Custom Search

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.