Tag Archives: consumerism

Amazon Just Saved Me $30 (and then I spent it)

I picked up some books at the local Borders this evening… that’d be two computer books totaling $86 after tax. When I got home, I checked out their reviews and prices on Amazon, and found that I could get them for $55 w/ free shipping.

So what did I do next? Ordered them on Amazon, and added one more book in. So, I still spent $86. Well, I spent $160, but I plan on returning the books I purchased within the week so I don’t own costly duplicates.

How often do you buy books and return them? I know bookstores aren’t libraries, but their return policy (w/ a receipt within 30 days) can easily be followed if you want to get a quick read in, or buy now and buy cheaper later. I feel guilty doing that and don’t do it often, but in this case the Amazon price is so much cheaper, and I haven’t really read the books yet. Of course, the people at the store don’t know that, and I always feel so foolish when I return my entire purchase a few days later.

Plenty of people sit in Borders and read books, so I don’t see a huge difference in taking it home to review and returning it. I rarely do this, though, because I like to write in my books and keep them. The only reason I’m going to return these is because I bought the same ones for cheaper online.

I Hate Home Depot

(Home Depot rebates ARE A SCAM. I will never buy any big-ticket items from them again.)

Home Depot owes me a $60 rebate. My boyfriend and I bought our good friend a dishwasher for her birthday in August, and chose to spend a little more that we had originally intended to because of the rebate offer. So I got her a $399 dishwasher, plus spent $60 on delivery, and another $50 or so on parts. The dishwasher had a $60 rebate if you ordered delivery, so I paid, filled out the rebate forms online and thought I’d be receiving my rebate shortly.

Yea, right. Rebates are designed to screw you out of your money. They make you jump through so many hoops, eventually it’s just not worth your time to pursue the matter further.

This sort of bullshit really works me up, though. I’ve been corresponding back and forth with a woman in the customer service department and getting nowhere fast. My last e-mail with “Bianca” informed me that I need to e-mail them a JPG attachment of my receipt to prove that I, indeed, paid for delivery along with my purchase.

So I took a screenshot of the e-mailed receipts Home Depot mailed to me as I bought the dishwasher and confirmation on my rebate submission. I have a feeling that’s not what they’re looking for, though. The bad news is that since the dishwasher was delivered to my friend, any sort of hard copy receipt that came with it is either lost or gone. I never saw it. But I paid for it. On my credit card. And Home Depot e-mailed me confirmations left and right about all these things. Then they e-mailed me saying I don’t qualify for the rebate because I didn’t pay for the delivery. Fuck that. I paid for delivery. And a whole bunch of other crap.

Moral of the story – rebates are evil, Home Depot’s customer service department blows, and I’m going to keep blogging on how much Home Depot sucks until I get my rebate.

Heat Wave

These are the days when I really wish that I could stop being so frugal and purchase an air conditioner. Unlike back on the east coast, out here in Cali, few people think to buy an air conditioner. The weather doesn’t get that hot, usually, but right now the heat wave is… well…. really hot.

Even sitting in the shade with the lights off, the heat is like a thick fog which doesn’t move. Outside, there is sometimes a nice breeze, but my apartment seems to absorb heat and not let it go until winter comes along.

I’m looking forward to going home in a few weeks, back east, where air conditioning is plentiful. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to justify air conditioning a home, especially a large home, given that it’s such a huge expense and many people in the world just learn to live without.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to a good summer thunderstorm back east. I hope I get to see one. Growing up in Jersey, I hated those violent thunder storms. But now I feel like I’m dealing with passive aggressive weather. It never comes out and hits you with something, it just burns for days. The east coast weather made more sense. It was hot and humid and eventually it had to storm, and so it went. We don’t get thunder storms out here. I miss the angry sky.

How Does Anyone Afford Superficial Purchases?

I went to the mall today. I know, I know, I should never do that. But sometimes I like to shop. I went for an hour on my lunch break. I tried on a bunch of clothing. Outfits that would cost me two month’s of my food budget. Looking in the mirror, I realized that even these garments, these $200 pairs of jeans and $99 shirts layered over another $99 shirt weren’t able to make me look halfway decent.

I stared at my thighs. Those chicken legs. Short, with lots of fat up on my inner thigh. I thought of a time when I was thinner and how that fat was still there, albeit slightly less prominent. I thought about how growing up my mother constantly reminded me of my fat stomach, that protruding bump that must be hidden at all times, but how she never mentioned my giant hips, butt or thighs – and how I wonder if my legs will ever look remotely attractive.

Then, I thought about liposuction. The surgery that, with a little vacuum cleaner, sucks out all your fat (while cleaning out your bank account.)

I came home, obsessed with the idea of lipo. After all, my happiness depends on not having fat thighs. That’s worth the price, isn’t it?

Of course, I’ll probably never get liposuction. The costs are far too great. It would probably cost me $3000-$4000 just to get rid of the lard on my inner thigh. And there are plenty of other areas I want to tackle to. I imagine lipo for all of my problem areas would add up to over $20k. Lower abdomen, arms, inner thigh, hips, outer thigh…

And then, I really want to get my teeth fixed. They’re yellowish and crooked, with an unsightly gap in the middle.

Throw in the laser hair removal, which would probably not be permanent due to my having PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), add some hair extensions for kicks, a breast lift, some laser eye surgery, maybe foot surgery because that weird bone sticks out making my toes really wide and impossible to fit into any shoes, plus, why not also get a laser facial to make my skin look fresh and radiant, some new highlights and hair dye, and… then, only then, will I even start to feel good about how I might look in that pair of $200 jeans, and that $99 shirt layered over another $99 shirt.

But… at what point in one’s career does she feel entitled to spending that much money on making herself beautiful? Obviously people do it, there wouldn’t be that many plastic surgeons in the world if the only people getting such surgery were in accidents.

I’m 24 now, and in my 20s, I just want to be beautiful. In my 30s, I want to be beautiful. I want to enjoy the last remnants of my youth by – being able to wear a bikini and feel beautiful.

Sure, I could exercise, I could eat right. That would help a lot. But I don’t think all of the fat would go away. It would stick around some places. That’s just what happens. That’s why people get surgery.

I want to save up for liposuction.

But I also want to, one day, buy a house.

Lipo versus a house… I think the house wins.

And once I buy a house, well, I’ll have to pay for that house for many years to come.

And then I’ll have children and they’ll cost a fortune. And if I actually have them (and not adopt) my stomach will get even worse. And I’ll want plastic surgery even more. But by then it will be impossible to be that selfish. The money will have to go to bills and health insurance for the family and my kids and their summer camps and college and…

And I’ll never be able to enjoy being beautiful.

It Costs WHAT to Get a Passport These Days???

I lost my old passport and I’m traveling to Israel at the end of May. Crap. A new one, with expedited service, costs $179. Serves me right for losing my old one that wouldn’t have expired until 2010. Oh well, this one will just last me until I’m 30 or something, so I can hopefully use it on a honeymoon!

So today I did all the things I thought I had to do to get a new passport. Printed out the forms and filled them out. I was ready for a quick (albeit painfully pricey) trip through the passport line at the local post office. But things can never be that simple in my life.

First off…

Went to Long’s Drugs to get my passport photo taken. Stood at the photo counter for 5 minutes before a sales clerk noticed me. She called for a customer service rep to come to the counter. 6 minutes later and no rep had arrived. She paged the customer service rep again. 4 more minutes later, a customer service rep comes to the counter and I ask “can you do my passport photo?” I find out the one person who knows how to do passport photos there has gone to lunch. Buger.

Left Long’s and went to Walgreens, which luckily is a few blocks away. Got my passport photo taken fairly quickly there. Was told it would take 10 minutes to print. So I started to wander around the store. The lady who told me that came and found me and let me know that someone else was printing a huge order so it would take more like 25 minutes.

25 minutes later I return and get my passport photos. Pay $8 for them, and I’m off to the post office, which is another 15 minute drive away.

Get to the post office and of course there are a few people in line. I wait, somewhat impatiently, but minimizing my impatience because I know I have every single item I need to get that passport as soon as I arrive at the front of the line, right? Right??


First of all, it turns out I didn’t have the lost passport form filled out. Or maybe I did but I must have lost the lost passport form. (hah). So I stepped aside and filled that out. Then waited a little longer.

Finally, it was my turn again. I handed the woman the various items she needed to see or take to get me signed up for this new $179 passport.

She took one look at my birth “certificate” and informed me that it’s not a certificate at all. It’s a birth registration or something like that.


It was the same stupid piece of paper I used last time I got a passport.

So she told me that I had to call up New Jersey, my home state, and request that they send me a new birth record so I could apply for a passport.


I’m traveling abroad on May 27. I already have my ticket. WHAT???

It should be ok. I went home, and called the NJ agency. They had an online site where I had to pay $38 for the new birth certificate and rush delivery of it. I still have to fax them a copy of my driver’s license before they can send me anything.

I also called up the federal passport agency hotline and was told that it’s wise to include another $17 check in my passport application to pay for rush delivery of the passport once they process it.

So all-in-all my lost passport is costing me about $200 to replace.

It’s my fault for losing it and waiting until the relative last minute, but still, I’m a little p-o’d about all this. Especially after finding out that I owed $1243 on my tax return this year.

People My Age Are Stupid

…so says a new report by the AARP. In a survey of folks ages 19-39, the majority of them didn’t seem to be worried about credit card debt, or the fact that they weren’t saving enough for retirement.

I’m glad that I surfed on to An English Major’s Money blog about two years ago. I don’t remember how I got there, but reading her blog and other PF blogs made me feel more confident about investing and saving. I was almost too ashamed to invest or save at that point, given that I had money tucked away already. But then I realized how I needed to start making that money work for me, and not to feel bad for doing so.

But most 20-somethings are dumb about these things. If they’re lucky, they’ve got an employee-sponsored 401k plan with match, and they contribute some of their earnings to that because their employer recommended it and salesman from mutual fund firms came and pitched the horrors of not being prepared for retirement in order to sell their high-fee funds. Unlucky and they’d be in credit card debt with no savings, no “emergency fund,” and definitely no retirement fund for the future.

I’m so grateful to the personal finance blogging community for getting me on the right track.

Beauty Trends, a Sephora Gift Certificate, and $200

After three years of avoiding makeup-superstore Sephora to spend my $40 gift certificate, I finally gave in and decided to splurge. The show I directed opened on Friday night and I had failed to find a blue sweater to match the dress I bought, so in desperation I headed over to Sephora for my final touches.

I meant to just spend about $40 on a new foundation. Not that I really needed a new foundation, but the colors I had for summer were looking silly on my now-pale skin (it’s ghostly, really) and I needed something a bit lighter.

Here’s the rub – the day before I go to Sephora I wrote some content for my job about spring and summer beauty trends. I’ve been avoiding following the trends for a while, given that I have a bunch of makeup and I usually just buy what I think looks good on ME and not what the trends are. But I got really, really into the beauty trends for this spring/summer. Neon pink lipstick? Why, I don’t own any neon pink lipstick, I thought. I also did some research on the best mascaras and despite knowing that the drug store brands are just fine I found myself longing for some Christian Dior Diorshow Blackout. All 20 some-odd dollars of it.

Well, I spent about 2 hours of “oohs” and “ahhs” in Sephora, browsing through the aisles, trying on makeup, and trying my darndest to avoid the sales people who kept asking “are you doing ok?” (Funny, when I finally needed help, a salesperson was nowhere to be found!)

Going to Sephora to buy “just a few” pieces of makeup is really a bad idea for anyone attempting to be somewhat frugal. After all was said and done I spent $200 – only $40 of that was covered by the gift certificate I went into spend. (Yea, yea, I know that’s the point of gift certificates.)

But, on a positive note, I love my new makeup. I’m still not going to be a trend whore, so I’ll wear it for years – until it gets really gross.

Then again, does that justify spending $25 on Dior lipstick? And then spending $10 on nearly-the-same-shade neon pink Sephora-brand lipstick that I now use to blend with the $25 Dior lipstick?

You all probably think I’m absolutely crazy, spending this much on makeup.

But I can’t be the only one – otherwise Sephora would go out of business. But that place sure is always busy. Maybe everyone else goes in and has some self-restraint. But I go in once a year or every two years and splurge. It makes me feel good. I like looking pretty, and the older I get, the less pretty I feel. It’s really sad that makeup – ie, face paint – helps me feel like I’m decent looking, but I’d rather spend a lot of money on makeup than my hair cuts. I mean, as I said in my last entry, I spend $60 on a cut, but I only do it twice a year. Some people are spending $60 every 6 weeks for their HAIR. So I end up spending that money on makeup. And I just love painting my face!

I worry about getting even older. Now, at 24, at least I don’t have massive amounts of wrinkles. But what about when I turn 30… or 40? Old women buy a lot of expensive, often misleading beauty products in a quest to look younger. Eeks.

For now, though, I’m happy with my purchases. My Lorac Cheek Stamp (it’s blush that’s like a stamp, which kind of works and kind of doesn’t, but it’s never been so fun to use blush), my Diorshow mascara, my $4 Sephora lipliner (if you want cheap good-quality lipliner, go into Sephora and buy their brand, it’s really nice, just don’t look at anything else), my $25 Dior lipstick, my $10 Sephora lipstick, my $40 Laura Mercier foundation stick (which may or may not be in the right color for me, foundations always look weird on my pale-ass skin), my $30 Laura Mercier foundation primer (oil free, of course), and the $20 eyebrow pencil in a color that’s actually right for my eyebrows (as opposed to the 10 $6 eyebrow pencils I’ve bought at drugstores over the years that are the wrong color for my brows!). I think that’s all I got. Does that add up to $200?

I guess it does, with taxes and all.

Geez, makeup is expensive. But I must admit, I feel happiest after buying new face paint.

The Cost of Having Pretty Hair

I just read a post over at Saving for a Home of My Own that details the $$$ Saving Diva has spent over the years to perfect her coif en route to her currently frugal lifestyle. Her post is so great! She breaks down, by hair style, how much it has cost her to maintain over the years. $2225 a year for the bleach blond hair, $1374 for dyed brunette locks, and now $104 per year for the low-cost, low-maintenance version.

It’s amazing how much money us girls spend on our hair. Even without going to fancy salons, the costs quickly add up if you follow the recommended “get your hair cut every 6 week” myth of the salon saleswomen.

When I was younger and my parents were paying for my hair maintenance, I would get my hair cut every six weeks. From middle school on, I got my hair highlighted and dyed. It must have cost my parents a small fortune! Sometimes I’d dye my hair myself with drug-store bought brands, but it would usually come out shitty and I’d have to get it redone at the salon.

After graduating college – now that I’m paying for my own hair care – I fall somewhere between “spending way too much money on my hair” and “frugal.” I admit I like to splurge on my hair, when I get it done. But I just get it done about two to three times a year. $200 three times a year or so is not going to break the bank, but every three weeks would be awful!

I think it’s important to have a good hair cut and style. Makeup you can buy cheap and you can go w/ just some concealer and maybe basic lipstick to look professional. But hair is so key in your look. It doesn’t need to be dyed at all – I think the cut is what’s worth spending the money on.

I used to go to supercuts for a while and spend $20 on each cut, but half the time I’d end up with crooked, messed up hair. I like my hair stylist now and she knows what would look good with my face shape. Sure, it costs $60 (plus tip) to get my hair cut. Then the dye is another $100. I don’t do highlights anymore, they are way too expensive. And right now my hair is dyed my natural color, almost, so I may just let it grow out and stick to cuts until I go gray and need to start coloring again.

Speaking of tips (not roots) I wonder how many people actually tip their hairdressers. I always tip 20% if someone does a good job and usually tip about 10% if I don’t like what they did and don’t plan on coming back. If they really mess something up I won’t leave a tip at all, but that’s very, very rare.

My friend – who comes from a lower-income family (not poor or anything, just not upper middle class like my family) apparently never tips her hairdresser. She goes back over and over again and her hairdresser, who has been cutting her hair since she was a kid, doesn’t seem to mind much at this point.

I just wonder… how many people tip their hairdressers and how much? It seems like the tipping cost alone adds up fast. But I am very cautious of tipping poorly to people who do things like cut my hair, etc, because I want to go back to them and I don’t want them to make it awful the next time around.

How much do you tip your hair dresser?

Oy, my friend is financially hopeless.

Sorry my blog has been hijacked my posts about my friend, but my financial situation is nowhere near as dire (or dramatic) as hers, and I feel like my blog title “Her Every Cent Counts” is more suited to her.

The good news is that today I think maybe I opened the door for the opportunity to help her budget and such in the future. We’ve agreed that I’ll help her come up with a budget if she helps me organize my room. Because my room is just as a mess as her bank account is.

The bad news is that the poor girl (and I don’t mean “poor financially,” although in some terms of the word that would be appropriate right now too.)

I’ve been covering her financial saga since last week, when I first found out just how deeply she was in consumer debt. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worst.

As I noted in “It’s None of My Business, But… Part 2,” my friend had a little collision with a parking meter the other day and chipped her tooth. The chip wasn’t that bad, but due to not having dental insurance and no emergency fund, the $300+ the tooth fix cost her today is going to put her checking account into the red once again.

But I also found out some other things that I couldn’t understand.

A few weeks ago she took a trip to LA with her friend who was auditioning for some reality TV show down there. This girl (the one in debt) is a really good friend (to a fault.) Both of the girls apparently didn’t really have the money to take a trip to LA, but that didn’t stop them.

That’s fine. The concern I have with the whole situation is that my friend, Lisa, as I’m calling her, paid for the entire price of both plane tickets on her credit card… which, since they waited till the last minute, was about $500 total. Her friend, I’ll call her Tammy, has yet to pay her back for the flight. She told Tammy that she could pay her back in installments, since she knows money is tight with Tammy too.

But now Lisa broke her tooth and needed to get it fixed. She has about $250 in her checking account and the tooth fix cost her over $300. She paid by check. Obviously this is not a good situation.

I felt the need to provide some advice on this situation, so I wrote to her and said that she should call the dentist and ask if they can hold off on cashing the check for a week or two. She needs the time to get the money into her account. Her mother might lend her the extra $100, but even if she does it will take a while for the check to clear. She’ll likely be stuck with overdraft fees.

After talking about this, I started to bring up how I’m really bad with budgeting and how I’m working on getting better at it. By leading in with talking about my bad spending habits (which exist, I’m not lying about them just to get her to open up) she told me about how she has a tough time budgeting. So then we got into talking about how I am now into all this personal finance stuff and I’d like to help her figure that out if she’ll help me figure out how to organize my room.

Hopefully this bartering arrangement will pan out.

That’s what friends are for, right?

All of this has inspired me to think about writing a personal finance book. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but never really had a topic I was so passionate about. I’m not sure I know enough about finance to write a whole book about it, but then again it seems like a lot of idiots rewrite books in the self-help section and with a pretty cover and tantalizing descriptions, people still buy them.

It’s None of My Business, But… Part 2.

So that friend I wrote about the other day… the one who is maxed out on her credit cards, works a part-time job and earns less than she spends more often than not… ended up accidentally chipping her tooth today. Besides it sucking that she now has a small chip in her tooth, the biggest problem is figuring how to pay to get it fixed. With no dental insurance, no room left on her credit card, and no emergency fund… well, I’m not sure how she’ll figure this one out.

As a friend, I really want to lend her the money to get it fixed. But I realize friendships can end badly the second money gets involved. So I’ll stay out of it. I figure her well-to-do boyfriend can help her out if worst came to worst.
Still, it’s times like these when I wish I could say “you know, if you put the money you spend on your 2-day trip to Los Angeles, and the shoes and sunglasses you got there, into an emergency fund, these awful accidents wouldn’t have to be that bad.”
Of course, I just hold my tongue. It’s not polite to say such things to friends.
It’s one thing if you are trying hard to be frugal and you’re in debt, its another if you’re just over spending when you’re making enough to live a comfortable life on your income. I don’t understand how people can do the latter.