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ahhh...spring!

May 4th, 2010 at 10:56 am

Spring holds such promise for me. The days are longer, the flowers are in bloom (ha-choo!!) and colors everywhere!

I've been married almost three months now and things are pretty much more or less the same. I thought that combining our two households would be stressful and test each other's patience...but as we go through his stuff and mine, with running commentary on whose stuff is nicer, newer and most importantly, paid for!, somehow things feel lighter.

We've made a couple of trips to the Goodwill, boxed old books and DVDs for the local library's spring sale, and donated my wedding dress to bridesagainstbreastcancer. Anything left over (his old ratty couch, his dorm-style dinette set, his hideous black china...notice a pattern here??) will go to the dumpster the association rents each spring.

But we're only getting started. Our dream is to live on one person's salary (and save the rest). Is it possible? Would be nice...

Getting hitched...and on the cheap!

November 5th, 2009 at 07:30 am

So boyfriend finally popped the question! Like me, he's a fellow saver so he got the ring at an antique shop in Montclair NJ at a fraction of the cost. Beautiful, a great deal and eco friendly (recycling in action) to boot -- perfect!

Instead of having the big white wedding thing, we're opting for a destination cruise in February -- just us and immediate family. It's still costing us $20K but significantly less than what a traditional wedding would cost...without the drama and stress.

Here's my question to you fellow savers: any ideas on the best way to do the registry? We don't need any gifts (I'm in my late 30s and he just turned 40. We both have established households and pretty much have two of everything...and thus no need for more stuff) but relatives and friends want to know where we are registered. We'd like to register to benefit local (CT & NJ) food banks but after checking some sites, there does not seem to be any easy way to do this. Any thoughts?

color in a bottle

October 1st, 2009 at 10:45 am

I never thought I'd see the day when I would actually use one of those home dye jobs that my mother and aunts used to fuss over. But these days, with the economy as it is, and the cost of a cup of coffee is greater than a share of citi, I trim where I can.

I opted to grow my hair longer to avoid the monthly $75 hair cut, but those pesky gray hairs don't seem to know the meaning of recession. They keep growing and multiplying, which is more that I can say for my 401k. Sure I can spare the expense of getting it professionally colored (once every couple of months won't break the bank) but I feel incredibly guilty about it. I've been putting it off all summer, thinking that I can hide under a hat or up in a ponytail, until this morning...

My partner lives in Montclair, NJ, and while he thinks it is less expensive than CT, I heartily disagree. There are no less than 6 hair salons within a 2 block radius of his condo and they all charge upwards of $100 for color. I don't know what came over me (perhaps the fact that the dow was down over a 100 points this morning), but I walked over to CVS and picked up a box of Natural Instincts (new from Clairol? supposed to be the more natural of the line, no ammonia, has antioxidants, etc etc etc) for $9.99 + tax. Fully aware that this gamble would be expensive to fix.

Lo and behold, an hour later (color, wash and all), no more grays! And my hair does not feel coarse nor smell like I've been hanging out a chemical plant. Woo-hoo!!!

Now, men, I know this may not seem big, but for women who have to maintain their hair color, this is a major coup. I figured I saved at least $90 + tip multiplied by 6 colors per year....

Thank you MOM!

Flea Market Experience

September 21st, 2009 at 08:16 am

Nothing beats fall in CT! Sweater weather is here again! And with fall, comes garage sales, flea markets, tag sales!

I've been to quite a few of these, not really expecting much, but willing to browse and part with a few extra bucks...usually for socks and undershirts for the boyfriend. A nice way to spend a sunny afternoon, to fill those lazy hours between lunch and dinner.

At yesterday's flea market, The Second Annual Lockwood-Matthews Mansion Flea Market, I switched hats..from a browser to a vendor. I cleaned out my closet, my families' closets and friends' closets and came up with some hidden gems, most of which were never used or gently used items, carefully inspected and hanged and generally priced well under $10.

I don't know if it's my amateurish view or just a reflection of the economy, but while many people came, very few were willing to buy. And those that did express interest in some of the items, were not hesitant (or embarassed) to offer 50 cents or a dollar for them.

I was also surprised to see the camaraderie that exist among flea market vendors. Some seasoned, some novice, but all were willing to drop everything to help me when my makeshift tent started wavering (it was a windy day!). They would also come by and offer words of encouragement when I had two continuous (and painful!) hours of zero sale. One even came over and purchased a pair of sandals, marvelling at how lucky she was to spot the deal of the day (a very kind gesture nonetheless).

At the end of the day, I was able to sell several items (my niece's princess rocking chair went for $8 and a satellite photo of NYC from the 70s went for $15), packed up a whole lot more, and learned a valuable lesson -- how retailers have to work extra hard these days to make a sale. I also made new friends in fellow vendors whom I may or may not see again. (Ask me again next week after I've fully recovered and my bruised ego healed).

But one thing is for sure: I will never browse the same way again! In addition, I have newfound respect for these dedicated vendors that come out at the crack of dawn (in rain or shine) to present their wared to browsers like me.

Happy hunting, fellow savers!

The high cost of heat...and pass me another sweater

January 28th, 2009 at 08:00 pm

One of the many, many benefits of living alone is possessing absolute control of the household necessities: TV remote, what and when to eat (Cheerios for dinner? why not!) and yes, the thermostat! With the cost of (electric) heating these days, I thought I've had it figured out: keep the temperature at 60 degrees day and night (unless family is visiting, in which case I'd up it to 65 or even, 66!!); invested in a brand new heated mattress pad; sleep in layers and running cap; a hot water bottle always handy to keep the feet warm; and for those super chilly days, a couple of timer controlled space heaters on hand. I've been feeling pretty proud of my frugal efforts...until THE BILL arrived. My heating cost actually rose to $600! What did I do wrong?!? What efforts worked and what didn't? I wish the electric company would add a section in the bill -- similar to travel websites -- to indicate effective cost saving measures: if you turned down the thermostat a degree lower, you'd save $10 per day...or if you used cold water to run the washing machine and the dishwasher (not at the same time of course!) you'd save $3 per cycle...Wouldn't that be nice?

The benefits of being a road warrior

October 24th, 2008 at 06:39 am

I am writing this entry from my temporary office in Atlanta. This is my third visit here in three weeks. And like many who must travel for work, I try to be as efficient as I can so I can quickly head back home.

I'm not complaining since I knew what this job entailed when I signed on with my current employer: 50-75% travel and in return, they sign my paycheck. The greatest opportunity cost are those that you cannot assign a $ figure to: maintaining a semblance of a relationship that while on the road, is condensed into nightly 10 minute check-in calls, missing mini-milestones in my little niece's life, and just the daily hum of the familiar.

Of course, traveling for work does have its upsides -- frequent flier miles do accumulate (fingers crossed that the airline won't file for Chapter 11 anytime soon), hotel points offer the possibility of free nights in Hawaii or Bali (whenever that may be) and all expense paid meetings in interesting places make up for the endless mind numbing presentations to sit through.

But in today's economy, what I am most grateful for are the free meals and perks (starbucks anyone?) that I would not normally indulge in at home. This month, I have yet spend my own dime on food staples or gas. In addition, I've been busy traveling that I haven't had time to get bored -- saving me trips to the mall or other potentially costly activities. In the end, being a road warrior is a money-saving proposition...in my view.

So thank you dear employer...I hope that you don't file for Chapter 11 and lay me off anytime soon.

What am I thankful for despite these tough times

October 20th, 2008 at 01:40 pm

For me, worry and guilt come very easily. Seems like these days, they are my only constant companions. And like many of you, they are weighing me down, keeping me up at night and sitting at the pit of my stomach like a conference of restless butterflies.

Being grateful requires more effort. I need to consciously remind myself to stop obsessing and pause long enough to be thankful for what I do have, rather than fret over what I don't.

So right now, here's what I'm thankful for:

- Monday is almost over
- The Dow looks like it's headed in the positive direction today

But more importantly,
- My family
- My friends
- Good health
- Having food on the table, clothes on my back and roof over my head
- Still having my sense of humor to get me through these tough weeks
- The supportive network of fellow bloggers in saving advice...who reminds me that I am not alone

Thank you all! And have a good evening.


HELP...my dry cleaner is taking me to the cleaners!

October 19th, 2008 at 06:46 am

I have recently taken a hard look at my living expenses -- those seemingly petty expenses that add up -- and identified areas where I can trim and save. Gone are Starbucks lattes and shopping out of boredom are a thing of the past. I cut coupons, compare gas prices in the area and re-use whatever I can. I am making significant traction and feel really good about it.

One area that I am stuck is drycleaning. In my area, the average cost to dryclean one item is $5. After a week's worh of suits and blouses, my tab is usually $50. I've already started switching to machine washable garments and hand washing blouses, but wool suits still need to be dry cleaned.

Any ideas for alternative cleaning as well as for my fellow CT residents, any insight on the best/least expensive cleaners in the Fairfield County area?

The morning after layoffs

October 17th, 2008 at 08:08 am

Yesterday, I was known as the hatchetwoman. I was that dreaded HR person who had to let go a handful of employees, some of them long-tenured, as a result of the economic downturn. No fault of their own...just the bad luck of not having enough business coming in. Needless to say, even I didn't like myself too much. How do you look someone in the eye and say that it was not personal -- it was a "difficult business decision", just as the script instructed us to say.

We can justify and rationalize all we want, but at the end of the day, it's people's lives, livelihoods and families that are impacted. Part of me is relieved (that it wasn't me and I still have a job) and another part of me is feeling a tremendous amount of guilt.

If there is one bright spot (if that) is that my departing colleagues are getting financial planning/budget management support from a certified financial counselor as part of their outplacement benefit. At a minimum, it is a resource to help them get counseling and tools on how they can stretch out their severance pay and unemployment benefits for as long a time as it takes to find a new job...I hope they use it.

I'm a cheap date...

October 14th, 2008 at 06:03 pm

and very proud of it. And my boyfriend of 6 years would heartily agree.

It's become a fun challenge to find weekend activities that do not require an arm and a leg. There's a satisfaction that comes from having a good time and still have money left in your pocket. Just like finding that perfect outfit on sale in Loehmanns during tax free week, and you have additional % off coupons to boot!

Last weekend, we took a drive up to New Haven. It was a perfect, sunny, crisp fall weekend. The leaves are brilliant colors of red, orange and brown. We parked the car at the municipal lot ($5 for the day), used approximately a quarter tank of gas for the drive up ($12.50) and spent the afternoon walking around Yale, sitting on the grassy quad, admiring the old buildings, stopping to browse in the shops and after an hour or so, indulging in lattes in an outdoor cafe ($8). I realize this activity still cost us $25 but it was well worth being outdoors, enjoying each other's company and the beautiful scenery.

The weekend prior, we drove to McLaughlin Vineyards (part of the CT Wine Trail) and enjoyed wine tasting in a cozy room overlooking the vineyard. The gas was probably under $10, and since I signed up for the vineyard's online mailing list, our wine tasting (normally $5 per person to taste 5 or 6 different types of wines) were free.

Fun and cheap -- the perfect combination.

CT on the cheap is back!...and nervous as hell!

October 12th, 2008 at 05:33 pm

I'm afraid to open my quarterly statements. And who can blame me..after last week's wall street rollercoaster ride? STOP. I'd like to get off please!

I am trying to be calm amid this storm, but my boyfriend is not exactly helping. He shoots text messages with "check your stocks!!!" and "watch Goldman today" when he knows perfectly well that there isn't much I can do from 30,000 feet.

This weekend, we are trying to be as frugal as possible. Lunch at Swanky Franks in Norwalk...three dogs, a side of rings, two sodas and the tab was still $17 with tip. Nice try. But we need to do better.

So, I am back in full force -- unwavering quest for all things cheap in connecticut.

salad days

June 17th, 2008 at 07:49 am

i'm not a big fan of vegetables....not when I was a kid and definitely not now. But in the quest of living frugally, I have started the habit of checking the sunday paper coupons and local supermarket circulars. Lo and behold, veggies on sale! Someone up there is playing tricks on me!

Even those pre-packed pre-washed salad kits (for lazy folks like me!) are on sale. So guess who's eating salad everyday...lunch AND dinner (and actually enjoying it)? Mom would be so proud.

ps - I don't want to mislead anyone...my salads have all the trimmings that can fit in the bowl -- chicken, cheese and yep, even creamy dressing. Eating veggies and saving money never tasted so good!

is being single & staying single less expensive...in the long run?

June 10th, 2008 at 11:40 am

There was a time (in the not so distant past) when I thought that having a husband/partner/mate would not only increase my overall happiness quotient, but also make life more cost effective. After all, everything would be shared between the two of us -- the good, the bad and the bills: mortgage, check; monthly dinners out, check; income taxes, double CHECK! Sounds like a promising proposition...where do I sign up?

Of course, my error lies in the assumption that my potential husband/partner/mate would be in the same (if not higher) income bracket as I am. Not that I earn a significant amount of money...I think this applies to whatever bracket you're in.

But what if he made less...significantly less? From a PURELY FINANCIAL perspective this would, no doubt, cause a few awkward moments, stomach churning anxiety (mostly mine) and eventually, feelings of resentment (his? mine?). Fast forward a few years and we're in separate rooms, cataloging assets (mostly mine) for the divorce lawyers. Not to mention bickering over child support and alimony (though perhaps not as acrimonious as that famous couple in NJ).

So should I even bother? Perhaps being single is indeed the more frugal long-term option.

my manager is getting the pink slip...

June 4th, 2008 at 11:31 am

As a follow up to yesterday's post, today we received an announcement on the new organization structure. Much to my team's surprise, our manager's name was not in any of the boxes in the org chart.

After congregating in each other's offices to commisserate, we are fully aware of what's coming next. Oddly, I am not as worried...I'm more upset about my manager than I am for myself. Perhaps the shock hasn't worn off and reality has yet to sink in. Or, maybe I am just naive in thinking that this is beyond my control so there's no sense in worrying about it.

I am comforted however that my resume is up to date and I've started interviewing externally a few weeks ago to get a head start, just in case. And I am very relieved to have a six month emergency fund cushion to fall back to in case I do get laid off. If I didn't have any of these, I'm sure I would be climbing the walls by now.

My point is, fellow savers, please please please have a contingency plan in place. It will certainly help in smoothing bumpy rides!

Please, no more corporate whining!

June 3rd, 2008 at 01:26 pm

I work for a fortune 500 company in the city. These days, it is clear that the current economic environment is putting a crimp in the corporate lifestyle.

In my company for example, the first sign of trouble was when we were informed that headcount has been frozen -- corporate-speak for no more hiring. Then, the belt tightening begins: travel and entertainment budgets are being trimmed and non-essential activities are being cancelled. We all know what's coming next if this market continues its downward slide: those DREADED PINK SLIPS!

What I don't understand is why is this news to my colleagues? Are we not watching the same news programs and reading the same papers? (Hello! Wall street banks are laying off employees left and right). Yet, meeting after meeting all I see are long faces. And while I share the anxiety (after all, I could be one of the "lucky" ones with the slip in the not so distant future) I don't think my colleagues and I are worried about the same thing.

What? The summer picnic has been cancelled? Bummer. And the team offsite has been moved to the conference room? Oh well. But wait, the company also expects us to hop a train rather than a call a car service for meetings across town? And "working lunch" means I have to bring my own food to the meeting rather than expect the usual catered freebie? Blasphemy!

I don't get why everyone's upset. If it was your money, would you really take your staff of six to a steakhouse for a birthday lunch? More likely, you would be springing for a couple of pizzas and some sodas, if that.

Let the company reduce the T&E budget and cancel all the team building events they want. As long as they have the money to cover payroll, I'm happy to bring my own sandwich thank you very much.

my new personal commandments

June 2nd, 2008 at 10:54 am

Inspired by THE Ten Commandments, here are my newly adopted commandments to cope during these turbulent economic times:

1. thou shall not pay ATM fees: I vow to drive or walk the extra distance to the nearest Chase bank to avoid paying those pesky fees (average of $2 per visit per week = $104 per year)

2. thou shall make coffee at home: and pocket the $2.45 spent on dunkin donuts small hazelnut latte every morning ($2.45 for four days per week = $510 per year)

3. thou shall not pay full price: buy used (books), trade (CDs/magazines), off sale racks (clothing), fruit + produce in season...use coupons!!!

4. thou shall research big ticket items before purchasing: no more impulse buys

5. thou shall plan ahead: no more procrastinating in bill paying (thus avoiding late fees), spur of the moment travel planning, food shopping when hungry

6. thou shall let on-line dating subscription lapse without renewal...need I say more?

7. thou shall learn to like leftovers

I welcome your suggestions for commandments 8-10!!

A case for not working?

May 24th, 2008 at 05:31 am

I often wonder if it would be cheaper if I didn't work or only worked part-time.

Why, you ask? The associated costs of full time employment is getting more and more expensive. Outside the big ticket items, such as income tax (I read somewhere that most people work from Jan to May only to pay Uncle Sam), smaller items are suddenly not so small anymore.

For example, I thought I'd get a head start and run all my errands on Friday so I can fully enjoy the upcoming three day weekend. It was an expensive day. Here's a breakdown:

- Metro North train pass for June = $290
(station parking is an additional $120 -- I could get the monthly park pass, but there's a long waiting list and I'm still waiting)

- Drycleaning (9 items) = $50 (and that's with the 20% pre-paid discount...and no, the items were the usual stuff - shirts and slacks...and no, it was not for expedited service either)

- Groceries = $50 (I pack my lunch so I don't have to pay the NYC deli prices). Yes, the items were mostly on sale...and yes, I actually had the sense to cut and use manufacturer's coupons

- Did I mention gas? But since I just filled up two days ago for $50 (see earlier entry), I should be ok for the next two weeks

I know that working brings many other benefits, but I wonder if I can get same by working less or working from home....

One tank or less

May 22nd, 2008 at 01:34 pm

Local (and frugal) ideas for Memorial Day weekend:

1. Pick up beach pass from City Hall, which will entitle me to free access and parking at the two beaches in town. Cost of beach pass for one vehicle = NONE!

2. Lobster roll at Stew Leonards. Generous portion with lots of lobster meat. Cost = approx $5 (+ tax)

3. Matinee at the Westport Playhouse (currently staging "The Pavilion"). Cost of one mid-priced ticket = $40. (I could have gone one level cheaper and saved $5. In addition, I could have saved the $5 convenience fee if I purchased my ticket directly from the box office...what can I say? I'm still lazy!)

4. Picnic and jazz at McLaughlin Vineyards. I may have to pick up above lobster roll (see #2) for the picnic and purchase a bottle of vino at the vineyard. Cost of entry = $17. (Again, I could have saved a few bucks if I purchased my ticket in advance. L-A-Z-Y!!!)

Any other fun and frugal ideas? My goal is to maximize fun and minimize gas consumption (especially after paying $4.19/gallon).

Happy memorial day weekend to all!

I should have been paying attention

May 22nd, 2008 at 01:19 pm

...at the gas pump when I stopped for my bi-monthly fill-up. The board read $4.03 per gallon. Compared to the two other stations nearby, this was pratically a steal (in Fairfield County anyway). Until I saw the fine print and realized that I paid $4.19 per gallon with my American Express card. I swiped my card without thinking twice and only realized my error when it was too late.

The moral of the story? Pay attention. Routine chores will cost more, especially if I'm not looking at the fine print.

Now I know...