Monday, October 28, 2013

How I Spent My Birthday (And the Day After)

My boyfriend Greg and I wanted to visit a haunted house this Halloween season. Since Halloweekends at Cedar Point offers many different themed haunted attractions in one convenient location, and we missed going last year, we decided to head there for my birthday this year. A couple of years ago, we went with a large group of friends, but this time, it was just the two of us.

The night before, though, one of my oldest friends Robin came out to visit from the Michigan lakeshore (so quite a drive to Ann Arbor). We dined on some very delicious bento at Miki on 1st St in downtown Ann Arbor. I'd never been there before, but walked by it many times on my way to and from work. Robin and I both love Japanese food - in fact, she is pretty good at making it herself - and had also noticed Miki on her way to meeting me downtown. Greg drove downtown and joined us after Robin and I had some time to chat and catch up. Good conversation accompanied by wonderful food is one of my favorite pastimes. 

My birthday was on a Sunday, so we headed down then, not realizing that Halloweekends closes early on Sundays and half the haunted attractions aren't open. (Sad, sad times.) The lines weren't long, though, which was a nice bonus. We immediately rode the carousel just inside the front park gates since I haven't ridden one in years, and it reminded me of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. (Good novel and film, though the two are quite different from each other.) Then we played in the arcade and went to my favorite roller coaster (and really the only one I will happily go one because I don't generally fine roller coasters completely terrifying and nausea-inducing), the Iron Dragon. It goes whoosh! 

Since all of the signs we came across said the indoor haunted attractions didn't open until 3pm (turns out it was actually noon on Sundays), we also took in the singing show at the Saloon, which wasn't bad. I didn't even realize Cedar Point had one of those. I guess CP is more like Disneyland than I thought. After that, we started making the rounds to the haunted houses. The first one was so dark that it really wasn't scary because I couldn't see the monsters as they came at me. I couldn't even see the exit most of the time and had to stop and fumble around with my hands. (Which is how I found some of the monsters as they tried to skirt out of my way.)

We would have had just enough time to visit all of the haunted houses before the park closed, but the last one was the zombie high school in the front, so the line was very, very long, and since I am not fond of zombies really at all (I've written a few stories about killing the mindless f*****s), I decided the photobooth and getting home not absurdly late sounded more fun.

The next day, the day after my birthday, was the third anniversary of my father's passing. When one of my managers asked how long it had been, and I told her three years, she exclaimed, "Oh, I didn't realize it was so recent!" 

It's true, three years doesn't sound like much. Time is funny that way. I spent under three years living in California, yet it seems like a lifetime. In less than three years, my brother got married and he and his wife had a baby who is now toddling around and talking. In that same time, I met Greg and we're now living together. Kimmy moved to Michigan, stayed through two leases, and moved back to California, where she's been living for half a lease now. Another close friend of the family met his current fiancee, dated her, and proposed. They're getting married in less than a month. That's a lot of stuff! And all in "only" three years. 

I planned ahead of time and took the day off of work. I probably always will. I spent most of the day in my PJs and got caught up on the TV shows I am currently following. My father really seemed to like TV. He watched a lot of it, and taped the ones he thought he was going to miss. I think he would have been a big fan of all this "TV when you want it" thing. He was also a big reader - I inherited many of his books - and a gardener. I think he had time for all of his hobbies because he was an insomniac, something I also inherited. I mostly leave the gardening to Greg since he is far more knowledgeable than myself. 

October is usually a high energy month for me with all kinds of things that I want to get done. Not this time. On my rare free days, I mostly laid low, not even decorating for my beloved Halloween until halfway through the month. I still haven't watched any of my usual Halloween movies. I guess I just don't have the energy this year. Life is becoming progressively more tiring. While trying to get everything done here at the apartment (we're still only 2/3 unpacked since moving at the end of March) and all the troubles happening at work, I have had no time to write, and without writing, there is nothing really worth living for. I would probably be more upset by this if I weren't so exhausted all the time. 

If so much has happened in the previous 3 years, I am not sure I want to handle 3 more. Better to let them slip quietly by until they stop coming. And on that note, I battle the demon that is sleep. Or not-sleep to be more precise. Bring on the Benadryl! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Secret Chiefs 3 and Goblin

Last week, I wrote about seeing Spencer Michaud at Crazy Wisdom and ZZ Ward in Detroit. Here is a continuation of our musical weekend with Secret Chiefs 3 and Goblin at the Crofoot in Pontiac.

Secret Chiefs 3, an instrumental rock group that likes to wear hooded robes while performing, is led by Trey Spruance, who used to be in Mr. Bungle and Faith No More, bands I listened to once upon a time. I didn't know that's who it was at the show, though, because Greg never mentioned it. I really enjoyed their performance! The keyboardist really got into his playing and was fun to watch. Since we standing off the left of the stage, the keyboardist was the easiest one to keep an eye on, but still, I liked him best. There was also an occasional violinist, and I love when rock bands use traditional instruments in their songs. In this case, it gave the music a sort of spooky sound, which was perfect for October. (Or anytime for me.) The drummer was the only one who performed without a hood, possibly because he had a gorgeous mane of hair that would be a crime to hide.

Click to enlarge photos.
When SC3 left the stage, it was clear much of the audience had been there to see them as the room that had been so filled with enthusiastic fans during the performance quickly lost about half its occupants. The people who replaced them were... Well, it was quite the eclectic crowd. There were hardcore metal fans, hipsters (Greg assumed they were film nerds), goths, club girls, and what I can only describe as hillbillies. Greg was there because he is a film nerd and knew about Goblin via the soundtracks to old Italian horror movies by Dario Argento (though he looks far more goth than hipster). I went because it sounded cool.

Goblin, a progrock (progressive rock) band from Italy, had maybe triple the keyboards at their disposal as there were two keyboardists, and the one set up in front of us had even more keyboards stacked before him than the guy from SC had. They were pretty awesome! I couldn't help being reminded, though, of the anime Black Heaven, which featured an android heavy metal keyboardist with multiple arms. *cough*

During some of the songs, clips were played of the movies to which the songs belonged. It was rather gruesome at times. I am not a fan of gore and only slightly of the macabre. (I prefer the supernatural.) Thus I ended up ignoring the giant screen behind the band for much of the time it had images on it. The soundtracks, though, were totally groovy, and I see why the band became popular as a result.

If you like your hard rock with a twist, have no particular affinity for lyrics you can't understand anyway, or can appreciate the nuance of soundtrack, check either of these bands out. I am definitely not a metal head, and bass that made me feel like I was being lifted off the floor was an intriguing feeling if not exactly pleasurable, but I still enjoyed both bands very much. I'd definitely buy a SC3 album and listen to it in my car. Possibly also Goblin, though the images associated with the music I did see were disturbing enough that I don't think I'd want to listen to the soundtracks alone with those connotations.

But it's good for Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Live Music Around Ann Arbor and Detroit

One of the things I like about my relationship with Greg is that we end up seeing a lot of live music shows. Our second date was to see Gaelic Storm. (It was supposed to be to a Rasputina show, but I got snowed in my apartment and we had to postpone for a month.) October seems to be a busy month music-wise, and we ended up seeing three shows in less than two weeks!

For free music in Ann Arbor, you can always head up to the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room on Friday and Saturday nights. I work Friday nights, so I usually end up listening to the artists from downstairs, missing out on a lot of the show. So I was excited to find out that Spencer Michaud, a very talented young singer-songwriter I had listened to and quite enjoyed a few times during his gigs over the past year, was slotted to play Saturday, October 5th. Since I now only open on Saturdays, regardless of which job I am at, I talked Greg into joining me in Ann Arbor for dinner and live music. 

We ate at Tios Mexican Cafe on Liberty, some of the best Mexican food I have ever had, including my time in California (so much cilantro out there), then arrived at Crazy Wisdom just in time for Spencer to start at 8:30pm. 

He did something different at this show that he hasn't done before. When I spoke to him after the show (and bought a spiffy new button for my bag!), he said it was only possible at a smaller, intimate venue like Crazy Wisdom. Partway through his first set, he asked the audience to imagine a street at night, hazy from rain, and a black panther for no reason. The song he performed was "Maneater" by Hall & Oats. From then on, each song was linked together by a bit of ongoing story that he made up as he went and became progressively stranger and stranger. It was good fun and kept everyone in the audience engaged and entertained. 

If you ever see posters for Spender Michaud around Ann Arbor, see if you can't catch his show. He's a super sweet guy who has a great voice and way with words. His original song "Tightrope Walker" was truly topnotch. Watch a video of the song from the show at Crazy Wisdom right here!

The night after we saw Spender, Greg and I headed to St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit to see ZZ Ward, a fantastic artist I learned about well over a year ago via a free promo CD sent to Crazy Wisdom. It's really weird to be in the position of saying I knew about her before she was popular, but it's true, I did. Working in retail occasionally has its perks. The promo CD came to us well in advance of her album's release, right around the time "Til the Casket Drops" was being featured in a season three Pretty Little Liars promo ad (so spring 2012). 

I'm a little surprised which of her songs the public has latched onto. The songs that stuck out to me apparently aren't that interesting to the rest of America. I agree that "Put the Gun Down," her first released single, is hella catchy, but it's "Til the Casket Drops" and "Move Like U Stole It" that I kept putting on repeat. Her second single, "365 Days," was barely a blip to me. Regardless, she makes great music and has a phenomenal voice. She also puts on a good show, building great rapport with the audience. 

However. After the first two opening acts were finished, she kept the audience waiting 40 minutes, no explanation and no apology. St. Andrew's is not a large venue with standing room only. There was little equipment that needed to be changed out from Alpha Rev. (Whom I enjoyed, by the way, especially when they attempted to do an unplugged song without mics. They were sadly drown out by the chatty crowd and gave up before the song was finished.) Before them was James Bay, also an incredibly talented guitar-playing singer-songwriter haling from the UK. (His website gives you a free download if you put in your email address. He's worth a listen.)

I'm not saying don't see ZZ Ward live because when she finally got on stage, she was awesome. I was just in near agony with back spasms induced by standing on my feet for too long without a rest. I am seriously thinking of investing in a cane for just such situations. Since it was pouring down rain that night, I had an umbrella with me that I leaned on heavily for support. Maybe a silver-topped one like Barnabas Collins has.

I was going to write about the third show we saw, but I think I am going to save it for its own entry. So next week, come back for a review of Secret Chiefs 3 and Goblin LIVE.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Featuring James Hansen

The chandeliers in the ballroom of the Michigan League building on the University of Michigan's campus, together with the curved ceiling, bring to mind an ancient mead hall. The wood paneling, mostly ornate and rich in color, remind me of a Methodist church I attended as a child in Kalamazoo. 

The tables are carefully set with three forks per plate, two knives, and a spoon. There are also wine glasses and coffee cups, and small plates with two servings of butter each that are shaped like roses in bloom. This is fancy stuff, I think to myself as I sit at the table in the corner beneath the giant projection screen. I arrived two hours before the dinner, as requested, and have nothing to do but watch the flurry of activity. I am there to sell copies of the keynote speaker Dr. James Hansen's classic book Storms of My Grandchildren, but they aren't allowing non-staff into the ballroom, and the staff isn't interested in me or the books. So I sit. And watch.

Once the servers and staff have scuttled off to other tasks, the tables complete (for now), it's just me and the four or five sound and video tech people. A girl walks in looking confused and approaches me. I guess a person sitting behind a table looks important. I help her properly orient the map she has of the room, and she explains that she is supposed to lead guests to their tables in case they have trouble finding their spots. I warn her that the tables have not been physically numbered as they are on her map, a tidbit I'd picked up from the servers, and wish her luck. We chitchat for a bit, then she goes off to explore the room and match it to her map, a smart move, I surmise what with the total lack of numbers on the thirty-odd tables dotting the large room and all. 

A man comes in and asks if he can buy a ticket at the door. I highly doubt this. I know the event is sold out from talking to the staffer who realized the tables hadn't been numbered earlier, but also that there had been a few cancellations, so I direct him down the hall to the check-in table. He might get lucky, and the Ecology Center (who was putting on this shindig) might get another $100. 

Around six o'clock, when the guests were set to begin arriving and I am hoping to make a few book sales, I am told to go down the hall myself and pick up a lanyard with my name and table number on it. I am also told not to go back into the ballroom. So much for earning my wages, I think. I am instead directed into the reception area where I read all about the Ecology Center and the programs they support and are affiliated with, such as the Built By Michigan coalition, the Green Chemistry and Safer Materials Project, and the ReUse Center. I have actually recently been to the ReUse Center in Ann Arbor. I picked up a used travel mug with the Caribou Coffee logo on it and a book of residential home floor plans because I love architecture and building things in the Sims

There is a minibar set up. Yes, I am technically on the job, but I consider getting a drink. It's an open bar, and there are still hours to go before I have to drive home. The cost is a tip, though, for the poor guy stuck there handing out glasses of wine and mimosas, and I have no money on me because my bag is stuck in the ballroom with the books I am supposed to be selling.
I move on to the hallway and study the art showcased on the walls. It is all very interesting and each is the product of a past professor of the college, honored by having his work (they are all men) displayed in this lovely antique hall indefinitely. I take a picture of the purple glass windows to perhaps use as a background image for my blog one day, then wander back to the ballroom where I hope they might let me in. They will not. Instead, I chat with the girl from earlier about the store I am there to represent and other odd bits of conversation that people make when they aren't really a part of what is going on around them. (Since I am wearing a T-shirt with the store's logo, a few people chat with me. It's always nice to hear genuine glowing reports of your place of employment.) 

Moments before the literal trumpet sounds to alert everyone that it is time to enter the ballroom for dinner, it is discovered that though someone has been able to go through and quickly number all of the tables, they are numbered in reverse, placing all of the high-end donors in the back of the room, furthest from the stage and keynote speaker. What a disaster! The ballroom doors are once again sealed, and a crowd of around 200 people gather outside. One of the owners of the store enters from the stairwell behind me as I wedge myself just outside the ballroom, hoping to slip in at the first chance.

"Are you selling many books?" he asks.

I smile somewhat sheepishly and inform him that I have been locked out of the ballroom with the books inside. He frowns, says how odd that is, then moves on. I hope I am in the clear.

When we are all finally allowed inside, the tables properly numbered, I scoot over to the unnumbered table with the books where two men are already looking through them. I wait there until the start of the dinner, but no one buys anything. I calculate how many books I need to sell in order to pay for my time there, and send up a silent prayer that I manage to sell that many once dinner is over and people will be allowed to roam freely once again.

Dinner is a little bland. The wine glasses are filled with ice tea, which I find delightful, and the young woman next to me, a grad student, and I make pleasant conversation. Everyone jokes that we are sitting at the "kids table" because I am clearly the oldest one there at thirty. 

The big thing about the three course meal we are served is that it is locally sourced. Pats on the back for everyone! Or not. I examine the menu and discover the vegetables come from Ohio. Yes, Michigan borders Ohio, but it's a good forty-five minute drive to the border from Ann Arbor, and I have been lead to believe that vegetables are grown in abundance in the surrounding area. I grow some myself on my apartment's balcony. Ohio is admittedly more local than California, but hardly as local as within the state of Michigan itself. The cheese is from Wisconsin, which makes a little more sense because it's Wisconsin, cheese capital of the U.S. and just around the Lake from us. The coffee was roasted in Plymouth, MI, which is getting closer. However, three roasters located within ten minutes of the university immediately spring to mind: Mighty Good, Roos Roast, and the Ugly Mug, in order of distance. At least the pumpkin mousse was made with pumpkins from Dexter, a cute little town located only twenty minutes away. (It is also the most delicious part of the meal.)

During the meal, the Munzel Award is presented to Peter Sinclair who Skypes in from Iceland, where he is on location and it is around midnight. I take note of his name because he produces a series on YouTube called Climate Denial Crock of the Week which I want to look up later.

Dr. James Hansen takes the stage, and he has some very interesting slides to go with his presentation. This being a benefit for the Ecology Center, and Ann Arbor, he is, of course, preaching to the choir. I am aware of a number of the statistics he throws out there, but I did learn a few new things. I wasn't entirely aware of the plight of the monarch butterfly, for example. (I think I read something somewhere at some point.) What I really take away from the speech is that we're screwed. Even if we change everything right now, we've already done irrevocable damage that we're just going to have to live with for the remainder of my lifetime at the very least. Joy.

Coffee is served with dessert, Dr. Hansen is winding down, and I duck over to my table of books, ready for the masses to buy a copy to have the good doctor sign. An older lady immediately sneaks over to me and hands me a twenty. One down! I think to myself. It turns out more people than I anticipated are interested in getting signed copies because as soon as Dr. Hansen leaves the stage and it is announced he will be signing books in my corner of the room, I am mobbed. This is wonderful, I think, if a bit overwhelming. Not only am I making money, but people are further educating themselves on the very serious topic of climate change. (I assume they will read the book anyway. They may not.) 

A guy with smoothed back, prematurely gray hair, piercing blue eyes, and a nice suit slides into the chair next to me, offers me his business card and tries to talk me into giving him a book for free. He tells me this has worked in the past, that he knows our owner and she allows it. He always sends a check in the mail later. He just forgot Mr. Wallet that night. His slick baby-talk does not work on me. 

Since he mentioned knowing the owner, I direct him to his table and invite him to ask there about taking a copy. He actually does this, though it is clear he does not know the owners (a married couple) as he circles their table a few times. One of them does come over and buy a book for him, which I find interesting. I wonder who this guy is. Maybe he has impressive credentials? Or maybe we have very generous owners who are less cynical than myself. When he picks up his book from me, I give him the store's address and the owner's name so that he may write out his check and mail it to us at a later date. 

When the books are signed and the ballroom is empty of lingering chatty guests, I pack up my gear, feeling quite pleased. I was treated to a lovely, if not terribly flavorful meal, good conversation, and some wonderful speeches by knowledgeable people. Unlike the art in the hall, this line-up featured a woman alongside the men, though they outnumbered her three to one. Judging by my fellow guests at the kids table, though, where men were outnumbered by women six to one, the future of climate change and green technologies will have more female power. 

And I sold close to twenty-five books. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How To Live Poor

1) Let yourself feel hungry. 
This is something I learned from Weight Watchers years ago. Not only will allowing yourself to feel hungry potentially help you lose weight, it will save you money! In fact, eating foods that naturally help to suppress appetite will help you save money because you will eat less and, in turn, buy less. Apples, which are high in fiber, for example, or drinking tea. Tea is both an appetite suppressant and high in antioxidants that will help keep you healthy, and every American knows that not seeking medical help is a great way to save money.

2) Unplug your microwave.
And don't stop at the microwave. Unplug every electrical appliance that isn't currently in use. Our television is plugged into a power strip that can be turned off with the push of a button. Even better, the entire entertainment system is hooked up to a wall switch that cuts off everything's supply to power when in the off position. Believe it or not, this saves you money. Your microwave is sitting there all day waiting to be used. That means it is on 24/7 draining power and your pocket book. Same with your television. And stereo. And toaster. And coffee pot. And computer. Everything that is plugged into a power socket is using power even when you aren't using them. Taken individually, this isn't a lot, but when you combine them all together, it is costing you money that you could be saving simply by pulling the plug or turning off the switch. Even if it saves you only $10 a month, it's worth it. For me, $10 is 1/3 of a tank of gas, or two new pairs of pants from Goodwill. 

When we moved into this apartment, we were told to expect our energy bill to be $200 a month for the two of us to live here. Rarely do we pay more than $50. The average couple in an apartment is basically pissing away $150 per month that could be much better spent.

3) Milk leftovers.
If you are lucky enough to be treated to a night out at a restaurant, never leave without a doggy bag. Even if you haven't eaten all day and are certain you can eat your entire plate, don't do it. Divide your plate in half and eat only the one half. Take the other half home for lunch the next day. If you're still hungry, fill up on free refills of the beverage of your choice. Try iced tea since, as I mentioned above, it is full of antioxidants and will suppress your appetite. Even water will fill you up if you drink enough of it, and few of us really do drink enough water. (This one is probably the hardest for me to work at.)

4) Buy from produce stands and farmers markets.
$1 per eggplant at the produce stand versus $1.99 per pound of eggplant at Meijer. Trust me, that eggplant I bought was more than 1 lb. I saved money. Again, buying fresh local produce is better for your health, the local economy, blah blah blah, but it is also cheaper for the consumer

If you really and truly don't have access to a farmers market or produce stand (and I bet you do), there are discount grocery stores like Aldi and Trader Joe's. Also, never buy name brand products unless you are 100% sure that the coupon you clipped out of the paper is cheaper than the store brand. I used to bring coupons with me to Meijer all the time, but when I compared the prices of the name brand items to the Meijer brand, I discovered that in almost every case, the Meijer brand product was cheaper even with my coupon. 

Meijer also has this new thing that is pretty fantastic called Meijer Basics. Meijer Basics products come in plain white packaging with the red Meijer logo. That's basically it. No frills, no special packaging whatsoever. And the best part, most Basic products are $1 each. Possibly better, now that I think about it, is that when you look at the ingredients list, a lot of the crap has been cut out, leaving just the bare essentials to make the product, which means a little bit healthier. Who needs to pay for MSG when you can leave that shit out and save some cash. It is only being sold for $1, so any place they can cut corners, I am sure they will. (Click here for a review of Meijer Basic paper towels and toilet tissues.) The one place this doesn't work out for me is in cereal. Meijer Basics cereal is $1 and comes in a small box. For $1.99, I can buy the regular Meijer brand cereal and get more ounces of cereal, so I splurge because it lasts longer.

5) Stop using shampoo.
I don't mean that you should stop cleaning your hair. (Though, honestly, you could do that, too, and be perfectly fine once the detox is over.) I mean, truly, that you should stop using shampoo. I am extremely frugal with just about everything, so I only went through a bottle of shampoo about once a year, but I know women who insist they need to buy a new bottle of shampoo every few weeks. This is insanity. When they say you only need a quarter sized dollop of shampoo to get your hair clean, they aren't joking! The more you pour on and lather up, the better you may feel psychologically, but it isn't doing anything for your hair. You're only wasting money. (Click here for other hair care myths.) And you don't need shampoo at all to keep your hair healthy and looking clean. 

I use a couple teaspoons of baking soda mixed with about 1 cup of water once or twice a week in the shower. (The rest of the time I just thoroughly rinse my hair without using anything.) A box of baking soda is one of the cheapest things you can buy and lasts quite a while. Apple cider vinegar makes a great conditioner. At the moment I use some leftover conditioner that I found when I moved last spring, but only once or twice a week, so this bottle is probably going to last me until 2015. My hair has never been stronger, felt softer, nor had as much body. I am always getting compliments on my hair, and one woman exclaimed that I should never use shampoo again if my hair was going to look this good. The one catch is I can't dye my hair anymore because the baking soda will take the color right out, but the object here is to save money, so I haven't been dying my hair anyway to cut out that expense. And it turns out my hair has become this rich shade of strawberry blond that it never was before. Maybe because the baking soda has stripped away all the crud I've put on my hair over the years? I'll probably never know.

It also helps to stop buying liquid hand soap. Bar soap is cheaper, lasts longer, and works just as well. Plus you can buy a cute little soap dish to keep it in.

6) Never buy anything new & learn to sew.
I have two televisions, and one is a big widescreen thing hooked up to a surround system. I didn't pay for either of them. They were all, even the surround system, hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. If you are ever in the market for a new gadget, ask around. Somewhat you know with better access to money may be in the same market and willing to help you out. (I got a complete dining set this way, too, and a vacuum and microwave.) If that doesn't work, check thrift stores or re-use centers. People give away the most surprising items. Recycle Ann Arbor's ReUse Center has all kinds of things for a home. If I were refurbishing a house, this would be my first stop. 

Like I said before, $10 will get me 2 pairs of pants at Goodwill, and the quality isn't much worse than if I went to Meijer and bought new pants for $16 or $20 per pair. The fabric in the thighs wears out in a couple of months no matter where I buy them, and I have to either turn around and buy new pants, or sew on patches, which is what I usually do. JoAnn's sells scraps of fabric for around $1, so that is what I first used to sew patches that would reinforce my jeans and cover up the holes. Eventually I got a pair that just wasn't salvageable anymore, so now I cut squares from that to patch up the other pairs. Sewing patches to the inside of my jeans that wear through between the thighs has drastically lengthened the life of my pants. 

I have two cats, and one of them is not very good about hiding his claws, so I get holes poked in my shirts a lot. There isn't much hope for that, so I just find a thread that best matches the color of the shirt and sew the hole shut. People don't notice because they don't have their faces pressed against my abdomen, and I get a lot more time out of my shirts that way. Sometimes this happens with pants and skirts, too, and though it makes me sad, it isn't the end of the world as long as I have a needle and thread.

7) Stop using laundry detergent.
I read in an issue of Consumer Reports a few years ago that people use far too much laundry detergent to the detriment of their clothes. Using too much soap can fade colors and make clothes look dingy, so kind of the opposite of what we're trying to achieve by washing our clothes with laundry detergent. It can also irritate skin and sinuses with leftover residue. This article on TLC's website recommends immediately cutting your detergent use in half, if not more. The Consumer Reports article I read went so far as to say that using detergent has no affect on our clothing whatsoever, minus making it smell like the detergent. The reporter experimented with washing clothes in a machine without detergent and discovered that laundry was just as clean and fresh smelling as if soap had been used, the clothes just smelled like water rather than perfume. If you still want that artificial smell, use dryer sheets. Meijer probably sells them for $1. My clothes tend to still smell like detergent, however faintly, because I use a public washing machine and "benefit" from my neighbors' overuse of soap. You can also make your own detergent. Try Tipnut for 10 homemade laundry detergent recipes

8) Combine errands & don't deviate
I basically don't leave my apartment if I am not working that day. That means an entire day of not using gas in my car. Instead, I use that time to get things done around the house, like laundry, cleaning the bathroom, organizing the library, writing blogs... You get the idea. On days that I do work, I look at what errands I need to run - buy cat litter, deposit paychecks, get gas, etc - and work my errands into my route to and from my jobs, deviating from my route as little as humanly possible. Most people assume that gas stations right off the highway are the most expensive, and in many cases, this is true. Not always. I use GasBuddy to check all of the gas stations along my drive to work and make a stop at the cheapest one. Usually it's one of the out-of-the-way Speedways that you can't actually see from the highway, but are just a quick jaunt away. 

When I do find that it is most prudent to leave my apartment on a day off, I think about all the other things I could do in that trip. If I honestly can't think of any other reason to go out than to accomplish just one thing, I tend to scrap the idea and stay home instead. If I lived closer to town and not in the middle of farm country, I'd be more likely to walk to my destinations, but everything is just too far away, and there is no public transportation. 

I am also really lucky that I have a boyfriend who is less cost-conscious and takes me along to places. He is the primary driver in this relationship because he just has more money. If you have friends that shop at the same places you do and don't live too far away, you might try asking them the next time they go to the store if it would be possible to swing by and grab you first. You could make a social event out of it!