eBay Dream Wedding Dress

pbgownLast November, I wrote about gown shopping with my sister, Bridezilla. She found the perfect dress for the Big Day — with a killer $1700 price tag. She apparently has the perfect shape for all designs by Paloma Blanca, and the only alteration she’d need is a hem (she’s only 5’3″). However, even though my mom and my aunt were willing to chip in to make the dress possible, she concluded there was no way she could justify that kind of money for a dress she’d wear for just a few hours. She ordered the Ann Taylor one for $312 after my google rampage for online coupons, but it fit horribly. By the way, I give Ann Taylor high praise for having $6 shipping plus a free return label with a long period of time for mind-changing.

So last week, Bridezilla perused assorted second-hand and sample sale wedding gowns online and stumbled across her Dream Wedding Dress, the Paloma Blanca 3710, on eBay for $500. She was all set to stalk it and swoop at the last minute until I pointed out the history of completed sales for similar items: none had sold, and in fact this exact dress had been listed earlier in the month but failed to attract any bids. Sure enough, hers was the only bid, and she is now the ecstatic owner of the perfect gown – at a 70% discount!! And it’s a bridal salon sample, which means it hasn’t been altered and will fit perfectly, as had the one she modeled for mom, sister, aunt and cousin over Thanksgiving. Now if she can just avoid getting pregnant for at least 7 more months, it’ll all work out fine.

Lesson learned:  shop for dresses as soon as you get engaged. By the time you actually need to buy one, your top pick(s) will be “last season” and available at deep discount online. Oh, and apparently the best way to sell a dress on eBay is to have a bitter, tattoo’d man model it in the photos (do y’all remember that?! – it made the primetime news!) or else it won’t generate sufficient interest.

Ridiculous Manhattan Coupons

You know those SmartSource and RedPlum circulars that come with your weekend paper? Well, there are regional variations. The ones they stick in the NY Times delivered to Manhattan residences are some of the most bizarre I’ve seen. Now, I clip and collect them for my own purposes as well as to send to a military base in Okinawa, but I just don’t see the point in most of them.

The selection is pretty thin this week…no doubt you non-New Yorkers get 24 jam-packed pages of coupons while I get 8 pages of mostly ads for cheap checks, indoor dog potties and Discover card. Heck, even subscribers to the New York Post get more than those who get the Times. But since I scavenge from others, I can’t be picky. Well, I still stalk the two folks on the 21st floor who get the Post, but aside from that…

The products I get coupons for, I swear, I haven’t heard of half the them. I realize that might be the point of sending out coupons to potential customers, but they can be laughably eclectic. I’ve gotten ones for Amish pasta and organic pet food. I’d mention the children’s laxative, but I think that made everyone’s circular last week. Another reason these coupons are so ridiculous: we have tiny supermarkets, limited shelf space, and while we tend to have more Rao than Ragu in the tomato sauce aisle, even we have our limits.

So here’s the full list of all the coupons I got this week – and yes, I know it’s short 😦


  • Healthy Ones lunchmeat (um…Healthy Choice I’ve heard of, but this is new to me)
  • Dole Canned Fruit
  • Glory Foods Sensibly Seasoned Collard Greens and Black-eyed Peas – huh??
  • Baskin Robbins – not sure there even IS one in Manhattan
  • Mystic Frozen Pizza – did they just invent this? based on a movie from the 80s??
  • Mrs Dash
  • Explod-O-Pop – I thought this was a creation of the David Letterman producers…?
  • Lindor Truffles
  • Kozy Shack Ready Grains – in the refrigerated section? why?
  • Citre Shine
  • Melitta Coffee – apparently it’s historical?
  • Duncan Hines brownie mix – now we’re talkin’!
  • Nature Made Vitamins & CholestOff
  • Zucol – yet another new cold med
  • Glade candles & oil candles – strangely, can never find anything but Apple Cinnamon no matter what store or even state I’m in. Just sayin’.


  • KY – what does it say about our society that they’re suggesting this for Valentine’s Day??
  • Quaker Granola Bars
  • Milk-Bone dog biscuits
  • L’Oreal cosmetics, skin and hair products – a LOT of them, I guess us NYers have bad skin and hair
  • Panasonic batteries – which I’ve never seen in the stores ’round these parts
  • ScotchBrite sponges
  • KFC – which isn’t half-bad, except it says “at participating KFC restaurants”, which usually means maybe 3 locations in Manhattan. I mean, these coupons state prices that are less than half the regular price.

I’m still shaking my head at the gourmet canned collard greens. I mean, if these circulars go out of their way to be “regional” in content, how did that make it into my ‘hood? I mean, did someone forget to send me the memo about how Soul Food is the new Sushi?

This Weekend in MMK’s Money

I don’t really do that whole “balanced life” thing, where I go out and be social on a regular basis, unless once a quarter counts. Still, a girl’s gotta make some kind of plans no matter how lame or else she risks festering on her couch trying to set a new personal best on how long she can get away without leaving her toasty apartment (current record: 70 hours).

$140 (possibly + tip): Sunday’s visit with the Rolfer
$20-25:  Total spent on my half of the dinner ingredients and other donations to the teen shelter.
$10:  CVSing…would be closer to $0 except I sent $10 of my ECBs to my mother to do last week’s trip for me, but the coupons and ECB didn’t get to her before her departure for Colorado. Dratt. At least I got a $5-off-$30 email, and can hit up a decent CVS for the cost of just one extra subway ride if I’m not too nauseous after the Rolfing appointment.

– No massage appointments booked yet, but that’s pretty normal. I’ve had a good week so far.
– Posting on Craigslist to sublet my apartment over President’s weekend @ $130/night.

– Make bank deposit
– Pay revolting rent
– Transfer final $1K of 2008’s Roth IRA allowance
– Mail donation to Thai Freedom House

Update on $140 Neck Rolfing

Thanks to DogAteMyFinances‘ comment, I went a-googling to see if I could find anywhere other than Colorado to obtain training in Rolf Structural Integration. I came across information about a school in NJ that requires you to get a session from one of their instructors before applying — and it’s FREE!!! The thing is, I actually emailed this practitioner about his hours and rates, and like the other one I didn’t follow through with, he failed to provide that info in his reply. I hate that. In any case, if I do get around to calling for a freebie – which I’ll only do if I’m seriously considering enrolment in this course – he’ll think I’m scamming.

As for pursuing a qualification in Structural Integration, I found a relatively short program about 20 miles north of where my mom lives, but I’m not sure it’s worth it – there’s a fair amount of snobbery amongst both practitioners and fans about being trained at the Guild or the Institute (both in Boulder, CO), and I wouldn’t be able to call myself a “Rolfer”. But hot damn, a 300-hour course within commuting distance that meets once a week for 7 months beats the stuffing out of an obnoxiously timetabled 18-month program 1700 miles away. And then there’s the entry requirement for the course…not sure if they’ll accept my Thai training and 5 years of self-employment. They really should, but I imagine it will depend on how much they want my money. I’m totally fantasizing about having a full schedule of $200 clients in 2010…

$140 Investment in my Neck

After spending $600 on 2 months of unlimited chiropractic and $30 in co-pays to have a neurologist tell me he has nothing in his arsenal to offer me but muscle relaxants (plus whatever 20% of the most vicious diagnostic test ever turns out to be…still waiting for that bill), I’m going vicious-alternative: Rolf Structural Integration, aka Rolfing.  I’ve had it done before for general purposes and wouldn’t say it was worth the money, but specific problems are quite something else. There’s a supply-demand issue here in New York due to some of the most dumbass licensing laws out there, so very few are willing to flirt with the legality of practicing in this state. All of the female practitioners have waiting lists up to 3 months long and even men are able to charge upwards of $200 for a session. Boy did I train up in the wrong discipline!!

The one I’ve been to in the past, who cured my mother’s carpal tunnel syndrome in a single session, now charges $200 and I really don’t like his incorporation of Reiki. I refuse to pay that kind of money for freakin’ “energy healing” when I specifically chose Rolfing because I want to have my muscles torn mercilessly from my bones. This new guy works from his apartment much as I do, and obviously passes on the savings from paying one rent instead of two to his clients (much as I do). So I have an appointment Sunday morning…he doesn’t usually work weekends, but business is that insane. Damn shame the only places to train up in Rolfing are in Boulder…I ‘d totally do it.

Cheating on CVS

No, I didn’t coerce or steal from the drug store — I just decided to give the Single Check Rebate program at Rite Aid a try. I’ve always avoided rebate stuff since it’s rarely worth the stamp and envelope, but this one can be done online using codes from your receipt. I kicked things off with a $2.99 bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo…get a $2.99 rebate, and I had a $1 coupon. In couponspeak, that’s a “moneymaker”. So the deal is that I’ll get a rebate check for any SCR items I register between 1/25/09 and 2/28/09. I registered online, and the $2.99 rebate has been confirmed…cool. I think I’ll head over for another bottle of shampoo before the week is up and register it against my mom’s contact info. Hm, this will give her an opportunity to torment me with my own money – I’d hate to depriver her of such unparalleled fun.

Tweak My Blogroll

I’m terrible at blogroll maintenance…if you think you should be on it (meaning you comment on mine a lot, or I comment on yours a lot), leave a comment and I’ll add you in my next update.

Heh, I’ve been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks, but I live in fear of cyber-rejection. Cue the chirping crickets.

Jack Frost is interfering with my couponics

I’m done with winter. We still have two more months of this crap ahead of us, but I am sick to my chattering back teeth with temperatures in the teens, and now it’s getting in the way of my shopping plans. Yes, I know this is petty, but it’s my blog and and I’ll whine if I want to.

The overwhelming response I got from the kids at the shelter on Friday night just makes me want to do more, but I really can’t spend more. Imagine my delight when one of my readers suggested we team up to buy and cook dinner for them one night soon (Dani, you rock and I haven’t even met you yet!).  Well, it also makes me want to gather as much as possible to donate, and there are some unbelievable deals at ShopRite…but there isn’t one in Manhattan.  They’ve got this deal on Kelloggs cereals – buy 7 and get $5 back, and they’re $1.88 a box. I have $1 coupons for all of them, making it $1.16 for 7 boxes of Rice Krispies, Corn Pops, etc. Dude, that’s like 17 cents a box! 2 cents a serving! I was all set to mail my mom the coupons and have her do the deal in her neighborhood until I realized that the coupons expire today. Well, there’s a Shoprite in Jersey City that I can get to with public transportation as well as one in Brooklyn, but that one doesn’t double coupons under $1…but man, the Brooklyn one will require minimal exposure to the elements and the deal I’m going for doesn’t involve doubled coupons anyway. I can take the subway right outside my door and come out at the other end right outside the supermarket. I’m tempted to throw in a side trip to CVS, but I’m just not willing to be outside for the extra 20 minutes it would take to walk between the two. However, I can’t pass up free shampoo and cheap Wisk detergent…hm, maybe I can mail the coupons and get my mom to do those for me in the burbs. Not sure I can talk her into the double coupon deal on Mueller’s elbow macarone that will bag me 8 boxes @ 22 cents each. Now who says a quarter doesn’t get you anything these days?

My $20 Friday Night

No, I did not do anything remotely social, which is the norm for me. Wait, let me revise that – I actually had more interaction than usual, it just wasn’t terribly Friday-flavored.

Tomorrow’s weather is supposed to suck, so I dragged myself to the super-cheap supermarket to scoop some bargains for the teen shelter – 20 lbs of chicken legs, 2.5 dozen eggs and (for me) some Thomas’s English muffins for a grand total of $11.65.  Then I went home, packed up a big wheelie suitcase with the haul from the supermarket plus the bounty from last weekend’s couponics, and strolled on down to the shelter. For the full story (which touched me deeply — me, a jaded New Yorker), click here … it’s my charity blog, but I’m worried about boring you all with my bleeding heart stories.

On the way home I picked up some take-out treats, which I really didn’t deserve, for $8.20. I participated in a lively discussion with my fellow pizza-munchers about how the nice Italian lady manager (who has vastly improved the quality of the pizza there since taking over) should handle a prank caller who keeps ringing up to call her a bitch. I thought she should own it and shout back “that’s BEEyotch to you, little boy”, but she decided to go with the men’s suggestion to strike back with “you’re mother’s a bitch”. Yeah, real original. But hey, that was a lot of social activity for a wiseass hermit like me!

Facing an Unemployment Hearing?

With so many people losing their jobs and dealing with our unemployment system for the first time in their lives, I thought some might find this useful…

I spent about a year unemployed from 2002-2003. I couldn’t even get a secretarial job at a 25% paycut (from an already low salary) despite 10 years’ experience and wayyyy too much education. Temp work was incredibly thin on the ground. I wasn’t too worried at first because I knew I could live perfectly well on unemployment benefits and had 39 weeks to find something. I got $405 a week and my rent was $500/month, my COBRA was $320/month, my MetroCard and utilities were another $100/month…and I had no debt.

The BackStory
Three months into my jobless stint, I finally got a trial-basis job offer doing something fairly lame in publishing. At the end of the first week, the boss said she wanted to extend my trial period by a week. Fine, no problem. Along comes payday at the end of those two weeks, and they sprung some nasty financial suprises on me: I’d be paid on a 1099 (self-employed/contract basis), and I’d continue on this basis for an indefinite period of time, sometimes not even full-time. In other words, a very cheap temp. I asked for $2/hr more than we’d originally agreed on to cover the extra Social Security, etc. that I’d have to pay on the 1099 arrangement, and got laughed at. Not prone to rash decisions, I waited until Monday to quit. She bullied me into two weeks’ notice, and then I left. I figured if nothing else, it helped extend my unemployment benefits by 4 weeks.

The Problem
You don’t qualify for unemployment benefits if you quit. However, I felt I’d been duped into a job that was worth far less than promised – no health insurance because I wasn’t an employee, I paid all payroll taxes, I had no guarantee of hours, and it paid an unbelievably crappy $15/hr, but really $11-12/hr because of all the stuff I had to pay for that my employer should have.

The Hearing
Unemployment administration court was really just a small office with a conference table and a judge. I didn’t have a lawyer, and neither did my boss and her boss. She asked me questions, I asked her questions. She claimed to have no recollection of me asking her daily about handing over my W-2 (she was avoiding telling me I wasn’t a real employee), but was otherwise pretty honest.

The Verdict
Bad Employer – Shame On You, Pay Up. Because they had unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of my employment (that’s verbatim), I was under no obligation to remain in the position and therefore retained my unemployment benefits – for which they were now responsible.

The Result
I had gone nearly 3 months without any income or unemployment benefits. Within two weeks of the hearing, I got 11 weeks worth of benefit checks…$4455.

The Lessons Learned

1)  Get a written contract for any job, no matter how reputable the company is. Thank god these folks rather obviously didn’t consult a lawyer and weren’t very bright, because all they had to do was lie and say “we never offered her benefits or implied there was an actual job on offer”, and I might not have won.

2)  Having no debt and a lifelong habit of living below my means meant that I could make it just fine on 2 weeks’ severance from a $40K/year job and then $405 a week for 10 months with health insurance and without incurring any consumer debt. And during that time I spent a week in Brazil, a long weekend in San Francisco & Las Vegas, and a week in Germany. Also, in the 3 months preceeding my getting the sack, I spent a week in Aspen (off-season) and a 5-day weekend in Paris.