Thursday, December 30, 2010

Boy, gasoline is getting expensive!

I just spent $10 on a small amount of gas today.  Gas is now $3.15 here.  Of course, compared to those in other parts of the world, gas is still relatively cheap.  That doesn't mean I am happy about paying $3.15 a gallon, though.  :)  

Don't forget, if you are a Facebook member you can "like" us on Facebook!  I update the Facebook page whenever I have a new posting on this blog.  You can find the "Like" button on the sidebar to the right.

If I don't get a change to blog in the next day and a half, I want to wish all my bloggy friends a SAFE and HAPPY New Years! 

Also, if you have not yet weighed in on my 'Extreme Couponing' review, there is still time.  I want to know everyone's opinion! 

TLC's Extreme Couponing - A Review

So, did you watch 'Extreme Couponing' on TLC last night?  I did.  And I was not overly impressed with the show.

I was really optimistic about this show.  I thought TLC would be be airing a program that would offer practical tips and tricks for using coupons to save, and even make, money.  They didn't.  There was no practical advice to be had.  Instead, they aired a program that exploited the lives of four people.  And they have portrayed couponing as a hobby for crazy people.

Exploited?  Perhaps you think I am being too harsh?  No, I say those people were exploited.  They were portrayed as people with OCD, serious hoarding tendencies, and a true obsession with couponing at all costs.  With the exception of the lady from Philly (she only buys what she needs and did not appear to have a huge stockpile), the others all have stockpiles that would sustain most families for years.  No way can they use all that food before it goes bad!  

Why would these people not donate their excess to charity?  Jen posted on an earlier blog post that 'The Krazy Coupon Lady' does indeed use her talents to donate to shelters.  Sadly, there was no mention of that on the show.  There was a quick mention that 'Mr. Coupon' donates his excess, but I find that hard to believe after seeing the huge stockpile he bragged about on the show.

Personally, I would have much rather seen someone like Jeffrey from Eating Well on $1 a Day featured.  He does not have a stockpile of food.  And while he'll sometimes buy large quantities of items he doesn't need in order to take advantage of money makers, he also donates those items to the local food pantry - he doesn't hoard thousands of sticks of deodorant, jars of salad dressing, or toothbrushes!

Also, I wish TLC would have used some of the show to educate the public how combining coupons works, how to take advantage of money-makers, and how to get work with non-profits and charities to donate your excess purchases.  

Sadly, TLC is not about education and charity.    They are about exploitation, excess, and extreme drama.  I  should have expected no less from the network that has exploited the Gosselin kids (Jon and Kate Plus 8), not to mention the lady who eats toilet paper!  

Did you watch?  What do you think?  Do you agree with my review?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grocery Shopping - Aldi

Today's shopping trip was a small one.  I needed milk, a couple items for New Year's Eve, and a few other items.  I spent $9.77.  Here is what I bought:

• 1 bag tortilla chips
• 1 package chicken flavored noodles (it was super cheap - $0.59 - and I plan to pair it with some broccoli I need to use up for a cheap, tasty and healthy-ish meal)
• 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
• 1 bag dried Great Northern Beans
• 2 bags baby carrots
• 1 gallon skim milk
• bananas (2.18 lbs)

Have I mentioned before how much I love Aldi? 

There is a link to this blog entry on The Grocery Cart Challene website.  Check them out if you haven't already.

Extreme Couponing

Tonight, TLC will be airing a new show called Extreme Couponing.  According to the TLC website:
Extreme Couponing profiles four shopaholics who use coupons to save thousands of dollars and amass huge stockpiles of goods.These shoppers go to the extremes, dumpster diving for coupons and spending hours a day searching the internet for great deals.
The previews I have seen show people buying huge quantities of items (like thousands of dollars worth) and paying next to nothing for them, thanks to coupons.  But what I am left wondering is, despite getting lots of 'stuff' for basically free, are they really going to get anything they NEED?  I'll reserve judgment until I watch the show and then I'll be back with my opinion.  

Are you going to be watching Extreme Couponing tonight?

Thanks to Mom's Plans for initially tipping me off about this show.  Extreme Couponing airs tonight (12/29) on TLC at 8:00pm EST.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Free Purina Pet Food Samples

I love getting free pet food, especially when it is from a brand I love!

Purina and Target are offering free Purina One SmartBlend cat and dog food samples.  It looks as if you can get one of each kind sent to you.  I just requested mine.  Have you requested yours yet?  Click here!

P.S.  Spread the word... I don't know how long these samples will last.

Electric Bill

My electric bill for this past cycle was $73.66.  I had budgeted $75 so I guess I am under budget.  My electric bill one the one bill that I can never seem to make sense of how it gets calculated.  It seems to fluctuate for no known reason.  

----------------------------------------------------

Also, yesterday I went to the store to return a sweater that I got for Christmas that was too small.  I found a replacement and... "accidentally" bought a pair of shoes, as well.  Don't you hate it when you accidentally buy things for yourself?  :)  I spent $17.81.  They are gray pumps, which I have been needing, and were a great price, so I will just consider it a Christmas gift to myself!

Monday, December 27, 2010

I just made $10 from Coinstar, but.....

Coinstar is offering a promotion through the end of the year where you can cash in $40 worth of coins, receive a gift card or e-certificate from specific retailers, and get a bonus $10 gift card for free.  You can read the details here.  A 25% ROI seemed pretty good to me, and since one of the participating retailers was Lowes (and I know I can easily spend $50 there in the Spring on plants, mulch, etc.) I decided to try this promotion out.

Let me first say that I have never used Coinstar before.  I saw no point in using them to cash in coins at a nearly 10% commission when I could take them to my bank for free.  That said, Coinstar waves the fee when you chose to have your funds made available to you in gift card form so the service seemed promising to me.  

Today I went to a Coinstar location near my home and brought along a bag of already wrapped and counted coins.  When it was time to start putting in the coins I started with $5 in dines.  So far so good - it counted them all.  Then I added $6 in nickles.  Again, things were working great!  Next, I went to add the pennies and this is where things turned sour.  As I was putting the pennies into the little basket the machine timed out on me and spit out a receipt/e-certificate to Lowes for $11 and then dumped all my pennies ($8.00 worth) into the return tray!  Needless to say, I was pissed!  Now I was stuck with a stupid $11 Lowes credit and no free $10.  I am not a slow person by any means, and my delay in getting my pennies ready was less than a minute.  

Therefore, I do not recommend Coinstar for anyone who:

* is elderly
* has small children who might distract them
* has a husband/wife who may distract them
* has arthritis in their hands and may not be able to dispense the money quickly
* is leery about dumping money into a soulless machine and wants to take the process slowly and carefully

At this point I refused to let the machine win.  So I went home, grabbed more money, and headed back to the Coinstar location.  This time I moved with gazelle speed and did not give the machine a chance to time out on me.  I also brought extra money with me.  Well, it was a good thing I did because the machine tried to short me $0.15!  I have since read that this is a common problem with Coinstar machines.  Jerks! 

Do I recommend Coinstar?  Nope!  But I am happy for the free $10 I received from them and would use them again if - and only if - they run a similar promotion in the future.

Have you used Coinstar?  Have you taken advantage of this current promotion?  What kind of experience did you have?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day

Happy Boxing Day! 

My heritage is British, so I always like to celebrate this day.

I hope all my bloggy friends had a great Christmas,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Food Waste Friday

Spending money wisely also means not wasting it... and that includes not wasting food.  So, each week I will document what food is needlessly wasted and report it here.  Feel free to leave me a comment with your own food waste.

Here goes...
• 1 stinkin' lousy tomato!

This angers me to no end!  Why?  Tomatoes NEVER go to waste in my house.  It is the one item that I eat almost daily.  I really like tomatoes!  So how did this one get to go bad?  It was hiding behind something else in my fridge and I didn't know until it was too late.  
 
Most of my food waste I can justify somehow.  Not this one.  

How did you do?  Shoot me a comment and let me know.  In the words from 'A Christmas Story'  (probably my favorite Christmas movie)... "I TRIPLE dog dare you!"  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spending Recap... Holiday Edition

I have been so busy the past few days and have not been doing so well at documenting my spending here in a timely manner.  Mea culpa!  Now I have a rather lengthy list of items from the past three days. 

I scored some big deals at Walgreens today, spending $5.63.  I bought a calendar (gift), two Wonka chocolate bars (gifts), and three bags of Hershey Kisses (for the New Year's gathering).  With coupons and other discounts I saved $11.05!  The breakdown is $2.13 for the gifts and $3.50 for food.  

I spent $20.11 at Sears on gifts.

I spent $21.96 at Pets Supplies Plus on dog food.

I spend $36.21 at Giant Eagle.  $30 was for gift cards.  $6.21 was for food.  I have to admit I did make an impulse buy of a rotisserie chicken... it just looked so good!  But on the plus side, it has made cooking easy this week as I eat the leftover meat from it.  

I spent $17.97 at Harbor Freight Tools.  $6.29 of that was on a tarp for me (to cover some outside furniture).  $11.68 was on gifts.

I spent $50.54 on gas and a car wash.  Now before I get told the car wash is not in the spirit of frugality, let me add dome background.  First of all, my black car was WHITE from all the built up salt, which is not good for the car.  Secondly, it is too cold here to wash the car myself.  Thirdly, this particular gas station give you a $0.30 off per gallon discount on gas when you buy a car wash, so I ended up only paying $2.04 for the car wash.  So, I felt that it was a fair price! By the way, I paid (before discount) $2.99 a gallon.  I got lucky as all the other stations had already raised their prices to $3.05 at that time. 

My sewer bill was $22.00.

My cell phone bill was $54.52.

My HOA dues for 2011 were $225.00.  That was $25 less than in year's past... yeah!  These dues pay for the upkeep of the common areas, walking paths, and pond (which I utilize when walking the dogs) so I don't mind paying it. 

EDIT: I forgot to add in that I spent $7.92 on stamps.    

Monday, December 20, 2010

Price Comparision: Aldi vs. a Regular Grocery Store - Round Two

My first Aldi vs. a Regular Grocery Store price comparison was so popular, I decided to hold a rematch to see if I'd get similar results.  So, I took my receipt from my last Aldi shopping trip to Giant Eagle (a papular, local grocery store chain) and compared prices.  Just like last time, I chose 'store brands' when they were available to try to keep the comparisons equal.    

I spent $19.27 at Aldi.  The identical products, if purchased at Giant Eagle, would have been $38.44.  That's a 49.9% savings by shopping at Aldi!  That's an even higher percentage than I saved last time, which I think can be attributed to the great mixed fruit deal I found at Aldi, as well as having to buy two bags of chocolate chips that were much more expensive at Giant Eagle.  Either way, I'll gladly accept the savings.  Can you imagine how much larger the savings would have been if I had compared the Aldi receipt to 'name brand' products?

The breakdown is below.








Item Description Aldi Giant Eagle
Loaf/Whole Wheat Bread $1.19 $2.19
Dozen Large Eggs $1.39 $1.96
1 Box Pasta w/Parmesan Sauce $0.79 $1.29
1 Box Instant Mashed Potatoes $0.99 $1.29
Mixed Fruit (2 lbs Apples/2 Oranges) $0.99 $5.36
1 lb Roma Tomatoes $1.49 $1.69
1/2 Gallon Chocolate Ice Cream $1.99 $3.07
2 Boxes Mac and Cheese Spirals $0.58 $2.78
2 Bags Milk Chocolate Chips $2.58 $5.98
Box of Taco Shells $0.99 $1.79
8 oz. Pckage of Cream Cheese $0.89 $1.22
Package of Oreo-style Cookies $1.49 $3.39
1 Can Refried Beans $0.69 $0.79
1 Can Frozen Juice $1.24 $1.79
1 Can Apple Pie Filling $0.99 $2.00
1 Can Sliced Mushrooms $0.50 $0.95
1 Can Diced Tomatoes $0.49 $0.90




P.S.  This post is linked on the Grocery Cart Challenge.  Check out their site!

Weekend Spending Recap

Is everyone ready for Christmas?  

This weekend I spent $19.27 at Aldi.  I also did another "Aldi vs. Giant Eagle" price comparison, which I will post separately.

I also spent $36.50 at Giant Eagle.  $25 was for gift cards, and $16.50 was for food (Pepsi and a baked potato). 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Internet/Cable

My internet/cable bill was  $95.36.  I am currently getting a $5 a month discount simply because I called and asked for it!  There are a few months before that discount expires and when it does I will just have to call and ask for another discount!  :)

I could dump my cable if I had to, but the internet would be harder to give up.  How about you?

Food Waste Friday

Spending money wisely also means not wasting it... and that includes not wasting food.  So, each week I will document what food is needlessly wasted and report it here.  Feel free to leave me a comment with your own food waste.

Here goes...
• 1/3rd head of lettuce
•  2 slices of Swiss cheese


I just can't eat lettuce fast enough without it going bad.  At least I can compost it.  As for the Swiss cheese... no excuses here.  I simply forgot about it.  And it is unusual for me to waste cheese.  I am mad at myself for this.

How did you do?

Car Insurance

My quarterly car insurance was paid today.  I paid $165

I know I could get cheaper coverage but I am loyal to my current insurance provider.  They have never given me any hassles when I have needed their services.  They have never risen my rates after an accident, ticket, etc.  And their (local!!!!) customer service is excellent.  The fact that they are local and I actually know the people I work with is a big plus for me, too.  So, this is one area where I will not be taking drastic measures to save money. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

FREE Avacado


Here is a great deal, and should help out all of our grocery budgets.  You can get a Haas "Avocados from Mexico" Avocado for free just by printing out this coupon!  I love avocados but hate to pay the big price for them, so I am very excited about this coupon.  

The coupon appears to allow unlimited prints, though it says 'one coupon per store visit' so plan accordingly. 

Walgreens - How to get the most of your photo printing!

I spent $7.24 at Walgreens.  This entire purchase was Christmas related, so I will classify it as being part of the 'gift' category.

I got pictures developed to put in my Christmas cards.  You can see the picture to your left.  :)  And since I am sure someone will ask, my dogs are rescued retired greyhounds.  They make great pets!  I was able to get the pictures pretty frugally.  First of all, I took the picture into Photoshop and made a 4 x 6 inch file that actually contained both pictures side by side (see below). Now I just have to cut them down the middle.
Also, Walgreens has a photo deal going on where you can get 25 pictures for free when you buy 25 (Code: FAVORITE25).  So, while I actually paid for 25 pictures, I got 100! 

I also bought four Milky Way Midnight bars.  They were on sale and I had two coupons that saved me another dollar.  They are going to be added as 'filler items' in a few Christmas packages.   

Is your Christmas shopping done?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FREE Pearl Earrings!

Thanks to Frugal Freebies for tipping me off on this one!  I just got a great birthday gift for someone and only spent $4.99. 

You can get a pair of $99.99 Freshwater 12mm Black Pearl Earrings in Sterling Silver + Gift Box for FREE from 1saleaday.com (click here)HURRY!  This offer will expire at the end of the day today (Wednesday, December 15, 2010).  You will need to pay $4.99 in shipping.  

This deal would make a great gift - Christmas, birthday, or whatever - for someone on your list. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Putting a small dent in my medical bills....

I made a $100 payment towards some of my medical bills.  This was for some physical therapy I had to have on my neck.  I haven't gotten all the bills yet, but I suspect it will be somewhere between $300-$350 total.  I could handle that if only I didn't have the big bills looming over me for the biopsies that I've also been having to have done.  When it rains, it pours!  

Still, I may whine about these bills but at least a.) I have insurance, which keeps these bills down.  b.) Despite these little setbacks, I am relatively healthy.

P.S.  Don't forget to "Like" this site on Facebook.  The Like button is in the sidebar on the right hand side of this page.  --->

Get a Bottle of Exedrin for FREE

Since I get migraines, medicine is a big part of this budget so this offer really made me happy!  Go here and fill out the form and they will mail you a coupon for a free bottle of Exedrin.  This is a pretty decent freebie as it is for a whole bottle and not just a sample size. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Can you make money selling coupons on eBay? THE RESULT

About a week an a half ago I bought five Sunday newspapers.  My plan was to sell the coupons on eBay to discover if it was possible to make any money.  The result was I did make some money, though not much.

After all expenses, I made <<drum roll please>> $2.02!

Breakdown:
I sold six items and was paid $15.86.
After eBay and PayPal fees ($2.24) I made $13.62.
After postage ($4.10) I made $9.52.
And after my initial investment ($7.50) I made $2.02.

While $2.02 profit from a $7.50 investment is a pretty good ROI, it does not take into account the time I put into this experiment.  Will I be doing it again?  Probably not.  My time is worth more to me than $2.00.  

Will you be trying this out?  Have you done it yourself?  How do people make any money doing this?

Get a Free Cup of Yoplait

Want to reduce your next grocery bill slightly?  Yoplait is giving out 1 million cups of free yogurt.  Hurry over there to get your coupon for a free cup today!

Click here to get your coupon for a free cup of Yoplait Yogurt.

Are Americans as poor as they feel?

I found an interesting article on Yahoo today that looks at the cost of items from 1980 and today.  I found it very fascinating.  To read it, click on the link below:


What do you think?  Do you agree with the article?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How To Make a Quick $5

If you bank with Chase, you might be able to make a quick $5.

I do most of my banking with Chase.  I logged into my accounts tonight to make sure everything was as it should be (I do this daily and sometimes multiple times a day; I'm not paranoid, but.............).  Imagine my surprise when I got a pop up ad saying they would pay me $5 if I went paperless.  I had four eligible accounts but the fine print said only one 'reward' per year so, as much as I would like to have every account be paperless, i decided to only select one in the hopes that they will pay me at a later time to convert the rest over.  :)

If you bank with Chase, check this out.  I believe the promotion runs through February 28th. 

I will add the $5 to my new Huntington checking account I just opened - the one that I got a $100 bonus for opening!  This has been a good weekend for me!  Don't forget, you have until the end of the day on Monday to take advantage of that offer. 

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

We are just at the start of what is supposed to be a pretty nasty winter storm.  So I decided to fill up the car today.  Better safe than sorry.  Also, gas was at a decent price of $2.89 (and since when is $2.89 a decent price???) so I wanted to take advantage of that before it shot up as it has a tendency to do during these kinds of winter storms.  So I ended up spending $41.35.

Then I went to the Mall with my Mom to do some Christmas shopping.  I spent $5.79 at Macy's and got a very nice top for someone on my list.  My budget for this person was $15 and the top was originally $30 but between markdowns, coupons, and discounts the price came to $5.79.  Not bad!  I am getting very lucky with Christmas gifts this year.

I also spent $11.64 at Sears on a toolbox and a small screwdriver key chain.  I somehow was given a $2 discount here on top of the sale prices.  I have no clue as to WHY but I sure wasn't going to question it, either!  These items are going towards the $75-$100 budget I have for this person, a big chunk of which I already spent last week at Best Buy

Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?  I just have a couple gift cards yet to buy and I might pick up a few trinkets for a friend who might be in town but basically, I am now done!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Like Us On Facebook

At the request of a reader, I just added a Facebook "Like" option to this website.  (Apologies to the person who hit the button earlier in the day... I had the coding wrong so you will need so do it again.)

I'll update the Facebook page whenever I have a new posting on this blog.

You'll find the "Like" button on the sidebar to the right. 

Get a Free Bag of Dog or Cat Food!

I don't know how long this will last, but I just got a free bag of cat food (coupon) from Purina.  Here is how you can get yours:
  • 'Like' Purina on Facebook
  • On the ‘try beyOnd’ tab, click on the yellow “I’ll Try It” button
  • Complete the form
  • A coupon will be mailed to you for a FREE full-size bag!

Saturday Spending

This morning I went to Old navy for their $5 fleece sale.  I love their fleece V-neck tops and wear them like sweatshirts.  Since they were on sale I bought two and spent $10.60.

Then I went to Walmart and bought a 25 pound bag of cat litter for $3.15.  As you all know, I love Aldi but I have saved about $75 a year from switching from Aldi cat little to Walmart's "Special Kitty" cat litter.  

Both stores were crowded.  I hate shopping this time of year and avoid it whenever possible.  However, something today touched my heart.  There was an older couple in line ahead of me who had their cart loaded with men's socks and tubs of baby wipes.  I started talking to them and it turns out that they have a son who is serving in the military over in Afghanistan.  She said they need socks because there is no running water for washing clothes, and they use the baby wipes for personal hygiene and to clean their rifles.  They had $300 worth of these items in their cart! The lady in line behind me heard this and tried to pay for part of their purchase.  Soon, we were all crying.  I never thought I'd cry in Walmart - except maybe out of frustration because of the crowds!

Friday, December 10, 2010

How To Make $100 This Weekend

If you open up a new checking account at Huntington National Bank today through Monday, they will give you $100!  To get your $100, make a $25 deposit and set up an automatic direct deposit into your checking account OR simply make 5 Debit Card purchases in 60 days. 

I will be setting up my account today.  I can easily make five debit card purchases (gas, groceries, etc.) within the next two months.

What would you do with $100?  Mine is going to form a new account dedicated to being able to pay off my car loan six months early (March 2012 instead of September 2012).  My car loan is through Huntington, so it is ironic that I will be using their "free" money to sever my ties with them.  :)  By the way, I paid my December car loan ($345) to them yesterday.

Food Waste Friday

Spending money wisely also means not wasting it... and that includes not wasting food.  So, each week I will document what food is needlessly wasted and report it here.  Feel free to leave me a comment with your own food waste.

Here goes...
• 1/2 cup leftover dressing from Thanksgiving
• 1/4 cup mixed berries

All in all, I don't think I did too bad.  The dressing went to the dogs and the berries went in the compost bin.  

How did you do?
On a lighter note, it appears that my little "food waste mascot" brings me some visitors each week.  I average about 5 hits a week coming from people who do a Google search on Mr. Potato Head!  LOL!  If you are one of those people, my apologies!

Also, the Penniless Parenting blog has an excellent post up on figuring out the true cost of meat that I highly recommend.  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An experiment in stupidity? An update.

Earlier this week I wrote about my experiment in selling coupons on eBay.  I was curious if it was possible to make money this way.  I am happy to report that I did break even and it looks like when all is said and done I might even make a couple bucks (literally).  I'll post the details once all the auctions have ended.  

Will I be quitting my day job to sell coupons on eBay?  No way.  

Will I be doing this again in the future?  I am still undecided but am leaning towards no. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Price Comparision: Aldi vs. a Regular Grocery Store

Regular readers of my blog know how much I love shopping at Aldi.  Yesterday, I wrote about my recent trip there and all the great food I was able to purchase for just $20.31.  I mused that if I had more time I would love to take my receipt to a 'regular' grocery store and compare prices.  

Curiosity got the better of me!  Today I went to Giant Eagle (a popular grocery store chain around here) and priced everything I bought yesterday at Aldi.  In most cases, if a store brand was available, I chose it in order to keep things relatively comparable.  

I knew Aldi was cheaper but the results of this experiment surprised even me.  Remember, I spent $20.31 at Aldi.  Buying comparable products at Giant Eagle (aka "regular grocery store") would have cost me $33.36.  That's a 39% savings, or $13.05!  WOW!

The breakdown is as follows:

Product DescriptionAldi PriceGiant Eagle Price
7 Roma Tomatoes (1 lb)$1.49$1.69
10 Navel Oranges (4 lbs)$1.49$2.32
Bananas (2.88 lbs)$1.12$1.41
2 Broccoli Crowns$1.99$2.99
Head of Lettuce$0.89$1.29
1 lb 85% Lean Beef$2.49$3.29
Box of Macaroni and Cheese$0.29$1.09
10 Flour Tortillas$0.99$2.50
Frozen Juice Blend$1.24$1.79
1 Gallon Skim Milk$1.99$1.98
16 oz. Sour Cream$0.89$2.00
2 Boxes Instant Choc. Pudding$0.98$2.30
Box of Candy Canes$0.79$0.99
8 oz. Block Sharp Cheddar$1.79$3.99
1 can Sweet Peas$0.39$0.95
32 oz. Thin Spaghetti$1.49$2.78



Total$20.31$33.36

Do you shop at Aldi?  Why or why not?  I'd love to hear your feedback.
























































Hair Cut

Just got home from getting my hair cut.  It cost $54 (including tip).  

Stay tuned... I am working on another posting that I am very excited about.  I hope to get it up later tonight. 

Holiday Safety Tips from Frugal Dad

Hypothetical "Bad Guy"
Sadly, the holidays are a prime time for theft and fraud.  Preventing such activities is one one to save money.  But even more importantly than saving money, I want all my blog readers to stay safe!  Frugal Dad has posted an excellent list of Holiday Safety Tips for Home and Away on his blog that I encourage you all to check out.

Phone Bill... next month will be cheaper!

My phone bill was paid yesterday and it was $33.12.  As you may recall, I have been debating about canceling the home phone service.  I know in all ways it makes no sense to have it, considering I rarely use it, but I just can't bring myself to make the switch yet.  But, I did discover a way to cut my bill down a little.  

I have caller ID.  I love caller ID.  So, while canceling it would save me money, I am not willing to do that as long as I can afford it.  It is well worth the monthly fee not to have to talk to the telemarketers and election ads that bombard us all!  But I did discover that our $9.95 caller ID fee is actually comprised of two fees - $6.00 for the number and $3.95 for the name.  So I just called and had them drop the name part of the caller ID display.  With tax, I think I will be saving about $4.28 a month - or over $50 a year! 

I also have found a way to save money on my U-Verse TV (cable) bill.  I will explain that in another post in the next couple days.

And speaking of bills, I mailed my water bill today - $25.98.  I am thankful that I live somewhere that I can have clean, safe water delivered right into my home.  But I am curious, are my water rates average compared to other parts of the country?  What do you pay each month for water?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

This is why I LOVE Aldi....

Have a mentioned before how much I love Aldi?  I made a stop there tonight after my doctor's visit.  I spent $25 on a co-pay there - had the stitches removed from the 2nd biopsy and had a 3rd biopsy taken.  At least that is the last biopsy for awhile, at least until April when I go back for a re-check.

But back to Aldi.... I just love that store.  I can get a lot of good food there for not a lot of money.  Chase in point, tonight I spent $20.31 for all of this (not including the cat):
It breaks down to:
• package of 7 Roma tomatoes
• bag of 10 naval oranges
• bananas
• two fresh broccoli crowns
• lettuce
• box of mac and cheese
• one lb ground beef
• package of 10 flour tortillas
• frozen juice (apple/white grape/raspberry)
• one gallon skim milk
• one container sour cream
• sharp cheddar cheese
• one can sweet peas
• 32 oz. box of spaghetti
• two boxes instant chocolate pudding
• one box candy canes

What I really like was all the fresh produce I was able to get for $20.  If I had more time I would take my receipt to a regular grocery store and see what this all would have cost me there.  

Another Christmas Shopping Spree

Last night I spend $56.14  at Best Buy on Christmas gifts for someone on my list.  My budget for this person is around $75-$100 so I am not quite done yet.  The items I purchased will go with an iPod Touch this individual is also getting for Christmas from someone else (shhh.... it's a surprise) and I got a really good deal on one of the items that I purchased for it! 

Are you done with your Christmas gift shopping yet?  I am usually finished by now (with the exception of gift cards), so it is driving me nuts that I still have three things left to buy! 

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Cost of Food

One thing that amazes me as I read through the many ‘frugal blogs’ I subscribe to is how much money people spend on food.  In November, I only spent $76.63 on groceries (plus $5.69 at a Gyro restaurant). Granted, I am a household of one, but even if you multiplied that by four my grocery spending per month would not be unreasonable.  Which begs the question… just how much are ‘regular’ (aka, non-frugal) people spending each month on food?  I bet the answer would astonish most of us! 

I recently heard somewhere how much the average family that qualifies for food stamps receives.  Let’s just say it really shocked me!  I decided to do some research and found that a single person who qualified for the maximum amount in food stamps per month would receive $200 (see complete chart here).   If I spent $200 on groceries for myself every month I would go broke!

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am NOT knocking the food stamp program.  It is actually one of the few government-run social programs that I fully support.  Naturally, I wish there weren’t people out there who abused the system.  But all in all, I think food stamps benefit many worthy people who are facing difficult times (including children). 

No, I am not knocking the program at all.  Rather, I am giving a virtual ‘high five’ to all of us frugalities out there who keep our grocery spending well below the amount our government apparently has determined it takes to feed a family of (fill-in-the-blank) per month!  I feel weirdly proud about my frugal ways right now. 

I am also wondering how I can keep my grocery bill so low.  Especially since I am not really into couponing… at all.  I do the bulk of my shopping at Aldi, so coupons are not really a viable option, anyway.  I like good food.  I like to think I eat good, nutritious meals… but maybe I don’t?  I’m thinking of documenting my meals and doing a weekly listing – sort of like the weekly menu planning many of you post on your blogs, only after the fact (I am not yet organized to do a weekly menu plan!).  What do you think?  Would anyone be interested in seeing something like this?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Unique (and Cheap) Christmas Gift Idea!

With the holidays coming up, I wanted to share a unique and affordable gift idea.  For only $9.95, you can create a fully functional font from your handwriting!  

I used this service for a couple gifts last year and it worked great.  This is one of the fastest and easiest font creation services I have ever used.  For only $9.95, I can assure you that letting someone create their own font that they can use on any computer is a one-of-a-kind gift they will always remember!

How do I give this item as a gift?
1.)  Go to the website and download the forms.
2.) Present the forms to the receiver (I like to wrap them up in a shirt box with a little note explaining they have been given their own font as a gift!).  Ask the receiver to fill out the forms and return them to you.
3.) Upload the forms back into the website.
4.) Review the font... if (and only if) you are satisfied, you can download it to your computer.
5.) Save the file to a CD and present it to the gift receiver. 

An experiment in stupidity?

I know I am going to have a lot of medical bills coming up from my biopsies and I am getting a little panicked.  Okay, a lot panicked!  So I am looking for ways to earn extra money any way I can.  Lately, I have read about people who make money selling the coupons from their Sunday papers.  Intrigued, I went out today and bought five papers for the sole purpose of trying to sell the coupons from the inserts.  I spent $7.50 on them.  
It is my hope that I will not have to record this expense in my December recap because I will make a few bucks, but alas I am fearful that I will actually not be recouping my costs and I will end up losing money.  Time will tell.

Tell me, have any of you tried selling coupons on eBay?  Was it successful for you?  What's the best way to do this?  Since I am just experimenting, I have some listed as the complete insert, and others listed as groups of the same coupon.    I'll let you all know my results! 

Cat Food

I spent $10.70 today at Petsmart on a 15 pound bag of cat food.  I got lucky as the food was normally $11.99 but was on sale for $10.99, plus I had a $1 off coupon which brought the price down to $9.99 (plus tax).   If I did the math right (always questionable) I saved 17% today. 

I joke that I spend more on my animal's food than I do my own, but if you look at my November spending recap you will see that statement isn't too far off!  LOL!

Friday, December 3, 2010

I just scored a great deal on Amazon!

I just scored a great deal on a Christmas gift.  I bought a Crayola On The Go Glow Station for $8.39 (Crayola products on on sale at Amazon for 60% off today only - hurry!).  I also signed up for something called 'Amazon Mom' and got free 2-day shipping on my order!

My budget for the recipient of this item was $15, so I am pleased to report I am well under budget.  And I don't feel bad about saving so much money on this gift because the retail price is over $20... I know, because I almost bought this item at Wal-Mart last week but held off because it was over my $15 budget. 

Food Waste Friday

Spending money wisely also means not wasting it... and that includes not wasting food.  So, each week I will document what food is needlessly wasted and report it here.  Feel free to leave me a comment with your own food waste.

Here goes...
• 1/2 of a sweet potato

I have been eating up Thanksgiving leftovers all week.  I LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers so this has not been a hardship for me.  I have also made two batches of turkey stock (from two turkeys) and made turkey noodle soup, and have also frozen some turkey meat that I will use for sandwich wraps in the coming month.  I also have a couple soup recipes I want to try this winter where I can use some more of the stock I made.  With luck, my grocery expenses for this month will be lower than normal.

How did you do?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Heat, Mortgage, and Long-Term Savings/Investments

My natural gas/heating bill was $43.78.  I think this lower amount is partly due to the warmer than usual November we had.  Sadly, it doesn't look like December is going to have the same trend... we got our first real snowfall yesterday!
 
Also, I have the following three reoccurring payments:
 
Mortgage Payment = $880.79
When I built my house I put 30% down and got a really low interest rate, so I feel pretty comfortable with my monthly payments.  My payment includes my property taxes, but not insurance as I pay that separately through my insurance company.  I do try to pay a little extra towards my payments when I can.

Money Market Contribution = $125
I have a higher interest money market account through my stock broker.  Basically, I use this account as my 'long term emergency only' savings account.  Periodically I will also use it if I want to purchase a stock or other investment.  I contrbute $125 monthly to this account.  It is automatically deducted so I can't "forget" to do it and go shopping instead.  :)

IRA Contribution = $200
I contribute $200 monthly to my IRA account, which is automatically deducted.