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 17 2011

transfer of time, from shopping to sharing [day 294]

We’re taught from little on that we should always share.  As we get a little older, we have our own stuff, but we’re still told to share on occasion.  Then we hit our teens.  I don’t think anyone told me I should share anymore at that age.  We start backing off the sharing.  Then as an adult, I guess we’re not really expected to share, although if an opportunity arises, most of the time, we will share.  If we need something, we usually just go out and buy it, resulting in ownership of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that costs money, stuff that uses resources and stuff we simply don’t need.  What if we transferred shopping time into sharing time?  What if we started to share again?

So what is sharing?

share [shair]

— n

1. a part or portion of something owned, allotted to, or contributed by a person or group

— vb  (often foll by out ) (when intr, often foll by  in )

1. to divide or apportion, esp equally

2. to join with another or others in the use of (something): can I share your umbrella?

We all have things sitting around our house that we don’t use regularly.  A few days ago, I used a drill as an example.  Could we lend our drill to a friend?  If you need a hole and you don’t have a drill, could you borrow one?  Let’s do a little exercise.

Think of 3 things you have sitting around your house, not being used or used rarely.

~

Would you be willing to lend these items to someone you know?

If you’re like me, you probably thought of more than 3 items.  What would it look like for you to lend these things out?  With current technology, this is not only possible, it’s easy.  You won’t have to wonder who you lent that book to anymore either.  You can sign up on actsofsharing.com to borrow and lend with only your friends.  Not only will it track your items, but it will also calculate how much you have saved by borrowing, how much you’ve saved your friends by lending them things and tells you how many items in total your friends have listed.  Continue reading


Mar 14 2011

the new sharing economy [day 291]

Do you share your stuff?  If you need a drill, do you go out and buy one or do you try to borrow one?  I mean, you just need a hole, right?  I own a drill.  My dad gave me a new DeWalt drill about 10 years ago, but that one got lost on a mission trip.  I never found it, although another older drill with a chuck key showed up unclaimed.  I took it, so that’s why I have a drill now.  I don’t really need one though.

So why don’t I need one?  Doesn’t everyone have a drill in their garage?  Let’s look at the logic.  I need a few holes, so I use the drill for approximately 4-8 minutes in a years time.  Maybe a little bit more if I have some home projects.  I could borrow one from a friend.  I could rent one when I’m doing projects.  I could share a drill.  Yes, I said share.  I could co-own a drill with some friends or I could use a sharing service.  This is really a great and upward trending process.

First, there’s itizen.com.  You can print QR codes for all of your things in order to tell stories about them, to share them and to track the life of them.  Here’s a blurb from itizen’s site:

Why we do what we do.
We want to celebrate the cool things around us — period. We are inspired by the artists, makers, and retailers who provide us with these wonderful things, and we are fascinated by how storytelling can give these things meaning and purpose. Most important, we are passionate about supporting a culture of giving and sharing that allows others to benefit from these things and share in the joy.

If you don’t have a QR code reader, there’s lots of free apps out there that can be downloaded.  You can scan it and it will bring up the info right away.  The code to the left is a legitimate code for something I’m getting rid of.  Take a look and see if you want the item.  ;)

I’m really liking this concept of sharing and swapping.  I’m still researching this whole thing, but I see so many benefits.

Cost savings: Not only does it save you money buying things, but also saves money on the maintenance and storage of these things.

Environmentally friendly: Reducing consumption means less production and fewer resources used.

Manufacturer behavior change: Manufacturers will start to make products based on consumer demand.  If we want to share quality products, but we’re buying less of them, manufacturers will start making more quality items and with the needed features we desire.

Less clutter: Less stuff is less stress and less to clean.  It’s also easier to find the things you do have.

Builds community: Sharing with friends, and even people you don’t know yet if you choose to do that, is a great way to build community, especially among neighbors.  In this day and age, at least where I live, knowing your neighbors is not the norm.  My neighbors let me borrow stuff all the time, and if they need something, they ask.

Helps eliminate poverty: This process can help eliminate poverty by lowering the cost of living.  If I don’t need to buy as much and I can share with others, I can live on less.

Job shifts: Jobs become more service oriented.  This is due to a shift from consuming stuff to being consumers of services.

We are on the front end of a wonderful trend that will change the way the world functions, utilizing technology to change our distribution systems, creating a community of sharing that will better our lives.  I’m still doing a lot of homework on this, but I will be posting more on it soon.  Sharing is an old concept, but it’s finding a new life through social media.

I just bought a used iPad from a friend of mine who’s upgrading.  I’ve decided to share my iPad.  I will be using a service such as snapgoods.com or I might do a co-ownership of it.  If this intrigues you in any way, let me know your thoughts.

Would you share something you paid a lot of money for, but something that sits unused for large periods of time?


Mar 7 2011

go to your happy place [day 284]

I have many happy places, as well as many non-happy places.  I guess we all have those lists.  Sitting in my hot tub, happy place.  Going to the mall, not a happy place.  Jumping on the trampoline, happy place.  Driving in traffic, not a happy place.  Going to the beach, happy place.  Going to a snowy place, not happy.  Some happy places are obvious, while others are not.  One of my happy places is being in an abandoned house or building.  It sounds crazy, but take a look.

This is an abandoned church up in Maine.  It was locked up tight, so no inside time here, but it was a beautiful day and many photo opportunities outside.  It’s so peaceful, yet mysterious.  I also got to spend some quality time with a great friend here.

Some of the best happy places don’t cost money, there’s no admission and can be a spontaneous thing to do.  I have a happy place with my kids.  When the weather permits twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, we sleep outside on the trampoline.   My happy place in my house is standing in front to my latte machine in the kitchen.  No, it’s not in anticipation of the steamed, frothy greatness that I’m about to drink.  It’s because there’s a small rug there to warm my feet from the cold floor and the heater vent gently blows a soft breeze of warm air, wrapping me in an invisible blanket.  I stand there every morning and count my blessings.  Occasionally, one of those little blessings will stand there with me if  he’s awake, as it’s his happy place too.

Some of the best things in life are free.  Enjoy them.  Where is your happy place?  I’m going to mine right now, you should too.


Mar 4 2011

stuff is not an investment [day 282]

I had an eBay business while I was doing freelance work several years ago.  I started eBay for one simple reason.  I sell my Syquest Sparq drive and cartridges.  Back in the late 90′s, the Iomega Jaz drive was the industry standard for backing up you data.  They were great, but they cost a lot of money.  The drive was around $400 and the 1GB cartridges were $100.  I was really excited when Syquest came out the Sparq drive.  You could get the drive for half the price of a Jaz and the cartridges were 3 for $100.   I bought one the same week they came out on the market.  They were running a design contest and the prize was 50 cartridges.  Wow!  With those I could get rid of all my 3.5 disks and a lot of my cd’s.  To the drawing board!  Digital, of course.

I entered 3 designs, and here’s the one that yielded me 50 of these amazing cartridges.

Yes, by today’s design standards, it’s lame, but it got me over $1,500 in digital storage.  Sweet!  As one of my friends said back then, I had enough of these to tile a small room.  That was all great until these drive started having big time issues.  The company replaced my drive at one point, but I already knew these were not going to last.  I joined eBay, sold off my new, unopened replacement drive and all of the cartridges for just under $2,000.  Before ceasing my good eBay business, I had done over 5,000 transactions and at several points, was a power seller. Continue reading


Feb 12 2011

ditch your high maintenance vacation [day 262]

My kids and I decided to make a purchase a couple of years ago from craigslist.  It was a bright red Sebring convertible that we fondly called the “vacation”.  We couldn’t take a vacation that year, so this was our substitute for it.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear, “Mom!  Are we taking the vacation?”  And my reply was always something like, “Is it raining?  If not, of course we are.”

Let me start by saying this was not a well-planned purchase.  We had the vacation for about a year and a half, and during that time, we got a lot of use out of it.  It was a sad day when we had to end our vacation, but all three of us knew it was the right thing to do.  We had so much fun in our vacation!  Although it didn’t initially cost a lot, the maintenance, repairs and insurance just made the vacation too expensive.  The previous owner carefully hid many of the mechanical issues, and I, being in love with the thought of having a convertible, didn’t do my due diligence on this item.

This was our second car, as I would never consider parting with my 15 year old Infiniti.  Actually, I had 5 or 6 people that were ready, cash in hand, to buy my Infiniti, but I will own that car to its death.  I will get 300,000 miles out of it… or more.

I’ve been downsizing everything lately.  My housewares, my wardrobe, pretty much everything I own.  I never realized how much stress is associated with stuff.  Embracing the chaos has a whole new meaning for me.  I can embrace the chaos by managing the chaos.  Less stuff = more time, more money and more peace.  I lost about $1,000 when I sold the vacation, as the A/C compressor went out right before I went to sell it.  Not having the vacation and all of it’s associated costs, monetary and otherwise, gave me some peace worth more than what I lost.  We have some great memories from our vacation and we’ll always have those to cherish.

Where is your vacation?  Is it time to end it?

[side note:  I got rid of the vacation before I started the challenge.  I realized I will never have a need for two cars.]


Jan 24 2011

how many kids does it take to screw in a light bulb? [day 244]

My kids keep leaving lights on all the time.  Mostly in their rooms, but also other rooms, where I don’t have energy efficient lighting.  They weren’t always this way.  To make a point about electric costs and being wasteful, I used to charge them 25¢ each time they left a light on in the bathroom or in their bedroom.  At first, it was a nice offset to my utility bill, as they left the lights on frequently.  After a period of time, I got less money, as their habits started to change.  Over time, I stopped asking for payments, and over more time, their habits returned to forgetting to turn off lights and being wasteful again.  Time to regroup.

I could start charging them again, but I felt we needed something different.  Light bulb!!!  I had an idea.  I will educate them by showing them the utility bill, explain kilowatt hours and challenging them to a low utility bill.  If it’s lower than our projected amount, they get a fun dinner at Gattitown.  Also, because I thought they needed something tangible and a little out of pocket cost, I made them each buy 2 boxes of CF light bulbs.  This would allow me to switch out more of the bulbs we use frequently to save on energy costs.

We got the bulbs at Aldi.  They’re much cheaper there than anywhere else I could find.  You don’t have to buy yours there, but at least look to find them on sale, as many of the major retailers will run sales on them.  Aldi’s prices are half of what the other retailers charge for these.   I couldn’t find much info on this On brand off brand.  Ha!  Get it?  So far, these work as well as the other brands I have.  And I do have some of these I’ve been using for a while and they work great.

First, we replaced the 6 bulbs in the kids bathroom.  I replaced them with only 4 bulbs, and it’s still to bright, so much that the kids are complaining about it.  I’ll take one out, and that will have decreased the bathroom lighting cost overall by 87.5%.  Then I replaced all the lamp bulbs and the lights over my stove top.  I tried to replace the kitchen halogen lights, which have the standard bulb socket, however these won’t work, as the ballast on the bulb is too large to fit in the opening.  Bummer, because that would have been the biggest savings of all.

And don’t worry, I found a good home for all of the old bulbs, as they shouldn’t go to waste.  :)


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 15 2011

no retail shopping cost analysis [day 233]

Several people have asked me to compile this information, so here it is to the best of my knowledge.  I did not start this challenge to save money, although it’s been a nice benefit.  Here’s a few of the details, and I will be tracking this more going forward.

My bank records don’t go back to the start of the challenge in May, but I was able to grab the last six months.  I rarely pay cash for anything, I mostly use my debit card, so this is a pretty accurate picture of my retail shopping.  The retail amount spent during the challenge is at thrift stores or retail places that carry used merchandise, such as Half Price Books or Plato’s Closet.  Here’s some interesting data.

Savings: $1,767

Again, this was not by purpose, but it’s a nice benefit.  My finances feel better, as I’m not always broke and I feel like I’m living within my means.  It doesn’t feel like I’ve made sacrifices either.  I’m buying less, but making better choices.  What does that mean in layman’s terms?  I like and appreciate the smaller amount of stuff I do get, and less sits around collecting dust.

Thrift store shopping up 70%

Before the challenge, I shopped at thrift stores for 3.4% of my purchases.  Now it’s 73.8%.  What does this mean?  It means I’m getting things for a fraction of the retail price, and in the process, supporting local charities while keeping stuff out of landfills.

Behind the scenes

Looking at my expenditures was a little scary.  I spend way too much money on eating out and in fast food places.  My craigslist purchases are not reflected in the chart, as these are cash transactions.  I made 2 major purchases for about the same amount.  The first was before the challenge, my living room leather furniture for $700 (retail $3500) and the other, during the challenge, the hot tub that I blogged a week ago.

There’s a lot more data and things to report in this area, so stay tuned.  Anything you want to know about the challenge that I’ve not posted?