Mar 31 2011

cost analysis, kid style [day 309]

My youngest son came home with this a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure why he decided to draw this, but I’m glad he gets it.  Joe likes money and likes to spend money, but he also lives in the real world.  He’s 10 years old and somewhat budgets his money, that is, enough budgeting to get what he wants to buy.  He talks about buying stuff all the time, but he’s selective when it comes to actually making a purchase.

My oldest talked about an idea he had for an environmentally friendly missile.  While we were sitting in our think tank (hot tub), Cole spent almost 15 minutes telling me about his missile design.  It’s a missile that puts out an environmentally friendly gas that temporarily paralyzes people, allowing the police to ‘go in’ and get the bad guys, place them in prisons, and when the gas wears off, nobody is harmed in the process.  Here’s the blueprints.

Here’s the best part.  Yesterday, he did a cost analysis and figured out was his profit margin will be.  ??!!??!  How does he know how to do this?  He’s eleven years old.  I’ve talked about cost analysis stuff, but I’ve never shown him the process on paper.  Take a look.

Not only did he think of the labor costs, but when Joe talked to him about advertising, he adjusted the analysis accordingly.  I’m guessing Joe’s ad plan for him was to advertise during the Super Bowl.  If my two radically different kids partner together in the future, using their gifts to collaborate for good, they’ll do great things.  Yes, I’m the proud parent today.  :)


Mar 24 2011

used or reused? [day 301]

I decided to check out a little boutique in downtown Frisco.  Yes, I said boutique.  I heard a story about some recycled jeans they are selling and decided to check it out.  The Blue Door Boutique, a cute little shop with a lot of style, carries a lot of interesting clothing and home decor items.  Unfortunately for me, none of it is used.  They did have the jeans I went in to see.  I had heard about these jeans from one of my writer friends.  The jeans, made from recycled textiles, were prominently displayed on a table.

At first, I thought REUSE jeans were jeans that were made from old jeans; in the way of taking old jeans and embellishing them or modifying them by merging pieces from several pairs of old, worn out jeans.  When I first saw them, I knew the story had to be different from what I had in my head.  All of the jeans looked the same in style and in color.  They also had a price tag of $85!

Now, in the world of new jeans, this is an acceptable price.  For me, this is crazy expensive, as I could go to the thrift store and get a pair of USED jeans for $3-$6.  I looked up REUSE to see what they’re all about.  I needed to know the story behind this nice looking, yet expensive, clothing line.

REUSE jeans are made from 80% recycled textiles.  Here’s a blurb from their site about why they recycle.

“In our world of overflowing landfills and global warming, recycling is more relevant than ever. Recycled jeans help counteract the human effect of the disposable fashion industry, while contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable earth.”

I like that they’re utilizing old clothing to make new clothing, but the price point is bothering me.  Here’s some info about that from their site.  Continue reading


Mar 23 2011

around the corner [day 300]

Wow!  Day 300!  Actually, that was yesterday, as I’m a day behind on the blogging.  It’s just a number, but I feel like I just made that last turn into the final stretch.  The funny thing?  I plan to keep going once I hit the finish line.  I’m sure I’ll start something new, but I plan to keep shopping the way I’ve been shopping.  There are so many good things that the challenge has produced, results I never would have expected.

  • My shopping habits have changed drastically. I think a lot more about things, all things, before I buy them.  Even small things like a pack of gum.  I look at everything long term now and I shop for the future, not the here and now.
  • I’ve lost my desire to shop. I still like to treasure hunt on occasion, but there’s no part of my being that wants to go into a superstore or the mall.
  • The amount of good things that have come out of no shopping. Since I’ve been blogging this everyday, it’s easy to go back and see all of the amazing things that have come out of the challenge.  Money I’ve saved, people I’ve met, ideas for sustainable living, and the list goes on.

Nope, I don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things.  I’ll stick with the new plan.  It’s very freeing.


Feb 19 2011

dust, downsizing, donations and discards [day 269]

The Boyscouts are collecting food items in my neighborhood today to donate to our local food pantry, Frisco Family Services.  I want to help, but I just cleaned out my pantry a couple of weeks ago and drastically changed my shopping habits to not have too much extra food in the house.  I realized that I actually accomplished this when I had a friends kids over and I had to cook for 5 people.  Most of the things I had to cook would not feed 5 people.  As I was going through my pantry this morning, pulling out some things to donate, it hit me.

A flood of memories absorbed my thoughts as I reflected back to a few specific times when I was taught a lesson, yet I didn’t fully learn it until this morning.  My first big flashback was Hurricane Andrew.  I worked in Miami, and although my home in Ft. Lauderdale wasn’t hit, I knew many people that were homeless after the storm.  (It gave me a new appreciation for my one-way 62 mile commute to work)  My workplace was demolished.  The large retail company I worked for placed me in charge of coordinating relief efforts for their employees, which was approximately 150 families.  Other stores from all over Florida donated stuff, the company had it all sent to us in a semi truck.  As we opened it in anticipation of receiving some things that were desperately needed, that excitement turned into sadness as we saw the contents of the neatly stacked boxes from inside the truck.  It was filled with clothing discards, boxes stuffed with unorganized clothing chaos that looked as though it had been loaded into the boxes with a dump truck.  There was very little food or toiletries, the things that were really needed.

Next, were my thoughts of working in the FFS food pantry.  I enjoyed this time, and I learned a lot.  Although many people gave some great food items, at least once or twice a day we received the bags of very expired “I-finally-cleaned-out-my-pantry” food.  I saw food cans that had so much dust on them, we had to wipe it off to see the date stamp.  I worked there in 2010 and I saw a bag of food where most had expired in 1994.  These donations fill absolutely no need at the food pantry.  They cannot give out expired food.  When it gets close, or is only right after the expiration, they give it away on the free shelf, that requires no voucher, and is not applied toward their allotted amount.  I was afraid to ask what happens to the really old food like that, as I’m sure they have to throw it in the trash, but I just didn’t want to hear that answer.  Some things are better left unsaid.

My last thought was how many times I might have donated expired food, feeling good that I’ve helped people in need, yet was basically making life difficult for the volunteers at the food pantry and never helping anyone.  I was helping with good intentions, as I think we all do, but I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons.  Helping people is not an opportunity to get rid of my expired, unwanted food or to get rid of clothing that’s hideously out of style.  Helping should be an opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life, filling a need they have at one of the lowest periods in their life, in many cases.  Yes, others can be blessed by us donating some things we don’t need or want any longer, however the thought process should be that of, “What if I was on the receiving end?  Would I like this or want this?  Would I need this?”  As my friend Amy just said, “Sometimes your trash can also be another person’s trash.”

I filled a bag this morning in a completely different way.  It has food that I like and bought for me and my family to eat.  It’s not expired, nor is it stuff I don’t like.  My minset is this, if I’ve been blessed enough that I can feed my family with no problem, I should pay it forward.  I can easily replace this food.  Every so often we have, and will do more often, shopped specifically for food and toiletries to donate.  I’ve done this in the past to teach my kids about helping people in need, and just how important it is to do it for the right reasons, so how did I miss all the lessons?  My bag of food for the Boyscouts is not a big one, but all of the items are current and mostly things I just shopped for last week.  Geez, how many other lessons have I chosen to ignore?  Maybe I should keep one, dusty, expired can of some sort of gross food so I don’t forget.


Feb 8 2011

how many of you stayed home today? [day 257]

The day after the Super Bowl is apparently the most missed day at work for hangovers.  The Dallas Morning News ran this article in a Super Bowl special excerpt.  There’s a website that will give you good excuses so you can miss work if you’ve partied too hard.  Seriously?  The newspaper is posting ways to lie to your boss?  So let’s say the employees of the DMN read this and call in sick.  I think they should all get a paid day off for lying, as suggested by their employer.  How about scheduling a vacation day is you plan to get smashed?  Or maybe just have one or two beers instead?  I just find it somewhat disturbing that the news would tell people to lie.  Sad.


Feb 7 2011

on sale for an additional $10 [day 255]

I was doing some image research for work and stumbled upon this photo.  Save -$10!  I wonder if they actually sold any of these at the higher sale price?  You would think that this error had to have been seen by at least 2 employees, and yet, it made it to the sales floor.  I wonder how many people just look at the word “sale” and really pay no attention to the original price.

No matter what I’m buying or where I buy it from, I always want to know the retail price.  It’s a rare occasion when I was shopping, that I would pay full price for anything.  I bought a sofa from Eurway, but I waited for the 20% off sale.  I had seen the 20% off sale there a few months prior and I told the sales lady to call me when they ran that special again.  She called me a month later.

It pays nicely to do just a little bit of research when you’re shopping.  With smart phones, you can even do it right there at the store.  Look out for sales that should not result in sales.  😉


Jan 31 2011

stripping the super bowl [day 250]

The Super Bowl XLV in 2011 will be held in Arlington, Texas.  You can tell it’s coming when you drive through the area, as it’s completely pristine, even a smart phone snapshot looks like a postcard.  I suppose there’s many benefits to hosting the Super Bowl, like maybe being able to pay for the new stadium they built on land where homes used to be or local employment opportunities, as the area will need 10,000 more strippers immediately.  The merchandise sales from the licensed Super Bowl t-shirts, hats, foam fingers, cups and other stuff to clutter our houses, and eventually our thrift stores, will be selling for top dollar, although the news stations are warning people about the counterfeit items.  A caller on a radio show asked where to buy legitimate NFL items and was told to look for the tag with the hologram saying it’s legit, but to be careful because there are major retailers that carry knock-offs.

Now I find this a bit ironic that some dude on the street getting caught with fake merchandise if going to jail, but it’s legal for the major retailers to carry the fakes.  Yeah, I feel good about this, the retailers are making more profits, illegally.  I’m not a fan of counterfeit entrepreneurs, as I’m sure there are many other things that these people will spend money on and they could be providing legitimate stuff.  It’s sad that the big retailers can do it, and that’s not a problem.

So if I buy the fake stuff at a retailer, keep my receipt and go sell that on a street corner, will that get me arrested?  Hmmm, that might be a fun experiment.  Better yet, if I get caught selling t-shirts and they try to arrest me, I’ll just take off my t-shirt, then I would be a stripper and that’s okay.  Does anyone reading this want to be my one phone call?  Ooooo, I just created fake digital merchandise!  Wait, I’ll make my own Super Bowl logo.

Surely this logo would be no problem, right?  Here’s my line of t-shirts.

Okay, so these really don’t exist, but maybe they should.  If you’re going to buy some Super Bowl merchandise, just shop wise.  Don’t spend a lot of money, buy only things you know you will wear for a long time and only support retailers that are selling licensed merchandise.  Go Packers!!!  I’m not a football fan, I’m just from Wisconsin.  :)  If you would like to use these logo logos I made, feel free to copy them and use them anywhere you like.


Jan 29 2011

aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248]

You asked for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices.  So what’s your guess on the savings?

Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores.  On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more.  The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi.  On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more.  Here’s where the Walmart savings come in.  Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places.  This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes.  I’m going to label these a little differently.  Let’s call these stores by type.

conventional grocery storediscount grocery storesuperstore – convenience store

All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes.  Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison: Continue reading


Jan 22 2011

a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth.  Continue reading


Jan 13 2011

when the inside of your house is colder than the inside of your refrigerator… [day 230]

Here in North Texas, we’re a little spoiled by the not-too-cold winter temperatures.  We get our once a year snowfall, but generally our low’s are still above freezing.  This was not so 2 days ago, when the low, including the wind chill factor, was to dip into the single digits.

I’m always cold, but it seemed unusually cold in my house.  I thought, “Great.  The heater is acting up again.”  This usually means a trip out to the garage, flip the breaker, mess with the thermostat, then up to the attic, all in efforts to find the right combination of flipping switches on and off to achieve heat.  This has been a ritual since I moved in the house 4 years ago.

This time, the ritual was to no avail.  The heat was out and it was not going to work.  I don’t know much about gas furnaces, but I do know a little bit about electric ones.  Mine’s gas.  And, of course, these things only happen during extreme temperatures.  I called my friend **Keith, as he and his twin brother own a heating and A/C repair company.  I knew it would be the next day before he came out and we decided to stay the night and bundle up warm.  It seemed like a good idea at the time…

My oldest decided to sleep in his room upstairs, the youngest in my bed.  A little after midnight, the fire smoke detector starts going off.  *I had turned off the heater before going to sleep, knowing something was seriously wrong with it.  The smoke detector turned off before I had a chance to get up and deal with it.  Again, a quirky thing in my house, this alarm has been malfunctioning for a couple of years now.  It’s in my son’s room, the one that’s sleeping upstairs.  If you think these smoke alarms will wake your kids, think again.  It’s right over his bed and did not wake him.  After it went off for the 7th or 8th time, and finally wouldn’t turn off, I figured I better go deal with it.  I moved my son to my room, got the ladder out and took it down, trying to shield my ears from the piercing sound.   And yes, I checked to see if it was also a carbon monoxide alarm, and it’s not.

Keith called me back in the morning, and just to be sure, I changed the batteries in the thermostat, cleaned the contacts and tried again.  Nothing.  Keith came out, and the culprit was the main circuit board.  You can see the spot where it blew out on the green side.  On the flip side, there was another bad spot which had started to burn under the resistors to the right.  So, which news would you like first, the good or the bad?

Bad news: The circuit board is fried and needs replacing.  This is not only the board for the furnace, but for the A/C as well.

Good news: My house didn’t catch on fire.   Continue reading