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An Entire Summer of Opportunity AND Savings

Kevin Bar These days finding a job is more difficult than finding a cute girl in a comic shop, especially in magazines or other journalism related careers. However, while searching for a full-time job in my field, I decided to look into obtaining a temporary job in the meantime--somewhere like Blockbuster or Barnes & Noble or Gilligan's (a really awesome restaurant within walking distance of where I currently live. Not the island full of castaways. Although that Mary Ann was quite the looker).

Unfortunately, everywhere I looked wasn't hiring--at least not yet.

It seems summertime is fast approaching and as such many stores plan on compensating by hiring more employees in about 2 weeks. Now, for those unemployed and searching like I am, I highly encourage looking into this. After all, a temporary job is much better than no job.

I understand that a regular customer service job doesn't seem like much--you make very little, do a lot of tedious tasks and every so often you deal with that one customer that makes you want to bang your head against the wall. (For example, while working at a movie theater, I often told people that a movie was sold out. They then proceeded to ask me about 20 times if I was sure. As if I was lying the previous 19 times and by asking again and again they would finally get me to admit I was just joking).

Anyway, for those hesitant to get a regular job for those reasons, there is a simple way to counteract the cons. See, back in high school I got a job at the local movie theater. And while I often dealt with customers like Mr. Incredulous, I also got to see countless movies for free. And for a movie nut like me, that was a great perk that I took advantage of quite often. Then in college, I got a job at the local Blockbuster, where I got a bunch of free rentals each week. Another great perk that allowed me to watch every Nightmare on Elm Street back to back, just because.

My point is thus, get a job with perks you'll enjoy. If you love a certain brand of clothes, get a job at the store and take advantage of the discount. You like California Pizza Kitchen? My sister worked there and got a free lunch every day. This time, I'm looking into a job at Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million (just because I love movies and television doesn't mean I don't like reading either).

Getting a summer job while looking for permanent employment is a great idea. And getting a job dealing with a product you often enjoy not only makes the job more bearable, it can also save you money. After all, whereas before you'd pay $10 for that movie ticket, now you get to walk in for free.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 05:49 PM on April 30, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4)


Name barI was e-mailed an ad today that declared "The perfect summer pant is just $69!"

"Just $69"?

My definition of inexpensive, especially when it comes to clothes, is $20 or less. And it has to fit right -- tailoring is great, but it jacks up the price of an otherwise sale-priced item.

Even when times were good, I never spent $69 -- or $59, or $49 -- on a pair of pants. My friends don't make overt references to me looking like a sloppy mess or ragdoll, either, so I figure my less-pricey slacks are just fine.

I will invest money in a good suit, but that's about the only thing (besides my prom dress, back in 1995) that I've ever spent more than $100 on. And at least a suit is two pieces.

I love buying new clothes as much as I love telling people how great a deal I got on them. One of my recent favorites: a $150 printed dress that fit like a glove for $23. It was brand new, not from a thrift store, and it was simply the very last one on the rack.

What about you?

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 10:29 AM on April 29, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sealing the Deal on Foreclosures

Amanda Bar
Apparently when you go in to purchase a foreclosure everything generally occurs at Ludicrous Speed.  My father only just came across this property five days ago, and yet I've already thrown my hat into the bidding ring for a whopping $140,000 (with $149,000 being the listed asking price).  Being a first-time buyer, as well, unprepared me for the various hoops I'd have to jump through in order to have the foreclosure bank simply look at my offer.  So not only am I doing everything at a break-neck pace, but I'm constantly getting curveballs thrown at me via our realtor when she comes up with new requirements I need to attain in order to secure my bid.

For example, three days into our bid proceedings and well after we had hoped to have things secured - and at 8:30 at night, might I add - we were told that we had to secure a 5% cashiers check from the bank where I am obtaining my mortgage loan (Bank of America).  That's $7,000 that the foreclosure bank is asking for proof of up front, regardless of the fact that I have my approved loan certificate for $100,000...but whatever, I'm not a bank and I cannot begin to comprehend the mind of one.  A day after that - and right after I obtained the $7,000 cashiers check - I was informed that I also needed to get a copy of my FICO score.  We're now into day four of the bidding war and, excuse me if this sounds too obvious, shouldn't the realtor have already known we would have needed all of this paperwork beforehand??  Is it customary for the foreclosure bank to throw out new and/or random requirements during the bidding process, or is my realtor simply incompetent?  So off to Equifax.com I go, and $15.95 later I have my entire credit report in hand and faxed off to the interested parties.

I can only guess what dog and pony show I'll be asked to perform next, but at least my bid has officially been entered.  And if I actually manage to become a...gasp!...homeowner, you can expect plenty of pictures and pleas for decorative advice.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 11:14 PM on April 28, 2009 in Savings | Permalink | Comments (2)

When opportunity knocks, sprint to the door

Kevin Bar As you know, since being laid off from Wizard I've been on the search for new job opportunities. Needless to say, with the current economic climate--cloudy with a chance of suck--I've really found nothing in my field available. Until now.

My good buddy Josh Wigler--or Wigles as we fondly call him--informed me about a writing position opening up for the Web site /Film. The site focuses on everything related to movies and television, providing the latest news on upcoming films, reviews on those already out and general thoughts and discussions about both. If you're a fan of the silver screen, or the home box edition, I highly suggest checking the site out. The news always flows way into the wee hours of the morning and provides great topics of conversation. For example, did you know director Robert Rodriguez is producing a "Predators" movie? Cause that's happening. And I'm excited!

Anyway, being the entertainment nut I am, I frequent the site quite often, so I'm already a fan. Also, it fits right into my particular area of expertise and keeps me entrenched in the movie and television fields I love. And as a Web site-based position, I could stay in SC or move to wherever I wanted to at any point in time.

Were I to be accepted, I'd start off in a freelance capacity, but if I prove myself I'd get hired full-time. Hopefully this all works out because being employed would be pretty awesome.

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 05:29 PM on April 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

The magic beans

Name bar The first weekend of my life as a former full-time employee included three parties -- one birthday dinner, one pool party and one potluck. All of them required me to bring something, either something homemade or my open wallet.

Knowing the splurge would happen at the Saturday night soiree at a hibachi restaurant, I was trying to go inexpensive on the other two -- but I wanted it so that no one could tell.

Finger foods seemed like the way to stretch my dollar furthest. I figure, you pile things high on a single platter and no one ever expects to end up full after sampling.

I remembered an old recipe for black bean dip that was a crowd pleaser -- and inexpensive. (Nevermind that the labor consists of whirling the whole thing in the food processor for a few minutes, and slicing up some pita for dipping.) I made a double batch of what's listed below.

Here's the breakdown and the instructions.

1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained. (1 can costs about 70 cents, less if on sale)
4 teaspoons tomato paste (the smallest can, which is more than enough, is about 60 cents)
3 tablespoons olive oil (Admittedly, I always have this on hand and don't know what I paid for it. I'm sure you have some in your pantry too.)
1 clove garlic (and entire head was 27 cents, at $2.29 a pound.)
2 teaspoons lime juice (1 lime at ethnic grocery, 10 cents)
2 green onions (entire bunch, 50 cents)
Salt to taste (You have this on hand, too, right?)
3 whole wheat pitas (1 package, 6-count, $1.29)

Whirl everything but the pitas in the blender until smooth.*

Slice the pitas into small triangles. Dip into bean mixture.

Total price, including leftover items: $3.46. Unknowing praise: Priceless.

Bean dip2009-04-27 *I have an old, cranky food processor and nearly committed a major party foul. As I was spooning the dip into my serving bowl, I found the garlic, untouched by the blade. I had to scoop everything back into the machine and give it another go.)

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 05:23 PM on April 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How much green will my garden grow?

Name bar I think it's time I planted a recession garden. I have a yard, which is attached to the house that I make mortgage payments on, and my income is about to be sliced by a quarter, so it's probably long over due for a yard that yields something besides a bill from my lawn guy.

I have one little patch of mulched-over dirt, right outside the kitchen, conveniently, that has lots of shade, and a fair amount of sun. It's safe from the weed-laden yard, so I might actually be able to keep things alive in there.

I'm thinking herbs, tomatoes (if it's not too late in the season to plant them. I really don't know what I'm doing) and maybe some lettuce. Just five or six plants, I'm guessing. Blindly.

Growing up, my parents' yard yielded one bounty after another. Spicy peppers, squash, curry leaves, lemon grass, mint. Their green thumb hasn't worn off on me. I kill houseplants through overindulgence or utter neglect, so this garden experience will be a real test.

And I'm going to try to rope a friend into planting one at the same time, so I have some idea whether my garden is a success or yet another failed investment.

I guess I have to make a point to keep the plants inexpensive, so I'm not undoing the savings I hope to reap along with my produce.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 06:36 PM on April 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Moving On Up, To the Cheap-Side

Amanda Bar

Yesterday morning my father dragged me out of bed and into the nearest Bank of America to get assessed for a mortgage loan.  Crunch-time has apparently arrived, and my dad is eager to scoop up a property for me while prices are (relatively) low.  I've never, to my knowledge, had a credit check before, but I was not necessarily surprised to know that I was pre-approved for a loan.  I've had one credit card and one debit card with Bank of America since my junior year of high school, and I've only ever been late on a payment once (what do you want for me? It was college!).  Despite this good news, I found the whole process to be a bit overwhelming - and thank gawd my father was there.  Talk of ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) and down payments - and the mulitude of numbers and figures they entail - quickly breezed over my head.

Home For what I'm making (about $34,000, currently) what is a reasonable monthly mortgage payment?  And for my lifestyle (single female) what is an appropriately sized house?  I still have the idea that my current roommate, Bridget, is going to transistion with me over to any new property, but I can't rely on that forever.  And another huge concern is whether or not I'll be able to afford a house in a desirable neighborhood, because regardless of the price of the home, if the surrounding area risks my life and limbs on a daily basis I'd rather just stay put in my current rental situation.  One thing I know for certain, though, is that if I plan on getting a house within my desired price-range ($75,000 to a max of $125,000) I'm going to need to start my parental groveling for assistance.  I have my foot in the door as far as a solid savings account goes, but - who knew?! - houses are pretty expensive, regardless of the economy.  I've quickly found that the road to independence is one paved with financial dependency - to a bank, or to (hopefully!) loving parents. 

Mom, if you read this, those realtor fees sure are pricey!  Any chance that you can lend your totally angelic daughter a hand (preferably one filled with cash)?? 

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:28 PM on April 22, 2009 in Savings | Permalink | Comments (2)

It's not easy being green -- so pick up these Earth Day freebies [Update]

Bridget Bar2
It really is not easy being green.

Kermit was right back in the day. Pay no attention to his new trendy t-shirts and commercials that preach the opposite.

It's kind of a pain to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. How many of you bought those Earth-friendly reusable bags and actually bring them with you when you shop? And do you own one, or enough to do a full load of grocery shopping? I have a few. Only once did I bring that bag with me during a shopping trip. And I only saw one person bring their bags with them to Publix.

And those energy-efficient light bulbs are expensive! That certainly isn't easy on the wallet. Although of course they say it saves you money in the long run with your bills.

But since Earth Day is Wednesday, companies are making it a little easier on you to be green by offering promotions to get you in the store to buy green items.

This past Sunday I picked up a free energy-saving CFL light bulb that Home Depot was giving away. I then browsed their garden department and was surprised at all the veggies and herbs you can buy. I wasn't sure if I could have the time to care for a garden, but I'm going to think about it some more. I didn't realize all the different varieties there are out there!

Publix has a coupon for a free reusable bag when you buy a 2-pack of GE Energy Smart CFL bulbs (plus a $1-off the price of the bulbs). They also have a whole sustainability site dedicated to helping you get in a green routine.

Mickey-waterbottle The Disney Store is giving away a really cute Mickey reusable shopping bag a green water bottle when you bring in three plastic bottles on Wednesday.

[UPDATE 4/22 - Sorry but I was wrong about the shopping bag when I first made this post. The website makes it look like you get a free bag because it is displayed next to the announcement. I went today and the free gift is the water bottle, which is also quite cute! I bought the bag anyway ($2.50 - pictured below) because buying the bag goes to help plant a tree.]

Mickeytote Those are just a few promotions I've stumbled upon -- any others Earth Day freebies you know of?

After I pick up these freebie bags, I'd have total of five reusable shopping bags. Maybe then I'll finally get motivated to use them when I shop.

It might not be easy -- or rather, convenient -- to be green. But it certainly is the right thing to do.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 04:06 PM on April 20, 2009 in Coupons , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Cost of Art

Kevin Bar In between my job hunting I've decided to start a project that may one day hopefully grow into something more, let's say, monetarily rewarding.

When I was younger, I used to draw quite a bit. But as time went on, I gradually fell out the artistic realm. However, now with more time on my hands, I've decided to reenter the World of Artistry and start working on a web comic idea that my roommate and I came up with back in college. For those unaware of this internet phenomena, web comics are basically the same concept as the comic strips found in the Sunday paper except it's entirely online based. Some of the most popular and successful ones are Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del.

Anyway, since I've only now started drawing again, I make quite a few mistakes--which led to the eraser on the back of my pencil disappearing faster than a speeding bullet. I decided to do some research by Googling the phrase "best eraser," and I discovered the best recommendations were for the STAEDTLER Mars Plastic and the Sanford Magic Rub. I headed over to my local Office Depot and quickly found the two erasers: a pack of 4 Staedtler went for $3.32 while the Magic Rub had a pack of 3 for $1.99.

While there I also decided to check out the pencil section, and to my delight there was a MASSIVE sale with supplies up to half off. I figured I might as well get some pencils; however, this task proved a bit of a challenge. Up until this point, the only pencil I knew was the standard #2HB. Apparently, in the Art Supplies section, that pencil doesn't exist. Instead there's a whole array of pencils with labels like 9H and 6B. I had no idea what these numbers meant. I found myself holding a two-pack of 2H in one hand and a two-pack of 2B in another looking back and forth between like Mr. Burns in "the Simpsons" trying to figure out the difference between Ketchup and Catsup. 

Thankfully, I managed to find an artist's kit there that informed me that H pencils are mainly for drafting and B pencils are for sketching. I ended up leaving the store with the Staedtler erasers, a two-pack of 2B and a two-pack of 4B at $1 each, and a pencil set that included 6 pencils of different ranges and a metallic sharpener for only $3.

Even though I only went in for a single eraser, I managed to stumble onto a great sale that led me to learn quite a bit about pencils in regards to drawing and stock up on art supplies for months to come. Knowledge and supplies for under $10. You can't beat that with a stick!

Posted by Kevin Mahadeo at 05:41 AM on April 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3)

If the shoe fits, then fix it!

Bridget_Bar2 A couple days ago the heal of my black boot started falling apart.

It wasn't a surprise. Those boots are practically the only pair of shoes I've worn to work in the past year.  

I tend to wear a shoe -- or boot in this case -- untill it falls apart, and then I'll buy a new one. It's not how the female species typically operates when it comes to shoes, but it's how I roll.

But this time, I didn't run to the mall when this one broke. Instead of hunting around for a new pair, I took it to a shoe repair place.

I've never been to any shoe repair place before, but I remembered this one because it had a little shoe maker in the window, and I passed it everytime I went to the movies. It's called Humberto's Shoe & Luggage Repair in Pembroke Pines, west of I-75 in the Westfork Plaza next to the Regal theater.

I decided to take three pairs: badly scuffed brown boots, a dressy heal that needed the bottom fabric re-glued, and the black boots with the broken heal.

Two days later they were in great shape. Cost me $37.10 to fix three pairs. Not too shabby!

Shoesticker2 Only downside is that this place put this nasty stickers on the bottom to keep track of the orders. And they don't come off easy. I'm gonna have to buy some Goo Gone to get it all off. But in the end, I'm happy I took them in and saved some money. 

I asked the owner if his business was up because of the economy and with people trying to save money by getting things repaired. He said he has noticed a little increase -- mostly with expensive men's dress shoes -- but nothing dramatic. Judging from the mass amount of repaired shoes I saw that were ready to be picked up, I'd say he must be doing pretty well.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 10:23 AM on April 16, 2009 in Clothing , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

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