Independence Day thanks & thoughts

As I watched fireworks last night (yep, on Thursday – competition seems to have no boundaries) I felt a little saddened. Why? Because as great as our nation is, it is our lack of independence (you know, that oil thing) which is creating havoc these days on people’s budgets. Some of you just feel a teeny pinch, others a not-so-loving squeeze, and some are in a downright straight jacket stranglehold held in place by $144 a barrel oil.

Last time, I suggested some ways to find $$ in your budget, and oh, didn’t I smile sweetly when I read Smart Money’s suggestions on saving $500 a month. (http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/?fpn=how%20to%20squeeze%20500%20out%20of%20your%20monthly%20budget) They copied me. Nah, but they concurred with much of what I said. I did, however, miss a key savings area. As I learned with the newspaper, customer loyalty is often rewarded with higher pricing. Insurance is also well-known for this illogical strategy, but hey, the old marketing rules about more $ required to find new customers than to keep old ones just don’t seem to apply with these guys. Strike your independence today and get quotes on home, car, and life insurance. You could find significant savings.

Speaking of the newspaper, through June, we’ve kept $667.33 in our pocket thanks to coupons. Deduct the $130 spent for the paper and we’ve netted about 125 gallons of gas! That, to me, is worth the couple hours a week I spend cutting and matching to sales. Yesterday alone, free bread, free salad, $1.50 a box hair color (I’m worth it!), $1.50 a package Hebrew National hotdogs, and free mustard, marinade and BBQ sauce saved me megabucks for my July 4th party (well, not the hair color – that’ll just make me a less haggard-looking hostess).

For those of you in the straight jacket, you’re probably already doing this. Some other help you might look into:

1) Check with your utility company. This week the paper announced shutoffs are up 40% in Arizona due to non-payment. It’s either gas or gas… Ours offer financial assistance for some. See if you qualify. 

2) Drugs – Now is not the time to forego your meds. Save $2 a quarter at Walmart by asking your doc to write a 90 day script. Mail order saves $ also. Ask your doc for free samples. Contact PPA – perhaps you can qualify for help.

3) Food banks, dial-a-ride etc.  – Find out about community resources and use them. When the straight jacket eases up, you can help someone else by contributing. 

Which leads me to those pinched and squeezed – I doubt those unfazed are reading a frugal blog. Darn.  It’s my belief food banks are going to be inundated. Couponing can allow you to help others without making a dent in your wallet. Chili is $.50 a can this week. With a coupon, it’s free (or darn near.) Peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce – same. Help stock up the food banks. Why? If I can’t tug on your patriotic civic duty to help your fellow Americans, how about a truth blast about your own financial well-being? If it’s a choice between eating and gas, guess what? And, no gas means no going to work. Which means more welfare. Which means higher taxes. Which means you could find yourself wearing that straight jacket.

America is a system – a great system. Spend this fourth thinking about our service men and women, and their families, who give so much so it can remain so.  And, think about how just a little effort on your part can make lives better right here at home. Then go lose yourself in some fabulous fiction and take the weekend off from all this financial stress!

Remember: A Frugal Fiction book? $3.99. Reading to your child 15 minutes a day? Priceless!

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Charity Starts with Coupons!

Did you know couponing began in the late 19th century?  Now, that’s a long-standing tradition! According to an article in the Arizona Republic, January 22, 2008, “industry experts say the majority of American households still regularly use them…”

Well, duh, you know that. You’re frugal!

What you may not think about is all the coupons you don’t clip (or find online, or download onto your frequent shopper card, a program now being tested by a partnership of Kroger and Proctor and Gamble.)

Hate mustard, so you skip it. Have enough barbeque sauce, so you skip it. Ditto, toothpaste. And, those packaged potatoes? Not for you when 10# can be had for $.97.

But, you can often score those items for zero, zip, nada, zilch buckaroos out of your pocketbook! And, wouldn’t the food banks or homeless shelters be thrilled to receive them at some time other than just Thanksgiving and Christmas!

If you’re a frugal shopper, you know which items go on sale regularly; know when you can scoop up items for $.20, $.50, or free. You may not need the item right now, may not need it ever, but trust me, starving people aren’t just in Africa, or Mexico, or China  – that’s where my mother told us they all lived when  my sister turned her nose up at frozen peas. Do you know, for years I thought she was allergic to them. Her cheeks puffed out everytime she ate ’em. Funny how they unpuffed as soon as she made a trip to the potty room…

By using coupons to stock up on things you don’t need, don’t like, or don’t want, even those on a tight budget can be charitable, while others can expand their giving opportunities without additional expense. Provide the time and effort, and manufacturers will pick up the tab to help our less fortunate. 

Imagine if every household…