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Blog: Pam's Pennypinching With STYLE

Pam's recounting of how her ancestrally thrifty habits have helped her in modern life in ways none of her foremothers could have imagined!

Showing 12 posts from October 2007 for this blog.
Real vs. Ideal Style
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just was reading Marie Claire's site on fashion (I subscribe to those style sites to keep updated and don't really buy fashion mags anymore) and I saw in the fashion blog how boots for $825 were worth it because they had several looks. 

Now I am sure that the blogger means it - but that's more than a month's RENT for me.  I could LIVE on that! 

Boots were much more important in the E. where it gets so cold - but what with the salt on the streets, would I want to pay $825 for a pair of boots that would be easily ruined? 

I just did buy myself some ankle boots - at a thrift shop for $2!! they have leather toes and back with the rest nylon and I have another black pair in vinyl (you COULD wear those in the salt and wet and I got them for a trip to NYC a winter ago)...Otherwise in S. California boots don't make too much sense for me, as it is almost always too warm for them.  

That's the real vs. ideal world.  Now the writer probably got the boots gratis for writing about them - or a deep discount...But some teen-aged girl longing for them won't know that unless she grows up to be a journalist fashionista herself. 

That's where my mother's practicality comes in.  She is the voice in my head asking me if those boots are really practical in the snow and on salty streets.  It makes more sense to get a cheaper pair (in vinyl, maybe) for those times and this of all the rest of the $ you have left to pay your bills!

If you find a rock bottom deal on boots to DIE for, and you can wear them non-stop, then stretch your budget by all means.  But I warn you that it's sometimes hard to find fashion favorites without playing the field.  And I find that much easier when I accumulate lots of choices in my wardrobe (my husband may say too many).  But I never know that the cute shoes I picked up for a song will turn out to be my mainstays for a season...And I could just have a really boring wardrobe and stick to expensive basics...but - ugh...

Last weekend while we were out at our favorite thrift shops, I actually dragged my husband into some trendy boutiques to show him REAL prices.  Like the $325 bag of which mine is a $7 knock off - And I also share my research on the designer things I snag & what they would cost REALLY.  ($250, not $2)....OK, I spent something like $70 last weekend - but but that I got $250 shoes, and $80 shoes and $30 handbag,  and a $40 silk designer scarf, to mention a few items....And no one will know except my blog readers! 


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Allergy Eyes
Monday, October 29, 2007

Got blindsided by what seems to be a tree allergy (or a combination - as the air has been bad here due to the L.A. area fires) and it crept up on me by surprise.  That hasn't happened in a long time - but I am pretty well much prepared!

I have suffered from complaints due to my allergies for so long, that I find I have a whole arsenal of home remedies to make it all feel much better.  So many tips that I actually sat down at www. and wrote a whole article about it.  Frankly I am now too beat to repeat it all - so check out the article itself, huh? (I have another article about flu remedies AND supersweating, too.  Gee, maybe I AM high maintenance.

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Passing it ON - Pros of Volunteering as Learning
Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just spent an hour or so telling a new volunteer for my church all I know about PR and explaining the stack of pages I downloaded from the net as resources.  I have been doing what I could in PR for the church and its affiliates for about a year and a half - and it's time to pass the torch.  It's hard for me to say, but it's time for someone else to do it.  It will be a learning experience for them, as it was for me way back in the beginning.  And I will be there as a resource.

This is the beauty of volunteering.  You can stand up to do things and learn skills ON THE JOB.  My fellow actors and I learned about teaching by leading workshops at the SAG/AF Conservatory - and several of those folks still make $ teaching. 

I learned about PR because I had a small 99 seat theater group, and was part of an arts festival, and went to all the GRATIS workshops they had on PR.  Ditto grant workshops.  I learned about that because I was trying to get $ for the theater, and found other free workshops.

You can volunteer to do data entry for a group, and get used to working on a computer.  Or answer the phones, or file - or any of the common office skills.  Then you HAVE experience, acquired at NO COST to you!! 

Groups always need help with the mundane tasks of running their organizations, and there are so many opportunities for you to LEARN skills you NEED and and put to use ELSEWHERE.  I joke that I never take a UCLA extension class (they cost hundreds of dollars) I just find someplace to volunteer!

I produced a film once and learned about it by going to a bargain class at a night school and bought $100 worth of books, which afterwards I resold! I learned about the film industry by choosing to work as a temp in the business itself, so I could observe what was going on in the inner workings.  I have volunteered to read at playwright groups to work on my cold reading.  I have participated in community dance concerts for free classes.  You name it.

It's sort of like barter in which you are exchanging your labor for being taught on the job.  Of course, you have to apply yourself and being as much as you can to whatever you are doing!  But it's the time-tested mode of learning.  Everyone apprenticed once, and for my part, I find that that's really the best way for me to learn.  I have never taken any computer classes, I have always learned ON THE JOB with the help of good computer books.  What I know about photoshop I have learned MYSELF.

They say that anyone who teaches himself has a fool for a teacher, but there is also something to be said for swatting out a problem on the learning curve.  It takes some time, but whatever you learn, you RETAIN - or at least that's the case for me.  Just reading about it in a book makes no sense to me at all, as I can't SEE it.

So look around you for the opportunities which may be there for you to learn and grow - GRATIS.  Learning and contributing at the same time.




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Monday, October 22, 2007

Usually my writing here at the blog is pretty down earth, in keeping with our umbrella thriftyfun site.  I haven't philosophized much here - but crow about bargains.  Looking at other sites, there seems to be a lot of thinking about frugality.  Now, I take that for granted - and frankly developed my skills out of necessity so I could get the things I wanted with my slender purse...And it was further influenced by the DYI trend of of the 70's and the whole hippy thing...And DYI saves a LOT of $.

I have repaired until no longer possible, bought used and second-hand - combed the environs for bargains of all sorts...and in short, played my thrifty game in which I add of points of money not spent in my head - Ka ching! it has enabled me to live comfortably with nice clothes and an urban apartment and tickets to events and gifts even at my brokest.  It has amused me to exercise my ingenuity when I was temporarily out of funds.  And to share those tips with you guys. 

I do wonder if anyone is listening, though.  Those other frugality blogs are so slick and have embedded tags and all sorts of bells and whistles - not keeping with keeping it simple! 

So, if you do read this, do me a favor & tell me how I am doing, I would appreciate it.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

There is a fairly out-of-the-way rural Goodwill we go to sometimes when we are in the neighborhood.  But what great stuff!  Somehow they have new merchandise - shoes from Target  for women - originally @$30 - now from $3-$5.  And things like gift bags, and other little things.  I got a good deal on a bath mat!  They also have bargain racks with things from $.49 to $.99 - I always find something.

This time the find was a Downey-Burke purse.  I remember the brand from the olden days with the green/brown square editions -but I recognized the Downey duck - and realized that the pebbled leather brown pouch had been put in with the plastic!  Imagine my surprise when I got home & looked it up on the net - retail almost $300!!  And seemingly brand new! 

But that's the place I got my husband's black leather blazer for  - oh, I think $40!! - It makes one an impulse shopper- but with leather purses going for hundreds of dollars, I grab the bargains when I can!

It helps to recognize brands  - I also got some new Bandolino ballet flats for $2.99 (retail @ $40) - It's great fun to come home and look up the values on the net.  Ka ching! And I got some Target gold pumps against a gala for $5 - (value $30) - But watch out for the sizes!  The pumps were marked 8 1/2 and they fit my 7 1/2-8 size foot just fine.  So often things are in thrift shops because the sizes are OFF.  And nowadays Chinese-made shoes tend to run SMALL.  So always try them ON.  I think I even have some size 9 shoes - which also fit quite well!

As I have said before, I live in Los Angeles, more specifically Hollywood, and when I get dressed up, I have to get DRESSED UP, even tho I spend lots of my time in jeans and t-shirts.  It's part of the old theatrical bluff. I don't want anyone knowing exactly how much I am making.  Keep them guessing, I say.

And that leaves me $ to spend in the health food store!  (Altho a local health food store has a bargain bin I always peek into - and get bargains from that, too, including nice skin cream....My cash register racked up a supposed $25.00 in savings last time.  They have sales, too....)

P.S.  - A TIP- compare formulations  (look at the ingredients)of even healthfood or homeopathic remedies.  I just found a near-duplicate of an allergy formulation I love, but which is sometimes hard to find! About the same price, or a little less -  I am going to try it out.  Have done the same with formulations that have gone out of production....



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Making the Most of It
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Got a lovely compliment on the thriftyfun site on an old Xmas post of mine about giving my elderly neighbor across the hall an Xmas wreath for her door. 

I do like to share my tips!  As I said in the post, I am caught between posting them on thriftyfun's tip contest (sometimes I WIN) and putting them in the blog here. It's a healthy outlet for my tendency to try to tell everybody a better/thriftier way to do things.  I have lived in a big city for so long now - on limited funds - and I know that one can make a reasonable go of it, if you use your wits. 

I learned the importance of rent-controlled apts. in NYC as a student, and when I came to L.A. I never underestimated the value of the rent-controlled status of my little place.  This has served me in good stead, as the rents here, once cheap, have risen precipitously and now I read that the MEDIAN rent in L.A. is $1700 a month!  Well, mine is 1/2 that. 

My husband insisted on looking for a place out in Pasadena once- but when I saw the SAME era apt. with the SAME concrete stairs and carport and kitchen but fewer closets/storage space for TWICE as much, I insisted on re-painting and fixing up my place.  It certainly has been worth it.  I had a little $ and we did the work ourselves with the help of friends.  (They don't re-paint L.A. apts., the way they do NYC ones...) Even pulled up the ratty carpet & put down tile. We have area rugs now....Generally a success.

I have been accused of being a fogy for staying put - but I see another artist friend looking hard for affordable housing - thinking of a room instead of a place and I am grateful for my old-fashioned thrift.  Even if the place goes under the wrecking ball, they will have to pay us a relocation fee.  And I think that for all the effort I have put into this building over the years, making it a respectable place, I deserve it! 

I do indulge in a daily newspaper subscription, which I read every day at breakfast - and over the years it has kept me informed of the ins and outs of L.A. housing and rent control and related issues...and it's worth every penny.  A new landlord tried to squeeze us due to the tight housing market and my low rent - my husband refused to believe it - but it WAS serious, and with the help of a fax and the internet and the nolo press books from the library, I fought him off.  Now he knows better than to mess with me. 

I do think of all the poor folks who have been living around here for years, facing unscrupulous landlords doing slimy things like not receiving rent!  (Heard about THAT one while I was working a recent election.)  Couldn't do that to ME, because I know it's illegal & I would call the Housing Department on him/her/it!

But keeping your wits about you paid for my forebears - my Swedish grandmother and my mother - and it continues to pay for me!



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My Greatest Financial Coup?
Monday, October 15, 2007

Spurred on by a contest on - I am thinking:


It doesn't boil down to any one event.  The coup is -not to be intimidated by the authorities when in the right - and to know that EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE..

That started when I was accepted at college, and they wanted me to be a commuter, but I wanted to stay in the dorms.  It was my first instance of what I call "Playing Lawyer" and I proved to them that it just wasn't practical for me to commute due to bus schedules, etc. So I got into the dorm!

THINKING LIKE A LAWYER - that is logically, with the existing rules and regulations in mind, providing documentation and proof of your claims, restating your case in terms of the existing rules has:

        Gotten me out of parking tickets and saved my car from towing

        Fought off a frivolous eviction notice from a new landlord without a lawyer!

       Gotten me re-instated in a professional organization gratis after a lapse during an illness

       Got the local utility company to reimburse me for 2 tires, after plates put on the street for repair caused 2 flat tires.

Even lawyers have told me that some of these causes were lost ones and I have to admit I don't win every time.  But I do have a spectacular batting average. 

So, learn the ins and outs of "legalistic" thinking, and do as much lawyering as you can yourself.  (There's an old adage that going to court means you have already lost...) I highly recommend and the nolo press series of self-help law books written clearly for the lay person.  Knowledge is power, especially in this litigious age!




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Be Invited
Thursday, October 11, 2007

Have one event I have been invited to at a local historic house and another movie premiere I rsvp'd for, for next week.  And I have already told you about my gala...

In my opinion the best parties are the FREE ones!  And in Los Angeles, you can run into free events on a regular basis - One tip is to sign up for all sorts of mailing lists - both paper and on the net - for things you are interested in.  Then you are more likely to hear about events to go to.  I am always invited to art openings - and there are other events as well.

A freebie event makes a great date night - if you are married - or single!  It's an excuse to dress up and get OUT.  And there are usually drinks or something offered.  All in all, a classy version of the cheap date...


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Flu, ugh
Saturday, October 06, 2007

Well, I have a flu-ish something AGAIN. Ugh.  Back to my goldenseal and homeopathic Oscillo (by Boiron & at drug stores now.)  The funny thing is that I looked up the ingredients (isn't the internet great?) and found that it comes from "muscovy duck" - a common domestic duck, apparently.  Now with what we know about bird flu transmitting occasionally to humans, it makes sense - as with using cow pox bacilli against small pox - Maybe the same is true of the chicken soup remedy???

There isn't much that can be DONE against the flu - and I am getting so early in the season there haven't even been flu shots yet.  It's a back to keeping your immune system as hearty as possible. (Oh, I have an article on "Surviving the Flu Season" from last year on - It was last year, before I discovered the Oscillo, but includes all my other time-tried home treatments.


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Gala Glam pix
Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hey I DO have pix of this outfit - which I will post when my husband downloads it from the camera.  I warn you, I am neither tall nor skinny - but I FELT as glamourous as all get out!

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Gala Glam vs. prom dress
Friday, October 05, 2007

I love dressing up - it's the little girl in me who used to play with dolls - My mother used to say that the dolls were better dressed than we were! And I am a performer and I live in Hollywood - so over the years I have developed the habit of collecting pieces of fancy clothing  when I run into them and they are real bargains.  Sometimes they sit in the closet for a while - but almost all of them get worn, eventually!

Well, last night was such an evening.  Through friends who work at the Los Angeles Music Center we got invited to the gala opening at Disney Hall of the L.A. Symphony season - a black tie event!  And, I had just the thing to wear....No you are wondering what this has to DO with frugality - well - for one thing, the tix were FREE.  (on the internet the tix were $1,500 to $10,000!!).  It was a performance by Essa Pekka Salonen, the L.A. Philharmonic and the famed American opera diva, Renee Fleming. Whew.  What a beautiful concert.  (And we parked in an adjacent parking lot for $8.00 instead of the Disney Hall's $18.00.) 

I wore a fabulous gold brocade jacket that I had picked up a year ago in a resale shop in Santa Barbara - I think it was on sale - It is actually the sort of material they make obis out of, and just gorgeous.  I wore that over an empire waist black jersey dress I had gotten at my local Out of the Closet (I think it was even new) for about $10 and shoes from my shoe archive - and a necklace I had splurged on at an Oxnard craft faire - and my 99 Cent Store earrings and a purse from an Oxnard thrift shop, a ring I had gotten at HSN. 

It was, as my husband said, the $200 outfit - but I was holding my own again the thousands of dollars gowns of the rich gala ladies - so much so, that I was ushered into the VIP area and treated to free champagne!  It was fascinating to observe all those people - more so because I am an actress, and I catalogue people to draw upon later.  Who knows if I will play a rich socialite some day soon? 

It was like being Cinderella at the ball, and I really did enjoy myself.  Who needs a prom? 

But it underlines what I have said about prom dresses and gala attire in general.  I had acquired the pieces separately, with a mind to building an outfit (or 2 or 3) - at a bargain price.  I didn't have to pay hundreds of dollars for a polyester dress I would never wear again! I would rather invest in these pieces, which I can wear over and over. ( I have a silk brocade smoking jacket I got for $35 which I wore to the opera, and has many more wearings in it.  I have a beaded black shirt, I have also worn to the opera with black pants.)

I have a collection of jewelry to choose from to accessorize my outfit(s), too.  I even have a copper sequined jacket which was a steal which I haven't WORN yet.  But I will...

And I can do my own hair and makeup - that comes from working in the theatre...Actually when I do it, it turns out better than any makeup artist's job, because I know my face better than they do. 

So all of this is possible on a shoestring by developing your own taste and skill!  And at the last minute, too.  So remember that girls when you are whining about prom dresses... and it will serve you well later when you have to do glam on a budget.

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Shopping on the net
Monday, October 01, 2007

Now, I don't usually shop on the net - because usually I manage to get better deals without having to pay for shipping - but I am on several mailing lists  - one of them Lane Bryant (ok, but they go down to a 14!) And because I live in sunny California, I could take advantage of end-of-the summer sales and get 2 pairs of cargo pants for ($13.00) + $5 shipping (the cheapest).  They had lots of deals for under $10 - but it's the pants that seem to be the best deals - $10 or under for a pair of pants I will wear to the ground is my price range, definitely.  Get on their online mailing lists at - if that's your size...

Ok, I hadn't been shopping in thrift shops as usual, due to the flu, so I felt justified! (Oh, and a few months ago I did get a synthetic alexandrite ring,  the stone changes colors  - from HSN - Home Shopping Network - of all things! Because I had been looking for a good deal in an alexandrite....) As usual, I will only buy stuff on SALE that's a really GOOD deal!







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