Monday, July 26, 2010

Free $tuff

Who doesn't love a freebie? I sure do--but hate the sites that end up requiring you to subscribe to an e-mail or take a hundred clicks to get to the real meat of the offer and then it seems you get spammed a lot after taking advantage of the freebies, making them less than FREE.

For those reasons alone, I LOVE
I don't get unsolicited e-mails and I get products I need and use.

Click on IN stores now (left hand side of page near the bottom)
Once you are redirected to that portion of their site you can click on any of the freebies, tools or music downloads
I've received pet treats, feminine protection items,beauty items, coffee samples and more and my kids love the free downloads. I even sign up my daughter and have the samples which are appropriate delivered directly to her college address.

For the products I might not use personally, I save them for mission trips (create a free, use it if you need it box of samples, like your concierge service at an upscale resort) or donate pet items to my local shelter or charity.

Happy Surfing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back to $chool $avings

Whatever happened to my FREE public education?

Honestly, between "renting" the required text book; the locker, sports fees and equipment; yearbooks; required school agenda (which never gets used because of its inefficient format; necessitating the purchase of one that actually gets the job done!); and boxes of sanitizing wipes, paper towels, tissues and hand sanitizer required for the classrooms; composition notebooks, loose-leaf paper, graph paper, binders, pencils, TI-83 calculators and the like I am out more than $400 before I buy the first pair of new shoes (we'll not go THERE in this post).
So, how is a frugal mom supposed to save some cold hard cash this time of year? Glad you asked! And, BTW--you are going to spend much more than you save this time of year, so take an aspirin before proceeding:

1) First, you must have a plan which includes knowing what you are required to provide for your student. Thankfully, our school makes back to school packets available in mid-July before the back to school sales begin in earnest. Don't buy a lot of stuff that is not on the list because it may not get used!

2) Stock up-this is a must for the frugal mom. Peruse the Sunday ads, making plans to shop around and only purchase the best deals at a variety of stores.

Purchase 2-3 times the number of items on the list (if 7 composition notebooks are required, purchase a minimum of 14-21 to assure mid-year replacements are available at a reasonable price). At 25 cents each 14 notebooks will cost you $3.50. Should you fail to purchase the necessary replacements for later in the year you'll be lucky to find these for a $1.00-so stocking up is critical and your net savings throughout the year is over $11.00. I also purchase crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils for arts and craft project, Christmas and Easter gifts and my Operation Shoebox at this time of the year and store them away.
Apply the same strategy to folders, pencils, lose leaf notebook paper and 3 subject or 5 subject spiral notebooks and any other school supplies.

For my college kid I employ the same strategy and even use this time of year to buy new toilet brushes (yes, they are on sale for $2 less than the normal price and I make a habit of replacing them every year at this time), wastebaskets, sheet sets and small appliances are on sale too.(for your personal use or as a replacement, Christmas gifts or wedding showers you know are coming up)

3) Develop a storage system-No one likes to use a bent or tattered notebook. After all, new supplies are the highlight of returning to school for some folks, me included. Therefore, storing your purchases in pristine condition until you need them is a requirement. I use a plastic drawer ed bin but an under the bed box or any secure container which will keep out the dust is satisfactory! DON'T purchase a new storage system, that defeats the frugal part of this post--use what you already have!

4) Get Freebies-make sure you take advantage of any BOGO free offers, rebates and don't forget to pickup any free samples (pencils, post it notes, hand sanitizer, chip clips and caribiners seem to be popular items this year) at your local state fair or community event. Put these in your storage system as you accumulate them over the course of the year.

5) Keep your receipts and don't be afraid to return the UNUSED binder that was desired until DD saw what all the other 7th graders were carrying.

6) Shop early to assure the best selection (you can always return what you purchased but didn't actually need). Younger kids especially enjoy selecting their own supplies and this will insure they are actually used.

Happy Shopping!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tried and True Tip$

I am naturally frugal by nature and often complain that there are NO new frugal tips and hints. These are not new or difficult ideas BUT they do work for me and are tried and true ways to save money! I posted this on a frugal website and won $20 for my ideas! I will be at work camp with our Senior High students next week so will not be able to post any new tips until I return!

Laundry Room
• Re-use dryer sheets, cut in half OR dampen a washcloth with liquid fabric softener.
• Pre-treat stains caused by cooking oils with dish washing liquid. This gets even the WORST grease stain out of fabrics.
• Pre-treat stains as soon as you notice them.
• Do not dry garment that is still stained, re-treat and wash again.
• Use a cold water rinse in your washing machine.
• Use the lowest amount of water and detergent for each load.
• Don't overload the washing machine. Clothes need to be able to agitate to get their cleanest.
• Re-use bath towels. Our family uses 2 towels a week per person, changing them out on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
• Purchase the best quality bath towels you can afford. I have towels from Land End that are 20 years old that are still not frayed on the edges.
• I like to use facial cleansing cloths-they are not cheap so I cut them into quarters and don' feel so bad about this purchase.
• Use showerheads that use a lesser amount of water but feel like a full blast.
• Use drain cleaner as necessary to avoid costly plumber bills.
Kitchen and Pantry
• Use a micro fiber cloth to clean glass top tables, stainless steel sinks and range tops-no chemicals and they sparkle, no chemicals to purchase.
• Use your waffle iron as a panini or quesadilla maker.
• Don't purchase the latest gadgets. If you MUST have, try to get it used at a yard sale.
• Learn to cook! Teach your kids to prepare some basics like mac and cheese, grilled cheese or omelets to help out when you are bushed or time doesn't allow you to prepare a meal and you are tempted to order takeout.
• Keep FROZEN pizzas on hand for that quick meal at the end of a busy day.
• Use as little prepared food as possible. Wash and then tear up the head of lettuce when you get home from the grocery store so it will be available when you need it.
• Purchase in bulk ONLY when you will use the items before it expires. Check the price to be sure the large size REALLY is more economical.
• Make a large batch of meatballs at one sitting, make 2 meatloaves and freeze one, etc.
• Keep your pantry well organized-it is easier to see what you have and use what you have.
• Know the prices of items you purchase regularly so you can stock up WHEN you find a really good deal.
• Check with your grocery's meat department to see if they will sharpen your knives for free.
• Use your coupons. Combine store with manufacture coupons if your grocery permits.
• In the grocery store be sure to watch prices as they scan your purchases. Many times, items do not ring up at the advertised price (some stores then give you this item for free).
• Know you stores Buy One Get One (BOGO) Free policy. Do you have to purchase 2 items to get the better price or do pay half-price for the first item?
• Buy the store brand or generic-many stores allow you to return it (or the empty packaging) and get a FREE replacement of the National brand if you don't like the store brand of the product.
• Plan a weekly menu and try to use the items that you have on hand as the basis for several meals. This is especially important when you have fresh produce that will otherwise go to waste.
• Use local produce, meats and cheeses. Do you REALLY know how much it costs to eat strawberries out of season that have been transported (using fossil fuels) thousands of miles? Read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life." It was a very interesting read!
• Brown bag your lunch.
• Eat your leftovers!
Bedrooms or Living Areas
• Redecorate your room in the spring and fall by changing out your comforter and throw pillows. I have done this for about 8 years now and am still using the same ones. I get to "redecorate" and no money is spent. Plus, it extends the life of my items.
• Use 3 way bulbs in the lamps so you'll have the option of brighter lights when needed.
• Buy the highest quality sheets, furniture, etc. you can afford. They will last for years.
• Rotate accessories for a fresh look. Just changing the flowers or color candles in your holders will give you a seasonal look.
• Turn off the TV when not in use.
• Set a weekly entertainment budget. Put CASH in an envelope and use it to pay for movie tickets and dining out. When the money is gone you have to do FREE things or stay at home.
• Volunteer at museums or theatres for free viewings of plays or events.
• Be a Docent at the Zoo.
• Take a stay-cation in your home town. Sleep late, see local sights, eat out but try to limit your expenses. It's fun planning that kind of "trip" and your children can really get involved in the research of this.
• Have a technology free day once a week-no TV, computer, cell phone, I-pods, etc. Play board games, read, walk. Spend time with your family. We host a family game night once a month and all the aunts, uncles and cousins get together. The kids love it and they range from 4-24 years old! Everyone brings a snack to share! YUM!
• Use your library for books, movies, music and books on tape. Saves the rental and late fees, improves your vocabulary and helps the environment!
• Host a book club, Bible study or weekly coffee or play date at the park to stay connected to friends.
• Exercise with friends, take walks or ride your bikes.
• Make a list for everything you need to purchase: I have a grocery list, wholesale club list and need to purchase this week lists. I carry them with me.
• Match your coupons up with the lists.
• Use sales flyer's to find the best prices OR use self control and wait to purchase an item until it comes on sale.
• I organize my coupons and carry them with me at all times just in case I need to make an unexpected purchase.
• Set a little aside for unexpected purchases each week.
• Pay in cash. Using your credit card or debit card generally adds an additional 15% to your purchase price.
• Don't grocery shop when hungry. Leave the kids home if possible. Shop early in the morning if you are able to do so. You are fresh and the shelves are stocked.
• Get rain checks when the store is out of a featured product.
• If you fail to redeem a coupon take it and your receipt to the service desk on your return visit and ask them if they will honor it.
• Organize your errands to avoid backpacking and to use the least amount of gas.
• Keep receipts in order to return items when necessary.
• Obtain gift receipts and include with gifts (tape to the lids of the gift box).
• Be aware of time limits on receipts. Often you can only return for a store credit after a designated period of time.
• Consign clothing and toys your children have outgrown. Our church hosts a consignment sale 2x a year and I make 60% of the purchase price plus a tax receipt for any donated items after the sale.
• For items that are not eligible for sale (too old and worn or out of style), clip off buttons, buckles, appliques, etc for future craft or repair projects.
• If you are crafty, recycle your clothing into a new garment (men's ties into a skirt or handbag, favorite t-shirts into a quilt, etc.).
• Host a clothing or accessory exchange party among your friends. Select a party night set out a few munchies and invite your friends to bring their unwanted accessories, shoes or clothing items for exchange. Even if you have to take it all to the goodwill afterwards, you've had a good time with your friends for very little cost!
• Learn to make minor repair to garments, sew on a button or tack up a hem.
• Have your shoes resoled or re-heeled instead of buying a new pair.
• Put on a sweater when you are cold.
• Limit purchase of items that require dry cleaning.
• Learn to iron your husband's dress shirts! Better yet, teach HIM to iron!
• Use things until they are worn out.
• Do not purchase trendy clothing items. Stick to the basics and limit your trendy purchases to accessories.
• Host a potluck party, dinner or progressive dinner to lessen the expense associated with parties.
• Make some of your holiday gifts. Do you knit, paint, craft?
• Give the same gift to several people.
• Give gifts of your time (Take a child to the park and out for an ice-cream, clean your grandmothers' kitchen and then make her lunch, surprise your spouse with a picnic). You'll be surprised how appreciated and meaningful these gifts are to both you and the recipient.
• Buy items on sale AFTER the holidays whether it is household decorating items, paper products or stocking stuffer, sprinkles for cooking, linens or costumes.
• Purchase items for gifts all year long (record in a spreadsheet and store in a box under your bed so you'll have them when the birthday or holiday rolls around).
• Return unwanted items and purchase something you'll REALLY use.
• Make mittens out of 100% WOOL sweaters you've purchased from the Goodwill.
• Knit scarves form yarn scraps. These are some of the MOST beautiful I have created.
• Glue buttons, belt buckles, seashells or bottle caps onto old frames for an unusual gift.
• Create a scrapbook using only papers you have in your stash-combine for unusual color combos. Scrapbooks make great gifts.
• Buy old necklaces at a yard sale for beading crafts.
• Vow to finish the many projects you have on hand before purchasing the next one!
• Use old Christmas cards to create greeting cards or gift tags. Use greeting cards to decorate gift bags.
• Use your clean jars to make gifts in a jar (cookie, soup, or beauty items etc.) Find gift in a jar recipes on line.
• Use the library's craft books and magazine subscriptions instead of purchasing your own.
• Host a craft swap with other creative friends for gifts or your own use
• Attend craft fairs and browse for ideas you can make yourself. Purchase a sample, never steal an artist's idea!
• Save your scraps and combine for interesting projects.
• Borrow items from friends and neighbors that will be used infrequently like a roto-tiller.
• Consider renting an item for a repair or yard project instead of purchasing.
• Clean your own carpets with a rented or borrowed machine.
• Perform routine maintenance on your appliances (lubricate, vacuum, clean or replace filters or replace hoses, etc to keep them running in top condition).
• Read the owners manual prior to calling the repair man.
• Turn your thermostat up or down 2 degrees and put on a sweater.
• Use your crock-pot in the summer to keep the kitchen cooler.
• Do without! See how many days you can go without making a purchase. Or swear off purchasing (the latte', lunch or craft supply).
• Save more than you spend.
• Save for Christmas every week. Even if it is only $10, you'll have saved $520 dollars in one year.
• Plan for the unexpected emergency and have some money in the bank to cover it so you don't have to use your credit cards.
• Pledge to use what you have on hand for one week (each month) whether it is for dinner, a craft .or entertainment (re-watch that old movie sitting on your shelf).
• Color your own hair, use a cosmetology school for haircuts on children.
• Wash the dog in the backyard.
• Walk, ride your bike, exercise to videos instead of joining pricey clubs. An added benefit is the time spent with friends and family!
I hope a few of these work for you and help you save some of your hard earned money!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Re$taurant $avings

I just snagged a great deal at purchasing $175 in restaurant gift certificates for $15.80 using the promotional code FUN. These certificates DO NOT EXPIRE as they have in the past. Some restrictions apply (such as location, day of the week and minimum purchase) but are well worth the price...even if you fail to use one of them.

You select the location by state or zip code and then click on the coupons you wish to purchase. Each restaurants restrictions are clearly visible prior to purchasing. Enter the code as soon as you enter the shopping cart area after making your fist selection. These make great gifts (Think Christmas!) even at the regular price (purchase a $25 certificate for usually $10)

If you enjoy eating out, this is a great way to save a few bucks! Restaurants are local and several are upscale (no chains)! Enjoy the savings with a nice dinner out!

$imple Energy $avings

1) Educate yourself to understand your utility bills and each line item and charge included in your bill. Knowledge can save you money!

2) Review your monthly bills carefully. Look for unexpected increases in your usage. This could signal a larger problem (water leak, decaying caulk around windows, etc)

3) Raise your thermostat 2 degrees in the summer and lower it 2 degrees in the winter. Wear a sweater when you're cold

4) Take advantage of ON-DEMAND conservation if your utility companies offer it. Mine credits my bill $5 during the warmest months ($20 annually) by switching on and off my units with no adverse effect to my homes cooling

5) UNPLUG anything plugged into an electrical outlet pulls current even when it is turned off. Unplug anything you can when it is not in use!

6) Yes, your father was right! TURN OFF THE LIGHT when you leave a room. This goes for computers too.

7) Pay your bill automatically via your checking account. You'll save the price of a stamp each month and never make a late payment. Plus, this is a free service

8) Take advantage of energy audits if offered by your utility company. They'll suggest ways to reduce your energy consumption. They are generally free

9) Use high efficiency lighting by replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFL light bulbs

10) Close blinds and curtains during the hottest part of the day to reduce super heating your home. This works well in the winter months to keep out the cold at night!

11) When replacing appliances, purchase the most energy efficient you can afford.

12) Showers use less water than baths

13) Collect water in a container to water your plants while waiting for the water to heat up for your shower.

14) Install low flow showerheads.

15) Employ a timer when taking a shower to reduce the amount of water that goes down the drain.

16) Reduce the water in your washing machine to match the size of the load. Wash only full loads. Wash in cold water whenever possible.

17) When possible, allow clothes to air or line dry.

18) Sign up for the budget plan if your utility company offers it. The budget plans, bills you a set amount for a set period of time (usually 6 months) calculated from your previous utilization. This helps you avoid a nasty $400 bill when you least expect it. It's easier to budget your energy costs.

These savings tips are not painful and will help your pocketbook while helping the environment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

$tolen Post-Tip Hero commentary on Cooking

I have been out of town on a yoiuth mission trip...sorry I was unable to post
I hope you enjoy this stolen post from a Tip Hero reader. I don't agree with all the tips...but you may find something of value for yourself!

Saving Money on meals

1) EAT what you cook, prepare, or buy ready-made. You'd be surprised how much gets wasted. And I mean all of it, not most of it. When the kids or the spouse want something new, just look at them sympathically and say "I'd love to make some choc chip cookies, but I can't until we finish the ones we have open". Or, "I'd love to make you some hot dogs a'la BBQ sauce, but we have to get rid of that dab of pasta first." DON'T stick it in the freezer, that's just a way of fooling yourself into thinking you'll use it later; it wastes plastic bags, and delays the inevitable throwing away, when you'll feel virtuous for 'cleaning out the freezer' and 'getting organized'!!

2) Get creative with the leftovers. Personally I found a HUGE amount of dessert items went out the back door to supplement the wildlife. Crush cookies NO ONE will eat for a crumb crust, or make yogurt parfaits, or sprinkle over ice cream. Make mini-ice cream sandwiches. That one leftover hot dog can be cut up thinly, added to a can of any kind of beans, and give one big eater or two small ones lunch. Serve over that one last stale hot dog bun.

3) Learn to cook. This sounds obvious, but it often goes unmentioned. You might think you can cook; can you really? Know how to make a thick white sauce? Because that's all cream soups are. Start with simple things you really can't screw up, experiment with those, and move on to one new dish a week if you can afford it.

4) Ramen noodles. Enough said.

5) Rice. If you can't afford to waste that buck and a half on screwing up a meal because you can't cook rice (and some of us can't), then use instant. The nutritional difference isn't huge.

6) When making things like hamburger helper, double the noodles & sauce but only use one pound of burger. Just break it up very fine while cooking and add some canned peas or other veggie to flesh out the dish.

7) When you can possibly afford it, hit Goodwill for kitchen gear. Lots of people never learn to cook because they can't afford the tools needed to do so. Tin foil only works for so much!

8) Can't afford a ham? Pick up a little canned one at the Dollar stores for about $2.50. They're pretty salty, but used in other dishes it evens out. Learn to live with generic Spam, canned Jack Mackerel, Tuna. Chopped up, those little canned ham products can stretch further than rubber bands.

9) Shop in your own pantry and Fridge. What is about to go South on you? Use up those carrots, that one bell pepper, the half of the onion that isn't soft and sprouting a hail-mary offspring. There---you have some ingredients for an omelette or hearty scrambled eggs. Can't afford eggs? Saute' those veggies & put'em in beans or rice. Oila', instant rice pilaf.

10)Stop throwing away stale bread or the heels. Spread with butter, sprinkle some sugar, broil for seconds & instant cinnamon toast. Kids love that stuff. They just have to be fed. They don't have to have gourmet breakfasts.

11) Don't let friends, family, or others embarrass you into doing things you just can't afford.

12) Find an elderly lady who is willing to give you kitchen advice. LISTEN.

13) When you're really, really busted, Ramen noodles & hot dogs will get you through the week. Spring for a package of cheese if you can afford it. Personally, I am from Kentucky, and have spent many an evening eating beans and cornbread.