Friday, February 20, 2009

Frugal Thought #4: Just Say No

Ever since I went freelance my motto has been 'Yes!' Yes to travel. Yes to adventure. Yes to fun. Yes to life. But being frugal and saving money is not about 'yes': it's about 'no'. And what an ugly word that can be...'no'. It can mean no leisurely Sunday brunches with friends, no weekend getaways, no dinner and dancing, no overpriced movies, no round trip plane tickets to see my boyfriend in Nashville, no cocktails that don't come from the well... no damn fun.

Grocery shopping has become just about the essentials. I can't even remember the last time I allowed myself to splurge on sparkling water or vegan cookies at Trader Joe's. Going out has become an anxiety inducing trauma as I become the annoying 'poor' friend who brings everyone down and reminds them what life was like in college. So what do I do instead? Workout. Read. Listen to music. Write. Watch Oprah. All great activities, but all a bit lonely.

Perhaps I need to find some poor starving artists like myself who live cheap and free and happy and take up with them. Plant some organic carrots, learn how to sew, travel the Renaissance Fair circuit selling homemade jewelry, play my banjo on the street corner, sell oranges by the freeway, turn in bottles and cans for cash or wrangle up some nude modeling gigs at an art school for the blind.

For now, though, it looks likes I'm just going to have to embrace my new life of 'no'. Take it like a pro and stop complaining. It's just hard when your heart says 'yes' but your head insists on the logical. Perhaps someday in the near future I'll be able to turn that frown upside down and scream from the mountain tops, "Yes, yes, yes! Fill up my Whole Foods salad container until it brakes the scale, pass the bottle of Belvedere, take me through the Starbucks drive-thru, fork over that soy chorizo scramble with a side of $3 avocado slices!" Here's hoping that day comes sooner than later... because man am I hungry.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Frugal Thought #3: Blood, Sweat & Tears

I have a new obsession, and I'm afraid it's not very socially acceptable. So (deep breath) here goes... I'm obsessed with... blood. I can't stop myself. It all started with my frantic reading of all four Twilight novels until the wee hours in the morning and then led to my current addiction to HBO's True Blood (I'm only on episode 7, so please, no spoilers.) But apparently it's not the vampires I'm obsessed with but the hemoglobin itself because I did the unthinkable recently and signed up with the Red Cross to donate my own O positive life force.

With my new frugal lifestyle in mind, and the constant inner guilt from listening to the KCRW pledge drive with my broke hands tied, I decided what better way to give back when you're down and out then to give your time. LA Works has an amazing site ( where you can view a calendar of volunteer opportunities in LA over many months and instantly sign up. A huge array of organizations use them to recruit, so you could find yourself doing anything from building wheelchairs to feeding the homeless in the Mission District. (I recently signed up with a friend for the Tree People project this Saturday, but that's for another blog.)

Let's face it, though, some of us don't even have time and sweat to give to planting trees, so that leads to my bright idea to donate myself... my blood, that is. Look at the Red Cross website ( for a location near you. It only takes about 20 minutes of your day and you get some free cookies and juice afterward, which to a starving writer with a sweet tooth (or should I say, fang), is more than enough incentive. Plus, if you find yourself shedding a tear or two at the sight of a needle in your arm, the more you've given of yourself to the cause. Bravo, I say. Blood, sweat and tears trump money any day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Frugal Thought #2: Sell It, Don't Smell It

You got an Ipod? An external hard drive? Then what the hell are you waiting for? Sell those outdated CDs and go digital. I recently downloaded every single CD I own (except my Christopher Guest autographed copy of the Spinal Tap soundtrack - over my dead body) and then backed it up with my new and fabulous La Cie hard drive (
That's the link to their site, but I recommend buying it cheaper on Amazon (thanks for the tip, roomie!). Now my Ipod is synced and ready to go, and I don't have to shuffle 300 CDs around every time I move. So step 2 of The Year of Frugal Thinking is to begin to streamline your life. Get rid of the clutter and make a few bucks while you're at it. Amoeba Records ( is a pretty cool place to sell if you don't mind having an uber hipster intensely looking over your collection as though he's judging your worthiness as a human being. So I have a Britney album alongside Zappa, so what! I can get In The Zone as much a I can dig an Amarillo Brillo, and frankly, I think that makes me a well-rounded individual so take that smug look off your face before I choke you with your own Emo checkered scarf. Anyway, I made about $80 there (opt for the cash over trade-in, remember we're trying to make money here, people) but took in nearly $200 at Second Spin ( where they couldn't care less if some of the CDs were a bit scratched or that I had a penchant for Salt n' Pepa, meditation music and Willie Nelson. And, not to mention, there wasn't a checkered scarf in sight. The girl was more like a character out of the movie "Airheads" ( If you're not familiar with this exceptional film, netflix it (along with "Empire Records" while you're at it.) It's amazing and a hell of a lot cheaper than a trip to the movie theater. Plus, when you're broke, you can always use a good laugh.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Year of Frugal Thinking

As a Blackheart, and black being a color consisting of all other colors, you would think green would be running through my veins. Not the case these days. Hard economic times have befallen your gypsy friend, so new rules of living (and thinking!) have to be set into place. For the next year I'm going to be delving into the world of the poor and imaginative, trying to find ways to stay afloat. If you'd like to come along for the ride and maybe learn a thing or two about the life of a starving artist, please continue to follow my blog. That's not to say that every entry will be financially focused. I'm no Suzy Orman; too much money talk makes me dizzy. I would like to start, however, with one venture I've recently turned to... the monotonous glee of paid audience work. Twice in past two weeks I've dragged my butt into Hollywood to wait in line outside a studio to be ushered into the audience seat at a talk show. There are plenty of shows in Los Angeles that have less audience members vying for tickets to taping than I have money in savings. If you log into Craigslist Los Angeles and check under TV & Film Jobs
you can usually find a posting for paid audience work. If you call the number to sign up, and it leads you to a voicemail recording, hang up and keep calling like when you tried to win NKOTB concert tickets over the radio in fifth grade. At least that's the comparison that works for me. The pay is minimal, but it's cash and given out directly after the show. And who knows, you might stumble upon a great show and end up enjoying yourself. Personally, I've really become an expert fake laugher, not to mention I am developing clap callouses on both palms which are essential for those back-to-back double show tapings. Oh, and if you are a writer like myself, you'll meet the most vibrant cast of characters seated to either side of you. You never know when inspiration may hit or when a friendly peacenik hippie mom trying to earn a few extra bucks after her costly tattoo removal might offer you some baby carrots and an assortment of organic roasted nuts (Thanks, again, Jane!).

So for more tips and anecdotes in this Year of Frugal Thinking stay tuned. And for god's sake don't try to sell your used underwear on Craigslist. It's just not worth it.