Posted tagged ‘shopping’

Let’s Hear It For The FURMINATOR

February 28, 2010

I got home last night at about 5pm.  I thought about picking my dog up, but I decided I didn’t feel like it.  So I came home, said hi to Lucy (my cat), and slept until 7am this morning.  For those of you that lack basic math skills, that’s 14 hours of sleep. WHEW.

So I got up this morning, cleaned my apartment, and brushed Lucy.  Usually I use some really crappy brush that I probably got from the dollar store or something, and it doesn’t really do much.  It pulls out maybe 3 hairs, and then 15 seconds later she is wandering around shedding all over everything again.  Today I wisened up and decided to try out my dog’s furminator on her.  And for those of you with dogs that shed a lot but you haven’t heard of the furminator yet, you are missing out on the best invention EVER.  Seriously.

So I don’t know if these wonderful inventions from the heavens are made for cats, but this is what I got before Lucy started gnawing on my fingers, the brush, and my arms.

 

That is a lot of hair.  I even compacted it all in a dense hairball.  Gross.

And when I showed Lucy, of course she grabbed the whole thing between her front paws with a death grip and tried to eat the whole thing.  I actually gave her a little piece of it just to see if she really would follow through and eat the hair, and she did.  I should have known better. It’s like she’s upset that the hair is no longer on her and she needs to eat it so she can grow some more.  Because she needs it.  And I need more of it on my couch.

Haggling – An Art for the Ages

January 29, 2010

I’ll say it: I can’t haggle.

“Gee, Heather. Why not?”

Well, how nice of you to ask!  The problem is that I tend to be too much of a pushover when it comes to things that I’m not sure I deserve.

To me, haggling takes a lot of confidence.  I can’t waltz into a department store and say, “Hey, I see this sweater is $50, but I think it’s only worth $35.  Give it to me for $35” without flinching.  Of course the salesperson is going to say “no”, but it’s a haggler’s job to tell them why they should.  I can’t tell them why they should if I don’t have a reason for it myself and so if there is any type of resistance I am down for the count. 

Don’t get me wrong, when I believe I am being unfairly treated, I am the first to say “HELL to the NO”, but I can’t make myself believe that I am deserving a better price than retailers are asking for (unless, of course, the item is on sale — then I’m on it like I was on the jar full of gummy bears sitting next to me earlier this evening… which incidentally I ate about 75 gummy bears just before dinner tonight and now I have a MONSTER headache).  How do you people do it?  How do you say “HEY! Give me a deal! Now! …. PLEASE!”

I was reading an article titled In Tough Economic Times, Shoppers Take Haggling to New Heights in the Washington Post.  In it, the journalist learns about haggling and tries it out in various places to see what kind of a deal he can get.  By the end of the article, you find out he saved $730 dollars in a week.  What the hell?  I want to save $730 in a week…

He haggles in Macy’s.  He haggles at Best Buy.  He haggles for flowers.  He haggles with Verizon.  And did you know people haggle professionally?!  Whatever deal they get with you, they will split with you!  Well… holy effing crap. 

Apparently the key is to look for an edge.  Why should you get those DVDs for $5 less?  Because your ShopSavvy app says the store down the street is selling it $5 cheaper.  What?  You think those reindeer should be 75% off instead of 50%?  Yes, because they have little scratches on them that nobody will ever see but me.  Coffee is not free, so why are you asking for a free coffee right now?  Because I have been coming here once a week every week for the last 7 months.  That’s why.

It’s interesting to read about somebody that is learning how to haggle because his thoughts are a lot like mine if I were in that situation.  More or less, all I would think after successfully getting a bargain would be, “I can’t believe that worked”. 

Click the link above for a link to the article, or click the link below.  Either way, it’s a pretty good read if you’re looking to save some dolla dolla bills, ya’ll.

The price tag on the smooth pair of Cole Haan loafers at Macy’s said $148. I considered that a fair opening bid. Standing across from the salesman and the cash register, I said, “Can you knock off 25 percent?

The salesman said, “Can’t do it.” But I pressed on: “I’ll get them on the Internet or at one of your competitors, so let’s just do this here.”

Salesman: “Geez. You’re like the second person who has tried to do this today.”

We stared at the shoe box. I liked what was inside. The loafers fit well, but they would feel even more comfortable with a discount.

Macy’s blinked first. “Ten percent off,” the salesman said. “That’s the best I can do.” I sensed an advantage and counteroffered: “Let’s do 20 percent.” I then sensed annoyance and settled for the 10 percent.

My first attempt as a haggler saved me almost 15 bucks and placed me at the center of “the biggest sea change of consumer behavior since the end of the Second World War,” as Nancy Koehn, a Harvard Business School retail historian, calls it. In a country that has long shunned haggling outside of car dealerships and mattress stores, my behavior may have once appeared unseemly, even crass. That is, until the Great Recession. Firms are desperate for revenue, Americans are feeling broke, and the aisles from Best Buy to Macy’s and even your neighborhood Giant — as well as the 1-800 numbers at Comcast and Verizon — have become venues for let’s-make-a-deal.

A recent Consumer Reports study found that 66 percent of American consumers had haggled at least once in the preceding six months, with an 88 percent ka-ching rate on gadgets, clothes, furniture and steak. “People like this,” Koehn said. “They are not going to go back to giving their money away. Why would they?”

The recession merely popped the lid off a retailing shift that has been brewing for a decade. EBay gave millions of consumers dealmaking training wheels (top bid for a “Goonies” DVD: $3.50). The Internet offers instant pricing data (do a Google search on “Lucky jeans and deal and DC”). And don’t forget Priceline, which lets consumers name their price for flights, hotels and rental cars (thank you, William Shatner).

For consumers like me who have spent decades shopping at full retail, getting a deal on previously no-deal items is liberating and invigorating, as I found out during a recent week I spent haggling. At first, my wife and friends asked me if I was crazy, but when I reported saving $3 on steak at Giant and $50 a month on our Verizon bill, they asked only one thing: How?

Full Article –>

Read the full article on the Washington Post website.  In Tough Times, Shoppers Take Hagglers to New Heights written by Michael S. Rosenwald, Sunday, January 31, 2010

minnesota winter

December 20, 2009

I went shopping with Paul today, and we stopped at REI.  For those of you unfamiliar, it is a store that sells gear for camping, skiing, rockclimbing, and other outdoors activities.  It was my first time there, and as someone who wants to get more into outdoors activities and try things like snowboarding or hiking, I was fascinated by the amount of gear they deem necessary to do anything outdoors.  There were even boots for dogs that were especially for hiking on rocky terrain.  I thought about getting them for my dog since she has sentitive feet in the snow, but at $40 I thought that she could stick with the low quality ones for now.

I’ve been wanting to try out snowboarding, skiing, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing, and that visit was really motivating for me.  It’s one thing to think about doing these activities and talk about it once in awhile, but it’s another to see the skis and snowboards on either side of me.  Because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted for Christmas, I decided that I want Dan to buy himself some snow gear so that he can come with me.  I have no doubt that snowboarding alone could still be fun, but since I’ll still be learning, I will want someone to whine to.

I’m excited for the winter in Minnesota because everybody here seems to embrace it.  There are festivals and parades, and REI was packed with people buying their winter gear.  I don’t really have to worry about doing too much research concerning what goes on around here because people at work seem more than happy to talk about it.  It’s great that they embrace the cold here instead of run from it (which is what I am constantly inclined to do).  I do need to get my wardrobe caught up, though.  I bought a downed coat, mittens, scarves, and hats, but I still have to get some snow boots.  I’m eyeing some Uggs.

 I think the worst thing about living here in the winter is that this weekend it was 20 degrees, and I thought it was nice.  It was below or around zero (not including wind chill) every day last week.  With all of those flight benefits, I’m going to have to take a vacation to Hawaii for a week to warm up.

thanksgiving – the food

November 27, 2009

Dan and I were extremely proud of the food that we managed to make!  For a very first Thanksgiving, it wasn’t too bad (if I may say so myself).  Here are pictures of our dinner for two:

 

The whole shebang: 

 

Green Bean Casserole (Dan wanted his with cheese):

 

Cornish Hen stuffed with stuffing:

 

All of the sides (stuffing, mashed potatoes, and corn):

 

 

My plate of food!  I definitely didn’t finish it, but we each got our own cornish hen anyway:

 

The pumpkin pie I made!!

 

We had tons of leftovers and will certainly be eating some tonight.  Overall, we’re very proud of ourselves for not setting the whole place on fire or filling it with smoke.  And we’re also glad that nothing got screwed up and everything was edible – we weren’t sure if we were going to end up looking for a Denny’s!

I’d also like to bring up that, with the pumpkin  I made pumpkin puree with last month, I was able to make 6 loaves of pumpkin bread and 1 pumpkin pie.  Not bad for a small pumpkin!

Maybe in the future I’ll throw up the recipe to some of these things (like the pumpkin pie that was made with real maple syrup), but today is not that day.  I’m too tired from my black friday shopping.  I will probably write a little about that tomorrow – lets just say that I’m not quite done yet since a lot of the sales are carrying over into tomorrow. 🙂

budgeting for beginners

November 17, 2009

NOTE: This isn’t going to be a “how to budget” tutorial in case anybody stumbles across this entry in search of budgeting help.  I’m just going to go over my own finances, so don’t yell at me if you try to follow my percentages and don’t get anywhere.

First and foremost, I am in a lot of debt.  College is not cheap.  My student debt is a little over 300% greater than the national average.  I am also carrying around a bit of a credit card debt, but it is not outrageous by any means and I am not concerned with my ability to pay it off.

I am paid weekly, so making a budgeting spreadsheet was a little tricky for me.  I had to divide monthly bills into the number of weeks per month, and I was sure to color code each balance because I will be adding money toward the bill every week until I take the lump sum at the end of month.  Formatting in excel was a pain, but maybe that was because I wasn’t sure of exactly what I wanted before I started.  I’m positive that I will have to work out a few formatting kinks as I go along, but I am pretty proud of the layout and colors I ended up with.  That hardest part will be keeping up with this thing.  Good thing I made it really pretty – it motivates me to use it!

The most surprising part of this whole process was seeing how much money I really have at my disposal.  The last 4 years have gotten me adjusted to never having money.  I was unfortunate in that whenever I did have money, it all went away very quickly because some kind of bill was about to pry it away from my cold, dead hands.  Being broke constantly had its perks – I became very good at spending minimal amounts of money on unncessary things and I am also exceptional at finding awesome sales at the mall. 

Now that I am making the “big bucks”, I have more money to play around with than I know what to do with.  For the month of December, I have budgeted over $300 a week toward my “financial obligations” (student debt, credit cards, savings, retirement) because I have no idea what else to do with the $150 that was left when I got done making up the budget.  Don’t get me wrong – this is great! – but I just never thought I’d be putting so much money toward debts because I didn’t know where else to put it. 

So here’s an approximate breakdown of where I plan on putting all of my dolla’s once December rolls around:

 

Home (rent, parking fee, electricity) – 17%
Transportation (gas, maintenance, insurance) – 7%
Pet (food, vet, toys, etc) – 2.5%
Entertainment (movies, dinner, etc) – 5%
Health (gym, medicines) – 1.5%
Financial Obligations (debts) – 42%
Daily Living (groceries, clothes, hobbies, etc) – 9%
Vacation (this will go down significantly after my commencement) – 10%
Miscellaneous (Christmas, birthdays, etc) – 6%

I feel like I have left something significant out, but I will figure it out as I go along.  In a few weeks, after I get a better idea of what I am spending on a weekly basis, I will be revising this, but I think this is a good starting point.

My biggest challenge is going to be sticking to the budget I have created.  Self control has never been one of my strong points, and I would really like to figure out the best way to keep myself in line.  Giving myself some money each month to “splurge” is a tactic I am considering, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of making a budget in the first place? 

As I said, this budget is going to be revised in a few weeks.  In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to better fine tune this thing, pleast let me know.  And I am ESPECIALLY interested in tips on how to stick with it!

the saint paul farmers’ market

October 25, 2009
Dan and I are fortunate enough to live next door to one of the many Farmers’ Markets in the twin cities area.  We usually sleep in on weekends and don’t get up in time to get to the market, but today we made it over there at about 11:30am.  As we walked the aisles, we were inspired to make a beef stew.  Lucky us – this was probably going to be the last weekend for a lot of the vegetable vendors. 
 
We found carrots, onions, potatoes, and celery for our stew.  We also got a small pumpkin so we could make pumpkin bread and some wheat bread for us to use for sandwiches.  As with all of the Farmers’ Markets I’ve been to, there were at least 10 vendors with the same types of vegetables, and there were also 3 or 4 stands selling meat.  I got to talking to one vendor, and he alluded to a cheese stand being somewhere, but we never found it. 
 
Overall, the Farmers’ Market was pretty nice.  There wasn’t really anything unique or hard to find (except some cute decorations made in tiny pumpkins), but maybe all of the special stuff stays indoors when it’s 45 degrees out. 
 
Photo courtesy Saint Paul Farmers Market

Photo courtesy Saint Paul Farmers' Market

The stew we made turned out to be fantastic.  We’ve never done it before, but I am definitely glad that I kept the crockpot despite Dan’s whining about how unnecessary it is.  He’s right, we could get by without it, but it makes such delicious foods!  Aside from the vegetables and meat, I added water, beef stew seasoning, and beef broth. 

Our beef stew

Our beef stew

I’m excited to try to make some pumpkin bread! I hope it ends up tasting as good as I’ve been dreaming about.

our beautiful weekend

October 18, 2009
Since I have gotten here to Minnesota, everyone keeps saying that the weather has been “unusual”.  They tell me that snow and temperatures below 40 are strange and don’t typically happen around this time of year.  This weekend I was lucky enough to see the type of weather that is expected around this time of year. Sunny, a little breezy, and 50. Beautiful.Saturday, since it was still a little cold, I headed out to the Saint Paul skyway to get a better look at what stores were around.  The skyway has all kinds of shopping along it, and I found a neat shop that I want to visit called the Fun Sisters Boutique.  Unfortunately it’s only open the third week of every month (WTF?) so I don’t think I will get the opportunity to shop there since I will be working by the time it is open again.  Additionally, since things along the skyway are only open  during the working week between 9 and 5pm instead of late at night or on the weekends like normal stores, I won’t get the opportunity to shop there for a long, long time.  Very disappointing.  I did find a Macy’s though and bought a cute new sweater dress, some ankle booties, and flat leather boots.  Tres chic.

Saturday night, Dan and I went to 101 Dalmations the musical.  I will admit that I was a little skeptical at first.  I have been craving to go to a musical, but 101 Dalmations, to me, didn’t sound like my cup of tea.  But, because the tickets were free (courtesy of Dan’s aunt and uncle that couldn’t make the show), we went.  After a 45 minutes of driving around, getting lost, trouble finding parking, and getting booted out of a parking garage because we didn’t have cash, we made it and were only 5 minutes late.  We didn’t miss a thing.

The show was great.  The singing was fabulous.  The sets were impressive.  Overall, it was just a really fun experience.  There were real dogs in the show too, but they didn’t make as big of a presence as I had hoped that they would (they were probably only on set about 10 whole minutes).  I even ordered a rum and coke during the intermission.  The bartender filled the glass full of rum and added only enough coke to give it a light brown color, and Dan and I couldn’t help but giggle about it.  Dan actually bought an extra coke because he didn’t think I would be able to handle it.  He was right.  Thank God for having a boyfriend that knows me.  And, because I’m a lightweight, I was a little bit drunk by the time that the show was over.  It wasn’t a bad thing though — the jokes only got funnier.

Today, Sunday, Dan and I went to an apple orchard that is only about 20 minutes from here called the Pine Tree Apple Orchard.  I guess I didn’t realize that orchards were more for parents and their small children, because Dan and I were surrounded by 3 – 12 year olds running around and their respective parents running after them.  I wanted to pick some apples, but apparently that wasn’t allowed.  And, although we wanted very badly to buy pumpkins and carve them, we realized we had no place to put them when we were carved since the view out of our windows was only a brick wall.  Dan did find his dream pumpkin though, and because he was so excited about it I told him that we could get it anyway.  We didn’t want to lug it around, so we tried to hide it in the brush so nobody else would take it: 

Pumpkin Hiding
Pumpkin Hiding

 We walked the corn maze, looked at more pumpkins and apple trees, and went shopping and bought apple cider, apple pie, cinammon ice cream, pure maple syrup, and apples, stopped at an antique store, and then headed home.  Unfortunately we left that perfect pumpkin in our hiding spot.  Poor little pumpkin.  I hope somebody finds it and gives it a home.

Beautiful days really encourage me to get out and do fun things.  I hope to have more days like this so I can stop sitting around the apartment wasting space.  It’s not as fun as it sounds.