Posted by Annie Korzen
A lot of people are embarrassed to question the price of something because they’re afraid of looking Cheap. But there’s a big difference between being Cheap and Frugal. There’s nothing shameful in trying to get the best price for something, but it is evil to have your house guests suffocate because you refuse to turn on the air conditioning.
Negotiating a price is not always about money. There are often more personal elements at play. My friend Laura was house-hunting and found the place of her dreams: a sprawling ‘60s home on a hill in Glendale with a panoramic view. The house was not in great condition, but Laura is passionate about mid-century architecture. The competing buyers saw it as a teardown. Laura promised the elderly woman seller that she would respect the integrity of the design, and gradually restore it to its original glory. She got the house even though the other offers were higher than hers.
I buy so much stuff that I’m forced to have a ginormous yard sale twice a year, with hundreds of tasty items. It’s a great opportunity to study people’s bargaining skills. Here are some approaches I do not recommend.
“How much? That’s ridiculous. I could get it cheaper at K-Mart.”
“Thirty dollars? I’ll give you five.”
“I can’t pay ten dollars. Here’s one-fifty, but my money is special. It’ll bring you good luck.”
“Twenty dollars? Oh gee, I only have eight bucks with me. Will that do”?
These bozos are being insulting, aggressive, and manipulative. Why would I want to give them a break? Here are some techniques that do work:
“You have such cool stuff. If I buy a lot, can you give me something off?”
“That’s a fair price, but it’s a little high for me. Any chance you could do better?”
“I love your hair!”
That last one gets me every time.
It helps to give the seller some insight into who you are. I happen to have a soft spot for teachers. They are undervalued and underpaid for the important work they do. A pleasant young women at my sale said “How much for the big box of construction paper and charcoals? I teach special needs kids and they love crafts projects.” I gave it to her for free, and she’s become one of my regular customers. She always buys clothing for herself, and I pick up paper and art supplies throughout the year to donate to her class.
10.24.11 at 1:40 pm | Bargain Junkie Annie Korzen finds a website with. . .
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10.10.11 at 1:55 pm | Bargainista Annie Korzen offers cheap. . .
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July 5, 2011 | 11:50 am
Posted by Annie Korzen
I had a buzzing in my ears, and the doctor gave me a prescription for a nasal spray. When the pharmacist told me it would cost $135, I was one flabbergasted frugalista! This was not a medicine that the doctor guaranteed would cure me. It was more a case of ‘Try this. It might help.” I didn’t find that reassuring enough to make a three-figure investment.
The sympathetic pharmacist confided that he orders his mother’s medications from Canada from Jan Drugs. www.jandrugs.com I contacted them and their price was around $90, as was my Medco prescription plan. I was getting crankier and crankier, and finally decided to call the doctor to see if there were any other options. The nurse who picked up was as outraged as I was, and he kindly offered to put aside some free samples for me.
So I went from $135 to zero. Not bad, don’t you think? I guess it never hurts to ask. Especially since the spray didn’t help. I eventually got rid of the tinnitus by seeing a hypnotist.
June 29, 2011 | 1:18 pm
Posted by Annie Korzen
HITTING THE STACKS
Libraries are the biggest cultural bargain around. Not only do they offer books, magazines, CDs, videos, and internet access, but they have lectures, exhibits, classes, and special events for kids.
I take advantage of the system right in my home office. Let’s say I read a review of a novel that sounds interesting: this is usually a psychological mystery written by a woman that takes place in a gloomy English village. I just reserve it online, and my local branch contacts me when the book is available. Easy as pie. (An expression I’ve never really understood: what’s so easy about pie? I think pie is difficult.)
Many of my friends belong to book clubs. This is a great way to combine intellectual stimulation with snacks. It’s not for me, though, because some of the choices are non-fiction, and I have very little interest in the real world.
One day I’m going to organize a Shakespeare book club. I’ve read and seen many of the plays, but always feel that I’m missing a lot of it – especially the jokes: there are too many puns based on unfamiliar words. I need help.
Every museum has one free night a week and many offer free concerts. LACMA has jazz in the atrium on Fridays. You sit outdoors, sip a glass of wine, and snap your fingers to some Dixieland: a pleasant way to end the week.
They also have Latin jazz in the park behind the museum every Saturday at 5. People bring picnics, then work off the calories on the dance floor.
On Sundays there’s classical music at 6 in the Bing theatre. All these wonderful musical events cost zero, nul, nada. For details, go to www.LACMA.org.
Galleries are a great freebie for art-lovers. You can put yourself on a gallery’s mailing list and get invited to openings. If you don’t care for the current exhibit of grotesque fat ladies, there’s always the free wine and cheese - and terrific people-watching; artsy types wear the most interesting jewelry.
June 26, 2011 | 2:51 pm
Posted by Annie Korzen
This blog is about thrifty living, and one of my mantras – especially for chronically unemployed free-lancers like myself – is “Say yes to everything.” I figure a day’s work is better than staying home and re-organizing my spice rack.
My agent called one day with an audition for a few lines on a new sit-com. A better-known actress had turned it down, saying the role was too small for her. My attitude is, “There are no small roles, only short people.” I went in and got the job.
When the show aired, my husband, Benni, didn’t get it. “It’s not about anything,” he said. How right he was. The show was Seinfeld. My few lines turned into the recurring character of Doris Klompus in the Florida condo. My husband, Jack Klompus, is always fighting with Jerry’s father so I’m in some of the classic episodes: “The Pen,” “The Cadiallac,” “Raincoats.” My role was so minor that the audience didn’t even notice when I played a second character: the obnoxious lady sitting next to Elaine on an airplane. (Obnoxious characters are my specialty.)
The set always smelled of take-out Chinese food, which gave me a pleasant buzz of New York Nostalgia. Larry David, Jerry, and the rest of the cast couldn’t have been nicer, but I wasn’t anything more than a bit player – until the day I realized that I was sort of famous.
I was at a party, and met one of those Seinfeld fanatics who watches every re-run. Not only did he know who both my insignificant characters were, but he could quote all of my insignificant lines. Another guest was impressed, even though it was clear that she’d never seen the show. “You were on STEINFIELD? Could I get an autograph for my nephew? Then I went to Australia to perform one of my solo shows, and the newspaper headline said, “Seinfeld actress coming to Sydney!”
Benni has a friend who is a Major Hollywood Player. This guy is so uninterested in me that he introduces me as an afterthought: “Oh, and this is Benni’s wife.” We were eating with him in a show biz deli, which means that I chewed my brisket sandwich in silence while Mr. Hollywood spoke exclusively to my husband.
I noticed some guy waving at me and calling my name. I went over, and it was Jerry, who – nice guy that he is - just wanted to say hello. Everyone in the restaurant stared and I could sense them thinking, “Who is that woman? She must be Somebody.” When I returned to our table Mr. Hollywood actually began to include me in the conversation. He now introduces me as “And this is my very dear friend Annie Korzen. You’ve probably seen her on Seinfeld.”
I am often out of work, but because the shows are always on the air, people get the false impression that I have a successful career. A few years ago I was rushed to the ICU for a bleeding ulcer. Enter the big gun: the Gastroenterologist, 12 years old with a long foreign name. As we’re discussing my symptoms, he keeps staring at me in a weird way and finally says, “You look so familiar, I know you from somewhere. Wait a minute, I just saw you last night! You’re Doris Klompus!”
From then on, the nurses on the floor – also with long foreign names - all referred to me as “Mrs Annie Korzen, famous actress.” And who was I to disillusion them? The doctor and nurses gave me spectacular care. I don’t really believe my “celebrity status” got me any special treatment: they were all dedicated professionals. But I can’t help wondering if “Mrs Annie Korzen, out-of-work actress” would have gotten the same attention.
Now comes the bad news. At first, I was pretty comfortable with Jerry and Larry. Then the show became a global phenomenon and I got intimidated by their fame. They hadn’t really changed, but I became shy and awkward in their presence. When most people get shy and awkard, they get tongue-tied. I have the opposite reaction: I get tongue-untied, and can’t stop chattering.
Each time I ran into them, I launched into a crazed, desperate, non-stop, inappropriate monologue. My brain would say, “Shut your stupid mouth, you are making a gigantic ass of yourself,” but I just yammered on even though I saw the glazed look in their eyes. Two men I admire now think I’m a total nutcase – but I’m still glad I took the job.
I sometimes think about the actress who turned down the role because it was too small. I’m still getting residual checks, plus my association with the show – however modest – has opened all kinds of doors for me. As a matter of fact, when I pitched a humorous essay to the venerable NY Times, the editor wrote back immediately that he wanted the piece. The very next thing he said was “So tell me, what was it like to work on Seinfeld?”
June 22, 2011 | 2:37 pm
Posted by Annie Korzen
People see me as your “typical Jewish woman,” and maybe it’s true: I’ve got curly hair, opinions on every subject, and I do not go backpacking. Plus, even after years of speech classes, I still have an identifiable Bronxiness in my voice. When I walk into a room, someone always greets me in a Yiddish accent. “Velkom, dollink hev a seat, enjoy! (The last person who did that was a Chinese friend, who ought to know better!)
My ethnicity has often been an obstacle in my professional life. My agent submits me for a movie, but the director - Harold Shlomansky – won’t see me because he feels I’m too Jewish. I hear that all the time, but this is for the part of a Rabbi. Shlomansky is only seeing Gentile actresses because – as he puts it - he wants to be sure that the character is likeable.
A while back, I read for a commercial which I knew I would book. I had worked with the director, Stu Lefkowitz, before and my agent told me he was looking for an “Annie Korzen type!” I did not get the job. Stu Lefkowitz hired a perky little blonde. I am too Jewish to play MYSELF!
So I guess I’m a living stereotype, and the worst thing about it is suffering through the never-ending barrage of jokes about me and my kind. Jokes about ugly, abrasive, obnoxious Jewish women – told by ugly, abrasive, obnoxious Jewish men.
These guys dream of a blonde goddess who will make them seem less ethnic. Which, by the way, doesn’t work. It’s like the old joke about about Hymie Greenblatt, who changes his name to Standish Merriweather III to get into the country club, but on the application, when asked his religion, he fills in “Goy!”
So I decide to write a book defending Jewish women, which I’m going to call YENTA. And I write to The Oprah Winfrey Show and suggest that they do a program about “Ethnic Men Who Reject Their Own Women.” They like the idea, and I am invited as an expert witness, and I go into all kinds of “I’m gonna be rich and famous fantasies.”
Now let me explain why this is the fantasy of a brain-damaged person. I don’t have a book. I don’t have a publisher. All I have is an idea for a book that hasn’t been written yet. I AM THE ONLY WRITER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD WHO WENT ON OPRAH WITH NOTHING TO SELL! And it gets worse. Oprah flies me to Chicago, first-class. Big mistake.
You see, as a compulsive bargainista, I’ve .got this problem with food: if someone else is paying, and I can have whatever I want, I just lose all control. It’s like there’s this tape in my brain that keeps playing over and over from my childhood: “Finish your plate! Little children in Europe are starving!” My friend Sandra’s mother used to say, “Eat whatever you want - and the rest put in your mouth!” What chance did I have?
So I’m on the plane, and the chirpy stewardess says, “Hi there! For your hors d’oeuvre, would you care for smoked salmon, artichoke dip, or paté?” I say “YES!” and take all three. I follow that with a stuffed Cornish Game Hen and a Hot Fudge Sundae. I wobble off the plane and a limo whisks me to my luxurious hotel - just in time for dinner! Oprah Winfrey is trying to kill me.
I don’t feel so good. All my body really wants is a nice cup of chamomile tea, but I tell my body to mind its own business and I sit down to a five-course meal with Beef Stroganoff. (I don’t usually eat red meat, but it’s the most expensive thing on the menu.) My body is very angry with me. I just hope those little children in Europe are happy!
I am seriously unwell. I can’t sleep. I’m up all night. What am I going to say on the show tomorrow? How can I convince people that Jewish women deserve some respect? At 5:30 I get a wake-up call. I am sicker than ever.
Breakfast arrives! I force down eggs Benedict and a stack of buttermilk pancakes. What choice do I have? It’s paid for! At 6:30, the limo arrives to take me, green and nauseous, to the studio. It’s showtime!
The first speaker is a single Jewish professional man, and he spouts the usual garbage: “I never date Jewish women. They look alike, they think alike, the only thing they’re interested in is the size of your wallet!”
It’s my turn to reply and I want to bury this asswipe with my cutting wit and irresistible charm. But by now there are clumps of Stroganoff in Benedict sauce floating around in my esophagus, and I am about to represent Jewish women by vomiting in front of twenty-two million people. I am so sick that my witty and charming response is “Same to you and double!” And then I gag.
The next day, at home, my husband makes a lame attempt to console me. “Don’t make such a big deal about this. Who watches Oprah anyway?” Then I hear my son talking on the phone. “No way, that wasn’t my mother. I mean, not my real mother. You didn’t know I was adopted?”
You know that expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” I guess it’s true.
June 19, 2011 | 1:20 pm
Posted by Annie Korzen
The internet is a treasure trove of restaurant discounts.
My fave is www.RESTAURANT.COM where you pay ten bucks for a twenty-five dollar restaurant voucher, but they go on sale regularly for two dollars. Someone is paying me twenty-three dollars to eat out. That’s a deal no frugalista could resista. Also, when I’m going on a trip, I punch in the zip code I’ll be visiting and print out a few vouchers to bring along.
WWW.OPENTABLE.COM is free to join, and I often use it to make reservations. It’s faster than calling, plus there’s a savings plan. Each reservation gives you one hundred points. When you reach two thousand, you get a twenty-dollar credit. I like the idea of earning money while I eat.
www.CHOWHOUND.COM is another great site, where foodies swap info on affordable restaurants all over the world. We used it when visiting Palm Springs, where we found a terrific Thai place.
www.BLACKBOARDEATS sends you local offerings. We got 30% off at our neighborhood Greek taverna.
www.Groupon.com offers restaurant discounts. We paid $20 for $40 worth of food at one of our favorite Italian places. You still get the most bang for your buck at Restaurant.com, but this particular eatery was not listed there.
I make frequent use of www.losangelesmenupages.com so that I can check the menu and prices of a restaurant before trying it.
Restaurants make more money on wine than food, so that bottle of Cab-Sav is way overpriced. I have a lawyer friend who actually has the guts to say, “I’ll have your second cheapest bottle of Chardonnay.” Note the choice of “second cheapest” rather than “cheapest.” Classy!
I often call ahead to ask the restaurant’s corkage fee. (That’s what they charge if you bring your own bottle.) If the fee is fifteen dollars or under, it’s a good deal. Word to the wise: the waiter will look at your bottle and comment on the choice, so avoid embarrassment and leave the Two-Buck-Chuck at home.
EAT TILL YOU DROP
I can never resist any kind of BUFFET restaurant. Just the idea that I can have as much as I want of whatever I want thrills my greedy little self to the core. Lots of Indian and Thai places offer buffet lunches, and there are many Korean all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurants that are open till 2 AM in case you have a midnight craving for short ribs. I’m about to try one called Haejangchon in Koreatown.
I occasionally splurge and enjoy an extra-fancy restaurant. Some places are a little too precious, and serve concoctions that bear no resemblance to real food. I avoid them at all cost, not being a fan of squid-cheek mousse injected with watermelon sorbet. But a lot of yummy swanky places have low-cost specials on certain days.
In Los Angeles, for example
• Jar has Mozzarella Monday
• Campanile has Grilled Cheese Thursday
• JiRaffe offers a twenty-four dollar three-course meal with seven-dollar wine carafes on Mondays.
• Lucques has a thirty-five dollar four-course Sunday dinner.
These special offerings are not just for peasants like me: I ran into Patricia Heaton – an old friend from acting class – at Campanile’s grilled cheese night.
June 15, 2011 | 1:12 pm
Posted by Annie Korzen
I often picture myself as a guest on “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” and when James Lipton asks, “What is your favorite word?” my answer is “Restaurant!” I would pay extra for a house without a kitchen. I love eating out. I love the whole ritual of studying the menu, hearing the specials, and sampling tastes of other people’s dishes. I particularly love the fact that I can enjoy all this deliciousness without having done any of the work.
Eating out doesn’t have to break the bank or expand your waistline. My dream restaurant is a small family-run ethnic place where the chef is the owner’s grandmother. The food is tasty, exotic, and inexpensive. Every city has these treasures. (If you live in an area where there is no immigrant population, I suggest you move.) In Los Angeles alone, I’ve enjoyed fabulous Persian, Armenian, Polish, Greek, Cuban, and Thai feasts for under twenty-five bucks – with enough leftovers for dinner the next two nights. That’s actually cheaper than cooking at home. Many of these places don’t have liquor licenses and allow you to bring your own wine or beer – which is another saving.
UNCHAIN MY HEART
I rarely eat fast food, junk food, or chain restaurant food, where every item – be it fish, meat, or fowl - is smothered with a gluey three-cheese melt. Sometimes I’m stuck in the boonies somewhere and TGIF is the only game in town. If so, I keep it simple and order the club sandwich - rather than the “quick-fried crusty ravioli filled with pulled barbeque pork.”
You won’t catch me at a Red Lobster or Olive Garden. The ambiance is institutional, the prices aren’t that terrific, and the food is blandly heavy heavy heavy. “Steak Gorgonzola-Alfredo” will put a lot of money in your cardiologist’s pocket. As a matter of fact, I saw a paid ad on Olive Garden’s home page that read, “Gastric Bypass Diet. Learn About Proper Dieting Following Gastric Bypass Surgery.” I rest my case.
Discerning foodaholic that I am, I never thought I’d set foot in an IHOP until I spotted one of those discount coupons in the Sunday paper: “Order one entrée and get the second for free.” That’s an offer I couldn’t refuse. My chicken fajita tostada salad was actually quite tasty - and large enough for a family of four. So I started using coupons for other low-price chains: Souplantation, Sizzlers, Boston Market and Acapulco, which were also a lot better than expected. I am not, however, a Starbucks aficionado: four bucks for self-service coffee in a paper buck is not my idea of a good deal.
May 17, 2011 | 4:00 pm
Posted by Annie Korzen
I was spending a few weeks in New York when the early spring weather suddenly turned unseasonably cold and I hadn’t packed any winter clothes. I wandered into a church thrift store that was having a half-price sale on all winter coats. I found a barely used fur-lined raincoat for ten bucks. That puppy kept me toasty warm while the March winds blew. Yes, I sometimes wear fur. There’s nothing warmer, and down coats makes you look like a king-size duvet on legs. Besides, I eat very little meat.