Splurge: My First Name-Brand Handbag

My new Coach bag — gasp.

Actually, the title of this post should really be “My First Name-Brand ANYTHING.” Especially when it comes to clothing and accessories.

I’ve never fallen into the name-brand trap. Initially, it was just because I was young and living paycheck-to-paycheck and out of necessity, but as I got older, I still didn’t desire anything with a big, obnoxious logo on it. No Chanel, no Fendi, no Ralph Lauren, nothing. I still believe spending more on something just to show off a logo is pretty ridiculous.

That’s why this next sentence is completely hypocritical: I bought myself a Coach bag.

Yes, you read that correctly.

While on vacation in the Outer Banks, I discovered we were two blocks away from an outlet mall. Mr. Not-So-Frugal, Miss Frugalista and I took a ride over there with another friend, and my husband suggested I check out the Coach store. I figured I’d just browse, laugh at the prices, and walk out empty-handed.

As I crossed the threshold, a sales associate handed me a 30% off coupon. A few steps further into the store, I saw sale signs announcing 40% off retail prices for handbags in that section. I asked another associate if I could stack the 40% off sale price and the 30% off coupon, and the answer was yes. That’s when I seriously considered looking at the merchandise.

I’m not one for Coach’s traditional tans, browns and gold accents (and forget about the multicolored patterns accented with hot pink), but I found a tote bag that was right up my alley: blue “denim” with silver accents and handles. I did the math, and it wasn’t that bad – $138, from an original retail price of $328.


All told, it cost me $147 (including sales tax). I really like the bag, and I’ll admit that buying a famous-brand purse kind of gave me the giggles, because it’s so unlike me. But I know I’ll use the heck out of this Coach purse, and will probably still be carrying it 5 years from now.

Baby Wipes Remove Makeup?

Just back from a nice weeklong vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where we shared a house with 10 friends. Everything went smoothly, with every night’s dinner made by a different pair each night. The weather wasn’t fantastic and Miss Frugalista kept waking up earlier and earlier in the morning (4:30 am was pretty painful), but overall, it was a blast.

I did learn a neat trick from my friend Nikki: baby wipes can be used to remove makeup! How cool is that? I won’t be buying makeup remover wipes ($4.49 for a pack of 30, Target’s Up&Up brand) again anytime soon. I use unscented, Huggies Natural Care wipes on our daughter, and they’re gentle enough for my face, too. Best tip ever!


Fuel Pump, Part Deux

It’s been barely two years since I need to replace my car’s fuel pump after an embarrassing breakdown in the middle of the street on my way to work in August 2010, but last week it was “deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra would say.

To be honest, the issue with my car — a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am GT — had been going on for more than a month. The damned thing wouldn’t start when I turned the key in the ignition. Sure, it would crank, but it would take a number of times to get it going before it would start.

A helpful mechanic neighbor mentioned the fuel pump wasn’t “kicking in” — advising me to turn the key to “on” and wait for the buzz of the fuel pump before trying to start it.

That seemed to do the trick, but that buzzing noise didn’t always come in a reasonable amount of time. And I’d get impatient and crank the engine again and again. Or I’d come up with ridiculous “methods” for getting the engine to turn over:

1. Open and close the car door, then try to start it.

2. Put it in neutral, foot on brake, then try to start it.

3. Lock the car using the key fob, then try to start it.

Invariably, one of these would work, and I’d latch on to the routine for the next few starts. When it failed, I’d come up with a new, even more ridiculous routine. It was the equivalent of blowing on dice for good luck while playing craps.

Fuel Pumps Have a High Repair Cost

After playing Internet mechanic, I was hoping it was the fuel pump sensor — but alas, it was not to be. I’m not sure it would have been cheaper to repair, but surely I wouldn’t have paid close to $1,000 ($935, to be exact) to fix it this time.

Why did it cost me nearly $300 more this time around? Because when I took my car to my regular town mechanic, he couldn’t find anything wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him the fuel pump was only two years old — perhaps he didn’t check it because it was still fairly new. Or he focused on the ignition, starter, battery, and alternator as possible culprits.

Because I thought it was an electrical issue (it was, sort of), I took it to a GM dealer, figuring they’d have more experience. I knew the labor cost would be more, and it was. I gained a minimal measure of comfort when my mechanic told me it would have cost him almost as much to replace the fuel pump.

A few days later, the car is still giving me trouble, but nowhere near as bad. I bet I’ve been slowly burning out the starter, but you’d think the dealership would have checked that out. Guess a phone call to customer service is in order.

A new car is looking better and better, but I really need to wait another 18 months or so to pay off Mr. Not-So-Frugal’s vehicle. Two car payments would be a frugal nightmare!

Our Cat Is Getting Senile

We’re “parents” to two furbabies – a 5-year-old grey tabby cat named Misfit that we rescued off the street at 3 months old, and my 14-year-old tuxedo cat named Krashy, who was a shelter rescue as a bitty 4-week-old kitten.

That itty-bitty kitten turned into a tubby boy, hovering around 15 pounds for most of his adult life. And once our daughter arrived, he began shedding weight as he wondered why Mommy wasn’t showering him with as much attention as she once did.

Krashy’s weight has stabilized at 12.5 pounds, but he’s also been slowing down. Not exactly agile to begin with, he takes longer to calculate his jump when he wants to get onto our bed. He wants only to hang out with me — if the little person is around, he’ll hide under the bed. Doesn’t help that she turns into a screaming mimi if she sees either of the cats.

But we’ve run into something new lately: Krashy has been peeing on the plastic grocery bags we leave in a bunch near the litter box in the basement. At least, we *think* it’s him. He’s never shown this type of behavior before, and the litter box is always clean and accessible.

It’s happened three times already. I’m not sure if this is just our poor cat getting senile, or part of a larger health issue. It’s almost time for a trip to the vet, who will probably do some bloodwork. Nothing like drawing blood from a cat to piss him off.

Any other cat owners out there come across this problem with their pet?