What Now???

Market was up 150 points yesterday and we’re still under 7,000, 1/2 of where we were less than two years ago. I’ve mentioned before, I’m no economist – not that I think the economists are doing such a hot job. Or the regulators that were supposed to protect us. Or the CEO’s, CFO’s, etc. that run the companies. Or the government who let the CEO’s, CFO’s ruin (no,not a typo) things. Or the new government who’s dumped us into debt so deep I’m thinking  Atlantis is probably easier to find than a way out of this mess. Everywhere, it’s yes, no, should, shouldn’t, save, spend. Truthfully, I’ve got a headache from trying to understand it all. I think terror does that. 

For example, take this article. There’s a new syndrome – sudden wealth syndrome – which by the way, I’m sure most of us would like to experience.   Wealthy people are inundated by people wanting handouts. They’re torn. Are they creating welfare monsters by bailing these people out, by absolving them of their financial debacles? Oh, what to do?  I wish the government had some of these concerns. Aren’t bailouts to non-performing companies  the same thing?

Or this one – schools are overwhelmed as they try to find the resources to deal with a new student issue – homelessness.  At a time when we’re promoting education as our economic salvation. And, this one –the suicide rate in young men is climbing. At a time when we’re going to bring numerous troops home to well, debt and joblessness, the things driving this statistic. Oh, and by the way, if you’re saving money to try and shore up for a job loss, well, that’s wrong, too.

Confusion and frustration reign, as well they should. And, with confusion and frustration comes anger. Which comes from unmet needs. No job, foreclosure on the horizon, gas prices climbing again – those things create unmet needs – like a roof over our heads and food on the table. Bosses are tense, spouses are tense, kids are tense. The first thing we might try is giving the other guy a break. Recognize that the slight, the insult, the outburst probably have a whole lot less to do with you than with the situation the other person faces. Psst: try not to be the “other person.”

Second, there was a time when you almost felt like you needed to be in one of those self-help groups for frugality. “Hi, I’m so and so, and I’m frugal.” Now, when you pull out that wad of coupons, instead of the person behind you letting go of a disgusted sigh and rolling their eyes, it’s likely they’ll be watching the tally to see how much you saved. And hoping they’ll do better. I can’t stress enough how far a few dollars can go if you cut coupons and match ’em to sale items. Yesterday, a free box of Cheerios made it to my pantry thanks to a coupon, and the store paid me .01 for a box of Raisin Bran thanks to adding a manufacturer’s coupon to the store coupon. Couponing is cool. More important, it gives you a sense of power at a time when powerlessness is running rampant.

A little side note: If everyone who didn’t eat those things had done the same thing and shipped the items off to the food bank…  If you haven’t before, please consider joining the coupon brigade and shoring up our very hungry food banks. It costs you nothing but time.

Third, there’s an old saying about God helping those that help themselves.This is no time for pity, but quite honestly, from my viewpoint, it is a time for protectionism – the protected item being yourself, not your country. If saving $$$ saves the stress in your household, do it. Be glad you can. If you can spend and it feels right, more power to you. If you can share – bless you. The depression didn’t create a generation of welfare bums. This situation won’t either.

Fourth, there’s money everywhere if you look. Not a lot mind you, but right now, a little can look like a lot:

Rebate – if you don’t want the item, how about a community swap group? “I’ll trade you that razor for this fancy wrinkle remover goo.” Collect stuff and sell it at yard sales. Hold onto it and make gift boxes.

Junk Mail – Read it. A free ipod is on it’s way because I signed up for one of those services the banks promote but aren’t affiliated with. 30 day free trial period. Cancel at any time. Gift is yours to keep.  There are tons of these offers, and I’m guessing more will be on the way. Like rebate items, they make great gifts or swaps. Of course, I’ll be canceling before the 30 days is up. Is that stealing? Hmmm. Gray area. You’ll have to decide.

Keep reading – I visited a model home center for a $25 Target gift card. I had a nice day at the ballpark – free. I entered a Thriftiest Family contest. Money to be won (not likely, but…) There was an extra 10% off my shopping bill in the newspaper – not with the regular ads. There all tons of free or savings in the daily newspaper. Skip all the bad news and just look for what you can save.

More reading – We all could use some inspiration so here are  15 simple ways to save. I’m not in total agreement (like the warehouse store thing – I think those are money-suck machines. Unless you’re the octomom – then they probably have some serious value.) He also mentions apples and teeth so I added this one on DIY Dentistry. Now, that’s when you know things aren’t so good… Maybe you’ll get a new idea, or maybe these will simply shore up your resolve. Either way, you’ll be more committed to your frugal goals.

Hmmm, maybe there should be a self-help group for the frugal…

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!

Top Ten Reasons to Coupon

It starts as a whisper… rising food prices. A mention here, a comment there. Then you go shopping and it screams, RISING FOOD PRICES, when you see the price of a dozen eggs.

For the frugal, this is bad news so I decided to research the reasons. Ethanol seems to be the culprit according to an article at Technology Review published by MIT. Now, MIT has credibility in my book so I not only read the article, but all the responses. And, guess what? I’m too intellectually challenged to figure out the macro-implications of Ethanol, corn prices, oil prices, etc. All I know is gas and food prices keep climbing. However, at least with gas we have options: carpool, make fewer trips, make more productive trips, walk, bike (all of which are good for the environment; some even benefit our waistlines.) But, we all have to eat.

Since there’s no apparent end in sight to escalating fuel prices, food costs will continue to rise as well. Add to that the fact that you get less bang for your buck thanks to inflation and, if you’ve never considered couponing before it seems now might be the time to start.

So, today I offer my top ten reasons to coupon:

1) Save money on familiar items.

You’re going to buy it anyway. We can’t always tie our coupon to a sale, but we can often put what we purchase on sale by using coupons.

2) Try new items.

Manufacturers are always trying to ‘one-up’ the competition. New product launches are everywhere. Us frugal types like that! Why? When items are introduced, the manufacturers need to introduce US to the item and that means coupons – usually really, really good ones! When I can try something for free, or next to it, I do. We may only use it that one time, but we always pick up the dollars dangling in front of us. If we don’t want or need it, we’ll know someone who does.

3) Trade up to the name brand at the same price or less. 

I like Miracle Whip. I’ve tried lots of store brands and none come close to the real thing.  By combining a coupon and sale, I seldom pay more than $0.50 or a $1 for it. Couldn’t touch a generic for that price!

4) Be generous.

I’m going shopping today and plan to buy 23 boxes of Rice-A-Roni or Pasta-Roni and I don’t even have a coupon. (Oh, and two boxes of Betty Crocker Supreme Brownie Mix @ 2 for $4 – here I have a coupon so it’s 2 for $3 to me)

Am I nuts? Nope. Here’s the deal. They’re selling for $1 each. If you buy 25 items, you get $20 back for your next sale. So, I spend $26 and get $20 back. Great item to go in my  box for the homeless/food banks (well, except for the brownies…)

5) Get FREE stuff

An ice cream cone, vitamins, a free dinner, a map, a pillow. All of the above have left the retailers establishment in my frugal little hands for zip, zilch, nada in the last couple months. We also use a lot of BIGIF dinner coupons. Free is the best frugal of all!

6) Do stuff

You already know about our free NFL Experience tickets. We’ve found coupons for free buckets of balls (that’s golf folks), received free movie passes (last year’s Pepsi promo), attended free seminars (granted, they want to sell you something. Watch for a future post on that). If you’re watching, you’ll be doing, no charge!

7) Build Inventory

In #4 we said coupons allow you to be generous. Maybe you’re not in that position. Maybe every coupon means a chance to buy something you need. For $6, you can make a lot of meals by adding tuna or hamburger. By the way, hamburger is NOT cheap anymore!

Here’s a frugal tip: Watch for round steak or roast on sale and have the butcher grind it. Today we’ll be paying $1.29 lb. Bought any 80/20, or even 73/27 that cheap lately? In spaghetti, chili, tacos, or casseroles it’s better than hamburger (less grease.)

8) Feeling Frugal Factor

It feels GOOD! Other people leave the store muttering, moaning, cursing as they look at their receipts. Me? I’m grinning, high-fiving hubby, feeling proud at what I kept from THEM. Make it a contest – you vs. Big Business. Who won this round? I did, I did!!

9) It’s Simple & Immediate

Many times a rebate will give you a bigger price reduction, but that’s six to eight weeks from  now, if  they receive the rebate, and you complied, and, and, and… I’ll tackle REBATING – NOT FOR WIMPS soon, but for now, let’s take an example. Walgreen’s offered Fructis Conditioner for $3.99. Send in the rebate and it’s zero. I found it on sale for $1.99, used my coupon and paid $0.99. I’d rather not chase the $3.

And, the #10 Reason to Coupon:

It often (not always, mind you) reduces your local sales tax. Some establishments tax the total sale, then take off the coupon. We don’t care for them. Others, the ones we like, take off the coupon, then total and tax.

Here’s another Frugal tip: If you live in a metro area with lots of suburbs, tax rates often vary from city to city. Now, the loyal side of me is all for leaving my tax dollars where I live, but the frugal side says, if it’s a large purchase, I’m going to buy where the government increases the price of my purchase the least. 

And, remember, a Frugal Fiction book? $3.99. Reading with your child 15 minutes a day? Priceless!

The Newspaper – Week????

Ok, I’m behind. It’s like the eighth week of the year and this is only my fourth update. But, I realized two things:

1) I shop sporadically, and

2) If you’re as bored reading a weekly update as I am writing it…

So, here’s where we stand. After my massive expenditures when the Super Bowl brought Super ads, I’ve been, well being frugal.  At last recap I’d recovered $175.21 of that $220 newspaper expense. Since then, I’ve spent $180.20 and saved $96.92  – that’s 35% –  which brings my total recovered to $272.13. Woohoo! I’m in the black – paper paid for!!

Best deals? Viva 8 pack of papertowels for $3.03 and $20 back for spending $26. I love the newspaper. I’m thinking by year’s end, I’ll have pocketed a grand or better that I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t cut the coupons, read the ads, and matched ’em up.

By the way, that paper? It’s actually only going to cost $130 this year. Why?

Well, I thought hubby paid the bill because part of being frugal is paying your bills on time so you have great credit and receive the best interest rates and prices (car dealers are so much more amenable when they see Tier 1 credit). But, somehow it slipped by and the paper kindly slipped us a note: Pay up or you won’t have any more coupons, lady!

Which resulted in a phone call to correct this oversight. Which resulted in hubby negotiating. Which resulted in a lower price than we would have paid if not for the oversight!

It’s a shame, but it’s also the way of business. Often, loyal, pay-on-time customers do not receive the same discounts a company will offer new clients. So, if you’ have something coming up for an annual renewal, be frugal. CALL!! See if you can get a better deal. You don’t appreciate being taken for granted at home or work. Don’t let it happen with your purchases either.

Amended Update: We’ve now recovered twice the newspaper cost – $142.13 in the black!

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

Super Bowl, Super Ads? NOT!

About the only thing compelling with this year’s Super Bowl ads were those at the grocery store!!

E-trade thought babies puking would catch our attention. Please. Bud’s caveman thing? Passe’! The fire breathing/flying abilities “no longer available.” Nope. Foreingers picking up girls? Insulting. Only “Thunder in Training” scored. The Rocky theme still works. Sales Genie’s cartoons? Not it I need a list. Even Pepsi, my favorite drink, scored nada in my book. (They made up for it at the grocery store – continue reading.)

What made me laugh? Fed X’s birds. What made me laugh and think? Pepsi’s Enable piece promoting diversity. What I laughed at (with shame of course)? Planters Unibrow queen wins guys using nuts as perfume.

Now, for the Super Bowl ads that REALLY scored, making my “cost of newspaper recovery” campaign cha’ching!  

Frugal Fiction missed a Week #3 update, so here’s Weeks 3 & 4 lumped together. And, boy are they a lump! Total purchased = $344.32.

Ouch! Eeek! Golly! You’re saying, “Some frugal person you are!” Now, now, let’s not be hasty… How many $$ actually left my pocket? Try $201.72. Coupons saved me almost $150.  Which means, thru January,  I’ve recovered $175.21, or 80% of that $220 cost of my ol’ newspaper. In one month!!!

Remember our codes? FFF – Fabulous Frugal Find; FF – Fairly Frugal Find; and F – a Frugal Find.

A few specifics? Frys had killer “Buy 9 get $9 off,” ads. I stocked up on Diet Pepsi at $2 a 12-pk (FF), then received $15 more off. (Granted, I bought a lot of it, like maybe 20 or so… in 9 item increments of course!)  Kraft 8 oz. cheese bricks were $1. I had coupons. I paid $0.50 each (FFF). Kraft salad dressing, 16 oz. went for $0.67. I had coupons. I paid $0.34 for 2 (FFF). But, then I saw if I bought 5 I’d get a $3 coupon. Back I went for 5 more dressings (FFF) & 4 more Diet Pepsis. The $3 coupon I used on the next purchase made my cost next to nil. Good item for the Coupon for Charity box. As were the refried beans, mustard, ketchup, & BBQ sauce I picked up for next to nothing. Oh, and since I bought 3 Pepsi and 3 bags of Lays (@ $1 a bag) I can send in a rebate for another $15 in Lays/Pepsi coupons(FFF).

And, no we don’t live on chips and soda alone, although I’d be fine with that. We picked up Dole lettuce for $1, but I had coupons. FREE, to go with my FREE salad dressing (FFF). After coupons, Johnsonville brats were $1.99 (FF), Mt. Olive pickles a $1 (FF), canned tomatoes, $0.20 (FF), OJ, $1.99 (F), Triscuits, $0.50 (FF). You get the idea. I’m stocked up on Pepsi and munchies and even bought a steak (half off, of course.)

Did I mention I love the Super Bowl? I didn’t really care who won. I already did – at the grocery store!

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…