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Earning Brownie Points with Brownies...or Cupcakes

Amanda Bar    Today is my birthday, and one of the first things I think about upon waking up is the fact that I promised my co-workers that I'd bring them in cupcakes.  A trip to Publix for $15 worth of pastries, and then I'm reminded that I also promised to bring in those gross little heart-shaped candies for Valentine's Day.  I don't even like those things, yet I'm stocking up my cart with them.  I can't help but come to the realization that I've been doing an awful lot of giving since getting this job.

My co-workers at the police department deal with a lot of people during the course of the night - angry, upset citizens who are never particularly happy to see them.  I like to ease the stress for them by offering up both a cheerful attitude as well as the occasional (and seasonal) treat.  This past Christmas I handed out goody-bags (as detailed in this post), and on Halloween I kept a candy bowl stocked at my desk for the entire month of October (and what with working with so many men who don't know how to portion their handfuls, I was constantly refilling that thing).  I've never gotten the same treatment in return from the officers - though the office ladies make really good cookies on occasion! - it just makes me feel good in my work environment to know that I can contribute some cheer...or diabetes.  That is a lot of sugar I'm handing out, after all...

Cost-wise it's not like I'm stretching my pockets out on behalf of my job.  Those Valentine's Day candies are practically made of chalk, so they sell for pennies a bag.  And when it came to my Christmas goody-bags it was more than a reasonable amount of money to spend considering the number of people I was able to include.  Yes, the cost of the Halloween candy got a bit excessive since I had to purchase new bags every week, but I like to think of it as a work-related charitable donation.  If you haven't done a random act of kindness for your co-workers I highly suggest that you try it out - you'll be surprised what a bag of candy can buy you in the workplace.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:09 PM on January 28, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will you lie for free Starbucks coffee?

Bridget Bar2 Starbucks_cup_sm This week I'm contemplating lying for free coffee.

But it's not lying to a friend or anyone important in life. It's lying to Starbucks. Sticking it to "da man" -- if you choose to think of it that way.

If you walk in a Starbucks now until Sunday and sign a pledge card that you will volunteer 5 hours of community service, you get a free tall cup of brewed coffee.

But of course nothing forces you to volunteer. It's just a free cup of coffee with a side of guilt for not helping the community.

Britneyspears_starbucks It's a great tool to help people think about their communities and start to think about volunteering. But I'm sure Starbucks realizes many people won't go through with doing the 5 hours of work.

So will I lie? I'm not sure yet. For starters, I'm pretty cheap and/or lazy: I make my coffee at home every day, so why bother waste the gas money to get one cup of their coffee?

Would you lie for free coffee?

Posted by Bridget Carey at 06:56 PM on January 21, 2009 in Food , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lie-telling & Gift-Giving, All Wrapped Up

Amanda_bar Most people don't view gift-giving as a competition, or at least I presume to think that that's the case.  I know that most people, anyways, seem to find it odd that I tend to go about the process with such a head-butting determination to out-do my friends.  If they even hint at the perceived awesomeness of their gift to me I start frothing at the mouth; smiles become smirks, and suddenly a holiday as joyous as Christmas becomes an egg nog-soaked battlefield for gift-giving dominance.  Or, you know...that could just be me...(ahem), but I'll be damned if such a thing as an economical crisis (or nuclear holocaust, for that matter) keeps me from pounding my friends into the dirt with my superior shopping skills - because that's the real gift that keeps on giving!

Oneup I decided to take an unusual approach to my plan with one of my, shall I say “financially disabled”, friends: instead of exchanging gifts I told him that we should each just save our money and forgo the gift-giving.  This particular friend has spent the last year working at a hard-working, under-paying job in New York and a constant topic of conversation with him is his struggle with finances, so I achieved a bonus by looking both attentive to his conversations and thoughtful to his situation...all the while why I was plotting my looming victory!  And though I had to initially argue my point with him, he eventually agreed to call it a draw and not buy me anything for Christmas.  And thus my plan was put into action.

Little could he detect over the phone that my fingers were crossed (feel free to insert evil cackling here).  I don't make a habit of fibbing with friends, but it was my plan from the get-go to lie to his face while buying presents behind his back.  I must have a decent poker face (or poker voice?), because come Christmas time he was completely surprised by my impromptu gift.  And maybe I'm playing a bit too much into the Mother Theresa-angle, but I've never felt more satisfied with myself in giving anyone a gift as I did then; it was a sublime moment of self-indulgent benevolence (talk about a contradiction!).  A Flawless Victory, if you will.  (Oh my gawd, can you smell the smug coming off of this post?)


And not only was I helping my friend out by sparing him the time, toil and cost of getting me a present, but I also saved myself the hassle of receiving more superfluous junk over the holidays...I mean, how much body splash does one female need??  So while it may be a time of year where budgets are tight, this past Christmas I found that you can buy a lot more for $20 than presents...you can also purchase the sweet satisfaction of lording over your friend about how awesome of a friend you are!  Ahhh, I feel a self-congratulatory gloating coming on...

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:23 AM on January 19, 2009 in Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

Going Broke For Entertainment: Part 53,595

Impulse buy alert!  Shield your eyes if you have a sensitive constitution for thoughtless spending.

This Friday I got myself an XBox 360.  I thought about it, made my decision, and purchased a $299 gaming system all within a 12hr period; I went out to Best Buy almost directly after I got off of work - during which time I seemingly had nothing else to do at my job other than sit and stew over the manyXbox_2 reasons why I needed an XBox.  I could hardly bolt out of the door fast enough when it was time to punch-out my timecard.  In all other instances I would say I have no reasons to defend my purchase, but in this I feel I'm at least slightly justified - my birthday is this month and this is my obligatory "self-purchased present"...or so I like to refer to it.  Also, I had come to the decision to sell my Nintendo Wii due to lack of use, and GameStop is currently offering $140-$160 for a used Wii.  Not to mention that I'd be selling back an additional Wii controller (or Wii-mote), a controller charger, and the 5 or 6 Wii games I own...that all adds up to a good chunk of change to put toward my new & improved gaming system.  And in an additional karmic bonus, my roommate Bridget has offered to buy my Wii & Wii accessories from me for the rounded out sum of $200 - so even by selling my Wii I still retain access to it!

Xbox_prof So subtract the $200 I'm getting for my Nintendo Wii from the Xbox 360 price of $299 and you only have a difference of slightly over $100.  That, I feel, isn't too insane of a price gap...until you figure in the XBox Live feature.  The reason why I suddenly decided to purchase an XBox has a lot to do with the Live feature, and the fact that a lot of my friends are now Live members.  The big appeal of the XBox gaming system is that I can play with my friends from all over the state & country.  The cost for the wireless XBox adapter was $99.99.  And yes, I know, that is INSANE.  It was almost an instantaneous deal-breaker for me until I huffed and puffed over it for a bit.  And you know, I'm not happy with the final price tag of $423 (not counting my first game, Left 4 Dead!), but it already has made up for it by proving to be an awesomely fun gaming system.  I've not only been able to virtually hook up and play with friends as far away as New York, but I've already met & made some new ones.

This is another example, yet again, where I have to reason off my somewhat eccentric spending habits with the well-earned and ephemeral amusement it generates: it's not anything I can produce to you to justify my spending, but it's there for me to enjoy.  And that rabid quest for amusement has always been the little devil on my shoulder, and the method to my madness!

P.S. Feel free to friend me on XBox Live!  I'll see you in-game!  :)

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:24 PM on January 11, 2009 in Entertainment , Impulsive spending , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

My New Year's Resolution: Don't join a gym!

Bridget_bar2I made the biggest financial mistake of my life in 2008. And it was all because of a stupid resolution to get in shape.

OliveoylAllow me to set the scene of my physical situation: I get winded after carrying a gallon of milk up a flight of stairs. I'm pretty sure Olive Oyl can take me in a fight. So when a new L.A. Fitness opens up next door, I figure this is a good chance to start an active lifestyle. I'm sure my roommate Amanda is tired of opening my pickle jars for me.

I have never been motivated to exercise since I have a somewhat-high metabolism. As they say in Back to the Future III: "Run for fun? What kind of fun is that?" When I went to school at UF, I had access to several free gyms, but I only visited them a few times. But now, years later, I figured I'm sure going to get use out of this gym if I have to pay $35 a month for membership. The guilt of a bill will force me to go to the gym... right?

And at first I did go twice a week. And then once a week. And then once every two weeks. It wasn't long before an employee spotted me looking like death, switching between cardio machines. He tells me if I join the training program it will help me do it right.

I think to myself, well, if I pay for a trainer and I have appointments with a trainer, I surely will have to exercise! So I sign my life away to pay another $80 a month for someone to train with twice a month.

I explained to the trainer that I'm not active and I'm doing this just to be a little more in shape. But does he listen? No. He goes by the book because he is a machine, and all customers are the same piece of meat (or so it felt like). They worked me so hard that each time, I couldn't walk right for a week. This of course does not motivate me to go to the gym between training sessions.

Trainers kept changing on me, because that's how the program worked. But they each gave me the same workout, not listening to me when I said I just want to be somewhat active and I'm miserable.

Soon I just didn't show up. The head trainer called to see why I wasn't coming. A few times I made up excuses about being sick, but eventually I just stopped going all together because it was making me miserable -- mentally and physically. Although the trainers thought it was motivational to call me a wimp - and I know they were just teasing - deep down I still felt pretty lousy.

And because I was stuck in a contract, I ended up paying $80 a month (plus $35 for normal membership) for something I didn't even use. I wasted hundreds of dollars. The guilt of that stupid decision made me so sick for months that it gave me anxiety attacks when I thought about it.

My financial lesson learned from 2008: Paying for a gym isn't going to motivate me to exercise. Same goes with anything else in life. Unless you are naturally motivated, paying a monthly fee won't do any good for encouragement. Maybe that works for some people, but I guess not for me. And signing a year-long contract for something expensive like a personal trainer is something I should have went home to think about before agreeing to -- and maybe even talked to my friends and family about.

I now have my Wii Fit. I suppose if I ever feel like using it, I know it's there for me. I don't need no stinkin' monthly fee to use it!

Posted by Bridget Carey at 05:48 PM on January 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)

How to make your friends poor & tired in one easy step!

Amanda_bar This past week I've had the misfortune of being constantly left out of the on-going partying taking place at my house.  Due to my odd midnight work schedule, as well as the current time of year that allows most of my friends to be on holiday leave, I've missed out on several social gatherings (I'm talking three or four) that my roommate Bridget has been the impromptu host of at our shared residence.  I don't begrudge people their fun - it seems I'm always the one with the inconvenient schedule - bit I do begrudge it when these guests are slowly buzzing through my Red Bull energy drink supply without even the common decency of asking.

A 12-pack of Red Bull costs about $25 at any local Publix, and I don't care how sleepy you get while playing video games & chugging Bud Lite at my house until six in the morning...if it really gets to that point you need to help yourself to the front door, not one of my Red Bulls.  I'm all for allowing the occasional use of a Red Bull for a "Jagerbomb" when I'm in attendance to enjoy the festivities, and Bridget has certainly helped herself to an energy drink now and then without me raising an eyebrow, but I hate to come home after an eleven-hr shift to find my entire stock gone from inside my refrigerator.

The awkward part is that I know Bridget is good for it - she'll replace them if I ask - but I really don't appreciate guests helping themselves to my belongings...especially considering that all of these guestsRed_bull_3 don't know me beyond being Bridget's roommate.  I buy a good share of beer and soda in our house for the sole purpose of keeping it on-hand for guests; that does not and should not mean that I am obliged to allow them full run of my food supplies, especially when I'm not even there to shout a "yea" or "nay".  It's both aggravating in a financial sense (those things are expensive!) and a social sense (I don't want to seem like a cheap hostess, even if I'm an absentee one).  I just can't get over the nagging irritation that these gubby-handed, Red Bull-swindling guests have somehow crossed a line...a delicious, caffeinated line.   Is it rude of my guests to help themselves to my stuff, or is it rude of me to deny them use of it?  I'm torn on both sides of the coin, but at the end of the day I'm the one screwed: I'm out of money from spending it all on Red Bull, and I'm out of Red Bull by having it swiped by all of my house guests!!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2009 in Food , Nightlife , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

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