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Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

Sailing away…

As much as I love couch-surfing — the communal aspect, the family aspect and getting to know my hosts/friends better than ever before — I also love having some “me” time via my house-/pet-sitting gigs. After all, over the past few years, I have had plenty of non-me time. 🙂 This past week, as you may know from my Facebook page, I spent time on a boat in Marina del Rey. Talk about “me” time! Nothing but me and the sound of water, seagulls, and people walking on the dock outside the sailboat, their wood-planked footsteps scaring me in the middle of the night, making me think they were climbing onto my boat when, really, they were just walking toward land, probably to the bathroom. (Yes, my boat was minus a bathroom, too, but I soon grew accustomed to either running to dry land to the very-clean-for-a-communal-bathroom bathroom, or holding it till dawn.)

Would I recommend a non-couch-surfer to sleep on a boat? Absolutely. By looking at this picture, how could you not?

boat

More so, I’d recommend that you find even a moment of  “me” time every day, time to sail away. When on a couch, I usually find this late at night, when my couch hosts are sleeping. And, eventually, I began to relish the quiet on the water, even though it was hard for me to get used to at first. Though when my stay on the boat was over, I craved human connection again — conversation and face-to-face interaction with people instead of sea life. Hopefully, you do, too, and have a balance of both. See you back on the shore.

Money Monday: My new – $.01 – phone charger!

One thing I’ve become a pro at all these couch-surfing months is saving money. So when my phone charger literally started on fire a week-and-a-half ago as I plugged it into my couch host’s (CH’s) power strip – causing it to blow fuses in a third of my couch host’s house, which took a few days to get fixed (and is a whole other story!) – I brought it to Verizon and assumed they would give me a new one. After all, with past Verizon phones, when the charger would stop working (like with my old LG, for instance), they often handed me a new one for no charge.

Here’s a picture of the burnt charger:

This time, Verizon was once again very nice about it when they handed me a brand new charger… until they said it’s $29.99.

$29.99?!

I calmly explained how my charger had been ON FIRE and blew out all these fuses in a house that’s not even mine (thank goodness for my very nice and understanding couch host, btw!), and I doubted it was the CH’s power strip that caused it… They apologized, saying they had to charge me for the charger. I apologized and handed it back, saying I would get it somewhere cheaper.

I knew Amazon was the place.

There, I found my charger for A PENNY!

Sure, I had to wait a few days for it to arrive, but it was kind of a nice cleanse not having a phone for almost two weeks. For the occasional calls and to contact friends, I used a landline or emailed them. It was fascinating making plans with someone and having to rely on actually showing up on time – them and myself, since I did not have a way to reach them once the plans were set. A great test in accountability, I think.

So far, the charger works! Though I am avoiding plugging it into power strips…

What kind of experiences have you had where someone wanted to charge you a lot — but you found a better deal?

Money, Money, Money…

When I couldn’t sleep the other night, I thought it was a sign that right when I turned on my couch host’s 500-some-channel TV, Suze Orman’s Money Class came on.

Everyday people from the audience asked her all kinds of questions – When should I start saving for my child’s college education? (Her child was less than a year old. Suze advised the woman to check out savingforcollege.com.) My girlfriend and I are moving in together, she makes twice as much as I do, how should we split the rent? (Suze advise that if he and his girlfriend have different incomes, they should contribute the same percentage toward their rent versus the same amount.) And the good old, I have almost $100,000 in student debt and am thinking of filing for bankruptcy to get rid of it. What do you think?

Of course, this last question was the one most relevant to my financial situation and to many of my friends’ as well. Suze told the teary-eyed man that even if he filed for bankruptcy, it would not take care of his student loan debt. Rather, interest would continue to accrue and he’d be in even more financial trouble later. (I think this is a common – and scary – myth, people thinking bankruptcy will erase their student loans.)

As many of you know from this CNNMoney article about my couch-surfing that ran a few months ago, I have a lot of student loan debt. A LOT. As of April, it teetered around nearly $100,000.

Like the man, I wanted to cry. (I think more from shock than anything else.) But as I figured out a payment plan and solution, instead of seeing the debt as a burden, I saw it as an opportunity. (After all, if I had not lost my job in 2009, I would not have given up my apartment and started couch-surfing, which is an incredibly fascinating/rewarding/too-many-things-to-mention-here experience that I would not trade for anything.)

When people ask me why I still do not have an apartment, I remind them that I do pay rent – but to a collection agency; the Department of Education is my landlord. (They obviously had no home to garnish, just wages, so setting up a monthly rehabilitation payment plan was my only option, which was scary for someone who freelances, especially at times when my freelance jobs ebb more than they flow.)

As ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money” song (from the mid-‘70s, mind you) says: “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay/Ain’t it sad/And there still never seems to be a single penny left for me/That’s too bad…”

Yes, it is too bad for the millions of us who are under- and unemployed, wondering when we will be out of debt, when we don’t have to worry about every penny, when we will no longer have to work three jobs for the price of one.

We all know people in this situation: ourselves, friends who have lost their homes or downsized, Boomerang Kids who have moved back in with their families… And as Suze said on her show, we used to live beyond our means and now we are living below our means; our pleasure in saving money needs to exceed our pleasure of spending money; and don’t let one dollar go to waste.

It’s all about adjusting our attitudes, I think. That’s all we can do, right?

I know it’ll still take months – years – to pay off my loans, but after doing so for several months now, I have to say it is a very satisfying feeling. Instead of being depressed about the insane amount of money I still owe, I get excited about all the money I no longer owe.

We just have to make the most of it in this economy, even if the most seems like very little. But if we add up all the “very little”s, they amount to a lot. Someday, to $98,122.30.

Leftovers…

I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a “don’t waste food” house, no matter how much we didn’t like something. (I tried telling my grandma that no kid liked spinach and liver and shouldn’t be forced to eat them, especially not every day, but I’m sure her being raised in the Great Depression had something to do with her eating-everything insistence.) I would love when we’d go to a family member or friend’s house and they wouldn’t have this rule, although I’d usually find myself eating something I didn’t like, anyway, my grandma’s voice in my ear. (And it’s still in my ear all these years later!) But it was nice having the choice, the freedom, not to taste – or finish – everything.

Usually, by week’s end, my grandma would throw all the extra, uneaten leftovers into a pot with a chicken carcass and it would be delicious, perhaps because I couldn’t see the spinach and liver that had been blended in with the 101 other things. (Not to mention I also couldn’t look at the chicken carcass – poor guy – while the soup was cooking.)

Now, a couple decades later, what do you suppose I did with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey?

And a week later, the soup’s still delicious (only I removed the carcass this time).

What did you do with your leftovers? Did you make anything creative from them? Freeze them? Give them away?

What childhood food(s) did you hate?

Do you make your kids eat everything?

Now, I suppose I should probably do something with the rest of the cranberry sauce (which are more sweet than sour, with pomegranate seeds and oranges in them) – maybe make soup? Ladle them onto ice cream? Any ideas?

“Shopping” for second-hand clothes…

About once a month, my friend C has a clothing exchange. About 6-12 women fill her living room with clothes and appetizers, not to mention camaraderie. Each person brings over garbage bags full of skirts, tops, coats, jeans and dresses they no longer wear: too small, too big, too pink… No matter the reason, I think most of us can use a good Closet Cleanse every now and then. (In my case, a storage cleanse – see my post from the other day, “Instead of Cyber Monday, Storage Sunday.”)

These clothing swaps provide a feeling akin to thrift-store shopping: finding a “new,” one-of-a-kind sweater or shirt – the only difference is, they’re free. And whatever is left, we donate to Global Kindness & OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center).

It’s funny how I used to not be excited about recycled, second-hand clothing when I was a child. When my mom was on the brink of her second divorce, she’d take me and my brother to the local church on Saturday mornings. Not for mass, but for their $1 Basement Bag Sale. There, we learned the art of stuffing as many clothes as possible into a brown grocery store bag. Instead of Carson Pirie Scott or JCPenney, our bags would read Jewel or Treasure Island. All for just one dollar! I remember how impressed I’d be. I also recall the way my brother and I would beg our mom for a second bag, trying to slip a G.I. Joe or Malibu Barbie into a pant leg when she wasn’t looking (even though those were “wants” not “needs” like the school clothes and we were supposed to only focus on “needs”).

I liked the shopping part but hesitated when it came time to the wearing part. I think when, at age nine, we are forced to don someone else’s OshKosh B’Gosh overalls or pink jean jacket, it’s different. I was always worried that the original owner would see me in their clothes at school and out me to the class, knowing my mom couldn’t afford to buy me ones from the mall like their moms did. However, this fear was short-lived as we soon left the suburbs and moved back to the city where no kids would know about our second-hand clothes. There, everything was new.

These days, over twenty years later, my second-hand clothes still feel new and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Except with a friend at one of C’s clothing exchanges.

P.S. L.A. peeps: There is a clothing exchange coming up… if you want to attend, let me know & I’ll talk to the host! 🙂