I moved 1700 miles by airplane. No truck – van – pod.

My sister once moved from Bellingham, WA to Aspen, CO and the “reputable” moving company she thoroughly checked out called her the day of the move and said “we can’t do it today – we’ll do it tomorrow”. Uh…she had a flight booked that evening. She didn’t even have that much stuff (at least in theory) – I think her only furniture was a queen-size bed w/nice frame and a dresser. Everything else was clothing and personal effects plus some outdoor sports equipment. Hardly a houseload o’ goodies. It cost her $1200. I learned from that lesson…

My New York City furniture

A friend with a pick-up truck is storing my bulkier things (bed, couch, trunk, massage table) and some household goods (dishes, vacuum, etc) in a friend’s garage. When he moves back into his apartment on the upper eastside, he’ll use any of those things he wants to – he threw out all his really crappy stuff and sublet his studio 3 years ago.

Getting to Colorado

I paid an extra $25 for the Classic ticket on Frontier airlines that allows for two 50-lb pieces of luggage (I snuck 5 more lbs in for free). Actually…the ticket was free thanks to a Frontier Airlines gift card from one of my phone fans 🙂

My lease deal

My 8-month Boulder lease at Glen Lake Apartments – which is on the outer edge of central but has everything I need within a 10-min walk (Safeway, Rite Aid, Starbucks, Taco Bell – joke!) – came with $200 off the first month’s rent as a signing bonus. I looked upon that as my craigslist furniture fund. Some of my purchases were awesome and some still SUCK.

My Second-hand Escapades

  • Couch $100 + $20 delivery: Not terribly happy with this. On the mushy-foam side and it’s low – like it should have 4″ feet screwed onto the corners.
  • Queen-size bed $50: I knew when I bought it that it was a mistake but my back and hips hurt so much from one night on the floor, and the friend helping me probably wasn’t good for more than that day. It reeked of curry for weeks and now – 6 weeks after purchase – still has a savory smell. The guy’s ad was a total lie in more ways than I can count. But strangely enough…it’s comfortable.
  • Coffee table $15:  By far my best deal – looks hand-made, inlaid with ceramic and terracotta tiles, very heavy.
  • Canvas chair for my balcony $15: Fantastic bargain! Currently living in the massage room until I get a more suitable one.
  • Two floor lamps $10: They have those CFL bulbs in them (4 total), so the guy was way underpricing. Not crazy about the one in the living room but the one for massage – it’s an “old-fashioned” dimmer one which is sooo perfect.
  • MEXICAN MICROWAVE for $10: My coolest score of the lot! The brand is LG but it was bought while the guy was living in Mexico City. All the pre-sets are for things like frijoles and albondigas. Hey – did you know that salsa verde and salsa roja are SO different that they get their own buttons? I love this thing!
  • 20″ CRT television $30 + $10 bribe to deliver: Only sort-of happy with it. She listed dimensions and I thought it was screensize. No 27-incher for me 😦
  • Green fabric armchair FREE: Thank you neighbor for leaving it in the lobby for whoever wanted it. Soft texture, firm cushion. I like it better than the couch.

Sending out some Dollar Tree love 

Even at Walmart the simple household stuff I bought (like veggie peeler and dishes and shelf liner and bucket) would have cost at least $150 instead of the $42 I laid out. And by the way, I really really like the dishes I got. Only a buck but I’ll miss them!

…and some Rite Aid love!

Sometimes they do deals on household stuff. I desperately needed a box fan and got one for $8….$24.99 minus $3 off $15 purchase coupon, $14 in +Ups and $8 + tax in cash. Got back $5 +Ups. I also wanted a little plastic table for my balcony and got one free – on sale for $7.99 get back $1 +Up and $2 rebate. So I “sacrificed” $4.99 in reward bucks. It’s this sort of thing that makes playing that game so worthwhile 🙂

Great use of returned-gift credit at Amazon

I had $300+ credit built up from returned gifts from my phone customers. So instead of stilettos and miniskirts that I couldn’t dream of fitting into, I have a coffee press, Dirt Devil vacuum, drinking glasses, yoga mat, all-purpose knife, etc. that didn’t cost me a penny.

No love for the US Postal Service

Mom sent me a box of things I forgot and needed but didn’t send it parcel post because she thought it was urgent to send me a shower curtain (I like baths and she knows it!). So it cost twice what it should have – $43 for 16 lbs. I was a little pissed…she won’t take money from me for it but I’m still not happy. Then she put together a flat-rate box of smaller clothes for me…she should have put in something heavy to make it worthwhile.

The Art of the Barter

Me and my bartering…I know. Craigslist for Boulder is pretty sparse but there was a handyman/painter offering his services – just make him an offer. Turns out his wife has scoliosis and could use my services. And so the deal was done – I got my room-separating pole hung(pole was $11.50 from Home Depot plus $4 worth of hanging hardware), and I worked on my first local.

Couponing: I am NOT a hoarder!

Okay first off – the word “hoarder” now seems to mean filthy lazy disturbed people with a house full of animal skeletons thanks to that TV show. I think of a hoarder as more of an extreme pack rat/collector – much clutter but no filth. Like my grandmother and her as-seen-on-TV habit that resulted in more knives and chia pets and cosmetic collections than I could count.

I just watched a few clips of “Extreme Couponing” and – these people are hoarders!! At least the ones I saw in the clips – like the guy with 1000 bottles of shower gel and a garage that looks like a grocery store with aisles and shelves and all that. And the woman buying 200 bottles of gatorade and 150 Butterfingers – she spent $70 on coupons to buy $1000 worth of questionably useful stuff. In the clip it looks like it’s just her and her husband – so $70 is what they’d normally spend on a decent grocery order every week anyway. Essentially no money is saved and while they get $1000 worth of good for that $70, none of it is what they would choose if coupons didn’t exist. Well…except maybe the Butterfingers. Mmm…

If I’m not mistaken, most of these people keep all of their coupon booty, and that’s the part I don’t understand. You all know I love a great deal and will do it in multiples – because it’s kind of a rush walking out with $50 of good-quality goodies for about 50 cents plus sales tax. But even if my apartment wasn’t a studio, I would not accumulate like that.

When I went through that bedbug nightmare about 17 months ago, I was very embarrassed to see how big my drug store stockpiles had gotten. I didn’t want my assorted Broke Folks to ask me for something I didn’t have – but did I really need three big clear plastic garbage bags full of razors, deodorant, shampoo, soap, pads, etc? I gave away 2 bags’ worth within 3 days.

So in a few weeks I’m moving into a real grown-up apartment with three rooms where right now there’s just one – and not a stick of furniture. I’ll be within a 7-minute walk of a Safeway (good coupon supermarket), a Rite Aid and a Walgreens (and a medical marijuana dispensary…just sayin’). And I will NOT be turning my new place into a mini-mart. This I promise. Even though I’m not sure what use I’ll have for that dining room…

Photo by Bidgee via Wiki Commons

A Family-Financed Wedding for Littlest Sister

So my littlest sister, Starfish, is getting married this September on a pretty strict budget. She just got her first ever credit card – at age 30! – with that elusive 0% interest for a year in order to “finance” it. I think she’s capable of adhering to that plan, but those are untested waters with her. She was a teenager under the same roof as my parents and grandmother through the worst of their spending habits, and I’m not sure what she learned.

She’s planning for about 65 guests, outdoor ceremony in a small outdoor amphitheater in the Rockies. The reception will be a few miles away (but definitely taxi distance, so no provision of transportation necessary) and will feature gourmet pizza, wine & beer, karaoke, iPod music, and a cash bar. She’s wonderfully creative and will make things very attractive and unusual, but it sounds kinda cheesy -sensible for her budget, but the prospect of no hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar isn’t sitting too well with us.

I stepped up with a $500 pre-wedding gift immediately – now that I’ve got two jobs on the go and am doing rather well at the new one, I can do that fairly painlessly. My mother said she’s hoping to put in $1000, but I don’t think that’ll happen because she just got a crapload of dental work. I let my brother know what I was doing because he likes to do the right thing, it’s just a matter of knowing what the right thing is.

The part I find awkward is that, with my dad gone, my mom is planning to approach her godfather (his youngest brother) for a contribution to the wedding costs. To be fair, he sort of offered with the other sister last year, but my mom said they were fine and didn’t need it. However, Starfish and her wonderful fiance (really decent, big-hearted guy who loves our entire family) could really use the help. Starfish has no real problem accepting big gifts and is very gracious about it, and I know my future brother-in-law will be floored.

So tell me, what few readers I have left after not blogging for 5 weeks…

Do you have any first- or second-hand experience of a “family financed” wedding? How did you (or the couple) feel about it?

I hate auto-renewals

I got notification a few weeks ago that my Norton Anti-Virus software was being auto-renewed, and a charge for $48 would appear on my card. I’m generally not a fan of auto-renewals and would have considered this an important exception to that rule of thumb, but…$48? I paid $30 the previous year.

I headed over to Amazon.com to check out their price: $23. I contacted Norton’s customer service to ask about the huge discrepancy, and after warning me against the possibility of a disreputable dealer, offered me preferential pricing of $40, a refund, or to make up the difference with an extension of the anti-virus subscription. I asked for the extension, which would amount to an additional 10-11 months, and they declined. I requested the refund and just this morning downloaded via the Amazon software & games downloader the shiny new McAfee Norton Anti-Virus 2010 version –

For $14.49 + tax, making it worth waiting until the last possible moment, though that was not deliberate.

Paid for with my Amazon gift card balance earned through Swagbucks (yes, that’s my referral link – it would make my day for someone to sign up through it!)

Now let’s hope my feeling of financial smugness doesn’t backfire on me with a virus attack!

A Week of Retail Returns

I hate returning things. I always feel bad because it’s rarely the fault of the item – it was some form of mistake on my part (wrong size, wrong color, turns out I didn’t need it, etc), and here I am creating extra work for people. But then I found out about my aunt’s psychotic abuse of return policies and decided that my return needs were perfectly reasonable. I mean, this woman will buy 10 things and return 9 of them. At all stores where she shops, and every time she shops. The back of her SUV is filled with her rejects. I really don’t get it, because returning things is not my idea of a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Well, it started off badly – not Overstock‘s fault, but more my brother’s and mine. I got some curtains for Christmas to replace the ones that I left on the train and never recovered, but by the time Christmas came, I’d changed my color scheme plans. We celebrated the holidays at my brother’s place in Baltimore, and I left him in charge of the return so I wouldn’t have to lug them back to NYC on public transportation (which temporarily lost my luggage too!). I forgot to chase him up, but I don’t think it mattered – those curtains were deeply clearanced so a return wasn’t really an option. I figure he hasn’t decorated a couple of the rooms in his house yet, so they’ll be put to use.

In happier news, I discovered 2 weeks ago that Home Depot changed their return policy so that you can take an item bought online to a retail location and get the refund. I almost failed to return it in time though – I did it on the last possible day (Monday) of their 90-day return window because the city was too slushy for the 5 days before that. So I paid $2.25 for the subway – only one-way because I live just a 15-minute walk away – instead of $20 in return shipping.

This evening, I received an email from Sierra Trading Post informing me that they had received my return item and, since more than 6 months had passed since the purchase, the full $23.50 was issued as store credit/gift card. It took me a moment to figure out what this was…ohmygod, it was a present I had given my post office-averse newlywed sister for Christmas 2008. As in 15 months ago. This sister has randomly finds a sealed, addressed card she meant to send at some point in the past and mails it with a little note on the back of the envelope that she has no idea what’s inside. Usually, it’s a birthday card from 2-5 birthdays ago. With supplemental stamps on it because the rate had changed once or twice since.

Of course, the issue of curtains and rugs has yet to be addressed.  I’m just afraid of making more mistakes. Like that orange paint. That was a $40 mistake. Ouch.

Printable Coupons for my Robin-Hooding

Believe it or not, I’ve actually been doing minimal shopping-for-free in the past few weeks. I’ve had band-aids all over my face since late January, and now I’ve got a livid scar surrounded by adhesive-irritated flakiness. Attractive, I know. Anyway, I’ve been doing just enough couponing to keep my drug store credits (ECBs, RRs) from expiring and that’s about it.

I’m itching to get back in the game though, and these coupons will help me make a lot of people happy (and in the case of the Excedrin, it’s my annual personal stock-up in a way that allows me to “make money” at Walgreens to keep up the good work). Remember, most of these can be printed twice, usually by going back a few pages with the back button:

Betty Crocker – cake mix, brownie mix, cookie mix + frosting (very popular, makes for free birthday treats!)

Colgate – MaxWhite, Total Sensitive, Enamel Strength, & Softsoap bodywash

www.SmartSource.com – $2/2 Right Guard, .50/1 Betty Crocker frosting

www.Coupons.com – $2/2 Right Guard, $1/1 Orbit gum, $2/1 Excedrin (very important for next week!), $1.50/2 Kelloggs Corn Pops/Apple Jacks/Froot Loops, $1/1 Kellogg’s Smart Start, .60/1 Cheerios mix

www.RedPlum.com – $1.50/2 Kelloggs, .50/1 Newman’s Own

$1 Betty Crocker Potatoes
$1/1 & $1/2 Honey Nut Cheerios (automatically prints both)
$1/1 General Mills cereal
$1/1 Cheerios
.75/1 CoffeeMate
.75/1 Nestle Tollhouse Morsels
$1 Degree deodorant
.55/1 International Delight
$1/1 Oreo Cakesters
.75/1 Shake-n-Bake
$1/1 Stayfree
.60/3 Yoplait Whipps
$2/1 Fiber One
(scroll down)
$1/1 & $1.50/2 Kelloggs – unlike all the others, this only gives one print
$2/1 Excedrin – answer Excedrin, print $2 coupon twice; answer other and get a Free Excedrin coupon by mail. No reason you can’t do both – the website doesn’t prevent it.

So if you want to help me by printing these off and mailing them, leave me a comment so I can privately send you my contact info.

Penny Experiment: $262 Toiletries for $7 + tax

Hope y’all don’t mind, but in order to participate in The Penny Experiment, I need to post pictures and details of the deals that I do. I’ve pretty much avoided this because I don’t want to be lumped in with some of those bloggers who empty whole shelves of Crest Pro-Health just because they can.

This photo isn’t complete – it’s just what I got at CVS, not Rite Aid because I gave all that stuff away already. As soon as I found out Single Mom-of-1 was on her way, I ran out and did my Rite Aid deals because she was desperate for hair conditioner (both mom and teenage daughter have dry, frizzy hair) as well as the food I’d already accumulated. I didn’t put together that donation pic because, again, I was in a time crunch.

At CVS, I bought (full shelf/sale price):
$32.94 / $32.94  6 x Dove Men+Care body wash
$23.98 / $20.00  2 x jumbo packs Huggies diapers
$31.96 / $23.96  4 x Pantene (large size)
$  6.38 / $ 5.98  2 x Colgate Max Fresh
$  8.38 / $ 7.98  Oust Air & Surface Sanitizer
$  4.08 / $ 2.60  2 x 2L Coke (inc .05 deposit)
——————————————-
Shelf price total:  $107.72
Sale price total:  $93.46 + tax

– $10 (2 x $5/$30 purchase coupons)
– $6 Pantene (2 x $3/2 mfr)
– $1.50 Huggies mfr
– $1 Huggies mfr
– $7.25  Dove Men+Care mfr
– $3.99  Oust BOGO mfr
-$.50  Coke store coupon
-$1.50 Colgate mfr (IP)
———————————-
Total owed: $61.70 + $5.84 tax
Paid with $60 ECBs + $7.54 cash

ECBs earned:
$32.94 Dove Men+Care (more than 1 card…long story)
$4 Colgate
$6 Oust
$5 Huggies
$10 Pantene/Coke
$57.94 ECBs earned – almost a wash!

Then at Rite Aid – sorry, no photo – I picked up (shelf price/sale price):
$9.98 / $7.00  Pantene (2 bottles)
$5.99 / $3.99  Nyquil
$4.99 / $1.75  Post GrapeNuts cereal
$5.99 / $2.99  Nivea body wash
$4.49 / $1.99  Carefree Ultra liners
$17.96 / $7.96  Stayfree pads
———————————————-
Shelf total:  $49.40
Sale total:  $25.69

– $5/$25 purchase
– $2/2 Pantene
– $2 Nyquil
– $2 Post cereal
– $2 Nivea body wash
– $2 Carefree Ultra (RA video values)
– $2 ($1 x 2) Stayfree
– $3.98 (2 x BOGO) Stayfree
——————————————–
Total:  $4.70 + $1.33 tax = $6.03
SCRs due:  $3 ($2 Pantene, $1 Nyquil)
Net out-of-pocket cost after rebates:  $3.03

And yesterday, I dashed out to Walgreens to pull of this deal after Mom-of-10 said she bought a bottle of shampoo because they were out. I “yelled” at her for buying something I could get much higher quality for nearly-free. This total is actually 3 orders, with one done on last week’s sale:

$10.99 / $10.00  Zicam cold sore swabs, 10ct
$  1.99 / $ .79  Ajax dishwashing liquid
$33.96 / $20.00  4 x 12oz bonus bottles NyQuil/DayQuil
————————————————————————
Full price total:  $46.94
Sale price total:  $30.79

– $8.00 (4 x $2) Vicks NyQuil/DayQuil mfr
= $22.79
Paid with $23 in Register Rewards (had to throw in a candy bar for myself to make this work, not included)
Earned back $20 in Register Rewards

$23.98 / $17.98  2 Huggies jumbo packs
$23.94 / $20.00  6 bottles of Garnier Fructis shampoo & conditioner
$ 7.58 / $ 6.00  2 x 22ct Kotex pads
$ 2.29 / $ .99  Aquafresh, 8.2oz bonus tube
—————————————————————————
Full shelf price: $57.79
Sale price:  $44.97

– $2 Huggies store coupon (2 x $1)
– $4 Huggies mfr IPs (2 x $2)
– $6 Garnier Fructis mfr (6 x $1)
– $2/2 Kotex mfr
– $.75 Aquafresh mfr
———————————————–
$30.22 + 2.40 sales tax
Paid with $27 RRs and $5.62

Got back $6 Huggies (2 x $3), $3 Kotex, $10 Garnier Fructis

GRAND TOTAL

BOUGHT:  $261.85 worth of personal care, baby care, OTC meds and other non-food necessities
PAID:  $16.19 out-of-pocket ($6.62 + 9.57 sales tax)

WHO BENEFITS

Single Mom of Teen Daughter and her friend, Single Mom with Tween Daughter, got 6 bottles of Pantene, 1 Oust, 2L bottle of Coke, NyQuil, 4 Stayfree, 1 Carefree, Nivea body wash, 2 Colgate, Post GrapeNuts (plus a few boxes of the free Kelloggs from my previous Penny Experiment purchase) on Sunday. She got tons of other stuff too (2 frozen turkeys, 3 cans of tuna, Ragu, Ronzoni, SoyJoy, Chex Mix, Stove Top, cranberry sauce, gravy, Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol, Dawn, All), but that pre-dates my participation. Interesting twist: the turkeys and trimming came from Bronx Mom-of-10 – they’re not fans of Thanksgiving foods, so I just redistributed what the church and a very nice local supermarket owner gave her over the holidays.

Semi-Official Shelter Lady, Joanne, will get the 6 bottles of Dove Men+Care body wash with her next delivery.

Bronx Mom-of-10 got 4 packs of Huggies, 6 bottles of Garnier Fructis, Aquafresh, Kotex, 4 bottles of NyQuil and DayQuil, Zicam swabs (one of her kids gets cold sores), Ajax dishwashing liquid, and the other things pictured below: