Custom Search

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Gift from Alaska to Serbia: Thanks, Donna

Everyone knows that gifts are as wonderful to give as to receive. Miss Em, dear daughter, will be far away in Serbia (mostly Novi Paar) till at least  June. She is under the watchful eye of the Fulbright Program, but still...

She is a teaching assistant of English--and a bit embarrassed to be called Professor by one and all. She has been the recipient of much generosity, in a poor country (by US standards) where even highly skilled professionals (like doctors) cannot find employment.

Since I love to find stuff for people, I have been on high alert. I wrote about the gifts of a non-stick pan (about $70 in Serbia!) and Fidji perfume soon going off to their new homes in the suitcase (lent by yours truly) of Mr. C.

Now I'm looking for smaller things. So far, I have acquired Opi nail polish that was at a good price at Big Lots. I will be on the look out for small items from Bath and Body Works, which are coveted by many young women. And now: some handmade earrings from Alaska! How cool is that?

Thinking "How cool would that be--something from Alaska for someone in Novi Pazar?," I did something uncharacteristic: I entered a blog contest.  Donna Freedman's contest. Donna wrote a wonderful post several years ago on how one could live on $12,000 a year (or around that sum) and--NEWSFLASH--be happy. I can't seem to find that post anywhere, so instead will link to her current blog, which is the repository of much wisdom.

Must be karma. Thanks again Donna.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Baking Sweet Potatoes and Peppers to Keep Warm

I am sure our hardwired frugal efforts will elicit either chuckles or exasperated eye rolls. After all, Mr FS and I are getting close to normal retirement age and we retained our jobs while witnessing the elimination of a few programs. We have not gotten raises in many years, but still, we are more than OK.

So tell me, why did I balk this morning when Mr FS--usually the more stoical member of our household--suggested we turn up the heat? It is warmer outside than inside. We could not simply open windows, because it is very humid out there.

Mr FS and I were wearing our normal chilly house garb: regular clothes topped off with--for me--a fleece jacket and--for Mr FS--a down vest. Isn't this what everyone wears indoors?

Finally, I hit upon a solution: baking the cheap sweet potatoes and reduced for quick sale bell peppers we had. I can't even figure out how many levels of frugality this is. We didn't turn on the heat. Turning on the oven heated the house, WHILE cooking--and thereby prolonging the lifespan of--cheap for Thanksgiving sweet potatoes and a lovely melange of orange and red bell peppers reduced to around 30 cents a piece.

Why do I even think about such things? I COULD be reading Proust. Actually, I AM reading Proust, having finally, after many failed efforts, made it to the middle of the third volume. However, I can only read a few pages a day, before mental fatigue sets in. But frugality--either hardwired or habitual--produces no such fatigue for me.

Also, I am reminded of Amy D. of Tightwad fame. She considered the question of whether one can be too frugal. As she considered her darned sock--even though she could darn well buy a new sock--she realized that the darned sock made her happy. She opined that asking whether one could be too frugal was akin to asking whether one could be too happy.

How's this for an incongruous duo?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Another Good Deal I'm Not Partaking Of: Garnet Hill Cashmere 50% Off

You can save money by NOT buying things or you can save money by getting something you want/need/would have bought anyway at a good--or at least better--price. I only shop at a few stores, all of which offer no-questions-asked guarantees. I also get the occasional email from these shops.

So many temptations! But I figure I might as well pass this info along. Garnet Hill is having a 40-50% off cashmere sale over the weekend. My family is already awash in cashmere, but I can see getting someone some cashmere socks or a scarf. These would be presents someone would probably be happy to receive.

But what do I know? I'm pretty bad at gifts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

LL Bean Totes: Iconic and On Sale, Today Only

I'm not going to buy these. I have a few already. Anyway, the news is that the ICONIC LL Bean boat tote is 25% off, TODAY ONLY. This is the kind of thing that seldom goes on sale and that anyone would be happy to receive. Even me.

They ARE iconic. How many iconic items can be had so inexpensively? Even more so on sale! How many items are preppy and edgy, depending on the person carrying it?


One hardly needs to enumerate uses for heavy duty tote bags. Here's one that I love that you may not have seen. Famous stylist Peri Wolfman (one of those people who has shelves with white bowls in graduated sizes) uses the medium size as a portable file tote. She gets one for each project. You can even get them monogrammed.

Here's the cover of one of Peri's books. This is not the book for someone who needs help with clutter or organizing. This is for the person whose home ALREADY looks like a Williams-Sonoma display.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Shopping: DONE!

It's easy for me to say. I am a noted holiday- and gift-scoffer. Not totally, of course. I just hate that holidays have been hijacked by the marketers. I am getting Mr FS the same thing he is getting me: nothing. Actually, he has promised to buy and install my heart's desire: a new toilet. I will keep you posted on this momentous event.

Miss Em wants nothing at the moment. She is in Serbia till July. It has been a transformational experience in many ways and she knows she can always decide on a gift (which may or may not be material) when she returns.

As for Frugal Son: we did NOT get him what he requested (NOTHING). No, we followed the tradition that we developed over the years, in which gifts could be from thrift stores or grocery stores. The task of amassing such gifts has always fallen to me, since Mr FS has an aversion to stores.

Here is the Frugal Son list, all from thrifts and the library book sale:
--a NEW maple cutting board with his initial on it (Very exciting, but I would have bought it even if it had the wrong initial.)
--a wonderful book by David Mitchell
--NEW LL Bean Storm Chaser boots (can't believe someone donated these)
--the BEST: George Plimpton's book on fireworks*
--a TSE black cashmere cardigan (probably the most "valuable" in terms of original cost)

AND--A CHECK--amount not yet determined

*The George Plimpton book on fireworks is a treasure. Frugal Son used to check it out of the public library every few months. The head librarian told him that he was probably responsible for keeping it from being de-accessioned. Then he grew up, went away, and stopped using our local library. Amazingly, I dropped in at the Library Book Sale a few months ago and flipped through a single box. AND THERE IT WAS. How's that for karma?

We all love David Mitchell.

And this is the beloved "blast from the past."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Garnet Hill 40% Off Clothing, Shoes, Accessories 2 days

Lots of temptations have been coming my way of late. The latest: Garnet Hill, a favorite catalog since the late 1970s, when I would moon over the natural fibers that I could not imagine EVER being able to afford, so accustomed was I to my meager grad student stipend.  Nowadays natural fibers are not difficult to find, nor am I a poor student unsure of the future. I still like the GH aesthetic.

So this is what popped into my inbox: for 2 days, all women's clothing, shoes, and accessories 40% off. GH has a great guarantee, by the way. And a nice selection of Eileen Fisher.

I have to admit: I succumbed. It's something that's been on my wishlist for several years.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Paula's Choice Serums on Sale: $10 for You, $10 for Me

Sorry, yet another pitch from the one brand of skincare I am besotted with: Paula's choice. She must have read my post, because she put the serums on sale at 20% off. If you sign up through the the link, you get $10 off and so do I.

Also, usually you get free shipping on a $50 purchase, but at the moment, you get free shipping on any order. So you can buy a single item at $10 off, get free shipping, and also get Paula's money-back guarantee.

I'm ordering a serum right now. Thanks to the one reader who ordered!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

When is it "Worth It" to Save Money??

As a frugal bargain-hunting type, I take note of opportunities. Some, I'm too lazy to partake of; others--like coupons--make my head spin. Other opportunities--like the 30% off one book at Amazon that I posted on yesterday--take no time at all.

Today another Amazon deal passed across my purview: if you link your Twitter account with your American Express card and spend $75 at Amazon, you get a $25 statement credit. Go to American Express's facebook page to see for yourself.

It just so happens we want to buy something that costs $80 on Amazon (see below--another exciting holiday purchase). We don't have a twitter account. We do have an American Express card. Should we do it?

As often with these quandaries, I emailed Frugal Son and asked him. Now I'm asking you.  (Hmmmm. The item we want has gone down in price, perhaps for Cyber Monday??)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

30% Off Book at Amazon: Another Thing I Bought

There are so many bloggers out there exhorting us to JUST SAY NO TO STUFF. It is a good message, and I need it, because I am filled with desires for this and that on the material plane. In addition to the ladder I bought yesterday (don't worry, commenters, I am not planning to USE it. I just bought it for the guys in my life. I am height-averse.), I bought Mr FS a book.

This is a book he's been pining for. He is a Proust-aholic and an all-around highbrow fellow.

Till December 1 (11:59 PST) you can get 30% off an Amazon-provided book. Up to $10 off. Use the code BOOKDEAL.
Some among you may scoff at a mere $10.00 savings. However, I believe that most of my frugality consists of lots of little savings like that. 

Speaking of $10.00, Mr FS and I are off on a walk to the local grocery to use our Small Business Saturday credit courtesy of American Express.

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Black Friday Purchase

I'm sitting here in my fuzzy slippers, wearing two cashmere sweaters and a puffy down vest (all courtesy of you-know-where). I just bought something I've had my eye on for a while......


SO HAPPY! (It was $125.00 this morning...)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Small Business Saturday: $10 this year from Amex

You might be a wee bit disappointed, since LAST YEAR, Amex gave those who registered for the event a $25 statement credit. Still, for me, $10 is nothing to scoff at, since Mr FS and I take a daily walk that takes us right by a local grocery where we stock up on wine and gourmet products by Roland. For some reason, this small, independent grocery is the cheapest in town on those items.

Here's the LINK.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Will Not Be Buying A Bargain Turkey, Or Any Turkey, this Year

Announcement: I will not be buying a turkey this year. This statement is a shocker, no doubt, not only because it is positively un-American to say NO to turkey, but also because the Thanksgiving turkey is the frugalista's friend, providing tons of food for weeks to come at a ridiculous sale price. Why then, why?

First of all, Miss Em is in Serbia. Second, Frugal Son wangled an invite to a friend's house, where he will feast on deep-fried turkey. So Mr FS and I will be solo. This is not an occasion for despair; we communicate with our kids all the time. We used to invite people over, but stopped about five years ago. Guess what? No one EVER invited us over. I'm cool with that.

OK. So why no turkey? Our freezer is stuffed with stuff. Our pantries are full. One store we frequent changed its store brand and had ridiculous sales on the items marked Best Yet, which have now been replaced by Best Choice. We really need to use our stockpile. We don't want to be like our colleague (one we used to invite each year for Thanksgiving): he bought a turkey a year on sale. After Katrina, with no electricity, he donated SEVEN TURKEYS to the Food Bank. I guess that's ok, but I prefer a more gradual approach!

And besides: the best part of Thanksgiving is leftovers. I already have all the fixings for the best of the best leftover choice: gumbo. On Thanksgiving, Mr FS and I will be having turkey and sausage gumbo. When that's gone, I'll make my second favorite leftover meal: pot pie.

I'm hoping that by next year, we will have enough room in the freezer to justify a turkey and its attendant leftovers. Right now, I feel a big burden lifted off my shoulders: the burden of the bargain-priced turkey.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Paula's Choice! $10 for you! $10 for me!

OK. This is not a money-generating blog, not least because I post only when the fancy strikes me. As a hardcore frugal chick, I don't buy much at retail. There are no affiliate links for thrift stores or for--omg--not buying anything.

One product line I DO buy comes from Paula's Choice, who recommends and also manufactures skincare. Although there is a potential conflict of interest--i.e. recommending one's own products--I think Paula negotiates this well. I have learned about many excellent low cost products from her, namely Cetaphil and Cerave. Paula's own products are reasonable for what they are.

Miss Em and I splurge on Paula's own line for some things: sunscreen and toner, to name just two. Oh yeah, her serums are also great.

Paula sent me an offer today. If I recommend her line to someone, that someone gets $10 off! And if that someone buys something, I get a $10 referral credit! So, if you're going to buy something ANYWAY (toners and cleansers are on sale at the moment), consider using my link. I'd love to get more serum.

Her products are 100% guaranteed incidentally.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

College Finances and the ETS: Higher Ed is a Cash Cow, with the Student Being the Cow

I haven't written about higher ed issues (costs, value, etc) in part because my children have graduated (debt free, thank heavens) and because the issue is still too depressing. The kinds of issues I was struggling with years ago (is it "worth it" to go for a more prestigious college? how can one save if college costs rise at twice the rate of inflation? do schools offer "merit aid" and then nullify it with tuition increases in subsequent years, and so on). are--alas--with us still. Indeed, they are perhaps exacerbated by the fact that the job market is still difficult for recent graduates.

My clever title is borrowed from a piece I recently read in a new-to-me publication. The costs, the growth of the administrative class, the growth of the non-tenured instructor/part-timer class, yeah, I've seen it all. I used to tell my children that I felt that higher ed involved "trickle-up economics," with the borrowing/paying student enriching all those who stood to profit. The article in the link puts it better: higher education is a cash cow and the student is the cow.

Among the beneficiaries: the Testing Industries, you know, GRE, SAT, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, and all others. Miss Em recently took the GREs and I was stunned to learn that the test cost over $160. Thankfully, she does not plan to take it again, having done well enough the first time.

I had this in mind when I received an email from Educational Testing Service, which puts out the tests. ETS wanted to know what works little old me taught in a survey course. I could contribute to the public weal (and to the AP Exams) by taking a survey. AND--as a reward--I could request a copy of the results.

You have got to be kidding, Mr and Ms ETS. My late father was in the survey biz and I remember that professionals who took surveys were compensated. So I shot back an email--which no doubt was not read--saying that if the ETS made money on the tests (it does) then the ETS should compensate with SOMETHING. I got another email a few days later, to which I made the same useless reply.

Take this out of your library!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gifts: Nonstick Frying Pan, Perfume, Memories

I have stated here more than once my antipathy to gifts of the conventional sort. This probably has to do with the fact that we all have too much, most of all me, with my love of thrift shopping. At the thrift store, money is truly no object.

It's so hard to find a good gift. But, thanks to Miss Em's sojourn in Serbia, I am able to buy gifts that I KNOW will be just the right thing. Miss Em is in Serbia, courtesy of the Fulbright Teaching Assistant Program. We think her application was enhanced by her recounting of a family connection to Serbia, about which we, in fact, know very little. "I don't remember anything" is the response to awkward queries about the journey from Vienna to Belgrade to Boston.

Miss Em made contact with one of our few remaining connections, Ildi, the widow of my mother's first cousin George. Though Ildi is a self-described misanthropist of 80, she has taken loving care of Miss Em. Ildi lives in a decaying, once elegant house originally owned by my great-aunt Julia, whom I never met. There is but one material thing Ildi wants: she has an empty bottle of Fidji perfume, from which she takes an ecstatic whiff now and again.

Then there are others who shower Miss Em with attention and help. Even though Miss Em offers to treat her companions, she is seldom allowed to do it. She gets gifts of many sorts. One couple explained to Miss Em that--after much deliberation--they had decided to save up for a nonstick pan. Given that doctors in Serbia make around 500 euros a month and that non-stick pans cost around 50 euros, this is obviously a serious decision.

Miss Em's friend Mr C will be visiting her in December. We lent him a warm down jacket and some wool gloves (thanks to my thrifting!). He will be carrying with him a 12 inch nonstick frying pan and a big bottle of Fidji. Together, these items cost far less than 10% of my monthly--or even weekly--income.

And I've gotten a gift too. In a Skype-session with Miss Em, I got to ask Ildi some questions: when did my great-grandmother die (1959)? When did Julia die (1971)? Ildi held up some photographs of George. Miss Em has a big list of questions for Ildi to answer, so I will be getting more gifts soon, the gifts of Ildi's memories.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Snippets from Serbia



Some musings from Miss Em on stuff and money, here and in Serbia. And, in the doting Mama department, here are more charming snippets from her life there.



Second musing has to do with the ways in which money and cultural value systems collide. I was thinking about the things that are expensive in the States versus what is expensive here: in the States, services and experiences are expensive while objects are cheap. Here, many objects are expensive, but services and experiences are cheap. In Serbia, clothes, makeup, furniture: all expensive. But transportation, food, beauty salons, barber shops: all cheap. That is basically an inverse situation from the States, where (good) food is expensive, a visit to the hair salon costs $50, but you can buy clothes and objects in abundance. Here: cafes on every corner. In the States: Dollar Stores and Targets. The monetary differences indicate deeper ideological cultural differences: here, the cultural norm elevates enjoying life, the dailyness of it, the coffees and getting a good shave and eating food and the like. In the States, luxury experiences are exorbitantly expensive: the salon, Disney World, coffee. But the things are cheap, and people base experiences around accumulation of things. And then, what do you do? You sit amidst your things and develop desires for more things. You know I’m a great lover of things—and people here are too; just look at the care they take getting dressed!—but I’m talking here on a broad cultural scale. Our economy and culture and absorbed value system promotes the one-dollar section at Target, so much “fast fashion,” but meanwhile $5 Starbucks lattes are grabbed to-go, not meant to be lingered over. Here, a $1 espresso gets you five hours in a cafĂ©, or more, if you want it. I don’t know, I probably didn’t express that well. But looking at the things the economy encourages its citizens to buy—in the States, lots of trinkets and material things; here, services and experiences—must inform values on a deep level. Right? Or did the value systems inform the economy? I’m a bit more pessimistic than that, and tend to think the economy/money controls us and not vice versa.

I think this is also linked to an American cultural fear of death and transience. An unwillingness to engage with it. Things last, at least in concept. Experiences, like life, are transient. We hate to consider our own transience. Funeral culture: in the States, it’s all about buying the expensive coffin and having the right things at the funeral, but cemeteries are largely unvisited. Here, the gravestone is important, sure, but people also spend lots of time visiting cemeteries, honoring the dead with time rather than materials. It would take a bit longer to focus this theory that our cultural fixation with material goods is linked to our cultural fear of engaging with mortality, but honestly, I think there’s something to it!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Selling Clothing: Tradesy Experience

A reader asked for a report on Tradesy selling. Tradesy is a site through which you sell clothing, shoes, accessories. You send a picture, set the price, and cross your fingers. As with Ebay, you keep the item till it sells. Unlike Ebay, your listing remains indefinitely. Listing is free.

Tradesy is a pure middleman. They take 10% of your selling price and charge a fee if you choose Paypal rather than credit. The buyer's price INCLUDES shipping and the 10% fee, so there is a spread between what you get and what the buyer pays.

I hate selling on Ebay, way too stressful in many ways.

Miss Em and I listed about 30 items, mostly shoes. We set the prices lower than suggested. So far we have sold 14. The lowest price was for some Susana Monaco stretchy stuff. The highest prices were for some Frye boots and some Uggs. We've netted about $350, for Miss Em's return to USA clothing fund.

Luckily, all items except the Uggs were thrifted--and even the Uggs were vastly on sale--so we haven't lost any money.

Tradesy is EASY. You get an email when your item sells; a few days later you get your selling kit, which consists of a pre-addressed Tyvek envelope. You stuff the stuff in and that's it. EASY.

More tips to follow.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stretch Cooking: Tortilla Soup

An obvious stretch from Ina Garten's chicken chili (see previous post).

Tortilla Soup

a few blobs of chicken chili
some stock made from the rotisserie carcass
another small can of tomatoes
some of the kidney beans I made by accident

Voila: soup!

I also added a can of hominy (or try corn), some crumbled chips.

Top with cheddar

Hot sauce to taste

Time: 5 minutes????

I got another idea after I made this. Luckily, I had a bit of chicken chili left. Can you think of something else?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stretching Your Food: Chicken Chili

I am convinced that getting your food budget under control is the key to financial well-being. Everyone has to eat. I pointed out to Miss Em's friend that he $1500 plane ticket to Serbia (soooo expensive for someone in med school) can be "paid for" by spending $30/week less on food than his classmates. To that end, I email him the good deals from Publix every week.

Another way to save money on food is to stretch it: turn something into something else. This is not a dreary endeavor, based in necessity. It's actually fun and saves a ton of time.

To wit: I had a rotisserie chicken that I ate with the couscous recipe I posted a few days ago. There was a ton of chicken left. So I made Ina Garten's chicken chili.

Chicken Chili
Recipe courtesy Barefoot Contessa Parties!, 2001, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:15 minInactive Prep Time: -- Cook Time:1 hr 45 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
6 servings

Ingredients
4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
For serving:

Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream
Directions
Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.


Well, of course, mine was easier. Not only did I have the chicken all set, but I threw in chunks of those frozen caramelized onions and bell peppers I'm always haranguing you about. So all I had to do was open canned tomatoes, throw in frozen chunks, add a few spices (omitted basil), and throw in some meat. 10 minutes?

I forgot that this chili was meatless, so I cooked a pound of kidney beans. Oops! Well, there was my side dish.

We've had this twice and there's a fair amount left over. What would you do with it?
P.S. I can't believe how cheap this book is if you buy it used.





Friday, October 18, 2013

Scoff If You Will: Chico's Code $25 off $50

Chico's elicits scoffs even MORE than Eileen Fisher: middle-aged women in beaded polyester prints screaming cheeeeeeep. I even scoff at most of it. Nonetheless, I like their ponte pants, leggings, and long tanks. I sort by color so I only look at items available in black and red and a few other colors. They have super sales and also send codes to the lucky few that you can use ON TOP of sales. The current code gives you $25 off $50! That's the best. 11232. Not sure how long it's good for. Scoff away.

P.S. 22 year old Miss Em, very tall and very thin, ALSO wears the leggings, ponte pants, and long tanks. Scoff if you dare!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

If Eileen Fisher is What You Want; If 25% Off Retail is Good Enough

Eileen Fisher is on the radar once more. There was a New Yorker article, which I am going to read one of these days. Duchesse wrote an interesting post on why the line doesn't suit her, and got many passionate comments. As my students say, "Why all the hatin'" I remember reading an article years ago called Good-bye ???, Hello Eileen Fisher. Can't remember the identity of ???, but the point was good-bye sexy clothing, admiring glances, hello middle age. From an essay in a British paper: One off-Broadway show even had a character sighing: “When you start wearing Eileen Fisher, you might as well say, ‘I give up’.” Duchesse did not say these things, by the way. But comments included words like crone, aging hippie and so on.

All I have to say is: I like pants with wide elastic waistbands. And I need items that will keep my students paying attention to what I'm saying. None of the comments on Rate My Professor refer to me as a crone.

I do hate the prices and have not found Ebay a good source, even though it's often recommended. I usually wait till Nordstrom has a good sale. In fact, they have a lot marked down right now.

Another idea: go to Garnet Hill Facebook. Click through and you can get 25% off anything full-price. Full disclosure: I am way too cheap to buy EF at 25% off. You can get anything, not just EF, but Garnet Hill has a good selection.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vegetable Couscous: Easy, Fast, Frugal

A friend of Miss Em's who started med school this fall asked what recipes he should have. I said, Forget the recipes. Start by buying 10 cans of beans, 10 cans of tomatoes, and some grains. He listened too!

So I would similarly say to Pseu, seeking a more vegcentric diet, Lucky you in SoCal. Get to Trader Joe's and buy the above. In particular, you can get some canned chickpeas and some couscous. (Not having a TJ's, Miss Em's friend got his from Amazon.)

And this is what you can make. Being lazy I copied this from another blog. She in turn copied it from Jeanne Lemlin's book. The blogger eliminated the little bit of sauteeing oil Lemlin recommends. It adds so much flavor! I say, saute in oil.

Vegetable Couscous

Serves 3 to 4

If couscous is not available, this easy dish can be served over whole grains, such as millet, quinoa, or brown rice.

2 Tbs. water
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 medium Onion, diced
2 tsp. Ground Cumin
½ tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. Paprika
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 medium Zucchini, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 15-oz. can Chick-peas, rinsed and drained
1 16-oz can Tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juice
½ cup Raisins
1 ½ cups Vegetable stock (or water, with broth powder added after it boils)
½ tsp Salt
1 cup Couscous

Heat the 2 tbsp. water in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne and cook 2 minutes more, stirring often.

Stir in the zucchini, chick-peas, tomatoes, and raisins. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender, about 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the couscous. Bring the vegetable stock or water to a boil and stir in the salt and the couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes, or for up to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Serve the couscous with the vegetable mixture mounded in the center.

Adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures: More than 175 Fast, Delicious, and Healthy Meatless Recipesby Jeanne Lemlin.






If you have some meat eaters, buy a rotisserie chicken for them. DONE!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pork and Potato Hash and Some Snippets from Serbia

I want to write about some easy veggie-centric recipes for the busy Pseu, but I MUST GET RID OF THIS PORK. I am sick of it. Here's what I'm having, from another favorite cookbook: Jacque Pepin's Cuisine Economique. Isn't that a great title? This is copied from an appearance in the New York Times.

TOTAL TIME50 minutes
COOK TIME 30 minutes PREP TIME 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices and washed in cold water
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 pound onions (about 2 medium-size onions), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
A few tablespoons of juice left over from the pork roast, if any remains (see recipe)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/3 cup minced scallion (3 to 4 scallions)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
10 to 12 ounces leftover pork roast (see recipe), cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 fried egg, for garnish (optional)
PREPARATION

1.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet (or 2 smaller nonstick skillets), place the sliced potatoes with the water, onion and juice from the pork roast. Bring to a boil, cover and boil over medium heat for 10 minutes. Then add the garlic, scallion, olive oil, Tabasco, salt, Worcestershire sauce and the leftover pork roast. Mix well and cook, uncovered, stirring over high heat for about 5 minutes.
2.
Most of the moisture will have evaporated by now and the mixture should start to sizzle. Since the hash will begin to stick at this point, use a flat wooden spatula to scrape up the crusty bits sticking in the bottom of the pan and stir them into the uncooked mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes. The mixture will brown faster in the last 10 minutes of cooking and should then be stirred every 2 or 3 minutes.
3.
At the end of the cooking time, the mixture will stop sticking to the pan. Press on the mixture to make it hold together and fold the solid mass into an oval omelet shape. Invert onto a large platter. Serve immediately as is or with one fried egg on top.
YIELD 6 servings


The book is neat: Pepin explains that his classical French training has been jazzed up by the influence of his Puerto-Rican born wife. Yay Gloria! Love the hot sauce. Another book that can be had for a penny plus shipping.

In the doting mom department: take a look at Miss Em's snippets from Serbia. I think they are charming, but then, I'm biased.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mr FS's Onion Hack: No Tears!

One of Frugal Son's pals from high school is now in medical school. We seldom see him because he's so busy. He graced us with his presence last year. He told me that he learned a lot from me. I said What's the main thing?

Answer: If it's on sale, buy a lot.

In the 80/20 Pareto Principle of food frugality, that's probably most of the 80% right there.

I recently bought 12 pounds of onions for $4.00. I've already written about my main onion hack. (Now that I've used the word hack for the first time, it is probably no longer au courant. Oh well.) My hack: cook the onions with a little oil in your slow cooker, creating a facsimile of caramelized onions, which you freeze and use--in broken-off pieces--in many recipes. What a time saver! P.S. We slow cook onions on our front porch because they SMELL terrible.

Now Mr FS has a hack of his own. On a recent walk, Mr FS picked up a box fan. He said: I bet I can chop the onions on the porch and set the fan to blow AWAY from me, thereby minimizing tears. Reader: it worked. He chopped SIX POUNDS with nary a tear!

Now the onions are cooking away outside and I probably won't have to chop an onion for a month--maybe more.

Do you have an onion hack?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quick Vegetarian Pleasures: Fast, Easy, Good, FRUGAL

Pseu of the wonderful blog wants a more plant-based diet. What to cook? Her readers are suggesting wonderful things, but, of course, I think my suggestion is the best: a book by Jeanne Lemlin, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures. I have more than 200 cookbooks (ummmmm...what's my excuse? I like to read them....) and this is one of my most used. In fact, I have backups for my children.

Lemlin should be better known than she is. Her recipes are indeed QUICK. They generally can be made with stuff you have around, so cheap. They always come out (not true of many cookbooks--nothing is more enraging to the frugal heart than wasting food).

The book just happened to be open on my desk. That is because I made a sauce a few days ago. It's for tortellini, but I used ravioli (beef-filled, actually. Sorry Jeanne). Here's the sauce: saute 4-6 scallions in a little butter. Add 2 chopped tomatoes (Jeanne says fresh, but I used diced, canned). Stir for a bit. Turn off. Add 2/3 cup sour cream, 2 TBS parmesan. Serve on pasta.

See what I mean? This recipe was first made by my daughter, Miss Em, in the dreary days post-Hurricane Katrina. We had no power. Our place of employ did, so we went back to work. Miss Em's friends had fled to nicer places. Her school was closed. She came to work with us each day. To mark time--and to get her mind off the Red Cross food we ate--she went through cookbooks and marked her favorite recipes. The next summer, she visited her beloved grandfather and cooked for him!

Here another with a sticky Miss Em note: polenta with spicy eggplant sauce. Here are some I've made: fettuccine margherita, rice, broccoli and feta cheese saute, Mexican red beans and rice.

The author lives in Great Barrington, MA, a wonderful town that I visit every summer. It has good, but not great grocery shopping. So you really can make most of these from supermarket ingredients. And the book can be had for a mere penny plus shipping. How crazy is that?

All her books are good, nay, great.

Friday, October 11, 2013

More Alice Munro Love: The Beggar Maid

I've read everything by Alice Munro--newest Nobel laureate--but probably the first story I read that simply blew me away was Royal Beatings. This was in the New Yorker. I stole some time from my graduate studies (not much time for recreational reading in grad school) and read it over and over and over. Later, I discovered the story in a book of interlocking stories called The Beggar Maid. I was at my first year in a "real" job and the book rep let me pick 5 books FOR FREE! I was so excited.

I still have my yellowing copy of that book. Somewhere. As the subtitle indicates, the stories center on Rose and her stepmother Flo. But the character of Royal Beatings who is most poignant is Rose's father, a poor working man, taciturn, abusive, and yet with a beautiful sensibility. Rose hears him recite lines of poetry as he works. One--the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces--is from Shakespeare's Tempest. This is easily findable nowadays with Google. But when I read it in grad school, I was thrilled to be able to identify it myself. I was such a serious student.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Love Alice Munro

Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature! You can read about her in lots of places. You can--as of this writing--get some of her books from paperbackswap.com. You can--again, this may change--get her books used for supercheap on Amazon (as of this writing, the book pictured below can be had for a mere penny plus shipping). Or frugal fans: go to the library.

Here's what I love about Alice Munro, whom I discovered in a borrowed New Yorker as a college freshman: she is a wonderful, wonderful writer, but not at all difficult to read. And because she writes short stories, anyone can find a bit of time to read her.

I am someone who reads the Brothers Karamazov for fun. I even wrote about it. But it is a huge time investment, not to mention an emotional one. Same for another group of favorites: the late novels of Henry James.

I often say that the hardest type of literature to find is something that is good--very good, excellent--but not too intellectually or emotionally draining. I loved the title story in this collection. I read somewhere that a movie is in the works.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I Don't Like to Spend A Lot on Clothing: A True But Not Tragic Story from Serbia


While I was conflicted about wanting/not wanting half-price Eileen Fisher, an opportunity that appeared in my inbox one day, I got this little piece in a chat. Miss Em is in Serbia. Before she left, we took a load of clothing to the Buffalo Exchange. We mostly took cash, but she took a bit in credit to get one of those Eileen Fisher silk tees that is always touted as travel clothing par excellence. This new with tags shirt was only $12 at the Buf and it had been there a while. Perhaps it was too staid for their hipster clientele.

Not only did the shirt get damaged, but Miss Em was a bit disillusioned about its travelworthiness. This came under the title of Tragedy: Mini. Please excuse the no-caps style in which Miss Em and I--English majors both--conduct our rushed chats on-line.



i ruined my purple eileen fisher shirt :(
thank god i paid $12 for it and not $117
because i thought the container of bleach was laundry detergent--because it was on top of the washing machine
i can still wear it--but the fabric feels horrible and stretched out
no more of that great fall to it--though honestly it was not so good anyway because it was always wrinkled! even though it claims to resist wrinkles
i blame it on CYRILLIC


To me, having expensive clothing is stressful! For good reason.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Always Do the Math: Saying No to Bargains

I generally feature all my little frugalities as I wend my way through Big Lots, Goodwill, and similar venues. Nevertheless, I am full of material desires. Usually frugality wins out. That's good, because I have too much. Like many women of my age (middle) and class (middle), I yearn for Eileen Fisher clothes. But--and here's the frugal side--I don't find them a good value (your call may be different) and--sorry--I can't spend so much on a rayon tee shirt. It just bothers me.

Out of the blue, two weeks ago, I got an offer from the tempting catalog Garnet Hill--spend $100 on full-priced items and you would receive a $100 gift card to buy whatever by the end of October. Miss Em--who received the same offer and one with only a $50 gift card--urged me to do it. She said "Get some of the stuff you've been mooning over."

I didn't do it, however. I figured that--at best--unless something great was put on sale, I would be getting two items for half off--and that didn't count the shipping costs. Naturally, on Friday a new offer popped up: 40% off knit shirts, including two desired Eileen Fishers!! The perfect use for the gift card! Oh I felt sorry for myself. Miss Em emailed from Serbia, "I can't believe you turned down free money!"

So I did the math and now I feel better. To start, I would have bought an Eileen Fisher tee shirt dress for $100. With my gift card, I would have bought two EF shirts at 40% off, totaling around $130. With shipping, I would spend around $260 minus $100, for a total of $160.

Is that a great deal? The retail on the three items is around $320. So, really, even with the sale on the second set, I would have saved 50%. Good, but not great. I also would have bought 3 items, instead of the one (a long top) I really wanted.

Miss Em has the Eileen Fisher tee shirt dress and I've worn it a few times in her absence. She got it for $10.00 at Twice as Nice, a much-missed resale store in Alabama. I can wear it, but it's a little small (it's XS). When I showed Miss Em the math on the offer, she said the deal wasn't as good as it first seemed. And then she said, "You can have the tee shirt dress. I've got other black dresses."

I still kind of yearn for the EF pieces, but doing the math made me feel better. Also, I really don't need the items. I always do the math. Do you?

And, dear Miss Em, thanks for the beautiful dress. I love it.

P.S. No links. To keep you from temptation.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cooking in the 'hood

From Serbia, Miss Em sends a link, "Mama, you could cook in the 'hood." Great advice for everyone on saving time and money, while eating for health.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Major Declutter Results: $750 from Buffalo Exchange and Tradesy

Miss Em (leader, very decisive) and I (assistant and general pain) completed a major clothing declutter before she left for Serbia. I overbought during the past year
(at my beloved thrift shops) and she both overbought (see mom) and overspent (see Nordstroms and Garnet Hill). She's learning.

Since she couldn't bring that much to Serbia and because all her clothing will be a year older when she returns, we decided to do a declutter. Mostly we donated, but I told her that if we sold anything, she could have the money for her RETURN TO USA fund. She will probably not acquire much in Serbia. We set a goal of $1000 for the RETURN TO USA event and hope it will cover a year's worth of stuff.

So we carted many boxes to our much-loved Buffalo Exchange: $500 in cash! And that doesn't count what we took in credit (two Eileen Fishers for Miss Em, a small fall wardrobe for Frugal Son).

Then Tradesy: so far, around $250.00.

Tips for Tradesy, which is fairly new. As with Ebay, people search by brand. So list things that people will search for (hint: no Walmart). We sold a few clothing items (very few), but 90% of our sales were for shoes and bags. This is because bags are one size AND because people know what size they take in shoes. Here are some of the brands we sold: Frye, Dansko, Ecco, Michael Kors. We priced things very low. Or lowish. Our best sale: Frye boots for $70--a good price for both buyer AND seller.

I hate selling on Ebay and haven't done so in years. Tradesy is easier and--other than the Frye boots--we average around $20 per item.

I have hopes for a few more sales. Maybe we will hit our goal. Thanks Miss Em for helping with the declutter. We miss you so much.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Frugal Travel Accessory: Prescription Bottles!

We're helping Miss Em get ready for her year-long stay in Serbia. More to the point: we are watching Miss Em, world's most organized and least procrastinating person, put the final touches on her packing. Mr FS contributes a family tip for travel. It's the ultimate in frugality, since it's FREE.

Do not throw out those orange plastic prescription bottles. They make great travel companions. The tops are secure. Obviously, you can take your vitamins in them. But Mr. FS realized a while back that you could take greasy stuff in them, such as my beloved petroleum jelly, great for lip balm and general dry skin relief.

A few years ago, we refined the idea. Mr FS packed instant coffee in one. That way, we could have our caffeine fix on the road. (We carried a small empty water bottle to effect the alchemical process).

Now Miss Em is taking the idea a step further, with PEANUT BUTTER!

It's so nice when you are en route or in a new place to have a little something to pick you up, especially when you are unsure of the currency or the language. Poor Frugal Son arrived in his new home in France with a growling tummy and a single granola bar: all the stores were closed on Saturday night and would remain closed on Sunday. Who wants to explore in a state of exhaustion and/or hunger? Coffee and peanut butter: what could be better?

Friday, August 30, 2013

TIAA-CREF vs Goodwill: Customer Service

I mentioned yesterday that I had two dispiriting--nay, upsetting--customer service experiences with TIAA-CREF (my retirement people) yesterday. I could just feel the reps reading from their scripts and I didn't like the scripts. How about some empathy, people? Empathy about over-complex systems that make things difficult and time-consuming for the customer or client or whatever it is I am. Well, let's just skip the details. Bad customer service.

Now a true tale of good customer service from Goodwill, of all places. Miss Em and I had an errand near Goodwill (yay!!!) so we had no choice--had to go. There hidden amongst the "designer" purses was something I wanted, but seemed so unlikely a find that it wasn't even on my karmic prayer list: a push mower. Frugal Son wants one, actually. I couldn't get the mower to push; neither could the young woman working. But Matt the manager emerged and showed us how to do it. I was nervous because it was $25.00, squeaky, and I wasn't sure if it REALLY worked. So I asked Matt if I could return it. He called HIS superior, who said NO--one can only return electronics.

Matt then reduced the price to $20.00 but was firm on no returns. Miss Em and I were unsure--did it only need some WD-40 or was it a piece of junk? Miss Em had the genius idea of testing it on the lawn outside. We asked if she could try it. Permission was sought from the manager in the back room. A big fellow emerged and said I'll do it for you. We all traipsed outside where, instead of Miss Em, the big guy mowed the lawn. He was fast!

We bought it. Thanks for a good customer service moment Goodwill. Mowing the lawn was definitely not on this guy's job description.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Instead of a Rant about TIAA Reps, An Uplifting Story About Small Frugalities Adding Up

I just got off the phone with TIAA, where 3/4 of my net worth resides. Two out of three reps made me upset (with the first, I cried). They must have terrible training scripts!

But instead of writing about that experience, I will share a happy story about small frugalities. I am a pennywise person. I don't think I'm pound foolish, but I'm definitely not poundwise. Every time I try to save on a big ticket item (insurance, for one thing), I end up confused and frustrated.

Generally it's hard to figure out what effect these small frugalities have. Sometimes I feel like I'm nuts: I will NOT spend that for a jar of peanut butter! That kind of thing. Finally, though, I have some evidence of how things add up. Miss Em graduated last May. She just got her final settlement check from her university. Yes, a check FROM her university. It was pretty hefty for a recent grad.

$1600 of the check was for Dining Dollars. Each semester, students are required to buy $300 in Dining Dollars. This is mostly for coffee and snacks at the campus Starbucks, but can be used in the dining halls and at some off-campus venues. Miss Em reports that many of her friends blew through the money in a few weeks. Miss Em obviously spent some--out of $2400 (8 semesters), she spent $800. She said, I used it to go out with friends, not to get caffeine. She pointed out that--in addition to her dorm room where she had a coffee and teapot--she had access to the free coffee in various organizations and offices, in her case, the Honors College, the University Fellows Program office, and Creative Campus. She also carried her little thermos everywhere. In fact, the Starbucks was rather out of the way for her so the thermos was a time- as well as a money-saver for the most organized and time-efficient member of my family.

You go girl!

P.S. The check covered her new laptop and she still has some left over.

P.P.S. Should I move my money to Vanguard when I retire?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Long Tanks at Chico's--on sale plus $25 off!

OK. I know I generally hate Chico's--poor customer service, too much flattery by salespeople, and tacky over-blingy styles. I do like their ponte pants and leggings, however. And I also LOVE a long tank I got there a few years ago. Mine is worn and pilly from overuse. The style was discontinued, alas, but made a reappearance this year.

At $39, my cheapitude set in. At $29, my cheapitude remained. At $19.50, I'm interested, especially because if you spend $50.00, you can get $25.00 off with this code: 18341.

Yeah, I'd rather have the Eileen Fisher silk version (no link, sorry--stay away from temptation). I even bought the EF at 40% off, but returned it unworn, because I JUST CAN'T SPEND $90 on a tank. Even if "retail" is $149. Sorry Eileen.

I got two and Miss Em, aged 22, got one. Total: about $36.00. I'm happy because it's hard to find long tanks that are slightly a-line. And skinny Miss Em likes it because it's long enough for her 5'10" frame.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle French Style and my Authentic Vuitton BAG

One of Viviennestyle's commenters lamented the lack of thrift shops in her European home. I left a brief comment about my observations in France, where I was lucky enough--owing to perhaps over-extreme frugality--to spend some weeks this summer and the one before. Unlike in the USA and in Great Britain, where there is an established tradition of charity shops, France seems to boast only the occasional uber-pricy designer resale store, snobbier than any retail environment I have ever experienced.

In Paris I witnessed an amazing eco-system. On our evening walks, we would see people assiduously going through garbage cans. Some had little wheelie carts in which they amassed food. One sight from this past summer: an old woman with a full cart, sitting on a stoop, shelling beans. I noticed that people often waited till dusk to put out their garbage, carefully laying nice clothing and linens at the top. I walked by a wonderful trove (this is what I mentioned in my comment chez Vivienne) containing a lined classic wool skirt, a vintage Persian lamb jacket, and a pair of Doc Martens. This stuff was so nice that I sent Mr FS out to make sure it had been taken before the trucks came: he reported that all was gone!

We also saw interesting furniture. Mr FS lamented the fact that he could not transport a great wooden door for one of his art projects. We saw an ecstatic-looking Parisian fellow--decidedly middle-class--carrying one of those circular tables with two leaves that you put against the wall. It seemed like good wood. It was missing a leaf, but it would still make a snazzy addition to a small apartment. We also saw tons of Ikea-type pressboard, but these often did not survive a night in the rain. Lots of baby equipment too.

And, of course, books. There was a giant box of books outside the Aloha Hostel right down the street from us--perhaps left by travelers? A woman and her son pulled out a lot of books. Then Mr FS and I had a look: many academic books on feminism (in French). It was about to rain, so we took a few and kept them safe. We then left them on the doorstep of the used bookstore around the corner. According to a used bookstore owner here, this is a common practice: much of his stock was gifted by kind people who hoped for a good home for their books.

I guess Mr FS and I participated in the ecosystem by moving those books. We also saw the ecosystem at work on our visit to Nimes. There we saw an ad hoc street sale where zillions of families had wares on the sidewalk. Some of these looked like established marketers, but others looked rather unofficial, e.g. the fellow with stacks and stacks of clothing and a sign that said 2 items for a euro. I spied a Max Mara blazer and some nice sweaters. I have a feeling that the piles of stuff came courtesy of the trash.

We did see some giant metal receptacles in Paris where you could deposit used clothing for charity. Of course, being French, the rules were strict: the clothing had to be freshly laundered, neatly folded, and put into a certain kind of plastic bag (i.e. not a garbage bag). No wonder people left their things on the garbage cans!

Oh, the Vuitton bag. Yes, it is authentic. I got it from the sidewalk. Someone left it. There was nothing in it, save an invitation to a private fashion show. Perhaps the original owner left the bag so that it could be filled with some of the wares left atop the garbage can next to it. Readers, I took it. It is my souvenir. It is, of course, a shopping bag.

It now sits in my study filled with student work from last semester. It is a big and sturdy bag. I love it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Luxe Moment from My Travels: Frugal, Of Course

I've been wanting to write about some of the more emotional aspects of my recent trip to middle and eastern Europe. Miss Em said Ummmmm. That's not really about frugality, is it? Good point. I do tend to wander. So I may have to start ANOTHER blog I won't have time to keep up with.

So: ON TOPIC. We were exceedingly frugal on this trip, perhaps because we kept detailed records of spending for the first time. In fact, I think we need to add a bit more luxe on the next trip. However, luxe moments do crop up, sometimes unexpectedly.

Moment 1 in BUDAPEST. We walked over the Danube from the Buda side to the Pest side. There, in all its renovated glory is one of the top architectural sights--and sites--in Budapest.The magnificent art nouveau Gresham Palace, now a hotel. Mr FS and I peered in, but felt a little timid and self-conscious, shabby even. Then we saw people even more shabby. They marched in and so did we. Our leaders were tourists, as we were. Then we noticed that the guests were just as shabby--typical tourist dress, with broken-in shoes. I realized that--as in the USA--hotel lobbies are public spaces. Public spaces have bathrooms. This is no big deal in my home country, but in Budapest--and elsewhere in the big world--bathrooms are hard to find and may require payment. Shocking to Americans!

Mr FS remembered that he had seen a website featuring public bathrooms in Budapest. Just in case you are IN the hotel right now, here are the provided directions:
In the Gresham Palace Hotel walk in the main entrance and then towards the reception desk. Turn left into the major hallway as you approach the desk and the toilets are on your right.

By golly, it worked! What a bathroom! All marble. Truly over the top paper towels. Mr FS asked me if the towels were really paper. We brought one home as a souvenir (is that ethical?--sorry, if it's a breach). We made a point of stopping by the bathroom whenever we were nearby--maybe thrice more. The sense of luxe never wore off.

Next luxe moment: previewing a celebrity, almost royal wedding.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beans for Jeans

We came home and Miss Em went away the next morning. Before she left, she said "There's a reason there are two bags of red beans in the car. The food bank thrift store is letting you trade a bag of beans for a pair of jeans."

Beans for Jeans: what a great idea!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What I Bought in Europe: Souvenirs

Two large tubes of paprika paste: one regular, one hot.

It's not that I'm so virtuous. We had small suitcases, were traveling between cities, took subways and buses. Not to mention that we have an overstuffed house as it is.

If there's anything we want--haven't thought of it yet--we'll have to go back. Now there's an incentive.

On my first trip to Europe, I bought a skirt from Biba, a fisherman's sweater, a Spode plate for my mother, a pair of platform shoes, and that's what I can remember 30plus years on. Wish I still had the Biba skirt.

Has your travel-related buying changed?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Prague: TBYM

We returned lat night from our longest trip ever, a dream trip of cities, three heretofore unvisited, including the city of my mother's birth. How did we pay for it? Being mere teachers and all. Who haven't had a raise in at least five years? The short answer is always the same: FRUGALITY. The longer answer is TBYM.

TBYM. That means TRAVEL BELOW YOUR MEANS. The term is adopted from the familiar LBYM, a cornerstone of frugal living, early retirement, and the like: LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. So when I hear about the snazzy lodgings and luxe restaurant meals of other tourists of my acquaintance, I'm not jealous for more than a few minutes. We are trading a long vacation for a shorter--and perhaps more intense--one.

The rough stats:

Airfare and inter-city transport: a bit under $3000. OUCH. I do envy people who can rack up big frequent flyer numbers through business cards and the like. I am not one of those people.

Lodging: Thank you internet for AirBandB and similar. We paid between $38 (Budapest) and $70 (Vienna) per night. Our apartment in Paris was teeny and probably below the acceptability level of many people reading this. We thought it was fine. These little apartments had washers and--most important--kitchens, so

Food: OK, my kids say we should go out more. Still, I LIKE cooking and I loved figuring out how to use the unfamiliar ingredients of Eastern Europe. So we ate chez nous mostly, just like at home. The best thing we ate: some strawberries in Prague.

Yeah, the numbers added up, but not as much as you would think. We're going to start saving for next year!

Do you TBYM?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Most Reasonably Priced Stuff in Paris

Best deal of all (educators only): one-year Louvre pass for 35 euros.

And, to pay for our plane ticket, we have been eating lots of

camembert
fromage blanc
jam
yogurt
couscous
cookies

How can this stuff be so cheap?

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Biggest Declutter: Happy and Sad

About a year ago, I wrote about a happy declutter: Frugal Son, back from a year working in France, unsure of the next step, got a job at a bilingual school in New Orleans. He discovered that he loves teaching. He also discovered that he loves New Orleans. The happy declutter: helping him furnish his tiny shared apartment with my--ahem--overstock.

But we had a sad event too. Mr FS's beloved father died, and our share of the neat and sentimental items overstuffed the house again. More than before. Little did we expect...

That, owing to the fact that Frugal Son was paying too much rent and wants to stay in New Orleans, we would be able to help him buy a house. Using part of our share of the house of Mr FS's parents. We wish they could see it.

Yesterday, we moved a lot of overstock to the new house, including many items belonging to his much-loved grandparents. A table that Oompa made. A tapestry that Nana made. I do think that memories inhere in objects and, for this reason, I am stubbornly materialistic.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Getting Rid of Stuff and Getting Your Money Back: Return Items Within the Rules

My late father, who studied market research, was interested in consumer behavior. And he loved stores that stood by their wares. So part of being a good consumer is to return things you don't want. I can't tell you how many items with tags I see at thrift stores. I enjoy getting such things, but think the purchaser should return--and maybe donate the full price to charity!

Miss Em and I just boxed up a few things and sent them back to our usual retail sites: Garnet Hill, LL Bean, and Nordstrom. We kept the good things and returned the rejects. We love that these shops have no-questions-asked returns and we are careful not to take advantage of their policies.

So far, we have donated a bunch to the Food Bank thrift, taken books to 2nd and Charles, sold 2 things on Tradesy, and returned mistakes to stores, But the biggest declutter....

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting Rid of Stuff and Breaking Even: 2nd and Charles

Remember Miss Em's song Get rid of stuff/Make money. The new ditty is Get rid of stuff/Break even. We have a book problem in these parts. The problem is that we have books from Mr FS's late and beloved father still in boxes. But we have no shelf space.

So: a new twist for the books one reads once--or never--and is willing to part with. Books-a-Million is--in some spots--transforming itself to 2nd and Charles. The latter sells used stuff and bills itself as a green enterprise. You bring in your stuff--books, cds, dvds, games--and await the verdict. Generally, the verdict is ridiculously low. As far as I can tell, you get about 60 cents cash for a trade paperback and about 75 cents for a cd. About double for credit. Zillions of people are unloading their stuff!

Now, I wouldn't take books that were worth much of anything to this place, since there is no way to tell how much you are getting for an individual item; you get a total and it's all or nothing. However, I get lots of books at the thrift store for between 25 cents and a dollar. Ditto for cds. So I am breaking even.

If I had books that I thought were worth a good bit of money, I would check on Amazon, Abebooks or the like. But for popular novels from a few seasons ago or diet books or whatever, it's a solution.

The business model seems quite lucrative, incidentally. Bookstores buy new books for around 60% of cover price. At 2nd and Charles, books sell for around half-price. So a book they buy for 60 cents might sell for $6.00. It's a cheap way to fill their shelves. Each item they sell pays for 10 or more items.

And it must be appealing. I saw lots of good books and the place was hopping--a young demographic.

Getting 60 cents a book is no big deal. But when you bring the max allowed (3 bins worth), you can get about $80.00 at a pop. Not bad.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Declutter Progress: Tradesy Report, Buffalo Exchange

In addition to donating items away, Miss Em and I are trying to recoup a bit of cash.

First, she listed 11 pairs of shoes on Tradesy. Report: 2 sold! About $40. Admittedly, we priced items very low.

Second, we took a huge load to Buffalo Exchange. Even though our buyer was crabby (and is the one who rejects the best stuff--so we will try again), we got around $160 in cash.

Miss Em needs to empty her closet since she will be spending next year teaching English in Serbia on a Fulbright! Interestingly, the other person selling items at the Buffalo Exchange also has a Fulbright: hers is to Peru.

Here's to decluttering! Here's to making a bit of money! Here's to Miss Em!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Get Rid of Stuff/Make Money: Miss Em Tries Tradesy

Miss Em was wandering around the house this morning singing a made-up song: Get rid of stuff/make money. Ahhhhh. Shades of her younger years. Miss Em has been on a bit of a shoe splurge this year. When she told me she wanted yet one more pair of expensive shoes, I felt a fist clutching at my frugal heart.

But I'm going to be out of the country next year. (True) That's like a shopping fast.(I have my doubts.)

I told her to try selling some of my excess stuff (the good stuff, that is) to try to make some money. Hence the song lyrics. She discovered a site--a newish one--called Tradesy. Has anyone tried it? It seems to get a lot of press, so the owner is talented at getting PR. but I could find nary a review from a customer or a seller. It took her just a few minutes to list things, and listing is free, so we shall see.

If she sells all four of the shoes she listed, she can buy the shoes of her dreams.

Has anyone tried this or similar sites?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Second-Hand Shopping, Eileen Fisher: Thoughts on Virtue

I'm still in a daze from the end-of-semester stress. Usually I emerge into a period of lesser stress, but this year we are emerging into closing on Frugal Son's house, a major stress-event unto itself. One de-stressing event: the return home of recent grad Miss Em. Miss Em and I celebrated her arrival with a visit to the TWO Goodwills in our area. What a treat! Also, having Miss Em comb the racks with me is like having a clone.

And the frugal gods were with us. As we walked in, I said to Miss Em, "Find me something from Eileen Fisher." We didn't, but we got a few nice things. This was the seldom-visited-because-farther-away outpost that is opposite the entrance to an upscale gated community.

We were sated, but decided to stop at the lower-level shop on the way home. Miss Em came charging up after a few minutes: she had found THREE Eileen Fisher pieces. They were all together on the rack (same donor--thanks!). I investigated and found TWO more. Now we are even more sated. We divvied up the EF and decided to swap after a year. And now we have to donate even more excess to make some space. Miss Em--unlike me--is good at that.

We were feeling pretty good. I've been reading (can't remember sources--sorry) that second-hand shopping is the most virtuous--in terms of environmental impact and--post-Bengladash building collapse--in exploitation. So we were not only frugal but virtuous: can't beat that!

But how virtuous are we? After all, the fact that there were FIVE Eileen Fisher pieces donated at once--all very nice, in good shape--meant that the donor has even more. Also, we noted that many of the EF pieces were made in China of Italian yarn. Does EF supervise the factories? Are the savings in labor reflected in the prices? EF has a section on her website outlining various virtuous categories: made in USA, eco, Fair Trade, and so on. Does any item fall into all the categories? I'm not criticizing--just wondering. After all, the clothing is expensive for me, even on sale. And I wonder if my purchases make a difference or if it would better to buy something cheaper and donate the difference in cash to Doctors Without Borders.

And as for second-hand shopping: is it all that virtuous or am I just trying to justify my cheeepitude? If the item was made in China in bad conditions, does its virtue component go up as it cycles through the secondhand market? I keep thinking of an interesting moment in Paradise Lost. When Adam is thinking about falling in Book 9, he wonders if his act will be less guilty (it won't--spoiler) because the the fruit is "foretasted." He's wondering if--and hoping that--the sin will be diluted by the fact that it was already tasted. Second-hand sin, anyone?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

One More Year

Stress upon stress upon stress. First of all, I am at the end of my semester: expected stress. Second, we decided to go ahead with the house for Frugal Son, commencing a grand experiment in uncharted waters. Third, UGH, we had our SIXTH yearly scare about the budget. Actually, the scare is on-going even now.

I think things are going to be OK (let us hope--some of my colleagues are pretty hopeful), but I live in a state where the only unprotected areas in the budget are healthcare and higher ed. So for 6 years, we have endured major mid-year cuts, the most drastic of which led to the zapping of the French major. But, hey, when we committed to this house for Frugal Son, I figured the budget crises were past. Many states have surpluses this year.

When we heard the scary news, I had a sense of deja vu: I first started reading Funny About Money a few years ago. She helped HER son buy a house at what they thought was the bottom of the market. The housing market promptly tanked further and Funny--with a teeny bit of warning--had her position eliminated at her university.

So what can a worry wart do? First, I ran my numbers through my new BFF firecalc. I discovered that Mr FS and I are on track for a humble retirement. Then I read around the site. One of the things these early-retirement wannabes warn against in OMY. That means ONE MORE YEAR. People fear early retirement and so keep adding OMY to their plans.

I'm using OMY differently. When I think of a splurgy or uncharacteristic purchase, I now think: would I buy this if I only had OMY? Yes: to storage containers. Yes: to travel. No: to Hermes scarf. No: to fancy handbag. Of course, that's just me. You get to make your own choices.

I feel a lot better. Wish the legislature good luck with their deliberations. Wish me and Mr FS as many OMYs as we desire...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

JCP and Me: More Thoughts on Innumeracy

If you've been reading the finance pages recently, you will have noticed that JC Penney fired its snazzy ex-Apple CEO and--as Walmart says--rolled back his everyday low price policies. In fact, it's JC Penney once again, not jcp. According to the various post-mortems, customers LIKE sales, even if the sales are on artificially inflated prices. Here's an actual example from my own single jcp experience. I LIKE the idea of everyday low prices. So I bought a basic tank top, the black stretchy kind. At jcp, it was $5 or $6 dollars. I love it! Now, it is $12. Oh, but I got a coupon for 20% off. Thanks.

I wrote a few days ago about the psychology of grading points. I am going to try the 1000 point system next semester, whereby everything will be worth 10x more than now and be divided by 10 in the grand finale. Interestingly, one commenter suggested that the 1000 point system enables the students to get more points. Perhaps that's true, since there are more fine points in between. However, it works the other way too, whereby students can get fewer points. For instance, I have 20 one-point assignments. I give the students points for doing them. They are very short assignments, designed to keep students doing SOMETHING in between more major assignments.

Everyone can get 20/20--even if English is not a strong subject. That is a big chunk of a grade and can compensate for poor performance on projects and exams. I do have a small--5 point--bonus for "quality," where I look at three assignments randomly and give 1-5 points. But watch what happens when it's a 10-point assignment. While students may be more excited about an assignment that's "worth more," I would guess that I will see fewer 20/20 than I do currently. I will eliminate the extra step for me of assigning quality points. I would guess that most students will get between 6 and 8 points out of 10 under the new system. So it's more likely that students will see 70 out of 100 than 10/10. That's what happens when most people hover around the middle rather than cluster at the top.

The funny thing: when students have to divide by 10, I notice that most whip out their phones to do the calculation. That's the innumeracy I worry about.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Innumeracy: An Affliction?

As an English teacher, I'm supposed to be concerned with kinds of literacy, not numeracy. Nevertheless, I remain concerned by the lack of math savvy of many of my students. Could this be why there's a student loan problem?

Our realtor informed us--with a sly look--that he had checked out our ratings on Rate my Professor. Not surprisingly, I am liked a lot or disliked--with no middle. The more mellow Mr FS has less love, but also less dislike. Being a sensitive sort, I haven't checked out my ratings. Mr FS did though and came to me with a surprising comment.

A lot of students complain that there "aren't enough points" in my class. Because students were having trouble with the traditional ABC and then having trouble with 85% and 78% etc (because they couldn't figure out how to compute an 85% of an assignment worth 20% of their grade), I simplified. Each assignment is now worth what it is worth out of 100 points. We have a 25% exam and a 20% project and so on. Add up all the points and you have your grade, on a ten point scale. Easy-peasy, or so I thought.

I have heard mutterings from anxious students that assignments weren't "worth enough" and that they wished they could get "more points." Mr FS suggested that I multiply by 10: each assignment is worth--instead of 20 or 25 points out of 100--200 or 250 points out of 1000. I had thought that would be unnecessarily complicated, but...if that's what they want, that's what I'll try.

Is it just a psychological issue to think an assignment worth 250 points out of 1000 is "worth more" than 25 points out of 100? Or is something else going on?

Have you ever encountered similar math issues?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

So What Is It I Want? Not a Handbag!

The last few whirlwind weeks have been instructive. Teachers know that the last six weeks or so of a semester are a nightmare of exhaustion. Students start yelling at teachers (I had that happen yesterday). Seniors lose momentum and you have to keep them on track to graduate. Piles of papers teeter. Excuses and requests for extensions roll in. Meanwhile--we have been looking at houses. An hour away.

During this ordeal--which I hope will be oever soon, appraisal and inspection willing--I realized that my desires had shifted. No longer am I thinking about which handbag I should buy for my upcoming 60th birthday in January. No, I am thinking about how to help Frugal Son set up his house. And how to save some more so that we can similarly help Miss Em when the time comes (probably not for a while; she has a different trajectory of ambition).

There's nothing wrong with buying a nice handbag. Or anything really (though I hope I remain more attentive to the human and environmental cost of things). But I see that I get sucked into the consumer maelstrom as much as anyone--though I sometimes don't think I do.

The thing is: it's hard to figure out what you want! Really want.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A House for Frugal Son?

We put in a bid on a house that seems to answer Frugal Son's needs--old, rentable bedrooms, a bit shabby in the kitchen department--and the bid was accepted! I don't want to talk about this too much so as not to bring on the bad juju, so I will just say: an appraisal and an inspection await. Wish us luck.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"The Shirt" by Robert Pinsky

Many thanks to Janice, of viviennefiles, for reminding us of the true costs of what we wear.

I am remembering fondly the little ILGWU tags in clothing from my vintage days.


The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes--

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers--

Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, "shrill shirt ballooning."
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Gift from Me to Me: Plastic Storage Bins

I put the gift in the subject line, lest you read this post in search of nifty Mother's Day gifts. Yes: I am going to treat myself to plastic storage bins. Clear ones. The bliss of it.

For lo these many years, Mr FS and I have relied on cardboard boxes. Not only because we are TOOOOO frugal, but because we moved a lot in our earlier years together. So it's just a question of habit. A few days ago, I looked at the boxes anew, with their markings: fabric, pillows, whatever. My favorite are the markings of Mr FS, because he is a terrible speller. In our early days together, I was his spellcheck.

Cardboard boxes--ugh. Even after all these years on the job, I am still amazed to be middle-class. Those years of terror in graduate school really did me in, I'm afraid, permanently. But check these out: I am going to buy 6 or so.

Aren't they beautiful?



Do you have any real or metaphorical "cardboard boxes" in your life?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another New Orleans House

A week or so ago, I linked to two houses that were available. WERE is the operative word. Each had an offer--or several offers--within a day or so. They were beautifully done. There are many beautiful houses in New Orleans. The ones I most like--small, old, in nice areas--cost about $600,000. Oh well.

Since those first houses, we've looked at several others, all awful in one way or another. The market is so hot that people don't even make an effort to make the houses look nice in some cases. Like this one, which had an immediate offer and then was back on the market. We rushed to see it: the horror, the horror! Let's see: it has an asbestos roof, a squishy floor, a weird floor plan. The front is so cute!

Here's one on our radar.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cheap, Easy,Good: Italian Sausage Soup

I love having financial goals (beside the ever-present retirement), so I have been flexing my frugal muscles in order to squirrel aside some cash IN CASE FRUGAL SON finds a HOUSE. Also, grading season is upon me, so time is shorter than usual.

As always, I act on the belief that keeping food costs down is key to frugality, at least my frugality. From a wonderful cookbook.

Italian Sausage Soup

1. Cook 1 lb sausage--either take out of casings or use bulk. Remove as much fat as you want.

2. Remove meat from pan and saute 4 chopped celery stalks, 1 chopped onion, and some garlic in the fat.

3. Add 4 cups water and the sausage. Cook for a while.

4. Put some crusty bread in each bowl and top with some parmesan.

The writer suggests some add-ins. I added in chopped carrots, a can of drained chickpeas, and some greens from my garden. Spinach--even frozen--would be good also.

The neat trick with the soup is that the sausage essentially creates its own stock. I LOVE this cookbook!





Friday, April 19, 2013

Rough Housing Math

Since I last posted (yesterday), a few more promising houses have been listed and received offers. Oh well. The question at hand: how can Frugal Son--even with help from Mom and Dad--pay for a house? Here's my rough math: tell me what I'm neglecting to take into account.

Frugal Son is ALREADY paying $600/month for a tiny, shared apartment. He had to find an apartment PRONTO when he got a job. Still, he's in a nice neighborhood, so he wouldn't save much by moving to another apartment.

The realtor suggested that Mr FS and I--with our good credit--take out a mortgage and then SELL THE HOUSE to Frugal Son. We can get a lower rate.

Let's say the house is $300,000. Forget the downpayment. At current rates, the cost for a 30 year mortgage would be around $1200/month. Add about $400 for property tax and insurance...and we are up to $1600.

Frugal Son is currently paying $600 for half of a 600 square foot apartment. If he rented a bedroom in his house to a friend for the same $600, he would be on the hook for $1000.

1. Frugal Son said he could swing that, if necessary.
2. Frugal Son will be making more money soon, probably. He is working on his teaching certification.
3. We're committed to gifting Frugal Son the amount we saved for his education, which we didn't use, owing to massive scholarships. So, if we gifted him the $400/month difference between his current rent and the mortgage on his new abode, we could help him for AT LEAST 100 months.

Now people had these fantasy scenarios during the housing bubble with disastrous results. So to consider possible disasters.
1. Does Frugal Son need a roommate? Yes, but it's not absolutely essential, especially if his house is under $300,000 in the example.
2. Can we help out if roommie doesn't appear or work out? Yes.
3. What if Mr FS and I lose our jobs? We ARE tenured, but I've run some firecalc* scenarios, and we can survive a frugal retirement even if we were both fired.
4. What if Frugal Son loses HIS job? Well, he can make just as much by being a substitute teacher.

What is ALL OF THE ABOVE OCCUR SIMULTANEOUSLY? We have that education fund safety net.

*Firecalc: the best retirement simulator I've ever seen. Check it out!

Am I missing anything here?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Further Housing Bubble Notes: Open Houses

We went to two hastily-called Open Houses yesterday. Hastily-called because a house listed two days ago already had offers THE NEXT DAY. That was the little skinny shotgun house we liked. It looked just as nice in person. The neighborhood is--as they say--in transition.

Then, to make the unexpected drive right after work (car trunk loaded with papers to grade) worthwhile, we looked at another house, very very nicely renovated, also in an up-and-coming neighborhood. (See? I am learning the lingo). The house inside is nicer than in the pictures. Note the lovely garden behind. And see if you can figure out the layout. This was a classic New Orleans double shotgun that was made into a single. Our realtor thinks this will get competing offers and go higher than the asking price. Actually, he thinks the same of the first one.

I, of course, was totally enamored of both houses, even though they are very different. I think I have the thrift store buy-it-now mentality, which says, there's only ONE of this item! The broker told me to calm down (don't worry--it takes a lot to make the pathologically frugal sign on the dotted line. Not to mention Mr FS was there, smiling in an understanding way. When the broker tells you to calm down, you know you're getting a little crazy.)

Now we know--a teeny bit better--what is out there. You may ask: how can two English teachers think to help their in-transition son buy such $$$$$ houses? I ask too. I like numbers, but even I can hardly believe in this possibility. But the math works out. I will do some rough math tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beautiful New Orleans



Where even a young fellow, with a little backing from Mom and Dad, can consider a house like this.

Real Estate Bubble Part 2: Seems to be a Bubble

Duchesse wisely counseled in a comment: go to open houses. That would be great. So far, though, the houses that look intriguing are UNDER CONTRACT within a few days. Seriously. What open houses? For those of you who've been through a housing bubble: is this what a bubble looks like?

I can feel the bubble metabolism: HURRY! HURRY! BEFORE IT'S TOOOOOO LATE.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A New Housing Bubble? Or Is It Just Here?

I wrote a little while ago about helping Frugal Son buy a house. We are not experts on the process, having bought just one house. We still love the house, but--neophytes that we were--we were manipulated by everyone involved. A horrible experience, with many shady operators.

An acquaintance--the former head of the public library here--brought over her friend and neighbor, a very nice guy. I guess he will do as well as anyone. We haven't actually looked at anything. That is because the houses we are interested in seem to be selling in a matter of days. DAYS. So the agent calls the listing agent--and the house is already under contract.

Is this a new bubble brewing? Any advice on how to keep our heads would be much appreciated.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Declutter Progress

This is probably the first and last time I'm doing this, but....I packed away a bunch of Frugal Son's stuff. His apartment is tiny and has no storage space, so I don't mind doing this for a while. I now have a shelf on which to to "stage" things.

What I staged: stuff for Buffalo Exchange, stuff for fancy on-line consignment store, books for Amazon credit.

Buffalo Exchange: This is a bit of a game for Miss Em and me. She loves getting credit.
Rodeo Drive Resale: Where I send a few pieces of St John stuff I never got around to wearing.
Amazon: Hey, even $2-$3 adds up when you have a bunch!

I also donated three more bags to the Food Bank Thrift. According to Feng Shui--at least the popularized version whose popularity seems to have faded somewhat--getting rid of stuff will unleash energy through your home. I haven't felt it yet, so I suppose that means I need to get rid of MORE. Off to mail the boxes to Rodeo and to Amazon. Uh oh: I mail from Office Depot, which is right across the street from Goodwill. Wish me strength.