Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wise Bread Post #3 Is Published!

I was so excited when another $10 credit showed up in my Amazon Account last night. I thought it was Wise Bread giving me an extra treat because my last guest post ended up getting republished on a couple other financial blogs including MSN Money. This morning, my 3rd guest post was actually published. So, while I'm not special, and was not getting the star treatment from Wise Bread, it's still cool to see something that I've written published somewhere other than my own personal blog!

I'm doing okay with my challenge of writing five articles that get published by December 25th. Wise Bread is going to run a Thanksgiving-themed article some time before Turkey Day (duh) that I wrote as my 4th submission to them. My goal is to have $50 (the payment for five Wise Bread articles) in credit on Amazon that I can gift to my boyfriend, Mr. Spendypants, for Christmas.

Here's the post that was published today:

5 Pot Luck Parties That Help You Share The Wealth

I love throwing parties. I love dressing up. I love cooking for an audience. I love spending time with old friends and meeting new ones. I love it. And to be perfectly honest, parties are really my only motivation for cleaning my house. So, to keep my tidy boyfriend happy and our home from looking like the residence of teenage squatters, I try and have at least one house party a month.

Unfortunately for me, Halloween marks the beginning of Poverty Season, that glorious time of the year when both my car and home insurance premiums are due, which is bookended by my two heinous property tax payments, and includes four major holidays. That said, having no money has never kept me from having a good time. Over the years I’ve developed several pot luck-style parties that are not only easy to tweak for just about any location or age group, but are beneficial to me, my friends and my community. Here are the five parties I’ll be hosting between now and the New Year:

THE CLOTHING SWAP PARTY—This is the classic frugal party. The basic premise: Trade the clothes you are sick of wearing with your girlfriends. I try and make this party as much about girlie empowerment as it is about avoiding the mall. I only have three rules:

1. No bartering or selling. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for something. At the clothing swap it comes free, with no strings attached.

2. Be generous. Allow the extra big or extra tall or extra little ladies who have trouble finding clothes that fit on a regular basis to have first dibs on accessories like hand bags and scarves. If there are duplicate items don’t hog them both.

3. Don’t bring stinky clothes. Sadly, this isn’t common sense for everyone.

I like to throw this party in early November so people have an opportunity to find party clothes and gifts for free in advance of the holidays. This is also a terrific Mommy and Me event. Last year I collected over $1000 in baby clothes and supplies from one swap I attended with a lot of new mothers. I was able to outfit several friends’ nurseries with crib linens, toys and clothes that they could have otherwise never afforded. One of my friends who lives in Upstate New York organized a hugely successful version of this party at her kids’ grade school where everyone brought in their old winter coats they’d outgrown and “shopped” for new coats for the school year. I recently heard about a school district-wide prom dress swap that was organized by some clever moms in Minnesota.

I serve fruit and cheese at this party, along with tea and coffee. Typically, my friends will show up bearing wine, fancy crackers, or a dessert without me having to ask them to. (They’re good that way).

This party is always a cinch to clean up. In exchange for the tax write off donation receipt, one of my guests will usually volunteer to run the leftover clothes over to the battered women's shelter.

GAME DAY—Once a month, my boyfriend and I live without electricity for one day and invite the neighbors over for a low-fi evening of board games and homemade dessert. Enjoy the board game renaissance with games like Agricola, Carcassonne, and Hey! That's My Fish that can be played in about an hour, have the depth of Chess or Mah Jongg and can be easily taught to kids and adults alike. As an added bonus, playing board games by candlelight makes Touch of Evil extra scary and Power Grid extra ironic.

This October we’re pulling out all our spooky games like Ghost Stories and Fury of Dracula and serving fun sized candy bars and Mexican hot chocolate for dinner in honor of Halloween.

THANKSGIVING REDUX--Who doesn't overcook for this holiday? During the week following Turkey Day invite everyone over for a pot luck dinner of shared Thanksgiving leftovers. Last year the average cost of a basic Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people was $44.61. This did not include extra food or booze. By hosting Thanksgiving Dinner Part 2: Electric Boogaloo, you not only amortize the cost of the turkey and all the trimmings, but you also avoid eating the same leftovers for the next month, and you get help washing the dishes.

As part of this year’s Turkey Day festivities I am going to raffle off local honey and homemade preserves as a fundraiser for a Heifer International project that will train farmers in Tanzania to farm fish and keep bees. It only takes $30 to buy a hive and train a beekeeper!

THE CARD MAKING PARTY—I love this party for many reasons. First and foremost because all the supplies for it fit into one flat rate mailing box that fits under my bed. It’s like the one pot meal of craft parties. The second reason I love this party is because it costs next to nothing. In preparation for this party, I collect cool and free ephemera throughout the year. Doilies, maps, foreign language newspapers, leftover wallpaper, fortune cookie fortunes, old stamps, bar coasters, etc… all go into the one box for easy storage. Party guests bring a pair of scissor and personal items like photos or locks of hair. I supply the Freecycled glue, glitter and other doodads to add to the totally recycled paper supply. No crafting experience (or talent) is necessary to create personal collage-style holiday card masterpieces that would make Nick Bantock proud.

My favorite aspect of this party is how stuff can be taken from the waste stream and transformed into objects of beauty. This is a great way to reuse the envelopes that are enclosed with credit card offers, tiny bits of wrapping paper, and even food packaging. Many people are no longer sending holiday cards, due to financial and environmental costs, so handmade cards made from recycled materials provides a pretty and practical solution to both concerns.

This party works for anyone old enough to use scissors without supervision. I roll out butcher paper on the living room floor for the workspace, which makes cleaning up a snap—just roll up the paper with the left over glitter and toss that into the recycling bin at the end of the party, or use it to start fires in the fireplace. Usable supplies go back into the storage box for next year.

I like to combine this party with a cookie exchange where guests bring a batch of cookies to share. In addition to handmade cards, guests can also decorate boxes and paper bags they can package the cookies they get at the party as gifts.

(Overachievers can get a head start on their Valentines).

THE BOOK EXCHANGE PARTY—Instead of throwing a New Years Eve party, which for most people is synonymous with expensive booze and snacks, I have a much thriftier New Years Day brunch instead. My boyfriend fires up “Excalibur,” his deep dish Belgian waffle iron, and makes his famously light and delicious zeppelin waffles. I make a gigantic cauldron of my mother’s infamous spiced tea. We invite our favorite bookworms to clear their shelves of books (that they've loved but are now just taking up space) and bring them to our home. Everyone discards the books they don't want onto the communal pile and picks up new, free reading material. I donate leftover books, usually over a hundred, to the public library book drive.

As part of their Earth Day event this year, a friend’s Girl Scout troop organized a city-wide book swap for kids. This is obviously an easily hacked idea for any age group!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mail Order Catalogs=The Devil

Okay. This is sad.

I bought a lightly used black and white striped sweater on ebay last week by J. Crew. ($52). Since I haven't bought anything from J. Crew in such a long time and I couldn't try on the ebay sweater for obvious reasons, I went by my local store while running errands to try on a couple sweaters to make sure I still fit a medium and they haven't done anything weird to their fit like changing their sizing. While I was in the store, I picked up the current catalog as "future reference." My business stuff is starting to look worn since I haven't replaced anything since I started The Compact almost three years ago that didn't start as someone else's cast off. I figured I'd keep the catalog on file so in the future I can do price comparisons when I ebay shop, and not do that dumb thing where you spend more to buy on ebay than the item cost new at the store in the first place.

Even though I haven't succumbed and bought anything new from J. Crew, I actually read the entire catalog. Yes. I read it. All the ridiculous "pretty is in" fashion copy. I keep petting it like a treasure.

For extra pathetic points, even though the outfits showcasing the clothes are extra cute, I don't actually live in a climate where I could ever layer 4 items of clothing to replicate any of the "fall looks."

Oh, and I'm officially old because all the models for women's wear now look like children to me.

It has represented a good hour of quality entertainment. So maybe that's worth something?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hey! MSN Money Picked Up My Article!

Self-storage is not a savvy solution

After $48,000 in rent, she's finally selling her stuff.

Posted by Karen Datko on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:32 AM

This post comes from Max Wong at partner blog Wise Bread.

Recently I did an intervention on Sarah, one of my dearest friends. It wasn't the first time. Over the last few years I have unsuccessfully attempted to get her to seek help for a problem that has cost her conservatively $48,000 and put financial and emotional stress on her family.

Recently, after more than five years of trying to manage her problem, she finally hit rock bottom. She once again had to borrow money from her family -- this time to pay for her daughter's health care. Sarah had $800 of the $900 doctor bill in the bank, but she'd already earmarked that money for the horrible monkey on her back. Sarah has a substance abuse problem -- but not with drugs. Sarah has a problem with self-storage.

Sarah used to have financial stability. But five years ago she made a major life change when she decided, at age 40, to adopt a child and become a single parent. Sarah sold her beautiful 3,000-square-foot home so she could afford to quit her high-powered job and be a stay-at-home mom until her daughter could start preschool. She moved into a 1,200-square-foot apartment in a good school district.

This was all part of a good, long-term plan.

Unfortunately, she then made what became possibly the worst financialdecision of her entire life: She put the 1,800 square feet worth of possessions that didn't fit into the apartment into self-storage.

Similar to a technique drug dealers use to reel in future customers, the storage company offered Sarah, a first-time user, free product to ensure her loyalty. Convinced that she would be able to sell, donate or otherwise dispose of her extra stuff during the "first 30 days free rent" period that her storage company offers to all new customers, Sarah moved her designer guest-room furniture, her Christmas decorations, her art collection, etc., into four of the cheapest storage units available.

"I'm just going to use this as a staging area to get organized," she told me at that point in time. "That way, I'll have four weeks to figure stuff out and won't have to make any financial decisions about what to get rid of under duress."

She never moved out.

Although she has plenty of very valuable things in storage, as we surveyed the contents of one of Sarah's units earlier this week she finally did the math. Even if she pulled everything out of the unit and set it on fire in the parking lot, it would still be a better financial decision than keeping it in storage for another month. Five years x $200 a month per unit x four units = $48,000.

And that total doesn't even account for the money spent on gasoline to get her to and from her storage or all the late fees she's paid on other bills because she chose to pay her storage bill on time so her stuff wouldn't be seized for nonpayment. The phone company can turn off your service, but the storage company can auction off your dream diary, fake IDs, and herpes medication to the highest bidder.

Although Sarah's situation may be the worst that I know of personally, she's hardly alone. According to the Self Storage Association, 50% of storage unit renters are storing what won't fit into their homes. One out of every 11 Americans rents storage.

Watching Sarah's horrible journey has made me realize that although self-storage (like easy credit) can be beneficial to a percentage of the population, it's a pact with Satan for many folks who don't have an iron fist over their finances or excellent time-management skills. Quite simply, it's bad on several fronts.

Self-storage is a bad investment. I called four different storage companies with units in my area of Los Angeles. The cheapest price for the smallest storage space, a 5-by-5-foot unit, in my neighborhood is $67 per month. The first month costs just a mere $1, but that's not counting the one-time-only $22 "administration fee" that they'll also tack on to the first 30 days.

Although all those numbers sound doable financially, if I rented this space, I'd be out a whopping $760 in the first 12 months, all to rent a space that's the size of my laundry room. In other words, stuff that isn't functional enough to put in my house and use every day would become more and more expensive with each passing year.

(On a side note, I had to hang up on three out of the four storage sales reps because I was getting such a hard sell. They continued to demand my personal information even after I'd told them that their rental prices were beyond my budget.)

Self-storage can lead to overconsumption. Self-storage is like diet food. It fools the mind by fooling the eye. If your clutter isn't visible in your house, do you really have a spending problem?

The first self-storage facilities were built in Texas in the late 1960s. It took 25 years to build the first 1 billion square feet of storage. But it took just eight years (1998-2005) to add the second billion. According to theNational Association of Home Builders, the average 1960s home was 1,200 square feet. In 2004 the average home had ballooned to almost twice that size to 2,330 square feet.

Bigger houses are harder to fill up, which may explain why Americans buy twice the number of consumer goods than the citizens of any other First World nation. (OK, so we're a geographically huge country, but if we've got such big homes, why do we need an additional billion square feet of storage space?) The environmental cost of creating, transporting and finally housing 2 billion square feet of unused possessions is mindboggling.

Self-storage can waste time as well as money. Self-storage companies count on the basic physics of human laziness, that is: Objects at rest remain at rest ... in storage. After all, who wants to spend their precious free time digging through boxes looking for stuff? Sarah, in her efforts to deal with her storage problems, has spent hundreds of hours "organizing" her stuff in storage, attempting to repack it more efficiently so she can scale down to smaller, cheaper units.

Self-storage is urban blight. In all fairness, one of the storage companies in my area is housed in the hollowed-out facade of an Art Deco office building, so that's quite pretty. But for the most part, self-storage facilities are architectural monsters. In addition to being ugly as sin, they bring in few jobs or sales tax benefits to the community, compared with other structures of similarly huge proportions.

Self-storage can keep you from living in the moment. There are certain groups of people -- like those who live on sail boats or the newly moved -- who can follow their dreams because they can temporarily stash their possessions in storage. Storage gives them the wiggle room to experience life without being connected to personal belongings. For more than half the storage renters, however, this is simply not the case.

Once a month, one of the storage companies in my neighborhood holds an "estate sale" where the owner of the company sells off the contents of units that were seized for nonpayment of rent. What odd, desperate or lazy story is behind this lapse of judgment? Why the renters failed to move their possessions out of storage before the rent was due is always a mystery. What tales of woe are behind the abandoned photograph albums, bronzed baby shoe ashtrays or the hand-embroidered vintage napkins? Why weren't these items, so obviously full of sentimental value, kept in the home where they could be used and admired?

A clearer narrative about why items were acquired is visible from a lot of the sale merchandise, however. You can almost hear the nagging spouses behind the half dozen exercise bikes and ThighMasters for sale each month or the siren call of Martha Stewart behind the hundreds of half-finished craft items.

Whether they are nostalgic artifacts from the past or wishful self-help tools for the future, none of these objects relate to the present-day lives of their former owners, which is probably why they were put in storage to begin with. These monthly sales are sad museums, a collection of failed ventures and unfulfilled dreams of what could be.

As with every successful product, self-storage provides a powerful storyline for the consumer to buy into: that preserving memories of the past or the potential of the future through material goods is valuable. For the past five years, Sarah has denied the chaos that keeping so much stuff in storage brings to her daily life. Her dream of returning to her former standard ofliving in the future has cost her the very security she wants for her daughter and their quality of life today. That $48,000 could have gone toward her daughter's college fund. It could have paid for a lifetime of vacations. It could have been a down payment on a house.

Up until she hit rock bottom, I think Sarah actually believed that she would one day find her way back into a big house in the hills, even though she's a self-employed single parent facing a global financial downturn. As I photographed her possessions to list on Craigslist, she fretted about selling her formal dining room set, because she wanted to pass it on to her daughter as a family heirloom. That her daughter, who is in kindergarten, might not like the style of the set as an adult and would have no emotional connection to an object that she'd only ever seen in storage, never crossed her mind.

Monday, October 12, 2009

If Only Every Wikipedia Page Were This Funny

In an effort to become a honey tycoon, I've been reading a lot of obscure beekeeping-related materials.

I love how Justin O. Schmidt describes the sensation of being stung by various stinging insects like he is reviewing fine wines.

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index or the Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. Schmidt has published a number of papers on the subject and claims to have been stung by the majority of stinging Hymenoptera.His original paper in 1984[1] was an attempt to systematize and compare the hemolytic properties of insect venoms. The index contained in the paper started from 0 for stings that are completely ineffective against humans, progressed through 2, a familiar pain such as a common bee or wasp sting, and finished at 4 for the most painful stings. In the conclusion, some descriptions of the most painful examples were given, e.g.: "Paraponera clavata stings induced immediate, excruciating pain and numbness to pencil-point pressure, as well as trembling in the form of a totally uncontrollable urge to shake the affected part.

"Subsequently, Schmidt has refined his scale, culminating in a paper published in 1990[2] which classifies the stings of 78 species and 41 genera of Hymenoptera. Notably, Schmidt described some of the experiences in vivid and almost synesthetic detail:

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowcoat (yellow jacket): Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
4.0+ Zapper ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.[3]

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm A Guest Blogger On Wise Bread Today!

Go here:

Last week Wise Bread, one of my favorite frugality/personal finance sites, posted an invite for guest bloggers. I submitted several story ideas at 11pm and the following morning I woke up to an email asking me to write my zucchini pitch into an 800 word column. Yay! How much do I love immediate gratification?

Even though the 800 word story only earned me $10 Amazon gift card, I'm so excited that my little article was published! Today, the editor who worked with me on the zucchini story sent me an email telling me that she'll be contacting me about my other story ideas. Yay! Potential future work!

While I can't put the $10 Amazon gift card directly into my 100k savings account, I'm hoping to use it down the road to offset the cost of some of my Italian textbooks...and put that money I save on books into savings.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Hate To Be One Of Those Lame People

who blog about their appliances. But I admit it:

I'm an appliance whore. 

The only major disagreement that I have ever had with Mr. Foxypants is over my refrigerator. That's the one thing that I had to leave behind for my renters when I moved in with him last year. My old fridge was custom-built for me by Marvel, the refrigerator division of Viking. It was such a pain in the ass to manufacture, that I own the prototype. Marvel will never make another one like it. Basically, it is a glass-fronted undercounter unit designed for restaurants stacked on top of a stainless steel freezer unit. It's gorgeous, works like a champ and uses about as much energy as a single light bulb every month. Mr. Foxypants hates this refrigerator because it is so small and doesn't have door storage for his enormous collection of moldy preserves and out-of-date condiments.

It was a true testament of my love that I left that piece of appliance perfection behind for my renters, and moved in with the 20 cubic foot, black, pebble-finished, monstrosity that my boyfriend brought into the relationship. I've tried to get over having to store my food in a crappy refrigerator that takes up nine square feet of my precious kitchen floor real estate. I've told myself that owning a beautiful fridge does not make me a better person. I've actually prayed for the ugly fridge to break down so I could have an excuse to replace it. I know. This is pathetic.

So, even though Mr. Foxypants sent me the following email last friday--

"I know you really love your marvel. And in case it’s not apparently obvious, I’m trying to go out of my way to get you something special to fill that refrigerated void in your life…"

--still it came as a total shock to me when Mr. Foxypants announced on Saturday that we were going to go shopping for a new refrigerator. I think part of his change of heart came from the fact that his refrigerator is loud, leaks water, and doesn't close entirely unless you bump the door with your hip really hard. But I suspect the real reason for this decision is that compared to my darling vintage stove which I moved into his house last month, there can be no doubt: his fridge is ass ugly. 

Oh, how I love my shallow boyfriend who cares about filling that refrigerated void in my life.

Now, here's my question: When did refrigerators get so huge? We went to four different home stores on Saturday night on a reconnaisance mission and every single one of them was filled with gigantic french door fridges. It's no wonder Americans are so fat. It would take a family of 12 to eat through 25 cubic feet of food before it goes bad. Even though we only looked at the Energy Star rated models, all of them use more energy than my 11-year-old Marvel which, by the way, isn't Energy Star rated, just smaller and more efficient. The only small refrigerators that anyone carries are those rinkydink ones you could rent for your dorm room for $20 a month. None of the stores carry any of the top 10 most efficient models that have received excellent reviews online. Which, to me, seems slightly outrageous. 

Mr. Foxypants and I return home in a state of righteous annoyance. Even though he agrees that it's important to be as green as possible with this purchase, he feels like I'm being unreasonable about my expectations. There is no way to get a bottom freezer, 100% stainless steel, freestanding, restaurant grade refrigeration unit that also meets our energy efficiency standards, and has a small footprint for under $4000. And since I am allegedly on a savings rampage, I don't really have a leg to stand on, because he's the one who will be paying for the refrigerator, not me.

I refuse to be thwarted. I spend three hours the next day calling every other new and used appliance store in a 25 mile radius of my house searching for the most elusive of cute appliances. (All right, the most elusive of cute appliances would be a washing machine, but I already have one of those and this is my story). As you might guess, cute industrial refrigerators are basically impossible to find used because who wants to get rid of pure cooling awesomeness? That's right. No one. The manager of the local fancy appliance store does take pity on me and offers to give me a $700 discount on their Liebherr 30 inch floor model, so it will only cost me $4000 without tax, a price that I cannot afford and cannot even use to prove my boyfriend wrong about my intractable nature. 

So, how dumb am I? Really dumb. Because, had I looked on ebay I would have found a slightly used, but still under warranty Liebherr refrigerator for HALF its normal sticker price that measures a slinky 24 inches by 24 inches by 81 inches, offered by an ebay dealer located THIRTY miles from my house, and been able to buy it from the comfort of my home instead of spending two frustrating hours walking through home stores and three hours on the phone calling every other store in a 25 mile radius. 

And in the world of refrigeration, the 24 inch Liebherr is the only unit that can hold a candle to my Marvel. 

Yes, anything worth having can be found used. I bought the Liebherr 24 inch off ebay this morning and it's being delivered on Thursday. 

Color me smug.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Channeling My Inner-1950's Housewife, Who, By The Way, Is Awesome

I needed to replace the gorgeous vintage Wedgewood stove in my old house (which I moved to the house that I share with Mr. Foxypants) with a "new" stove for my renters. I am a big fan of  Okeefe & Merritt and Wedgewood stoves from the 1940's and 1950's. In addition to cooking like champs, owning a vintage stove is like having a classic car in your kitchen. They are just so cute. So, instead of buying a new stove, I went shopping for a vintage range on Craigslist. I found a O&M cutie for just $100! Vintage stoves in LA sell for $1200-$12,000 depending on the model and condition, so this one was a total steal. The reason why it was a steal? Well, that would be because it was in pieces. I spent half of yesterday assembling the parts into what resembled the other vintage stoves I have owned. Then I called the gas company for a free appliance check, so I could be sure there weren't any gas leaks I wasn't smelling. 

The gas guy came out and told me I needed a "real" stove mechanic to fix the stove, as the safety valve to my oven didn't work and two of the burners refused to light and needed to be replaced. "You know, you could buy a new stove for $300," he told me sarcastically on his way out the door.

Today I stopped by Sav-On Appliance in Burbank. (I must give Marsha and Emmett, the owners, a huge plug. Due to their proximity to Hollywood, Sav-on supplies most of the vintage appliances you see on tv shows and movies. They have beautiful vintage stuff along with a bunch of other crate damaged but totally working new appliances. They are also amazing at what they do). I asked Marsha if she had a oven safety valve for my model stove lying around and if she could do a house call. Instead of charging me $300 for what she thought was simple work, Marsha proceeded to give me a 20 minute clinic on what could be wrong with my current stove that I could repair. For example, she told me that cobwebs could be blocking the gas line and that I could clear that up with a bent paperclip.

Armed with steel wool, a darning needle, and new information, I returned to my rental property. An hour later the stove is super clean and works perfectly! I didn't even have to call Marsha and have her walk me through how to disable the heater (yes, the range has a HOUSE HEATER in addition to a broiler, oven, griddle and four burners) so my renters wouldn't scorch themselves accidentally.

Vintage stove completely assembled with a flat head screwdriver and a darning needle! 

So, in addition to saving $1100 on the purchase of a vintage stove through savvy Craigslist shopping, and saving $300 on repairs by fixing the thing myself, I now have stove repair bragging rights.

Which are priceless.

There are several morals of the story:

1. Vintage stoves are the greatest. When's the last time you heard about someone fixing their microwave oven with a darning needle?
2. If something was created for a 1950's housewife to use, it probably means it was designed for her to fix. This means you can fix it too.
3. Just because some guy looks at your cute, but totally impractical shoes and deems you not handy...well, that just means he's a terrible dresser.