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.

October 5, 2010

Somewhere on route 12 or Route 20 in NW Indiana Dune Territory

In a sketchy stretch of northwest Indiana where Gary kind of grinds down and the road stretches into mile after mile of closed-down businesses, shuttered shrimp-shacks, and the occasional liquor store, there is a little spot where a bit of renewal appears. A few slightly upscale vacation getaway homes appear as the Indiana dunes near.

Anyway, I recently chose to take the roads less traveled to a destination in Michigan--and-- to drive free of charge (eschewing the dull views from Interstate Route 80 and tolls to the road's operators, the Spanish Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte and Australian Macquarie Infrastructure Group). So while on this trek that probably used to be really busy (there were four empty lanes of roadway), I spotted an odd-looking "weather vane" that topped a spanking brand-new bank. Stuck out like a sore thumb along the eyesore of a route. Made an immediate U-turn in front of no on-coming nor off-going traffic to go back and take this photo:


Then a closer look:

October 2, 2010

The Facade: Things are Not as They Seem

Facade |fəˈsäd| (also façade) noun:
• figurative -- an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality : her flawless public facade masked private despair

Like a gawker at a bad accident, I've been a little bit overly curious (er, fascinated?) about the evolving story of a "perfect" suburban Chicago family whose facade was horribly sheared off this week.

It started Wednesday, when the dad arrived at a hospital emergency room with his wife's body wrapped in bedsheets. According to a friend, he "is a quality individual who I have a lot of respect for." Their very attractive children "were gifted" and became stars in their respective athletic pursuits and careers. But with a bullet through the mother's head and the dad now in Kankakee County Jail charged with first degree murder, well, the beautiful tale is unraveling fast.

Things were not as they seemed.

The next thing that flashes through the collective reader conscious goes something like, Was it money and /or sex? An affair, and whose? Gambling, financial fraud; maybe a drug habit lurking behind the beautiful facade?

The Chicago Tribune quotes a bystander to their lives, "They were like the perfect couple. They had a very happy marriage."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So let's take it on home, dear readers: Often things are not as they seem, inside the house, behind closed doors, in the bedrooms and hearts of people everywhere.

And my point is (similar to my recent rant about the problem of Eve, of wanting that which is not yours), we think we want what others have. But we only see a glimpse, a smidgen, a tip of the iceberg that lies beneath.

I mean to say, if you think you want your neighbor's husband because he looks like all that, showers her with the stuff she thinks she wants, has a big bucks job, well:

You could be mightily shocked to see the real picture behind the facade. She may be driving a Lexus, rolling up her Prada sleeves to show her [insert famous jewelry designer name here] bling while running out to pick up new lingerie for their 5th wedding anniversary luxury cruise to wherever. But what you don't know: how long it has been since he's touched her, the prescription meds that keep her going, the double- or triple-mortgage he may be forging and hiding from her... You do not know.

So wipe that greed, envy and self-pity off your face. Until you know the real story behind the facade, do not ever think you want to swap your life out for someone else's. Unemployed, divorced, struggling with alcoholism, debt, illness? Life is difficult, indeed. But the art of being satisfied with what you have is--well, just not cool, or normal, or the way things are. But it might help you to be less distressed with the difficulty that is yours, by understanding that facades rarely, in my opinion, represent what really is.*

A few minutes ago, in the middle of writing this blog (because I can't stay focused more than two paragraphs in a row), I broke to read the New York Times Vows column. It featured the East Hampton wedding of a beautiful, talented and socially-upward couple. Of course I hope the very best for them, and a happy 50th wedding anniversary some day.

Yet I shook my head in a little bit of dismay at the reporter's supposition, "...for the wedding of this couple, whose love story contains no gray areas, the whiteness of [the wedding decor] conveyed confidence." [Emphasis mine.]

Yeah. Well, this couple has been together three years already. And gray areas are there, believe you me. No human love story is otherwise.

And back to my point: Yes... Be happy with what you got.

And now, this former investment banker is off to cash the checks she earned babysitting--yes--babysitting this week! No five-figure bonus check this month, but life is ever as good as it was with more money, and I would not trade my life...

Points to ponder:
  1. What is the facade that you present to others?
  2. How true is it?
  3. If any disparity whatsoever, why might you feel the need to present it any differently than it actually is?

*And in other news of Facades Fronting Things Not As They Seem:
1) I discovered yesterday that the child of a family friend--who fashioned his family as being better than some, while freely criticizing another family--is now a Vegas stripper and porn model. Yeah, that made me sick to my stomach. In the intervening years, since this dad first held up his family as the healthier model, and his daughter's subsequent falling into the porn industry, he'd ditched his wife and family to pursue his own illicit lifestyle.
2) I had some more colorful instances, but I think I'll stop the ugly right here. I'll shut up for now and go tend to my own life! Got to go think about my facade.

September 29, 2010

Passive Behaviors, Shirking Blame: "The knife Did It" and "It's the Economy, Stupid!"

Recent news, if you read the riff-raff stuff below the fold, included reports of an actor in The 40-Year-Old Virgin under trial for stabbing his girlfriend twenty times. "...he wrongly thought that she was somebody else going after him in the dark."

But Shelley Malil's defense appeared lame. He testified, still confused, of the chaos that broke out when he arrived at his girlfriend's house and discovered her sipping wine with another guy. Feeling threatened by the other, he "mistakenly" slashed his girlfriend, critically injuring her.

He said, "I still can't believe the knife I was holding was responsible for all those injuries."
 (Emphasis mine.)

The editor of my first book told me I needed to stop using passive verbs. "What's a passive verb?" I asked, somewhat stupidly. Anyway, I sure know what passive behavior is. Malil simply "was holding a knife." Which leaves who at fault for the near-fatal injuries?

Reminds me of the foolish Real Housewives of New Jersey gal who spent herself and her husband into $8 million in debt. According to Newark bankruptcy court records, Teresa Giudice and her husband earn $79,000 per year, yet are deadbeats of the worst sort. Still, she blames not her spending on lavish parties, jewels, cars and her designer wardrobe.

Who is at fault? Said Mrs. Giudice, "...due to the economy, my husband's real estate ventures failed despite his hard work." (Emphasis mine.)

The late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M.D.'s book, "The Road Less Traveled," sat on The New York Times' bestseller list for over ten years!

Peck considered discipline essential for emotional, psychological and spiritual health. Several of the elements of discipline required to sustain and grow to psychological and emotional maturity, he said, were 1) the ability to accept responsibility for oneself and one's actions and 2) a commitment to the truth. 

So easy to pass blame. So obviously stupid to pass it to an inanimate object! And so not healthy, for a deep and whole life.

September 22, 2010

The Problem of Eve

Yes, yes, yes. I did indeedy recently speak at the "Women's Night Out" event hosted by Aspiring Women host Shirley Rose at the Total Living Network studios in Aurora, IL, per my previous post.

It has been some time since I was a more frequent speaker at women's conferences, seminars and such on all topics monetary. I appeared for but a few minutes at this event, so got right to it: the root of financial angst, worry and fear for most of humanity, including Americans from New York's Wall Street to the retirement villages of Florida; the bankrupt State of California to girls everywhere just digging for a little more change from the bottom of their pocketbooks.

It is the problem of Eve.

For a girl who had all the sweet, just-off-the-vine mangos, kiwi, cherries, papaya and pomegranates we could ever imagine, she was certainly blind, or seemed to have lost not just her way, but her sense of smell, touch and such. She could not see the rich and organic array of foods that was hers, and instead had a spotlight zeroed on the one fruit that was not hers.

She caved to the enemy’s lie: You have to have this; you need and deserve it.

I’ll tell you who the enemy is: it’s not money, but it is the stuff you do not have and the things you think you want. It’s the one fruit that does not belong to you.

And if you do go use your credit card to buy what you think you want; I promise—it will do nothing but stoke your craving for more. Like oxygen to a flame, it will fuel your desires. Faster than you can say “Hey, Eve—pass that fruit bowl!” you will be wanting something more, because the Ford Focus you just traded for a Volvo then a Mercedes to a Bentley just won’t satisfy the itch.

I believe that the continued belief of this lie, even eons later (which, like all really good lies, does have a spot of truth to it), is the root problem behind, oh, these:

* former boyfriend of mine who is doing Federal time for financial fraud (seriously!)

* ridiculous mortgage underwriting and shenanigans--the mess that became exchange-traded CMOs that began the trickle that turned to a torrent that has badly shorn the U.S. and global economy

* the fact that credit card debt is today, indeed the pimp of many a family, couple, college student, single working girl, and even celebrities

* a million more issues that drive a wedge between folks and their desire for a life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Yours truly, a.k.a. "Broke Girl" speaking at Women's Night Out

I made brief mention of a concept that could bring some really quick, almost instant beginnings of financial relief. Not a solution or fix to one's financial strain, but an activity that you can implement immediately, that would show some immediate results in terms of feeling financially free-er, more in control, and possibly seeing the beginning of a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel for those feeling stuck in the fiscal dark.

More to come about that concept of which I had previously only heard of in my own brain, but which I was delighted to hear keynote speaker Michelle McKinney Hammond also refer to, and amplify on in her own presentation...

September 15, 2010

Sharp-Eyes

Strolling through the leafy Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown this past Sunday afternoon, I spotted a lovely renovated house with a "For Sale" sign posted on it.

Stairs led to the front door, and a second set led about six steps down to a garden level entrance as well. That's where I spotted a swirl of the season's first fallen leaves. Crumpled up within was a dollar bill. I looked closer. Yes, it was.

There was a time when I was wont to step in front of a speeding bus to pick a shiny penny out of the gutter. My aversion to bacteria and the remains of pets on sidewalks have brought me to ignore even nickels and dimes anymore. But a dollar bill does catch my eye.

Would you have noticed this? ...or is it just my eye for a buck?
I walked down to the garden entrance (this wasn't trespassing, I'm sure), and picked up the dollar bill. Keep it? Leave it? Tuck it where the homeowner could spot it?

I decided to put it through the front door mail slot. (Probably illegal, according to U.S. Postal Service rules and regulations.) As I lifted the mail slot thing, I could see shiny wood floors and the edge of a beautiful thick rug.

Well, I don't have a point, so that is the end of this blog. Except that, well, what would you have done with the found dollar bill? And what did the finder do with the three twenty bills that fell out of my pocket while walking through my neighborhood earlier this year?

September 9, 2010

Broke Girl Speaks Out: Aurora, IL, 7 p.m. today

Broke Girl is speaking tonight in Aurora, IL at the Total Living Network studios.

The function is in conjunction with the long-time Aspiring Women television program, and is a Girls' Night Out event with the theme "Let's Talk About Money."

Keynote speakers are Michelle McKinney Hammond and Shirley Rose.

Sharon Durling, a.k.a., Broke Girl, will be giving her two cents, er, million dollars' worth of advice about uncovering the lie to which the original Eve caved, and which the millions of women who followed her still believe to be true. The lie? That the one thing you do not have and want like crazy, will make you happy, fill you up, and perhaps even complete you, Jerry McGuire-style.

September 2, 2010

Nicest Guy Ever - Next In Queue

Well, yesterday's Nicest Guy Ever award winner may have a competitor lurking in the wings.

I don't know how I got started in conversation with a dude on my block, but next thing you know, he said he'd get information from his girlfriend about a great spot where I could purchase a replacement for my bicycle that was recently stolen.

I say "dude," because he was one. He had more tats per arm than I have holes in my ears. And speaking of holes in ears, he'd had major lobe stretching done. And for a white guy, had some pretty awesome dreads worked out.

But he turned out to be my kind of friend. He couldn't recall the name of the bike place, so I pointed out which house was mine, and asked, "When you find out, maybe you could drop a note at my front door?"

So when I returned home after several hours at the Schoolyard Tavern last night where I'd met with a few twenty-something girls who wanted a meet-up for some Broke Girl living and budgeting advice, I spotted this note on my front porch:

I've been searching for a bicycle replacement, and just haven't been satisfied yet with one that I'll be using for another 20 years. Might try this shop; I'm happy to have a second-hand bicycle. 


September 1, 2010

I spotted my future self today - and - Nicest Guy Ever award

I post this photo in no way to mock the flowery-attired and hatted lady ahead of me at the CVS Pharmacy store this afternoon. I instantly liked her look and stepped in line behind her with my caffeine-free Diet Coke purchase.

She opened her large pocketbook and fished around for what became long minutes in her search for a mode of payment for her purchase.

I, being in no hurry, actually relished the opportunity to exhibit patience. She beckoned me to go ahead. I said, "Oh, no worries, and no hurry; you take your time, ma'am."

She fretted, "I don't think I have my money here." And continued through her portable filing cabinet of a purse.

And then the store associate [may I please take a moment for a shout-out to young Black men everywhere, bless this boy's heart] was all like, "Oh, I am sure you will find it. Take your time. Your money is in there somewhere."

So as the line expanded behind me, she finally pulled out a check-book type thing in which there were a bunch of crisp twenty-dollar bills stuck together. "See," the store associate said kindly, "I knew you would find it."

After the lady left, I said stepped up to the clerk and said, "You seem to know her; does she come in often?"

"Oh yes," he replied. "But I'm the only one in the store who is willing to wait on her."

I said, "Well, awesome, because in just about three more years, I am her."

Nicest Guy Ever award; I can only imagine it is tough being a young Black urban man out there getting a job, getting ahead, getting respect. And this guy -- he exhibited the graciousness of the ages. He is going places. I don't know where, but places, for sure.

$5.00 off Kraft products you'll probably buy anyway

Go here to get $5 off purchase of five Kraft cheese or dairy products. Btw, I freeze cheese for later use in cooking and stuff. So it's worth stocking up, in my opinion.

If Velveeta doesn't suit your palette, perhaps Parmesan, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, string cheese and more will.

Broke Girl is not above a little couponing action. Lately I've not entered a grocer without $5 to $10 of coupons in tow to knock off the top of my grocery bill. I often source Money Saving Mom or The Thrifty Mama before heading out.

Like last week. Although I personally own a ton of Whole Foods stock (probably overweighted and need to shift that), I usually don't shop there, even though the new store in Chicago on Kingsbury Street is like the Disney World of grocery stores. So delightful and visually and otherwise entertaining. (Wine bar, yummy gelatto, New York City-style hot and cold food buffets, a regular bar, downstairs and mezzanine seating for casual diners, beautiful cooking class room, sometimes free outdoor movies on the parking garage rooftop, riverside dining, restaurant-in-a-grocery grill, and more.)

Anyway, because I believe one should never say the four words, "I can't afford it," (unless you really do not have one dollar in the bank) that means I shan't say, "I can't afford to shop at Whole Foods." However, I more frequently choose to go to the less visually exciting ALDI just a few short blocks north of Whole Foods--which oddly, is often empty. (Haven't these Lincoln Parkers caught on yet...some three years or so into the current economic contraction?)

Anyway, here is today's best coupon deal from Crystal Paine at MoneySavingMom.com. I just printed it, to use before October 1 expiration: $5.00 coupon off purchase of five participating Kraft cheese or dairy products.

August 29, 2010

Cheapism.com-- a cheaper sort of Consumer Reports

Steve, a Chicago reader, sent us a link about a new service: a sort of Consumer Reports, but for cheaper stuff.

Blogger Jennifer Saranow Schultz tells of journalist Max Levitte: All Levitte simply wanted an inexpensive (let's just say cheap) vacuum to clean the solitary rug in his apartment. His took a pass on costlier $150 - $250 vacuums to settle on a $60 vacuum--that turned out not to do the job.

Spotting a greater vacuum in the market, Mr. Levitte was compelled to create Cheapism.com. It offers budget product reviews, satisfying your inner, cheaper buyer.


My strategy varies a bit: I like to have somebody else pay for a high-end product, try it out a couple of times, donate it to a local thrift store, and leave it--still in box and original wrapper, for me to find and buy, really on the cheap. Another reader of the above article agrees:
My strategy for finding cheap, quality products is to keep an eye out for things I'm generally looking for (in my case, cookware) in thrift stores. Recently found a Le Creuset casserole pot, 10 bucks, Salvation Army. Yay.
Put another way, I tend to trail really rich people (or medium-to-poor people who have huge debt--anyone who is a big spender, actually) to pick up their castoffs. When they want to upgrade to a bigger, shinier espresso machine, I'm happy to buy the old.

Do note: I don't like buying my items very much used, however, especially something for food and the kitchen. The last Braun espresso maker I bought was new, completely in wrapper, at a garage sale. It even had two unopened packages of coffee beans which I threw out because they were so old. The machine was a wedding gift to a couple who had apparently never, and no intent to ever, espresso-anything in their future together. Their bad, my good.

Anyway, cheapism.com. Give it a try. Let us know how it works for you.

Cheaper than Prozac

Here's a quick and cheap idea from the blog of a professional wedding photographer whom we like:

"If you’re ever having a rough day & need some encouragement try donning wedding attire and walking around Chicago. Spontaneous applause everywhere we went."

Your ideas?

August 24, 2010

A free Qdoba Mexican Grill entrée in your future?

Is there a Qdoba Mexican Grill in your neighborhood? There is just yards from my front door, and I have come to really appreciate their salsa verde and poblano pesto. There is a Chipotle about equidistant in the opposite direction, but I tired of their menu and quality of food. Methinks Qdoba is a bit better.

Anyway, I just created an entrée on their website and then printed a coupon to get the entire entrée free, (even better than the above offer) with purchase of a beverage. Give it a try, and enjoy a pulled pork grilled quesadilla con salsa verde (my selection).

Coupon offerings print out differently for different folks, so give it a try--I hope you come up with a free entrée, too. Go here to find out.

Remember to sign up with your "generic" or "default" email addy, right?

August 22, 2010

The billionaire and I

Yesterday I asked rhetorically that, if one were to live in a trailer park, and all your friends and everybody you knew lived in a trailer park, wouldn't you be relatively satisfied with that?

Which is one of the ways the "Smart Money" knows how to live well and happily--that is: below their means.

I've often said I might one day decide to retire in one of those neat, trim little trailer parks where the old ladies step out in the morning, still donning a nightcap and robe, to tend their plastic and real flowers. Hey--I believe mediocrity is something to aspire to. I am not joking. There is worse...

I have always relied on my single-girl, one-income household. But I've led a successful career in capital markets trading, socked away some dollars and watched my accounts' values rise and fall much like the tide...as well as get sucked away by those rip-tides, too.

So by now, I pretty much know I won't have millions to spend in retirement, but I also know that I don't want to be the underdog. I don't aspire to roll it up in one of Forbes' top retirement communities like Palm Beach Gardens, Scottsdale, La Jolla, or Pebble Beach (although I have enjoyed vacations to each of those locales). I could live in one of those places for a time, but I'd rather not have to compete with the folks there who will be much wealthier than I. I'd be scrimping and probably have to relocate to the other side of the tracks at some point.

Yet truth is, I am not unlike Jim Clark. You know, the billionaire Internet entrepreneur, founder of Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon (WebMD) and myCFO, and 66-year old husband to 30-year old Sports Illustrated cover model who was "first attracted to Clark because of his brain."

Yes, I am much like the high school dropout who did swing a Ph.D. and stint as Stanford professor. The one who said, when asked if his billions were enough, or whether he wouldn't like to have more money than Bill Gates, said something like, Even for just a moment, I want to have more money than anyone else.

So the thing is, I may be satisfied in my neat little happy trailer park--but--just as long as I get to stand out in my little circle. I will want a newer model trailer, certainly double-wide, and of course, located on the nicest, widest corner lot.

I call it the dandelion syndrome. Dandelions range in height from two inches to nearly a foot and a half. They need to stick their heads just a little bit higher than the flora around them. In trim grass, the dandelion has no need to grow higher than a few inches. As the growth around it rises, so does the dandelion, just enough to top the rest.

See? Most of us need to feel extra special by 1) having just a teensy bit more stuff than the folks around us and /or,  2) a 36-years-junior supermodel wife; whatever. Jim and I do have the former in common. Along with, well, the rest of humanity.

August 21, 2010

What We Want

I'm telling you folks; it seems every day that the Broke folk have it over the Rich folk...

Ever since Adam and Eve strolled out of the Garden, it's not so much that we want stuff, so much as we want the stuff that other people have.

For example, if you lived in a trailer park, and all your friends and everybody you knew lived in a trailer park, wouldn't you be relatively satisfied with that? Or if you lived in some part of the world where indoor plumbing wasn't ubiquitous or was even rare. Wouldn't you be pretty happy just to have one small bathroom (and not the massive double-sinked, separate shower, separate toilet room master bath along with guest baths and pretty half-baths in your house or apartment)?

This recent entry from a friend's blog showcases the phenomenon of wanting what someone else has, rather than looking around to take in the wealth of stuff you already have. The mom writes:
I got out of the shower to hear the loudest screaming and crying I have ever heard in my house.  Man, it’s a buzz kill to get out of an already rushed shower to screaming, crying children. K and G were crying and yelling at each other. I came running downstairs to discover that they were fighting over . . . (get ready): a BOX.  A dirty, broken down box that K's school supplies came in yesterday. “Are you kidding me?” I thought.
Then I clicked open the Fashion & Style pages of the New York Times to discover this story, (registration required) "Brant vs. Brant: Divorce Celebrity Style." Turns the fabu-model / billionaire married-15-years couple Stephanie and Peter Brant are playing out their divorce to similar dramatic effect.

Their wedding—a soirée at a Parisian estate chock full of international bold names wasn't enough to keep their relationship from deteriorating into a squall over, well, just stuff. Albeit expensive stuff like 44 Warhol paintings, chandeliers, silver, china and some lighting fixtures. Still, notes Laura M. Holson: "No one falls in love thinking they will end up sparring over sconces."

What we want, oft seems to be, simply what someone else has.

Which may be why Internet entrepreneur and billionaire Jim Clark said, when asked by a reporter if his billions were enough: No, I would like, if even for a moment, to have more than anyone else.*

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sing it loud, "I can't get no satisfaction."

*The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), p. 260.

August 20, 2010

How my iPhone 4 is $aving me buck$

You already know there's an app for everything except getting your back scratched. Like today, I avoided a trip to the bank by depositing a hard-copy paper check at home via my Chase Bank app. It's the first time I did that; I thought, how cool to do right at my desk, at home. Although I'll read this six months from now and think--that's so nothing.

'Cause I remember the thrill of making my first phone call from my boyfriend's car phone not millions of years ago. It was cool then. Now it is old stuff, plus illegal in my town.

But to my iPhone 4: I highly recommend it to everyone, everywhere. It is saving me money, improving my health, mobility, (a little bit, sociability) and so much more. If you want one, and need a few arguments in favor of--to justify a purchase, here goes. My iPhone replaces:
  1. Scanner
  2. Fax machine
  3. LED flashlight
  4. Makeup / hand mirror
  5. HD video camera
  6. Videophone
  7. Digital camera--with flash
  8. White noise machine
  9. Unlimited games / entertainment
  10. Stereo receiver
  11. Radio
  12. Shopping list, shopping aid 
  13. Compass
  14. GPS
  15. Almost left out--music, podcast, television and movie players
  16. And then there are reference guides like Dictionary, Bible, Google Earth and hundreds more
  17. Kitchen blender, food processor and espresso machine (well, TBD, I'm sure they're working on it)
Seriously, calculate the cost of each of those items, then compare with $199 (my cost) plus about $5 more per month than I paid for my previous iPhone version.

I no longer need a scanner. Or fax machine. iPhone 4 does the drill with the PocketSanner app which takes a great shot of documents and turns it into a PDF. Good thing, too, because I've long since canceled my landline, gave away my fax machine, and recently used the FedEx Kinko's in my neighborhood for increasingly rare fax needs.

A woman I sat with at dinner tonight said she lost 50 pounds using the "Lose it!" app, which my endocrinologist recommended. Free, it is.

Shoppers like me love the conveniences. Whilst shopping with my mother at her local Walgreens, I queued up to a favorite--Money Saving Mom website, and then and there mom and I found a few freebies to pick up. Between us we bought $27.98 in daily vitamins, all free after Walgreens' dollar-saver program, which is called Register Rewards. Anyway, the point is, I go to such sites while in a store to find deals the store is offering that may not be posted or obvious. Mom and I got the free vitamins, yet there was no store signage indicating such. Since it was a corporate-wide offering, we just asked the clerk to scan and he said, "Yes, they're $13.99, but on sale for $10, plus you get $10 back. Awesome for us.

While out recently, it occurred to me to pick up a RedBox movie. I thought, "Surely there's an app for that." So while roaming around, I downloaded the RedBox iPhone app within seconds, looked up a movie I wanted to see, and found a RedBox within a few blocks that still had that just-released movie available! Saved me checking from my home computer; saved running around to various locations; saved having to plan or even think ahead.

Not that that's a good thing, because much that I teach about saving money has to do with planning, planning and, well, planning. The three keys to successful monetary real estate, as it were.

Anyway, I'm looking for more ways to save money using my iPhone. What do you know?

Tonight I set out on a 3.5 mile walk to Chicago's Millennium Park to meet friends for a fabulous and free jazz performance. I entered my destination, the iPhone found my current location, and it indicated how many minutes it would take for me to arrive. The thing was spot-on! Nice to have that sort of pedometer. I've used the iPhone GPS for several years now, and have actively used the feature which shows traffic patterns, wending my way about the city for short-cuts and such especially during contruction or rush hours.

Would love to know your money-saving uses, or just life-enhancing, socially-enabling (in a good way) uses of iPhone apps. How else might it enhance my life? What drawbacks do you see?

BTW, I read last month in the New York Times that Skout is what it's all about for finding new dating partners. Match.com and eHarmony, so last decade; Skout is all 2010. Good for stalking, er, finding compatible dates / partners that are geographically near you, and more easily findable, more immediately.

I downloaded it, then passed it around at a party, and the other party guests were coming up with some fairly creepy guys for me to meet--in the neighborhood, who were winking at me and thus unnerving me, so I quick removed that app. I'm sure there's a good and safe way to use it; just isn't for me now.

So what else am I missing, App-wise? What, if anything, do you think I might be missing by plunging so much of my energy, time, effort and *love* into this new, all-wise all-everything can't-live-without sort of Swiss army knife-like thing? Crack-berries--nothing!! I want to sew it onto my arm. Well, if I ever had to wear a prosthetic hand...

August 18, 2010

Free 11" x 17" photo cling - act QUICKLY

I've been getting free photo things from Walgreens all week.

Every day this week, there is a new one-day-only offering for a free or reduced-price photographic thing. Yesterday, I picked up a free 8" x 10" photo --to be a gift for my mother. It's not so photogenically sensational so much as the story it tells.

It is of a family birthday dinner on the farm in Michigan, an activity we've done regularly and happily for years and years. And by the way, not everyone in the picture is related to everyone. Family dinners include people who are visiting, or in-laws of in-laws and such--which, in my family, makes them family. This dinner included folks who happened to be visiting from two other continents: South America and Asia. (Would you guess that the 86-year old man in the left front--my father--suffered a massive stroke nearly eleven years ago? And note my beautiful mom who is his devoted caretaker. Farm community living, good family relations, and faith in God can make for very healthy living.)


I love giving little surprises away, and today, I'm ordering a new product (new to me). It's the free 11" x 17" photo cling--to present to my sister-in-law. It's a photo of her son, recently shot by a professional photographer. She'll love it, I am sure.


Check out walgreens.com (of course, zero corporate compensation for this mention. I always disclose). No worries if you missed out on this particular free photo cling -- check back every day this week to find another fun little item to gift away!

August 17, 2010

The wealth... that is *Poverty*

Author Victor Hugo wrote of his protagonist Jean Valjean in Les Misérables:

"Poverty, we must insist, had been good to him. Poverty, in youth, when it succeeds, is so far magnificent that it turns the whole will towards effort, and the whole soul towards aspiration.

August 15, 2010

Why I Buy...Because I can, for ¢ on the $

Let me explain: I neither needed nor necessarily went looking to buy four tubes of wildflower-scented body lotion, two unscented things of Dry Idea® anti-perspirant/deodorant, a Crest brand toothpaste and mouth rinse and some Blink Tears solution. Since I already had a bit of each of these in my bathrooms.

Total cost for these nine items from CVS tonight: $2.09 before tax

But since I paid cents for each of these items, and since I'll put them in the single-shelf (mind you) section of hoarded supplies to give away to houseguests, party visitors, or other people passing through my home, it is all good. Justifiable, you see.

With extra time on my hands this evening, I went to CVS and headed straight for the back of the store where there is always a shelf of "get rid of this stuff, we're discontinuing it" products.

So for ten cents on the dollar, I bought four 8-oz tubes of body lotion, at 59¢ each. That's all I bought in that section.

Next, I went looking for items I'd found listed for free or nearly so (on the mom blogs, noted below) and came out ahead a buck-fifty on the Blink Tears. They were priced at $7.99, but with $7.99 back on my receipt to use as virtual cash for my next CVS purchase. So after a $1.50 coupon, and tax that I have no way of figuring out (was it taxed, not taxed? at 9.75% or 2.25%? Either way, it's eligible for qualified health care spending).

The Crest brand toothpaste was 24¢ after my coupon wrangling. The biggest chunk of money, 99¢, went for the mouth rinse. So the items in this photo totaled a cost of $2.09 before tax.

How did I do it? I 1) always check for the (usually obscure) shelf at the rear of every CVS Pharmacy for products they're no longer carrying, usually marked to ten percent of retail and 2) I always check the mommy blogs for what items are free after stacking rebates or coupons with store discounts and credit-back schemes. CVS calls its program Extra Care Bucks (ECB) so, for example, when I purchased the Blink Tears for $7.99, I received a note on my receipt stating I had a credit of $7.99 in ECBs for my next store purchase. See:

Too much trouble? I think not. It's not like clipping 25 cent coupons, but more like saving hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in getting free product plus giving away surplus to guests, friends and homeless neighbors.

Asked differently: If you saw a crisp dollar bill lying on the sidewalk, would you stoop to pick it up?

By the way, I spend no time figuring out the shopping freebies and deals. I go straightaway to the mommy sites who do this for a living (corporate sponsorships support the top dedicated blogs with tens of thousands of followers.) Anyway, they're doing me a great favor by mapping out a shopping list for me. Thus I never run perilously low on hygiene products or require a quick run to the store. I simply go to my supply cupboard. Once the overflow starts falling off the single shelf I allow for this stuff, I start giving more of it away. Got to keep it moving, no stagnancy here.

See the Money Saving Mom and The Thrifty Mama blogs, authored by young moms, both named Crystal, both home-schooling women of Christian faith and money-savvy. The first just purchased her first home in late 2009 with her husband--in cash, all squirreled away from their earlier broke years. Just yesterday, the Money Saving Mom Crystal mentioned on Facebook that her honeymoon consisted of "...peanut butter and jelly from Dollar General in an old tumbledown hotel!" And now, not many years later, their first (and it's nice) new house, purchased in cash. Smart women, both. I'm a follower.

Tomorrow I'll be going to Menards to pick up a zillion free-after-rebate home improvement items I need (paint brushes, a hose nozzle). When I bring new-home / housewarming party gifts, they're usually not wine or flowers, I like to bring a satchel of tools, extension cords, screwdrivers, drill bits--all that stuff you need to fill out a good toolbox in a new home.

And then to Walgreens, to pick up some freebie and discounted items, because I have $10 in free Walgreens bucks--Register Rewards (RR) about to expire.

The truth is...about being broke and being happy

I've never actually been broke, but I've been mostly happy. And I know a thing or two about being close to broke.

I mean, there was that time in college when I needed to get to a volunteer work assignment on Chicago's west side. I was pianist for a children's choir, in the 'hood. And to catch the bus for the long ride--across the entire breadth of Chicago through gang-infested territories to the dicey Austin neighborhood, I had to come up with fifty cents' fare.

(Yeah, I just dropped my age. This girl is on the mature side of life. Chicago bus fare today is nigh unto $2.00 to $2.25, depending on your mode of payment.)

Anyway, I remember counting out nickels but mostly pennies because I didn't have two quarters to rub together for the fare. And when I got on the bus, it made a huge shattering sound as I stood at the fare thing pouring in the last of my change--with riders waiting behind me to board.

Fact is, I did have a dorm room and student dining room, the two basics a girl requires (food and shelter), but little more. So I'm thinking I have a word or two on the human status of broke.

Denver Moore (who is being played by actor Samuel L. Jackson in the movie currently under production about the life of Moore, including his 40+ years of homelessness), says something to the effect of, You know you rich when you are thankful for nothing. That is to say, when you have nothing, but yet are thankful-- that is real. That's true thankfulness. And maybe true wealth?

It's easy to be thankful when you have stuff (money, popularity, boyfriend, master's degree, iPad, hot car, you-fill-in-the-blank-here ___________.)

Today I spent no money, but enjoyed the cornflower deep blue skies of Chicago and watched the city's 52nd Air and Water Show. Sat with a couple of friends at a lagoon in a beautiful and bucolic (for the city) public park. This was rich today:

Chicago's 52nd annual FREE Air and Water Show

And right in my backyard. Free entertainment, walked to the lake...

Strolling home, came upon this happy wedding party in park for photo shoot




August 13, 2010

Ad Exec loans AmEx card to homeless dude; he returns it

Kind of unfortunate that that has become an international headline, first published in the New York Post. That is, that someone returned to a stranger, what he promised, but it's a tickler of a story.

My granny told me she oft fed "hobos" who came to her back door after hopping off the railroad cars that snaked through the farm fields. That was depression era, but as we know, homelessness is, and always will be.

As for the woman, feeling "eternally optimistic" with just one margarita under her belt when approached by a homeless beggar, "Everybody [who witnessed her charitable act] said they thought that was the dumbest thing, that there's a fine line between charity and stupidity."

It's not surprising, then, that she volunteers with the Coalition for the Homeless. And as a New York ad executive, she apparently felt she knew her audience, homeless man Jay Valentine, who asked her for cash to buy a Vitaminwater. (Those ad folk are doing their work: the man asked for product by brand name!)

With no paper cash at hand, she said that she only had her AmEx card. Mr. Valentine asked if he could use it. She said yes. He asked if it was okay if he bought cigarettes with it, too, and she again said "yes," before he walked off with her AmEx card.

Said Valentine, "I went and bought a few things and came back and gave her her credit card back, and everybody was surprised. I said, 'Thanks for trusting me.' I guess she had a good sense of judgment. She knew I was trustworthy."

Valentine then spent about $25 on deodorant, body wash, Nat Sherman cigarettes and the water.

Back to what the bystanders said of her "stupidity;" is it true, my gentle readers? Is there a fine line between charity and stupidity? Then let's take it.

I spent 22 years loving my homeless girl, and I miss her still. I let her sleep in my home a few times, but knowing she was mentally ill and my personal safety could be compromised, I didn't encourage her to return, and she never pushed it.

My take? Do something a little bit "stupid" and trusting of a needy stranger or homeless person in the next 48 hours. Not too stupid; just something a bit measured, that's all.

(A social worker--colleague of a dear friend of mine, was murdered in her Chicago home by a client she was helping and had allowed into her home. So I'm suggesting, do take a risk, but with something more like a credit card than, say, your personal safety, ya know...)

And one more thing... The advertising executive, Merrie Harris, later asked rhetorically, "So what--should we only trust people we know?  ...what would Bernie Madoff's friends say?"

August 12, 2010

Get your GroupOn and I'll donate to Compassion International

Perhaps I have failed my friendly readers (both of you) by not mentioning Groupon? How else do you think Broke Girl recently afforded a complete set of oral X-rays, cleaning, and exam by a crack dentist, and with no dental insurance?

Being that I am, dentally-speaking, self-insured (I do carry a BCBS-Illinois medical policy, just not dental) I subscribed to Groupon at the behest of my long-time friend Todd Sinelli. He had snagged super-inexpensive dental care from a dentist wishing to expand her practice via Groupon. So I, too subscribed to the Daily Deal blasts, and when the next $49.00-for-full-dental exam, cleaning and X-ray appeared as a Groupon Daily Deal, I signed on.

I'm an on-and-off subscriber. Most recently enjoyed a dee-liciously fabulous dinner at India House ($20 for $40 worth of dining), with my nephew Jonathan, who operates a service business in India, so is becoming somewhat of an India-phile. It was fantastic, and easily worth even the $40 price of the meal (for which we paid only $20, + generous gratuity.)

Check out Groupon.com for your locale. In fact, if you sign up at Groupon via my personal link, I'll be credited $10 after you make your first purchase. And I promise, I'll donate 100 percent of those proceeds -- $10 for every person signing via my link -- to Compassion International.

(And just today, I'm checking out Daily Deal Chicago, slightly less attractive offerings, but worth a look if you live in my town.) My tip: just purchase products and services you would have planned to use anyway. Just because it's cheap doesn't mean it is worth your buying it.

August 11, 2010

Free supply of Sun Chlorella Cream®

Another freebie pointed out by the mommy blogs. Thanks to Good Deal Mama for noting this free two-week supply of Sun Chlorella Cream®. Get yours here.



Get Help Organizing with free Post-it® Tabs

My files look nothing like this and the tabs are wearing down. Mostly I dislike the lack of continuity -- some printed, some scribbled in fat markers of varying colors.

Post-it® freebies are typically standard-supply size, not eeny samples, so may be worth going here to order your free sample of Durable Tabs and Label Pads. Sent to you via US Postal mail.

Pretty and Free Treat for Your Feet


Go here to get a free sample of this cream delivered to your real postal box.

My tips:
You'll have to enter an email address--remember to set up and use a generic-sort of email account for these offers (free at hotmail, yahoo, gmail) to avoid the incoming spam in your *important* email account--you know, the one into which valued invitations to your friends' parties and those ribbon-cutting ceremonies you always attend arrive.

When asked to enter my birthday, I have a standard date I enter, which is not my actual birthday, because I don't want to be I.D.'d around the 'net. Am I lying? Well, it's private information, and I simply refuse to answer, so enter a standard default date I've selected, happens to be a date in the summer of 1962.

August 10, 2010

Can you say "Boundaries?"

With perpetrator at my backyard, my homeless neighbor William* has been active at my front door. Luckily I was out last week when he rang the doorbell and my v-e-r-y tall friend Tim* happened to be here, house-sitting, in fact, because I was traveling.

I'm glad Tim answered the door, because folk need to know that lots of people are coming and going in this place I call home, and we abide no trouble here.** Yesterday when William rang, I answered the door, and for the second time ever, gave him the money he asked to borrow --no more and no less: $0.50. If he asks for fifty cents, I'm not going to give him a dollar. Sometimes a homeless person will ask for something like a quarter, and if you give it to them, they'll say, "Do you have more?" So I stick with the first request.

Anyway, when William rang the doorbell again today, I did not answer. And don't plan to for awhile when he comes to my door. He's been stopping by just to tell me that he's going to visit relatives in Tennessee or Kentucky for a month. Yesterday he needed $0.50 to get to the bus station. Dunno what he was going to say today.

I love houseguests and had so many this past weekend, that a few opted to sleep on my deck, just above the door that was kicked in this morning. I warned my 20-something houseguests (age, not number of people, although we did reach double digits in body count!) of their vulnerability out there, sleeping out-of-doors in the city; how just about anyone could come up the alley and shimmy over the fence and shoot them, or something.

I wonder how differently things would have turned out if this morning's burglar had awakened them and he and they would all have surprised one another. I'm rather glad not to find out. The Supreme Court finally overruled Chicago's decades-long gun ban, but in some ways, the ban had only encouraged burglars to pack one, knowing law-abiders couldn't carry = Advantage, bad guys.

So cute when they're sleeping, yes?



*Yeah, their real names, no pseudonyms today.

** A friend wrote today, "One would think word on the street for your place, by now, would be 'Home during the day, stay away.' Hmm, criminal communication must be down."

Letting go... of my beloved possessions

At 5:29 this morning I awoke to the sound of two successive bangs. I regularly sleep through street noise, car alarms and the whirl of Medevac helicopters landing on a nearby hospital roof. But apparently my unconscious perceived this sound to be closer and "not right." I was alerted awake.

I ran downstairs. Sure enough, the backyard motion-detectable floodlight was on, and the door to my garage open. I switched on a second flood light and saw a man peering up toward me. My door's deadbolt was locked from the inside so I turned and raced to get the key to unlock it. By the time I returned, he was pushing my bicycle down the gangway at the side of my garage to the alley. Feeling safe enough at my distance in the house, I opened the door and bellowed as loud as I could from the depth of my diaphragm: "Leave my bike!"

Startled, he jumped on it, and the heavy, 50-ish man pedaled off...on my hot-pink women's bike.

The 911 operator said the police would look for him straightaway and took my detailed description. Officer Morris arrived 13 minutes later and spent five minutes slowly writing my description: Male, 6'1", medium-to-heavy build, dark-complected, receding hairline with short black hair, dark gray short-sleeved tee and dark pants.

The officer then drove away, returning 15 minutes later, saying the offender was not to be found. "You mean to say you went to look for him now?" I asked politely (but feeling incredulous). "Oh, he had to be two miles out before you went looking--he'd sprinted down the alley when I hollered at him, a good ten minutes before you arrived." I was a bit frustrated that the officers didn't look before coming to my house--as the 911 operator said.

Sad about losing my bicycle: on which I logged thousands upon thousands of miles (documented in my Excel file aptly titled "Bicycling") traveling to and from work--my bond-brokering job in the Loop in the 90s, and just high-tailing it up and down Chicago's lakefront for years and years, from Hollywood Street to the South Shore Cultural-Center and back home.

I'm out an expensive lock and other primped-out accessories; will have to repair the lock on the gate to the back of my property as well as the busted garage door lock, frame and garage wall siding.

The trouble with possessions is that sometimes you have to let go of them.

I, of course, have been musing on this guy for two hours now. I wonder if my words reverberated in my burglar's mind's ear: Leave my bike! I wondered what his mama would think of him now. I wondered if the economy weren't so wrecked, if he'd not have turned to thievery. I wondered if, as a Black man in not-so-post-racial America, he never much had a chance at securing and developing a career to earn livable wages. I wish I had a chance to see him (somehow safely) eye-to-eye today, and ask, "Do you really mean to damage my gate, door, locks and rob me of my beloved bicycle. Is that what you really want to do?"

August 6, 2010

I'm sneaking into the [Sams'] Club this weekend

I've never joined a big warehouse shopping club, although I've accompanied friends to the Costco nearest me.

But heard on the radio a few days ago that non-club members are invited to shop, gratis, sans membership cards, at Sam's Clubs everywhere this weekend: Friday through Sunday, 6 - 9 August!

So I went to the Sam's Club store locater and found one seven miles from my home; will probably go.

It was Groucho Marx whom Woody Allen quoted when Allen made the statement oft credited to himself: "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."

Addendum:
After a reader wrote the following, I responded
From reader Luke: "Sams is over rated. They only sell name brand items, granted they are cheaper than name brand items in other stores, but the same price as comparable non-name items. In other words at Sams you have to buy 4 bottles of Heinz ketchup. When... for the same price per bottle you can buy 1 bottle of Walmart ketchup.
Broke Girl responds: Thanks, Luke. You know, I've since decided not to even make the trip. I checked out a few Sam's prices online and decided that rather than pay $1.49 /box of Kleenex brand tissues, I'll pay $0.99 for a box of unbranded tissues--equally good quality-- at the ALDI grocer in my neighborhood. Why pay 50% more? I'm with Woody Allen on this one--don't want to join that "Club" that would have me...Thanks.
But for any readers who take the free spin through Sam's this weekend, let us know what you think... Would love to hear.

August 5, 2010

I'm sold on Sonic (but I still bought it on the cheap)

So I'm kind of reversing my claim of yesterday--that my purchase of a Philips Sonicare toothbrush will cost me another $1,409.86.

(Btw, the Sonicare Essence 5000 series is $89.99, retail. My cost: $30.99. Walgreens' regular price is $79.99, less a 15%-off-all-purchases-for-friends-and-family-day-coupon at Walgreens; less a $10 coupon I picked up at my dentist's reception last week, less $20 for a Walgreens advertised sale; less $10 in an Extra Care Buck coupon from vitamins I purchased from Walgreens earlier this week for $10.)


Avoid paying retail. I decided to switch from a manual to electric brush a few weeks ago, but was awaiting an opportunity to pay less than 50 percent of the retail price, and that opportunity presented sooner than I expected!

This is how I figure I'm really ahead a few thousand dollars--not behind $1,400! I must be the last person on earth (that is, in locales there is indoor plumbing--I'll exclude those in un-plumbed refugee camps around the globe) to discover the joys of electric sonic brushing.

First, I'm using about 80 percent less toothpaste. But that doesn't save actual money, since I always get toothpaste free after coupons and such nonsense. I typically just pay tax.

My teeth are celebrating already. And after having spent a few thousand dollars on tooth repair and upkeep, and keeping my dentist in Prada (seriously, he wears that for everyday!!) I realize that this sonic cleaning thing is really going to keep my teeth and gums in pristine condition. My dentist oft warned that my style of brushing was too harsh and aggressive, and it is true I attacked it with a vengeance, but my new cleaning tools are so much better and gentler, and, I think, really getting my teeth microscopically clean.

So I take back that sarcastic response to Philips' product pitches. True, I won't be spending $1,409.86 on extraneous electronics to keep my life as it "should" be, according to Philips' copywriters, but I now am a believer: the $30.99 + tax that I put out is an investment that will likely result in lower dental repair costs.

Gotta go, time to brush and head to bed.

Free sample of Emergen-C

Sign up to receive your free sample here.

When you sign up for free stuff (which I do often, if only for the joy of getting a little "surprise" package in the mail at least once or twice a week) -- be sure not to use your main / standard email address, but a sort of "default" email into which you allow all that commercial spam. I use gmail for mine, because otherwise, use MobileMe for all my mailing.

I check that gmail account sporadically, sometimes several times in a week, or every few weeks. But learned to do so more regularly around my birthday last month. I discovered lots of coupons and certificates sent to me for freebies for my birthday.

August 4, 2010

My new $1,409.86 Philips Sonicare toothbrush

Until I brought home my new Philips Sonicare toothbrush today and spotted the 21" fold-out brochure in the package, I did not realize where I had gone wrong. And how little I understood of myself and my needs.

The flier read, "[You] should be a morning person." And they sell to things for that! Philips Wake-up Light ($169.99) and Docking Alarm Clock ($49.99).

And "Because looking good is feeling good," Arcitec Razor ($179.99), Bodygroom Groomer ($49.99) and Stubble Trimmer ($39.99).

And "Because great music is your soundtrack for life," I need GoGear ($99.99) and Headphones ($9.99).

And "Because you spend more time at the office than anywhere else [not]," I need an Office Docking Station ($139.99), and a goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device ($199.99).

And "Because your music should be as mobile as you are," I need more Headphones ($9.99) and an Action Jacket with Rotating Belt Clip for music player ($29.99).

But "Because sometimes you want to connect with the world form the comfort of your home," there's the Shelf System ($129.99), Prestigo Remote ($199.99), and a DECT Phone ($99.99).

All in, having finally switched from manual to electric toothbrushing with my new Sonicare Essence, I realize I now need more products "4life," as the copy reads.

This will cost me a mere: $1,409.86, plus tax.

Second-hand is simply first-hand smart

Tag sales, garage sales, yard sales: are smart, fun, hip and cool, and even for the rich and famous celebu-reali-TV types, as in this video of the New York family featured in 9 by Design.

More to come on Why Broke Girl has decorated her house with only two pieces of furniture purchased new from a store* (Oh, excepting her bed mattress--that was new--but not the Crate and Barrel branded four-poster on which it rests.) Everything else having been scavenged from alleys, Craigslist sellers, Salvation Army and other thrift-type resale stores, and random yard sales.
 


The only thing she's ever bought new: a pair of these steel, brass and copper palm chairs signed by their designer Mario Villa, bought for too much bucks circa 1990 (but which she still thinks she'll resell someday at a profit, including accounting for the time value of money from 1990 to present day.) They're pretty, but not like, super comfortable or anything, being a bit on the high side for a 5'4-1/2" girl.


 *Because, as she famously says, "I like it when somebody else pays the big bucks, and I get the goods!!


July 30, 2010

Stuff I've learned: Waived baggage fees, Chicago's new bike share

Interesting story how traveler Wendy Perrin saved $280 in checked-luggage fees on a family trip to Hawaii. She says her Continental Airlines MasterCard, when used for flights booked through Continental, waives fees for checked luggage!

Note to self: Must check this out with my more frequently-used carriers.

And in other news, finally, my hometown of Chicago is railing the bike paths of Amsterdam, Paris, Denver and DC: The new bike share program sponsored by the company Bike and Roll, rolls out today. How exciting! I ran a few errands yesterday using only my bicycle to get around this increasingly cycle-happy city, but after first mapquesting to scout out an office supply store along my the way. Indeed, there was an OfficeMax on Ashland Avenue that fit right along my route! Rental rates are higher in Chicago than in Denver, Minneapolis, D.C., Fort Lauderdale and San Antonio, but that's because those municipalities received public funding. Surprisingly, no room in the budget to facilitate healthy and eco-friendly activity in this tourist-heavy town. Where are those tax dollars spent? If they never existed...

Oh, and in other news, former Gov Blagojevich's jury is today deliberating. Mulling over the case in which the trail just wrapped--the former Illinois Governor facing 24 counts brought against him by the government, including attempts to extort campaign contributions.

July 29, 2010

Keep eating those $2.99 Quiznos' meals through August 5

Go here to print all the coupons you want for $2.99 meals at Quiznos, through Thursday, 5 August.

Get any small sub, chips and regular fountain drink for $2.99.

July 28, 2010

All that free back-to-school stuff is happening now

"Back to School" sales are everywhere, so I loaded up on a few dozen pens, glue sticks, highlighters, tape and other home-office wares, all "free after rebate" items from Menards (yes, the home-improvement store) last night.

I needed to purchase 35' of electrical wire among other stuff, so that purchase qualified me for the free-after-rebate items by purchasing a minimum of $10 of non-rebated items. Of course I rolled over the $15.00 credit earned from several sets of "free after rebate" paint brushes on which I stocked up earlier this summer.

For more detail of the ins and outs of Menards' rebates (which I take advantage of about twice a month), and specific deals for this week, see what our admirable friend The Thrifty Mama has to post about that.

But today, I stocked up on special order /personalized home-office supplies. I took advantage of the list of free products offered at Vistaprint. This is the first time I've ordered checks from a source other than through my Chase bank's offering, and probably about time I not pay crazy prices for those antiquated, old-school modes of cash transfer. 25 checks = free, and they'll last me a long time, since I write fewer and fewer of them. And 250 business cards, a pen with my logo, personalized rubber address stamp, and even a free car magnet! (I know, call me crazy. I don't think I'll be driving around with my business logo stuck to the side of my auto, but I ordered it rather on a whim--possibly to be a regretted waste, but I'll just make the magnet into a toy or something relatively redeemingly useful

Check out the office supply items you can get free at Vistaprint. Look for the pull-down menu in the top left column "Free Products," and order away. You only pay shipping. As usual, I opted for the slowest and cheapest shipping time and rate: 21 days. I almost always get items within a week when selecting the cheap 21-day delivery rates anyway.


  • Business Cards
  • Return Address Labels
  • Rubber Stamp
  • Website
  • Checks
  • Personalized pen
  • Car door magnet (!)
  • Logo design
  • Website

July 26, 2010

And the winner is:

The winner of our book giveaway is Cristin, who hosts her own blog over at Cristin is Coupon Crazy.

Congrats, Cristin! We've sent a separate email announcing your win. Just let us know exactly to how and to whom you would like the book autographed, and it will soon be winging its way east to your New Jersey home.

July 25, 2010

Don't Look Now, But There's Some Cash in Your Desk Drawer: Selling Electronic Gadgetry

Two things you can do with the electronic gadgets sitting in your desk drawer. Recycle or resell.

Well, three--you can give them to someone else who needs your old Blackberry or laptop.  Which is what my sister-in-law did with her old iPhone. Mine bit the dust and I needed to fill the gap--it was several weeks before orders were being accepted for the next iteration, iPhone 4. She opened a kitchen drawer and pulled out an old iPhone for my use. (Thankful shout-out to JoAnn!)

I'll admit I haven't been doing as well with my own recycling, having two laptops in my possession I no longer use.

This will soon change: Last week, my friend Tom (former Apple employee) said the old MacBook Pro was worth some bucks. He asked me to send the serial number and he'll tell me how much cash I can get it for it. The backlight went out, but it has perfectly operating brains. Hook it up to a monitor and it will serve somebody just fine. (Sorry, MacBook Pro. Yes, there were days I knew I could not live without you, yet I've since moved on to another: a sweet, glowing, super-sized 27" iMac.)

Meantime, for those of you with dead iPods and old phones littering your shelves, head to one of these websites that will pay cash for old gadgets: Techforward.com, gazelle.com, MyBoneYard.com

State detail of the product you own and its condition, and you'll get a bid. Or choose to donate.

Of course, you can offer your items on eBay or Craigslist.

Year to date, I've made $635 simply from cleaning out my closets, posting pictures on Craigslist, and collecting the coin. My house is looking a bit more spare, the closets enjoy the breathing room, and I really didn't need the pretty, but dusty chandelier that was getting no love in the attic space of my garage.

Or do what this Michigan farmer did. Rather than dump in a landfill, re-purpose metal objects you no longer use into fabulous art:

Somewhere on Montgomery Road, south-central Michigan

July 23, 2010

Free backpack from Staples (after rebate)

Get a free backpack (after rebate) from Staples beginning on my birthday, Sunday 25 July, through the 31st.

Hmm...whom do you know, could use a good backpack. Your children, grandchildren, nephew--neighbor children whose parents are unemployed, men and women at your local homeless shelter. Maybe you'll just want to surprise a homeless person whom you know with the gift of a new backpack. Nicer-looking and more efficient than plastic garbage bags.

If there is one thing my late (and life-long homeless) friend Wanda did not like, that was to *look* homeless. The girl appreciated a nice-looking bag. Fact, below is photo of her with an orange tote I gave her on her 43rd birthday (lunch at her fave: California Pizza Kitchen, North Ave at Sheffield, Chicago's Lincoln Park, July 9, 2005).





Beginning Sunday, 25 July, OfficeMax will be offering a similar deal via their Max Perks Rewards. Get two free backpacks and pass them along to a friend or homeless person in need. I love giving gifts, don't you?

Free Einstein Bros Bagels

I recently clipped this Einstein Bros. Bagels coupon which I keep in my wallet to use and re-use multiple times through the end of this month.

Free bagels on Fridays before 11:00 a.m., no purchase necessary. On Tuesday mornings, get coffee, bagel and a schmear for two bucks.

Similar offer was good several months ago, and I enjoyed stopping in whenever in the vicinity of a store--or whenever I happened to think of it on a Tuesday or Friday--to take advantage of the offer. Keep the coupon and re-use it through July 30. Yet another July birthday treat "on" me.

July 20, 2010

Quiznos lunch - $2.99 through 27 July

Skip the bank and GO directly to collect another lunch price break at Quiznos. While you're at it, treat your friends as well, because you can print multiple coupons and use one per person, per visit.

(Because readers of Broke Girl are not cheap; they are generous.)

Think of it as my birthday lunch. In fact, same offer as last month, when Quiznos offered this special: invite me to go with, and I'll pay the $2.99 for your lunch.

Go here to find a location near you.

July 19, 2010

A Shout-Out to Corporate Sponsors of My Upcoming Birthday

A big "thanks" goes to the first sponsor to treat me to a free--no strings--birthday entree which I just picked up at Noodles & Company, 2813 N Broadway St at Diversey in Chicago. Very much enjoyed having my first birthday lunch, albeit by myself, a week early: Chinese chop salad w grilled chicken, hold the red peppers.

I don't specifically recall signing up for a Noodlegram, but am glad I did and you can, too.

Note to reader: When signing up for free offers, coupons, etc., use an email account created specifically for such spam (er, "welcomed" advertising, special offers). I just happened to check that account (at Gmail) today, which I do less than once a week and thus happened to spot my free "happy birthday" coupon, which I printed. Then headed straightaway to the noodles.com site to find a store near me. Hungry for lunch; it was perfect timing, and off I went.

I guess they got their goods, too, as it was a location I did not know existed. Maybe I'll return. When I stopped in at 2:00 p.m., the store was not busy, but the cashier said I was the third person today to claim a free birthday entree.  Retail: $9.90 (a big chunk of that Chicago city tax). My cost: $1.65 for a soda.

If you know of any other corporations that would like to sponsor my birthday, please mention in the comments. Share the opportunities with the rest of us who like to be celebrated at least once a year.