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Measurements Frugal People Need to Know




Photo © Erin Huffstetler

You learn lots of measurements in school, but if you want to save money, these are the measurements to know:


Take the mystery out of your utility bills and learn how pick out the most efficient appliances, by mastering these measurements:

BTUs -Short for British Thermal Units. It refers to how much heat energy it takes to raise one pound of water by one degree Farhenheit. In the U.S., this term is used to show how much heat value (or energy) a particular fuel – natural gas, propane, etc. – has.
Ccf - Short for 100 cubic feet. It's the unit of measure that natural gas companies use when determining your monthly usage.
EER - Short for Energy Efficiency Ratio. It's used to measure the efficiency of room air conditioners. The higher the EER number, the more efficient the unit is. The government currently recommends buying an air conditioner with an EER of 10 or more.
kWh - Short for Kilowatt-hours, and equal to 1,000 watts. It's used to measure how much electricity your residence uses each month.
SEER - Short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It's used to measure the efficiency of central air conditioners. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient the unit is. New units must have a SEER of at least 13.


When it comes to buying firewood, it's important to understand what you're paying for – and to make sure that you're actually getting it. These are the measurements you need to know to ensure you aren't getting short-changed:

Cord - A stack of firewood that measures 8 feet long by 4 feet wide and 4 feet high (8'x4'x4'), or 128 cubic feet stacked. It is the only legal measure for firewood in most states.
Face cord - A stack of firewood that measures 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, or 32 cubic feet stacked. If the logs are cut to 16-inch lengths, it's the equivalent of 1/3 of a cord.
Fraction - A portion of a cord. It could be 1/4 of a cord, 1/2 of a cord, etc. Usually sold to people who don't have need for a full cord of wood.
Pickup load - As much wood as will fit in the back of your pickup truck. Since truck beds come in different sizes, the amount of wood you'll end up with will depend on the size of your truck bed. This could be a good deal or a bad deal. Know how much your truck will hold before you buy wood by the pickup load.
Pile - A pile is just what it sounds like – a pile of firewood. Since no formal measurements are involved, you'll just have to gauge how much you're getting by eye.
Rank - Half of a cord
Rick - Yet another term for half of a cord
Standard log length - 16 inches


If you buy some of your food direct from farmers or enjoy trying old-fashioned recipes, these measurements will come in handy:

Bushel - used to measure dry foods. One bushel is equal to four pecks or 32 quarts.
Dash - usually used to measure liquids. One dash is just slightly less than 1/8 of a teaspoon.
Drop - a liquid measure. Old cookbooks list 24 drops as being equal to 1/4 teaspoon. For practical purposes, a drop refers to as much as what would come out of an eye dropper in one gentle squeeze.
Jigger - used to measure liquid volume. Most commonly used to measure liquid. A jigger is equal to 1-1/2 fluid ounce.
Peck - used to measure dry foods. One peck is equal to 1/4 of a bushel or 8 quarts.
Pinch - used to measure dry ingredients (usually something powdered, like salt or a spice). In old cookbooks it refers to as much as could be held between the thumb and pointer finger. The modern standard is 1/16 of a teaspoon.
Scant - a measure used for both liquids and solids. It means "not quite". A scant cup, for example, means not quite a cup.
Smidge (or smidgen) - The modern standard is 1/2 of a pinch, or 1/32 of a teaspoon.


Trying to determine how much material you need for a project, or just want to make sure you're getting what you paid for? These are the gardening measurements to know:

Acre - An area of land that is equal to 43,560 feet. Just slightly less than the size of a football field.
Scoop - Refers to one bulldozer scoop of material. The size of the bulldozer will affect how much you get, but one heaping Bobcat scoop is the equivalent of one yard of material.
Yard (cubic yard) - Used to measure dry materials like mulch, dirt, sand, gravel or concrete. One cubic yard is enough to cover a 150 foot area with a two-inch deep layer of material.


Like to make your own clothes? Just want to be able to buy clothes that fit? These are the measurements to know:

Arm (sleeve) - Place your hand on your hip, and have someone measure from the center of your neck, all the way down your arm, stopping at your wrist
Belts - Measure over the waistband of a pair of pants that fit you well.
Bust - Measure around the fullest point of the bust for a proper measurement.
Gloves - With your fingers touching each other, measure around the widest part of your hand, but do not include your thumb.
Hats - Measure around your head, just above your eyebrows.
Hip - Measure around the fullest point of the hips.
Inseam - Measure from your crotch, down your leg, and to the end of your pants.
International Shoe Sizes - Use these charts to figure out what your shoe size is in other countries: women, men, children
Overarm - Measure around your chest and arms at the widest point.
Rise - Center the tape measure on the back of your waist, run it between your legs, and stop at the center of the front of your waist.
Waist - Measure where your waistband would normally be.


Learn what these sewing measurements mean, so you avoid over or under-buying at the fabric store:

Bolt - Refers to a roll of fabric. The amount of fabric on a bolt varies by manufacturer and fabric type.
Fat quarter - A square of fabric used in quilting. Often sold pre-cut. Each square measures 18"x22"
Skein - Refers to a bundle of yarn or embroidery floss. Each manufacturer has different skein sizes. Check the label to see how much you're getting.
Yard - A piece of fabric that measures 3 feet long. The width will vary.

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