Mar 29 2011

note cards & envelopes [minimalist challenge item #40]

[item] Blank notecards and envelopes

[purchase info] Purchased new at Target for $9.99

[time in my possession] Approximately 6 years

[last used] 2 years ago I used one

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Freecycle

[info] I’m not sure why I bought these.  I don’t send cards and I don’t even own a stamp.  If I need a card, I’ll pull something out of my recycling bin and use that.


Mar 26 2011

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading


Feb 22 2011

a smart shopper [day 272]

I was asked last night if I ever shopped like a real woman.  I’m not quite sure how I should take that…  Yes?  At least I think so, from what I’ve studied about them.  ;)  Seriously, my shopping habits are more like a man.  I have an easier time buying a $500 TV than a $50 pair of jeans.  Big ticket items just seem like more value for the money, I suppose.

In the past, I would go to the superstore places and buy things I didn’t need, buying them only because I liked them.  I never thought long term about them, much of the stuff ending up on eBay or in a thrift store.  I also loved shopping in thrift stores, but I would buy things just because I liked it a little bit, but it was a great deal.  Again, much of this went back to the thrift store.  I would sometimes want to redo a room in the house, and I would go buy things for that room, usually making the Ross-Marshall’s-TJ Maxx-Tuesday Morning run.

This is the only explanation of how I accumulated so much stuff.  In the future, I hope my shopping habits aren’t defined as “shopping like a woman” or “spending like a guy”, but as being a smart shopper.  Maybe this will be the one time people can call me smart without following that word with a smaller 3 letter word.  ;)


Feb 4 2011

my carbon footprint [day 253]

So I still have quite a ways to go to meet the world target, but mine is substantially lower than the national average.  I decided to take this test a few months ago after speaking with the power company.  He was surprised at how low my kilowatt usage was for my size house.  If you would like to do the calculator, here it is… carbonfootprint.com


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 storesuperstoreconvenience 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 17 2011

monkeying around [day 236]

Retail stores are good for fun!  This is me and my son playing with monkey bean bag chairs at Target.  Normally I have a rule, it’s that you can’t touch what you have no intention of buying.  I broke my own rule, but my son was having so much fun that he didn’t even notice.  :)

It’s also fun to ride the carts downhill in the parking lot, if you can find one with a hill.  What would be super fun is to get a bunch of slinkys and put them on the escalator at the mall.  I suppose it’s a good thing I haven’t been banned from stores, but would that really be so bad?


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


Dec 14 2010

name brand god [photograph]

This photograph was light painted for a gallery collection called “Excessable”, showing how we worship stuff, particularly name brand stuff.


Dec 11 2010

lesson learned through a pink bag and Barbie dolls [day 198]

Yet another trip to Target.  This time it was for my son.  Here’s the somewhat funny, yet disturbing story…

I was presented with a ziplock baggie full of Barbie doll parts this past week.  Normally, this would be okay, as someone might be giving me these for an art project or something.  This time, it’s because my son, along with a friend, decapitated and dismembered some dolls that obviously weren’t his.  He said he took the heads off, but didn’t do the rest, however he did choose to make a puppet show out of them.  I don’t have a pic of the dolls right now, but I’m quite sure they’ll be in a future trashogram.

I’m mostly upset by this because he isn’t being respectful of other people’s things.  These dolls belong to the church, and he made a really poor decision in destroying stuff that’s not his.  Now knowing my somewhat quirky parenting style, I came up with a pretty creative punishment.  My style has been compared to Henry Spencer from the show Psych.  It’s odd, but it works.  I’ll stick with it.  So my punishment started at Target…

First, my son had to go into the store with a pink “green” bag.  The friend that helped him also came along, as they’re both to purchase new Barbie dolls for the church.  She offered to carry the pink bag, and at some point, I allowed it.  The punishment, or so he thinks, is that I will video him in the doll aisle, selecting the new Barbie dolls and checking out at the register.  I did do the videos, but I’m not sure if I will actually post them.  As upset as he was, I think he might have learned his lesson.  The money came out of his bank account and he also has to write an apology letter to the kids director at church.  Continue reading


Nov 27 2010

BLACK FRIDAY: the video [day 185]

Any other day of the year, no retailer would allow you to walk around their store with a camera around your neck, they would stop you and make you put it away.  On black friday, that’s not the case.  With the busyness and chaos of the thousands of shoppers, extremely long lines and merchandise everywhere, nobody stopped me.  Here’s the black friday 2010 video to the tune of AC/DC’s Back in Black.

A few black friday observations:

  • It’s controlled chaos. The retailers are creating it and they’re prepared for it.
  • There’s a size relationship. The bigger the person, the bigger the packages.  Oh, how some psycho therapist needs to analyze this.
  • People like to get a deal. I’m not sure if they really want or need this stuff, but there seems to be an accomplishment once they’ve gotten a deal.  If they researched a possible purchase during the year, they could probably find a similar savings.  Is it really a deal if it’s cheap and not needed?
  • Loss leaders. There are some deals that can’t be found throughout the year, but these loss leaders are only available to the first 3-5 people according to the ads.  Not a bad deal, but I would do the cost analysis, time and effort versus cost savings.
  • Warranties. Many of the big ticket loss leaders have very limited warranties.  Before buying, you better make sure it works before you put it under the tree.  Many items have 15 days warranties.  They might as well just skip that altogether.
  • 2 types of men. The ones that like electronics with a willingness to get up early and fight for it and the “my wife made me do this and I better get sex tonight” male drag-a-longs.  I might start a line of t-shirts before next year.
  • Sporting event. I’m pretty sure most women see this as some sort of sporting event.  It’s a race for the best deals and to get all the shopping done at one time.  Most of them are getting lots of practice time during the year, so it should be a good game.

There’s much more, but that’s the big stuff.  Now, what to get my kids for Christmas without going shopping?