April 19, 2015

Speaking to Ladies Who Lunch about Frugalness (*not an actual word)

This week I'm meeting with a lunch group who invited me to talk about "frugalness." So I've drafted this questionnaire of Markers You Will Find Along the Road to Financial Freedom.

It's funny how you (well, me, that is) can be so inspired to take steps for good changes in your own life, when your initial plan was to teach what you know to others. I'm compelled to set to work on these: don't keep two of anything when one will do just fine; stop wasting food and letting it spoil in the fridge; sort closets (spring cleaning time!) and give away overage.

Offer your own tip and I'll share it with the group this week.

Yes   No                        
  __     __   Pay bills on time
  __     __   Have bank, credit card, other statements neatly filed
  __     __   Have checking account in balance
  __     __   Save all credit card receipts until the end of the month
  __     __   Check credit card receipts against statements
  __     __   Keep tax info neatly filed
  __     __   Have plan to pay off credit card debt
  __     __   Spend less than earn
  __     __   Pay back money I borrow
  __     __   Give money and things away; (generosity: the big secret to financial freedom)
  __     __   Give away overage of “stuff,” sell on eBay or consignment
  __     __   Have appropriate insurance
  __     __   Save a portion of my earnings
  __     __   Shop consignment stores, buy used
  __     __   Treat myself to an occasional planned small luxury
  __     __   Have a job I enjoy, at which I earn fair pay
  __     __   Read an occasional finance or business column
  __     __   Set up auto payment for utilities / rent
  __     __   Have my jewelry sorted, repaired or given away
  __     __   Wear out socks, shoes, underwear before buying all new
  __     __   Plan ahead for giving gifts (avoid all last-minute shopping)
  __     __   When buying new, always get rid of the item you’re replacing
  __     __   Sort closets, bookshelves on a semi-regular basis
  __     __   Monetize my time and skills (how can I earn extra money?)
  __     __   Cancel catalogs / clear my mailbox
  __     __   Shop with a grocery list
  __     __   Wait three days before buying something I really don’t need, but think I want
  __     __   Have a record / spreadsheet of my assets and net worth
  __     __   Talk openly and often about finances with my spouse
  __     __   Teach my children basic money management practices
  __     __   Swap services with friends and neighbors
  __     __   Love myself more than all the money in the world
  __     __   Know and meditate on what is true about me


  __     __   Use ATMs that charge fees
  __     __   Waste food and regularly throw spoiled food out of the fridge
  __     __   Pay credit card interest and/or late fees
  __     __   Buy lottery tickets
  __     __   Buy stuff because it’s “such a good deal”
  __     __   Buy an investment I don’t understand
  __     __   Keep worn, torn or unused clothing
  __     __   Keep two of anything of which I only need one (shampoo, cosmetics, tools)
  __     __   Hoard anything
  __     __   Use a storage locker for anything
  __     __   Shop in convenience stores (inconvenient for your wallet)
  __     __   Go into stores just to “look” and shop just for “fun” (tip: go to the park instead)
  __     __   Feel badly about what my neighbor/ friends have that I don’t
  __     __   Make impulsive purchases (unless really tiny and very rare)
  __     __   Use money as a weapon, leverage or bribery in a relationship
  __     __   Lend money to family or friends and count on it being returned

January 13, 2012

$35K for dinner and a Ford Escort in the garage

I love me a "remarkably frugal" half-billionaire. And turns out this guy lives a few blocks from me!

President Obama attended three huge money-making funders in Chicago yesterday, one of them near my house (I know this because of the traffic cops swarming every intersection for hours before he arrived. The President's convoy never slows for red lights, nor observes speed limits. It is a sight to behold.)

Curious to learn about the host of the ($35,800 per couple) dinner party, I googled his name which was unfamiliar to me. Funny, but "Fred Eychaner" has never turned up at any neighborhood block parties or policing meetings I've attended.

Turns out he is my kind of guy in many regards. Eychaner earned his money as a publisher, having founded the Newsweb Corp.

According to a 2005 Chicago Tribune story, he drove a six-year old "Ford Escort, flies coach, owns just three suits and sometimes stays at budget motels."

Reporter John McCormick went on to say that Eychaner "...could be the slender, balding man wearing wire-rim glasses seated behind you on a CTA train."

He does live in a pretty swanky mansion nearby, but anyway, I find his style somewhat motivating. His old Ford Escort? Just the fresh motivation I've been needing.

I have this thing where I pay cash for cars. I drove my first car for 13 years, and I'm in the 11th year of my current auto. The tire rims are looking kind of ghetto-rusty and worn. It's a good thing for my ego to keep driving it, in its 108,000th mile. Which forces me to nurture / forge my self-esteem from something other than stuff. (Indicating good character, intelligence, wit or such. Or just being nice.)

My car is not show-offy, but it was paid for ten years ago. I look at the cute Mini-Coopers (want one) and sleek Lexus' (too fancy; not my style) roving about the city and remark to myself that possibly few are actually paid for, and may be a far bigger asset-drain than my zero-interest, zero-loan car ever will be.

Thanks for the motivation, Mr. Eychaner. Hope your party was fun.

Do you suppose every guest feels they got their $17,900 worth? Just wondering, because that is just not my world... Well, they'll likely feel so if Obama wins the November 2012 vote.

October 4, 2011

It's the Stuff You Can't Have

I'm telling you, it's all about the stuff you can't have. I opened an email five minutes ago from my friend Krista who is in the Philippines with her husband and four children for a few months. She writes, "We are all dreaming of cheese. There are no cows here and dairy products are nowhere to be found!"

In his weekly radio show This American Life, "#446: Living Without," released 26 September 2011, host Ira Glass opened saying,
"Recently I was talking to this guy who told me how, years ago, because of a medical condition, he had to give up beer. He had only been a casual beer-drinker before this; he had never really given beer much thought. But now that he couldn't have a beer, he was thinking of beer all the time

He had a fantasy, it went like this: He goes into a bar, and he orders a beer.

That was the whole thing."
What's your current fantasy? Will your happiness quotient rise significantly when that thing--money or boyfriend or job offer or pregnancy or cheese or beer comes within reach?

After Krista's family returns from the Philippines; after Ira's subject recovers from this medical condition, will they really be so much happier when they can get cheese and beer?

What's beyond your reach that you fantasize about?

Or better, what do you have access to--right now--that thousands and millions and billions of other people around the world can only dream of having.

If that doesn't make a girl feel real rich, real quick, right now...

May 12, 2011

I'm Calling Myself Out + A cheap Starbucks Frapp this week

Hey folks, this proves just how very cheap I am--were it not previously obvious.

(And another reason that I am actually very far from broke, so probably should go about changing my moniker from Broke Girl to something like Rich Girl, except for I'm not that, and that brings to mind the real Poor Little Rich Girls such as the original: Barbara Hutton, then Gloria Vanderbilt, the late Christina Onassis, and Paris Hilton (the latter being rich in money, poor in judgment, character), et. al. And I'm not any of those.

But anyway, I've a speaking engagement in the lovely little hamlet of Morenci, Michigan this weekend, and was working up my presentation -- which I always, always, start from scratch, as I never reuse, repeat, or recycle a replica of previous presentations.* So after dropping off a friend at O'Hare airport, decided to find a Starbucks at which to lounge and relax and focus on my talk content. Because lately my creative jucies go all stagnant when I'm sitting in my home office.

Thanks to my trustly iPhone, local directories, and google maps, I quickly found a perfect spot en route home at which to settle for the afternoon.

So I found free street parking, then without buying a drink (taaacky) settled into what is probably one of the prettiest Starbucks outdoor seating areas: Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, 2543 N California Ave, Chicago IL. And my trusty MacBook Pro uncovered a few free WiFi hotspots which are probably totally not secure, (and I guess I should care.)

So I actually wrote and waited and wrote for 1.5 hours, just so I could hit the 3:00 p.m. start time. Start time for what, you say? The However You Want It Happy Hour:

This week, through Sunday, 15 May 2011, Starbucks offers half-off However You Want It Frappuccino Happy Hour drinks, i.e., from 3:00 to 5 PM, you can get a Frappuccino blended beverage - any flavor, any size - at half price.

Go get yours. I'm heading inside to order mine now.
Starbucks, 2543 N California Ave, Logan Square neighborhood

*My beloved uncle, the late Olson Wesley Clark, passed away last fall in his 90s. a life-long preacher, he once told me that he never once in his career, "had to go back to the well.."

What? I asked him. What did he mean by that?

Well, as a minister in the Wesleyan Methodist denomination, he preached hundreds of sermons, and never did he preach the same sermon twice. He always prepared something new, something fresh, not a previously-presented sermon. (IMO, not that there would be anything wrong with that--a good presentation ought to be used, and honed, and reused for new audiences. Plus for people like me, I typically need to hear something a good three times before it sticks.)

February 4, 2011

$10 for $20 of items at Barnes & Noble, in-store or online

Today's Groupon features $10 for $20 worth of toys an games, books and more at Barnes & Noble.

The fine print:
  • Expires Apr 10, 2011
  • Limit 1/person. Limit 1/trans. Valid in-store or online. Valid on sale items. Groupon value reduces by $10 on 4/11, except where prohibited. Groupon issued by Barnes & Noble Marketing Services LLC.
What will you buy? I snagged a Zagat restaurant guide and a Fodor's travel guidebook. Been wanting to get the current (2011) issues, but was waiting for a deal, since full-price and I just don't get on that easily.

    December 14, 2010

    79 Free Christmas Music Downloads from Amazon.com

    Broke Girl loves a good Christmas Carol or seventy-nine.

    She (little known factoid), is a music composer and arranger herself, and knows a thing or two about wanting to collect royalties on her musical works.

    But when Amazon.com has a bevy of composers and performers who are giving complete songs and mini-albums of Christmas music away--gratis--Broke Girl leaps. [Okay, switching now from third to first person:] My fingers are a bit sore from clicking on 79 links and 79 "download now" buttons and 79 tab closures, etc., but the music was free and I'm enjoying it now.

    Thanks to one of my favorite, sweet and savvy mom bloggers--Crystal at thethriftymama.com, with whom I corresponded earlier this year, click through to her blog to get the downloads for yourself.

    Also, every day from December 1 through Christmas, Amazon.com is offering another new free Christmas or Holiday song download. Bookmark this page to get your new free song every day.

    Merry Christmas!

    October 30, 2010

    Random corn stalks in the city

    We're not certain whether neighbors (in a rather upscale co-op building) in Chicago's Gold Coast are looking for ways to cut back on their food bill; whether aliens or high winds planted corn seeds in random little spots of soil around town, or if the phenomenon we've noticed is a real slow-occurring Internet flash-crowd event by cornstalks.

    Whatever it is, we've seen random stalks of corn sprouting in the oddest places across our city. This morning's discovery was of a single stalk of corn (don't city farmers know that stalks must be raised in twos so they can cross-pollinate?) accompanied by a tall baby-tomato plant on the alley-facing side of an otherwise perfectly landscaped property.

    Corn stalk on left; tomato plant on right
    Could be some folks' response to rising food prices. Here is another, sprouting from the little stretch of soil on the margin of a Walgreens parking lot on Diversey Parkway at Halsted Street. 'Least somebody knew to plant these in twos:

    Random cornstalks at a Walgreens parking lot in Chicago's Lincoln Park

    October 27, 2010

    I Paid $1.00 for one cigarette tonight

    Broke girl knows value when she sees it.

    A neatly-dressed man mumbled something in my direction as I stepped up to the door of a 7-Eleven store tonight.

    "What did you say?" figuring him for a beggar wanting cash.

    He spoke louder, "Do you have a cigarette?"

    "No, I don't," I said, and went into the store. While the clerk rang up my caffeine-free Diet Coke, I looked up at the prices posted over the cigarettes behind the counter. Something like $9.95 and such.

    "Do you sell single cigarettes?" I asked the tall skinny kid behind the counter.

    "Uh, nope," he replied, and kind of laughed at the notion.

    "Well, there's that guy outside who wants one. Do you smoke?" I asked. He looked like a kid who did.

    "Well, yeah." he replied.

    "Could I buy two cigarettes from you? I asked, and pushed a dollar across the counter toward him.

    He smiled as he pulled a pack out from under the counter and handed a single cigarette to me. "No, no money," he insisted. "I get it."

    "No, keep the dollar," I said.

    "No no, really, keep it," the clerk insisted.

    But I said, "Thanks, I appreciate it," and left the dollar on the counter. Walked out the door, turned toward the guy, still off to the side of the entrance and said, "Here's a cigarette."

    As he took it he said, "Thanks. Here's fifty cents," and reached his other hand out to me.

    "Oh no; no money," I said as I turned toward my car. He thanked me again and quickly disappeared down the street.

    I don't know why that man needed a smoke. Maybe he'd lost his wallet. But I'm glad I extended a bit of kindness, even though making that personal connection involved nasty nicotine. I'm glad I did it, just as much as I hope he will find it in him to quit smoking right soon.