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March 2013 - Posts - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

March 2013 - Posts

  • Reduce. Reuse. Leave Some Space Empty.

     Tiny home interior photo courtesy of Tammy

     

    Several years ago, I remember watching one of those ubiquitous organization/cleaning shows that you'll see on TLC and other channels of that ilk. The family that the professional organizer was helping had a problem with kid stuff in particular. When the mother worried that getting rid of so many of her children's toys would be devastating for them, the organizer (who had a British accent, which gave his advice more gravity) assured her that it never went that way. "The first thing a child does when we clean out his room of all the stuff is start dancing through the middle of it," he said.

    For whatever reason (possibly the British accent), that piece of information really stuck with me.

    I think I needed to hear it partially because I come from a long line of stuff-keepers. (I use the term stuff-keeper advisedly. We definitely do not hoard, because that's a symptom of an illness. Hoarders don't discriminate between junk and stuff that's worth keeping for some valid reason. Our family keeps stuff, but not junk).

    In particular, my dad is a definite stuff-keeper. When my father moved out of the house that I grew up in, he had a terribly difficult time cleaning and purging. In particular, I remember he was having trouble parting with the cardboard horse he had made for my Halloween costume when I was about 11 so that I could go as a knight on horseback. Even though the costume had been living in the attic for 6 or 7 years at that point, and even though none of us had thought about it in all that time, and even though we had plenty of pictures of me grinning and "on horseback," it was really tough for him to part with that physical manifestation of a wonderful memory.

    My dad comes by his stuff-keeping honestly. My grandmother and aunts were also stuff-keepers, and every member of my family has a tendency to hold onto things, through nostalgia, fear of wastefulness, love of abundance, and many other reasons.

    I'm slowly but surely become less of a stuff-keeper, although I still have my issues with getting rid of things.

    The big change came when I moved in with J, who is also a stuff-keeper. J subscribes to a metric ton of magazines, and he keeps them around for years to refer back to. I have always had a thriving book collection. When I moved in with J, I asked him to please pare down the magazines. His response (thinking that this would never happen) was to ask me to pare down my book collection.

    Despite never having once gotten rid of a book in my life (with the exception of some college textbooks), I took him up on the offer and sold nearly half of my books to Half Price Books. (I received about 10 cents total, but still). He was impressed and good-naturedly got rid of some of his magazines.

    That experience was incredibly freeing. I didn't need to cart all of the books I've ever read/thought about reading/bought but never gotten around to reading/read and hated but felt bad about abandoning/etc. for the rest of my life. What else could I get rid of?

    Lots of stuff, it turns out. I regularly try to go through the house and purge the things that are adding nothing to our lives. It's much harder than it seems.

    I'm trying hard to have LO get used to the idea that his stuff cannot be ever-expanding, and that receiving new toys means that old toys need to go bless other children. So far, he doesn't seem to notice one way or the other.

    A New York Times columnist recently took on this subject. After being a confirmed stuff person, he now lives in a 420 foot studio apartment. He talks about how much larger your life can be when you live with less. You don't spend your time managing your stuff. You don't feel tied to stuff and anxious about stuff. You can finally live the life you want, instead of the one you have to lead because your stuff demands it of you.

    I'm not sure how successful I am at reducing my stuff burden. I have my father's sentimental attachment to the detritus of my son's childhood, because I know that memories can fade without their physical reminders scattered about. But if I'm never willing to get rid of anything, there will be no room to make new memories and have new moments of childhood joy and wonder.

    Not to mention, too much stuff means there's not enough room for dancing.

  • DIY Kitchen Table Reboot

    This is my kitchen table.

    It's hard to believe, but I've had this bad boy for 12 years. My father and stepmother bought it (and several other pieces of furniture) for me when I first moved into my own apartment. Prior to moving into my solo place, I had previously been living with a roommate who had mostly furnished the apartment we shared. So when I moved into my own place, I had:

    1. A futon, which I used as a bed.

    2. A card table and chair bought from the cheap end of the cheap furniture aisle in Target. These were set up as my desk.

    3. Three bookcases (because a girl's got to have priorities).

    4. One comfy chair.

    5. A television stand for my TV/VCR combo (remember those?).

    When my parents came to visit me in Columbus, they took one look at my mostly empty apartment, saw that I had been eating on the floor for about a month and a half, and immediately hustled me out to get some furniture.

    We ended up at an "antiques" shop where the proprietor managed to turn trash into treasure. As far as I remember, she rescued unwanted and unloved furniture and painted/decorated it to become cool and somewhat odd art pieces. From this eclectic little boutique, my parents bought me a coffee table, this kitchen table and four funky mis-matched chairs to go with it, and some sort of dresser-type furniture, if I remember correctly. For seven pieces of furniture, they spent less than $200. They were thrilled, while I couldn't imagine spending that much all at once.

    In any case, over the years all but the kitchen table has been put out to pasture. And at this point, as much as I loved the modge-podge design on my table when I first got it as a 22-year-old, I'm ready for something that looks a little more grownup.

    I had been thinking about buying a new table, but we'd need one that was almost exactly the same size in order to fit into the kitchen, and finding such a beast seemed like it would be work. So I've basically not been thinking about it because furniture shopping stresses me out.

    Then J mentioned that he's ready for a kitchen table reboot himself. He suggested something radical: why not just recover/repaint/resomething our current table?

    That's brilliant!

    Why didn't I think of that?

    My first thought was to simply repaint it. The issue with that is that the modge-podged design is not perfectly flat, meaning that any paint job will show the shapes of the pictures underneath.


    J was thinking about getting some sort of cloth that we glue to the table top, but I'm not sold on the idea.

    We could remove the modge podge prior to doing some sort of refinishing, but I'm a little concerned about what kinds of chemicals we'd need to use in order to get the glue unstuck, considering the fact that LO eats his yogurt off this table. Yes, we have a glass top, but don't underestimate the child's ability to both get yogurt underneath the glass as well as remove and then eat said yogurt out from underneath the glass.

    So, considering the fact that The Dollar Stretcher community is rife with real DIY-ers (I only play one on the internet), I was wondering if anyone had a suggestion as to a good way to freshen up this somewhat tired furniture.

    We would love to finally be eating off a kitchen table that befits a couple of real grownups.

  • Spring? Really? (AKA, an Explanation of My Irregular Posting Lately)

    This photo from my town is actually from 2007, and is presumably from an actual month that occurs in winter, but this is otherwise just about what I see outside my window right now.

     

    You may have noticed that my posting has been a little spotty lately. I want to apologize for that. There are a couple of factors going into this:

    1. Writer's block. As I mentioned several weeks ago, after writing this blog for over a year and a half, I'm finding it a little tougher to come up with topics. There are days when I realize I could pull something out of my [hat] or I could save my energy for a much better post the next day, and I've been generally going with option 2. A big thank you to everyone who has suggested topic ideas, and I do plan to use all of them.

    2. The groundhog is now my mortal enemy. I was promised an early spring by the overgrown rat in Pennsylvania. You may notice that it is now six days after the official start of spring, and I'm stuck in my house with 10 inches of snow outside. That rodent is in breach of contract. Not to mention that this snowfall is on top of the six inches that came down about two weeks ago.

    This isn't just a problem for my snow-shoveling arm (which is conveniently attached to J's body, truthfully), it also wreaks havoc on my mood and energy levels. I am affected by low-level Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it generally hits me from about Groundhog Day (which is why I expect that furry twerp to fulfill his promises) until spring really springs. The longer this "winter" drags on, the lower my mood and energy-level. In normal years, when the sun is shining and the weather is wonderful for afternoon walks with my favorite toddler, I consider Passover to be the absolute best time of year. Right now, I'd be happy to go back to bed for another month or two.

    3. I'm working my tuchus off. I suffer from the very common freelancer's lament. It's well-nigh impossible for me to turn down new opportunities, and don't even talk to me about letting go of old clients. I suspect that this common problem is even a little harder for those of us who freelance for the financial blogosphere because pretty much to a person, every single blogger, editor, site-owner, and fellow writer is completely flipping awesome. I've met and work for such lovely people in this industry, and so I never want to say no because I want to do all the work I can with them. (Back when I was doing more general writing, I found it remarkably easy to sever ties or say no to people outside of this industry--and sometimes, those tie-severings would even put me in a great mood, despite the loss of income).

    So, between my love for my clients and my difficulty with the word "no," I have a workload that I can easily(ish) balance on the weeks when everything goes according to plan. Unfortunately, I have one of those weeks about two or three times a year. (And generally, those weeks do not tend to coincide with 10-inch snowstorms).

    4. My dad is ill. I'm going to be traveling to see him about once a month this year. I love seeing Dad and having LO spend time with his grandparents, but travel always takes quite a bit out of me, particularly with LO in tow. Our trip to Baltimore earlier this month left me pretty pooped.

    Thanks for bearing with me through all of this. I know that the spring will eventually show up (although at this rate, I'm not expecting it until September or so), and I'm learning better methods of balance and planning, both of which should help with my other three factors.

    In the meantime, I'm going to be researching kosher-for-Passover groundhog recipes.

    (I kid!)

  • Passover Food Shopping

    Image courtesy of David R. Tribble

     

    Passover begins tonight.

    It is absolutely my favorite holiday on the calendar, partially because of the food. Matza ball soup! Matza brie! (It's like French Toast, but with matza). Charoset! Gefilte fish! Manischewitz brand kosher-for-Passover macaroons! Chocolate-dipped matza! Excuses to eat horseradish!

    However, as much as I love consuming and (mostly enjoy making) the food for Passover, I have to say that shopping for it is a major pain in the tuchus. This is partially because I live in a small town with a very small Jewish population, and so I will often have to go to two or three different stores in order to get everything I need. (For instance, you'll sometimes find Not-Kosher-for-Passover matzas prominently displayed on endcaps in our local groceries.)

    And I don't even go all out when it comes to Passover shopping. I simply do not eat anything with yeast in it. I don't worry about corn syrup or peanut butter or any of the other things that many more observant Jews clean out of their houses this time of year. (I also don't have a separate set of dishes for Passover, nor do I use paper plates for the 8 days of the holiday.)

    But even more than the annoyance of having to go to several stores to find matza and matza meal and matza cake meal and potato starch and the aforementioned Manischewitz macaroons, I always get frustrated at the cost of Passover shopping. I frankly don't have a good sense of how much a box of matza should cost--after all, I only buy it once a year. But every year it seems ridiculously expensive for me to stock up on the five or six boxes I'll need to get the family through the non-yeast-eating week.

    Yesterday, I was able to purchase six boxes for just under $4 each. Is that reasonable? I'd seen boxes of matza for as much as $7 each at another grocery store, but that still doesn't give me a good sense of whether I'm paying a good price.

    And that's how it goes with every Passover and specialty food I need to buy for the holiday. On the one hand, I recognize that it costs more for these grocery stores in my small town to bring in a fairly small number of these items for their few Jewish customers, and that they need to make a profit. But on the other hand, matza's just flour and water, as far as I understand it. How much is Manischewitz charging on their end?

    I remember reading a Jewish Mom blogger a couple of years ago who was lamenting her annual $1000+ Passover grocery bill (and I think she said it was more than four times what she usually spends in a shopping trip). She is more observant than I am, and clears her house of anything that is not specifically kosher for Passover, and is therefore paying a premium for Pesadicha items that I'm happy to buy in their normal incarnations--like apple juice and yogurt. I understand that she is working hard to make sure she follows the exact rules of our religion, and I applaud her for doing all the work necessary for it. But it does seem unfortunate (ridiculous? something?) that following Passover laws is so durned expensive.

    At some point, I know that we're all making our choices. If I wanted to, I could bake my own matza, and that blogger could just eat less expensive foods that are kosher year round (like produce, for example) rather than purchasing convenience foods. But at what point are these choices ones we could legitimately make? (Just saying--I hardly have time to make dinner some nights, so baking 8 days worth of matza is not on the agenda).

    What do you think about having to spend extra for holiday needs? Are we paying a premium for something that the manufacturer knows we need? Or are we making our choice to spend money rather than time since it's only once a year?

  • An Update on Cancelling Cable

     

    Image courtesy of Dave Winer

    You may recall that I recently discovered that J and I could save ourselves somewhere in the range of $60 per month if we cancel our cable.

    We are exhibiting classic symptoms of addiction at this point, because we have not yet cut the cord that provides us with our sweet, sweet entertainment fix, and yet we keep telling ourselves that we can stop any time we want to, we just don't want to, yet.

    However, there has been some slight progress toward our cable-free future.

    J and I did a little research into the offerings of Hulu Plus, which we can stream through our Xbox in the same way that we stream Netflix. We found that not only does Hulu Plus offer Comedy Central (meaning I don't have to end my years-long, one-sided, only slightly-obsessive relationship with Jon Stewart), but it also has FX (which means we can continue to get our fix of completely inappropriate spy-based animated comedy, aka Archer). In addition, it has AMC and a few other channels that offer really good programming that we might be inclined to watch. Cost for Hulu+: about $8 per month.

    We did this research on Monday. I asked J on Tuesday if I should make the call to Comcast this week.

    "No," he replied. "We can cancel any time we want to. There's no hurry."

    And this, folks, is why they give you free trials.

  • Guest Post: 4 Clues to Get the Most Out of Open Houses

    Today, we're lucky enough to have a guest post from Tali Wee of Zillow. Please give Tali a big Live Like a Mensch welcome!

    The process of buying a home can be exhausting, especially for first-time home buyers. It's mind-boggling to compare the square footage, acreage, school district, commute to work, number of bedrooms, days on the market, condition and price of each home. Buyers often spend hours researching new listings online and coordinating with their real estate agents or spouses to schedule times to view the homes. Many home buyers rely on their impressions of the home at an open house to drive their buying decisions.  In competitive housing markets, decisions need to be made quickly, leaving little time for buyers to vacillate about home features.  Here are a handful of helpful tips that buyers should follow to get the most out of their home-shopping experiences, particularly at open houses.

    1. Arrive Prepared

    Home shoppers can certainly visit open houses before they're ready to buy, just to get a feel for the market value of homes.  However, once shoppers are ready to purchase a home, they should make a priority list of their must-have home features and keep it in mind when they visit open houses. It's easy to get distracted in-person by an incredible bathroom, modern kitchen remodel or an amazing backyard.  Buyers who begin with a list of items they desperately want or even a list of items they absolutely do not want are more likely to stay on track, and end up buying a home they truly love.

    If buyers have children attending public schools, they should research the best schools in the area.  Before visiting an open house, check which school district the home falls in and if it's competitive enough for the kids.  Knowing as much as possible about the properties helps buyers make educated decisions on home value.  For instance, a home in a low-performing school district is worth less than the exact same home just two blocks away in a high-performing district.  Another tip for home-shoppers who plan to visit open houses all day is to map out the listing addresses beforehand.  Buyers often waste time traveling all around town and back, when they could be viewing the homes on a logical and direct route.

    2. Establish Financial Limits

    The housing market is recovering and getting increasingly more competitive, requiring buyers to be prepared to make reasonable offers shortly after visiting the desired homes.  Before house hunting, serious buyers select a lender to discuss the cost of mortgages, interest rates, size of their down payment and the steps toward preapproval.  Preapproved buyers know the absolute maximum loan amounts their lenders will fund.  These approved loan amounts help buyers focus their house-hunt in a realistically affordable direction. 

    For example, if they're approved for a $200,000 loan and theyĆ­ve saved a $30,000 down payment, then the buyers should look for homes priced at approximately $230,000.  Buyers do not need to purchase a home for their full approved loan amount. There is always room for negotiation, but a home priced higher than $250,000 would likely be a waste of the buyers' time.

    Preapproved buyers are generally taken more seriously by sellers than buyers who have yet to work with lenders.  Plus, their offers usually move quickly through lending institutions because their financial documents have already been collected and reviewed.

    3. Use Available Resources

    When buyers attend open houses they should communicate with the agents showing the homes.  These agents normally have a wealth of information on the local housing market.  They can answer questions about the home, its surrounding areas and the level of interest other buyers have expressed in the property.  Agents usually have in-depth marketing materials with property and neighborhood details.  If buyers are looking in a specific community, agents and their marketing pamphlets may be incredibly informative about the area.

    The agent on site is commonly the seller's agent, but sometimes it's their stand-in.  These agents may be available to represent buyers as well.  If buyers find the onsite agents particularly knowledgeable or helpful, it's a great opportunity to assess their experience and get connected with an agent who really understands the community.

    4. Take Cues from Other Buyers

    At open houses, prospective buyers act as natural indicators of how accurately the properties are priced.  Buyers who are new to the market can take cues from the more experience buyers.  If they walk in, through the main areas and right out the door, it's likely the property is overpriced.  Buyers who are willing to pay for the property as-is spend time discussing the home with the on-site agent.  They'll generally ask questions about the condition of the home, its surrounding areas and how much interest the agent has seen.  Buyers who are fairly new to the market should listen carefully to the questions the other buyers ask and the answers the agent gives. 

    Serious buyers make offers right away, and it's helpful for them to gauge the level of interest of other buyers to competitively adjust their offer price.  If the seller's agent has many interested parties, the buyer might make an offer for more than the asking price of the home.  Such attempts position buyers to have their offers accepted.

    Additionally, one buyer may recognize a flaw in the home and inadvertently alert fellow buyers at the open house.  Be aware of the complaints of other shoppers.  Perhaps the flaws aren't as important to some buyers but could become points of negotiation during the sale.  Shoppers who are particularly interested in a listing might bring an inspector or friend in the industry to the open house.  If the inspector doesn't find any major flaws in the home, then the buyer may make an offer waiving an inspection.  In highly competitive markets, this is one tactic to push an offer to the front of the seller's stack.  However, fellow buyers can benefit from keeping close tabs on those inspectors and their conversations.

    In the end, hopefully all prospective home buyers are able to purchase houses they adore.  Though the process of shopping for and landing the perfect home can be overwhelming, experienced buyers take advantage of the available shortcuts.  With proper preparations and research upfront, attentiveness at open houses, successful negotiations and precise financing, prospective buyers become winning homeowners.  

    Image courtesy of  Ildar Sagdejev

  • How We Splurge: Men vs. Women

     

    Recently, J received his annual bonus from work. While he has the money mostly earmarked for various responsible purposes, he also took the opportunity of being super flush to purchase something ridiculous.

    If for some reason you weren't able to click on the link, basically J spent $300 of his bonus money on a high-tech video game steering wheel/accelerator, clutch, and brake combo so that he can better recreate the experience of driving a racecar while playing Forza Motorsport.

    This is not a decision I would make, if only partially because I don't play video games. (Don't get me wrong--I don't have any issue with J making such a purchase, provided the video game equipment does not take up permanent residence in our living room. When he assured me that it folds flat to be stored under the sofa, I was perfectly happy with his decision. I just don't personally get it.)

    J and I were discussing our methods of spending splurge money after he ordered his glorified joy stick. He pointed out that I tend to make smaller splurges over time--a DVD here, a purse there, some sort of ridiculous office organization product or school supply many times throughout the year.

    He, on the other hand, doesn't buy anything for himself for months at a time. But when he does spend his fun money, he drops $300 all at once, instead of my $20 and $30 dribs and drabs.

    Apparently, several of his (male) co-workers have also observed this dynamic with their wives, and I recall having a conversation about this with a girlfriend whose husband is a similar once-in-a-while big spender while she's a small-things-more-often type.

    It got me to wondering if this some sort of general rule about how men and women spend money, or if this has something to do with engineers vs. non-engineers, since the sample size I'm using also seems to break down along engineering/gender lines.

    So, in the interest of scientific(ish) research, I'm curious about how you spend fun money compared to the men/women in your life. Are you more likely to save up for a big splurge, or do you tend to buy little things for yourself throughout the year? Does your method of splurging ever make your significant other shake hizzer head?

  • Finance Books I'm Reading Now

     

    Back in December, I wrote about three of my favorite personal finance related books, so I thought I'd update you on the finance books I've read since then.

    The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. My goodness, did I love this book. It basically outlined the scientific reasons why it is so difficult to eat well, save money, exercise, quit smoking, or otherwise improve ourselves. Our habits are ingrained, so that the rush we feel from performing a habit (like eating a piece of chocolate or smoking a cigarette) actually becomes felt before we even perform the habit. It's hard to quit bad habits because we're already feeling the anticipatory pleasure of the habit before we even unwrap the Hershey bar or light up the smoke.

    But--and this is a big but--we can reprogram ourselves to have new and healthy habits, so long as we give ourselves enough repetition to make the habit stick.

    For example, after reading this book I spent three weeks straight making sure that the kitchen was always spotless. As soon as we finished a meal, I immediately started clearing, cleaning, and putting away everything we'd used. Prior to this, I would usually clean(ish) the kitchen, but that often meant I'd leave a dish or two to be taken care of later or a kitchen gadget out on the counter instead of putting it away. (And that doesn't even count the times I'd just think, "Eh, I'll do it later.")

    But after three weeks of forcing myself to always leave the kitchen in a state befitting a royal visit (well, sort of), I've reprogrammed myself. Without even thinking, I start clearing up and putting things away whenever I happen to be in the kitchen. The best part is that my new habit has rubbed off on J, who is much more likely to spontaneously start cleaning up after dinner than he was when I was a laggard.

    Not only does The Power of Habit help you figure out ways to improve your habits, it also gives some really interesting scientific insights into how our brains work. I highly recommend it.

    The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely. I've mentioned before how much I love love love Dan Ariely. (In fact, I'm signed up to take a free online course from him later this month). He conducts fascinating experiments in behavioral economics and presents his information in an incredibly engaging and easy-to-understand manner. Though this book is called the Upside of Irrationality, after I finished reading it, I did not feel as though there really are that many upsides to our illogical and irrational brains. No matter--it's still an incredible read with great insights.

    For instance, Ariely starts by pointing out the fact that huge bonuses are in fact de-motivating, because there is so much pressure to perform. His experiments to show this fact really fit in with my own personal experiences. (For example, I did much better on the math section of the PSAT than I did on the SAT, for example, because the stakes were much lower when the test didn't count.) Ariely proved the demotivation with some experiments in India, where a university budget could afford to offer participants the equivalent of 5 months salary for performing simple games and tasks. In every case, those who were offered the huge amount of money choked under the pressure.

    He also talked about why online dating is doomed to failure, why we give more money when a single child is in danger but turn a blind eye to thousands who are suffering, and why revenge is such a human motivator. (And this, of course, is why a dissatisfied customer has soooooo much more influence than a satisfied one. When you're ticked off, you want revenge and you'll make sure you get it.)

    Ariely also shares a great number of personal stories in this book, detailing the aftermath of an accident as a teenager that left him with 3rd degree burns over 75% of his body. Dealing with the pain and trauma of his accident was a big reason behind why he became a behavioral economist, and it was both fascinating and heart-rending to read about how his struggles shaped his life.

    This is another read that's a total page-turner--and it will actually give you some great ideas for how to best navigate your life and relationships.

    Next on my reading list: The Honest Truet About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely.

    After that, I'm dangling for my next good finance read. Do you have any suggestions?

  • This Year, I'm Doing My Taxes Early...ish

     

    What waiting until the last minute to file taxes looked like in 1920.

     

    I tend to be a tax procrastinator.

    I recognize that I'm not alone in wanting to put off the pain of filing taxes for as long as possible, even though putting it off makes it infinitely more stressful. But I feel as though I should be setting a better example. I am a financial blogger, after all, and I often find myself fielding questions from friends and acquaintances about things like the tax code, even though every time I write about taxes I can feel more of my brains dribbling out of my ears.

    In any case, I really should be more on top of my taxes.

    Last year, I decided we would be early to file for once. (Please note that all of this hand-wringing is over scheduling an appointment with our accountant since handling all of the tax complications of being a freelancer would be enough to make my head explode and is more than worth the $200 we spend each year to make sure it's done correctly.) So, once I had all of our tax information gathered together, I made sure to call our accountant and set up an appointment as early as possible.

    That all happened sometime during the first week of April.

    This year, I decided we would be early to file for once. So, once I had gathered all of our tax information together, I got our accountant on the phone and checked our calendar. 

    We're meeting with her during the last week of March.

    If we keep going at this rate, sometime around 2025, we'll actually be early to file.

  • The Cost of Convenience

     

    Photo courtesy of Ahmed

     

    In some ways, J and I are in a mixed marriage.

    I was raised to believe that certain conveniences are worth the extra cost.

    J, on the other hand, was raised to believe that convenience was for sissies and that something worth doing was worth doing inconveniently, by gum.

    As with many such marriage incompatibilities, J and I have each been moving closer to the other's ways of viewing things, although neither of us have quite gotten to the middle where we will inevitably meet.

    However, today it became clear that J has truly had a major effect on my view of convenience.

    You see, LO and I had to fly today, and I was going to be schlepping LO, his stroller, his diaper bag, our suitcase, and my purse from the car to the airport terminal.

    This would be bad enough if it weren't for the fact that despite the fact that it is mid-March, and the fact that the overgrown rat in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
    led us to believe that we would have an early spring, it was snowing this afternoon and all of my schlepping would have to be done through the open-air economy parking lot.

    So, as I approached the airport, I found myself considering the convenience of parking in the garage instead of the economy lot. I could avoid the long, cold wait for the economy shuttle and shorten my uncomfortable, overburdened walk.

    As I got closer, I saw that the economy lot was listed at $9 per day. I'll be out of town for five days, making parking an outrageous $45. The long-term lot, which was only slightly closer to the airport was listed at $12 per day. The garage? The cost-per-day was not listed.

    Facing the prospect of paying MORE than $60 for parking to save myself a little bit of aggravation today was clearly not something I was remotely willing to do. So, I pulled into the economy lot, kindly thanked (and tipped) the shuttle driver who helped me with suitcase, stroller, diaper bag, and LO, and overall felt like I was one up on the Indianapolis Airport Parking System.

    Well, other than the fact that I'm paying those jerks $45 to keep my car for five days.

    Still, I think J would be proud.

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