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Archive for October, 2013: Trying to keep Tabs on my finances
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Archive for October, 2013

My selk bag review

October 25th, 2013 at 01:55 am

In a passing conversation with the one male co-worker I know that actually balances his books, he said that his winter heating bills tend to range in the $200s, peaking sometimes at $300 a month.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, even for one guy, as that tends to be the norm around here. I should also be happy about my personal accomplishments of keeping my own heating bills no more than $100 a month, if only to make sure the pipes don't freeze and break.

Still, with every approaching winter (and summer for that matter), I invest a little each time, to continue the war to keep the bills as low as possible.

Starting back at the drawing board, I recalled what worked last winter (and what didn't). Most notably, I was rather pleased with my Walmart sleeping bag. And when things got really cold, I did turn to my electric blanket as well, but it was my sleeping bag that did most of the heavy lifting.

However, there were downsides to it as well. Most notably, they only work when I am going to bed. Sure, I would tote it from room to room, but it would keep slipping off of me. I figure there must be a better way. SURELY, someone must have invented the Snuggie of sleeping bags, complete with arms and leg extensions. I couldn't be the only fool crazy enough to have thought of this. A quick trip through Google search revealed that, indeed, someone has already thought of it. Enter the Selk'bag.

So yeah, my Selk'bag just got delivered to my front door step today, and yes, I am typing this entry while wearing my lovely new Selk'bag. Yes, it's as ridiculous as it sounds. No, I don't have any personal pictures for you. Sorry. Haha.

But take my word for it when I say that, wow, it does work as advertised. It warmed up quickly, the moment I slipped in and zipped up. There is a slit in each arm for you to expose your hand so you can... type your blog entries for example. It's also got a jacket hood so you can keep your head warm while you look into the mirror muttering, "Join the Dark Side, Luke!"

However, there are also some downsides that I think all prospective buyers should also be aware of. Somehow, the bottom reinforced pads doesn't like to line up with your feet... or perhaps more accurately, your legs don't articulate very well in this thing. Unlike the picture above may suggest, I had a slight bit of trouble walking upstairs without feeling like I might trip in this thing.

Also worth mentioning is that there is no "rear hatch" so to speak so that when you need to sit on the toilet, you have to unzip yourself out of the entire upper body to do so.

Also, I still don't know how to tighten the hood, and I have no idea what the velcros on the front of each arm is suppose to be for.

So, bottom line is, while I don't regret spending $100 to try this selk'bag out, I do recommend giving conventional winter clothing and sleeping bags a try first. See if that works for you before you try this route with your hard earned money.

There is a fancier version called the "Patagon", that includes removable feet, which would help immensely right now as my feet feels itchy from the heat and enclosure, and the only way to relieve that is to get out of this thing completely. The Patagon is also rated for colder climates, but it costs $250. Standard versions like mine, but rated for colder climate is about $160.

So, hope you enjoyed the review. To turn the tables around, how do you guys keep warm for the winter, besides turning the heat up? What do you wear that works for you?

Wiring money sucks

October 12th, 2013 at 03:09 am

In a previous post, I casually mentioned a friend of mine losing about $4k due to identity fraud. And because his rent was coming up literally within a day, he asked me to wire him some money. I've never done it before, so I learned what a headache that was.

Apparently, my bank simply won't let it happen unless I go into a branch to sign some paperwork. However, they close at 5pm, and I work until 6pm. Sooo, yeah, that did not happen.

As a crazy alternative, I set up a Paypal account, thinking I can just "wire" him the money that way. Unfortunately for me, banking institutions still take roughly 3 business days to link the accounts together, and I didn't have that kind of time.

The solution was this obscure little thing called a MoneyPak (like a prepay gift card), which you can load with cash, and then enter it online to have it post instantly. (MoneyPak cards are sold in drug stores and Walmarts by the way.)

Or rather, it should have worked if not for the keyword: CASH. You see, I don't normally carry cash, and I almost never use my debit card. That basically means I had forgotten what my pin number was, and it took me a while to figure it out. Even then, there was a daily limit to withdraw, which I guess I could have called my bank to have it increased, but by then, it was getting really late, and I still had work later.

Since then, I've reset my pin number, and apparently, my bank has actually approved of my wire transfer ability anyways. Alas, all this is still too late to save my friend from bouncing a rent check, but I guess he will survive. So, lessons learned from all around.

But yeah, I much prefer paying with my rewards CC anyway. Last week, it paid me $66 for using it, and not only that, but I also get fraud protection, which is what I am guessing as to how he lost his money; by using his debit card for everything like a credit card.

I like them tiny.

October 7th, 2013 at 02:48 am

I realized something interesting with one of my previous posts. Basically, not everyone, including those in the frugality community, likes tiny houses.

Nothing wrong with that. I, however, actually prefer it... uh being no stranger to small spaces and everything. In fact, I'm really tempted to just go even smaller and consider in an RV....

Yes, I know I am the strange one here.

However, I want to at least make a case that, just because something is small, it doesn't mean it has to be an uninviting torture chamber. Take this, for example:

Text is Exhibit A and Link is
Exhibit A

Text is Exhibit B and Link is
Exhibit B

Text is Exhibit C and Link is
Exhibit C

The entire "house" is probably no more than roughly 200 sq. ft. But what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for it in style.

Of course, to get around many city ordinances for something this small, this would have to be built on a trailer and be classified as an RV. Luckily, RV insurance is also much cheaper than homeowner's insurance. Alas, the obstacles don't stop there. I would still have to find a decent, affordable place to park it (arguably the most difficult part in owning a tiny house), and possibly having only RV toilets and showers inside such a place.

Still, things like this fascinate me to no end.

Still kicking....

October 7th, 2013 at 02:16 am

Haven't posted simply because there's not much to report.

Job is still stressful.

Home is still kind of messy.

Still not being all that frugal.

Having said that, I've moved things around in my room, and am trying to make another effort at being frugal and productive. Hopefully, things will get better.

Ok, so this being a frugality site, I should probably at least elaborate more on this "not being frugal" thing. I guess I've been feeling kinda down in general lately. And when I feel down, I know there's a danger of me buying stuff to try to feel better. While I do try to keep it in check, I am not always successful. For example, lately, I decided that I really wanted some audio gear, so I can do more music stuff or whatever.

For example,

Text is here's something I did recently with my not-so-frugal self. and Link is
here's something I did recently with my not-so-frugal self.

I do try my best to make what I believe are smart, meaningful purchases, even when I do spend money, but in the end, I also realize that excuses are still excuses.

Edit: On another front, my best friend got his entire checking account cleaned out. Again. He said this is the second time he's been a victim of identity theft. Lost $4000. Wow. Uh, buddy, you didn't learn from the FIRST time not to let your debit card out of your sight? Anyways, I wired him $1k in emergency cash. I wonder if I'll see that money back?