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One Day Sale Going On NOW!

Amanda Bar

Attention bargain shoppers!  I'm sure the more savvy shoppers are already aware of this, but apparently Macy's is having a one-day sale TODAY.  Completely by accident I stumbled upon this, and I snagged some pretty good deals on a bath rug ($49.99 down from $70) and some glassware ($19.79 for a 16-piece set).

Sorry for the late tip-off, but there are still several hours in the day left for you to take advantage of these savings.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:07 PM on March 31, 2010 in Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

TV Solutions at Target

Amanda Bar

As I detailed in my previous post I had been searching various furniture stores for both DVD storage options as well as a TV stand. (P.S. - thank you, readers, for the various advice!)  My solution came from a somewhat unexpected source - my father had spotted some likely furniture over at our local Super Target.

I don't really equate Target with large pieces of furniture, but apparently the Super Targets carry a variety of living room storage pieces for relatively low prices - $179.99 for the TV stand and $99.99 for the matching bookshelf (of which I bought two).  I had been awake for close to 18 hrs, it was storming outside, and I was sick of living in a house full of boxes; maybe I could have dug around a little more and saved some money by holding out for more options, but at that point I was done with the entire mess and I decided to save myself the stress.


(Click image for the full picture) I think it looks nice, and for the total cost of $402.77 it's a set I can be quite happy with for several years to come.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 11:03 PM on March 30, 2010 in Home decor , Housing , Impulsive spending , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (6)

Big Furniture and Big Price Tags

Amanda Bar

Since moving in I’ve been trying to clean up the wreck that is my new house, but I’m unable to unpack several boxes because I have yet to purchase a wall unit to store my numerous DVDs, game consoles, as well as our flatscreen TV.  Naively I figured that I would be able to go out on any given weekend and simply buy an entertainment center, but silly me…those things are expensive!

I’m used to having a lot of storage, and I had no idea that the type of wall unit I am accustomed to can run so expensive.  I've searched Haverty's, Ashley Furniture, Rooms To Go, and even Ikea; all of the large entertainment centers seem to be priced at the $1000-$1200 mark, which is about twice the amount I was looking to spend.

I've browsed through Overstock.com and they seem to have more reasonable prices, but I'll have to settle for a piece that is smaller than I had originally planned.  Another option is that I can purchase a TV stand at a drastically lower price, and somewhere along the way I can buy shelving units that (hopefully) match for my DVDs.  I like the look of one cohesive entertainment unit, but for my price range it looks like I'll have to settle for second best.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 04:28 PM on March 27, 2010 in Home decor , Housing , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (8)

Can the Magic Jack really make your phone bill disappear?

Name barWe've all seen the ads for the Magic Jack, the device that promises to free us from our monthly phone bills forever. These days, with cell phones, a lot of us have given up landlines, so spending money making long distance calls isn't the issue. But since we're a bunch who likes to yammer, the minutes do seem to fly by. (I've certainly paid my share of overage charges.)

Turns out, the Magic Jack, which costs $19.95 a year, generally does keep up with its pitch, reports my friend Shannon who has had one for several months. She and her husband were on a mission to trim their monthly bills and he suggested the gizmo that works by routing phone calls through your computer, using your Internet connection.

Here's how it works, she said. You plug the Magic Jack -- which resembles a flash drive -- into your computer and you plug your phone into your computer, too. (When you register, you can tell the company where you live so you'll be assigned a phone number with the area code you want.) Shannon said you dial using a window that appears on your screen -- not through your phone handset.

The trick? If you want to move around your home while you talk, you carry the whole mess with you.

"We have to decide if we're going to make this call and settle ourselves accordingly," Shannon said. If your computer is off, your calls go directly to voice mail. You'll be e-mailed if you have a message, which you can listen to via iTunes.

She said there are no more worries about long distance calls, or a phone bill at all since the Magic Jack works just fine for local calls, too. But setting up the device and getting it to work smoothly took some effort.

"There were a lot of starts and stops. We couldn't figure out how to get our voice mail set up. There isn't a person we can contact if we're having problems. (Everything is answered online only.) We would have dropped calls. There were times when they could hear us and we couldn't hear them or the reverse," she said.

And her brother, who lives in Italy, can't dial cell phones where he is. He gets her voice mail if the computer is off and she doesn't know he's calling, since she doesn't leave the computer on all day.

But the end result, she said, is that the phone bill is really gone.

"We don't have to worry about long distance at all. It's very cool," she said. "We have voice mail -- and we don't have any telemarketers calling."

UPDATE: A reader named Dollie informs me that if you have a cordless phone, you're free of your computer once you make a call. "You can carry the phone all over the house and outside and don't
have to settle down by the computer," she says. Thanks Dollie!

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 04:46 PM on March 24, 2010 in Savings , Utilities | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Politics of Tipping

Amanda Bar

A couple hours ago I went over to the Pembroke Lakes Mall and got myself a haircut.  The trim and style itself cost me $19.95, but then we come to the tricky part of figuring out the tip.  I know 10% is the base suggested rate, but a haircut - like certain other services - seems like it would be an exception to the rule.

I put in a quick Google search as soon as I got home and came up with answers that more or less confirm my suspicions.  According to various websites the recommended amount for salon tipping is between 15% to 20%.  Still, considering that I frequent relatively inexpensive hair salons (MasterCuts) I find that I'm more comfortable to throw a few extra dollars the stylist's way.  However, it also depends on the experience I have that day and with the stylist.  Take my haircut for today: the salon was empty and my stylist gave me a freebie blow-dry and style because I was her last customer.  The blow-dry alone would have cost me an extra $10.

Do you have an opinion on this matter?  What other services require a bend in the 10%-rule?

Also, if you're interested in an update to my recent trip to Disney World: Trying to curb my spending resulted in a partial success.  I only bought one souvenir, but it was a rather expensive exclusive Haunted Mansion ceramic platter ($35).  Still, progress is progress I suppose.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 07:59 PM on March 22, 2010 in Impulsive spending , Savings | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saving Your Dollars At Disney

Amanda Bar

This weekend I'm going on an ill-timed trip to Disney World with my family.  I say ill-timed because I just moved into my new house and I was hoping to get some unpacking & organizing done this weekend.  Regardless, this trip was planned for weeks in advance and I already paid the money for a seasonal ticket - I may as well get some use out of it!

The challenge, however, is that I am a well-documented Disney-phile and I have the bad habit of picking up useless (and often pricey) knick-knacks while there.  I don't have the money to splurge on such things this time around - which will hopefully be enough of a motivation to curb my spending - but I also no longer have the space readily available to either store or display tchotchkes.

This will be a weekend of self-restraint for me, but hopefully I can have just as much fun without all the spending.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:14 AM on March 19, 2010 in Savings , Vacations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Welcoming Myself Home

Amanda Bar

Allow me this brief moment to pat myself on the back, because this past Sunday I finally, fully and completely, moved into my new house!  Being a puny and weakly-muscled person I enlisted the help of several of my police department co-workers…all of whom failed to show.  (And don’t think I’m not spiteful enough not to list your names here individually, you jerks!)  Luckily my roommate Bridget’s friends were more reliable and we had three hunky males at our disposal for a good 4 ½ hours of heavy-lifting.

The cost for their labor was little more than food in their bellies ($50 at Subway, $25 for the follow-up ice cream – paid for 100% by me, with the food being shared by 7 people).  Bridget’s father also rented out a U-Haul which cost a set base rental fee and an additional .99 cents per mile driven; the total price of the rental ended up around $70, and Bridget and I split that at more or less $35 each.

The biggest expense of the day, however, had to be the tax on my poor and over-used muscles.  If my current soreness is any indication, this will be a fee I’ll be paying for days to come.

Stay tuned, for pictures will soon follow!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 01:46 PM on March 16, 2010 in Housing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kitchen Accomplished

Amanda Bar

The improbable occurred this weekend, and the tile installer who previously mangled my beautiful new kitchen backsplash managed to repair the damage.  I don’t know how, but he even salvaged enough of the tile that I didn’t need to order any extra (thus saving me the much needed cash).  When I last left him he was in the process of applying the grout, and once that sets for a day or two I simply wipe/clean it off with soap and water and VOILA: my kitchen is finally complete!


With this project finally over & done with I can start wrapping my head around the process of moving all of my stuff into my new home.  I can’t believe this move-in process has taken me almost 9 months, but certain house repairs (and the constant delays & setbacks that came with them) kept pushing back my plans.  Now I just have to focus on the nightmare that is sorting through, packing up, and relocating all of my odds & ends!  I don’t suppose any of my big & burly readers would be so kind as to volunteer their services for all of the heavy lifting?  Huh, huh?  (and cue the chirping crickets)


Posted by Amanda Conwell at 11:06 AM on March 12, 2010 in Home decor , Housing | Permalink | Comments (1)

My own anonymous letter from FP&L

Name bar Last month, some disgruntled former Florida Power & Light employees (or so they claimed to be) wrote a letter to the folks that regulate utilities in Tallahassee, along with the power company's board of directors.

They said, among other things, that the state's largest electricity provider was keeping its expenses artificially high' so that it could ask the state for an additional rate increase. (FP&L wasn't granted the rate increase it wanted earlier this year.)

It's still not clear if the accusations were clear.

Last month, I got my own anonymous letter from FP&L employees. Granted, I get one every month. It's otherwise known as my monthly bill. But for once, it contained good news for me.

I think.

Because of a fuel rebate many customers should have received, my bill was just $31.47. FP&L knocked off $23.48 thanks to a ruling by the Public Service Commission. You can calculate what you should be getting as your rebate here.

Judging by my bills, you can conclude I don't use much electricity. I have never broken $100, or even $90, even in the depths of summer when I can't go without turning on my central air conditioner running most of the day. But I haven't seen a bill under $35 since I lived in an apartment that lacked an in-unit washer and dryer and water heater.

But when I called FP&L about my bill, the automated system gave me a little jolt. "February bills may be higher than usual since they include high heating usage from the January cold snap," the soft-spoken electronic man told me.

Now FP&L doesn't say the same thing about air conditioners jacking up our bills in July and August, so this message struck me as odd. I just got my February bill, and it was on par with a more typical bill -- a little more than $50. Did you experience the higher-than-usual bill?

I'm guessing wearing three layers of clothing and only occasionally using the heat saved me from getting a real shock to my system.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 10:00 AM on March 9, 2010 in Housing , Utilities | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kitchen Design Disasters

Amanda Bar

This Tuesday I had work started on the backsplash to my kitchen, and I should have known that it wouldn't take long for disaster to strike.  When I go over to check on the progress of the job earlier today (Wednesday), I am greeted by this image:

Apparently during the night and over the course of the day the glass tile started peeling off the wall!  Even worse, several of the pieces had shattered against the granite countertop and tile floors.

Now here is the thing: the tile installer (Mike) began work on Tuesday but indicated that, due to prior arrangements, he could not continue the job until this Friday.  That means that on Tuesday he basically had time to slap some glue on the wall, attach the tile & go.  The problem is that this particular brand of tile did not come attached to a mesh - instead the tiles were affixed to a clear piece of tape and obviously he had never encountered this before, because instead of applying the non-taped side to the wall he instead glued the tape side to the wall. 

The piece of tape, might I add, is only there to keep the tiles in position until they are set in the glue, and then it's meant to be peeled off and thrown away; this is what is referred to as a "front-mount" application.  Without being secured by glue to the wall the tiles started to detach from the tape, thus leaving me with a backsplash that has to be completely removed & repaired.

Due to the amount of damage I know I'm going to have to order a couple extra sq. ft. of tile to replace the broken ones, but what this may cost me is currently unknown.  However, don't plan on me forking over any money for this shoddy installation!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:16 PM on March 3, 2010 in Home decor , Housing , Savings | Permalink | Comments (6)

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