Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ways to Read

The Frugal Hostess loves to read.  Loves it.  It would be her passion, if she didn't think using the word "passion" in that context was utterly ridiculous.  It all started when, as a child, FruMa and FruPa promised to give little FruHo one dollar for ever book she completed.  There were a few bumps in the road, like when she was quizzed by her dad after "reading" a long book about Abe Lincoln (yawn) in about 20 minutes and got totally busted for skipping around.  But, for the most part, that was some supremely effective bribery which resulted in TFH being a virtual speed-reader by age 12.  

As an adult, TFH continues to read voraciously.  In her early 20s, she read and re-read all of the classics that she either missed getting a Lit degree (Oscar Wilde springs to mind) or loved and wanted to memorize.  These included all of J.D. Salinger; all of F. Scott Fitzgerald; and a jumble of other books.  As her corporate career became more taxing, The Frugal Hostess shifted gears to reading magazines, chick lit, and the canonical business books of the day.  And, now in her 30s, FruHo finds herself reading mostly blogs, with the occasional novel or non-fiction work thrown in for good measure, and a heaping helping of Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living (affiliate links).  It's not that she doesn't love books, but TFH can only consume so many words per day before her head explodes.

Over the past few months, FruHo has been exploring a variety of ways to read.  Here's a run-down of some interesting ideas.

Kindle: OK, well, duh; welcome to the party, FruHo.  The Frugal Hostess borrowed a Kindle (affiliate link) to give it a test drive, and she was surprised at how much she liked it.  It is light, easy to hold, and very intuitive to operate.  There was no glare on the screen, which had been a concern, and it seems pretty sturdy in construction.  However, she was surprised at how much Amazon charged for Kindle books, magazines, and blog subscriptions.  Not one to begrudge an author the money s/he is due, it still seemed a little strange to pay two-thirds the price of a hard-back version.  That may just be the old lady in TFH coming out.  Final verdict: would love a Kindle as a gift, but probably won't invest in one.

Library: Obviously, the library is a great place to get free books.  The library in The Frugal Hostess's neighborhood is extremely convenient, but it's a small branch, so the selection isn't always terrific.  TFH wishes that public libraries would - just every once in a while, not trying to overthrow the government here - arrange the books in a different way.  Maybe by color, in a library-wide rainbow, or by subject matter, so that you could find a novel about Italy next to an Italian cookbook beside a CD of Italian language lessons.  But, you know, the library still rules.

Bookswim: The Frugal Hostess was given a free trial membership of Bookswim to test out (Bookswim is the book-rental service that mimics Netflix).  You create a queue, or "pool" in their parlance, of the books that interest you, and they are sent to you as available, along with a postage-paid return envelope.  FruHo belonged to this service years ago, when it was first starting out, and she found the selection to be somewhat limited - lots of romance novels, not a lot of cutting edge fiction or business books.  However, she is happy to report that not only have they added quite a variety of choices, but they've also amped up the marketing and PR efforts to make it just seem, well, cooler.  Bookswim is a great choice for fast readers, but the one little annoyance is that you can't prioritize the books you want like you can with movies on Netflix.  You get what you get out of the several books you list in your pool.  The return bag is awesome.

Thrift Store: You are well aware of the amount of time TFH spends at the thrift store; in fact, she was recently devastated to be ousted as Mayor of her favorite thrift by some upstart on Foursquare.  FruHo finds the thrift store to be an excellent place to score great deals on books.  She has often found new releases that are still full price at B&N or the other big guys sitting there for $2.  The obvious downside of thrifting your books is that you can't predict the inventory, so you just have to choose from what they have.  For a voracious reader, this isn't a big deal.  You can also find crazy old books that you would never imagine, titles like How to Pick a Mate from 1937 ("Don't smell bad" is one of the tips) or Groovy Parties for Teens.

Amazon & eBay: You can always get a better deal on these sites than you can in the store (at least, it seems like it), but they are still closer to retail than the options listed above.  TFH likes to buy on eBay when she has some money built up in her PayPal account, because that way The Cheap Frugal Husband can't tell what she's buying.  

Bookstore:  The bookstore is the most expensive place to buy books, clearly, but it is also the most fun.  You can usually get coffee (albeit from even more pretentious baristas than usual) and walk around reading anything you want.  If The Frugal Hostess were, say, The Flagrant Heiress instead, she would probably spend one day a week shopping and buying books at Barnes and Noble.

Has anyone tried a Nook?  What are other ways to get your reading fix?

The Frugal Hostess suggests that you attend Social Media Atlanta, November 8-12, 2010. 
Photo by austinevan

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

How to Take a Free Vacation

The Frugal Hostess is in Napa.  Yes, that Napa.  The one in California where all the wine comes from.  Are you wondering how "Napa" works in the same sentence with "frugal"?

Well, Dear Reader(s), here is how that works:

1.  Work really hard in a career for 10-15 years, and then chuck it to start your own business.  During a recession.  Obviously.
2.  Make sure that business is 95% web-based -- like, all of your output and deliverables can be emailed or posted in the cloud.  See The 4 Hour Work Week for ideas and details.
3.  Also make sure that you are still somewhat poor, don't have kids, and have an awesome husband.
4.  Then, when opportunity knocks, answer!

Ha!  Easier said than done, right?  And yet, it is currently being done, in that exact way, by The Frugal Hostess herself.  Now, obviously, not everyone can do this in exactly the same way: the plane ticket was free, the hotel stay is free, and the food is free for FruHo because of the particular job she's doing.  But, FruHo suggests that anyone can swing some kind of free.  To whit:
  • She got a free wine tasting at Uncorked for checking in on FourSquare.
  • She bought a ticket to see Margaret Cho using points.  That is free to FruHo.
  • An old friend bought her dinner at a fabulous restaurant. She only protested a tiny bit.
  • The city of San Francisco is throwing a free [BAD ASS] bluegrass and folk festival today!
 What are some other ways to put some complimentary into your trip?

The Frugal Hostess insists that you come hang out on Facebook. What? Like you don't already spend three hours there a day.
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