Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sometimes Frugality can be Taken Too Far

A while back I discovered that there were mice in the drop ceiling of my finished basement. After cleaning up the mess they made, I set some mouse traps with some peanut butter in them. Mice really seem to like peanut butter and it lasts forever in the traps. The first time I noticed that I’d caught a mouse, it had been there for a while and didn’t smell too good. After disposing of the mouse, I proceeded to try to clean up the trap to use again.

The cleaning was unpleasant and the trap still stunk afterwards. It wasn’t until after I reset the trap and put it in place that I thought about how foolish it was to do all that work. The last time I checked, mouse traps at a local store range in price from about 50 cents to $2 for a “deluxe” model.

So now I consider mouse traps to be disposable. If there is the slightest bit of unpleasantness in trying to dislodge a dead mouse from a trap or clean it up, it goes in the garbage with the mouse. Now I catch 3 or 4 mice per year and happily buy new traps periodically. I’m still trying to figure out how they get in, but at least the disposal part of this job is easier now that I’ve looked at this more rationally.


  1. What you need is one of them there ceiling cats.

  2. Unless you have pets (and even if you do just be more careful) i found that using the poison was very nice.

    I had a house with some mice and used traps for a while. Then switched to poison (which disentegrates the mice) they went away much easier and faster.

    Finding the entrance is a whole different story. Still not sure how they got in originally.

    Good luck

  3. Gene: I'd better use only one ceiling cat. Otherwise I might have to get a ceiling dog to deal with a ceiling cat infestation.

    Anonymous: I'll keep that in mind. For now I don't seem to have an infestation, but just the odd mouse that gets in.

  4. Good point about excessive frugality. I like to save a few dollars as much as the next person, but because we are careful with the basics like spending less than we earn, we are able to afford simple "luxuries" (within reason).

  5. This kind of ties into your posts about marginal utility. I'm thinking specifically of the one about the two guys getting $24 from the beer company as a reward for trying the new beer. The rich guy enjoys the reward far less than the less wealthy guy.

    I encounter little dilemmas all the time, like is it worth it to spend an extra half hour walking to a different store to save $2 on a $12 purchase? Or is it worth waiting for a sale so I can buy an item for $13 instead of $16?

    I think it's more complicated than just deciding whether to become $3 poorer than if I were to wait. There also seems to be a good feeling associated with getting a good deal, and a bad feeling associated with paying too much relative to alternatives.

    This isn't exactly the situation with the mouse traps, of course. There is an element of marginal utility though. If your monthly income exceeded your expenses by only $10, you would be reluctant to buy a new trap, whereas the average person should just buy a new trap.

  6. You could get a Ceiling snake to eat the mice too!

    Any vermin catching device is disposable in my opinion.

  7. And as a follow up here is the DUMBEST idea for vermin control:

    WTF?!? Humanely catching vermin?

  8. I did the exact same thing - dislodged a dead mouse and reused the trap. I learned my lesson after the first one.

  9. Gene: It can be difficult to come up with a general policy for how to handle these situations. However, I find that in most cases the answer is obvious if I actually think. The problem with my mouse trap experience was that I didn't think and just launched into frugal mode pointlessly.

    Big Cajun Man: I can understand that some people have a hard time killing anything, but the advice to catch the mouse humanely and then let it go bothers me. How many people will actually let the mouse go far enough away from houses that the mouse and/or its progeny won't end up in someone else's house?

    Mat: I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one.

  10. Don't do the poison though...the mouse dies in some obscure place in your ceiling and stays there to rot and smell. Then you have to spend more money on air freshener, which won't quite mask the smell of decaying mice. Stay with the trap.

    If you feel sorry for the little mousies, you can buy a live capture trap...and maybe even sell the mice to the pet store for a tidy profit. Wow, come to think of it, maybe this is a business opportunity!

  11. Andy R: I definitely don't want hidden rotting mice around. They smell bad enough if I don't check the traps for a while. I don't think live capture traps are for me (even with the possible business opportunity!). If I forget to check it for a long enough time, a trapped mouse would starve to death. This is much less humane that just killing the mice in a standard trap.

  12. One of my favourite exchanges from Cheers (paraphrasing):

    Woody: I remember back in Hanover when we would get an infestation every year or so... we'd have to bomb the house.

    Norm: Yeah, those bug bombs are a heck of an invention aren't they?

    Woody: What the heck is a bug bomb?