August 29, 2010 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 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, 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 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. 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 (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 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."

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!!