Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Confessions of a Cheapskate

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the wood floor of our living room.
“It’s a penny,” my husband answered, unconcerned.
I sighed, picked it up off the floor, and put it in a can with its long-lost relatives. I confess: I’m a cheapskate. If there’s a penny, I pinch it. If there’s a dollar, I demand it from my husband’s wallet.
“What do you need it for?”
“I don’t know… Maybe I’ll get a newspaper later?”
Hmph. He can read it online for free.

There wasn’t a lot of money for extras when I was growing up. We wore off-brand clothes when Gloria Vanderbilt and Pumas were two of only seven or eight brands allowed. Other kids weren’t fooled.

“Kangaroos?” said another fifth-grader, incredulously. “Who wears Kangaroos?”

I did – Purple tennis shoes to match my purple faux Member’s Only jacket.
Although some people refuse to wear anything without one of a certain class of logo on their clothes, we feed, clothe, and furnish our family without credit cards on an income of you-can’t-imagine-how-little-freelance-writing-pays.

Here’s how:

Calculate the real cost – Compare prices by number, weight, and volume. Cut coupons selectively because they are usually for brands that cost more to purchase with a coupon than store brands do without. Upon occasion, I stumble across a deal like name-brand two-liters of soda on sale for 79 cents with a coupon for $1 off a purchase of three two-liters – on double coupon day. Each bottle was 13 cents.

Refuse retail –
Membership wholesalers have everything: clothes, pet food, jewelry, software, electronics, and furniture. Don’t buy a membership. Find someone else who already has one and add on to his or hers for half the price.

Everything is negotiable –
When looking for a larger apartment, we got $50 off the monthly rent because we promised to sign a two-year lease. Make some concessions that benefit the business. Promise a certain number of referrals within your contract period. Look into a longer partnership than is customary. Make capital improvements. Never take the first interest rate, insurance premium, or installation fee quoted.

Know your needs and network –
Work the yard sale and flea market circuits, go to Goodwill early Saturday afternoons, keep up with “Iwanta” (free online at www.iwanta.net), and join www.freecycle.org. Gather up your unused stuff and offer it to other cheapskates. You never know what people desire. I found other freecyclers frenzied over a Star Trek book I had never read, a half-pack of diapers my daughter had outgrown, and a set of sheets that didn’t fit our bed.

Unmask marketing –
Most brands are very similar and what they’re actually selling you is style or security. Tylenol and store-brand acetaminophen are identical and one costs $3 less than the other. Because the Food and Drug Administration controls the composition of infant formula, I buy a store brand formula that is not only 1/3 cheaper than brand name but is also easier on my daughter’s sensitive digestive system. When in doubt, read the ingredients and their ratios to determine any real differences.

Prevent pernicious purse-snatchers -
convenience stores, vending machines, restaurants, and peak-time entertainment. Plan meals ahead so that you don’t have to stop at convenience stores, cook at home, bring snacks with you, and attend matinee shows.

Examples of My Thrifty Rewards:
  • Kitchen Hutch
    Retail: $200
    Cost: paint
    Source: Freecycle.org

  • Desk and Hutch
    Retail: $300
    Cost: $50
    Source: Goodwill

  • Couch and Wingback Chair
    Retail: $1,500
    Cost: $200
    Source: Iwanta.net

  • Digital Camera
    Retail: $250
    Cost: $50
    Source: Pawn Shop

  • Dresser
    Retail: $300
    Cost: $30 + paint
    Source: Goodwill

  • Computer Printer
    Retail: $75
    Cost: $20
    Source: Flyer on university bulletin board

  • Timberland Shoes
    Retail: $75
    Cost: $1
    Source: Yard Sale

  • Swing/High Chair
    Retail: $150
    Cost: $20 (with a side table thrown in)
    Source: Yard Sale

  • Baby Clothes (for her first two years)
    Retail: several hundred dollars
    Cost: About $40
    Source: Hand-me-downs, yard sales, freecycle.org, and Sam’s Club (outfit: freecycle.org)

  • (c) originally published in Sass Magazine, 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005

Job Hunter/Gatherer

You know, I’m a nice girl. I’m also a nice employee. I work hard. I try to keep my mouth shut. I am a team player. Most importantly, I am honest and ethical (can’t say that for my last employers, who I hear are being investigated by the GBI. Thank god I’m out of there).

But it’s like I’m standing on the sidelines, watching employees at the Christmas party, but no one is asking me to dance. It’s like dating through the personals. I respond to someone’s ad and I hope that my resume and letter are attractive. I go on a date/interview. Most of the time lately it’s been an awful big waste of time, like the telephone interview that ended up being a sales pitch for a pyramid scheme. But on occasion, my date/interviewer and I really seem to hit it off, as in the cases with Columbia County and MCG.

Then, weeks go by and the phone doesn’t ring. I know they had a good time, too, so why haven’t they called? Maybe they lost my number! Should I call? If I call, will that make me look desperate? I AM desperate. Or maybe it just lets them know I’m interested. I AM interested! Maybe they’re busy. Maybe they met someone else they liked better. Maybe they're married! Maybe they were in a horrible accident and have amnesia.

I’ve lost jobs to so many less qualified people this summer that I’m beginning to think I have some weird mental illness where I THINK I say something smart, witty, and appealing on the date/interview, but it really comes out like, “Og. Like your tits.” In which case, I wouldn’t call me either.

I know that if I were able to relocate right now, I’d have a job already. I just don’t seem to have the right contacts here. I get through second interviews and then get rejection letters. (sigh) Clearly, I’m doing something right. But just as clearly, I’m doing something wrong. I’m so paranoid I do like 12 booger checks before an interview.

At least I know it’s not that.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Church of Eternal Crap

Scott and I have been ordained as ministers through the Universal Life Church. We are discussing what to call our ministry.

Scott: “Universal Augusta.”
Me: “Sounds like a movie company.”
Scott: “Eternity International.”
Me: “Too corporate.”
Scott: “Souls R Us.”
Me: “That sounds like we’re in the business of selling souls... to the devil... for commission.”

We settled on Church of Eternal Love. Nebulous. Noncommittal. Nondenominational. Perfect.

Coming Soon: Elvis Weddings!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Funny Dog

Scrabble has decided that Emerson is a person - and as a person, she has an inherent duty to play with him. This means that he spends a lot of time trying to engage a six-month-old who generally plays with something by either a: eating it, or b: yanking on it. She does have some fine motor skills (she turns her mobile on and off by herself with very specific finger movements), but they’re still in development and generally are forgotten once she gets excited.

But yesterday was the best play session yet. Sctabble had been taunting her for a little while - circling her, licking her face, pawing at whatever was in her hands - until suddenly he jumped up, barked, and ran out of the room. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have sworn he barked “Eureka!” Emerson shrieked at his exit, and tried to turn around to locate him. He came galloping, thundering, back into the room with his red rubber Kong ball. He pranced around the room with it in his mouth before dropping it in front of her. She looked at it for a long minute, then patted it, and grasped it in her tiny hands. “Ruff! Scrabble barked, and gently took it from her. He pranced around again, tossing the ball and running after it, before dropping it in front of her again. She grinned, and tried to pick it up - ohhh, too slow! Scrabble snatched it again and gave a pplayful growl, butt hiked in the air and tail wagging furiously. Emerson cackled with laughter, and Scrabble dropped the ball again and looked away. Oh! Fooled you! He snatched the ball again with a mighty growl when Emerson tried to pick it up. This went on for a good ten minutes before I could no longer hold in my laughter.

Oh, it was SO CUTE!