Post of the Day
June 23, 1999

From our
Living Below Your Means Folder

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Subject: Anything to Save a Buck
Author: lmbowling


This should actually appear under "Anything to Survive for Under a Buck", but, like many, college taught me a few lessons in frugalty.

==========DON'T TRY THESE AT HOME============

1) Ironing your grilled cheeze sandwiches. The dorm didn't allow hot plates (and the microwave was yet to be a standard appliance) so we placed a slice of cheeze between two slices of bread and used a flat iron. Experimentation taught us to ensure the steam was turned off and to use a layer of paper between the iron and the bread to avoid scorching, unless that was the desired result.

2) Cooking hotdogs with lamp cords. Just in case you didn't read the warning above, this falls into the truly dangerous category. I will list the steps in order in an attempt to avoid death...

a) Unplug lamp.
b) Cut off cord at base of lamp.
c) Split insulation in two for eight to ten inches, ensuring insulation remains intact between the two primary wires.
d) Strip back insulation from the ends of the two wires approximately 1 inch. Twist each end to secure multiple strands of wire. Do not allow wires (or strands) to touch.
e) Stick one wire in one end of the frank, and stick the other wire into the other end of the frank. Make sure wires do not touch in the middle of the frank. Franks should be dry and cannot be frozen.
f) Place frank on a non-conductive, non-flammable surface. Plastic or china plates work well.
h) Plug in lamp cord. If all lights in the dorm go out, unplug lamp cord and destroy evidence. The super will be there directly.
i) If steps a through h above have been performed correctly, the frank should begin to sizzle in a few seconds. Tiny wisps of smoke are normal. Tendrils of flame are not. Leave lamp cord plugged in for 30 seconds. Unplug lamp cord before testing frank. If it is not hot enough, repeat steps g through i above.

This practice gave rise to experimentation. Some students supposedly "baked potatoes" in this manner. The oddest thing (and it became the focus of study for at least one PhD) was the invention of the "pickle lamp". Some students with nothing else better to do tried the process, substituting a pickle for the frank. In the dark (and it would be, what with all the lamp cords cut) the pickle began to glow with an eerie green light. The light was concentrated near one end of the pickle, and would continue to glow until the pickle dried out. The PhD centered around predicting which end would glow. It was not necessarily the big end, nor the end which was up or down in the jar.

Mentoring some of my soldiers during Desert Storm was a disaster, as this discussion led to many cut appliance cords, several isolated fires, and a few minor shocks.