Even though I post daily on my other blog, never lacking for topics, sometimes posting more than daily, on this blog if I don't post often I feel pressure. It is of my own making, no one is pressuring me. I still mentally go through the litany; is this interesting, do I have anything to say today, I haven't posted in a week, what will I do?
I needed to take the pressure off myself. So, the hiatus. Even though it's only been a week, I feel better not having gone through the usual self-induced stresses I put myself through. I am going to work on that.
Having lived in New England for 43 years, having been a licensed driver with a car for 27 of those, but only having had a garage for 3 of those years, I'd vowed that if I ever had a garage again I'd use it.
And I've been faithful to my promise here in GA, since moving to an apartment that happily came with a garage. I always put my car in it. In New England, it is because of extreme cold and snow that you want one. Shoveling out, warming up, and scraping the windshield (all before work) are not activities I enjoy any longer, if I ever did in the first place. In Georgia, it's the heat that does terrible things to your car. The occasional hailstorm or branches falling down would crack your windshield, too. So why not avail myself of the extra precaution and grab an opportunity for longevity in an important asset I own?
One day, I didn't put my car in the garage. One day. And the next morning I came out and the sun had melted the leather on the driver seat. The lower part was black and cracked. My car is 21 years old, so I am definitely not complaining about the longevity of the interior. It has lasted and stayed good. It was only a matter of time until it crumbled. I've had the car for the last 7 years.
I got in and drove it but when I arrived back home I noticed my shorts were black. Ah, so the degraded leather transfers to what I am wearing. Not good. I need a car seat cover.
However being frugal, I did not want a fancy one. The car seat cover will in all likelihood last longer than the car will. I looked up online the items available at the Dollar Store, my go-to place nearby. I do not enjoy large box stores and I refuse to drive to one anyway. The nearest one is about a 40 minute drive. Makes no sense to drive 40 minutes, use at least $8 worth of gas, not to mention half a day, to buy one item.
The Dollar Store is half a mile and stocks all the things I usually need. What they don't have, I buy online and have it sent. Long live the internet.
The online catalog displayed several car seat covers, and there were several options that were $5 or less. Great! I hopped in (having placed a towel precariously in the spot where the ruined leather was) and drove the half a mile to the tiny corner of town where four or five stores are, lol. After a few minutes of looking and not spotting a car seat cover in the automotive section, I asked the clerk.
"Nope. Sorry, we don't carry car seat covers."
What is a frugal person to do? More to the point, what is a stubborn, frugal person to do? I came here to solve a problem and I am not going to leave until I have a solution to that problem. Something can be a car seat cover, it doesn't HAVE to have the name 'car seat cover' on the front label. And I didn't need a cover to go over the lower part of the car seat, only the upper part needed covering.
I looked and I looked. I looked at ironing board covers. I looked at shower curtain liners. I looked at rugs. If you ever watch Project Runway and you get to the "Unconventional Materials Challenge" you know what I mean. The designers are sent to the Christmas ornament store or the Dollar Store or the Hardware store and told not to buy material but buy any other materials that they will then use to make a dress out of. They wind up with tinsel they braid to make shorts. Like that. It forces you to look at everyday items in a new way for additional uses you'd normally not think of.
I was feeling like a Project Runway designer with Tim Gunn about to call time, but at last I found something. It is vinyl, the same material the 'we have them in the catalog but we don't carry in real life' car seat covers in the catalog were, and it was the right dimension. It was tall. It was...
It does the job. Now, no it's not fancy or pretty, However, I am the only one who ever gets in my car, ever. No one will ever see it unless they walk by my car and directly look in the tinted windows. The car is ok looking on the outside, but it IS 21 years old, so a laundry bag as a car seat cover is not a total mismatch. It's not like I'm covering brand new Corinthian leather in my Mercedes with a Dollar Store vinyl laundry bag. And the price was $1.50.
So that is frugal tip for the day. Something doesn't have to be the exact thing.
We learned when we lived on the sailboat, that everything at The Marine Store was marked up 20-30%, just for being in the marine store. But if you wanted a bolt, or a shackle, or a canvas repair kit, these exact things can be found at the hardware store for much less. Same with animal items, go to the Pet Store to find a water bowl and they will be fancy and expensive, or even if they are plain, they'll cost more just for being in the pet store.
Same with the car seat cover. What you are only looking for is a durable material of proper size to cover your seat and protect your clothing. I liked the laundry bag because it had a closed end. I just popped it over the headrest and worked it downward and the open end tucked nicely into the seat, and best of all, it completely covers the burned and blackened leather.
I used rope to tie back the 'wings' sticking out from the head rest which obscured my rear vision a bit. I didn't mind, but I didn't know how picky the police around here are about such things.
This approach isn't for everyone. If you have a nice house, and the pet bowl is in the kitchen and you have a lot of guests who will see it, then you might want to be consistent with the ambiance of your room by investing in a nice animal bowl. If your living room chair has a rip, you might want to get it upholstered and not put a laundry bag over it. If you will be subject to the taunts of the sister or the jabs of the mother-in-law, you might want to save yourself the heartache and go fancy.
But for me, I was happy with the low-cost, low-stress, time-saving result of the laundry bag.
Cost: $1.50, PLUS the soft savings of not having to expend gas, nor any time. The whole project took me about 20 minutes, not half a day.
Frugal tip #235, anything can become anything else. :)