25 July 2016

5 Frugal Things | Keeping The Cruising Kitty Happy

Katy at The Non-Consumer Advocate regularly posts about five frugal things she's done. Some things are big, some things are small, but they all help keep her spending down and her savings up. I've shamelessly stolen her idea (as many others have) and started to share my five frugal things on occasion. It's a great way to inspire me to keep looking for ways to top up our cruising kitty (fancy sailing talk for savings). Maybe it will inspire you to find ways you can save for your personal goals and/or stretch your income further.


1 - DIY Auto Repair

When my vehicle got a short in its headlight, rather than take it into the local auto repair shop to have them diagnose the issue and fix it, I decided to try to sort it out myself by taking out the headlight switch, cleaning it and replacing it. Not only did I save the cost of a replacement headlight switch (around $75), I also saved the cost of labor by a professional auto repair mechanic (probably $200). I saved heaps of money and I learned a thing or two too.

2 - A Boozy Rebate

My friend Michele hosted a boat splash party last week and made the most wonderful taco salad. I don't know about you, but taco salad just cries out for a margarita or two. I brought some tequila and mixer with me and Michele magicked up some amazing margaritas using her ice maker. An ice maker on a boat! So jealous. {Sigh}

The bottle of tequila I bought had a $3 rebate offer. While that might not seem like a lot of money (especially after you deduct the 47 cents stamp), it's still welcome change in the cruising kitty for minimal effort on my part.

3 - Free E-Books On BookBub

The last time I did a frugal five update, my bloggy pal, Donna from Denali Rose, suggested I check BookBub out to score free books for my Kindle. I love it! Each day they send you an email with suggested books, based upon the genres you like to read, that are either free or cheap on Amazon. I've been adding a new free book to my collection practically every day since I signed up. Thanks for the awesome tip Donna!

4 - Making My Own Safety Equipment

As I'm sure it goes without saying, safety is pretty darn important on a boat. We have a number of safety items on our list of things to get including stuff designed to keep you attached to the boat, such as tethers, harnesses and another jackline. I've been doing a lot of research on the pros and cons of purchasing these items vs making my own. While the numbers don't add up for making our own tethers, it looks like I can make harnesses (for those times when we don't want to wear our PFDs with integrated harnesses) and a jackline for almost half the price of buying them ready made. After looking around for the best deals on the materials, I've ordered everything I need to make them and now I just need to get sewing. Sometimes DIY saves you money, other times it doesn't. So, it's worth doing a bit of research before you dive in.

5 - Saying No To An Ice Maker

As much as I love my friend Michele's ice maker, I didn't buy one for our boat. Sometimes, being frugal is about not buying something. To be honest, this one was an easy thing to say no to as we don't have a freezer on our boat to keep the ice cubes frozen or a place to store the ice maker. But, hey, it still counts as a win in my book.

What things have you done to save money lately? Any frugal tips and tricks to share? Could you live without ice cubes?

You can find more links to blog posts from ourselves and others on how much we spend and how we try to save money on this page.

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22 July 2016

Shopping Lists | What Do They Say About You?

I'm planning on heading into the *big city* of Stuart this weekend to go shopping at Walmart. Yes, I know Walmart. Say what you will about it, but their prices are cheap and if I had a middle name, it would be cheap. Okay, maybe it would be frugal as that sounds much classier than cheap. I actually don't have a middle name, which is really unusual for an American.

As I was writing up my shopping list, I got to thinking how odd it was that the first item on it was dielectric grease. I didn't even know what dielectric grease was until last week when I became a certified auto repair mechanic. (If you follow our Facebook page, you'll know that I fixed our car myself, something I would have never imagined doing a year ago.)

At the crucial moment of car repair, I realized I didn't have any dielectric grease and borrowed some from my friends Bruce and Michele on Sailing Wind Spirit. Now that I've experienced the exciting properties of dielectric grease, I figure I should get my own tube of the stuff for future electronic repairs. Plus, I think it could double as hair gel when my hair gets too frizzy and out of control. If you live on a boat, every item should ideally have more than one purpose.

I'm also in the market for other weird and wonderful items for our boat - like ear plugs to keep nasty things out of our ears when we're underwater cleaning off the hull or our boat and a large strap wrench for changing our other fuel filter (I've already changed our Racor filter and bought a smaller strap wrench for that one). And of course, more Ziploc bags. You can never have enough Ziploc bags on a boat in my opinion. They're great for keeping moisture and creepy crawlies out of things.

Of course, while I'm at Walmart, I'll stock up on food. Do you ever find that when you write up your shopping list you try to pretend that you're only going to buy healthy items? Like cheese. Notice how I put *low-fat* next to it with a picture of a heart. I like cheese, and while the full-fat stuff is delish, it's not great for my health. Should we take bets now to see if I follow through and get the healthy low-fat cheese or break down and buy a block of extra sharp cheddar with alarming amounts of saturated fat? And, will I manage to get through Walmart without buying any chocolate?

I'm also on the hunt for a male-female connector. Sounds either like a dating service or something a bit kinky. It's actually to connect my water filter to my water hose so that we can filter out icky stuff when we fill up our water tanks in beautiful exotic locations which may not have the best water supplies. Of course, given the issues with lead in water supplies in the States lately, we don't necessarily have a great track record these days either in terms of safe drinking water.

It's really strange to think how much my life has changed in the past few years - all evidenced by my shopping list. Other people think shopping lists are fascinating too - check out these folks who analyzed shopping lists folks left behind in their carts.

What's on your shopping list this week? Do you cross items off as you go? If you have one, what's your middle name?

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20 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Fortune Teller In Singapore

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - This lady had a bird that would pick out your fortune for you with its beak.

2 - Whenever I eat a fortune cookie, if I like what the little slip of paper says, I'll stick it in my wallet and carry it around with me for good luck.

3 - I've been very fortunate in my life.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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18 July 2016

Sailboat Storage Solutions | Maximizing Space On Our Moody 346

When you live in a tiny floating house with less than 300 sq ft of living space, you need to maximize every available nook and cranny for storage space. Gone are the days of large closets with room to hang up clothes, cupboards to store your sheets and towels and chests of drawers to stash your neatly folded t-shirts, sweaters, socks and unmentionables.

Of course, now that I no longer work in corporate la-la land, my wardrobe has been downsized considerably, but I've still been struggling to find adequate storage space in our aft cabin (aka our bedroom) for all of our stuff.

Here's what the seating area in our aft cabin in our Moody 346 sailboat looked like before we moved all of our stuff on board.

While I like the two port-lights (or windows) along the back wall, the shelves in front of them are perfect spots to add more storage space. The previous owners had a small basket in front of one of the port-lights and ever since them I've been on the hunt for the perfectly sized baskets of our own for those shelves. We do have other port-lights in the cabin, so it's not like I've shut out all of the light and ventilation by using this space for storage.

It wasn't actually easy to find baskets that were the right dimensions, but I finally found some at Walmart. They're made out of sea-grass with tacky faux leather handles and I'm sure they'll start rotting away in the humidity in a couple of years, but for now, they serve their purpose.

Each of the baskets came with a smaller basket, which I'm using to store smaller items. They're too large to fit on the shelf behind the seating area so they'll go tumbling down when the boat is underway unless I secure them somehow. I've got this cunning plan in my head which involves hooks and tie downs which might work. But, then again, it might not.

We do have a hanging locker next to the sitting area. Because we don't have clothes that really need to be hung up anymore, I think we can better use this space if we put shelves in it. And by "we," I mean Scott.

We also have this odd little vanity sink area next to the bed. It's no longer hooked up to the water tanks. One of these days, I think we should take the sink out and turn it into a storage area. And by "we," I mean Scott of course. He's in charge of carpentry. I just fix cars and diesel engines. Or, try to at least.

How big is your home? Do you have any clever storage solutions that you use?

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15 July 2016

Crazy Cat Lady Strikes Again

I don't know about you, but I can't bear to look at the news anymore. Too depressing. Too much ugliness. So, how about we distract ourselves with some pictures of cats instead?

This cat has his priorities straight. Why watch the news when you can take a nap instead.  

 Francesca was a good cat. She knew that reading a book was far better than watching the news.

This is Sylvester the marina cat. He could care less what's on the news. All he's interested in is whether or not you're going to feed him.

What do you do when you need to distract yourself from what's going on around you?

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13 July 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Car Repair In Thailand

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - My car is currently broken. I can relate.

2 - It's starting to seem easier to walk everywhere rather than try to fix my car. 

3 - The real feel temperature was 112F / 44C the other day. It's too hot to walk. I better fix my car.

4 - I like the outfits Buddhist monks wear. They seem comfortable.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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11 July 2016

Happy Birthday Mr Blog! Plus, AdSense, Amazon Associates & Alexa

Mr. Blog just turned three years old today. He's getting to be such a big boy. Can you believe that this is his 498th post? And he has over 1,000 Facebook followers? They grow up so fast, don't they.

Every year on Mr. Blog's birthday, I do a little reflection on blogging. On his first birthday, I had a look at how Mr. Blog stacked up against the criteria for a good blog. Last year, on his second birthday, I shared some random thoughts on blogging including wondering what type of blog The Cynical Sailor really was.

This year, I thought I would talk about how I was briefly tempted to sell my soul to the devil for $11.97 a month. Maybe $11.97 doesn't seem like a lot of money to you, especially when we're talking about the devil, but $11.97 equals a few bottles of cheap and cheerful wine or a few bags of dark chocolate Dove Promises. I don't know about you, but promises of red wine and chocolate are always worth a conversation with the devil. Of course, the devil invented red wine and chocolate for this very reason - so that you'd talk to him.

Google AdSense Fast-Tracking

It all started when my Blogger dashboard (that's the blogging platform we use) greeted me with the exciting news that our account qualified for Google AdSense fast-tracking. If I joined millions of other bloggers, I could be making up to $11.97 a month too!

Visions of red wine and chocolate filled my head. Blogger was telling me that I was special, they they would give me money because I'm so special and that I'd be an idiot not to join millions of other bloggers making money. I just had to know more.

While I knew what Google AdSense was (it displays targeted ads on blogs and websites, I'm sure you've seen them), I wasn't quite sure what they meant by fast-tracking, so I Googled it and found this enticing tidbit:

"If your blog has high quality content and traffic, you may be qualified for a simplified sign-up process for AdSense."

See what they did there? They used flattery to sucker me in. High quality content and traffic - wow! I was super-duper special!

The voice of reason decided enough was enough, jumped in and said, "Hang on a minute there. This is all sounding too good to be true. Is your blog really that great? Is it really popular? How do you know?"

Alexa & Popularity Contests

Good question. I decided to ask someone impartial. Her name is Alexa. For those of you who haven't met Alexa before, she'll tell you about your web traffic data and analytics. You can enter your website address into her search tool and find out how popular your blog is. Alexa estimates traffic and ranks sites daily based on browsing behavior of a sample of all internet users.

When I checked at the end of May, The Cynical Sailor was ranked 742,007 in the United States and 2,254,166 globally.

I don't know about you, but 742,007 out of all of the websites in the world doesn't seem too shabby, especially considering our blog stats aren't all that impressive compared to some of the popular blogs I know. But, as usual, the voice of reason had to be a downer and reminded me that rankings change daily, that this might have been a good day when I checked Alexa with a lot of referral traffic and Alexa is probably a big fibber anyway. (By the way, Alexa is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon.com.)

"Whatever," I told the voice of reason while sipping on some red wine and savoring a dark chocolate Dove Promise. "You're such a party pooper. Let's get back to talking about making $11.97 a month to keep me in this lifestyle I've grown accustomed to."

The Aesthetics Of AdSense

If you're like me, when you look at a blog or website, you see ads in the corner of your eye, but you ignore them for the most part. Especially, when they're discretely placed on the sidebar, not smack dab in the middle of the section that you're reading.

Having had perhaps a glass of red wine too many, I got to thinking that I could put a couple of discrete ads on our sidebar and the money would come rolling in. Or, at least, $11.97 would come rolling in each month. But something was nagging me at the back of my head. Oh, yeah, that rational voice of mine.

"Read the small print dummy," it said with a smirk on its face. Not that I can really see its face as it lives in the back of my head, but I know it well enough to know when it's smirking. It was smirking big time.

"Revenue figures are estimates only, based upon your most recent traffic and are not guaranteed."

Here's the thing with AdSense, or ads of any kind really, it's all about how many you have on your site, how big they are and where they're placed. Sure, I could have put a couple of tiny ones on the sidebar below the fold where they'd be unobtrusive, but then they would be less likely to be viewed and/or clicked on.

If I wanted to make $11.97 a month, not only did I have to keep my current blog traffic up (oh, the pressure!), but I'd also have to have a lot of really large ads all over the place.

It wasn't sounding very aesthetically pleasing, for me or for you. So, I decided to give up red wine and dark chocolate and forsake $11.97 a month from AdSense. (Anybody who believes the first part of that last sentence, doesn't know me very well.)

Privacy Policy

Part of me kind of wanted to go ahead with AdSense because I had just created a privacy policy so that I would be compliant with Google's policies. Basically, a privacy policy details what personal information is collected when you visit a website or blog and how it's used.

If you're going to use AdSense or other advertising services, you need to have a privacy policy. When I decided not to go ahead with AdSense, I started to take our privacy policy down. Then I realized I needed to put it back up because we use social products (like Google +1) and analytics (like Google Analytics) which collect information and send it to Google and other third parties.

If you have a website and/or blog and you don't have a privacy policy, it might be something you want to look into to make sure you're compliant.

Amazon Associates For Kicks

While I was looking into monetizing our blog with AdSense, I decided to check out the Amazon Associates program as well. Amazon Associates is another way to advertise on your website or blog with links to specific products and/or banner ads. If someone clicks on an Amazon link and adds something to their shopping cart (not just a specific product you linked to) on Amazon within 24 hours and then purchases it within 89 days, you earn some money.

Some people earn serious money (like these folks who made $690 during May), while the rest of us can probably count on being able to buy one bottle of wine or one bag of Dove Promises (not both) with a year's earnings.

I decided to give it a go for kicks. Right now, I'm just inserting product links for things I like and use (mostly for books, but also for things for our boat, like our Wonderbag) and I've got a banner ad on the sidebar. It's the one that shamelessly says, "Buy Here, Pretty Please." It will be an interesting experiment to see if I make any money off of Amazon. To be honest, I'm not counting on it, but you never know, do you. Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll earn enough money to buy Mr. Blog a real birthday cake next year.

If you want to see other posts on blogging tips and tricks from myself and others, check out this page.

Are you a blogger? If so, how long have you been blogging for? What do you think about monetizing blogs either as a blogger or as a blog follower?

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