Recycling Everyday Items

Recycling plastics and other materials such as aluminum and paper has been an ingrained behavior since I was a kid. I remember our school celebrating the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990, and that’s the year I learned all about recycling. So I do my best to reuse and recycle as often as I can – whether reusing old clothes for projects, re-upholstering old chairs or simply putting aluminum and plastic containers in the recycle bin.

Some of the items I recycle:

  • Tin cans. These are from canned goods like vegetables, chili, diced or crushed tomatoes, and any other foods that come in this type of container.
  • Baby food jars and plastic containers. We go through three of these a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for Baby Frugalista, so I’m happy to recycle them.
  • Aluminum cans. I usually drink one can of Coke Zero a day, sometimes two, so they also get tossed into the recycle bin.
  • Plastic bottles. Lest you think I’m a huge soda addict, I also go through one liter of seltzer a day during the week while I’m at work. Occasionally, my husband will drink a Snapple, in either the glass bottle or the bigger plastic container.
  • Shower items. Shampoos, conditioners and body washes mostly come packaged in recyclable plastic bottles.
  • Plastic Ziploc bags. This one depends on what was in the bag– if it’s a non-residue-leaving snack, I’ll turn the bag inside out and wash it, letting it air-dry for another (non-food) use, such as storing rubber bands or paper clips.

Other items that can be recycled are plastic food containers such as Gladware or Tupperware, plastic hangers, plastic and paper bags, newspapers, magazines and books. We reuse plastic bags at least once, mostly when cleaning out the cat little. Paper grocery bags can be reused at the grocery store on the next shopping trip for a 2-cent credit; sometimes, I put the extras out with the paper recycling at the curb.

If we didn’t recycle, we’d be contributing a good amount to landfills. I know a number of people who don’t bother to sort their recyclables from their regular garbage, and honestly, it drives me nuts if I think about it.

Every little bit helps, but I still think I could be doing more. What other items do you reuse and/or recycle? Am I missing anything in particular?

Follow-up to Bally’s Sales Rep’s Slimy Tactic

In what may be the fastest response from a company ever, someone from Bally’s Total Fitness saw my tweet about the Bally’s sales rep blog post just hours after I put it up, and in a comment on that post, asked me to have Dee e-mail him with details about the situation. She did so, and later that day was on the phone with customer service explaining what had happened — that originally, a previous sales rep at our local Bally’s had told her she would be eligible for a free year of membership at the end of her multiyear contract, since she’d gotten a fellow co-worker to also sign up. When she went to collect that freebie year, the current Bally’s Total Fitness staff members told her there had been no such promotion, and that the original rep had (allegedly) lied to her about it.

While Dee had gotten 3 free months as “compensation” for what the staff told her was misinformation, after talking to customer service, she was told that it WAS a valid promotion at the time. And they awarded her the year she was entitled to — giving her a full 15 months of Bally’s membership, free of charge!

In the end, it seems that no one knew what the hell they were talking about.

I love it when companies rectify their mistakes. Too bad it takes a public forum (thank you, Internet) to get their full attention.

Doctors’ Offices Overcharging for Co-Pays

In the past few years, I’ve had interesting experiences at the numerous doctors’ offices I’ve visited while managing my and my daughter’s health. I’ve discovered that a number of times, we’ve been charged too much for a co-pay, or charged the co-pay in instances when one wasn’t necessary at that visit.

For us, a primary care visit merits a $20 co-pay; a specialist visit is usually $40. So If I see my primary care physician, it’s likely I have to cough up the 20 bucks; if it’s the endocrinologist, it’s $40.

Our health insurance company sends statements via mail every time it processes a claim, and it shows when a co-pay should — or shouldn’t — be charged for each particular visit. Thanks to these statements, I’d previously learned that my ob-gyn annual checkup is considered well-care, meaning there’s no co-pay payment required. And any other visits to the ob-gyn are only $20. But I’d been told to pay $40 per visit to this doctor, each time (excepting prenatal visits).

A few days ago, Baby Frugalista’s pediatric ophthalmologist sent us a check to return our last $40 co-pay — the follow-up visit didn’t necessitate another co-pay. Bless them — $40 is nothing to sneeze at! But I had to show my ob-gyn’s office staff that my visits there should only rate a $20 co-pay. They finally switched it, but I didn’t get a refund for overpaying a few times.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful that we have good health insurance coverage at a (fairly) reasonable price. But you’d think the front-end staff would know when a co-pay applies, and when it doesn’t. Especially since we have a major health insurance carrier (Blue Cross Blue Shield).

Have you ever taken a look at your health insurance statements to see if you’re being overcharged for your co-pays?

Bally’s Total Fitness Rep Lies About ‘Free Year’ of Membership

Today, a co-worker of mine, who I’ll call “Dee,” told me a crappy story about her experience at our local Bally’s Total Fitness gym, to which we both belong. Both of us had been members of the gym before getting pregnant, and now that we’ve had our little bundles of joy, we still go because it’s located very close to our office building.

About two years ago, Dee got another of our co-workers to sign up for a gym contract — and the sales guy told her she qualified for a ‘free year’ of gym membership once her current three-year contract was up. This perk stemmed from Dee bringing the Bally’s some new business. She asked how the gym would award the freebie, and the sales rep said it was automatically given at the end of her current contract. Sounds like a great deal, right?

Wrong. Turns out, it was a very shady tactic.

Now that Dee’s three-year Bally’s Total Fitness gym membership is up, she wanted to know when her free year would kick in. The current employees just looked at each other and flat-out told her that the sales guy lied — there was never such an offer at Bally’s. They claimed that the guy lied to a number of Bally’s gym members and say he was fired for his disturbing lack of ethics.

Unfortunately, she got nothing in writing from this slimeball. At least she wasn’t scammed out of money, although she thought she’d be saving a full year’s worth of membership dues (money she really could use now that Baby No. 3 has arrived).

A quick Google search finds a few other alleged instances of this happening at other Bally’s locations (check out this similar Bally’s complaint).

My advice: If you’re promised something by a company — especially if we’re talking about free stuff! — GET IT IN WRITING!

How Many Movies Can One Man Watch?

Photo by H Berends/sxc.hu

My husband is a very laid-back guy — he has an easygoing personality and doesn’t have any hobbies to speak of. His one vice — which, of course, costs $$$ — is smoking (time to quit, honey!).  But the man just LOOOOVEESS his movies. He spends all of his free time watching them through various outlets, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t drive me nuts.

Why can’t he just sit and read a book? It’s just not in his DNA. I’ve even caught him pausing a movie to watch something else on his laptop (which is on the coffee table in front of him — and the TV). For me, it’d be the best day ever if there was no more cable TV, or DVD players, or YouTube.

Even Baby Frugalista is now getting in on the act, courtesy of her father, who occasionally plops her on his lap to watch the Muppets, Fraggle Rock, Scooby-Doo, or his new favorite, Wonder Pets. Naturally, this generally happens when Mommy is taking a nap or running errands.

Here’s a rundown of how Mr. Not-So-Frugal gets his (excessive) movie fix:

— The super-duper cable package. The whole enchilada. This means we have every cable and movie channel known to man. The movie package costs $32/month in addition to our normal cable package. We also get access to the video-on-demand feature for all channels we’re subscribed to, which, thank goodness, is included for “free.”

— Pay-Per-View. Yes, my dear husband also occasionally orders movies (costing anywhere from $1.99 to $4.99) from our cable TV provider. This is usually when he’s impatient to watch a movie before it comes out on DVD/video-on-demand, or it he has an itch to see a film immediately.

— Netflix DVDs. Yes, the old-fashioned DVD-in-the-mail package. He’s on the two-fer plan, which now costs $12/month with new Netflix pricing that goes into effect on September 1.

— Streaming Netflix. Again, thanks to the Netflix price increase, this will now cost us $8/month. The movie selection isn’t as large for the streaming option as it is for the DVDs, but Mr. NSF just loves the cheesy old movies prominently featured online. The movies are streamed through our Roku player, explained in the next point.

— Streaming Roku. We don’t have a gaming system like the Wii, PlayStation or xBox through which we can stream the Netflix movies, so I got Mr. NSF a Roku player for Christmas last year, costing about $70. The Roku also features additional TV and movie “channels” we could subscribe to, but thankfully, this is where Mr. NSF finally draws the line.

Monthly, the costs for my husband’s movie fix is about $50-$60. I have to mention that we don’t ever go to the movies, and spend almost nothing else on entertainment.

AND I’m finally giving in to Mr. NSF’s request that we get smartphones once we’re eligible for new cell phones in April. That will be another $40/month, but I hope to find a deal on the phones (maybe a BOGO?). I hope he doesn’t think he’s going to watch movies on the phone, too.

Hurricane Irene: Weathering the Storm

It may be old news for the rest of the country, but we here in Northern New Jersey (and in many other parts of the Northeast) are still reeling from Hurricane Irene, which hit us last Saturday night. Torrential rains and high winds wreaked havoc on our town and neighborhood. Many homes flooded when our local rivers spilled their banks, creating lakes where there once were streets and intersections. Less than half a block away, two 100-foot trees broke free of the sodden earth and toppled over toward homes.

As the blue skies opened up around noon on Sunday, we considered ourselves very lucky to only have lost power overnight — it was restored by 8 a.m. We borrowed Wet-Vacs from my father-in-law and my brother, and dried out the few inches of water that had pooled in the basement and garage, thanking our lucky stars that the damage was fairly limited.

As we were sucking the water out of the last corner in the garage, we heard a loud “CRACK” followed by “BZZZZT! BZZZZT!” And we came out to this sight:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as we panned to the left, toward the intersection, we saw the downed tree had caused this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, that is a telephone pole… snapped in half. The wires to the left and right of where the tree landed were brought down, as well as in three other directions from this pole. Somehow, the tree only destroyed some fencing and a kids’ (empty) play house in the yard and didn’t cause major damage to the house.

But from Sunday through Wednesday, we were without power. My in-laws were also without power, but we spent most of our time with them (did I mention that Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I were home on ‘vacation’ this week?) and Baby Frugalista adjusted pretty well to the lack of routine. We tried to salvage our refrigerator items, but the frozen foods were a lost cause, even when placed in a cooler packed with ice. But it could have been much, much worse. We survived and had minimal damage to our home. And a big thanks to the utility crews from Ohio who worked their asses off for two days to restore our power!

Here are some other views of the Hurricane Irene aftermath:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, the best part about getting our power back? Being able to blow-dry my hair again — with my flippy hair, I was looking like a poor man’s Farrah Fawcett for a few days there.