Squirreling Gone Wild #36: Saving Money on Movie Theatre Popcorn

save money on movie theatre popcornSo, it’s been a while since the last installment of Squirreling Gone Wild, but I came across another example of borderline extreme behavior when it comes to saving money.  You might call it clever instead.  Let’s see what you think.

The scene was a local movie theatre.  As I’ve written about before, it can be expensive to go see movies, and there are plenty of ways to save money on movies that don’t include going to the theatre.  Though admittedly, I have a renewed interest in seeing movies, and find that my kids really love to see them.

Anyway, one aspect of going to see a movie that can be quite expensive is the cost of concessions.  A recent post from ABC news discussed why popcorn costs a lot at the movies, and it’s really a notion that’s quite common these days.  Get popcorn, or any other concessions at the movies, and you’ll pay quite a bit more than if you bought similar items outside.

Now, with other concessions you might be able to sneak a few things into the movies.  Candies come to mind.  Is this ethical? We discussed it in a post a few weeks ago on ethics and frugality, and sentiment seemed to be that it’s not a huge deal even if borderline.  Do you agree?

Well anyway, one would think that it wouldn’t be possible to game the system when it come to popcorn.  After all, it would be tough to bring a big bag of popcorn into the theatre, much less hot, buttered popcorn.  You might be able to bring in some healthier popcorn, but that’s another topic altogether.

What I saw at the theatre was a family that found a way to squeeze some savings out of their entertainment budget by figuring out a way around the high cost of movie popcorn.  Here is what I think they did, and it’s pretty simple:

  • Buy a large bucket of popcorn for $6.75, which comes with refills (the smaller sizes don’t).
  • Bring into the theatre some brown paper bags, which they hid in their jackets
  • When in the dark theatre, bust out the paper bags and transfer popcorn from the bucket to each of the 4 individual bags.
  • Keep going back for refills as they need more popcorn.

The net result is that for the price of one large popcorn, they could ultimately get the equivalent of 4 large popcorn servings!

One could always point out that if they just used that original bucket and passed it around and shared, they could have gotten the same deal.  However, that seems like it would be quite inconvenient at the movies to pass the popcorn around a group of people.  Getting your own bag that only you are touching seems to be a more convenient, pleasant experience, right?

When I saw that these people were doing, I smiled right away :)  After thinking about it more, I thought that it might have crossed the line.  It seemed analogous to getting one fountain drink at a restaurant, and then pouring drinks into separate cups for the whole family.  Perhaps just because it’s the movies, many turn a blind eye to this behavior.

My Questions for You

What do you think about this movie theatre popcorn workaround?

Do you think we tend to give frugal behavior at the movie theatres a free pass compared to similar actions in other settings?

Squirreling Gone Wild #35: The Car Wash Scam

washOn a really nice day here a few weeks ago, I decided to get a car wash.  This wasn’t a case of me being frugal and taking a garden hose to wash the car at home. Rather, I went a local car wash place and decided to pay to have them do it.

The cost was supposed to be $15, but I got a $3 discount which brought the price down to $12.  Not too bad for an outside/inside wash.  After dealing with winter and a soggy spring, the car could use a nice cleaning, and I thought this would be it – and for a reasonable price.  The price itself is not what makes this worthy of being a Squirreling Gone Wild post, but the actions of the some of the people working there.

Anyway, once I left the car with them and paid, I sat in the waiting room for about 15 minutes.  It was one of those places where they have windows that allow you to see the car going through the automatic wash, having the exterior cleaned.  Then, afterward, they wash the inside.  When that’s done, the guys outside hand dry it.

It’s those guys outside that were a little bit tricky, so it seemed.  For the most past, I don’t care to watch them – nor do I usually need to.  This time, I just happened to be looking outside and saw one guy taking care of my car, and two others on another vehicle.  They finished that car up, and were then standing around as the one guy was finishing up my car.

The one guy got done, and then walked toward the waiting room where I was, about 50 feet away.  Before he took more than a few steps, I got up from my seat and made eye contact from behind the window.  He waved to come on out, signaling that my car was done.

Now, this is the time where the thought will come to mind, “oh, I should probably tip the guy”.  So as I walked out, I opened my wallet and thankfully I had a few singles – 3 to be exact – that I could use to tip the guy.  $3 is kind of a generous tip, but since I saved $3 up front, I figured what the heck.

However, as I approached, I saw those other two guys slide toward my car.  Then, they moved toward the other guy as they all saw me with the dollar bills. This is probably a terrible example, but it was like I was at a petting zoo, and feeding an animal – then the other animals notice the human has feed and race over to get their feed too.  That’s how these grown men acted.

The only thing is, those two other guys were working on the other car, and not mine.  Yet, it sure seemed like they were trying to act like they helped out even when they really didn’t, and thus were in line for a tip! What a scam, I thought!

It happened kind of fast, so I just impulsively handed the guy who actually did help the entire $3.  Then, I told him thanks, while looking at all of them with a smile and saying that they could divide it how they saw fit.  Then, I got in my car and left.  I could see one of the guys though my rear view mirror muttering something as I  drove off.

I probably should have just given it to that one guy and left, but in that split second I guess it just felt uncomfortable doing that.  Even though it would have been fair all around.

My Questions for You

Have you ever seen someone try to point blank scam you, even for something minor like this?

How would you have handled this little “situation”?

 

Squirreling Gone Wild #34: The High Cost of Being Cheap

It’s been a while since the last edition of the old Squirreling Gone Wild series, and a recent discussion with a former coworker – where we were recalling old stories – got me thinking of an episode of cheapskate behavior of one of our former colleagues.  I thought I would share it as the 34th edition in the series, and get your thoughts on it.

In reality, the idea that this person would engage in cheapskate behavior wasn’t a total surprise.  She is the person who was obsessed with free food in the office, to the point of claiming to spend only $100 per month on food due to taking leftovers from meetings and department lunches.  It was something that she could eventually laugh at a bit, and really she took pride in it.  Or, should I say, threw her pride out the window by hustling for free things more than she hustled to get work done.  Hey, it was entertaining if nothing else!

The Frugal Co-worker on a Business Trip

Anyway, there was a point in time where a few of us had to travel to Philadelphia for a business trip.  It would have been a fairly short trip, just one full day there, and two nights.  We would get in the night before the meeting, have the meeting the next day, then stay that night and fly back in the morning.

So, we often collaborated on booking flights, to see if we could travel together. That part wasn’t really something I needed to do, and frankly I had no problem traveling alone, but the culture in the office was to have people travel together.  No problem, I can do that.  Three of us got on the same flight, but then this other person – let’s call her “Jane” – booked an earlier flight to Philadelphia on her own.

Then, the day of the meetings, we were all going to go out for dinner later in the evening.  Jane tried to avoid the conversation, then said she was going to be busy.  We thought maybe she knew people in town who she wanted to visit, or maybe she was just tired.  Nope.  Ultimately, she said that she only had a short period of time to go shopping, and had a lot to buy.

Why? She said that she could save on sales tax if she bought things in Philadelphia.  Apparently, the sales tax on clothing there was much lower than it was in Illinois.  So Jane felt that she had to maximize her time that evening to rush to stores to buy clothes and shoes.  When our meetings ended that day, she literally packed her bags and rushed out the door without saying goodbye!  She also took a different flight back the next morning, so we never saw her until being back at the office.

Now, I’m cool with people marching to the beat of a different drummer. Conforming can be overrated. That being said, when you’re dealing with people with whom you work – and the culture associated with that workplace – sometimes you have to be cognizant of “expectations”.  In Jane’s case, she blew off those expectations and a dinner with coworkers just to save some money shopping.

Was the benefit of saving some money worth the cost of alienating coworkers? Again, not that I cared that much – and frankly, I smile when I think about it. It was funny at the time! Yet, in reality it was weird and it bothered the other people on the trip.  I don’t think it could have been worth it for her to save a few bucks on clothes, in the bigger picture.

My Own Business Trip

I actually had a somewhat similar situation present itself to me a few years before that.  I was on a trip to Boston, where a group of coworkers and I were at a conference.  My boss was there as well, and all of us had dinner plans for that evening.

During the day,  a supplier talked to me about sports, just making small talk.  I had mentioned that I had always wanted to see a game at Fenway Park, and would have really liked to do so if I had time.  At that point, the salesman in him pounced like a tiger – saying that he had tickets for that night’s Red Sox game, and that he could keep a ticket for me. FREE!

What to do? I enjoy seeing different ballparks, and especially appreciate historic venues.  We have one here in Chicago (Wrigley Field), had another one a few decades ago – the old Comiskey Park - that I visited often as a kid before it was torn down in 1990.  I made sure to visit the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit before it was shut down back in 1999.  As you can see, I like the old parks, and Fenway is one that would be a treat to see.

But what about that dinner with the boss?

One might think I was shortsighted in my own way, but I actually turned the guy down.  Instead, went out to dinner with my boss and coworkers.  Sure, it was a really nice dinner.  But I have to say, going to the ballgame would have been much more fun!

Of course, it would have looked very bad if I chose a great fun evening over dinner with the group.  Perceptions matter, and ultimately our income matters more.  I thought it would have been penny wise and pound foolish to go for the free tickets and the great memories, instead of prioritizing the norms of the workplace.  I chose the latter, thinking of the bigger picture.

Besides, who’s to say that I couldn’t go to Fenway another time in the future?

My Questions for You

If you were that coworker, would you have taken advantage of the opportunity to save money shopping? Or, would you have given that up and conformed to the norms of the group and gone out to dinner with coworkers?

If you were me on the other trip, would you have taken advantage of the opportunity for a cool life experience on someone else’s expense? Or, would you have done what was expected on the job, and gone to dinner with the boss and coworkers?

Have you ever seen anyone lose respect by being cheap in any situation?

Squirreling Gone Wild: The Frugal Olympics

With the world’s attention on the Olympics later this summer, many people will admire the amazing abilities and accomplishments of those who

Run after those pennies!

are able to compete atthe highest level in their sport. It takes a rare combination of talent, hard work, and desire in order to reach the pinnacle of success.

Perhaps we can follow the lead of the world’s best athletes, and apply those principles to personal finance.  One way would be to try to become a frugal athlete, as we train to be the best we can be when it comes to saving. We can all get better, right?

Well, we most certainly can get beter – at least most of us, anyway.  Of course, to reach the heights of ability, we would have to compete against the best of the best.  What I’m referring to is the Olympics of saving money.

These “competitors” are the ones who find way to take saving money to the next level.  The most hard-core examples of saving money that I’ve encountered are profiled here in the Squirreling Gone Wild series.  These are situations that I’ve seen where people have taken some extreme measures to save money.  There have been 33 editions of the series to date, and admittedly, I’ve been the subject of a few of the posts :)

With that in mind, I went through the posts to date, and revisited some of the approaches people took to save a few dollars…or pennies in some cases:)  After a difficult review, I’ve found three extreme frugality practitioners that can be declared the medal winners in the Frugal Olympics!

Here they are, counting down to the top spot:

3rd Place – Bronze Medal:  The Bird Brain.  This guy didn’t want to spend money on a pet, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, he went so far as talking about buying his kids an old pet bird so it would die soon and he wouldn’t have to spend money on recurring food costs. You can read the full story to get an idea of how excessively (shamefully?) frugal this guy’s mind was.

2nd Place – Silver Medal: The Crafty WaitressOn a business trip I had taken, a waitress tried to secure a better than 50% tip on a bill that was less than $10.  Her first tactic was to bring me 2 $5 bills as change after I gave her a $20 bill for a check that totaled $9.83. With her second tactic, she tried to play the delay game by telling me it would take her quite a while to break one of the $5 bills into singles.  I handled the situation, as you can read.

1st Place – Gold Medal: Take a Penny for Free GasThis guy, back in the day, took one cent from the “take a penny” jar every time he went to the gas station. He deliberately filled up to one penny over a whole dollar amount, then paid cash. Except, of course, for the penny he took from the jar on purpose. His reasoning was that eventually this would get him to a free gallon of gas, after all his incremental efforts.  That’s about as “extreme frugal” as you can get!

So there you go. These are the medal winners in the “Frugal Olympics”:

There were two others that merit special mention, but couldn’t make the top 3.  One was my own frugal excess in the drive through discount, where I regularly picked up loose change while getting coffee at the drive through.  You can might find enough money under the window to add up to a decent discount! The other one was The Extractor, who was truly a gold-medal talent, but I have to disqualify this one as I was the one who was the victim of the extraction! You can read that one to see the painful details :)

My Questions for You:

Which of the Squirreling Gone Wild situations were the most notable examples of extreme frugality to you?

Would you pick other “medal” winners from what you’ve read of the other editions of SGW?

What is the most extreme example of frugality that you have personally ever seen or heard of?

 

Squirreling Gone Wild #33: The Phantom Tip

What a devilish thing to do!

Having lunch with coworkers can be a worthwhile use of your time, depending on the circumstances. It’s often fun to get to know people just for the sake of meeting new people, and sometimes friendships can be forged over time spent having lunch together. Other times, you might choose to have lunch for networking purposes. Yet other times, you might go because you simply have to and have no real choice in the matter.

The latter was a situation I faced when I was just starting out working after college. Now, I did make some friends there that I’m still in touch with many years later. We had lots of laughs through our times as new, entry level people.  Of course, that was balanced by dealing with a higher than average number of interesting characters as well, who we just had to deal with. This type of person played a role in what I’ll share as another Squirreling Gone Wild story.

The Lunch

This was back in the late 1990s, which seems like it might as well be the stone ages. I say that because when a group of people was going to lunch, there wasn’t an email sent to the group. Rather, people walked from one cube/office to another to spread the word about a Friday departmental lunch. Well, since it was Friday already, that meant that you pretty much had to drop whatever lunch plans you had (including a lunch you may have brought) because there were some senior people going. You just had to show up – at least that was the strong feeling that many of us seemed to have.

So, I went with the group. We went to some local restaurant, probably a chain restaurant, and had a long lunch together as a group. There must have been at least 12 to 15 people, possibly more. It’s been a while so I don’t recall exact numbers, but suffice to say the group was large.

The group was a mix of people at different levels of responsibility, as I alluded to earlier. This meant entry level people, some experienced people, as well as some more senior people.

How Everyone Usually Paid

Usually, there were not individual bills for each person. Restaurants didn’t seem to like to do that, which makes sense as it makes it time consuming and a hassle for them (and other customers too). So typically, one bill would come to the group, and the most senior person would manage the process. This might mean that she (or he) would either:

  1. Go through and tell each person what they owed; or
  2. Just take the bill and divide it by the number of people there.

Either way, as I said, one senior management member handled it. Everything was done via cash.

How Everyone Paid This Time

This particular time, there was one senior person there who had a negative reputation. I never worked for her, but had been told that she was not a particularly nice individual. People spoke about her being selfish, taking credit for others’ work, ill tempered, and things of the like. Like I said, I never worked with her or interacted with her much at all, but saw her walking the hallways with a sneer permanently affixed to her face.

Anyway, at this particular lunch, she told everyone to give her the cash for their share, and then she would take care of it. Okay, nothing unusual there. However, she said she would just take the cash and pay by credit card. She never really asked if anyone cared.

And frankly, it shouldn’t be a big deal to do it that way. I’ve done that with a group that before, where I handled the bill, so I certainly didn’t have an issue with it. However, I do have an issue with what she actually did.

She had told everyone to add extra for the tip – but asked for only about 10%. It’s been a number of years, but I recall her then saying that the waitress was making enough as it is with a big group, so why pay a high percentage when we didn’t have to. I thought that was weird and unfair, and assumed that a tip would be the same. In some places, in fact, a mandatory percentage is applied to large groups.

Anyway, once she actually collected everyone’s share – including tip – she paid by credit card.

Here’s the problem: she never paid a tip.

That’s right – she collected everyone’s money, asked for enough to cover a tip, and then charged the amount on the bill while neglecting to add a tip.

The way I see it, that’s simply ice cold.

Now, I didn’t actually see her sign the bill and put zero or a dash on the tip line. Rather, I was told this by someone who sat next to her and was a reliable person who also didn’t work with that lady. In other words, she was credible with axe to grind with that lady.

Can you imagine? With a lunch group that size, she pocketed enough to get a free meal of her own. As I think of it, her behavior totally reminds of me of these infamous people I ran into years later, and ceased to dine with again. Yuck!

I have to say, it made me believe all the negatives that were said about her!

My Questions for You:

How do you handle paying the bill when having lunch with coworkers?

Have you ever seen anyone play any games when it comes to tipping at restaurants?

What’s the shadiest thing you’ve seen or heard of someone doing when it comes to paying a restaurant bill or leaving a tip?

 

Squirreling Gone Wild #32: The Vanishing $5

What would Honest Abe Say?

If you came across some money laying on the ground that wasn’t yours, but theoretically might belong to strangers in close proximity to you, what would you do? Pocket the money? Ask the strangers if the money was theirs? Ignore the money?

This is the type of situation I noticed while at a local coffee shop recently.  As you might remember from prior posts, I’ve occasionally ventured out to get some work done, with the idea that I’ll accomplish more while outside the home. While I’m generally successful doing just that, there are some times when it gets a little more interesting.

This time, I encountered someone who was kind of a squirreler. Well, except that he really wasn’t one, since he took the concept too far. You see, I think that squirreling away money is a great appoach in general, but integrity has got to be a part of it. I’m sure you’d agree. This guy went a bit too far, and took his interest in stashing money across the line. The dollar amount wasn’t big, but it was enough to be written up as another in the Squirreling Gone Wild series.

So, I was at a different coffee shop this time, sitting at a table on the left side of an aisle. There was a guy and a girl at the table in front of me, also on the left side of the aisle. Strangely, the guy kept making phone calls talking about politics. The woman, his companion, seemed to be putting up with this loudmouth. Anyway, at the tables on the right side of the aisle were seemingly innoecent people – a woman at the table direcly across the aisle from me, and a guy at the table in front of her. Each with computers.

Keep in mind that the four tables I just described, with 2 on each side of the aisle, were right in the middle of the restaurant. That aisle led from the front of the place all the way to the bathrooms and employee area in the back. The point is that the aisle had people walking back and forth periodically.

Anyway, here’s where the money issue showed up. All of a sudden, I decided that I needed a refill on the tea that I bought. Free hot water, you know:) So, I got up from my seat to go to the counter for that refill, and in the corner of my eye I saw something that made me freeze in my tracks: money!

Yes, there was a dollar bill of some type sitting on the floor, in the middle of the aisle between the 4 tables. it was just sitting there, waiting to be picked up by someone:)

As I walked by, I quickly had the thought that maybe I shouldn’t just pick it up. Just a split second decision, but I walked right by it as if it wasn’t there, but looked out of the corner of my eye at what dollar denomination it was. Lo and behold, it was a $5 bill! This got me thinking about the last time I found a $5 bill, where I took the money since nobody else was around to claim it. In this case, it was different – there were others present who might have dropped the money. So, I left it sitting there as I walked by.

After I got the refill, I made my way back to my table, once again walking right by the money just sitting there. Dang, I just wanted to pick it up.  That could pay for dinner! Oh well, I thought – maybe I’ll get it later if nobody else picks it up. I guess I just felt guilty grabbing it right away, since someone there might have dropped it.

After a while, somebody had the nerve to pick it up. It was the guy sitting across the aisle, working solo on his computer. I watched as he sheepishly picked it up, looked at it, paused, then slowly looked around to see if anyone was watching.  I was, and so was the woman across the aisle.

He then looked at us and asked if it was ours. When we both said no, he said he would hold on to it and drop it in the tip jar when he ultimately left – if nobody else was looking for it. He set the bill on the table, in plain view of anybody.

Wow. That’s cool! I felt a bit bad that I hadn’t even thought of giving the money to the employees there. Seemed like a noble gesture on his part, to think of giving it way since it wasn’t his.

Well, that’s not what he ended up doing! Later on, has he packed up his computer and papers, he quickly grabbed that same $5 bill from the table and stuffed it in his pocket. Then, he walked to the door – right by the tip jar, without even pausing. He left the place and just kept the money he found.

On the one hand, I don’t want to by hypocritical by bashing this guy’s behavior. After all, I had given thought to picking up the money if nobody else claimed it. Not that I ever did end up picking it up, but still. On the other hand, I do feel like the guy flat out lied to us about intending to drop it in the tip jar.

My take on the whole thing is that it would have been nice to just drop it in the tip jar as he had already suggested. Next best way to handle it would be to just leave it there. If all else failed, go ahead and pick it up – but be straightforward about it!

My Questions For You

What would you have done in that case?

Do you think like I do, that if he just would have been honest about pocketing the money without any pretense of being charitable, it wouldn’t have been so bad?

Squirreling Gone Wild #31: The Surprise 90% Discount

Did you get any great deals during the recent holiday shopping?

This year, I tried to buy things that were on sale. Which I did for the most part, except for some toys for kids. For other shopping, I tried to take advantage of either discounted prices or gift cards.  Including in this “other” shopping category is stuff I bought for me. Yes, I did a little bit of holiday shopping for myself!

You just know you’ll find the items I purchased to be incredibly exciting. I mean, who couldn’t get excited over a purchase of socks? :) OK, it’s not too exciting, I agree. Admittedly, I didn’t exactly go overboard shopping for myself this holiday season. That was it for self indulgence – absolutely everything else was for others, which is probably how it should be anyway.

That being said, this ended up being my best bargain purchase, and I think it qualifies as another example of Squirreling Gone Wild.

Here’s what happened. I needed to buy some new socks, so while doing some gift shopping before Christmas I came across a nice pack of 3 socks on sale. These were high quality and of a very good brand, and the regular price was $26. Yeah, not cheap. However, they were on sale at 65% off, pack of 3 for $9.10. Does that sound better? It did to me.

It was a good deal, but I just picked up one pack since my hands were full with gifts anyway.  Then, I took all my items to the nearest register, to make my purchase. As I did, there was a line awaiting me. Additionally, the associate behind the counter seemed to be somewhat disinterested in fast service.

Well, after waiting for my turn, I finally got up to the register to pay for my items.  As the associate rang up each item, I watched each price. It’s a habit I have, which I don’t always do but seem to do more often than not. Basically, the benefit is making sure that I’m being charged the right price.

When he got through the other items, and came to the socks, I noticed a price of $2.27 coming up. I then did a double take and asked him what the $2.27 was for, since nothing I bought was at that price. He told me that it was for the socks.

Don’t ask me why, but I actually asked if that was the price per pair of socks. It just came to my mind right way. He looked at me kind of funny (understandably, I’ll admit) and told me that no, that was actually the price for the 3-pack.

Again, I clarified: “$2.27 for the 3-pack?”

“Yes”, he said.

At that point, I felt a wave of excitement. “YES!” I thought, it’s a small shopping victory. Then I felt kind of bad, and told the guy that I thought they were actually priced on sale, 65% off, at $9.10.  I don’t know, it just seemed like the right thing to do.  Nevertheless, the guy again told me that the price was $2.27, since that’s what it was showing up at.

Then, my guilt evaporated and I got excited about taking advantage of this. I asked the guy if he could hold on for just 30 seconds, as I wanted to go run over to the aisle where those socks were, and get some more. There were a few people in line behind me, that did not seem too patient. I felt bad, but I zipped over to that aisle and picked up 2 more 3-packs. Then, I quickly proceeded back to the register, where the guy was patiently waiting and the other customers were seemed slightly restless.

I added the two more socks there, and did the math: $78.00 regular retail price, but I paid $6.81. That’s over 90% off!

As I finished my purchase, the associate and I traded holiday wishes, and I turned and walked away. I flashed a quick, friendly smile at the lady who was patiently waiting behind me in line. Kind of a “happy holidays” type of smile. She didn’t flinch, and didn’t smile back at all.  I guess that extra 30 seconds I took annoyed her.  I wouldn’t have cared if the shoe was on the other foot (or sock, Ha Ha!). Ah, well….what can you do? I hope she had a nice rest of the day at least.

As for me, I got a great deal on things that I actually needed anyway. All while getting a greater than 90% discount. I was pleased:)

My Questions for You

Did you get any great shopping deals this past holiday season?

Have you ever encountered a situation where you thought you might have been undercharged? Did you silently take advantage of it, or did you bring it to their attention?

What would you have done in my situation?

 

Squirreling Gone Wild #30: The Elusive Bonus

Integrity is priceless. Most of us value ours, and choose to deal with others who also have it. This extends beyond personal relationships into business dealings as well.

This edition of the Squirreling Gone Wild series covers a time when promises were made about an upcoming bonus at work.  A number of folks got excited about it! However, things didn’t go quite as planned – for the employees who were so excited. This included me.

Background

This occurred at a job I had in the 90′s. It was at a job not long after college, where I started in an entry-level position. The company was probably not a household name, but it was fairly prominent within it’s market.

Anyway, a group of us entry level people had been working a ton of extra hours. Now, we knew that there would be a period of time where this would be expected, but we were asked to work extra days and longer hours for more time that originally communicated to us.  Mandatory Saturdays made for 6 day weeks for some time, and it wasn’t fun. We were getting paid very little, but I was of course committed to working hard and getting whatever experience I could out of it.

Met some good friends there too. That tends to happen when you’re in an entry-level position with a number of peers at about your age.  We got through it with a lot of joking around about the circumstances.

The Carrot

After this period of mandatory Saturdays and extra workload dragged on longer than we expected, there came word of a potential bonus in the works.  We had worked really hard, so this was a nice incentive for a group of younger, hungry people out of college.  This bonus was the proverbial carrot dangled in front of us, as an incentive to continue working hard.

So, we were happy and proceeded to get that extra boost in motivation. We were under the impression that there would be a bonus, but there was no specific date given. Just words indicating that it was being worked on, the exact timing isn’t certain yet, etc.  Yet we just assumed that of course, it would happen.

As time went on, we started to wonder when the bonus would come.  We had poured our energies into our work, thinking that we were going to be appreciated and rewarded for our efforts – especially since we were told so. There was a spike up in motivation that they got from the group as a result of the expectation of the bonus. Yet where was the bonus? After a while a sick feeling began to take hold that we weren’t going to get one. It seemed unfathomable.

Finally, we got an email which addressed the topic. It had been months, but we were also separately told a date: November 1st. What a magical date, that November 1st would be!

The aforementioned email had a reassuring  comment that we have not been forgotten.

The Squirreling

November 1st came and went without a bonus. At this point, it was exasperating.

Now, keep in mind that we weren’t making much money, so the bonus wasn’t going to really be all that much money anyway. But at the time, it was kind of a big deal, and even if irrational – people thought they were going to get this money.

One guy who had quit had talked about demanding receipt of his bonus.  It caused some laughter among those hearing about it. Another guy, who was really nice guy but a hard luck person, kept on saying that they’ll probably give it to us. He seemed to think that these things just take time in some cases.

Wishful thinking. We never got the bonus.

Yes, it never happened! In fact, they never gave us a detailed explanation. Again, all kinds of rumors floated about the bonus ended. Whatever the case, substantiated or not, these rumors just fueled the disappointment people had.

Now, I can admit that actually did get some very good experience there, and worked with some pretty cool people. A group of us that were friends would constantly joke around about the bonus. Have to say, we handled it pretty well at the time. What else could you do, but laugh? And leave, which we all did. We could still get in touch on November 1st and crack a joke asking if they got their bonus today.

Might as well laugh about it, right?

My Questions for You:

Have you ever been misled or burned, expecting money but never receiving it?

Have you heard of situations where people didn’t get paid for a service or product?

While this example happened some years ago, how would you handle it if it happened today?

Squirreling Gone Wild #29: Pet Expenses and The Bird Brain

Pets can be expensive, no question about it.  When budgeting for household expenses, it’s often necessary to include a fair amount allocated for pet needs.  While many people naturally accept and factor pets into the budget, some others resist and even resent the amount they can cost.

The annoyance at pet expenses makes you wonder why some of those people bought a pet in the first place, but hey, to each their own, right?  Well, a recent story I saw on vet costs reminded me of a discussuion I had with guy I worked with some years ago. He was irritated about how much money he had to spend on pets for his family. Yeah, I know…on the surface he sounds like a reach charmer of a guy:) I almost can’t believe I forgot about this, so I’ve got to share it here as the 29th edition of Squirreling Gone Wild.

Backstory

As a backdrop, the guy was a cost-conscious co-worker.  I was younger, so I didn’t quite get his hangups then, but I totally understand now how he’d be watching expenses as he had a family.  That part I get, and think was perfectly reasonable.

Anyway, at lunch one day – with a group of us – he was complaining about the costs of taking his dog to the vet, and how these bills really added up. He didn’t want the dog at all in the first place, since he felt that they’re expensive and he would have rather saved the money instead since he had a family to care for. Again, I totally get that. I know some hard-core dog lovers might not, but I do understand.

Now, I have never owned a dog. With allergies in the family, we didn’t buy a dog when I was growing up – and I haven’t purchased on since. So, I was just curious how expensive the dog really was for him. He continued on about vet costs, but also talked about how the dog added wear and tear to their home, consumed a lot of expensive dog food, and so on. Fair enough, I got the picture. Even though it was a small and older dog (don’t remember what breed), it was costly. He also made it sound like he was pretty much made to buy the pet by his wife. The words I still remember his saying were “That damn dog”.

Bottom line: he couldn’t stop thinking about how much money that dog was costing him.

The Scheme

He then proceeded to talk about how his kids wanted to buy a parakeet. As he mentioned that, I recall an eye roll. Obviously, he had enough of spending money on pets.

Then, he smirked as he told us what he would do if he was forced to buy this pet as well: buy an old bird.

His reasoning was that if he got an older parakeet, it would die sooner and he would have to spend less money on it over it’s lifetime. A baby parakeet would mean a longer life, more seed, upkeep, etc. I don’t know if he realized that parakeets aren’t exactly a big source of vet bills!

Anyway, we were all chuckling and shaking our heads, saying things to the effect of “Come on, man!”

Now, when I was a young child, we did have a couple of parakeets as pets at home, so I remembered how to tell an younger bird from an older one. The way I was told is to look at the forehead of the bird, and see if it has bars (lines). If it has bars, it’s a younger bird that’s just a few months old. If it has no bars, and has a solid color, it’s a more mature bird. Maybe not old, but at probably older than a 3 months old.

With that knowledge, I actually shared that information with him and the group. At first, I could tell his reaction was mild amusement as he looked at me: “This guy had a parakeet when he was a kid. Who knew?”

Then, I could see the lightbulb turn on. His eyes got bigger, and he pointed at me saying “That’s it!. If I have to get a bird, I’ll get one with no lines on it’s head, so at least there’s a chance that it’s old!” He laughed as he said it.

Get the picture? He was talking about buying the kids an old pet that would die soon so that he wouldn’t have to spend too much on it for too long.

To be fair, I have no idea if he actually bought an old bird or bought any bird at all. I never heard about the topic again, and never asked. Maybe it was all hot air.

But it was a crazy and shameful idea on how save money!

Note: I’m sure you realize this, but I don’t condone intentionally tricking family members or that guy’s plan. Just in case you’re new here:)

My Questions for You:

Have you ever let the cost of a pet deter you or influence your purchasing decision?

If you do have pets, how much do they cost you?