Forward Living: Money-saving tips from Frugal Phyllis

04/10/2011 7:00 AM |

There seems to be complete agreement. The North Fork is special, a place set apart. No need to list our blessings. We know we’re unique.

And yet in just a few hours we will forfeit that uniqueness and join with the rest of the country in doing something pretty ordinary. We’ll wake up to income tax day. Twenty-four hours of struggling with the checkbook and promising ourselves to set aside a few more dollars for next year.

Now, I know taxes are necessary. That I was carefully taught. But there is something I don’t understand. For years I’ve paid estimated taxes every few months. And yet, when April rolls around, I always owe more. If my grocery estimates were so inaccurate, I’d never have enough food in the kitchen. If my husband’s estimates were so faulty, he’d never have enough wood in the garage for projects not yet dreamed.

I suppose I know what I’m looking for. I need a way to bridge the gap between taxes withheld and the check I send to the IRS in April. Year-long small savings might do the trick, and since North Forkers appear to be frugal forkers, sharing our little money-saving ways might prove helpful cometh the tax man.

Only fair to start with me. I confess to saving soap slivers and fashioning them into soap balls (about the size of tennis balls). It’s always bothered me to throw away those tiny bits of soap that collect in a soap dish. So I put the soap bits into a huge glass jar I keep in the cellar. When a goodly amount of soap is saved, I put it in a big pot, add a little water, heat and stir. Meantime I spread some waxed paper on the kitchen table.

When I’ve a gooey mass in the pot, I ladle out, onto the paper, 20 or so soap mounds. Then I shape those mounds into soap balls. Careful, they’re hot.

I store the cooled and hardened soap balls in a bag under the kitchen sink. Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I use the balls for mealtime cleanups. Think of the money we’d save if every North Fork home had its own soap balls!

And we’d save quite a bit if we took a tip from Anthony Flynn. I found out about Anthony from his wife, Jodi, who works in Mattituck. Anthony and Jodi are married just a short time but, oh, did the young wife quickly discover her husband’s secret passion.

Stashed away on the top shelves of closets and stacked in the garage are the boxes Anthony simply has to save. Small cellphone boxes, slightly larger shoeboxes, all the way up to a carton once containing a vacuum cleaner, another that once held a lounge chair. Dozens and dozens of boxes.

Now, think about it. Anthony never has to purchase a gift box at the post office or buy expensive plastic boxes to store stuff in. Jodi let me know she sometimes gets rid of a few boxes. But please don’t you tell Anthony. I’d hate to have the young couple argue.

Anthony says he saves so many boxes because “you never know.” Anthony, that’s an admirable North Fork attitude. We’re saving money and we’re ready for anything.

Here’s another small-saving idea. This one’s from Joan Fabian, Riverhead artist. Joan’s watercolors, oils and acrylics are exhibited in galleries from Bar Harbor to Old Town Art and Crafts Guild in Cutchogue. Great work!

But you know what? Joan’s sandwiches are great, too. Especially those with pickles added — sweet and sour, crunchy, perfect. And all those pickles come in little plastic jars with lids. After the pickles are consumed, Joan washes the jars/lids and they join Joan’s painting paraphernalia.

Water, water, everywhere is needed when watercolor or acrylic is the medium of the day. Those little jars, filled with water, are ideal for cleaning brushes during a painting session. You “just can’t have enough jars,” says Joan. And she doesn’t have to buy them in a crafts store. You know what I say? You just can’t have enough pickles.

So save your soap, save your boxes, eat lots of pickles. Chances are, if we do so, North Forkers will have plenty of money to pay their taxes. Better yet, I foresee a cash surplus large enough for the whole North Fork to make a major financial move. I’m thinking we might even outbid Donald Trump for part ownership of the New York Mets. After all, the North Fork has more that its share of “Amazin’s.”

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

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