2009… Where Have I Been?

Hope you all survived the holidays and none of those nasty reminders (credit card bills) are arriving this month. I did, actually managing to cover Christmas for ten people at under $200. And yes, I did deliver those wonderful photo memory albums to another six people. I had the albums in a hall closet so no expense except for loving effort.

Now, onto New Year’s resolutions. Even though I haven’t talked with you in a while, I haven’t forgotten you. When we start a frugal new year, one of the things we’re undoubtedly thinking about is stuff we have to buy this year – not groceries and gas – but items that may be on our have-to-replace list. So, first off, let’s look at 10 Things You Should Never Buy New and 10 Things You Should Never Buy Used. (I wish I had the money to worry about a new wet suit… On the other hand, as an author, the idea that books should all be retreads, well, no wonder I’m looking for a job.) It’s tempting to pick up that bike helmet or used car seat at a yard sale. Don’t do it. You can buy Charmin so the kids don’t use as much TP, but don’t cheat on items intended to keep their little bodies in one piece. By the way, if kids always take too much, how does the fact that its softer or stronger change that? Just wondering. That commercial’s always bugged me.

Now, there may be other big-ticket items on that list. That’s where haggling comes in. This art is difficult for many, and done poorly, well, it achieves poor results. The key to effective haggling is research – know the value of the item – and then, most important, understand how much you want it. If not getting it creates more angst than paying a little more for it, know this before you talk yourself out of a sale. Cars and yard sales seem obvious, but negotiating with the local Walmart manager, hmmm. That has possibilites. “What do you mean you can’t discount these tomatoes? Look, look at them! They have wrinkles, more than I do…” Honestly, I’m not counted among the top negotiators. But, it’s knowledge, and armed with knowledge, even one or two better deals can make a big difference in your financial picture.

I’ve signed up for the paper again. Last year, net savings from coupons exceeded $1,500. I made about 6 times my investment, enjoyed items I might normally have to pass on, and fed the local food bank with some of my killer purchases, allowing me to give back even on a tight budget. This year, more than ever, food banks are hungry. Time spent cutting a few coupons and watching ads can allow you to send plenty of peanut butter, salad dressing, soap, soup, etc. at zero or no cost to people in much worse financial straights.

Next time: Love and money.  Frugal findings to you!