Loose change is money too, you know!


What annoys me about this news bit is the fact that I understand why the 2 stores declined to accept loose change as payment and yet a part of me rebels the “policies” most big chain stores set out in regards to the form of payment they are willing to accept. My split take on this news is upsetting me.


Sure, the check out would like to complete transactions as fast as they can but the purpose of check-out counters is to accept payments from customers. At least, that’s what I’ve known since I was a kid.

Obviously paying loose change is going to slow down our money from getting into their registers, but have the businesses redefined the purpose of check-out counters to accept payments in lightning speed?

Up until I moved to a “first world” country, I had witnessed people pay for a big grocery trip partly with loose change. They group same denominations together, wrap in paper, tape it close and write the total amount on the wrapping.

Image from ehow.com

Some check out counter folks count every little piece, some trust the customers and accept without counting, some measure against the height of another wrapped loose change in the same denomination. So if you’re in a hurry, better look for another counter; but the customer will not be denied the completion of that transaction. There was no question in my mind about using loose change as payment. All I could think of as a young child was how heavy it must be to lug around with loose change in their purses!

And by the way, why does a customer need to pay for converting their loose change for notes???

I’m starting to believe that those big corporations don’t see the value of loose change and forget that they are actually money! Have we, the customers, given the businesses a reason for re-aligning/defining their payment process because majority of us use cards now?

I would say, YES. As a business, they need to keep up with customers’ needs to stay relevant and appealing. Thanks to scanners, checking out is a breeze now. What used to be the majority is now a minority, and we all know they don’t generally get the best representation.

And so I conclude this post with a bit more understanding of both sides and feeling better about myself. 🙂

Chinook book for $10, minus the book


I found out about it when I attempted (and succeeded) to update my Chinook Book coupons on my iPhone.

I’ve decided since summer to get next year’s book when I found out it was only $20. Our first book was a Welcome-to-PDX! present from a friend. We saved good money using Chinook Book and we’re all for supporting local businesses.

So, that’s $10 used on my Visa that must be paid as soon as it appears in the account. I have OCD — I check my bank accounts online every day. I take pride in knowing how much is left in the bank on a daily basis.

The first coupon ($5 off) was used yesterday when we bought Hotlips Pizza for a couple of neighborhood kids that we invited over to play with our tot. There are plenty of coupons in the pack that I know we’ll not use so if you have any particular product or service you’re after, let me know. I can gift coupons via email.

Orange, x.

To your left


A month ago, our little family had joined the push biker community of Portland. We now own our beach cruisers and a trailer. My fear of biking in busy streets are nearly gone. I don’t think it will go away quickly, but I feel much, much more confident here in Portland than I was in NZ.

Our attempt to use them to take the kid to school and back home is costing me plenty of leg muscle cramps, wasted morning shower, and a monthly bus pass that I buy at the end of each month ($77). The exercise is great, it’s always great. It just feels icky to get to work gasping a little, my scalp full of sweat and hair that’s still wet. Ew.

So today Jonno and I decided to rest from it, then back on it tomorrow for some volunteer work. I think mentally that did it because my body relaxed. Gone were the muscle cramps that I believe start before I even ride the bike.

I’m not very familiar with biking “ethics” so I learn as I ride. To your left! To your right! Raise arm up to go left? I didn’t know that. Jonno had to correct my hand signal. 😛

I also realized why many bikers would stay close to the center on roads, especially when it’s inclined. Sorry car drivers, but it’s really wobbly riding down the bike on the side where the roads aren’t flat. The flatter the better you see.

Somebody also took a photo of me riding. The driver slowed down just to do that. I wonder what I was doing, or not doing, at that moment. Look, there’s that chubby woman trying to lose some weight. Hahaha!

Yes, it’s not just my imagination. I don’t feel as fat as I did last week. I’m not fat compared to those who are, but I do have some jiggly spots. 😀 I think I have somebody else’s thighs wrapped on mine. Who knew that biking could do such wonders?

It’s different, though, riding with a mission and riding for leisure. Oh well, it is what it is. I just have to make use of my $500 bike. Or else, I’d just be another hoarder.

What a busy summer!


Portland did not disappoint me this summer. With it being our first here in America, it has been full on and I’ve enjoyed it. I thought that it was only Jonno and I who talked about flaking out on a few events, but I met a friend of his who spoke about it. I felt normal suddenly. 🙂

I’ve read many complaints about the heat in the Midwest and in the East coast. I just love Portland’s summer, just about right.

And what also defines summer (to me) is it being such a spendy season. I don’t think I get this much gusto to shop in any season. We’ve already spent $400 on our joint birthday barbecue party and will need to spend a few hundred bucks on a road trip to visit my father-in-law.

A friend from NZ is coming to California on business so we decided to see him together as a family instead of the original plan that only Jon went down to see him. That’s $780 for airfare for 3 and $250 for 2 nights in an apartment rental, with just a few mouse clicks. Technology is such an enabler.

So it’s easy for me to these days to snap. We have to be really good about cooking and eating at home this August. I don’t want Summer to be over, ever, but it’s hurting our pockets. 😛

Portland, you’re beautiful.

To rent or to buy…a car?


Our family does not own a car. Gasp.

This is something I’ve pondered on a lot these days. While it was a decision we made in NZ not to own a car once we moved here, sometimes I ask myself whether we should back out on it. Along with that decision was to choose living near to downtown Portland where both Jonno and I work. We live so close that it takes 15 minutes or less to get to our offices including walks to and from bus stops.

In a way, it’s very refreshing. I like taking public transport — it’s cheap and convenient. We don’t pay for car insurance and we like that very much. We don’t have to worry about parking fees. We don’t have to worry about fluctuating costs of petrol.

And yet, we spend at least $250/month on Zipcar in the first 2 months of membership. We are on occasional driving plan, which means we pay for what we use. We are considering moving to the next plan level, but that entails $50/monthly plus an x number of hours we could use Zipcar free of charge. This could be the best option to take next. Going for the occasional driving plan was a test, and what a surprise to see how much we have spent so far! I can’t help myself going on Craigslist to check some cheap cars that are still in good condition. I filter my search for cars to sale price up to $5k only. I’ve seen some good ones for $4k! I need to also add that it is summer and we have been proactive about taking our child to activities outside of Portland, and just generally taking advantage of our first summer as a family in this beautiful town.

There’s always an effort to remind myself that not owning a car means something good financially. I have to constantly identify that it is a want for now. It may never be a need. A car makes some aspects of life convenient, but having one makes it easy for us to decide to just drive somewhere to dine out or buy something. Being frugal can be difficult sometimes.

Happy 4th of July!

First Zipcar experience


Alright, our family has enjoyed Zipcar so far. We have done 2 short trips and 1 out-of-town trip, and here’s what we think.

Accessibility

We live a block away from one Zipcar, 3 blocks from another, 6 blocks from another, and 8 or so blocks from many more. What we like a lot is our proximity to their hybrid cars. We love hybrids! We used to own one.

Range of cars

For the out-of-town trip, we chose a Subaru and I was wary about the mileage because it has been years since we used a non-hybrid car. We got it with gas a little over half full and arrived in Cannon Beach, Oregon with plenty more to last us. We filled it up the next day and when we arrived in Portland, it still had 75% gas. I was impressed about that. From Cannon Beach, we headed up to Warrenton for the night, drove to Astoria, crossed the state line to Washington, and back to Oregon via Highway 30.

I definitely feel that I have all of these different cars for our use! No need to worry about being limited. It’s cool not to think about that. It’s like owning many cars! The cars we’ve rented are clean and were returned on time, which makes us all the more considerate.

Price

The Subaru was rented for 2 days at $83/day including gas. Hybrids cost $71/day I think. We also wonder why a Honda Insight rents for a bit more than a Toyota Prius for their hourly rate. Prius costs more on the market than an Insight would. Just a thought.

What we didn’t like about the rates is having each member of a group pay annual and application fees. I’m the primary account holder and got my application discounted for using the Chinook Book, but my husband paid for $25 application fee and a pro-rated membership fee of $58. Obviously both of us would be paying for annual fees, albeit on different rates.

He looked at getting his own account through his employer, which he was able to and they credited back the $25 and $58 in my account. He also found out that rental rates through his own account is cheaper than a regular account, which I have.

180 miles a day

That’s the daily limit or you could be paying 45c/mile on top of it. It just means that we can’t really go very far with it. I don’t think it’s that kind of rental car anyway. If you’re looking for long-term rental, Zipcar may not be the right one for you.

Overall

It’s good for the niche it is serving. It fits our need for a car, which is not on a daily basis. We are going for a week of road trip this summer and we’ll look at renting a Zipcar for 7 days. We believe we can undoubtedly rent one for 4 days, so we’ll see if we can be accommodated for a week. If not, we’ll just have to rent a Prius from Toyota. Having this kind of service available to us gives us no reason to buy a car just yet. Every rent we make is a conscious decision and we’re quite lucky that we don’t feel the need to own a car to prevent us from enjoying a rental.