Target Sunday

January 27th, 2008

I went through the huge rubbermaid bin I dragged down from the attic and it was filled with mostly empty CD cases and cassette tapes that were mine. I had absolutely no trouble getting rid of all of it. Do I really need a bootlegged tape of the Grateful Dead circa 1985? The answer is a resounding no.

My husband still has a cooler (COOLER??!!!!??) filled with his cassette tapes hiding somewhere. I will find them eventually.

I went to Target today. For the first time this year. I bought extra virgin olive oil, allergy medicine, toilet paper and binder style CD holders. Yes, I think I needed them.

We had one binder style CD holder that was at least 10 years old and the pockets where the CDs went were ripped or strecthed out. So every time you would open it CDs would fall out. Then we had movie and music CDs mixed together with blank CDs on one of those little container spools the blank CDs came on. And computer software was just tossed in the junk drawer. It has driven me crazy for a long time.

So this morning when I was going through all of the CDs, I decided that it was just time to get it all organized once and for all.

I was going to buy some CD holders that were on clearance, but they were ugly. I went back and forth in my head– clearance price or something I like. And then in a moment of clarity I realized that saving money to buy something ugly that I will just want to replace really isn’t saving anything. Much better to buy something that is slightly more expensive, but I really like.

That probably sounds like I am trying to justify my purchase, and make excuses. But it isn’t.

Now if I had bought that adorable pink with white trim tennis skirt with matching athletic tank top for my daughter, I would be trying to justify it. Instead I just looked at the outfit. And, yes, even touched it to soak up all of it’s adorableness. But I left it behind. Because if I had bought it I would have had to buy her white sneakers. And socks with the little balls on the back. And a sun visor. The next thing you know I would be buying her a tennis racket and driving her to tennis lessons. I am too busy for that. Maybe once she is out of preschool.

Goodwill: Week Four

January 27th, 2008

DSC_01451

The observant among you will probably recognize the stuff from Week Two. I decided to wait until the I had a van full to go all the way there. I’d like to say it is because I was thinking of the environment and saving gas, but that would be lying. I was just too lazy to load it all in the van myself.

Last week I had nothing to add to the Goodwill pile. I had two big black bags of garbage and several cardboard boxes for recycling.

I had spent that Week Three going through my homeschool closet and supplies and getting honest with myself. So many things I have purchased because I thought they looked fun, only to never use them. I packed up two boxes of curriculum and a bunch of schoolish books to bring to our co-op. Other people can have them. Maybe they will actually use them or they can take them and store them in their closets for five years. I don’t care as long as it isn’t in my house.

I put the boxes in front of the back door so that I wouldn’t forget them. And then I stepped over them and left them behind. Go me! I also threw away all the half used workbooks and half colored in coloring books that no one wants to use because gasp some of the pages are already colored in, the dried up paints, the old broken crayons, the dried up markers, the computer games that only work on computers still using Windows 95.

This week we added to the Goodwill pile an old kitchen table that has been in our attic for years and the two benches that went with it. Two boxes of books and a box of puzzles. And three big black garbage bags for the dump.

Still, there is no noticeable difference.

I have a huge rubbermaid bin filled with cassette tapes that I am trying to convince my husband he does not need anymore, since we DON’T EVEN OWN A CASSETTE PLAYER!

Wish me luck. I will need it.

Bringing It Back

January 23rd, 2008

I made my husband return something to the store yesterday.

On Sunday he went to Home Depot to buy an 8ft piece of crown molding that we need to finish up the trim in my son’s bedroom and wood filler, to fill all the nail holes in all the trim. Both of these are things that we needed.

He came home with those two things and a little planter kit and a couple of packs of seeds.

“What is this?” I asked, knowing that it is nowhere near the time to start seeds inside to plant in an eventual outdoor garden. Not that we do that either because fragile indoor plants and small children do not mix.

“Oh, isn’t that fun? I thought we could grow these herbs in the window.” he answered.

“Which window?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Any window.” he answered.

“Well, it would have to be a window that gets a lot of direct sunlight and the only two windows I can think of are in the family room and the sunroom. Where the little kids run around and play.” I said.

“Okay.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so.” I answered.

“What? Why?”

“First of all because we do not need it. Second of all because I do not need the stress of having to take care of these little plants. They will just die. Or get knocked off the window sill. Or an overzealous preschooler will water them and leave puddles on the hardwood floor.”

Normally, I would not have said anything. I would have let him set up the little planter and plant the seeds. And then in a month or two when it was a dead mess and I had complained about it enough, I would have snatched it off the windowsill in a huff and thrown it away.

Rob sighed deeply and agreed. Yesterday on his way home from work he stopped back at Home Depot and returned the little planter and packets of seeds. And got our $8 back.

The First Fight

January 17th, 2008

Perhaps fight is a little bit strong of a word. How about disagreement? That sounds much more civil.

Him: Do books count?

Me: Of course they count.

Him: What if I buy them used at the Goodwill?

Me: Still counts.

Him: But why?

Me: Because you don’t need to buy books. We have a perfectly good library in town. Also I just packed up four boxes of books to bring to the Goodwill.

Him: I hope you didn’t pack up any of my books that I still want.

Me: Like the paperback books you used in college and have been sitting in boxes for the past 15 years?

Him: Yeah, those books. I was just thinking about one of them.

Me: After 15 years you were thinking about one of them?

Him: Yes!

Me: Well, too bad. Someone else is thinking about your book now.

Spending What You Don’t Have

January 16th, 2008

I know that I said at the beginning of the year, all those days ago, that our year off from shopping was not about saving money. And it isn’t about that really. Or so I thought. Afterall, if I am not “in debt” then I am surely living within my means.

But over the past weeks (has it really only been 15 days?), as I consider needs versus wants and the huge blurry line that exists between the two, it sort of is about money. I mean, who wants to waste money on things that you are just going to turn around and give away?

The Secret History of the Credit Card was a PBS Frontline special a few years ago. The average American has $8000 of credit card debt and 35 million Americans only pay the minimum payment every month, which is only the interest.

Credit is no longer viewed as an earned privilege, where you had to have a job and demonstrate that you were worthy of a loan, Manning says. “This generation has been socialized [to feel] that it’s an entitlement to have these kinds of lifestyles. They don’t have to earn it. They don’t have to be disciplined to save. As a result, credit cards have become a kind of ‘yuppie food stamps.’ That’s a real serious impediment in terms of trying to inculcate basic financial literacy skills on this generation where they see all these abundant things in society that they think they deserve.”

Most people when questioned say that they didn’t use their credit card to survive during a crisis, rather they built up that huge debt one $30, $100, $200 purchase at a time. I can see how easily that could happen, remember my Target purchases for those 4 days right before Christmas? I do. I am still appropriately horrified by myself.

We carry no credit card debt. We pay the bill off at the end of every month. Now, there have been occasions when we have needed to make a large purchase, a new furnace comes to mind, and we have charged it. But every spare cent we have goes to pay it off as quickly as possible. Those interest rates will bury you faster than you can dig out.

Now I am hoping that we don’t even have a balance to pay off at the end of the month.

Goodwill: Week Two

January 14th, 2008

DSC_00141

What all is it?

An old fabric hamper with several old purses of mine that I haven’t used in years and a lamp that has been in our attic since we moved into this house. Two boxes of books. A box with an annoying battery sucking Sesame Street train. A box filled with games and puzzles that we never use. A box of antique china that we used to collect but has not been out of the attic in 12 years. And unbreakable mirror from Community Playthings. A black bag with old curtains. And probably some assorted other crap that I can’t even remember one day later.

And still, I don’t see a dent. Rachel says that you need to purge until you see a difference. I think I have a long way to go.

One week

January 13th, 2008

That is how long I have gone without stepping foot in a store of any kind.

iTunes? Netflix?

January 10th, 2008

Neither of these really have to do with my war on clutter and rampant consumerism, but iTunes and Netflix have been under discussion.

We have been talking about whether iTunes are a need or a want.

The resolution thus far is that while it is not a “need” for me who does not own an iPod, my older children consider it a “need.” And since there is no visible clutter coming into the house from their $1 purchases, and they already own the iPods, I told them it was fine.

With one caveat, from now on they will be spending their own money on their purchases. Which really they should have been all along. But I am a big old softie, or maybe I am just too lazy to collect their money. Hard to tell.

I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. I love that I am able to get movies and documentaries for the kids that are not available at our local store. But there is not a big convenience factor for me. I still have to drive to the post office to drop them off and pick them up, since we have no mail delivery.

We had it set up so that we could have four dvds out at any one time. But that was totally overkill. Especially since we would end up keeping all of them for weeks and weeks at a time. So I cut it down to two dvds starting February 1st. That’s $10 a month I’m not spending. And maybe it will motivate me to return the dvds that we do get more quickly.

Yeah, wishful thinking.

IKEA is Swedish For Clutter

January 9th, 2008

Saturday we went to IKEA. I felt like I was walking into the lion’s den.

When we began redoing my 10 yr old son’s bedroom (we live in a big old house that we are restoring for those who don’t know) I brought him to IKEA one day and he decided he really loved the loft beds. I had told him that when the room was done we would head back there and buy him one along with a desk, a light, a rug and a dutch oven. Right now he sleeps on a mattress on floor, and while I try to convince him that this is really cool and tell him that in fact when I was his age I begged to be able to put my mattress on floor, he doesn’t really buy it.

Lo, so many months have passed as we slowly worked on the infamous room. Stripping wall paper, replastering damaged walls, painting, repainting, reglazing the windows, rebuilding the closets, refinishing the hardwood floor… let’s just say that it was a long, very long drawn out process. But now, it is finally *almost* finished. We need to hang the closet doors, after I paint them, and put up the crown molding.

We tried to get down to IKEA the week before New Years when my husband had the week mostly off so we wouldn’t have to go on a weekend when it would be all crowded, but were unsuccessful. I think it snowed that week? Anyway, Saturday my husband suggested that we go and finally get the poor deprived and neglected child a bed.

And that is why on Saturday afternoon I found myself at IKEA caressing that dutch oven in a way that is probably illegal in several southern states.

My husband actually said I was no fun in IKEA because I questioned every purchase he wanted to make.

In the end we didn’t even end up buying the loft bed because on closer inspection it was a piece of flimsy crap. And as much as I am all about not spending money unnecessarily I also do not believe in spending money on things that are not going to last.

We bought pine bunkbeds from an unfinished furniture store many years ago. They didn’t last. I ended up pitching them out the window in pieces one day and then burning them in our fire pit. That was nothing but a waste of money and I vowed as I roasted my marshmallows over it that I wouldn’t do it again.

In the end that day we left IKEA with an area rug for his bedroom, which we need to protect the newly refinished floors lest I be forced to kill him when he drags his desk chair across the room, and a plastic mixing bowl. The plastic mixing bowl was to replace one that broke about six months ago. One that I duct taped back together and have continued using because it was the perfect size for all my mixing needs.

Rest assured, people, I am not going into stores just to torture myself.