Nov 212008
 
Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Earlier this week I wrote (on one of my other blogs) about Safeway’s PowerPump Gas Rewards program and how you can use it to save a ton of money on gas. I know not everyone has a Safeway (or Safeway gas) in their area, which is why I wrote the article on my local blog. However, I have since learned that Krogers (and possibly other members of the Safeway corporate “family”) have similar promotions in place. Now, that’s not enough to retread the entire program here on Philaahzophy so if you want the basics visit the link above.

Through the end of the year Safeway is offering even more gas rewards when you do something you’re likely to do this time of year anyway: buy gift cards. Not only do gift cards (with a few notable exceptions like pre-paid credit cards, Safeway cards, and event tickets) now count towards your accumulated spending for the purposes of gas discounts (they didn’t under the old system), but through either Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve (I’ve seen both on promotional materials) you’ll receive an extra $0.10 per gallon discount every time you accumulate $100 in gift card purchases.

Since the PowerPump gas discounts are now cumulative this means that one can actually receive a free tank of gas relatively easily. For example, my household spends about $150/week on our standard groceries, we also pick up one or two prescriptions a month from the Safeway pharmacy (each of which earns a bonus credit), and now I’m buying gift cards there as well and getting bonus rewards for every $100 spent.  Combine all of that with dropping gas prices and free gas is no longer a pipe dream.

Not only are gift cards a perfectly acceptable gift in the modern age, but I actually purchase them for stores and restaurants I regularly patronize as well, thus earning Safeway gas rewards when I eat at Chili’s, McDonalds, Jack in the Box or Subway and even when I shop at Home Depot, Target and my favorite “store” of all: eBay.  One word of warning, however…

When I purchased $90 of gift cards on Tuesday (and nothing else on the transaction) I swiped my card through the machine, but was not credited for the purchase.  After talking to store management I was told they couldn’t access the Safeway Club Card account so I would need to call the toll-free number (1-977-723-3929) and address the issue with them.  I dutifully spent my time and energy doing that and was assured my account would be updated in 24 hours.  Alas, after today’s shopping trip no credit had occured and I had to call again this afternoon.  Again, I have been assured that the credit would appear within 24 hours, but we shall see…

Part of the Friday Frugality Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Dec 142007
 

About three weeks ago the brakes on my ’89 Ford Bronco (affectionately named Rover) started making noises to let me know they needed some work. I’ve had other noisy brakes in the past and figured I could make it to payday, which is the 19th – next Wednesday. I was wrong 🙁

This morning while running the kids to school the brakes started grabbing and pulling my off course. I returned home convinced that I’d need to take it in to the shop today and started rearranging things so that could happen. I was really hoping the $200 in the bank would cover the cost, but doubting it would. I parked at home to pick up my roommate/client to take him grocery shopping. Since my usual repair place is in the same lot as our Safeway (and it’s only a half-mile away) I figured I’d drive him up there and we’d just walk back (which takes about 40 minutes due to his mobility issues). It was the only solution I could find.

After explaining all of this to him I went to pull Rover around and the front left tire wouldn’t move at all. It was essentially being dragged. After a little research and a trip to the auto repair street across the street (literally less than 100 yards away by foot) there was no other solution available but to have Rover towed across the street. Pushing it was impossible with the tire not turning and forcing it to drive over (about 400 yards due to driveways, etc), could theoretically wreak all kinds of additional havoc. So the tow cost me $65.

They called me about an hour ago to tell me that my entire front brakes need to be replaced (pads, rotors, calipers, whatever) at a cost of about $800! I checked around a few places and although I could save $150 or so I’d still have to pay these guys the $50 for diagnostic, not to mention have it towed again. I’ve got no choice. I need my car both for work and to see my daughter. So I told them to go ahead and do the work while I tried to find the money.

My boss doesn’t know if they can spot me an advance because he’s tight until they get their revenue in from our clients. And there’s really nowhere else to turn. The California government, in its infinite wisdom (read: mother role) has decreed that the largest payday loan I can get is $255. That won’t cut it. I’ve got around $150 in the bank right now, $137 being transferred out of one PayPal account (which won’t arrive ’til Monday evening), around $275 going into another PayPal account thanks to Z’s eBay auctions (which I won’t be able to get transferred (thus access) until Monday or Tuesday), and a $3000 paycheck that won’t do me any good until Wednesday. I only needed 5 more days!!

Obviously this is a little karmic (carmic?) bitchslap for actually spending $400 on a “new” computer and $150 on my day trip to ride X at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Had I been able to save that cash instead of indulge myself with a few luxuries I wouldn’t be worrying about covering this bill today. As it is I’m left hoping an $800 miracle occurs in the next three and a half hours. If not, then Rover will be locked up all weekend and possibly until I can actually get my paycheck cashed on Wednesday.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve hardly spent any money on myself this year, but I suppose I should have known better than to do so without a clean grand sittin’ in the bank. I simply don’t know what to do…

Nov 192007
 

Okay, more than that, it’s a great day – payday! Yep, I’m in a good mood and, other than that, there’s not really any point behind this blog post. Keep reading if you would like to share my joy, though….

Today is not only payday, but my largest payday in about five years. In other words, I worked WAY too much in October (I get paid monthly), billing over 500 hours in 31 days! Of course, there’s still some work to do on Rover (my car) in his continual rehab, old debts still need their maintenance payments, and my checking account is in serious need of a cash injection, but the bulk of this check is going to be spent on setting up my Christmas trip for Z and myself. In fact, the sole reason there were no posts here at Philaahzophy yesterday was because I spent the entire day finding, and bookmarking, the various websites where I will be spending my newly found cash. I can’t wait until errands are done so I can start converting my last months labor into next months pure enjoyment!

Nov 022007
 
Part of the Applied Anarchy Series - Previous in series         Next in series

I’ve written about the supposed “Health Care Crisis” here in America before. But given the Democratic presidential candidate’s continual pounding on the issue I figured I’d take this opportunity to try and nip the fear in the bud. Dr. Ron Paul (yes, the presidential candidate) wrote a July 24, 2007 article giving an even better example of how health care can (and currently is) provided in the free market with absolutely no interference from the government whatsoever-

Last week the congressional Joint Economic committee on which I serve held a hearing featuring two courageous medical doctors. I had the pleasure of meeting with one of the witnesses, Dr. Robert Berry, who opened a low-cost health clinic in rural Tennessee. His clinic does not accept insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, which allows Dr. Berry to treat patients without interference from third-party government bureaucrats or HMO administrators.

[…]

Freed from HMO and government bureaucracy, Dr. Berry can focus on medicine rather than billing. Operating on a cash basis lowers his overhead considerably, allowing him to charge much lower prices than other doctors. He often charges just $35 for routine maladies, which is not much more than one’s insurance co-pay in other offices. His affordable prices enable low-income patients to see him before minor problems become serious, and unlike most doctors, Dr. Berry sees patients the same day on a walk-in basis. Yet beyond his low prices and quick appointments, Dr. Berry provides patients with excellent medical care.

While many liberals talk endlessly about medical care for the poor, Dr. Berry actually helps uninsured people every day. His patients are largely low-income working people, who cannot afford health insurance but don’t necessarily qualify for state assistance. Some of his uninsured patients have been forced to visit hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment because no doctor would see them. Others disliked the long waits and inferior treatment they endured at government clinics. For many of his patients, Dr. Berry’s clinic has been a godsend.

According to the World Health Organization

U.S. government programs accounted for over 44% of health care expenditures, making the U.S. government the largest insurer in the nation. Per capita spending on health care by the U.S. government placed it among the top ten highest spenders among United Nations member countries in 2004.

In other words, the government is already the largest ‘consumer’ of health care in the United States. The United States health care system was the envy of the world for many, many years. But then in 1973 the federal government mandated that employers offer HMO coverage to their employees. This was when the trend reversed and we started down the road to the situation that we have today: people that cannot afford insurance (for whatever reason) can no longer afford any health care. That’s the primary complaint of the people today, and the root of the so-called crisis. Why would we as a society turn to the very same organization that created the problem in order to solve it?

Both Dr. Berry and Dr. Parkinson from my previous post are examples of how removing the government from the health care system lowers costs and increases benefits to the consumer. Government spending has led only to worse care and higher costs, just as government interference in any industry does. People are convinced that we need the government to solve these problems, but with a little thought you should see that the exact opposite is true.

Part of the Applied Anarchy Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Sep 052007
 

I’ve been a supporter of local economics since high school. It simply makes sense to me that spending my meager resources at businesses that are owned in my neighborhood is going to keep that money in my neighborhood. Thus, I’ve always tried to avoid corporate chains unless their headquarters are in reasonable proximity to my home. This has become much more difficult over the years, however, as a result of my daughter returning to my life, my solidifying anarchist principals, and, of course, the growth of multi-national corporations.

Fatherhood

In the 8 years I was separated from Z she was fed a daily dose of corporate chains: from Wal-Mart, to fast food, to convenience stores, her mother will literally go out of her way, passing independent businesses in order to spend her cash at corporate chain stores. Her mother’s ways are so set in stone that Z never really considered anything different until I started bringing the issue up. Of course, it didn’t take too long for her to start asking why I seemed to ignore my own “shop local” propaganda on many occasions. Poverty has always been my greatest excuse – a burger and fries at the locally owned joint costs three times as much as the same food at McDonald’s or Burger King, and the only local grocer we have here (actually a small regional chain headquartered in our area) charges 10%-20% more for the standard items we purchase. Still, she’s a great reminder of what is important to me and I have managed to change over to a local bank, switch to a phone/internet provider that is headquartered in our region, and always check local shops before heading to the big boxes.

Anarchy

The most obvious way for me to move closer to living the anarchistic life I so desire was to stop supporting the government in any way possible. Since I seldom supported the government in word or deed already, and Z’s return to my life all but requires I follow many of the bad laws I used to ignore (driver’s license, etc), the only clear step was to reduce the amount of funding I sent to government agencies. I’m already pushing my employer’s limits when it comes to reducing my payroll withholding, so the next largest tax-bill I pay is either gas tax or sales tax.

There’s little I can do about the gas tax should I want to keep my job and have access to my daughter on a regular basis, but sales tax is not too difficult to avoid these days by shopping from private parties and small businesses online. Of course, this immediately conflicts with my “shop local” philosophy since it’s only out-of-state businesses that are not required to collect sales tax with my orders. 😕 I’m not really sure how to resolve this conundrum, but am doing my best to balance my local and online shopping, essentially only going online for items that aren’t available at locally owned businesses.

The other aspect of voting with my dollars when it comes to anarchism, however, is actually pretty easy. I’m now seeking out like-minded business people (both locally and online) and supporting their businesses whenever possible. In fact, the inspiration for this blog post was Dave4RPaul’s Call for all business owners that support Ron Paul for President, in which he’s seeking to compile a list of business owners that support Ron Paul in order for consumers to literally vote wih their dollars by supporting those businesses.

Multi-National Corporations

The continuing growth of multi-national corporations and the massive number of corporate mergers makes it harder than ever to know exactly who owns what these days. Luckily, the internet is a great research tool for finding where these corporate behemoths actually send the money from your local outlet. The other problem in this category is that small towns such as the one where I now live have been smothered by chains and the local government has spent my tax dollars subsidizing these corporations rather than helping small local businesses. Which leads me back online and to private party transactions.

So, that’s where I am at the moment. Trying to figure out how to balance starving the government beast of my taxes while still supporting my neighborhood markets. At least the internet allows me the ability to identify and financially support businesses and individuals who share my ideologies (or at least come close, as in Ron Paul’s case).