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Archive for August, 2008

Top five WORST things to buy from a thrift shop

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

So for fun, here are the opposites of yesterdays post…things you absolutely don’t want to buy from a thrift shop:

second hand
1) Underwear. Buying used underwear from a thrift store is like….right here is where you insert a gross metaphor. Seeing as I try to keep this blog PG I am going to let you use your imagination. Whats sick is my brother swears that he has seen a lot of older ladies buying used undergarments from the salvation army. If you are so down on your luck that you are feeling the need to go out and buy underwear second hand send me an email and I will give you a $1.06 gift card to target to buy a pack of bargain bin undies. Dear Lord.

2) Mattresses. This one might be more tempting than the underwear just because matresses are more expensive but it is even more gross than underwear. Good luck throwing a mattress into the washer with a bunch of bleach. Ill leave it to your imagination to think about all the fun screts a second hand mattress can hide. Oh and then theres bed bugs. Which feed at night. On people.

3) Swimsuits. See underwear, except worse. Plus you can’t bleach them.

4) Cosmetics. This one might be unusual but there wouldn’t be a cosmetic section if no one bought the cosmetics. Just think of all the bacteria and viruses that might be festering in there. Blehck.

5) Stuffed Animals. What says “I love you son” like buying him a used stuffed animal infected with disease, coated with other kids snot, and full of lice? In all honesty, its just not a good idea even if you wash and bleach them.

Thrift store: Top five things that are BETTER than new

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

thrift store

As a general rule I have always avoided so called “thrift stores” like the plague.  Lets be honest, there is a certain stigma surrounding thrift stores…some of them for good reason.  On the other hand I didn’t realize just what a great resource they can be for some things.  I was talking to my brother the other day and he had just gotten done going to what he called a “red tag” sale.  He was super excited about it, and he is a 21 year old wildman, so I was fairly skeptical.  I figured it had something to do with discount liquor, or possibly another one of he and his friends bizzare outings (like the time they picked up 20 free gallons of iced tea from someones back yard….or the time they left a 70s hot tub in my front yard…or the time they tried to get bronze scrap metal out of an old broken piano…).  He was actually referring to a thrift store sale.

Turns out he was actually on to something.  He came back with some pretty cool stuff.  There are some tshirts for things from the 90s that I was pretty enamored with.  He managed to get a jersey from one of the CSU players from the late 90s.  Seeing as old jerseys are hard to come by, its a great find.  He also managed to grab some workout shirts that are nothing less than awesome… some to be worn as tshirts and some to be cut up into workout shirts.  His tshirt of choice to make into a workout shirt is old American flag tshirts.  I found that I long ago went through my old tshirts for ones I wanted to cut off into lifting shirts so the idea of a huge selection of $2 shirts out there all begging to be worn sounds great.  For the nostalgic among us there are great old cartoon tshirts (mighty mouse anyone?  How about teenage mutant ninja turtles?  )  Not bad for a fun tshirt.  Good luck finding anything new that has quite the fun nostalgic value.

This got me thinking, what things are BETTER from a thrift store than they are brand new?

1) Workout shirts – see above.  Teenage mutant ninja turtles tshirt for lifting in? Priceless.

2) Nostalgic tshirts – see above as well.

3) rags/towels – I need some new shop towels.  I certainly am not going to steal Lauren’s towels and I am sure there are some big ones that would be perfect.

4) Resellable antiques or cool antiques
– sometimes gems slip through the cracks.  You never know what you might find.  Can’t buy antiques new now, can ya?

5) Halloween costumes – What better place to find things for crazy Halloween costumes.  Want to be a little old lady? sold.  Crazy costumes? sold. Karate kid? sold.

Top five cheap or free ways to cool down with no A/C – Hot town summer in the city….

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

ac

Heres what I came up with as far as “free” ways to keep cool:

1) Make sure your house is well insulated – Insulation is not free per say, but its not very expensive, and you can get do it yourself home kits to blow in cellulose insulation. Insulating your calls will make a world of difference in the heat (and the cold when you get to winter)

2) Keep the ceiling fans on – not entirely free but certainly not that expensive

3) Open the fridge or freezer for a few seconds and stand in front of it – this one may sound kind of funny but when I was helping Lauren’s family do some interior decorating (she and her mom do it on the side) there was a house that the air conditioning wasn’t working. I was doing a lot of moving stuff around and really getting hot so every once in a while Id go over to the freezer, open it up and stand there. It actually helped a lot.

4) Use evaporation – When I was younger my family didn’t have AC so I used to take a spray bottle and spray my self with water…especially my feet which for some reason are always hot. I know some people like to put on wet bandannas.

5) Go to the basement – If you have one, even if its unfinished, use it. Its always going to be cooler in the basement so when it gets super hot, head on down.

Bonus: Come to my (or to a friend’s) house that has AC. As long as you bring beer, of course…

We’re under contract – hallelujah – next problem, step up

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

So good news: they accepted our counter offer on Lauren’s house.  This has been one of the biggest stress points for us over the past few months.  We were afraid that with the market as it is we wouldn’t be able to sell, or at least that we wouldn’t be able to sell in time for the baby.   One thing down!

Unfortunately, it’s been a bittersweet week though because we found out that Lauren does not get partially paid maternity leave as we had thought.  In fact, its slightly ridiculous because the company does have paid maternity leave but we are missing out because of a small technicality on insurance enrollment dates.

I understand and love our capitalist system but using small loop holes and technicalities to cut people off unexpectedly strikes me as unnecessarily harsh.

How we’re countering the (slightly) low ball offer we just got on the house

Monday, August 18th, 2008

housing market

As you all know we have been in the ultra fun *cough* house selling market for a few months now. I would say about half of all the showings we have had have been in the middle of the workday. Obviously its a little bit less than ideal peacing out in the middle of the workday to go get a house ready for a showing, and I am always skeptical when someone is looking at houses during the workday. So this Saturday we had a showing that was setup a few days in advance; a real rarity compared to the usual “Hey people are coming to look in half an hour.” So this kind of gave us hope since they were obviously interested in the house to plan ahead to come look at it. As it turns out they they came over and stayed in the house for about 20 minutes. Thats a good sign. Then they wanted to come back and look again on Sunday. Even better sign. They brought a ton of people with them this time and stayed in the house for 30 minutes. Awesome. So last night we’re at my parents house for my sisters birthday and the phone rings: we got an offer. At this point we’re both super excited until we hear the offer details and it gets a little harder:

They want:

-Over 5% off the asking price, which is over 10% off the true value of the house.
-The excluded appliances including brand new stainless steel fridge and the washer and dryer
-The curtains
-Broncos season tickets

Ok, just kidding about the season tickets (got my own wants mixed up there) but they really did ask for the curtains.

We really need this deal to work out so we are negotiating with both sides. Lauren and I had a rough plan outlined for what to do in case we needed to bargain but Lauren and our realtor Vicki Lairson, who has been excellent, came up with a specific plan to get what we need by giving both sides enough incentive to close the deal. Hopefully it will go down as follows:

We offer our buyers:
-The extras they asked for
-Meet halfway on price

Try to get from builder:

-The appliances that we are now out
-A small amount more off the price

This gets everyone what they need. Our buyers get a smokin deal: the house for basically what Lauren bought it for plus appliances, a huge patio, beautiful landscaping including a fountain, central A/C, garage door opener, and all the other work we’ve put into the house (which is a ton). We get the amount we need for down payment, the payment we are comfortable with, and the appliances. The builder gets to close a deal and have our house off their hands and into ours…and they still get to make money. Its impossible to say for sure but several people we know that are in the building industry we have talked to have given us good ballpark figures of what it costs the builder so by those estimates they still get to make decent money. Its a win-win-win for everyone.

So now we just have to hope it all goes down. Ill let everyone know. But now I know some of you are wondering
“Well, what do I do if I get a low ball offer on my house, and Im just trying to sell and I don’t have somewhere else to make up that money?”

Glad you asked.

Be as informed as possible.

The best way to deal with these kind of offers is to know your facts like Bo knows football. The real trick is understanding the market as a whole, the market as it pertains to your area, and how your property fits into the bigger picture. In bad market times like we are in right now it may be that the low ball is really not a low ball at all: its a fair offer considering the market. It all depends. The real truth is that the more information you have, the easier it will be to negotiate on your terms.

Low offers are very common in real estate and its not something to take personally. That is the biggest mistake a lot of people make is to take it personally. If you have done your research and you know that the offer is nowhere near market value make your counter offer near your original price or simply do not even counter. There is no reason to work with a buyer until they are working with you. The less informed you are, the more likely you are to take a low offer.

The time is coming – we WILL have to pay the piper at some point

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

One of the candidates for president has a plan for more economic stimulus. Mr Obama has a plan that is outlined as follows:

1. Forcing big oil companies to take a reasonable share of their record breaking windfall profits and use it to help struggling families with direct relief worth $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a married couple. The relief would be delivered as quickly as possible to help families cope with the rising price of gasoline, food and other necessities. The rebates would be fully paid for with five years of a windfall profits tax on record oil company profits. This relief would be a down payment on Obama’s long-term plan to provide middle-class families with at least $1000 per year in permanent tax relief.

2. $50 billion in immediate measures to turn our economy around and help prevent more than 1 million Americans from losing their jobs:

  • $25 billion in a State Growth Fund to prevent state and local cuts in health, education and housing assistance or counterproductive increases in property taxes, tolls or fees. The fund will also ensure sufficient funding for home heating and weatherization assistance as we move into the fall and winter months.
  • $25 billion in a Jobs and Growth Fund to replenish the highway trust fund; prevent cutbacks in road and bridge maintenance and fund new, fast-tracked projects to repair schools – all to save more than 1 million jobs in danger of being cut.

For those of you who are unaware (which I would doubt is many of my readers) this is terrible economic policy. I guess neither party realizes what out of control spending will mean for our country long term.

How is this going to be paid back?

Supposedly with taxes. There is just one problem with this. Tax revenue is NOT proportional to tax rates. Tax revenue is and has been for the last 100 years DIRECTLY proportional to GDP.

I encourage open mic on this because this is a non-partisan blog, but part of being non partisan is recognizing what is best for the country and more handouts is not good for anyone.

Lessons Learned, Link Love, and other alliteration

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Apparently I do not have the assembly skills of an eight months pregnant woman.  I assembled our changing table and it took me 4 hours.  Assembly time: 3 hours and women were saying they managed to do it 8 months pregnant on the reviews.  This has led severe depression and inability to write an article today.  Instead I am going to impart others wisdom on you.

First up My Money Blogs article on focusing on your financial sphere of influence.  This is a big thing to me because worrying about money is something that can absolutely wrack you with stress.  Its important to really focus on the things that you can change vs the things you cannot change.  This goes for all areas of your life, not just financial.

Lazy Man writes about putting a price on being healthy.  This is something I feel pretty strongly about.  I will spend what it takes for me to be successfully healthy.  For me that means buying protein powder, creatine and the like.

Next Flexo busts out some frugality with Can you save an extra $500 a month

PT Money raps.  Literally.  There is nothing to learn here, its just awesome.

I Will Teach you to be rich talks about buying stuff outside the country to save money.

For those of you who are interested in ETFs, Sun has a great article on setting up a virtual ETF portfolio 

Five Cent Nickel explains what happens to your CD if your bank fails.  I had no idea before reading the article.

Patrick from Cash Money Life wrote a series about a possible second economic stimulus check that started a debate that I, of course, had to jump right into.

No credit needed talks about how awesome it is to be debt free.  Pretty damn inspiring.

Free Money Finance talks about being a Money Manager This is huge to me because I just plain am naturally bad at organization.

The Simple Dollar takes on save for retirement or get rid of debt?  I think most Americans struggle with this at some point in their lives.

Jeremy at Gen X finance talks about something that hits home for me: how has the value of your house held up?  Ive had my house swing about 40k total in worth in the past few years.  First way up then way down, then back to the middle.

Mighty Bargain Hunter doesn’t care about how much exxon makes.  Any Neither do I but I like the article.

My Two Dollars has a nice gardening guide which is cool cause I have been ranting about my garden all summer.

There was a bunch more I liked this week, but maybe Ill save them for later.

Did you know there is a 50% chance you are wasting a ton of money at the grocery store?

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

margThere was a government study a while back that showed that less than half of American adults can correctly calculate the most economical size of packaged rice to buy at their local grocery store. How scary is that? The majority assumed the biggest bag of rice was the best buy. In the same study only 20% of adults could calculate a taxi fare trip correctly.

Lets do a little math test. Lets make a margarita. It calls for varying amounts of lime juice, grand marnier, and tequila. You need twice as much tequila as grand marnier lime juice. The ratio is 2:1:1

Now, how many pints of each do you need to make a gallon of this margarita?

Measures:

8 ounces (oz.) = 1 cup
2 cups = 1 pint
2 pints = 1 quart
4 quarts = 1 gallon


So whats the answer?

I will tell you at the end of the article.

toilet paper cartoonSo I want you to stop for a minute and think about how much money could possibly be going down the drain by not really paying close attention to economics at the grocery store. Here is a great example that I can think of. When I was in college I lived in a house with 5 guys. Yeah, 5 guys. We had a pool of house money for things like milk, bread, and toilet paper. When there are 5 guys living in a house, they go through a lot of toilet paper. One of the roommates downstairs’ girlfriend basically lived at our house and so we essentially had 6 people in the house. One day my roommate who normally did the shopping and I went to king soopers and in the TP aisle he grabbed the huge pack of the TP we normally bought. It was 16 rolls for $6.50 ish. Well as it turns out for this particular brand of toilet paper King’s has a special on their 4 packs that makes them almost perpetually $1.00 per 4 pack with soopercard. I of course smacked him and so we started throwing packs of toilet paper at each other back and forth in the aisle. Im sure KS management appreciated that.

The moral of the story is that is $2.50 that we could have been wasting every week for a year (I honestly can’t remember, nor would I expect to remember the specifics of what TP package we had at any given time). Thats $130/year. Assuming you make similar mistakes with milk and other products even with smaller margins and you are talking hundreds(thousands even if you’re a name brand buyer) of dollars every year.

There is some good news

Most supermarkets have a “price per ounce” little marker in super small print on their tags. Voila, they do the hard work for you! Failure to look at these crosses the line over into lazy. So what excuse do you have now?

…But Jesse, Im in a hurry
Seeing as you could save $2 by spending 30 seconds looking at prices that comes out to $240/hr return on your time. That good enough for you?

…But Jesse you said yourself that you don’t buy cheap toilet paper

I didnt say buy the cheapest toilet paper, I said buy the most economical size for whatever you like.

…But Jesse, Name brands are better
When it comes to most things, check the ingredients. Are the ingredients the same? Ok then its not better.

…But Jesse, bulk is just easier to deal with than a bunch of individual packages

Terrible excuse

And now for the answer you’ve all been looking for:
4 Pints tequila, 2 pints grand marnier, 2 pints lime juice

You got it right, right?

Seriously, no more excuses for racking up debt

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Ok so this is starting to drive me absolutely crazy. Every day I hear a new excuse for reasons that people are in debt, and a few are even things I have told myself at one point or another in my life but it is starting to get absolutely crazy.  People are racking up debt like Mike Tyson in a tiger store.  Here are some typical excuses:

debt cartoon

Excuse #1: I never learned how to handle money
There are a ton of things that may or may not have been specifically taught to you as you grew up. At some point in our lives we have to learn things that we are completely unprepared for, so suck it up, read The Penny Saved every day, and get on track. Wow, I feel like just gave out medical advice. Dr Jesse to the rescue.

Excuse #2: Ads and media are all around me
Do you buy EVERYTHING you see? Didn’t think so. Having trouble with commercials? Turn off the TV. How about the radio? Shut that bad boy off and throw in your favorite CD. Or book on tape if you’re my dad, though I think he might possibly be the last person on earth to actually have a tape player in his car…let alone books on tape.

Excuse #3: I have to spend it going out
This one I myself am guilty of. When I go out, I like to really go for it. My favorite marg is the Patron marg, my favorite dinner is steak. The key here is moderation, make yourself a budget, stick to, and stick to it some more.

Excuse #4: I need to have nice stuff
Im not even going to preach you shouldn’t have “nice stuff” even though that kind of thinking has me more and more disenfranchised every day. You don’t have to spend a lot to have nice stuff. My mother-in-law is the bargain shopper of the century, she can find stuff that should be $100 for $10. Its actually really impressive, it just comes down to knowing where to find deals, and being patient.

Excuse #5: College put me in debt
Me too. Thats not an excuse to rack up more debt.

Excuse #6: I have no self control
Good point

Other excuses: shutup.

Here was the turning point for me: if you are having trouble with your self control its time to do mitigation. Get rid of the credit cards (see my credit card cutup series). Next I want you to think of everything in terms of how many hours of work it will take to earn that. Suddenly those things that may have seemed irresistible before are not quite as appealing.

super frugal month – how much can I cut back

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Super Frugal:  my new goal for the month.  As I have been sitting here tonight watching the olympics (Michael Phelps is ridiculous) I have been thinking about how nice it has been this month having my house rented out and all the money straight to equity and it made me think: exactly how far can I cut back for the rest of the month?  I am the kind of person that likes to spend money in the sense of keeping quality of life.   I like to save, but I also, for example like to buy my gatorades for workouts.

Ive been slowly ramping down my spending over the course of the past few months but I thinking I could cut down even more.  No more morning energy drink, no more gatorade for workouts (I have always bought a gatorade to drink while I workout since water gives me stomach cramps), bring lunch every day, eat dinner in almost every night, accelerating slower in the Z (heh heh),  and last but not least I am going to attempt to bike to work at least once.  This last one is tricky because there is literally no where to ride a bike into work and work is a long ways away.  Ill report back on that one.  Im going to try this and see what I save myself for the rest of the month.