The Money Pit

We looked at an amazing house over the weekend, a gigantic old Dutch Colonial on 16 acres just 10 minutes from Downtown Albany. It was spectacular with its soaring ceilings, humongous rooms, and wraparound porch overlooking a vast lawn. All this for about the same price that I could sell my current house. It was a little intoxicating.

Our realtor friend, a smart guy who knows construction, was more realistic. “I’d hate to see you buy this place.”

The truth is it was a mess that would have taken years to fix —but only if you had a rather large pile of cash.

I remember our first house. We hooked up with a realtor who was brand new. She was nice enough, but completely clueless. Almost as clueless as the guy she recommended to do our structural, someone who pointed out the vintage light fixtures and period woodwork but missed the lousy roof and ruined heating system.

The realtor went on to sell a lot of houses and be president of the chamber of commerce —and we struggled for years to get out from under a house we should never have bought. We were young and stupid and in love. What can I say?

My point is this: be careful when you buy a house and only work with people you know and trust. Real estate agents are like surgeons. They have to learn, but you’d rather they do it on somebody else.


I’ve been trying to find a way to monetize the pets. Heaven knows we spend a lot of money on them, so it would be nice to see a little ROI for all our TLC.

Then I heard several people complain lately about finding mice in their homes and it dawned on me: Rent-a-Cat. I’m not the first person to suggest renting cats, but this is an idea whose time has come. Why call Catseye when you can have a real cat’s eye on the job?

We’ve go three cats in our house who are up to the work. I figure $100 a week is fair. If you want more than one cat at a time we can talk. Here’s what’s in stock:

Maggie: A large calico with a bad attitude. This cat will not merely catch the mice but shred them into little to pieces. It may be difficult to confirm her kills if you have dogs. In my experience dogs are more likely to eat dismembered mice than whole mice.

Maeve: She may not be quick and agile, but she makes up for this with stealth. Maeve is adept at sitting perfectly still for long periods of time waiting for mice to come to her. Maeve can be baited to make her more attractive to mice by rubbing cheese or peanut butter on her head. Rodents find these scents irresistible and will walk right into her clutches.

Mia: Born on the mean streets of Schenectady, Mia combines youth and speed with a killer instinct. Because of her small size she can fit into the places where mice hide and ferret them out. We advise keeping food off your kitchen counter and the garbage can tightly sealed when using Mia.

Local delivery and pickup is free, but shipping is available. Cats arrive at your home in a day or two packed in a padded, vented container. Ask about our rent to own option.

Tra$h Talk

My wife, Ann, came in from walking the dogs with a big idea. “Maybe you should start taking our garbage to the dump.”

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to wait a minute before opening my mouth so I waited a minute before opening my mouth.

It turns out some of our dog walking neighbors told her how they started going to the dump to save money. Now, rather than paying to have the garbage truck come on Thursday morning, they stuff their car with bags of trash once a week head to the town landfill. Instead of forking over $7.50 a week, they pay $1 for each 30 gallon bag.

Let’s do the math. In my neighborhood you’ll pay about $30 per month, or $360 per year, for trash pickup. If you go DIY and take three bags of garbage a week at the dump it will run you $12 a month. That’s $18 less, or $216 a year. Hmmm… I could have saved over $3000 if I’d been going to the dump for the last 15 years. If I’d taken that money and saved it in a jar I could go on a great vacation. Or put it toward tuition or something.

I actually like the dump. I’ve gone there lots of times after cleaning out the basement or ripping up a carpet or whatnot. If you find other people’s trash interesting, the dump is like going to a museum. But here’s the bottom line: do you really want to fill up your car with crap once a week and drag it down to the dump?

“Maybe you can start taking our garbage to the dump. And you can spend the money we save on whatever you want.”

Next year I’ll try waiting two minutes before opening my mouth.

Wal-Mart: The Big Box Store

In my house we cling to the quaint old habit of reading stories to each other from the newspaper.

“Hmmm…It says here that Wal-Mart’s now selling caskets.”

My wife Ann nearly did a Danny Thomas spit take. She knew what I was thinking.

“I swear to God if you buy me at coffin at WalMart I’m going to come back and haunt you.”

big box

We’ve had this conversation before. To me a box is a box and since I’d sort of prefer to be cremated putting me in an expensive piece of furniture seems like a terrible waste. I’d be OK with a cardboard container or a Hefty bag or something. It’s been made clear that is she goes before I do -which is statistically improbable- she expects the best of everything: beautiful coffin, well-appointed funeral home, harpist…

“You get mad at me because I won’t use coupons at Price Chopper. —and now you don’t want me to shop around for something expensive like a funeral?”

Cue the stare.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but just in case I’d better pay attention to her wishes. By the way —I wonder if you buy one of those coffins they can pack your other purchases inside? Shipping an empty box also seems wasteful.

Mail Call

Here’s a piece of mail that showed up from AARP offering me a membership renewal.  Interesting, because I’m not a member —and since it’s an organization for people 50 and over I’m not even eligible.  Maybe there’s some sort of junior membership one can get.

But that’s besides the point. What really bugs me about this is the word “retired.” The way things are going with my 401K, I’ll be lucky to retire any time in the next 25 years.

This reminded me of the last time I was in Florida. There seemed to be two classes of older people, those who could afford to retire and those who couldn’t. Those who couldn’t worked serving those who could. And that’s what the future is going to look like.