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I Buy Produce at the Flea Market

April 22nd, 2007 at 09:24 am

Yup, you read correctly: I like to buy produce at the flea market.

Perhaps some background info would help... I live in an area with a booming Latino population. In our area, a lot of immigrants are small business owners, and the business of choice for many Latinos here is produce distribution. My best guess is they have a network of friends and family who own farms in the Southeast region and they gather and sell it, but I'm not really sure.

At any rate, there is a rather huge flea market in our town that is very centrally located to one of our main Latino communities. It caters to the regular flea market crowd, of course, so there are still rows upon rows of people selling all kinds of stuff. But, in the back quarter of the market, near the parking lot, it's like stepping into a street market from Central America. I love it!

There are hats, crafts, music, and food vendors among other things. In my trip yesterday I counted 4 produce vendors on the one row I visited, although I'm sure there are others in the areas I didn't visit.

So, you're probably asking: WHY bother going to the flea market to buy produce? Isn't it easier to just go to the store?

Sure, it's easier. It's not nearly as fun, though. As an added bonus the flea market produce is significantly cheaper. Most importantly, though, their produce is BETTER than just about anything I've found in any grocery store. Better, cheaper, and more fun? I'm so in!

As an aside, the other nice thing about the flea market produce is the variety. The rest of this entry is about pretty standard fair produce, but had I wanted to I could have could have bought mangoes, papayas, agave cactus leaves, mini-bananas, and a bunch of other things I've never really had before.

I went yesterday because my father was hosting a pot luck at his cigar store, and I wanted to bring pico de gallo, guacamole, and black beans. FYI, I bought the black beans at Publix in a can so they're not covered in the rest of the entry Big Grin

So, here's my haul from the flea market yesterday.



This includes 10 limes, 6 lbs of tomatoes, 5 avocadoes, 5 jalepenos, 2 poblano peppers, 2 onions, and a bunch of cilantro. My total was $18.

To give you an idea of what this would have cost in the grocery store I frequent:

10 limes @ 3 for a buck on sale = $3.33
6 lbs of tomatoes @ $1.99/lb on sale = $11.94
5 avocadoes @ $0.99/ea on sale = $4.95
5 jalepenos @ $1.99/lb on sale = $0.50
2 poblano peppers @ $2.99/lb on sale = $1.50
2 onions @ $0.99/lb on sale = $1.24
1 bunch cilantro @ $0.99/ea on sale = $0.99

That adds up to $24.45 + $0.74 in sales tax. Plus I would have to find all the items on sale, not to mention that the prices above are the best ones from two separate grocery stores, not just one.

And the best part? The flea market has produce in whatever stage of ripeness you want. Since this was all going to be eaten the day of purchase, I was able to get 6 lbs of perfectly ripe (and YUMMY) tomatoes, 5 avocadoes that slid out of their skin, and cilantro that looked like it might have been picked that morning.

The funniest part? There was less dirt in the cilantro from the flea market than in the stuff I buy from a regular store!!

Think Someone Tried to Break In

April 11th, 2007 at 07:32 pm

Bluh.

We got home tonight at about 6:30 and immediately noticed that the cover was gone from DH's motorcycle. Uh-oh... The bike has an alarm on it with a bump and tilt sensor, so we're having a bear of a time figuring out how they got the cover off without setting off the alarm, but such is life.

Walked in the house and all was well until DH went to the back door. While the lock was still turned properly in the knob, the door itself was no longer latched. Luckily we have a chain at the base of the back door.

At this point he promptly rushed me out of the house, got his 45 out of the truck and checked out the house inside and out. Everything's in place that we can tell, the only thing missing is the $65 weather cover which we will now have to replace.

First thing we thought: why couldn't they take the motorcycle, we'd get 50% more than we paid for it?!?? At least we have a sense of humor, right?

So, battened down the house and headed out to price a new back door. The one we have wasn't damaged but is old and needed to be replaced before next winter for energy effeciency purposes, so the option was to install a deadbolt in the existing door or go ahead and replace the door.

Also bought a 3 pack of battery operated door/window sensors. The only real possible entry points for our house are a window in the back about 4 feet off the ground and that back door. All the other windows are too high off the ground except for 3 in the very front of the house, and those came with decorative/protective wrought iron gratings. Plus they're in the front, like I said, so two of my three retired neighbors can see them...

The good news, everybody, is that this is where money karma rears its wonderful head again. See, I sat down and did the final draft of my taxes, and will owe about $400 less than I had budgeted. Good news, since the cost of a new door, deadbolt, 3 pack of sensors, lockbox for our keys, and possibly a small safe will be, oh, right about $400! Gotta love money karma!

Update on "Things I'm Not Gonna Buy"

April 10th, 2007 at 11:40 am

At the beginning of the year I posted a list of

Text is things I didn't need to buy any more and Link is http://tinapbeana.savingadvice.com/2007/01/03/things-im-not-gonna-buy-or-dont-be-like-_19799/
things I didn't need to buy any more, at least until I used up what I currently have on hand.

Lotion.
So far so good: I haven't bought any. Woohoo!!! I might have to buysome new sunscreen in case what I have expired, but that's it so far.

Lip Balm
Ditto the lip balm! I actually used up a tube to the very end without losing it. Believe me, it's a feat...

Ink Pens
Not a single new pen all year! I have bought mini-sharpies for DH to use at work, but that's it.

Note Pads
None here either! But, I did buy a Day Timer kinda thing that I can keep notebooks in, along with a calendar and contact list. This way, I can carry around the notebooks I have all to meetings etc without looking utterly disheveled.

Shoes
Bought a pair of brown boots and black heels in February, but have set aside 4 pairs of shoes for Goodwill to make up for the 2 pair I brought into the house. Not too bad, seeing as I had 'allowed' myself hiking boots, dress boots, and a pair of heels in the original post...

Nail Polish and Care
Nope, none! Still need to throw out the stuff I have, though, since all it does is take up space.

Makeup
Bought a new mascara. Still not satisfied, but for a buck at Dollar Tree it's still not a bad deal: easier to put on than the $5 a tube Mabelline stuff, and looks better too. Just doesn't stay on my lashes real well: makes me look slightly racoonish after 8 hours. Bah!

I Didn't Fall Into a Black Hole!!!

April 10th, 2007 at 05:22 am

I promise!!!

Really, I have been in the blogs and forums just about every day, but I didn't realize just how long it's been since I've posted anything of my own. Sheesh, what was I thinking?

On the financial front, things are pretty much on auto-pilot. This is a beautiful thing in my world, as it means the only things I actually have to keep up with are 1) the monthly check to my inlaws and 2) grocery money. Everything else is set to pay itself.

I've held onto my tax money as long as possible, so now it's time for me to finish the paperwork, write the man a check, and watch my bank balance deplete horrifically. At least it will be done and off the list...

Easter was interesting (in a good way) and a bit stressful (actually, also good). Anyone remember the Thanksgiving fiasco? Well, Easter turned into pretty much a replay of that. No body else wanted to have it at their house, so mine got nominated. Seeing as we had cleaned out and canceled a storage building between TG and now, the living room and dining room were a freak show of junk. In order to clean it up, we needed to finish out the attic space we have upstairs. Technically it was finished out 30-40 years ago, but it was in bad shape with insulation peeking out and what not, so it needed a redo.

So, Friday my office closed early and DH and I started demo and got 2/3 of the plywood up on the walls and ceiling. Not bad for 5 hours of work! Saturday we went to his parents house to pick up a carpet remnant, and he finished the other 2 walls and layed down the carpet whilst I went about making the den and kitchen publicly presentable.

Once the attic was finished, we began the great junk migration of 2007. GAHHH!!!!

In other news, Easter dinner consisted of a free Honey Baked Ham. DAd had a gift cert for a 7 lb ham and they were out. Instead of downgrading us, the cashier pulled out an 11 lb ham, marked it as 7 lbs with a green sticker, and sent us on our way. That was a $70 ham!!!

Maybe that's why everyone wants to have holiday meals at my house: I always wind up getting the entree for free Big Grin

Other than that, I've been dealing with contractor's drama with regards to the website I was asked to work on. Not the site itself, that's turning out fine. But, the customer's webhost was being miserable, and we had to jump ship. Since I couldn't find a place for her site that had all the features I needed and the pricing she wanted, I did the logical thing: created my own web hosting site. GAH!!!!

Actually, I can't really complain. So far I'm enjoying the experience of getting everything set-up, and it's something good for me to learn. While I only have the one client now, I have a handful of folks locally who are looking for a new home online that I might be able to grab. Combine that with what I would pay for hosting my sites at another company, and it starts to make sense.

So, anybody looking for a place to host a website? Big Grin

April's Fools and the Power of CSS

April 1st, 2007 at 09:44 am

So, how's everyone liking the new blog design? HAAAAAAAAAAhahahahahhahaaa!!!! Good to know Jeffrey and Nate still have a sense of humor...

At any rate, you've now been introduced to the power of Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS. All CSS does is tell browers how to display information (ie colors and placement), but it doesn't change the information itself. All your blog data is there safe and sound, waiting for Jeff and Nate to change the style sheet back. Ya'll are going to change it back, right!?!??

Housing: Why I Bought

March 22nd, 2007 at 07:08 am

I've been seeing a lot of talk lately about objectively reviewing whether renting or buying is best for your financial situation. While pretty confident in my choice to purchase, I wanted to run the numbers just in case.

------
BEFORE
------
Rental
900 sf
$650 per month for rent
$ 75 per month for storage building
$200 per month average gas & electric
------
$925 per month

------
AFTER
------
Owned Home
1800 sf
$493 per month for mortgage
$--- per month PMI (not required for our loan)
$ 55 per month for homeowner's
$ 55 per month for property taxes
$100 per month average electric
------
$703


OK, so right off the top I'm saving $222 per month. Interestingly enough, that is exactly equal to the 6% of my gross salary I set aside for retirement, but I digress...

------
MONEY INVESTED IN THE HOUSE
------
$4246 5% down, half of closing costs
$2600 tree removal (bought knowing this was needed)
$ 350 dishwasher and drain pipe replacement
$ 500 various vixture & outlet replacements
------
$ 7696
$59600 owed on mortgage
------
$67296

------
CURRENT TAX ACCESSOR'S VALUE
------
$72000

------
CURRENT ZILLOW VALUE
------
$91000


So at this point I have 67k invested in a house that I could turn around and sell for 75-80k after 9 months of ownership, plus I'm saving $222 per month in 'operating costs'.

As a side note, the tax accessor's value was 56k and the appraised value was 75k when we bought last July. The house was assessed at 56k in '01 and jumped to 72k in '06, a 28% increase in 5 years.

We intend to refinance this fall with my credit union, getting a better interest rate and pulling approximately 10k in equity out of the house. At that point we will upgrage the heat and air system, put a new roof on the den (an addition from the 60s), and possibly update the kitchen and bathrooms. If we hold it another 5 years, we should be able to about double our money...

OK, I feel better now! Big Grin

When it Rains, It Pours (and a Lingerie Store)

March 17th, 2007 at 07:00 am

Literally and figuratively.

It rained pretty much all of yesterday, and went from 78 earlier this week to 32 last night. ACK! But we needed the rain, and now the world look sbright and freshly scrubbed.

On the figurative side, my last post was about trying to generate income outside of my job. I know it was long, sorry 'bout that!

Anywho, I got an email from my former boss yesterday, the one that left the company in January. He asked me to help build a website for a friend of his who is selling her real life stores and moving to the internet so she can spend more time with her kids. Cool. Since she already has a client base there's a lot of opportunity here to design business cards, postcards, T shirts, etc. for the new site.

The business? They're (ahem) lingerie stores, more Freddie's than Vickie's if you know what I mean. Personally I don't have a problem with it, but it does take some explaining when I'm browsing around trying to find a comparable layout I like online! Not to mention I've been having a bear of a time finding a good font and color scheme: everything clashes no matter what I pick.

Oh well, when the going gets tough the tough apparently have to browse online lingerie shops for inspiration. Boy is my life weird!

Catch Up

March 15th, 2007 at 01:34 pm

Good grief, where is March going?!? Well, let's start at the beginning and play a little Catch Up, shall we?

The Week of Birthday
Long story short, I ate so much my pants started to fit properly again! Things are settling back down to normal and the pants are reverting back to 'too baggy' like they were before, but it was nice while it lasted. The highlight of all my meals was an appetizer called Hell-Fire Shrimp served with cilantro sour cream. YUM! Birthday gifts included meals from friends and my father, a pot of daffodils from my mother, car seat covers from DH (which I asked for, don't down the gift!), and $45 in cash. Woohoo, best haul in years! Big Grin Rumor has it I'll be getting a gift card from my SIL and her boyfriend, which is a very unexpected suprise. Since the things I actually want are a bit on the pricey side (a $900 camera, $85 tripod, and $100 wide-angle lens), DH suggested they get me a gift card, and I think me told them to make it for office supplies. Alas, that is my guilty, shameful pleasure: the clearance aisle at Office Depot! Who knows what goodies await me!

Money Happenings and $20 Challenge
Today is payday in Tina-land, which is always fun. I get paid 2x per month as opposed to DH's every other week, which means he gets the ubiquitous 'unbudgeted extra paycheck' twice a year. This month will be the first one, and it's going straight to the Slush Fund (aka a mini-EF in the world of others). He and I have re-discussed how much we want to have readily available for actual need-cash-now emergencies, and we've decided we're comfortable with a couple of hundred. It's enough to get us out of town, pay for a car repair, pay for new tires, or pay our medical co-pays if we both had to go to the emergency room and get prescriptions. After this month's extra pay-check, the Slush Fund should be sitting pretty.

In related news, I also have the money set aside for us to pay Uncle Sam his due in April. Bah! I'm holding onto that money until the very last minute to earn as much interest as possible, dag nabbit!

Since it's the middle of the month, I also took in my personal money for the $20 challenege. This time I took in paper only, since I'm all but out of coin wrappers. No worries, though: my bank gives out wrappers for free so I left with an envelope full! YAY! The nice teller even gave me the paper strips you wrap around bundles of bills. Guess that's what happens when you deposit 92 bucks in ones!

Here's the breakdown of this month's action:

$92 in ones
$10 in leftover allowance money
$45 in gift money
$30 in incense sales
----------------------------
$177 total in 28 days. Not too shabby!

My Challenege (challenged?) account currently stands at 453.59 - 145.97 in purchases = $337.20. Remember, I'm trying to use my money to make money, so the Challenge(d) Account is what I use to purchase materials or items I use for freelance stuff. Purchases so far are a backpack photographer's bag, a hard case for my memory sticks, my web hosting, and incense supplies. As mentioned above my wish list is a bit pricey right now, but I might go ahead and get the wide-angle lens and tripod as these two items will make it easier for me to get involved in real estate photography. My other option is to sell my current camera, 2 memory sticks, macro lens, telephoto lens, and filters for about $500 and combine that with my saved money to get the camera I want. Sadly, that would leave me without a decent tripod, telephoto lens, macro lens, or wide-angle lens, or even compatible memory, which means I would be back at square one. Cannon DSLR, I love you but you're going to have to wait a while... *sniff*

Apparently a 9mm is 'My Gun'
What a title...

Last Saturday DH and I went to his parents' house to pick up his skeet thrower as he will be skeet shooting with friends of ours tomorrow or this weekend. He wanted me to go skeet shooting with them, which might be fun except for the fact that I've never shot a shotgun, much less at a moving 4" diameter target. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! Anywho, his parents live in a rural area on several acres and they have a 100 yard shooting range on their property. Price, BA, I thought of you as I typed that sentence! He had me shoot the shotgun to see if I would be comfortable enough to shoot skeet, and *begin sarcasm* suprisingly enough I wasn't *end sarcasm*. Yeah, seriously: who's going to be comfortable shoot a shotgun the first time? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone want to try a moving target their first time? Duh....

While we were there he wanted me to shoot his 9 and his 45 so I'll at least know what I'm doing if push came to shove. Believe me, this is a whole 'nuther conversation in and of itself so I'll just drop that subject and proceed to the results. Apparently I'm quite good with a gun, but as someone who'd only shot a handgun once before I don't know if that's true or not. The first shot with the 45 was pure luck and hit dead center in the target at about 10 yards. HA! The rest with the 45 were nothing to write home about: it's too big for my hand and as a double-action trigger is just hard for me to shoot. The 9, however, was a different story. Out of 20 shots at 10 yards, all were within the 8 ring and about a quarter were within the 9 ring. I'm told this is good, but if you know please chime in!

Other Things Eating Up My Time: Generating Income
I've been focusing on my goal for the year of coming up with ways to make money on the side, in the event my job situation goes south. That's the lovely part about working at a small tech company, you see: it's like playing Russian Roulette with your paycheck.

Well, most know that I'm slowing working on getting the photography bit up and running. So far I've receive no responses from the emails I've sent, but our weather is starting to perk up and I think that will offer more opportunities for pictures. I'm debating about making some prints to see if those would sell or not, but I'm still on the fence.

I've made and dried 600 sticks of Dragon's Blood incense and sold half of them in bulk packs already. I also tested the 12 other sample fragrances I got in the mail: only one will work well for incense, so I'm going to try to think of something easy/cheap/sellable to do with the rest. Unfortunately, that's the way incense works: just because an oil smells good in the bottle doesn't mean it'll smell good burning, and the only way to test is to buy an ounce and go for it. If it doesn't work out, you're left with an ounce of stuff and nothing to do with it. Or, in my case, about 20 ounces between this batch and the last batch of testing... Something else I'm on the fence about: selling incense on Etsy.com... There are only so many places in South Carolina to sell the stuff!

I was invited to become a Cha Cha guide (thanks Autumn!!!), which might wind up bringing in some money down the road. I've gone through some of the training, but need to finish it before I actually begin earning money. We'll see how it goes!

Another avenue I'm persuing is 'crowdsourced software' development with Cambrian House. Basically, it's kinda like Saving Advice for computer geeks Big Grin If you have an idea for some neat kind of software, you post it there and people vote on it. If you get enough votes, you're entered into a monthly challenge (IdeaWarz). If you win the challenge, you win $10,000 and a tee-shirt EEK! WOW, a tee shirt! Seriously, you get to keep a grand of the money, and the other 9k is used as 'seed money': you pay the other members of the site to help you build your project. When the project is built, Cambrian House markets it and you and the other developers earn royalty money (and of course the website makes money off of it, too). Better built projects sell better, earning everyone more royalty money... It's a long shot, but I submitted an idea anyways because I think it would be a useful, useable service, not to mention I want to win 10 grand! I've since been invited to work on someone else's project doing high level strategy and product development. For the uninitiated, that's tech speak for I get to tell them what I would want the software to do if I were a user, then they build it that way! Too Cool!

Yes, my name is Sucha Dork...

Add to this some ongoing research for the articles I'm writing, and TADA: that's what's been eating my time. Hopefully some or all of these ventures will pan out and result in some additional income, maybe even some passive income in the form of royalties. Hans Gruber said it best "by the time they figure out what went wrong, we'll be sitting on a beach earning 20 percent". Wait, maybe that first part isn't good when talking about developing software. Unless your last name is Gates Wink

Coolest Thing I've Found In AGES!!!

March 13th, 2007 at 08:50 am

When you get a chance, please check out the article I wrote on

Text is The Robinhood Fund and Link is http://www.pfadvice.com/2007/03/13/the-robinhood-fund/
The Robinhood Fund over at Jeffrey's PFAdvice site. It may or may not make it to the forums, so as always I'm giving a heads up here.

This site is without a doubt one of the most interesting, unique, and even inspiring concepts I've seen on the web in the 15 years I've been online.

Read the article, visit the site, and keep the address in the back of your mind the next time you or someone you know runs into a difficult time.

Spices and Coupon Ethics

March 11th, 2007 at 03:55 pm

First on spices: most know that I rant and rave (ok, not exactly) about buying spices in bulk versus getting them at the dollar store, etc. I promise you, they definitely taste better. Moreover, chances are you will STILL get a better financial deal, and today I have proof!

I usually buy Italian blend herbs in bulk from my favorite natural goods store. They no longer carry it, so I was looking at having to buy it online Frown Before I did that and had to pay shipping, I decided to try Whole Foods.

Long story short: they will not replace my normal natural store (yay, local business!), but they do have the Italian seasoning I want. Specifically, I bought a pre-packed quarter pound of herbs for $2.29 before tax, which works out to be about 57 cents per ounce. Check the bottles you buy from the dollar store: I'm willing to bet a quarter that they're a buck for about half an ounce, aka 4 times the price!

The picture below is to give you an idea of just how much 4 ounces of herb actually is. I'd already refilled my spice jar when I took this picture, too! Assuming I just use this to cook, rather than making gifts with it like I normally do, this will last me more than a year.



And now, coupon ethics. My grocery store has a setup where you scan your own groceries as you shop, then go to self checkout, scan your coupons, pay and leave. Pretty nice! I scanned a coupon today that rang up fine, and I looked at it and it expired yesterday. ACK!!! So, if the self checkout will accept expired coupons, do you think it is OK to use them, or should I just trash them? Opinions, please!