Sunday, May 30, 2010

More Ideas

Actually, writing a blog is part of my grand financial scheme, just not in relation to advertising. I signed up for “monetize this blog” but it's kind of funny. They won't even tell you how much you get paid, just that it's based on (1) per thousand views and (2) people actually clicking through the ads AND actually buying something. Number (2) seems quite unlikely and since (1) is probably pennies per thousand, I'll probably be 94 before I hit that first $100 (at which point they actually notify you that you got there).

No, my plan is much more nefarious!

I write this blog, see, and I catch the attention of an agent or editor or publisher out there. And they decide to turn my blog into a book. And then they decide to turn the book into a movie (at which point they can embellish in any way they like because my life is truly much too boring to warrant a movie adaptation).

Sounds far-fetched, I know. But hey! It worked for that Julie and Julia woman. Seriously, who would have thought??

In the meantime, as long as I have the attention of a publisher, I can then pitch them my real book, a fabulous novel which languishes on the floor in the corner of my bedroom, because apparently writing is the easy part... just try getting someone to actually look at what you've written!

Then they'll see how great my book is, offer me a book deal, and all my financial worries will be over. To be replaced by all new worries...

While I wait for my future to arrive, I've decided to start working on yet another book. Recently I read The Giver, The Hunger Games, City of Ember, and Uglies, all books of speculative fiction. (I just learned that phrase. “Speculative fiction.” Of course, the ultimate example of that is probably the amazing The Road.)

All of these books are targeted at the young adult market. They are all good. And I suddenly realized that they all followed a set formula. I actually sat down and charted it out. Dysfunctional society. An isolated post-apocalyptic community. Powerless or evil adults. A teen hero or, more likely, heroine. A younger child who must be saved. A social order which must be overthrown. A trilogy to do it in.

And I thought, I can do that!

So I actually sat down and started creating my own formulaic dysfunctional world. No, not the one I already occupy. Ha ha. A fictional one. And what I came up with is actually quite good, if I do say so myself. So now my goal is to write the book this summer.

I am informed by the children's book agent who lives up the street (Cathy's best friend's father, so the poor man actually has to listen to me whenever I come up with a new idea!) that young adult is the only category that's actually selling right now, given the economy.

And you thought I had no ideas for how to pay off that credit card debt...

Okay, I've got one more I've been kicking around for a while now. I wait until the kids are out of the house, then I live in my car for a couple of years until I'm debt-free. That'd work.

I think I'd rather write the book, though...

Another $100 Idea

Here's another way I could earn $100. I could start a blog. And in that AMAZON blog I could plant certain GERARD BUTLER buzz words that would show up on NETFLIX search engines so that it would be more PEOPLE MAGAZINE likely that people would find my blog and read AVATAR it and then they would see the ads and maybe even click RUSSELL CROWE on them and that might PAPA JOHNS generate some revenue.


That'd never work...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

$100 Ideas

It may seem like I don't have any more ideas for how to acquire those elusive $100... 200 times. But I do!! Here are some of them:

I'm awaiting a $175 refund on a Calvert School Discoveries in Reading Kit that Cathy just had to have two years ago, but that went unread.

I am pursuing a $600 reimbursement from United Health Care for speech therapy services which, two years in, they decided were no longer covered. Yeah, I know. Good luck with that.

I have that Austrian coin to sell! I just have to find a coin dealer or some place on-line to post it. It would help if I could figure out how my digital camera works. I mean, I know how it works. I just can't figure out how to get the pictures into the computer.

When the price of silver goes up, I'm going right back to Tiffany so she can surprise me with whatever it is she decides to offer me then.

A few days ago I received a notification in the mail of a class action suit against United Health Care. (Couldn't happen to a nicer insurance company, let me tell you.) $50 reimbursement for every year that I was a member during a 16-year stretch. I was a member during all of them! Yay! Lucky me! So that'll be $800, eventually. Perhaps by the end of the year.

Then I've looked around the house for things to sell. Sometimes the price has actually gone up. Cathy is ready to part with Butterscotch, her FurReal Pony; the price has actually gone up for that. She's also done with her drum set. Those are both $300 items. Of course, the money for that will be hers. But it turns out that my $300 LEGO Statue of Liberty, that I bought for myself on Mother's Day shortly after we moved to Disney World in February of 2003 is now selling for $3,997.97 new on Amazon. (Wish I'd left it in the box!) So now I've listed it on Amazon. The link is above. Mine is the one trying to convince you to buy it for $1,499.99 even though it's missing two pieces. And the box. And the instructions are crumpled. But, hey, maybe some business out there wants one to stick in their window before the Fourth of July. And it's a bargain compared to the “new” price. You never know.

Somewhere in the garage I have 200 Susan B. Anthony dollars which I acquired over 20 years ago thinking that they'd be worth something someday. They're not.

Slowly but surely, I'll get there. I just have to keep telling myself that!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The West Wing

The West Wing is available today only for $99.99 at Amazon. Why, oh why, do I even check “today's deals”???

Nope. I'm not gonna do it. This is no way to get ahead. Besides, that's what Netflix is for. Only truly mandatory series need to be purchased anymore, like Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek and Melrose Place.

I love The West Wing. And to think I didn't even know that I needed it until I just decided not to buy it...

Yoga Girl

I finally ate breakfast at 10am. I wasn't even hungry. Eating an entire pizza the day before will do that to you.

This is not who I am! Okay, well, maybe it is. But this is not who I want to be! In my mind's eye, I am Yoga Girl. Svelte. Healthy. Strong. Flexible. Young. (Hey, a girl can dream...)

Speaking of which, when I dream of Russell Crowe, does that mean he dreams of me?

And for you men out there in the studio audience, I believe it was Kevin Nealon who said (and I paraphrase): If I could have dinner with anyone in history, I would have dinner with Brad Pitt, so I could ask him, “Dude! Do you still look at other women?”

I'll give you a minute to let that one sink in.

Self-Control ... or lack thereof

I read somewhere that it's physically impossible to get a grip on your weight and your finances simultaneously; the human psyche just doesn't have that much self-restraint. Although it's obviously possible to blow both your budget and your diet simultaneously. Life is so unfair.

Last Wednesday was Cathy's best friend's birthday party. I hung out with the parents, talking endlessly. As a stay-at-home mother of two, I long ago developed the habit of talking to other adults I happen upon for as long as they are willing to talk to me. Unfortunately, all of this talking took place in front of a luscious-looking chocolate cake.

Now normally my self-restraint is actually admirable. While my weight isn't where I'd like it to be (whose is?) and I definitely overindulge at times, here is a list of what, for one reason or another, I usually don't eat:

dairy (not counting eggs)

I also minimize sugar, drink neither soda nor alcohol or even coffee, and, oh yeah, I have this acid reflux thing going, so I also can't really eat garlic, onions, Mexican food, tomato products, or even jam. Very sad.

Long story short, I sat in front of the cake too long. Two pieces later (gluten! dairy! chocolate! sugar!), I made my way back home and continued my downward spiral. I am the food equivalent of an alcoholic. Once I step off that wagon, everything goes and I just eat and eat and eat all the things I normally don't eat (except for meat; I'm a staunch vegetarian; well, and garlic—it's just too painful) until my body screams “STOP!”

I gained 6 and ½ pounds in 8 days.

Even my face looks fat. My knees are complaining and the bottoms of my feet hurt from the pressure of the extra weight.

Seriously. The last time I gained 6 or 7 pounds rapidly, my hips started hurting so badly that I went to see the doctor. He said I had developed an overuse injury. You know, like athletes get. Only I got mine by dragging the extra weight up and down the stairs of my house... Did you know that for every extra pound of lard, the pressure on your joints increases by four pounds?

And all of this after having been “good” for all of 2010 so far. Sigh. I am looking back longingly to the day (nine days ago!) when my biggest dietary vice was an occasional indulgence in gluten-free animal crackers.

I have got to climb back on that wagon. If I can haul myself back up.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vegan Desserts ... or not ...

Tonight I took Cathy to karate. While there, I alternated between reading through a vegan baking book and ogling the hot guest instructor (who may be approximately my age and may even be single). He'll be gone next week and back the following week, so I'll be ogling again on that Tuesday... I wonder if I can lose 10 pounds in 12 days? ...

Now, I raised my kids vegetarian, but I'm being dragged kicking and screaming toward this vegan thing. Maryanne has already pronounced herself vegan, and Cathy is well on her way. I finally mastered vegetarian gluten-free cooking and baking... now I have to make it vegan, too???

Anyway, so I was looking through this book on vegan baking for ideas. Like how to replace eggs when baking chocolate chip cookies. And butter.

Then I came across this great four-ingredient recipe for chocolate mousse, relying heavily on tofu.

In the car on the way home, I enthused to Cathy about this recipe.

“We can make vegan chocolate mousse!” I declared.

“Chocolate moose?” she responded. “In what universe is chocolate moose vegan???”

Thought for the Day

Thought for the day: You know you're out of shape when you have to stop and sit down to rest halfway through your yoga.

I muddled through, somehow, then consoled myself by making another phone call to Papa Johns.

PAPA JOHN'S, are you listening??? In the unlikely event that your Internet searches pick up on my blog, there weren't enough mushrooms on my pizza. And there weren't enough last time, either. For the record, when I say that I want “triple mushroom and pineapple”, that does NOT mean that I want three slivers of mushroom and one piece of pineapple on each slice of pizza!

All Things Avatar

Big day yesterday. We finally finished Avatar AND I finally started Anthill.

First things first. Avatar. A number of people have asked me what I think of Avatar, so here it is. First you should know that as a single mother of two, the “two” part has effectively kept me from going to the movies for years. (I'm not going to name any names here, but you know who you are!) Sure, I catch the occasional Ice Age movie and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but for “adult” viewing, I have to wait until it comes out on Netflix.

Sadly, by that time a movie like Avatar has gotten so overhyped that I'm expecting it to truly blow me away. I had the same experience with James Cameron's Titanic movie (although I seriously heart all things Terminator!): not a bad movie, but by the time I finally get to see it, I'm really expecting SO much more.

So. Avatar. We've got Sigourney Weaver as a tough woman (Alien) and a hot young white man who meets a native (Pocahantas) and decides that her world is better than his (Dances with Wolves). The natives are blue (Smurfs), and James Cameron has created a whole world (all of Star Wars and much of Star Trek), including the flora and fauna and language (Klingon) in which the natives ride dinosaur-era winged creatures (the Prison Break guy in Dinotopia) and all of life is interconnected (Gaia; Isaac Asimov). Our hero must save the world (done many times, except that this time the world to be saved is not Earth) and become like his girl (Splash, City of Angels). While I agree that no film like this can possibly be complete without the presence of Sigourney Weaver, I do have to ask the obvious question: Where was Jeff Goldblum?

The hype coupled with my ancient (let's call it “classic”) TV made me less impressed with the movie than I probably would have been had I seen it on a large screen without months of hype. My TV, which is not as old as my car, was nonetheless bought during my marriage, so it's at least 8 or 10 years old. There's this one six-inch round spot on the television where if the lighting is just wrong, the actor's skin looks blue. Fortunately, this was not a problem while watching Avatar.

While typing this entry, I accidentally typed “Dances with Aliens”. In retrospect, I think that about sums it up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Back to the Jewelry Store

So I went to the jewelry store. Again. Tiffany was out today, so Gwen helped me. (The word “helped” may be a bit strong.) Apparently, they are in the process of opening a third location. That's a third jewelry store location, not counting their paint ball business.(!) Images of Leonard and Sheldon and the gang spring to mind.

I took with me two pairs of gold hoop earrings and another small clump of earrings and the like, all from my former mother-in-law. I also took along a thin gold necklace that was hopelessly tangled. Other than the earrings and the necklace, I hadn't taken any of the items in before. But based on my luck with the QVC earrings, I was optimistic.

Falsely optimistic. It turns out that all the other stuff was gold-plated and from Avon. Worthless, at least in terms of selling it for gold.

The fun didn't end there. Gwen weighed the two pairs of earrings and the tangled gold necklace and offered me $29... although, oddly, in the next minute or two the price fluctuated between $29 and $35. But when Tiffany had weighed everything a few days before (when the price of gold was actually slightly less), she had offered me $47.75 for just one pair of earrings. Admittedly, Gwen did seem to be struggling with the electronic scale. But when I asked what formula she was using to calculate the price, there was a lot of hum-ing and ha-ing and no clear answer. My confidence in this business is rapidly spiraling downward.

Once again, I went home empty-handed, contemplating on the short drive home at what point I would have spent more in gas money driving pointlessly back and forth to the jewelry store than they were ever going to give me.

I am never going to make it to my first $100!!!


$1213 at 11:22am!

The Price of Gold

Gold has already gone up $7 today, to $1211 an ounce! And it's only 9:30am!

Of course, if I try to time my trip to the jewelry store just right, I'll make myself crazy.

Goofing Off

So the last two nights I finally could have started reading my book. But did I? No.

The first night, Maryanne and I watched Avatar, until she suddenly announced that she still had homework, right after the tree was destroyed! I tried to coax her into watching more, but she left. We have kind of a Susan-Julie relationship from Desperate Housewives.

Me (whining): “Skip school tomorrow! We can go to a theme park!”

Her: “I'm going to school!”

I'm a diehard homeschooler, and I just can't get used to this idea of rigidly going to school five days a week. In a row! So then Cathy and I go themeparking on our own.

Anyway, after Avatar Interruptus, I played Tetris on my Gameboy (I still have the original model, which I bought back in 1991!), then read Baby Blues. And then it was time for bed.

The second night, I watched the entire two-hour series finale of 24. I was sure Jack was going to die and all that movie talk was just blowing smoke. But he lived. I'm glad. But I did think they wrapped it up a bit too neatly. Then I played my favorite game on Neopets, Slushie Slinger, which is only available at Altador Cup time, which is now! And then it was time for bed again.

The worst part is that with all the drama about having to stop watching Avatar, I forgot to tape Big Bang. So now I have to watch that on-line.

Meanwhile, I find myself following the price of gold for the first time ever. It just topped $1200 an ounce again. I'm going to try to make it over there to sell our little pile today.

The Magazines Revisted

Remember the purge? The magazines I dropped off on the neighbor's porch? Funny story, that.

I've had a feud with the husband in that household for a while now; he runs an alleged handyman business. Let's just say that two or three hundred dollars bought me a hole in the side of my house and a plumbing repair that I had to pay a real plumber to come back and redo. The hole in the side of my house? That's still there. The neighbor (let's call him “Eric” because that's his name) promised repeatedly to come back and fix the hole. But he never did, and I finally told him to forget it. But that doesn't mean I'm not pissed off about it.

So I dropped off the magazines. For his wife. The next morning, I found the following illiterate e-mail in my inbox:

“Rose, I have crossed you off my List per your request, leave us alone your are not Welcomed on our porch, stay away from us you are not our friend or neighbor, your smart enough to get it , leave me and my family alone. Eric”

There's a list?

Never mind the fact that I made no such request. Never mind the fact that we are neighbors, his assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. (I can see his house as I type.)

I wrote him back: “You are an ass.”

Oddly, he didn't answer. I was sort of hoping he would. You know, something like: “And you are a bitch.”

So I could have written back: “Only when properly motivated.”

But he didn't write me back, so he deprived me of the pleasure. Maybe he didn't write me back because he realized that he's illiterate.

Oh, and they kept the magazines.

Jewelry Sort

Yesterday, I sat down with the girls and sorted through all of my jewelry. The junk. The good stuff. The really good stuff. The really really good stuff.

I gave them a great deal of jewelry, but none of the really good stuff. They can have some of that after they prove to me that they are responsible with the good stuff.

Lately, I've been on a quest to get Maryanne to take off her earrings before showering. Mind you, these are not the little studs you get at first. They are pearl earrings! But she's sixteen and I'm her mother so I'm stupid. Well, obviously she's not going to get the really good stuff until she's proven that she's going to take good care of what I've already parted with.

They don't get the really really good stuff until I'm dead. Like Charlton Heston. They can have my pearl necklace when they can pry it from my cold dead neck.

We also made a pile to sell to Tiffany. Mostly, the stuff to be sold is from my former mother-in-law. Ah, the guilt!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Anti-Hoarding Day, Redux

So I purged. A little. The task was too huge to complete in one day.

For openers, my room contained 6 Parade magazines (straight into recycling), 4 Psychology Today magazines (into a box for Maryanne to take with her on an upcoming trip to see relatives in Germany who will be interested in them), 8 issues and 5 magazine-length inserts from Prevention (into a box for a neighbor to take to the waiting room at the hospital where she works)--and 41 Men's Health magazines.


When exactly did I think I was going to get to those?!?

So I pulled out the magazine that had Gerard Butler on the cover, then packed up a large stack for the same neighbor, carried the box over to her house, and stuck it in front of her door. I still have a sizable pile left. I just couldn't carry that much. Besides, the rest of the Men's Health magazines have Celiac Disease magazines piled on top of them. Sigh. Forgot about those.

My dustbuster nearly gave up the ghost, cleaning up the areas where those magazines had been.

And all those magazines were getting in the way of what I really wanted to read: the new novel Anthill by E.O. Wilson.

And then there was the newspaper pile. I'd forgotten about the newspaper pile! A few weeks ago, when I wasn't feeling well, I took a pile of newspapers to my room to read on my bed. Just the good stuff. I have a system with the newspaper. First, I sift out all the junk, like the ads and the Sports section. Then I read the front page and local news sections, usually during breakfast. Then I “save” the good section. Style. Comics. Dear Abby. Health news. Recipes. All the fun stuff. It's my favorite section. Sadly, often I don't get back to it. So then I end up with a pile of my favorite sections, unread! … I do the same thing with food. I save the best-looking piece of pizza for last. By the time I get to it, I'm already full. But in the case of pizza, I eat it anyway!

I also removed seven overdue library books from my room (hey! they might have contained useful information!) and piled them by the front door. They'll go back tomorrow when I take Cathy to karate; the library is right next door. That leaves only two more overdue library books. Well, that and the seven I had to check out in Maryanne's name since my account was on hold because of all the overdue books. But I still need those! I mostly got them so I could figure out what to feed my freshly-minted vegan.

On other fronts, I spoke with three separate neighbors about taking in the handsome young Italian man. (Okay, so I don't actually know that he's young or handsome, but I'm letting my imagination wander.) No luck.

Anti-Hoarding Day

I proclaim today Anti-Hoarding Day.

Last night, I was lying in bed thinking about the piles of magazines scattered throughout my room and decided to do something about it. I mean, two years ago I didn't even know Prevention magazine existed, but now it is so important that I can't just pitch the 10 or 12 issues I haven't even cracked open.

That article about hoarding that I mentioned earlier discussed this:

“The second most frequent motive for saving is a fear of losing important information. Many hoarders describe themselves as information junkies who save newspapers, magazines, brochures, and other information-laden papers. They keep stacks of newspapers and magazines so that when they have time, they will be able to read and digest all the useful information they imagine to be there. Each newspaper contains a wealth of opportunities, and discarding it means losing those opportunities. For such people, having the information near at hand seems crucial, whereas knowing that the information also exists on the Internet or in a library does little to help them get rid of their out-of-date papers. Hoarders are often intelligent and curious people for whom the physical presence of information is almost an addiction.” (The article is located at the link above.)

That scared the hell out of me. So from now on new rule: When the next issue of a magazine comes in, the previous issue goes out. No questions. End of story.

This is not a small problem at my house. I subscribe to the following magazines, in the order in which they are most likely to be read:

TV Guide
The Week
Vegetarian Times
Men's Health
Science Illustrated
National Geographic
and, of course, Parade magazine in the newspaper

The girls also get:

Nintendo Power
Fun On-line Games
American Girl
various publications from the American Psychology Assn

I used to subscribe to Mental Floss and Psychology Today, but I didn't renew the subscriptions because I just wasn't getting to them. Mind you, that doesn't mean that I threw out the issues I haven't yet read!

Magazines have become a huge problem for me. I find myself aggressively reading through magazines, trying to “catch up” with my piles, at the expense of reading the books I actually want to read. (Yes, I have piles of those, too.)

So today I shall purge. And feel good about it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Collecting my Cash

I went out to the garage and got an empty Viactiv container from back when we used to take Viactiv vitamins and calcium chews, before we decided that the irony of our vitamins containing partially hydrogenated oils was just too much to bear.

Anyway, I had saved a number of these containers because I thought they might come in handy for future craft projects. Pencil holders or something.

Oh, God. I really am a hoarder!!

Now I have several of them lined up on my kitchen counter. One for Boxtops for Education. One for used batteries. And now one for my first $81.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Starting Point

Where to start, where to start...

Well, I live at Disney World, so I could collect 100 fast passes and sell them on eBay for $100... No kidding. People actually pay top dollar for expired fast passes. I tried collecting them once, but it was too much of a hassle. Besides, since I didn't really want to go out of my way, I ended up with a whole bunch of fast passes to the Norway ride and the Winnie the Pooh ride and that was about it. I threw them away. Well, maybe I'll try again.

I decide to start with my garage. I have some Franklin Planner storage binders that have been getting on my nerves ever since I decided to stop using Franklin Planners or, as my ex Dan puts it, ever since I “left the cult”.

We homeschool, and in the state of Florida you are required to keep a written record of instruction and books read contemporaneously with instruction. Franklin Planners seemed perfect for that because of the extra blank page that went with every day. But as the years went by, I found that I had occasional bursts of excellent record keeping that would last for a few weeks, interspersed with many months of blank pages. I actually kept blank pages for years past in the unlikely event I ever got audited; I would have had two weeks to go back and make it up.

But I'm over it. My eldest is at a local magnet school now, and my youngest is doing all of her schooling on-line at Florida Virtual School. Besides, even if I did get audited and The State discovered my shoddy record keeping, I would get a year to pull it together. So, if I ever have to, I'll get efficient then. Besides, I found that meticulous record keeping really interferes with homeschooling. The more time you waste on organizational nonsense, the less time you spend on actual schoolwork.

So I'm over it. I'm going to sell these storage binders! My “$100 200 times” quest coincides with another current obsession: decluttering. Ever since I read an article on hoarding, I fear that I am in the beginning stages of becoming a hoarder. But I don't really think I'm a hoarder as much as I just can't seem to get it together to get my house clean and make it through my magazine piles. I mean, if my magazine piles count as hoarding, then the hairballs and dust on my living room floor should count, too. I don't think I'm a hoarder. Yet. I think I'm just inefficient and tired. But I'm not taking any chances!

So I post the Franklin Planner storage binders in the “Sell” forum on my town's website. I live in Celebration, the town that Disney built right on the property. And we have our own website. So I post the binders there, even though I've never managed to sell anything on the “Sell” forum. It's a long shot, but it's less of a pain than taking photos and dealing with eBay.

Then I decide to see if there is anything to this “Sell Your Gold” craze that seems to be sweeping the country, since gold is at an all-time high. I sift through my jewelry collection. I'm a really boring jewelry-wearer. All I ever wear is this pair of pearl earrings that I've probably had for twenty years or more.

But my mother had a long-time boyfriend who dabbled in jewelry and my mother was always really into jewelry (still is), so for every birthday and Christmas for many years, I got jewelry. Also, my former mother-in-law, an avid QVC shopper, has sent me jewelry for every occasion ever since Dan and I got married... And she still does, even though we've been divorced nearly eight years! I've assured her that I will save everything for her two granddaughters.

So I sort through my jewelry. Everything I really like or that might be worth any real money, I keep at home. That, along with the junk jewelry, is about two-thirds of my collection. I put the rest in a Target bag. Then I hit the silver silverware. Over thirty years ago, my grandmother started a silverware set for me. She bought me one piece at a time. I have all kinds of soup spoons and butter knives and salad forks, but not one complete set. After I got married, I tried to find out how much it would cost to complete my silverware set, only to discover that it would be cheaper to buy an entire set ($1500) than to purchase the missing pieces. So I did nothing.

My grandmother died nearly two years ago at the ripe old age of 94. She was a Nazi til the day she died. I don't mean that in a mean, descriptive way. I mean, she was really a Nazi. This is a very difficult thing to deal with. How do you like your grandma, knowing she has the most reprehensible possible politics? I don't even like to think about it. Too hard to wrap my head around.

Anyway, so I take all of my stuff to the local jewelry store. I promised myself that I would sell nothing on that trip, only get prices. Gold was at $1209 an ounce. Turns out that silver was only at $19 an ounce.

$353.17 for the silverware set. My grandmother must have paid ten times that much. Guilt won't allow me to sell that low. I was raised with the firm belief that you don't give away (let alone sell!) gifts. Hence the hoarder fears. That kind of attitude eventually really lends itself to crap accumulation. Like the cactus-shaped tortilla chip serving dish a friend once gave me. One of my kids saw it once and really liked it, so now I'm really torn. Get rid of it or save it for my child, who will then acquire really bad taste?

My wedding rings (yes, I still have them!), $39.38. A gold ring with a rose on it, $24.12. In fact, item after item came out as worth a mere fraction of what I would have thought. Necklaces and bracelets were tossed together into a 14K clump and weighed altogether. $450.16. Not bad, but I wasn't going to sell all of them!

There were only three items that really surprised me:

1)Turns out that the QVC jewelry from my former mother-in-law was really worth something. Who knew?

2)There was a small sheet of gold that I must have gotten from my mother's boyfriend. (“Cool! Can I have it?”) It was small, but Tiffany, the aptly-named jewelry store owner, tested it, and it was solid gold. $81.64.

3)There was an Austrian coin. Thin. Gold. Tiffany actually called someone, then immediately offered me $270.33 for the coin. When all was said and done, she got back to that coin and pressured me to “lock in the price”. That raised some red flags.

Back home, I researched my coin (also a gift from my grandmother) on the Internet. It was hard to find, but when I did, it was selling for $685. So much for trusting Tiffany.

I decided to spend a day or two thinking about it before selling any of my jewelry. Among other things, I wanted to show individual pieces to my girls before making any binding decisions.

In the meantime, I got two responses on my Franklin Planner storage binders! Who knew?! The first person asked me to call her. That involved actually picking up the phone and dialing, so I skipped to the second person. Her, I e-mailed. We quickly came to terms. I told her that I had around five or six storage binders and numerous colored pages and the like. We arrived at a price of $12 for everything I had.

So then I went to my garage and pulled out all of my old Franklin Planner stuff. It turned out that I had TEN old storage binders. I was now faced with a bit of a conundrum. If I sold my little sheet of gold for $81.64 and all of the Franklin stuff for $12, I would arrive at $93.64, just short of my first $100. But I had ten storage binders, when I'd told the buyer I had five or six... but I told her that I'd sell her everything I had... Moral dilemma.

I sank to the challenge. I called the other potential buyer and agreed to sell her four of the storage binders for $8. That would give me my first $100. And only at the cost of my soul. I had also decided to keep one of the binders and some of the papers, once I realized that there were extra address sheets.

The telephone buyer came first. She gave me $10 for four binders and told me to keep the change. This was working out well!

Then I sold the remaining binders and sheets I was parting with to my second buyer for $12. $22 already! I was well on my way to my first $100!

I headed back to the jewelry store with my little sheet of gold, two days after my initial visit. When Tiffany saw what I had brought back to sell, she actually laughed at me. I was liking her less and less.

Then she retested my little sheet of gold, proclaiming it was “policy” to retest every item once it had left the store. I guess that made sense. Only she tested it. And retested it. And re-retested it. And got opinions from two men who worked at the store. Then she pronounced it merely 18K gold instead of pure gold and announced that it was only worth $58 and change. The price of gold had also dropped slightly, so if it had been pure gold, it would have been worth around $79 that day.

Seeing my chagrin (I wasn't going to make my first $100 after all!), she wondered aloud what the problem was. It wasn't that much of a difference. Since when is 25% not a large difference? And since when do we just dismiss $20 as meaningless? Maybe that's what wrong with our economy.

I sold the gold sheet. She gave me an even $59. As I walked out of the store with my cash clutched in my hand, I contemplated karma. That's what I got for fudging on that Franklin Planner sale. I now had $81. I was $19 short.

(There was a great Dilbert comic once about karma. Dogbert said he didn't mind screwing people because he believed in karma. If he screwed someone, it must be because they had it coming!)

Then I went to Walgreens. I spent $38.77 on some mandatory eye meds. I tried not to think about it. Then I went home and ordered a pizza from Papa Johns and spent another $16, counting tip. I tried not to think about that, either.

But I kept my new-found riches separate from my spending. This is never going to work otherwise.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Brilliant Idea

A few days ago I read in the paper that the national average consumer debt was $24,775 in March. For a few moments, I felt good about myself. After all, with a personal consumer debt of only $24,283.60, I was decidedly below average!

The feeling dissipated very quickly, and I resolved once again that I have got to do something about my massive credit card debt. And in my case it really is all credit card debt, since I own my car free and clear. It is my pride and joy. So whenever anyone looks askew at my '93 Dodge Grand Caravan, I announce exactly that: “It's my pride and joy. It's paid for!” And their look goes away. Maybe it shouldn't. At this point, parts of the interior are actually being held together by duct tape. But I don't care. I figure I'm doing my bit for the environment by not buying a new (used) car for as long as possible. Lack of money, of course, has nothing to do with it. Ha ha.

Anyway, I had this crazy idea about how to finally get a handle on my credit card debt:

If I could come up with $100 200 times, my debt would essentially be gone. Or at least be at a significantly more manageable level. (And, yeah, I realize that I'm accruing interest charges all the while, but I tend to minimize that by moving my balances around when I get those low interest rate balance transfer offers. A sure sign, I know, that I'm in serious trouble. Suze Orman told me so.)

So I told my idea to a few people. My ex-husband. A couple of neighbors. A friend. And they all laughed at me.

I mean, seriously! If I could come up with $100 200 times, wouldn't I have done it by now?

But the more I think about it, the more I think that it's a great idea. And I'm going to try to do it. A little ebay here, a refund there. Sell a little jewelry, maybe a kidney...

My one rule (other than that everything needs to be done honestly and above board) is that the funds have to be kept completely separate from my ordinary budget. If you can call it that. I mean, I have carried this level of debt for a few years now, and while it has leveled off (indicating that apparently I do appear to have some modicum of self-control), I cannot for the life of me get it to go down. So this money needs to be completely separated from my regular level of spending. Because, let's face it, I'm just not prepared to give up People Magazine or Netflix or my kids. Or my Papa Johns habit. And don't even get me started on Amazon. And cutting the little corners that I am able to cut, like changing my landline phone plan from unlimited to limited and cutting out $20 a month, just don't seem to make a difference. I mean, it's not like POOF! that $20 is just sitting there magically staring me in the face at the end of the month. Nope, it's gone, merged with all the other funds.

So starting tomorrow, in addition to my usual efforts at not having my credit card debt go UP, I am going to start searching my life for that magic $100. 200 times.

I give myself two years to get debt free. That's when my eldest heads to college and the financial fun really starts!