Wednesday, March 19, 2014

But What About...?

I'm a little obsessed with the show Shark Tank.  What it is, if you're not familiar, is a show where entrepreneurs pitch product ideas to venture capitalists--the sharks-- in an attempt to get financial investments to expand their businesses. It's interesting because I'm fascinated but the ideas people come up with; I'm curious about venture capital and investing; and it's just a strangely entertaining show.

Some of the product ideas are just terrible, and occasionally people get laughed out of the room, but a lot of the ideas are surprisingly smart.  I even realized a while ago that a company that is next door to my yoga studio was on Shark Tank, and apparently their business has blown up.  The downside is that it sometimes feels a bit like advertising, but I've only ever bought one thing I saw on the show, and it was actually a product none of the sharks invested in:

The Rapid Ramen Cooker.  It's basically a square bowl the size of a dry cake of ramen noodles.  Certainly it didn't change my life, but it was pretty cheap (a set of two for $12.99) and we use it at least once a week.

I was watching a recent episode though, and I was just utterly confused by one of the products that got pitched.  A husband and wife came on pitching an alternative to paper towels called Bambooee.  The difference was that these towels are made of bamboo and they can be washed and re-used up to 20 times.  The couple went on and on about how the mission of their company was to reduce waste and be green.  That's awesome, but there are also things that already exist called: TOWELS.

I have towels that I've used far more than 20 times.  I use paper towels too, but either because I'm cheap or because I grew up in a house that considered paper towel use to be extravagant, I don't use them much.  

Bambooee is at the 20 minute mark

I bought a four pack of 3M microfiber cloths and a two pack of Trader Joe's Super Amazing Reuseable Kitchen Cloths.  I'm pretty much set.  The Trader Joe's cloths are the right size that I can clip them into my Swiffer Vac and mop the floor that way (found the Swiffer vac on a curb and it charges with the same size adapter that powers my tv speakers--free FTW!!), and I use the other cloths for cleaning everything else.  I wash them all with my gym clothes once a week.

Maybe there's something I'm just not getting here, but isn't the greenest option out there to just buy regular towels? I guess it's hard to keep turning a profit on something that people rarely need to replace, but I feel like I'm the smartest guy in the room.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Even Free Comes With a Cost

There's nothing better than a free lunch, or a free prize or a free sample.  My bathroom is full of hotel soaps and samples I've gotten over the years, and I've spent the last few months trying to use them all up before I'm allowed to go buy new things.  It's working pretty well, actually, and I'm sure I'm saving some money, even if I can't exactly track it.

I had a thought though the other day when I was doing some online shopping for a new bag: The things you own often cost you money in ways you couldn't really predict when buying them.

For example.  A co-worker of mine drives a Smart Car.  Smart Cars are great because they get excellent gas mileage and you can park them practically anywhere.  One big drawback, however, that I only learned about recently is that apparently Smart Car was acquired by Mercedes Benz a little while back.  That means, when my co-worker recently had to buy snow tires for his car, the sticker price was significantly higher because he had to buy them from Mercedes.  Also, most people who own Smart Cars must not live in places where you need snow tires, because he had to special order them, which also cost extra.

At least he saves money on gas, but I frequently envy Smart Car owners assuming that their car costs must be lower than mine--perhaps not so.

Similarly, when I started my job, work gave me an iPad.  The boss wants us to comfortable with them, so everyone is given one when they start.  It's a nice little bonus, and I really appreciate it since I would never have bought one myself.  I took mine, brought it home, and used it to play a lot of games on or to watch tv on while I was falling asleep.  I never brought it back to work because my purse was too small to hold it.  Turns out that work kind of doesn't like it when they give you an iPad and you never actually have it when you need it.

So I had to buy a new bag.

Sure, you're thinking well, you didn't have to, you can just carry the thing (lazy dumbass).  But I honestly was so worried that I'd either drop it, set it down and forget about it, or have it stolen that I just never took it anywhere.  Whenever I had it with me, I was just so on edge all the time.  Also, there were plenty of times I intended to bring it to work and I just forgot to grab it on my way out the door.  There was also the time I was juggling purse, iPad, recycling, lunch box and lunchtime reading material when I almost threw the iPad in the outside recycle bin.  First world problems, for sure, but it became a bit of a real problem.

Because I'm super picky about bags, it took me months to find one that I would actually like to carry with or without iPad, and it took me even longer after finding one to actually pull the trigger and make the purchase.  I am glad I have it, and I now bring the iPad to work every day, which is pretty handy, but it's also rather annoying that I had to spend $40 on a new purse when my old one works fine (though it's kind of falling apart).  However, I am ultimately pleased with my decision--more than I thought I would be.

Have you encountered some hidden unexpected extras with purchases?