7 and Holding…

Whew! Back above 7,000 after that scary skirting of 6,000. Maybe (hopefully) the number is 7. So, I’m pulling weeds yesterday ($8 – $10 for  weed killer – bad for the environment or free and 157 squats – good for the pear in me – no brainer) and thinking, what more can we do?  We lost $11 TRILLION  last year!  A few coupons ain’t gonna cover that…

But just like the market’s 400 point surge on two little pieces of positive info (Bernanke saying it’ll be over this year and Citigroup having, woohoo, two profitable months) we can realize a big positive as well by combining LOTS of little things. Pulling weeds, using coupons, becoming DIY’ers, bartering, giving things up, settling for less. There’s no one thing that’ll do it, but a combined attack on your expenditures can deliver strong results.

So, from the person who (yes, I admit it) washes out her baggies  to reuse them, which saves $ and landfill space, I searched out some things to think about.

First thing I found – a free haircut thanks to Herbal Essences.  Well, sorta. You have to buy stuff, and then do a rebate kind of thing to get the free cut. If you find it on sale and have coupons and would use the stuff anyway, it might make sense. But, if any of these is not true, free costs you more than that $9 cut at wherever. This week I’m buying Fructis at .99 with $1 off coupons. I did find, however, that this site also offers coupons. The right sale and you might score. Personally, I like Herbal Essences. I just like free better.

Must be spring time means a new “do” because I found two other hair articles. This one, “Haircuts and car repairs on the cheap,” seemed like an odd pairing. Then it clicked – chop shops!  Kidding. Actually, it points out a way to save money and help education at the same time : Use tech school labor.  Yes, you may be a little leery of that tattooed, green-haired, piercings everywhere tech touching your hair or your car, but relax. My parents freaked when boys let their hair touch the collar. Things change, and I’m thinking, if anything, this younger generation has an incredibly high tolerance for pain. Given the economic conditions, good for them. It’ll come in handy.

The last one didn’t wow me., but this is about finding lots of little ideas. Catchy title – “I’d Rather be a Brunette.”  Personally, I’d rather be bald and only have to worry about the cost of razors…

Need a vacation? Volunteer! Need repairs? Strap on that tool belt! Want to talk to your spouse/parent/child who moved to India for a job? Want more deals? Become a secret agent. (I think the ol’ saying is “ask and you shall receive.”) Can’t hurt to try. Have some money? That’s pretty trick (yes, I know, showing my age. That went out in ???) Need some new duds? Think thrift shops. Consignment shops are filled thanks to people trying to generate cash and you can score. Really desperate? You may be worth something.Not in my top ten ideas for generating income, but blood banks are always thirsty. Speaking of which, how about some income those IRS rascals can’t touch? Now, ready to  stock away some money since you’ve found all these savings? Banks want it. May them pay for it!

My “I love you, man” award of the week goes to a Chicago sheriff who’s reluctant to process evictions. Since we’ve got the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio, I’m not holding out much hope for folks here, but I applaud the efforts of someone who’s not letting lenders get another freebie. I’m thinking the bailout dollars are enough. If they need to foreclose, let ’em actually follow the proper processes.

But, in the end, the best advice for these tumultuous times is the same thing that brought the market back to 7 – a little positive thought. Letting all the gloom and doom control your life won’t change whatever’s going to happen out there. But, a little Zen in our lives might make it easier to deal with. Here’s to optimism!

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!

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…

Week #2 – The Newspaper

As promised, it’s time for that weekly savings update. In reality, I have little to report. I did the most frugal of all things – I searched the pantry for stuff because both scans (yes, in order to coupon correctly one must take a couple of ganders at the weekly ads) did nothing to move me from the computer to the grocery store. Which leads us to a couple of things about couponing correctly.

1) Coupons have the greatest value when you combine with an ad. If it ain’t on sale, wait ’til it is.

2) Which means, when it is, buy it. Create your own mini-store for those times the grocery gods are not cooperating with your needs.

Now, couponing correctly will take some time to learn, as do all things. At first, perusing five ads (which we have in my market) will seem overwhelming as you try to remember what coupons you have. However, with practice, this will become second nature and you’ll know in a flash what items, at which store, make your ‘lil ol’ heart pitter-patter. You’ll pull out that list, jot down  the items, pull out your coupons and have your list.

Note Here: Keep the coupons organized by category, in date order. My process? Cut out coupons Sunday & update coupon folder (out with the expired, in with the new), check weekly ads (ours comes out Wednesdays), make the list, then shop (all five stores at once, routed for efficiency of course – saving gas and time is very frugal!) In all, I spend maybe an hour a week for the whole thing. Most weeks, that saves me $10 – $20 for an hour I’d probably fritter away anyhow.

BUT, of course, I did SCORE, because, if I didn’t, I shouldn’t be blogging on this topic, now should I?

I am an addict, a Diet Pepsi addict to be exact. And, please, do not try to save my less- than-healthy form by apprising me about the dreaded Aspertame. I know. I’ve heard. I’ve been lectured, educated, advised… Sorry, I LOVE my Diet Pepsi. I savor it, long for it, can’t start a day without it. 

Off topic, sorry. Anyhow, because of this addiction I can’t possibly buy at full price, and never do. However, this week I scored not only a (F) sale, but it came with two free tickets to the NFL Experience. Value? $17.50 per adult, $12.50 for those under 12.  So, my $25 purchase of Pepsi saved my son $30. He can take the grandkids to this wonderous event for FREE (that’s  FFF) and I can feed my addiction at no greater cost than normal.

Free stuff with items you already purchase is always a FFF. Look for those opportunities!

PS: I did use a $5 coupon from NYPD Pizza, a 45% savings on my bill. BUT, it gets better. They gave me a FREE drink while I waited to pick up my calzone. That’s another $1.99. We won’t add this to the list, but I think that kind of great customer service deserves a plug.

The Newspaper…

Ok, it’s that time of year – the annual newspaper renewal. Do I? Don’t I? I mean, $220  doesn’t sound very frugal considering most days it goes from the driveway to the recycle bin.

Which leads me to a question. If you have a two car driveway and a vehicle is parked on the left, on which side should my delivery person leave the newspaper? If you said the right side, well, it’s obvious you’re not my delivery person. However, let me thank the kind person who gets up at o’dawn thirty and drops off the paper for also serving as my personal trainer. Each morning I do at least a couple of knee bends and squat thrusts to drag the darn thing out from under the car. I guess that helps make my paper purchase more frugal.

Sorry, distracted. Back to the topic. Do I renew since I get most of my news fix from the Internet? ABSOLUTELY!!

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m anal about some things, like saving money. Which means I have every receipt (yes, even those $1.29 ones from the convenience store for the non-frugal purchase of an ice-filled plastic cup of Diet Pepsi) in a file.

A quick scan shows that last year I recovered the cost of my newspaper by the end of the first quarter. Lest you think I’m fabricating or exaggerating (I know you’d never think I would lie), this year I’m going to give you a weekly total of my savings. We’ll categorize as:

FFF – A fabulously frugal find

FF – A fairly frugal find

and of course, F, for a frugal find.

 To date, coupon savings are as follows:

Burger King (F) – $2.79 (yum, free burger), Hi-Health (FFF) – $23.98 (2 free bottles of Hoodia – hubby & I both scored on this one) and groceries (F)- $5.84 – $32.61, 15% of the way there, and it’s only January 10th!

So, contrary to my usual ecological stance, I will continue to contribute to the death of trees. I will renew the paper. I will even try to read it on occasion so I feel less guilty.