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.

Paying 10 cents on the dollar at CVS

Not long ago I was at the rear of a CVS pharmacy and saw the few shelves of a back row cap stashed full with discounted items, nearly all priced at ten percent of retail price. Right there, I bought nine (count 'em) Burt's Bees Head to Toe Starter Kits with yummy smelling oils, creams and balms that would go great in my girlfriend's bags when traveling through airports, or just wonderful to use at home.

My birthday is later this week and I intend to continue a little tradition I started a few years ago. I love a birthday dinner out with my best gal pals at some fun, smart new restaurant to which I bring gifts to give my girlfriends, for my birthday! It is so much fun, and the first year it was a great surprise. So this year, assuming none of them read this blog, they'll all be surprised with a Burt's Bees spa kit.

Retail price: $15.99, I paid $1.59 each for nine, at a savings of $143 (including tax).

Late last night I was dying for a (caffeine free) Diet Coke, so ran over to the CVS store and while there, decided to check that end cap again.

I promise: I am no hoarder, but I did go against Grandpa Durling's admonition that "It ain't cheap if you don't need it." I spent $4.72 (for all items in this pic) to save $39.96.
  • Paid 14 cents (retail $1.49) each for four Scotch brand bubble mailers. I'm using one to mail away a little gift today. 
  • Then some scunci hair clips and bobby pins, $0.32, discounted from retail of $3.29.
  • A gel thing that is the "Secret to Healthier Feet" that compares at $0.89 to $25.00 for the version I spotted at my local natural health store. Didn't need it, but it is alleged to massage and relax my feet. Yum!
  • Picked up several 100-count packs of cotton swabs at 22 cents each, and then--
  • Something I've long wanted: I'm no scrapbooker, but need something to cut paper in a straight line. I can't do it with scissors. Last I checked, a simple paper cutter cost about $25 at an office supply store. I found one here, retail $9.99, and paid $0.99. It's been worth it trying to cut straight lines with scissors and waiting to get one of these things on the cheap.

Anyway, that's the skinny on How I Do It--in response to the questions from many friends and a few strangers of how this girls lives and thrives well on very small expenditures.

Takeaway: Keep an eye out for those clearance racks at CVS pharmacy. All the stores have them, usually in obscure, totally unmarked rear sections.  I just figure, why pad others' profits when I can keep more of my own money and spend or give it away elsewhere, however I want to?

July 18, 2010

I *Do* Know a Good Deal When I See One!

It's been an awesome weekend here in the neighborhood. Other than the three-digit temps and the marvelous flash rain storm that thundered through a few hours ago, there was:
  • the 42nd annual Sheffield Garden Walk (i.e., legitimate snooping through neighbors' back yards);
  • the Armitage Avenue sidewalk sale (I underpaid for a beaded designer sleeveless top -- underpaid because I was carrying cash, no plastic--but was short a few bucks, so the cashier said, "I'll knock off another five percent and take what you have);
  • the  Tres Petite Coucours teeny tiny car show;
...And most amazing of all: this offering for the incredible bargain price of ten dollars: "Heal your soul, transform your life." I'd have thought there would be a line ten blocks long, but no--I peered into the open door which led straight up an empty, black-painted staircase to a landing not visible around the corner.
Where are the lines of people seeking soul healing...perhaps it's known not to be the *bargain* advertised?

My tip: Save ten dollars and aspire to follow the greatest commandment (according to Jesus, upon being queried by several Jewish lawyers): "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and: "Love your neighbor as yourself."* I'm seeking a little soul healing myself, dear reader.

* Matthew 22: 34-39

Free 12-oz frappé or latté at McD's

I have the newspaper delivered on Sundays for only fifty cents. I read all of my news content online, but get this one day delivered only for the manufacturer coupons (and feel a tad guilty when recycling the paper I never open).

Today's worth-getting-the-Sunday-paper for $0.50 was the coupon for free 12-ounce frappé I'm going to pick up at McDonald's, probably later this sizzling hot July day.

(Yes, I'm truly sorry for the shake-up in journalism as readers like me abandon hard-copy news for free online reading, resulting in loss of monies for critically-needed journalism and reportage such as that of John Conroy--without whom Chicago's police lieutenant Jon Burge may not have been convicted last month in a decades-long scenario of torture of citizens See this New York Times blog on this critical issue and horrific case, which, without The Chicago Reader and Conroy's reportage, it may not have seen the bit of justice it did get. Horrors. Because meanwhile, crack author and relentless reporter Conroy gets by, among other means, by writing ad copy for a bicycle parts manufacturer.)

So meantime I'm just focusing on getting a free latté? Well, yeah. But you won't find me dumpster-diving for the newspapers with thousands of coupons for free smoothies and lattés that others are just going to toss. Check your Parade insert for a free coupon and pretend I'm with you when you sip your icy cool latté.

*    *     *     *     *

No, I'm never been much for using coupons; not until about two years ago when I came across a swarm of mommy bloggers who detail how to get many full-size products entirely free, and from your own neighborhood drug store. They do your homework for you by detailing where, when and how to easily, conveniently, combine special offers and deals from pharmacies with manufacturer's coupons. Those crack mom bloggers really do their work. i.e., they do my work for me.

I just swing by their sites once or twice a week, grab the relevant coupons from the Sunday paper inserts, and as a result, have gotten hundreds upon hundreds of free products, primarily, from CVS, Walgreens and Menards which I use myself or give away to friends. Seriously, last time my underemployed friend Jason was over, I sent him home with a bag chock full of shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, moisturizer and a couple of Mach-3 razors from my supply closet--because I will not hoard. I'm like a pharmacy supply company for my family and friends. In fact, I have a huge collection of several hundred dollars' worth of Buts' Bees products that I'm going to wrap up and give to my girlfriends on my birthday next week. More to come on why and how I follow the mom shopping bloggers...

Meanwhile, the sites I most frequent and trust, with the highest-caliber ethics and offerings which have helped me secure tons of free products, dinners and even services are these:  Money Saving Mom, The Thrifty Mama and Daily Essentials and Deals. If you go to these sites, your eyes might glaze over, but there are shortcuts to getting exactly what you want and need quickly and easily. I'll detail more someday.

July 17, 2010

Rivers Works

No one I know has any interest in seeing the movie "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," but I have been wanting to see it ever since I heard of it and more so, after hearing comedian Dennis Miller yesterday say it was fantastic; deserving of an Oscar.

So I went to see it by myself, last night.

She was authentic, self-deprecating, revealing the very lows of her life, her current hard-scrabble scramble to get and do anything for any kind of paying work. Roger Ebert agreed, "One of the most truthful...documentaries I have ever seen."

That's what I wanted to see in the movie. A 75-year-old woman who is relentless. Rivers works tirelessly, attracts enormous amounts of rejection, travels on several hours' sleep to small towns to perform any gig she can, whenever and wherever. I was so impressed. Crude, yes; inspiring, assuredly. The woman works for her money.

She said, I could stop and sit in the sun, but I would have to live very carefully and I don't want to do that. There was the sweet bit in which she and her grandson delivered meals to shut-ins for the charity "God's Love We Deliver," on whose board she serves.

My takeaway: inspired to work harder and better. It also confirmed something else I don't often talk about, but if Joan could reveal her large make-up-less facial pores and desperation for work...

Yesterday I babysat three wee children for $12 / hour. Yes, I have earned up to $1,000 /day on consulting gigs this year, albeit infrequently that I am tapped for such assignments.

Like Joan, I'm not too proud to work for wages many others would turn away from. I think my ethic started (could be a genetic bit from my Dutch ancestry), more from a graveyard-shift factory job I took in Ohio a summer of my college years. It was a searing, steamy, still-aired and greasy auto-parts manufacturer for which I was employed for six weeks. It was an experience I will never forget and truly cherish; it made me to feel one with the American labor force. Kind of "Officer and a Gentleman"-style, but--well, without the officer and a gentleman.

You do what you have to do. That, I felt, I had in common with Joan. And that is my lesson for today. So go do yours.

Warning: Trailer not for all audiences. If you pride yourself "a discriminating person," you'll likely avoid it, too.

July 16, 2010

Thanks, Steve!

I'm soon to be $29 + tax richer, once I am refunded my put-out for the bright orange bumper I bought for my iPhone 4. I didn't buy it to improve reception. BTW, my phone conversations are cut off for no apparent reason, at minimum, twice daily. Oh, but for the days of yore and rotary-dial landline phones permanently affixed to the wall. And my family's was a party line. (Two longs and a short, if I remember correctly.)

I got the bumper so I could find it in the bottomless pit that is my bicycle backpack, handbag, and office desktop.

So what am I going to spend all that money on?

Probably the electric bill that I got for the 30 days ending mid-July. More than twice the highest electric bill I have ever had, and it's not like I've had the air conditioners running constantly, although I do have two of them that service my home. I'm a big user of fans, you know. Especially vintage ones, even though they're probably huge gobblers of energy just to get those heavy metal blades turning.

My iPhone takes a self-portrait all dressed up in its pretty orange bumper

July 15, 2010

Month at the Museum

Well-- who in the world wouldn't do this? Eat and sleep for thirty days, get paid ten thousand dollars.

Apparently one of my friends thought I am just wacky enough to do this. But neither am I broke enough / in need of $10,000 enough, to be compelled to do it.

But for you folk out there who could use a spare or ten Grover Clevelands (yes, the United States Treasury printed these through 1946), here is your chance to star in your very own version of "Night at the Museum" and capture your 15 minutes.

From October 20 to November 18, 2010, be the experiment and "eat, sleep, science" at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. I'd be inclined to maybe go for an afternoon, get a free lunch.

For more information, go to MonthattheMuseum.org.

Get Beauty Treatments free or low-cost: from an Apprentice

Got my hair colored and my grays (yes, I do) touched up by a salon apprentice at the swank (all glass and white and silver and potted plants and skinny black-adorned stylists) Maxine Salon on Rush Street today. I paid 1/3 the standard fee + gratuity.

Photo courtesy Tony Veloz
Ever since discovering Salon Apprentice, I've been getting my highlights touched, my grays soothed, and my layers shaped by salon apprenti all across the city, from Michigan Avenue's Elizabeth Arden to Bucktown's Art + Science salon. If you don't live in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles or London, just call a beauty school or large salon-spa in your area and ask how to get on a list as hair model, or how to get connected with salon students who need you.

Because they're always under the scrutiny of a teacher, I've always left with a great and professional look. The downside: it's likely to take a little bit more time to get it done; you have to be flexible with time -- mostly they are available to work on you early in the week and in the mornings. You are likely to find free or steeply discounted services for manis and pedis from beauty school students and even massages from a massage school. Part of the pay--in return for getting free or very low-cost services--is being available and flexible with your time. Just another tip for living broke, but happily.

Uh no, that picture isn't me. Just a shiny apropos photo I spotted on Flickr, thank you.

July 14, 2010

The Rich are Different, and Not So Content

Somebody talk to me.

Who in the world fed us the lie that "poor" and "content" are mutually exclusive conditions in which to be and experience? Because we sure know the opposites are totally (possibly) compatible: the states of being rich and miserable, simultaneously. Need I start listing all the examples?

Yes indeedy, the rich are different, but how happy can you be when you are suing your own parents, divorcing your uber-rich man (or sugar-mama as the case may be), squabbling with the mama of your own offspring, fighting against your own employer, banker--even hiring a new lawyer to sue your former lawyer.

Read about it in Mrs. Astor Regrets--the 18-count criminal indictment of her son for, among others, looting her estate and mistreating her  in terms of physical care and comfort in her declining years.

Or for some really sad stories of a very moneyed family: In 1989, I read heiress Sallie Bingham's autobiography Passion and Prejudice: a Family Memoir, (since republished in 2000) which was as juicy as any summer-beach novel read could possibly get: twas a lurid tale of incest, suicide, fortune-hunting men, cheated women, other beyond-weird behavior, and even a murder. Her three brothers, all scions of the dynasty that published The Louisville Courier-Journaland and The Louisville Times, met untimely deaths, the short versions of which were mentioned in the New York Times obit of her last brother to pass.

I remember the shock of reading about two of her young brothers' deaths: one at age 22, was electrocuted when he was setting up lighting or sounds or such for a party on the family estate. Another was killed at 34 after he stashed a surfboard in his convertible behind the driver's seat, then accidentally hit a parked vehicle, causing the board to instantly break his neck.

Scandal shrouded the origin of the family wealth. Robert Bingham married 49-year-old widow Mary Lily Kenan Flagler (richest woman in America, the 1910s). She died of unspecified maladies and heart failure and depression eight months after the wedding, leaving $5 million cash to the new groom, with which he bought the newspapers. According to Sallie Bingham, Mary Lily had given her new sister-in-law a pearl necklace that turned out to be a worthless fake. But that was only the beginning...

Ah, the oddities of the super-rich.

July 13, 2010

Giveaway book: A Girl and Her Money

It's a Broke Girl giveaway! 

Enter to receive a free autographed copy of "A Girl and Her Money: How to Have a Great Relationship Without Falling in Love," by Sharon Durling (aka Broke Girl, herself), pub. Thomas Nelson.

Simply leave a comment below for your entry. Giveaway ends on Broke Girl's Birthday! --midnight, 25 July PDST. Winner must respond within 48 hours to our email to claim the prize. Will be mailed via U.S. Postal service to addresses in USA or Canada only. Winner selected by true randomness. Autograph to be made per your specifications.

To make multiple entries, 
  • Tweet about the giveaway (up to 1x daily) and leave link to your tweet in the comment
  •  Follow us on Networked Blogs
  • Subscribe to Be Broke But Happy blog
  • Follow us on twitter, @sharondurling and tell us your twitter ID
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  • "Like" Sharon Durling on facebook and tell us your facebook name

About the book:
  • Do unsettling emotions surface when you pull bills from your mailbox?
  • Do you fantasize about how great your life would be if you had or made more money?
  • Does that row of numbers in your banking statements make you nauseated?
  • Do you indulge in shopping sprees that leave you exhilarated but broke?
Millions of women experience these conflicting feelings about money. A Girl and Her Money is for women like us, by financial expert and veteran shopper Sharon Durling who, like a beset friend, shares empathy and an encouraging, liberating message: You deserve a happy, healthy and fulfilling relationship with money!

  • Why women are so weird about money
  • Diets don't work--and neither do budgets
  • There's chemo for debt
  • Men are from Home Depot and women are from Macy's
  • Your money personality (and you do have one)
  • How to make peace with money
About the author, aka Broke Girl:  Sharon Durling was vice president at a global financial services firm. She was a stock, bond futures and options broker. She has an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. She lives, banks and shops in Chicago.

July 12, 2010

Some comparisons against money

Thumbing through some news (on the Internets), I uncovered some folk comparing and valuating a few things (in red, below), versus money:

NYTimes.com had a sort of lifestyle feature about doormen. Having just avoided a strike, they got a negotiated a four-year contract with a 10 percent raise.

So the story focuses on the (mostly) men who, like building fixtures, are assumed always to be at the ready by those who are also comfortably accustomed to service from nannies, waiters, cleaning staff and so on.

Anyway, 22-year veteran Rolando Colombani says of the building occupants he has come to know well, when it comes to earning tips for extra services. "'A relationship is worth more than a dollar bill,' he said. A dollar bill doesn’t speak to me." Sweetly said.*

In the Fashion & Style section, a light-show designer spoke about ThirtyDaysNY on which he was working. ThirtyDaysNY being a temporary cultural experience: art gallery / performance / event space staged by indie bookstore creators. " 'It was never about the money,' Joshua White said. 'It was about "Can we make a happening? Can we make a scene?'" The creator described the objective of said happening as "...to fill a space with cool stuff and see who comes."

*Said in context such that money mattered less than his fondness for lending a hand to tenants for small favors. "Tips, he said, were welcomed, but it was not that simple."

July 10, 2010

Tomorrow is 7-Eleven

Today is July tenth and you do know what that means. Tomorrow is 7-Eleven.

It's now year three that I've visited multiple 7-Eleven ® stores in my neighborhood on this special of days to snag free 7.11 ounce cups of Slurpee* delightfulness. So join me tomorrow.

Two years ago, after picking up my best gal-pal of many years, I announced we would be hitting every 7-Eleven store from Midway Airport to my home. And we pretty much did. There were no postings or announcements at the stores, but we'd do so in the parking lot and like pied pipers, little kids and families trailed in behind us to get theirs, too.

Some factoids:
  • Dates from 1959
  • Invented by a Kansas hamburger stand owner: using an automobile air conditioner(!) he created a sophisticated piece of equipment that would freeze a carbonated soft drink and serve it in a sherbet-like form that could be sipped through a straw
  • The Slurpee name was created in May 1967 during a brainstorming (brainfreeze??) session; while drinking the product through a straw, advertising agency director Bob Stanford commented it made a slurping sound. Right.

* In stores now, Goji Berry Cherry Slurpee, The Coca-Cola Company

July 9, 2010

Lessons from a Beautiful Poor Woman

Forty-eight years ago today, Wanda Jean Taylor was born to Sadie Mae Weston in Chicago's Cook County Hospital.

Hers was a life, anything but rich.

On 7 November 2009, she died of dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged and damaged heart compounded by many other physical ailments). She collapsed at the nursing station in a psychiatric hospital where Chicago police had forced her admission several days earlier on grounds of "impaired judgment." Guess they couldn't find reason enough to put her in Cook County Jail, although she had spent, in her lifetime at least the better part of a year there.

The years in between, the girl had barely a dollar to her name although she did receive a monthly disability check after the father of two of her children bashed her in the head with a brick causing permanent brain damage. Born poor, lived poor, died poor and buried somewhere along the fenceline at Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

I honor Wanda today. She tried to teach me a lot; many of her repetitive lessons didn't get entirely through to me. I still think about them.

She often said, "You rich. You got nothing to worry about. You got no record, you got a car, you got you a nice crib. You rich. I don't know what you complaining about. You can get any job you want, anywhere. You don't have a record. Girl--you so rich. You got nothing to worry about. You don't even know."

After I ID'd Wanda's body at the County Morgue and threw a memorial service for her at one of the shelters she frequented, I sent an email to a local columnist who then published this story about Wanda and me in the next day's Chicago Tribune.

(Photo copyright , The Chicago Tribune.)
Coffee at Caribou Cafe with Bob and me
Happy days, the Borders on N Broadway in Uptown

July 6, 2010

Keep the Receipt

It's helpful to think of receipts as little dollar bills, because that is often what they represent.

Like when I picked up a prescription at CVS today. As the pharmacist handed me the receipt, she announced, "You have five extra bucks you can spend on any over-the-counter item in the store." Nice she mentioned that because now I'm likely to remember and not toss that receipt. In fact, I tossed the bag in my recycling stash already and just interrupted this paragraph to re-check my wallet to ensure I had not tossed what is, effectually, a five-dollar bill.

Money defined, is an object of exchange, and often receipts are just as good. Keep this in mind, my fellow savvy reader.

Most receipts are the same width as paper currency, and thus fit nicely right there in your wallet next to the bills.

At this moment, I have four CVS receipts, with representative value of $5 (expires 8/19/2010), $3 (7/23), $1.98 (exp 7/23), $4 (exp 7/14), total $13.98 of real money tucked in there with my City of Chicago library card, Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card, two grocery shopper cards and more.

Receipts ensure that when something breaks down or whatever, you are more likely to get it replaced at no additional cost or returned for actual cash.

A friend of mine spent $50 on a restaurant gift card for her boss. Months later, he told her that he lost it. But she hadn't kept her receipt, and both were out that fifty-dollar value. Bummer. So it's definitely worth keeping receipts even for a restaurant gift card that you would never expect to return. Just good to have on file, because your credit or debit card statement isn't enough for proof of a specific purchase.

I keep a simple file folder into which I drop all receipts that I don't expect ever to need. Those receipts I will need for tax or other purposes go into specific, organized folders. All the miscellany goes into this red one.

Taking a simple step might wield a bit of power for you, i.e., could be like real money in your wallet, sometimes. Worth the trouble, dear reader.

The only receipts I do not save are those for gas and those for restaurant meals I've already eaten. And these I toss only after making a note of them on the 3" x 5" index card I carry in my wallet. (A tally of credit card expenditures for the current period.) Or, if using a debit card, I toss the gas receipt after noting the line item in an old-school check register. That's just me.

Whatever your cash-flow style, get in the habit of keeping receipts around--even vaguely organized, somewhere at hand, because you'll find they sometimes come in handy as real money--i.e., an object of exchange that is of value to you.

July 4, 2010

Filed under: *This Can't Be For Real!?*

The NYTimes Social Q's column--special "Clear the Aisle" edition, on Wedding Etiquette--features a questioner who truly knows little, or closer to nothing about gifting, what a gift is, and why people ever thought to give a thing to another soul in the first place:
Reciprocity for Generosity
Eight years ago, my friend’s daughter received a $1,000 wedding gift. Now the gift-giver’s daughter is getting married. Is my friend obliged to reciprocate in kind, and does he have to account for inflation? -- J.O.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner: the most mercenary wedding question of the year — and a sample of the tit-for-tat thinking that gives weddings a bad name. Rather than focusing on price point and adjustments for inflation, why not be guided by affection for the bridal couple, our ability to give — and whether there’s any way to make those crystal goblets tax deductible? -- by Philip Galanes, published 24 June 2010
What say you...besides, as Mr. Galanes also advises--somebody! get a grip on reality.

Yep, shouldn't be surprised, should we? Because it all started back with the very first gift. Cain was so angry that Abel had out-gifted him, the very first gifter actually murdered his own brother--jealousy, I believe it was. Jealousy that Abel's gift appeared better, nicer, bigger, brighter, and apparently, costlier to Cain. Well, costlier it was, for sure--not just the price of the gift, but it cost Abel his life.

Cain had arrived with a fruit and vegetable basket; Abel brought thick prime-cut slabs of gourmet steak.

The takeaway from this gift-wreaking-havoc? Genesis 4:6 "...If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [no matter how the gift compares with somebody else's]? My words added, cause that is the contextual implication.

Don't worry about what somebody else is bringing to the party. Bring your best. "Reciprocate in kind" should be a phrase banned from the lexicon--of bridal party /planning vocabularies, anyway.