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Soles of a Traveler

Posted on December 2nd, 2019

Dave!My boots and half of my Black Friday shopping spree bounty showed up today.

I have to say I'm more than a little sad to let my old boots go. I've literally been around the world in them (and the bottom of the world as well), so I am thinking of taking them to the local shoe shop to see if something can be done (they've been around these parts for 99 years!). With exception of the badly-worn soles they're in perfect shape and still look great. My new boots are nice too, I just think it's a genuine waste to toss out something if they can be repaired...

A photo of my new boots that look rugged in their forest green and balck... plus my old shoes which look nice except for the soles which are literally falling off the boot!

I gave up on wearing tennis shoes decades ago, much preferring a light hiking boot. They're more comfortable, easy to slip in and out of when you tie the laces low, and can be quickly laced up for those times you need good protection for your feet. For a traveler who can end up anywhere and everywhere they're everything I need. The last pair of non-dress-shoe shoes that I bought 25-30 years ago sit in my closet barely used.

As I mentioned, I had a few bucks left over from everything I was saving to buy, so I got a copy of the LEGO Jurassic World video game. I was surprised to see that when you order something LEGO, Amazon will put it in a cool LEGO Star Wars box...

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader using The Force to lift LEGO bricks over a LEGO Stormtrooper!

An Amazon box with LEGO Darth Vader has imprisoned the LEGO Stormtrooper in a jail cell made of the LEGO bricks!

So clever!

In sadder news, the world received notice that BUB had passed.

She was such a sweet cat who faced a difficult life with an optimism that inspired a lot of people... and raised a lot of money and awareness for homeless pets. It was so very hard to follow along with her latest health crisis knowing that she was probably nearing her end... but, as always, she was doing her best to be happy and live her best life...

BUB the cat with her Dude... both when he got her in June of 2011 as a kitten, and before he lost her on December 1, 2019... she has a large growth on the side of her face that musy be painful, but she still looks happy!

I cannot fathom my life without Jake and Jenny, so my heart goes out to Mike Bridavsky and the loss he is suffering. I find it amazing how he was so dedicated to such a special cat, and grateful for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he worked tirelessly to raise in support of animals.

Rest in peace, BUB, you will be missed by a great many people.

   

In Blackest Friday

Posted on November 29th, 2019

Dave!And... my one shopping day of the year is here! Every month I put aside $100 for clothes and "other stuff" then wait until Black Friday to buy all the clothes and "other stuff" I need. $100 a month is quite a chunk of cash to not have in my pocket, but worth it when I end up with $1200 in November that magically becomes $2400 (or more!) on Black Friday thanks to all the sales and savings.

Below I refer to "Rakuten Cash Back" in a lot. Rakuten bought out eBates and have taken over their cashback operations. It's a pretty easy way to save even more money on Black Friday (or any other day) and you can sign up to get $10 right off the bat with my referral link right here.

And now? On with my Black Friday scores...

   
AKASO DASH CAM! • Reg. $66, Paid $38 (after Amazon cash back)
My previous dash cam was $20 and has lasted for four years before falling apart and going glitchy. As I mentioned, I am afraid to drive without one given how crazy distracted drivers are, so I was hoping hoping hoping I could get a nice one on sale. I was going to buy another $20 camera, but the cheap ones force you to remove the tiny memory card every time you want the footage. With a WiFi model like this you can just connect with your iPhone and grab the video directly. Handy! Plus... GPS! Worth the additional $18.

The AKASO dash cam which is a small wedge-shaped plastic doohickey with a small screen and some buttons.

   
SHOES! • Reg. $170, Paid $128
I should have bought shoes last Black Friday, but I thought I could get one more year out of the pair I have. I'm not rough on shoes... they usually last me four or five years... so a little Shoe Goo will keep them together right? They still look great... it's just the soles that are falling apart. But back in August the soles fell complete apart. My plan was to buy a cheap pair of $20 shoes, rip the soles off, then glue them on mine. This seemed extreme. Instead I used more Shoe Goo to piece everything together. It worked surprisingly well. But I needed new shoes. I would have loved to have found the same model I had before... but of course shoe companies don't do that. I also would have loved to have spent under $100... but of course the shoes I found that I liked weren't under $100. Oh well. It's still 25% off, which is better than nothing.

My bad-ass new shoes being all black and forest green.

   
ALEXA! Reg. $99 • Paid $33 (with trade-in and Amazon cash back)
I bought a SONOS One for my bedroom. It's absolutely fantastic, and fills the room with amazing sound. Problem is, the AirPlay 2 on it is glitchy as hell, which means the audio has constant drop-outs when I'm playing content from my Apple TV. And Apple TV keeps "forgetting" that the SONOS exists, so I am having to reconnect several times a week. It's maddening, because 95% of the time I'm using it for my television. And so I decided to get an Echo (3rd Gen.) which has a 3.5mm audio line-in that I can run directly from my television. I traded in the old Amazon Echo I have in the bathroom for $25, so it ends up being a $35 spend. No, the sound won't be as good as my SONOS One, but it's gotten good reviews for its quality and will be good enough... plus I can transfer the SONOS One to my upstairs bathroom, which will be amazing for listening to music each morning while I shower and get ready.

An Amazon Echo cylidner plus a cutaway view showing the speaker array inside.

   
iTUNES! GIFT CARD • Reg. $100, Paid $70 (with Rakuten Sign-up Bonus)
As is my custom every year, I buy a $100 iTunes gift card at 20% off to cover the Marvel movies and sale movies I buy each year. I joined Rakuten and they gave me $10 cash back for my first purchase, so this year it was an especially sweet 30% off!

   
OUTDOOR NEST CAM! • Reg. $199, Paid $159
I have two camera systems. A wired system with local recording that has a battery backup and will run even with no power or internet... and a Nest cloud system which is constantly uploading footage to the internet. The Nest cameras are fantastic, but I was ready to ditch them all because the per-camera cloud service cost was absurdly expensive. But they made an announcement a while back that this would be changing to a much cheaper "bulk plan" where all cameras would be covered for one price. Given this, I decided to keep all my Nest cameras and replace a failed outdoor camera with another Nest. But not the new "Nest Cam IQ" which has the stupidest mounting requirements (DRILL A HOLE THROUGH YOUR HOUSE!), I got the original Nest Cam Outdoor. I budgeted to get it for $129, but the savings ended up being less steep than I had hoped.

The Nest Outdoor Cam which is a sexy white thing with a lens on it... and a butterfly on top.

   
HELLO! • Reg. $229, Paid $149
The first smart doorbell I had was the original "Ring" model. It was huge, but it worked well. Then Ring sent me an offer I couldn't refuse... a 4th generation smaller "Ring Pro" model upgrade for a fraction of the retail price. Sadly, it has never worked as well. But an even bigger problem with Ring is that it is SO slow. By the time they notify you that somebody has rang your doorbell, they've long gone. And trying to review the cloud footage is futile because it takes forever for it to upload and be available. Since my Nest cloud cameras are always available instantly and very quick to notify, I've wanted to get a Nest Hello doorbell replacement. Now that Google Nest is having a bulk deal on cloud services for multiple devices come 2020, this was a no-brainer.

The Nest Hello Smart Doorbell... looks like a small device with a button at the bottom and a camera lens at top.

   
PRESSURE COOKER! • Reg. $120, Paid $35 (after Rakuten cash back)
I already mentioned this one earlier this week. Thanks to a goof by a website (they switched the sale prices of the 6-quart and 8-quart for half-a-day) I finally got an Instant Pot (or, to be more accurate, an Instant Pot knock-off) for $35. SCORE! I bought this as a flawless egg cooker, but have ended up using it for lots of stuff. Not something I had planned on buying (or had budgeted for) but I was happy to find it.

My Best Buy Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Knock-Off.

   
UNDERWEAR! • Reg. $102, Paid $46 (after Rakuten cash back)
Half of my skivvies are literally falling apart. But I keep wearing them and repairing them because I need enough that I can do full loads of laundry. Fortunately, Old Navy had an EVERYTHING IS 50% OFF SALE plus free shipping on orders of $50 or more. I was able to get 10 pair of quality underwear, some socks, and a couple pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves for $51. Old Navy tends to hold up pretty good, so that was money well-spent. Especially since I earned $40 in SuperCash I can spend on more Old Navy, plus $5 cash-back from Rakuten, which means I am essentially getting all this for $6?!? (assuming I spend the $40).

Some cool Banana Republic underwear and socks!

   
CLOTHES! • Reg. $947, Paid $367 (after Rakuten cash back)
My favorite jeans, hands down, are Banana Republic slim-fit. They are comfortable, look good, and (most importantly) they last forever. Seriously, I have jeans from four years ago that look new. Unfortunately, my American Eagle jeans do not hold up as well and are needing to be replaced. I took Banana Republic up on their 50% off Black Friday offer and buy four pair. With the Rakuten cash back, they're knocked down to $41.25 a pair! SCORE! Then I headed over to The Gap and Banana Republic Factory for some dress shirts, T-Shirts, casuals, and gloves at 60% off off $480 plus $20-something in Rakuten cash back. Not too shabby.

Banana Republic slim-fit jeans on some guy with brown boots and a sweater shirt. And a long-sleeved poplin shirt on some other guy.

   
Grand total? $1025 spent for $2032 in merchandise. Or almost exactly 50% in savings. With tax adding $82, my total spend this year was $1107. So... woohoo! I've got $93 left!

I should keep it in the bank and roll it over for next year... but... the LEGO Jurassic World video game for Nintendo Switch is on sale for twenty bucks!

A scene from the LEGO Jurassic World video game showing LEGO characters in cars and motorcycles running from a LEGO T-Rex.

   
I guess I'll just blow the remainder on cocaine and hookers. Does anybody know where I can find cocaine and hookers for $70?

And so there it goes. I now have enough new clothes and toys to last me until next Black Friday. And until then... time to start squirreling away another $100 a month. Which never seems like much fun until today.

   

More Than You Want to Read About Tomatoes

Posted on October 18th, 2019

Dave!Tuesday was payday, so last night I fired up my grocery store app and went to work. I don't buy stuff that's not on sale (if I can help it) so carefully shopping the "member savings" and the "in-store specials" and the "weekly ad" sections are how I buy food. If what I want isn't on sale, then I adjust my meal planning around stuff that is. Because if I'm not saving at least 25% (and ideally 40%) on my groceries, then I'm doing it wrong.

One thing I wanted quite badly was some whole, peeled, Italian tomatoes packed in purée. I use them to make my own pizza and pasta sauces. Naturally, what you want are authentic San Marzano tomatoes for their superior flavor compared to "regular" plum tomatoes... and, yes, you can tastes a difference. The flavor is more robust, the acidity is lower, and they've got a sweeter "vibe" to them. But finding them is always a crap-shoot. Most of the time you'll see "San Marzano STYLE" tomatoes, which aren't the same thing. And even when you find authentic DOP-certified San Marzanos, there's no guarantee that they're packed in San Marzano purée. In fact, you can almost count on them to not be. That, and rampant fraud in the industry where the can will say San Marzano but the tomatoes inside are not, is what makes them so tough to shop for... unless you are willing to pay big to get them from a reputable source and importer.

Take, for example, these fuckers...

A can of fake fucking San Marzano tomatoes.

Two things. First of all, they're crushed. Authentic DOP San Marzanos can only be sold "peeled whole." Second of all, despite bearing the name "San Marzano," a look at the fine print shows that they are grown domestically in the USA. The Italian language on the can is just for decoration. The way the assholes who sell these get away with it is because they claim to be using authentic seeds from San Marzano tomatoes. Except that doesn't mean shit, because it's not just the plant which produces superior tomatoes, it's the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius and the climate of the Naples region which makes them taste the way they do. Alas, that region is rather small, so true and authentic tomatoes from there are expensive and rare.

I don't have the money to be picky, so I just look at the three or four brands that I rely on to taste good and grab the one that's on sale. A couple of them come from the USA and are just fine. Indeed, I often end up with RedPack tomatoes which are terrific... and a product of Indiana. When I taste-tested them against a can of expensive imported authentic DOP San Marzanos, they hold up just fine.

Canned tomatoes are kinda a weird thing to be buying in the first place though.

To begin with, most stores won't have them stocked with the vegetables or the fruits (yeah, I know there's some confusion there but, technically, they're both). Canned tomatoes are in a section entirely unto themselves. That's how important a staple that tomatoes are to American consumers, I guess. When I was on my own, I just bought ready-made sauces or frozen meals. When I was taking care of my mom and wanted to try eating healthier, it took me forever looking at the canned foods aisle to realize they weren't with everything else. Most likely they were the next aisle over.

And what tomatoes did I end up with this time? Turns out that Tutta Bella Pomodoro di Napoli cans were on sale 2 for $7 (regular $3.99 each)...

Cans of Tutta Bella tomatoes in somebody's cupboard.
Image from Tutta Bella

Tutta Bella is a famous Certified Neapolitan pizzeria out of Seattle. They don't use authentic San Marzano's but instead a choice tomato from a nearby region of Southern Italy with the same properties. I like them a lot for cooking, but their price is pretty high... almost double the price for a can of RedPack... but I know they'll taste great in my pizza sauce, so I splurge when I find them on sale.

So now I can finally make some pizza!

But not really.

My rolling pin broke and so I have to wait for my new one to arrive. This time I am taking no prisoners and buying a metal pipe type rolling pin. No handles to break off!

Until I can afford a $2,500 pizza dough sheeter that will roll it out for me, it will have to do.

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The Cookie Conundrum

Posted on August 16th, 2019

Dave!Yesterday on my way back across the mountains I stopped at the grocery store. Braving the crowds while food shopping was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do after five hours of travel, but I didn't have much choice. My cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer were all bare.

Before I went to Maine back in July, I made sure to eat all the food that could spoil so none of it would be wasted. Then I got called to Las Vegas, still didn't want to buy any new food that would go bad, so I just kept eating absolutely everything I already had. The night before my flight, I shit you not, I had pickles and saltine crackers for dinner. Not something I was interested in repeating any time soon. And so... a stop at the grocery store it was.

My shopping strategy is simple. Never buy anything unless it's on sale.

I am not terribly picky about what I eat, so this makes it easy to buy ingredients or prepared meals only when they are cheap. Except... groceries are never cheap any more, so I guess I should say "cheaper than normal." Fortunately my local grocery store has an iPhone app with all their coupons, specials, and discounts, so I also save money by making my list ahead of time and only buying what's on the list. I never "browse" at a store because then I'll just end up buying stuff I want instead of what I need.

And so... I made my list on the plane and was ready to go when I got back home. This time I scored big because a lot of key ingredients I needed were on sale. Flour so I can make bread. Tomato sauce and tortillas so I can make enchiladas. Veggie dogs so I can make veggie dogs. That kind of thing.

Another reason I like a list? It keeps me from buying things I should not be eating.

There I was at the store looking for "Sargento Balanced Breaks" healthy snack packs (on sale plus I had a 75¢ off coupon for club members!) when I saw a package of "break and bake" raw cookie dough. Something I absolutely, positively, should NOT be eating. Usually it's easy to resist cookies... I just avoid that aisle in the grocery store, and am not terribly fond of cookies any more anyway... BUT FRESH-OUT-OF-THE-OVEN COOKIES?!? How could I NOT buy that? They weren't on sale, but the generic brand was so much cheaper than the name-brand version that they were practically on sale! Close enough! And since they are crappy generic, they probably taste awful and I'll just end up throwing them in the garbage anyway, right? Sold!

Tonight I gave them a try. Not so appetizing out of the bag...

Raw cookie dough cube that have been broken off.

But then? OH HELL NO! THESE THINGS ARE FRICKIN' MAGIC!!!

Gorgeous fresh overn-baked cookies from a bag of dough.

I'm not joking. These things are phenomenal. Probably because I haven't had a fresh out-of-the-oven cookie in a decade or more.

This is terrible.

I'm thinking I can restrain myself by baking no more than three at a time... and only baking them when I already have the oven heated from cooking something else. The loophole being that I can cook up a second batch of cookies because the oven will still be warm from cooking the first batch of three cookies.

At least I think that's how that works.

And now it's time for the new Invader Zim movie on Netflix! I am so psyched I can't even stand it.

   

Ultimate Cheddar Cheese Bagel

Posted on May 28th, 2019

Dave!Today was the last day to redeem coupons from Safeway's "Monopoly Shop Play Win" game. Whenever I was asked if I am playing, I always said "yes" even though I never played the actual game. I just wanted the free stuff and discounts from the coupons you get in the game piece tickets.*

And so... against my better judgement... I drove the 20 minutes to Safeway to claim my booty...

  • Free bagel or donut (4 of them).
  • Free sour cream (2 of them).
  • Free yogurt (2 of them).
  • Free pasta sauce.
  • Free Taco Seasoning.
  • Free $5 Safeway Gift Card (2 of them).
  • Discount coupons for Almond Milk, Doritos, and a half-dozen other things I actually eat.

A part of me was just going to skip the trip because I did not feel like going grocery shopping after the tough day I had... but... free stuff.

And call me crazy, but the prize I was most excited about getting was not the $10 in gift cards... it was the free bagels.

When it comes to bagels, I always buy the packages of Franz bagels when they go on sale for around $2.50. They are perfectly serviceable and delicious bagels, and I buy extra so I can freeze them for times there are no sales going.

But the bagel I crave is the Ultimate Cheddar Cheese bagel from the Safeway bakery. Not as good as an Asiago Cheese bagel, but I do love them so very, very much. Problem is, they are almost as expensive as four Franz bagels on sale, so I rarely have the opportunity to buy them. And here I am getting four of them for free!

There was no way I was passing up on that!

It was close enough to payday that I could buy my monthly groceries as well. Which goes something like this... 1) Is it on sale or do I get "Just 4U" club card savings? And 2) Is it something I will eat or want to try? If the answer to both of those are "yes" then it goes in my shopping cart. These days I don't buy anything that's not on sale... unless an emergency dictates otherwise (hey, sometimes you have to buy toilet paper, even if it's not on sale).

At the bottom of the receipt Safeway always tells you how much money you saved and I average 20%-30%. Today, thanks to Monopoly coupons, I reached 38%. That's pretty great. Though I should have cashed in all my free stuff on a separate transaction so I could have reached 100% savings. Then I could have framed the receipt.

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's double Ultimate Cheddar Cheese bagels for dinner up in here...

Ultimate Cheddar Cheese Bages!

   
*The grand prize is something like $250 million, so I probably should play the main game... but it's such a huge amount of work with all those little pieces, and I never even got a game board to stick them on.

   

Gray Friday

Posted on November 23rd, 2018

Dave!Black Friday is the one day of the year I set aside to shop for clothes. Not in stores, of course... never in stores... but online. I put aside money every month so that when today arrives I can buy my clothes for the following year at 40% to 80% off. This year all my savings went to pay for vet bills, so I didn't end up buying a stitch of clothing. But it wasn't a big deal. I have a pile of summer clothes I bought for my Hawaii vacation (but didn't get to use because Jake got sick) and I still have loads of winter clothes left from the stuff I bought for Antarctica last year.

Guess I'll be wearing a lot of Hawaiian prints next year at Summertime. I rather like Hawaiian though, so I'll survive.

And so... no new clothes. But that doesn't mean I didn't purchase anything for Black Friday. On the contrary, I just blew my tax refund before I even have it! Something I try very hard not to do... but there were some bargains I could not refuse...

   
SONOS SUB
Ever since investing in the SONOS wireless speaker ecosystem (which I love, for the most part) I've been saving money for the subwoofer to complete my Dolby 5.1 setup. My existing SONOS speakers already have pretty good bass, but I miss that punch you can feel when watching movies. Problem is, the thing is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!! The amount I've managed to save? $120. Which means buying a SUB was a few years off yet. And then SONOS went and had a Black Friday sale for $100 off the regular price...

SONOS Sub Speaker

I could not pass up $100 savings, even though I only had a fraction of the remaining $599 I needed. And so... there goes a huge chunk of my tax refund!

   
Philips Hue LED Smart Bulb Starter Kit
I was set against the Hue LED lights because they were hideously expensive and require a hub. Instead I went with hub-less bulbs that were a fraction of the price. And... you get what you pay for. The cheaper bulbs I bought are crap, and refuse to stay connected to the internet (even though they are practically sitting on top of my Google WiFi router). They also refuse to change color via IFTTT, which is what I use to remind me when it's recycle day. So I made up my mind that I'd invest in the Gold Standard of smart-bulbs (Hue) next year. But then Amazon had the $149.99 starter kit on sale for a ridiculous $79.99, and I couldn't pass that up...

Hue Hub Lighting Kit

The side-benefit of investing in Hue is that Alexa can control them directly, which is kinda nice. I probably won't be turning my porch lights on manually (they're programmed to turn off/on automatically based on sunrise/sunset times), but it's nice to know I could tell Alexa to do it if I needed her to.

   
iTunes $100 Gift Card
I buy all my apps, movies, music, and TV shows from Apple. Which is why I wait for Amazon to put their $100 iTunes cards on sale for $80, because it's like getting free money... money I'd end up spending anyway. I do this every year. Sometimes I get lucky and manage to find a different store (like Best Buy) who put theirs on sale as well. $200 covers the bulk of the stuff I buy at Apple in a year, so paying $160 is a no-brainer...

iTunes Card

UPDATE: I kept checking all day to see if Best Buy dropped their price. They just did. Not on the $100 card, but $10 off their $50 cards, so I got two of them. Sweet!

   
Dyson V7 Animal Absolute Vacuum
I am not a fan of Dyson. Their technology is great, but their construction is cheap. I still have the one I bought my mom sitting in the garage with a burnt out motor (which I really need to have fixed one of these days since it's still under warranty). So when I wanted to buy a cordless "stick" vacuum to replace the dying vacuum I use to clean my hardwood, it was not going to buy a Dyson. But when I did the research, the Dyson models came out on top every time. And so I bit the bullet and bought the model they make for pet hair (V7 Animal) because it was on sale for $240 (regular $399)...

Dyson V7 Animal Vacuum

I am really hoping that this last longer than my mom's upright, which didn't even make it a year. I'll only use it once or twice a month (Carl the RoboVac does the day-to-day cleaning) so fingers crossed.

UPDATE: I received a notice from Dyson that the V7 "Absolute" which also comes with a fluffy head for better cleaning on hardwood (which is all I have) was on sale for $238 (regular $450)... two dollars less than the "Animal" I bought that doesn't have the fluffy head! So, essentially I'm getting the $100 head for free, PLUS a "deep clean kit" that retails for $80... plus everything that comes with the "Animal" version. This is pretty shitty... why didn't Dyson offer this deal yesterday with all the other deals? And so... I ordered one of those and will just refuse delivery of the original shipment. If you buy direct you get a money-back guarantee, and I am definitely taking advantage of that.

   
What I Spent
My grand total for the day? $1078. Factoring in the $120 I had saved up for my SONOS SUB, I ended up putting $958 on my credit card (probably close to $1000 once tax is added). I loathe, loathe, loathe having credit card debt, but I'm trying to be okay with it since I'll be able to pay it off with my tax refund next year. Given that the full price of all the crap I bought was $1580, I can't complain about getting 1/3 off.

   
What I Didn't Buy
There were a few things I had in the back of my head to purchase. Stuff I want... not need. But once I ended up getting the SONOS SUB, everything else was taken off the table because that ate up way more money than I was wanting to spend. Guess these Black Friday deals will have to wait until next year...

  • Nintendo Switch Games — Probably wouldn't have time to play them much anyway, so I'm good.
  • Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones — I have a nice pair of wired headphones, so I'm good.
  • Cookware Set — The old stuff I inherited from my mom works fine, so I'm good.
  • Cat Tree — Jake and Jenny's cat tree is getting pretty raggedy. My ultimate goal is to build one that doesn't look crappy (like most all cat trees do). But, in the meanwhile, I was going to get a fresh replacement. Theirs still works just fine though, so they're good.

And so... until next year then...

   

The Strategy of Acquisition

Posted on November 29th, 2016

Dave!Yesterday I talked about the regret I have in accumulating so much "stuff" in my life. There's just entirely too much crap piled around my home, and most of it... the majority of it... I really could have done without ever buying in the first place.

And yet there's still stuff I have to buy. Even in the middle of culling my possessions. Which is kind of counterproductive... and a a bummer. But not nearly as big a bummer as having to shop for the stuff. Because I really, really don't like shopping.

Which is why I hold off as much shopping as possibly for Black Friday & Cyber Monday. Because the only thing I love more than not shopping is a bargain. And this year I found a lot of bargains. Just ask my credit card. Which probably won't be paid off until February. :-(

Still, it's all stuff I needed. And it was pretty great that I ended up paying half (actually less than half) of what I would have paid any other time of year for the same stuff...

  • Tools. I got an amazing deal on a telescoping ladder ($90 regular $160!). I've never owned a ladder before, having always borrowed them when I needed one. I never intended to buy my own, but it was the "telescoping" feature that made me pull the trigger. I've got a stairwell that I want to hang things in, and I couldn't manage it with a traditional ladder. This one makes it a snap. Plus it's compact when condensed, so it fits easily in my garage. Plus it's easy to move around. Plus I have a ladder whenever I need one now. Probably my favorite purchase. And the most useful.
  • Storage. I loathe to spend money on containers and stuff like that when you can get cardboard boxes for free, but the boxes I've been using to store the crap I'm going to keep are falling apart and I needed something more permanent. Storage bins were on sale for ridiculous prices, so I snapped some up. They're much nicer for keeping things organized. I also bought a second Milwaukee Jobsite Organizer, which I got on sale at Home Depot for $20... the first one I bought has been one of the handiest purchases ever, but it's gotten full.
  • Music/Movies/Games. I buy most everything digitally from the iTunes Music Store, so I leapt at the chance to get some gift cards for 20% off. I also picked up LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens for cheap... and found Guardians of the Galaxy on 3D Blu-Ray for $12! I don't much care for 3D in the theater, but I am really digging it at home for some reason.
  • Tech. Amazon had the Echo Dot on sale for $39 down from $49... and you got a credit for $10 if you ordered through Echo. $29 to extend Alexa upstairs seemed like a heck of a bargain. And so very cool.
  • Luggage. My small carry-on that I use for 1-3 day trips was pretty much shredded, so I took advantage of a 50% off sale at Samsonite to get a new one at a great price. Probably my most-needed purchase.
  • Furniture. I needed a nice chair for my guest room but could never afford it because whenever I found one I liked it was $250... minimum! Finally found one on Black Friday closeout for a crazy $80.
  • Travel. Alaska Airlines always has really good Cyber Monday sales... if you can be flexible in your travel. I managed to get a trip from my small-town airport for less than I usually get the same trip out of Seattle... which is fantastic savings.
  • Clothes. I hate spending money on clothes. Which is why I pretty much shop for them only when they're on sale. Black Friday is the best time for this, and I put aside money all year long just to shop the sales. This year I bought jeans, shirts, hats, and underwear... all at really great prices. I was particularly happy to get some new Boston Red Sox hats from '47 Brand at 30% off. Mine are about worn out.

And there you have it. More crap to clutter my life.

How much of it will I be wanting to throw out five years from now? Probably all of it.

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In Blackest Friday…

Posted on November 25th, 2016

Dave!There is no amount of savings that would encourage me to shop retail today. None. Even if they were giving shit away for FREE, I'd still be going into work then hiding at home the rest of the day. Buddhism has taught me not to get caught up in "stuff" and focus on more important things, so fighting over a bunch of "stuff" is about the last thing I'm inclined to do.

That does not, however, mean I won't be shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales online.

Every month I put aside $50, which comes out to $600 of funds that I spend on clothes come Black Friday. With careful shopping, you can easily turn that $600 into $1200 (or more!) worth of buying power, and 90% of my clothes for the entire year are bought during this time. I especially love that I can buy pricey brands that I could never afford otherwise.

$100 denim being sold for $40? Yes please.

$80 shirts for $25? I'll take 'em.

All underwear is Buy One Get One Free? Alrighty then.

Jackets half-price? I could use that.

Nothing quite like getting a pile of designer clothes at cheap-ass prices. This is literally the only time I enjoy shopping. This year I actually went overboard... spending closer to $700 than the $600 I had saved... but I lost some weight and ended up needing smaller sizes, so it was still a bargain.

This is the time of year I always take my spare change jar to a CoinStar machine, so I'll probably make up that $100 in no time to stay on budget (last year I had accumulated $136 in coinage!).

Which is good, because I also found Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Wii U on sale for $17 (Regular $39.99)...

Sense Antennae Breakout Box.

Doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Black Friday, everybody!

   

JC Penney

Posted on January 26th, 2015

Dave!"No."

"We can't do that."

"There's nothing we can do."

"No."

"We can't help you with that."

   

Reasons I won't shop my local JC Penney ever again.

   

And, believe it or not, this was all while I was trying to PAY THEM MONEY on behalf of somebody who is no longer able to handle their finances for medical reasons. Very sad medical reasons. I even have a Power of Attorney document in my hand which allows me to take care of things like this when needed. Like now. But they don't give a shit. "YOU HAVE CALL THE NUMBER ON THE BACK OF THE CARD!!!"

But I don't have the card. And they won't even go get me the number so I CAN call.

Needless to say, I'm fuming.

What kind of customer service is that? If your damn job is to help customers, then get off your ass and help the customer! Had somebody come to me with a horrible situation like this, I would have done everything I could to help them. Need to pay a bill for somebody who is medically unable? I'm sorry I can't help you with that... but let's go find somebody who can place a call for you. You drove all the way down here, so let's get this taken care of, okay?

But no.

I get sent away with literally nothing.

I tried web-chat at the JC Penney website, but they tell me billing issues must be handled by phone. Okay. At least the chat agent actually GIVES ME THE FRICKIN' PHONE NUMBER.

So then I try to call customer service. But you can't get through to a REAL PERSON without an account number or social security number for the card holder. Well, I don't have any of that, and the automated answering system provides no way to explain the situation. I kept saying "help" and "customer service" and pressing "0"... but the phone robot goes in a loop and insists that I give the information it wants. After eight minutes (I checked!) of trying every option available, I manage to confuse the system enough that an operator finally picked up.

Who treats a customer like this?

JC Penney, apparently.

I managed to keep my cool while explaining the situation to the very nice phone agent, but it's rough. The guy apologizes for all I've been though and seems sincere, so I pay the bill, thank him, then hang up the phone.

How in the hell has customer relations degraded to this sorry state?

I became a JC Penney fan when the company made a big effort to be inclusive in both their philosophy and advertising. Who can say no to Ellen DeGeneres? Not me. I started shopping at Penney's because I support companies who embrace diversity, treat all people with kindness, and want their customers to feel good about supporting them with their hard-earned money.

Now I don't give a shit if the local JC Penney burns to the ground.

Boy, it sure doesn't take much for a company to turn a good customer into a bitter enemy now-a-days, does it?

Oh well. It's not like there aren't other places to spend my money.

   

Stuff

Posted on November 28th, 2014

Dave!Annnnnd... just bought all my clothes for 2015.

For the past four years I shop for clothing only on Black Friday online sales so I can purchase stuff I ordinarily could not afford (Lucky Brand, Banana Republic, etc.) or to get double the amount of stuff I would normally get (American Eagle, iTunes Cards, etc.). Amazing how putting aside $50 a month nets $600 that has buying power of $1000 to $1200 this one time of year.

Unlike the many, many people who profess to despise Black Friday as a blight on the holiday season and humanity in general... I am happy to publicly embrace this celebration of consumerism gone amuck. Not because I have some vendetta against the holidays (or whatever), but because I like to save piles of money.

Not that I would ever step foot in an actual store today.

I prefer the relative safety of my web browser to the madness of full-contact shopping...

Black Friday is also the time that I cash in all the pocket change I save up the rest of the year (so I have even more cash to spend on deals). It always adds up to a lot more than I'd expect...

Coinstar Machine!

ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-TWO DOLLARS AND SIXTY-SEVEN CENTS?! How do I accumulate that much coinage?

Fair warning... CoinStar does not accept foreign monies (or penis salad buttons) as legal tender...

Coinstar Machine!

Annnnnd... now that I've spent all my money, I suppose it's time to get back to work.

So I can earn money for next year.

It's a viscious circle, yo.

   

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