7 and Holding…

Whew! Back above 7,000 after that scary skirting of 6,000. Maybe (hopefully) the number is 7. So, I’m pulling weeds yesterday ($8 – $10 for  weed killer – bad for the environment or free and 157 squats – good for the pear in me – no brainer) and thinking, what more can we do?  We lost $11 TRILLION  last year!  A few coupons ain’t gonna cover that…

But just like the market’s 400 point surge on two little pieces of positive info (Bernanke saying it’ll be over this year and Citigroup having, woohoo, two profitable months) we can realize a big positive as well by combining LOTS of little things. Pulling weeds, using coupons, becoming DIY’ers, bartering, giving things up, settling for less. There’s no one thing that’ll do it, but a combined attack on your expenditures can deliver strong results.

So, from the person who (yes, I admit it) washes out her baggies  to reuse them, which saves $ and landfill space, I searched out some things to think about.

First thing I found – a free haircut thanks to Herbal Essences.  Well, sorta. You have to buy stuff, and then do a rebate kind of thing to get the free cut. If you find it on sale and have coupons and would use the stuff anyway, it might make sense. But, if any of these is not true, free costs you more than that $9 cut at wherever. This week I’m buying Fructis at .99 with $1 off coupons. I did find, however, that this site also offers coupons. The right sale and you might score. Personally, I like Herbal Essences. I just like free better.

Must be spring time means a new “do” because I found two other hair articles. This one, “Haircuts and car repairs on the cheap,” seemed like an odd pairing. Then it clicked – chop shops!  Kidding. Actually, it points out a way to save money and help education at the same time : Use tech school labor.  Yes, you may be a little leery of that tattooed, green-haired, piercings everywhere tech touching your hair or your car, but relax. My parents freaked when boys let their hair touch the collar. Things change, and I’m thinking, if anything, this younger generation has an incredibly high tolerance for pain. Given the economic conditions, good for them. It’ll come in handy.

The last one didn’t wow me., but this is about finding lots of little ideas. Catchy title – “I’d Rather be a Brunette.”  Personally, I’d rather be bald and only have to worry about the cost of razors…

Need a vacation? Volunteer! Need repairs? Strap on that tool belt! Want to talk to your spouse/parent/child who moved to India for a job? Want more deals? Become a secret agent. (I think the ol’ saying is “ask and you shall receive.”) Can’t hurt to try. Have some money? That’s pretty trick (yes, I know, showing my age. That went out in ???) Need some new duds? Think thrift shops. Consignment shops are filled thanks to people trying to generate cash and you can score. Really desperate? You may be worth something.Not in my top ten ideas for generating income, but blood banks are always thirsty. Speaking of which, how about some income those IRS rascals can’t touch? Now, ready to  stock away some money since you’ve found all these savings? Banks want it. May them pay for it!

My “I love you, man” award of the week goes to a Chicago sheriff who’s reluctant to process evictions. Since we’ve got the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio, I’m not holding out much hope for folks here, but I applaud the efforts of someone who’s not letting lenders get another freebie. I’m thinking the bailout dollars are enough. If they need to foreclose, let ’em actually follow the proper processes.

But, in the end, the best advice for these tumultuous times is the same thing that brought the market back to 7 – a little positive thought. Letting all the gloom and doom control your life won’t change whatever’s going to happen out there. But, a little Zen in our lives might make it easier to deal with. Here’s to optimism!

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Doing Christmas!

Before you’ve even cleaned the turkey you’re scouring the ads. Who’s got deals? What time do they start? Ohhhhh, look, should I camp out for that killer price on whatever?

Stop, stop, stop! STOP!

And, accept this critical fact:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KILLER SALES PRICE WHEN YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT! 

Well, actually, there is. It’s a KILLER sales price because it kills your resolve, kills your budget, kills your plan to DO Christmas this year instead of BUY it.

Christmas is an annual addiction: the ads, the lists, the “go here first, then here, then here” mania that has us grabbing and shoving and stuffing shopping carts as we’re swiping, swiping, swiping without thinking about the bills that will show up in January.

Don’t tempt yourself. Stay home on Black Friday. The frenzy, the noise, the mass of humanity works like the ding, ding, ding of slot machines. It lures, draws, and downright sucks you into the insanity. “Everyone else is doing it, they have money, they’re spending, why can’t I?” you whine.  

Because you’ve accepted reality. You understand your financial position. You don’t want January’s hangover from Christmas’ overindulgence. You have a plan. A DO plan. Which means you must avoid those who don’t.

You can already feel the withdrawal. God, it hurts not to be a player in the annual “Save Retailers” campaign. Breathe deep and repeat after me: “Charity starts at home. Charity starts at home.” Keep repeating until your brain accepts – 20, 30, 40 times… Be patient. This could take awhile

Okay, now you’re ready. Set the ads aside. FAR aside. Using ‘em to get a fire started works best. Stuff the turkey. Peel the potatoes. Bake the pies. Savor every smell, every taste. Really talk to people you’re sharing the day with. When you’re not focused on the Friday free-for-all you can actually enjoy Thursday’s blessings. Eat too much (a reward for the self-control you’ll be exercising by skipping the Friday fiasco.) Watch some football. Hug everyone. Be grateful for what you have. Give thanks. After all, it’s been a great day, and, tomorrow you can sleep in!

Oh, God, Friday, more ads… So hard to ignore. Itchy gas-pedal foot. Mall, mall, just for an hour…

DO NOT SUCCUMB! Guess what? The mall is gonna be there, all the way through Christmas. And, I’m guessing, the ads will get better. And better. And better. This may actually be the year of the procrastinator. Take out a sheet of paper. Make the list – remember the “pared down, these people really matter” list?  Chances are, your first effort won’t be that pared. Try numbering the people. “If I could only buy for one person…” Give them a 1. “If I could only buy for 2…” Someone gets a 2. Do this until everyone has a number.

Now, write down what you can DO. Cook? Bake? Arts & Crafts? Lawn work? Errands? Fix-it stuff? Damn, look how talented you are! Keep thinking. Cleaning? Sewing? Car repairs? Spending time with someone? WOW! You have an almost unlimited budget of stuff you can DO!! Stuff that really matters.

Use Black Friday to keep you in the black. Work on that list. Match your talents to those “matter” people. Pick projects. Determine the time you’ll need to complete them. Make your DO plan. Feel great. Not a single elbow from fighting over the last Boo-boo Baby whatever. No shopping cart derby crushed toes. Not a single foul, nasty, unkind word or look tossed your way.  

This weekend plan your holiday; budget realistically, and focus on what matters, who matters. You do. Your family does. A roof over your head, food, heat, gas in the car – these are critical. Boo-boo Baby and electronic gadgets and stuff aren’t. To retailers maybe, but not to you. Relax and know this can be the most stress-free season yet because you choose to make it so. It can be the most giving season yet because you choose to make it so. It can be the most blessed time ever because you choose to make it so. With your mindset, not your wallet. Get that, and you’re well on your way to understanding frugal.

And, just so you won’t go all berserk on me before I get back with some project ideas, try these to get you thru the weekend:

1) Sort old photos (you know, from before we had digital) and separate by person. There’s gifts in those memories. (more on that later.)

2) Clean. If you’re like many, there’s gifts in them thar closets.

3) Get out the decorations. Dust ’em off. Have a family dinner, grilled cheese and soup, and discuss past years. Start building your holiday joy quotient by remembering what you remember most? Was it a gift? Or was it feelings and relationships that warm you deepest?

4) Send out cards. No, not $10 a box, $.42 to mail cards. Email cards. Get the kids involved. Have them send cards to Grandma & Grandpa, too. And Aunt Bertha. And Uncle Fred. (it’s good training.) Free means you don’t have to send one signed, “Love, Susan, Dan, Jeffrey, Alicia, Allison, Jeremy, Joshua, Bobbie, Carol, Willie, Snuggles and Spot.” Everyone’s involved (well, Dan may still expect you to cover him, and unless Snuggles and Spot are really special, they’re on you too, but the kids get to send their own message.)  You can send one or one a week or one a day. You’ll be building someone else’s joy quotient with each message. Or you can make cards – you know, colored paper, crayons, markers, glitter, glue, messy… Fun! Either are great ways to interact with the kids, show a little creativity and let loved ones know you’re really thinking of them, not just checking “send cards,” off the holiday to-do list.

5) Go to the park. Exercise with the kids. (Hey, we gotta get rid of that reward somehow.) Or visit the library. Read a Christmas classic. 

Back next week with project ideas. Until then, chant with me, “Charity starts at home, charity starts at home…”

Happy Thanksgiving!!