Coffee heat rising

These Tips will Help you to Get Your Finances Back on Track


If you feel as though your finances are in ruin, then you need to know that you are not alone. It’s not easy for you to know how you are going to find the money to pay for everything, but at the end of the day you have to make sure that you don’t panic. If you are collected in the way that you approach your debt and if you do everything you can to stay on top, then you shouldn’t have many problems to contend with.

Pay Less Interest on your Credit Card

Credit card debt is bad. It doesn’t matter whether you have debt that is left over from Christmas or whether you have booked a holiday on your card because it can easily take a long time for you to pay it down. This is especially the case if you are paying interest. If you can, you need to move it to a 0% interest card. If you want to get the biggest benefit from this, then you need to pay it down as much as you can earlier-on. If you don’t do this, then you may find that you end up struggling and that you end up in the same situation again when your payments go up again. If you want to really benefit but you are not able to take out a credit card then why not look into: When you do, you may find that you can pay off your debt and then just pay interest on your loan.

Pay More than the Bare Minimum

Another way for you to pay less interest on your credit card would be for you to try and pay off more than the basic amount every month. Minimum payments are normally set at very low levels so if you pay this off every month then you shouldn’t have a problem. That being said, if you can afford it, you have to pay more than this if you can. When you do, you will soon find that you can clear your balance with ease and that you can also come out on top with ease.

Shift your Store Card Balance

When you look at your store card, you may find that they charge a very high-interest rate. You may find that sometimes they are as high as 29%. This can really hurt your finances, so if you want to get around this then you need to try and swap your debt to a 0% card. When you do, you will be able to transfer your balance and you can also really take advantage of the savings. Again, it’s super important that you try and pay down your debt as much as possible during this time.

Pay Less for your Overdraft

Paying interest on your overdraft? If you can, you should try and switch to a current account. This won’t charge you and you may even find that you can save a considerable amount of money too. An alternative would be for you to try and use a 0% money card. This will give you the chance to move money from your credit card to your current account. If you need some help here, then it is more than possible for you to hire a financial advisor. When you do, you can trust in them to help you with anything you need, and they can also give you the advice you need with your overdraft in general. Some can even find you better deals with your credit card too, so keep that in mind if you can.



The dermatologist has summoned me to revisit her redoubt tomorrow morning — on the far side of the universe: south of Sun City, west of terrifying Maryvale. This entails driving driving driving…and guzzling of gallons of gasoline.

The tank was about a third full, which probably would have sufficed to get there and back. But I didn’t want to take a chance, so decided that when I took my mail-in ballot up to the post office today, I would buy some overpriced gasoline at the QT. And while out, run by the Leslie’s Pools store to pick up a replacement for a cracked pump pot basket.

Y’know…the last time I filled the gas tank on that car was May 14. That was two months ago. So that suggests the car used only a third of a tank of gas a month, under the Quarantine Regime.

The amount I pumped this morning — to replace two months’ worth of fuel — came to $20.30.

Now consider this: On April 1, when the present covid imprisonment began, my gasoline budget was ninety dollars a month! And yes, that is how much I regularly spent on gas then.

What has done this trick is ordering groceries, household supplies, and gardening products through Instacart and Amazon. For eight bucks, Instacart will make a run on whatever crazy place you please. And Total Wine, BTW, will deliver for “free.” At eight bucks a trip, two carefully calculated grocery-store or Costco runs per month cost you all of $16. Okay…$20.30 plus $16 will set you back all of 36 bucks…a far cry from $90 worth of gasoline.

What’s racking up that 90 bucks? Running around town to buy this, that, and the other at Costco, Walmart, Albertson’s, Safeway, Home Depot, and waypoints, whenever you happen to think of it. If instead you’re budgeting your car rides — by sending runners to pick up items from those stores and then using your car to travel to local destinations only when you absolutely have to — you could cut your gasoline costs alone by 50% to 66%.

But of course a car’s costs include far more than just gas. There are, for example, the oil changes, the new batteries, the tires, the smog tests, the insurance, the registration fee…and that’s only for newer cars that are relatively trouble-free. And it assumes you’ve paid for the damn thing and are not coughing up anything from $300 to $600 a month for a car loan.

What this suggests is that replacing your car with delivery services, Amazon (which also is essentially a delivery service), and ride services like Uber and Lyft could save you shitloads of money. Even if you kept your car, budgeting your rides to go only to places where you have to show up in person — the doctor, the dentist, the vet, the hair salon, the movie theater — would cut the cost of car ownership drastically.

It might even allow you to get rid of the car altogether. When you really need a car to haul something or go on a vacation, rent one. Otherwise…why pay to park one in your garage 365 days a year?

If you had a redundant two-car garage, what would you use it for?

Coffee…and Changing Times

Coffee Makin’s

So a friend wrote in passing about making cold-press coffee (all the rage these days), which reminded me that I’d learned how to make the stuff years ago…and caused me to wonder if you couldn’t make it very simply in a French press. I mean, think about it: rather than having to filter it through a Melitta or other type of filter, all you’d have to do is push the French press’s filter down…et voilà.

The idea is to measure out your ground coffee into a pot or carafe. Pour in the amount of water you’d usually dispense into the pot. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. Then, in the morning, run this slurry through a coffee filter (a Melitta filter would work well) and zap a cupful in the microwave. Or serve it as iced coffee.

But why not use a French press?

So I tried it. And by golly! It REALLY works!

The French press plunger did a fine job of filtering the brew. The result is a strong but also mellow cuppa. Very successful. Very easy. And exactly zero coffee-puttering chores in the morning.

There’ll Be Some Changes Made…

And in other precincts, other kinds of changes are majorly under way.

The covid-19 flap has inspired some serious revisions in the way business is to be done here at the Funny Farm.

Number one entails “Mormonizing” the approach to buying and storing food. I do not intend ever to find myself without necessary food and household supplies as a result of panic buying, whether the public panic is justified or not. After this I intend to have a bare minimum of three months’ worth of food and supplies in the house; preferably more like six. Or better: a year’s worth.

Costco now has paper goods back. This week I contrived to score a package of paper towels and a package of toilet paper, ô hallelujah! A package of Costco paper towels has 12 generous rolls (that are NOT loosely wound so as to make it look like there’s more on the roll than there really is… (Never buy Safeway PT’s!!). I figure that barring a major mess to clean up, one roll of paper towels lasts at least a week or ten days. To be on the conservative side, then, one package of Costco paper towels should last 12 weeks, or three months. In reality: probably longer.

So, in the stockpiling department, I figure if you can get two Costco  paper-towel packages on hand, you have enough to last six months. So the plan is to send the Instacart crew off  to Costco again to grab (among other things) one more package of PT’s, guaranteeing a six-month supply. Then, as the first 12-roll bag begins to dwindle toward two remaining, buy another bag. This would mean (in theory, barring another national catastrophe) at any given time I would have no less than a three-month supply. And if the things didn’t show up on the shelf over a period of three to six months…well…paper towels would be the least of our problems.

A Costco bag of toilet paper contains 30 rolls, which for me is effectively a lifetime supply. Same idea, though: start with two bags full, and as the first 30 dwindle down to around 15, get another package. In that case, you’d never have less than a bagful and a half: 45 rolls.

Grocery store shelves here are still half-bare, and many necessaries are unavailable. At Amazon, though, I managed to find a 2-pound bag of King Arthur brand yeast (King Arthur is about the best in the baking-products industry), which should arrive here in another couple of days. That will go straight into the freezer. Also contrived to buy some more flour.

And therein lies another covid-inspired Big Change: discovered that the bread I can make in my own kitchen, even the simplest version, is far better than even the very best, fancy, European-style bread from AJs. So that will improve the lifestyle, and at the same time save a bit of cash: those fresh-baked French- and Italian-style loaves ain’t cheap.

In the bread-making department, the other thing I wanna do is get a smaller, brand-new, un-greasy propane grill that I can use exclusively as a baking oven. The countertop oven DOES work to bake a loaf of bread. However, its capacity is limited. And, in keeping with a friend’s suspicion of the things as a potential fire hazard, every time I use it for anything other than toasting a piece of bread, I unplug it and drag it out of the garage and into the kitchen, where I can keep an eye on it all the time it’s baking the bread. The proposed propane “oven” could also be used to bake casseroles — again, the countertop oven will do that, but I ain’t lettin’ the thing mumble away to itself out in the garage while that’s going on. If this second propane grill were used only for baking bread and casseroles, it would never get greasy and so would go quite a long time without having to call the BBQs Galore guy out here to work on it. And it would save on hassle factor.

And also, in the prepping for catastrophe department, my present propane grill doesn’t have a stovetop-type burner on it. A couple of the small ones of the sort I propose to use as a bread oven do have them. If the power goes out for any length of time, the gas stovetop won’t work — to protect us from our idiot selves, gas stove burners now no longer will come on unless the sparker inside the unit is functioning…and of course, the sparker runs on electric. In that case, you couldn’t even heat a pot of water in this house, unless you have portable propane camp stove. Or a grill with a side burner.

Le Shopping

Another change in the strategies for daily living that I think will become permanent is what we might call the Shopping Mode. I’ve learned a lot about shopping with Instacart and through Amazon. My guess is that about 90% to 95% of the things you can buy that are not fresh meat or fresh produce can be had remotely. Some of this 90% would be a bit of a PITA to acquire online or through runners. But that would still leave maybe 85% to 90% of groceries and sundries shopping that need not be done in person.

So first, I’m going to sit down and think through, in a systematic way, about what items are best purchased in person — and where, and about what items can be ordered up online. Then make lists of what to get, where to get it, when to get it, and how to get it.

Of course, you have to pay extra for stuff you have delivered…BUT…my guess is you’d save that much in gasoline alone. I have yet to purchase a full tank of gasoline since the covid scare started! Back in March. Right now the Annoying Venza still has half-a-tank of gasoline, and I’ve only been to the pump once in all this time.

This will change the vendors that I use routinely. Alas, I fear, the beloved AJ’s is going away. Fry’s may, too: it’s a long drive from here to get to an upscale outlet. Meat and household goods will come from Costco; fill in with household stuff from Target, Fry’s, or Amazon. Fresh vegetables and fruits from Sprouts.

And in the fresh produce department, I’m going to get a whole lot more serious about growing vegetables. I think I’ll buy a couple of raised vegetable beds or large that are deep enough to accommodate root vegetables. Chard grows magnificently here, and I love the stuff. So that will be Crop #1. The tomato plants in back already have ten or twelve tomatoes ripening. The ones in front, not so much: they’re kinda stunted. I think that may be the soil, which is hard as a rock. That can be remedied with some compost and a man with a strong back. I’ll ask Gerardo to set the cousins to digging a few bags of Lowe’s best compost into that dirt out there, and while they’re at it, put them up to improving the drip system in that flowerbed.

Then I could have chard, possibly spinach (or not: it tends to struggle here), several varieties of leaf lettuce, carrots, beets, chives, little green onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, possibly some new potatoes, possibly yellow onions. Most of these (except the peppers, tomatoes, & eggplant) grow only in the winter here, but it’s mighty easy to blanche and freeze any of them. Interestingly, even tomatoes can be frozen…who knew?

One of my friends has gotten artichokes to grow here (though they do a lot better in a coastal climate like Salinas’s or Hollister’s) — that might be worth a try. She also gets blackberries to grow in gay profusion…exactly how escapes me, but I intend to ask her. Apparently blueberries will grow here, too.  Looks like more trouble than it’s worth, though. Apples and pears used to grow at the ranch (which was up on  the Rim), but I believe the Valley is too hot for those.

And finally in the produce department: I may start buying most or all of my produce at farmer’s markets. A thriving farmer’s market does business in the parking lot of a church just east of the ’Hood. I could almost walk over there, though hauling stuff back here would be a chore. That’s assuming the market revives after the covid scare dies down.

Then there’s the wine cellar scheme: Get two crates of wine: one of reds and one of whites. Total Wine will sell you a nice boxful of wine with cardboard separators (i.e., a crate) and let you choose which ones you’d like for the contents. I think they give you a discount if you buy 12 bottles. These get stored in the closet of the spare bedroom/storage room, which is nice and cool even in the dead of summer. Then, when I use up a bottle of wine, I replace it with a new single purchase, so that at no time will this stash be down more than two or at most three bottles.

Come the Apocalypse, at least I’ll be able to stay drunk through it.

My son’s strategy, in the wine department, is boxed wine. And I hafta admit, he has found a brand whose deliciousness rivals the fine $9/bottle vintages I favor. That would be a simpler strategy — a box of red and a box of white, at any given time. I’ll have to think through the logistics of that: how to keep from (horrors!!) running out.

Kilt-Lifter, my current preferred beer, can be had at a ridiculous discount by the case from Costco. This stuff, too, could be stored in the “wine cellar.”

So that would make some significant changes in day-to-day and long-term ways of doing business here at the Funny Farm.

Even though setting up a garden is expensive at the outset, if you grew that much produce and froze it, over time you’d save a fair amount on grocery bills. And on gas: because most of my grocery junkets are occasioned by the need for fresh produce (I eat a lot of it), over the long term I’d make a whole lot fewer trips to grocery stores. Same is true if I walked to the farmer’s market every Saturday.

Meat would have to be purchased in person…but if you’re buying lifetime supplies at Costco and freezing it, you’d only need to go up there about once every two or three months. Same would be true of household supplies: you could probably cut the Costco junkets by 30% to 50% by not buying produce there.

Wine? Beer? Same thing: If you had a stash in-house, there would be no reason to buy booze at Costco more often than about once every two or three months. And that is stuff you can send Instacart to get. So really, you’d never make a trip to Costco or Total Wine to buy wine or beer: you could have the Instacart runners replenishing your supply every few weeks, as you go through a bottle or three.

And of course household products such as paper towels, TP, laundry and dish detergent, and the like, could also be picked up from Costco by Instacart runners.

So you’d do a whole lot less driving, on a permanent basis. If you actually walked to a farmer’s market or to a reasonably close-by supermarket, you’d get extra exercise during the cooler months (couldn’t do it at this time of year, hereabouts!). That would cut not only your gas bill but your car insurance: mine was already reduced by 15% this year. If I could show a lot lower mileage overall, they’d probably make that a permanent cut.

You’d get more exercise with the gardening, too. So overall, these kinds of activities would probably help improve your health, as well as your bank balance.

Interesting outcome, isn’t it?

The Thrift Store Jamboree

Yesterday WonderAccountant — who lives across the street — suggested we go to coffee in the morning and then make a run on the venerable Assistance League thrift store, which was having a 50% off sale.

As you know if you’ve been hanging around this blog for awhile, I like to shop at My Sister’s Closet, an upscale second-hand store where Scottsdale’s finest society matrons consign their designer duds after a single season has passed. The Assistance League store has something of the same appeal: it’s situated on the eastern edge of the North Central district, where Phoenix’s legions of Old Wealth nest. Whether these folks dump their clothes and their household tschotschkes after just a season of use is doubtful — that set tends to be wiser and less spendthrift. They’re riches, but they’re not so much nouveaux riches. They do, however, buy from the same upscale stores, so much so that both shops can dedicate special racks for stuff from Chico’s and by specific selected designers, for example.

So this is always fun.

On Friday I’d dropped $108 on the most spectacular shirt I’ve ever seen (which collected five compliments from fellow churchgoers this morning, BTW), so decided to refrain from further spending. But WonderAccountant was working under no such constraints. She snabbed a really, really handsome shirt, a designer number in a lovely pattern and fabric — two bucks. And a very kewl denim jacket with fancy beadwork front and back — four bucks.

So W.A. reminded me, by example, of what a hoot it is to shop at stores like this.

And I was also reminded of my former next-door neighbor in lovely uptown North Central, one the rare decent human beings I met in that neighborhood during the entire time I lived there. (Richistan, as pretty as its shaded lanes may be, does harbor large herds of extraordinarily unpleasant snobs.)

LaVerne, as we’ll call her here, grew up in a small middle-class town in the Darkest Midwest. The child of a righteous Baptist family, she married a Nice Jewish Boy and, over her parents’ wildest objections, converted to Judaism, and lived happily ever after, pursuing a very conservative faith and lifestyle for her husband and her children. And being a good Midwestern girl, LaVerne was nothing if not thrifty.

LaVerne kept her entire family crisply dressed in the latest styles…and as far as I can tell, never spent a dime on clothing. Here’s how she did it:

Remember Buffalo Exchange? It was a resale shop where you could bring in your used clothing and, if staff thought they could sell the stuff, they’d give you some money for it.  I guess they’re still around…I haven’t seen one in these parts of late, but you may have one near you. At the time, there was one right on the fringe of North Central.

Okay. LaVerne would never, ever pay full price for anything. She didn’t even pay sale prices, most of the time: she bought stuff for get this junk out of our store prices. As it develops, in those days department stores (remember those?) changed out their stock every few weeks. Whatever hadn’t moved off the racks went on sale for a couple of weeks. And whatever remained of the end-of-season sale merchandise was moved to an ignoble department in a dank and distant corner of the store, where they practically gave it away. In fact, they probably would pay you to cart it off.

Well, that was exclusively where LaVerne shopped. And she was an exceptionally keen-eyed shopper. Where you or I would go into one of those departments and see only the rayon purple-and-chartreuse polka dots, LaVerne could walk in there and snag very nice, sharp, perfectly acceptable clothing…for everyone in her family. Yes. For herself. For her husband. For her high-school-age son. For her middle-school-age daughter.

Three or four times a year, LaVerne would raid the family closets — after hubby and kids had left for work and school, so as to evade the squawks of dismay. She would strip out everything she’d bought the previous season and schlep armloads of used clothing down to Buffalo Exchange. Most of this stuff, she managed to unload upon them(!). Thus, she’d walk away with cash in her purse…every time.

Whatever she couldn’t foist back onto Buffalo Exchange, she would donate to the Hadassah thrift shop, which of course would give her a fistful of receipts. She and her husband were affluent enough (he owned a custom drapery-making business that provided stuff for Sears and Penney’s as well as individual customers) that they could make use of a charitable deduction.

She now took the cash she’d collected from Buffalo Exchange over to the PLEASE-take-this-junk-away rack at the Dillard’s and the Bullock’s and the several other stores of similar ilk that existed then. And she would refill the family closets.

Everyone in the house was handsomely dressed — nice but not gaudy — and she never spent more than a few dollars on their wardrobes. If she spent that much at all.

She was, in a word, amazing. Truly an amazing woman.

I’ve never attempted to scale those heights of thrift, because I cannot see the wearable clothing on a get-this-outta-here rack. When I go into one of those departments, all I see are the purple-and-chartreuse polka dots. It takes a special skill to find real clothes in those places. And she had it.

But from her I did learn that there are a whole lot of upper-middle-class and wealthy women who never wear their clothing out. Me, I wear it until it falls apart. If it doesn’t fall apart, I wear it while it’s out of style and keep on wearing it until it comes back into style. But the ladies of Richistan? They buy clothing all the time — usually not on sale — and they often don’t keep things more than a few months. I met lawyers’ wives, while I was playing the Society Matron act, who who would never wear a  spectacularly expensive designer cocktail dress more than once, lest one of their colleagues recognize it from some previous Junior League or Bar Association shindig.

No kidding.

Yes. They were parodies of themselves. And yes: they really did do that.

One woman, the wife of a successful commercial real estate mogul, would fill up her closet with the current season’s styles and she would move the previous year’s spring (or summer, or fall, or winter) wardrobe over to another closet to be used as gardening and housecleaning garb. When that season was over, out they’d go. Unlike LaVerne, she wouldn’t try to sell discarded clothes at Buffalo Exchange. She would just schlep them straight to the charity society’s store.

So: the message here is that thrift stores near upscale neighborhoods often have very nice, lightly used (sometimes unused, with the price tag still attached) clothing at give-it-away prices. And if you don’t tell, nobody will ever know where you bought that outfit.

A little frugalista prepper strategy…

Okay, this one is not prepping for the day the stock market crashes into the sub-basement of the Bush Recession. This is a day-to-day routine prep that can come in extremely handy. And it’s outrageously simple:


Yeah. Take all the cards and IDs and whatnot and lay them in neat rows and columns on your printer’s scanner bed. Press COPY. Now flip each one over, keeping the things in the same order, and press COPY again.

Print these out. Oh, what the heck: print out two or three copies. Stash at least one of them in a safe place where you know you can find it. Put the others in places that you might look if you forget where you put the safe place that you knew you could find.

This can be a lifesaver if your lose your wallet or any of your cards.

I never did find the brass card case that held my personal AMEX card, my new Medicare card, my Medigap insurance card, and misc. other junk cards like the grocery store “membership” annoyances. Of the ones that matter, the only ones that were not copies were the credit card and the Medigap card. I carry copies, not originals, of the Medicare card, but I’d carried the original Medigap card because it has the company’s contact information on the back, which doctors’ offices often want.

Sooo… Needed to call the Medigap carrier — no point in even bothering to call Medicare, it’s SUCH a nightmare trying to get through to a human being, and nine times out of ten whoever you do reach is clueless — and ask for a new card. As I contemplate having to paw through a pile of paperwork to get the apposite numerals to reel off to the CSR at the end of the punch-a-button maze, I remember that indeed I do have a copy of the thing.

Hauled out the sheet, copied it, cut out the photocopied x 2 Medicare and Medigap cards, stuck them in the card case, and voilà! So had no problem this morning ordering up a new Medigap card from GPM Life.

Related tip: Do this about once a year. The cards in your wallet change — you get a new account number when you lose a credit card, you ditch one card and get another, and…whatnot. Keep the set of cards you’ve copied up to date.

New Knives? Or Old Folks’ Stuff?

The honored Chicago chef’s knife…

{Chortle!} I remain bewitched with the idea of buying a gigantic set of fancy new German kitchen and steak knives (with white handles! oooooohhhh!) at Costco. The ridiculousness of dropping $200 on any such thing is manifest.

Still…if I don’t spend any more on anything else (and there’s no reason I should), by the end of this month (which it already IS, almost!) I’ll have $200 left in the budget. Why should I not spend it on myself?

Or, one might reasonably ask, why should I spend it on myself?

Thing is, a perfectly fine collection of fancy Wüsthof and Henckels knives is sitting right there in the drawer. I don’t need any fancy new knives.

But…but…the other thing is, every one of them is all scratched up, from the time I took it into my hot little head to use my father’s whetstone to sharpen the knives, which had gone mightily dull. This was an exceptionally bad idea. In my clumsiness, I ruined every knife in the house!

Except they’re not ruined. They look terrible, but they take a perfectly fine edge and there’s nothing wrong with the way they work. So what if they look terrible? Who sees them?

So, here’s another Thing:

Whenever you go to one of those uncountable estate sales out in Sun City, these scratched-up knives are the sort of thing you run into. Those, and the blue-and-pink furniture and the much-scrubbed Revereware pans and on and on. You find the leavings of the make-it-do, use-it-up generation: people who pay a middling-high price to get the best Stuff they can afford and who are then stuck with it, because it never wears out. By the time you’ve owned it half your lifetime and you’re tired of it, it really isn’t worn out.

These houses are full of tired, out-of-style Stuff that’s still perfectly serviceable. Serviceable outmoded furniture. Serviceable old-fashioned pots and pans. Serviceable mixers. Serviceable food processors. Serviceable blenders. Serviceable fans. Serviceable old analog scales and clocks. Serviceable towels. Serviceable sheets. Serviceable throw pillows. Serviceable half-bottles of Arpège and Windsong. Auuughhhh! So depressing it comes out on the other side of depressing.

So the question becomes one of WTF are you saving that two hundred bucks for, anyway?

I dunno. I’m so cheap I don’t want to part with it. Plus I like my knives. I’ve collected them over a lifetime. Handing them over to Goodwill feels like a betrayal. How can I even think of taking my knives to the pound? Auuughhhh!

One thing we can be assured of: despite all those expensive German brand names, the best knife in that drawer was made by Chicago Knives. It takes an edge like a razor blade and holds the edge forever with just light honing. A-n-n-d you cannot buy a decent Chicago knife anymore. That’s another fine American product that has gone down the tubes — though reviews at Amazon average in the four-star range, still some 11 percent of reviewers hate it. Here’s my knife: one guy says Chicago “must be the name of a town in China.” 😀 This one is particularly juicy: “After some very light use and cleaning, the wood on the handle SHRANK exposing the sharp edge of the full tang in the handle. The edge of the tang is sharp enough to cut my fingers.Hee HEEEEE!

Okay. Yeah. Why, again, do I want to replace a lifetime collection of high-quality German and (real!) American cutlery for…what? Something made in China, like everything else? So my knives are old folks’ stuff. BFD: I am an old folk.

What’s a few scratches, after all…