Sunday, December 7, 2008

The most secure places to put your remaining assets.

Unless all your worldly assets are tied up in cashmere sweaters, Prada or food, chances are, you’ve lost at least lost 40% of your net worth. And no matter where your remaining assets are, you’re probably also deeply in debt. Your main concern right now is to protect what little capital you have left

Some say keep it in the market; now is no time to sell. They argue that sooner or later it’ll go back up again. Aside from the obvious question of whether the upturn will happen in this millennium, what if some emergency expense pops up when the market is at its most volatile? You could wind up selling your entire portfolio to buy a tank of gas when technically, a tank of gas should really cost you half your portfolio. Or what if the market crashes and burns completely, leaving you with no pension and a worthless portfolio?

Some people still prefer the “security” of a large institution for their remaining assets. Most banks offer FDIC protection for deposits under $100,000, so even if the bank goes under, the insurance covers your $100. That’s providing the insurance company doesn’t go under, of course.

You may want to do a rudimentary check to make sure your chosen bank won’t be melting down soon. Extensive research, Googling and common sense should be your guide. My general rule is if a bank has recently sent me a pre-approved credit card offer, they’re a poor risk and will likely go under soon. What kind of idiotic company would extend credit to me? That probably eliminates every bank you’ve ever heard of.

Many banks won’t accept deposits of less than $100. Those that do tend to get a little uppity when presented with a deposit in 20 lbs of rolled pennies. You might get a little more respect and service from a piggy bank, without the fees.

Speaking of fees, if you decide to go the bank route, you must be vigilant. If you’re not paying attention, your $100.00 deposit could become a negative balance in a matter of months. Be prepared to spend at least two working days a month scouring your statements and balances with a fine tooth comb, and then another two working days trying to find the person to talk to, who will return the $44.00 in hidden fees to your account. In other words, you should really be unemployed to make having a bank account a sensible option for your remaining assets..

Which leads to another tried and true option: the mattress. The pros of the mattress are obvious: Unlike a bank account, when you put your money into a mattress, you know you’re also getting a service—a place to sleep. And unlike a bank account, you won’t wake up one morning to find that half your money is missing in service fees (unless you shop in your sleep) .

But the lack of portability can also be considered a plus. Since you can’t carry your mattress around like a debit or credit card, you’ll find it harder to impulsively fritter your life savings away on a mocha frappucino and ant traps.

But in these troubled times, we should be considering new places to put our assets rather than resorting to methods that have been used in the past. Here are a few thoughts:

Stuff it in your bra. If you’ve ever considered breast implants, this could kill two…no, three birds with one stone. If you’re over 40, you can be certain that nobody will ever touch your money but you. And it’s one of the few places left where you have the hope of getting a return on your investment. Rumor has it, that’s where Dolly Parton keeps her assets and even in a lousy economy, they seem to be growing.
If you happen to be male, apply the same concept to your pants.

Diversify—Keep some under the couch cushions, some in various pockets, briefcase, glove compartment, use some as bookmarks. This way, you’ll never lose everything and you get to experience the elation of finding five bucks in your pocket every now and then. It may be the only source of joy you have left.

Buried in a jar in your back yard (if you still have one). It’s safe, cheap and jars are portable. If you must flee the premises suddenly, the jar won’t hinder your escape, unless you can’t remember where you buried it. Make detailed notes or a map.

Booze and guns. Statistics show that even in the deepest darkest depression, booze and guns are always in demand. Stock up while the price is still low and sell when demand peaks. This may be one of the few places to put your money that could earn dividends. And if not, you still have the booze and guns to comfort you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finding relief in public restrooms

Remember the good old days when buying staples like ipods and $60 miracle lip plumper went without thinking?

Understandably, it's a bit of a shock to find yourself standing perplexed in the dry goods aisle calculating which toilet paper brand comes out best on a cost per sheet basis, factored with the ply and estimated absorbency ratio. Quilting isn't even an option.

Here’s a little known secret to help you cope: there’s unsecured toilet paper, paper towels, light bulbs and possibly even soaps, fine linens and spare change out there that are yours for the taking. You just need to keep your eyes open and plan ahead. And by plan ahead, I mean carry a large empty bag with you at all times.

Sadly, the genteel practice of laying out fine linens, soaps, perfumes and lotions with an attendant and change dish in public restrooms is dying fast. A few hoity-toity clubs you can no longer afford to join and Belgium still have these amenities.

If you're lucky enough to be visiting a hoity-toity club or Belgium, distract the attendant, by making horrible sound effects while in the stall. When she's checking out the damage, shove everything in the bag and run. Chances are the attendant will be too old to catch you. And since most restrooms aren't equipped with alarms, you'll have no problem getting away with your Bounty, Charmin or Scott).

The bright side of living in an restroom attendant-free society is that stocking up on the basic staples (ie: TP, light bulbs) is a breeze.

If you're a stickler for quality, your best bet is four and five star hotels. If you’re near one, stop in. Enjoy the interior design, watch the people, use the bathroom. Take all the toilet paper you can from the stall and put it in your bag. If nobody is around, repeat the procedure in every stall and proceed to the paper towels, or luxurious hand linens if the hotel is four or five star. (guide to free luxury products from hotel maid carts, spas and gyms coming soon.)

If the light bulbs in the rest room are compatible with your fixtures, take them. If they're not compatible, take the fixtures as well. Always make sure to turn off the lights for several minutes before attempting to take bulbs. If you're in a hurry, wear gloves or pot holders which will also help if you're worried about fingerprints.

If you don't live near any luxury hotels, you can make due with gyms, libraries, hospitals, museums (go on the day admission is free), police stations…virtually any public facility. Don’t feel guilty. You paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes over the years. The least you could get out of it is a little free toilet paper. It’s not like you’re asking for a $700 billion bailout or anything.

If you have friends who still have jobs, visit them at their office. (detailed guide to fabulous free items from office kitchens and supply rooms coming soon).You wouldn’t believe the riches you can find in an office restroom. Possibly even tampons, depending on the industry. Forget any moral qualms you might have. Chances are your friend works for some huge multi-national corporation that has received millions in tax breaks and incentives and is about to fire your friend to help with their bottom line despite the huge amounts their executives get paid in salary, perks and bonuses. Dick Cheney is probably a stockholder in the company. Take everything that's not bolted down.

If you're anything like me, you've probably spent most of your life avoiding public restrooms. But once you open your mind and eyes, you'll realize opportunity is everywhere. Seize it. Just make sure nobody is watching.

Warning: Do not attempt if you have a wide stance.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An undervalued asset in tough times

In a volatile economic market I can think of no better cushion (aside from cash) than duct tape. And the good news is, you probably already have some lying around from when you stocked up after 9/11.

Aside from it’s obvious usefulness as an anti-terrorist tool, duct tape is one of those simple products that fulfill a wide variety of needs, (kind of like cheap vodka).

Naturally, it serves all the adhesive functions more costly Scotch and masking tapes do, but because of it’s strength, duct tape does so much more.

This invaluable tape seals your home, refrigerator box, tent or garbage bag from inclement weather and noxious fumes. But that’s only the beginning.

It’ also can be used to fix shoes, coats, hems and handbags. And if your “vintage” Pradas are beyond repair, you can use duct tape to fashion a brand new pair of flip flops.(click for guide to making flip flops out of duct tape)

If you’re loathe to carry your worldly possessions in generic shopping bags, use this miracle tape to repair the tears in your old Hermes, Gucci and Prada shopping bags. Or try making your own personal statement with a handmade duct tape bag. Use it to waterproof the sofa that someone threw out on the street. You can even make a wallet if you’re feeling lucky. Go crazy, metallic is in. (click to learn more tricks with duct tape)

Duct tape can also substitute for thousands of dollars in cosmetic procedures and expensive foundations and undergarments.

For example, if you’re noticing a little sagging along the neck and jowl lines, simply pull the lose skin behind your neck and duct tape it back there. Use this method for whatever parts are sagging (ie breasts, buttocks, underarms and thighs. Hint: shave the area you affix the tape to in order to avoid unnecessary pain should you ever decide to remove the duct tape.

In short, duct tape is probably one of the few investments you made over the past 10 years that’s worth anything today. There’s no better time to reap the dividends.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding your next set of wheels

art by deb lucke
Chances are, if you’re not in the market for a shopping cart right now, you will be soon. This guide should help you find the cart that’s right for you.

Costco shopping carts
Costco carts are humongous and totally lacking in style. But that’s part of their charm. In fact, it's the only part of their charm. Two-toned in black and grey steel, the design is no-nonsense--boxy and utilitarian. Made to shlep almost a ton of your most important belongings, even the 60 inch plasma TV you can’t bear to part with. Ergonomics are mediocre. A highly placed handle bar could contribute to shoulder and neck problems with continued use. The wheel system is primitive, yielding a rather bumpy ride. All in all, not a great choice unless you're a hopeless pack rat.
Target shopping carts
Target carts are sleek, shiny and well-designed. Metallic silver with accents of red, somehow these carts possess a sporty air that belies their massive size. Steel wheels and well maintained turning valves guarantee a smooth ride. A flap down child seat makes this the perfect cart for people with families who haven’t lost their style. Rumor has it, next years model will have a tin cup holder.

Safeway shopping carts
A solid cart that holds a lot of stuff. Silver all over with particularly wide grids, Comes in a choice of Red or Blue plastic accents. it’s not the most efficient vehicle for transporting smaller items like jewelry and tchatchkes and cosmetics which can slip through the holes, but it’s great for larger objects like your shoes, purses and wintercoats. Theres a foot bar near the base on the drivers side that makes it particularly fun for popping wheelies.
Albertsons shopping carts
Frankly, these are the Pinto of shopping carts. It’s not that they’re unattractive. They’re well designed from a esthetic point of view. But practically speaking, they’re one of the reasons Albertsons are closing all over the country. The wheels don’t turn properly, they’re imbalanced and are always getting stuck. Particularly in the ice cream section. But even if they were driveable, these carts were obviously designed by someone who only uses shopping carts for groceries. The size and inner design ensures that everything in it, from your aquarium, to your wardrobe to 20 pounds of old newspaper are always cramped.
Lucky shopping carts
While owned by Albertsons, the Lucky logo on your shopping cart shows that you have both style and a keen sense of irony. Design-wise ithere’s nothing flashy about these carts. They’re your basic middle of the road, well constructed, durable cart. They have got plenty of room and the ride is smooth. A nice ergonomic touch, the hand formed rubber handles provide an exceedingly comfortable grip. On the downside, these carts are prone to rust, so you have to be careful to keep them out of the rain. Not recommended for Pacific Northwest dwellers unless they have a second cart.

Trader Joes shopping carts
Neither luxury or utilitarian, a Trader Joe's cart is the rare hybrid that’s both practical and sporty. The lines are jaunty and clean, it comes in a hot fire engine red, the wheels are aligned so it corners like a dream. And while the cart is compact and agile, it carries a lot of stuff. The best of all worlds.

Whole Foods shopping carts
Definitely the status cart of the bunch. Sleek stainless steel design with forest green accents. Ergonomically designed handles and baby seat. But like so many coveted vehicles, the Whole Food cart has some fatal flaws. The wheels have a tendency to stick, which makes running from the law or creditors problematic. Such thoughtless engineering is all the more unforgivable considering that shopping at Whole Foods helped you go broke in the first place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Maintaining a social life while broke

If you’re out of work, or about to be, there’s no better time to get your face out there and circulate. Not a pleasant prospect when you have stress induced cold sores, no clean clothes, haven’t showered in days and the two crowns you glued back in your mouth could fall out any minute because the Elmers isn’t holding. Understandably, you’re not feeling very sociable.
Buck up. There’s no better time in history to be broke, unpresentable and anti-social and still be viable socially and as an employee.

Think about it; with the internet, you can conduct all your significant relationships online, without any costly personal interaction.

Sure, proximity is nice. But face it, every time you leave your place of residence, be it hovel or storage container, it’ll cost you. Of course there’s the emotional toll of trying to look presentable. But the actual financial expense is what kills you. Last time I met a friend for coffee it cost me $76.00. Here’s the breakdown: hair dye 10.00, laundry 8.00, $40.00 for transportation ($5.00 for gas, $35 for the parking ticket); $15.00 for two coffees and a scone; $5.00 for the tiny tin of mints I couldn’t resist near the cash register; $12.00 for a box of godiva chocolates that were also on sale near the cash register -- 66% off, who can beat that? $4.00 for a copy of Allure magazine because it had an article about a miracle beauty treatment (the damn article was about sleep!!!), $75.00 for the pair of shoes in the window of the store next door to the coffee shop.

If you‘re in the mood for a little intelligent conversation and some sort of human connection without spending a cent, brew yourself a cup of Nescafe from the packet you stole from your parents’ hotel room when they were in town and let your fingers do the walking to There you can discuss the political implications of Sarah Palin’s wardrobe with like-minded intellectuals. Or try the AOL Middle East Affairs message board. You’d be amazed at the friendships you can forge arguing over who started 1967 war. No matter what your interest, Google is your new best friend.

To maintain your most important relationships, Facebook is a fabulous way to stay in touch with all your friends and family who won’t return your phone calls, but care enough to click a link. Imagine, without spending a cent on transportation, grooming, dining, drinking or even a phone call, you can be the first to know that Nick is bored with his job, Al has hemorrhoids (note to self, go to e-cards for appropriate, thoughtful condolence message), lots of people have cute babies and Mike is obviously having a mid-life crisis judging by his excessive use of emoticons. Imagine how much it would have cost to continue this kind of close interaction before the Internet? It would have been impossible.

Or say you’re in the market for a significant other. A few years ago, you would have had to spend countless dollars on grooming, transportation and blender drinks in order to find your soul mate. Now you can find true love on one of the myriad dating sites on the net.

Sure, sooner or later you’ll have to go out and actually meet the object of your affection. But considering that most Internet relationships fail when the couple actually meets, prolonging the courtship for as long as possible makes Internet relationships a win/win/win proposition. Think of the money you’ll save on doctor bills and condoms. One note: beware of sites that have video applications—the last thing you want to worry about is having your true love see you.

So a moment of appreciation to Al Gore for inventing the internet. Thanks to him, as long as you have your 76 Facebook friends, dozens of winks on and your three fans on Huffington Post, you'll never be alone.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election note

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the significance of the election and how it impacted people who're struggling financially.
Those who voted got free ice cream at Ben and Jerry's and a free coffee at Starbucks. Chunky Monkey and coffee make a well balanced, delicious breakfast.
God bless America.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Taking pleasure in the little things—a pep talk

Sure, it’s a bummer not being able to soothe yourself with expensive toys, couture, gourmet delicacies or electricity any more. But look on the bright side. When you’re poor, you really learn to appreciate the simple things.

I’ll use an example from my own life. A moment of epiphany. One fall afternoon, before my car was repossessed, I parked hastily to pick up some free samples being passed out on the corner and returned to a piece of paper on my windshield. My heart stopped when I saw it fluttering in the wind.

My mind raced darkly as I approached the car. I thought to myself, ‘Dear God, if I just got a $40 parking ticket in order to get free samples of Fiber One cereal, shoot me now. I’m going to be so poor, I’ll have to eat the Fiber One. Why me? Life is so freaking unfair I don’t think I can bear another minute. I hate Fiber One.”

But before I could lapse into a deep depression, I reached under the windshield wiper, and saw it was only a handwritten note that said “nice parking, asshole. Fuck you!” A surge of joy and relief rushed through me that I can only liken to winning the Olympics or consuming eight Scharffenberger milk chocolate nibby bars in one sitting. I believe I might have even done a celebratory fist pump.

It was at that moment I realized, had I been solvent, the note would have brought me no joy at all. When I had money, I needed expensive, meaningless possessions to make me happy. But being poor, a scrawled, “fuck you” note” is like a gift from the heavens. Now imagine the potential bliss of an eviction notice or “Dear John” letter.

When you look at it this way, there’s so much to look forward to.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Know your healthcare options

Fortunately, there are so many resources available on the web these days, you really don’t need a doctor.

Say you’ve got a stomach ache. Google it. Thousands of of websites dealing with stomach aches will come up. After hours of research and cross referencing, you’ll probably conclude you either have indigestion or cancer. Google indigestion and cancer. Read everything you can about their symptoms and cures. Delve into the heartwarming stories about indigestion and cancer. Learn which celebrities have had indigestion and cancer. Find out who their hairstylists are. Chances are by the time you’ve thoroughly researched the topic, your stomach ache will be gone.

But if the ailment persists through the diagnostic process, or worsens, you might want the option of seeing a doctor. Not so easy without health insurance, money or a non-maxed out credit card. This is where the government steps in to protect you, after all the years you've paid into the system. In some states, those in need can qualify for free health insurance for a specified period to be provided by the state or county of residence.

The application procedure is relatively simple.
1) Stand in line for one hour to make an appointment at your county health services office.
2) Fill out pages of forms divulging your deepest darkest secrets.
3) Stand in line for two hours in the bitter cold for an 8AM appointment along with 50 people who also have 8AM appointments.
4) Wait inside in a room with 50 other people for your 8AM appointment to start at 11AM.
5) Discuss your deepest darkest secrets with a stranger.
6) Wait six weeks.
7) Repeat the entire process one month later because they seem to have lost your paperwork.

You could qualify for six months coverage. You might want to consider becoming blind or pregnant in order to increase your chances.

The only catch with the state program is your plan will expire by the time a doctor will see you (if you haven’t died by then). Try to plan your medical emergencies well in advance.

Of course, there's always emergency rooms. They’re obligated by the law and Hippocratic oath to treat anyone who needs it. Just make sure not to bring any ID unless it belongs to someone else. And always act as though you have amnesia, even if your problem is a broken toe. This way, you won't be bothered by constant phone calls and threats from collectors that will make you wish your broken toe had been fatal.

For over the counter medications, see my shoplifting hints.

Helpful generic replacement suggestions for costly prescription drugs:
Xanax, Valium and other sedatives -- Vodka
Antibiotics -- Vodka
Prozac, Zoloft and other anti-depressants --Vodka
Codeine, Vicodin and other pain relievers-- Vodka

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The top five places to be broke in North America

Napa Valley, California—Lots of solvent people flock to the beautiful Napa Valley. But so far, it's a well kept secret among indigents in the know. The weather is temperate enough to sleep outdoors year round. The pace, leisurely. Hotsprings and fountains abound for bathing and laundry. Some of the country’s finest restaurants have dumpsters here, not to mention the culinary institute. And as long as you’re mildly presentable, the constant wine tastings ensure you’ll always be up to date on the latest crop of Merlots.

Wasilla, Alaska—Granted it’s cold up there, but if eating is important to you, it’s the easiest place in America to kill a cheap meal. One moose and you’re eating well for a year (click here for moose recipes). The frigid temperatures ensure you never have to worry about refrigeration. And rumor has it, anyone can move into the mayor’s mansion.

Beverly Hills, California—Great weather with the nation's highest quality garbage can content per capita. It’s also one of the few places in the world where no matter who you are, some reality show director could discover you and make you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams. And you might even get a free facelift out of the deal.

Detroit, Michigan—If you can overlook the weather and would gladly give up any chance of employment in order to have a roof over your head, then Detroit just might be the place for you. Detroit has over 12,000 abandoned homes, and factories just waiting for someone with a loving touch to squat in them.

Anywhere in Mexico—It’s got great weather and a low cost of living. Almost any pharmaceutical drug you need is available cheap and without a prescription. You might even be able to pick up some work gardening and keeping house for your ex-cleaning lady, Carmen who moved back to Mexico and bought a house after she made a small fortune working for you in the 90’s.

Keeping up appearances--revising your beauty regimen

Probably the most jarring thing about going broke is the effect it can have on your appearance.

Imagine the horror of realizing that those one inch grey roots you’re sporting aren’t going away and you can’t afford to continue paying Monsieur Groovy Pants 120.00 plus tips to fix it. Needless to say, the panic and loneliness are mind bending.

Or worse, imagine those doggone elevens between your eyebrows come back and you start to look as worried as you really are. What do you tell the children?

But poverty really doesn’t have to age you if you’re creative.

If you have scientific tendencies, you can always grow your own botulism toxin. In fact, you may already have some. Check any old jam and jelly jars in your refrigerator (if you still have one). Cans that are bulging can be good sources. (link to source that helps identify cans and jars that may contain botulism). (Link to self-injection tips)

Cut and dye your own hair. Give yourself some really heavy bangs if you feel uneasy using homemade botox.

Sure, it’s a little scary, dying your hair for the first time. But if you’ve watched a few episodes of “Shear Genius”, you probably know all you need to know.

Consider the advantages: Trying new things keeps you young; the rush of fearful adrenaline is exhirating (particularly now that you can’t afford coffee); styling your own hair is one of the few creative outlets you can afford to pursue (if you still own scissors). And the beauty of doing your own hair is, if you screw up, it’ll grow back, unlike your retirement account.

Which leads to the beauty and splendor of scarves. Chances are, you’ve still got a few designer scarves tucked away somewhere in the bottom of your drawer. Now’s the time to dig them out. In a pinch, an old pashmina or Ikea dish towel will do.

Here are a few examples of how a scarf can take years off your appearance:

A screwed up haircut can be camouflaged by creative use of the head scarf. (click for tips on head scarf wrapping that doesn’t make you look like a chemo patient, hippie or mammie).

Say you’ve finally scraped the last molecule from your $500 dollar Kanebo neck cream, and your neck is starting to resemble a sharpei, and you’ve already sold all your cashmere turtlenecks on ebay.

Of course, the scarf can also be used to mask other cosmetic issues such as deflating lips, the “elevens” between the brows, even crows feet and drooping eyelids. Use your discretion to determine how liberally you wish to apply your scarf. Always make sure the designer logo is in plain sight. It’ll make you look classier.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Considering real estate options

Judging by the” for sale”, “for rent” and foreclosure signs that are now dotting the landscape with more frequency than Starbucks, I forsee a land with many empty houses and lots of people sleeping in the street. So buck up, you’re not alone.

And while it’s pretty depressing, it does present an opportunity. Once all these people get forced out of their homes, there will be lots of very nice places to squat. Keep your eyes open and be prepared to move in quickly.

But lets assume the worst…you won’t be able to find an available place to squat when you’re finally evicted from your residence.

If your car hasn’t been repossessed, it’s always an option. Maybe Ford had the right idea by making all those huge gas guzzling beasts. They may have driven us into bankruptcy, but they’re easily converted into real estate. You’ll be surprised at how many meals can be prepared using the cigarette lighter (will provide link to recipes that can be prepared with a car lighter). It may take hours to prepare a grilled cheese sandwich, but it’s not like you have a job anymore.

Or follow the innovative example of the impoverished Egyptians in Cairo who have converted a graveyard of ancient tombs into a bustling village. A lot of those tombs are probably nicer and more spacious than my NYC apartment. Some are even rigged to get free cable and wifi. Check to see if there are any nice Mausoleum communities in your area. If there aren’t, consider starting one.

There’s also the tried and true option of the refrigerator box. But remember, as demand rises, it’ll become harder and harder to trade up. This is no time to settle. Try to find that sub zero now, even if it takes a little longer. And when you find it, grab it without hesitation. There are several people already interested in you dream refridgerator box and who knows when you’ll find another one you like half as much.

If you have 100 bucks or so a month to spare, you might want to consider renting a storage container. 10x10 is enough for a bed and minifridge. Not recommended for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia, it’s a great option if you’re broke, but really need to live in a gated community

What to do for exercise now that you had to cancel your gym membership

Look on the bright side. They’ll probably be repossessing your car any day now -- you’ll be getting lots of exercise walking everywhere.

If you’ve responded to your recent poverty by staying in bed, there are several easy exercises that are actually more productive while under the covers. Leg lifts are particularly useful if you’re under a heavy comforter or bed spread, strengthening and toning both the calves, thighs, buttocks and in some cases abs..

I know it sounds like hard work. But you'll thank me if something happens to draw you out of bed. You wouldn't want the firemen thinking you’ve let yourself go.

Shoplifting hints

Shoplifting isn’t for everyone. If you’re young and not white, it’s probably risky, as you’re already under suspicion. But if you’re white, not talking to yourself, semi-respectable looking and over 40 (especially a female) ,nobody will be paying attention to you anyways, so the coast is clear.

As someone who has accidently shoplifted several hats simply because she forgot to take them off when leaving the store, my first bit of advice is, to put whatever it is you’re shoplifting on your head. Nobody will notice . Even with the price tag hanging out and the anti-theft alarm blaring.

Like any endeavor (and misdemeanor), you want to maximize your earnings. So be thoughtful in your shoplifting choices. Instead of shoplifting the generic brand of ibuprofen, always go for the most expensive brand name possible. Or say you need some aromatheraputic essential oils to help you with your depression. Instead of shoplifting the $3.49 citrus oil, go for the $34 ylang ylang. They both elevate your mood, but the ylang-ylang also elevates your theoretical earnings. In other words, shoplifting is no time to think about being frugal.

Choose your target. Don’t shoplift from the mom and pop stores. They haven’t ruined your life. Stick to companies listed on the DJIA. I find that righteous rage is essential to a successful shoplifting outing.

Keep it casual. It’s always best to shoplift right under their noses. Try to act a little spacey and distracted. Bettter yet, be spacey and distracted. Pay absolutely no attention to what you’re doing. Focus only on the products. If something catches your eye, pick it up. Since you’re so distracted, it wouldn’t be the least surprising if you absently put the Pixie lip plump gloss in #48 into your purse or jacket pocket. Who could blame you? Certainly not the security guard who’s flirting with a cashier.

The “duh manuver” is one of my favorite shoplifting techniques. If you’re actually buying a few things, put the most expensive, largest item, under your arm or in your hand in plain sight. Proceed through check out as if you don’t know it’s there. Nine out of ten times, the cashier won’t notice. In one instance, I got away unnoticed with a 15lb. bag of cat litter under my arm. And while that crystallized cat litter can really add up, I still regret not going for the Toshiba 30” flatscreen. Maybe next time.