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Archive for July, 2012

Garage Sale Meeting

July 31st, 2012 at 11:42 am

I'm meeting with my university gals this afternoon to plot our garage sale strategy. I can tell it's almost August and still two months from payday by everyone's growing enthusiasm for this project. We're all broke.

At my evening class last night I ran a colleague who is joining in our sale. She's just pulled a slightly dinged DVD player from the classroom garbage hoping to sell it Saturday.

In another communal venture, we've decided to "shop" in each others' kids' outgrown clothing piles after the sale and then regularly from now on. Everyone is tickled and relieved.

DD and I walked again this morning after a "mystery shopper" breakfast at McDonald's. Neither of us is too fond of McD's breakfast, but she ate the pancakes and I'll make a breakfast burrito from the eggs tomorrow. DH hates wasting food so I'll bet I can get him to eat the biscuit. I did feel a little odd snapping photos of the breakfast, but heck, it was kind of fun. I haven't done one of these in years, and I'm not sure how regularly I'd do it, but for a change....

Should I Become Ecumenical?

July 30th, 2012 at 01:08 pm

This afternoon DD went to her first day of Church Vacation Bible School Challenge. It's supposed to be a combination of Survivor, Amazing Race, The Apprentice, and Top Chef. She'll attend three afternoons and have an all-night challenge. All this for the $35 fee.

While dropping her off I ran into another mom from school and told her I didn't know they attended our church. She said they didn't, but her kids go to four or five different churchs' summer programs. Man--I've been paying $150+ for the great nature camps, but what a bargain this is!

DD and I have also started a fitness challenge--walking 2 miles every day and doing some other floor exercises. After one walk, I can't tell you how much better I feel. Looking forward to increasing zip!

Still Piling It On

July 28th, 2012 at 08:49 pm

I sold a couple of things on ebay today, posted them, and went grocery shopping. I've been rooting around for days trying to find my favorite summer nightgown--I hate PJs that are anything but cotton, and it's been so hot. But no luck. So I caved and bought one at Kohl's for $18. Later this afternoon DD and I were finishing yet another book, and I found it fallen in back of our headboard. I'm relieved at not having to spend that $18 when cash is tight around here.

And indeed I continue to unearth more to sell. I have a plastic bin in the office that hold DD's outgrown clothes that I intend to sell on ebay, but heck, let's sell them all at the garage sale, right? So the pile increases.

DH has come down with some sort of cold and has gone to bed, so it's me and Bob Costas for the next hour or so.


A Little Overwhelmed

July 26th, 2012 at 07:50 am

In my quest to de-junk and make some garage sale cash, I'm getting a little overwhelmed. Partly it's the realization of all the junk we have. And much of it is tangled up with memories. I'm finding things from my mom, things from my ex-husband, things from old friends--and just plain too many things.

I'm going to try a couple strategies to stop the frustration--perhaps one room at a time. Or maybe even one corner of the dread office at a time.

On a positive note--the RR magazine the Brits left her in June sold for $3 on ebay.

Study Abroad News!

July 24th, 2012 at 09:19 pm

I think I've mentioned before that the viability of my semester in London depends on my recruiting at least five-six students. Prices drop for additional students after that baseline.

I've had pretty good luck with my initial prospecting, sending information to my own former students, and today I asked our undergraduate chair to forward information to our majors. I had a huge wave of people e-mailing me for more information. I'm pretty excited, though I know we'll lose plenty of folks once they crunch the numbers. But still!

Tomorrow I need to e-mail the undergrad chair in the Education Department to see if they'll do something similar.

On a more prosaic front, my garage sale pile is growing magnificently. Since it looks like another darn 100 degree day tomorrow, I expect to spend plenty of time inside unearthing treasures.

Car Mission Accomplished

July 24th, 2012 at 08:57 am

DH purchased his car last night. Please don't ask me to divulge the kind of car as it's more suitable for someone 40 years older. But despite some last-minute wrangling, we managed to escape for just over $4000. Since he only drives the car to the bus stop and on Saturday errands, I was hoping to pay less. But so many of the used cars we saw were either priced much higher and had mileage over 150K. The mechanic checked it out, and it's in very good shape. It'll need new rear struts sometime, but that can wait until fall.

I'm still trawling the house for more garage sale items, but paused to read this very depressing article (another one?) on retirement. It's here if anyone feels too cheery today: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/opinion/sunday/our-ridiculous-approach-to-retirement.html?_r=1

Combined Garage Sale Joy!

July 23rd, 2012 at 09:51 am

I've managed to successfully talk some of my university friends into a combined garage sale on August 4. We all need the cash, especially since no one gets paid again from the university until October 1.

DH and I had a long talk about how much the budget cutbacks from the state affected us. He really doesn't care much about money, and although we've talked it through before, I think he FINALLY gets it. Perhaps the lack of huge amounts of available cash for his soon-to-be purchased car? But we've got the requisite 4K for the car he wants, and enough in the emergency fund. But the car, the high cost of the UK, the new windows, and my $500 salary cut has bit us a bit harder than we'd like--thus my unbridled enthusiasm about the garage sale.

I've unearthed piles of things already and plan to devote an hour each day this week to find more. Thanks to ceejay and bankergurl for making me pull out two denim skirts, two pairs of capris, and two pairs of pants from my closet along with a few other items.

And oddly--the British train magazine that our friends left here is now selling on ebay.

I'd like to make $150-200 on the sale. Experienced garage salers, I welcome suggestions. It's been a while for me.

Aging Britain

July 22nd, 2012 at 01:34 pm

While we were there, the BBC featured a series of interesting programs on aging and retirement. They sent TV personalities in their 70s to work in physically demanding jobs, discussed the costs of nursing homes vs private care, and debated benefits available to older folks.

For me, one of the more interesting programs included a discussion on whether some benefits should be means tested. Among the most hotly debated were the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes. Currently, even though transport costs have risen dramatically, older people can travel free on buses during off-peak hours. Winter fuel benefits--dependent on temperature-- are almost universally available to those over 80 living in private accommodations. Neither of these are means tested--so I imagine the queen would qualify for winter fuel benefits. Here's information on it:
http://www.ageuk.org.uk/documents/en-gb/factsheets/fs1_help_with_heating_costs_fcs.pdf?dtrk=true

Much of the debate centered on what you'd expect--the costs of means testing, whether people "deserved" it or not, and what seems to be a major issue looming everywhere--the generational tensions.

Controversial too were debates about whether people should have to sell their homes to pay their nursing home bills.

All of these are issues in the US too, but we mostly don't talk about them in public forums. AARP groups do, but it's not often it makes prime time TV.

A Little Bit on the Brits

July 19th, 2012 at 09:44 pm

As I said earlier this week, I continually find myself doing an analysis of how people are coping with the economy in the UK. First, it's undoubtedly more expensive than it was last year--and a lot more than when we were there 12 years ago. A lot. VAT has risen significantly, and food and energy are much higher than ever.

Everywhere I turned, it seemed folks were talking about money. There were lots of articles about posher types now using the Pound Stores--their equivalent to our dollar stores. All the magazines and food markets seem to have a continual chatter about how much per serving things cost and lowering expectations, and simplifying lifestyles.

I had a long chat with a friend who does not have a garden allotment because of the long current waiting lists, but is growing all sorts of veggies in pots. This may not seem unusual--there's always been a keen interest in gardening--but this is a woman who used to get a weekly manicure, but now is really concerned about the banking system, her pension, and the costs of everything. I got that widespread vibe from lots of folks.

The area where DH grew up needed to replant some hedge rows due to construction, and the local government made a decision to make all the new hedge rows fruit-bearing plants, as the paper said, "suitable for foraging." That cultural shift to a sort of wartime austerity seems common.

But like here, lots of bankers in limos seemingly untouched by the cutbacks in funding to ordinary people, medicine, schools, etc.



Scouring the Bills

July 18th, 2012 at 07:43 pm

DH and I are still in car-hunting shell shock. I've canceled a planned trip to Minneapolis this weekend to try to help him find a car and to save some cash.

I wasted 20 very unproductive minutes on the phone with some ATT call center rep who was tremendously unhelpful.
I'm trying to save some cash on the internet service, and I don't want their U-Verse TV. This is apparently an anathema to them, and I spent every other minute telling him, "NO, I don't want that bundle." In the end DH and I went on line and found a better cheaper plan for $15/month less.

DD and I also discussed some of her online memberships, and we've cancelled all of them that cost cash. All in all we've saved $25/month. More to come tomorrow, I hope.

In happier news, one of our English nieces has announced her engagement. Happier still? We'll likely be there for the wedding as it looks like it'll be during my Study Abroad time.

Home Again Blues

July 17th, 2012 at 09:09 am

Despite the cool rainy weather, we had a wonderful time in the UK--even enjoying a two-hour Harry Potter walk in the rain. DH's family is all doing well, but man, Britain just gets more and more expensive. I read several stories on the cost of living rising almost 30% in the past four years. We economized where we could, cooking lots of meals in the cottage, but London, despite my brilliant new Oyster card for transportation, was a budget buster. I'm in a fight with hotels.com about the extra bed charge in the hotel, and despite eating a fair amount of supermarket food and using the hotel fridge, I hate to think how much we spent on food.

There was good news with my Study Abroad folks. I enjoyed meeting them, and they've sent me a list of faculty accommodation alternatives. I get a health club membership and a transportation card too.

Transportation now that we're home has run into a major issues: DH's car died yesterday on the way to work. It's old, but I thought we'd get another year out of it. But the mechanic says it's a blown head gasket and that's all she wrote. We're trying hard to figure out how much to spend on a used car that he mainly drives to the bus stop. For a brief moment, I wondered if we could do with one car, but my evening classes make that almost impossible. So--do we drain the emergency fund, or buy a less-expensive car that may only have a couple years in it?