Money can buy happiness – earn it, save it, spend it

#607 in a series of true experiences in real estate
August 2010, Hills Newspapers

Oh boy, free money. I think it’s real and I’m going to find out right away. I got an email from Chase Bank offering $200 if I bring $500 new money and open a new business account with them. Got to have the redemption number and do a few things such as use a debit card 5 times a month. But I can do that.

This happened once before with another bank, similar deal, but they were giving away $100. I had to make half a dozen deposits of at least $5 over about 6 months. Because Anet kept track and made sure the deposits were made, I got to keep the money. What a fun and lucrative game.

My favorite make-money scheme, although for less money, is one that Safeway offers about twice a year. They advertise in their Tuesday newspaper insert that if we buy $30 worth of certain products, they’ll sell them to us for a bargain price, plus they’ll give us a $5 coupon. Large packs of Charmin toilet paper and Bounty Select-A-Size paper towels (tears off in pieces smaller than standard) are included in the deal and because we use both of these all the time, we rush to Safeway to cash in.

I think it takes 5 packages to get to $30 and qualify for the coupon. We load up the car and drive to a second Safeway where we repeat the process using the $5 coupon and still end up with a coupon for next time. Sometimes we’ve done a third store, too, after which we take everything home to stash in a satisfyingly tall pile in a corner of our garage “store”. That’s what we call it – the store. When our kids are out of money and need food, they come to the store. “Got any peanut butter?” Annie will ask. She knows we have peanut butter and she is welcome to it. We buy peanut butter when it’s on sale and add it to our reserves. “I need paper towels” Nick will say, and he heads toward the garage; probably he’ll pick up some pasta while he’s there.

I clip grocery store coupons and mostly, remember to use them, but only if they will save $1 or more and if they are for something I actually want to buy. I keep them in my checkbook and use them most often for cat food. The cat food people put out pretty good coupons; most are for $1, and sometimes for $2. Especially now that parking meters cost numerous quarters for a short time, I can’t be bothered with 25 cent or 50 cent coupons.

There are things I enjoy spending money on. I love going out to lunch and although almost everything I want to eat seems to cost $10 or more, plus tax and tip, it almost always seems worth it to me. Lately we’ve been shopping at the new Berkeley Bowl where we have a very good time looking at this beautiful store, its amazing array of stock, and happily spending money on better-than-any brown-rice sushi, breads, ricotta cheese, peaches, summer squash – all delectable – and glad for doing it.

Baking ingredients I also enjoy buying and hardly ever resent their cost. Good unsweetened cocoa, butter and eggs, (both frequently on sale) sugar, oatmeal, and other ingredients for cakes and cookies seem like a good deal. I made batches of cookies not long ago for an open house and figured out that each cookie cost less than 15 cents to make. I count that a good value.

For my house, having the windows washed occasionally I still consider a luxury expenditure but so rewarding. For less than $300, all windows inside and out, easy ones, ones that are hard to reach, even skylights, look like new. But the all-time winner in fabulous value was having my stall shower tile cleaned and regrouted. Worth every nickel many times over. It cost less than $500 and looks today, about 3 years after the work, as good as it did that first day.

I guess I’m funny about money. Maybe everyone is. There are expenditures I must make that I deeply resent. I hate paying a parking ticket. If I’m one minute late getting back to my car, the charge is $35, sometimes more. All I can think about is how much sushi or chocolate or window washing that money could buy.

Bank overdraft charges are even worse. I don’t get them (make darn sure I don’t) but occasionally I find that my kids have handed over their debit card to make a small purchase, maybe a cup of coffee, and their bank has charged them $30 or more and continued to add on the fees until a $4 purchase becomes $125. I find this unconscionable, on the part of everyone involved. The bank is wrong and stupendously greedy. My kids don’t keep track and this makes me stupendously angry. They’d like to go to Hawaii or snow boarding but of course they don’t have the money. Meanwhile they owe the bank. What a waste.

But the cost of mailing a letter or package is a super good deal. A letter is hand carried to a friend for less than 50 cents, about what it costs to park for 8 minutes on the street.

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