Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Goals - New Headache - New Year

This austerity plan is kinda hard (she says, whining). While the Greeks march, I sit at home wondering how to have fun on zero budget. It's actually not all that bad, yet.

I've spent the last month or so looking at my budget every which way possible and have cut lots of things out and reduced others and I've already said no to a variety of activities that would've normally been in my 'fun' budget. While cutting away, feeling groovy and a little too sure of myself and my goal to reduce half of my debt by 2013, I, of course, got shot down a couple of notches by crap that I have really no control over. I got my January mortgage bill in the mail the other day and for no reason I can see, Bank of America is tacking on $10 a month to my escrow payment. Why for, I ask? I was going to give them a jingle but figure that will be a colossal waste of time. I think it's because they believe my taxes are going to increase in 2012. Whatever, there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

The other setback is that I've desperately needed a new bed for at least a year now. I've been sleeping on an almost 20-year-old mattress left over from my last relationship. I think even my dog Cadence was over it as he's been sleeping on the love seat in my bedroom instead of in his rightful place next to my head. After a bit of research, I purchased the cheapest but highest quality bed I could afford and will be making interest-free payments of $65 a month for all of 2012. Fuck. I am sleeping better but still - fuck. It's not like I can buy a used bed - ewwww.

One way I save money is to buy Groupon or Living Social coupons for things I already would be buying. I saved a bunch on Christmas gifts, have saved on food, a massage, entry into the Denver Zoo for me and my junior partner, etc. I use these social buying coupons like I do pretty much everything else - if I need it, I'll buy it, look at it or pursue it. Otherwise, I'm not all that interested. I don't go to the library unless I'm in need of a specific book, I don't troll the Internet unless I'm looking for something in particular - the definition of a particular word or phrase, where something is or how old someone is, Ryan Gosling, for example. (I will say that since I've discovered Pinterest I am trolling a bit more but I'm still looking for stuff - ways to make something cool, ideas for work, etc.)

Since the advent of the cell phone I've heard various people complain about 'not having time' to deal with whatever piece of technology is being talked about. I recently heard this about Groupon when I mentioned a great deal to someone at work. This person said they didn't have time to deal with Groupon, 'it's too much work.' You get the idea. I've always been annoyed by this statement in regards to technology - or anything for that matter. It's not like someone is holding a gun to your head telling you to buy an iPhone, download iTunes and buy the latest Beyonce record. Like most things in life (at least for now), using technology is a choice. If it doesn't fit into my life and somehow make it better, I'm not doing it. YOU TOO, have this choice! Really, it's just laziness. I can say this because I've been this person - slow to sign up and check out something new because I'm afraid I won't understand how it works. This is valid but really no excuse nowadays. You can figure pretty much anything out as long as you have access to an Internet connection - library anyone?

Happy New Year!

(Sidenote - today, I'm writing this from a local coffee shop where some old dude sitting across from me talked to himself for about an hour as he read the paper. He got ready to leave, put the paper aside and proceeded to zip up his pants and buckle his belt which had been undone the entire time. Weird.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Plaid Friday

I'm way too literal for my own good sometimes. For the last month I've seen signs and ads all over town about Plaid Friday. I knew it was referencing shopping local but I was confused by the Plaid part. "Plaid Friday? What the hell does that mean?"
I quickly found out, in a room full of people, when I mentioned to everyone that I didn't get it. Lots of laughter ensued and I felt like a goofball. Duh!

So, what a great idea it is to encourage shopping local, small businesses and calling it Plaid Friday instead of Black Friday. Genius!

I believe that I wrote last year about how I feel about Black Friday so I won't rehash - too much. Suffice it to say, I think it's hideous and the last place I would want to be is in ANY store on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Plus, it pisses me off that retail workers don't get one FULL day off to spend with their families or do what they like. It was brought to my attention that a lot of retail workers want the extra hours and I get that but I bet you dimes to donuts that most of those folks did not make double time or even time and a half for working amongst all the crazy fuckers (and I say that with love) that absolutely have to buy a whatever at 10pm on Thanksgiving night. I realize some deals are too good to pass up but, really?

I had to buy some milk on Thanksgiving day on my way home from work in order to make my green bean casserole and I was happy that King Soopers was open but I would've been just as happy to go to 7-11 to buy it. I thanked the young man that checked me out at King Soopers for working and told him that I remembered the days when nothing was open on Thanksgiving except 7-11 and the like. He was about 22 or so and said he couldn't imagine stores not being open on Thanksgiving Day.

In the post-apocalyse if another life form happens upon the U.S. and wonders what people were like in 2011 they'll find giant buildings full of items not necessary to sustaining life and they'll scratch their heads and think, "No wonder they didn't survive, they were consumed by their stuff."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Working the Plan

Listening to the new Mayer Hawthorne record and thinking about the simple pleasures in life - sitting in a coffee shop, drinking a mocha and listening to a little Blue-Eyed Soul is certainly a pleasure. So, too, will be planning my Italy trip after significantly reducing my debt.

Since my last post I've put a lot of wheels into motion. I've reduced my 401k contribution at work, stopped my IRA contribution, reduced or stopped a few charitable donations and even cut my Netflix in half. Sure, the Netflix is only a $7 savings per month, but as they say, it all adds up, right!? I've also turned down a few fun things - an invite to a Bronco's game ($45), entry into the 2012 Colorado Half Marathon ($90), a 4-mile run on Halloween ($30), and most significantly, an airline ticket to see dear friends in February ($210). The objective is to send that 'saved' money to my debt and I'll be starting this with my next paycheck.

I'm also continuing the not-buying-anything-new paradigm. This has really become a way of life for me now. I do buy new things on occasion but whenever I need to buy something I try to get it used first. For Christmas I'm trying to find things that I can make. Beginning with the New Year I will severely limit the new item purchasing back to 2010 levels in order to put even more towards my debt.

Is this all just a smart way to live or am I simply bored and need a challenge? I think its a little of both, maybe more of the latter if I'm honest with myself. Either way, my hope is when 2013 roles around and I turn 45 I'll have a reasonable amount of debt and will be able to plan the trip I've been thinking about for years. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Snake is Ready to Bite...

and before it does I need to get my shit together. This is what I woke up thinking this morning, not quite in those terms but I woke at 7am with a decidedly unsettled feeling that I've had for a few days thinking, "I have to get my debt under control or I'm going down."

I will not share with you the amount of my debt but I will share that while I've been saying for quite some time that most of it is from maintaining my life - car repairs, house crap like broken dishwashers and washing machines - in truth, most of my debt is from having fun. It's true. I like to go places, see things, run 5K's and 1/2 marathons, fly to my 25th high school reunion in Michigan and do a 5K while there, spend Christmas away from Fort Collins, travel to see a band in New Orleans, give to multiple charities, buy new Dansko and running shoes (at at least $100 a pair), buy more pairs of black pants than any woman should own, spend about $15 a week on iTunes (really?!), etc. You get the idea. I have a fun, fulfilling, awesome life and I spend a lot of money to have it that way - a lot of 'money' that is in the form of a little plastic card. I do spend money on my house and car, the car more than the house of late, but if I'm being truthful with myself, I spend my money on fun.

I'm turning 44 in a couple of months and then about a year after that I'll be turning 45. As a 45th birthday gift to myself I want to travel to Italy to ride my bike for a couple of weeks, see the Giro d'italia and have some fantastic adventures. It hit me this morning while sitting in church that I will not be able to do this unless I get rid of most of my debt. So, in order to have future fun I will be discontinuing current fun for one year.

This is certainly more of 'deal' to me than not buying anything new for a year. I can already see myself saying 'no' to stuff and not liking it one bit. I will get to see just how awesome my life is while doing without what I think is fun. I'm always up for a challenge and if I can do this I will be duly rewarded. Not only day-to-day but with a fabulous trip to Italy. Talk about delayed gratification.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Lifestyle Center Friday Night and an Advertising Epiphany

It was bound to happen, especially since I dissed the whole Lifestyle Center concept in my last post. I found myself enjoying good company, supporting a great cause, AND buying used items at, yes, you guessed it, a freakin' Lifestyle Center. And on a Friday night nonetheless.
I went to a preview party for a tag sale fundraiser for the local Junior League with a few friends. It was held in a shelled out space at the very same Lifestyle Center I referred to in my last post. I ended up with some good bargains, chatted with friends and at the end of the evening found myself rocking out to "Don't Stop Believing" by an 80's cover band. Not only dancing and having a blast but belting out all the words to the ubiquitous Journey song from my youth. Sidenote - why are those guys still touring? I hear that damn song more than I did when it was new. God, isn't there anything better to play on the radio these days? Anyway, while I was dancing in the middle of the Lifestyle Center, I realized I a Lifestyle Center. I briefly felt like I was on an episode of Weeds without the pot.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a great film named Art & Copy. If you have any interest in advertising, design, logos, Mad Men, or words in general, this movie is worth a watch. I never wanted to end up like Herb Tarlek, selling cars or, my worst nightmare, vacuums or mattresses. As much as I fought being a salesperson, that is really what I am. I've had two fairly direct sales jobs where I sold newspaper advertising. I had a hard time finding social value in selling an ad so I clung to the ad development as something noble in itself. When freedom was allowed I could work with a great designer and sometimes come up with something decent that I didn't hate.

While at my first ad job I found a quote that I still have stuck on the same sticky note on my fridge, "People read what's interesting, and sometimes it's an ad." This film helped reaffirm this notion for me. Remember the cool as hell VW ads from the 60's? Some of the Nike ads are simply brilliant whether or not you buy their shoes. I have one of their ads featuring Marilyn Monroe, again on my fridge, and it does make me feel good to be a girl.

While I clearly have issues with our consumer culture and that we're bombarded with advertising messages from the minute we open our eyes in the morning, if I think of these ads as someone's ideas as opposed to 'the man' trying to overtake my life and make me buy something I don't need, I feel a lot better about advertising in general. Because really, all of the ads are someone just trying to sell us on their idea, trying to get us as excited as they are about it. Sometimes they write an interesting ad for their idea and sometimes they don't but either way, the person's idea is behind it. Vacuum and mattress ads excluded, of course.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Our Strip Mall, Lifestyle Center Community

I was out and about yesterday running some errands and made a trip to Ulta in south Fort Collins. I needed some makeup and Ulta is the only place in town I know that carries what I was needing. Side story - Ulta has a one of those frequent shopper cards like King Soopers or PetSmart except you never get anything with it. The only time I ever got a discount was the last time I was there when after my purchase they told me I had a $4 coupon that I needed to use right then. What a scam. Maybe not a scam but you know you can't buy much in a cosmetic store for $4 so of course, they're counting on you spending more than $4. Stuff like this pisses me off. I always feel like I'm being taken for a ride. While I was able to buy some nail polish for under $4, it still annoyed me.

Back to my original story - On my trip to south Fort Collins, to Ulta, which is located in a Lifestyle Center, I saw tons of people walking around, doing stuff. It was 1pm on a Friday afternoon. Do these people have jobs? Did they cut out early because it was Friday like I did? WTF? What were all of these people doing milling about? Could they all be there to buy something?

It got me thinking - these Lifestyle Centers, which are the new strip mall of the day, is where people hang out! I go to these Lifestyle Centers when I need something, like my makeup. I don't go there to have lunch, walk around and check out the cookie cutter artwork and potted plants. It occurred to me that these Lifestyle Centers are the hub of the communities we live in. Was the mall the hub of the community I grew up in? Maybe. I know I certainly spent too much time at the mall in my teen years checking out the guys and buying earrings and clothes.

Thank God Fort Collins has a thriving downtown where, while there are many stores, there are places to hang out that don't have a lot to do with commerce in its truest form. Or am I just kidding myself? Is everything designed so that we spend money?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Well, hello there. I've been thinking about writing again for quite some time. Over the weekend, at my 25th high school reunion - the 40's are the new 30's ya know - I heard from a few old friends that they actually read this little blog. Plus, I've been feeling the pull of not buying anything new nipping (chomping and drawing blood is more like it) at my heels and wallet.

An update - since I last wrote, I have added quite a bit to the old Macy's credit card. I didn't walk into the place for an entire year and then the beginning of March hit and I went a little nutty, really. What did I buy, you ask? Well, I did buy a vacuum cleaner which is allowed on the purchasing diet, but I mostly bought CRAP! Clothes and more clothes! Just how many pairs of black pants does one gal need? And then one needs new tops to go with the silly pants. It's such a mind fuck. I somehow felt justified buying things I didn't need because I had gone one whole year without doing so. What's that all about?

I liken it to falling off the wagon. While I'm not an alcoholic, I have had my brush with problem drinking. While I don't smoke anymore, it took me years, literally years, to quit. I've never really had a problem with food but I certainly can justify a large biscuits and gravy breakfast if I've run a 5K earlier in the day. And anyone that knows me well knows that I struggle with an addiction to aspirin - silly but true.

I realize now that I have to treat buying things in the same way. Truth be told, I don't have the money to spend willy nilly on stupid shit I don't need, like one more pair of black pants. I need to remember and realize that it's not only not good for my bottom line, it's not good for my mental well-being. I felt pretty great last year, not buying anything new. It really made decision-making easier and freed up money for actual life experiences instead of more things.

Well, friends, I'm starting again. I'm making a commitment today to stop my madness. Making a commitment to not buying anything new makes me feel more mindful and aware about everything, not just purchases, which in turn makes me feel more alive. Over the top? Maybe, but sometimes going a little extreme can bring you back to center.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lessons Learned

It's been more than a year since I made my little New Year's resolution to not buy anything new for one year. At the time, it felt kinda like a big deal. Now, not so much. I think the hardest part was finding time and topics to blog about.

I've been asked at the turn of 2011 what my new resolution would be in relation to last year's. And I've got nothing. I've decided that not buying anything new really isn't that big of a deal and I'll continue to do it this year and probably, in some form, forever. Not only is it easy, it's almost a requirement nowadays. Here in the Fort there are so many thrift and used stores that a person really doesn't have an excuse to immediately buy an item new without looking to see if they can get it used first. Not only will I keep doing it, I've realized that I like it a whole lot more than traditional shopping.

A couple of months ago I refinanced my house and found myself with a little extra cash. I decided that since I had been good all year I 'deserved' to do a round of shopping at Macy's. I grabbed some of their great coupons and off I went. It was one of the most hideous shopping experiences of my life - seriously. I trolled through this gigantic store getting more and more pissed off as I went. I was in there about 15 minutes and had to leave. Without an object of desire to search for I found just strolling through a department store a dull experience and a huge waste of time. What I realized from this little jaunt was that I really don't like shopping for shopping's sake unless I'm in a used store. Not a major revelation but enough for me to know that not buying anything new is the way of my life. It has been for years and will continue to be.

I would say that in one year I probably bought 10 or so 'new' items. At least three of these things were sympathy cards because I just can't make an appropriate sympathy card. I did just purchase a new vacuum and make no excuses for it. Buying a used vacuum is silly and in my house a vacuum is definitely a health issue. If you've ever lived in a hair ball, you know what I mean. If it wasn't life-threatening to shellack my dog I wouldn't need the new vacuum. And let me tell you, having a vacuum that actually works is a very pleasurable experience. It was all I could do to not leave work early last Friday to go home and vacuum. This might speak more to the lack of excitement in my life...