Monday, October 31, 2011

Buy Top Quality Secondhand

Never buy secondhand what you can afford to get brand new. I always look for rare designer stuff, I can't afford when I shop second hand. Two weekends ago my mother almost bought a vase, which looked nice enough but was from teleflora. I had to stop her. It was only a dollar but it wasn't worth even that little. At the next tag sale I came across a nice murano glass vase for two bucks. It was definitely worth more and so she happily bought it. Just because you're saving money, doesn't mean you have to be cheap. Always buy the best. I like second hand furniture because it's so sturdy. You can update anything with paint, stain or a change of hardware. But for the most part well made things always look good anyway. When it comes to clothes the same rules apply. I look for beautiful well made stuff. I buy silk scarves by the fist full whenever I can. I buy vintage that lasts me forever. I look at labels when I buy secondhand. I just got a Versace sweater for pennies two weekends ago. Even if I don't want it I know I can always turn it around at the consignment shop. It's a good thing with a brand name. I could never buy it for myself new. I once got a beautiful Ann Taylor silk jacket which I still wear because it's such a classic, Top designers are so far ahead of the game that their stiff looks good for years. Always buy top quality.

Friday, October 28, 2011

PHANTOM LOADS: Buy a Power Strip

The new electronics are always on. I remember the days when I had a $30 electric bill. But I haven't seen one of those in years because nowadays everything is on all the time. These huge electric bills are driving me nuts. I want to get solar panels on the roof. But in the meantime I am going to get power strips for everything in the house. I used to do this but when I moved,I mislaid many of my power strips. What I used to do was flip the switch on the TV's at night and turn it all back on in the morning. The only downside is that the cable box needs a few minutes to re-boot. In the old days when you turned something off, it was off. Not now. Also unplug the phone charger when it's not in use. That sucks juice too even if the phone isn't being charged. If a thing is still warm after you turn it off or if it has a light gleaming, it's sucking juice. And that for me is just money down the drain.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


It really is your money or your life, like the Book by Joe Dominguez says. It's not so much the money you make that's important. It's the money you spend that's critical. Pack your lunch. It takes a minute and if things are too hectic in the morning, then pack lunch the night before. There may be no free lunch but packing lunch comes pretty close. There are also health benefits to packing lunch. The food industry these days runs rampant adding extra salt, sugar and fat to everything we eat. That's why Americans are so fat these days. We have become addicted to the extra salt, sugar and fat in all our foods. The best way to avoid food rehab is to not get into the habit to begin with. Former Surgeon General David Kessler has a book about this issue. For sandwiches, RYE BREAD is the best because it has no added sugar. It's shocking how much sugar is added to a slice of bread. It can be anywhere from 3 -6 grams. 4 grams equals a teaspoon of sugar. Ever wonder why bread burns so easily in the toaster these days. Well, it's all that sugar. Stay away from the stuff. IT'S UNHEALTHY. Avocado and tomato sandwiches are great for the summer; cheese and lettuce are delicious in winter. Boiled eggs are also good and very portable.

I also recommend packing breakfast. Now if you travel by car taking your coffee is pretty easy, though I advise using a straw in order to keep your eyes on the road. But if you have the kind of commute I've had namely: a bus, a ferry, and two trains, then by all means pack a peanut butter sandwich and just buy the coffee when you get to work or patronize the free coffee bar if your employer has one. This can save a lot of money in the course of a year. Also it saves time in the end. I started packing lunch to save time. I would often have to wait ten minutes or more at the deli counter to buy my lunch. I would rather find a quiet place to put my feet up and maybe take a nap after a quick bite. I would also be more alert and productive that way because I wouldn't overeat. Save Money, Stay Young and Slender and be more alert.

When I was working, I was one of the few people in my department who packed lunch. We were all paid peanuts but I could take summers off and afford vacations because I didn't throw my money away at work. Do the math on the cost of Breakfast and Lunch out over the course of a year, the numbers are shocking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I felt a little like a greedy Wall Street Banker this weekend. Our area had two big church sales and one clothing swap. I came home with bags of stuff. I spent most of Sunday washing and drying. I got mostly summer stuff because I went to the church sales and bought up at $2 a bag summer clothes which I could roll and pack tightly. I was looking for stuff to wear on a cruise. I look for anything that is shiny and dressy but not too heavy. I like to travel light but mostly what I need is evening wear. People get tired of their evening wear very quickly so I always find lots of shiny stuff that is easy to pack. I also took some of my old stuff to the swap. I try to get stuff that doesn't wrinkle or need ironing and that I can rinse out in the sink if necessary. The trick with cruise wear is to take enough but not too much. I always seem to take too much. I am in the habit of wearing my clothes more than once and so even if I only take one outfit for each day, I still take too much. But this year I am taking a smaller bag to make things easier and discipline myself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Conserve Your Good Stuff

Razors get dull and rust if they are left wet. I got this tip on TV and now I blow dry my husband's razors when he leaves them in the sink. As with most things simple maintenance can prevent most problems. Now is the season to switch out the wardrobe. As I put away my summer stuff I am careful to make sure everything is clean. I also run things through the dryer to kill any eggs. Moths like to deposit eggs on soiled clothing letting larvae eat through to the natural fibers. I rarely lose things to insect damage anymore since I became scrupulous about storage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Now after years of shopping I have many pieces of clothing that are just irreplaceable. I have vintage designer stuff that looks great that I will never find again. I carefully store and manage these pieces. I have so much stuff now that I don't have to buy any more clothing. I look at the Salvation Army and other sources of second hand clothing as something that will eventually disappear. We may be looking at an extended period of underemployment and falling wages. If that happens and people can no longer shop till they drop, then there might be less and less second hand clothing available. I am preparing for that by conserving what I have right now. Take care of your stuff. Live like you can't get more and you'll be rich.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Get a Service Provider in a Less Affulent Area

My mother needs to have platforms put on her shoes.  The last time we went to a high priced shoe repair shop for the work.  We went to a town down the road which is much more upper class than where I live   My area is still in transition.  My mother kind of likes spending money which is okay because she has it.  The repair cost a small fortune. When the time came for me to have heels put on a pair of boots, I decided to shop around.  I had a budget of $20.  I found a place in my town, which is not as pricey as the town next door.  I got the repair done for $15.  The work was very well done and from now on my mother will be using the local shoe repair shop.  This works in big cities too.  Getting something dry cleaned in a part of town that is perceived as upscale can cost you.  Most f the time yo can get the same work done in a less affluent neighborhood.  It may mean a bit if a commute but the savings might be worth it.  I stopped buying dry cleanable stuff years ago.  I found the best way to keep my expenses low was to get stuff  I could clean myself.  But shoe repair is not a DIY project.  I got my boots years ago and now, quite frankly, I just can't replace them.  Repair is my best and cheapest option.  There was a time just a few years ago when I could replace them for less than than cost of repair.  But those days are gone.  China is raising the price of its goods and improving the quality too.  This is to be expected.  It's a natural progression.  The same thing happened with Japanese products in the 60's and 70's.  I can remember that we used to laugh at Hondas and Toyotas.  Those days are long gone

Friday, October 21, 2011

Get a GPS

The best gadget investment we ever made was buying a GPS.  It has already paid for itself in gas savings.  We don't get lost or drive for miles in the wrong direction anymore.  We can find all the shortcuts and it's wonderful for tag sales.  We can go to distant and hard to get to communities and we don't have to ask how to get out.  We just hit the GPS and go.  My husband liked his car GPS so much, he got one for his motorcycle too.  By all means by your GPS online and get one that doesn't require a service contract.  My husband bought both of his on eBay and spent less than $100.  Way less.  The one for the bike cost him $25 to the door.
Also when it comes to driving sometimes you have to pay the two dollars.  We had a discussion with a driver who wanted to take the long way in order to avoid the toll on the interstate. This did not make sense.  The gas savings more than paid for the toll.  This may make sense when the price of gas is low but not right now when it's sky high.  Also we have an E Z Pass to pay our tolls electronically.  You do have to keep money on your account but they give you a discount on your tolls, so it ends up working out in our favor.  Sometimes it doesn't pay to be too cheap.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Write Letters

I really like writing letters.  But I have trouble finding corespondents.  Mt last pen pal had the bad manners to die on me.  Letters can be so much better than telephone calls.  One o my favorite letter writing exercises is to write a Christmas letter.  This is great if you are far from people and want to get them up to date on your life.  Sometimes I send a card also but not always.  A letter is something that stays with you for a time.  I still have the letters my deceased friend wrote.  Since I do mine on the computer, I have both sides of the correspondence.  I have moved a couple of times since she died, but I can still keep her close.  With a phone call, there is nothing left after you hang up.  There is something to be said for the old technologies. Sometimes new isn't necessarily better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Holiday Decorating

Everybody know this but it bears repeating.  Buy your Christmas stuff after the holiday.  Another great place to pick up stuff is at yard sales and Church Sales. Whenever I go to a yard sale there is always a table or more set up for holiday decor.  This should tell us something.  I made a choice not to collect Christmas decor.  I had limited storage.  I'd rather spend my money and energy buying chocolate.  Nothing says Christmas like chocolate.  We had a live tree once or twice for the kids.  But then my husband saw a video on fire safety and live trees.  It was very scary.  We never had a tree again and I was glad not to have to deal with the hassle and the mess.  It's better just to bake cookies and decorate with simple stuff.  I have a couple of things that I trot out for the holidays, mostly linens which store easily, but that's it.  A fireplace blazing and the people I love is all the Christmas I need.  Make Christmas about the people in your life and not about the stuff.  Stuff is just a lot of work.  People get rid of their Christmas stuff because they get bored with it.  If you don't have it you won't miss it, besides every town puts up holiday decorations.  When I was a kid we went downtown to see the stores.  It was beautiful and required little effort.  Christmas should be a celebration of family, not work.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ignore Commercials

When I was little, my mother started telling me to ignore commercials.  She would talk to me about this in Spanish, since that was her primary language.  She came to the USA when she was 20 years old and had me when she was 26.  She and my father decided to teach me Spanish and not interfere with my English.  In Spanish the word for advertising is propaganda.  Commercials were propaganda and should always be ignored.  Eventually I developed a healthy distrust of advertising.  My mother would tell me "They charge you more money, so you can pay for their advertising/propaganda."  I always keep that in mind when I shop and cast a jaundiced eye on heavily advertised goods.  I like generic and store brands for most things and small, or European brands. As long as the food isn't from China, I feel it's safe.  Also, the cookies I buy from Europe or Canada are not as sweet as those made here in the USA.   I also like my DVR.  If I weren't such a news junkie, I would get rid of my TV altogether.  But with a DVR, I can scroll through all the commercials.  Also I like watching TV on Demand.  Even though for the most part I can't skip the commercials, I have noticed that the ads are for much smaller companies and they are few.  Besides I usually read while I watch TV.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ditch Your Bank and Join a Credit Union

When I started banking, my first bank was a small savings and loan. Back then there was a clear distinction between commercial banks and bank for regular folks. After buying my apartment, I took a walk and found the main branch of a small bank a few blocks from the house.  Over the years things have changed and my small bank was gobbled up two or three times.  The last time it was eaten by a foreign banking conglomerate.  They immediately started imposing fees.  I felt they wanted me to pay for their merger. After almost twenty years, it was time to get another bank.   Luckily I was moving so I shopped around for a better place to do business.  My new town had a credit union which I immediately joined.  They have virtually no fees and they are about a block from the house.  We should all get rid of our commercial bankers and get a more customer oriented bank.  I'm all for the Occupy Wall Street folks and I think we can all do our fair share by pulling our money out of their system.  They don't need us, let them make money with the rich.  I am all for completely closing our wallets to the corporate banking machine and its wild running dogs the credit card companies and the culture of consumerism.  Join a credit union and stop shopping.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flashy People are Broke

In my experience the folks who drive the flashy cars and wear designer everything are broke.  They pay top dollar for showing off.  Better to drive a beat up old car that gets you from point A to point B reliably than be up to your eyeballs in debt for a flashy car. When I was younger things were different.  The flashy cars were being driven by older people.  The high end jewelry was worn by older women.  There was a certain logic to things.  The high end flashy stuff came to you when you got older.  When you were making more money, had your house paid off and no longer needed stuff. When I was starting out, I had nothing.  Little by little I built up a wardrobe and a collection of costume jewelry.  I couldn't afford and didn't want  a Louis Vuitton bag.  Everything in its time and in its season.  If you're young there is no point in going into debt for a purse.  It's better to pay off your condo.  Think about how many bags you can get if you only have to pay the maintenance on your place.  Being cheap is mostly about getting your priorities straight and figuring out what will make your life easier.  Be truly rich by having the security  to take a sudden drop in income on the chin.  This is why I want to get a retirement place paid off now.  I am planning on living on Social Security even though I definitely will have much more.  Cheapness is also about creating value and security  in your life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Try Going on a Money Fast

A great tip for getting real about money is to go on a money fast.  Prepare, first by topping off the gas tank and paying all your recurring bills ahead of time.  Then stock up the fridge and start your money fast.  I usually try to fast for a week.  In that week I don't buy anything at all.  I spend no money therefore I have to feed and entertain myself for nothing.  It's usually not a problem for me.  I have done it while working.  I have a monthly public transportation card and I always brought my breakfast and lunch.  I was a teacher and I made about 12K a year and I could stay home all summer because I spent no money at work.  I also had my expenses under strict control.  A periodic money fast would help me get clear about spending.  Since I worked downtown, there was temptation everywhere. I had to walk by dozens of street vendors on my way to the train. Without a periodic money fast I was prone to stupid spending.  A money fast can help in getting clear about what really matters.  Food and shelter are more important than clothing.  I taught in a college so I had to have professional clothing too, but I found that by just buying a few pieces a year I could dress just as well if not better than people making much more.  The money fast would also help me look for free entertainment.  In a big city there are plenty of things to do for no money, but you have to look for them. A money fast really focuses the mind on having fun and living without money.  It puts money in its place and can help you realize how little is needed to be happy and live really well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do You Want It or Do You Need It?

There's a difference and you need to know it.  You don't have to buy everything you want.  Sometimes it's good to wait for something.  Put off major purchases for at least one week.  Sleep on it.  You may find that the thing you can't live without is not that important.  In the meantime, if you still want it, try getting it for less.  Look online or go to the Goodwill.  Odds are that what you want can be bought for less.  Ask your friends, maybe they have one.  Always wait for the next generation when it comes to electronics.  My husband made the mistake of buying one of the first flat screen TV's.  It didn't work out well for us and cost a lot of money.  I learned that lesson and never bought a smart phone.  I may never buy one.  I just replace my flip phone periodically.  I don't text and I don't need to be online all the time.  Also I like to keep my expenses low.  I don't need a WiFi bill.  My family has offered to buy me an I Pad but I don't want another bill.  I think I will just get myself a laptop instead.  I can afford to buy it,  but do I really want it or need it?  I'll see.  My cheapness often saves me from silly expenditures.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fix or Repair Daily

When I was a kid my father fixed everything.  He was cheap and he liked to tinker.  One year we bought a GE pop up toaster oven.  He loved that toaster because he could take things out without burning his hands.  He thought the design was brilliant.  After a few years of heavy use, it broke.  I found my father one Saturday morning with the toaster in pieces on the dining room table.  He was taking it apart to fix it.  You could still fix stuff back then  There was a store nearby that sold parts.  The heating rods went one by one, then the door latch had to be tinkered with.  After abut ten years, the replacement parts became unavailable.  The toaster went into retirement in the garage.  He just couldn't part with it.  Then by chance  he saw an old GE pop up toaster oven at a yard sale.  He bought it and was able to fix the old one with the parts. My dad was very happy to have his old friend back.  Nowadays things are harder.  They don't use screws to hold stuff together. It's cheaper to use glue which makes repairs trickier.  This not only plans for obsolescence,  but make repair impossible. I like to fix stuff.  My husband is really good at fixing stuff.  He fixes everything. He buys stuff to tinker with and learns by doing. He then re-sells or re-uses it.  He got bikes for just about every kid in the neighborhood.  It's fun to figure out how things work.  We've been losing that lately.  Things have become too complicated.  These days you can't fix your own car without specialty tools or even a toaster oven.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Be Low Maintenance

I have always been a low maintenance kind of gal.  I don't get my nails done and I don't go to the beauty parlor for my hair. I go to the unisex shop at the mall for 14 dollars and sometimes I have my husband trim it. As for my nails, my main objective is to keep my hands and nails clean.  I always carry a small metal nail file with me just in case a nail breaks and to keep my nails clean. One year when I was in high school, I painted my nails.  But I found there was too much maintenance.  I had to do touch-ups in mid week and I just couldn't be bothered.  I also never wore a lot of make-up.  Just a little blush and lipstick.  I can't see well so it didn't make much sense.  Now that I'm older too much make-up will make me look silly. The truth about my hair is that I have a sensitive scalp and I don't like anyone touching my hair.  I also have really nice thick hair.  It has a bit of a wave and all I do is run my finger through it and let it air dry.  I don't like the blow dryer. My husband touches up my grey  every  6  weeks.  My hair holds dye very well and I  wash it only about twice a week.   Last year I had a high maintenance haircut.  It was very short and my hair grows really fast so I had to get it trimmed often.  I'm letting it grow out this winter and will get something easier next summer.  I sometimes have long hair but I find I shed a lot and that makes it messy.  I'd rather keep it short and easy to deal with.  Also I'm older now and long hair is better for younger women.  I like being low maintenance.  Sometimes high maintenance women look older.  Too much make-up can make a woman look plastic.  Natural is best.  Also I once had a friend at work who was always made up.  One day she didn't wear her make-up and everyone thought she was sick or something.  I thought that was funny but I also realized that wearing too much make-up can be a burden.  I'd rather be low maintenance.  It leaves me time for other things.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Being Cheap is Lots of Fun

People get upset when I say I'm cheap because I don't look cheap and I'm not miserable.  I knew my life would be a challenge when I was very young.  I started buying stuff cheap as a kid.  I was 12 when I went into my first thrift shop.  Mostly I bought books.  I couldn't believe how many books were being sold for so little money.  By the time I hit high school my father had to build me a bookcase.  It was eight feet high and four feet wide.  I filled it up with my treasures.  I was happy.  This was back in the day when the TV was only in the living room, but I had my books and could entertain myself endlessly.  Later when I started to work and needed a wardrobe, I went back to the thrift store and dressed myself for no money.  I so was happy.  I thought I was getting away with something and I guess I was.  My skills continued to develop and by the time I met my husband, I was able to buy clothes for him and his children in one weekend. I brought everyone involved  a measure of happiness to experience the abundance my cheap skills created.  Cheapness has brought me abundance.  I am able to do a whole lot with just a little.  I like being cheap.  I also like cashmere sweaters.  I could go to Macy's and spend $50 on just one new sweater.  But it's a lot more fun to go to the Salvation Army on a Wednesday and buy three or four sweaters for $10.  I like the feeling of getting over on the Corporate system.  I don't have to work long hours to have the best and I don't have to give all my money to China either.  Cheapness is fun.  Cheapness is about having more, more, more.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eat it Raw

What little nutrients our food has gets destroyed in cooking.  Lately I have been eating my vegetables raw in order to get the most out of them.  I don't have lifestyle health issues like high cholesterol or diabetes.  I'm a little overweight but I have low blood pressure.  Also I want to get used to eating my food raw because you never know.  I want to get a place in Florida but I may not have a working kitchen at first.  In fact one never knows what could happen.  It's not a bad idea to figure out ways to survive and thrive in different circumstances.  What if someday I have to live in a rented room and do not have access to a place to cook.   I believe in being ready for anything.  I remember once living and eating for months with only a kettle, a hot plate and a shared refrigerator.   Somehow I managed.  It's nice to know I can manage in those conditions.  The truth is no one knows the future. anything can happen.  One year we lost power up here and my mother made dinner in the fireplace.  She's a country girl and it was pretty impressive.  All the roads were blocked, so we couldn't have gone out to dinner even if we wanted to.  Good thing we found a way around the problem.  It's important to be flexible and resourceful.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Take Only Generic Drugs

Generic drugs have been tested over a wide population.  They are safer.  I don't like the idea of taking medicine in the first place because I believe that for the most part medicine doesn't cure anything. Most drugs only treat   the symptoms and then there are side affects. Certain things like antibiotics that are used for short terms do cure disease, but the rest of them are pointless in my opinion.  Thyroid medication is for long term use but anything else doesn't make much sense to me.  We no longer think about curing disease.  There's not much money in a cure.  Pharmaceutical companies make their money managing symptoms.  The most widely tested drugs are the generics.  FDA approved drugs are only tested on a small segment of the population.  By the time a drug becomes generic it has been used in thousands and thousands of patients.  Most problems have been discovered by then.  My view is that we should all eat well so that we can avoid medicine.  I want to stay healthy and not have to spend money on drugs.  I get medicare next year but I will not be getting the drug plan.  It's too expensive.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Take your Vitamins and Minerals

I was having trouble with my digestion after my stroke. My bowel movements were very irregular.  This was a new phenomenon for me.  I found it very distressing.  Then I heard that magnesium can help with issues of regularity.  It worked.  I was so happy.  For many years I refused to take any vitamins.  I was always encouraged to take iron.  But I found that my body dumped the mineral into my urine.  I didn't take iron because I wasn't absorbing it.  I became anemic and the doctors recommended ferrous gluconate.  I tried it and kept taking it because it gave me good results.  Within a couple of days my cheeks were rosy and it wasn't darkening my urine.   Things change.  Vitamins are better than ever while our food is getting worse.  I take vitamins now and they are making me feel better.  The soil where our food is grown is being depleted by industrial farming.  Try to get away from that kind of food.  It is empty of the micro nutrients the body craves.  I have noticed when I eat from the garden, I am satiated quickly.  When I eat fast food I am hungry for hours afterwards.  Let's face it, our food stinks.  It's really just packaged poison.  Sometimes I think the food companies and pharmaceutical companies are in cahoots.  They want to make us sick and unhealthy so they can push their drugs on us. As for me, I'd rather stay healthy and not take medicine.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Buy it Bigger

For the most part I buy in bulk.  My only problem is with stuff like laundry detergent it sometimes gets too heavy for me to handle easily.  My solution is to pour it into smaller containers.  I keep a couple of empty bottles in the laundry room for this purpose.  Buying the big size on sale saves money and time.  I get it done all at once instead of having to lug four or five smaller bottles.  I also cut down on waste and keep stuff out of the landfill.  I try to keep my garbage to a minimum.  The people across the street scare me with their garbage.  While my pail is a third of the way full, theirs is always overflowing.  They have 2 kids, so that must be it? But in general, as Americans we are very wasteful. I became very conscious of garbage while living on Staten Island which had the world's largest garbage dump.  I desperately wanted to keep stuff out of the landfill.  I changed my shopping habits.  It took a little time but I found I could reduce the amount of garbage we had.  Now at my grocery store, I get a credit for bringing my own bags.  It's not much but every little bit helps.  I picked up a bunch of bags at a tag sale and they have already paid for themselves.  Not to mention that I am no longer in inundated with tons of plastic bags.  Even though I use them for my kitchen trash can, I always had way too many.