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A year later, the cans have taken over.

5 Jan

I started this blog a year ago (today? Tomorrow? Near here.) and it was supposed to be about my journey to save money. Hoard it, really. Instead, I’ve become a bit of a can hoarder. “Recycler” is a much better term, but I’m a fan of the truth and facts are facts. My garage looks like this:
garagecans
I say “looks like” to ease the blow, but that’s my garage. Ten minutes ago.
That happens to be about three months worth of cans and bottles, so don’t go thinking that’s how it is all the time. Sometimes I return them and get money and then it doesn’t look quite that bad for another three months. I take the bottles from work, many rescued from the trash can that sits DIRECTLY next to the recycling bin at work. Many, my friends have “donated” or “enabled.” Whichever. A few, I have plucked right out of the trash in public. I’m finding it to be a slippery slope.

The first time I took a bottle out of the trash, I was at the Arclight Theater in Sherman Oaks. We were with our friends Bobby and Sarah seeing Batman (whatever the last one was) and I was in the bathroom afterward. I washed my hands and as I went to throw the paper towel into the trash, I spotted an Aquafina bottle popping out through the mound of paper towels. I wanted it. So I grabbed another paper towel like I was drying my hands some more and then snatched it up quickasthis and threw it in my purse, all incognito. I felt fleeting guilt and shame at my middle-class white ass grabbing a bottle from the trash but 1) it didn’t have gum on it and 2) IT WAS RIGHT THERE!!!! I didn’t want Sarah to know, so I bolted out of the bathroom before she got out (now you know, Sarah. I’m sick. I can’t help it.). I felt I’d be more embarrassed if my friends saw me, I think, than strangers. But that’s the thing…taking a bottle from the trash incognito begins a slippery slope. It’s the next level of can hoarding. It’s like the gateway drug of recycling. Soon, I started picking cans out of the trash in broad daylight…in front of homeless people. (I’d apologize. It feels like stealing.) In front of friends. “What? Are YOU paying Addie’s college tuition? I didn’t think so.” Whoever. I wouldn’t stoop to digging, though.

Not in front of people.

I was proud of myself a few weeks ago. There’s some guy (you’ll get to know how I know it’s a guy in a second) who leaves a case of empty Coronas in the trash can by the elevator in the parking lot at work. The first time I found it was accidental. I saw a Coke bottle peaking up at me from the trash and reached in to snatch it up. Underneath was a treasure trove of empty bottles in a box! Pre-packaged for me! (Along with some loose tobacco floating around.) I thought it was a fluke, but now I look, quickly, into that trash can every time I pass it. And there it was again!! The Corona box! This time it was in a bag and there was a water bottle with it. I went to pluck out the water bottle (because it’s like food touching on a plate…not good. Glass and plastic needs to be separated.) and as I lifted it out I realized it was full. Is that urine? Yep, sure is! So, and this is the part I’m proud of, I threw it back in the trash. And then baby wiped my hands like I’d touched Anthrax.

I keep a lot of disinfectant around now.

If you’re wondering, because, after all, you may be reading this because you subscribed as an interested party in saving money, I have $425 in Addie’s 529 account. That’s a college fund if you aren’t in the know about these things. $300 of that is from bottle return. Now, it may not look like much to your naked, outside eyes, but keep in mind when reading that number that I had not one penny saved when starting this blog. In fact, I tended to spend money as quickly as I saved it. That probably shouldn’t be in past tense.

The 529 account makes it so I can’t access that money. There’s a fire breathing dragon guarding it and I don’t even know where it is. I’ve discovered I save best without the key to my own safe.

dragon1
(Photo credit zazzle.com)

On that note, I also have $1,000 in my 401k. Started that in April and the company will match some random percentage of it based on how many people graduate from the massage school I teach at. Guess they feel we have something to do with students graduating or not. Ok then.

And it wasn’t savings per se, but I paid off a butt-ton of debt. And by butt-ton, I mean about $10,000. I guess I’ll be paying less interest, so that’s saving, yeah? Am I reaching?

I feel like a frantic EMT administering CPR to this blog because I’ve been remiss in giving it any attention. It’s been my own guilt (and shame) that has kept me away. I feel like I’ve saved nothing and I have nothing to share. But, looking back, it ain’t so bad!! In the moment, day to day, it seems fruitless and as if the lack of progress is going to eat me alive…but in the big picture, it’s something and something, in this case, is better than nothing!

Got the Starbucks free coffee mug again this year for Christmas (thanks, Sweeney!) so that’s a good start again.

Starbucks-Day-3-Gifting-Free-Coffee-in-January-2013
(Photo credit Starbucks.com)

Also hit Universal Studios a few weeks ago on some free passes, so that was cool, too. Though, I never recommend going there with a two year old. They make things like that not fun. Just keepin’ it real over here.
universalhell
(My view from Universal Hell on a weekend during the Holidays. Addie and Mom to the right!)

So now you know. Now you know all of it. The dirty, disgusting truth to my bottle addiction. My friend Cleo said (as I was stealing empties from her fiance’s birthday party) it’s beneath me, and I get what she means. But somehow, it’s motivating me in it’s own whacked-out-dirty-sticky-gross way. I easily give the excuse that I’m also saving the planet (which I am) but I’ll readily admit here it isn’t my main motivation. There’s this ironic thing in me that likes to count and make piles…ironic because I hate, and am awful at, math. I like to compile and sort and collect. But I hate collections. So this really suits my inner transient. Always new bottles, always moving in and out of the garage. Always money flowing into the 529.

Don’t hate the player.

Something borrowed, something free!

5 Aug

There’s been a lot happening over here at the same time that nothing’s been happening.  You know what I mean?  In a lot of ways, it’s the same thing day in and day out, but there’s just always something going on.

I’ve returned cans, I think, twice, since I saw you last.  The first time was a small haul–I just wanted them out of the garage, and I got 15 bucks.  The last time, last week, was bigger and I got 36.  I put the 15 in my wallet and squandered it on something frivolous, I’m sure and the $36 went into Addie’s savings.  We also had a yard sale a few weeks ago and made $156.  We went away for a weekend to a Lake and that was pretty much our gas and food money.  Man, Addie sure can put away some pancakes!


I’ve also been doing more massage jobs when they become available and you know how much I like me the random gig!  I did a sales pitch for a re-enactment tv show yesterday and took home a cool hundred…I think that will mostly go to debt.  Remember that time I played one of Tinkerbell’s friends at the premier of some new Tinkerbell movie? I applied glitter to three year olds and got paid $175.  I think that’s been my favorite random job.

Anyhoo, due to the extra work and all, I currently have $250.17 in one account and $56 in another.  So it’s a little like I never blew that 220 on tires! Woot!

The game is (sort of) back on!!!  I’m still horrible…I mean, rotten-awful….at not spending money on lunch or coffee.  It’s kind of ridiculous.

Oh! I also auditioned for the Pyramid game show coming back to GSN…and made it into the contestant pool! So you know, one of these days, I’ll win $25,000!!! Can’t wait for that little number! If you don’t know me that well, be informed: I’m a game-show whore and believe it’s my destiny to win a shit-ton of money.

 

(Is this show still on? I auditioned for this one…didn’t get on.)

Lastly, my friend Alex and I traded cookbooks and I think this is a great way to shake up the cooking and get some new recipes (free!) So borrow some cookbooks, y’all!  And more free….if you or someone you know is going to have a baby, have them go to http://www.uddercovers.com and enter Breastfeeding2012 in the code space at checkout and they can get a free breastfeeding cape.  Or pads…or, I think, carseat cover. I have no idea why these people give so much crap away, but they really do.  You just pay shipping.  I’ve gotten a sling AND a cape from them and they haven’t spammed me with other stuff or stolen money from my credit card.  Suspicious I am…but what the hell.  Free stuff!!!!

It’s like this one: 

Image   Go ahead! Let people think you’re a superhero who doesn’t know how to correctly wear a cape! Do it! For free!

 

Making dinner with what you have. It can happen!!

7 Jul

I’ll start by saying I’m a fan of eating out.  I mean, if I could, I’d probably get every meal outside the house. I like the variety, the lack of clean-up, the lack of making it myself.  I’m lazy about food, I know this.  I wish I could take a pill to get full and not have to chew anything.  It’s not that I have anything against food, really, not for other people anyway, I just find the whole “eating” thing inconvenient.  Having to stop whatever I’m doing to eat a sandwich really throws a wrench in my day.

Having said all that, I avoid cooking.  Not because I don’t know how but….eh, see above.  Usually, I’ll open the fridge and decide there isn’t anything to cook, anyway and crack open a box of Kraft dinner.  Mac ‘N Cheese is the ultimate lazy person’s food.  Like, 10 minutes and you’re off!

This particular evening, maybe two weeks ago, I was feeling energetic.  We had some stuff lying about and I decided I was going to make dinner with what we had.  Sometimes, I’m up for a challenge.  We had a few sweet potatoes, some Tempeh (that, if I’m being honest, was two weeks past the eat by date..I figure, it’s made of mold anyhow, what the Hell!) and some lettuce and apricots.  That’s about all there was in the fridge next to the condiments.  Google is a wonderful thing, and I wound up with this:

 

I roasted the sweet potatoes and tempeh in soy sauce and cinnamon, along with some other stuff and made a salad with my own dressing (sweet honey balsamic vinaigrette!) with broiled apricots. If you have never broiled an apricot, you’re missing out. The flavor is amazing and I could eat a whole box of them. (Chewing and everything!) I was always afraid of the broiler and it’s fire, but no more…

I felt like a genius and a good-with-money-person for not jumping to the conclusion that we had nothing to eat and had to order out. I guess it can be done.

Also, did I mention I graduated college in 1997? Probably not. There’d be no need to…until now! I just paid off my last student loan this week. It feels like someone took a piano off my head that I didn’t know was there. I feel rich just having one less bill. I feel like that piece paper that lives in some box in some closet in my house that says I have a dance degree is now really mine and somehow more valuable.

As a celebration, I put 50 bucks in the bank, so we’re doing this again! It’s on and it’s go time and there are more bottles in the garage! Yeah!


(Not actual garage.)

Didn’t mean to blow that $220, but there you have it.

15 Jun

I’m not making eye-contact.  I know you know I’ve been avoiding you.  I’m sorry.  I just wasn’t ready to admit that the whole $220.28 I had saved was gone. 

But it is.

I woke up one day, got in the car with Addie to hit Babies R Us (I hate that place anyway) and realized my car was driving funny.  I’m not an expert on cars, but I’ve had this one for 8 years or so and seem to know when it just doesn’t feel right.  It kind of felt like I had a flat tire, actually.  So being the responsible driver I am, I pulled over and got out to have a gander.  It wasn’t a flat, but my front driver’s side tire looked pregnant and about to give birth any moment.  Awesome.  I didn’t even know it was screwing around.

 


(Actual car. She should have used protection. Especially if she was messing around with this guy….)

So I almost gladly scrapped the Babies R Us outing and hit the nearest tire store.  Addie doesn’t like going ANYWHERE, really, and the tire store was no exception.  Sometimes I wish people in line behind me would talk to her.  When she’s being afraid of people, she stops squirming and screaming.

Anyway…the gentleman behind the counter agreed that I needed a new tire and then quoted me for 4 new tires.  “How much for just one? One really cheap one?” 

Apparently, you aren’t supposed to get just 1. SO I got 2.  Any guesses on how much that adventure cost?  I won’t make you guess, I’ll just tell you:  $256.

Sweet.

I don’t know why, in the name of sweet baby Jesus, every time I seem to save something, the universe sends me some awesome event to bite my savings account square in the ass, but it does. 

So there you have it.

I DID, however, collect some more bottles and return them the other day for $15.46.  Didn’t save it, though.  Bought food.  And coffee.  And a lottery ticket. 

I’ve also listed some things on Ebay, so hopefully they’ll sell and we can get this freak show back on the road.

In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying your Summer!  Clip those coupons for hot dogs! They’re all over the place!

Slaying the Dragon of My Past

27 May

Here’s another article I wrote for http://www.theconversation.tv. Posting it because I have nothing to write about saving money. I haven’t really been doing that much lately. But here’s a tip: Find a second run movie theater and go there! My husband and I saw The Woman In Black AND got popcorn all for 10 bucks! Of course, they checked my purse before entering (I had a soda hidden under my wallet…they missed it! Phew!) and our feet definitely stuck to the floor, but still….10 bucks! Yeah!

Slaying the Dragon of My Past.

Fun picture of sandcastle taken by ALexandra Rubisx at www.alibellphotography.com

l

On the Can (Part Deux)

7 May

Saturday afternoon was spent in my garage sorting bottles and then with Pablo at the recycling place (a big semi-truck in a parking lot in the ghetto, really).   My garage was completely over-run by green trash bags.  So much so that you really couldn’t walk in there once you opened the door.  It sort of looked like a scene from that awesome train-wreck of a show “Hoarders.”  Only this stuff was actually worth something.  Not much, but something.

I decided I was going to finally return them because I haven’t blogged in awhile and I needed something to say.  Telling you how much I made from recyclables is news, right?  In my world it is.  ‘Cause there’s not much going on around here.

As I started the sorting process, I realized I really should have gotten myself some plastic gloves.  If you trash dive for bottles at your job and then put them in bags and forget about them in the garage A) critters eat through the bags looking for the sweet sticky remnants of soda and B) that soda is sticky as hell and sometimes moldy.

One thing I will NEVER do again is dump the recycling bin from outside of work into a bag and take it home.  It’s supposed to be for bottles and cans, but people throw their empty starbucks Frappuccinos in there along with their sandwich containers and half-full Naked juice with no lid.  The stench is strong enough to travel back through time and punch that guy who made fun of you in high school.  I mean, really eye-watering, I just-found-this-dead-raccoon-in-my-garage-and-it’s-been-there-for-weeks  kind of bad.   I considered just taking it to the side of the road and leaving it there for an ambitious homeless person but after I had already touched the slime, I figured it was too late now.

 

Sweeney came out, baby on hip, to see how I was fairing and I waved him away.  “I don’t want her to see my like this. You guys get back in the house!” By “like this,” of course, I meant surrounded by other people’s trash and covered in black mold.  If I’d ever been embarrassed in front of my husband…well…at that moment, I came pretty close.  As he walked away he mumbled, “I’d like to think this isn’t going to happen again…but…”

The truth is, it probably will happen again.  It’s  bit like giving birth:  You curse and swear at the flies circling your head and the mold spores threatening to permeate your perfectly good lungs, but when you get that cash in your hand and walk away from Pablo, the elation takes over and the pain is forgotten.  Until six months later when you’re kneeling in the garage again, feeling like a junkie looking for a hit.

 

(Not actual car.)
I was guessing I had $32.00 in recycling.  Pablo gave me $40.35.

If you just found forty bucks on the street, wouldn’t you be excited about that?  And yes, it was four months of mostly digging bottles out of the trash at work, but only two people saw me.  So it’s almost like it never happened…and I’m forty bucks the richer.