Friday, December 19, 2008

Kill me now.


I know I talk a lot of shit about Ipods. That is because I think they are generally a waste of money. Well, maybe not a waste. But not NECESSARY you know? Some people act like their Ipods are like food: they will die without them. This is probably not true. You will probably not die without your Ipod. Probably.

But. I understand that they’re convenient. I understand that they’re fun. I do not think that you need to wear yours ALL the time and cut off all human communication just so you can listen to the latest Cat Power record. I don’t think that you should be buying a new one every time a new one comes out. I think of it as a luxury—kind of like pre-package convenience food. It certainly makes things easier, but for a price.

That being said, I will never own an ipod.

BUT.

Yesterday I was taking a walk down to the good old community acupuncture clinic. This is normally the highlight of my week. Anyway, on my walk there, my CD player started to skip. Again. And again. And again. This happens pretty regularly. Although I am proud of my CD player and all the money that it saves me, it really can be a pain in the ass. It’s not so much having to listen to one CD at a time—I don’t really mind that. It’s the skipping. A lot of my CDs are really old and there are songs on them that I just can’t listen to. Sometimes it’s a whole half of a CD that I can’t listen to.


As this was happening yesterday I was like “Damn it! Eff this! I am buying an ipod!” Then I cursed myself for even thinking of such an unethical and outrageous solution. Then I remembered that I could have an MP3 player without being too much of a trendy bitch—I could buy a Zune…

Yes, it’s the same thing. But at least it’s not an ipod, right? White ear “buds” attached to a secret container in your pocket? What is that, a pot reference?

Today I am stuck working from home because of the copious amounts of snow outside. So, on one of my breaks I decided to do some Zune research. In the past when I considered buying a Zune I thought that maybe I would get the 80 GB one. Go big or go home, right?

Then I realize that an 80 GB Zune was completely unnecessary. Let’s say my current CD collection has about 100 cds. I listen to approximately 50 of these cds on a regular basis (if that).

The “Zune 16” holds 4,000 songs. Let’s say the average CD has about twelve songs on it. That means that the “Zune 16” holds approximately 333 CDs. Since I only have 100 cds, and many of them are rap-rock from the late 1990’s that I would rather die than listen to, maybe the” Zune 16” would make sense.

“But,” you might say. “What about all that sweet music that you are going to download off of ‘I Tunes’ every day?”

“Do not fret,” I would say back. I think that buying a ton of stuff off of this “Itunes” business would be a waste of money for me. I do not usually stay current with new music, and maybe buy a CD every two months at the very most. So, even after uploading 50 CDs onto my brand new Zune, I would still have room for 283 more. And, if I bought a CD every month (unlikely) and added that to the device, it would take me almost two years to fill it up!

And by then I will be so into my Zune that I will be the new model, because the old one will be as outdated as the Discman I currently rock out with.

So, my friends, I might buy an Mp3 player. But I swear that I won’t be proud of it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How To Get What You Want By Using Yelp


If you're like me, you don't want to waste your money on someone mean, lazy, or just bad.

With the help of Yelp.com, I am able to avoid money-wasting, meanness, laziness and badness more and more often.

Yelp is a website where you can type in something you need (examples: acupuncture, dentist, shoe repair) and read reviews of business that do those things. Each business has a star rating, as given by readers, and reviews by readers specifying why they gave a place a good or bad review.

For example, I wanted to go to acupuncture. So I looked up "acupuncture" in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which is where I live. I found affordable acupuncture with five stars. I have been going there for six months now and it is wonderful.

Another example: when shopping for insurance for my new job, I had the choice between the coverage of Washington Dental or Willamette Dental. Willamette Dental was a far better deal, but you could only go to Willamette Dentists. I looked up the Willamette Dental center by my house, which got horrible reviews. Another Willamette Dental center in Kirkland also got horrible reviews. I decided to save myself the heartache and go with Washington Dental. Even though it is a more expensive plan, you can go anywhere you want. And I, personally, enjoy a nice dentist rather than an evil one.

I have also found a great shoe repair place, tea shop, and vet through Yelp. I've also reviewed many places that have treated me really good--or bad.

Yelp really is a great tool to help weed out the places that you DON'T want to go, and find places that might just become your favorites.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Once a Month Grocery Shopping - Update


Remember when I bought groceries for the whole month at the beginning of the month? Yeah.

It's gone pretty well so far. I have actually made it until now without eating out once. Which is good! I am allowed to eat out, of course, on the weekends, but I have had enough food at my house so that I have not needed to.

The menu helps a LOT. Knowing what I will be eating the next day comes in super helpful. Although, sometimes I schedule myself pretty tightly and don't have time to cook. When that happens I will make something easy off the menu and just make more of it so that it lasts longer.

For example, on Monday night I am supposed to babysit, which I did not originally plan for. So I will probably not make vegetable soup. Instead, maybe I will make stir fry or pasta. Or, perhaps I will make vegetable soup on Sunday night and have enough for two days.

I am quite happy with my results so far. I have gone to the produce stand twice. It is on the way home from the new job, so it is not out of the way any more. Besides that, I haven't needed to buy anything at the grocery store! Yay!

Another advantage is that when I am hungry, I know I have enough food to make SOMETHING. Before, even though I was spending a lot of money on groceries, I wouldn't have anything to make because it was all random and unplanned. Now I have several staples for several meals.

Yes. I will let you know if I make it until the end of the month...

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'd Like To Buy The World a Coke


I like Coca-Cola. I always have. But, it is pretty bad for you. Really. And kind of expensive for what it is.

Really, you should be drinking water. It is good for you and nearly free. But, sometimes people don't LIKE to drink water. Sometime I don't like to drink water. So I have a stash of Coke Zero in the fridge. I drink one every once in a while, but try not to make it a habit.

At the moment Coke has a promotion going on. Any Coke product that you buy comes with a promotional code. Once you have this code, you go to http://www.mycokerewards.com, register for an account, and enter the codes. It will give you points.

The points are good for all sorts of crap you don't need. But, they're also good for free Coke! Honestly, buying the Coke really isn't worth the points, but if it is something that you're going to do anyway, you may as well take advantage.

For example, right now I have 80 points. That seems like a lot, right? Well, not exactly. For 24 points I could get a 20 oz bottle of Coke. So right now I have enough for three twenty ounce bottles. Not bad.

My strategy for this? Scavenge. Yes, it's tacky. Yes, it's a little gross. But who cares? Maybe the word scavenge isn't quite right. Collect? Beg?

If I am walking down the street and I see a 20 oz bottle of Coke that someone has littered, I pick it up, take off the top, and put it in my pocket. Sweet. I have done this several times. Also, if you're at a party and see a potential Coke point source just sitting there, take it! (Unless you know the host collects them. But they probably don't rule at life, so don't count on it.)

This is how I got so many points. I probably have purchased maybe 20 of those 80 points. Maybe. Mostly it is by being tacky and a little gross. But eh.

So go on! Next time you see a bottle of Coke just sitting on the sidewalk, take off the cap, take it home, and enter it. Or, at the very least, give it to me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taking Advantage of Extras

My wonderful new job comes equipped with all sorts of benefits and extras. I'm excited to start exploring these and finding new ways to save.

One of them is mileage. My job pays a good rate for any driving I do that is necessary for my job. (This should be standard, but sadly, it is not--I have driven for jobs for years and this is the first time that I have gotten actual mileage.) Right now I think it is around 51 cent per mile. I have been doing a lot of extra driving these past couple of weeks while I am still training.

My plan? At the end of the month, I will turn in my mileage card. I have been tracking closely and writing everything down ASAP so that I will not forget where and when I drove for work. When I get the mileage reimbursement check, it will go into a high-interest savings account that will eventually pay for a new car. It's unlikely that I will be able to buy a new car on mileage checks alone, but hey, it can't hurt. At this point of the month I have been at my job for eight days. So far I have driven about 150 miles for work. That is $76, which is sweet.

Another good benefit is a resource called Enhanced Benefits Group. I have already called them to talk about mortgages. I am hoping to buy a condo, so I talked to some sort of a mortgage counselor on Friday to see what my price range should be.

I also will have access to what's called a VEBA Account. Each month, I am allotted $712 for benefits. But, I am only using about $600 of those. The remaining money will go into a VEBA Account, which I can use to pay other health care related costs. I am hoping to pay for part of my weekly acupuncture visits with it.

I am finding that there is a lot offered through my job. The key is knowing what your resources are and taking advantage of them. I am sure that some people of the agency aren't aware of all the ways that these things can work for them. I'm excited to get started.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

$212

What would you buy if you had an extra $212 dollars each month for a year?

I would buy the following things:

January: A Zune Mp3 Player
February: A lot of Jean Paul Gaultier Perfume (It is my signature scent and discontinued--I'm stocking up)
March: Books
April: A ton of cheap clothes from H&M and Forever 21
May: Cds
June: A plane ticket to San Francisco
July: Dinner out three times a week
August: A fancy drink from Sureshot every day
September: Hella Booze
October: A new TV
November: Expensive shoes
December: A whole bunch of meaningless crap for everyone else

And you get the point. I can't even think of how much crap I would buy with an extra $212 a month. Of course, I could always spend it on useful things. But what is considered useful?

I just started a new job, complete with a retirement plan. $212 is the amount that will be put away each month. I will up this next year when my salary goes up. But, even if I don't up it, I will be in good shape by retirement. Why?

According to some retirement calculator online...

"Your 457 could be worth $932,845 after 40 years"


So yes! Instead of having a bunch of stupid clothes, electronics, dinners out and coffees that I will just get tired of or digest, I will have almost a million dollars.

And you won't. Unless you get started saving. NOW!