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My favorite calculator

This is my favorite calculator from CNN Money.  Yeah, I said it, my favorite (sorry TI-83 – I don’t know how to use you anymore).  This calculator will let you know how much time you have and also how to accelerate your debt-free-ness.  It’ll also make you look at your interest rates – which could have steadily snuck up on you.
http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/debtplanner/debtplanner.jsp


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Best Things to Buy in August

I’m so sorry it’s been so long.  My cheapskatery has had to take a back seat to comedy and work (how’s about that?)

My wonderful bf, Matt, sent along a great article from lifehacker about how sleeping in on the weekend is good for you (is he trying to get out of our morning run?) – that is besides the point.  I went to the site and what caught my eye was the article on “Best Thing to Buy in August” :

Older computers: John Morris of CNET tells MSN Money that July and August can sometimes yield savings on slightly older computer models, as AMD and Intel’s release schedules see computer makers ramping up to release new gear around this time of year.

Laptops: Per Gizmodo’s post, and the knowledge that this is when big-box retailers and direct-sale makers start piling on with the back-to-school deals.

Outdoor Toys and Camping Equipment: CNN’s Money site quotes eToys.com’s Sheliah Gilliland as stating that retailers are eager to move the space-hogging pools, playgrounds, squirt guns, and other summer toys for as much as 65 percent off as the pre-holiday season approaches. Yahoo! Finance suggests it’s also a good time to pick up your camping gear.

Kid’s Clothing: Because even if you don’t have a kid going back to school, you might have a kid you can buy gifts for now. If you do have kids, think beyond the immediate fall needs.

Wines: Somewhat obvious, sure, but you can also lock down some hard-to-find, small-run wines in the early fall harvest season, according to SmartMoney.com.

Linens and Storage Containers: They’re aimed at the incoming college crowd this time of year, as AOL Shopping suggests, but you don’t need to show a college ID to pick up some things you almost always find yourself in need of.”

So, run to your local Target and find some deals!  The article also links to a nifty year round “What to Buy and When Guide.”  But buyer beware, just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you need it.  Always keep a list!

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Face Your Debt!

It’s a pretty crappy economic environment out there right now.  No one is doing AMAZING, but we’re all managing to survive somehow (even if it is rolling pennies – yup!)

As I continue to grow up, though I don’t think I’ll ever be fully formed adult, I am beginning to deal with “adult” problems and see my friends do the same.  Mainly, it’s facing our debt.  Most of us have credits cards and some sort of varying balance with some sort of horrible APR.  Mine is relatively under control, but it wasn’t always that way.  I recently checked my American Express which I had been paying on time since I was in college – and they raised the APR to 29.9%!  I was baffled!  I tried my usual begging, crying, pleading on the phone (which, I have to say, usually works), but they wouldn’t budge.  So, now that credit cards are quickly opening up their foul credit lines to us folks again – I got a new card with 0% APR for the first 9 months and 11% APR thereafter.  Thanks a lot AMEX – for nothing.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to pay it off by the end of the 9 months.  Or at least do some serious debt shrinking damage.

SO!  Here’s the thing about debt.  As much as I would like to believe that a bag of money will fall from the sky, I’ll book a job that’ll “pay for everything”, or a fat wallet benefactor will tell me to “live your dreams Kimmy!  Go and make movies and live in a 2 bedroom condo – and leave the lights on all the time!” – it probably won’t.  In fact, I can say for certain that it won’t (well, 2 out of 3 – I still look up in the sky every morning). The best thing you can do is deal with it realistically.  And if any miracle job or cash prize from a game show comes your way, you’ll know how to invest it properly.

1.  Here is my magical tool for calculating debt.

http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/debtplanner/debtplanner.jsp

I love this thing.  It’ll tell you exactly when you will get out of debt and exactly how much you need to pay.  It’s not going to CHANGE your debt, but it will give you perspective.  Did you know if you pay $10 more than your minimum you will reduce your interest paid significantly.  No she didn’t…YES SHE DID!

2.  Check your APR – DO IT!  Call your company and make sure they aren’t screwing you.  Sure, new laws say they have to send you a letter and you can agree or disagree – but the new law says that if you agree, you can use your credit card. If you disagree, you can’t use your credit card, but can opt to pay the rest of the amount on the APR you have.  Bull-oney.

3.  Consider switching to another company.  If you can find a creditor who will give you a 0% APR for a while – do it – just make sure that the APR is lower than what you are paying.

4.  Do a free credit check.  Double check your score and see where you are.  And then, when you start making headway, you can do it again and give yourself a gold star when it gets better.

5.  Cut yourself off.  Consider cutting yourself off from your credit card for a week.  Then maybe a month.  Then maybe a couple of months.  Maybe it’s time to get a new job or cut your spending.  I know for an artist, like myself, when things are good, you get accustomed to living a certain way.  And when things are bad, you continue to live that way until you’re in debt again.  Start thinking differently about how that beer (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) could pay the extra $6-10 on your credit card bill.  I know.  I KNOW!  It’s the worst.

OK.  We did it.  Don’t panic.  The credit beast is way scarier when you let it fester in the Interest building cave than when you yank it out and see it’s just a slimey flimsy bastard that you can tackle.  Be persistent and be ok with it.  Move on and I’ll see you in the parking lot drinking whiskey from a flask.

By the way, I’m not an expert – so if you’re in serious debt, consider contacting a debt relief agency.  They can help you figure out the best solution.

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Quickie: $1 Thrift Store Day

Thrift Stores are already a bargain – but check this out!
In Canoga Park, “Cool Trendy Thrift Store” (the actual name, not an witty re-naming of a thrift store), has $1 day the last Friday of every month. This is supremely dynamite news – especially when searching for bigger items like coats and/or shoes. And if you are any kind of crafty sewer – you could basically turn a bunch of shirts into fabric (which, fabric is way more expensive than I ever imagined).

http://www.cooltrendythrift.com/Events1Day.html

HOWEVER, my dear cheapskates – be careful of the PITFALLS OF CHEAPNESS! Don’t buy something “just because it’s a dollar!!!” Really consider the fit and the quality of the clothing. Think of shopping like the jail cafeteria (go with me now) “Take all you can eat. But eat all that you can take” – or in shop terms – “Buy all you can afford. But wear all that you buy.” (I really have watched Shawshank Redemption too many times).

Here’s another cute site I found with some suggestions.
http://www.travellady.com/issues/issue63/labargain.htm

OK! Talk to you later!

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Tipping Etiquette: Bars & Restaurants

I have worked in the service industry for most of my life.  At age 15, I told myself “I’m going to be an actor, so I should probably learn to wait tables.”  It’s really too bad I didn’t say “I should really learn how to rebuild cars!” or “Invest money in long term investments that will pay off when I’m 30.”  If you are 15 years old, do yourself a favor and learn a trade like reupholstering.  Am I projecting?  Yes.  I need a chair reupholstered.

Back on track!  Since I’ve been on the “service” side of the service industry my whole life, I figured I’d talk about tipping etiquette.

1.  20% is the new 15%.  I know Oprah said 15% is good enough, but it ain’t!  But Kimmy, what if my service is crappy?  Refer to number 5.

2.  DON’T EAT AT A RESTAURANT  IF YOU’RE TOO POOR TO GO!

I’m serious douchebags.  DON’T DO IT!  When you eat a restaurant or go to a bar, you HAVE to keep in mind that it’s just not the price on the menu you are paying for.  Basically, your bill will be 30% higher than what you order.  First, tax (wherever you are, it could be 10%), plus tip is 20%.  And if you get booze, you add  10-25% to your bill with every round, plus

SO -If you want to spend $100 on a meal, you should only spend $70.  Service is something you have to account for.  Am I venting out loud?

4.  DON’T DRINK AT A BAR IF YOU’RE TOO POOR TO GO!

Old Etiquette:  $1/cocktail or beer

New Etiquette:  $1-20%

There are a lot of different types of bars out there.

CLUB:  I’m not sure what to say about clubs.  Listen, if you go to clubs that charge $14 for a crappy gin and tonic or a beer – please don’t complain about tipping.  Remember, you can choose where to throw your money.  If you don’t at least leave $1, I’d be very very mad at you.  It’s usually the worst service and no one cares, but for the love of Booze, don’t punish the employees for their crappy club.  Just don’t GO there.   Remember, these places overcharge – all booze costs the same.  You are paying a “cool” tax.  You have officially been schooled.

DIVE BARS:  Sometime you can get really good deals, like $1-$4 beers.  Why NOT tip a dollar?  I have a soft spot for dive bars.  The staff is usually super friendly and they usually give out free snacks.  What’s not to love?  Would you really eat all of your friends food and drink all their booze without offering some cash.  Probably – BUT STOP. Be good and TIP.

CRAFTED COCKTAILS:  I work at a really fancy bar with only 12 tables.  It’s not your “flag down the bartender with your tits and a twenty” kind of joint.  It’s a real nice place for real nice people.  The bartenders spend 2-5 minutes on every single drink they make, cutting ice, muddling fruits – no short cuts.  These kind of bars are popping up around the big cities and officially deserve the 20% per cocktail.  These places are much more like restaurants for cocktails, so start thinking of them that way.

There’s a great article about this in the New York Times about the great tip debate.  Give it a gander.  http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/31/a-dollar-a-drink-and-a-debate/

5.  IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE SERVICE.  SAY SOMETHING.

I think one of my worst pet peeves is finding out people were dissatisfied when I see a passive aggressive “fuck you” in the form of a $2 tip on $100 bill.  Yep.  That happened to me not long ago .  The girl drunkenly gestured her cigarette at me and told me (misspellings/grammatical errors intentional) “You’re are the WUUURST waitress of all times.  I like that OTHER GIRL and that GUY…youb didn’t do nuth…how dare you ask me what wuz wrong and tip you not.”

Yeah.

Anyway, my takeaway, was that, from my prospective, everything was fine.  We pool tips, so we help each other out and trade off we can tell we’re just not getting along (as was the case here).  HOWEVER, I would have really appreciated if they had voiced it to me earlier.

Here’s the thing, most of the time, waiters and waitresses have no idea how mad or upset you are – because you PRETEND everything’s ok, EXPECTING them to know what’s wrong.  Talk to us, we will not spit in your food – unless you’re a douchebag.

So, things you CAN complain about:

*You’re dissatisfied with your meal/cocktail.  Say something right away!!!  However, if you’re picky, for the love of Sanity – just don’t go out.

*Something is wrong with your order.

*Someone is really rude – on this note – make sure YOU, the customer, are following the RULES as well.  When you enter a bar or restaurant, you are entering someone else’s house.  Just because you’re paying for it, doesn’t mean you can spit on the floor (also happened recently).

Sooooooo, there you go!  Please chime in with your thoughts and questions.  I hope to do a series about tipping in other places.  Just remember, just because you’re a cheapskate, doesn’t mean you don’t tip.

BAM!

-kg

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Bing Cashback! Wiiiii!

Holy crapnards!
I just stumbled over bing cashback!
More on that in a sec –

Good ol’ Cheapskatewood is NOT doing a very good job this Christmas, in the art of Christmas shopping. And I apologize for my horrendous example. I’ve left my most important people until the last minute, leaving me in the dangerous “convenience tax zone.” I have officially overthunk (not a word) my decisions and am running late with everything.

HOWEVER! Yes, there’s hope! I have found some terrific things online. There are a lot of good deals online right now. Target is offering a lot of free shipping and percentages off.

If you are in the market for a Wii (fingers crossed) J&R (http://www.jr.com) is offering no tax and no shipping. Holy mother of tax-free!

Also, if you search through bing.com/cashback – they will give you something like 4-8% of your money back.

You search through bing.com, order what you want and then they’ll deposit money through paypal or direct deposit. Man, thank god for the google/bing wars – the deals are starting to FIRE UP.

http://www.bing.com/cashback

That’s a quickie from cheapskatewood. I hope it was good for you.

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Leftovers!

I love having leftovers – one less meal to cook.  And I really hate wasting food.  Matt (my bf) and I recently had a boatload (well, a tupperware load) of rice left from our dinner the other night.  So I looked up some recipes for leftover rice.   Here are my favorites from about.com:

Rice Pudding:  Super easy.  Mix milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla together and toss it in the oven.  It takes about 30 mins total.

Rice and Bean Burritos:  This didn’t even occur to me until I saw it.  Basically heat up the beans and rice, roll it up and eat it.  You can also add garlic, veggies, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro…

Rice Soup:  This is what we made.  Basically, we sauteed some onions, garlic, cilantro, carrots, peas, and carrots.  Then we put in 3 cans of veggie stock and a cup of rice.  Let simmer for 20 mins.  Instant, delicious meal.

If I was more ambitious, I would totally make grape leaves or the rice quiche – but naaaahhhhhh.

CheapTip:  If I have Chinese food, I always take the extra rice home.  It’ll save you time and you might get a second delicious meal out of it.

 

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