Tuesday, May 26, 2009

40th Birthday Gumptionista

I’ve been single as long as I can remember. Whenever I am involved with someone, it never seems to be around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or my birthday. Funny how that works out! I was the last to turn 40 out of my closest girlfriends, so I had already attended their surprise 40th’s at country clubs, fancy restaurants, or their beautiful homes. When I turned 40 in July of 2007, I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. There were a lot of things I wanted to get done, which I knew were not going to happen in the 6 months leading up to my birthday (get married, lose 50 lbs, run a marathon, write a novel, start a business, etc.). Approaching 40 made me not only think about what I hadn’t accomplished, but also what I had accomplished. I worked in the entertainment industry in my 20’s, became a business professional in my 30’s, I finally finished my last semester of college and graduated from my old school, the University of Rhode Island at 38, and walked in my graduation. I even threw myself a graduation party at my parent’s house, just as I would have done had I graduated 16 years earlier. I’ve lived a really good life, with or without that special someone. I define who I am; no one else can define you.

After all of this reflection, I decided to throw myself a big 40th birthday party. No, I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband to throw me a party at the country club, but since I was throwing the party for myself, I did have control over how, when, and where it was going to be planned. So what if I didn’t have someone else throw me a party? So what if I wasn’t married or involved with someone at 40? I was honoring me, who I had become at 40, and celebrating that. My party was held at the Elks Lodge across the street from my apartment. I made my invitations from scratch, and included an old picture of me at my 5th birthday party. I planted an idea in my sister’s head…why not e-mail the invite list and ask them to send a note about how they know me and our experiences together. It was not about my friends telling me how wonderful I was, but it was about them reminiscing about old stories, and how and why we are in each other’s lives. I wanted this book as a keepsake. Luckily, my sister did put the book together, and it was the best gift I could’ve ever received. I still pick it up and read it from time to time. My Dad, who is a very proud, manly man, even sent in an unforgettable note. As tough as I am, I am also very sentimental, and it was an unbelievable gift.

I have about 10 close girlfriends, whom I’ve known for 20 years. We are all part of the same group and celebrate our birthdays together. I don’t know how it worked out this way, but our birthdays all fall on a different month. We decided to celebrate with just our small group every month by a potluck brunch or Saturday night wine and cheese, and celebrate the bigger birthdays (21, 30, 40) with a bang. As my 40th was approaching, I decided that I would register at Crate and Barrel and Amazon. I knew that my friends and family would buy me a nice gift for this special birthday, so why not get something that I wanted? I figured I might never get married, so it was finally my chance to register. I’ve been to everyone’s showers, bachelorettes, weddings, baby showers, kid’s birthday parties, and bar mitzvah’s. It was my turn. Ask and you shall receive. It was a great party, and I got some wonderful gifts from the registry. It’s too bad that as 50 comes in a mere 8 years, I might be registering again!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Frugalista

I love to find a deal! I wouldn’t necessarily refer to myself as frugal, but I will say that I always look for promo codes online before purchasing, and always look for a coupon online before going shopping. If I want something bad enough and can’t find a coupon, I will, of course, buy it anyway, but there’s nothing like the feeling of getting what you want, and paying less than you expected. If there is money to be saved, why not put it back in your pocket? It just takes a little bit of effort to look around before purchasing. My favorite site for promo codes is www.retailmenot.com. It has the best promo codes. It’s really great! One of my biggest pet peeves is paying a lot for shipping, and you can usually find free shipping codes on this site. If you can’t find a code there, just Google for a coupon or promo code for whatever site or store you are shopping at. I have even called stores such as Land’s End with an expired promo code from the site, and they have honored it. I also call the store directly if I can’t find a free shipping code, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll waive the shipping. eBates.com is a site that you can earn money by shopping at stores that you normally shop at. Instead of going to the store’s website, you go through the www.ebates.com site. If you are going to shop at these stores anyway, why not get a little bit of money back for it. Membership is free, and I have never received any junk e-mails from them, which is always something to consider when you join these sites. My favorite shoe store online is Shoebuy.com. Very similar to Zappos with free shipping on both purchases and returns, but they always have promo codes available on Retail Me Not for 20% off. They also give you an extra 10% when you register, which you need to do to purchase. I purchased $80 shoes for my sister’s wedding, and ended up paying $56 and free shipping. Not bad! These same shoes were $89 at Nordstrom’s. Visit www.shoebuy.com for unbelievable sales. If you live in Los Angeles, there is a terrific Aveda salon called Vicara in El Segundo (also a location in Torrance), who offers 50% off for first visits. If you go to their website and register, they will give you a 20% coupon immediately, and then e-mail you two coupons every month. The first coupon is 25% off any appointment (which also includes waxing, massages and skin treatments). This coupon usually needs to be used for last minute appointments (same day). The second coupon they send is for 50% off and 10% off products. This coupon is good for the entire month. Although I love my Beverly Hills salon for cut and color, I can’t always get over there. I’ve started going to Becky for roots every 6 weeks, which ends up costing $35 with the 50% coupon. Amazing! During these economic times, it’s businesses like this who will prevail. I don’t know about you, but I love getting and giving magazines. One of the best magazine subscriptions sites is Best Deal Magazines at www.bestdealmagazines.com. There are popular magazines for as low as $4.69, and you can find a promo code on Retail Me Not and bring the price down even further! If you are an American Express cardholder and have Membership Rewards (www.membershiprewards.com), there are so many things you can buy with your points besides travel. If you go to www.shopamex.com, there are gift cards, books, beauty products, etc., which you can purchase using your rewards points. There are thousands of items, and if you are a person who has a lot of points and don’t want to use them for travel, you can buy pretty much anything you want here. I have purchased many gifts for friends and family using my points. My friends still tease me to this day about the overalls I got at Robinson’s-May many years ago (when overalls were in) for $.65. They were on sale for 50% off; I used a coupon, and then used my store credit card, which took it down even further. I turned around and sold them the following month at a garage sale for $5.00. There are just a few of my favorite sites. Please comment and share your favorites.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Always Ask For Options

I adore this story and wanted to share it with all of you.

My sister, Jackie, was attending a conference in Los Angeles two years ago, so decided to make a vacation out of it and brought her husband and two boys. At the time, my nephews were five and three. They were staying at a hotel for a few nights and then with me the remainder of the trip. I offered to give them a date night, and keep my nephews overnight. I had a fun night planned with Disney movies and junk food (all the food their parents won’t let them eat). The next morning I asked Charlie, the three year old, what he wanted for breakfast and he immediately answered, “I’ll have cereal.” When I asked Benjamin, the five year old, what he wanted, he simply said, “auntie, what are my options?” Trying not to laugh, I said “you can have cereal, eggs, or pancakes.” Benjamin said he wanted pancakes with bananas and whipped cream. Charlie piped up and said, “me too!” As I was preparing their breakfast, I heard the boys talking in the other room. Benjamin said, “Charlie, always ask for options. If I hadn’t asked for options, we’d be eating cereal.” Charlie, looking up to his big brother, just shook his head and agreed.

Even at a young age we have options and choices, and they are negotiable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Negotiating Gumptionista

You’ve heard the saying that everything is negotiable. I didn’t always think that was true, and I did push the envelope several times just to prove myself wrong, and I was wrong. I have negotiated my medical bills, rent, cable bill, car lease, etc. Ya name it, I’ve negotiated it!

In these economic times, more than ever, it is important to keep pushing the envelope. It never hurts to ask, and if it’s a no, it’s a no, but you have to try. I was recently at my dentist’s office and I overheard his assistant telling another office assistant that I was the only person she had ever met that had gotten a veneer paid for. I had completely forgotten about that story.

A few years ago, I had a tooth that kept breaking. Every few weeks it would break, I would visit my dentist, and he would glue it back on. On more than one occasion, he told me that I should get a veneer, but I was stubborn and didn’t want to pay for it. I knew that the insurance company would not cover the veneer, because veneers are always considered cosmetic, for any reason. They would, however, continue to pay for the tooth repair.

The last gluing came on Valentine’s weekend, 2005. It was the first Valentine’s day that I was actually happy to be alone and dateless. It was a Saturday night, and I was at home eating dinner. My tooth fell into my hand, and completely broke off this time. I called my dentist on his cell phone to tell him that I was, again, a toothless wonder. He was willing to leave his dinner, but I told him it could wait until the morning. I finally gave in to the veneer! It was $900! As I was writing the check, I told him that I would be submitting it to my insurance company just to see if they would cover anything. He said, “in all the years I’ve been doing this, I have never seen them cover veneers.” I reminded him who he was talking to.

I called the dental insurance company on Monday, and explained the situation. I said, “I have been getting my tooth glued back on every other month, which you have been covering. I decided to save you money and me, time, and get the veneer. I would like you to cover at least half of it.” The woman explained that veneers were not covered, but to send the claim in anyway. About a month later, I received a call from my dentist’s office indicating that they had received a check for $500 from the insurance company. I laughed to myself…I wasn’t even going to try this, because I didn’t think it would go through. Wouldn’t I have kicked myself if I hadn’t tried! Do not believe everything you hear. You just never know!