Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Modern-day equivalent of finding coins in the couch cushions

Y'all, I've got this drawer full of credit cards. I surprisingly have pretty decent credit. I've never paid a bill 30 days or more late, so even though I don't have any cash flow, my credit is up there. So, banks that I have any sort of account with will send me credit cards, and credit cards that I don't carry a balance on will send me cards with bigger and bigger limits and shinier cards with holograms and cool names.

I usually toss these into the drawer, because I'm not about to start running up debt when I have no way to pay it off. Sometimes though, I need to go through the cards and figure out which one has the lowest interest rate, like when I need to call a repair person, or when I recently needed to hire a lawyer. While I've never been wealthy, back before The Stuff That Made This Blog Need To Be A Thing happened, I typically had an extra $500-$1000 or so in my checking account in case of emergency -- at least enough to be able to give someone a substantial down payment that showed them I was an employed adult who wasn't messing with them. 

So, yeah, following what we'll call The Stuff™, I have no money, but sometimes I run into these situations where I need to find a credit card with room on it. We have enough steady income to pay for housing, we find ways to get food and clothing and any other normal everyday things we need, but the barter system just doesn't work for most one-time services when you don't know someone in the business. So for the foreseeable future, until some things hopefully shift and we're able to work more, emergency expenses get paid for by the drawer o' cards.

So today, as I was looking through my file of cards to check some credit limits and interest rates, I decided it was also time to throw out the expired and the duplicates where they send you a fancier card for the same account to convince you to use it. Boy was I surprised to find several $5 and $10 gift cards to stores, and five $25 Visa gift cards! I checked these on the websites, thinking maybe I had tossed them in there with a couple dollars left on them, but found that they actually were unused. Who was this person who was so rich that they were just tossing perfectly good money into a drawer?

I do actually get how it happened though. A relative sends the Visa gift cards for adult birthdays and sends presents to the kids. In my not-completely-broke thinking over a few birthdays a few years ago, I decided it was greedy or self-absorbed or something to use them for expenses, and figured I needed to save them for something really nice that we wouldn't normally spend money on. Yeah, now I'm in a pretty different mindset. Those are going toward bills. And the store cards? Those were all ones that were handed out at events or sent to us as promotions. Again, in my pre-completely-totally-destitute thinking, I figured I would toss a $5 Home Depot card into a drawer until next time we wanted to make a home improvement purchase there. Now, I'm in a place where I'm like, holy crap, I can get $5 worth of cleaning supplies, or the paint brushes one of the kids needs for art class, instead of sitting here not buying those things because I'm trying to figure out how to pay bills. And all the Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts ones? That I was saving thinking I'd apparently buy myself fancy drinks? Those places have bagels and juice and stuff. These are going in my wallet for a free way to stop and grab dinner next time we're stuck out somewhere.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Things poor people do

Today we got a letter welcoming a family member to a program run through a local nonprofit, which requires participants to be low income. Without going into too many details, since it's a small, specialized program, I'll just say that it's something that has a great reputation and is no doubt going to be very helpful. 

I was reminded yet again of how society views me though when I saw that the welcome letter required all household members to sign an agreement that while on premises, we will refrain from harassment, assault, drugs, weapons, theft, and so forth. I should probably mention that this place is in the suburbs. And provides a number of services and programs. The other programs we've participated in at this place weren't exclusively for poor people, so they didn't have us sign any "be sure not to act ghetto" agreement. I mean, OK, I've worked in the nonprofit world enough that I get the reasoning behind having a signed agreement so you can kick people out as it becomes necessary. But could they really not have used the generic "abide by all rules and regulations" one-liner instead of needing to send us a detailed list of all the things poor people better make sure not to do? 

Friday, August 12, 2016

I seem to have a shitload of cucumbers

Cucumbers neatly lined up (bottle of free wine for scale)
So, I don't really know how growing stuff works, other than that you put seeds in dirt, water it, and it works maybe 50% of the time.

Apparently my cucumbers decided to do really well this year. We've been getting a harvest like this every couple of days. If you live on my street and wonder why there were cucumbers in your mailbox, you're welcome. Of course they had to go and do a lot better than the more versatile things we planted (squashes, tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, okra, collards...). Not that I'm complaining, but I have a feeling I'm going to end up spending more to buy things to use up the cucumbers than I saved by growing food myself.

All of us in Chez Scraper really like cucumbers, but the one downside is that is that most everything you can make with them is pretty much completely devoid of calories, which doesn't really work as an entire meal for kids. Cucumbers are not like most vegetables where you can make stir fries, pasta, burritos, etc. with them. A few weeks ago I made cucumber maki rolls, which was enough for a standalone meal. It still only used up one cucumber for the entire family though; they're mostly rice. We made cucumber/watermelon/basil/mint salad all from our garden, which was delicious but not an entire meal for growing kids, so we served it with some hummus, bread, and grilled veggies. We've done some salads with more substance to them too -- green salads with salad dressing and canned beans, and a salad of cucumbers/peppers/chickpeas/olives. This weekend I'll probably buy some grains that work with cold salads and do some of that. Or maybe I'll ask the internet how to make pickles? Hm, I wonder if you can make cucumber kimchi...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My free wine is here!

Does all this wine make me look like an adult?
The free wine showed up today. It took a week to get here from California with no shipping fee, so not bad at all. Oh, plus it was free; it could take a damn year to get here and that would be fine with me.

It comes via FedEx ground, and it's in a sturdy box with a convenient carrying handle. Being me, the first thing I thought was that this will be great for shipping fragile stuff I sell on eBay. It also occurred to me to sell the wine on eBay. But I digress.

For now, the wine is hanging out in my cabinet, making people think I'm the sort of person who owns wine that didn't come from Trader Joe's. Except that anyone who comes to my house clearly would know that that's not the case, and it must have been free or a gift or something. Once this wine has done its job of making me more and more classy and refined just just by existing in my living space, I probably will use the stash to have something nice to take to friends' houses and whatnot. If any of my friends are reading this, rest assured that the wine I will bring over to your house will be custom-selected for you and your event, and any similarity to the free wine is entirely coincidental.

They spelled wine wrong
I cancelled the Club W membership once the wine arrived. It was super easy to do. You can even do it over the text chat feature on the website without having to use the phone. Of course there was a tiny bit of pressure to keep the service, but the gentleman I spoke with (Ameer) was understanding and professional.

BTW, the free wine offer is still up on Swagbucks for anyone who hasn't ordered theirs yet. At the risk of sounding gimmicky, go order yours now, because it probably won't be up for long.

EDIT: FYI, the wine deal is now under "featured ways to earn" as of Wednesday

Lots of stacked coupon deals at Stop and Shop right now

$32.73 for everything you see here
Stop and Shop has certainly been making the stacked deals easier lately. So, if you haven't already done this, you can go to their website and register your Stop and Shop card, and then you can load coupons onto it. This is a feature they've had for a while. Over the past couple of months though, they've been featuring the same coupons that has. This means you can use the Stop and Shop card and the paper coupon together, resulting in twice the savings (or 3x if the coupon is 99 cents or less).

At the moment, many of these same coupons are also on SavingStar. Depending on the price of the item, it can be free or close to free after you use all three coupons on one item. Some examples that are currently active:

General Mills Tiny Toast cereal:
rings up as $3.00 (on sale until Friday, normal price $3.99)
-$1.00 Stop and Shop coupon
-$1.00 paper coupon
-$1.00 SavingStar rebate =
...come on, you can do the math here. Free cereal, beeotch!

Cascadian Farms Granola:

Same price, same coupons, same deal. Also free!  

Other cereals had higher shelf prices or smaller coupons, so they ended up being 50 cents or a dollar per box. 

Old El Paso vegetarian refried beans:

rings up as $0.74 (they're being discontinued at S&S, usually $1.69) x 3 = $2.22
-$1.00 on any three items Stop and Shop coupon
-$1.00 on any three items paper coupon
-$1.00 on any three items SavingStar rebate
= -$0.78 for the three cans

Note: They only had one can on the shelf, so I ended up getting two 99-cent taco seasonings and the one can, so it was -$0.28 instead of -$0.78. Still, um, I'd say that's a good deal.

Totino's Pizza Rolls (big package):

3/$10 (on sale until Friday, usually $5.19 each)
-$0.75 off of three Stop and Shop coupon
-$0.75 off of three coupon
-$0.75 doubled coupon
-$0.75 SavingStar rebate
= 3 large packages of pizza rolls for $7.00 instead of $15.57

Purex laundry detergent 150oz:

I did this over two trips, so there are only two bottles shown, but here's how to get the best deal:

On sale for $5.99 (on sale until Friday, usually $9.99)
Bought three of them, used three dollar-off coupons from their website
SavingStar rebate: $5 off $25 purchase (it goes by the full price, not the sale price)
SavingStar rebate: $1 off any Purex purchase (it will credit both rebates)
Pay $14.97, get $6 back
= $8.97 instead of $29.97 for three jugs of detergent

Oh, and I'll earn $1.50 wotth of Swagbucks for the 15 coupons that I printed through the Swagbucks site. It takes 2-3 months for them to credit, but since I regularly use coupons from there, I see the deposits showing up regularly. Total of $32.73 includes SavingStar rebate, iBotta rebate, and Swagbucks.

Have I mentioned that the cat is an asshole?! I may need to make a label for that.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Because I didn't have enough of these pyramid scheme things going on

It's fine, but I'm just not finding it as exciting as these folks are
On the advice of some people on Reddit, I'm trying out EarnHoney now. Folks there are saying that it makes more money passively than Perk TV or Swagbucks TV, so I'm going to try running it on the computer that sits around being mostly unused. It seems to use less processor power do a lot less freezing and crashing than the Perk TV website does, so maybe it will earn more. Oh, and they offer $5 PayPal payouts for the same amount of points bucks honeys? same exchange rate as $5 Amazon gift cards; the other sites all charge more for PayPal or other same-as-cash redemption.

On that topic, thank you to everyone who is signing up for these sites using my referral links! It's helping me out immensely. To find them, just click on Swagbucks, PerkTV, etc. in my labels sidebar and find the posts where I include my referral links. Or comment and I'll reply.

Is it bad that I looked on Craigslist to see what there was in the way of free computers? And, naturally, I found people giving away computers that are newer and faster than my 10-year-old steam-powered laptop. It's tempting, but we live in a pretty small space, and I really don't have anywhere to put a computer farm that wouldn't be cluttering up our living space, especially since what I'm finding are towers with CRT monitors. If anyone knows anything about phones though, I would be open to setting up some phones to run Perk apps. I don't really understand what the specs on phones mean and what would be necessary to run the apps. All I know is that my five-year-old iPhone will run it, and an even older iPod I have will run it for a bit and then crash, but even those aren't worthless enough that anyone is giving them away. It sounds like from Reddit that people are using various Android phones that they're getting for free or a few dollars, but knowing me, I'd get something that won't actually run it.

If you want to show your appreciation for my getting you hooked on these gift card apps, e-mail or comment and explain phones to me! 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fake Korean food for about 50 cents per person

I improvised this dinner tonight. I call it "a bunch of stuff I needed to use up, plus hot sauce." Each plate has half a packet of instant ramen, 1/4 of a block of tofu, one egg, and a bunch of vegetables from Fair Foods. The dozen eggs were 25 cents using stacked coupons. I used some hot sauce I got for free with coupons, soy sauce I got for 25 cents with coupons, and some sweet chili sauce from Trader Joe's. It would have been better with kimchi and actual Korean chili sauce, but was pretty delicious nonetheless.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Another meal for a buck or two

I forgot to snap a picture until they were mostly gone
Here's tonight's dinner, which I tossed together with some stuff from Fair Foods and a few things I had in the pantry. It probably cost about two dollars for everything.

I make these potato wedges quite often. They're ridiculously easy; I just chop up a potato, toss with Goya Adobo, paprika, and dill. Then place on a greased baking sheet and cook at the same temperature as your other stuff (usually around 350-400) until soft and slightly browned. You can also toss with flour to give them a bit more of a skin, but I didn't bother. They're really just vessels for condiments anyway, right? I served them with a variety of condiments (obviously) and some veggie burgers made using my usual recipe that I've mentioned here before. The potato wedges were made using potatoes from Fair Foods (part of a bag of about 20 lbs of produce acquired for $2) and spices I had in the cabinet, so they cost maybe 10 cents for a batch large enough for the whole family.

The veggie burgers cost probably a dollar or less to make about 12 of them. It's the recipe I've talked about before -- equal parts cooked steel-cut oats and equal parts black beans cooked until they're basically like refried beans, then mixed with desired seasonings, formed into patties, and baked or pan-fried. The buns are a bit sad-looking, but they were 66 cents for a bag of eight of them at Stop and Shop, so I can't complain. I opened them up and tossed them in the oven for about five minutes to toast them, which always helps cheap white bread. I sauteed some onions and mushrooms, also from Fair Foods, to put on the burgers for those who wanted them.

We also had some corn, also from the Fair Foods haul. A friend of mine recently taught me the method of putting them in the oven still in the husks and baking them for 20-30 minutes. It's much easier than my usual method of indoor-corn-cooking, in which I basically try to grill it except in frying pan or in the oven. I do like corn better if it's slightly grilled, but this was just fine and it was so easy to just stick it in the oven and leave it there until it was done.

And you know how I said the cat is an asshole? These pictures were taken with me sitting a foot away from the cat, trying to shove the cat off the table. See how effective it was? See how afraid and remorseful the cat looks? See how much the cat cares about anything other than corn right now? Yeah. Be on the lookout soon for posts about how to sell cats on eBay. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Stuff I've learned from eBay

1) A disproportionate number of you people are named Colleen and Nicole. I've sold about 50 things, and there have been four Colleens and six Nicoles. Why?

2) Sometimes there are people on eBay who do shit like, let's say they live in Brunei, they have an extensive purchase history on the U.S. eBay site, they win an auction, then they apparently had no idea that shipping a huge item to Brunei is extremely expensive and figured it could just magically be shipped for a few dollars instead of several hundred. Hypothetically speaking of course. 

3) eBay people are often able to write in normal human-type English when they message you with questions and shipping info and so forth, but then when they go to leave feedback, become possessed and can only write things like A++++ GREAT WOW SELLER YES YES PERFECT A-OK THANX DOORKNOB ANKLE COLD

4) Rather than stuffing each package into the mail chute at the post office, you can just bust up to the front of the line and ask for one of them bins the people with businesses put their mail in. SCUSE ME SCUSE ME I GOT OFFICIAL POSTAL BUSINESS YO. 

5) It's totally random what does and doesn't sell. Some of my stuff that's way underpriced is hanging out for weeks getting no bids, and some stuff is going for more than it would cost to just order it from the place it was purchased. I suspect people are addicted the auction/winning aspect and it feels better to have gotten a $5 item for a dollar plus $6 shipping than to order it from Target with free shipping. And I'm going to continue taking advantage of this dynamic, because I need money, and at least the stuff is going to someone who can use it instead of in the trash. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Four bottles of wine for negative three bucks

There's an offer on Swagbucks right now where if you click through and buy four bottles of wine for $32 (four $13 bottles, $20 discount applied, free shipping applied), you get 3200 Swagbucks. You can redeem 2200 Swagbucks for $25 in Amazon gift cards and 1000 Swagbucks for $10 in Amazon gift cards, which means you pay $32 for four bottles of not-cheap wine and $35 in Amazon gift cards.

The wine site is a subscription service that wants you to buy wine every month, but the fine print says there is no obligation or penalty for cancelling right after you place the first order or skipping your purchase every month.

Go to the front page of Swagbucks and the offer will be right there. Or if you don't see it, look under the "Discover" tab. The offer looks like this:

And of course, if you don't have Swagbucks yet, sign up using my link, and I'll get some Swagbucks from your free wine adventures too.