Monday, December 17, 2007

Mission Accomplished?

Though I am cleared of a great deal of debt, there are some things that must be said. Maybe I cheated a bit. Maybe I applied some creative accounting, but in the end, my hustle and creativity knocked my debt way down and I will close this blog a richer person.

Some of my readers have noticed my absence. The reason is simple. I haven't been living by the code of the Gotham Frugal. In fact you might make the argument that I haven't done so for a long time. And only due to the intervention of a particularly generous visit from Santa, have I been able to pay off the remainder of the $4500 credit card bill that was the impetus for this blog.

About mid November I realized that I wouldn't be making my goal of paying off the credit card balance of $4500 in the time I had chosen. I suppose there were lots of things I could've done or not done to have made the goal possible without begging for some deus ex machina. There were trips I could've skipped, nights out I could've sat out and a few purchases I should've left on the shelf.

Let's take a look at some not so frugal things I've done. During the course of the blog the primary savings could have come from reducing my "entertainment" costs. I subscribe to Netflix, I also have cable, which for reasons I'll explain jumped from $90 to about $130. I also buy comic books. I never included these in my usual daily spending because they were pre-built into my budget. Some people consider a weekly bottle of wine part of their food budget, others might write up a trip to the salon, the shoe store or the spa for some body hair management as part of their budgets. These are things that some people consider luxuries, others consider them absolute necessities. It all depends on where your priorities lie. I always thought that $20 for Netflix was helping me stay indoors and save money, otherwise I might be tempted to go out and run around New York like the crazed antithesis of Scrooge McDuck. Cable is partly justifiable in that along with a pre-blog Sopranos fix, I was using it for high speed internet access, a vital component of the blogger's life.

So if I dropped six months of Netflix that would be $120 I'd have. If I dropped my $35-a-month comic book habit for the last six months I figure that would be $210. Then there is the jump in cable bill, knocking that out would yield me another $120. So $45o in savings and 6 months worth of boredom could be mine today and I would be $450 closer my goal. Big whoop. And if I did get this close I would end it all with a quick cash infusion from my savings account and worry about making it up later. All of which is rather moot, now that I've hit the mark.

But this doesn't change the fact that during the course of this blog I made one very large purchase that I will now reveal. For a long time I've wanted the complete home theater experience. Dolby sound, high definition television and the video player to go with it. Well along comes Sony with a special on a blu-ray player that happens to play games. Some people call it a Play Station 3. There was a $150 rebate being offered on Sony products for anyone who signed up for a credit card. This little offer was somewhat anathema to the whole Gotham Frugal getting rid of credit card debt thing, but it coincided with a 3 year no interest offer from Best Buy on HDTVs. Also I didn't have to pay interest on the new card for a year. When I pay off the balance, I'll probably cancel the card. I had been waiting for an event like this, and all the budget planets aligned, so I had to take the plunge.

Of course with the high definition TV, and the high definition dvd player, one needs to combine it with a high def sound system. This was tacked on to the credit card bill. I tried to combine it with the the Best Buy purchase because it too would fall under the 3-year no interest thing. But that didn't work out. And I have unfortunately discovered that 3 year, no-interest financing doesn't mean that you can buy something at price and pay it off gradually with out incurring extra charges. It was my vision to buy $3600 of equipment and just pay off $100 a month. This isn't how it works. Firstly, I didn't spend that much money. Secondly every month I get charged something called a debt cancellation fee. Last month Best Buy charged me $20 for upholding their promise of not charging me interest. This is somewhat disheartening considering that I've been paying off $50 a month towards that balance. It's something I need to call them about.

To top off all this spending, I had to get some high definition cable to go along with the whole thing. That ended up tacking on another $30 or $40. Right now I'm watching Frenchmen discuss their high-definition whale watching video. The show is soft, and introspective, and entirely self absorbed, much like the French themselves. Everything is full of beautiful moments. And looking at it on high def all of these expenses are totally worth it. Even if I had to be somewhat misleading with my blog.

So while I'm not totally credit card or debt free, I'm much closer to it. I've taken big steps forward and a couple of small steps back, and out of it I've gotten a blog that many like and a nice entertainment center. I know that I'm not done with living on a budget and curbing my spending. The days of expensive living are still far away but I'm pretty certain that I'll have everything squared away very soon. So maybe one more month of Frugal living to make everything work, but I can't say when that month will be.

Anyway, I hope you don't feel too let down or cheated by my adventures. If you do then I suggest you try living like I did and write your own truer, better blog. Good luck. I can't do this forever. So win or loose, you can judge. Let's just hope I never have to do it for so long again.

Monday, November 26, 2007

T-Day in B-Town

I went to Boston for thanksgiving to hang out with my friends. Below are the highlights.

Wednesday: I took a $15 Lucky Star bus to Boston. I wrote on the way. Then I got together with my pals and we had dinner with psychiatric royalty, the granddaughter of someone very famous. I'm not saying who but I will say that during a Wednesday Thanksgiving dinner, this octogenarian managed to drop the phrase "cock tease" into the conversation. Ah, how I love dinner with the elders.

Thursday: Watched the bad lip syncing at the Macy's T-Day Parade. Then we watched the Puriana National Dog Show which was insanely good fun. Went to the home of two mathematicians, one was Yugoslavian, the other Japanese. There were 20 other people there and we drank cordial after unnamed Yugoslavian cordial. Color me drunk and full.

Friday: Breakfast, then we went to the Sam Adam's Brewery Tour. A bit of beer lore and then free beer. All for $2, so maybe not so free. Next was Regina's Pizza, so delicious. And in typical Bostonian fashion, someone played Sweet Caroline on the jukebox and the whole restaurant starting singing "Bum Bum BUM." Indeed, good times never felt so good.

Saturday: Alas, I had to be getting back to New Jack City, but first a little cold weather tour through some Chinese bakeries where my hosts were intent on scoring the ultimate pork bun. Unfortunately they were scoreless. Though I now have something new to try out in NYC's Chinatown. We also walked around Boston Commons a little. That's a nice scene. Then I hopped on the Fung Wah and had a five and one half bus ride home. In my casa I chillaxed, trip over.

Sunday I worked and tried to write. The novel continues. If only the Frugal blog counted towards it.


Dunkin Donuts: $3.25
Sodas and such: $2.50

Thursday, Friday: Not in the city.

Saturday: $0

Dunkin Donuts: $3.25
Rive Gauche: $3.50

Bagel: $1.75
Halal: $4
Coke: $2.50

Balance: $12.25

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Out on the Road

I've been away a bit. Took a bit of a vacation from New York and disappeared into the Midwest's variegated landscapes in order to watch my brother take part in a storied football tradition and arguably one of the best rivalries in the state of Indiana. But first Cincinnati.

Have you ever been to Cincinnati? It is an odd place. A brick and mortar place that vaguely resembles Brooklyn minus the hustle and bustle. On Wednesday night last week I joined my friend and his girlfriend for some trivia. Back in the day, my pal and I used to dominate trivia night. In a bibulous orgy of chicken wings and eureka insights we would rack up point after point and take home the $40 prize which was often just enough to cover the tab. We hoped this time around to have similar success but found that our stockpile of minutia was not well suited for this particular trivia. As our team, tactlessly named "The Waterboarding All Stars," slipped farther and farther behind the other teams as questions dealing with a pop culture long before our time continually stumped us. Needless to say we had to pay our own tab and the prize went to a group of 50+ Ohioans, ironically called "The Boy Geniuses."

After trivia we went to another bar. Mostly because the heat at my friend's place didn't work. At the bar we chatted it up with a local couple while sliding beau coup dollars into the juke box. I woke up the next day in a cold haze and hopped online where I found a dear friend Jen who lived in the "Nasty" as some of the locals like to call it. She told me that I should go to a place called "Siitwells" to get all the coffee house mystique that this town had to offer. I thought that would be just as good a place as any to write my novel and get some breakfast. Before I left she told me "I want you to kiss my city full on the mouth, Paul." I suggested I would do more than that.

The coffee house was "OK." I hate being this way, but I've got to say that nothing compares to New York, they just know how to do it, at least when it comes to coffee houses. Every where else is just posturing. I had a decent sandwich there and then hit some letter keys for a little while. Eavesdropping on conversations and watching the occasional child run around. There was one brunette I noticed. She seemed to be pals with the people running the restaurant, but then again I think everybody in Cincinnati is friends.

I decided to do some shopping because the heat at my friends was off and I could, being out of Gotham. Eventually, I went home to discover the heat was back on and that made me glad. Then because I couldn't get any work done, I moved to another coffee house. I found myself reading Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," more than writing. But that too didn't work out as there was a guy at the bar with an annoying laugh. So I split, went back to my friend's house. He happens to be a wine salesman and happened to leave out some fine wines which he said I could drink, so I sat in his kitchen enjoying fine wine and reading Kundera.

He eventually returned and then we went to a place in Northside? Cincinnati. And here's where the weirdness seemed to culminate because the couple from the bar the night before, the woman from Sitwell's and the guy from Kaldi's with the annoying laugh were all gathered in this one bar. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge and all my moments were coalescing into a single event and that event was called Cincinnati. Honestly, I think you could have the makings of the next Twin Peaks or Northern Exposure in this town. Just a weird collection of bizarre characters who sort of meander about. Though those kind of shows don't seem to have much staying power or sell a lot of sports drinks.

The next morning I snapped awake and sort of meandered myself around my friends apartment. The time finally came where I was like I can stay here and get in the way or I can go. So I just went. Off to Indiana to watch my brother play football. I met my father in the Indy airport and we took a trip to Greencastle, Indiana, home of DePauw, and the DePauw Tigers. I was there to watch my brother play in the final game of the season and one of Indiana's greatest college rivalries, Wabash vs. DePauw for the Monon Bell.

I met my father in the airport after turning in my hybrid car. Those are strange little devices. No keys to turn, just buttons to press. Feels odd. How do you jump start something without a starter. Anyway, my father and I made our way to Greencastle and the inn where we would be staying. A special place indeed.

I stayed at a very small inn named after and dedicated to the world's fastest lawn lawn mower. In the lobby they had a zero-turn-radius lawn mower with two propane fuel tanks attached to the side. I don't know how fast it goes, nor had I ever heard of this particular craft of vegitation mancuring. But it was apparently interesting enough for those dudes from Orange County Chopper to pose for a bunch of pictures in front of it. If you are interested go here.

After an evening of touring wal-mart, introducing my father to the Nintendo Wii and marveling at the extra girth of midwesterners we woke to anticipation of the day's main event. The Monon Bell Game. Every year the tribes of Wabash college and Depauw University get together and battle it out on the grid iron. The winner of this contest gets to take home the Monon Bell, an old railroad bell that is painted red and gold, colors from both teams. Last year the trophy was won by the Wabash Rebels. When my father and I approached the stadium we could hear the bell clanging. Wabash Rebels had been drinking in the parking lot since the afternoon before as far as we could tell.

We went into the stadium about an hour early to make sure we could get a seat. It was about 50 outside and the aluminum benches were about negative 30 degrees. Though I bundled up I was still cold. I'm going to have to attribute my lack of subcutaneous insulation to the fact that I only spend $10 a day. So I was a bit grumpy before the game even started. And then when it did start I got grumpier and more frustrated and a bit nauseous.

DePauw played a great game. They worked hard, rammed the ball down the Rebels center time after time and fought hard for every yard they got. But many times, they couldn't commit. The ball got stopped short. But the whole game they trailed. It didn't help at all that the first pass DePauw threw was at my little brother and intercepted. I felt my heart sink in the beginning and I could see my little bro (who incidentally towers over me by a good half foot) beating himself up on the sideline. And then there was a failed field goal attempt and an extra point lost.

But like I said, DePauw played a great game and they managed to make up that extra point by getting a two point conversion. In the final minutes of the game, DePauw stopped a strong advance by Wabash with an interception on the DePauw 4 yard line. Directly across from us was a sea of red. During the pre-game I took a rough count of the Wabash team, my math put their numbers between 60 and 70. Keep in mind that Wabash's enrollment is only about 600 students, all of them males. With 10% of the team on the field, the other 90% had to be in the stands. And they were rowdy, loud, and sort of intimidating.

Well, Depauw moved the ball from their 4 yard line to the Wabash 37 and were stopped cold. The score was 21 to 21 and we were just counting the seconds to overtime. They sent the kicker out to the field, a kid who had never made a successful field goal attempt in his short college career. The Wabash Rebels yelled and screamed, they were an pulsing mass of noise and red. The Monon Bell rang and a hush fell over the DePauw backers. With a clean snap and a cleaner kick the football sailed through uprights. The team began to jump up and down and I waited for both arms of the umpire to go in the air but the rush of DePauw students on the field and the stupefied silence of the Wabash stands told me that goal was good and the Tigers had won the game with an amazing 47 yard field goal.

My family joined the torrent on the field. Black and gold clad co-eds were screaming and shouting and through the din you could hear the Monon Bell ringing over the chants of "We are...Tigers." My sister and I spotted my brother in the tight crowd of football players I can't say I've ever seen him happier and he smiled proudly when he spotted us on the field with him cheering him on. Hugs, yells, and lots of ringing of the bell followed after. The crowd eventually cleared out, the students had drinking on their minds, but that bell never stopped ringing its toll of victory not even an hour afterwards when my family left.

I have to say it was probably the best game I ever witnessed, and I hated every minute of it. Every minute until the last couple of seconds. You can check out more about it here: . There's a nice picture of my brother catching the ball.

Since then I've returned to New York City. It's life as usual as I go to both of my jobs and just punch away at my novel. I've still got about 30,000 words to write over the next 10 days. Thankfully I have lots of vacation time. But I'm really shooting for a two time victory. So wish me luck. Sorry about the absence but much of my writing energy has been focused in the novel direction. The word counter will go up as well as my balance. Speaking of which.

Long over due breakdown:


IN: $110

November 6
Groceries: $6.75

November 11-15

Sunday 11
Fancy Tacos: $9
Haagan Dazs: $4

Monday 12
Tamales: $2.50
Halal: $4
Cokes: $2.50

Tuesday 13
Bagel: $2.25
Baugette: $2.50
Groceries: $5.75
Beer: $2

Wednesday 14
Pizza: $2
Coke: $2.50

Thursday 15
I forget: $16

Friday 16
I'm guessing Groceries: $7.75

Saturday 17
Dunkin Donuts: $3.25
Falafel: $3

Sunday 18
Dunkin Donuts: $3.25
Soda: $3.50

Monday 19
Laundry: $12
Coke: $2.50

Tuesday 20
Bagel: $2

Out: $89.75

Balance: $4.25

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Taxidermy and Fun

Well I found a great use for my surplus. On Friday night a few co-workers and I set out for an evening of admiring real and imagined animals that are now dead and preserved in such a way as they can be constantly admired. We went to a taxidermy contest at The Secret Science Club in Union Hall, a bar with actual boccee courts inside. And no, the contest wasn't a race to see who could stuff a sewer rat the fastest, but rather a chance for the wonders of preserved nature to be viewed, admired and ultimately judged.

There I saw a two headed calf, the skeleton of a cat with two faces, a bird of paradise, a mermaid, and something called a sea rabbit. The pope of squirrels made an appearance, along with vicious polar voles. And all of this transpired under the frightening, inscrutable vision of the rump ape. One of the best things about the evening was the judges. They had a novelist, a member of the Minnesota Rouge Taxidermists, a DJ and a person from the Natural History museum. The natural scientist functioned well a soothsayer. He spotted the gaffs, corrected the presenters and even provided some history when it came to various stuffed beasts.

Before this I spent money on food. It was great to actually relax and have money to blow. Midway through the meal I felt this overwhelming sense of joy. It was a vaguely familiar feeling, then I realized it. I was having fun. So this is what it's like. It was odd.

I woke up feeling all the fun I had the next morning. So after stitching up my hangover with coffee, ibuprofen and multivitamins I started my weekend project of cleaning. I was supposed to be writing a novel (still am actually) but I was distracted. I went out and spent some money on cleaning supplies and then invested a lot of time scrubbing. My kitchen floor is something I'm proud of now.

Starting Balance: $41.75

IN: $40

Union Hall: $45

Cleaning Supplies: $13.75
Chinese Food: $5

Gyro Sandwich: $3
Bread: $4.50
Ham: $3
Tomatoes: $.75
Beer: $3
Laundry $12

Parsley: $1

Balance: -$9.50

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Theater and the NaNoWriMo

Last Thursday night I was dragged to the theater. I'm a bit skeptical at times of plays and other theater performances. I've been in some pretty uncomfortable theater seats before, watching bad actors suffer through worse dialog so I had my doubts about some play called "The Chaos Theories."

But was actually quite an accomplished little engine of a play. Sort of a New York City mash up where several interesting and serious scenarios were played by out by the same actors in different roles. The actors often switched power roles going from emotional extremes of completely pathetic and helpless to tyrannically powerful. The most striking example of this was a woman who played a vagabond hanging outside the restaurant where the play took place. She later transformed into a Hollywood executive who had a talented writer by the balls, literally. The only part that didn't sit well with me was the fact that almost everyone in the play actually acknowledged the homeless lady. At one point I turned to a fellow playgoer and asked what city this was supposed to be. Everyone I know generally ignores the homeless and almost never gives them money. As a co-worker once put it, "Why encourage them?" Afterwards me and a few of my party went someplace to eat and I didn't have hardly any money. I was only able to lay down about $7 for my share. I owe you guys.

The weekend went pretty well, though I did nothing. I was sick on Friday night and had to skip a birthday party because of it. That night I just stocked up on food and have been sort of milking it ever since. I've found I'm getting quite adept at the ten dollars a day. I have almost 3 days of food in my fridge and I keep finding ways not to eat it.

On Monday I went to my first NaNoWriMo event. Every November a number of wackos decide that they are going to spend the next 30 days writing a 50,000 word novel. I did this last year and I loved it. So this year I'm going to do it again. Starting today I will be writing 1600+ words a day in a frenzy to finish another whole work of art. Lots of great novels are 50,000 words long like "The Great Gatsby," "Catcher In The Rye" and "Tom Sawyer." So I may be a bit more brief as I wage a campaign of words and combine it with my savings. But I'll add a counter of how many words I've written so far, so over the next 30 days you all can cheer me on.

The people who started this novel writing business got a hold of my name and they've started sending me emails. On Monday they promised me free pizza. So I showed up to a bar promptly at seven and sat down. It seemed like a good opportunity to meet people, but I wish I wasn't being so cheap because I gladly would have swallowed some liquid courage and engaged the other aspiring (attractive) writers. But I ended up making excruciating small talk with a couple of ladies at my table, one of who was too young and the other a bit too loud for me. The free pizza they promised was taking too long, so I left and made lentil soup at home while watching Heroes. Mmm. Lentil soup. Mmm. Heroes.

On Tuesday night, which seems like an impossibly long time ago, my second job had a staff meeting and they provided that free pizza I'd been trying to get. Ah what a meeting that was. I ate way too much pizza and felt a little ill afterwards, but it was free, what can a kid do.

Yesterday for Halloween, gomobo sent me more money so I jumped at that and got a $1 schwarma from Bread and Olive, quite tasty that. I stayed, wisely I think, away from the festivities, drinking cold beer in my living room while watching Dawn of the Dead. That was a good Halloween, complete with the irrational nightmares of zombie swarms attacking my bed.

So let's have a long awaited breakdown. Take a moment to marvel at the massive surplus I've somehow accrued.

Starting Balance: $5.50

IN: $80


Dinner after play: $7

Salt: $1.25
Groceries: $16

Burger King: $3.25
Groceries: $7.50

Dunkin Donuts: $3.50
Cilantro & Tomato: $1



Shwarma: $1
Groceries: $3.25


Balance: $41.75

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

National Debt, Monster Movies, and Pasta

Paying off my debts. That's what this blog is all about. Me making the sacrifice it takes to make up for all the all the times I agreed to buy now and pay later. And now it's later. I don't have to do it. I don't even have to do it the way I am. I know how to call credit card companies and transfer balances. I could avoid interest indefinitely but I chose to take my debt head on for the sake of brighter more secure future. Now if only the US Government could do the same. I've added a national debt counter to my blog so that you all can see how much we owe. I'm not sure who we owe this money to but at the writing of this blog each citizen's share of the debt is $29,865.49. At the rate I've been going that amounts to 3 years of $10 a day just to pay off my share. And it's growing every day, too bad there isn't a no interest credit card offer that the government can transfer this debt to. But if we don't stop it you can kiss a lot of great things like national parks, student loans or medical research goodbye (or cut to nearly non-existent proportions).

But back to my spending. On Sunday night I hosted my first ever movie night at my house. A cheap way to gather friends. Though the attendance was relatively low, actually as low as it could get without me being alone, I must say that the first movie night was a rousing success. My friend K gets the guest of the evening award even though she didn't show up. She sent along some fish dumplings with the single guest Tomiwa and they were delicious and surprisingly appropriate given that the film was about some weird amphibious lifeform. "The Host" was a great film, lots of weird fun and not too terribly scary, though there are some good jumps throughout. That was followed up by hip hop education hour with Tomiwa as DJ and head instructor and Paul as student. And we closed it all out with some Led Zeppelin. All in all an audio visual fiesta and highlight of the weekend. I had to step out to get some coke for the evening.

On Monday I bought some tomatoes so I could make a recipe that my office mate Amber and I had been looking at during work. It was from that liberal rag The New York Times, a delicious, winter squash and tomato sauce with pasta. It was quite lovely and there is plenty left over for a few days of lunches.

Yesterday, due to a snafu I ended up spending a few bucks on lunch. They sometimes just give you money, but you have to spend it that day. So when I tried to spend it on Indian food and found I couldn't. I called and the credited me permanently which is nice. It's odd that I'm now running into free food. You should check it out if you live in the city. Just be sure to give them my phone number and order so I get a credit.

Tonight was another night of pasta and Kid Nation. Ah Taylor how I love to hate you.

Starting Balance: -$21

In: $40

Coke: $1.75

Tomatoes: $2

Indian Food: $8.75
Beer: $1


Balance: $5.50

Thursday, October 18, 2007

War? What is it good for? Lots and lots of money.

I can't say what the reluctance has been on this posting issue, but I've definately lost some steam. I guess I'm just down about the failed speed dating attempt. I'm going to write it up in my consciousness as a lark, a funny joke I played on myself. And from this point hence, we shall never speak of it. Never.

Wednesday was an odd but active one. After starting the morning out with a bagel, I got notification from that they were giving out money. So with $2 more dollars in the coffers I cashed it all in for a delicious campo sandwich.

Later in the day my friend Stella invited me to a reading in which a couple of authors would be discussing issues relevant to the current war in Iraq. One author had written a book about the private army known as Blackwater, and one had written as an "unembedded" journalist reporting from outside the Green Zone. It was odd to hear the term "unembedded." I always thought that meant you were "embedded" in the war zone, but apparently it doesn't, I guess a better definition is that embedded journalist go in with the troops when people let them, and in this scenario it means running around the highly secured Green Zone.

While Blackwater's mercenary army is disturbing enough, because it operates outside of the Geneva convention and answers to no one, it was the author Dahr Jamail's presentation that disturbed me the most. It is understandable that enlistment in the US Forces is down. People are less likely to join up when they may go to a war that many feel is based on at what could, at best, be called "bad information." But the story that this journalist brought back was not a fight for the hearts and minds of Iraqi people, but of a crazed occupation where Marine snipers shot women and children traveling to hospitals. It was a side of the war that I was not thinking about. I could see the errant bomb hurting people, I trusted that the armed services did their due diligence as much as they could to avoid "collateral damage." But as Mr. Jamail described his trip to a clinic where people were bringing in women and children who were being shot by Marine snipers I found myself wondering if the armed forces were representing my country as I feel they should be. Clearly, my views on the war have changed, and as much as I would like to democratize the world and stabilize the Middle East, I'm done with this war. I can't have the blood of innocents on my hands for something that clearly won't work.

After this sobering gathering Stella and her friend took me to a hare krishna dinner. I had looked into the hare krishnas as a source of free vegetarian food, but I assumed that you had to attend a long service about the saving grace of a Hindu warrior god. That wasn't the case here as the three of us helped ourselves to some delicious free food. I then got a call from my friend Tomiwa to drink bourbon and play Scrabble, which I gladly did. I woke up hungover the next day and still distracted by the war.

The rest of the week was fairly dull. Thursday night was work at the tutoring center and "High Noon" after work.

On Friday I discovered that I could get some cheap tamales near work at the Mexican consulate which is just down the street. I bought 4 for $5. I ended the day by stocking up on groceries.

Starting Balance: -$29

In: $40

Bagel with Cream Cheese: $3.25
Campo Sandwich: $2.25

Halal: $4

Tamales: $5
Vegetables: $4.50
Groceries: $10
Beer: $3

Saturday: $0

Balance: -$21

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Shoestring Love: Mach Speed

When I saw that I could speed date for $27 dollars, I decided that it could be interesting. And as far as value goes, I had 10 dates for that price. $2.70 per date with pizza and wine is quite a deal for lonely fella on a budget.

The event began at Mo Pickins, over at Avenue A. Slinking by 15 minutes early, I was overcome with a sense of dread. I'm just no good when it comes to rejection. It cuts me deep and if I were anymore tense I would probably have had a full fledged anxiety attack. I've never had one, nervous breakdown, sure, but prickly-armed anxiety attack? No. I called my friend for a morale boost but he was out eating with his hot 23 year-old girlfriend. He just wished me luck. What I needed was a Swingers style pep talk. "You are so money. You're money and you don't even know it...etc." Nearby I found a record store, and though I have no turntable, I hung out there just to kill time. No good showing up early to room full of desperate people.

When I got to the little upstairs bar I saw some attractive candidates. Though they struck me as much more hip than I'd expected. They didn't appear to be in the 26 to 34 range, nor did they look like the bookish types that would find speed dating in the 92nd St Y website. They actually looked like a bunch of NYU hipster lesbians. I ordered a Jameson, and the bartender had made one by mistake so I got a glass of whiskey gratis. Cheers.

I found a seat near an open window next to the fire escape. From here I could look over the scene, see what interested me and what the competition was like. There weren't a lot of guys in the room. And what I could see only inspired confidence. They were mostly balding and pear shaped types, some of whom had obviously never flipped through a GQ magazine. I was vaguely wary of one guy who was large, had a classically cut jaw, seemed like he could be competition, not that competition matters that much. Participants got to pick more than one person they were interested in. Then I got a look at his hirsute back, he had a cape of fur under that shirt. With that observation I took a sip of supremacy from my whiskey glass and raised my eyebrow to the coming conquest. It was at that point a woman yelled, "If you're not here for the speed dating then you need to leave the room!" And every hot girl in the room got up and walked away.

Crestfallen, I looked at the fire escape behind and thought about making a dramatic exit. Wouldn't that make for an interesting story for the others? "I went to speed dating and it was so bad this one guy jumped out the window." They brought out pizza and wine, I'd already eaten at Subway and wasn't too upset about that seeing as, much like Farmer Ted from "Sixteen Candles," fresh breath is a priority. They said not everybody was there and I had my fingers crossed. The dating began and I began making the rounds.

There's not too much you can do in 5 minutes of dialog. The woman hosting said that some dates would feel like a minute and others would feel like 20 and this I found to be true. Most people only get to where you from, what do you do, where you living now.

The first two dates were a definite pass. Is it shallow of me to say I knew that before I sat down? Yeah, well, I'm shallow. But I liked the third one. She was a late comer. A periodontist (or gum surgeon). She was cute, seemed friendly, and a doctor. If I was a Jewish mother, I'd think she was perfect. All this added up to me circling 'Yes" next to her name. We talked about scuba diving and I mentioned that I didn't think I could do that as I had asthma. Man the smoothness that is The Gotham Frugal. I'm slier than Billy D Williams. That date ended and I moved on to a few others.

The other highlight was a giggly blonde, a bit of a stereotype, I know, but true all the same. She laughed at my jokes, touched my arm and pointed out that I was funny. So hey, she knows a good thing when she sees it. She got a 'Yes.'

The last date was by far the longest. It started with her saying "Three sentences. I'm 26 years old. I'm a computer programmer. I've never been married. I live in Queens near Forest Hills." So, clearly, she wanted to dispense with the niceties, but by this point I was calling the night a wash and decided to say what I wanted. "That was four sentences." Instead of calling me an ass she said, "That's right Forest Hills." So my response was, "Hey, that's where Spider-Man grew up."

At the end of the night, I went home and had a few more beers, again, for perspective. They said that if any of the people I said yes to said yes to me that we would get contact info. About 22 hours later my email is as mute as a ficus. That's the crazy world of love.

Starting Balance: -$5.25
In: $10

Speed Dating: $27
Subway Sandwich: $5.25
Beer: $1.50

Balance: -$29

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fruity Frugal

Today I bought bananas, B A N A N A S.

Banana Breakdown:

Starting Balance: -$14.75
In: $10
Bananas: $0.50

Balance: -$5.25

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Weekend Washout

There comes a time in every man's life when the oil runs out, and the bottle is empty, and onions need frying, and the bread needs dipping, and the water needs, well oiling. And at that time a man has to go out and buy some olive oil. So that's what I did. I went to a high class grocery joint on the upper east side, called Citarella. While I was there I had to pick up some bread.

I've recently been obsessed with Roma tomatoes. There's a produce place that has cheap avacadoes and really luscious Roma tomatoes. That night my Canadian friend and I sat down and ate the baguette with bread and tomato and a head of roasted garlic. We chased it with wine which one bottle wasn't enough. So I had to go buy another. Such are the duties of hosting, though my pal did throw in some cash. It's hard sometimes to believe that I pay $6 for a beer at a bar and $6 for a bottle of wine. I wonder why I go to bars, I wonder why I can't wait to go to bars when I'm all paid off. They aren't that great. The company can be nice, but I may be getting past the point of wanting to meet new people. Why is it that people have to say, "Hey let's go drink somewhere where they charge too much?" Why can't we say, "Hey come to my house and let's get drunk?" Is it the phrasing? Is it the selection? Cause I normally pick one drink and stick to it. Who knows.

Well after drinking a few bottles of wine the night before I had a headache, so I got aspirin. I went to work on Saturday and tutored my little heart out. I was feeling lazy so I bought some Mushu Pork. While ordering out is often a bust financially, I've already gotten 2 meals out it and have at least 2 more. So I think all that delicious is worth it.

Still, on Sunday, the grocery store called. And I had to get out there and pick up some provisions that will hopefully last me the rest of the week, or at least a good portion of it. Tonight I made some guacamole, and I'm certain I'm getting better at it. We shall see.

Sorry for the boring entry. I've been hanging out a lot. Good thing about hanging out in the apartment is that you don't spend a lot of money. Bad thing about staying in the apartment is that you can do that anywhere, and this after all is New York City. Exciting things are coming I promise. I was going to try to sit in on a Kung Fu class on Monday but I said I'd cover a shift at the second job. No problem. Kung Fu next week.

In other news, I paid off $500 of my credit card this pay period. Not too shabby.


Starting Balance: $5.75

In: $30

Olive oil and baguette: $14.50
Avacadoes and tomatoes: $2.75
Eggs: $1
Wine: $4.50

Aspirin: $5
Butter: $2.25
Chinese Food: $10
Toilet Paper: $0.75

Dunkin Donuts Coffee: $2
Groceries: $7.75

Balance: -$14.75

Thursday, October 11, 2007

There are free lunches, and you can get me one.

You guys remember Stella from work don't you? Well yesterday Stella told me, "Hey Paul check out this website where you can order food online, then you can pick it up, NO WAITING, oh and you get a few bucks." My thoughts were something like "Oh, sure Stella, whatever I don't need your spam fiesta."

But later today I was looking into and decided to try it out. And sure enough all I had to do was give them a little credit card information and my address and they told me all the places I could order from and they gave me $2 credit. Stella also gave me a special secret code which landed me an extra few bucks for my order. We both made an order online and walked to the Bombay Grill. I had the Tandori Chicken and Stella had some vegetables. And while it wasn't the best Indian food, I don't think anything beats free food which I didn't have to wait for.

Speaking of free food, if you sign up to then you get $2 credit towards any resturant and if you fill out a survey they throw you $2 more. But the most important thing that my New York friends have to do is enter my phone number in the "Who referred you?" box. This simple act will garner me $5 worth of free food credit and put me that much closer to the end of my credit card debt. Have a heart and some lunch to.

Today I decided to grab a tamale and a banana for breakfast, they were out of pablano so I went with the rojo. That and a couple of beers at the end of the evening was all I spent.


Starting Balance: $-1.75

IN: $10

Tamale: $1.25
Banana: $0.25
Beer: $1

Balance: $5.75

The World's Oldest Profession Never Gets Old

This is New York and if you are a Morlock like myself, you drag your pale hide every morning down into the bowels of earth and crowd in with the other Morlocks and go a little dead eyed for anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes only to repeat the process the next day. But there are many of us who agree better a pauper in the Emerald City than a player in Munchkinville. Yet for others, the entire point of Gotham is find the rich and powerful, get their lamprey like suckers into them and hang on for the rest of their sucky existence. Though the means by which one latches on vary, sex seems to be the most popular. (Sorry for the metaphor mash up).

This brings me to a recent blog entry by the authors of the fascinating read "Freakonomics." Here they feature a Craigslist ad where a "spectacularly beautiful" 25 year old woman asks for advice on how to land her a man who makes at least "$500K" a year. As she says, "$250K won't get me to Central Park West." I must say the whole thing was disheartening to me. I mean here I am, with my good friend Hamilton trying to bust through each day by not giving him away and some young woman ostensibly won't give a guy a shot unless he can lay a Cleavland on her every single day.

Then I read the response in which a man explained to the gold digger that her beauty, which was about all she seemed to be bringing to the table, is a depreciating asset, while money makers typically only make more money. One might also advise her to move to Silicon Valley. I myself have entertained notions of romancing a high powered executive lady and letting her shower me with pricey men's fashion and scrumptious meals that cost more than some countries' GDP. It's one of those New York/Cinderella fantasies. Wow, I just realized Cinderella was a gold digger.

But back to me, I may make the occasional big purchase, funding it through gifts and deciding it doesn't count towards this little exercise of mine, and my reasoning may be poster-board thin when it comes down to it, but trust me I do sweat spending more than $10 a day and I have passed on many, many purchases that I could afford and felt low about it, I've turned down invites out because I didn't want to go over my limit, and I wonder if I'll have any friends left when I'm done with this. Living on $10 a day in New York is a pain in the ass and everyone of my friends has basically told me to quit. By next week I'll be $2,000 dollars away from my goal and while most people would kill for a credit card balance of just $2000, I'm not done yet. But when I read about some piece of ass unabashedly letting it be known that she won't be giving it up unless a guy doesn't make more every day then I pay each month in rent, well, I feel like a chump. I know I shouldn't but I do.

Starting Balance: -$21

IN: $20

Tomatoes: $0.75

Balance: -$1.75

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Month, Weekend in Review

What can we say about September? This one started like a lion and ended like a lamb. A designation usually reserved for March, but here it is appropriate. The beginning of the month marked a needed respite from the $10 a day business. I had a friend in town and therefore went out, spending like I hope to when this whole fast is over. I had to dip into my savings even for that weekend. But I'm hoping to make it up soon.

The premier event of September was the second job blues. I started at one tutoring center, suffered through their bureaucratic nonsense only to quit as soon as they deemed me fit to train. To those out there who helped me talk myself into quiting, I thank you. But undeterred I managed to quickly turn around and pick up another job. Barely missing a beat. I've since been enjoying my work there and realized that it could be fairly lucrative. We'll see what happens when the first paycheck rolls in which I have no idea when that will be.

I also managed to claw my way out of the deep hole I'd been in. If you take those days of the month that I did participate in the frugal business, I spent around $5.75 per day on average in September. That's means that this has been the most frugal month by far. I ate a lot of rice, pasta and lentil soup to prove that. I think that the advent of new prime time TV programs such as Kid Nation have been helpful when it comes to keeping me from spending. Also I am counting on a love affair with the 99 cent store to carry me through the dark hours. With the new job and the less negative balance, I may have this credit card bill packed away by the end of the year. Fingers crossed.

It was a lazy weekend, for the most part. Except for a couple of easy days at the second job and the OU/Texas game, oh and a photographers showing I mostly just stayed indoors and had something of a mixed media fiesta. Movies, documentaries, TV shows, video games, comic books, and cooking. I've been pretty good staying with in that budget but I had to buy some food and I had a stinky sponge that had to be replaced. It was way overdue. Kinda like this entry.


Starting Balance: $9.75

IN: $30


Bagel: $2
OU/Texas Game: $25
Wine: $3.25
Cab: $8

Vegetables: $4.75

Laundry: $5
Groceries: $ 12.75

Balance: -$21

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Definitions of Frugal

gratis: Getting something for free is always a pleasure. On Wednesday I discovered that I had about $60 worth of Best Buy certificates. So I headed out to buy some entertainment. I got a couple of games and only had to pay the tax. That night I went home and cooked some dinner for later in the week, had to pick up some groceries to do so.

recuperation: For some reason I got sick. I blame it on the plethora of tots I grabbed this weekend. Kids are the cutest and perhaps deadliest of all vectors, so I took the day off. I was feeling better later in the day, good enough to go out and buy some groceries. I also decided to go ahead and attend my other job. Antibiotics are a wonderful thing.

vindication: I saw a familiar face at the tutoring center. One of the people that I was training with at the evil tutoring center had defected. I was happy to see her, not only because someone I thought was a good person wasn't participating in those shenanigans, but also because it confirmed my decision.

fraternize: After work I gathered with a few friends at a dinner party. We had a Mexican style feast. I provided guacamole and chips. Fairly yummy, if I do say so myself. I'm sure my contribution was outdone by others but I must say that every one brought in their own bit of variety. If variety is the spice of life, friendship must be the bread.

remuneration: On Friday, the workplace prince, a diminutive canine named Francis was hungry and giving his significantly pregnant retainer a bit of grief. So I offered to go across the street to fetch his lordship some kibble. For my services I was allowed to keep the change. His highness is too kind. After work I grabbed a few beers from the store and settled in for an evening of salmon croquettes and film. My definition of relaxation. I also saved up a good bit for this weekend's OU/Texas Matchup.


Starting Balance: $0.25

Best Buy: $1
Groceries: $8

Groceries: $10.50

Keeping the change: $2
Beer: $3

Ending Balance: $9.75

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Red Dirt Rambling

Well pardners, this past weekend I traveled to Oklahoma City. There I became the proud godfather of my first nephew, Michael. I was dreading the flight home. In the past I've been met with delays, cancellations, and rerouting. But aside from an involuntary seating change the flights moved on schedule. Though I was set against doing so initially, I decided to have a beer and a couple of McDonald's cheeseburgers. At $9.25 this felt a little over priced.

But, the great thing about going home to your parents is that most things are gratis. I spent a good deal of time at the kitchen table, eating. There was lots of American fare: barbecue chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs, and pizza. Breakfasts featured Syrian bread, butter, eggs and jam. I drank tons of coffee and the occasional beer. Free food is indeed unbeatable.

The homestead was packed with critters at various times, my 18 month niece and her parents are living with my folks at home and she's quite a friendly one, she would often waddle to each person at any given gathering and say "Hi." Once she got an appropriate response she would move immediately to the next person in the room. Needless to say she was well received. My other nephew and niece would come around with their parents in the evenings. This would set off a crescendo of small voices and activity and often required a good deal of officiating and interactive play.

At the end of the trip I was offered money by my mother. I feel I'm a little old to be taking cash from Mom but after brief protestations I capitulated. I also got a few dollars from my grandmother, who always gives you cash in a conspiratorial manner. When you say goodbye to her, she gives you a big hug and then takes your hand in hers; there she's secreted a ten or twenty dollar bill. I pocket these without looking and count them later. With the proceeds of this trip I'm going to buy some face cleansers I've been putting off for a long time. You can't live in the Metro with going a touch Metrosexual.

All in all it was a great visit and I was sorry to leave. But the city calls and I felt good about being home. Unfortunately I don't feel good about my meager budget of $10 a day. On the bright side, I'm back in black. And after a $150 deficit that's a good thing. It's nearly the equivalent of going half a month with spending a dime.

Okie Breakdown:

Starting Balance: -$29.50

IN: $50


Friday: Beer and Burgers: $9.25

Saturday: $0

Sunday: $0

Monday: PBR $1

Peanut Butter and Bread: $5
Halal: $5

Balance: $0.25