Tag Archives: shopping

Old Habits

7 Apr

Last week I emptied my refrigerator. I’ve been needing to do this for weeks, months even. I had stuff in there from my mom’s visit in late October and other food that was gifted to me for Christmas. Yikes! One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am forgetful especially if I don’t have a specific place to file stuff in my brain. If I didn’t personally buy it, need it and make meal plans for it I forget it’s even in there. Sad but that’s just how my brain works…I’m getting use to it.

A few posts ago I spoke about passion, preferences and habits. So there are a few I am adopting. Some for the planet, others for myself, and some I even practice or at least use to but not regularly enough for them to make a significant impact. Experts say it takes a certain amount of time to integrate new habits and that you should never try to integrate more than one at a time. But then again I could never keep my car clean until I had an accident, went through the entire buying process on my own and bought a new one. Now my car is always clean. My point is I don’t think it’s the multitasking that makes new habits not stick but rather that there isn’t a dramatic enough change in environment to jar the old habit loose and reinstate a new one. So out with the old in with the new:

#1. Give Away Food

When I go to Trader Joe’s and get a great deal on the biggest bag of tiny oranges that I couldn’t get through in 2 weeks if I tried I will hand them out to the homeless that I pass at traffic lights. I did this once when I had a bag that I couldn’t eat all by myself and thought it was a much better idea than giving away money. And everyone was super happy and grateful. There is also the quandary of “do I really want to get the rest of this to go when I know that tortilla is gonna be soggy and disgusting by morning?” I HATE leaving food on the plate at restaurants so I always get it to go but some stuff simply wont last even in a fridge…wet burritos are one example or anything starchy that is gonna have to sit next to something liquid. You get my drift. So I feel like this might be a good opportunity to give it to someone on my way home. Instead of asking for money I’ve been asked to buy stuff by people waiting outside a fast food place so I think this is similar. The food, although cold at that point, is still fresh and hopefully good quality and a decent portion since it came from a restaurant. I will have to figure out the utensils though. Plastic? :/ The dollar store sells 4 stainless steel forks for a dollar. I may get a pack or two just for this as a test. Same goes for stuff in my fridge that I know I just wont get around to. Better than it going to waste in a dump.

#2. Let the Toilet Flush Itself

Go with me here. You can skip to the next habit but if you can tolerate it I would say this is worth reading. So I had to pee in the middle of the night a while back but didn’t want to wake my roommate so I didn’t flush. I come back in the morning and it’s like it never happened. I thought to myself…hmm, that’s curious. I know most things don’t evaporate that quickly so I assumed it just made its way down the drain over time somehow. And then a strange thing happened. My toilet started to run. Most new toilets run every few hours on their own. That cycles a good amount of water through the system in addition to the water used for each flush (mine is 2.5 gallons/flush) and does in fact work exactly like a regular flush just with very little force. So I’ve been “not flushing” liquids for about a week now and it totally works! I still come back to an empty bowl every time (except for the paper). I have a couple friends who go by the rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” regularly. I think it’s worth a try just as an experiment if nothing else. If your toilet runs at random times give it a shot. Of course #2’s are treated as toxic waste and should be flushed. Now I will admit still always flushing on the rare occasion that my roommate is around. Even though we don’t share a bathroom I don’t want her to think I’m unclean. I may have a conversation soon with her explaining my findings.

#3. Stuff Exchange (for accumulation elimination)

A lot of people who practice voluntary simplicity shop by this rule: “buy one, give one away”. A friend of a friend is taking her daughter shopping for clothes this weekend because she gave away two bags of clothes to good will last week. Like I keep saying I don’t buy that much so I think my best and easiest way to integrate this is with food. I finish a box of cereal I can buy a package of pasta. Crude example but you get the picture. Even though I want to eat everything I buy sometimes my plans for consumption don’t quite line up with how long things last in the fridge and I end up wasting it because it went bad a few days after I opened the package. I am only one person so this means a lot of trips to the store and eating a lot of the same thing for a few days straight. I kinda already do this so…no change there. I just want to be more conscious of the timing of my purchases so that I don’t waste things simply because I couldn’t eat it fast enough. I also have a Macy’s gift card I want to make good use of so this is the perfect time for a closet cleanse.

#4. 15 Minute Daily Cleanup

When friends visit, when my mom’s in town or when it’s hot or cold enough that I want to let some air circulate by leaving the door open my room is immaculate. Otherwise there are clothes piles. And shoes piles. And luggage. I have a habit of not ever completely unpacking. If I’m going to live in a tiny house or downsize at all I’m going to have to consistently keep my room clean. I had a 15 minute daily cleanup routine that got away from me a while back so I’ll be reinstating that. The great thing is, if done daily it doesn’t take but a few minutes and the rest of the time I can organize, wash dishes, etc. And the main culprits are clothes so I think getting rid of the useless 2/3 of my wardrobe and moving the remainder of my clothes from one side, behind my desk chair and far from my bed closer to the door where I get dressed anyway will make me more likely to hang jackets and belts up immediately and anything else I can wear more than once instead of putting them on the back of the chair. Shoes are one issue though. Door/closet shoe hangers aren’t cute but they work. This may be a solution to look into. Overall, clean is sexy and I won’t have to stress about cleaning up for an impromptu houseguest so…I think this one will do me a lot of good.

#5. Inspirational & Educational Audio

Hot talk radio has been around forever; less political and way more edgy and comedic than regular talk radio but usually still hitting on the big news topics of the day. I’ve been listening to Heidi and Frank (Frosty, Heidi and Frank) for about 4 years now and I haven’t missed a show in well over 3 years. These days they’ve created their own network online where they broadcast live each day and they have on demand podcasting so I listen to old episodes all day and sometimes go to sleep with it on. I am a devout fan but I will admit it’s probably one of my worst habits. It’s not the listening that’s inherently bad but more the topics they talk about. Not only is it hard to get stuff done because I’m actually trying to actively listen but their topics aren’t always the most uplifting. They are self-deprecating, everything and everyone is a target for a joke and their events are pretty much a kegger combined with a live radio show. I love you HF but you are no good for me. I won’t stop listening entirely but for working hours it’s probably for the best. Technically, classical music is the way to go but sometimes I need a bit more substance especially if I’m doing mindless work. So I’ve started listening to TED Talks instead. Most are 10-20 minutes each and are educational and inspirational. They are equally as distracting especially because I’m learning something but I figure it’s helping to balance out whatever negative energy HF puts off. I also listen to the 4-Hour Workweek, The Secret, and interviews from Niurka or Michael Bernard Beckwith. As cheesy as The Secret is I am the most productive when I listen to it. I’ve heard all of these so many times they are no longer distracting but just background noise so I am still getting the benefit of the topics and the tracks are wordy enough to keep me interested.

So that’s it. A little bit of everything. I’ll report any interesting findings.

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30 Day Discount Detox

1 Nov

…a title so good I bought the domain name. I must say I probably buy more domain names than anything else and it can get to be an expensive habit. The $12.17 total I got while checking out at GoDaddy didn’t sit well with me. That combined with my rent check due today and the chance of a poorly timed automatic debit for some bill I’ve forgotten about could put my account in the red. If I see another overdraft fee on my BofA account I will flip. It costs money to have money (service fees) and even more to not have it (overdraft fees and credit card interest). I’ve been really good about that this year so I’ll stop before my blood pressure gets too high.

So in the spirit of my new financial diet I, according to the rules I’ve set for myself, had to find a discount online. There was no way in hell I was going to let my first purchase get the best of me. Found a promo code, which took about 90 seconds, and saved 49%. Well done. Just about anything you search online, if followed by “promo code”, in the search box will give you dozens of codes, most of which will actually work. There is never any reason to pay full price for anything online.

1) Bills, utilities, prescriptions and subscriptions that I’ve already been paying consistently will continue at their current price, any discount I manage to get on those is a bonus.

2) Dollar or 99¢ store items can be purchased at current prices.

3) No restaurant meals unless purchased with a Groupon or Living Social coupon, it’s happy hour or someone else is buying.

4) Everything else must be purchased using coupons, promotions, 2-for-1 type deals, news paper ad specials, rebates or some other form of discount.

5) All discounts must be documented with receipts or photos.

And I’ll be posting my purchases at the end of everyday.

Now I must say, I am a bit apprehensive. None of my favorite fast food places have coupons that I know of and I dont know if I can go 30 days without a Chipotle burrito. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen eggs for sale. Does Trader Joe’s even have sales? Are there discounts in the produce section at all? This is going to be interesting.

At the moment I have a serving of frozen pasta, 2 pieces of Naan from TJ’s and 3 packs of Ramen. It’s going to be a long 30 days…

The best places to buy awesome stuff at great prices.

31 Oct

Food: Smart & Final has a surprisingly good selection of just about any food; name brands as well as some smaller regional companies that have equally high quality products but just not enough pull to mass distribute. I found some great frozen ravioli in the freezer section and when I add a bit of pepper, garlic and olive oil it tasted fairly close to what I spent $16 on just 3 nights ago at Buona Vita. This $6.99 item gives me 5-7 portions, that’s a dollar per meal, and if I’m feeling guilty I add fresh mushrooms, tomatoes or spinach on top.

Name brand cleaning supplies and toiletries: The Dollar or 99¢ store. These places get a lot of “rejects” of whatever comes out on the assembly line. All that means is it’s not up to the brands high aesthetic standards or insanely critical taste tests so they place it on the shelves anywhere where these minor flaws won’t affect the buyers willingness to actually purchase it. I doubt an oddly faded logo or bar code slightly askew will ever keep me from buying something.

Medication: I’ve been getting medication monthly from Costco without a membership card.  They probably order so much for their current customers that there’s plenty to go around and it’s an excellent way to get perspective customers in the door. Just say you are going to the pharmacy and they will let you through.

Watches: Ross. That cheesy watch display across the aisle right as you walk in is actually full of some really cool stuff. They also have great men’s & women’s fragrances (most designer or well known brands), some decent bathroom decor items and really good quality luggage for dirt cheap.

Casual clothes: The used or vintage clothing store. Here in LA it’s American Vintage, Popkiller and That’s a Wrap, all awesome local gems. In the film industry wardrobe is purchased in excess for background actors and in very specific styles and sizes for the main characters of major studio films and TV shows. Either way when shooting is over typically these items are returned (if it’s low budget, and the tag hasn’t been removed), cast members will take the clothes home (if the producers are in a giving mood), they get put back on the rack for future productions (if the studio is saving money) or it will be sold to a used clothing store. The quality of the garments are usually good to start and some of them are even one-of-a-kind pieces made specifically for one scene or character so you don’t have to worry about seeing 10 people wearing your jeans while enjoying an afternoon in Hollywood. Obviously outside of LA you won’t get that in particular but if it’s vintage it’s probably cooler than what you paid double for last time you went to the mall.

Produce: Farmers markets are the obvious choice. Buying from these small time vendors supports the local economy and the growers are average people who grow food without hormones and pesticides (typically, but do ask if you happen to care). The second choice: produce markets. These storefronts sell fruit, nuts, berries and other agricultural items exclusively. Culturally specific markets, like Hispanic or Asian markets that aren’t big chains are also a great choice. And community gardens…okay, okay at this point you’ve probably gotten the sense that I am much more than just money conscious. I’m also environmentally, ecologically and health conscious. I recycle, use energy saving bulbs, don’t cook with butter or processed salt and am aware of where my stuff is made. I’m not hugely active in this way of life but these are a few habits that I’ve adopted along the way that have had a positive affect on my life. So anyway…community gardens. You put x number of hours in per week or month and you get x number of squash, apples, avocados or whatever happens to be in season. Yes this is time out of your busy schedule but it is a great way to meet your neighbors, find a girlfriend if you want her to see you as sensitive, nurturing and good with your hands or get your kids out of the house more without spending so much of your hard earned cash. Something happens to a person when they are fed literally through the fruits of their labor. It’s a drastically different connection with your food. And heck, all of these taste infinitely better than what you will buy at any grocery store.

Collectables: Estate sales. Buying rare stuff on eBay is convenient but you are also bidding against dozens, if not hundreds, of other people. And in the end the price is determined by a frenzy of competitiveness and a rabid need to consume. Conversely, driving the long way through a neighborhood on your way to wherever you spend your Saturdays can often result in a gentle negotiation with a very pleasant middle aged lady or gentleman. And this is a great place to find gifts for the old grannies and fogies in your life. Don’t know what to get grandma? Some other old lady’s crystal pitcher you bought for 20$ will suffice. She’s happy and so is your wallet.

Home decor: At World Market overstocked shelves and merchandise spilling into the aisles is expected and adds a bit of authenticity to the whole experience. This place is a cross between Pier 1, IKEA and the bizarre in your favorite non-western country. The stuff they sell looks unique but is made in a factory like anything else mass produced and you put a lot of the larger pieces together yourself, so…well…just be forewarned.

Anything in the kitchen: I love Sur la Table but this is NOT the place to buy anything for your kitchen if you are on a budget. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything in there that was for sale. It’s in my top 3 favorite stores to shop in which is exactly why I don’t go. It’s like a museum for cool and useful stuff that makes other deliciously edible stuff. But they are not known for their reasonable prices. Try a restaurant supply store, especially in a Japanese or Chinese populated area. Not the commercialized “Chinatown” but someplace a bit more suburban where the food is more authentic. Here in LA that place is Monterey park. I lived there for 3 years and let’s face it, tons of our stuff is made in these countries so it’s logical that these places would have the least mark up. Items are a dime a dozen but actually pretty good quality.

Mac products: The Mac store. Yes, I said it. The Mac store is the best place to get discounted Mac items. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it myself but it surprises me that many people don’t know about refurbished units. These are products that were either returned right after being purchased but had to be sent back for repackaging or testing, or were defective in some way that was easily corrected. The units undergo the same testing as a brand new product, are checked for cosmetic issues, have anything that needs to be replaced, replaced and put on sale at 20-50% off, typically hidden somewhere on the manufacturers site. Type in the name brand, “refurbished” and the type of product you’re looking for. The first result should be a link to the refurbished section of the online store. Remember when you actually go to buy the products that it is in fact the manufacturers site you are buying the product from. Refurnished items are sold in a lot of places but only the manufacturers site will guarantee full warranty of the product, extensive inspection to the manufacturers standards and overall quality control.

These are off the top of my head and since I don’t shop much I’ll have to do a bit of research the next time around. Speaking of research I am doing a 30 Day Discount Detox in November so…I’m sure I’ll get lots of material. More on that tomorrow.

-Half-Price