Thursday, February 17, 2011
Unemployment Diary: Should Have Charged for Product Placement
So without this ingrained wariness of people I don't know, I'm apt to have forty-five minute long conversations about unemployment and wage stagnation with strangers in Staples or ten minute long convos in the frozen food section of Publix with a woman who offered me a coupon and ended up walking away with some frozen garlic bread and a coupon I gave her in exchange.
It's all in a day's work now that I'm accepting the fact that I might never have a traditional job again and I better jolly well figure out how we're going to manage in the future. As I've mentioned before, looking for a job has gotten so ridiculous, it is now sublime. But as any rule following collector of unemployment checks does, I continue the hunt like a technology-enhanced Elmer Fudd stalking Bugs Bunny. My gun is a laptop loaded with seventeen different mutations of my resume like interview-repelling viruses. Just like in the old Warner Brothers cartoons, the rabbit is winning and I'm still talking funny.
So despite the magical thinking of supply side economics, revenue numbers stay down, John Boehner, so what gets cut?
Again? My subconscious is skeptical. Haven't we gone through this already? We have. We've nailed down every fixed cost as best we can. While I continue to seek new income streams, we must get serious about cutting our variable costs even more.
As a result, I've been away from my usual corner of the blogosphere as I trolled the frugal living websites for ideas and attended a class (free, of course, at the library) on how to save using coupons. First, let me say that there is a wealth of information out there and second let me say that I've been feeling physically ill about how much money we've wasted over the years for the sake of convenience or due to sheer ignorance and laziness.
Implementing these money saving strategies has been time consuming because I'm either a slow learner or a perfectionist or both, but I assure you, they've been worth it. See, I'd assumed that cutting back equaled deprivation. Not so. Sure, you can buy an awful lot of convenience, but if you watch your pennies, you can have enough and the peace of mind that comes with not running out of stuff like food and toilet paper or money. Man, that sounds like ad copy for an infomercial, but bear with me, because there is a dark side to all this. And we're all about the dark side, aren't we?
For example, the couponing world is cut throat. Yesterday at the CVS, I had to settle for the Colgate Total (.75 off one coupon) instead of the Colgate Sensitive ($1 off one coupon) because some hoarder had cleared the shelves of the Sensitive. Same thing happened a couple of weeks ago at the Rite Aid. Some selfish hoarders had snatched up all the Prevacid 40ct. $24.99 with $10 +UP reward so I had to go across the street to the CVS and get the Prilosec 40ct $24.99 with $7 Extra Care Bucks instead. But that's okay. I got two boxes, used my $8 off 2 coupon and got a $24.99 rebate form to boot. So those hoarders can suck it.
Which leads me to my second example - name calling. Now I haven't seen any verbal assaults at the store, but at home, they're calling me names behind my back. They still haven't figured out the Mom Bionic Hearing thing apparently.
"Have you seen the laundry room?" Nate and Sophie were in the living room watching TV and assumed I couldn't hear them from the dining room where I sat skimming SouthernSavers.com and printing coupons like a fiend.
"I know," Sophie said. "How many cans of diced tomatoes does one family need?" (They were buy one, get one free and I had four .50 off 2 coupons that Publix doubles plus two store coupons. That's called stacking.)
Nate aimed the remote at the TV and switched the channel to A&E. "And what? Does she think we'll be living on just cereal and soup?"
Sophie snorted. "Don't forget the olive oil. There's like seven bottles down there." (She exaggerates. There are four bottles down there. B1G1 with store and manufacturer coupons!) Her voice grew grave. "Hey, you don't think she's becoming one of those hoarders, do you?" Ah. There's that word. Hoarder. I prefer stockpiler.
"I know," Sophie laughed. "I came home from school the other day and asked if the dryer was broken because she had wash hanging all over the place. Plus she cleans with vinegar and baking soda now instead of Windex and bleach. Weird."
"Next thing you know, she'll be sewing herself some long skirts and wearing bonnets like those homesteaders."
I'd heard enough. "Hey, you ingrates! The money I'm saving is how we can afford to get satellite so you even know the difference between a hoarder and a stockpiler."
They turned to look at me. I expected a little chagrin from them. Instead they burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?" I sputtered.
Nate pointed and I looked down at my shirt. A coupon dangled from my sweatered breast. Stupid static cling. I'd have to remember to add a bit more vinegar to the laundry rinse cycle until the Georgia humidity came back.
Air drying the dishes in the dishwasher instead of using the heated dry setting = success. Turning off the high heat wash, not so much. It's trial and error. I'm still waiting to fall in love with Dr. Bronner and his amazing castile soaps, but if I remember my time in France correctly, that's where I learned that lots of lather = clean is an American notion and not necessarily true so I suspect Dr. B. and I will be BFFs soon.
Dialing the thermostat way down will be much easier to appreciate now that the worst of winter is behind us. Typing in gloves is a bitch, but typing with frozen fingers is an even bigger bitch.
Like any new interest, it's easy for me to go overboard. I start conversations with "Hey, did you see that Publix has Louis Jadot Beaujolais on sale for $10.99?" The cats don't care about Beaujolais. They want to know when I'm going to uncork the next can of Nine Lives (Box of 24 for $10.49 at Publix, still less per can than the box of 32 Friskies with a coupon).
I'd mentioned that this is time consuming. Preparing for the shopping trips is just the beginning. The trips themselves are an endurance exercise. It's as if my time is worth nothing which, according to most employers these days, is true. Yesterday, as I snailed my way through Publix calculating whether I should come back a second time so I could use my second $5 off any $30 bill (excluding the Beaujolais, naturally) an assistant manager approached me.
"I'm sorry, m'am, but we have a policy against loitering," she whispered.
I held up my hand as I finished counting the Pillsbury, Hunts, Green Giant and Progresso items in my basket (buy 20, save $5 with coupon of which I had two, but could use only one per trip hence the complicated math). "Loitering? I'm counting. And now I have to start over because I don't remember if I have six or eight cans of green beans. Say, while you're here, can you reach that jar of Mt. Olive sweet pickle relish that's on sale? Thank you."
She handed me the jar and as I placed it in the cart I said something about what a pain it is to be so short, but when I turned she was already rounding the aisle's end cap at a full run.
The grocery trips are long, too, because I inevitably end up chatting with other customers. It's funny what will spark a conversation. Like the woman who, like me, is new to using coupons in earnest. She gave me her extra Bertolli's and I gave her a New York brand garlic bread. Could I have used the extra fifty cents off another box of garlicky Texas Toast? Of course! But we're not savages, you know. Give and take, people. Give and take.
I also find that I have to restrain myself from telling other shoppers to stop wasting their money, go home, get online and look at some Youtube videos about stockpiling and batch cooking, buy a few Sunday papers (be sure some hoarder hasn't swiped the coupon sections) and plan out their trips. They'll be amazed at what they save.
I've become such a convert. You know that line from A Christmas Story where Jean Shepard says "Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man." Well, I am now a Smart Source and Red Plum chick.
I will have to reign it in eventually. Chloe will be home for Spring Break in a couple of weeks and I don't think she'll appreciate having her room serve as a warehouse. There is a good chance that MathMan will clip my coupon wings before long.
Last night he called to let me know that he and Nate were on their way home from baseball practice. That's my cue to race around and make this house look like I've done something besides watch fetish videos and lie around watching movies with the cats. Yesterday was different. I was in the middle of creating inventory sheets for the small grocery store that's sprouted in the basement. I'd spent most of my day chasing deals all over Cartersville and was tired, but happy with my haul versus savings ratio.
Sophie was occupied so I decided I'd wait for MathMan in our bedroom and surprise him with the new homemade shampoo recipe I'd found online. I'd offer to help him unwind with a shower and well, you know. It would be a nice change from the boring old Hi, Honey, how was your day conversation we have every evening as I close window after window of Adult Friend Finder pop up ads. I got comfortable on the bed wearing the most alluring thing I had.
When he opened the door, you should have seen the look on his face.
"Well, this is a nice surprise," he smiled.
I did a Vanna White hand sweep along my naked thigh and gave him my best come on, baby smile. "You like?"
His eyebrows went up a fraction and he licked his lips. "You know I do. How nice to come home to a naked wife."
I blushed a little. "I thought we might have a shower." I'd save the shampoo surprise for after we were wet.
"Sounds wonderful." He moved closer and I closed my eyes, preparing to be kissed. "Hey," his voice was already taking on that husky tone. Nice.
I opened my eyes. "Yes?"
"What's this?" He fingered the thing I had draped around my neck. It snaked down along the length of my body.
"Oh, I thought you'd like this. It's something I got today." I closed my eyes again waiting for that kiss.
He leaned closer and I could smell the fresh air from the baseball field in his long hair. I was so ready for that kiss. He pulled back and I felt my new apparel slip away from my body as he tugged it. I opened my eyes again and looked at his handsome face which was now intent on examining the thing he held in his hands.
"Lisa, my darling, why are you wearing the Publix receipt?"
Please tell me you get absorbed and obsessed. What sucks you in and steals your time, your heart, your imagination? Confess to me or I'll make you clip coupons for me.