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1 2003

Are you ready for this?

Now I knew coming in that October would be an expensive month and I even went out of my way to spend a bit extra on the very last day just to get it on the books and in the past but I didn’t think it’d be as crazy as it turned out to be.

Here are the numbers:

  • $9212.72 : Contractor
  • $2534.09 : Ashley Furniture
  • $2201.63 : Business Expenses
  • $1607.98 : Hockey Jerseys
  • $1261.35 : PC Richard & Son
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $473.82 : IKEA
  • $168.95 : PODs
  • $152.94 : Clothing
  • $135.64 : Allstate Insurance
  • $116.14 : Cable/Internet
  • $107.65 : Electricity
  • $80.00 : Cash
  • $78.90 : Gas
  • $49.09 : Natural Gas
  • $19.22 : Ocean State Job Lot
  • $6.33 : Home Depot
  • $2.00 : Hartford Parking Authority

All of that adds up to $18708.17.

You know, for $18k, I’d have expected a longer list…

Anyway, now I’ll try to defend my spending…

The $9212.72 payment to the contractor was expected and worth it. Our house doesn’t suck anymore.

The $2.5K furniture purchase was for a couch. Everyone needs a couch, right?

The $1261 purchase from PC Richard & Son (an electronics store that took over most of the empty Circuit City buildings here in Connecticut) was for a television to go with the couch.

And the $473 IKEA run was for a rug between the two.

These four expenditures alone make up nearly 75% of the total — and they’re all one time expenses so things aren’t really as bad as they look.

Regarding the $2201.63 in business expenses, well, I made the decision to upgrade my camera body.

The good news is that income to cover that purchase is just on the horizon. It’s even been invoiced — I’m just waiting on the payment at this point. It’s one of those “it-costs-money-to-make-money” snafus.

The hockey jerseys, well, I happened upon a great deal that I couldn’t pass up a couple of weeks ago.

Okay, it was more like 4 great deals.

Yeah, can’t justify this line but let me just say that when I knew that it was going to be a freespending month, I figured that I may as well pick up something nice for myself. And I did.

The rest is pretty much just the regular stuff, you know, mortage, utilities, gas, that sort of thing.

The Ocean State Job Lot purchase was for a bunch of those felt stickers that you put on the bottom of furniture to keep them from scratching the floor. Of course, before the renovation, we never cared about that sort of thing but now we do.

I’ve mentioned the store in the past and for those that have blanked it from their memory, I said that Ocean State Job Lot “makes Walmart look like Neiman Marcus” but hey, their felt stickers are a deal!

1 2433

Oh boy… Here we go…

Do I have to?

I mean, I’m just warning you, you know, before you read on, that this month was off the charts. I mean, totally out of control…

Here goes:

  • $6000.00 : Contractor
  • $600.26 : Alamo Car Rental
  • $498.72 : Mortgage
  • $448.84 : Cash
  • $400.00 : Punch-Out!! Arcade Game
  • $340.43 : Black Knight Inn
  • $327.66 : Ramada
  • $285.50 : Hockey Jersey
  • $222.03 : Gas
  • $217.36 : Radisson
  • $205.86 : Hand Truck
  • $191.26 : Pocahontas Bungalows
  • $186.05 : Delta Hotels
  • $183.60 : Best Western
  • $168.95 : PODs
  • $156.20 : Super 8 Motel
  • $138.00 : Airport Parking
  • $116.20 : Water/Sewer
  • $116.15 : Cable/Internet
  • $106.48 : Business Expenses
  • $105.99 : Waffle Maker
  • $97.77 : Clothes for Duncan
  • $85.00 : Dentist
  • $83.27 : Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fee
  • $79.64 : Electricity
  • $74.18: IKEA
  • $69.86 : Home Depot
  • $20.00 : Corporate Filing Fee
  • $31.89 : Natural Gas
  • $28.54 : Lowe’s
  • $21.49 : Green Electrical Supply
  • $19.61 : Chicken Wings

Added up all together, that’s $11,626.79.

Eleven freakin’ thousand dollars?! Can you believe that?

I started doing these reports, following frequent commentor DD’s lead over on Happy Rock, over a year ago now and I have never ever even come close to the five-figure sum I’m reporting this month.

I mean, I’m glad that I’m sitting down as I type this…

It’s almost comical that I’m going to do my regular breakdown and then try an justify the expenses line-by-line as if spending this much is “okay” but here goes…

I wrote a $6000 check to our contractor. So far, we’ve paid him $24000 total. I wrote a $3000 check back in May and my wife’s credit card offer took care of the other $15000. We still have around $10k to go but, hey, it’s looking great!

Up next are the vacation expenditures which I’ll group together. Quickly, and in order:

  • Alamo Car Rental ($600.26) — What a freaking ripoff. Sure, the Nissan Sentra was nice and all, but holy crap?!
  • Cash ($448.84) — 99% of this was just money taken out for “stuff” while on vacation.
  • Black Knight Inn ($340.43) — Do not stay here. Do not *ever* stay here. What a freakin’ dump. An expensive dump.
  • Ramada ($327.66) — Just north of Calgary, this was the same Ramada mentioned in last month’s spending report. We liked it so much, we stayed there again!
  • Gas ($222.03) — It is what it is. Two years later, I still don’t think gas is overpriced.
  • Radisson ($217.36) — I don’t even remember staying in a Radisson. Yep, it left that much of an impression. You’d think a nightly rate exceeding $200 would leave an impression, no?
  • Pocahontas Bungalows ($191.26) — A last minute destination, this was for a night in a rustic cabin in the Rocky Mountains. Let’s just call it an “experience” and leave it at that.
  • Delta Hotels ($186.05) — This was the hotel connected to the Calgary Airport. It wasn’t exactly where we wanted to say but with an early morning flight out, well, it was definitely convenient and it saved us an extra day’s worth of car rental.
  • Best Western ($183.60) — I’m not usually a big fan of the Best Western chain as they’re mostly dumps on the east coast but this one just west of Edmonton was beautiful. When I checked in I thought it was overpriced but now comparing it to the other rooms we stayed in, it was definitely one of the best values.
  • Super 8 ($156.20) — I broke one of my own rules on this one. See, I’ve often stated that I will never stay in a hotel with a number in the name. I would have stuck to that rule too had it not been 10 o’clock at night without another reputable hotel within a 4-hour radius. Let’s just say that the northern interior of British Columbia isn’t a hot bed of nice hotel rooms.
  • Airport Parking ($138.00) — It’s funny how when you pull into the long term parking lot, the sign reads “$75 Maximum” but when you insert your ticket, the attendantless machine demands $138. Funny how that works.
  • Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fee ($83.27) — I freakin’ hate these. You could have a TD credit card and you’d still get hit with these. For the record, TD stands for Toronto Dominion. Yep, they’re Canadian. And you’ll still get hit with Foreign Transaction Fees if you buy stuff in Canada. My card issuer isn’t TD, but I’m just sayin…

So, all together, the August portion of vacation cost $2563.27. More than we’d have liked but not too bad.

Now to fill in the gaps (while ignoring the regular utility bills), again, in order:

  • Mortgage ($498.72) — This was the first mortgage payment since the refinance went through all the way back in June. I still can’t believe my mortgage is less than $500 per month.
  • Punch-Out!! Arcade Game ($400.00) — I don’t care what anyone says, this purchase was so awesome that it warranted its own post. I don’t regret it for a second.
  • Hockey Jersey ($285.50) — This addiction just won’t die. It’s getting there, though…
  • Hand Truck ($205.86) — So now that I’ve got two arcade games along with a ton of heavy furniture in the POD, it only seemed like a good idea to go out and buy my very own hand truck. I can’t tell you how many times in the past we’ve said, “It’s too bad that we don’t have a hand truck” as we huff and puff some piece of furniture up the stairs. I didn’t skimp on this purchase either cause there’s nothing worse than an inadequate tool. This puppy is rated up to 1200 pounds and will make moving everything back into the house so much easier. Safer too.
  • PODs ($168.95) — Yep, that portable storage unit is still in the driveway and full of stuff that used to be in the rooms being renovated. It’s looking like this could be the last month we have it but if things get tight, we’ll keep it around another month.
  • Waffle Maker ($105.99) — Now my sister will probably think that we bought this because she got one as a wedding gift (while we were up there on vacation) and felt the need to rightfully gush about it. But the truth is, that Best Western that I referenced above had one of these and that sold us. It’s a nice one that makes two belgian waffles at once. Yep, I’ve had waffles for dinner at least 10 times this month.
  • Clothes for Duncan ($97.77) — While looking at some of the pictures we took of Duncan when we were on vacation, I realized that he needed a more trendy wardrobe. Mission accomplished. He’s the coolest looking kid in the Toddler 2 room.
  • Densist ($85.00) — I don’t think I mentioned here on PIAC but back in June I dropped our dental insurance. This $85 cleaning charge would have cost me double if it’d come directly out of my paycheck as an insurance premium…
  • IKEA ($74.18) — This was for a few light fixtures for our renovation. They’re not great but they look neat.
  • Home Depot ($69.86) — More light fixtures. These things can get expensive but obviously we didn’t buy anything too pricey.
  • Corporate Filing Fee ($20.00) — Sure, it’s only $20 but it’s one of the reasons that small businesses avoid the State of Connecticut. I gave the state $20 for nothing. In April, I’ll give them another $250. Again, for nothing…
  • Lowe’s ($28.54) — This was for a pair of work gloves. And one of the light fixtures that we bought at Home Depot had a broken globe. I bought a replacement at Lowe’s and it didn’t fit. Go figure. I’ll return it one of these weekends.
  • Green Electrical Supply ($21.49) — But wait, there’s more. In addition to having a broken globe, the fixtures that we picked up at Home Deport are über green. I mean, they don’t accept Edison-mount light bulbs cause they’re too darn inefficient or some such nonsense so… it’s darn near impossible to find lightbulbs that are more powerful than a lightning bug in any store. Thankfully they’re available online though, so that’s what these are. I bought 4 bulbs that should be brighter than the sun itself. I only needed two but figured that ordering lightbulbs online was a wee bit risky. I all but expect two of them to be broken during the shipping process.
  • Chicken Wings ($19.61) — You almost never see food expenditures here on PIAC because my wife usually buys all of it and her finances aren’t reported here. She would have bought this too, you know, had she remembered her purse.

So, in an attempt to make it seem as though I didn’t spend as much as I did, I’m gonna pretend that we didn’t go on vacation or have our house worked on.

Adjusted spending for the month of August now comes in at $3063.02.

Yep. That sounds good to me.

1 2049

Duncan on a hike.I did a pretty good job last month.

Most of our vacation expenses will fall into my August report, which lessens the damage, and besides a big tax bill, well, I think I kept my spending in check.

  • $2371.24 : Property Taxes
  • $275.97 : Ramada
  • $232.98 : Sears
  • $168.95 : PODS Storage Unit
  • $120.00 : Cash
  • $116.15 : Cable/Internet
  • $116.00 : Gas
  • $112.18 : Electricity
  • $110.12 : UPS
  • $97.78 : Home Depot
  • $94.95 : RunningShoes.com
  • $80.37 : Clothing
  • $74.19 : Luggage
  • $47.31 : Natural Gas
  • $40.17 : Lowes
  • $49.98 : Business Expenses
  • $8.00 : Car Wash

That all adds up to $4116.34.

Not that taxes don’t count as spending, but without them, the total is only $1745.10. That’s even less than June!

Granted, there wasn’t a mortgage payment in July and I didn’t write any of the checks to the contractor working on the house, but still…

Here’s the line item breakdown of the anomalies…

Property Taxes – I hate ’em. Always have. Connecticut is one of those states where we need to pay local property tax on our vehicles.

This year it’s so high because it also includes the property tax on my house. When we re-financed a couple of months ago, I stepped up to the plate and deciced to pay them myself.

Reason being — I’d rather have a super low mortgage bill each month and a huge tax bill twice a year rather than have a high mortgage bill *every* month.

Ramada – I have rule when it comes to hotels. I won’t stay in one that has a number in the name. Ramada passes that test and this specific hotel — which I might mention if I do a vacation specific post — was top notch.

Sears – Of course, as luck would have it, the lawnmower died just before we went on vacation.

Combined with the fact that we’ve got some major sums to pay the contractor and had a vacation looming, well, I didn’t want to have to buy a lawnmower.

I settled on one of their returned/refurbished models. Hey, it was 50% off and it’s still new to me!

PODs – Things are progressing on the remodel (pictures soon, I promise) so it’s possible that we might need it for one more month.

On the other hand, we’re not sure we want to move any of our crappy old furniture back into the house. We’ll see…

UPS – Holy shipping charges Batman! This was the charge to ship a high-end baby carrier (one of the external frame backpack kind) to Florida so my parents could drive it up to Alberta (it’s complicated) where we could pick it up to use in the mountains.

It cost so much because it’s a pretty big and it’s not supposed to be disassembled — so it stays pretty big. That’s the main reason that we couldn’t check it as baggage on an airplance.

Well, upon arrival in Florida, my dad took it apart anyway so when we picked it up in Alberta, the confidence that we’d had in the sound and sturdy product (that cost a fortune to ship) was totally lost.

Major bummer — so we didn’t use it nearly much as we wanted to cause we didn’t want Duncan to slip out and fall off a cliff.

The good news is that he didn’t fall off a cliff. The bad news is that we didn’t venture near any cliffs, or even off of an over touristed well-beaten — borderline handicapped accessible — trail because of it. Sigh…

This one ended up being another expensive vacation expenditure that wasn’t worth the expense.

Home Depot – Related to the renovation, we decided to replace our old thermostat (remember that thing?) with one of those new programmable touchscreen ones. It even lights up!

RunningShoes.com – Back in 2008, I got a super bargain on a pair of sneakers from these guys. Back then, the shoes were for vacation.

So I thought I’d treat myself again — but this time, pay full price. So worth it.

Clothing – I bought myself a few pairs of shorts. Exciting, huh?

Luggage – No, this wasn’t a luggage handling fee from the airline. We actually didn’t own any luggage. I’ve always been the if-it-can-fit-into-this-backpack type of packer until now. Now we have real (el-cheapo)luggage.

Lowes – More renovation stuff. This was for a new doorbell. It’s not fancy but it sounds nice and it’s better than the wireless hunk of junk we’ve been using.

Car Wash – I’m not one of those that believes that a clean car runs better (one of my friends from high school seriously washes and hand waxes his car weekly cause he believes that — and it’s a Honda Civic?!) but I can’t stand it when a bird poops on the door handle.

1 1893

One annoyance that I seem to stew over repeatedly is traffic.

It’s never the number of cars on the road — my commute is quite tame. All two miles worth.

Instead, even with such a short commute, it’s the number of, well, criminals and just plain idiots out there on the road with me.

I’ve ranted about Virginia drivers — I’m sorry, you’re terrible.

I’ve gone on and on about how practically every other car in Connecticut has a temporary handicapped placard hanging from their rearview when it’s quite clear that there isn’t anyone with a physical handicap in the car.

Red lights? who cares! Apparently these days you just need to honk your horn as you speed through one and it’s okay.

It drives me bonkers when I see a smoker toss a butt out the window. That’d be like me throwing gum wrappers out the window (which I don’t). The former is apparently okay but the latter is littering? Explain that one to me…

I nearly explode when I see someone empty an entire ashtray at a stop light (if they even bothered to stop.)

School buses? Don’t even get me started.

And I’m not even going to go into my feelings on texting while driving.

Would you believe that I actually saw a guy texting while on a motorcycle a couple of weeks ago? No joke… I should have run him over…

So go back up to the photo at the top of this post.

This guy was in front of me at an ATM last weekend. Everything seems to be pretty normal to the untrained eye but when you look a little closer, this is kind of like when a bank robber puts on a fake moustache to hide their identity…

The dealer logo on his truck indicated that he bought the truck less than one mile from where I live so… isn’t it a but odd that he has a Florida license plate? A special one, even…

Wonder why that is?

Well, I’ll tell you why…

He’s a tax cheat.

Here in Connecticut, we need to pay personal property taxes on our automobiles.

It sucks — I’ll be the first to tell you.

The very illegal way around this, though, is to register your car in another state. That way Connecticut has no idea that you even own the car (which seems odd in this digital age)…

Florida, apparently, is an easy state to “use” in this situation.

Seriously, I’d say that 10% of cars on the road in Connecticut have Florida plates slapped on them right from day one. Really, I’ve never seen a space shuttle or a manatee in Connecticut but they’re all over the license plates up here.

Further, 90% of the cars with Florida plates have bogus handicapped placards too.

Hey, if you’re going to break the law, why not go all out, right?

So back to this tax cheat, I mean, you’d think that allegedly being a fire fighter, you know, he’d hold himself to a higher standard being a pseudo government official of sorts.

Really, some even consider them heroes. I’m not of that sort but that’s neither here nor there…

Even still, I think we can all agree that heroes should pay their taxes.

What really blows my mind is that the police (also apparently heroes) don’t seem to care.
You’d think that our state government would be upset about all of this lost tax revenue, not to mention illegal tax evasion going on.

It’d be quite easy to stop and then enforce — I mean it’s right out in the open under their noses.

Just using the guy up top as an example:

  • His car was purchased at a dealership in central Connecticut.
  • He has a bumper sticker touting that his kid was a student of the month at a local elementary school.
  • His freakin’ vanity plate clearly indicates that he’s a “Connecticut Fire Fighter”.
  • His car is registered in Florida.

Um, can you say guilty?

0 3962

Review of MagicJackThis morning I just paid what I’m hoping was my last outrageously overpriced AT&T phone bill.

Sure, it was only $56.05, which isn’t exactly a huge sum, but grand total, we made 6 phone calls during the billing period.

That works out to almost ten bucks per call.

Obviously, we weren’t getting our money’s worth — and — that’s the cheapest rate AT&T offers. We can’t lower it.

It was time for a switch. Actually, it’s been time for a switch for years now — and we finally did it.

Now I know a lot of folks have dropped their land line in favor of their cell phone but if you’ve been reading PIAC for awhile, well, that probably wouldn’t be a great option for me.

Though, again, back in 2007 I started saving a TON on that front too…

So, anyway, we went out and plunked down $39.99 for MagicJack at Target.

It seemed like a no-brainer.

If it worked, it’d save me a ton of money each month.

If it didn’t work, well, it was a $40 experiment gone wrong.

Forty bucks to possibly save between $50 and $80 per month — that’s a gamble I’ll take every day of the week.

But like anything that’s guaranteed to save you lots of money, there are a lot of skeptics out there and they’re all overly vocal on the internet. It’s kinda sad actually.

I did a lot of research on the MagicJack (and Vonage too) and it was pretty discouraging…

If you look up a review of MagicJack, or any similar service, or anything, for that matter, on the internet, chances are, the negative reviews will outweigh the positive reviews ten-to-one.

My favorite was this one guy who called it a piece of crap and a rip-off because, as he regularly travels the world from Botswana to Mongolia, his elderly mother in Arkansas can’t make her daily call to him as if it were a local call…

Okay, how many folks can relate to that?

Not many, I’m guessing.

See, it seems that the people that call things like this a rip-off and a piece of junk are expecting a bit too much. They expect a miracle.

This world traveling MagicJack-Off actually expected to save multiple thousands of dollars each year on his very unusual phone bill by making the switch.

Sorry — that’s not realistic.

It’s kinda like how I once thought a pogo-stick was a viable method of transportation… In reality pogo-sticks are tiring and painful and you never get very far…

But saving nearly $1000 over the span of a year, well, that is realistic. And MagicJack can and will do that for you.

That’s pretty significant.

So, from a money-saving perspective, MagicJack gets two blue thumbs-up from PIAC. It provides the exact same services we were paying over 10 times as much for from AT&T.

We didn’t need to switch phones — still the same phone I picked up last year using those goofy credit card reward points — we still have caller id, and we don’t need our answering machine anymore cause we have voicemail now (it’s pretty neat too, we have it set up so that if someone leaves a voicemail, both me and my wife get an email of the recording).

This thing is great — and we don’t need to pay another dime until this time next year when it will be $20 total for another freaking year?! How great is that?

For me (the guy who rarely uses the phone anyway), at a minimum, that’s a $600 dollar savings right off the bat.

For you, well, yeah, you could hit 4-figure savings in just one year!

Take that AT&T…

Now, are there any downsides to MagicJack or is it all unicorns and rainbows?

Well… I’m not really a fan of their control panel interface. It’s got a big old advertisement for, well, MagicJack plastered all over it. It looks goofy and, well, kinda amateur. It’s unsightly.

The simple solution to that is to minimize it and just use the regular phone to make and answer calls.

Yeah, I’m old school. I like to press the buttons on the phone. Besides, you don’t actually need to look at the control panel for anything anyway…

The other issue — and this was kind of disappointing — was that our area code wasn’t available.

The beauty of using an “internet” phone is that you can “pretend” that you’re anywhere. That’s what that Botswana-dude was trying to do — he picked a local Arkansas phone number so that his mom could call him as if it were a local call — even though he was never anywhere near Arkansas.

His failing was that internet service sucks in Botswana — which he laid 100% of the blame on MagicJack… What up wit dat?

The thing is, say you order a pizza from your local pizza parlor here in Connecticut or something… They’re not going to be real cool with someone placing an order from phone with a California area code — at least not until this sort of thing becomes more common which…I’m certain it will.

In the end, though, we were able to select an area code that’s also in Connecticut, though not our own, and then the exchange we wanted — so, as of now, Pants in a Can is coming to you live from the extravagant city of Greenwich, Connecticut.

Yep, Regis Philbin, Ron Howard, Pedro Martinez, Matt Lauer, and Tommy Hilfiger are my neighbors…

Sort of…

I mean, now that I’m saving so much money on my phone bill, you know, maybe I’ll be able to afford to move to Greenwich for real…

3 4244

Spring FlowersDeep breaths…

So just one day into the month of March I joked about how I’d already spent more on that one day than I did for the entire month of February.

It made for a rought start and I can’t say that I every really recovered…

Here’s the breakdown:

  • $2000.00 : Mortgage
  • $907.20 : Auto Insurance
  • $846.16 : Capital One Bank
  • $767.99 : Used Vacuum Cleaner
  • $527.63 : Toyota (auto repairs)
  • $325.00 : Boy Scouts of America
  • $250.00 : Commissioner of Revenue Services
  • $233.54 : Natural Gas
  • $220.00 : Cash
  • $161.86 : Electricity
  • $111.50 : Cable/Internet
  • $105.70 : Business Expenses
  • $92.96 : Gas
  • $69.91 : Phone
  • $52.96 : Toys

That totals $6673.65.

The last time I spent anywhere near that was back in July of 2009 when I paid $2915 to have some trees taken down (cool video of the project here).

We didn’t do any home improvement projects this month, though we surely need to

So, here I go trying to justify the numbers line-by-line anyway…

The mortgage is what it is. For simplicity sake, my monthly mortgage payment is around $1250. The $750 unaccounted for is “extra” principle that I pay on a weekly basis.

Auto insurance, well, what can you do? I suppose I could spread it out and pay it monthly but, if I have the money available, I prefer to pay the full 6-month premium right out of the gate.

The $846.16 payment to Capital One was a payment that I made from my account to pay off my wife’s credit card. Her finances aren’t detailed here on PIAC so this is one of those few crossover moments where our money is “pooled”. The reasoning here is that last month’s tax refund went directly into my checking account so I used part of it to pay her credit card balance.

The used vacuum cleaner — well, that expense got it’s own post the minute I made the purchase. And it was worth every penny.

Ahhhh, poor Toyota. They’re getting dragged through the mud these days but we’re perfectly happy owners of two Toyotas. My Scion and my wife’s Toyota both went in for service this month and I picked up the tab for both — again, using the tax refund money.

Boy Scouts of America? Huh? Well, it was a charitable donation but there’s also a dark side to it. I got a hockey jersey in return so the streak is over…

Commissioner of Revenue Services — plain and simple, it sucks being a small business in the State of Connecticut. This is the Business Entity Tax that I get hit with each year. There’s always talk of it disappearing but it never seems to happen.

The weather has begun to turn so the natural gas bill has begun to fall.

Holy cash, Batman?! Yeah, I don’t know what happened. To my credit, I’ve still got $60 in my wallet so I didn’t actually spend all of this.

Electricity, Cable/Internet, Business Expenses, and Gas are what they usually are. The phone bill, however, will be different in the months to come. We switched to MagicJack in March so the phone company is a thing of the past. I’ll post more about that later.

The last entry was from a trip we made to Amato’s Toy Store. It’s an old fashioned toy store (no Barbie’s, Bratz, or video games) and I bought Duncan his first Lego set, his first Playmobil set, and a cool wooden puzzle. Again, totally worth it.

So, yeah, all together I spent a ton of money but nothing seems overly extravagant — besides, maybe, the vacuum.

But give me a little credit… I bought it used!

9 7216

R2-D2Over the weekend, I bought a vacuum cleaner.

Not exactly exciting or out of the ordinary stuff on its own until I tell you that I bought it used *and* I paid just shy of $800 for it.

Say what?

Yep, see, of late (and for the last 7 years) we’ve been getting by using a $60 piece of crap Eureka upright that I bought at Ames (when they were still in business) and my wife’s much nicer Hoover upright.

I say it’s nicer because it has a headlight, you know, for those night time vacuuming sessions…or something?

Anyway, my vacuum apparently doesn’t work (according to my wife — I obviously don’t do a lot of the vacuuming).

And I just don’t like upright vacuums.

See, everytime she vacuums, I launch into an asthma-like attack where the rest of my day is pretty much shot.

This might explain why I don’t do much of the vacuuming. It’s one of those cause and effect things…

Back on topic… When I was a kid, we never had an upright vacuum. When ever there’d be a vacuum featured on the Price is Right or something, I always thought it looked weird.

Little did I know, our vacuum was the “weird” one.

It looked like R2-D2 in a brown 1970’s style colour scheme. Where R2 had those two blue vent looking circles on his chest, well, that’s where the hose went on our vacuum.

It was a beast — and it looked like the best robot ever.

When I went away to university, my mom was still using that same vacuum cleaner.

And I *still* thought it looked cool.

Dare I admit, I even used it a few times. Yep. I did.

So, anyway, a few years pass and I come back home after university… The R2-D2 vacuum is still going strong (now pushing 30+ years old) but my dad — now retired — is sucked in to an Oreck XL infomercial.

I’m not sure how he manged to click off of FoxNews for more than a second, but he did, and a few days later the Oreck XL — an upright vacuum — arrived on our front porch.

So long R2-D2.

I wasn’t actually home when R2-D2 disappeared — I would have appealed — but it didn’t take long to notice that *something* in our house was different.

I couldn’t breath.

At first — since I’m one of those guys that’s allergic to *everything* — I thought I might just be reacclimating to living in a house with dogs after so many years away.

Then I blamed the Glade spray that my mom would spray in the basement where she smoked (she’s since quit).

Both seemed like great explanations until one day I was on the couch watching a UConn Women’s basketball game and my mom started vacuuming.

It was that damn Oreck XL. It blew more crap out than it sucked in.

And it was like it’s bag was coated with some sort of deodorizer or something. In the sunlight, you could see that the room was *filled* with a fine powder.

Dust, maybe, but it was scented like that Arm & Hammer powder people use to cover the smell of dog pee. Mmmm… potpourri flavored dog piss in powder form…

I wanted R2-D2 back.

Anyway, when I finally moved out and bought my previously mentioned Eureka upright — strictly avoiding Oreck — I quickly noticed that Oreck wasn’t to blame for my breathing issues.

Upright vacuums, in general, were the problem.

They *all* have a freakin’ fan in close proximity to the spot where they’re supposed to suck. What’s up with that?

Talk about a design flaw. Yeah, even you Dyson…

So off I went to eBay in search of one of R2-D2’s siblings. When they say that you can find ‘IT‘ on eBay, well, they’re not kidding.

There he was — the exact same vacuum I remember sucking up my Legos and my sister’s Barbie shoes. Built in 1971 he was commanding $350 on eBay?!

What?

And he had 27 bids?

Holy crap?!

I let my parents have it over the phone — they threw away R2-D2 when they could have sold him for hundreds of dollars?! Ugh…

At the time, I couldn’t pull the trigger or justify spending so much money on a 30+ year old vacuum but I made sure to remember the name.

Rainbow LogoRainbow.

Someday I’d have one. Someday.

Well, that day will be later this week when it arrives.

I didn’t buy the 1971 model opting instead for an early 2000’s model. It still resembles R2-D2, kinda-sorta, except he’s not all metal like he used to be. No chrome either.

Maybe this one won’t weight as much as an anvil.

The horrible brown colour scheme remains, though. Go figure.

JawasActually, you know what? This newer model kinda looks more like that other little droid that the Jawas tired to sell to Luke’s uncle Owen. His name was R4-D4.

Yes, I *really* enjoyed the first couple of Star Wars movies…

So, in the end, I paid $760 for a decade-old vacuum.

Crazy?

Perhaps, but brand new it would have cost me around $2600 (and required an in-home demonstration from a pushy salesman that would make me very uncomfortable).

I was already sold — I don’t need a salesman to sell it to me — but that’s the way they do business.

Since good old R2-D2 was still going strong after nearly 30 years, I felt confident in buying this one used.

Sure, it seems gross to buy someone else’s vacuum — it skeeves me out too — but it’s not like you eat off of it or sleep on it or anything.

Best of all, I think we’ll be vacuuming a lot more often once it arrives — no, not because it’s easier but because it won’t cause me so much post-vacuum misery.

That, and since it’s *my* vacuum, my wife will probably make me do more of the vacuuming myself.

This is a win/win situation for both of us!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

PIAC Post Extension:

Rainbow E2For the record, the model I purchased is the Rainbow E2.

You can look it up if you like. It’s a canister vacuum that doesn’t use a bag — it uses a pan of water that you fill each time to collect the dust, dirt, dog food, Legos, and Barbie shoes and things.

The whole marketing gimmick that they use is that “wet dust can’t fly”.

It’s a pretty fair statement — wet dust really doesn’t fly — but it sounds like a load of crap at the same time — you know, like how a Dyson can cruise around corners on it’s ball and “never loses suction”.

Yeah, okay, whatever Jim… That fancy accent of yours isn’t going to fool me.

I’ve never personally had a Dyson but I’ve also never had a problem taking a corner with a vacuum cleaner either…

But here’s the thing — the ridiculous gimmick of the water reservoir on Rainbow vacuum cleaners *actually* works. That and a design where there isn’t a fan blowing right on top of where you’re vacuuming doesn’t hurt either.

Yeah, this is a glowing review. This thing works, I’m telling you, and I don’t even have it in my hands yet.

Twenty five years of personally living with R2-D2 proved that to me.

The newer models might not be built like a tank but the idea is still the same — and it’s still *so* much different than anything else out there.

Yeah, I’m talking to you Dirt Devil, Electrolux, Hoover, Eureka, Dyson, and Bissel…

It’s a shame that so few people have ever even heard of Rainbow.

And seriously, who doesn’t like R2-D2?

By the way, the latest models use a blue colour scheme… Yep, just like the real R2…

And I’d bet than in another 30 years, Duncan will be saying to his wife, “We should buy one of those vacuums that looks like that beeping robot in that dumb space movie my dad liked…”

And it’ll be a wise decision.

5 2935

2009 Taxes FiledI’ve been *so* behind with posting over the last few months so much so that I didn’t even do my annual “I Filed my Taxes Today” post this year.

Cutting to the chase, I filed my taxes back on February 13. It was a fun filled Saturday morning spent in front of the computer telling TurboTax that, no, once again, I did not earn any income working on a farm and I don’t have an illegal alien working as a maid and living under the basement steps.

Seriously — you spend far too much time answering questions that only apply to a tiny tiny tiny slice of the population but good luck finding where to enter how much you paid in property taxes…

Or how to get your $1000 credit for making a person? I checked the box but I didn’t see my refund magically go up $1000… Whatever…

Anyway, 2009 was a bit of a step backwards in the Smurf household. We earned around $10k less.

That’s okay though — unlike a lot of folks my age, I’m fully aware that my top earning days are behind me. I neve expected my income to continually rise the way it did through my twenties and I’ve definitely run into a plateau of sorts.

Maybe 2010 will be better but I doubt it. Some might blame the economy, or whatever, but the fact is, at a certain point, you just level off. I’m cool with that.

The good news is that we didn’t owe this year like we did last year. I wasn’t sure *how* that was the case last year but we took steps to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again.

Making $10k less didn’t hurt our cause either.

In the end, as you can see up at the top, we received $2585 back Federal and $1262 back from the State for a grand total of $3847.

No small sum but I have to admit — I really thought we’d be getting more.

I’m glad that I wasn’t counting on it but I almost feel naive for actually thinking that having a kid would “aid” me in my taxes in a get-rich-quick sort of way.

Right now, it sorta feels like that “buy a house and you’ll get tons of money back on your taxes” myth. I fell for that one too.

Gee — borrow over a hundred thousand dollars, pay thousands upon thousands of dollars in interest and then we’ll give you $30 back on your taxes for your troubles. Such a deal!

Maybe it’s just me…

Oh, and I’m pretty sure I ranted about this last year but I’m going to rant about it again this year cause it really rubs me the wrong way…

In the mail, I received a Form 1099-G from the State of Connecticut indicating that I “earned” $1258 from them in 2009 and that I had to report it as income on my taxes.

Okay, so I was over taxed in 2008 by $1258. Then, in 2009, they refunded me the $1258. And finally in 2010, I need to pay taxes on that same $1258 that I overpaid in 2008.

So, wait, why again do I have to pay taxes on my refund?

I already over paid taxes on it once — the state gave it back to me — and then I had to pay taxes on it again?

Double taxation, no?

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