Sued51's Blog

{February 11, 2012}   Inexpensive Tips for Happy Kitties

Like most pet owners, I enjoy spoiling my kitties. They have countless toys, several beds and a kitty tower. Every time I go to the pet store I am tempted to buy them something else they don’t need. I have discovered two things they really like that are relatively inexpensive, and I thought I would share it with other pet owners.

I know there are some cats that like “free” stuff like paper bags or bread ties; mine are not that easy. I have spent countless dollars on toys that they have played with once or twice, which then end up in their “toy box” covered with dust.

Through trial and error, my husband and I discovered that their favorite toy is silk string. We bought a 3-pack at a craft store for under $4.00; it is supposed to be for jewelry-making. The kitties seem to like the feel of the string between their toes and in their mouths. They go crazy when we take it out!! Be sure to tie knots in the ends of the string to keep it from fraying completely and don’t leave the string around when you are not home to supervise.

My kitties also love flannel and polartec material for bedding. The large chain pet stores charge $10 to $20 for animal blankets. Some people use old towels; animal shelters are always looking for those. My mother used to get old baby blankets at the local Thrift stores for her dachshunds, which is fairly inexpensive, but I have found it cheaper to go to the fabric store and get remnants for less than $2. The kitties love the material. When we bought our cat “tree” they didn’t use it until I put a piece of flannel on the top platform. Now one of the kitties sleeps there all the time!

Lovin' my flannel blanket

The Massachusetts Tax-Free weekend is coming up; I will be working all weekend because the store I work for has high hopes that people will be anxious to spend their money.  But will they?

I participated in the first one, before the Recession.  It started out with anticipation and excitement.  My husband and I got up early with our list and took off in my month-old, new (used) pick-up truck.  We went to our first stop and bought a mailbox and a leaf blower.  We went to our second stop, a furniture consignment shop where we had been eyeing a couple of chairs.  We made a great deal and put the chairs in the back.  We picked up large ice coffees; we took back roads, smiling and enjoying the beautiful day with the windows part-way down and the radio on.  Suddenly a car coming the other way took a left in front of us, and the next thing I knew I was wearing ice coffee and choking on air bag dust.  I quickly forgot about no-tax day and our purchases; my truck was wrecked.  A policeman who responded to the accident picked up the mailbox and leaf blower and put them in the cab of the truck as it was towed away; it wasn’t until the next day we even thought about them.  My mother put the chairs in the trunk of her car when she came to pick us up.  Luckily, we only had minor injuries, but that was the end of our fabulous no-tax day spending.

This year, with my new frugal lifestyle, I’ll be out making money instead of spending it, and I’ll be happy about that.  I question whether the anticipated crowds will come.  Does saving 6.5% really encourage people to spend when they are watching every penny?  One of the supervisors I work with thinks people will come because they “like to screw the government.”  In tough times like these, I’m not sure that’s enough.  I don’t think I’m the only one who has learned the pleasures of not spending.

The closing of libraries has been in the news a lot recently.  Towns, cities, counties need to step up and work together to figure out a creative answer to this problem.  In this difficult economy, libraries are more important than ever to those out of work—a place to go to get out of the house, a place to do free research, a place to do online job searching for those without home computers.  With all the people out of work, how can local governments and talented people without jobs help each other?

I think it is unrealistic to expect these people to volunteer without something in return; they can’t afford the time away from job searching.  My mother works at the senior citizen center in her town.  She “volunteers” but also told me she receives a tax write-off.  Why can’t libraries do something similar?  With some training, the library could be mostly staffed with volunteers. 

My town usually has one book sale a year put on by the “Friends of the Library”— couldn’t there be more than one book sale a year? Aren’t there other ways to make money for the library?  People go to Starbucks and read the newspaper or use their computers there, while they have breakfast, as an inexpensive way to get out of the house.  Why can’t the library sell coffee or snacks to support it?  The library could have a Tassimo machine, which wouldn’t cost them that much to buy; a local bakery could supply the pastries. Why shouldn’t the library have a pleasant and comfortable area where it is permissible for people to have drinks or food?

My husband and I brainstormed about this one day. My husband brought up “BerkShares” ( ).  I thought it was a great concept, but it is not new.  BerkShares have been in circulation since 2006 with some success, but the concept has been used since the early 1900s.  Bartering services goes on through Craigslist and between local people but isn’t highly publicized.  Is it time to reconsider such an economic tool?

What about paying volunteers in local “currency” as pay for local services?  My town has to pay for trash bags…what about people being paid in “[your town] Bucks” for picking up trash or recycling and allowing them to use the local “bucks” to buy trash bags?  The small businesses that use this currency could be provided with some kind of monetary break (for example, a $1.00 BerkShare can be bought for $.95). This could help the unemployed by allowing them to trade their time for local services, help the cities and towns to accomplish goals, and increase the tendency of citizens to shop locally.

Spread the word; if your local government does not know about this, they should.

{March 7, 2010}   Do you get an allowance?

I never got an allowance when I was a kid.  Partly because we never had specific assigned chores, but also because we were all just expected to pitch in and do what was needed without being paid for it.  But I know there were a lot of kids who did; “back in the day” it was usually a quarter.

Now that we’re grown up, many of us still get a weekly allowance.  I remember having this discussion with my cribbage buddies; their wives took care of the bills and finances and they were provided with “spending money” for the week, the average amount was $20 — that was before the economy got bad. My husband jokes about the fact that as his salary has increased, his allowance has decreased.

Now that I’m unemployed I’m back to my childhood…no allowance.  I walk around with an empty wallet most of the time.  If I want to get to buy something unnecessary, I have to sell something, pick up cans and turn them in, or find and save change (Future blog: Mad Money).

{February 13, 2010}   Mall Walking

My husband and I get tired of using our fitness machines so we have started to walk at malls when it is too cold or rainy to walk outside.  I always thought this was a practice reserved for “old” people, but it is actually a good idea if you like to walk (as long as you leave the wallet and purse in the car).  There are lots of things to look at and they usually have piped-in music.  It is particularly pleasant when the mall is open, but when most of the stores are not: a lot more room and less people. The West Hills mall in Knoxville was great for that when we lived there–all one floor and really large. But the walking itself is not the topic of today’s blog; I wanted to talk about the number of empty storefronts.

Since we have returned to New England the mall walking is more important, but the choice of malls is not so good.  Most are smaller than in Knoxville; and many are two floors.  The other thing we have noticed is the number of empty stores — a lot more of them and not so many nice windows to look at.

MSN recently had an article about commercial real estate and how many commercial real estate loans are upside down, just like loans on homes.  Add to that the fact that consumers are not spending and I think we will see more and more empty storefronts.  What does that mean for the future of malls like Westgate in Brockton?  When the mall owners are bankrupt and they can’t upkeep the mall?  They lose more and more tenants as businesses go under or choose to move to other property, since there will be more and more to choose from. I wonder how many empty shells we’ll be left with in the future…not even good for walking anymore.

et cetera
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