Monday, June 29, 2009

Ya Snooze, Ya Lose

Glidden Paint had proposed to give away one quart of paint per person during a week or until they ran out.

They ran out in two days. No surprise to anyone, I am sure.

Before I knew they ran out I came up with this fantastic plan to put the paint to a good use.

Since we moved in late '07, I'm not in the personal painting mood; so I called around to find some needy painter person. It turns out that my daughter's boyfriend is getting ready to paint his condo. The plan was to have a bunch of people order the same color so that he would paint his place with free paint.

This little scheme took way too much time to develop before the opportunity was gone.

But I'll be ready for the next great paint giveaway (What? You don't think there will another paint giveaway soon? I'll never score on paint!!!).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Most unique sample

I get a lot of samples from manufacturers. It is fairly predictable how shampoo, lotion or even cereal samples are going to come packaged, but we were a bit amused with this toilet paper. While the width is "regulation," the cardboard roll is not.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Impulse? Shopping Rewarded

Since I have decided to not buy anything in 2009 (I already blew that by adding less than $5 cash to a gift certificate to buy a pair of desperately-needed brown heels), any purchase feels like an impulse. I fell to temptation in April when I was in Memphis, but it was a special situation.

We were downtown and came upon this wonderful little boutique, but they had obviously had a going-out-of-business paaatee the night before. There were lots of beer and wine bottles open around, evidence of snack food; but right in the middle were the remnants of what was left of the inventory. They were practically giving it away. I found these shoes. They were so funky but they fit like gloves. Wow. I asked how much. "$20." I looked at the box, and they were originally $135. Sold!

I finally got the courage to wear them for the first time yesterday. Got three compliments. Good purchase.

Friday, June 12, 2009

$5: T-Shirt and a Good Time

My husband, my son and I got to traverse the new part of the interstate at the fast 40 dash last night along with 1600 others. Less expensive than hanging out at Sundown in the City.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Warning: Don't Be Tempted to Decrease Grocery Bill by Increasing Pasta

As I mentioned in the previous blog, we gave ourselves a treat and bought this past Sunday's New York Times. In there was an article about the recession from Walmart's point of view:

With the recession in its 18th month and unemployment now topping 9 percent, even semi-conspicuous consumption is a distant memory. Consumers are hunkered down. But when they do venture out, chances are they’re on their way to places like Wal-Mart and other big discount chains.

“Our sales — it’s like holding up a mirror to our society,” said John E. Fleming, the chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer.

So what are Wal-Mart, with 4,100 stores across the country, and other major retailers seeing?

Less browsing in the aisles, for one thing. Consumers now are “very disciplined in terms of making sure that they don’t go beyond what they have on their lists,” Kathryn A. Tesija, Target’s executive vice president of merchandising, told investors recently.

Food, of course, is high on those lists (discretionary items like clothes and furniture are not). But consumers are cracking their wallets only so far. Many are trading down to private label groceries. At Wal-Mart, sales of refrigerated pizza were up last month compared with a year ago. Lower grades of meat are outselling the higher-grade, pricier cuts. A recession protein hierarchy has emerged, with ground beef trumping steak, and chicken trumping beef. Some consumers are forgoing protein altogether, opting for pasta.

“We’re seeing a movement away from protein into carbohydrates,” Mr. Fleming said. “It stretches the dollar a lot further.”

Retailers generally don’t divulge details of their sales by category of goods. But they were willing to discuss trends. One stood out: consumers are discovering there’s no place like home.

“This whole idea of staying home and entertaining at home, we’re seeing that everywhere,” Mr. Fleming said, “from the ‘take and bake’ pizza to the $5 movies.” Ms. Tesija noted that “sales of popcorn poppers and microwave poppers are very strong.”

Retailers say consumers are trying to make being cooped up as painless as possible. Mr. Fleming said that would explain why even in this economy, sales of flat-panel and high-definition televisions at Wal-Mart are strong. After all, the retailer’s $378, 32-inch RCA LCD television is more affordable than a vacation. (Which may be why retailers like Macy’s say luggage sales are among their weakest categories.)

Home Depot’s Craig Menear, executive vice president for merchandising, told investors recently that vegetable and herb sales were thriving because “more customers are opting to grow their own vegetable gardens.”

Car maintenance and repair is also big. Sales of motor oil, filters and tires are among Wal-Mart’s top sellers. “Anything that helps their car last longer is doing well because they’re not buying new cars,” Mr. Fleming said.

Consumers are spending to keep themselves in good health too, for fear of having to miss work. Wal-Mart said sales of vitamins are robust. So are sales of over-the-counter medications. Sales of sleep aids, pain relievers and antacids have spiked.

Home repair projects are also a priority. Home Depot’s basic repair and maintenance products — plumbing items, roofing materials, caulk — have sold better than other items.

At Wal-Mart, sales of baby formula and clothing are up. Still, Mr. Fleming said Wal-Mart could tell when parents were strapped: in the first weeks of the month they buy packs of 88 diapers; by the end of the month they’re buying the 40-pack. And at Sam’s Club, sales of pull-ups — that intermediate step between diapers and underwear — are down, suggesting parents are moving their children directly to underwear to save money.

The bottom, apparently, has met the bottom.

When I was potty-training, we didn't even have pull-ups. The development of pull-ups is a classic case of perceived need "sold" to the American market. I am glad that some people are skipping what I see as an unneeded expense and potty training like we did in the old days.

However, the scariest part of this article was reinforced by a radio interview today, on Public Radio, by Bob Edwards of Dr. William Meller, an expert in evolutionary medicine. Dr. Meller explained that while our ancestors had relatively plenty of protein and consequently we are wired to stop when we are sated, full-blown carbohydrates are a relative newcomer to man's diet; and there is nothing in our system to tell us when to stop eating bread, pasta or chips. I know personally that is true. I often refer to "munchies" as my "drug of choice" because sometimes I seem addicted to them as I eat too much when I am tired or in a down mood. Companies such as Lay's Potato Chips know this behavior well. Their ads in the last decade ended with "You just can't eat just one."

Dr. Meller also noted that six percent of health care costs in America are related to diabetes, much of which is a result of eating too much bad stuff such as carbohydrates. Unfortunately in these lean times many people are going to get heavier and sicker. Going for the cheap, carbohydrate-filled food such as pizza and pasta will be the path of least resistance for many cash-strapped Americans, but they will be paying for it later with compromised lifestyles AND higher health costs.

Monday, June 8, 2009

And the New York Times Says Blogs Are Dead?

First off, I hope that there is some humming of "Levon," by Elton John. (There is a line in it: "And the New York Times Says God is Dead.")

I'm on vacation in Florida; and as I have pointed out in an earlier blog, there is a tendency to buy more stuff on vacation than one would at home. Like buying the New York Times Sunday edition, for example. A splurge, indeed, but a pleasure.

My absolutely favorite section is the SundayStyles, noting engagements and marriages and social trends. Ach! On the front page there is an article with the headline: "Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest."

Focusing on one blogger, the article states "many people start blogs with lofty aspirations -- build an audience and leave their day job, to land a book deal, or simply to share their genius with the world." However, in the article it is noted that "(according to) Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks has been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream -- or at least an ambition -- unfulfilled."

That made me revisit the purpose of this blog. It's to celebrate thriftiness without being cheap, and also at the same time affirming that spending money does not equate to raising one's quality of life. So basically it's about compromises. What in life isn't? Right, ArtBoy?