The Bachelor Says “No Thank You.”

Tonight the final Two Bachelorettes, who are still Bachelorettes, came back to bitch out Brad.I don’t get why they’re arguing with him.  He’s not wrong not to have fallen in love.  He’s not wrong to have not told them – that’s the premise of the show that they all signed up for, for goodness sake.  It’s not wrong that he dated them and then decided he didn’t want either.

It’s not ingenuine to see that someone is wonderful and has all of the qualities you are looking for, but you just don’t get the butterflies.  It’s not explainable, and they tried to force him to explain.

The whole idea of dating is to try someone on and see if they fit.  If they don’t fit, well, you move on.  What they do with The Bachelor is accellerate the process by having you date 25 people all at once.   If neither of the final two are right for him, why should he have to choose one?  Just because they’re on a TV show?  That has a history of stringing along the women until they get the boot?  I just wonder if that wasn’t his plan all along.

Ladies, have some dignity.  He’s just not that into you.

See my comments after the Final Rose Ceremony here.


A Frugal Conundrum – What Would You Do?

What do you do with gifts you don’t/cannot use? Would you do what I did?

We live in a townhouse that is a wonderful size for one person, snug for two, and cramped for three. Given that there are three people plus a dog, it’s a constant struggle to keep the clutter at bay.

We have wonderful family and friends, and they are very generous with us and with our son. I love to throw big birthday parties for him, and they’ve all been truly wonderful affairs, with lots of fun and laughter.

And lots and lots of presents (I know we could request “no presents”, and I have a lot to say on that subject – in another yet-to-be-written post).

We have very limited toy storage. As a result, there were several unopened toys being stored in my son’s closet that we hadn’t gotten around to opening, either because they were too big to be able to really be used in our small living area or smaller driveway, because they were duplicates of things we already had or they were items I bought as “emergency gifts” that I’ve never had to use.

Some were really terrific, too. I so hate that we don’t live in a larger home, so he could have enjoyed the use of some of those items. We’re working on moving, and it can’t come fast enough for me.

So, this week I cleaned out that closet (this week’s battle in the De-cluttering Wars) and schlepped several items to a local store. I was upfront, told them that I had no idea if they were purchased at said store or not. The Service Representative assured me that if they sold the item they would happily give me a store credit for the items. Hot dog!

There was only one item that wasn’t in their system, so I walked away from the counter with a store credit for $107.36.

Which I promptly used to buy several smaller-in-size gifts for my son, and a few gifts for other people.

Controversial, I know.

What do you think? Frugal Coup or Icky Poo?

Always the Bachelorette

Okay, I admit it.

I looooove reality shows. Apparently the more ridiculous show, the better I like it. But I do draw the line at I Love New York. As much as I enjoy watching a train wreck, I really don’t need to see a close up of the leaking bodily fluids.

My two favorites are Top Chef and Project Runway, even though haute cuisine and haute couture are only interesting to me as crossword puzzle answers. These two shows rarely have much real drama – it’s the competition that’s so intriguing.

Tonight I watched The Bachelor, as I have fairly faithfully all season. Some friends and I just love to snark about the casts of this show. Even if they have a few brain cells the producers and editors rarely fail in making them look like complete and total idiots. Complete and total. They are just so very snarkworthy.

Tonight The Bachelor made his choice, but in case you have it TiVo’d I won’t spoil the surprise for you.

I was struck, though, by what a cast-off Bachelorette said as she was being driven away after being kicked to the curb. Mystified as to why he sent her packing after singing her many praises, she said, “I’m sick of being the one that makes that guy perfect for the next one.”

Amen, sister. I have been that many, many times in my life.

When you find the right one, though, you’ll be reaping the benefits of the modifications made by some other woman who prepped Right Guy for you.

Unless you’re Mary Kay Letourneau. And she’s just creepy.

Another hint, dear. You weren’t likely to meet him on a show where he’s got to date 24 other women. Huh.

See my other post discussing The Bachelor here.

Frugality isn’t for wimps…

I have something of a reputation for frugality. I shop clearance racks, clip coupons, plan my route to run errands to use the least gas, re-use generic Ziploc bags (dry goods only) , use my credit cards for everything to get more rewards.

There are people in my life, though, that don’t view me as frugal – they view me as cheap. I get teased, mostly good-naturedly, on a frequent basis.

I don’t see myself as cheap at all. I just don’t see the point in leaving lights burning in unoccupied rooms, buying lots of books when there’s a wonderful library just minutes away, or buying clothing just because it has a certain label on it.

To me saving money is a hobby. I get a kick out of getting a really great deal. My sister and I often tell each other how much we spent on our gifts to each other so we can share a zen moment. Besides, it’s fun to bargain hunt.

Still, you need to have a thick skin to be frugal in today’s buy more, borrow more society – especially if you are the only one in your circle who is. Then, when you find a like-minded person it’s as if the Red Sea has parted again, the angels are singing and you, for once, don’t have to explain why you go to four grocery stores, or don’t go out to lunch every day, don’t buy all the latest DVDs and don’t go skiing every winter.

It’s not that I don’t like nice things – I do. I just don’t see the point on paying $800 for a handbag with some guy’s initials on it. Though I’ll happily sport one if it’s given to me.

Don’t hate me because I’m frugal.

How Do They Sleep At Night? Vol 2: MySpace Impersonators

This is part 2 of a series about people who screw people, sometimes for a living.

How Do They Sleep At Night? Part 2-MySpace Impersonators

There are few news stories from the past few years that have disturbed me as much as this one. A young girl committed suicide after parents of an friend of hers opened a MySpace account, created a profile of a young boy, and used it to first gain her trust, then berate and harass her. They instigated the cruel joke, they say, to see if the girl was talking trash about their daughter, from whom the girl had recently become estranged. Perhaps it even started out that way, but it became more about the rush they got wielding the power to hurt a young, vulnerable girl.

Suicide is always tragic, even more so when it involves a child. This girl, already troubled, struggling with her weight and self-esteem, reached her limit. We all know that things would have gotten better, but the poor girl didn’t, couldn’t see past the despair and humiliation she felt lurked outside the door, and on her computer monitor. She wasn’t even safe in her own home.

The people who created the false MySpace account apparently didn’t break any criminal laws – at least not any currently on the books. The laws of humanity, though, were forgotten, or ignored, so that the impersonators could get a cheap thrill.

Are they responsible for her death? It’s true that they didn’t kill her, didn’t put the rope around her neck. I’m even sure that they’re genuinely sorry she’s dead. But they certainly did deliver what turned out to be a fatal blow to her spirit.

Even if she wasn’t troubled, there’s no excuse for such behavior. When children misbehave we say, “They should have know better.” But in this case it was an adult, a parent, saying such horrible things to a child. How could they? How could a parent say that to any child? THAT is the most unfathomable part of it to me, and to the parents I know.

If that weren’t enough, even as these barbs were arriving at their home via the internet connection, the Impersonators were actually imposing on the hospitality of Megan’s family by storing items at their house.

Those are some very, very large testicles.

I feel sorry for the Impersonators’ kids. They certainly aren’t getting many good lessons in character development. Who is teaching them to treat others how you wish to be treated, to share, to be kind? Who is teaching them all of the things I learned from my parents, and that were reinforced in Kindergarten? I hope they’re at least learning lessons on how NOT to be, otherwise I hope my son never runs across them…

How do the Impersonators sleep at night? If they do I hope Megan visits their dreams, and I hope that when they die G-d gives them the same consideration they gave Megan.

Like this post? Read the other post in this series!

The First Annual Absolutely Free and Almost-Free Gift Challenge

The holidays are approaching quicker than ever, at least that’s how it seems. Thanksgiving is next week, and after that the gift-buying frenzy will be in full swing.

I love spending time with my friends and family, and I enjoy gift giving – even more than I enjoy gift receiving. I have a pretty strict budget for gift-giving this year, thanks to large outlays we’ll be making for our property taxes, and to replace my husband’s aging MAC ($4000 right there, thankyouverymuch).

This year, more than others, it seems money is tight for a lot of people. For the past few years we’ve gone to a kids-only policy amongst my siblings and their spouses, and I hate it. It’s not that I want another spice rack, it’s that it’s fun to watch people open gifts, and open them yourself. I want to give something to my sisters and brothers, and their spouses. I want to give to my friends. I don’t want anyone’s finances, though, to suffer under the weight of it all. It is, after all, the thought that counts.
So I starting thinking about gifts we could give that come from the heart, and cost little or no money at all. It’s not that I won’t still buy some gifts – I will. But some people don’t need or want more things, so there are alternatives.

So, my friends and fellow readers, I am issuing you a challenge. Write a post or leave a comment listing at least 5 ideas you have for Absolutely Free Gifts, and 5 ideas for Almost-Free Gifts.

Absolutely Free Gifts are gifts that cost no money, though you can use items you already have around the house, and gasoline (to do or gather the components for the gift) is exempt.

Almost Free Gifts are gifts that cost almost no money to make – less than $10 – less than $5 would be better.

We can really help ourselves, and lots of other people, with these ideas.

If you like, I’m happy to link to your post. Just drop me an e-mail, or trackback.

To get us started, here’s my list:

Absolutely Free Gifts

  1. Night Out of-the-Month A certificate for one night of babysitting per month for a year. This is perfect for anyone with children, or pets they think are children. I’ll be giving this to a special someone who reads my blog, as she often laments that she and her husband don’t get enough time for dates.
  2. The Great Christmas PutawayA certificate good for taking down the Christmas Tree and putting away all holiday decorations. This one was actually requested by my mother-in-law, who is leaving town for three weeks the day after Christmas.
  3. The Cherished Object Giveaway (with Decluttering Bonus)Give away something that you have and love to someone else who covets it – and you get to help your decluttering efforts at the same time. I had a beautiful antique hammered aluminum tray with a flower engraving that my best friend loves. Every time she was at my house she’d joke about hiding it in her purse, or making sure I left it to her in my will. Last year when contemplating her gift I thought, “Why wait? I love it, and I love her. Why not?” She was so very pleased and touched, and so was I. And, it’s one thing in my house. Note: Please do no give someone your leftover paint, or your 1970 polyester suit (unless they are into ugly vintage).
  4. Share Your Expertise Give the gift of your knowledge and assistance to someone who could really, really use it. My in-laws just bought a new-to-them home in the mountains. As his gift to them, my husband is going to go up and help drywall their currently unfinished basement. I’m counting this as not costing us money because we had planned a vacation up there anyway, so the gift isn’t costing us any additional money. If you’re good with computers, a great organizer or a whiz in the gym, share it!
  5. The Re-Giftpassing along to someone else something that was given to you but you cannot or will not use. I know that this one can certainly be a Hot Topic, but if I don’t like or need it and I think someone else will, then where’s the harm? If you are going to do it, though, please follow these Rules for Re-Gifting:
  • Make sure it is in new, unused condition. You don’t want the recipient opening the gift and finding a stray piece of lettuce to remind you that you did try the Salad Spinner before putting it back into the box.
  • Don’t ever re-gift something if you don’t remember who gave it to you. Really, you don’t want to remember at the exact moment the original giver is opening the gift they gave you last year. Exception: gag gifts can absolutely go back to the original giver. We had the World’s Ugliest Handbag bouncing from person to person in our family for years, and much hilarity ensued when that year’s sucker opened it.
  • Try not to re-gift to someone close to the original gifter, for the same reason listed above.
  • ALWAYS remove the card from the person who gave it to you. In fact, check twice. Spring for a new card.
  • Make sure it is something you genuinely think the recipient will like. Please don’t give a pogo stick to wheelchair bound Aunt Gert, okay?

Almost-Free Gifts

  1. Homemade Holiday Treat OverloadBake your favorite cookies or cakes and share them with your family, friends, child’s teacher, co-worker – who doesn’t like treats? This tried and true frugal perennial has no downside. I so enjoy making holiday cookies, and now that my son is a little older I’m sure he’ll help in the kitchen this year. Even if you hate baking, you can make a very nice gift by putting all of the dry ingredients in a plastic bag with the recipe for your favorite cookie or cake tied with a pretty ribbon. This can be done for as little as about $2 a gift.
  2. Share Someone Else’s Expertise a variation of the share your expertise listed above, this involves engaging an expert in an area that you don’t have expertise to help someone you know. A few years a go my husband’s cousin and his wife had just started a new business, and really needed the assistance of an accountant. I asked my brother to give them a consultation (normally $250), and he only charged me dinner. They got a certificate to open on Christmas Day, and a few weeks later we all got together for dinner. I believe we had pasta (their portions cost only about $3) and after dinner my brother sat with them and helped them out. The cousin and his wife were thrilled, and my brother felt good, too, for helping someone who really needed help.
  3. Create a Family and Friends Recipe Book – ask your family and friends to share their favorite recipes, add pictures and compile them into a booklet that will be treasured. My sister-in-law did this about ten years ago, including tried and true family favorites, and even a secret recipe or two. My husband wrote a six page dissertation on The Proper Way to Make a Root Bear Float that had everyone hysterical. You can add funny or poignant stories, pictures and whatever else tickles your fancy. We still refer it for some of our favorite family recipes. My sister-in-law paid about $2-3 apiece to get them printed and bound, but you can print them at home and not get them bound. A variation would be to search the internet for fantastic recipes and put together a recipe book geared towards a certain person’s situation or preference – for example people in your life who may be vegan, diabetic, dairy-free, etc.
  4. The Mob Takeover do a makeover for someone who needs some extra help. Gather your entire family, or a group of friends, neighbors, fellow students or parishioners and landscape someone’s garden, clean out their attic, repaint their house. A few years before we were married, a friend and I descended on my husband’s yard and trimmed bushes, moved plants and planted a flower bed. We planted free lariope (they were cuttings from my friend’s yard) to make a decorative border, and we used the six leaf bags of pine straw that my husband had spent the day before raking up to line the beds (really, if you could have seen the look on his face!). I added a few plants from Home Depot and his whole yard was reborn, for less than $10.
  5. The Not- So-Accidental Kidnapping – spend time with someone who misses you. This is perfect for your parents, your grandparents, or that good friend you’ve been promising to get together with for the past six months. Our lives are so busy these days, and we often don’t take the time to “just be” with the people who love us. This year my husband will give his mother a gift certificate for four Mother-Son lunches. As much as she loves his family, her son is her baby. She is going to feel so special that he (okay, I) thought to give her the gift of time spent together, just the two of them. It doesn’t matter if the lunch is at our house, at her house, or a picnic in a park. Granted, this could cost more than the $10 limit, but really the gift is the time, and the food is incidental. Besides, it’s my list, so there!

So, folks, there it is. Have at it!

Thanks to everyone who’s contributing! Here’s what some others have come up with:

I’ve Paid For This Twice Already: My Evolution From the “New” to “Used”…Car, That Is

The Good Life On A Budget: Absolutely Free and Almost Free Gifts

See the Stretch Your Dollar Page for other money-saving ideas.

Procrastination is a fifteen letter word

Procrastination is something I keep putting off getting a handle on.

The funny thing is that I absolutely hate having things hanging over my head. I can’t stand having dishes sit in the sink. If I need to purchase a gift I usually do it weeks in advance – and the wrapping is almost always done at least a few days ahead of time. Pay a bill? Almost always done days or weeks in advance, and always, always on time.

Lord knows I get angry with my husband for putting things off to the last possible moment. It drives me nuts.

Yet there are things that I let wait and linger and float somewhere in my consciousness for days, weeks, months or years.

Today I called my insurance company to ask why two claims hadn’t been paid. One was from January. The other was from 2005.

Gawd, that was embarrassing to type.

It’s not that I hadn’t thought about it. Once a week or so. It’s just that I was either too tired, or too lazy, or too busy. Or I just wasn’t in the mood for a fight.

So, I gave my insurance company a nearly $500 interest-free loan.

Until today.

Remind me not to do that again, k?

Except that there are lots of things still hanging. I can barely see the sky.

Sigh.  There’s always tomorrow.

How do they sleep at night? Vol 1: Car Dealers and Finance Managers

This question will become the focus of a series of posts about people who screw people, sometimes for a living. And, hopefully, lessons I’ve learned and want to pass on.

Part 1 – Car Dealers and Finance Managers

Their job is to sell you a car, and in the process get as much money out of your pocket and into theirs as possible. That is exactly the opposite job to mine – to buy a car and keep as much money in my pocket as possible. They will often tell you anything they think you want to hear to get it. They will lie, cheat and steal.

I have bought two new cars in my forty-something years. The first was right after I realized that my father did not hide new car keys in my college graduation celebration cake.

It was a cute little bright red Nissan Pulsar with a T-Roof, and it was two days before my 22nd birthday. I only went to one dealership (another mistake), and I’ll never forget my mother’s advice that day, as I balked at having to pay $235 a month for the next five years. “You’re always going to have a car payment, sweetheart,” she said. ” Get used to it.”

I didn’t realize at the time that I was getting shafted. Those heartless shysters saddled me with a 10.5% finance rate. I had settled for a car payment I could afford, not found the best interest rate. The finance manager and the salesman probably got a trip to Tahiti for giving me a rate likely 2 full points above what I was eligible for.

Rat bastards.

I was a naive consumer, but I paid that note (this is where I learned another valuable lesson that many don’t know: your payments are due on your due date. If you pay after the due date but within the grace period you don’t get a late charge, but you get charged additional interest that they tack onto the last payment on your loan! So, please make your payments on time!).

I drove that very reliable car for five payment-free years after I paid off that note, and I liked it. I surely did like it. That’s how I learned that I didn’t need a new car every few years, and that no, Mom, I won’t always have a payment.

On the 10th anniversary of the purchase of my first one I bought my second new car. I had learned a thing or twelve in that ten years. I was much better prepared this time.

I visited several dealerships, and watched as salesmen and finance managers tried to steal money out of my pocket. I had researched and comparison-shopped and waited until the time was right and even called in a favor. They laughed at my offers and lied about expenses and tried to wear me down. I wouldn’t even discuss financing until I had a price. I left more than one, more than once.

In the end I made a good deal, and they hated my guts. When I sat down with the finance manager, I had a secret he didn’t know. I had gotten pre-approved for a car loan before I even walked through the door. Still, they tried to hide unnecessary charges in the contract. They lied to me, insisting to me those charges were required when they weren’t. I remember sitting across from that guy and actually saying the words to him, “How do you sleep at night, knowing that you screw people for a living?” I wound up using their financing, as my pre-approval gave me leverage to get an even better interest rate from the dealer. Money in my pocket.

Alas, that is the last new car I’ll ever drive.

Shortly after I got married my husband decided to get a new car for himself. He’d bought several new cars, but had driven this last one for eleven years. My new brother-in-law is in the car business. He is one of the shysters and rat bastards of which I speak, and in his case I say it affectionately. Mostly.

He’s the one who explained the process to me, really pulled back the covers on this very shady business. As consumers we can get oh so much better deals by buying used. Cars depreciate so much in the first year. And he recommended that we wait until January (much to my husband’s chagrin). Why? Because after the turn of the year the car becomes a year older in just one day, and therefore you can negotiate price based on it being 2 years old instead of the one year it actually is.

Also, most people know about the Kelly Blue Book, but did you know there’s a Black Book which most dealers use as a price reference? And that the prices are much less than Kelly Blue Book? Yeah.

That’s what inspired us, with some help from said brother-in-law, to buy our 2001 our Dodge Durango in January of 2003 for just slightly more than half of what it originally sold for. I added an extended warranty that I purchased from my local credit union (never, ever buy an extended warranty from a dealership unless you want to pay an egregious markup, and always, ALWAYS buy an extended warranty on a Dodge). Also, if you have cash in hand for the whole thing – or even just for the down payment- charge as much as the dealership will allow you to, then pay the credit card company immediately. Why not get the credit card rewards?

When my husband totaled my lovely Acura (through no fault of his own), we used the same principles to buy our 2004 Hyundai Sonata. Those salesmen hated me even more than the Dodge guys. The finance manager met with me even though I paid cash – “Are you sure you don’t want to keep that money liquid in case of an emergency?” he asked. “We offer great rates to people with excellent credit like you.” Really? Really? Oh, and you want to charge me $400 for VIN etching the windows, something that my insurance company will do for free? No thanks. Enjoy looking in that mirror, fella.

Another thing I learned – when buying a used car, always buy from a dealership. If they know there’s something wrong with the car they have to tell you. A private seller does not.

Of course, that’s assuming the dealer is following the law, and since we already established they are rat bastards and shysters, I wouldn’t take their word for it. I would, however, take the word of my mechanic, who will be looking over the car before I buy it. That’s B-E-F-O-R-E, my friends.

Next year the extended warranty on the Durango expires, and we’ll likely get another vehicle to replace it. It will definitely, absolutely be a used car. And the car dealers and finance managers will hate me some more.

That’s okay. I have no problem sleeping at night.


Like this post? Read the other post in this series!

See the Stretch Your Dollar Page for other money-saving ideas.

Love letters

Today I was at my Dad’s house, looking for his Ketubah (Jewish Marriage Document) from his marriage to my stepmother. She passed away a few months ago after almost 35 years of marriage, and he needs it for some memorial stuff he’s doing for her in Israel.

Anyway, it was too emotional for him to look through the closet where most of the photo albums and memorabilia were stored, so I offered to do it.

Besides the photos of vacations and parties, the newspaper clippings and greeting cards and certificates of accomplishment, besides the handwritten notes of birthday reminders was a box.

A box of love letters.

From men she knew before my Dad. Lots of them.

And from my Dad. Where I’m sure he professed his undying love and devotion, and talked about leaving his wife and two small children to create a life with her.

You’d think I’d read them, and you’d think I’d be angry. That she should have tossed those letters from other men. That my Dad chose to leave us for her.

But I did not, was not.

I sat there with those unread letters on my lap, and I just thought about how very lucky she was.

And then I put them away.

“She Got Some Nerve”

My husband, three-year-old son and I were on a train, returning home after a fun day out. We were sitting in a foursome – two sets of two seats facing each other. You were sitting in the foursome in front of us with your man and your two little girls.

Who does she think she is?” you complained to your companion. ” She just don’t want her kid touched because we black!

I wasn’t sure I was hearing right. Did you really just say that? Are you talking about me?

I wanted to tell you all of this…

My husband and son were looking out the window, enjoying the scenery we passed on our journey. I was taking pictures of said husband and son. Your older girl was turned around in her seat, watching us. She asked me to take her picture, which I did. She grinned when I showed her the preview image on my camera.

She and her sister crawled through the seats and sat facing us, their backs to you. You called them back but I looked over to you and smiled, it’s fine with me if it’s okay with you. We chatted with your girls. They told us they are three and five. My son insisted to the girls that he was four, not three. We giggled.

We took more pictures. I had gotten some really cute shots of your girls, and thought I’d ask if you wanted me to e-mail you the shots. Your younger girl had dried snot under her nose. She coughed several times. After awhile your older girl went back to sit with you, but the younger one stayed.

Then your daughter started touching my son. Normally I have no issue with kids touching each other respectfully. My son is asthmatic, though. And your daughter is sick. Sick for my son means 4 breathing treatments a day for weeks, then three, then two, until we sigh with relief that it’s only our “normal” once per day. One particularly nasty sick meant two days in the hospital.

I gently said to your daughter, “Let’s not touch please,” and “please don’t touch”, and when she didn’t I gently removed her hand. She wasn’t listening, so I removed her hand several times over about 5 seconds.

You suddenly came over, literally dragged her by the arm and leg over the seat and said, “Stop touching people who don’t want you to touch them!”

I sat there, shocked at how you had dragged her over the seat, but said nothing.

When I heard you say, “She got some nerve! Who does she think she is? She just don’t want her kid touched because we black!” I wanted to tell you all of this. My husband heard it, too. He told me to leave it alone.

I heard your companion tell you that you were off base, to chill out with that kind of talk. I heard you saying not nice things.

I couldn’t just sit there and have you not understand. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say, but I had to say something.

So I said, “No, it’s just because she’s sick.” Even though I knew it wouldn’t help. But I had to say it.

Your companion tried to soothe your anger. “See?” he said, ” It’s because she’s sick.”

“Oh, it’s fine for white kids who’re sick to touch black babies,” you said, “but not black babies touching white kids! She got some nerve!”

I saw it enrage you when he told me he understood, not to worry, and waved you off. He told me that, even though you argued with him about it, putting the sins of every white woman on my shoulders.

I felt unjustly accused. I was being called racist, when I’m not anti-any race. I’m just anti-germs.

I thought about how perceptions and experiences can be like crap-colored glasses, and totally skew how we see the world, and therefore reality. I sat there for the rest of our journey, and was sad.

And as we were leaving the train, I thought what a shame it was. You’re not going to see those great photos of your girls.

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