesomeness by saying the following out loud: “I JUST MADE SRIRACHA POPCORN FROM SCRATCH!!!!!”

You can actually buy pre-made bags of sriracha popcorn from J&D (the Bacon Salt guys). I know the J&D founders personally (we used to work together) and love ’em, but $5 a bag is highway robbery! This recipe is about 50 cents worth of ingredients and 5 minutes of your time.

Most of the credit for this recipe goes to Venessa since this is pretty much her popcorn recipe, but with sriracha added at the end.

So there ya go! Enjoy! Maybe I’ll do more recipes, but how can you top this one?

* I even tried to condense the recipe but it’s still way too long for a tweet: “cook handful kernels in 2T EVOO on med-hi. Empty popcorn into bowl when popping finishes. Salt to taste. Melt 2T butter in cook pot. Squeeze 2 squeezes of sriracha into melted butter. Put popcorn back into bowl. Toss.”

Last-Minute Frugal Date Night Ideas

Items from a frugal date night As if she was reading my mind, Foundry follower Sally Ashley asked if she could do a guest post on Frugal Date Nights. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! When she’s not reading this blog, Sally writes about romance and personal finance. Her most recent work focuses on how to pick the best finance schools.

So if you don’t have anything planned for your sweetie tonight, and you want to keep it frugal, read on…

How to Plan a Frugal Date Night
Planning a date doesn’t always have to be expensive, and you can have just as much fun on a frugal date as you can on an expensive date. Below are some great ways you can plan a frugal date night and still have a great time!

Hangout at Home
You can plan a fun but cheap date night in your very own home. You probably have food there, so look up some recipes online and cook a great meal for you and your date. More than likely, you have some good entertainment in your home as well. A stereo, television, computer, video game system or just some good old-fashioned board games can be fun on a date. Simply invite your date over to hangout and listen to music, watch a movie and share a meal, or play some fun games.

Attending Local Events
Most every city has local newspapers that list local events and happenings that will be going on in the next few weeks. Some cities have their own websites that list these events. Look in those papers or Internet sites, and search for some local events that you and your date can attend. When you see something that looks fun, and go out and have some fun. Most of the time, these events are relatively cheap or even free.

Visit the Park
A romantic AND cheap date that can be a lot of fun is going to the park. If you or your date has a dog, take your pet along. You can pack a nice picnic lunch and a blanket and sit under the trees and enjoy good conversation while eating lunch. Some parks host events and activities as well. They might have a swimming pool, walking/jogging trails or some secluded areas to get some privacy. If it’s winter, there might be somewhere to go ice skating.

Cheap Movie 
Going out to the movies on a date is ridiculously expensive, and more often than not, boring. Staring at a screen and being silent for over two hours can make it tough to get back into the vibe after the movie is over. However, if there is a movie you both want to see and it is available by rental, check it out and watch it at home. You can pop your own popcorn, have your own drinks and sit down and share a movie together. Every now and again, you can stop the movie to enjoy some conversation or refresh your beverages. If you know your date pretty well, take advantage of the cheaper movie specials during the daytime, or visit the dollar movie to catch a really cheap one. [ed: Even cheaper, borrow a movie from the library for free!]

Cheap Coffee Dates

Meeting up for coffee can be a good idea if you know your date pretty well. If so, you can engage in good conversation the entire time you are there. If you do not know your date well, a coffee shop can be intimidating – trying to find something to say for a couple of hours. If you have a nice coffee maker or cappuccino machine at home, ask your date over for some homebrew, and make your own coffee at home while enjoying conversation, a meal or just watching television together. First dates at a coffee shop are easier if you go on a double-date to help break the ice. Afterwards, you can go to a cozier place alone if things go as planned.

Hopefully, you can use some of these frugal date ideas for yourself. They are easy on the wallet, and they will allow you the opportunity to get to know your date better. You can learn a lot about a person by using one of these cheap date ideas over the more expensive options.
———————–

Thanks, Sally! Readers, how are you spending your Valentine’s Day (frugally or otherwise)? In our family, we exchange hand-made cards for each other, and Mrs Foundry usually bakes a treat for the family. This year I splurged and got her a bouquet of her favorite flowers (even though we agreed on no gifts). Oops!

Borax + Baking Soda win again: how to make homemade scouring powder

japanese bathIs there anything that Borax and baking soda, once combined, can’t clean up? Actually, don’t answer that.

You all know the childhood song: Comet, it makes your teeth turn green. Comet, it tastes like gasoline. That song was written because Comet is nasty and it doesn’t belong touching the stuff you touch with your naked body, like your bathtub*.

It was time to clean the Foundry bathtub and I had to think fast. Truthfully, I had plenty of time. I’m just trying to build up suspense for this blog post.

I found this recipe for “scouring powder” (the generic name for Comet) and noticed it contained my two favorite household cleaning ingredients: borax and baking soda. So I gave it a try, and it works great!

The recipe is: equal parts borax, baking soda, and salt.

So here’s the updated, ever-expanding list of commercial household products I’ve replaced with diy recipes:

Anyone else have any other household products that they make themselves? Even if it doesn’t use borax or baking soda.

* There’s a product called Bon Ami that’s a lot less caustic. So if you must buy a commercial scouring powder, buy that one. But if you’re into that kind of stuff, why did you read this post?

Lifetime Gym Membership: $10.99. Not being able to make excuses any more: Priceless.

you are your own gymAs much as I love running and cycling, I’ve never really been a gym kind of guy. It’s not just the crazy prices, but also simply getting to the gym, and the sweaty equipment, and the lukewarm showers, etc. I bought some dumbbells a few years ago to do arm workouts at home, but they mostly sit unused under the couch.

Recently, I heard about a workout program called You Are Your Own Gym, that uses “bodyweights” (pushups, situps, etc.) and common household objects to give you a workout. I checked out the book from the library and loved it so much, I bought the book!

Yes folks you read that right, I actually bought myself a book! I can’t remember the last time I did that. The way I see it, I spent $10.99 for a lifetime gym membership, since I don’t ever see myself needing to step foot in one again.

What I like about the exercise program is that it requires creativity. No chin-up bar? Use a door. Instead of dumbbells, bicep curls are done with a towel wrapped around your foot (pulling up, against the weight of your leg, provides the resistance).

And the part of this book that I LOVE has nothing to do with exercise at all. It’s about getting rid of your excuses. The author asks you to list all your excuses for not exercising, so you can see them for what they are. After doing that, I’m very motivated and have only missed a single session since I started. The same technique could be applied to breaking through the mental barriers preventing you from making any positive change in your life!

I’ve been doing it for about 2 months and the differences in my strength and physique are noticeable. Who wouldn’t like to be a little stronger and sexier? Check it out (literally, at the library) if you’re interested in starting a workout routine but you don’t like the gym.

The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio


[This is part 2 of a series on investing. Here was part one.]

I read a number of books on money and investing, each presenting what the author believed to be the BEST way to invest your money. But none of them were able to back up their claims with as much research as The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio.

The author, Alexander Green, first walks readers though the basics of money, which should be review if you’ve been a Foundry reader for a while:

  • the magical compounding effects of saving a lot of money early on
  • why not to “outsmart” or “time” the market when investing
  • why to not trust your investments to a “professional.”

With that out of the way, he gets to the interesting stuff: an investment plan that is based off nobel-prize-winning research on the importance of asset allocation, keeping fees/taxes low, and staying the course (no matter what the latest “news” is from Wall Street).

The author even makes it dead-simple by giving you the actual Vanguard funds that represent each investment. So I went to shift my investments around in Vanguard to match the advice from the book. Uh oh! Since the book was written, one of the funds was closed to new investors. So there goes that portfolio.

In the next post, I’ll explain how I modified the advice in the book to get around this little roadblock, and to make the portfolio even easier to manage.

Hang Dry Your Laundry: Just Do It!

Speaking of laundry… Hang-drying your laundry is so easy, it’s something everyone should do! The sun is just sitting out there waiting for some laundry to dry for free. Even in Seattle, we keep the clothesline up year-round (though it doesn’t get much use from October – May).

We hung some rope from the house to a spare bamboo pole, and then back again, to provide two lengths of clothesline from which to hang clothes. And we added a drying rack for increased capacity. You can also see stuff hanging from chairs and even toys.

We’re blessed with a large deck that has Southern exposure, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do this inside, or on a small scale if you have a smaller yard.

There are plenty of other tips to increase the space on the clothesline: hang clothes from hangers or even an old umbrella frame.

And the proof is in the financial pudding. Dryers are one of the biggest energy consumers in the house. We just got our electricity bill for June/July (when we’ve been able to hang-dry almost exclusively). We used 387kWh per month.

According to the Government, “In 2010, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,496 kWh, an average of 958 kilowatthours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 16,716 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.”

So we’re at about 1/3rd the national average. Granted, energy costs are lower for us in the summer, so let’s look at our family’s yearly average (the Seattle City Light bill gives you a nice graph of your yearly consumption), 811kWh per month. Lower than average, but we still have some ways to go before we can beat Maine! In February, our most electricity-consuming month, we use over 4x the amount of electricity we use over the summer!

Not only are you saving money, by hanging your clothes to dry you’re also helping save the earth. I love when those two things go together!

PS: Washington state enjoys the 2nd lowest energy costs in the nation (probably due to all our hydroelectric). But that doesn’t mean you can waste it!