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Is it worth spending money to fix up an old car?

Bridget_bar2_2This week alone I just spent $1,000 on my 11-year-old car. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Car_dentI've had my '98 Toyota Corolla for about five years now and put about 62,000 miles on it. (Has 76k miles in total.) I love the old gal cause she's my first car, but she's been looking pretty banged up for awhile. Car_brokenhandleI've lived with a dent in my bumper for about three years and one of the outer door handles broke off about eight months ago and I didn't fix it because I didn't want to spend the money. Two nights ago, roommate Amanda accidentally broke off another door handle while trying to exit.

Car_brokenouterhandleThat made it the 5th door handle (inner and outer) to break in the short time I've had this car. Stupid things were made so cheap! Either that, or I have friends with super-human strength.

So I went to the dealer to get two handles fixed. The cheap plastic parts cost $27 and $89. The labor for each door was $150!?! GAH! $478 to fix two stupid door handles.

While I was fixing door handles, my brother got a little paint touch-up on his car. The nice guy who did my brother's paint job tells me he can fix my dented bumper and all paint dings (two bumpers and the hood) for $500. Not too shabby. But I wasn't looking to get a paint job anytime soon, since I have a craving for a new car. But my dad is telling me that the places where paint that has chipped off will soon rust, and a rusty car is much worse than one with paint nicks.

So after much internal struggling over what to do, I decided to just spend $500 to fix the paint and dent. I dropped the car off today and before I did, the nice independent body shop guy gave me a call. It went something like this:

"Hey, um, don't take this the wrong way, but could you please pay me half in advance? It's nothing against you, it's just I've been screwed over too many times."

I told him right away that I had no problem with it, but he kept going on about how people have cheated him and didn't pay (he apparently doesn't have you sign a contract so he doesn't have much legal recourse). He even brought it up again when I paid him half, double checking that I would pay him the other half when I get my car back.

What is wrong with the world? Are people that horrible that they aren't paying after they hire him to do a job? I felt bad for the guy. Here he is trying to give people a fair price with his own small business, and he's freaked out about people not paying him because he's been burned too many times. Sheish!

I was planning to get a new car in a year and a half or so. But maybe now I will wait a little longer and save up a little more, since perhaps now I won't be embarrassed about driving around a dinged-up car.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 09:54 PM on December 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Paying the Way for Friendship

Amanda_bar_2 This Christmas I plan on upholding a tradition that I seem to have developed over the past four years – that is, I always end up hitting the movie theaters on X-Mas evening.  I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve been to the movies, but there’s something enjoyable about spending a quiet holiday evening as one of the only movie-goers in the theater.  This year I plan on checking out Twilight.  (…okay, you can stop laughing now, thank you very much.)  Seeing this type of movie at this type of year serves two purposes: 1) it satisfies my vampire quota since HBO’s True Blood wrapped up it’s season, and 2) the timing assures that little to no witnesses will be around to hear me actually uttering the words “One adult for Twilight, please”.  I still have some sense of shame, after all.

Whitey But seriously, I do have a financial point to make in all of this.  I want to take my roommate Bridget with me to the movies, but she has stated emphatically that she will contribute no money to the ever-growing Twilight coffers. She obviously has no idea of the pale hotness that awaits her viewing pleasure, but whatever.  I now have decided to take it upon myself to pay for her movie ticket which is, sadly, a bribe that I’ve used before with other friends.  And while I don’t begrudge Bridget or any of my other friends for not wanting to see certain films, is it too much to ask in the spirit of the season to make your poor little Amanda happy by accompanying her to the movies? 

I’ve always been the first to offer a monetary compromise when it comes to appealing to my friend’s good graces. In college I had to resort to several bribes in exchange for a car ride (I was Favor_3 car-less in college, if you couldn’t guess).  I was very careful to be all too aware of how too many favors can quickly turn into an annoyance amongst friends…which is the very reason why I became so liberal with my gift-giving under these circumstances.  For example, once when my friend Cherie took me to Best Buy I bought her A Clockwork Orange on DVD ($14.99!), or when my friend Ashley took me to Barnes & Nobles I got her one of those insipid Shopaholic books (cough).  While some people might suspect this to be a sign of poor friendships, consider the fact that many people nowadays have their friends chip-in for gas or other travel fees (depending on the destination).  Instead of gas money I merely offer an alternative form of repayment.

And yes, Bridget’s company might not exactly be a fair exchange for the price of a movie ticket these days (I'll keep milking that "student discount" until I start to go gray!), but the opportunity to see her surrounded by black-clad tweens screaming “Bite me!” at the big screen should be well worth the ticket price.


Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:32 PM on December 25, 2008 in Entertainment , Nightlife | Permalink | Comments (2)

Gift-giving for the Workplace

Amanda_bar This holiday season most of us are on a gift-giving budget.  I usually try to get a little something for everyone I'm friendly with, but in such instances as the workplace there can be twenty or more co-workers who I'd like to give a little gift.  This year I decided to get a bit creative and come up with some original ideas.  I decided to settle on Christmas candy as the gift, since everyone can use a burst of sugar when working, and this is where I really let my creativity go: I decided to craft my own gift baggies.  Buying the pre-made bags can cost $.99 a piece, and with the amount of people I was shopping for that would amount to over $25 on the wrapping alone.  Instead I headed over to Michael's and perused the aisles for something that could suit my needs.

Img_1624 For some reason I found myself in the floral accessories department, and there I spied a roll of stuff called floral wrap mesh netting.  It came in a variety of colors, was see-through, and could be twisted and bent easily to conform to any bag-like shape I needed.  The mesh was also really cheap for the amount you get - I paid $6.99 for several yards of the stuff, and was left with plenty to share with my roommate Bridget (who hopped on my idea bandwagon for her coworkers!).  With that in hand I went over the the ribbon department and picked up two rolls of glittery green ribbon for about $.79 each.  I ended running out of the ribbon in the middle of my project and needed to purchase an additional two rolls, but after I was finished I only ended up spending about $12 on my cute, custom-made gift bags.

The candy itself came from Target, with a holiday special at $7 for two bags of mixed candy (Snickers, Twix, etc).  I also ended up running out of the candy halfway through my project (drats!) and had to buy an additional bag at Publix for about $6 (no deal on that purchase, unfortunately), but in total for the entire project I spent approximately $25 for 25 coworkers!  I'm not a math major or anything, but that figures out to about $1 per person!  Not too shabby, I say!

And incase you don't hear from me in the interim, have a happy and safe holiday!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:19 PM on December 22, 2008 in Food , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

Buying for Baby, Part Deux

Amanda_bar My sister's baby shower is coming up this Sunday, and as the little one's only aunt on her mother's side I feel obligated to put a little extra effort in my gift-giving selection.  And while I'm tempted to go rogue and completely disregard my sister's Babies-R-Us gift registry, I ended up deciding that it was more prudent to spend the money towards something they actually need rather than something I want to give them.

Chair While I hesitate to go into detail on what I bought them prior to the actual party (as if my sister actually reads this blog...) I can let slip that it rhymes with "high chair".  Whoops.  Now that the cat's out of the bag, I spent $58.29 on a Fisher Price Space Saver high chair.  I'm not going to ask why my sister seems to think that she needs another high chair considering that she already has one of the normal, space-taker-up variety, but it was listed at a price that I was aiming for and it seemed the most useful.  If you would have left me to my own devices I would have probably purchased some funky bed linens & blankets, but since decorative taste can be vastly different from person to person I decided it wasn't bright to take such chances when money is on the line.

Prime Presents aside, I have also been tasked with providing various inflatable delights (see: balloons) for the baby shower.  This is another dangerous situation, because you KNOW that I'm so totally all about filling the room up with floating Optimus Prime's.  My sister must be growing wise in her old age, however, because as soon as she detailed to me my balloon-tacular quest she warned that I wasn't to embarrass her with anything that 1) wasn't pink, and 2) unrelated to newborns.  (Curses, foiled again!)  Unfortunately the world seems to be pitted against me in more ways than one, because not only can I not purchase the balloons that I would otherwise buy, but Party City started throwing me curve balls by announcing that the pink latex balloons I had selected would not be available for early morning pick-up until after the Balloon_2 party had started (and apparently latex balloons don't last more than a few hours, so picking them up on Saturday night is out).  The only other solution that I've come up with thus far is to rely on Publix for a dozen or so latex balloons to be picked up that morning, and I'll buy a couple of the standard "It's a Girl!" foil balloons (which last a few days) from Party City the night before.  And might I say they're awfully expensive for being so temporary.  While it's not bank-breaking by any means, those foil balloons can run from $5 to $15 each depending on the size and the complexity of the design.  A cute little stork I was eyeing was $9.99 a piece, and that's not including the weights (around $2); if I'm able to scrounge up the amount of balloons that I'm hoping to get I'm looking at about a $35 tab on balloons alone!

Woe for poor auntie Amanda!  Dishing out the dough, yet unable to buy anything she'll actually get to enjoy.  Though I suppose I could have some fun with those helium-filled balloons after the shower (chipmunk voice, anyone?), and you can't really put a price on family celebrations!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 12:31 AM on December 12, 2008 in Entertainment , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

Economic recession? Tell that to the people selling BCS tickets!

Bridget_bar2A few weeks ago, I said I would pay anything for tickets to the BCS National Championship Game if the Florida Gators made it.

Gators_secchampsAnd the Gators made it!!! ...And I found out today that I won't pay anything. Because anything means more than $1,000 for two tickets.

I went a bit crazy today rationalizing the need to spend a grand on tickets -- after all, it is here in Miami this year, and it just seemed too amazing to pass that up. So I call my friend and old UF roommate Jenny, who at the moment of victory on Saturday texted me that she would also pay "anything" for tickets.

But for her, anything was $200. So now my max is about $400 or so for a pair of tickets. I lasted for about two hours on eBay before I was seriously outbid. And it looks like you have to be willing to dish out at least $900 for a pair on eBay. Sigh. And things haven't been any better on other ticket websites.

I know it's a good thing that Jenny didn't feed my insane hunger for tickets. I would really do it if she would split the cost. I told her this morning I would pay at most $500 for one ticket. That's $500 for one afternoon's event. It sounds crazy when I type it. But it didn't feel crazy when I saw what tickets were going for online. Stupid rich alumni really will pay anything, because they have the money to throw away.

I'm still really itching to spend the money. When I told Jenny I was thinking about spending $800 (since that was the bid at the time), her response via text was:

"YOU ARE NUTS!!! You'll regret going and spending so much money. That's rent. We can tailgate and have just as much fun."

Bcstitlegamelogo2009And she is right. I have to keep telling myself that so I don't go batty and bid again. I have the money in savings, but I gotta keep reminding myself on how many other things I can buy with that money.

My mom passed along info this morning of a person selling two tickets. I called the seller and said I would pay $400. The seller laughed and said she wasn't taking anything lower than $1,400, because she paid $1,300 for them thinking her school, PSU, would make it to the bowl. She then said: "This is a once in a lifetime game!"

Well, maybe for her school... not for the Gators! Haha. I hope she has a hard time selling those tickets. Grumble grumble grumble...

Posted by Bridget Carey at 04:56 PM on December 8, 2008 in Entertainment , Impulsive spending | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Downside of Getting What You Pay For

Amanda_bar Get ready, because you’re in for a long one.

On November 26th I had the pleasant surprise of being offered a free ticket to the Madonna “Sticky & Sweet” concert being performed at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.  My friend Cherie had purchased two tickets Sticky_sweetpreviously and her guest (her mother) had sent in a last minute cancellation, so it was either go to the concert alone or invite her only schmoe friend who wasn’t working on a Wednesday & had plenty of time on her hands.  Luckily, I was that schmoe friend.  And though I insisted repeatedly that she let me pay my share of the ticket price ($59, plus additional fees) my friend wouldn’t hear of it.  Being a moderately financially-reasonable person, however, I offered to pay for both the parking and a souvenir for my friend. 

Unfortunately my “pay for parking” plan didn’t go off as well as I would have hoped, as I only had $20 in cash…but between the two of us we were able to cover the ridiculously over-priced $30 fee.  Now I‘m not an avid concert-goer – my last concert being a Michael Bolton performance at the Hard Rock in July (and don’t you give me any lip about it – that man sings like an ANGEL!) - but $30 seems a tad excessive for such a nightmarish experience; I can easily imagine the Madonna concert parking lot to be reminiscent of one of the seven layers of hell. As someone who deals with traffic control on a regular basis as part of my job, I was about ready to slap on some day-glo outerwear and start directing cars myself.  So what, exactly, am I paying the $30 for?  Parking felt like a gladiatorial event, and I certainly could have used a shield and spear to fend off my vehicular rivals…who knew that minivan-driving soccer moms blasting “Material Girl” from the windows could be so ferocious??

Stadium Once parked and inside the stadium the concert turned to other, more important, matters: souvenirs.  Having arrived at the scheduled start-time of the concert (7:30PM) we observed that there was some delay in Madonna’s appearance, so we took this time to head on over to the concession stands.  Fully loaded with a Bud Lite apiece ($16 for the both of us, my treat) we browsed through the “Sticky & Sweet” tour paraphanelia; there was nothing too impressive to see beyond the hilarious prices ($40 for a shirt?!).  I can understand that artists make most of their money off of touring, but if I’m going to be paying $40 for a t-shirt I expect it to be worth it – good quality, good fit, and with back & front designs.  (On a related side-note, there is Madonna nothing I love more than t-shirts that have back & front designs; as far as a concert is concerned there is always something to list on the back, such as tour dates or even the name of the tour/artist across the shoulder blades.)  Madonna offered about five t-shirt options, and none of them were worth the price – the front either offered a bizarre & unflattering photo of Madonna (see image), or it came in an unattractive and moderately see-through pink color.  The only clothing item I really liked was a zip-up cotton jacket with “Sticky” and “Sweet” on the sleeves, but not for $70 (not to mention that, taken out of context, I don’t want to be thought of as advertising myself as being “Sticky”…).  But seeing as a Madonna concert is a fairly big event in my otherwise boring list of yearly activities, I commemorated my attendance with a $5 magnet.  As an offering to my friend Cherie, I bought her both a magnet ($5) and a t-shirt ($40).

That’s $86 thus far, and the show hasn’t even started yet.

Now I don’t presume to question the undoubtedly busy schedule of Madonna, but one expects a certain degree of promptness from a performer of her caliber and experience.  And if nothing else, the price of the Sign tickets alone should inspire some respect on her end for her well-paying fans.  The concert started at 10PM.  The concert was SCHEDULED to start at 7:30PM.  There were no opening acts to be seen beyond an appearance by popular DJ Paul Oakenfold, who proceeded to play Rihanna and Justin Timberlake hits over the speakers for a half hour (umm…bravo?) which I suppose counts as a performance despite the fact that 6th graders across the country do much the same at sleepover parties

When Madonna finally took the stage she seemed annoyed with the crowd.  Or maybe she just always calls her audience members “retarded” and “motherf____s” (no less than five times!); consider it a cute personality quirk.  However you might feel personally, you have a sold-out crowd of thousands of fans all there and waiting to hear you – the least she could have done is uttered a single apology (or even just an explanation!) in reference to the excessive delay.  Instead we were treated with very little dialogue, an impromptu boxing match, a flamenco dancing stripper, shuffling monks, before BOOM! it was over before I even realized it was over – I was too blinded by the floodlights - and Madonna was nowhere to be seen.  No encore performances from her.

Regardless of my derisive comments the show was very entertaining, and thank gawd for that - I can only imagine what I would be feeling if I had been kept waiting so long for a lackluster show.  The unfortunate Candy thing about these concerts is that there is really no repercussion experienced by the artist for any ill behavior (just look at Akon, who assaults his fans!).  Someone can't walk out of a concert and demand their money back like they could in a movie theater.  And though my time was flexible that night and I was comfortable with the after-midnight closing of the show, I'm sure other fans were relying on an earlier performance...especially considering that the following day was Thanksgiving.  Negative feedback among the fan community seems the only option, as I certainly would not buy (or even recommend buying) a full-price ticket to another Madonna concert (now give me another ticket freebie and we'll talk).  With the disregard that the artist herself seems to give her fans, and the lack of care shown to the them in the disastrous parking and lack of any sort of information given to the crowd regarding the length of her delay (it was a constant “in a few minutes” from the stadium staff) it simply is not worth the asking price.  You're basically paying to be aggravated.  Madonna charges too much, and certainly keeps her crowd waiting too long, to justify my love for the concert (Haha, Madonna-puns!). 

You get what you pay for, Madonna, but you also reap what you sow!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 07:51 PM on December 7, 2008 in Entertainment , Nightlife | Permalink | Comments (1)

Making Christmas


I'm back from Thanksgiving break and did quite a bit of spending. But it was all during sales, so it was good spending. It began when perusing the Home Depot on a Wednesday morning. I'm looking at the fake Christmas trees and trying to pay attention to pries. Amanda and I have never bought a tree before for our post-college pad, and judging by the prices, we figured the smartest thing would be to get a real tree and just split the cost.

"You looking to get a tree?" asks the Home Depot employee.
"Just looking right now," I say.
"I got an amazing deal on a tree here," he says.
"Well, I probably won't buy anything right now, but OK, what's the deal?"

So he walks me over to a 7.5-foot pre-lit tree for about $200.
"Pretty nice?"

$200? What the hell kind of deal is that? But I give a polite, "Yeah."

And after about 15 seconds of silence he says, "Well it's $49! Look at your face change! Look at your face change!"

And yes, my face did change. To disbelief. "So does that sale kick in on Friday?" I ask.

"It's supposed to be for Friday," he explains, "But they already have it in the computer system so it'll ring up that price today. People are going crazy calling the store and putting them on hold. Which one do you want, the one with white or multi-color lights?"

The guy stared at me for about 30 seconds while I had a battle with the voices in my mind. You know the kind. It goes something like:

Wow that's a great deal but what about Amanda I should wait for her to come and pick it out with me or maybe I should think it over because where am I going to store it afterward and we wanted to get a real tree cause it was easier to split the cost and I did already spend a lot of money on Christmas decorations and you can't split the cost with Amanda on a fake tree and people are calling to pick it up so if you wait it could be gone and it sounds like a really good deal but if I wait longer will I find an even better deal and I didn't want a pre-lit one but these are really pretty and I didn't expect to find a 7-foot tree but white or multi lights I can't decide which would look better maybe I should ask my parents if I should buy this with white lights its simple but multi is more fun but white is classy....

"I'll take the one with the white lights."

OurtreeBest decision I made yet on a Christmas purchase. Turns out it was the best deal on a fake tree in the Black Friday ads.

And speaking of Black Friday ads, I must say I was very disappointed in what was being offered. There was no big must have thing this year or really good sale. The deals seemed pretty mediocre to me, but nevertheless, I still woke up early to wait in line at Target.

Bullseye1Last year Target gave away a stuffed animal of the Target bulldog named Bullseye, along with other edible treats and one of them Earth-friendly reusable bags. The tag on the Bullseye said "Limited Edition Series One Black Friday 2007"... so that makes you think Series Two will be this year, right? Uh yeah... nope! No giveaways this year! It was one of the reasons I picked Target over another store. Gah! But at least the line wasn't too bad.

I ran in when the doors opened. It amazed me how many people grabbed carts. I weaved in and out of the crowds to grab what I needed. A cart may have been nice, but this was no time for carts! I went with my Mom and we had a game plan to get specific items. We started at 5 a.m., jumped to four stores, and we were done by 8 a.m.

Black Friday is a madhouse, but it's much easier if you have a game plan of only getting specific things. You can't browse. Browsing is for Saturdays or Friday night after you take a nap. But if you don't go, you feel like you are getting cheated since you have to buy the gifts anyways. At least that's my mindset. But it only works if you have specific gifts you know you are going to give, like tech gadgets or toys.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 11:53 AM on December 3, 2008 in Home decor , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

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