Saturday, July 2, 2016
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Ok, I know what you are thinking. Couponing? Really? No, really? Lets go back a few months to July-ish of this year. My Sister was visiting from NY and of course she spent most of her trip staying at my already too small home in Phoenix. I was on the computer doing something with HULU. I was searching for a show that I wanted to watch, probably SuperNanny or another “my kids out of control” show, when up came some episodes of Extreme Couponing. I don’t have cable so I have never heard of it but my sister Melissa saw it and said, “Have you seen that show?” “People walk into stores and buy $500.00 worth of groceries and pay $10.00 after their coupons”. I said, “No, I haven’t seen it and how is that even possible?” We selected one of the episodes and started watching. As the show started, they introduced a family that seemed to be doing ok with money but for some reason, they were cutting out coupons. I thought, wow, what a waste of time. Coupons are for low-income people. Coupons are for buying items you wouldn’t normally use otherwise. Coupons are gimmicks. Right?
As the show went on, the family on TV talked about how they buy 4 newspapers every Sunday. I thought that was totally stupid but hey, they had my interest, so I watched. They threw away the newspapers after they removed the coupon inserts. There are usually at least two inserts but sometimes they could have many more. This week’s episode shows two inserts in their newspaper. Now they had 4 copies of every coupon. Next, they showed the mother of the family going down the street to the vacant/foreclosed homes on her block and grabbing their newspapers. She did the same thing with each of those newspapers as she did with the four she purchased. Next, she was going through the dumpsters at a recycling center looking for coupons inserts. I thought, “Is this lady nuts?” All of this craziness including climbing into a dumpster to save .25 cents on soup? I was ready to call her up and go, “Honey, here’s a dollar, pull yourself together, the soups not worth all that”.
After the show was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about anything else. “This is my new obsession,” I thought. I can do the same thing. That next Sunday, I went to the store and purchased a Sunday paper for the first time in many years. I cut out the coupons that I thought I would use. Men’s shaving stuff, men’s deodorant, Boxes of Cereal, Bubble bath…er..I mean Shower Gel. One of the coupons was for $1.00 of Old Spice Deodorant. I was currently using that brand. Next, I read all the weekly ads for all the stores including the drug stores. The purpose of the coupons was to hold onto them and NOT use them until the time was right. I had to wait until I saw the price of that specific product so low that I could get it for free or very cheap. I didn’t use any of the coupons the first week or even the second week. On the third week, Basha’s grocery store had a sale with Kellogg’s Cereals on sale for $1.88 a box. That alone is a great price, but I had a coupon for .50 cents off Kellogg’s cereal. Basha’s doubles the first three coupons up to $1.00 total off the item. So for a $1.88 box of cereal, I used my one coupon for $1.00 off and bought the box of cereal for .88 cents. WOW, I thought, I just bought Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for less than $1.00. That was amazing, but at the same time, it was terrible because I just had one coupon. Now I totally understood what that lady was doing in the dumpster, although I still think it was gross. I get it now. She was getting ready to stock up her cabinets. The next week I started purchasing 4 papers. I would throw the papers out and keep just the inserts. A few weeks later, a really big sale hit the local stores. First, Albertsons was having a deal where if you purchased 4 items from a list of items, you got $4.00 off. That already made their General Mills cereals $1.49 each if I bought four of them. Of course, I had a coupon for .50cents off each box (Albertsons doesn’t double coupons), which made the cereal .99 cents each. This time, I had 4 coupons, which were perfect in order to get the cereal for that price. Also at Albertsons, they had my Old Spice Men’s Deodorant for .99cents if you purchased 4 of them. I had 4 coupons, each one for 1.00 off Old Spice Men’s deodorant. The deodorants were going to be free. So, I went to the register and paid my .99 cents for each of the boxes of cereal and left with the 4 boxes of cereal and 4 brand name deodorants for under 4.00. WOW. I would normally pay that just for 1 box of cereal. Its like I got 3 boxes of cereal and 4 deodorants for free. As time went on, more and more deals in the weekly ads started matching my coupons. Just last week I paid about $22.00 and got $145.00 worth of groceries between 4 different stores.
While I am not an extreme couponer, I believe that I am a couponer born out of today’s economy. I work hard, make a decent living and pay all my bills, but in the end, I don’t want to pay a dime more than I have to for grocery items. So I stock up when the price is low. Did you know that the more affluent the household, the more likely it is that there is serious coupons usage? Its true. You start to see much more serious coupon usage in salary ranges of $50k and up. This is based on a Neilsen report on their blog at http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/the-coupon-comeback/. It’s quite an interesting read. People that fall into the lower income bracket seem to pay much more money for items that they need than people in higher income brackets because they buy the items when they need them instead of when they are on sale with coupons. I never really understood that until now. You have to have resources to get the coupons in order to eventually save so much money. It takes a few hours a week to cut and organize your coupons into a binder so you can find them fast. It takes money to buy 4 or more papers a week. It takes a computer to print coupons online. It takes a lot of planning before you go to a store to make sure it’s a smooth experience. If you are poor and you work two jobs. There is no way that you have time for any of this.
So, I will leave this story today right here. With me, pulling into the grocery store parking lot, getting out of my German SUV, wearing a shirt and tie and carrying my 3-inch coupon binder filled with coupons. Do I find it even just a little bit embarrassing? Not at all. I’m about to get 30 Candy bars for free.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Its that time of year again when I ask all of you to help me with my family’s crusade to put an end to Leukemia Lymphoma and other types of blood cancers. In the past 5 years, I have sent email updating you on the progress we have made in the fight against cancer. I have told you about how the money collected gets spent and how every dollar you contribute to my family's fund raising campaign goes directly to those who need the help most. The people affected by cancer, the patients, the drug trials, and the support that goes along with the horrible news that people get every day.
This year, instead of doing all that, I am going to just tell you about a memory I have. This will should help you to understand why Me, Tim and April spend so much time trying to raise our goal before the end of October every year. As you may or may not know, We lost our family member Bobby Jewell to lymphoma on March 02, 2005. It was a long fight which included chemotherapy. During all that, there are some vivid memories that stand out. Here is one that I cherish.
While Bob was fighting cancer, I lived in Tampa, Fl with Bob, my sister April and our friend Jeremy and Bobs dog, Tucker. Tucker is a Black Lab/Sharpei mix with a very unattractive overbite, but he has a heart of gold and is very lovable. We had lots of fun together. Every day was an adventure. During Bobs fight with cancer, he would often miss the holidays because he was getting Chemotherapy and it required a three week stay at the hospital. April, Jeremy and I would go to see Bob daily at the hospital. We would bring him magazines, vitamins, Dairy Queen Blizzards, whatever he wanted. Bob would try and be happy when we were there, but most of the time he was just unconformable because he didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. He was always very athletic, played softball and basketball for years and was one of the smartest guys we ever met. He loved to watch old TV shows. We had lots of sofas at our place because we all loved to watch TV together and it takes a lot of couch space to seat the four of us and a black lab. Anyway, during one of Bobs lengthy hospital visits for chemotherapy, we went to see him. In his hospital room, I felt like we were losing him. He was just out of it. He could not find the energy to even smile. He was getting the chemotherapy pumped into his blood and it just kills everything in you, It kills the cancer cells and the good cells. Its terrible, Well we all sat there for a while and then went home. Once we got home, we talked about how to make Bob feel like he had to fight harder. We wanted to show him that we missed him at home and we wanted to bring our home to him. We came up with a plan. We were going to take Tucker to the hospital and sneak him up to Bob’s room for a visit. And, if that wasn’t enough, we grabbed season 1 of Wonder Woman, the TV Series to watch on the TV in the room. We just had to figure out how to do it.
The next night, Me, April, Jeremy and Tucker the dog piled into the jeep. We drove to the hospital Bob was at and parked the car. It was 10:30pm. We know the halls of the hospital were quiet at this time, so this was when we had the best chance of getting Tucker into the room to see Bob. We had the whole thing worked out. Jeremy stayed in the car with Tucker while April and I headed for the hospital doors. As we got to the back entrance, April stayed at the entrance door to keep watch for the security guard and the desk person. I continued on toward the elevator, pressed the button and waited until the elevators doors opened and the empty elevator car was in front of me. I used my foot to stop the doors from closing. There was nobody else around.. I could see April at the front entrance and she could see Jeremy and tucker by the jeep. We waited for a few minutes and then the opportunity presented itself. April signaled to me and Jeremy that the front desk person got up to use the rest room. She waived Tucker and Jeremy on. Jeremy and Tucker met April at the front entrance, and the three of them headed right for me. We entered the elevator, pressed the number 4 for the fourth floor and up we went. We knew that this particular elevator opened on the fourth floor far enough away from the nurses station to be an issue and it was only two doors from Bob’s room.
The elevator ride seemed like an hour. My heart was racing. We were so proud of ourselves for getting Tucker this far into the hospital but now I was scared to death. What if someone was waiting to get in the elevator when we got to the fourth floor. Or even worse, what if a doctor calls for the elevator on the 2nd floor and gets in and had to go to the 4th floor with us. What would we even say? “Um, hi doc, heard any good stories about the crazies in the mental illness ward lately?” I had not planned for anything like that and I didn’t think far enough ahead to bring mop buckets or construction cones with me to put in front of this elevator on the 2nd and 3rd floor. Ok, mental note to self. Read up more before attempting to break hospital rules in the future. My heart was racing and I felt like It was 120 degrees in the elevator.
The elevator doors opened on the forth floor. Nobody was there. I could hear the nurses talking at the nurses stating about 100 feet away. Luckily, they were in the opposite direction of where we were going. We left the elevator and headed down the hall to Bobs room. So far so good. I was really feeling great at this point. I looked at April and Jeremy and we all smiled at each other, as if to say “Pffft, this sneaking around stuff is simple, we should do this more often”. We got to Bobs door and I looked around. Nobody was near the door. This was perfect. Without even hesitating, I cracked Bobs door open, and April, Jeremy and tucker darted inside. I looked one more time up and down the hall of the 4th floor and nobody had seem them dart into the room. I slid into Bobs room as the last of our group and closed the door behind me. I stopped in my tracks, my mouth dropped and my heart started racing again. Jeremy and April were frozen in place and Tucker was sitting at attention. Ok, its times like this when I really need to re-think these crazy ideas. Standing around Bob were 3 doctors and a nurse. They were all staring at us. We were all staring them. Nobody moved or said anything until Bob turned his head to see what the doctors were looking at and saw us. He looked at all of us and in this very week voice that got stronger as he went on, he said “That’s my dog!” That’s my Tucker”.
Tucker pulled on his leash to go toward the bed and Jeremy let him go. Ok, another mental note, if you are sneaking a dog into a hospital room, don’t let go of the leash. Tucker jumped from the floor into the very skinny hospital bed and right on top of Bob, with all his IV’s and other important medical looking stuff on him. Tucker laid his head down and Bob found the strength and the energy to put his arms around Tucker and hold him tight. From the time we entered the room to the time Bob was holding tucker on the bed, no more than 30 seconds had gone by but it seemed to last an hour. Now that Bob had Tucker with him, the doctors backed way from the bed and headed for the door. One of them turned to us and said “We didn’t see anything, but just keep It down in here. Please.” And that was it. They left. We all were so relived. We kissed Bob and Tucker and Bob seemed to get stronger by the minute. It was amazing. If you have never owned a dog before, you can possibly know how loyal they are to their owners so let me just tell you that they want nothing more in the world to be center of their owners attention. That relationship with Tucker made Bob stronger and soon he was his old self We popped Wonder Woman in the dvr and watched some tube. As were were sitting there, we got hungry so I had the bright idea to order Dominoes Pizza. Thirty minutes or less later, the pizza guy knocks on the hospital door. Tucker, doing what dogs do when someone knocks on the door, started barking. We all froze. TUCKER!! I yelled almost in a whisper. He backed down, and Jeremy jumped up and raced for the door to deal with the pizza guy. Luckily, nobody heard a dog bark in our hospital room. We all ate pizza and watched TV for a few hours until Bob started to doze off for the night. When it was time to leave, we just opened the door and walked out of the hospital with Tucker on his leash.
We lost Bob a few months later just after his 38th Birthday. Tucker lives with me here in Phoenix, AZ and is now 10 years old. While I have learned to live with the loss of Bob, I have not been able to think about it any less. I often think about the days when we all lived together and how we had fun with everything that we did. We had no idea all of that would change or that one of us would not be around. You just never know who is going to be affected by cancer. It could be you, me, any one of us. The odds are just crazy. Please, take a few minutes to visit my family's ‘Light the Night” fund raising page link at the bottom of this email and make a donation to help us end blood cancers for all future friends and family members. I could give you many reason to make a donation to help stop cancer, but I think this year, I want to show you just what my family lost in this fight. You already know what it will cost you to make a donation, but for me, I’m still paying the price, every day. I have attached a photo to this post of the night we snuck Tucker into Bobs Hospital room. I hope you enjoyed the story, and the memory.
Here is the link to donate to my family’s “Light the Night Walk” fundraising page. Thanks very much for supporting me for the last 5 years in this effort.
Team: Forever Jewell
Light the Night Walk, Glendale AZ Chapter.
October 17, 2010.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Well, as some of you may know, I have had a successful career as a Network Engineer. Of course, I am now a full time Real Estate agent, but for 15 years of my life, I was at the top of my game with computer networking. So, when it comes to computer problems, I usually know how to get the answer I need to fix the problem. That brings me to a recent situation that occurred at home. 4 years ago, I purchased an Ibook G4 from Apple.com. I was very excited. I was a PC person my whole life and I had wanted to make the switch to Apple. I was familiar with Apple since I supported Apple products in my career, but never really owned one or used one as my primary computer. Anyway, It arrived in the mail and I was really taken back, the packaging is just stunning. Everything from the beautiful white box with the colors on it, to the carefully packaged and wrapped components. Each piece of the device was meticulously placed in the shipping box so that when it got to me, it was safe, sound and ready for startup. For the first few days, it was love at first site. This new eBook cost me just over $1000.00 back in 2006. It was worth every dime.
Jump forward a few months and I’m not feeling so happy. I am just starting my career as a real estate agent and my brokerage hands me all my training materials on a CD-Rom with Microsoft Publisher files. Now, I have office installed on my Windows Computer in my closet, and publisher is on there too. It was at that time that I realized not all products using Microsoft software are compatible with Apple machines. The files I needed to access were not readable by any piece of software currently on my Mac. No problem I thought, ill just buy publisher for Apple. Right? Wrong!. There is no version of publisher for Apple. Now how am I supposed to read these training files if Apple wont read publisher files. What am I supposed to do? Well, I had to get my old Windows machine out of the closet and power it up so I could read the files.
I thought about it long and hard. 30 days and 30 nights. At this point in my career, I didn’t use publisher files anymore. In fact, I created all my own files for the last few years and made sure they were saved in formats recognizable by software packaged used by both Windows and Mac. Also, $1699 was a lot of money to spend vs $999.00. Did I really need the Imac? Yes. I was sure if it when I saw a special online that said if you are a student, you can get $100.00 off the n new Imac27 and you can get a free 8mb iPod touch when purchasing an IMac. I was sold. Off I went to the apple store. I got my new Imac 27, my free iPod, and I purchased MS Office for Mac 2008. When I got home, I also downloaded Quicken for Mac so I could transfer my money management data over from my laptop. I also had to purchase software to edit PDF files since I use them a lot and the software I currently own was for a Windows machines. In all, I spend about $2300.00 on this venture, but I would be able to do my work much faster and have a lot less clutter. Really, I got exactly what I wanted.
I open the box and again, the packaging is a work of art. Yada yada yada, I plug in the machine and start working. I spend about 24 hours transferring over my email from Outlook to MS Entourage, included in Office for Mac, my personal finance info from Quicken Windows to Quicken Mac, links to my saved documents, links to my saved website shortcuts and all my favorites from my internet browser. I was all set. I was ready to work. Bring it on baby, Show daddy how you want it!
Ok, here is where the trouble starts. I bring up my real estate websites to start working. I notice on the very first one that it doesn’t look right. Some of the buttons are missing and some of the pages have words on top of other words. What is going on? The next day, I try two other websites, and similar stuff starts to happen. I then powered on my old Windows laptop and the websites work find on my Windows laptop. I go back to my new Imac and again, I have the same problem. Wait. Wait, wait. This is the same problem I had almost 5 years ago on my Mac g4 that was not running the Intel chip. This new Imac IS running the Intel chipset. It’s been 5 years. There is no way that this problem still exists right? Ummmm Wrong!. I started logging into forums and found out that websites made specifically for Internet Explorer will not work correctly in the new versions of Macintosh safari, Firefox, opera, or any other standard code browser. If it’s made superficially for IE, you need a Windows Machine to view it correctly. No freaking way!. So now what? I have now spent $2300.00 on a machine and software only to find out that 11 of my 12 real estate websites can’t be used on that machine. This machine is for my work. If I can’t work on it, I can’t use this machine. This is exactly what happened to me with the Ibook g4. Same problem, 5 years ago. I was livid, I was shaking, I couldn’t see straight. I started to get a huge headache. I was in a very bad place. Ok, now what?
The next day, I thought about this some more. It’s all I could think about. I went down to the Mac store and signed up for someone to talk to me at the genius bar. (That’s what they call the support people there) The support person told me that yes, there are some website out there that are not viewable correctly on a Macintosh machine but the number of websites is very small, somewhere around 11 percent. Well, 10 of my websites are in that 11 percent. That’s 90 percent of the websites I use for work. He confirmed that there was nothing I could do other than return the machine. There was a 10 percent restocking fee and the office for Mac software was not returnable if it was open, which of course it was because I installed it. Another problem was that I couldn’t not return the software purchased and downloaded online, like quicken and Adobe Acrobat. What a nightmare. I told the genius about my whole situation and his answer was “You know you can buy “Parallels” and install Windows on your machine. Then you would have all your applications working on your new Mac”. Well I told him that if I wanted a Window machine, I could have gotten one for $999.00. The whole point of this was to be off Windows entirely. I was not going to install Windows on the flagship machine of Apple. It would be an abomination, this was a huge mess. I went home and wanted to disappear somewhere. This was the biggest mistake of my life.
I went to Fry’s Electronics, which is where I want to be buried when I die. It’s my favorite store in the world. They have everything I need in life from Home Automation products to Guitar supplies to home theatre stuff. They sell Apple machines there so I told the Apple expert about my problem and he confirmed that everything that I was told was true. I’m screwed. I told him I was going to return my machine to Apple and that I wanted to see what he had in an “All-in-one” machine. While I was frustrated with the Apple, it was very sleek, had only the one cord, and took up so little space on my desk even thought it was a 27 inch monitor. The look was amazing and I wanted the same thing in a Windows machine. We looked at some different options, but it was still a problem if I wanted a monitor bigger than 23 inches. Since that was the largest monitor size available in an All-in-one machine, I would have to buy a computer tower or desktop and a separate 27-inch monitor. That would mean more power cords, a monitor cord and other wires going across my desktop. I didn’t like that idea. So in my last ditch attempt to make all this work, I asked the salesman at Fry’s, what would you do in this situation? He said, I would install Parallels, then install a virtual Windows machine and use just the Windows applications that I needed when I needed them. I said, no, not a tall, no way. I’m not installing Windows on my Apple machine. That was it, I was leaving. I know when its time to fold and bow out gracefully. I walk toward the exit, steaming mad and thinking that I was never coming back here again. Who needs this place? Wait, are they putting out new items in the Home Automation section? Let me just see whets over there.
At some point, before I got to the exit, I thought about what the salesman said. I could install this Parallels software, whatever that is, and then install Windows, and just use the Windows applications that I need like Internet Explorer, when I need them, and then shut them off. What was he talking about? Would that mean I can have my Mac and when I wanted Internet Explorer, it would be available to me? Why don’t I want to use Windows on my Macintosh anyway? Would it hurt my Mac pride? Could it get any worse? I did leave the store but I went directly to the Apple store. I asked the salesperson there about Parallels and he told me the whole story. I purchased a copy of Parallels for $60.00 and then I went to Best Buy and purchased a copy of Windows 7 for $200.00. (Apple doesn’t sell Windows OS). I went home and started installing software. First, it was the Parallels software. Parallels sets up your Virtual Machines. You tell it to set up a new machine and then tell it what Windows OS you want on it. Then, you tell it where the Windows install CD is and it will install Windows into this virtual machine. What does that mean? It means it installs Windows on a part of your drive and when you want it, you open it, and when you don’t, you can close it with no changes to your Macintosh system. So, it installed this. And, on the bottom of my Mac, on the” Dock” (Which is like the Windows Start Bar), I now had a folder called “Windows Applications”. I clicked on that folder and all My Windows programs were now available to me. Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, etc. This is called “Coherence mode”. One of the many ways to use the software. You could also do the “Full screen” mode, where the entire screen looks like Windows, acts like Windows and really, it is Windows until you shut down the Windows Virtual Machine, then it closes the virtual machine and you are back at your Mac desktop. I don’t need it to run like this so I used the first mode. I started doing my reports for work and sure enough, it all worked. Now, I had my Imac, my 27-inch monitor, my application on my new machine and my Windows applications’ that I need for work. Everything was here and it all worked almost floorless form that point on.
I went back to the store and told the salesperson about what had happened when I got that email from Apple and how mad I was when I answered the email. I asked him to apologize to the store manager for me next time he was there and to let him know that I was all up and running and satisfied. He said he would relay the message. In the end, I got the computer I wanted. I got rid of the wire clutter, I was able to work on my reports again and I now have the opportunity to install other virtual machines, maybe even a server. What did it cost me? Well for the computer, the software, the Parallels software and the new copy of the Windows OS, about $2600.00. Was it worth it? Sure. But, I could have purchased a flat screen TV, a new living room sectional sofa, and got wall to wall carpeting in two of my bedrooms for the same price. Is this solution for everyone? Not at all. I urge you to think about what your needs are before you buy a new computer and make sure that they are met before you get caught up in the look of what you are buying vs the functionality.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Jump ahead four years later, to today. Eating has been quite challenging for me. First, I can’t really go to fast food anymore. I had to search high and low for places that serve vegetarian friendly meals and the choices were not plentiful. For instance, Arby's is out, Sonic is out, and so is Wendy’s, KFC, Whataburger, In and Out Burger and the list goes on and on. Sure, some of these places have salads, but I don’t go to a fast food joint to get a salad. It just doesn’t taste good with a side of fries and a chocolate milk shake. Ok, that’s another problem for a different blog.
Another thing I learned is that just because it takes less time to make a meat free meal and less money to make it since you don’t pay for meat, doesn’t mean your meal is any cheaper. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. You can plan on paying more for a meal without meat then you would for a meal with meat. Think I'm wrong about that? Every Tuesday, Arribas Mexican Restaurant has .99 cent tacos. They consist of beef, cheese and lettuce. Now I go there often and order bean tacos. It’s the same thing as the beef taco except I have them put their refried beans in the taco shells instead of the ground beef they would normally use. That’s a no brainier right? I mean, beans are dirt cheap. Beef is expensive. Well, on Tuesdays, during 99cent taco day, my friends pay 99cents for each of their tacos and I pay $2.99 for each of mine. I always ask the server why this is the case and they always tell me that the tacos are pre-made before lunch. So of course I always say, well if I order a beef taco and ask you to hold the lettuce, is it still 99cents? They answer is always, yes. Well then I always ask, if you have to hold the lettuce, do you make me a fresh taco or do you scrape the lettuce off one that was made before lunch? The waiter says that we would make you a fresh one. Ok, so now I can get a fresh made taco with no lettuce for 99cents but to make that same fresh made taco with bean instead of ground beef, that’s $2.99? This is the point where the waiter gets frustrated and storms off, plotting my slow death in the kitchen. When it’s all said and done, ill still be paying $2.99 for each of my bean tacos.
Breakfast is usually easier, but don’t bother trying to get a vegetarian breakfast at McDonalds. I went there right before doing an open house last year. I went into the restaurant and looked at the menu items. Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit, Egg McMuffin (has sausage), Chicken Biscuit, bacon and eggs. The list goes on and on. I approached the counter and a very nice, bright eyed young lady greeted me. You know the type I’m talking about. Just out of High School, eager to do a great job, still smiling after 6 hours or working the counter, no house payment, and no responsibilities to worry about... Man I miss my youth. Anyway, I explained to her that I am a vegetarian and I ask her if she served any type of vegetarian friendly breakfasts besides eggs and pancakes. I wanted something in a sandwich type of food so I could get the potato cakes with it. She thought about it for a second and then said, we sure do. Do you like chicken? I said, I love chickens, I just don’t want to kill them. She looked bewildered. I then ordered the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and told her to hold the bacon. She said “do you want it on the side”? I said no honey, you keep it, ok? She smiled and got my order together.
I then went back to the same McDonalds for lunch. This time the manger was there. He was the one that was working the counter and he asked me what I would like to order. Well, I asked him if they had a vegetarian burger, like Burger King does. He said no, we don’t have that. I asked him if he had any type of meatless sandwiches, He said “I can take the meat off any of our value meals or sandwiches”. So, of course I asked “Is there a discounted if I do that”? He said no. So, they are willing to serve me a burger with no burger, or I guess we can call it a grilled cheese sandwich but I still have to pay for the meat. I opted for a large fries and a shake. That’s it!! No more open houses for me!!
Ok, so how in the world can you go out to eat when you are a vegetarian? Well I have learned that it’s a challenge, but not impossible. For instance, did you know that Burger King has a veggie burger and a Veggie Burger Value Meal? Yep, you can go up to the counter and say you want the Veggie Burger Value Meal and they will ask you if you want it supper sized. They won’t even blink. It’s not even on their menu. Look at their value meals on the menu. Nowhere does it say anything about a Veggie Burger Value Meal. But, every Burger King has it. I did this in Fargo, ND, Orlando FL, and here in Phoenix, AZ.
Did you know that Subway has a Veggie Max sandwich? No, not a bunch of vegetables on bread with mayo. I hate vegetables. I know, a vegetarian who hates vegetables, funny right? Don’t get me started. Anyway, it’s an actual patty made of …well..Im not sure, but it’s not made of meat. It’s really good. I have learned to appreciate their veggie max meal. But, the down side is that it’s never on sale. So, again, you can walk into Subway on any day of the week and get a meat sandwich for $2.50 during the sub of the day, but if you want a Veggie Max sub, it will always be full price. Still, it is nice that they even offer it.
There is always Taco Bell too. When you have Mexican food, you have to ask if the beans are made of lard. If they are, then you can’t eat them as a vegetarian. Taco Bell does not use lard for their beans so they are vegetarian friendly. I simply get bean tacos, bean burritos and bean nachos instead of the beef. Are they cheaper than the beef? Of course not, but I didn’t have to give up going to Taco Bell when I stopped eating meat.
The list goes on and on, but the reality is, more and more restaurants and fast food are offering vegetarian friendly choices for people who have stopped eating meat all together. Why did I go through all this and was it worth it? I’m still not sure. I stopped eating meat because I did not want to be a part of the inhumane treatment of animals that were bred for food. I don’t try and change other peoples minds with what I’m doing, I just don’t want to be part of it myself. Was it all worth it? Well it depends on how you look at it. I am making a difference in my own little world, but I usually eat with others when I go out to dinner. If I say “ill take the Chicken Caesar salad but I don’t want the chicken, my dining companions will usually say “waiter, you can put his chicken on my salad so it doesn’t go to waste. So, just as much animal was consumed as would have been had I not had a meatless meal. The only difference is, now I’m hungry again an hour later.
Monday, January 4, 2010
In October 2008, I realized I needed to start cutting back on my monthly expenditures. I started going over every dollar I spent in a normal month. It was the usual costs to live every month. Mortgage, car payment, groceries, cable TV/phone/internet bundle, wait… Cable TV bundle? How much was that costing me? What was I getting? Did I need all this?
It turns out I was paying over $149.00 a month for my existing cable TV, internet and phone line for my home business. Now, I know internet costs about $20.00 a month and a phone line is about $15.00 a month. That leaves $114.00 a month for cable TV. OMG! How is that possible? What do I watch that’s worth $114.00 a month? I was not getting any movie channels for that price. I didn’t get any extra sports channels. I didn’t have HGTVHD like some of my friends had. What was I getting for this price? I called the cable company and the service rep explained it all to me, here is what I was paying for. First, I paid $67.00 for basic Digital Cable. Now, Digital cable is free locally. But maybe the cable company was offering me something digitally that I wouldn’t get locally. I scanned thought the digital channels and looked at what I got. Well, there was ABCHD, CBSHD, FOXHD, CWHD, NBCHD. Ok, well that doesn’t make any sense. With my tier package that I was paying for, I didn’t get HGTVHD. I only got the local channels in Digital/HD. Next, I was paying an extra $10.00 a month to get some extra channels. SOAP network, DIY network and Bravo. Ok, really, I don’t watch Soap Network and DIY is all infomercials after 1am which is when I really can find time to sit down and watch TV. That leaves Bravo. I like Bravo, but so far im paying $77.00 a month just to be able to watch it. Isn’t Kathy Griffin on Hulu anyway?
Next I was paying $10.00 a month for the privilege of hosting a Digital DVR at my home. It’s not really mine to own, just to use. I can record my favorite shows and watch them later on as long as I am paying the monthly fee to access the DVR. I do use that so I think it’s probably worth the extra $10.00 a month. Then there is the $39.00 for internet and the $19.00 for the phone line, the last few dollars is for fees that are added on for FCC, and other regulatory stuff. So, now I have a better picture, no pun intended, minus the internet and phone, im paying $100.00 a month to be able to watch local TV, HGTV, Bravo and for the use of a DVR. That’s over $1200.00 every year. Why did I need cable TV? What would happen if I didn’t have cable TV? As it turned out, we were right in the middle of the Digital TV conversion. You remember, the televisions stations were going to stop broadcasting in analog and if you didn’t have cable TV, satellite TV or digital antennae, you were not going to see anything unless you had a digital ready TV (which I have) or a converter box. I wondered about that. I decided to go online and see what it costs to buy a digital antenna. As luck would have it, there was a video on YouTube by some techie guru that showed him making his own digital antenna out of a long thin piece of wood and 8 wire coat hangers. I thought, this is never going to work. But, I watched the video and he explained it very clearly. It looked simple. I was inspired. I was energized. I thought, this is the end of cable TV holding my digital airwaves hostage every month. So, I set out through the house looking for wood and wire coat hangers.
I followed the video and within an hour, I had my very own digital antenna, Sure it looked like hell, but I wanted to see if I could get digital TV on my digital ready flat screen without the use of my cable box or a converter. I disconnected my cable box, my stereo system and everything to do with technology from the back of my TV. All I had now was the power cord and the new digital antenna plugged into the TV’s digital input connecter. That’s it. I turned on the TV, switch the TV’s input selector to DTV and selected “auto search channels”. Then next thing you know, I have FREE digital television. I got all the local channels. Another great thing about local digital TV is that each channel broadcasts in 1-4 sub channels. For instance, PBS is now channels 8.1 -8.4 instead of just channel 8. You get 4 PBS channels. Each one is showing something different. This happens with many of the other channels also. In total I got 23 channels. They consisted mainly of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW, a few local channels, a few religious channels and a few Spanish channels. I set my TV to block out the ones I didn’t want, and now I have all the free local channels I can handle. Sure, I don’t have HGTV or Bravo, but im also not paying any money for what I do have. I can watch HGTV and Bravo shows on the internet.
Next, I called the cable company and asked them if there was a cheaper internet than $39.99 a month. I was told that I have the best internet package with their “Turbo Boost” option. I laughed because I thought they were joking, but apparently they were serious. My internet is always terrible so I can’t believe I was paying for their best package. The operator explained to me that they offer an entry level internet “a la carte” for $19.99 a month. but its not as fast without the turbo boost. Well I decided it couldn’t get any slower so I switched it to the lower cost internet. Finally, I asked what I was getting for my $19.99 a month for my phone line. This line is connected to a fax machine in my home office so there is no actual phone on it. The service rep told me I was getting, caller id, call waiting and call forwarding for that price. None of which I will ever use on a fax machine. She explained that there is an $11.99 basic phone line available. I told her that ill take it, At that point, I cancelled my cable TV service too.
A few months later, when it all sank in, I was watching my digital TV and thinking, wow this is great, I have free TV. I aint paying a stinking dime for this. The world is awesome. It happened to be a Tuesday night. I wanted to go out with my friends to eat dinner but American Idol was coming on. No problem I ll just record it, right? Wrong! I don’t have a DVR. That’s when it hit me. I can’t record programs. I can’t even get a VCR because they don’t record digital TV. What the heck am I going to do? No DVR? Digital antenna out of coat hangers? I need therapy. But then I remembered something my friend in north Scottsdale told me. He used his TV as a monitor for his computer that he called a Media Server. Apparently, he had this computer hooked to the cable TV line and it recorded shows, showed internet programs on the screen and did all the things a DVR did, plus much more. I wanted to learn more about this. I started looking on the internet at prices for a small computer that had HDMI (digital video and audio) and a TV tuner card so I can connect that computer to the home made digital TV antennae. The new computer would use my digital TV as its monitor. The answer came in the form of an Acer Aspire computer for $350.00 from BJ’s whole club online. The computer was HDMI ready and I purchased a TV tuner card for $48.00 at FRY’s electronics. The computer had Windows Vista Home Premium edition which comes with software called “Windows Media Center’. That software has built in TV tuning with channels, options to record shows, play all your favorite music, create playlistes, hold all you family photos, etc. It’s sort of like your cable TV box that shows you all your channels, your DVR that records your shows, your Itunes on your computer or ipod that plays all your songs and play lists, and your photo album that holds all your photos and can play slideshows during dinner parties. So now, truly, I can watch TV via my digital ready TV, record shows via my new media server computer and my Phone line/internet bill is under $40.00 a month.
So now, here I am, 15 months later. Did I give up anything for all this? Sure, I gave up whatever is on cable TV that I can’t watch on the media server and broadcast on my TV screen. But, I am not sure what that would be since I don’t seem to miss any of it. I did have to put out $400.00 for the new media server computer, but im still ahead $800.00 that I didn’t pay to the cable company last year. As for 2010, My phone/internet is $40.00 a month and I don’t have to put out a dime to watch TV, record TV and listen to my favorite music. My biggest worry now is that it might be time to go and get real digital antenna to replace my home made one. I think my coat hangers are starting to rust.
Here is the link to the Coat Hanger DTV Antenna