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!

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!