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The Frugal Life – Living Well With What You Have


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Published Weekly by Randal Watkins
The Frugal Life News
January 25, 2003


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caring and sharing newsletter, so feel free to participate.



Bulletin Board Is Working!
Email Addresses

Do You Have PMI ?

To Save Gardens, Ants Rush To Whack Weeds

Small Wonders; Cabin Living In Less Than 1,000 Square Feet







Hello Everyone,

Many of you have been using the bulletin board. Thanks so much! It sure
makes it easier on me to make up each issue.

I have included some of the discussions that are going on below. I really
hope you will take the time to visit the bulletin board and answer many of
the questions below. By putting your answers on the bulletin board, these
answers will be available to all who visit The Frugal Life Forum now and in
the future.

Some of you have included your email addresses in your posts. I would ask
you to not do that. Here are the reasons why you shouldn’t leave your

1. Your email addresses will be available for spam robots to pick up your
addresses. This will cause you to receive lots of junk email.

2. If the responses are sent to you without posting to the bulletin board
then you will get the answers but the rest of the Frugal Lifer’s will be
left out.

The solution is to pick the option as you post your reply “please send me a
copy of any replies”. This option is only available if you register.

The bulletin board can be a wonderful source of information for years to
come but we have to put the answers there so they will be available both for
now and in the future.

Hope you enjoy this issue! Thanks for all your support during this
transition and for your readership.

Please pass The Frugal Life News on to your friends it’s how we grow!

Until next time,




If you do, check to see if you can get rid of it. PMI – Private
Mortgage Insurance – is insurance written by a private insurance company
that protects the mortgage lender in the case of default by the mortgage
owner. If your down payment for your home was less than 20% of the purchase
price, meaning you used a conventional mortgage of 80% or more to purchase
your home, it’s likely your lender required you to purchase PMI for the
lender’s protection.

Mortgage lenders believe that low down payment borrowers have a higher rate
of default.

PMI adds about $80 to the average monthly mortgage payment. Isn’t this
ironic? The lender is afraid you won’t be able to afford the payments on
your home – so they add expenses that make the payments HIGHER?

Go figure.

Anyway, unlike other insurance that you purchase – car, homeowners, medical
– neither YOU nor your heirs benefit in case of disaster. If you are unable
to make your mortgage payments, the lender will sell your home. If it sells
for less than the mortgage owed, PMI will pay the lender the difference.

The lender is guaranteed to get their money back and you’re paying for this
guarantee. Such are the rules made by he who has the gold. But, once your
LOAN-to-VALUE ratio reaches 20%, you can request that the lender drop PMI.

To find your LOAN-to-VALUE ratio, simply divide the balance of your loan by
the market value of your home.

For example, you purchased a $100,000 home with 5% down. Your LTV ratio is:

$95,000/$100,000 = .95 or 95%.

Suppose, after 2 years, your $100,000 house appreciates in price to $116,000
and, through 24 diligent months of on-time monthly payments, your balance
drops a couple thousand dollars to $93,000.

$93,000/$116,000 = .80

When this happens, call your lender to get them to drop PMI charges.

Since price appreciation is involved here, the lender will likely ask you to
provide – and pay for – an appraisal. It’s well worth the cost. A $350
appraisal cost is completely recovered in just a few months.

If you closed on your mortgage after July 29, 1999, the Homeowners
Protection Act of 1998 REQUIRES the lender to cancel your PMI when the loan
balance falls below 78% of the purchase price.

This act uses Loan-to-Purchase-Price instead of Loan-to-Value. So, if your
Purchase Price was $100,000 and you have paid off enough of your mortgage
such that the balance is $77,999 or less, then $77,999/$100,000 = 77.99%

and the lender is REQUIRED to CANCEL PMI at this time.

Dropping PMI is only applicable to conventional mortgages. With FHA
mortgages this insurance is forever.


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Ants that grow their food have to weed, too. Now, the first detailed study
of ants tending fungus gardens shows that whether the gardener has two legs
or six, the chore looks much the same.

Like the best human gardeners, ants try to stop a weed invasion in its early
stages, report Cameron Currie and Alison Stuart, now of the University of
Texas in Austin and the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand,
respectively. Ants settle in one spot and weed, then move to the next spot,
researchers report in the May 22 PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON

“They’re amazing weeders,” Currie says.

Ants beat humans by some 50 million years in inventing agriculture (SN:
11/21/98, p. 334). Today, about 200 ant species cultivate a spongy lump of
fungus inside their nests. Currie and Stuart focused on the elaborate
gardens of the leaf-cutter ants, which use bits of foliage they collect to
nourish their fungi.

For the rest of the article go to href=”



Island retreat

For the past 14 years, Paul and Phyllis Caisse have used their 5-acre plot
on Orcas Island, Washington, as a retreat. In the beginning, their only
shelter was a tent. Now they relax in a recently completed 556-square-foot
cabin, but they feel just as close to the land. “As we drive to the cabin,
we can feel our city nerves fading away,” says Phyllis.

The Caisses have great childhood memories of tiny cabins in the Sierra
foothills and in Montana, and they hoped to re-create those happy times for
their family. “We wanted a feeling of warmth and cozy interaction,” says
Paul. “Plus, we felt its small size would make it easy to take care of.” And
they wanted to disturb nature as little as possible. A larger cabin would
have meant cutting down some of the old madrone trees surrounding the site.
“After spending so much time there, we knew which trees the eagles like to
land on,” says Paul. “We didn’t want to take those away.”

Seattle architect David Vandervort helped them design a little cabin that
seems larger than it is. Simply put, it’s a great room flanked by a galley
kitchen and a narrow bathroom and topped with a low-ceilinged sleeping loft.
The cabin was constructed with as many green materials as possible,
including recycled wood and nontoxic stains and paints.

For the rest of the article go to href=”
“> Click Here

FRUGAL TIPS – From Our Subscribers

Some great tips on personal care and finances in the bulletin board. Just
go to Click Here
Together we can find the answers!

If you need instructions go to



You really need to know! Choosing a healthy
pet food avoids many vet bills and heartache.
Pet Food



All questions and responses are now posted on our new bulletin board. Go to for more details.

Please visit the bulletin board and provide your wonderful insights just as
you have in the email form we have been using. This will enable me to
continue doing The Frugal Life News if we use the bulletin board for all the

Note: It is better to register and always log in for each post so you won’t
have to give your name or email address for everyone to see.

I have included the links below for your convenience.

Questions being considered in the bulletin board are:

Recycle/Reuse Section
Q. Hello everyone-I am new to this website & forum &
look forward to reading the newsletters. I’m looking for a specific trash
can for my kitchen that will accomodate plastic grocery bags. They’re called
“Bag Its” or something like that, but what’s unique about them is that they
have two “knobs” (for lack of a better word) at the top of the can that will
hold the handles of a grocery bag!  We had one before, long ago, but wish I
had a new one now. Where can I get one of these?  They were so convenient
because the bag did not slip down in the can! Thank U for your help!

Q. Can anyone tell me what to do with can lids that have been removed with
the safety can openers?

Q. I’m getting ready to move to a new house (where we’ll have room in the
garage to separate recycleables) and I wanted to see if anyone had any ideas
for organizing glass, aluminum, plastics, etc. I want something inexpensive
that doesn’t take up too much room! Thanks!

Pets Section
Q. Hello I have a  little hamster and I let him out for a
little while at night. He likes to try to burrow holes in the carpet.  
Apart from just leaving him in his cage is there any repellent I can use to
keep him away from those little corners of the room where he likes to dig..?
– Steve

Presonal Care Section
Q. Hi everyone, I have waist length straight hair,
and this time of year I am always trying to tame the fly aways.  Regular
shampoos and conditioners seem to do nothing for it.  Any tried and true
suggestions out there.   Thanks a bunch, – Ohiolor

Gardening Section
Q. Hi All, I’m looking for a homemade activator for my compost pile – Steve

Finance Section
Q. Hi, My wife and I are moving to a new house. We were thinking of getting
a stackable washer and dryer instead stand alone machines.   Any suggestions
or comments would be welcome.   Thanks, Jeff

Do It Yourself Section
Q. I have termites running through the main beam in my house.  We cannot
afford to have the house treated and we have wood beam ceilings in our
house. Needless to say the droppings are falling all over the house.  I was
wondering if there was a non toxic  way to eliminate these creatures from
our beams without going to the great expense of hiring someone to do this
for us…. I live in California and termites are common place here even
after a house had been tented they usually come back… Any help would be
appreciated. Thanks so very much Robin @–>—

Cleaning Section
Q. Hey all, I usually rent those rug doctor steam carpet cleaners. The
solution they sell with the machines is very expensive. I would like to make
up my own batch or buy some cheaper   Any suggestions?   Steve  

Automobiles Section
Q. Any suggestions for a Senior who needs to upgrade present car? Have very
little to spend each month and no savings to fall back on.  Would appreciate
any input!  Thanks.

Please post your questions or answers in the new bulletin board. Just go to
Click Here
Together we can find the answers!

If you need instructions go to


Please remember to visit our bulletin board for your answers at
Click Here
Together we can find the answers!

If you need instructions go to



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Information in The Frugal Life News (TFL) has been derived from sources
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