No Spend September: Days 5-7, Labor Day weekend

Labor Day Weekend would normally cost probably at least $100.  I should look back at Mint and compare this LDW with the last two.

Day 5 was a NO SPEND DAY, despite the hullabaloo.  It was Tour de Fat, aka the biggest holiday in Fort Collins.  We hosted a breakfast at our house before the bike parade.  We provided eggs and bacon (already in our fridge) and then we had everyone bring an item, potluck style.  I went as a “Golden Girl” because I was a girl in all gold.  I already owned the gold leggings, gold skirt, gold shoes, gold belt, and gold jewelry, and then I borrowed gold makeup and a gold shirt.

STAND BY FOR PICTURE…I only took photos with my polaroid that weekend.  Cool, but not convenient.

After breakfast we biked to the parade and then made the mistake of going to the festival.  I end up at the festival every year, and I mostly hate it every year because it is full of half-naked drunk folk and their children.  The only redeeming part of the festival was the Honeymoon Cabaret show we happened upon in a secretive sideshow tent labeled “Le Tigre.”   I can’t even describe what we witnessed in that tent.  It involved a dress made out of fake (hopefully?) hair and pasties that looked like chewed gum.  HORRIFYING, but worth it.

It was quite nice to not be tempted by beer because a) it saved me probably a good deal of money and b) I didn’t have to stand in any lines!  I had a massage scheduled for later in the day (I have a membership so this is a regular part of my budget) and it was totally worth it to show up and not have her chastise me for being dehydrated.

My Tour de Fat survival tips:

  • Costumes don’t need to make sense so use what you have.
  • Watch the parade, don’t ride in it.  It is slow and you will probably fall down or get mad.
  • Avoid the festival and having to park your bike because you’re gonna have a bad time, unless you love challenges and huge groups of people, and/or you hate yourself.
  • Get everyone together beforehand because you’ll lose them immediately when you get downtown.
  • Basically, dress up, watch the parade from the south side of the route, and then leave immediately.

On Day 6, we went to see Built to Spill and Lucero at Red Rocks.  We had tickets prior to No Spend September so we didn’t have to pay for those.  We normally buy dinner on the way to Red Rocks or eat at the venue, but instead we got everyone to leave early and we took our portable grill so we could have a cookout.  I spent $10 at King Soopers for stuff to grill and a case of sparkling water (this covered both me and Andy’s meals) and filled my car up with gas ($26).

The show was excellent.  The company was excellent.  It was a beautiful way to end the summer.  And then we drove home and the peanut gallery in the back spent most of the time telling me how My Brother, My Brother, and Me sucks and he could make a much better podcast.  FYI, MBMBaM does not suck and it’s hilarious so listen to it.

The crew of the new podcast "Drunk Jerrod Hates Everything"

The crew of the new podcast “Drunk Jerrod Hates Everything”

Day 7 was spent resting and grilling.  It was also a NO SPEND DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Total spent on Labor Day Weekend: $36

Total fun had: All of it

Total number of beards in our group at Red Rocks: Five–three very full beards attached to glasses, one that hates everything, and one who shares my love of pop music.

 

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The Purge Continues (Endlessly)

Somehow I am STILL purging unwanted items from our house, but now I am managing to make some pretty good money off of it.  I switched up my selling game from strictly Craigslist and local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups, with a fall-back plan of consignment, and tried my hand at eBay.  Let me just say that I am still very much an eBay novice, but I have sold things for way more than I could have gotten from any of the other ways I’ve tried.

I probably would have gotten maybe 10 bucks for these boots at Plato’s Closet or around $20 or so selling on Craigslist or Facebook.

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But I sold them on eBay for $60!!!!!!!!  That’s double what I paid when I bought them new.  Turns out that Naughty Monkey leather boots are not in high demand in FoCo, but are everywhere else.

My other big eBay win is selling this Carhartt vest.  2014-12-09 17.18.03 CGCHWV001_-00_carhartt-brown_front_Womens-Carhartt-Sandstone-Mock-Neck-Vest-Sherpa-Lined_23

I bought this in Steamboat for around $20 about 7 years ago because I guess I felt like I needed some workwear???  Who knows…  I wore it approximately twice for things like riding in a car and sitting in a chair (hard work).  I went straight to eBay with this when I noticed it still hanging in the closet (not sure how it survived so many purges).  While my favorite discount gear store had it for sale in pink and purple for $37.50, the MSRP is $79.99, and Carhartt Brown is almost impossible to come by in women’s vests…except on eBay.  In under a day, I sold it for $60.

I am certainly not just selling things like crazy on eBay.  It all comes down to pictures, keywords, and timing.  It took me two listings to sell a silk J. Crew dress that I wore to my first black tie optional event while working for CSU Events, and I think I ended up selling it for $15 (half of what I paid, so I got my money’s worth).  I am also trying to unload a pair of Steve Madden boots and a couple of Moosejaw jackets, but I haven’t had any bites yet.  I’ve gotten some views, though, so I think I need to take some better pictures.

However, I can’t sell everything on eBay and I lucked out yesterday by leaving a post up in the Fort Collins Trade Swap  group on Facebook.  (Pro-tip: if you are looking to sell things in Fort Collins, this is the place to do it because the 6700 members all get real-time notifications of what’s for sale in their newsfeed).  I have been trying to sell this gem of a bike since this summer:

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This picture does not do the ridiculousness justice…it has huge rearview mirrors, a giant bell, the back tire is super fat, and the seat has a velvet checkerboard pattern.

Lo and behold, my Christmas present came early and a guy found the post from August, offered me $150, and gave me the money before he ever looked at the bike.  It was somehow exactly what he had been looking for all over Northern Colorado.  Goodbye, chopper bike!  I told the boy that we are now a 6-bicycle household, and then it felt like all the purging progress went out the window.

Moral of the story: when you’re selling things you no longer want, figure out where you’re going to get the best deal.  If it’s a brand name and easily shippable, try eBay.  You don’t pay anything until you sell, the listing fees are reasonable, and it’s SO EASY.  You’ll get way more money than if you consign it or take it to a place that buys on the spot.  Definitely read up on selling tips to make sure you’re reaching potential buyers.  If you can’t easily ship it, check out a local facebook buy and sell group.  The Fort Collins group is very active and everything shows up in the newsfeeds of your potential buyers.

When you’ve made some extra cash, sock most of it away in your emergency fund or put it toward paying off a debt, and use some to have a little fun.  I hear there is a new trampoline park that is awesome and on Tuesdays, 2 can jump for the price of 1.  I haven’t been there yet, but it sounds ridiculously fun (and like a broken spine waiting to happen).

The Importance of the Emergency Fund

This is apparently my year of really excellent luck.  I have been MIA on the blog because I wrecked pretty hard on my bicycle last weekend and managed to fracture my ribs (most likely multiple).  The very quaint trolley tracks downtown that are for a trolley that no longer runs grabbed ahold of my tire and sent me ribs-first into the curb of the median.  It probably looked something like these pictures, minus my head spilling egg.

 

 

Thankfully, I wasn’t scratched up, but I did feel like I got hit by a bus.  It was also like the second time EVER that I forgot to wear my helmet and I feel so fortunate that my head didn’t look like the egg head guy.  WEAR YOUR HELMET!

So, besides the procurement of a new washing machine, the addition of unanticipated health related costs made me very thankful that I have an emergency fund in place.

Unanticipated costs as a result of my wreck:

  • Co-pay for doctor appointment where he told me what I already guessed and gave me a prescription that made everything worse
  • Prescription that made everything worse–I was SOOOOOO sick from the pain pills so I only took two before I stopped.  This was a generic so it only set me back $9.
  • OTC painkillers in two varieties (Aleve is a godsend), capsaicin pain relief patches, heat and cool patches, and thermal heat patches to try to find some solution to allow me to sleep through the night
  • Take out and easily prepared (ie not things I normally buy) groceries because I couldn’t do anything for myself
  • Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements (tart cherry juice, turmeric, detox tea, kombucha, epsom salts for bath, etc.)
  • Acupuncture five days in a row
  • Most likely an additional chiropractic appointment

It could have been much, much worse and cost much, much more and this is why it’s important to have an emergency fund in place.

I am feeling like a normal person again and the pain has localized, so I no longer feel like I got hit by a bus…or like I hit the hard concrete of a curb followed by the hard bricks of Mountain Ave., but I still have costs rolling in trying to care for myself.  On the bright side, I don’t have a yoga membership for two months and I’m not drinking because I’m taking pain relievers and I am trying to heal, so that balances out a bit of the unanticipated expenses.

I’ll have to get back to you on No Spend September posts because I was out of commission for a week.

 

No Spend July Recap

Now that we’re well into August, I thought I would discuss No Spend July.  I feel like I failed while I simultaneously succeeded.  It makes no sense.

On the win side, I paid off my furnace and I got my emergency fund back up to $1000, which was my first emergency fund milestone. First step, $1000. Next step, three months of expenses. Then, a fully funded emergency fund of at least six months of expenses (that feels like a decade away).  I pretty much stuck to no unnecessary shopping, minus a few slips when I bought a record and kombucha out of pure frustration with my feeling of failure, and I bought two yoga tops because they were both 50% off (not an excuse).

On the fail side, I picked the month when I had told just about everyone in Fort Collins that I would grab lunch, dinner, or a beer with them.  So then I kind of gave up on all things food or drink related.

I have stuck to not buying a parking permit and finding other ways to get myself to work, so that’s pretty awesome.  But then my super yoga muscle hip of death and destruction hit my bike wheel while I was STANDING IN THE YARD and somehow tripped, followed by a wet grass slip, and now my bicycle is waiting at Cranknstein for a new wheel.

I feel like I failed, even though I met my goals.  I didn’t meet the goal of not spending money, though, which was the whole point.  I will pick a better month and try it again before the end of the year.  September could be a good month to try again because we will be saving up for a Vegas trip with my parents.  We go to all the hottest clubs.

By hottest clubs, I clearly mean Hoover Dam.

I will conquer this damn challenge before the end of 2014 and have an actual win.  Not just a somehow I managed to save money while not succeeding at my challenge at all semi-win.

Cars and the Frugal Life

As I mentioned early on, I am trying to ride my bicycle more and utilize MAX, the new public transportation system that I can ride for free as a CSU employee.  Not only is driving expensive when you take into account gas prices, wear and tear on the vehicle, and maintenance, but there are the social and environmental impacts that come from being dependent on cars.   However, living in Colorado is hard without a car.  The weather is unpredictable and things are spread out.  If I want to visit my parents in Wyoming, I need to drive because there are no trains to catch and I take my dogs with me.  If I want to go to a neighboring town for dinner or pinball or whatever, I’m going to need my car to get me there because there aren’t many alternative options.  So how do I make car ownership work with trying to live frugally?

Frugal in FoCo pro-tips for car ownership

  1. Buy a car that will do what you need and last forever.
    I moved to Fort Collins with a 2003 Buick Century. It was reliable, it was (mostly) safe, the insurance was inexpensive, and, best of all, it was paid for. But it didn’t have all-wheel drive or anti-lock brakes, which are critical for driving in snow. When I decided to get a new car, I wrestled with the need for something I could drive in the snow without sliding or feeling like I was about to die, and taking on a car payment and the insurance costs of a new car. I ultimately decided that it would be far less expensive to not be in an accident so I decided to start the car hunt. I went with a Subaru Impreza hatchback with the all-weather package.  Subarus have all-wheel drive, have great safety ratings, and the all-weather package provided me with things like traction control and seat warmers (critical in CO!).   I also knew I needed a car with backseats that would lay down and a hatch.  I was tired of dealing with a trunk and the inability to access the space in my back seat if I needed to carry snowboards or a bicycle.  Subarus cater to the more outdoorsy set, so I knew I could get those features in any model.  I decided on the Impreza because my beloved Buick got AMAZING gas mileage and I wanted something comparable.  The Impreza, because it is a car and not an SUV, gets much better gas mileage than the Outback or the Forester.  Crosstreks weren’t really a thing when I was car shopping in late 2012, so that model wasn’t in the running, though I would get one if I were shopping for a car now.

    Look at it handle all that snow. Photo courtesy of Subaru.

    Because used Subarus are basically impossible to buy in Colorado with less than 200,000 miles on them and somehow they still cost almost as much as a new car, I decided to buy new.  My Buick did not retain value at all.  When I traded it in, I think I got about $1800, which was basically a miracle.  But If I can sell my Impreza at 200,000 miles for almost what I paid for it, I feel like that is a great investment, as far as vehicles go.

  2. Do your research and negotiate.
    Once I had decided on a Subaru Impreza with the all-weather package, I contacted all Subaru dealerships in NoCO, Denver, and Wyoming for availability and quotes.  Because I have learned to drive stick repeatedly and still can’t make it happen, I needed a car with an automatic transmission.  I was not at all concerned about exterior color, interior fabric or color, sound system, or other add-ons and made sure the dealers knew trying to talk up add-ons would not sway my decision.  After I collected internet quotes, I went to a dealership where I knew they had what I wanted available so that I could test drive it and go from there.  After I test drove the car on the highway and in town, I knew it was exactly what I wanted.  I told the salesman that I was interested in the car, depending on if he could match a price I had gotten from another dealership, which was a couple thousand dollars less than “the lowest price” he told me they could do.  Because I was so prepared, there wasn’t much negotiating.  They wanted the sale so they made it happen because I made them aware I could go 30 minutes away and get the same car for a better price. I also went prepared with my Buick cleaned out and detailed so that I could negotiate a good trade-in deal. Fortunately, they offered me way more than I expected, based on Kelley Blue Book values and the condition of my car, so I just took it.
  3. Pay cash when possible or negotiate a lower interest rate.
    I went prepared to put down a substantial down payment, but I wasn’t able to pay for the car outright. I was willing to trade in my car, knowing that it would be less headache and pretty comparable to selling it myself, just because it had retained no value and was in fair condition because of a couple of minor accidents (I was never the driver, fyi). Because I couldn’t pay for the vehicle fully in cash or trade-in, I made sure I went during an interest rate promotion. With little credit history, but good credit with what history I did have at the time, I knew I would get a good, but not great, rate on my own. The promotion, though, was 1.9% interest if you qualified for financing. They offered me an interest rate of 3.5%, I countered by mentioning the 1.9% promotion from the Subaru website, and they gave it to me on the spot because I had done my research. I also made sure there is no penalty for paying it off early so that I can put a little extra toward the principal when I can and save a little more on interest over the life of the loan.  It worked out for the best that I couldn’t pay cash and needed to take on a little debt because I am building more of a credit history and paying as little as possible in interest.
  4. Protect the investment.
    I spent a couple hours this weekend cleaning the inside and outside of my car from top to bottom to keep it looking as nice as possible. I also make sure I take it in for regular oil changes and maintenance. My Buick lasted 10 years and never had any issues other than someone else getting into a couple fender benders and a really annoying windshield wiper problem (known by GM and just a fact of life with 2003 Buicks) because I took it in for regular maintenance.
  5. Don’t use it all the time.
    Fact: cars last longer if you aren’t driving them all the time because it keeps the mileage and wear and tear to a minimum.
  6. Drive it until it’s done.
    I bought my Subaru with the assumption that I will drive it until it gets to the point where it is no longer reliable. It will be paid off hopefully in the next year or so, and then I plan on enjoying no car payments and lower insurance rates for as long as possible. Then I will trade it in or sell it when I absolutely NEED a new car. Avoid feeling the need to keep up with the Joneses and get the newest, coolest car. As long as my car does what I need, makes me feel safe, and I can depend on it, I’m keeping it.

For the record, I used brand names because this is what’s true to my life, and this was in no way a sponsored post.

 

Minimalist Game Update

I am so behind with posts, but I don’t want to bore you with massive posts on the junk I’m getting rid of.  Starting with a few where I left off earlier…

July 9
Sell: two pairs of nicer brand sunglasses.
Donate: a business card holder and a cheapo pair of sunglasses.
Trash: four expired McDonald’s free sandwich coupons and a losing scratch ticket left on my dresser by Andy (thanks, BTW).

July 8

July 8

 July 10
Sell: The Woman Movement and an Otterbox case for an HTC Evo (provided there is still someone out there with an Evo).
Turn in: three winning scratch tickets totaling $5 in winnings.  Actual thanks this time to Andy for leaving them on my dresser and the coffee table.
Trash: an old, filled up day planner, two basketball tickets from last season that have been sitting on our shelf since before the game, and a pompom that I made and it looks terrible.
Electronics recycling: an old broken phone.

July 10

July 10

July 11
This is the day of getting rid of some big stuff from the garage and cleaning out my office because clutter does not stop at home.

Sell: my bike from middle and high school that I barely rode. It’s still in great condition because it was preserved in the museum quality environment of my parents’ garage for all these years.
Electronics recycling: a giant tube TV that weighs a million lbs (not pictured). Works great, but evidently you can’t even donate these nowadays. I will try to post on Craigslist for free before I have to pay to recycle it. Two printer cartridges that have been sitting my office for a month.
Return: a defective printer cartridge that has been sitting in my office for a month, two keyboard trays that have needed to be returned since November, but the company never sent me return labels.
Recycle: four cardboard boxes.

July 10

July 10

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