Wednesday, January 10, 2018

FAIL!!! A Thrifty Tale

So, as they say, pride goeth before the fall.  Or rather, confidence goeth before the fail.

A friend (HI!) asked if I could teach her how I thrift shop.

Well, I had a plan.  It didn't work.  I asked about a list and she didn't have one and instead of stopping and doing that, we went in stores anyway.  I didn't think things went all that well, but then again, I've been honing my technique, which works for me, for years.  She has different goals and plans and was new to these thrift stores.

Here's what I think I do to get some good deals thrifting, and shopping in general:

Keep a master list.  I keep it in my ipod (which is ancient and was a gift from a friend so free to me).
On the list are sections like "GROC" and "HARDWARE" and other things.  If I think I need something it goes on the list.  If it's something I need soon, like say toilet paper when I'm on the last roll, then it gets capitalized or moved to the top.  Sometimes both.    If it's something that can wait, like upgraded rubber boots, then it sits at the bottom of the list where I have to scroll down to see it or stuck in a general "thrift" category.  Right now, in the low priority longterm areas are things like a good beekeeping reference book, more comfortable rubber boots, and a scythe or sickle to cut weeds.  Not immediate issues, but if I see a really good option at a yardsale or something, I can get it.

Donate BEFORE I buy. I'm trying to cut back on the crap.  It's a battle against both genetic lines that lead to me.  Hoarders all the way back to primordial soup.  So I have to take stuff OUT before I bring stuff into my life.  There are side effects. It makes me shop in my crap before I go.  If I think I want a new tool or need nails, first I go through the unorganized box of hardware stuff and find something that isn't getting used.  Sometimes I find what I was going to buy.  Or, as happened last weekend.  I might go through a box looking for one type of thing (a sweater...which I found) and find good line level was in with a sweater.  Why?  No one knows.  But I have it now and it comes off the list.   ALSO: If you donate to Goodwill, get a receipt.  There is a 20% off coupon on the bottom.  You get a tax write off for donating and 20% off a purchase if you make it.

Wait a while.   If something goes on the list, other than TP or food, wait a while.  If I see the list later and I don't really care one way or the other about the item, it comes off the list.

Hit the thrift store when you are already in the neighborhood.  I don't make a special trip to shop. If I'm going by, I stop if I have things on the list that might be there.

Review the list before I get out of the car or walk in the store.  A list unused is a pointless endeavor.

Pay cash if possible.  Especially at thrift.  Cash is the most salient type of money for me. I notice cash leaving my hand and pocket.  When I get paid, I get about 2 weeks worth of money in cash, the rest goes in the bank.  I notice when my pocket starts to get empty.  At thrift, pay cash.  Those stores aren't all making big bucks and the percentage the credit/debit costs them matters in the big picture even if it doesn't matter to you personally for that transaction. 

Know your thrift stores. In the local area, I know which thrift stores have better prices and selections on various items.  One has a better hardware section, one has better clothes for outdoor work, another (the most christian based one) has cheap dress clothes and canning tools.  And so on.  I run through all the sections in each, but I can usually count on particular stores for the best prices on various items.

Know the sale of the day.  Most thrift stores have colored tag sales each day to keep stock moving through.  One store has sales by room (it's a big store) each day of the week so it pays to know which day furniture or clothes or dishes will be on sale at that store.  For colored tag sales, if I need a shirt or pants, I only look at the clothes with that color tag.  Jeans are jeans whether I pay 20$ or 5$.  Since I have a list and a long term view, I can wait for the sale.  If there is something I really need I might buy it if it's the wrong color tag.  That's what those 20% off coupons are for if it's at goodwill.  I've gotten carhartt pants and things that weren't on the tag sale because I know those will go fast. 

Check the items carefully before you buy.
-For clothes:  Check the fabric, construction and quality.  Check for tears, stains, missing buttons, bad smells, etc.  There is so much thrift clothing that I no longer buy clothes that just need a button or have a stain.  There will be another shirt or coat or pants next time that is in perfect shape. Many have the tags on them after the holidays or at the end of the "season" when retail stores pass on overstocks. 
ALSO:  check the care instructions on clothes.  There is no point in paying big bucks to dry clean a daily wear shirt I got on sale.  I also don't have room to dry things flat right now so I don't buy things that need to be dried flat.  That said, I might buy things very cheap, e.g. the 25cent bin at St Vinnie's, and just wash as I usually do even if they have special instructions.  For 25cents, I don't need to get much wear out of a garment.   I reuse as rags or fire starters. 
-For dishes, jars, etc:  check for chips.  Run a finger around the edges.  See if it is food safe or if it was maybe meant as decoration.  Smell it.  You can't get stank out of a plastic thermos.
-For furniture, hardware, etc: check the quality and wear and tear.  A hammer with a loose head is not a deal.  Rust can be dealt with sometimes but not all times.  Think about how much effort you want to put into the item for the price and how much use it will get.

Think again.  I start in the section where I actually "need" stuff or have things on the list.  That's often hardware.  If I see something on the list, I check it out.  If it passes the check, I either leave it on the shelf and think about it, or carry it around while I scope out the things on the long term list.  If I forget the item before I walk out, I probably didn't need it.  Sometimes I remember that these items are usually cheaper elsewhere or that I forgot to check the tag sale.  Often, it can wait.

Ask about the return policy.  If I don't already know, I ask about the return policy.  I rarely return things, but if it's a big item, something over 10$, I might need to return it.  If it's "no returns no how now way"...then, I might put the item back and see if it's there next time I'm in town.  Or buy it if it seems like it's needed, on the list, good quality and the right price.  If the policy is "store credit" then it depends on whether I get to that store or am likely to buy there again.  Store credit is useless if one does not shop there.   If it's cash back, that's best but pretty rare.

THEN I buy it if it makes it through all those steps.  Once I buy it I try to notice whether I use it or not.  I'm still using the travel french press (stainless steel...oooo) coffee mug I got fore a couple of bucks many years ago.  That was money well spent.  So were the vintage Norwegian ski sweaters.  I spent was 15$!!!   I wear them all winter every winter...actually, only when it's really cold.  But they show no wear and are still good.   The really cool thermos that is still in the box...that was not a good purchase.  That helps me assess how I'm doing on my list and my purchases.

No wonder trying to pass that on in one quick thrift shopping trip didn't work.  It's a process and it's geared toward my life and habits.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Best Books of 2017! Part 1.

Well, not the "best of 2017" so much as "the best books I remember reading in 2017...

I went through a bit of a dark phase with Sherman Alexie's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me.  It was, actually, published in 2017.   I listened to it and read it and will many more times.  It is wrenching and beautiful.  We've all lost a difficult person at some point.  The grieving process is more complicated.  Not better or worse than those we simply love or hate, but more complicated.

Then there was/is David Sedaris' Theft by Finding.  This too was published in 2017.  It also deals, partly, with the loss of a difficult person.  Both Sedaris and Alexie write about losing their alcoholic mothers.  Alexie's had quit drinking.  Sedaris' hadn't.   Sedaris also deals pretty openly, as far as one can tell, with his addictions and foibles as a human.  I look forward to the next installment.  I bought it on CD and as a hardback.

Last night I read Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia's The Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990.  Published in 2012This is a graphic novel and I laughed out loud.  Several times.  I might need to own this one.  It is brilliant. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Collision and Comprehensive or Not...and...BRAND NEW USED TRUCK!!!

So, how does one (especially when that "one" is "me") decide whether to carry comprehensive and/or collision insurance.

Up until 4 days ago, I was a 1 vehicle family.  Now, I am a 2 vehicle family, though I haven't gotten the 2nd vehicle home yet.  Remember that old math question about how 1 farmer with 1 boat gets a chicken, fox, and chicken feed across a creek?  Well...that's easy compared to how does 1 woman with 1 car living 25 miles out of town get 1 more vehicle to her property without leaving the original vehicle stranded on the road. 
Here are the options that occurred to me:
1) Hitchhike...but I saw that movie "The Hitcher" with Rutger Hauer and he is one creepy mofo so I don't hitchhike.

2) Drive my current vehicle 25 miles to the dealer.  Drive the new car 1 mile.  Take 20 minutes to walk back to my car, at the dealer where I had to leave it to get the new vehicle, drive my original car 2 miles, walk back 1 mile to get the new vehicle, drive that 2 miles, walk back 1 mile...lather rinse and repeat until I get home having walked 25 miles at 20 minutes a mile (500 minutes, or 8hours 20 min).  That seems a bit more trouble than it is worth.  And, I need to spend another 45 minutes at the DMV explaining yet again that yes, my mailing address is in one county/highway district and my home where the vehicles live with me, is in a different county/highway district.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
So, that makes 8hr 20min of driving/walking home, 30min driving to dealer, 45min at DMV (realistically, 1 hour...).  Total: 9hr 50min.  If I have to pee and eat, 11 hours.  That seems excessive

3) Mooch a ride. My main moochable ride friends who live closest are selfishly visiting their grandkid.  Where are there priorities?  I had a ride Weds but my original car was in the shop getting tires 25 miles the other way.  Thursday I was waiting for heating log delivery and didn't get done with that until my ride had had to make other plans.  Friday, I was 2.5 hours the other way.  Same for Saturday.  Sunday the dealer is closed.  MONDAY I can mooch a ride into town in time to get plates, apply for a title, and pick up the pick up. 

4) If the Monday ride falls through I will call the local taxi (which is a small step up from hitchhiking because the driver looks more like Boss Hogg than Rutger Hauer) and pay to get to the dealer.  Cripes.

ANYWAY:  The brand new used truck...1999 pick up so obviously its name is Prince Rogers Nelson...changes the risk factors for insurance coverage and/or lack there of.

While I was a 1 car family, carrying more insurance to make sure I had a rental car and could comfortably replace the car, was more important (see above: live 25 miles out of town).  If I crashed the car or a moose stomped on it while I slept, I was stuck.  There are rides I can easily mooch to work, but not back and forth to the repair shop or car rental place.  Those are all different directions.

NOW I only have to mooch a ride home.  There should be a working rig waiting for me there.

So, is it worth it to keep paying coverage for a rental car?
If I am more than 50 miles from home then it might be.  But probably not.  I'd be pretty screwed anyway.
If the car or pick up were completely unrepairable, like a roll over or a tree completely crushing the car, or a moose hitting the front end at 60mph, would I replace the rig? Probably not.  I'd take the payout and drive the remaining vehicle until it wouldn't go anymore. What price is that repair?  I DON'T KNOW.  That's part of the decision problem.  The other is calculating my risk.  Then there is calculating my risk tolerance. 

I will wait 30 days to try to figure this out again, maintaining current coverage until then.  That's about when I owe for the next 6 months of coverage. 

Winter is especially risky drivingwise, so I may carry more coverage through winter and drop it in spring.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Haze...But It's Not Purple

If only it were this cool:

Alas it is hot hot:

But not in a chipper way.   In an oppressive, smoky hazy way.

Here is a screen shot of the smoke map:

I'm under the blob of yellow and red over Idaho.  We're excited when it's only in the green (which isn't "good", just slightly less bad).  We've been breathing smoke for weeks now.  Smoke from forest fires.  

And it's been in the 90s during the day. 

For the past week or more the sun has mostly just been a red blob in the haze.  We can't see mountains, just haze.  More haze.  Always the haze.

People in the area are getting cranky.  I'm getting cranky.  I need clean air.  Cripes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boise, Idaho...Less Boring Than I Thought It Would Be

I was in Boise last weekend.  It was the first time I had stayed downtown with any free time at all.

There was plenty to do and some of it was thrifty.
The parks are great.  I happened by a community garden on or near State Street, checked out the architecture of a couple of historic districts, and got a reasonably priced donut at DK Donuts (Guru Donuts looked good but I wasn't in the mood for hipster donuts.  I wanted traditional donuts and plain coffee).  The donuts were VERY good.

I splurged a bit with a movie at The Flicks.  Independent much fun.  I got to eat a cookie and see "The Little Hours."  I had been leery of the film based on a trailer I watched, but it was that feeling that I could either love it or hate it.  I LOVED it.  So funny.  Apparently it is based on a medieval story so now I need to read the original story...but in modern English so I can actually get through the stories.

I stayed at the Safari Inn downtown.  I loved it!  I didn't make it into the lobby for the free cookies from 2-9pm.  Oh well.  Next time.  The breakfast isn't bad.  Boiled eggs.  Some sort of pre-fab omelette thing, and peanut butter for proteins.  Oatmeal packets, bread selections, a few small pastries, fruit cups, yogurts, coffee, tea and juice were available.  I can start a day with a couple of boiled eggs and some fruit.  The fruit cups were recently made, not canned or in prefab shelf-stable tublets.  They were in the fridge!  As if they could actually go bad.  As much as I'd rather have an apple, I realize that we'd all just take an apple for later and that ups the cost.  If the fruit is already diced up, you need to eat it sooner. 

The room was big, a king bed with dining table and chairs in a semi-separate area, good functional bathroom.  There was one hair on the pillow, but it was probably just a maid with long hair.  It happens.  The sheets were clearly clean as was the bathroom.

One feature I really liked was the clothesline in the shower/tub!  It is a retractable deal with a connector on the far end of the tub.  You could wash the delicates and hang them to dry over the tub. There was a guest laundry for only 1$ per load for the washer and the same for the dryer.  That's not bad.  The workout room was pretty good as well and had a sauna, but I didn't try those out.

The location is close to all of downtown and over a few bars and things but with the window shut and the AC on, very quiet. I didn't hear the people above or beside me in rooms.  That impressed me.
Overall, not a bad value.

I did have some spendy coffee because I love that.  It was a treat.  I ate meals with family and friends so didn't spend on those (the brats wouldn't let me).

Friday, July 7, 2017

Best Fundraiser EVER. Also, Breakfast of Champions

Here is what I had for breakfast

 I don't know what the "Las Vegas Classic" is.  I don't care.  It could be a stripper competition.  I don't care.  Fry bread, sausage, egg, and that plasticine cheap "cheese" product.  5$.  EVEN though I had to scrape off the cheese because the sammiches were already assembled, I didn't care.  I usually have a tantrum about incipient dairy.  This time, I didn't care.  The actual sandwich was quite a bit larger than pictured. 5$.  And seriously delicious.  I supported a local group, locally made food (the fry bread was fresh), and talked to several community members as we stood in line.

The limited run of 150 sammiches gave the sale quite a bit of cache.  No dawdling over decisions because they were going to run out.  It also means the folks making and serving didn't have to hang out for very long.  There are over 1000 people in this town.  They will run out fast.

At least 300 of us got paid this morning.  Good timing.  I got there a bit before 8 and the sandwiches were already going fast.  So much for "Indian time"..."fry bread time" means "show up early or miss out."


Friday, June 30, 2017

New skill! Cedar Baskets

My baskets are wonky, but sturdy. 

One piece of cedar bark folded, laced with cedar.  

There was a workshop going on where I work and I was allowed to jump in and learn.  Very fun.
And a great skill for the self-reliance quest.