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Living Better
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Living Better

The Motto of The Dollar Stretcher is "Living Better...for Less" I can really get behind the "Living Better" part. And, for that matter, I can get behind the "For Less" part, too. I love a bargain!

Full Disclosure: I am Mrs. Dollar Stretcher. That's right, I am Gary Foreman's wife. Since 1974 he's been showing me how to live frugally. Since 1974 I've been showing him how to spend it

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  • Wising up

    My dog just ate $15. Corde' is a 7-year-old Schnoodle (half Schnauzer, half Poodle), so she is well past the puppy chewing stage. However, for some reason, she feels the compulsion to eat her bedding. She has chewed through sheepskin pads, old baby comforters, and most recently an old bathroom rug. When that rug was in service as a bath mat she ignored it. But the moment it was put in her kennel for bedding she started in on it.

    In a weak moment I bought her a new comfy dog bed thinking that she was expressing her disdain for hand-me-downs and wanted to be treated like the princess she thinks she is. The new bed hadn't left my hands before she had sunk her teeth into it.

    Dog In Bed

    Is that her way to mark it as her own? Does she prefer sleeping in the scent of her own slobber (she may have something there. I kind of like the smell of my slobber, too!)?

    Whatever the reason, I won't be suckered into buying her a bed from the Pet Store ever again. There will be no orthopedic, memory-foam, extra-thick, plush, deluxe bed for this old dog. Just a supply of very old used bath towels. I'm stocking up already.

    Holes in Dog Bed

     

    Posted Jun 01 2010, 08:52 PM by mary2 with 3 comment(s)
    Filed under:
  • The Fast Lane -- Every Time

    I'm at the grocery store and I'm ready to get in line. I have a choice of two checkout lines:

    • in the first one, there's a younger person with about 6 items in her cart. The cashier is male.
    • in the second one, there's a person closer to my own age with about 40 items in her cart. The cashier is female.

    Which one do I pick?  The second one--hands down. "Why?" do you ask.  I have a rule: never go to a male cashier unless there's no other choice.

    Men make terrible cashiers. First, they are unable to multitask. They're just not wired for it. So for them to take an item, scan it, bag it or set it somewhere for the bagger, deal with a coupon, look up and input the produce code. It's simply too much for them. By the time that person with 40 items is pulling out of the parking lot, he'll still be wrapping up the sale for the person with 6 items.

    Test me on this. You'll see I'm right.

  • Which side is the salad knife?

    This week I attended a banquet dinner and was discretely (so I thought) trying to figure out which was my water glass. I did not want to slurp from my neighbor's glass. Someone at the table noticed and told me a helpful hint for such situations:

    • Drink (which has 5 letters) is on the Right (which also has 5 letters)
    • Bread Plate = Food (which has 4 letters) is on the Left (which also has 4 letters)

    We didn't get into the coffee cup. It had better be on the Right. Drink, Slurp, Spill all have 5 letters. I can't think of any 4-letter coffee words if it's otherwise. Somebody help me out on this........

     

  • Where Have I Been?

    One thing I had not mentioned is that I'm a CPA. Some of the first words my toddlers spoke was "tax season." Once the kids came along I really slowed down on my workload, but it was still a big deal in my house. I would work hard between 2/1 and 4/15 and make promises for the fun things we would do "after tax season." And we did. Each child got to have a special day with Mom where I'd take him or her out of school for the day and we would do whatever he/she wanted. Sometimes I wonder if I gave them the right message. "Let's play hooky!" But they both still have some good memories from those days.

    They also had their moments of revenge. Like coming down with chicken pox in March. Have you ever tried to get a babysitter for a kid with chicken pox? One year my lovely daughter got head lice in her waist-length blond hair. In the first week of April. I might as well have had a quarantine sign on my front door.

    The moral of the story is "no, ladies. You cannot do it all." If  you try to, your children will develop abnormal behaviors. Like know the depreciation life and method for business vehicles. Or think that everyone's Dad cooks the family dinner (thank you, Gary).

    So that's where I've been. Knee deep in W-2s, 1099s and depreciating business vehicles. And trying to get my kids to take Mom on a special day after tax season.

     

     

     

     

  • When to Leave the Nest

    It's official. Congress has mandated the age when one's child must leave the nest. They passed the health care legislation that mandates that children may stay on their parents' health insurance until the age of....26!!!!!!

    I don't know about you, but I don't want my 26-year-old living in my basement, eating my chocolate-chip cookie stash, tying up my washing machine, burning my gas. And I don't want him or her to be on my health care plan where I am paying their premiums, tracking the paperwork, or (heaven forbid!) keeping track of their appointments.

    Why is our generation so willing to support our kids past the age of 18 even if they're not in school? Why are so many parents willing to let their adult kids, spouses, and, sometimes, kids, move in? Why are the kids so willing to move back in? Back in my day, that was the sign of the ultimate failure. It was the LAST resort, not a "free" resort!!

    Update: Sorry about that rant. I guess I got a little shrill. Might be because we just finished Spring Break at our house. And I'm still bitter about my chocolate chip cookie stash.

    I love my kids and want to see them succeed. To that end we help (often even when it hurts) to help them get the education and tools they need to get started. But after that.... uh, uh. And Age 26! Perish the thought!

  • The Ultimate Recycled Home

    I grew up in the era of the Cold War. In fact, we had a Minuteman Missile installed at the end of my block. That worried my parents--they saw our neighborhood being a pinpoint on the Soviets' attack map. It worried me for a different reason. Every time I had to walk over it, I was sure that someone was pushing the red button to launch it at that precise moment and I would find myself straddling a missile on its way to who-knows-where.

    When I saw a Minuteman Missile on display at the Air and Space Museum I was in awe of how tall those things were. I also felt an odd affection for it.

    I recently came across a web site for a company that sells old missile base properties, called 20th Century Castles. I especially like the one that is nine stories deep. Think  f the possibiities! I bet I could finally have that sewing room (but I picture Gary finding a way to turn it into a nine-story garage). No windows to wash. No window treatments to worry about either. No gutters to clean. And our family and our closest 500 friends could survive the next nuclear attack.

    O.k. I'm in. How do I get one? Oh, good. The web site has a shopping cart. Let me just click the button and put it in my cart. Hmmm.  $2.3 million. Visa or MasterCard? Where's the PayPal button? Dang! Not enough money in the account. Guess I'll have to save a little longer. Hopefully there won't be any bombs dropping in the meantime.

  • Laundry-Day Blues

    Sorry I missed posting a blog last week. I was busy doing laundry. Repeatedly. The same load. Over and over.

    My washing machine is seriously malfunctioning. It no longer drains the water on its own. It needs a little prodding from me. So I have to manually set it once to drain the soapy water and again to drain the rinse water. Pretty soon my prodding will involve my right foot, but for now I'm being patient with it. That's because I know it is soon going to the Great Landfill! (I'm saving the big kick for when it's being wheeled out the door).

    I am awaiting the Appliance Cash for Clunkers Program., the best-kept consumer secret in the State of Florida. It's a nationwide program offering rebates for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances. The government allocated the money to each state to administer the program for their state. It's going on now in some states; Florida will begin April 16, Earth Day. Which is fitting, because that's where my old Maytag is going.

    In the meantime I am researching new washers and comparing prices. I want to make sure that I'm paying less than I would than if I waited for one on a good sale. I'm also drooling at the pretty red and blue ones. However I don't think my poor old white dryer will look so good next to its new neighbor. I don't want it to develop self-esteem issues and burn my clothes in a desparate attempt for attention. So, I'll stick with white.

    It's time to go commune with my washer. Again.  And then I'll read the Sunday appliance ads. And maybe paint a target on the Maytag.

     

  • Renters Beware!

    It's been a long time since I've played Monopoly. But I remember you had to play by the rules--you buy property and collect rent on it. If you were low on cash, you mortgaged it, but had to pay it back. Oh, those naive folks at Parker Brothers! 

    Now there seems to be no limit to the creativity of some greedy people. A story recently appeared in our local media of a fellow who was renting out houses that were in foreclosure. That's bad enough, but they weren't his! Apparently he would drive around and identify foreclosed houses that were vacant. Then he'd rent them out. Now the tenants are facing eviction and probably losing whatever security deposits they paid.

    We had another story in the newspaper about a guy who owned 400 rental properties all in foreclosure. That's not the reason he made the news. He made the news for spending thousands of dollars for food baskets for the poor at Christmas. Now call me a capitalist, but it seems to me that that money belonged to the mortgage holder and wasn't his to spend.

    If you are a tenant, take steps to make sure you don't become a victim. Deeds, mortgage, and property tax records are public record. In many counties, they are available online. Before you rent, do a search to make that the person leasing the property owns it, is current on paying the property taxes on it, and is not in foreclosure on the mortgage. Then, check the public records periodically, (preferably every month) to make sure no new foreclosure proceedings have been filed. 

    This is a wacky real estate market where a lot of people are not playing by the rules. But I can't help believing that being ethical and smart will win. And may the dishonest folks get their just due without a "Get Out of Jail Free" card!

  • The Most Dangerous Holiday of the Year, part two

    As the wife of The Dollar Stretcher, I am frequently a trial tester for some of the tips that are sent in. Sometimes I am a willing participant. Sometimes not so willing. And so it went one Valentine's Day.

    Let me say up front that there is definitely a line between romance and vandalism. I think the line was crossed one Feb. 14 a few years ago. My teenage son and I were running late. I opened the front door to see my minivan's windshield covered with a "I heart U" written in shave cream. The cynical son rolled his eyes and groaned and my heart went pitter patter. However, I was running late. So I hopped in behind the wheel and hit the windshield wipers. The stuff went everywhere!

    So there we went, speeding down suburban streets with tufts of foam spewing from the van. As we got a few blocks away from the high school, my son (who by this time had slunk so far down in his seat he was on the floorboard) asked to be let out so he could walk the rest of the way. He'd rather take the tardy than be seen in a rabid minivan.

    O.k., fine. Next stop was the carwash, where the attendant wondered aloud who would do that to my car. I felt like someone from a MasterCard commercial:

    • Shave Cream - $.99
    • Car Wash - $9.99
    • Your husband proclaiming his love for all the world to see - Priceless

     

  • The Most Dangerous Holiday of the Year, part one

     If 'Love is a Battlefield," then Valentine's Day is the minefield! I always feel sorry for the guys on V Day. They feel obligated to get something for their sweetheart, but because it's an obligation, it's not quite good enough. So it's darned if they do and REALLY, BIG-TIME darned if they don't. So, what are their options?

    Flowers - roses are way too expensive, so the Mrs. is likely to resent the waste of money on something that dies in a few days. Buy carnations and "What, I'm not good enough for roses?"

    Candy - Buy her chocolates and she'll bemoan the calories. Don't buy her chocolates and "What, you think I'm too fat?"

    Jewelry - unless you're single and buying the long-awaited engagement ring, don't even go there. And if you are buying the engagement ring, take her shopping with you. She'll wear this every day for the rest of her life. Let her have a say in it! (I've always wondered....do you think Princess Di was happy with a sapphire?)

    Lingerie - buy her something sexy and she'll think you are in it for yourself. Buy her something snuggly, she'll think she's no longer attractive to you.

    So Guys, here's my advice to you. Put away the checkbook and credit cards. Pull out the blank piece of paper, ingredients for a gourmet dinner, and/or all of the creativity you can muster. Get sentimental, silly, sincere and suave. Good luck, Men. God go with you.

    Next week, part two. I'll share with you how someone's Dollar Stretcher Tip led to the most memorable Valentine's Day I've ever had.

     

     

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