Frugal Lemon Leads to Frugal Lemonade

Frugal flops.  We’ve all had them, haven’t we?

I’ve probably had more than my fair share.   Mostly because I love a deal, and I’ve been known to overbuy a time or twelve.  Now that I am packing and reaching into every nook and cranny the sheer numbers of deals purchased and quickly forgotten are embarrassing.  I’ve filled an entire closet at the new house.  And I’m not done yet.

But this latest frugal lemon wasn’t about a deal, or overbuying.  In this case my eagerness and excitement spurred me to make a bad choice…

See, we’ve been planning to move since before Son was born.  As a result I never really decorated Son’s room the way I wanted to- though I wanted to desperately.  But why would I when we were about to move?  His furniture is my pre-marriage master bedroom furniture – whitewashed wicker.  Using the dresser as a changing table was a frugal choice that worked  perfectly well, and placing the full-sized bed in his room so guests would have a place to  sleep wasn’t a pretty choice, but who cared?  We were  moving! I did manage to put some picitures on the wall and an alphabet rug, but it wasn’t the room I’d dreamed to give him.  Not even close.

Well,  we didn’t move.  And then we didn’t  move.  And then we did not move.  For 4 and 3/4 years.

Now we finally are.  And now Son will have a room that’s just his, decorated for just him.  And I’m so frickin’ happy and excited about that.    A little too happy and excited…

I chose a really bright green paint for the room, but only put it on 1 wall.  I went to Ikea and chose curtains and accessories and built more new ideas.  With the paint I’ve spent about $100 so far.  Woo hoo!

The furniture in his room now will go in the guest room at the new house, so I decided he needed a new dresser and a desk.  New to us, at least.  So I looked on Craigslist for a wood dresser and desk that I could paint either white or bright green or blue – I hadn’t decided yet.  And I saw something that could be perfect – it had a really nice whimsical shape – and it was only $40 for the dresser AND the desk.  And it came with a headboard with cubbies (which I didn’t need so I was either going to re-sell it or saw off the bottom and hang it on the wall as a shelf).

I went to go see it and was disappointed to see that it wasn’t in great shape.  The headboard was in fine, but the dresser was scratched quite a bit.  The desk had water damage at the bottom (water and fiberboard don’t mix) and the fiberboard top was worn away in one corner.

I hesitated, thinking about all of the work that would need to be done.  Then I said to myself, “Well, the scratches don’t matter because I’m going to sand it before I paint it.  And I can put molding at the bottom of the  desk and just attach some 1/4 inch plywood to the top of the desk and viola!  And it’s only $40 for all three peices!!!”

So, I bought it.  And when Husband saw it he was unhappy.  He said it was crap furniture  and that he’d do the work but not be happy about it.   I saw my vision for it in my head and was undeterred.

But he was right.  It was crap.  And it was going to take soooo much work to have it match my vision.

I began to have buyer’s remorse.  My overexcitement led me to a bad decision.  The furniture was CRAP!  What was I thinking???  It was a frugal lemon so big that it took up half my garage.

Oy.

I began to think about getting him a good piece of furniture.  Maybe even new.  I looked on Craiglist, I went to Ikea.

And I decided to get rid of the crap.

So I listed it on Craigslist.  And I sold it to someone else.  For $50.  Yes, that’s more than what I paid for it.

I still haven’t bought a dresser for Son.  But I’ve calmed down and decided to take my time. There’s no place for emotions in frugality and wise spending.

It was a good lesson.  And I paid myself $10 to learn it.  Not  bad.

Not bad at all…

Ban Ki-moon, Have I Got a Speech For You!

Three and a half hours.

That’s how long I spent at our homeowners association meeting last night, between the meeting itself and the commentary afterwards.

My attendance at said meeting was precipitated by a knock on my door this past Saturday night whilst having the in-laws over for dinner. One of my neighbors wanted to warn us to move my in-laws car, which was parked on the street in front of our unit. Parking is not allowed on the streets, as they are very narrow. Unfortunately guest parking is very limited, and as long as people don’t make a habit of parking in the street it’s always been generally overlooked.

We are in the situation, however, where a new board is in power (the old president -a very effective president – had some medical problems and wanted to step down), and they are wanting to flex their mighty muscles to show residents and the past board that there is a new sheriff in town. Apparently this neighbor had just stopped a towing company from towing a car out of his own driveway. It’s a car they do not use and is properly covered with a car cover. It had the gall to get a flat tire, which is against the rules. No warning letter was sent, just the tow truck.

You just cannot do that.

The neighbor had to pay sixty dollars for the tow company to release his car (which is now going to have to be reimbursed by the board). According to this neighbor the tow driver told him they were 4 other vehicles to be towed from driveways, and he was also contracted to come back at midnight to tow any car on the street.

The next day another neighbor (one that was on the tow driver’s hit list) knocked on our door asking us sign a recall petition, which would attempt to dump 3 of the 4 members of the board. I’d not been to a board meeting for several months, and the neighbor filled me in on all the errors that the new board was making. She told me that the old president had agreed to get back on the board, another ex-member wanted to also, and the wife of the neighbor whose car was nearly towed (never a member) would be President. A coup, as it were.

Husband, a fierce defender of individual rights, thought everyone on the new board should be drawn and quartered. He wanted to sign so badly his body was nearly convulsing. In a cruel twist of fate it turns out that I am the only one on the deed (I bought when I was single), so I am the one to sign, or not.

And I chose not. Much to Husband’s chagrin.

I didn’t sign because the emotions were so high, and I didn’t think I could completely trust the information I’d been given. I also think that a new board is going to make mistakes, and that doesn’t mean you burn them at the stake. Hopefully they are coachable, and can learn from their errors (sorry, it’s a wonderfully frugal thought, but a board member should not be cutting down trees himself, as there are huge liability issues!). And I wanted to go to a meeting to get my own take on it. I already knew I wanted the old president back on the board because of her expertise, but I wasn’t sure that everyone on the new board needed to go. And I just didn’t think there had to be a war to make things better.

And that’s basically what I told the old president when she knocked on my door, petition in hand. I explained that tempers were so high that I thought it would accomplish much more if I walked into the meeting neutrally. And she ultimately agreed.

So the meeting started, and there were accusations and grievances and angry words and even one idiot who started throwing profanity. Things were deteriorating quickly, and I threw out a few, “Can we stop shouting, please?”s that ebbed things for a moment or two before things heated up again.

Finally I got up and spoke for about ten minutes about working together and how things aren’t always as they appear and how there’s always going to be “selective enforcement” of rules because no one can see every breaking rule all the time, and it’s always going to look selective to the ones who are caught. I reminded them there no one involved is evil, that what everyone wants is what’s best for the community. I talked about how tough times are and how tough they are going to be (what with 5% of our community in foreclosure), how we didn’t have to war with each other, etc, etc.

Really, I was quite brilliant.

The entire tone of the meeting shifted. The anger was still there, but now they were talking to each other instead of screaming. The prevailing defensiveness stopped. They were listening. Things were accomplished.

Damn, I’m good.

After the meeting I was asked several times by people on both sides to be on the board. Thanks, but I’d rather pour acid in my eye. Fifteen years as an insurance agent dealing with thirty-five different condo boards on a daily basis cured me of any desire to ever serve in that capacity. Ev-er. Ever.

So, there will still be a recall meeting. And grievances will still be aired. And I do hope the new president steps down, because you cannot simply answer “I don’t know,” and “”Because I felt like it,” to nearly every question presented to you. The rest of the new board seems fine, they just need the assistance of someone experienced to help them.

My work here is not done. Ban Ki-moon and I know and understand that. Tomorrow is another day. Diplomacy is king.

Deal of the Day October 15, 2008

Do you know that you can save $60 a year on your electricity if you replace the 4 most used lights in your home with CFL bulbs?  That’s what Ace Hardware is saying, and they’re offering a $5 off $25 purchase coupon to help you do it.   Expires October 21.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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To List the House or Not List the House, That is the Question

We were sooooooooo close.

We were so close to listing the house.

We’d decided against a realtor and for a listing service, which would give us a realtor-quality listing that would stay up until we sold the house.

We’d started packing and put items in storage to make the rooms feel bigger.

We’d taken the photos of clean and de-cluttered rooms.

We’d snuck onto realtor.com looking at houses in Georgia.

We’ve even come up with a list of Twenty Things to Do Before We Buy a House.

We were one day away from listing the house when the floor – a.k.a. the economy, fell out from under us.

Banks aren’t lending money. Credit card companies are reducing credit limits, affecting credit scores for even those with excellent credit histories.

Car dealerships are closing because no one is spending money to buy cars, and banks won’t give car loans to those few who do.

Now we’re unsure what to do. If we find someone willing to buy our house they probably won’t be able to get a loan, at least until banks start lending money again.

And if we do sell the house Husband has to find a job in Georgia before we buy a new place. After all, no lender is going to give us a mortgage with no income. And in this economy advertising agencies are laying people off, not doing much in the way of hiring…

On the other hand, no one’s going to even want to buy our house if they don’t know it’s for sale. I’m also thinking that sitting on the market for awhile will not have the same stigma it has had in the past. Almost all houses are languishing, aren’t they?

So, what’s the smart decision? Do we list the house and take those risks? Do we put it on the market even though no one is buying and we’re uncertain about the future of everything?

Or do we wait, for our home value to decrease more, staying in a place we don’t want to be, and wait for things to get better while we sit here uncertain about the future of everything?

Stay tuned.

Deal of the Day September 29,2008

Getting ready to do some Autumn sprucing up around your home?

Then take advantage of this great deal from Sherwin Williams. This printable coupon takes 20% off your total purchase. And because it’s good till the end of the year, you can keep coming back to print more as needed. Expires 12/31/2008.

Go forth and paint!

Check back tomorrow for another great deal! Subscribe to my RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss a thing!


If you enjoyed this post, please visit my Stretch Your Dollar page for more great tips!

You’re going to give me $50,000 to do what?

Oh, it’s a tempting offer. But it’s likely not open to you, unless you’ve got a Jewish mother.

A congregation in the self-proclaimed Peanut Capital of the World, also known as Dothan, Alabama, is so lacking in Jewbies they’re offering up to $50,000 to Jews who move there. And if you stay at least five years you don’t have to repay it.

$50,000. Fifty. Thousand. Sheckels.

To live in a town dotted with big fiberglass peanuts painted to resemble characters and people — including an Elvis peanut. A place where the politics are hard right in an area with a history of racism and anti-semitism as long as the sleeve of your hooded white cloak.

To live in a place that’s quiet and family-oriented, where we can afford a house and see the change of seasons.

A place that’s growing and changing.

A place that’s less than thirty miles from the best man in our wedding, who lives across the border in Florida but comes to Dothan to attend this same temple with his wife and four kids most weeks.

Oh, that’s a tempting offer. Fifty thousand could make a nice difference in our lives. A really nice difference.

I wonder if Husband’s non-Jew status would affect our eligibility. We are raising Son Jewish (Husband refuses to attend church, so that was a no-brainer), and even if Husband was Jewish he’d still not participate in the Men’s Club… And he is circumcised…

I’d finally have people to play Mah Jjong with!

But could Husband find a job? It’s Dothan, Alabama! Do they even have any advertising agencies?

Fifty thousand dollars!

Husband has been there. Says I wouldn’t like it.

$50,000 would really help me overlook some of Dothan’s negatives. Not all of them, but at least twelve. Of the medium-sized negatives. Or one big one.

I could put up with an awful lot for five years for $50,000.

I’m making a call to Dothan tomorrow. No harm in getting the details, is there?

Deal of the Day August 15, 2008

Totally forgotto do one yesterday.  Sorry!

Here’s a great freebie that could save you lots of money and anguish:

Keep your home safe with this free Dryer Vent Tool Kit from Dryer Vent Wizard. The kit measures the temperature in your dryer to help determine if it’s at risk for fire. Included are helpful hints on how to avoid dryer fires. Available while supplies last.

Check back tomorrow for another great deal!

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Cleaning Up Goop

I had a terrific post written and went to save it and WordPress errored out.  Dadgummit!

Here’s a brief version.

I cleaned my oven today for the first time since I’ve owned it (a little over a year).

It’s self-clean, but the thought of running the oven at 500 degrees for five hours in Florida was unappealing.  Not to mention the energy cost.  And my fear I’d still have to use Brillo pads and elbow grease just like in every other oven I’d shared a home with over the past forty-three years.  And you can’t use Easy-Off on self-clean ovens.  And even if I did use the self-clean feature I thought I’d likely still have to use lots of elbow grease.  And who does that voluntarily?

I avoided and procrastinated instead.  Then I said something very witty about how great it would be if the Olympics gave medals for these things instead of Water Polo and gymnastics.

It was time to clean it, as the oven window was opaque, and we’re putting the house on the market.  Then I found out you can use Easy-Off on self-cleaning ovens.  The angels sang.

It was easy and quick. Spray, leave for two hours and wipe off the goop.  I still had  to use a little elbow grease, but not much.

Now the nosy people smart buyers who look in my oven will think that it’s brand new, or that I don’t cook.

Both are fine with me.

The original article was much better.  Trust me.

90% Well Done

This morning I went to use the microwave and noticed it was dirty. I cleaned it, then noticed that the electric can opener was, too (does anyone have one of these that works well? I never have!). I cleaned that and pretty soon there was no stopping the ball from gaining momentum on the way to completely tearing apart my kitchen. Three garbage bags, 1 large charity box and twelve cleaned and re-organized cabinets later my kitchen is just about ready to be shown. That’s good, since I have appointments with two realtors this week.

It’s hard for me to plan ahead for these things. When I think about a huge job like that I get so overwhelmed I don’t even want to begin. And lately I’ve been doing so much at my Dad’s old house that the thought of packing or cleaning out anything is about as welcome as a hemorrhoid. As a result the upkeep of my house, and the market-readiness work have fallen to the wayside. That’s not right, but it’s the way that it is. Or has been.

But when something just evolves the way it did today I feel empowered and completely forget to be overwhelmed.

I like that feeling.

The only downside is that I still have not found a cure for the 90% Doneness Syndrome. I get 90% of a job done and am left with a pile of things that I don’t know what to do with, or am too tired to deal with after busting my tush all day. Today’s 10% is currently sitting on my dining room table.

Sigh.

Tomorrow. I’ll deal with it tomorrow.

The $50,000 Escape

If you were given $50,000USD (tax free) today, what would you spend it on? That’s the question on Hank’s (from My Investing Blog) mind. So here’s my answer:

What would I do with $50,000?

I’d do something totally irresponsible. Something that completely goes against my sensible, logical, frugal financial persona.

I’d take my family and move to Georgia. Even though my house here isn’t sold. Even though Husband doesn’t have a job. Even though we wouldn’t be able to buy a house and would have to rent.

Not that it would be a complete waste of money. We’d get a chance to feel out the area and decide where we really want to live, which could save us from making the mistake by buying the wrong house in haste. It would give Husband time to find a job that he really wanted, versus any job as quickly as possible to start bringing money in.

And my frugal ways would still be in force. I’d still buy generic and clip coupons and do all of the other things that allow us to stretch our money as far as it will go.

Yes, that’s definitely what I’d do.  I’d hope Husband would find a job and our house would sell long before the money ran out, but a nice big cushion always makes  me breathe easy.

Now I just need to find the person willing to give me that money. Anyone………?

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