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Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

  • Tip for clothes shopping

    Do you tend to buy the same clothing items over and over? Are you lured by striped tees and dark jeans only to bring them home to find you have almost the exact same item in your wardrobe? I know that happens to me. But sometimes when I'm at the store, I forget what I have at home. And I've recently realized that this is because I'm going shopping when most of my clothes are in the laundry basket, waiting to be washed. Just like we shouldn't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, I think we should stay away from clothing stores (be they Goodwill or Saks Fifth Avenue) when we have empty closets due to needing to do the wash. 

    Since I've started the one in, one out routine, I've been better about not getting duplicates (and when I do, I put the old one out or return the new one), but I've noticed that I can run through my mental closet inventory much more easily when the clothes are hanging there and not piled in the laundry basket. And that helps prevent a duplicate purchase.

  • Do you care about being tracked?

    I find the idea of living "off the grid" very appealing -- just a person in a shack in the woods, making their own food, generating electricity (or going without) and being quite free from society. I doubt I will ever fully be that person in the shack, but I don't like the idea of the government or marketers or my internet company (or anyone else for that matter!) knowing what I'm doing all the time. 

    There have been a lot of articles in the news lately about how marketers track Internet users in order to put targeted pop-up ads in their path. And today I read an article about how the CIA has been working with the NYPD to infiltrate minority (read Islamic) neighborhoods and monitor people. I'm not doing anything sneaky or suspicious or treasonous, but I still like my privacy just fine, and the idea of anyone (especially big businesses) knowing my every movement just doesn't sit right with me.

     Some steps I'm taking?

    I try to always pay cash for stuff, so I don't have a big banking trail.

    I think about abandoning (but have not yet abandoned) my grocery store rewards card.

    I've installed ad-blocker software on my computer -- those marketers may still know where I'm going, but I don't see any ads at all (and it's great).

    Does anyone else have any tips for getting off the grid? I'm sure not using a computer/internet is probably a prime way to have more privacy and liberty, but I'm not ready for that step quite yet!

  • How no TV has changed my shopping habits

    It's been about a year since I sold my television, dvd player, and antenna at a tag sale. I have not missed having a tv AT ALL. I kept some favorite DVDs that I watch from time to time on the computer (maybe 5 times since last August), and I have watched Hoarders, 60 Minutes and Masterpiece Theater on my computer. But I go weeks and months without seeing a moving filmed image.

    Today I accompanied someone to a drugstore that I don't normally shop at. I used to love going to drugstores and seeing all the "fun" lotions and hair notions and new products. Today,I had absolutely no interest in looking at new products, smelling containers, or buying a thing. I didn't feel like I was missing out by not knowing the new brands or products, and I felt absolutely no desire to pick up, inspect or purchase junk I didn't need. I think this must be related to the lack of advertising in my life. I listen to public radio or cassettes in the car, I don't watch tv, the shows I watch on the laptop don't have ads, and I have adblocker software on my computer. I see ads in the New Yorker and Elle Decor magazines, but the things they advertise are so far beyond my means that the ads are more like abstract art than a call to shop. I haven't seen an ad for a beauty product in a very long time.

    It was a wonderful realization in the store --- the store is there to supply me with things I truly need (and really use) when I have run out of them. It is not there to introduce me to new things that I do not need. And if I'm not being bombarded with advertisements (and television shows themselves) telling me that I need the newest this or that to be an average person, then I don't think I need that or this -- I know what I need it, and I get it when it runs out. What a concept!

  • Local vs. National banks

    About two years ago, I opened a Bank of America checking and savings account. I had received something in the mail offering $100 if I opened the account. I'd had an account with a local bank for about ten years, and planned to just open the Bank of America account, do the ten transactions or whatever was needed to get the money, and then close it. I found I liked BoA's online banking system (for paying bills) better than my old bank, and I liked how they rounded up transactions and put the money into savings. So I closed my local bank accounts and just used Bank of America. I was fairly happy, although I never seemed to be able to reconcile the account -- transactions seemed to pop up and then disappear. The online services were great, but the in-person service was pretty bad. They seemed to want to push customers to do everything themselves (use the ATM instead of tellers, use online services rather than in person customer service), but I dealt with it. Plus, there are BoA ATMs everywhere, so I never had to worry about a fee for using the ATM. I hated the Merrill-Lynch advertising on the online site, and I certainly think of myself as someone who prefers local banks, but I didn't really see myself going through the hassle of closing the account.

    This spring, I started a new part-time job and the HR person told me that if I opened an account with (a different) local bank and had my paycheck direct deposited, I'd get $100. Again, I figured I'd just try it out and then close it. But the service at this local bank is fantastic.They sent me a hand-written thank you card for opening my account with them. They don't try to up-sell me every time I walk in the door. There are always plenty of tellers, and they seem genuinely happy to be working at the bank. As with BoA, there are no monthly fees, and my online bill pay is quick and easy. For a while, I thought I'd just keep the two accounts, because my mortgage is with BoA and it's easy to pay it each month by dragging the money from one account to the other. But it got to be a hassle divvying up paychecks between the two banks, so I decided to close the BoA account.

    I went into one branch and the one and only customer service rep (non-teller) who could close the account for me was with a customer and had another waiting. I went into another branch, and the one and only customer service rep was with a customer and I waited 15 minutes to be seen. While I was waiting, two people in line disputed their transactions, and one person stormed off because the ATM wasn't working. Seeing all this unhappiness definitely reinforced my belief that I made the right decision.

     I'm looking forward to just having one place for my checking and meager savings to live. And I'm happy to support a local bank that makes an effort to thank me for my business.

  • How systems have changed my behavior

    I don't know about you folks, but I tend to be attracted to/tempted by/purchasing the same things again and again. Long sleeved striped tee shirts, shea butter cream for dry skin, brown loafers, and blank notebooks are among my top repeat offenders. None of these things are major expenses, and with the exception of the skin cream, they are things that I'm considering purchasing at second-hand stores or tag sales, but still.... 

    Since I've adopted the "one in, one out" plan, I've noticed that I'm repeatedly drawn to the same things when I'm out shopping. Now I try to go out shopping as little as possible, and I mostly stick to food stores, but there are times when I actually need something. And these are the times when the many things I don't need come into view as possible life-enriching purchases. Now that I'm committed to "one in, one out," and I hear the siren song of shea butter, I stop and take a mental inventory of my medicine chest -- do I already have some? Yes, well, then no need to buy more.

    This new policy (one in, one out) has made a HUGE difference in my shopping habits, as has the envelope system which I adopted last fall. It's funny that by setting up these rules for myself, I've been able to change my behavior. I had been quite willing to change my behavior before, but without these clear rules and systems, it didn't happen, and I had no way to measure my changes/evaluate my behavior.  By imposing the envelope system, I stick to my budget very carefully. By imposing the one in, one out rule, I don't bring in (for free or for cost) Stuff that I don't need. And as a corrollary to the envelope system, I now put at least $10 into savings every week. This may seem insignificant to some, but it's $520 more per year than I was saving before, so it's a big deal for me. 

    I'd love to hear how other DS readers have made lasting behavioral changes in their own spending and saving habits. What worked for you?

  • Using up food

    I recently discovered a blog called The Non-Consumer Advocate whose motto is "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I've been focusing on using up food recently. I've got all sorts of weird ingredients sitting around the fridge and the cupboard that I either bought for a specific recipe or got because I thought it looked interesting. I happen to think that spices last much longer than their expiration dates, but I did notice that I have some non-spice items that are getting sort of long in the tooth. So I'm concocting recipes where I can use these things up so that I don't have to wait until they go bad and then throw them out.

    Sometimes when I buy a special ingredient for a recipe, I think of it as "really special" and don't want to waste it by using it. I realize this is kind of irrational -- it's much more wasteful to buy it and not use it! I don't want to get bogged down by foodstuffs that I'm not using regularly, so I'm going to try to put more thought into my ingredients purchases. I tend to make mostly the same things, and I tend to like pretty similar food -- either really simple stuff like eggs and potatoes, or stuff that doesn't require fancy ingredients like Italian food, or delicious Indian food which is kind of complicated, but I do have all those spices on hand -- so I think I'll try to curtail my purchases of ingredients outside the regular rotation, so that I won't have any more five year old bottles of mustard oil that I'll have to try to make use of in the future. 


     

  • Imaginary trip back in time, grocery version

    One of my many part-time jobs involves doing market research in retail stores. I lurk in aisles observing shopper behavior and then ask people questions about things they looked at on the shelves. I love this job (the pay is great, there's no one breathing down my neck, and I like hearing what people say about their shopping habits). I was working on a project in a grocery store today, and it was pretty slow, which gave me time to think. And I stopped for a minute and loooked around at all the advertising -- the packaging, the stickers, the flyers, the end caps -- there are so many ads designed to lure us to buy, buy, buy (and the work that I do as a market researcher is geared towards helping the advertisers be more effective with their work). So many people were just wandering and looking lost -- looking for guidance from the packaging and displays.

    I imagined how different shopping must have been back in "the old days" when you just bought flour or oil or string and butcher paper, rather than being faced with shelf after shelf of options for the things you actually need, not to mention stuff no one needs but we wind up buying because the marketers are so good at what they do.

    I love to read novels set in the late 19th and early 20th century, and shopping is described so differently in that era. Shoppers would walk into the general store with a little list and the grocer would measure out the provisions needed and bundle them up, probably sending a shop boy to carry them home.If the shopper needed guidance, she (or he) would ask the grocer, who was a trusted source of advice. "Will castor oil help little Timmy's colic?" was more apt to be a question (at least in my novels), unlike today's shopper's silent inner questioning of "should I get fat free, reduced fat, air spun, or splenda ice cream?"

    A lot of things in our modern lives are fantastic achievements, especially in domestic time saving devices, but the idea of a less commercial life that is less saturated by advertisements is very appealing.

  • On being different

    Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be different. Sometimes I wanted to be different from other people, sometimes I wanted to be different from who I actually was. When I was a teen, I was all about punk music and funky hair and I spent some time traveling and being sort of off the grid, in my 20's and 30's I oscillated between being deeply involved in alternative community organizing efforts (fighting the system) and being deeply involved in a consumer lifestyle (letting the system win). Now that I'm in my 40's (eek!), I'm feeling really comfortable with who I am, and I don't do anything simply for the point of being different, yet sometimes I realize that I just am different from a lot of the people in my everyday life.

    There are a lot of things about "the system" that I disagree with, but rather than fighting to try to make big changes in society, I'm living my life in a way that meshes with my own personal values. Instead of making a lot of noise about how bad things are and telling people what they should do, I'm quietly living a really good life. Some people think I'm weird -- I was telling someome recently about my one in, one out policy, and she said "boy, I wouldn't want to live in your world"-- back when I used to actively aim to be thought of as different or weird, I would have loved to hear that. Now, I'm just a little surprised, because I love my world, so sometimes I forget how different it is.

  • One in, one out

    I've read about the "one in, one out" policy in the past. This is where a person (or a household) decides to curb stuff by deciding to get rid of one thing for each new thing that enters the household. This is typically done with something that the person has "issues" with and the person replaces like with like --  clothing, shoes, books, albums, cat figurines -- anything that's threatening to become excessive.

    Whenever I used to think of this concept, it would scare me. That's right -- it would scare me. The idea of having to get rid of material goods in order to get more material goods was terrifying. "What if I'll need something in the future?" I thought. "But I love those new shoes just as much as the old ones -- I want both pairs!" I told myself.

    But just the other day, I needed new sneakers -- really needed them. My eight year old sneaks had a hole in the sole. So I went to a thrift store and got some nearly new ones for ten bucks. I took a little stroll down the skirt aisle and saw a lovely white linen skirt. I'm a big fan of white linen skirts. I thought, "this white linen skirt is nicer than my current white linen skirt. I'll try this one on, and if it fits, then I'll have two white linen skirts, great!" But all of a sudden it struck me -- why would I need two? For absolutely no reason. And then I got it -- I understood the "one in, one out" policy. I have every material thing I could possibly ever need (except a Scooba). I am having a tag sale next week to get rid of excess stuff and I have vowed not to get to the point of having excess stuff again -- so why would I buy another white linen skirt when I already have one? Well, this white linen skirt was newer, nicer and fit great. It cost $4.99. My old white linen skirt probably cost about that when I got it five or six years ago and it shrunk a little such that the lining was showing. So I decided to get the new skirt and promptly put the old skirt and old holey sneaks in a bag to bring to the thrift store (will anyone want holey sneakers?).

    And the "one in, one out" policy has begun and is unidirectional. I can certainly put one out without bringing one in, but when it comes to clothing, shoes, and housewares (not books, which I don't consider consumer goods), when I buy a new one I will put an old one out. And if the thought of having to get rid of something in order to get the new one bothers me, I'll put the new one down and walk away.

  • Transmission failure and gratitude

    My transmission is toast. Luckily, it did not happen on the highway, and I managed to coast it into the shop so I didn't even need a tow. But I do need a new (to me) transmission for my poor car. I'm waiting to hear back today on what my options are. 

    I've been putting money away each week into savings (not enough to pay for the transmission), and working hard on paying down my credit card. The credit card is what's going to wind up paying for the transmission. I'm glad I have the credit available, but would have much preferred not having had to resort to it. So in the meantime, I'm searching high and low for additional part-time jobs that I can take on over the summer so that I can stay on track with my plan of paying off this (my only) credit card by the end of the year. 

    In thinking back to other expensive life experiences of the past ten years (miscalculating taxes and owing the IRS a bundle, a costly but life-saving dog operation [the dog is still alive and thriving seven years on], and a leaking roof come to mind) I see that I used to just put it on a card or open a new loan and not think at all about how long it would take to recoup the loss, or what the interest implications would be, or even what those borrowed money payments would do to my overall daily cash flow.

    But now I have a different approach, thanks to many years of reading books and blogs (like the Dollar Stretcher!), and thinking and praying long and hard about the kind of life I want to have, and considering (lately) each and every expenditure. So now I just (okay, "just") have the one card, and have a very serious plan about paying it off. In the past, I might have said, "Well, since my car broke down and I have to charge it, I might as well charge up a dinner out and treat myself to something so I'll feel better about it." In fact, I probably did say that at some point. Instead, this time I walked home (lucky to have a great car shop near my house) and made dinner from my pantry.

    I am disappointed that I am unable to pay cash for the repair, but I'm so grateful for many things that are helping me cope with this unexpected expense:

     #1 I wasn't hurt or stranded somewhere by this dead transmission

    #2 I do have enough credit available to pay for it, and I have enough cash to rent a car for a week or two if I need to.

    #3 All my other bills (mortgage, food, utilities) are not imperiled by this expense

    #4 I own my car, and this repair will hopefully extend its life, and will certainly cost less than a new car

    #5 I am looking for extra sources of income to help me stay on track with paying for this bill

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