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Taking advantage of training freebie

May 19th, 2012 at 06:32 am

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that librarians in my state were eligible to sign up for free, three-week subscriptions at http://www.lynda.com, a website that offers tutorials on tech and business topics. I jumped on it! At work, I'm responsible for doing our little class on Microsoft Word, now that the person who used to do that class has been cut back to virtually no hours. I'm not that familiar with the old version, let alone the 2010 version we recently put on a few public computers. In addition to doing classes on request, I also need to help people on the computers throughout the day and should really get better acquainted with all of Office.

I have to say that having only three weeks of access to the tutorials has motivated me to use it. I have a list of other free tutorial sites that I've never gotten around to using simply because I didn't have a deadline. I like the Lynda.com tutorials I've used so far, and I like how they keep track of which lesson you're on, let you keep a queue of other ones you're interested in, and suggest appropriate followup tutorials when you finish one. I'm seriously thinking of paying for a membership when my free time is up, however--if I no longer have a deadline to take advantage of it, will I continue using it?

There's a lot more there that would be useful to me beyond the Office training. Although our operating budget at work was cut back drastically, for some reason we got approved for a large capital expenditure on new computers, and I'll mostly likely have to set up and maintain them. They'll probably come with Windows 7, which I've never used. I've been keeping an eye on job openings at other libraries, too, just to be on the safe side. One job description appealed to me but would have been a stretch--they wanted someone who knows several programming languages in addition to having the MLS. My library school master's is 25 years old this month, and while I have experience on my side, I feel as if I don't update my technical skills it will be hard to compete with more recent graduates who have training on all the current things. That is, if I really am laid off, eventually. I'm still having a hard time gauging how likely that is.

Beyond possibly paying to watch these tutorials, is it time to consider buying a new computer at home, with Windows 7 on it? (I can't just buy the software because my PC doesn't meet the requirements.) Over the years, I've found that it's hard getting up to speed on new things if I only have access to them at work--there's never enough time to just sit there and learn, undisturbed.

I'm in a quandary every day about whether to spend money or not, because of a possible layoff. Should I not buy clothes because I might be laid off, or should I buy them because I need decent outfits on hand for possible job interviews and because in the fall I'll be working a lot of 6-day weeks. Should I not spend money on a new computer and tutorials because I might be laid off, or should I spend the money because I might be laid off. Should we go ahead and spend the money on home improvements because DH and I have the time right now to be here and monitor the work, or not? (If DH had to go back to work, and I had to take a job with a longer commute, and neither of us had any vacation time built up yet, it would be nearly impossible to manage.)

Any thoughts?

Loosening up the purse strings

December 7th, 2008 at 10:26 am

I might have loosened them a little less if I hadn't made a mistake in Quicken. (For awhile, I thought I had about $500 more available than I actually did!) Grand total was $615. It's a lot to spend the first month of working full-time, but I thought about each purchase and don't regret any of them. I shopped sales and used coupons. Some of the clothes were almost Goodwill-level prices.

New (to us) TV through Craigslist $200
New throws for living room chairs $20
2 prs winter pajamas $38
4 tubes Revlon lipstick $12
Sneakers, one pr black and one pr white, $62
Bra $24
Nylon knee-hi's for work $22
2 velour track suits $72
6 long sleeve tees $22.50
1 sparkly henley tee $7.50
Black stretch corduroy jeans $15
Navy polyester slacks $15
Route 66 DVD set $37
Black leather purse $34
6 cloth napkins $7
2 computer books for reference at work $10
2 battery lanterns for when power is out $17

My body is changing, due to lots of walking, and I'm now wearing a 16W on the bottom. A lot of my older pants are baggy 20W's. The vinyl purse I bought last year is crazing and not repairable. We gave our lantern to my mother when her power was out, and decided we actually needed two at our house. The napkins I really didn't need, although they may help us cut down on the use of paper napkins. It was either spend the $7 on the napkins and get free shipping, or pay for shipping and get nothing else.

I need more decent casual clothes for running errands, in order to reserve work outfits for work. If I take my mother to a doctor, lawyer or stockbroker or we go out to lunch, I don't want to look like too much of a schlub. My old jeans are not only baggy but getting faded at the knees. That's where the track suits, tees and sneakers came in.

The "new" tv is digital, so it gives us a whole new range of channels on cable that we couldn't get on the old one, for no extra monthly fee to Comcast. It's a larger screen. It's a model that we like, but it's been discontinued, so we wanted to grab it when we could find it. And the picture on the old one kept shrinking every so often.

The new throws replace old ones which have numerous holes, pulls, and stains. The extra PJs are to help stretch out how often I have to do laundry.

I know the spending has to slow down. Next year, my ceiling for discretionary spending like this is the $40 a week being direct deposited into Electric Orange checking. But for now, it feels really good to be catching up on things and ridding my life of some shabbiness. Next project--bathroom towels. Smile

Resisted temptation and added $70 to savings

May 17th, 2008 at 10:27 am

There are two special purchases at Aldi that I've been itching to buy--a paper cutter for $20 and a metal detector for $50.

I decided today that if I could dig up the money to pay for them somehow, then I could just as well afford to move the money into savings instead. I've already spent quite a bit this spring, and our emergency account balances are low.

Still, I always find it hard to put money aside for vague reasons like "emergencies." Maybe playing mind games with myself like this is the only way to get it done.

Death in the family

February 19th, 2008 at 06:02 am

One day we got a call that my MIL had a stroke, but not to worry because it appeared to be mild. A week later we were hundreds of miles from home, attending her viewing. I can't believe everything happened so fast. She was 90, so it shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. She was still driving til the end, and had just cooked a big dinner the night before the stroke.

Since this is a financial blog, I'll try to write about things from that perspective.

First of all, when you're in a crisis situation like this, you can't always do things the cheapest way. We took Amtrak, which probably cost a bit more than driving would have been. But we didn't want to drive that far in wintry weather, on roads we weren't familiar with. We could have gotten a AAA discount if we could have made our reservations sooner, but we didn't know the date of the viewing and funeral til after the discount deadline. I also just found out we could have gotten a discount on one return fare with a coupon code, but I didn't have time to search for codes beforehand.

I'm glad that we still had a credit card, and I hadn't closed it out as per Dave Ramsey. It was nice to be able to charge the train fare, reserve the rooms, buy DH some clothes and pay for the local obituary FAST. I had enough to do without running around, getting extra money into the account that has the debit card and waiting for the deposit to clear. OTOH, I'm glad we had some money in the Emergency Fund so we can pay the bill off right away.

It's a good idea to always have suitable clothes on hand for a funeral (or wedding), and sufficient traveling gear. We hadn't traveled in years, and had gotten rid of some crummy old luggage without replacing it. I had to run out and buy a cheap set of suitcases at the last minute. (Nope, I didn't have the time to check where they were made!) Luckily, I'd bought DH some dress shoes on sale awhile back, even though he rarely needs them. He also still had a suit that fit. But he needed a new shirt, and a coat to wear over the suit. His old bomber jacket would have just looked embarrassing. It would have been a lot less stressful if we'd had all of this stuff on hand to begin with.

My oldest BIL is executor, and when we last saw him he was having trouble even finding my MIL's social security number. He hadn't really been involved with her paperwork over the years, and lives at a distance, so he's going to have quite a job finding and making sense of things. I'm more determined than ever to arrange things so DH can manage if something happens to me. He doesn't do computers at all, so this will mean converting back to paper in a lot of ways.

Finally, and most importantly, my MIL's eulogy reminded me to spend less time on finances and more time on enjoying life. The contrast with my own mother is marked. MIL didn't end up with a fortune, but she had a lot of travel and other fun under her belt. She enjoyed trying new things when she had the chance. My own mother has been very careful about money and everything else over the years. Rather than trying new things, she's apt to wonder "why would anyone want to do that?" She's a worrier from way back. So I've been thinking about how I'd rather hear my life summed up, at the end.



Coffee makers - not Made In China

January 30th, 2008 at 08:20 am

A few months back, I read the book "A Year without Made in China." One thing that stuck with me was how impossible it was for the author to find a new coffee maker that wasn't made in China. I wondered if it were really true. Well, our cheapo 18-month-old coffee maker just died so I decided to find out for myself. I'd written about it here: http://stressless.savingadvice.com/2006/05/01/kissing-and-co...

It's not that I'm completely anti-China. I have some clothes that are extremely well-made, that I love. But I'm tired of buying appliances that die after a year or so. It's bad for the environment, and it's a hassle to have to shop again. And since we drink so much coffee, I don't want to use things made from Chinese metal, which I've read often have toxic impurities in them.

The only stand-alone, electric appliance type I could find that were made in America are by Bunn. The info I found was from 2004, so it may no longer be so. They cost $100 and up. But even American-made electronic parts fail eventually, and I'd like to reclaim some counter space.

If you can get used to boiling water on the stove to make your coffee, and don't need to make a potful, there's the Aerobie Aeropress. If you need to make it by the pot, it appears the 6-cup manual Melitta system is made in the USA. I'll know for sure, either when I hear back from customer service, or mine is delivered. I ordered mine directly from Melitta USA's website, and it came to about $15, shipped.

If you're willing to branch out to other countries, there are French press pots made in Germany, stove-top drip systems from Italy, it looks like the 10-cup manual Melitta is made in Canada, and there's the Eva coffee brewer from Denmark.

If you know of other ones, please do leave the info as a comment.

I know from past experience that the glass carafe for the Melitta isn't going to last forever--we always seem to break them eventually. So I'm still looking for a stove-top all-metal system that doesn't require ongoing filter purchases. I saw some intriguing vintage coffee pots on Ebay, and would like to get one eventually. I was excited to see a aluminum stove-top Dripolator at Vermont Country Store, very similar to some vintage ones on Ebay--but then I saw the same thing at Fantes.com, where they said it was... made in China. So I think I'll go for a vintage one to have in reserve.

Next time--kettles!