The Cheapskate Edition

Not to be all doom and gloom, but it was impossible not to feel a chill when this year began, moneywise.

The stock market tanked on its first day of the new year. USA Today reported that the Dow Jones industrial average had its “poorest first day since 1983” and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had its worst beginning since 2001 and “sixth-worst first-day performance since 1932.”

Yikes!

Oil hit $100 a barrel. Some economists say we’re already in a recession. The president expects another wave of home foreclosures this year. And, yeah, those holiday shopping bills are due.

If all the bad news makes you want to reach for a bottle, go ahead and turn to page 17, where you’ll find a list of places to get drunk cheap.

Also in this issue, you’ll read about how the city’s biggest cheapskate averages just $36 a month on gas. You’ll find tips for how to eat some Morton’s steak on a poor person’s budget, where to get a shampoo and haircut for $5.50, even where to park in case you’ve just spent $600 on a couple of floor seats for Bon Jovi at the Sprint Center.

Life shouldn’t be miserable, after all. That’s one reason this newspaper is happy to provide a little help in hard times. For free.

BODY PRODUCTS

By NADIA PFLAUM

We all work hard, right? But sometimes, when our God-given talents aren’t enough to pay off the Visa bill, it’s possible to exploit other God-given commodities for their moneymaking potential. Here’s a guide to several such options, along with some highly subjective points to consider when selling one’s bodily byproducts in the Kansas City metro.

Blood

Plasma, more accurately. At least two local companies will pay cash for plasma: ZLB Plasma (3715 Broadway, 816-561-6224; 6199 Independence Avenue, 816-483-8344; 816 West 24th Street in Lawrence, 785-749-5750) and BioLife Plasma Center (19351 East Eastland Center Court in Independence, 816-795-7002).

How it works: Blood contains a cellular part (the white and red blood cells and platelets that help with clotting) and a liquid part called plasma (which contains antibodies and proteins that help fight disease). In a process called plasmapheresis, whole blood is collected from a donor through a needle and spun in a centrifuge, which separates the cellular portion of the blood from the plasma. The cellular portion is returned to the donor’s bloodstream while the plasma is collected in a container. Pharmaceutical companies use the plasma to make drugs that treat people with immune diseases such as hemophilia or for products that treat burn victims.

The upside: The FDA allows two donations in a seven-day period. At BioLife, the first donation of the week is worth $20, and the second is worth $40, for a maximum of $60 a week. ZLB is more generous. ZLB donors earn $40 each for the first two donations. After the first two donations, the payment depends on a person’s weight — heavier people can donate more plasma. That can add up to more than $80 a week.

The downside: Lots of restrictions and hoops to jump through. You must be between 18 and 65 years old, in good health and weigh at least 110 pounds. Both ZLB and BioLife require that you show a driver’s license or other government-issued I.D., a Social Security card and a piece of mail from the last 30 days as proof of address. ZLB requires that you live within a 125-mile radius of its collection center.

Not good for: Anyone who fears needles and long waits.

[page]

Eggs

Everyone’s heard the stories about wealthy but tragically infertile couples who place want ads in the back of Ivy League student newspapers, offering to pay six figures for the eggs of a brilliant and gorgeous Tri-Delt. Forget it, sister. You’re in Kansas City, and your best bet for selling those puppies is probably someplace like Midwest Reproductive Center (20375 West 151st Street, Suite 403, in Olathe, 913-780-4300), which is the office of fertility doctor Dan Gehlbach. Nurse Jennifer Fellers says the office has been in business since last March and has processed five donors’ eggs so far.

How it works: You have to be a nonsmoker between 21 and 32 years old. Donors go through a rigorous screening process that includes physical and mental evaluations, a pelvic ultrasound and lab tests. If a donor passes inspection, her information and a childhood photograph are put in a file of potential anonymous donors. When a client selects the donor, the real process begins.

First the donor is put on birth-control pills to regulate her production of eggs. Then a nurse will teach the donor how to inject herself with fertility drugs using a needle no bigger than that required for an insulin shot. Once the donor’s cycle is in synch with the egg recipient’s cycle, the donor must go in for three to five office visits to receive more fertility drugs and be monitored on the progress of her “follicular growth.” Then Gehlbach will decide on a good time for egg retrieval.

Egg retrieval takes about 15 minutes, Fellers says. The donor is sedated with a local anesthetic so that she can’t see the giant needle going into her vagina. When it’s over, she’s taken to the recovery room, where she should be good to go after 30 minutes. Most women return to work the next day, Fellers says.

The upside: After the six- to eight-week process, donors earn $3,000 for a successfully donated egg. The rates for donations can go up once someone is considered a “proven” donor. And it shouldn’t affect your ability to reproduce in the future.

The downside: There’s the whole shooting-yourself-up-with-fertility-drugs thing, which, besides making one feel like a farm animal, brings the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation, an uncomfortable condition that in rare cases requires a hospital stay. Fellers says she has yet to see any of her donors go through it, though. Donors can also gain weight, which Fellers says is not permanent.

Not good for: Women who don’t have a flexible schedule, who dislike the idea of a needle in the vag or who balk at answering questions such as “How many sexual partners have you had in the last five years?” or “Ever had sex for drugs or money?”

Sperm

Bummer, boys: There are zero sperm banks in Kansas City, and the one on the other side of the state has stopped taking donors. Andrea Drury, the lab supervisor at Procreative Cryobank LLC in St. Louis, says her office quit paying men for sperm in 2005. “It wasn’t advantageous,” she says. Drury explains that the St. Louis bank is very small, and its selection couldn’t compare to massive sperm banks such as the California Cryobank in Los Angeles or the Northwest Andrology and Cryobank, founded in Missoula, Montana. The St. Louis sperm bank is now just that: a semen storage facility for people who want to save their splooge for later.

You

If you’re willing to help the pharmaceutical industry by offering up your healthy body for testing drugs not yet approved by the FDA, several companies in Kansas City will pay for your services.

[page]

How it works: Pharmaceutical companies pay companies to test their products, and they, in turn, pay volunteers who submit to inpatient stays or outpatient visits to their facilities, depending on the clinical trial. Studies requiring inpatient stays tend to pay more.

Once you go through the (you guessed it) rigorous medical screening, you might qualify for one of these studies. Some sound pretty innocuous. For example, at Johnson County Clin-Trials (15602 College Boulevard in Lenexa, 913-825-4400), a friendly receptionist says the office’s flu-shot trial (“a novel, investigational flu vaccine that’s manufactured without the use of chicken eggs”) is closed, but an upcoming outpatient bird-flu study likely will pay volunteers at least $800.

A representative at Quintiles (6700 West 115th Street in Overland Park, 800-292-5533) says the majority of its studies are in-house, requiring overnight stays. One upcoming trial is for a medicine that treats multiple sclerosis; it pays $2,400. But there are rare instances of outpatient trials — for instance, one new product due soon for testing is called Purtox. Like Botox, it’s administered via an injection between the eyes to diminish the appearance of forehead lines and wrinkles. If you’re in the control group, though, you’re just getting 0.1 milliliters of saline in the face. For this, testers must show up for nine outpatient visits. Compensation is $945. That works out to $105 a visit.

The upside: For inpatient stays, most labs provide movies and games, and beds are equipped with monitors for watching TV. You’re sitting around playing Call of Duty, watching Judge Mathis and getting paid.

The downside: Medications you’re taking can limit you from participating in certain studies.

Not good for: Anyone with a strict nine-to-five.

Your Panties

Are you really surprised that there are Web sites for buying and selling dirty knickers?

Ebay specifically poo-poos the selling of used underwear, but last time we checked, a marketplace for adult items called Ebanned.com listed 236 online offers of dirty panties for sale.

The market isn’t restricted to women’s underthings. Alex Penney, who is 18 and plays with the art-rock band the Ssion, says he made $50 selling his dirty undies on Craigslist.

Originally, he posted an ad titled “Smooth Son Seeks Older Daddy” as a joke. He says the ad was accidentally redirected and posted not to Kansas City’s Craigslist page but to one in San Francisco.

“Lo and behold, I start talking to this guy who was also cruising Craigslist as a joke,” Penney writes in an e-mail message. “But he saw my accompanying picture, which was this weird Polaroid of me naked at my friend’s lake house with my head back so you couldn’t see my face — not that I really cared. I ended up sending him a filthy pair of my underwear for, like, $50.”

How it works: In the “erotic” or “adult” sections of free classified services such as Craigslist.com and Backpage.com, or on sites such as Ebanned.com, you can place an ad to explain what you’re selling and how you’d like to be paid. Penney thought it was tacky to list a price for his skivvies, so he included his e-mail address for monetary negotiations. He directed his buyer to send money through Paypal.com, a secure, third-party online payment service.

The upside: Seems fast, cheap and relatively safe, as long as you don’t post any identifying information that you don’t want strangers to know. Regular sales could bring you a regular fanbase and steady income.

Or, as in Penney’s case, it could bring true love. Turns out his tighty-whitey-buyer, Seth, is also in a band. He’s known as Hunx, and his band, Gravytrain, was scheduled to play a gig with the Ssion in Omaha. When Hunx and Penney met, sparks flew, and now they are totally boyfriends.

[page]

The downside: Hey, we’re not judging.

HIGH CULTURE, LOW COST

By CRYSTAL K. WIEBE and CHRIS PACKHAM

Even if you’re broke, you can’t just sit at home all night on that couch you picked up on the curb, watching the basic-cable package the previous tenants of your apartment forgot to have disconnected, on the television your mom was going to get rid of. That’s why The Pitch‘s Night & Day editors have put together this list of free — or extra-cheap — ways to entertain yourself.

Free Play at the Replay

Once a week at Lawrence’s favorite dive, pinball machines give it up for free. Some people think that the game doesn’t have any stakes if you don’t have a couple of quarters on the line. Those people hate pinball and resent your skill with the flippers. Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Replay Lounge, 946 Massachusetts, 785-749-7676.

Taco Tuesday at the Brick

On Tuesdays, one of our favorite bars serves tacos for 75 cents each, plus a PBR buy-in: All the Pabst you can drink for five bucks. That’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised your Dust Bowl grandparents during the Great Depression. The cheap tacos and beer last from 6 to 10 p.m. Plus, at 8 p.m., the Brick takes it to the next level with America’s favorite game, free bingo. Don’t bother bringing your game-playing skills, because bingo doesn’t require any. Win such awesome prizes as Arnold Schwarzenegger DVDs and free eats. The Brick, 1727 McGee, 816-421-1634.

First Fridays in the Crossroads

Even in the coldest months of winter, the Crossroads District is a lively destination on the first Friday evening of each month. Many of the area’s galleries provide food at their openings, and though a generation of high school students learned that gallery openings were an excellent resource for free beer in the past, Liquor Control has since cracked down on underage drinking and open containers in public. Still, free beer and wine are available for both the culturally inclined and really mature-looking kids.

Indigo Hour at the Blue Room

The Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum has its share of cover-charge performances, but the venue also books dozens of free jazz performances every month. And because the combination of food, drinks and music is what Larry King would call “entertainment dynamite,” we’re specifically recommending the Indigo Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday. In addition to music, the Blue Room offers $5 martinis; $3 beer, wine and well drinks; and a $3 appetizer buffet. The Blue Room, 1616 East 18th Street, 816-474-2929.

Open-Mic Readings

Shawn Pavey, co-founder of North Carolina literary magazine The Main Street Rag, hosts a monthly reading series and literary open-mic event at 5:30 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month at the Writers Place (3607 Pennsylvania, 816-753-1090). Some people say books should be read and not heard. Those imaginary people are probably the same folks who think you should pay for pinball. Although the Writers Place requests a $5 donation, nobody is turned away for lack of funds.

Sunday Movies at the Kemper

At these free screenings, the Kemper generally shows films that relate to themed exhibits. For example, on Sundays from February 10 through March 30, the museum’s Biographical Landscape exhibit is accompanied by the series At the Movies: The American Culturescape, 1940 to 1970, which tracks the changing urban landscape from small towns to contemporary sprawl. The series includes Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Harry and Tonto and Heart Beat. The movies screen at 2 p.m. at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784.

[page]

Kansas City Freecycle

Just think about how expensive it is to buy new crap all the time. Kansas City Freecycle is a Yahoo group organized around the completely original principle that one man’s trash is also another man’s trash but might just be a third guy’s treasure. Members post messages indicating their possession of unwanted stuff — exercise equipment, kitchen appliances, books, videos, anything and everything — for the benefit of other members. Join up at kcfreecy cle.org.

Free Meditation Classes

Many of the most accomplished historical figures in human history credit meditation with centering their minds, easing their anxieties and inspiring their creativity. Maybe a little meditation can help you, too. One man, who lost his auto-detailing business when it fell into a sinkhole, tried meditation and went on to top the Billboard chart in 1978 with the No. 1 hit “The Gambler.” That man? Kenny Rogers. Classes are at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Rime Buddhist Center, 700 West Pennway, 816-471-7073.

The Library

Yes, libraries are still engaged in their core venture of lending out books for free. And sure, they have cheap (or free) video rentals, but so does McDonald’s these days. But look beyond the hushed stillness of the rare-books room and you’ll find that libraries also offer crafts and storytelling for the kids and grown-up-type events such as art exhibits, film screenings, author talks, receptions and wine tastings. See kclibrary.org, kckpl.lib.ks.us and jocolibrary.org for event schedules.

HE’S REALLY CHEAP!

By JUSTIN KENDALL

Every week, on the morning of trash day, Larry Roth digs through his neighbors’ recycling bins.

He knows exactly where to find The New York Times. “And they’re really neat about reading their paper,” he says of that particular neighbor. “I’m impressed.”

Roth isn’t ashamed of his actions. After all, the Sunday Times costs $5.

Once, when another homeowner caught him in the act, Roth explained that Price Chopper had a sale on dog food and he was looking for the $3 coupon in that morning’s paper. Fortunately, he says, the woman understood a good deal.

His behavior might seem extreme to outsiders. But it also might qualify him for a title as Kansas City’s biggest cheapskate.

Roth started living cheap about 25 years ago. He moved to Kansas City in August 1978 to work for the U.S. government in the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, which regulated coal mining and cleaned up abandoned mines.

In 1981, when President Ronald Reagan appointed anti-environmentalist James G. Watt as secretary of the interior, the office of surface mining was “doomed,” Roth remembers with a laugh. Its staff went from 100 people to 14, and Roth wasn’t one of the 14.

He moved to Burbank, California, where he spent two years working for the Navy, overseeing government contracts at a Lockheed aircraft manufacturing plant. That’s when he decided to start living cheap. He didn’t want to have to move again if he lost another job. Whenever he got a raise, he plowed it into a savings account. His income rose, but his spending didn’t.

In 1989, Roth published his experiences in a book called Living Cheap: The Survival Guide for the Nineties. A few years later, after reading a Wall Street Journal story about frugality newsletters, he thought he could write one that was better than the others. He started Living Cheap News in January 1992. Later that month, a New York Times reporter called him for a story about penny pinchers.

[page]

In the Times story, Roth talked about not giving Christmas presents to his friends. “If one of us wants something, we buy it for ourselves,” Roth said. “The stress caused by worrying about gifts is gone. And we enjoy each other’s company. To me, that’s what Christmas is for.”

Thanks to the Times‘ story, Roth says, “I had subscribers all over the country and a few outside the country.”

At its peak, about 3,000 subscribers paid for Living Cheap News — $12 a year for 10 issues packed with Roth’s secrets. He preached that they should never buy new if used would do. He has since revised the motto: Never buy at all if you can find what you need on the curb.

Roth retired in 1995 and moved back to Kansas City. He’d saved enough — and invested wisely enough — that he never had to work again. He discontinued the newsletter in 1999 (it was becoming repetitive, he says, and subscriptions had fallen off as the economy rebounded). Over the years, though, Roth self-published three books — Living Cheap, Beating the System and Political Frugality — and put out two with commercial presses: The Simple Life (Berkley Publishing Group) and The Best of Living Cheap News (Contemporary Books). All of his books are available from living cheap.com and Amazon.com.

On a cold day after Christmas, with snow falling in Kansas City, the thermostat inside Roth’s spacious, three-bedroom home in Waldo is set to a cool 60 degrees. It’s not uncomfortable, but Roth offers to crank up the heat for a guest.

“I keep the house fairly cool in the winter, fairly warm in the summer,” he explains. “It’s good for the environment. That’s the altruistic way to put it. It also saves me money.”

The 59-year-old Roth is wearing five layers — T-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt, vest and fleece. He got most of these clothes at neighborhood giveaways and online at kcfreecycle.org. “These don’t fit great,” he says of his jeans, “but they work as far as walking the dog.”

When he has to look a bit nicer, he wears dress clothes left by his father, who died a couple of years ago. “And they actually fit me.”

Roth’s cheap week starts with the Sunday paper. He clips coupons, then browses the ads for sales. On Wednesday, he scans the grocery ads. For grocery shopping, he recommends combining coupons with sales. “You just don’t want to go buy stuff because you have a coupon,” Roth says. “But if they have something on sale and you have a coupon that makes it a good deal, then you can buy it.”

As of December 1, his grocery bill for 2007 was $1,588 for one person and a dog.

He admits that his tactics aren’t always popular at some stores. Once, when the Thriftway at 40th Street and Main had a sale on peanut butter, Roth tried to use a coupon. The store refused to take the coupon, he says. So he wrote to the Star to complain. The store manager eventually sent him two jars of peanut butter — along with a letter asking Roth not to come back.

Roth also peruses the classifieds for estate and garage sales. He gets the best deals when the sale is put on by the family or a private owner. He purchased most of his living-room furniture secondhand; for his latest find — a 1951 vintage yellow chair and ottoman — he paid $50 at an estate sale.

[page]

Roth’s lifestyle doesn’t appear miserly. He has credit cards and uses them frequently, but he pays off the balance every month and uses them to collect frequent-flier miles. He has earned free trips, traveling to Australia twice and Europe several times.

He owns two cars, both 1989 Oldsmobile 88s. He bought one cheap from a friend who was moving to Boston. He inherited the other one when his father passed away.

But Roth doesn’t drive much. Last year, as of December 1, he’d spent just $399.02 on gas.

When he does drive, Roth maps out a circular route. He never drives to just one place. But he lives within walking distance of CVS, Walgreens and Aldi.

“He likes to rape and pillage stores,” says Dan Mugg, Roth’s partner of three and a half years. Mugg once watched Roth walk into CVS with rebates, CVS bucks and coupons, and use them to buy $20 worth of stuff for 60 cents.

“I was just in awe,” says Mugg, who affectionately refers to Roth as “a cheap bastard.”

“CVS has had some deals lately where you can actually get paid to take stuff if you work it right,” Roth says.

The chain pharmacy ended up paying him $2.25 to take three tubes of Colgate toothpaste, after he combined coupons with the sale price; CVS also paid him $1 to take Schick Quatro razors that were on sale, and Roth had coupons.

“A lot of people will say that’s too much trouble, and it could well be,” Roth admits. “But for me, it’s kind of fun. I’ve kind of turned it into a hobby.”

Roth’s friends say it’s more like an obsession.

“The first time you go to his home, it’s like a shock,” says Jim Miller, who met Roth at the Writers Place in 2001. “You don’t know many people who have 30 jars of peanut butter. Or 18 to 20 pounds of coffee.”

Miller isn’t exaggerating. The coffee is neatly stacked on a ledge in the kitchen. A shelf in Roth’s basement holds his stash of dog food and cans of diced tomatoes and the 30 jars of peanut butter. Roth says stocking up is essential to living cheap.

Though Roth is cheap with himself, Miller says, he isn’t stingy with others. He tips 15 percent when he goes out to eat at self-serve buffets and 20 percent at more upscale restaurants. Sometimes, he’ll treat his friends to dinner — though he’s prone to picking up the tab when it’s buy one, get one free.

Roth says those wanting to live as he does need not worry what others think. If a store employee screws up, he suggests writing letters to give the company a chance to correct the mistake. “Sometimes, they’ll send something free,” Roth says. The objective isn’t to get something free, he explains, but to encourage good service.

Roth also does a lot of curb shopping.

“I don’t go out looking for stuff,” he says. But he walks his dog and his neighbor’s dog three miles a day and, he says, “It’s amazing what you can find.”

Sitting on his kitchen counter is a massive black microwave.

“It had a sign on it, ‘Never used,’ which actually overstated the case. But it does work.”

Roth says he’s fortunate to be as cheap as he wants to be. “There is a difference between me and someone who really is driven down and actually has to do this stuff. I recognize that.”

[page]

But for sharing what he’s learned with others, the guy deserves some credit.

THE HAND-TO-MOUTH POSTURE

By CAROLYN SZCZEPANSKI

For anyone stressing over maxed-out credit cards and drained checking accounts, yoga is a great way to improve physical and emotional balance. (Shrinks have been known to prescribe it to treat anxiety and depression.) But now that the practice has turned trendy, it can be a pricey indulgence. Just one group class of breathing and stretching typically costs about $15, and a monthly pass at any yoga studio runs into the triple digits. However, we’ve discovered plenty of local yoga havens that offer incentives to get skeptics and misers to give the mat science a try. If you’re willing to dabble in different styles and studios, this list will help you strike a pose with little money down.

ARC Yoga

700 Northwest Argosy Parkway, Riverside, 816-587-9642, arcyoga.com

The first class is free.

Boulevard Yoga

215 Southwest Boulevard,

816-889-9642, boulevardyoga.com

The first class is free; two weeks of unlimited classes cost $25.

Gardens of Delight Yoga and Wellness

164 South Main, No. 413, Parkville,

816-308-5450

The first class is free.

KC Fitness Link

3909 Main, Kansas City, Missouri,

816-256-4443, kcfitnesslink.com.

One free week of unlimited classes. KC Fitness Link also offers free yoga, breathing and meditation classes to people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular conditions who can provide proof of their conditions. Also, free classes at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on January 26 (Yoga Day USA).

New Day Yoga

15238 Broadmoor, Overland Park,

913-897-9642, newdayyogastudio.com

One free week of unlimited classes.

The Yoga Studio of Johnson County

7785 Quivira, Lenexa, 913-492-9598, ttheyogastudio.com

A free class every Sunday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Yoga Gallery

5615 Johnson Drive, Mission,

913-432-5568, yogallery.com

A free class at 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month; a free yoga breath class every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. New students can purchase a three-class package for $22.

Darling Yoga

11711 College Boulevard, Overland Park, 913-498-1144, darlingyoga.com

Two weeks of unlimited classes for $20.

Kansas City Bikram Yoga

910 West 39th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, 816-931-9642,

kansascitybikramyoga.com

One month of unlimited classes for $29.

Kansas Siddhi Yoga

1717 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Missouri; 1120 Main, Blue Springs;

866-222-9555, moyoga.com

During January, 20 percent off all multiclass cards.

Maya Yoga

215 West 18th Street, Suite 250, Kansas City, Missouri, 816-679-1053, mayayoga.com

Two weeks of unlimited classes for $25.

Inspire Yoga

4515 West 90th Street, Prairie Village, 913-385-9033, inspireyoga.com

One week of unlimited classes for $15.

BEAUTY BARGAINS

By JEN CHEN

Forget the Flowbee — cheap personal grooming doesn’t have to involve self-operated suck-and-cut devices. I confirmed this on a tour of salon-training schools, where student work equals low prices.

Knowing that cosmetology trainees are supervised by instructors, I set out on a quest to beautify myself for less.

First, I headed to the Cutting Edge Hairstyling Academy for an $8 manicure and an $18 pedicure. Located at 75th Street and Quivira (913-962-0076) in Shawnee, the salon had tan walls and cherry-wood-colored stations. Soft rock played over the loudspeakers. Cutting Edge doesn’t accept reservations, but the wait was only about 25 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. The manicure was very basic — no heated hand pads or UV light boxes here — but included a quick soak in a bowl of warm, soapy water as well as a hand-and-forearm massage. The salon offers only 26 nail colors, though, ranging from a prison-jumpsuit orange to a watery pale blue. Some colors were too thick; the student tried to thin out the purple I wanted with some acetone before declaring it unusable. She recommended that clients bring their own nail polish. I ended up with dark-red fingernails that had a metallic gleam — a color that would look mighty fine on a Cadillac DeVille. My pedicure, meanwhile, was half-off because the spa chair wasn’t working properly. The entire proc­ess took about two and a half hours.

[page]

I was a little more leery about getting my hair cut. For that, I made an appointment at the Independence College of Cosmetology (815 West 23rd Street, 816-252-4247), which charges $5.50 for a shampoo and cut. The school’s salon was utilitarian; rows of mirrored stations were arranged under harsh fluorescent lights. When I arrived on a Thursday morning, elderly women with tightly curled hair were packed into the waiting room. The students looked a bit more hip; a few had red or pink streaks in their hair. My stylist had dyed black hair with blond and blue streaks. Following my directions, she carefully cut off about an inch and left me with jagged layers. Her supervisor then came over to help her with my bangs and to even things up a bit. From the side, my hair now resembled a comma.

Finally, I went for a massage. Getting an appointment over winter break was a bit tricky. The High-Tech Institute, near Ward Parkway Shopping Center at 9001 State Line Road (866-296-2110), was booked until late April. The $24 massages at Heritage College (1200 East 104th Street, Suite 300, 816-942-5474) sounded appealing, but my appointment was canceled due to bad weather, and I couldn’t get into the Massage Therapy Training Institute (9140 Ward Parkway, Suite 100, 816-361-7733) until after my deadline.

I ended up at Pinnacle Career Institute (816-268-3401). Located near Interstate 435 and Holmes in one of those anonymous office parks lining the highway, the drab building turned out to have a relaxing massage room inside. The lights were dim, and new-agey pan-flute music played in the background. My masseuse was a graduate of the school who was helping out over the holidays, and she rocked. The hourlong session was a combination of Swedish and deep-tissue work; she smoothed out knots I didn’t know I had and pulled and stretched limbs. She solicitously asked about a suspicious-looking mole on my arm and reminded me to drink a lot of water after the session. Even better than the fantastic massage was the price — $25 plus tip.

That brought the pretax grand total for my tour of salon schools to $60.50. Which left a lot for other necessities — such as nail-polish shades other than neon orange or pearlescent blue.

DON’T SPEND BEER MONEY ON PARKING!

By DAVID MARTIN

Worries about parking for events at the Sprint Center are hugely overblown. For years, football fans have paid more — and walked farther — to park outside Arrowhead Stadium.

City officials have identified 10,000 parking spaces within three or four blocks of Sprint Center. Garages and lots close to the building charge $10. But with a little thought and footwork, concert fans and sports lovers should be able to avoid parting with a sawbuck until they stand in an arena beer line.

City streets are the best option. Most downtown thoroughfares allow street parking, which is usually free after 6 p.m. For the best spots, look for roads where stopping is not allowed during the evening rush. Main Street south of Truman Road, for instance, was wide open at 6:15 on a recent concert night. The arena is but a 10-minute walk from there.

[page]

If it’s a weeknight and drinks and dinner are part of the plan, 10-hour meters are good sources of cheap parking before 6 p.m. Ten-hour meters line Charlotte and Holmes, among other streets. Walnut south of Truman is another choice spot for people arriving early for evening events.

Those who don’t trust their own parallel-parking skills can stick $5 in an honor box in a lot at 11th Street and Wyandotte just east of the Lyric, about six blocks from the Sprint Center. The new City Center Square garage, five blocks away at 11th Street and Baltimore, charges $6 on weekends. The garage that envelops Quality Hill Playhouse, about seven blocks away at 303 West 10th Street, costs only $3. That price is supposedly reserved for people attending events in the theater district; a small fib might be all that arenagoers need to qualify for the rate.

BUZZ ON A BUDGET

By LORNA PERRY

God love the happy hour, for it was designed with one goal in mind: To get happy on the cheap, via consumption of inexpensive alcoholic beverages. Here are some of the deals that make us the — hic — happiest.

Willie’s

Monday Microbrew Night at Willie’s brings sweet deliverance from watery domestic beer. Fresh pints of Boulevard, Fat Tire, Flying Monkey or Blue Moon cost $2.50 a draw from 8 p.m. until kicking-out time. 1501 Grand, 816-527-0122.

Lew’s Grill and Bar

During Tuesday Bewsday at Lew’s, from open to close, every beer in the house — bottle or draft, domestic or import — is $2.75. And the pickings aren’t slim; Lew’s carries a wide selection of domestic and import beers. 7539 Wornall, 816-561-2492.

The Red Balloon

The state of Kansas doesn’t believe in happy hours, but you can guzzle to your heart’s content seven days a week at the karaoke palace known as the Red Balloon. All day, every day, the Balloon offers hefty 32-ounce “schooners” of Busch or Miller Lite for a wallet-friendly $4.50. If that’s 50 cents too much, come in on Tuesdays, when those same schooners cost $4 apiece. 10325 West 75th Street in Overland Park, 913-962-2330.

Charlie Hooper’s

Hooper’s brings hump day to a close with Wednesday Import Night, when almost every import bottle in the house costs a measly two bucks (OK, the larger bottles might be three). And Hooper’s stocks an impressive 140 imports, so it’ll take a lot of happy hours to cover that territory. The happy hour starts at 5 p.m. and runs until close. 12 West 63rd Street, 816-361-8841

Denim and Diamonds

Hands down, the Northland’s Denim and Diamonds gets the cheap-libations prize. Wednesday night there is Ladies’ Night —that means the gals pay a $2 cover at the door and then get to drink 10-ounce cups of well drinks, beer or wine for 25 cents apiece all night. That’s two and a half cents a sip, people. 1725 Swift, 816-221-7330.

J.R.’s Place

If the idea of drinking from a giant schooner appeals to you but the prices at the Red Balloon are still outside your price range, J.R.’s in Olathe offers 34-ounce domestic draws for $3 every Thursday. All. Day. Long. 20238 West 151st Street in Olathe, 913-254-1307.

La Bodega

From 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, La Bodega throws one of the premium happy hours in the city: the half-off happy hour. Tapas, wine, premium well drinks, cerveza and sangria are all half-off. This includes refreshing pitchers — not just glasses — of red or white sangria. Word to the wise: La Bodega’s happy hour is popular, so reservations are highly recommended. 703 Southwest Boulevard, 816-472-8272.

[page]

The Velvet Dog

From 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Dawg offers a high-quali­ty cosmo or appletini for $3. (Really, it’s just as well that there are only two martini options — the ones that taste as innocuous as melted ice cream go down a little too well.) Margaritas and glasses of house wine are also three bucks, and domestic beers and well drinks are $2. All appetizers are half-off, too. 400 East 31st Street, 816-753-9990

The Record Bar

What’s most impressive about the Record Bar’s happy hour, from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, is that Stolichnaya well drinks cost $3. All Stoli flavors are included, so bring on the suicide blueberry-raspberry-cranberry-vanilla cocktail. 1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207.

Dave’s Stagecoach Inn

A true and total dive, Dave’s sells alcohol at dive prices available throughout the week (save Sunday, when the place is closed). Drafts of Budweiser ring in at $1.50 a draw, wells cost $3, Boulevard draws are $2.50 and ice-cold cans of Schlitz, Old Style and Hamms are $2. 316 Westport Road, 816-561-2492

Tower Tavern

After church on Sunday, the Tower Tavern satisfies that need for a post-service drink (or for penance in the bottom of a 12-ounce can) during Scumbag Sundays. Cans of Old Style are in abundance and cost a piddly $1.50 all the sacred day long. 401 East 31st Street, 816-931-9300.

Categories: News