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A savings holiday

Nirvi Bar (fixed) Hey Bridget! It happens to be America Saves Week. I'm not sure when this designation came about, but at least it doesn't require sending anyone a card to celebrate it, or throwing a party or, showing your affection with a dozen roses.

It couldn't come at a better time for many of us, eh?

The website offers tips and factoids -- such as Americans are sitting on $15 billion in loose change -- and success stories about people who couldn't believe they could ever become savers.

I realize most people don't think they have a lot of money to spare right now for savings, including me. But it might be worth taking a look to see if there isn't something you can do.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 04:27 PM on February 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Giving up shopping for Lent


I fell off the frugal wagon.

I actually think I fell off around December, but made excuses with holidays and I never felt I was being bad since I still use coupons for groceries... as if taking advantage of CVS discounts absolved my sins of not putting away money into my savings for three months and buying junk at the mall every weekend.

But this past weekend, it finally hit me that perhaps I've lost all spending willpower. I believe this photo explains it best:


Yes, that is me with Amanda. Wearing silly ears. And I'm wearing a $130 hand-made crown.

Amanda took me to my first Renaissance Festival this weekend. I didn't even want to go, but she was really excited about it and convinced me to come along because of the neat things you can buy there. I put together a basic renaissance-ish outfit after borrowing a few items from Amanda. Amanda dressed up in full green fairy garb (she used her old Peter Pan costume and just added wings she already had).

TinkerbellThe entrance fee was $20. Spent $8 on a mediocre gyro. Spent $3 on lemonade. Spent $6 on a beer. Spent $16 on a hand-crafted faux family-crest shield as a home decoration. Spent $13 on a cute teeny fairy doll that looks like a sleeping Tinker Bell (pictured here). I wasn't going to get the ears because they cost $17, but after Amanda got hers I wanted a pair of my own. (I rationalized that I could get multiple use out of these ears... Star Trek events... St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun... Christmas Elf...). But the real damage was of course the crown. I put it on and just fell in love with it. (Also told myself that I could get repeated use out of this for all princess-related events... still trying to figure how I rationalized that one.)

I wasn't the only one in our group shopping. Amanda and her sister did a good amount of "economy-boosting" themselves.

Although I take pride in the fact that I am helping stimulate the economy, I am not proud of spending more than $200 at a stupid renaissance fair.

I never used to get this carried away!

With tomorrow being the start of Lent, I've decided that my personal sacrifice will be to stay away from malls and shopping. More specifically, I will not go to a store to buy any item that isn't an absolute necessity -- even if there is a sale. No new clothes. No books. No purses. No movies or games (not even rentals). No earrings. No desk knick-knacks (which tends to be my greatest spending weakness). And especially no princess crowns.

The question I will be asking myself is do I want it? Or do I need it?

The $30 watch I bought two weeks ago -- although on sale from $65 -- was not necessary.

The Space Ghost Christmas ornament I bought last week on sale for 80% off at Hallmark was not necessary.

The Minnie-Mouse dressed as Princess Leia bobble head I bought this month was not necessary.

The $60 Street Fighter IV Xbox 360 game that came out last week was not necessary.

The past few months I have been a shop-a-holic. And I'm not saying shopping is wrong. If anything, these days we need more consumer confidence to keep our economy from getting worse. This is just something personal I want to do for the next 40 days since I'm having such a hard time keeping my shopping willpower under control.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 08:44 PM on February 24, 2009 in Clothing , Impulsive spending , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (4)

Too much green for my garden?

Nirvi Bar (fixed) I like to think of myself as someone who has a green thumb, or at least someone who is a gardener wannabe. But some things I don't mess with, including trimming the massive bougainvillea in my front yard and hauling mulch. The thorny, but pretty bush is no match for my hedge clippers, and my compact car holds no more than 8 bags of mulch.

Attempting to secure some help with my 2009 promise to take better care of my front yard, on a budget, I solicited estimates from a landscaper I'd used to edit as much grass out of there as possible two years ago. They rimmed the front yard with hibiscus bushes that bloom year round.

Their estimate: $475.

That hurt about as much as the last time I was stabbed by the bougainvillea.

I've negotiated them down to $300, including the replacement of three of the hibiscus plants that have not survived. But that means they will not tangle with my thorny friend, and all the men in my life have been drafted to help me with the rest of this project. (Thanks Dad!)

What I can't tell: Am I being overcharged -- and overmulched? The company estimates I need 67 bags of mulch for a few hundred square feet of flower beds.

These are the things that make me go townhommmmme.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 07:47 PM on February 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

We Work Hard For Our Money, and Food

Amanda Bar

Beginning about six months ago Bridget & I started a routine where every Monday night we would meet up for dinner at The Pub, a Brit-themed restaurant in the new Pembroke Gardens shopping plaza.  Starting at 7PM you can take part in the weekly "Quiz Night" where one of the employees, aka the Quiz Master (Hi, Rob!), will ask a series of twenty questions ranging from pop culture to history.  Whatever table scores the highest amount of correct answers at the end of the round wins $25 off of their bill.  The whole idea is that we can then essentially have a free meal between the two of us, just so long as we win that $25 prize.

Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.  In fact, to my recollection, we've only won Quiz Night once (maybe twice?) over three months of constant attempts.  A meal and a drink at The Pub can go for about $15, so comparing our weekly wins to our total losses can get depressing.  Bridget & I became so disheartened that recently we've skipped out on Quiz Night altogether, and perhaps that is the smartest thing in these times.  There is a logic in spending money to save money, but when you're more often than not on the losing side of that $25 prize how much punishment does your wallet have to endure before you decide to make your meals at home?  And though we're also paying for the experience of getting out of the house and hanging with friends, I can do relatively the same thing by sitting on my back patio and playing a round of Scrabble, free of charge!

Does anyone else know of other restaurants and bars who do a similar event each week?  (Perhaps ones that we have a chance at winning??)

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:56 PM on February 16, 2009 in Entertainment , Food | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy Haunts, Unhappy Homeowner

Amanda Bar
Fellow blogger Bridget and I are currently living in my grandfather's vacated house and, while this is a dream situation with only $350 a month in rent (thanks to my dad giving me "preferential renters" treatment!), my father is eager to get me into my own home.  Recently my father dragged me to look at a foreclosed townhouse that was put on the market for $98,000, and despite my huffing and puffing even I can realize what a good deal that is considering the neighborhood (the Pembroke Pines area, and the home just next door was being sold for $209,000). 

However, it soon became apparent that the low-low price came with a high-high cost...to say that the home was a fixer-upper would be saying more than I ever could about it, seeing as I was only able to utter a few unintelligible gurgles as I was led throughout the house.  I find it to be one of the most unfortunate circumstances that I didn't have my digital camera handy to document this thing - I could have made some nice pocket change by selling the photos to the SciFi Channel!  Call it hyperbole if you will, but I'm thinking that no less than three people had been murdered in that house.  Either that, or it had recently been used as a set for the new Friday the 13th movie.  For all intents and purposes, just imagine that the exterior of the house looked like this: House
That might give you some idea as to what the interior resembled.

I can understand a deal when I see one, and I can even wrap my brain around the fun one might have in purchasing and improving upon a rundown home, but this was way too large of an undertaking for me to even consider.  Regardless of the ghosts that may or may not be in residence, the floors, ceilings, and appliances all needed major overhauling.  Even from an architectural standpoint, there were no doors (say wha?!) inside the house, and the master bedroom was a loft that looked down on the living room - hardly ideal for a person who is fond of 1) walls, and 2) privacy. 

There may be no better no time to buy a home, but I'm not going to put my wallet into it when my heart is running, screaming, in the other direction.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:40 PM on February 8, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

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