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Buying books the Insiders Club way

September 5th, 2009 at 08:16 pm

I've had the urge to buy books lately--part of putting my life back together and feeling normal after several strange years, I think. I'm starting to buy books that have been on my Amazon wish list for years, books I used to own but sold to raise cash, books that my local libraries don't have that I don't want to inter-library loan.

It's easy enough to put together a $25 order of new books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, which qualifies for free shipping. But what about out-of-print books, or ones that are just a lot cheaper used? With shipping about $4 a pop, even 1 cent books can start to add up. This is where I'm finding it's worthwhile to keep my membership in the Insiders Club, aka freeshipping.com. (About $9 a month.) I know people have mentioned them here before, but not specifically in reference to books, so I thought I'd report how it's working out.

There's a limit on how much shipping they will reimburse per order. I think it's $10. So I've been ordering in batches of two books, to get a reimbursement of about $8 each time. There are quite a few online bookstores participating, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ABE, Alibris, Half.com and more. There's also a limit on how many rebates per store you can do in a year, so I'm trying to spread my business around.

Sometimes, although I've ordered two books at once, a store will split it up into two orders. But so long as I add a note about what happened, there's been no problem getting my rebate. (Yes, they really do reliably send out the checks, as long as you remember to send in your paperwork after starting the submission online.)

If you find yourself shopping online a lot, it really is worthwhile if you can get in on an offer to join. (I got the offer at the end of a Woman Within order.)

A little extra money :)

August 18th, 2006 at 01:35 pm

Yesterday I got a letter from the election board about working a special school bond election in September. It wouldn't pay as much as the regular ones ($70 vs. $200), but it's a much shorter day. I do have qualms about it--I've heard there can be more nastiness and shenanigans at these elections--but I guess I'll put in to do it.
I don't feel like I ought to turn down $70.

This morning I got an email from Amazon about a book that sold--$48 for a textbook DH retrieved from the trash at work! (It's still in very nice condition.)

Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny--has anyone read?

August 10th, 2006 at 01:21 pm

I caught part of a tv interview with her this morning, and her message really rubbed me the wrong way. I checked out her website as well, and am still shaking my head. The fact that she has a whole little empire going with books, CDs and seminars doesn't make me feel more positive.

She lists warning signs that indicate you are earning less than you should be, including: being fearful, having debt and not knowing how much, not balancing your checkbook, generally living in financial chaos, not being able to pay the rent again this month. She says even people with six-figure incomes could be underearners if they have these warning signs. Uh, couldn't they also indicate overspending and disorganization?

I'm not against making more money, but making more is no solution if you don't learn the principles of handling what you have already.

Has anyone else read her stuff? Maybe I'm giving her a bum rap.

Consistently inconsistent (notes on several books)

July 9th, 2006 at 11:54 am

I just read Not Buying It, and enjoyed it. The author has a lively writing style, and I had to laugh out loud several times. The Take Back Your Time expert who was too busy to meet with her was priceless.

However, the inconsistencies in her plan jumped out at me from the beginning.

Fresh frozen coconut milk and $55 haircuts were apparent necessities and ok to buy. However, $1 "green rolls" they liked from a street vendor were a luxury they cut out--even though they didn't cost much, and the vendor could probably use the business. Commercially baked bread was ok, but crackers were out. Free entertainment was ok, and giving money to charity was ok. But paying money for a concert, when the concert benefited a nonprofit group, was not ok.

It would really have bugged me if I hadn't just read two other books.

In Rumspringa, I learned that it's ok for the Amish to power a washing machine with a gas engine, but not a tractor. It's ok for teenagers to run around and experiment with sex, drugs and rock and roll, getting pregnant at 16, but heaven forbid they want to attend school beyond 8th grade and play competitive sports. One family might be shunned for doing something that was perfectly ok for the family next door, because they live in different districts under different bishops.

In Treasure Hunt, I read about how middle-range products are dying out because people are buying mostly bottom and top end products. And not necessarily because the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Many people are apparently scrimping on things at the dollar store so they can afford designer purses and such.

Then there's my little research project on the NJ sales tax. Astringent is not taxable but moisturizer is. Apparently taking care of oily skin is a necessity, but taking care of dry skin is a luxury.

I guess my conclusion is that being inconsistent is just human nature. I'll try to remember that when I'm feeling critical of other people's decisions (and my own).


More on the old books available online

July 4th, 2006 at 01:17 pm

Retire@50, I didn't see Six Hundred Dollars a Year on Cornell's Hearth, but I did find it at another site! (They have it as part of a fiction collection, but it appears to be the right one.)

www.letrs.indiana.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=wright2;idno=Wri...

I've started reading it myself and am enjoying it a lot. Thanks for mentioning the title.

BTW, I found it through www.digitalbookindex.com which lets you search across many online ebook collections. It worked where googling didn't.

Cheetahwoman7, the titles I'd been wanting to read again were:

Successful family life on the moderate income, by Mary W. Hinman Abel

The business of the household, by Clarence Taber

Family expense account, by Thirmuthis A. Brookman

Various titles by Christine Frederick

The homemaker and her job, by Lillian Gilbreth. She's the mother of the original Cheaper By The Dozen family. If anyone's interested in the Gilbreths, there's also a neat site about them, here:

gilbrethnetwork.tripod.com/front.html

Well, now that I've veered completely off-topic (except that I'm talking about sources for free reading material), I guess I'd better go.

A freebie 20 years in the making

July 2nd, 2006 at 01:27 pm

Back in 1986, in one of my first library jobs, I discovered some interesting old home economics and budgeting books. They were so old and rare that they didn't circulate. So on my lunch hours I'd go back in the "closed stacks" area where they were kept, and read them while I was there.

I made a list of my favorite titles, in case I could ever find them at a used bookstore. But over the years, they were either nowhere to be found or else too expensive.

But, now they are here, for free!

hearth.library.cornell.edu/

Cornell University has put up a ton of home ec stuff that's gone out of copyright. You can read whole books online, or download them. You can also search their whole database for topics you want to research, across all the titles.

It's really interesting to see how things have changed, and how they've stayed the same. I always find some kind of insight from these old books that is still useful today. I'll post some good quotes in future blog entries.


Book Review-Green With Envy

June 14th, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Subtitle, why keeping up with the Joneses is keeping us in debt. By Shira Boss.

Nothing terribly profound or new, but it was a quick, interesting read. I'd recommend it as a library borrow, but it wouldn't be worth buying IMHO.

The author and her husband were going through a rough period financially, and it looked to them like their peers and neighbors were doing much better. However, one day she overheard a seemingly rich neighbor talking about financial problems, and her curiosity was piqued.

She found a way to get the low-down on the neighbor's situation, and then went on to do more interviews on the same theme--how did actual financial situations differ from how they appeared?

The most surprising part was the chapter on congressmen who have such a hard time financially they have to sleep in their offices!

I did find it hard to have much sympathy for the ultra-rich, whose main problems seem to be 1) a lack of privacy because of all the servants in the house, and 2) boredom because of not having to work. I'm sorry, their money still gives them choices the rest of us don't have.

An interesting tip, if you are husband- or wife-hunting and living in the Northwest. Apparently many children of the wealthy, from the Northeast, are relocating to the Northwest and trying to live life like "normal" people. So if you meet a nice starving artist in Seattle, give them a chance. They might be a millionaire in hiding. Smile

Happiness Units

May 27th, 2006 at 03:22 pm

Does anyone else remember Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown? Smile

She has a chapter on money, and I always remember her saying to make sure and spend your money where you'll get the most Happiness Units in return.

Well, it's corny but it's a good point. I'm looking over my spending for the past year, trying to see where I haven't gotten enough happiness units for the money. Those are places that will be easy to cut.

The first obvious category is book/cd/dvd buying (exclusive of Netflix). I spent $132 and the shocking thing is, all but $33 of this was on mailing costs. Mostly for various swapping programs, which were supposed to save me money. The fact is, I sent a lot of stuff out and so far have gotten little in return.

I haven't bought a NEW book in over a year. I bought one DVD that was so obscure even Netflix didn't have it. The rest of the $33 was for used books, most of which I bought to try and sell (unsuccessfully).

So, although $132 is that much in the whole scheme of things, it really didn't buy me much of anything.

I'm going to budget $84 in the coming year (36% reduction), and try to get a lot more for the money. First priority will be trying to get something for the credits I've already earned at the swap sites.

Yippee! Getting a free (or almost) leaf blower soon

May 13th, 2006 at 11:42 pm

I know I shouldn't count my chickens before they're hatched, but if all goes well...

I'd called Discover Card to either cancel the card, or keep it if they offered me a deal to stay. They offered $20 in rewards after my first purchase.

The $20 just showed up. I can take the cash, or get a gift card worth $25, so I requested a gc for Ace Hardware. I was there today, and saw several leaf blowers priced at less than $30. I also have a $5 off a $25 purchase coupon for Ace in my Entertainment Book. And I just joined the Helpful Hardware club thing, so when I "buy" the thing, I'll also earn points.

It won't be the blower/vac model I was drooling over awhile back, but it will be free, or nearly so.

As opportunities like this keep coming up, I keep thinking about the book, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. What a role model for matching your talents with the opportunities you have, to get what your family needs and wants. If you haven't read it, do! (Have some tissues handy.)

Bookselling not what it used to be

May 6th, 2006 at 06:19 pm

I'm posting this to remind myself for the Nth time, forget about selling books online!!!

They were having a booksale at the library I was going to anyway, so DH and I went in to see what we could find. It was toward the end, so we could each get a bag's worth for $5. Most of what I picked up were out-of-print, nonfiction titles that several years ago might have brought $9 to $18 on Amazon. Out of 13 I bought today, 12 are going for less than $1. One is even going for -0-, just shipping! The other one is about $4.50, but there's a paperback edition going for practically nothing--so why would anyone pay more for a well-used hardcover?

Well, the library's budget's been cut, so I'll just consider it a donation. And there are a few paperbacks I want to read myself, and then can swap, so it's not a total loss.

My lesson for today is, the best thing for me to do is stay away from library booksales, and recognize that Times Have Changed.

Weight and Wealth

January 19th, 2006 at 01:36 pm

I came across a documentary the other day, being played on one of our public tv stations. It was called When Ends Don't Meet, and followed several families who'd be called the working poor--except for one couple where the husband wanted to work but couldn't, or his cancer-striken wife would lose her Medicaid coverage.

One thing that struck me was how most of the adults in the families were overweight. I can think of one mother who looked in good shape, and two husbands who only had small bellies. The rest seemed to be really obese. It struck me as odd, because when I think of poverty the picture in my mind is of starving, skinny folks during the Great Depression or in third world countries.

Since I've always had both weight and money management difficulties myself, it got me thinking about about common denominators. These folks didn't appear to be particularly lazy or inactive. If you are on your feet every day waitressing, and are raising 5 or 6 kids, you probably get a good workout. Wink Eating junky, fattening foods because they are filling and cheaper than healthier ones? Also eating them for pleasure because it's cheaper than other forms of recreation? Actual changes in your metabolism because of being under stress for long periods of time? A slight brain dysfunction where you have trouble keeping track of income and outgo, in terms of calories as well as money? Or just being so consumed by trying to make ends meet that you just don't pay attention to diet and exercise?

I know in my case I do seem to gain weight when we've had a long stretch of money worries, but I still can't say for sure why that is.

It got me curious enough to go ahead and order a book on Amazon that I've had on my wishlist a long time. It's called The Weight and Wealth Factors, by Angie Hollerich. For $1.12 plus shipping, using a discounted gift certificate, I figured I'd go for it. If I get any great insights from it, I'll report back. In the meantime, would be curious if anybody else has thoughts on the subject.

Good enough is good enough

November 27th, 2005 at 09:50 pm

What Flash said an entry or two ago hit home with me. I'm also very tempted, as in her example, to spend $5 more for a larger box of chocolate than is necessary because it's a better buy per pound.

I also saw myself in a book I read this week, Save Karyn. This is the young woman who ran up $20,000 in credit card debt and then put up a website, www.savekaryn.com, and asked people for help paying it off. She described her thought processes as she decided to spend money, and a lot of the things she told herself sounded just like me. Like, "Why not get the top of the line thingie, it's only a few dollars more."

I've been doing a lot of shopping this week, and I tried to keep reminding myself not to let those kinds of thoughts take over. And it's worked pretty well.

Here's an example. We started out married life with 8 place settings of silverware. But lately we've kept running out of silverware between dishwasher loads. I counted, and we were down to 4 place settings. I guess I can't complain about losing 1 piece a year Wink, but I'd chosen it carefully and it was good stuff.

I figured these were my options:

--Buy replacement pieces, which would come to $200 using replacements.com (and this is stainless, not sterling silver!), or through Ebay, which would be cheaper but very slow, because it doesn't get listed very often.

--Buy a good new set for 8. I was very close to getting a set on Amazon for $71.99, which seemed like a great buy for what it was. But even amongst the supposedly good stuff (marked 18/10 and made by a well-known company) I was reading bad reviews about knives getting rust spots, knife handles coming loose, and so forth. It hardly seemed worth spending that much if, 1) I'm going to keep losing 1 piece a year, and 2) there's no guarantee of quality even at this price.

--Buy a cheap new set for 8. But I have my limits for cheapness. I don't want fork tines that bend. And if I'm really being cheap, and we really only need 4 more place settings, why spend money for 8?

--What I ended up doing was buying a cheap set of 4 place settings, for $10, at Target. The forks seem strong, and the knives are nice and heavy. The style is similar enough we can just mix and match with the original set. They're good enough to serve the purpose, which is to carry us between daily dishwasher loads. We're not preparing to give a state dinner.

I actually think I'm happier than I would have been if I'd spend the $71.99. And I have to say I'm surprised. I just wish this "good enough" mentality was more engrained in me. I sure spent a lot of time shopping and thinking, just to come to the decision that most other people might have made automatically.

Goals for next four weeks (thru Dec. 17)

November 20th, 2005 at 01:15 pm

My debt reduction goals are to get the Discover down to $2124 and the Sony down to $1505. The Citi gets paid off each month anyway, so what the balance happens to be on a certain date doesn't have much meaning.

I want to read 2 books a week, for a total of 8.

I want to do aerobic exercise at least 2x a week, for a total of 8x.

I'd like to try and keep the Groceries part of my Everday Expenses down to $230, based on the USDA Thrifty Plan. Not to say we won't spend money on take-out, but I'd like to see if I can keep the food Must Haves to that basic level. I don't really expect to succeed--but it's a goal to shoot for.

Speaking of food costs, there's a cookbook I'd like to get hold of again--my public library had a copy years ago, but weeded it. Frown It's called Good Recipes for Hard Times, by Louise Newton. I've searched online, and there are only a few copies available, ranging from about $35 to nearly $100. (I know price on used books is largely based on rarity, but gee--if the book is geared toward people having hard times, how much are they going to be able to pay for it?) She has shopping lists and menus designed to keep you fed for *less* than the cheapest USDA food plan. There are some interesting blog entries about the book here: http://mungooftheshire.blogspot.com/2005_06_01_mungooftheshire_archive.html and here: http://mungooftheshire.blogspot.com/2005/06/grocery-bills-redux.html

I guess another goal in the back of my mind is to get my hands on that book. I wonder if any booksellers who have it would take another valuable old book or two in trade...

All Your Worth

November 15th, 2005 at 01:20 pm

Somebody - Jorge? - mentioned a book I hadn't heard of, "All Your Worth" by Warren and Tyagi. I found it at my library, and boy is it an eye-opener. I've been through it 3 times so far--Skimmed it while half-asleep, before bed one night. Read through it thoroughly, taking notes, another day. Now I'm using the index to try and find answers to questions I've had while starting to do their calculations. I can definitely second the recommendation that it's a good read.

To sum up, they recommend no more than 50% of your income on must-haves, 20% towards a combination of savings and debt repayment, and 30% on wants. I found a nice little Excel spreadsheet to download that calculates your percentage of Must Haves. It's about 3/4 of the page down, here: http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/BMF.shtml

Obviously, food is a Must Have. But they say to allocate only a small, basic amount for food in the must-have category, because a lot of what we normally buy is really non-essential, or bought in a form that's more expensive than it needs to be. But they didn't really give much of a guideline, like a percentage of income. So I pulled my food figure from the USDA guidelines for the lowest budget for a 2-person household. You can find guidelines for various budget levels and household sizes here: http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/FoodPlans/Updates/foodnov04.pdf

They include predictable household, medical and transportation costs in Must Haves, but it looks like they mean for emergencies like car repairs and such to be handled out of the 20% savings. So my must-have figure below doesn't count any of the $461 a month we've been hit with recently for various repairs.

Our current Must Haves are at 65.2% of our income. That falls into their Must-Have Crash Zone--the absolute worst category. Their description of our situation is accurate: "Even the smallest hiccup can seem like a major disaster because there is no extra money to handle anything that goes wrong. You shot through the Danger Zone many warning lights ago, and now you are deep in the highest risk area--the Crash Zone."

Now I did figure in a few things that some people wouldn't call Must Haves. DH and I cannot physically mow our own lawn anymore, so I included the expenses for our lawn guy. I also included our Virgin Mobile cell phones, because we both drive old cars, and I drive home from work several nights a week. I'm just not going to put myself in a position where I have to walk to a call-box along a highway at night, where people are driving 65 mph. It's the cheapest cell option I could find, and I consider it a necessity. OTOH, I also included every bit of income we've been getting, such as rebates, cash gifts. Amazon sales, and so forth. So I think overall the 65.2% gives a pretty accurate, if dismal, picture of where we are.


Nice weekend

November 7th, 2005 at 01:48 pm

Friday night I usually stay home and watch a video while I have laundry running. Not exciting, but it makes the laundry easier to take. However, it was the end of a sale at Penney's, and I had a 10% off coupon and over $60 in discounted gift cards on hand. So I went shopping. I found a pair of slacks for work, and a set of of bath towels on clearance, for a total of about $40. Also did some grocery shopping at Pathmark, and finally earned my free turkey/ham/whatever by spending $300 over the pre-T'giving season.

Saturday the weather was beautiful and DH and I both wanted to get out on some kind of little road trip. (Gas is down to $2.13, so I'm not so reluctant to drive at the moment.) There was a library booksale going on, and the route up is very scenic this time of year if you take 295. The sky was bright blue, and the leaves are about the peak of their fall color now. Trees are planted along both sides of the highway, and as the road turns you see trees in the distance ahead of you, too. So it felt like we were just nestled in and completely surrounded by color.

We got to the booksale just in time for the bag sale. I got about 20 books in a bag for $2. Smile Two were on wish lists at paperbackswap.com, so I knew they'd go right away. I also discovered that two were going for about $14 each on Amazon, so I'll be listing them there. (If even one of them sells, it will have paid for all the mailing expenses I've accrued lately mailing things out for swapping.) Most of the rest I turned in for credit at our local paperback exchange.

With all these books piling up (from the library as well as from swapping), I thought I'd better start reading instead of just finding them, listing them, and mailing them. Read 1-3/4 novels, a Scumble River murder mystery and most of Sullivan's Island, the first in the Low Country Tales series. Sunday evening, after having read most of the afternoon, I realized how much more relaxed I felt making dinner and cleaning up after. I'd forgotten how relaxing reading can be. I've been spending much more of my leisure time online and watching movies, and less with books. I really need to make it part of my daily life again. With access to 2 public libraries and the paperback swapping, cost is certainly no excuse.

Amabuddy.com

October 6th, 2005 at 06:46 pm

I'm borrowing this from Five Cent Nickel on PFBlog.com, where I just read about it. I tried it today, and it actually worked, as advertised!

Say you're out at a bookstore and wonder if you can get a book cheaper on Amazon. Or you're at a library booksale or yard sale and wonder if a book is worth trying to resell. What you do is call this number on your cell phone: 617-712-3574 and when prompted, enter the ISBN number from the book. It tells you the list price, Amazon's price for new, and the lowest used price listed by Marketplace sellers. Today at the booksale, it saved me from spending money on quite a few books that are only selling for pennies on Amazon. I was able to keep my spending to only $3, which included two books I wanted for myself, plus several I can sell for a total of about $18. And I don't have to go lugging a bunch of unsellable books to Goodwill, after lugging them all home in the first place.

If you want to buy a book you looked up through their number, they ask that you go to their website and order it through their interface so they get a small affiliate fee back from Amazon. In any case, it doesn't cost YOU anything but the cell phone call. I'm very happy with it--especially since I just saw an ad for a similar business that wants $4.99 a month for the service.

Library booksales = cheap books

October 5th, 2005 at 05:51 pm

DH and I have been shopping at library booksales for years. I thought I'd mention it and pass along a few tips for anyone who hasn't tried it yet.

You just can't beat prices like 25 cents for a paperback or $1 for a hardcover--unless it's buying a whole bag for $1 which sometimes happens during the last hour or so of a sale. Sometimes during the bag sale we just grab a bag of miscellaneous paperbacks in good condition, just so we can turn the books in for credit at our local paperback exchange. If very lucky, there will be one or two items that will sell for a good price on Amazon, sometimes paying for everything else we bought.

At first, I was kind of shy about going to libraries we didn't belong to--but believe me, they don't much care if you are a member or not, when it comes to buying books at their sales. They just want to raise as much money as possible. The only exception is, sometimes they have a special preview sale for Friends of the Library members. But you can usually just join the Friends group on the way in, if you don't mind spending a few extra dollars.

It's a good idea to take along something cold to drink, and leave it in your car for after the sale. We've found that book shopping is thirsty work, for some reason.

If you plan on buying a lot, it can be worth taking your own bags. Sometimes they don't have enough bags on hand, and it's also easier to carry one or two large bags instead of 5 or 6 overloaded plastic grocery bags. Large department store bags with the boxy bottoms are good, also the plastic bags they sell at Aldi's for 10 cents a piece. For awhile I think I was known at certain booksales as "the Aldi bag lady."

Usually they also sell vinyl records, CDs, cassettes and videos, too. Although I haven't seen an 8-track for quite a while. Wink A good source for cheap kids' entertainment, exercise videos and such.

You can call around to local libraries to try and get the dates for upcoming sales, or check the websites for libraries in your area. But it can save some time to use this website: http://www.book-sales-in-america.com/ Just click on your state to get upcoming sale dates. The only problem is, they depend on the libraries or Friends groups to submit information, and they don't always get around to it. Still, it's a help. And the ads for bookstores and book scouting businesses are interesting.

Even though I've stopped counting on reselling books on Amazon, it's still a fun outing and a very cheap way for us to find books for ourselves. DH and I have a couple of days off together this week, and our first little trip will be to the county booksale as soon as it starts tomorrow morning. Smile

Trying to have some faith and confidence

September 8th, 2005 at 04:08 pm

Last night DH mentioned he thought he needed exhaust work done on his car, and that didn't bother me too much. We'll wait a couple of weeks til he has a vacation day, and take it back to Midas, where we'll save somewhat on parts because of their lifetime warranty. Last time it was under $100, which we'll have in our emergency savings account by then. Perfect timing, it seemed.

Now this morning my car wouldn't start. Turns out it's the timing belt and it's going to be almost $600--if all goes well. The computer diagnostics part alone was $80. (I'd shop around if it weren't an emergency. But I can't just drive it to another mechanic.) And DH is going through one of his moody periods, where I'm afraid he might just walk out on his job, or worse.

I feel like I can't even work up a good worry. I feel more like, the heck with it. I give up. I've done the best I can, and if our cc balance has to go up temporarily to cover this round of car repairs, then so be it. At least the timing belt didn't break on the way to the shore or something. At least we have Triple A to tow it in. At least putting it on the cc will earn us some reward points.

As far as DH, his actions are his responsibility, not mine. If he quits his job at a financially dumb time, for a dumb reason, I'll be angry about it but I'll know it's not my fault. I've spoken my piece, and that's about all I can do--short of divorce! Wink

I've run reports on our cash flow and net worth over the past few months, and there has been steady improvement. Every month has been in the black and our net worth is creeping upward--even though at the beginning of each month I couldn't have told you how it was going to happen. Who could have predicted winning $100. Or getting paid at all for answering questions about vacuum cleaners, let alone $40 when I'd expected to be paid $20.

I don't want to go blithely along charging useless stuff, figuring it will get paid for somehow. But I am beginning to feel like as long as I'm doing my part, something will happen to make up the difference somehow, if a problem crops up. At least it seems to be working that way lately. To quote one of my favorite books again, "The money comes in. There is always enough." p. 246 How to get out of debt, stay out of debt and live prosperously" by Mundis.

Eliminating annoyances

August 30th, 2005 at 01:16 pm

(Thanks for the tip on the housing bubble blog. Just what I need, another blog to read! But it looks really interesting. I've subscribed to their feed.)

I think it was in a book by Cheryl Richardson where I read how useful it can be to tackle small annoyances. The idea is, they are small but they stay in the back of your mind, sapping your energy, and wasting your time in little bits every day. So it's more worthwhile to handle them than it might seem. Well, I seem to be in a mode of getting rid of those annoyances. And so far it's saving me money, too.

--I spent $7 at Target a few weeks ago, on what turned out to be a sorry excuse for a lamp. It was all plastic, and you were supposed to attach the shades by pushing them up and then turning. No screws to secure them. DH and I went through the procedure several times, and each time they fell out after a few hours or at most a day. I doubted Target would take it back, since we'd thrown the box away. But they did! $7 back into our pockets.

--I had a Crest spinbrush where a little plastic collar on the base broke. There was nothing for the new brush head to attach to. I called their 800 number, and they're sending a coupon for a whole replacement. About $6 back into our pockets, since I would have bought a replacement regardless. (I feel like I can stretch out dental appointments when I use it, because it keeps my teeth feeling like I just saw the hygienist. Nope, I don't work for Crest. Wink

--We had some Mountain Dew cans that were leaky where the lids attached, 5 cans from 2 different cartons. I called the 800 number, and I already got coupons for 2 12-packs. Worth about $8 because I'll save them for when we need them and they're not on sale.

--Did some research about our DVD player, which seemed to be on the fritz. Found out it just might need a cleaning, which you do with a special cleaning disk. Found one for $12, ran it through twice, and it was playing perfect again. Savings about $20, over having to replace it. And I can use the same disk to clean the CD drives in the computer, too.

--This one is costing money, but not very much. I had a cheap little upright vacuum that I loved, and it stopped working several months ago. I have a canister one, but it's a hassle to get out so I don't vacuum as much as I should. I finally took the upright in to be looked at, for $10. They said the parts were no longer available; the vacuum is designed to be disposable. Frown So I found one that looks even nicer (cordless) on Target's website which is on its way to me. It was $53 with tax, minus $5 from a link on http://www.naughtycodes.com, and I paid for it with some 20% off Target gift cards. And they were offering free shipping.

Oddly enough, on our local Craig's List website, someone was seeking people for a survey about vacuum cleaners. I emailed about it, and did the survey yesterday. They're supposed to mail a check for $20. So, after this serendipity, for about $28 net the vacuum cleaner problem is solved.

Can't believe what I just did!

August 27th, 2005 at 12:59 pm

I just spent several hundred dollars on a discounted gift card on Ebay this morning. It's over 20% off even after figuring in the shipping. I've been waiting for a long time for a good deal on a Petsmart one, from a seller that looked reputable. I think the price came out so well because the auction ended at an odd time--not many people up to make one last bid!

I'm glad I did it, assuming it's legit. But it still feels really strange to be doing this gift card thing, especially buying one on Ebay and paying for it with a credit card that gives cash back. I think I'm suffering from Future Shock. (Title of a book by Alvin Toffler, for you younger folks.)

I have to keep reminding myself, it's a new world!

(Thanks for the tip on Pinecone. I'll keep watching.)

Budgeting lesson from the 1950's

August 16th, 2005 at 01:35 pm

Last week DMom and I were discussing money and budgeting methods, and she pulled out a ledger book from when she and DDad were first married--1952 to 1956! We got a good laugh at some of the prices, believe me. Wink

DMom is Mrs. Moneybags at this point, but as she pointed out, back then it felt like they were living from paycheck to paycheck. And actually that wasn't such a bad thing for them back then. The first few years they were living in an apartment and didn't own a car. So there weren't surprise car and appliance repairs or large car insurance and property tax bills to plan for. They kept track of things as small as 47 cents for an electric socket, but my dad managed to buy a slide projector for $185. That's $185 in 1950's money--equivalent to several month's rent.

What I found really interesting was that although they had a budget, they were always going over. (I think I found one month where they were under!) And yet, over that 4-year period, things worked out just fine overall.

The key seemed to be their systematic savings, along with an artificially low, slightly tight budget. (To paraphrase The Millionaire Next Door, "they created an artificial economic environment of scarcity for themselves.")

DMom said she had a nice cushion of "war bonds" she'd bought during WW2. And I could see in the ledger book they were still buying more savings bonds, $37.50 a month for a $50 bond, through payroll deductions. If they went over budget by $10 each month, they were still $27.50 ahead because of that payroll deduction. When the checking account got too low, or they had something unusual to spend money on, they just cashed in some bonds--as opposed to the modern way of using plastic. Wink

It left me feeling a little better about making mistakes and not managing to stay within a budget all the time. I tend to worry and feel guilty--like if every financial move I make isn't exactly right, we'll end up bankrupt and it will have been my fault. But maybe the important thing is just to make sure we're moving in the right direction even if it's only by $27.50 a month. Once again, remembering to look at the big picture and not letting myself get so riled up.

Changing a habit - weekend outing decision

August 12th, 2005 at 03:20 pm

Usually every year, DH and I go to the anniversary booksale at a store that's over an hour away from us. It's a pleasant trip, although long, because it gets us out in the country and away from all the congestion around here. The store is a combination bookstore and florist, and some years we've been able to visit with goats out in the yard. Smile

However, we've been visiting local bookstores a lot lately, gas is expensive, and I've already spent a little more than I should have at this point in the month. So I'm reluctant to go right now, even though the sale's going on. I'm glad DH seems to be content to stay closer to home this weekend, too. I didn't want it to turn into an argument. We kind of agreed we'd wait til the fall when the weather is more pleasant anyway. I'll be able to save up a little extra money by then, for the gas and maybe lunch out and a book or two.

So the weekend's revised plans are to turn in some paperbacks for credit at the local store and maybe see the Nipper (RCA dog) display in Moorestown. Artists made a bunch of diffferently-decorated Nippers and they've been placed all over town. It's not really close to home for us, but closer than the far bookstore, and it's something completely different! Here's a link to Nipper pix: http://community.webshots.com/album/370880433eualqi



Extreme self-care

July 28th, 2005 at 12:33 pm

The morning after my last entry, I found myself unable to get moving on much, and in no better a mood. I realized it was time to drag out my copy of Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns. It's about overcoming depression, and has a great chapter called Do Nothingism which usually gets me moving again. I read that and some other sections, and realized I'd moved from my "normal" Mild depression well into Moderate and it was time to do something to stop the slide.

The things I wrote in my last entry are so typical of the negative thinking that can overtake you when you're depressed. I don't even know if it's the money worries that really set me off. It could be a whole combination of things, like DH's own bad moods, not exercising lately, not eating right, daylight hours starting to lessen, the hot oppresive weather, the news, or the blood pressure medicine I'm on that has depression as a known side effect. Anyway, I've learned the thing to do is DO something about it, not overanalyze it. So I'm currently on a regime of Extreme Self Care. I'm grateful most of these are free:

Limiting my exposure to the news, talk shows, and advertising for things I can't buy right now
(The way I'm doing that is reading more and keeping music tapes in my car)
Doing things like ironing and shaving my legs so I can wear clothes that make me feel better
Eating right and taking B vitamins
Listening to music
Comfort foods
Cleaning, putting fresh tablecloths on, fresh cushion covers on the porch chairs
Resting when I need to rest
Going online at the library in addition to at home, just to get out of the house and also save my online time at home
Spending time in bookstores just browsing, getting titles and taking notes

I ought to be exercising more, and I ought to get outside now that the heat wave has broken. I ought to get back to weekly "Artist Dates" like I used to do. There's a book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron that suggests these--it's just a kind of date with yourself where you get a change of scenery, do something different. Then there are always bubble baths... DH and I also have to get back to doing some fun things on the weekends. $12 for movie tickets is worth it, if it saves our sanity! When I redo the budget again, I'm going to try and find room for Fun.


The Reallionare book

July 11th, 2005 at 06:25 pm

What I liked about it--

--The author was obviously born with a gift for communicating, like Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or Martin Luther King, Jr. It will be interesting to watch what he's doing in future years.
--He does obviously work hard, and has a lot of courage.
--He and his family have lived very interesting lives, and the book is a page-turner.


What bugs me about it--

--He has never actually held a job. His mother taught him that "only a fool would work himself to death for someone else," and that if you work a 9-5 job, all you will ever be is "Just Over Broke." Instead of suggesting people start side businesses, or start businesses later with money saved from a paycheck, he kind of makes it sound like we are all fools for working regular jobs at all.

--His mother had tried starting many businesses over the years, but they were still living in poverty when the book began. At one point she used the rent money to fund business proposal materials and didn't get the contract. All they were left with in the world was $40. She risked that rent money with several kids at home, knowing they'd probably be evicted, having experienced living in a car with them once already. She ended up applying for public assistance and food stamps. Nowhere in the book is anything said about this whole episode being a mistake, let alone irresponsible. Instead, his mother is held up as a hero.

--He was taught that "hustling" is a good thing. (I actually looked up definitions of hustling, just to make sure I wasn't misinterpreting what he meant. The definitions I found all pretty much have to do with pressuring people, deceiving them, misrepresenting yourself, and making ends meet through questionable means)

--He makes it sound like even though you have no money, you can become a partner in a new business and immediately be able to afford moving to a luxury apartment. This is supposedly what happened with his mother. I don't buy it, and I think it's a bad idea to give people false hopes about such quick results.

--In two little paragraphs at the end of the book, we find out that he actually LOST much of his money in late 2001.

Is is worth a read? Yes. Does it show a good plan to follow if you want to build financial security for the long term? Not exactly. As far as I'm concerned. the book is full of risky ideas I want to avoid! It's back to titles like Get Rich Slowly, for me. Wink

Frugal Saturday, Escapist Sunday

July 10th, 2005 at 12:29 pm

Saturday was kind of money-oriented, but now I've had enough and need a day off!

--Mailed a book that sold on Amazon. DH had gotten it free at work when someone was throwing it away.
--Went to the public library to pick up requests; one of the books was about money, Reallionaire by Farrah Gray.
--Went to the used bookstore to use some of our credit from last week. Many of the books we'd turned in were more freebies DH had brought home, plus some old ones of our own that were too low-priced on Amazon to bother selling there. One item I got was an audio version of "How to get out of debt, stay out of debt and live prosperously." Also found several books on the $1 shelf I can sell on Amazon for much more.
--Listened to the "out of debt" audio in the kitchen while I made banana bread to use up two over-ripe bananas.
--Read the Reallionaire book. It's supposed to be inspirational--a kid from the projects actually became a millionaire as a teenager, after selling a food company he started at age 13. But there's something disturbing about it, which is hard to put my finger on exactly. Maybe will post more about it later. If anyone else has read the book, I'd be interested in your comments.

Today I think I'll get out in the fresh air, do some yard work and forget about everything else. Smile

What's wrong with this picture? - Part I

June 28th, 2005 at 01:43 pm

I just keep shaking my head lately over all the stuff I've thrown away and given away in the name of "decluttering." Things I could have sold and probably gotten hundreds of dollars for.

I'm not a naturally organized person. So I've been reading housekeeping and organizing advice for years, trying to get on top of things in our house. A couple of years ago things had gotten really bad, and I started decluttering big time, following advice in books and on websites like Flylady.net.

There was something strange about all that advice that never occurred to me. But now that I'm looking high and low for ways to generate extra cash, it's pretty obvious. Virtually all of those organizing gurus seem to discourage you from actually selling things and would rather have you throw or give things away.

In The Messies Manual, by Sandra Felton, "As you move from one spot to another, take with you three boxes: a give-away box, a throw-away box, and a storage box." (No box for things to sell.)

In Conquering Chronic Disorganization, by Judith Kolberg you divide your belongings into Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers, then--"Identify the Strangers and throw them away immediately. Determine a very personal charity, and donate your Acquaintances." Regarding an overabundance of books, "He can buy as many books as we wants, but for each one he buys, one must be donated, given to friends, or discarded." (Again, no suggestion that anything could or should be sold--not even something relatively easy to sell like books.)

In the Organizing Sourcebook, by Kathy Waddill, "Once you decide to let go of things, get them out of your way as soon as possible...Take items to your nearest charity, get a receipt, and deduct the value of your donation from your tax return." (What if you don't itemize your deductions?)

She gives an example given of how to clear out a basement that not only didn't generate any cash, it actually cost money!

"They rented a dumpster, bought some pizza and a few cases of beer, and invited friends and family to help them out. In less than a day, they had a big, empty, clean basement that the whole family could use. As soon as they made up their minds to tackle the problem, they made it disappear."

Flylady says we are to declutter for 15 minutes a day, using 27-Fling Boogies. "Take a garbage bag and walk through your home and throw away 27 items. Do not stop until you have collected all 27 items. Then close the garbage bag and pitch it. DO NOT LOOK IN IT!!! Just do it. Next, take an empty box and go through your home collecting 27 items to give away." "Do not save your clutter for a yard or garage sale, you will be blessed by giving it away."

Elsewhere on her website, Flylady encourages finding ways to economize, get money into savings, and paying off your debt. We are supposed to do things like cut down on air conditioning to save money--after we've thrown or given away 1680 items over the course of a month that might have brought in more than enough to keep the house comfortable. There is some kind of disconnect here...

I've got a lot of thoughts rolling around in my head on this, but for the sake of not making this too long, I'll post Part II tomorrow.

Taking Actions

June 14th, 2005 at 01:08 pm

I was re-reading an old book I have, How To Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, & Live
Prosperously, by Jerrold Mundis. One concept I want to remember is to Take An Action.
I like it a lot better than just Doing Without.

His idea is, don't just sit around and wish things were better. Keep trying a variety of
things to make or save money. You have no control over the results, and many
ideas will fail. OTOH, some will succeed.

"Fish lay thousands of eggs. Only a tiny percentage of these ever hatch--yet there are a
lot of fish around. If I take ten actions and only three work, I've still made three gains I
couldn't have if I'd simply sat around wishing something were different. It's taking action
that counts."

When I think about it that way, I don't feel so bad about some of my ideas that haven't
worked out. There have also been successes. This morning I emailed a local movie
theater chain to see if they have a "secret shopper" program--you see movies for free but
also have to turn in reports on your experience at the theater. It was an idea in Budget Living
magazine. It may or may not work out--but you never know til you try!