Apologies for Lack of Posting

I seem to have developed friction issues with typing on my laptop – fingertips, outer edge of right hand, etc. I have no idea what I’m doing differently this week that I haven’t been doing for the 6 months since I got this particular laptop, or the year since I got the wireless router and moved to the couch, but I’m mostly giving my hands a break. I anticipate putting up a post in the next day or two with a Robin Hood coupon request, though who knows, I may get some random inspiration in the meantime.

Enjoy your Halloween!

Advertising Decision Time: Was I Wrong?

Last week, a client told me that a site where I had a free ad on was quite racy. I update my posting there every few months so that those searching for a massage there know that I’m still active, so this was news to me. Lo and behold, I found that the default search results are “pictures only” – um, since when did that become the #1 criteria for a massage therapist? And the majority of the photos were women with at worst a bikini on and at best a good cleavage shot. Honestly, stiletto knee-high boots and fishnets?? Oh, this did not bode well for the likes of me. So I searched for my ad by plugging in my zip code, and I didn’t even show up.

So I found out that MassageAnywhere had become a subscription site, but us unpaid “promotional members” grandfathered in from their free days will randomly show up in results. I thought about it … their annual subscription rate was fair, but then I thought about how little business I’d actually gotten from my ad there over the past 5 years v. how many obnoxious calls. I would often get a spurt of inappropriate inquiries that made me wonder where the site was advertising itself. I mean, when you get 2-3 calls a month on average from a particular advertising venue and suddenly you get 5 calls in a week for “pr0state massage”, you know it has something to do with the site’s advertising, not yours.

Now here’s the scariest new addition to the site: As a user from the client side, you can pay to become a “Friend” and maybe (but not guaranteed) get a Token for your donation that gives you “Unfettered Access” to provider profiles. I can’t begin to describe how shady and provocative that sounds.

So I wrote a pissy email to the folks at MassageAnywhere, explaining why I wouldn’t be upgrading to a paid membership and wasn’t sure I even wanted a free ad on their site. Their reply boiled down to “whatever” because obviously it was more lucrative to have lax rules. And then yesterday, I had two appointments with people who found me through that site and made a BIG chunk of change. Yes, despite preliminary conversations that started with me confirming that they’d read my rules, they both had an interest in “more than a massage”. One wasn’t at all pushy, though he texted me later to say he wished he’d tried, and the other claimed an enormous attraction to my personality as his reason for getting a bit het up (but in no way threatening). I am highly adept at sticking to my code of ethics without getting confrontational when someone attempts to push the envelope – I just give my wiseass side free rein, because it’s somehow face-saving for them while getting my point across exceptionally well.

So now I’m thinking that, if I got 2 appointments in one day from a posting that shows up at random rather than every time NYC is searched, I should reconsider my feelings about paying to advertise on this particular site. I mean, just yesterday I made enough to cover the subscription for 5 years. I’m now wondering if, despite its many drawbacks, MassageAnywhere now has a significant-enough presence on the web to take a chance. Or I could just stick with the freebie.

What to do when someone laughs at your coupon habit

Here is the easiest way to quiet the mild ridicule that emanates from any friend, family member, or even co-worker:


If there’s one toiletry item that everyone knows the price of, it’s a good razor – because the shelf price and even the sale price of your reputable brands are painfully high, especially for the blade refills, that it sticks in our memory. So when someone has the gall to bust your chops for using coupons, give them one of your many, many Gillette (Fusion, Venus), Schick (Quattro, Intuition) or Bic (Soleil) razors – if it’s someone you’re really close to, go on, give them two.

Their eyes get big.
They ask “are you sure?”
They want to know what “free” means.
And then they never make fun of you again.
Heck, they might even come to your defense if anyone else starts picking on you.

Secret Santa plans: Stuffed Christmas Stockings

Last week, my BFF met up with her freshman year roommate (I was her sophomore year roommate) for a happy hour on behalf of the non-profit her ex-roomie now works for – Services for the Underserved. Every year, they ask for donations of Christmas stockings with presents in them, or even just things that would make good stocking stuffers. My BFF knows I love donating and wrapping and finding a good home for the things I get for free, and gave me the email address of the person who handles this.

Of course, it’s a bit early in the year for all this, but upon establishing the non-profit’s clientele, I asked for 15 females, age 16+. The instructions unfortunately state “don’t wrap anything”, but I’m hoping that I can either enclose a specific list of contents and be allowed to wrap them, or I can do the wrapping in their office. About 3/4 of the items on the list of suggested stocking stuffers are the things I get for free, so now it’s just a matter of getting my hands on cheap stockings. Feel free to make suggestions that improve on the dollar store 🙂

Coupons Giveth and Taketh Away

I won’t bore you with a detailed list of this past weekend’s incredible feats of couponing, and will instead go straight to the highlights and lowlights (?) of my adventures…

Rite Aid in NJ: Piece of cake, quickly in and out. The burbs are such a treat sometimes.

ShopRite: No screw-ups, no lousy cashiers, minimal problems. I loved getting 8 jars of my favorite tomato sauce (Classico) for a net cost of 55 cents a jar. Ah, the breakfast Lean Pockets for 49 cents a box, the feminine products for free, the Knorr’s pasta sides (TBD, D = Donated) for 4 cents each. Oh wait, I did screw up. I bought some things that qualified for some sort of special offer or rebate, and then lost one of the receipts – AND realized that two items for different promotions were on one receipt. Of course, all manufacturers understandably want an original receipt. Sigh.

CVS:  Extremely good experience. I had $14 in expired ECBs and as soon as I entered the store, I approached the assistant manager to see if they’d accept them. He was perfectly agreeble – phew! And then everything went smoothly – lots of Glade products for free that qualify for the SC Johnson $5 rebate.

Walgreens in NJ:  The manager was next to my cashier and kind of passive-aggressively informed him (in front of me) that they only accept internet printed coupons in color – I was holding one in my outstretched hand. I piped up that some of us don’t have color printers, and the things to look for to make sure it’s not a photocopy was a faint watermark if it was from one of the main coupon sites as well as the verification number that is different on every coupon printed. Turns out the manager used to be an avid couponer herself at one point (I reckon back when internet coupons were easily tampered with), and appreciated the info I gave her as well as my understanding of the # coupons cannot exceed # of items rule. She told me about people cutting off expiration dates and photocopying coupons from the newspaper inserts, and told me how her store had had a lot of problems with rejected reimbursement lately. I said that IPs could be traced to the computer that printed them, and no way was I going to get hauled off to prison over a $1.50 coupon. I suspect that they got hurt by that $5 Huggies IP last spring that inspired quasi-criminal madness amongst diaper-buyers. I had some recently expired Register Rewards that she said couldn’t be used because they were manufacturers’ coupons and they won’t get the money back, but I then told her what I knew about how all that worked and she let me use them up “just this once” (I wouldn’t have pushed it). I’ll be more careful. I really appreciate that she didn’t let her past bad experiences with coupons close her off to my explanations.

Target:  Pulled off using a manufacturer’s BOGO coupon and a store BOGO coupon to yield free Fancy Feast cat treats for The Best Cat Ever Because He Saved My Little Sister’s Life. I actually had my mom do the first round because I wasn’t done shopping, and she was feeling bold. I also had some fun getting free things from their travel-size section with coupons that don’t exclude them – free Clean & Clear face scrub, All and Tide laundry detergent, Dove cleansing cloths, Degree deodorant, Oxy acne pads. On the downside, I picked up a purple hoodie for $19 that went on sale the next day for $15. Grr.

Walgreens NYC:  Oh boy did I screw up and end up the better for it. You generally can’t use a Register Reward earned from a specific product to pay for the same product and then get another RR. I accidentally did that and tried to undo it with the assistant manager. Somehow, I ended up not getting the $8RR but ended up with $15 cash from a return, and yet still got the items. I knew it wasn’t supposed to happen that way and gave the guy my name and number in case the register totals were really screwed up and they wanted the money back. I do not want this very nice manager to get in trouble over frikkin’ Theraflu. Despite doing everything right this time, the $8RR didn’t print. The manager asked me to please come back tomorrow and torture someone else with this. I laughed and called it a night.

In rebate news … I submitted for the Kellogg’s $10 Fuel for School rebates on behalf of me, my mother and my best friend. It looks like mine has been processed and is on its way, but my friend just got hers returned for insufficient postage (.20 short). Damn food scale said it was 3/4oz. Guess what I’ll be replacing asap – not going to let it screw up my dieting as badly as it screwed up my rebate! The postmark deadline was 9/30 and the receiving deadline was 10/9 — I mailed it around Sept 20 and it took the post office A WHOLE MONTH to return it. Probably S.O.L. with this, but I emailed Kelloggs anyway. On the plus side, I only paid $4.90 for the 10 boxes of Eggo waffles that were supposed to earn me this rebate – 4 for me, 6 donated. I looked up the status of my mother’s rebate and saw no note of it … hm, I think I mailed it the same time I sent mine.

Rite Aid NYC:  Just noticed that this week’s circular is 8 pages – excellent! It used to be 12 pages like everyone else, then a few months ago, they shortened Manhattan to 4 pages of deals that rarely included their rebate specials. I stopped shopping at Manhattan stores. But after reading their recently-issued corporate coupon policy – which is 100% awesome for us coupon crazies – I checked the sales on their website and found that NYC is no long out of favor. Sweet. I’ve got my morning cut out for me tomorrow.

Thanks, Swag-mates!

A few of you signed up for Swagbucks through the button/link in my sidebar and have been doing a great job of racking up the bucks for us both. So….


… to Alison P and Jillian D, who as of today, have earned enough for a $5 Amazon.com card.
… to Marci A, who started more recently and has been scoring bucks diligently.
… to Jennifer J, who earned a few, stopped, and it looks like may have restarted her Swagbucks searches. Go Jennifer!

A few others have signed up but haven’t gotten into the swing of the Swag, but I’m hopeful they’ll be inspired by the prospect of earning enough Swagbucks for an Amazon.com card or two to offset their holiday shopping. Also, if the selection of cute Halloween swag for under 100 Swagbucks is anything to go by, it should be easy to fulfill the Christmas fantasies of all the people in your life who love reindeer antler headbands and jinglebell vests. In my world, that would be my mom. She wears flashy musical pins on snowman sweaters just to embarrass us, and then scores free blinking red Rudolph noses at the mall for our stockings.

Indecent Proposal, Part 2: I couldn’t walk the walk

It turns out that, despite having given the subject of one-shot, unsought sex-for-money a fair amount of philosophical debate over the years, I was wrong about my price. It turns out I don’t have one.

A dying man (someone I’ve known for years and was once attracted to) offered my hypothetical price to essentially be his girlfriend until his brain tumor took him. This is someone I care about from a distance, someone who appreciates that I don’t use a “sympathetic voice” when talking to him and treat him no differently than before the diagnosis. I automatically declined, which he’d expected but hoped he was wrong.

But then I *did* think about it. Half a million dollars for an almost-40 chubby chick like me? Now there’s an offer I won’t get twice. I told him he could buy himself a little blonde college hottie for half that – but no, he wants me. Half a million … that’s a big ol’ retirement plan, it’s a paid-in-full home, it’s a world of possibilities.

This is truly my one shot at this kind of money.
And I’m not taking it. I just…can’t.
I am a disappointment to myself.

Indecent Proposal: We all have a price – what’s yours?

This question has been brewing for a few days now, and the strangest things have unfolded…

I mentioned in a past post about how I’ve been offered $1000 for sex by a couple of clients (all massage therapists experience this, it’s not a reflection of my behavior!) and dismissed them immediately without the slightest twinge of temptation. I then proceeded to have some hysterical conversations with assorted people in my life about what it would take to get you to cross that line. After all, we’d all do Robert Redford for a million dollars – even you straight guys would, if you’re honest! In fact, wouldn’t we (men and women) do just about anyone for $1 million? But the real questions are:

What is the minimum you would do it for?

How did you come up with that figure?

The people in my “real life” had some fascinating answers and reactions (bear in mind that this question was asked of most of them about 4 years ago)…

Bridezilla:  About $15,000 because that would cover tuition for nursing school.

Mom:  $500 as long as the guy wasn’t too old or smelly or ugly. I was all ready to call her a cheap floozy, until she explained why: that would be enough to pay for a ticket to visit her daughters in Aspen and treat them to dinner a couple of times. Aww.

Extremely Moral Best Friend:  A year’s salary, about $100K, which at the moment would wipe out her car loan and most of the remaining balance on her mortgage. She was at a business conference at the time that the Elliot Spitzer escort scandal came to light, and remarked to one of her fellow conference attendees at the bar one night, “How can she be worth $3500? What is she doing in those 30 minutes??” The guy looked her dead in the eye and said “I’d totally pay that much for you”. She thanked him for the compliment!

Stock broker client:  Said there wasn’t a single woman in his sphere of acquaintanceship who’d say no to that $1000 and thought I was a dumbass for walking away from it.

Older, slightly famous client, after telling him about my family’s responses to the question: “So, can I book your mother for a massage?”

Disclaimer:  This is all hypothetical, philosophical and hopefully highly entertaining – it in no way should be interpreted as solicitation!

55lbs of Groceries on Public Transportation

I’m officially insane. I have taken couponing to such an extreme that I took assorted subway trains over to Jersey City to clear their shelves on a Saturday night. I didn’t really think I’d be able to pull off all the deals I wanted to for lack of stock or hassle from cashiers, but I got all but one thing on my list. In summary, I spent $17.50 for $95 worth of groceries – and that’s based on sale prices, not full shelf price – and I’ve got $8 in register rebates to spend on anything in my next order. Now here’s the fun part: the items meant for me are the ground beef ($11 for 6.5 lbs), 6 yogurt ($.60 – yes, total), 2 boxes of Cheerios ($2.88) and 6 blocks of cheese ($5.94) … that’s a little over $20. So I actually saved money by getting all the other stuff that I’m giving away – about $11 if you include the $8 I get to spend this weekend. Here’s what my haul looked like (aren’t massage tables terribly handy?):

OctShopping 003

Can’t see it all? Here’s the boring list: 11 boxes of General Mills cereals (Cheerios, Total, Cascadian Farms), 14 Yoplait yogurts, 3 sets of Betty Crocker cake mix and icing, then that huge stack of 18 Pillsbury Crescent and Cinnamon rolls, 6 x 8oz blocks of MacAdam cheese, 2 flavored CoffeeMates, 8 Gum toothbrushes, 2 Lysol cleaners, 6.5 lbs of ground beef.

I had brought my small wheelie suitcase to pack the heavy stuff into (tubes of rolls, meat, Lysol, cake stuff), and my free reusable eco-tote from Earthbound Organics that held about 7 of the 11 boxes of cereal. I strapped another bag of cereal to the telescopic handle of the suitcase and headed home… 7 minute walk to the Path train for my 15-minute ride back to the city, then transfer to the subway, and then the hideous climb of 5 stories’ worth of stairs to street level right outside my building. That part was really unpleasant. Plus, I sat next to a worried looking young woman, whom I assured with big fancy vocabulary words that despite appearances, I was not a bag lady.

I’ve gotten so much free cereal lately that the pile in my closet was about 2 wide and 20 high, and the bottom boxes were starting to crush. And those Pillsbury tubes? My fridge was a disaster with the damn things rolling around of their own free will, shifting and clunking at strange moments. I called Unofficial Shelter Lady who takes care of 20 almost-adults, and she drove in to relieve me of this craziness. I just provided 2 weeks’ worth of breakfast! I’m also trying to give Mom-of-2-teens a care package because they really appreciate cereal and yogurt, but her computer is virus-ridden and so communication isn’t easy – she replied to my text on Sunday, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to meet up this week.

I’d like to give a very special shout-out to the lady behind WebHunting – she has access to multiple computers, is the queen of coupon trading, and is the whole reason I was able to do this. And she’s an awfully nice person who also shares her shopping-for-free booty with the less-fortunate. Without her diligent printing and mailing, I would only have 1/3 of the above and would not be sitting on $8 worth of credit to spend. And to all of my Robin Hood coupon fairies, this is what you make possible!

Saved Mom $450 – Have I redeemed myself?

*Updated at bottom 10/11*

Last month over Labor Day weekend, I was a Bad Daughter. My mom had a hacking cough that I just shrugged off even though my nurse practitioner aunt thought it was worth issuing 2 prescriptions for because, well, she’s a smoker, she always has a freaking cough. Turns out this one was bronchitis and she really wasn’t feeling well. What made me a Bad Daughter? She willingly shuttled me around for my shopping-for-free errands, but got really pissed that I took 20 minutes longer than expected at one of them while she sat in the car feeling crummy, waiting. She told me I should have put her first, not the shopping for other people, and walked out on the deals. She was absolutely right. I felt like a selfish little dookie. Well, I was a selfish little dookie. So I have big plans to shop-for-free on Saturday that would be indescribably easier to execute with my mom, but I’m not sure she’ll ever indulge my shopping habits again and it’s too soon to risk stirring up those rather fresh memories.

However, I did do something incredibly useful tonight. You see, one of the errands we ran during my last visit was a browse through the computer department of Best Buy so she could physically see and feel the difference between a netbook and a laptop. Her current desktop got rather badly infected with a virus/malware/ransomware that, left untreated, shut off her computer within 30 seconds of getting online. This week she asked me to search for a deal on a new tower unit that suited her user style. Uh…okay, like when did I become the tech smart one? I’m just the bargain-smart one, and so she figured I’d know what was worth paying for and how to set it up because I haven’t had a tech issue requiring professional help in 5 years. Okayyyy.

I called her tonight to discuss memory (or whatever the spec-formerly-known-as-RAM is now called) and how it affected the price of the HP systems she was interested in, when she mentioned the name of the malware: Windows Police Pro. I googled it while we were chatting and found sites with free downloads to fix it, but her computer was so far gone that she couldn’t get online long enough to access it. In fact, the virus had found ways to block access to a lot of the fix-it sites. I took the basic gist of what needed to be done and had her do one thing: go into the task manager and delete one file asap. It really shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it did – the computer stayed on and online long enough for her to get to the .exe recovery files she needed. She also downloaded the free deluxe McAfee software provided by her ISP and set it to clear out the crap before she went to bed – trojans, backdoors, adware, viral pop-ups, fake task manager, etc.

One of my cousins was supposed to pass on her 2-year-old laptop (she just got an automatic replacement at college) last weekend but hadn’t transferred her music files, which meant no computer for my mom until maybe Thanksgiving. Mom couldn’t handle that. While I’m sure there’s plenty more to be done, she’s just happy to have the internet back and now has no great desire to replace her system. Would you believe she was about 20 minutes from having me order one for her on the spot? Preferably for local store pick-up so she could get back to normal this weekend, she had her debit card in front of her.

So I totally saved her $500 tonight with my guesswork. I rock! And hopefully it will help her forget my Bad Daughter behavior 5 weeks ago so I can visit again one day soon.

10/11 Update:  My mom has decided that even if she’s able to fix the virus, she just doesn’t trust her computer to be safe anymore. She now thinks every scan and every solution she has tried just let in more spyware and ransomware, and she buys things, pays bills online and checks her bank account all the time. To be fair, the machine is nearly 5 years old. Anyway, I’ll be ordering her up a new one (it’s part of my loan repayment from August) through her United Airlines link that will get her 1-2 miles per $1, depending on which store she chooses. She’s fond of the $450 Dell, but I want to run a $250 eMachine with similar specs by her first.