Mar 28 2011

the affects of effects [day 306]

It starts when we’re born.  Accessories.  “My daddy is the best” and “My mom is better than your mom” on our shirts, iconic pacifiers, hair bows in more styles and colors than Baskin Robbins has flavors, complete ensembles of coordinated clothing, all in large quantities.  When did babies become fashion statements?  Aren’t they cute enough already?  I see a lot of people talking to parents with small babies and hearing more compliments about the clothing than the kid wearing them.

It continues through adolescence, expanding to toys and games.  I have boys (thank you God) that don’t care much about fashion and will probably need future therapy for their lack of stylish clothing options.  They do however have accessories.  They have Nintendo DS’s that have lots of games, a universal charger, a fancy light sabre stylus and headphones, all packed inside a custom case.  Society says, “You need more” and we respond by buying more.

Into adulthood now, and I’m not exempt from this.  I might not have a lot of fancy, trendy clothing but I do have some nice things in my house.  Most from eBay, craigslist and thrift stores, but nevertheless, lots of things.  Accessories.  I have decorative things that serve no purpose other than to sit there and look nice.  Now I’m an artist of sorts, so this is an important topic.  I love to create things, but with a purpose.  Much of my art is chaotic, but has meaning and purpose behind it.  The vase sitting on my shelf, not so much.  I’ve been sucked into the American vortex of more is better.  I created this photograph several years ago.  This has many meaning for many people, but I see it as how we become background fixtures in the sea of stuff we own.

Continue reading

Feb 28 2011

starbucks travel mug & steamer pitcher [minimalist challenge item #11]

[item] Small Starbucks travel mug & a stainless steel steamer pitcher

[purchase info] Mug was free from work, left there by someone that never claimed it.  The steamer pitcher I bought new for $15.99

[time in my possession] Mug, about 6 months.  Pitcher, about 7 years.

[last used] Mug, one month ago.  Pitcher, many years.

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I have many more travel mugs than what I can use.  This one is small and I like the larger ones for my lattes.  As for the steamer pitcher, I somehow accumulated 6 of them.  That’s clearly ridiculous.  I could see one back-up pitcher, but 6??!?  This one is a little bigger than the others.  I’m down to two of them now.


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading

Dec 24 2010

twas the night before Christmas… the culturally correct version [day 211]

Let me me be perfectly honest here.  I really hate holidays.  And, I’m an equal opportunity holiday hater, I don’t like any of them.  I love Christmas, that is the true meaning of Christmas, but I hate the cultural crap that comes along with it.  I just want to skip all this and move on to the new year.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of money I don’t have, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sweets, I don’t want to do the holiday dog and pony show, I don’t want to go to holiday parties alone, I don’t want to go to them with a spouse I don’t have, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. I do not like green trees, this sham or culture’s Christmas, mad I am.

Some people think the Grinch stole Christmas, nobody cared, so he gave it back and everyone lived happily ever after.  That’s the fictional version of the story, because you and I know darn well, that if someone stole all of the things in our house and all the gifts from under the tree, we would not all be in the street holding hands and singing.   The story would be a little different…  Here it is, in the form of “Twas the night before Christmas.” Enjoy…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town

Many creatures were stirring, using credit around;

The plasma tv was unloaded with care,

In hopes that the credit bill was lost in the mail;

My kids wanting toys, finances in red,

While visions of electronics danced in their heads;

Me on my laptop, looking for deals,

Wondering where I will get the next meal;  Continue reading

Nov 10 2010

to buy or not to buy [day 167]

I promised my kids a movie and a trip to Game Stop yesterday.  They had their own money to spend on games and I paid for the movie.  Interesting lessons learned:

New release days.

Yesterday was the release date for the Call of Duty: Black Ops game.  I had no idea about this until we got there and the line was out the door.

My kids wanted Pokemon games and replacement styluses, but they still had to wait in the long line.  To Game Stop’s credit, the line moved very quickly, showing they were prepared for this mass of people.  That did make it a little less painful.

I also liked the fact that they ask if we want a bag.  Both of my kids said no, proving that they do listen to me sometimes.

Maybe they listen too well?

My oldest was stressing out over spending $50 of his money.  He paced a hole in the concrete in front of the store, debating on whether or not to spend his money on a game that he wants.  This child rarely spends money, and quite honestly, could care less about it.

Hyperventilating, he went in the store and held the game.  When the guy asked him if he needed help, he proceeded to explain his dilemma of spending that much money on a game, asked questions about the game and basically gave the guy a lecture about their prices.  I just stood there, trying not to smile.

After reassuring him that he made a logical purchase and went through the proper process to spend his money wisely, he finally made the purchase.  On the way to the movie, he was truly upset that he spent $50.  As we got out of the car, he said, “…I can’t even spend money, I’m stressed out.  This is horrible!  I’m going to grow up and be a cheapskate, then I’ll have kids and they’re going to hate me!”  Oh, he’s so my child.  I guess I should tone it down a bit with him.

Time to get a loan?

I paid for the movie tickets and thought it would be nice for us to share a drink and some popcorn.  For one small drink and a medium popcorn, it was over $8, or I could get the bigger size for $12 something.  Seriously?  And they wonder why people bring in their own food and drinks?  How do these people sleep at night?  If a fancy restaurant like Morton’s or III Forks carried popcorn and soda, I’m quite sure it would be cheaper there than at the movies.  Is this not a form of price gouging?  If a store or a restaurant did this, would that be okay?  Would you spend this type of money on food anywhere else?

Painfully, I bought only the small popcorn for $5.75.  Like my son, I’m still irritated about it.  Did these movie people ever consider the fact that if they charge reasonable prices, they might sell more, aggravate less people and make the movie experience affordable to do more often?  Sigh…

Jul 18 2010

the challenge: day 51 [from a kid's perspective]

Doing this challenge, my kids seem to have more money too.  Just yesterday, Cole paid Joe to clean his room.  You know, if his room gets clean and that’s how he wants to spend his money, I’m good with it.  Here’s what I found in Joe’s clean room right before I put him to bed…  Yes, his stuffed monkey, posed, with money on him.  I don’t even want to know where this idea came from.  Clearly from his dad’s house?  😉  Chubba-bubba looks happy.

I also when over to my friend’s house and The boys friend, Grace, had a little art project for me.  She saw a newspaper article about recycling causing illness and made this altered art piece with the headlines, or at least the part of it that made sense to her.  The article is about a prison that is recycling computers and electronics and workers are getting sick due to bad practices.  Good article.

Here’s the kids blogs in case you want to check them out.  BTW, this is a great way to record all the funny things your kids say… for free.  Go WordPress!