Congratulations to Dr. Ronald Pies

Frugal Fiction takes pride in offering works by talented independent authors, and one of our own has a new book scheduled for release in April, 2008. The unique voice that offers us Welcome to Eutopia, Mr. Bok for only $3.99 has now penned Everything Has Two Handles: The Stoic’s Guide to the Art of Living published by Hamilton Books.

“In this breathtaking tour of ancient wisdom, Ron Pies, M.D., makes the philosophy of the Stoics come alive for the modern reader. Touching on our most urgent contemporary problems—the meaning of happiness, the role of pleasure, the importance of wisdom, friendship, balance, harmony, and anger—the Stoics provide a surprisingly fresh and instructive set of principles about how to live. With numerous examples from the world’s philosophical and religious traditions, as well as vignettes about people struggling to understand their lives in the 21st century, Pies has created a guide filled with warmth, clear thinking, strong values, and the deep pleasure that comes from our recognition of the enduring truths.”—Richard M. Berlin, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School; poet and columnist Psychiatric Times

In the course of this compact and insightful work, Dr. Ronald Pies, tells us a little about what happiness is, and a lot about how to achieve it. The first chapter begins with a reminder from the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, that “things do not touch the soul.” This, explains Pies, “is the keystone in the arch of Stoic philosophy.” In a sense, then, the rest of the book is an extended meditation on how we might avoid letting things touch our souls too much. But, it is much more than simply a meditation. From here, Pies goes on to offer readers a well-researched, often witty explanation of how Stoic philosophy—as it resonates not only with Christian and Judaic, but also with Buddhist and Hindu worldviews—can guide and improve their lives. In the process, he draws on his own considerable clinical experience to offer composite case vignettes, both positive and negative, that illustrate the principles he is discussing.

Ronald Pies, M.D. is Professor of Psychiatry and Lecturer on Bioethics and Humanities at S.U.N.Y. Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, N.Y.; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Psychiatric Times. Dr. Pies is the author of several psychiatric textbooks, and a guide to psychotherapy for the general public (A Consumer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Psychotherapist, Jason Aronson, 1997). Dr. Pies is also a published poet (Creeping Thyme, Brandylane) and the author of a collection of short stories (Zimmerman’s Tefillin, PublishAmerica). He lives with his wife, Nancy Butters MSW, near Boston.


St. Patrick’s Day – We’re All Thinkin’ Green

In honor or St. Patty’s day, I thought some tips on savin’ the green might be appropriate. In fact, it’s a double entendre – as in money and the environment. Here’s my starter list of some great “green” tips. Be sure to add your ideas.

1) Well, duh, of course, buy corned beef. It’s on sale everywhere and crockpot friendly – no heating up the whole kitchen. You’ll save time, money and electricty. 

2) I’m not bragging, but it’s sunny in Arizona, like in the 80’s. Which means lots of green – weeds! After a tour of the Home Depot and serious sticker shock, I pulled my own. The stuff that won’t harm other plants works poorly. The stuff that will kill the varmits isn’t particulary good for the groundwater it’ll eventually make its way to, and last but not least, it’s good exercise if you don’t mind the blisters. That’s green on two counts – cost and the environment. As for blisters… Neosporin is cheaper than the ‘won’t kill ’em anyway’ stuff.

3) Warm, in AZ, also means high electric costs so a February 18 article in the Arizona Republic, “Waste of Watts,” caught my attention. Most of us think in terms of turning things off to save electricity. I had no idea the little buggers we can’t live without are sucking up watts anyhow, like to the tune of $3 BILLION a year. For most folks, that’s about $50 a year. If you want to see what it’s costing you, head over to  Frugal Fiction and opt in. I’ll send you the spreadsheet.

4) Think spring cleaning for cash. Best Buy has a trade-in center where you can see what your worthless dinosaurs are worth – cell phones, old PCs (just be sure to fully clean the HD first), game systems, cameras, etc. Fill your pockets instead of the landfill.

5) Right now aluminum is going for about $0.55 a pound. If you haven’t been recycling soda and beer cans before, now might be a good time to start. Don’t use that many cans? How about being the collection point for a group effort. The income generated could help support your kids’ baseball team, dance class, school, church group, whatever.

6) Instead of joining a gym, save the $$ and exercise green. This article, “Going Green: Tips for Eco-Friendly Exercise,” has some great tips for trimming more than just the size of your waist.

7)  Oil – $110 a barrel… Need I say more? Carpool, ride a bike, walk, route your trips for efficiency (in miles and time), stay home. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, our national average is about 23 miles per gallon. Gas is quickly approaching $3.50 per gallon. Skipping 100 miles a month keeps $35 in your pocket and reduces pollution. If you walked or rode your bike, you dropped some calories, too.

Finally, you all know my love of anything coupon. I have to offer kudos to the Proctor and Gamble folks. Redeem their coupons during March & April and they’ll give a liter of clean water to someone in a developing country. That’s green in your pocket that’ll really make you feel good. 

Rebating: It’s not for Wimps!

Today I was scouring Sunday’s ad circulars for some FFF – fabulous frugal finds.  And Walgreen’s, as they do most weeks, had three rebate promotions, which reminded me I owe you this post. 

The items offered were Nature Made vitamins -$8, Colgate advanced toothpaste – $2.99, and Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew – $12.99.  So, if free is always good, why didn’t I run down and purchase these? Because in order to get Free, I have to deliver $26 to Walgreen’s now. 

Successful rebating requires that you determine whether your time and effort are worth the rebate amount. For active rebaters, it’s easy to have several hundred dollars pending return at any given time. You know your budget. Set an amount you’re willing to have in limbo. For me, the decision is a combination of the rebate value, my desire quotient for the product, and what I can buy the item for without a rebate.

Let’s take the Walgreen’s offerings:

Vitamins – $8. This time it’s a no. I’m stocked up right now, vitamins are offered BIGIF weekly, and I have coupons. I’ll wait until I can get two bottles for $8, use my coupons and end up with 2 for $6. Same with the toothpaste. It’s on sale for $1.99 this week elsewhere and I have a coupon. I’ll pay $0.99. After a stamp, it costs me $0.60 more, but there’s no aggravation cost. The Skin Renew is a definite maybe. If I thought my skin would look like Sarah Jessica Parker’s afterwards…

Rebating can be very helpful for a frugal budget, but, in truth, I’m not a fan. It’s a lot of work. It takes time, effort, exceptional organizational skills, and, on those occasions when you don’t receive your money back, grrrr guts to fight for it. Let’s be honest, if they truly wanted you to have the item for free, they would have issued a free coupon. Manufacturers count on people not following through with the required elements to receive the refund.  Think of it as running hurdles. You’re at the starting line, your money is the  finish line. Here are my tips for navigating the hurdles in between.

1) Read the terms & conditions. Make sure before you purchase that the rebate program is what you expect. There is nothing worse than expecting $$$ back and having coupons arrive in the mail.

2) Buy each item on a separate receipt.

2) Fill out the rebate form IMMEDIATELY, prepare a mailing envelope and attach the receipt. Put everything in the envelope.

3) Since most times the manufacturer requires a UPC from the product, you need to be sure you can consume the product by the “must be postmarked” date. Often rebate lead times are short, and there’s nothing worse than purchasing an item for “free” and missing the rebate due date. Here’s a tip: Cut out the UPC code from the box, bag, whatever, and use packing tape to reseal the package. If it’s shampoo, lotion, something like that, you might be able to transfer it to a bottle you have on hand.  Whenever possible, mail the rebate when you first purchase the product. Oftentimes, you wouldn’t have bought the item if not for the rebate. Don’t cost yourself money by missing your refund.

4) If you can’t mail everything immediately, use your email calendar to send yourself reminders of due dates. Schedule a reminder for a week before the rebate’s “gotta be postmarked by” date. Then, you have some breathing room to use the item and find a mailbox.

5) IMPORTANT: Before you mail, make sure you have a copy of all the required information for the rebate: the form, the receipt, the UPC, anything else they requested. Another tip: I staple everything to a sheet of paper so nothing is “lost” and copy that.

6) Now, it’s time to set up your tracking tools. I use Excel and a file folder. My 8 1/2 x 11 copy goes in the folder by date mailed. I set the spreadsheet up with the Product, Date Mailed, Amount Due, and Expected Receipt Date (like in 6 – 8 weeks.)

7) Some rebates offer on-line tracking. If your item does, check for the status of your submission. If not, wait patiently.

8) Don’t get antsy yet.

9) OK, start checking the mailbox.

10) Woohoo. It’s here!! Remove the copy from your file. I like to mark them with the received date and keep them to track what I’ve saved.  You may want to toss  it – just be sure to shred first. Then, mark it complete on your spreadsheet.

Now, what if you followed steps 1 – 9 and nothing arrives? It’s a week past the 6 -8 weeks, then 10 days. Here’s where grrrr guts come in, which we recently had to employ with Fry’s Electronics.  We purchased Norton’s 3 computer virus protection for *Free* after the rebate. $50 is definitely worth the effort so I employed all of the above, tracking my submission on Symantec’s site. However, when the check was due to arrive, guess what? We didn’t qualify for the rebate according to Fry’s. Thanks to our documentation and followup – better known as harp, call, complain – we received the rebate.

Granted, I don’t rebate often, but this is the only time I’ve had to employ grrrr tactics. If you follow the rebate directions your money normally arrives. But, occasionally mail is lost, usually not by the post office, but by the rebate processing company.

Check out this article, and no, I’m not picking on Frys. It just happens to be an article we found when employing our grrrr guts.

If you can provide all the documentation and follow up with your own grrrr, you’ll usually succeed in getting your $$$. Like I said, it ain’t for wimps.

“Read to Your Child 15 Minutes a Day”

For those on a tight budget, this public service announcement can be as guilt-inducing as it is productive. Many frugal parents utilize the library as an excellent community resource for a constant stream of new works to excite their child’s imagination and offer learning lessons. But what if the library hours or locations aren’t convenient?
Frugal Fiction has a solution. This newly launched E-book site provides frugal fiction for a frugal family budget.  Moms and Dads can “turn” the pages with their children in a fun-to-read 3D technology as they preview the book. After the preview, the book can be downloaded in minutes for only $3.99.
Annie Williams, creator of Frugal says, “My goal is to make reading E-ffordable so every parent can share interesting, fun new tales with their children, and perhaps even rediscover their own love of reading. Thanks to our talented authors, we are able to offer wonderful stories sure to engage and delight all ages at a price that’s hard to find even in the used book market.”
A Frugal Fiction book? $3.99.  Reading to your child 15 minutes a day? Priceless!