Frugality – A New Way of Life

I read an interesting op-ed by David Brooks from the NYT in today’s Arizona Republic, one that made me cringe with “yep-that-resembles-me” insights. In it, Brooks talks about the paradigm shift that led to our current situation: “America once had a culture of thrift. But over the past decades, that unspoken code has been silently eroded.”

He uses many examples to support his position, none of which I really needed to have pointed out to me. I’ve lived his points. I’m a boomer, and like many of us, we wanted our kids to ‘have it better’  – more clothes, more toys, more vacations, more camps, more… everything than we had. Our parents, with the depression still visible in their rear-view mirror, chose security – they still saved, as Brooks points out. We, however, lost sight of security and chose stuff to give us the warm-fuzzies our parents and grandparents achieved by being frugal. We attempted to set the bar for the Joneses, not just keep up with them. We found self-fulfillment in cars and jewels and clothes and houses, sure that the next rung on the ladder, or the cost of living raise would cover our excesses. The word budget only applied to governments, but, well, we all know about the deficit, don’t we? 

So, now we face our own deficits. Job security is our depression; life-long employment as likely as gas going back to $2 a gallon, or $3 a gallon, or $0.25 a gallon like it was when I began driving. (This, of course, is how you know you’re getting old – when you start sentences with, “I remember…”)

Some will say Corporate America did it to us by making credit so easy to get. Others will say it’s celebrity and the excesses thrust in our faces daily that make us want. Still others will talk about jobs sent overseas, huge salaries for execs. In the end, they all have one thing in common – greed. We, they, us, all wanted MORE, and waiting, patience, common sense went out the window.

As painful as this time is, I think it’s good for us. It forces us to reevaluate our lives, our priorities, our view of ourselves. Are we nothing more than the 1040 gross income? Transparent without our bling? Worthless unless our kids out-stuff the neighbors?

I’ve faced those questions in recent years and you know what? The answer it no. My grandkids had a far better Christmas spending the weekend with us and buying gifts for the needy than they’d ever have had just ripping paper off another useless present. A fabulous frugal find is far more fulfilling these days than the  hundreds I used to spend on clothes that sat in the closet with tags still on; a family get-together far more meaningful than a week in Cancun. It’s about priorities, and mine changed.

Some of you face frugality out of necessity. Be proud. Proud that you are creative, ingenious, disciplined enough to live within a budget, to make due, to accept the reality of your life and enjoy it without attaching a $$$ sign to your worth. Others are just discovering the art, forced to reevaluate due to current conditions like gas prices. Be glad. Glad that you’ll learn these lessons sooner rather than later, glad you can instill in your children values that will serve them over their lifetime, not just for the 15 minutes a new toy accomplishes. For those who still sneer at the word frugality, you’re not reading this anyway. I hope your fortunes never reverse and you can leave sufficient assets to your children that theirs don’t either. However, based on the saving tips on MSN Money these days, this group is quickly becoming as tiny as my chances of becoming a world-famous author. (See, it’s all about acceptance.)

So, check out these 91 Ways to Save Money tips and enhance those skills. You’re part of a growing population, people returning to the wisdom of financial self-control. Now, if they’d just price ice cream out of our budgets…

(They are by the way.  Last week, Dryers went on sale for the usual $3, but the container looked a little squatty. It was – 1.75 quarts is now down to 1.5 quarts.)


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. ( 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!

Frugal is Fact Not Fantasy…

Youu’ve seen these ads. They bombard your email box regularly. But with gas moving toward $5 a gallon, food costs skyrocketing, and your 401k shrinking, chances are you may actually be reading them now. That part of you desperate for a solution wants them to be true; wants a way to easily fix the stress of financial overload.

Note the fine print.  “… are not a guarantee …”; nor are they typical.”  Sounds just like an ad for diet aids and we all know how successful most of them are.

I’m an on-line entrepreneur.  And, in my effort to be successful, I’ve accepted much free advice from the Internet gurus who tease me with 6 figure launches and income streams that would send my grandkids through college. I’ve read, listened, and employed their tactics and guess what? At this point my grandkids are going to community college if they can get a scholarship. What I’ve learned hasn’t helped the business much, but it sure has enlightened me as a consumer.

These people are selling dreams. (Unfortunately for me and the authors I promote, I sell books.) They are psychological masters at pushing the buttons we don’t like to believe we have – hope, need, frustration, desperation. The tougher things are financially, the better they will do because they offer “solutions” to our problems. At least that’s what their sales messages say. But, how many Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, and Tupperware agents have you known? How many were successful enough to quit their day jobs? The Internet has just expanded the dream pool, and the sad truth is that when people are seeking the whistle of relief from the financial pressure cooker, these guys will do well and most of you will simply be out more dollars.

Instead of spending that $50, $100, $8000 (a figure recently quoted to me for a business jump start), on a dream, you’re better served investing it elsewhere unless you KNOW you are in that 1% echelon who will deliver atypical results. Reality is a cruel mistress (or boytoy to be politically correct). Overnight success is rarely overnight. Everyone can’t BE in that top 1%. But everyone can be frugal and realize success. What we have to do is redefine success. Success it not using the credit card this month. Success is having $20 left after paying all the bills. Success is having a garage sale and using those funds to pay the car insurance. Success is finding a barter partner.  Success is consistently applying tactics to improve your financial picture, one dollar at a time. Dream big, yes. I do. Set goals and work toward them. Absolutely.  Just make sure to practice a key tenet of frugality – skepticism – and keep those dream payments where they belong – invested in your financial future, not someone else’s.

Frugal is like…

Last Thursday’s AZ Republic (6/12) ran an Associated Press article by H. Josef Hebert, titled “Gas prices are near their peak feds say,” projecting the U.S. average to stay at around $4.15 a gallon.

Cynic that I am, I waited to see what might happen. To date, the analysis seems on target. Oil prices are sitting at about $136 a barrel today, down close to $3 from their horrendous, disgusting, budget-destroying high of $139. So… that $2 a gallon we worked to find last week, well, it’s gonna have to be a long-term effort. A 401k gutting or a 2nd mortage, which rate as 2 of the 3 WORST financial fixes we Americans can choose, are only temporary salvation that will cost you BIG in the end. 

Which leads us to today’s blog. Since frugal appears to be a word more people will have to learn, this simile adoring writer thought maybe a few comparisons might make your transition to practicing frugalite a little easier.

Frugal is like….

Yoga: I looked up the defintion (ok, many definitions) and liked this one the best:

– is a physical practice of stretching the body in different ways, focusing one’s attention, and becoming one with the universe. It uses body, breath and senses to reconnect the practitioner with the universe and move emotions and thoughts into stillness.

Frugal means stretching (a dollar) in different ways with a focused mindset that makes you one with your financial universe so your emotional roller coaster over debt and expense halts, bringing with it a sense of calm and control over the monster money (or the lack of…).   

Gymnastics: I watched the Olympic trials last night. Such talent. But more so, gymnasts demonstrate two key frugal attributes. If you take a lesson from them, you’ll be on your way to that 10 in your savings score.

Eating, driving, entertainment, clothing, gifts – all those everyday routines (expenditures)  – kiss your ol’ notions about them bye, bye.  Frugality means flexibility – the only favorites you can have are those sites tagged on your computer.  Your ability to ‘go with the flow’ (currently defined as $$$ surging from your wallet at tsunami force every time you fill up) lets you find new saving opportunities by forging into the unknown in all areas of your budget. You learn to like pork ‘cuz it’s on sale; figure out how to make your favorite food; treasure those 2nd hand store finds; take pride in gifts you made vs bought; delight in puzzles, catch, board games.

Second, frugality means you employ your skills with every expenditure. Just as gymnasts move from the vault, to the uneven bars to the floor routine, focused and determined to increase their overall score, your goal is broad as well. Each dollar in your pocket instead of someone else’s counts toward whether you’ve won this month’s savings competition. 

Football: You have to be tough, dig in, and play hard all four quarters. It’s not something you do once or twice, but a daily ritual. You study game films (the marketplace), notice weaknesses (like stores desperate for your business) and on game day (any expenditure) you grind out a yard here, a couple more there, toward your savings goal. The other team (we call them Advertisers) constantly try to grab the football (your money) but you maintain control because, like football, you have a game plan. You can adapt it, based on game day conditions, but impulsiveness doesn’t exist in your world.  

A Marathon: It’s the long haul, not a sprint. You pace yourself, understanding when to go all out and when to kick back for a few miles. People don’t just buy things out of necessity. We buy for pleasure, self-worth, spite… If you try to ignore those realities, you won’t finish.

Chess: You have to plan two, three, four moves ahead. When will the car need tires? Or license tags? Or a tuneup? What about insurance (if you pay quarterly or annually)? An illness? Bobby’s one-time opportunity to attend camp? Things come up. Your plan has to account for them.

Painting: No, I don’t mean that house fiasco we learned from earlier. I mean the kind with a canvas and brushes and a vision – you know, creative. (I could have used writing here, too, but that seemed well, self-serving…) People who can turn $1 into $3 or $5 – they’re creative geniuses, to be awed, admired and learned from. If you could turn just 10% of your monthly expenditures…

Let’s say you spend $2000 a month. That’s $200. Now, if you could turn every $1 into $3… would that $600 help each month? People do it with creativity. Hard as this is to say… There are tons of frugal blogs out there with great tips. Use them.

And, last but not least…

Dieting: For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure, I hope one of the other similes worked for you. (and, of course, I hate you). For those of us who’ve been down this path, you know what happens. Motivation is strong, goal is clear, plan is in place. Ready, set, DIET!

But, you also know motivation is inversely correlated to how quick the pounds slip off. At first, you have success pretty regularly and the plan is easy to follow (ok, not easy, but you know, worth the pain). Then, it slows or you hit a plateau and… BAM! Screw dieting! It’s too much work! It doesn’t work anyway! I can’t succeed!!!

Understand that any long-term goal must be interspersed with rewards. You can’t diet forever or you’ll be such a cheated, sour-faced, angry person no one will want to be around the thin you anyhow. The same is true with frugality. You can’t always be frugal. What counts is moderation when you deviate from the plan. Don’t eat a 1/2 gallon of ice cream (oh, I’m sorry, they aren’t half gallons anymore – they’re… I don’t know – less for the same money – you know, corporate America’s new downsizing plan) eat one of those single serving things. Or go buy a single scoop at Dairy Queen.

With frugality, go out to dinner (without a coupon, even), buy a new hacksaw, splurge on color ink for the printer. Doesn’t matter. What counts is that YOU feel decadently unfrugal; rewarded for your diligence these past days, weeks, months. Then, get right back on the plan. Think about it. If your goal was lose 20 lbs. and you lost 10, isn’t that success? You’re half way there. Same is true with money. Maybe you wanted to save $100 and only found $50. That’s $600 a year. Not bad for “failing.”

Now that we’ve got you motivated, check out this article for some great savings tips.

And remember: A Frugal Fiction book? $3.99. Reading to your child fifteen minutes a day? Priceless!!

Gas Prices Gutting Budgets!

Oil $139 a barrel? Gas $5 a gallon by July 4th? Forget everything I said last time and just send that stimulus check to your gas card. Well, maybe take out enough to buy a bike or fix the one you have. $600 is only gonna fill your tank maybe six times. You better have another mode of transportation ready.

Okay, glass is half full right? This could actually be a godsend for the chubbiness of America. I can see the headline now, “Forced to ride bikes, America becomes the most svelte nation in the world.”

Not for you? Well, I did a little research. Gas is up 81.9% since June ’07, which means it went for about $2.12 a year ago, leaving us with the need to make up almost $2 for every gallon of gas we use.

Now, June ’07 the minimum wage was $5.15. In July it moves to $6.55. That’s a 27% increase, an additional $1.40 an hour (well, not really cuz after taxes…) Let’s just say we see an extra $1 an hr. Still $1 a gallon light and I’m not calculating gas at $5. Better plan for finding $2 a gallon in your budget.

Let’s say you fill up once a week, we’ll use 20 gallons for this exercise. That’s $40, or $160 to $200 a month. Where is it going to come from?

1) The most obvious answer is, we have to use less gas. Whether it’s carpooling, riding the bike, walking, skipping trips, or efficiently routing trips, you may be able to save 2 gallons a week. We’ll say 10 gallons a month, or $20 we pocketed. Only $180 more to go…

2) Cell phones aren’t a necessity, but once you signed that contract, you’re stuck. If you have any extra services, delete ’em. If your kids have those “add a line for 9.99,” do they really need it? If you’re going over on minutes, stop. Let’s face it. You’ll be home more. You can actually talk to your kids, use the regular phone, or instead of texting all those thoughts that cross your mind, send an email. If you have a regular phone and cell phone, maybe cancel the the regular one. We’ll say you found a $20 savings. ($160 left)

3) Cable. Because you’re home more, this may be hard, but drop the premium channels. Go for a walk, play catch, do a puzzle with the kids, read. Actually, I have a use for that time coming up. Savings: $15 a month. (Down to $145…)

4) Barter. “As the economy slows, a growing number of consumers are trying to find a wider market for their goods and services by offering to barter them.”

Craigslist is great for free postings. Can you offer some service in exchange for something you need? Babysit for a tuneup? Do lawncare for a computer upgrade? Cook or grocery shop for someone housebound in exchange for your own babysitting?  If you have a talent, someone else will need it, and their budget looks like yours. Find them and you both benefit. Here’s hoping you dented that gas bill by another $20. (My God, still another $125 to go…)

5) Swap stuff with others – green in more ways than one. USA Weekend (5/30 – 6/1) offered some sites to help you save the landfills. I see the potential to save some green, too. lets you trade or borrow items you don’t use often, and on people ‘gift’ items they don’t want anymore. I don’t know what you can save here, but for some, probably a decent amount. I won’t give it a value, so $125 and holding.

6) School is just around the corner. Many probably counted on the stimulus checks to fill the kids’ closets. Why not get to know your neighbors and have a clothes swapping party? “Yeah, right. My kid won’t wear hand-me-downs!” you sputter. If they’re old enough to complain, they’re old enough for a little lesson in finance. Use it as a math lesson, Have them do the calculations. Start building a fiscally prudent individual now and you’ll save them years of pain later. Besides, if all the neighbor kids are doing it, it’ll go down easier. Just bring all the clothes together and let them pick. Again, I’m not going to give this a value, but offer it as another way to ‘find’ money. (Getting nervous here, where am I going to find that $125?)

7) Cook. Take your lunch. Fast food is out. It’s a trip you don’t need to make, calories you don’t need, and expensive. Just taking your own coffee or soda for the trip to work and skipping the convenience store will save $20 a month (or more.)  Brown bagging it? Probably another $100 easily. We’re down to choices here – convenience or gas? Because I’m guessing, frugal that you are, you’re already limiting this cash vacumn, we’ll estimate you found another $25. Just $100 to go.


8) Sweat. Check out this site for tips on how to save on cooling,  which is 16% of the total electric most houses use. Your skin will glow, toxins will leave your body, and cash will stay put. Let’s say your “sweat” equity from these tips is $10. Whew, under $100 – $90 more to find… This is tough folks. (Yeah, like you didn’t already know that.)

9) Food. With everyone telling us food is ALSO going up, how do you save here? Be flexible. Eat what’s on sale. Skip anything processed – no chips, cookies, crackers, ready-made whatever. If you don’t have to cook it or can’t eat it raw, don’t throw it in your basket. (well, tp’s okay, I mean, we’re talking food) Be diligent with the coupons – not just using them, but matching them to sale items for more bang. Be creative. Rice +meat + a canned veggie or soup (or both) makes a casserole that goes further and costs less than if you serve mean & rice seperately. Bake – it’s a fun thing to do with the kids and costs less than prepackaged snacks. Make koolaid pops instead of buying ice cream. Drink water instead of soda. Things you may have counted as necessities before (like my Diet Pepsi) are going to have to become treats. You can do it! I see another $20 staying in your wallet (that’s only $5 a week.) $70.

10) Gifts. With Father’s Day next Sunday, I searched yesterday’s ads for a Frugal Find. Which got me thinking. The media has trained us to think love, appreciate, devotion, etc. require a big expenditure. Time to retrain our brains that time, not money, can equate to those things. Instead of a $4 card, make him one like you did as a child (another great bonding project with your own kids, too if you have them help.) Put together a picture album of memories you have with him and tell him what they meant to you. The same concepts apply to any gift giving occasion. Make your effort the gift. Send a free email card – send ten of them. Overwhelm them with what really matters – you, not J.C. Penney’s. Most of us can save $5 a month with this change in attitude. $65…

11) Use the thrift store. Clean out your closets and consign all those great clothes that don’t fit anymore. Sell stuff on ebay that you really don’t need. Maybe you and a neighbor can co-purchase a lawn mower. Or you buy it and charge him $5 a week for lawn service. You’re gonna have to think outside the box for ways to save and/or generate cash. A second job, often the first thing that comes to mind during financial stress, can actually reduce your cash flow – more gas, additional babysitting costs, higher taxes. If you go that route, make sure you did the math exercise and your net cash flow is positive.

12) If you use your stimulus check to pay down bills, you have that monthly expense reduction. If you sent it to the gas card, you saved yourself $200 bucks for three months, or $50 a month over the course of a year. Pay the $150 each month and use $50 from the gas card. You just about cover the $65 shortfall.

And, that leaves me speechless. I can’t think of anymore ways to find that $65. Hopefully, I’ve underestimated your savings and you’re flush. Hopefully, you have tips to share that will cover that deficit and maybe put us in the black. Let’s face it – this isn’t a short-term problem.

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

(Hiding from financial realities in fiction? A great way to save your sanity for a few hours.)


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!