Buying Brand Name

When I go to stores, I’m always looking for the cheapest prices.  I don’t want to pay more than I need to, especially if there isn’t a big difference in quality.  So I go for generics on a lot of things.  But I’ve discovered a few things that I will always buy brand name.

Laundry Detergent. I’ve purchased generic detergent for years, and I always wondered why my clothes looked dingy.  Duh.  All my synapses weren’t firing on that one.  I have just a few more loads left with the cheap-o detergent I bought last time, and then I’m going with Tide.  (After all, it’s what God cleans the oceans with!)

Batteries. Let me tell you, Dollar General batteries aren’t worth snot.  They just don’t last.  From now on, I will buy Duracell or Energizer or something.  But no more generic batteries.

Light Bulbs. Generic light bulbs also don’t last.  I stick with GE, Philips, Sylvania, or Westinghouse.

Plastic Wrap. More curse words have been uttered in my house because the stupid store brand plastic wrap won’t tear on the stupid store brand metal strip, and then the wrap gets all wrinkled and you can’t put it on the food, which hardly matters because the plastic won’t stick to the bowl anyway.  I now buy Saran Wrap.

Plastic Baggies. For the fold-over kind, generic is okay.  But if you want the kind you can re-close, go with Zip-loc or Glad.  I’ve had generic baggies that won’t close, or they close, but then they won’t open and I end up tearing the bag above the zipper which means that now there’s not enough for the fingers to grab onto in order to open the bag, so you have to tear the whole thing open.  Plus, the store brand bags get holes in them a lot more easily than the brand name bags.

I figure I’m not saving money if I have to throw stuff away more often, which is what happens with the items I’ve listed when I buy generic or store brand.

That’s my list.  Did I miss anything?  For what items do you insist on brand names?

Masquerading as Rich

The last thing I do for work each day is stop by the bank and make the day’s deposit.

The weather was beautiful last week, so I had my car windows down as I sat in the drive through at my local financial institution.  I had pulled up behind a beautiful, shiny, new-looking black Lexus ES330.  And while I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, I overheard the woman in the Lexus talking to the teller about accessing money in her line of credit.

When I see a Lexus, I always think of Wealth.  Luxury.  Money. And I suspect that’s what Lexus — and Lexus owners — want me to think.  So it was rather amusing (in a sad sort of way) to hear this Lexus owner discuss getting deeper in debt.

The transaction between the teller and the owner of the ES330 was taking a while, and as I waited, another car pulled into the next lane.  This one was a beautiful, shiny, new-looking black Lexus ES350.

The two Lexus owners seemed to know each other.  They rolled down their windows and greeted one another.  And again, while I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help but overhear part of their conversation.  ES350 was talking to ES330 about some sort of bill (property taxes, perhaps?) and she said, “Oh, crap.  It’s the 10th, isn’t it?  Well, I’m late again.”

And it just struck me that here are two women, both owners of really nice cars.  One is deepening her debt and the other doesn’t pay her bills on time.

And I sat there, in my 1999 Volkswagen with the cracked leather interior, the heated seats that don’t work, and the temperamental transmission sensor, knowing that we are paying our bills on time and reducing our debt as quickly as possible.  We stick to a written budget.  If we don’t have the money, we don’t spend the money.

I’m not trying to sound all arrogant here.  We weren’t always so responsible with our finances.  We have purchased things in the past that we really couldn’t afford, and we’ve paid more money in interest charges than I care to think about.

But we are done pretending to be rich people. Instead, we’re starting to ACT like rich people, which means that we’re getting rid of debt and figuring out ways to make money grow.  We’re not going to buy fancy cars when serviceable cars do the job.  Most of my clothes are several years old, and I’m not the best-dressed person around.  I don’t get hundred-dollar haircuts (and if I can get them for free, even better!) and I don’t have a fancy cell phone.

But we’re making progress.  And someday, when I can really, truly afford to buy a Lexus…

I’ll probably still be driving my old VW.

Cozy Warm

The sound and smell of a gas chainsaw brings back memories of childhood for me.

When I was small, my parents heated our home with a wood-burning stove.  They would spend summer and fall preparing for winter by driving to Hoosier National Forest, where my mother’s family owned some land and a cabin, searching out dead trees and fallen wood.  While we kids would play, swinging from gigantic vines over deep ravines, they and some of my aunts and uncles would cut the wood with gas chainsaws and load it into pick up trucks to take back home.

This was before the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer essentially stopped all transport of firewood across county lines.

Once the wood was at home, my dad (and sometimes my mom) would work on splitting the wood with a sledgehammer and some wedges.  They’d stack the wood neatly in various places in the yard so that it was easily accessible.

The wood stove was in the basement, directly beneath one of the bathrooms.  I can remember wearing my red flannel Holly Hobby nightgown and standing in the bathtub, feeling the warmth of the furnace on my bare feet.  That bathroom always seemed to be the warmest place in the house.

Chef and I have a gas furnace in our house, but we do like to use our wood stove as much as possible.  So when some friends had a dead tree and offered us the wood, we snapped it up.

It’s been sitting in our yard for a while, and last week, Chef got a chance to work on cutting it up.

The sound of the chainsaw brought back memories.

The smell of the exhaust mingled with the scent of sawdust took me back to childhood.

Then the sledgehammer and wedges came out.

Isn’t he manly?

Get a load of that FACE!

And while I don’t stand in the bathtub in my red flannel Holly Hobby nightgown anymore, I do like to cuddle up in front of the fire, cozy under a blanket, drinking some tea and reading a book.  Wood heat just feels nicer than the heat from our gas furnace, for some reason.

And the reduced gas bill feels nice, too.

My Life as a Research Subject: Part Four (Or, You Have an Incurable Disease. Oh, wait. No, You Don’t.)

I’ve been telling you about my participation in a clinical research study for a medication to prevent menstrual migraines.  At first, I thought it was going to be easy money. Then I met Dumb Nurse, and things went downhill.  In Part Three, I told you the events that led me to feeling done with this study.

And yet, I wasn’t done.

Oh, unfortunate me.

The third week of October, I got a couple of calls from the research center.  Since I didn’t have or want any further appointments with them, I did not answer and let the calls go to voicemail.  The messages stated that they had lab results back that they wanted to give me.  I thought they had given me all my lab results — I’d had high liver enzymes and then they re-tested and everything was normal again, and they’d given me those results already.  So twice I ignored the messages.

On the last Wednesday of October, I got yet another call from the research center.  Wanting to get them off my back for good, I finally answered.  The girl said that they had lab results in, and the doctor wanted me to come down and discuss it with him.

I said, “No, I’m not making any more appointments.”

She said, “Um… well, the doctor really wants to see you about these results.”

I told her to send them to my family doctor and I would review the results with her.  I had an appointment in two days anyway.

The girl said, “Um… well… can I just give you the results?”

Big sigh.  “Fine.”

“You tested positive for Hepatitis B.”

Shock and silence.  Then, “How in the world would I have contracted that?”

“Well,” she said, “it’s contracted through bodily fluids.”

Now, I work in a doctor’s office, but I have almost no contact with patients.  I haven’t had a blood transfusion.  I haven’t gotten any tattoos or had any acupuncture.  I don’t do drugs (so I don’t share needles), and my husband and I are monogamous.  So I basically have zero risk factors for contracting Hepatitis B.

The girl continued, “The doctor wants to see you back for treatment.  He’ll treat you for free.  And if it makes a difference, the employee you had a problem with previously no longer works here.”

My head is still spinning.  “I need to think about this.  Send the records to my family doctor and I’ll discuss it with her,” I said.  And have her re-test me, I added silently.

So, like all patients do these days, I Googled Hepatitis B and confirmed that I had no risk factors.  Then I started thinking… I had a vaccine for some kind of hepatitis about ten years ago.  Which hepatitis was that?

After doing a little more internet research, I determined that it was indeed Hepatitis B that I had been vaccinated against.  And I know that when you have a vaccine, sometimes those antibodies stay in your system and cause false positive results on blood tests.  Chef has experience with this because he had a TB vaccine as a child.  He was born in Germany, where that vaccine is common, although it is not given in the U.S.  So every time he gets a TB test, the results show he’s positive.  It’s a real pain in the neck.

But Hep B vaccines are relatively common these days, and I would certainly have thought that a doctor’s office would know how to interpret the results — or at the very least, ask the patient if she had ever been vaccinated.  They never asked me that question.

That is, not until the phone rang again.

It was the same girl from the research center who had called about 45 minutes earlier.  “Um… I was just looking at your results again, and, um… have you ever have a Hepatitis B vaccine?”

Why yes, yes I have, I assured her, in a much nicer tone than I was feeling.

“Well, these results may be because you had the vaccine.”

“Yeah, I finally figured that out on my own.”

She began to apologize.

I said, “Look.  I’m not necessarily upset with you, but this just goes back to the problems I’ve had with your facility all along.”  And while I didn’t use the word “incompetent” I’m pretty sure I gave her the idea that that’s the word I was thinking.

First she tried to shift the blame, then she tried to tell me how she “went the extra mile” to look into it more after she’d called me.

And I said, “Well it would have been really nice if someone had done that before you called me and I freaked out for an hour.”

She apologized again and made some excuse and said, “Well, that’s why I called you back,” as if that was going to make me ever-so-grateful.

I said, “But you don’t call someone and tell them they have an incurable disease before you have all the facts.  That is not okay.

After a stunned silence, she apologized again.

“Thanks,” I said, and I hung up.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so angry.  I had become worried — for my own health and the health of my husband — because they didn’t do their jobs before calling me.

Two days later, I went to see my family doctor who reviewed the results with me in detail, taking a lot of time to look things up to make sure she had the information correct.  She showed me what she had found and went over the results carefully, making sure I understood.  She assured me that the reason the test (one of three tests, actually) came back “reactive” was because I’d had the vaccine.  I have new-found love for my doctor.

And I will never participate in a research study again.

Ironically, as I was writing this post, that stupid center called me again. It was the center director who said that the doctor was there and wanted to talk to me about my lab results.

Now, in case I haven’t made it clear, I HAVE HAD IT WITH THIS RESEARCH CENTER.

So I said, “No.”

“Well, he just wants to go over the information with you,” she said.

“No!” I repeated.  “I don’t want to talk to anyone from your center again.  I’ve already gone over the results with my family doctor who assured me that the reason the results came back the way they did is because I had a vaccine.”

“Well, that’s why we were calling.  He wanted to go over that with you.”

“NO,” I said again.  ” You don’t call people and tell them they have Hepatitis B without having your facts straight.  I don’t want you people to call me ever again.

Oh yeah.  I said “you people.”

And then I hung up on her.

Now, are we done?  I certainly hope so.  I really don’t want to write Part Five in this series.

So the question: Was the money worth it?

H- E-Double Hockey Sticks, no.

Sorry for my language.  I know my nieces and nephews sometimes read my blog.  But this time, it had to be said.

Okay.  I’ve got that out of my system.

And thankfully, I don’t have an incurable disease.

Hasta la Vista, Visa!

For the last couple of months, we’d been waiting on a payment for some sculptures Chef did back in August.  Large sculptures, which amounted to a large payment that we have been waiting and waiting and waiting for.

Finally, on Saturday, after at least three phone calls to the client over the last month, the payment came in.  Hooray!  I knew that would make the business bank balance much more comfortable.

But on Sunday, I got an even better surprise: Chef told me that this payment was enough so that he was able to send the LAST payment to Visa.  So that debt is GONE!

I did a little dance, right there in the front yard.

I’m not sure what the neighbors thought.

Chef told me one of the main reasons he likes paying off debt is because each time we get rid of one, I do a little dance.  He claimed that once all the debt was paid off, he was going to incur more debt and then pay it off again, just to keep watching my little dances.  I told him, “No way, Bucko!”

Or something like that.

I promised him I’d do little dances for other things — like maxing out our IRAs each year, or saving enough for a big purchase.  He seemed agreeable with that.

We have just four more debts (aside from our mortgage) to pay off: three credit cards and our Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC.)  The next victim is our WorldPerks Visa.  (If you ask me, the only “perks” are for Visa, who has been getting all our money!)

We’re getting closer and closer.  And I’m so excited!

Dreaming of Being Debt-Free

Just recently, I came across a link to an article that had been posted to Dave Ramsey’s website in September.  It was about what dreams people have for when they are debt free.  (You can find the article here.)

I’ve been dreaming more than usual lately.

First of all, we really, truly hope to have completed our debt snowball by this time next year.  I’ve been racking my brain to come up with extra ways to earn income in order to help meet that goal.  (By the way, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to determine whether it’s “racking” my brain or “wracking” my brain.  I’m still not sure, but the information I found leaned toward “racking.”)  The little book I wrote is selling, but not so well that we’re rolling in the dough.  My work with Demand Studios has fallen by the wayside because they’ve changed their site quite a bit and I’m having a very difficult time finding topics I know something about.  And of course, my participation in the research study is down the tubes since my experiences with them have been less than great.  I’ve considered another part-time job, but with working four ten-hour days at the doctors’ office, plus at least a few hours a week for Chef’s business, on top of upcoming surgery, I’m having a hard time figuring out what I could feasibly do.  Right now, I’m seriously considering putting my “fun money” toward our debt.  (Chef and I each get a pre-determined amount of “fun money” each paycheck.  He gets his bit and I get my bit.  I would not ask him to contribute his bit toward the debt, but I’m thinking about sending my bit off to Visa… or at least half of my bit.  Because you know what I think would be really fun?  Being debt-free!)

I’ve become really antsy in my full-time job.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have a lot of tasks there that I enjoy and that I feel really match my skill set.  Maybe it’s because the bosses don’t do a great job of making me (and the rest of the staff) feel appreciated.  Maybe it’s because I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am just super-eager to get to the end.  I’m not sure, but while I am trying to work on having a good attitude in my job, I admit that I feel that the sooner I’m done there, the better.  So that’s making me want to push even harder toward getting all that debt paid off.

The other thing that has me chomping at the proverbial bit is the fact that Chef and I have been more active in our dreaming lately.  We’ve always had ideas of building a house out in the country.  We want to have a great big garden and to raise some animals — chickens, goats, rabbits, and honey bees.  We want to continue to have people over for meals, and we also want to be better able to minister to missionaries on home assignment by offering them a place to stay for the weeks or months that they are in our area of the country.  And Chef and I, over the years, have gone in waves where we think about these plans a lot for a while, and then we don’t think about them for a while.

Right now, we’re thinking about it a lot.

We’ve been looking at house plans, barn plans, and lots for sale (like the one below.  So pretty!)

photo courtesy mibor.com

 

I’m so eager to get there.  I want that little house in the country, and I want to make meals consisting of braised rabbit, goat cheese, eggs, honey, and fruits and vegetables from our own land.  I want to be a homemaker, keeping our home cozy and comfortable (rather than messy and barely functional, which is how it feels sometimes right now.)

I also want to be debt-free so we can give more and serve more.  We have some causes we support a little bit right now, but we really want to increase our giving.  And we really enjoy being hospitable to guests, and we want to be able to do more of that as well.  But with working so much and not having a lot of extra money, we’re not able to do as much as we’d like to.

All these dreams and desires are motivation.  I’m eager and I’m anxious.  And that makes me think harder about how to move the train along a little faster.

I’ll let you know if I come up with any great ideas.

My Life as a Research Subject: Part Three (or, You Don’t Understand Your Own Body)

I began chronicling my experiences in a clinical research study on menstrual migraines here, where I talked about how making $30 a month to go to a doctor and take some medication was going to be easy money. Then I wrote here about how Dumb Nurse was making my experience not-so-good by bruising me during a blood draw and repeatedly asking me questions I’d already answered.

I figured that after getting the all-clear on my labs, we’d be back to smooth sailing.  So the next time I started my period, I called for an appointment, just like I was supposed to do.

I started on a Monday, and I called that same day.  The girl who answered the phone told me that she didn’t have the ability to schedule me an appointment, but she’d take a message and have someone call me back.

On Tuesday or Wednesday of that week, I got a call from a guy at the research center, whom I distinctly remember was a recruiter, to make my appointment.  I thought it odd that a recruiter was making my appointment (shouldn’t he be out, oh, maybe recruiting?)  But maybe he’s been cross-trained, so no problem.  I told him that due to my work schedule, I’d need an appointment on a Friday.  He offered me that very Friday.  The Friday of the same week.

Now, I thought this was odd because the medication, which I was supposed to start taking on the first day of my period, lasts seven days, and I had been told that the appointments should be made five to seven days after the last dose was taken.  So that would mean that the following Friday would make more sense, but I figured that since he worked there and was calling to make the appointment, he knew what he was doing.

Apparently not.

On Thursday, Dumb Nurse called.  I couldn’t get to my phone, so she left a voicemail.  She said that she’d gotten a message that I’d started my period and that an appointment had been made for me that Friday, but that it was too early since I wouldn’t be done with the medication yet.  Okay, fine.  Recruiter guy messed up, no problem.  But then, Dumb Nurse says, “And besides, I don’t see how you could possibly have started your period yet.  Our records show that your last cycle started on (she gave the date), so I just don’t see how you could have started again already.  That just doesn’t make sense.  Anyway, I’m canceling the Friday appointment because it’s too soon.  And please call me back to make a new appointment.  And I don’t understand how you could have started again already.”

I have short cycles.  I have had for as long as I can remember.  When I gave the research staff all my information at the beginning of the study, I told them that my cycles were on average 23 to 26 days.  I’m pretty sure that every woman has an extra short or extra long cycle every now and then.  This one was extra short — only 21 days.  It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.  And I was pretty ticked that she had the nerve to tell me that I couldn’t possibly have started yet.  Um, I’ve been menstruating for over twenty years now.  I know when I’ve started, okay Dumb Nurse?

So she called me again, and this time I answered.  Dumb Nurse told me again that she needed to reschedule my appointment, and said again that she just couldn’t see how I could have started already.

“I have short cycles,” I said angrily but quietly, because I was at work while I was having this conversation.  “This one was just shorter than usual.”

“Oh,” she said incredulously.  “Well, I guess we can schedule the appointment then.  But since this is the fourth month of the study for you, we need to schedule it with the doctor.  I’ll need to look at his schedule and see when he’s available.  I’ll call you back.”

And I’m wondering why she hadn’t looked at the schedule before she called me back in the first place.

But… she never called me back.

And I started a new cycle.

By this time, I was done.  If the staff doesn’t know when to schedule appointments and doesn’t call back to get one scheduled — and especially if they are going to imply that I don’t know when I have started my period, then I don’t need the $30 I’m getting for my effort.

A couple of weeks later, Nice Nurse called.  “We were just wondering if you were going to come back to see us again?”

I said, “Well, let me tell you what happened.”  And I told her the story.  I could tell that she was mortified that I’d had this experience, and she apologized.  She said that she understood my not wanting to come back, but the doctor really wanted to see me for one last visit, so could she schedule me?

Fine, I thought.  So I let her schedule me, but I had already decided that I was going to call back and cancel the appointment.

A day or two later, the director of the research center called me.  She said that Nice Nurse had told her about my experience, but she wanted to get my story first hand.  So I told it again.  She apologized profusely.  I mean, really, over and over to the point that I was sick of her apologies.  Finally, she said, “I understand that you’ve been scheduled for a final appointment.”

“Yes,” I said, “but honestly, I don’t want to come.  I’m done.”

It took me a while to convince her that I didn’t need her to do anything to rectify the situation and that I wasn’t going to hold a grudge, but that I was truly, completely, utterly done. Finally, she seemed to understand.

Sadly, though, this was not the end.  Keep watch for the last installment: “My Life as a Research Subject: Part Four” (or, “You Have an Incurable Disease.  Oh, wait.  No You Don’t.”)

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