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 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

build it and they will come… [day 232]

Yesterday I had to shop for work again.  I’m designing an interactive wall that unfortunately need some new supplies.  I was mentioning the fact that I had to go to the store in front of someone that just heard about my no retail challenge.  He asked, “So, if you shop for work, isn’t that against your challenge?  Doesn’t that give you the getting-new-stuff satisfaction?”  Okay, so I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but you get the point.  Here’s the answer to that question.

Let me start by saying that shopping is extremely frustrating and a root canal might have been a better way to spend my time.  Here’s why.

Ikea. This store is a giant maze.  I only needed one thing from there, a couple sets of Dioder multi colored lights.  I go in the exit there because I can look in the “as is” section first, and it’s the quickest way to the spot where the lights should be.  After making my way through the cold warehouse part into the marketplace, I find the display.  Sold out.  After asking about the next shipment, I find out these lights are discontinued and they’ll be replaced with a new design.  The problem?  The new sets are not available yet.  I start looking for my bread crumbs and make my way back to civilization.

Walmart. Not much to report here, just another giant superstore that takes forever to get into.  They didn’t have what I needed, which was inexpensive, decent quality, modern digital photo frames.  I needed 5 that look exactly alike.  They had some cheap, low quality ones, so on to the next store.

Lowe’s. Now, I’m all about a hardware store, if I have to shop.  I decided to take a look for LED lights, similar to Ikea’s.  Low and behold, they had them, and for the same price.  These are actually a little better, as one controller will hold more daisy chained lights.  They had just gotten these in a week prior.  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


Jan 12 2011

free polypropylene [day 229]

Instead of buying ziplock plastic baggies and other plastic containers, I like to reuse containers I already have.  Instead of placing my plastic sour cream containers, margarine containers or other food containers directly into the recycling bin, I wash them and use them for other things.

  • Leftovers. These are great for leftovers.  If you want to send something home with a friend, you don’t have to worry about getting your container back.  Great for work too, if you’re like me and forget to bring the containers home.
  • Paint. Great for small amounts of touch up paints.
  • Freezer containers. Make extra food and freeze it for lunches or quick microwave meals.  (never reheat in the plastic containers)
  • Recycle containers. Use a small container to keep small lids for recycling.  Aveda will recycle all of these for you.
  • Hardware. These are great for storing nails, screws, washers and other hardware items.
  • Art supplies. These can be used for storing art supplies or used as water containers for paint brushes.
  • Toys. These are great for storing kids toys that have small parts.  They’re easy to open and close, also making them great for the car.  Less toys under the seats.
  • Pantry storage. Use these containers to store food that comes in unsealable plastic bags.  I buy rice in the large bulk bag and store it in an old pretzel container.
  • Other uses. I’m sure there are many more uses for these.  Just think what might be a good second or third use of something before recycling it.

Let me address the question you’re all waiting to add to the comments section.  “Aren’t plastic containers bad for your health?”  Yes, some of them are.  I looked up these types of containers, as pictured above, and they are made of polypropylene.  Without getting too technical, the symbol on these containers is the one pictured on the left, and there’s no proven health risks on this type.  The containers say “dishwasher safe” on the bottom.  They are doing some studies based on a 2008 study saying some of the plastic will get into your food, but nothing has been proven to this point.  This type of plastic is considered a ‘safer’ type.

There are many types of plastics out there, and here I’m only speaking of PP (polypropylene) plastic.  I usually use these containers 3 or 4 times, hand-washing them or placing them in the dishwasher with a no-heat-dry setting.  Never cook food in any type of plastic, as that does melt and can leach chemicals into your food.

I’m no plastics expert, but it’s good to do a little research on any containers you do plan to reuse.  All plastics have the symbols like the one above, making it easy to research.  Yes, it’s a pain to have to know all this stuff, but it’s the world we live in.  It’s better to educate yourself and not have to worry.  I like free storage containers, and I could eat my weight in sour cream, so I usually have a lot of them.  All of them go to good uses.  What do you use food containers for?


Jan 7 2011

keep walking… [day 224]

I recently found this at a thrift store.  I had no idea what it was, I had to look at it a bit.  It’s a doggie treadmill.  A revolutionary exercise system for dogs, to be exact.  This item, at a thrift store, was marked down to $99.99 from $299.99.  If it’s selling for that at a thrift store, I can only imagine what the retail price is.  Let’s look!

I don’t know the model number or manufacturer, but looking at the size of this one, it’s a mid-sized dog exerciser.  Looking online, the most inexpensive one I could find was $599.  The one I found, similar to this one was $1479.

I need some help here.  Who buys these things and why?  Now for the Jetson’s, this made sense.  You can’t walk your dog in space without space shoes, and a doggie treadmill is probably cheaper than doggie space shoes, you know, because they need 4 of them.  I can’t imagine a situation where you would need one of these.

An inner city apartment? No, because you wouldn’t have the space for it.

Rich people? Maybe.  They have big houses and it takes a long time to walk to the door, so they can throw the dog on this contraption instead.  Oh, the irony.

Other situations? Even in my most creative mind, I can’t think of a reason why anyone would need one of these.  My kids and I could put plastic toys on the little conveyor belt and watch them fall off at the other end.  It would be entertaining for a couple of hours and a few fun videos.  Other than that, I got nothin’!   Continue reading


Dec 27 2010

the story of stuff [day 214]

I have an idea.  I know, no surprise…

I stumbled upon this little video called The Story of Stuff.  It’s a little over 20 minutes long, but I watched the whole thing.  Before I get into the details here, take a look if you haven’t seen it.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip around and take a quick look.

Although I like the overall message, I was questioning the statistics as I was watching it.  The presentation is awesome, the content easy to follow.  Again, the overall message here is a good one, but I have a few things to discuss and challenge.

The big picture of stuff. The message here is that we, as Americans, are abusing our planet, taking advantage of the disadvantaged and that we have all fallen victim to materialism.  On many levels, this is true, but some of the statistics seemed a little off to me.  After a bit of research on this video, I found they are using it in schools to teach children about materialism and “stuff”.  I’m not opposed to that at all, but this video is not just creating awareness, it’s trying to impose a guilt trip, and as Fox News stated, “Other critics have called it a “firehose of paranoia” meant to scare children into becoming environmental activists. They say the video romanticizes poverty in its attack on industrial nations and corporations.

I hope we’re teaching our kids to watch something like this and process it in a healthy way, as they should do with everything.  My kids question things, think about everything they take in, and sometimes have a viewpoint that even I haven’t thought of.  This video’s overall message is a good one, and unfortunately, it does paint an accurate “big picture” of our wasteful society.  The reason I say that, is because this video could be remade without all the statistics, showing both sides of the message about consumerism.  That’s a hint for my idea…   Continue reading


Jul 9 2010

the challenge: day 43 [a boutique]

Just when you think you’ve seen it all…

My friend E got an amazing espresso machine for Christmas last year.  It takes little pods (they call them capsules), similar to the Keurig machines.  E needed to stop at the retail store to buy some more pods.  Now I can go into retail stores, but I can’t purchase anything.  So I went with her.

I buy my coffee beans online from wholelattelove.com, and I have no idea if they have a storefront.  (I do know that the beans I buy are fair trade)  I’ve been to a few coffee stores before, but this was a coffee boutique.  We knew that immediately when the doorman opened the door for us.  At first I thought he was a bored employee just being  gentleman and opening the door for us.  Nope, that was the dude’s job.  He looked like a bar bouncer, as he was large, sort of mean looking and had that ‘secret service’ kind of stance that says, “I can and will throw you out if I need to.”

E went to the back to get her pods.  I walked around, wanting to take some photos, but that wasn’t allowed.  Besides, Guido saw my camera and he was ready to take action if needed.  The sales guy, who I’m pretty sure takes espresso much more seriously than anyone else on the planet, was giving another guy a demonstration of one of the machines.  I stopped to watch, until the sales guy gave me the evil eye, insinuating it’s not my turn and I better no mess up his sale.  I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in the boutique, and I guess it’s fair he judged me that way, as I might actually carry that ‘thrift-store-cheap-i-have-no-money’ look, and without the rich boyfriend.  The customer guy was clearly enthralled and chatting on his iPhone to someone, giving the play by play of how cool the machines are and sucking down the espresso drinks.  Hmmm, free lattes?  😉

I joined E in the back, taking in all of the modern displays and rainbow color-coded capsules of espresso, carefully arranged to make you want to buy a box every blend.  The girl helping E was asking what model she had so she could add it to the ‘big brother’ database for future capsule-solicitation.   When she asked about the espresso button, she pronounced it ‘expresso’.  If you work in a coffee boutique, can’t you get fired for that?  Good thing Guido didn’t hear her.  E was then formally welcomed to the Nespresso club and told she can talk to a live coffee specialist anytime she wants to, just call the phone number on the receipt.  Now that sounds fun.  I would call the live specialist just for fun and ask questions like, “Where were you born?  Do you have a dog?  What kind?  Do you fold you underwear or just throw them in the drawer?”  What?  It could be fun.

I suppose this brand is geared toward rich people, but what if they didn’t have the boutique, all that overhead cost and Guido’s salary?  Maybe the machines would be a little more affordable.  Although it is not prominently displayed anywhere in the boutique, the capsules can be recycled… but not in the United States.  That doesn’t at all surprise me because the US has endless resources and a bottomless trash pit, right???  Wow.

So why am I telling this story?  Because I felt like it.  LOL, seriously, I’m a coffee addict and you can read about my machine and coffee choices here on iembracechaos.com.  Here are some tips for coffee addicts that want to support fair trade, save money and be green.

  • Do a cost analysis on your coffee drinking.  My Pasquini machine, purchased on eBay refurbished, paid for itself in 5.5 months.
  • Research your coffee beans. Do they participate in fair trade?  Do they have green practices?  In less than 5 minutes, you can research this on the internet and make choices that will impact many people and resources in our world.
  • Buy a used machine. Many people purchase these machines and then never use them, therefore making a good buyers market.  Read reviews on the machines to make a good choice, as there are many machines and many options out there.
  • Advertise. If you found a good machine, good fair trade beans or any other ‘good’ coffee thing, share it with others.

Simply taking a few minutes to research before you buy can mean a lot to a worker on a coffee plantation or make a better, cleaner world for all of us.  And don’t worry, Guido could find a job somewhere else, maybe as an enforcement official for an environmentally friendly, fair trade coffee company.  It could happen…