Sunday, August 30

Frugal moving?

First, I just want to thank you all for your patience. I know posting has been intermittent (at best) during these last couple of weeks. It will get better again soon. It's just that selling off/donating half your belongings takes up some time -- and then you still have to pack the rest. Oh, and keep working in the meantime.

The good news is that we were officially moved out of the apartment yesterday around 6 p.m. It was stressful and came down to the wire. I suppose it just about always does, but it's still frustrating. I definitely suggest that any couples sit down and create a game plan prior to any move. Tim and I had different theories about moving. He completely underestimated the amount of time it takes to move when you have so much stuff. I completely underestimated just how badly two weeks' bad sleep would burn up any sense of patience I had. Let's just say there was a lot of yelling on both sides. And, depending on how you look at it, we were either both completely justified or completely unjustified. Either way, I figure we were even.

So. What have I learned so far about frugal moving? Well, I've learned that moving to a new state generally means that 'cheap' is thrown out the window.

First and foremost, there's the question of getting your stuff there. You have a few options:

Get it there yourself (car).

  • What: You could only take things that you can fit in your car. The rest would be shipped or sold/donated.
  • Sacrifice: You'll arrive with no furniture whatsoever. The older you get, the less this is a really viable option. For example, I have a hard time sleeping in the best of conditions, so I am reluctant to part with my Tempurpedic. And just replacing that would cost more than we're paying for the move.
  • Benefit: If you're okay getting rid of everything, this is by far the cheapest option. Items will get jostled around less in your car than in a moving van, so you won't need as much bubble wrap (which runs about $20 for 200 feet) or boxes ($3-5 each).
  • Caution: Remember that a loaded-down car will get sub-par miles per gallon. Plan to spend more than normal for gas.
  • Costs: Really, just gas. As for gas, we'd assume 20 mpg. (It's probably closer to 25 when loaded down, but it's best to plan for the worst.) For a 1500-mile trip, that's 75 gallons or about $225.
  • Total cost: $225

Get it there yourself (U-Haul van).

  • What: You can choose among several sizes of van. For out-of-state moves, there's a flat rate.
  • Sacrifice: Those vans are not comfortable to drive for long periods of time.
  • Benefit: You'd have to pay for a plane/train ticket anyway, and you'd still have to get your stuff there. This is probably cheaper. Also, you don't have to worry about anyone mishandling your stuff. It's under your control.
  • Caution: These vans get terrible mileage. The one I was looking at was 12 mpg. (I'm assuming that's loaded up, but it didn't say.)
  • Costs: We were quoted $800 for a 7-day rental of the van. Gas, though, really makes the price skyrocket. For a 1,500-mile trip, that's 125 gallons, or about $350-375.
  • Total cost: About $1150

Get it there yourself (car + U-Haul):

  • What: You drive your car but tow a trailer. This is only possible if your car either has a hitch or can have one attached.
  • Sacrifice: You'll get worse gas mileage than normal. You'll still have to get rid of a lot of furniture.
  • Benefit: Gas mileage will still be better than U-Haul vans.
  • Caution: Not all cars can do this. Also, you may have to be more careful driving when you're towing something.
  • Costs: The bigger trailer (5' x 8') would be $200. That plus gas for a truck or utility vehicle loaded down would probably be pretty steep. Assume a worst-case scenario of 15-20 mpg.
  • Total cost: About $500

Storage cube:

  • What: A large cube delivered to your house. You can hire movers to load or unload, if you prefer. You generally have 3 business days to get everything in, so it's best to order one close to the weekend.
  • Benefits: You don't have to load it all in a couple of hours. That's huge for people with medical conditions. Also, this way you can choose to fly rather than having to drive down. And did I mention you don't have to drive a moving van?
  • Sacrifices: Taking your stuff with you will inevitably cost more. You'll still have to get rid of some stuff -- the cube is about 6'x7'x8'. Ordering a second one is possible but completely demolishes your budget. And if you have a car and want it transported for you, that will definitely up the costs. Finally, if you live in an apartment building, finding a spot to put the cube can be difficult. Our front parking spaces are technically on city property. The company refuses to park there without a permit, which would have been $176. The garage has low-hanging pipes, so that was a no-go. Luckily, there was a space out back that we could use.
  • Costs: ABF U-Pack is charging us $1,136. (PODS wanted $2,300, so stay away from that company!) Then there's still the travel costs. We're driving down, so about $200; if we flew, it'd be around $450 after taxes.
  • Total cost: About $1,300-1,500.

Moving truck:

  • What: Companies like ABF U-Pack offer space in a trailer. Your items are then sealed away with a bulkhead. The rest of the truck is filled with commercial shipments.
  • Benefits: The truck option is cool because you can use whatever space you need. They quote you a price for a 6'x7'x8' space. For each foot of space you don't use, you get a discount (with a minimum of 5'x5'x8'). Other companies go by the poundage. The estimator figures out what he thinks things should weigh. For each 100 lbs under that, you get money off. Either way, you have the chance to lower costs.
  • Sacrifices: Having all the room you need might mean you go overboard and don't pare down your stuff enough. And for each foot of space more than the quote, you pay extra. This also means you need to have a space that a tractor trailer can park for a few hours without any problems. They refuse to block traffic. And, of course, you're on a time crunch of getting everything loaded in a 2-4 hour period. Finally, your stuff will get jostled around when the cube is moved and loaded onto the truck, when it's driven around, and when it's unloaded from the truck/delivered to your new address. That means packing carefully, which means a lot of moving supplies like bubble wrap.
  • Costs: ABF U-Pack offered about $1300 for this option. Another company (the one using poundage) came in around $1900. So it varies. Call around. A lot. Then there's still getting yourself down there. Between $200-400, depending on whether you drive or fly.
  • Total cost: At least $1,500.

Professional movers:

  • What: People who come in and take all your boxes, load them onto a truck and then unload them at your new destination.
  • Benefits: You don't do any heavy lifting. It's fabulous. They will also, for a price, pack your items for you.
  • Sacrifices: There are a lot of terrifying reports out there. We had gone with a place that gave us a $995 quote until we read terrible things about the parent company on Some of the reports were really scary: Movers sitting around chatting then charging overtime when the move took over 4 hours, end prices being up to 200% more than the initial quote, and the company withholding your items until you paid. The more well-known companies like Bekins, are pricey. Very pricey.
  • Cost: For an affordable place? Anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. Places like Bekins? Between $2,000-3,000, if I recall.
  • Total costs: Too much, unless you know the company is reputable.

So, is there such a thing as a frugal move? Well... Again, frugal is a relative term. There are certainly ways to cut down on costs:

  • Call all of your friends, even ones who work in office jobs, and see if their workplace has boxes that get thrown out. Offices have copy-paper boxes, which are great. We lucked out with a friend who works at Arby's. He offered a bunch of boxes after hearing how much store-bought ones cost. That saved us a bundle.
  • If friends can't help for some reason, start calling stores. Office supply stores are tricky. They crush and/or shred boxes early in the day. It might be best to call at the end of the day and ask them to leave a note for the morning crew. Grocery stores often only have produce boxes, which aren't great for long moves. Call liquor stores and see what days/times they get restocked. Those tend to be some of the best boxes, since liters and liters of alcohol are quite heavy.
  • Watch office supply stores for sales. This means, like most frugal hacks, getting a head start. With my mom's help, I found a sale on bubble wrap: buy one, get one free. Mom also had 2 coupons for $10 off a purchase of $30 or more. With each of us using one, the end total was about $60 for 4, 200-foot spools of bubble wrap and 5 boxes. Each bubble wrap roll retailed for $20.
  • If you want to try and avoid bubble wrap -- which I wouldn't recommend you skip completely -- save up plastic bags and get more from friends and family. These and newspaper help pad fragile items and keep them from shifting.
  • Remember to get different sizes of boxes. Unless you're using a professional moving service, you will want to make the most of your space. That means thinking of the box placement as a sort of Tetris game. (That's how Tim and Seth referred to it, anyway, and it helped them.)
  • Make use of your storage items. That refers both to storage bins and organizational storage like wicker baskets. Obviously, if you can use storage bins, it cuts down on the number of boxes you have to buy. But what about those baskets you have holding all your lotions and hair stuff? Fill the baskets as much as possible, then place the baskets in boxes. That way, you don't have to pack it twice -- the items held by the basket and the basket itself.
  • Finally, and I hope this is a no-brainer for everyone, keep a marker by your side as you pack. Then make notes on the boxes about the contents. Whether you want to be specifc -- shoes, jewelry, socks -- or more vague -- "Kitchen" -- you'll at least know where the box goes. If you use movers, you can tell them the correct room to put the box in. If you move the items yourself, you won't have to carry the box any extra steps.

Again, sorry for the long silence. Things have been crazed. But we officially have an apartment secured, our stuff is in transit and we're trying to decompress before we start our long road trip down to the land o' sun.


Friday, August 28

Freebie Friday

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Tuesday, August 25

Why does everyone love netbooks?

I am once again at odds with popular culture. I just don't "get" netbooks. Seriously.

I just can't seem to understand the appeal. You get a small, cramped keyboard for not much less than a regular laptop. It doesn't even attempt to compare itself to laptops' functionality, either. So why get one?

According to an appealing slideshow on Best Buy's website, it's all about mobility. Take your Internet with you everywhere. Access your social media, email, etc on the go!

Um... Isn't that the appeal of smart phones? Pay hundreds of dollars (plus the privilege of steep monthly plans) so that you can use social media while shopping? Check email while out to lunch? Access work documents while you're out of the office?

So if you have your Blackberry or iPhone, your internet is already portable. And about half as expensive. Unless you want to hop from free wifi to free wifi, you'll need to buy internet access. Probably from a company like AT&T, which charges $60 a month. Its cell phone data plan is $30.

Of course, the screen size is significantly better on a netbook. Smart phones have about a 3" screen. Netbooks are about 10" and have a separate keyboard. Then again, if you're worried about screen and keyboard size, why not just pay a couple hundred more for a full-size laptop? You'll get around 5" more in screen size, and your hands won't cramp up trying to squeeze onto the just-barely-too-small keys.

Oh, but portability! That's the real advantage over laptops.

They're about half the weight of a laptop. (Are there people out there actually struggling to carry around a laptop? They weigh about 6-8 lbs. Start using free weights stat!)

They fit in women's purses. (How many purses do you have that would allow you to easily slip in a 10-inch-long netbook, however thin? And even if it does fit in the empty purse, will it still fit when your other stuff is in there? Remember you'll have wallet, keys, your cell phone, and probably some makeup or other personal items.)

Okay, they fit into women's larger purses. (Oh, good. Just what I want: A $200-400 piece of technology banging around in my purse that I often sling onto the floor, drop or otherwise abuse. Surely nothing could go wrong there!)

And, by the way, why don't you ever see how men are supposed to carry them? I've seen that women can carry them tucked under the arm. Can men do this? Or does it look weird and prissy? If men just carry it in their hand, doesn't that mean a higher likelihood that it will slip out? Under arm or in hand, I don't see how it's more convenient than having a slightly heavier laptop, safely tucked away in a case.

But say you do like tucking a netbook under arm and jetting around. It seems awkward. One arm swinging, the other clenching the netbook? How is that better than carrying a case in one hand? Or a backpack to free up your arms?

As you probably know, the skin by your armpits is thinner than most areas. That means it's more sensitive. Do these netbooks heat up like laptops? Wouldn't that mean it's likely to burn that tender skin?

Heck, what if you are a normal person and sweat? Or not a normal person and sweat abundantly? Is the moisture going to hurt the machine? Will the heat of the machine (and clenching it under your arm) cause you to overheat more quickly and thereby sweat more?

And what about good, old-fashioned clumsiness? I am not a graceful gal. And I'm not even all that much klutzier than most people I know. I shudder just thinking about the myriad ways I'd be dropping something like that. Or hitting it on objects I'm walking by. Or some other, stupid move that I couldn't do if I tried but will easily achieve through negligence.

I will agree that you probably don't need the full capability of a laptop if you're just out and about. How often do you really use a CD on your laptop at all? Let alone at a cybercafe. But are these netbooks only supposed to appeal to the laptop-less citizens? Because it seems like it's trying to find a niche that appeals to all consumers.

And why, exactly, if you have either a smart phone or a laptop (and, let's face it, there's a good chance you have both) would you need this third item? Bigger -- but not big enough -- screen and keyboard; data plans just as expensive as those for laptops and twice the cost of cell phones' internet access; less capability than a laptop and not much more than a smart phone, without much of a differentiation in price.

Gosh, I can't understand why I haven't already gotten one!

Friday, August 21

Freebie Friday

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Wednesday, August 19

Companies just aren't frugal

I suppose this seems like a no-brainer. How would a huge corporation, with the accompanying bureaucracy, be able to keep up frugality?

The thing is, though, that there is always a way to be frugal no matter what your circumstances. Tim and I are proof enough of that. On the best of days, we operate at maybe 50% the energy/health of the average person. Yet we manage to find ways to make financially prudent decisions, even under our sub-ideal circumstances.

So how can the average corporation be more frugal? Well, one biggie is to offer some decent customer-retention deals!

As I understand it, getting new customers is one of the most expensive propositions in business. Yet, once an initial contract is over, most businesses don't work all that hard to keep you; and it seems like, the bigger the business, the worse the offers get.

Dish Network is especially guilty of this. When we initially signed on, we were offered a 12-month promotional rate on an 18-month contract. Even after the special prices ended, we were paying less than cable. A couple of months after the contract was up, though, I called to see if there were any specials or discounts on our current service. I offered to sign another contract if it meant locking in another good rate. Oh yes, indeed, the operator told me. They were offering current customers three months of Showtime/HBO/Starz for just a penny.

Uh, swell?

First of all, that's not a special on our current service. That's a special on an upgrade.

Second, I would hope everyone knows by now that these "great" deals are just designed to get money from you afterward, just like any introductory price or free-trial scenario. Usually, we forget to cancel -- so the company makes money until we finally remember -- or we're too lazy to bother -- so the company makes money until we stop procrastinating -- or, ideally, we get hooked on having so many movies available and keep the channels indefinitely.

Third, anyone who had gone to the website for Dish's phone number would have seen this is an option offered to all new customers, too. As in, it was blatantly advertised on the home page. Not exactly the best way to make any customer with half a brain feel like they're getting a deal. In fact, it's quite irritating to me personally. I have a strict policy: If you're going to try to pull the wool over my eyes, at least put in the effort to pull it all the way down!

In other words, I hung up from Dish incredibly irritated. Why wasn't this company interested in keeping current customers happy? Even $5 off a month for continued service would probably leave most folks pleased as punch. It would acknowledge that we were valued. Instead, like most corporations, Dish Network was too busy trying to get new customers to focus on the old ones.

But for Dish this was a really bad money decision. By the time I called, Dish had reported customer losses for two quarters straight. Those were the first and only occasions that Dish's numbers went down. Yet, when faced with an opportunity to lock in our patronage for another year, the operators had no cues to sign us up.

Given the constant barrage of introductory rates thrown around by DirecTV and Comcast, this seems like an especially bad choice on Dish's part. Very unfrugal, at least. Let's compare:

  • Getting a new customer includes advertising money (lots of it) and paying a contractor to come out and install the service. (Yes, sometimes the customer pays, but usually this is waived as part of an introductory offer.) New customers also mean lower rates than current ones. And if you lose a customer, you have to pay a contractor again to come and uninstall the service.

  • In contrast, keeping a new customer can be as simple as some mailings offering new, special deals. Perhaps a small loyalty discount, which would still mean customers were paying more than they had for their introductory offers.

Which do you think is a more frugal method?

Yet Dish, like most other companies, wait on discounts until it's a last-ditch effort to keep you. For example, I was finally offered $10 off per month for another 12 months -- and that's without a contract. But that only happened after I called to discontinue service. When I explained we were moving out of state, the operator offered me the deal and reminded me that we are offered one move (ie, uninstalling the current set-up and reinstalling elsewhere) for free.

I told her I would check out the cable companies and get back to her. Mainly, I need to see if the community we're moving to accepts satellites. I got her operator ID, for future reference to the deal.

Once again, I hung up a tad irritated. Why did it take my threatening to leave for Dish to show any kind of interest in me?

To be fair, we have kept Dish this whole time. So perhaps it is merely relying on Americans' inherent laziness for customer retention -- an increasingly dicey proposition in a recession, where suddenly everyone has picked up frugal habits, including shopping around for the best deal.

Or perhaps Dish knows that it offers the best regular rates. Again, though, with everyone shopping around for the best deal, that means a lot of ping-ponging around from company to company for introductory rate deals. That, at best, promises customers who will only stick around until promotional rates/contracts are over.

No matter how you look at it, Dish -- and plenty of other corporations -- are making bad money choices. They're trying to get new customers, which raises their numbers but not necessarily profit, at the expense of current-customer satisfaction. That doesn't matter, though, because they can report increased subscribers in their quarterly reports.

But there's a huge problem with that logic: Sure, new customer numbers look great; but losing current customers looks a lot worse. At least, that's how I would perceive it if I were a stockholder.

It's the corporate equivalent of living paycheck to paycheck. Each time, it gets harder to make ends meet. Each time, you're just squeaking by -- whether it's paying utilities or keeping your subscriber count up. Each time, you get a little closer to the edge of perpetual deficit.

For people, that means a gap between income and expenses. If not credit card debt, then a constant juggling game in which they pay just enough on each bill to keep things current. For companies, it's more a matter of losing more customers than it gains. That's especially bad when you consider that newer customers are necessarily going to pay less for service than anyone with not on a contract.

In short, a company that can't keep its customer base is a company in trouble. Maybe Dish doesn't realize this yet because, as I mentioned, it's new to the negative numbers game -- that is, losing more customers than it gains. But what are other companies' excuse?

This is definitely a game played by every corporation I can think of. Allstate is about the only company I know of that offers any kind of discount to continuing customers, and even that is only if you are able to avoid having accidents.

So corporations, which depend almost exclusively on the bottom line, seem to still care more about getting newer, more expensive customers rather than keeping the cheaper, existing ones who provide a better profit. It seems a little strange, wouldn't you say? Especially when you consider that corporations have to file quarterly and annual reports. They have to break down how they're using money, which is to say how they're working to keep costs down and profits up.

It seems like the best way to do that would be to focus on existing customers. They are the ones who provide more profit, through subscription fees that aren't artificially low promotional rates. They also have a higher likelihood of continued patronage. In comparison, new customers are an unknown. They may be fair-weather clients, only in it for the promotional rate and ready to drop service as soon as another company offers a better deal.

So why can't companies see that they need to put more funds toward keeping existing clients? Why do they fail to notice such obvious financial facts? My guess is that it's the same reason people continue to live paycheck to paycheck (or, worse, in debt) until they have their "aha" moment. They're simply used to the old routine. It's how they've always done things.

But perhaps there's another factor here, too: an added degree of competition. People only have to keep up with Joneses -- if they even bother. For businesses, it's not optional. They have direct competitors. They have to keep profits coming in, which keeps stockholders happy. They also have to crush the competition.

The best way to do that is to lure people away. The corporation gets new business -- always a plus -- but also hurts its competitors' bottom line. Competition, after all, is a zero-sum game: Your loss is my gain and vice versa.

Perhaps, then, companies get so wrapped up in gaining new customers, they don't stop to worry about losing their current ones. Even though they are often losing those customers to their competitors, who are playing the same game.

Still, in a world where everyone is hell-bent on stealing your customer base, it seems like the most prudent course of action would be to ensure your existing clients are happy. That means offering them incentives and generally making sure they feel appreciated. If you do this, you keep more of your customer base, which costs less money and brings you more profit.

At least, that would be the frugal thing to do.

Sunday, August 16

The dribs-and-drabs effect

A huge check off our to-do list: The moving sale is done, done, done!

It was a bit of a debacle. We started at 10 a.m. instead of 9 because I simply couldn't face the idea of getting up early enough. So we had a slow start and probably missed out on a lot of customers.

By 1 p.m., I was shaky as hell (everything took longer than expected so no time for food) and dejected. Sure, people came by off and on, but there had been almost no sales over $10. I was wondering if we would even make $100. And the idea of having another sale the next weekend was beyond horrifying.

Towards the end, as we were packing up, several more people stopped by which helped pad things a little. Still, I was sure we'd have no more than $70. If we were really lucky, perhaps $100.

Instead, we ended up with $165.

This just reminds me of what I like to call the dribs-and-drabs effect. That's when small amounts quickly add up to a rather astounding total. Usually, this is a less pleasant experience -- one we've probably all had at the end of the billing cycle. A bunch of small purchases with the card suddenly become $300.

You are sure there's a mistake, perhaps even pull out the calculator. But it's correct. It's just that seemingly cheap purchases total up quickly to a not-so-cheap amount due.

It's an important lesson to remember when you're trying to pay down debt and/or live frugally: Even the small stuff can take a big bite.

That is, perhaps, the mixed blessing of yard sales. On the one hand, you get money for things you no longer want. On the other hand, you are reminded just how much money you spend on items you don't use.

We did have a few of those. The $70 cashmere sweater I got and wore for a whopping 3 hours before having to take it off. The suede skirt I got for $20 but never wore, with the $80 tag still attached. A few different things that I got at garage sales, for such is the cycle of yard-sale life.

But I'm proud to say that, for the most part, we had gotten our money's worth from our stuff. For example, at a Museum Store going-out-of-business sale 8 years ago, I snagged a Greek- or Roman-style, metal horse figurine, plus a small Grecian-style urn (no ode included) for $40. Both were on display for about 6 years. So I'd say I had gotten plenty of value from those purchases. Similarly, a lot of the jeans we were selling had served Tim faithfully until steroids meant he had to go a size up. That simply meant they were in good shape when we decided to get rid of them.

Other items were gifts that simply weren't getting used, or at least not enough to bring with us. That included clothing, tchotchkes and other miscellanea.

Still, it is humbling to realize just how many of your possessions are disposable. That is yet another area of life where the dribs-and-drabs effect hits: a couple pieces of clothing, those books you'll never reread, a few toiletries you'll never use and suddenly you've got a veritable mound of unwanted items. Not only is it a solid argument for a more minimalist lifestyle, it is a harsh reminder that even people like Tim and I are sitting on a lot of potential money.

At one point, I had tried to make money buying/selling on eBay. (Yes, yes, not terribly original.) When I sold off four of the bigger items, I made just under $200. I still have a few more to list and those should bring in another $70 or so.

Even selling my beads at prices beyond the craziest clearance sale, I made nearly $100. And the yarn that I'm bothering to list should bring in a minimum of $30. If it's remotely close to regular eBay prices, perhaps twice that.

I also listed a bunch of Aveeno Eczema Care that we had stocked up on shortly before Tim switched over to hemp. I don't know what, exactly, the final price will be but I'm expecting at least $20, hopefully closer to $50.

It's all just another part of the dribs and drabs effect. You look at an item or two that you no longer want, but you don't bother to sell it on Craigslist or eBay. What's the point? It would only bring in a few bucks and isn't worth the hassle. And, for busy people, that's a pretty understandable point of view.


What would happen if you went through your house for two or three hours? Took a good, long look at your belongings and grouped them all together? Wouldn't those "few bucks" add up pretty quickly?

My advice is to make a pile of unwanted items and then take a good long look. Wouldn't that extra $5 against debt be nice? And are you so sure that's all you'd get? If the item isn't too heavy, go on eBay and look up completed listing prices.

Also remember that eBay now offers you 5 free listings every 30 days. That's not huge -- you still have to pay final value fees and for any listing upgrades you choose -- but it may be enough to get you online and listing.

Still don't want to bother with eBay? There's the ever-popular garage sale option. Check with some friends and neighbors and you might have enough to garner some interest. (Multi-family and neighborhood sales are always one of the best ways to get people's attention.)

Or you can donate. If you're itemizing anyway, it's a nice little boost to your charitable contributions section. Remember, you don't have to list what it would go for in a thrift store. You can use fair market value. (The IRS defines this as what two reasonable parties would settle on, if neither were under pressure to make the sale.)

Donations at fair market value add up quickly. Like any other list of items, the dribs-and-drabs effect applies here, too.
  • A few pieces of furniture, for which we would probably get $10-20 each.
  • Several pieces of art, nearly all with some form of frame, $7-25.
  • A formal (ie prom- or fancy-party worthy) dress from London, $30.
  • A few random dresses, $15 each.
  • A few jeans, $5-10 each.
  • Some textbooks, $20-30 each.
  • A whole bunch of stuffed animals, $2-$7 each.
  • Various random items, from unopened makeup to used clothing to some issues of Vogue Knitting.
It probably doesn't sound like a lot, but it took over 120 lines to record it all, so probably about 200 items total. And it added up to an even more impressive amount: nearly $1000 (!!!)

Of course, if you're not moving, you're less likely to get rid of furniture. (Though the furniture you do get rid of will probably be a lot nicer than ours.) But those fancy dresses you never wear anymore? The $60 shoes that are gorgeous but hurt you to wear? You may be surprised just how quickly it all adds up.

It's just the dribs-and-drabs effect in action.

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Friday, August 14

Freebie Friday

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Thursday, August 13

Apartment add-ons?

Well, it's official folks. We signed a rental reservation form and faxed it over. Right now, our applications are being run and, if we're approved, we'll plunk down a deposit on the apartment community in Phoenix.

There was a moment of panic when I saw a rent that was $676 instead of $605. I checked my notes and found that I had, indeed, been quoted a price quite close to that based on available units. (Of course, I didn't find this out until after calling and making an ass of myself.) I had latched onto the $605 figure since it was the base price. The $676 is after w/s/g fee ($35), pet rent ($15) and a couple small miscellaneous charges, such as 2% tax charged in the area.

When the leasing agent emailed us the documents to download, print and sign, I noticed a document called "upgrades." Curious, I opened up the pdf.

Nickel Brush Door Knobs

HARD WOOD (vinyl) FLOORING: $10.00 /mo
Recommended w/ White Cabinets




(We Pay Apx. $80/mo)

YOU GET IT FOR ONLY…. $30.00/mo

We pay only $30 a month for something that costs them $80?! Wow, how selfless!

Or not.

Those upgrades are not a monthly fee the community pays off. They're a one-time fee that is paid by the time you move in. (This is, obviously, minus repairs that can't be charged to the renters upon move out, such as new paint or carpet.) The community isn't being nice to its renters, it's trying to get them to pay for the upgrades the community wants.

Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that renters pay the price one way or another. But presenting the upgrades a monthly cost to the community is just disingenuous! My guess is that the $80 figure is derived from a 12-month lease. IE, it costs them about $1000 to upgrade, so they can say to a renter signing a 12-month-lease, that they pay the equivalent of $80 per month. Meanwhile, they're only charging you $30. Because they're such good guys.

The truth is quite different. Most renters stay past their initial lease. So if the renter stays two years instead of one, the community has recouped 75% of its outlay. Once the renter passes the 32-month mark of living there, the community is officially making money on its outlay. While still presenting the renter with the "opportunity" to save.

And, yes, arguably upkeep has to be performed. But if it is to the upgrades -- a scratched floor or dinged door knob -- that comes out of the renter's deposit. The community doesn't have to pay for more upgrades. Once that original renter leaves, the community can continue to charge $30/month as an upgrade fee: Live here for $670 or pay a little more for one of our "updated" apartments.

I find the whole process a tad distasteful. If you want to charge more for upgraded apartments, that's well within your rights. Plenty of places do it. But they simply fold it into the rent. Lots of leasing agents quote the rental rate and then quickly add that the apartment includes upgrades, like all new counters, nicer appliances and brushed-nickel fixtures.

People understand the inherent value of a re-done apartment. They're willing to pay a little bit more each month. Even if we had been quoted $700 for the place, along with the information that it had been revamped, we probably still would have taken the place. It was still the best option, given the area we wanted to live in.

But don't make us feel like somehow we're "getting one over" on the community. Don't tell us it costs you $X per month. It's a cheap ploy and it's not true. Your costs are toward permanent value in the community, which equal higher rent (and, thus, higher profits).

Did you prorate out the purchase/development costs as monthly expenses when the first tenants signed up? All while telling them you were "only" charging them the basic rent? No. Of course not. Because it would be misrepresentation. When you spend money in upkeep of the property it is to keep money coming in as rent -- preferably higher rent.

Also, remember that your business expenses are tax deductible from your profits. That means your costs aren't nearly as high as you're claiming. That $1,000 spent renovating goes directly against $1,000 in rental income. So, in some ways, it actually pays for you to upgrade.

So go ahead and charge us more. But please, for goodness sake, don't pretend you're doing us a favor. You're a business. You're there to make a profit. We get it. We accept it, even. It's not like we choose to live in these places just for the opportunity to give you money. We're both self-interested parties, and we're fine with that.

It's only when you pretend to be in the business of selfless acts that we call you out. Call a spade a spade. Raise the rent if you want to upgrade apartments. Just don't pretend that it's for anything other than your balance sheets. We know better.

Monday, August 10

Stress: Enemy of frugality

Stress may easily be the biggest impediment when you're trying your best to be frugal. Whether it's an impending move, deadlines at work, family problems or something else, you simply have a harder time maintaining the extra effort that is frugality.

We all respond to stress differently, but there are a few key ways that it affects most of us:


Stress often makes it hard to sleep. The list of things you have to do runs through your head over and over. Or perhaps you simply hyper-focus on the situation at hand. Either way, it can be hard to shut your brain off at night. This means being awake later and sleeping less. When you're not well rested, it's hard to function normally. Exhaustion makes it hard for you to think straight, let alone devise crafty ways to save money.


Even those who can sleep at night will find that stress takes extra energy. You tend to obsess about the situation or about all the things to get done. Other times, it's simply the tension in the air that is exhausting. Whatever the situation, you'll have less energy to put forth into regular endeavors. That includes frugality. You're more likely to cut corners and make use of convenience. Being too tired to cook means delivery food or eating out -- certainly more expensive than making something at home. A lack of energy also means you have less to spend on shopping around. You'll be tempted to just get everything at one grocery store, regardless of something being cheaper elsewhere.


When you're stressed, you're usually either cranky or on the verge of breaking down sobbing. Or both. That's not helped by the lack of sleep or the loss of energy -- neither of which lightens your usual workload. All this combines to make for ideal unfrugal conditions. You may snap at people, alienating those who would normally help you out or support your frugal efforts. Or you may simply feel overwhelmed, as though you're flailing desperately to keep your head above the proverbial water. In that situation, it's hard to muster a successful campaign to save money. Often, it's all you can do to keep yourself fed and clothed.

I think these are the big three when it comes to stress. They all hit pretty hard. And each one individually is enough to sink your normal frugal efforts. So what can you do?

Well, you have a few different options.


If you know that this stress is short-term -- say, planning a wedding or an annual large project at work -- you can talk to your doctor about sleep aids. Medications like Ambien and Lunesta can be taken for short amounts of time (as in 2 weeks) without becoming dependent on them for sleep.

You could also see how supplements might help your situation. For example, there's evidence that magnesium plays a large part in stress relief, especially in terms of sleeping. I've been taking a powder at night before bed. About 15 or so minutes later, I start to feel very... relaxed. Not dopey. Just... looser. As though the stress has drained out of my otherwise tensed muscles. By the time I hit the sheets, I'm just about ready to drift off. That's saying something. For most of my life, it's taken me at least half an hour (often significantly more) to wind down and shut my brain off enough to fall asleep.

If you're not into either of those options, consider some more basic options. Warm milk does the trick for some people. Most people's bodies respond well to a hot shower or bath. It relaxes the muscles and probably some other physiological things I don't know about. Simply think of the ideal conditions under which you've fallen asleep easily and seek to replicate them.


Obviously, if you sleep better, you'll have more energy. That's a given. But there are other ways to create more energy.

Eating better is one of the more obvious solutions. Junk food often makes you feel sluggish, and candy/ice cream will send you on a glycemic roller coaster that has you crashing every couple of hours. Try to add fruit into your diet to lessen sugar cravings. And, as always, try to combine protein with any sugar you eat so that your body will still have fuel when your blood sugar's spike trends downward. A favorite example here is peanut butter on an apple, but if you can't manage that, consider spreading some peanut butter on that piece of chocolate you're about to eat. Not quite ideal nutritionally, but still better than the sugar slump you'd otherwise find yourself in, since that often leads to more sugary foods.

Another long-time favorite is exercise. I know, I know, it sucks the first couple of times. There's nothing like trying to tell someone who feels exhausted and drained to go expend some energy. But we also all know that, counterintuitive though it may be, exercising does give you more energy.

When I know I need to exercise but am utterly devoid of energy, I have two methods that work for me. My first attempt is to schedule it into my day. Given the nature of my work, I find it's easiest to take my walk between 3 and 5 p.m. But that doesn't always work. Stress can sometimes make me feel like I have to go from one task to another with no breaks. When that happens, I try to utilize my stress to get me out of the house. As soon as I start feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, I take it as a sign to get my butt out the door and away from my usual environs. Taking a walk clears my head; the music often energizes me. Most importantly, I take energy that would have been consumed by stress and instead use it in a positive way to burn off some of that stress.

You should also, once again, consider supplements. Any physical or emotional stress can zap key nutrients from our bodies. Combine that with poor eating and you've got problems. Try to find time to schedule a doctor's appointment and get bloodwork done. That should tell you if you're missing anything important. If a doctor's visit is too much for you, start with a multivitamin.

Finally, consider being nice to yourself. I'm not talking candles and a bubble bath, though if that works for you then by all means turn on those faucets. I'm simply talking about easing up on the expectations you've set for yourself. Most people are stressed because they demand a lot of themselves. While, in theory, that leads to self-betterment, it can also lead to perpetual disappointment in oneself. That, in turn, can lead to more stress to make up for past "errors" or "laziness."

Instead, try to make things easier on yourself. For Tim and I, this often comes down to having convenience foods ready. If you crave pizza, stock up on frozen ones when there's a sale. At least then you're not spending $20-30 to eat badly. If you want to avoid the calories of pizza, fill your cupboards with cans of soup and other easy-to-prepare items. Or simply have something you can zap in the microwave: a favorite frozen dinner, hot dogs, whatever.

Also, learn to ask for help. This is probably the hardest thing to do. But stress is often the result of simply trying to do too much. If you're planning a wedding, try to assign a few tasks to others. Chances are, they're happy to help out on your big day. If work is consuming all your energy, explain that to partners and/or kids and ask them to, for the next month or so, do more around the house so that you can cross that off your list.


Chances are, if you take care of sleep and energy, you'll feel a lot more in control of your emotions. But not always.

If you find yourself still snapping at people or tearing up at socially awkward intervals, try to take yourself out of the situation. Take a bathroom break and calm down. Ask yourself why you reacted that way. Usually, you're not really angry at the person who instigated those emotions. At least, not in proportion to your outburst. Then, as embarrassing as it is, go apologize to the person and explain that you're stressed. Everyone's been there and will usually give you a free pass once if you say you're sorry.

If you can't seem to keep your emotions under control, you should consider some form of therapy. Whether you talk to your preacher, a counselor or simply someone you trust to have insight, it can help to get another viewpoint. People outside your situation tend to have a clearer view of things. You'll often find, to your dismay, you've created a lot of the restrictions that stress you out. You've decided you "can't" ask for help or for a longer deadline, without actually checking out that option. Or you just "know" that your family would think less of you if you couldn't make a fresh meal each night, keep the house clean, etc. Once again, your own expectations of yourself tend to be a lot higher than is reasonable. Another person can give you some perspective on that.

Have I left out any effects of stress? How do you best cope when the world seems to be breathing down your neck?

Saturday, August 8

Use it on up or move it on out!

One of the good things about the prospect of a terrifyingly imminent move is that your mindset changes. New stuff? Hell no!

Today, I considered going garage saleing, and then I realized just how idiotic a proposition that was. More stuff? Yeah, that's a great idea right around the time we're boxing up our worldly possessions.

Similarly, we probably won't be ordering out much in the near future, if only for the fact that we have to empty our damn freezer. We have masses of hot dogs, some frozen dinners and probably all sorts of stuff we've forgotten about. And it's not like we can take it with us.

The good news is that this means we will barely need to grocery shop for the next three weeks. Aside from some fruit for me and cheese for Tim, we'll be too busy concentrating on winnowing our perishable foodstuffs down to a reasonable level. Of course, any leftover hot dogs will be received gladly by at least a couple of our friends. But overall, I'd prefer to leave with a minimum of uneaten food.

On the same note, I've begun the annoying process of untangling yarn and spinning it into balls for resale. Most of it won't fetch much, it's not high quality stuff. But some of it will be put on eBay. The rest will either go on Craigslist or in our moving sale.

Yes, we're having a moving sale. I'm quite excited by this prospect. Sad, I know. But after years of living in a secure building, I actually kind of miss being able to throw a yard sale. Probably because, when I was growing up, our community had a yearly garage sale; so it became a sort of tradition. Well, that and I like getting money for things I don't want anymore.

Either way, if the weather is supposed to be nice, we're going to throw up some signs and post on Craigslist. Then we're going to drag everything over in front of the townhouses next door. We'll be on the sidewalk, which is technically public property. Also, tenants have a side entrance, so we won't be blocking anyone. I'm kind of proud of this devious plan. And definitely looking forward to getting some moolah while lightening our load.

It's kind of surprising to me, once again, just how unattached I am to most of our things. So unattached, in fact, that we'll be asking for very little per item. It will add up, of course, but mainly the more compact form of cash seems eminently more appealing than the bulky form of the actual object.

Having already tackled our somewhat meager book collection, I feel ready to start cleaning out under our bathroom sink. We have an awful lot of items crammed under there, and yet we barely use anything from the back reaches of the cupboard. Not a good sign. I know there are plenty of bodywashes to be had. Several different lotions and such that never got used. Honestly, I'm a little afraid to consider what else is down there. If I do, I'd start totting up the money we spent on it and probably start weeping.

But to focus on more positive spending, our moving fund is coming along. I made about $60 on beads, and the yarn should bring another $20-40. Perhaps more, but I don't want to get my hopes up. My eBay items sold for about $190 after fees. And we received two boons in the form of about $200.

The first one was our electric bill. Being low income, we receive a certain credit each month for electricity. (Why this also includes water/sewer/garbage when we don't pay those, I just don't know.) When we don't use up those credits, they remain on our account. The total was getting pretty ludicrous, and Seattle City Light decided it was time to cut us a check for the $219 we had sitting there. You have the option of returning it to the fund to help perpetuate the low income program. I felt a little bad not doing that, but right now we need that money to move.

The second was the last hurrah at the casino with my local relative. I won $90 on a 25 cent bet and sat there stunned. I had a few more moderate, but still surprising, wins of things like $20 and $30. My relative lets me keep my stake money if I don't lose it. So I was ready to walk out with $180. Not bad for a day's non-work.

Then I remembered that, in your birthday month, you get 1000 player reward points. I went over to Customer Service and was told to swipe my card. Then, the woman told me I had $43. I think I actually did a double take. I thought that when you had 100,000 points you got $10 back, but it turns out that each point is worth one cent. Not great, when you consider that you earn points through every dollar of slot play. (No, I didn't put in $4,300 over the last four years. Remember, any time you spin, that counts toward your dollar. So as you go up and down, the points accumulate.) She asked if I wanted to cash out. I said yes -- probably a little too loudly/quickly. So I walked out of the casino with $213. Clearly someone up there approves of us moving.

Today, Tim and I are headed up to the outlet malls to hit summer clearance sales. I have to credit Tim's mom with the idea. She pointed out that all the warm weather stuff is uber-cheap right now, so we should take advantage of it before heading down. Then I realized that if regular stores were having sales, outlet stores would be my own personal heaven. (Outlet prices + clearance sales = Happy Abby.) It's annoying that we need to spend money, but we will need more summerish clothes and this is probably the best chance to get cheap ones.

So that's about all the news that's fit to print. We're just starting to sift through our things and decide if we'll use it, if we can use it up, or if we should sell it. It's a satisfyingly efficient feeling.

Thursday, August 6

Freebie Friday

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Sign your pet up for the Complete Pet Mart Birthday Club and get a free gift in-stores (select states).

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Tuesday, August 4

Okay, explanation time

To recap: We're moving to Phoenix at the end of the month. Hence, much explanation is probably needed.

We were already planning a move, of course. But, especially during this latest heat wave, Tim's skin was just deteriorating by the day. The higher the humidity, the worse it was. He barely slept; he'd wake up scratching himself raw.

Meanwhile, I had started calling apartment communities to get an idea of rents and specials. Turns out the whole bloody area is having a special of one sort or another. In order to keep leasing agents at all interested, I told them we were planning on moving in late August/early September. Even then, they all cautioned that specials could change, but at least they actively worked with us to find apartments. Any later of a move date and they would have used very vague information.

The specials were great. By and large, Arizona rent is far, far cheaper than here in Seattle. Here, we pay $700 for a 648-square-foot, 1BR apartment. There, we were finding two-bedroom units for under $500. It was pretty enticing. It made us wonder if we shouldn't move sooner rather than later.

One place in particular appealed to Tim. It was very centrally located and had very low rents, but good amenities. I even left a message asking about leasing. I asked whether, if we were willing to sign a one-year lease, we could lock in the special rate. It was something along the lines of $500 a month for a 900+ square foot apartment.

Luckily for us, no one actually returned the call because we soon found a huge stumbling block: utilities. Here in Seattle, you don't generally pay water/sewer/garbage unless you have a washer/dryer in unit. Arizona, however, is in a desert. So most places expect you to take care of everything.

Based on Tim's experience down there, that situation could quickly make a $500 rent skyrocket to $750-800. Not such a good deal after all.

But by then, the idea of moving at the end of August had been planted in our heads. We kept talking about it, and soon it just sort of became a fact. I think the heat wave -- and the havoc it wreaked on Tim -- really helped speed along that decision.

Then I started looking for communities with fixed utility rates. There were some out there, even if we had to look harder. Several places would pay everything but electric. Still, when you realize that air conditioning is run by electricity, we were still a little nervous.

And that's when I found the holy grail of Phoenix apartments: good area, good rents, good amenities, all utilities included.

I suppose you want more information than that. Well, the floor plan we would choose has 838 square feet. That's 190 more than we have now. There are elevators, so if we don't get a ground-level apartment we won't have to trudge upstairs with groceries, etc. There's a laundry facility on every floor, so Tim won't have to carry large baskets of clothes down to the basement. There's a pool (naturally) but also a hot tub, which Tim wanted for his joints. There's a 24-hour fitness facility, so I won't have to join a gym. It's in a good neighborhood, and it's close to a Target and a Super Wal-Mart.

Oh, and after prorating the rent to reflect one month free, we'll pay right around $620 a month. ($15 of that is pet rent, a phrase which never ceases to send my mom into giggles for some reason.)

Just to be clear, that's 190 square feet more, plus a tax deduction for a home office, plus a whole lot of amenities for $80 less a month than we're paying now. And no worrying about electricity and water usage.

We actually sent off our applications today. We were nervous about applying. Tim has a 10-year-old eviction on his record, and his income is from unemployment. Turns out, just my income alone (disability and contract work) satisfies the income requirement. The eviction will mean we pay a bigger deposit, which will be based on our mutual credit scores, but we're just thrilled that we should be approved.

So that is one big check on a rather long list. Now we just have to turn our attention to... everything else!

We realize how much we have to do, in case you're wondering.

I've already found a moving company with what are, relatively speaking, very, very good rates. We'd pay $900-995 to get our stuff there. Since we're paying for a set amount of room and weight, we'll be able to take a couple extra things with us, plus load in some boxes. So I just need to do some quick online research to be sure the company is trustworthy. After that, we'll just wait for confirmation that we're approved on the apartment and sign up for a moving date.

We have to get boxes, though I'm good at securing those. I'll just haunt some liquor and grocery stores for new cardboard arrivals. Also, the new tenants upstairs have said I can have their boxes when they're done moving in by the middle of the month.

I also have more things to post on eBay. The last set of items sold for about $190 after fees. There are still a few more sets of things, but I am trying to keep the lots relatively small. If I don't, I'll get overwhelmed with the shipping and nothing will go out. The remaining items won't fetch nearly as much -- I sold the big ticket items first -- but we should easily make another $100-150 on them.

We also need to start liquidating our furniture and other items we don't want to move. Most of the stuff will be priced to sell. I don't think we'll ask for more than $15 or $20 for anything. But if even half of this stuff sells, we should make around $150.

Our game plan for the next week or two is to try and get either one box packed or list two or three things on eBay/Craigslist. (Though now we're considering a garage sale. A somewhat difficult proposition given we're in a secure building, but technically the parking lot is public land...)

Oh and perhaps the biggest item: Mom is giving us her car. Well, she's selling it to us. For the steep price of $1. We're going to scrounge around in the couch cushions and see what we can come up with. This means that we can drive down, which will probably save us some money on airline tickets. More importantly, it means we won't have to buy a car down there. And it means we can take some stuff with us.

Unfortunately, that also means that Sandy will have to be relegated to a cat carrier. A large one, so she has some room to move around. And we're going to tape down a tupperware bowl with some litter in it so she can relieve herself. We may not be able to relieve ourselves of her yowling, though. So we're working on some schemes, including asking a vet about liquid tranquilizers and/or getting her into a harness and leash (ahead of time) so that she can sit in my lap but be prevented from dashing under the pedals. It's a work in progress.

We also have to get Tim SR-22 insurance so that he can take his driving test and regain his license. It expired when he couldn't pay a court judgment against him, so he has to take the written and driving tests over. Within 4 weeks, so that he can help me drive down. We're getting him a booklet this week to study for the written exam. Then we just have to finalize the insurance and get the car in my name before he starts practicing his driving. And he needs to take it relatively quickly in case something goes wrong and he has to re-take it.

So, yeah, we're a tad frantic around here, but are more or less keeping sane. If we keep chopping everything up into small pieces, I think we'll manage okay. Certainly, a garage sale would make our lives significantly easier when it came to selling off our worldly possessions.

I'll keep you all updated.

Sunday, August 2

Sunk costs: The ultimate frugal idea

After about 15 hours of sorting beads into various baggies, I realized there was no way I was putting even half of them on eBay. Too many baggies meant too many listings.

On a whim, I wrote up a quick Craigslist ad: Beads, beads and more beads. In it, I explained that we're consolidating for a move, and I'm finally coming to grips with the fact that I never finish projects. I wasn't looking to get rich, so to come by and check out my wares.

To my surprise, I got three responses by the next day. Three more came in throughout the week. I had thought I might get one or two people interested total.

So far, I've met three women and gotten about $60 for the beads. I have about a third to a half of my collection left, which makes me a happy gal. I can put some of the remaining stuff on eBay, especially things like earring forms. Those should fetch an okay price.

I definitely felt some pangs as I sold baggie upon baggie of beads for 1/3-1/4 the normal price. As I was deciding on price, I was fine, but as they walked away -- two of the women with mounds of baggies for under $30 -- I felt a pang. Should I have tried to get more? Should I keep the beads in the hopes of using them?

Then I realized it was time to take a refresher course in sunk costs. For those of you not familiar with the term, it's exactly what it sounds like: costs sunk into items you already own. You can't consider the costs you've already paid when figuring out when to keep something. We've all experienced this from time to time. We keep shoes or shirts because we paid so much for them, we can't stand getting rid of them, whether or not we ever wear them. The fact is, we feel we ought to keep and wear them.

Emotionally, that point of view makes sense. But the money is already spent. We can't get it back (unless we resell the item for a little money) so it can't factor into our current decisions. There's the additional emotional cost, too. Every time I looked at the file box filled with bead organizers, I felt guilty. I had spent money on so many occasions, full of the best of intentions to create something cool -- perhaps even sellable. I ended up with a tangle of half-finished projects.

Similarly, every time we see that shirt with the tags still attached, guilt takes over. The next time we go to pay the bills, it really resonates. That money could have gone to debt or savings. Instead, it's now tied up in material possessions we don't use. It's just not worth it.

So true frugalites know that being prudent with money happens as much after the buy as before. You have to make sure you are going to use your purchase before you get it. Then you have to make sure you actually use it once you do. And if you don't, you have to realize that the most frugal option may be counterintuitive: Sometimes to be truly frugal, you have to get rid of something you paid good money for.

After all, if you keep enough sunk-cost items, it can affect your bottom line. When you keep too many shoes or clothes you never wear, you'll end up spending money on organizational systems you wouldn't otherwise need. Expensive furniture puts a premium on space in your living quarters. Rather than get rid of it -- after all, you paid a lot to acquire it -- you're more likely to get a bigger place.

However you look at it, there is quite literally no profit in considering sunk costs.

All this ran through my head as I watched the women walk away loaded down with beads. So I concentrated on the money I had received. That definitely eased the pangs a bit. More importantly, I asked myself if I would really have made use of the beads. No, I wouldn't. We'd transport it 1,500 miles to Phoenix, and they'd still sit unused. Even if I did pull them out, I'd probably start on a new project, which would, like the others, go unfinished.

So I thought about how the money got us closer to a deposit on a Phoenix department. And I went and looked at the empty space where the beads had sat in my closet. (Granted, the box was out in the living room, but it was a lot lighter than before. It will get emptied, one way or another, then the organizers and file box will get sold too.) I felt lighter. Suddenly, it didn't matter how much the beads were worth. The only thing that mattered was how much I got for them.

I'll probably experience this a lot as we go through our possessions. We're going to set prices at what we think will sell, not what we think we might be able to get. We're thinking in terms of a garage sale. In fact, I have a friend who just bought a house, and I'm probably going to try and convince him to let us use the place for a yard sale. It will help to liquidate things more quickly.

Still, there are heavy and bulky pieces of furniture we won't want to transport the 30-40 blocks. The bentwood rocker, an end table and set of drawers that are quite solid and an armoire we couldn't fit into the car even if we wanted to. Those we'll price cheaply and get them gone. From what I've seen on Craigslist, we could probably get $30 for the bentwood rocker if we didn't mind waiting.

But we do mind. In fact, it's looking like we'll be moving at the end of the month. (Long story. I'll try to address it in another post.) So we'll price things cheaply: $15 or less for the most part. And we'll be reminded just how quickly the small amounts can add up. Even if we don't get the full value.

Because at this point, their full value is a sunk cost. And that's not something to base our decisions on.

what we paid for them.