Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Allowance


This is a post I am really excited to write. I get questions all the time about allowance. Also, being a teacher, I get excited about teaching my kids about the almighty dollar.

First, after talking to many people and reading books on allowance, we decided NOT to have allowance tied to chores. Our kids are expected to help around the house because they live here, not because they get paid to do them. Also, it only takes one time of them deciding they don't want allowance, and the chore thing goes out the window, and a fight ensues.

We also decided that for them to learn how to manage money, they had to have it in hand. Just like if you want them to read they need a book in hand. So we give them $1 per month for every year old they are. So DD1 now gets $8/mo., DD2 $6/mo., DD3 nothing (allowance doesn't start until Kindergarten. It also ends at age 12 when they are old enough to get babysitting jobs.) If they want to earn more money, there are extra chores they can do as well.

When do we do this? In a perfect world we would get to it the beginning of every month. However that doesn't always happen. In fact sometimes we miss a month entirely. HOWEVER, there are consequences for us as parents if we go past the 15th of the month. We PAY a late fee of $1. Our girls LOVE this. In fact they won't hound for allowance because they hope that we are late. We use this to teach them that it costs you more money if you are late paying your bills.

I also want to add in here that we do some things in extremes in this system - like paying a $1 late fee. That is a big percentage. We also match their savings by 100% - another big percentage. I think this helps them understand the concepts better and gets them excited about the rules of investing.

So HOW do we do this? They each have a little bank that we got from this link http://deseretbook.com/store/product/5007477. We start out by giving them in $1 bills their entire allowance. Then they give us back a dollar, we give them change so that they can pay tithing - 10% of their gross income. They put that into their slot. I am going to start to have them fill out their tithing slip right there so that it is sure to make it to church.

Next is savings. Same thing as for Tithing. They are required to save 10% and then we match it 100% as above. We show them as they put their money in their bank, that then we are putting in the same amount of money. Again the extreme, but we want them to learn that when you invest money, you make money. (I am thinking about upping this percentage to 20%. They both have quite a bit of money now, and I think they can manage this.)

Last is their fun money. This is what they get to spend. They love this and so do I. If they want a toy, great, if they can afford it, they can have it! No more fights in Target no more whining for other things either. It is also funny, they DON'T want to buy stuff at Target. They want to go to the thrift store or yard saling because they understand they get more for their money that way.
Also, they have a paper in their bank, where they keep track of their expenditures, investments, and tithing. This way it trains them to keep track - and be aware- of their spending.

What about borrowing? Sometimes, they don't have their money when they want something. Fine, they can borrow some money. However, if they don't pay me back RIGHT when we get home, they owe ME a late fee (just like a credit card). Their interest is $0.25. This is the same if they borrow money from each other.

Sometimes I borrow money/cash from them because I rarely carry cash. I then owe them the $0.25 borrowing fee. I LOVE that the rules go both ways. That means no whining about when things don't go your way. The rules apply to everyone.

If they borrow money because they are completely out of money, they would be charged a 100% fee for that. So if they want $5 for a movie, by the next Sat. they would be required to pay me $10. We haven't hit that yet, but I am sure we will someday. Again, an extreme, to make it hurt to borrow, and spend, money when you don't have it in the first place.

We do have some money charges tied into chores if they don't do them and I have to do them. They pay me a cleaning fee. But I will blog about that in my chore section.

I got most of these ideas from a book called The Parenting Breakthrough by Merrilee Boyack. It is written for an LDS audience, however no matter what faith you are, the ideas are easily transferrable. This woman is AMAZING at what her kids know by the time they are 18. Here is the link http://deseretbook.com/store/search?query=the+parenting+breakthrough. Both the tin and the book are from the same website so you can save on shipping. This book is in my permanent library of parenting books. I would pay twice the full price for this book. That is how much I LOVE it.

One other thing. How do the girls like this? They LOVE it. It is so fun to hear them say, "They want $10 for that? That is waaay to much. or I will just get one at the Thrift store." They understand that it costs a lot of money to eat out and if you run out of money you have to wait until the next pay period.

They are sooo money savvy it makes me laugh. The next step is teaching them about investments, but I need to learn more about them myself before we head into that territory :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to Lower Your Bills - Clothing


This is the next part of my reader's question, "How do I lower my bills?" Without knowing the specific bills you want to cut, I can only give general info on this one. (Please let me know specific bills you want to cut.)

There are two questions to ask your self when trying to lower a specific expense. 1. Is it possible or have I already slashed this as low as I can? 2. If it is possible, HOW can I do it?

The HOW is where you need to think about it from many different angles and be open to possibilities that aren't mainstream and some you may not be totally comfortable with at the beginning.

Also keep in mind the Three E Rule. Look at my older post at this link for the specifics. http://thecouponbinder.blogspot.com/2009/06/three-e-rule.html

Let's do an example...Clothing.

Most Americans buy their clothes from a department store of some kind. We'll call this retail. Now there are different levels of retail. Full price, sales price, and clearance rack. If you want to keep buying your clothes from a retailer, those are the levels you have to choose from. Each step down will take a little more patience to find the style and fit you want and work in terms of going to the store more often or going and not buying anything because it isn't in your price range, but your savings will increase with each step down.

You can also get an additional discount if you actually work at a specific store. This would also allow you to see the items on the clearance rack before the customers do and it will get you to the store everyday. So if you are REALLY into brand new clothes - especially a specific brand, this might be a good idea for you.

Now if I were at the retail level, let's even say the clearance rack level. I need to ask myself, "Is it possible to get this cheaper? If so, HOW?"

YES I can get clothes cheaper. HOW? By going the next tier down. Thrift Stores. This is a bit more work then retail, but again, the savings will increase. Here, there are no guarantees that you will find what you need at that moment. But if you don't have specifics in mind and are willing to wait to find the fit and style you want, this is a great option. Again, if you are into having many clothes to wear, you will need to go on a consistent basis. Or you can drop your expectations.

This is a step that a lot of people aren't comfortable with. I know I wasn't for a LONG time. I wasn't raised "Thriftin' " (a term my friends and I use). It took a good friend that I looked up to, to introduce me to this realm. Funny thing, she actually has more money than I do. I figured if she could do it, so could I.

We also turned it into a game. It was time we could spend together, shopping for our families, and when we found a good deal we both get excited. If something is over priced we say out loud across the store, "Really? $5 for this?!! Waaay overpriced!" We also laugh at the goofy stuff you find there. So there is an entertainment factor as well.

Now again the question, "Is it possible to do this cheaper? HOW?"

YES, cheaper is possible. Yard sales. It took another friend to get me to dive even deeper. I wasn't completely comfortable with this realm because you had to negotiate and I didn't know the market prices for yard sales. Again, there is a bit more work at this level as compared to the levels above it, but your savings increase again.

There is also fun in this because negotiating is SO MUCH FUN!! Many people (women especially) are afraid of it, but it is so empowering! And what better place to learn it when there are only a couple of dollars riding on it. Better to learn it here then when you want to buy a house or car.

So this level actually can give you skills to save money in other realms. Also, when you see how much things depreciate it turns you off to buying ANYTHING new ever again. (In the spring I will be posting more on yard sale tips so stay tuned for that.)

Now again the questions, "Is it possible to do this cheaper? HOW?"

FREE. HOW? People give us clothes for free and I LOVE this, so do my girls. I have a reputation for being super frugal - which is true. People know that we will accept all donations without feeling like we are a charity case. In fact we are VERY grateful and try to thank the giver profusely. When we wear a given item, we also make it a point to show the giver we are wearing it, (if it works out that way). Or I will make it a point to tell them how much we are enjoying it and how cute the girls look.

If someone is thinking about giving something to the thrift store, they will ask us first if we can use it. I will always say yes. It is better to go through a bunch of stuff, find a few items you can use, and then donate the rest. It also means I will make the thrift store run instead of the person who gave us the stuff, but I think that is a fair trade off. (I have to say with clothes we keep most of them.)

We don't have a lot of outfits that are the cutesy matching kind. But our oldest in is 2nd grade and the kids aren't really into fashion yet. I have been to her classroom and she looks just the same as everyone else.

Some people won't be comfortable with getting other people's cast offs and that is okay. However, try to do something that stretches you. I had to go through every step down this ladder one at a time. Each one stretched me and I learned great skills in all of them.

Now again the question, "Is it possible to do this cheaper? HOW?"

No, it is not possible to do this cheaper than FREE and this is where it ends. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Appreciation

So many of you know that I also run a small business on the side. www.TheCouponBinder.com. There I make and sell coupon binder kits. When I started this business I thought, "How hard can it be?" Well let me tell you, starting a business is HARD. It doesn't matter how big it is, there is a lot that goes into it.

So now I am at a cross-road. Should I keep it going or fold it? DH and I were doing the numbers and found that I am only clearing my materials costs. I am not even making enough money to pay for my web page and online store. This means that I am paying my money and spending a ton of time putting together binders for other people - not cool. The one question I have is, "How is my competition doing it?"

This has also spawned in me a new appreciation for people who can actually make a business work. Wow, it takes a ton of courage and know how, and a lot of savviness. If you know a small business owner, you should tell them congratulations for making it work.

**Did you know that statisitcally only 1 in 10 start up businesses succeed?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Theater $avings

One of my readers recently asked this question:

How do you cut money on experiences? Like, theater tickets or trips? How can you cut costs on bills? And I have lots of questions on coupons still. I clip them, but I don't really feel like I am saving a lot of money using them.

This is a series of great questions and I think each should get their own post. This post will address the specifics of saving money on theater tickets.

I did a little search on ehow.com and found an article with some great ideas. Here are their tips:

step 1
Buy a subscription. Season-long subscriptions are ten to thirty-five percent lower than individual tickets. Contact your local theater group and find out what kind of subscription programs they offer.

Step 2
Attend the previews. Discounted tickets to attend a performance before the show officially opens are available at some theaters. While this will not be the polished, final production they are often almost as ready as the opening night performances.

Step 3
Keep an eye open for rush tickets. Call the box office one or two hours before the shows performance and find out if there are many tickets left for that night's performance. Rush tickets are sold about thirty minutes before the curtain opens and cost about half the price of the regular ticket. A full house looks good to reviews and the performers.

Step 4
Ask if your favorite theater offers week-day (or matinee) performances. If they do, they might let you make a donation for your admission. Don't expect this on the weekends when theater goers flock to the shows, but week night performances don't fill as easily.A little determination can make a big difference. If you really want to attend a live performance, check into these methods for saving money at the theater.

Now, for some of my own ideas:

If you are going to Broadway, they sell standing room tickets for about $25 per ticket (We did this with Monte Python and the Holy Grail). Also, they have lottery tickets for some of the most popular venues like Wicked. You go at a certain time, put your name in a drawing. If they pull your name out, you win! You pay $26 for a front row ticket. Be ready with cash in hand for this as well. (I do have to say, your chances are slim of winning at the really big ones. it took us four tries to win the Wicked lottery. Finally all eight of our extended family put their names in at once. One of us won and gave the ticket to me and my DH.)

Check out the ameture theater. Here you will find professionals who are trying to beef up their resumes so they can go big. While we were in the San Fransisco area, we attended operas put on by the music conservatory there. Great production, fraction of the price. Also check out a local college or university.

If professional venues are still a little pricey, even with the above tips, think local theater. The theaters are often smaller so you get a great view. You get local talent which is fun to see, an the price tag is as least 50% of what you would pay for a big production. Also, you don't have to travel as far so the price of gas will go down, and parking will probably be free. (The cut travel time will also help with the sitter cost if you have one.)

Another way is to let your friends and relatives know that you are interested in going to the theater. Maybe you will get tickets for a birthday or Christmas present.

Also, you can split the cost of season tickets with a friend or a group of friends, or if you know someone who is a season ticket holder, let them know you would be interested in their tickets if they can't make it to a performance. (You can swap babysitting with the other people who share the tickets with you.)

I just checked craigslist.org and people sell tickets there. Also, my brother-in-law likes stubhub.com. However, I don't know how cheaply you can get tickets from there.

Thank you for the question. I hope this helped and stay tuned for my other answers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Want to Cut Your Cleaning Time?

I am reading a book by Don Aslett titled, "How to Handle 1,000 Things at Once." (My neighbors got a kick out of that one.) Anyway, in it he said that you can cut your cleaning time by 40% just by decluttering! That is what I am starting today!! Goodwill, here I come.

My Pet Wants

ALL of us have wants. (In fact, I think that we all are born with a slot in our brains called the "Want Spot".) Some are big and some are small. We think that once we get it, we will be satisfied.

Funny thing though, once we get that "Want" there is a vacancy in that area of our brain. There are many things that are willing to fill that spot and before you know it, you have another "Want" that you are longing for.

Now, this is not easy on the pocket book, nor on ones nerves. These pet "Wants" take tending. They take brain power, work power (to earn the money), and then we must take care of that item once we bring it into our homes.

To combat these interesting little pets, I keep mine around for a while. Sometimes a LONG while. If I have a natural Want spot in my life, why not keep the same Want there. I do the same thing with it as I would a new one (dreaming about it) and then I don't spend my money or clutter my house with all of these little pets.

A funny thing happens though. If it is something I REALLY want or need. It will stay around for a long time. I turn it around and look at it from all angles. I ask myself, "Where would I put it? How would I take care of it? Can I really afford it? Will it save me time? Is this a want or a true need? Can I substitue something that is cheaper? Can I do this by myself?"

While I am thinking about it, I keep my eyes open for a deal on that pet. I look for a used one, or a killer sale. If it is something that isn't that important to me, it will fade away, and will let something else take it's place. Also, while I am waiting, I am also saving my money so that I can honestly afford it, if I decide to buy it.

It takes a bit of discipline to keep your current "Pet" locked up in your brain. (They want to get out and into your life.) But try it. It will be hard at first, then you will get better at it. Then, when you actually bring that pet into your life, you will be much more happy with the new addition to your family.

**True story, I "wanted" a new oven for three years. My old one worked fine, but I really wanted a new one. I would think about it EVERY TIME I cooked. I kept my eyes open and then when I saw the perfect one (used on craigslist) I pounced on it. This is how I got that perfect pet for 1/3 the normal retail price.

**One more thing, I treat both my big and small Wants the same way. In a buget, it isn't always the big things that kill you. It is the culmination of the little things that add up quickly. So make sure that you don't give in to all your little Wants as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Law of Diminishing Returns

Before I became a Home Economics major, I was a business major for 25% of my educational time. One of the things I learned about was the Law of Diminishing Returns. Simply put, there is a time when a system will peak in the returns you get with an investment. After that peak, if you put something in, you will get less back for it.

Simple example. Ice cream. That first spoon of ice cream tastes so good. It is worth the money and the calories to have it. The next bit is also good, and so is the next. However, there will be a point where if you put in more money, you won't get the same satisfaction out of the ice cream as you did before. In fact, there will come a time where even though you put money into ice cream you will not enjoy it at all because you are sick of it.

Now, let's look at it with Christmas. You buy your kids TONS of presents - this year is going to be the perfect Christmas. Christmas morning, they come down and scream at the piles of presents they see. They start ripping off the paper and are so excited for the first present.

However, they have 20 other presents to get to. So instead of enjoying that first present, they say a quick and asked for, "Thank you" and tear into the next one. This happens over and over. Pretty soon, you will notice that they are not very excited anymore. In fact, instead of being grateful, they start to complain about they aren't getting what they wanted. It isn't the right color, Johnny got something better, it doesn't fit, etc. etc. They start to complain and the whole day (and budget) is shot.

Now think of this. They come down to presents under the tree. They are still just as excited. They open their first one, and wait while Johnny opens his present so that they can all see what everyone else gets. After a few presents, I mean all of the presents, are open, they still have enough energy to enjoy what they got.

They have not peaked and ate enjoying each present. Also, their sensories aren't getting overloaded with so many things, and now they can actually focus,enjoy, and be grateful for the few things they got.

My frugal friend Eileen, also warned me not to get my kids used to getting lots of presents when they are little. Because as they grow up, they will expect Christmas to include mountains of presents. As they get older, those presents get more expensive.

Many of you may be wondering what will be under our tree this year. I did ALL of my Christmas shopping this summer at yard sales. We have also been given some great toys from friends that I am waiting to give the girls on Christmas (with tags from the friends of course :).

I do have to admit, I did a quick inventory the other day and got a little worried that we weren't going to have enough to make it "look good". (This is a journey for me too.) My DH reminded me that they are getting a Wii (bought used off of Craigslist) and that they will still get gifts from family members.

I am looking forward to a low key day, that will focus on family time, and less on presents. I hope that this post will help you "diminish the returns" that you have to make to the stores this year and enjoy your Christmas more.

I would love to hear how you are cutting your holiday bills this year.

Stay Tuned

This post is to let you know I am still here. I also want to let you know of some upcoming posts about allowance and chores. I will be blogging about what we do in our family, and I will have a guest blogger. Her name is Charity Wolf. She has 6 kids, 5 boys between 15 and 7 and an adorable baby girl. Her boys are amazing with money and work and I personally have been interested in how she does it. She is in the writing process now so stay tuned for these insights.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Want Something Cheap? - Take a Class

Okay, so I should be making cookies right now for a youth activity, but I had this point that I needed to get written down.

If you want to have a service done for cheap, take a class on how to do it. The instructor will be a professional in that field and may be willing to help you for free, beyond the tuition.

Case in point: I needed help decorating and arranging furniture in our house. I signed up for an interior decorating class at the local community college. I think the cost of tuition was about $40.

I found myself learning interior design principles from a woman that had been in the industry for decades, and was VERY successful. As part of the curriculum, she took the class to one of our homes to show us how the principles we were learning worked in real life. Well, she came to my house.

There were 14 people here to help move furniture and give feedback, all being led by this professional decorator. She took the meager pictures and furnishing I had and combined them so beautifully. This would have cost me HUNDREDS of dollars to hire out, but I got if for FREE as part of my class.

As with anything in life, if you want to save money on something, become educated about it, and you will find many people along the way willing to help out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ask Me a Question

This is a call for your questions. If there is a topic you would like me to cover or a specific question you have for me. Please let me know. You can either respond to this post or email directly at info@thecouponbinder.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Want to save $$ - ditch the TV

When I tell people that we don't have tv, people look at me like I am from a different plant. The next thing they ask me is, "WHY???". So here it is, why we don't have tv.

Now I need to make it clear that we own a tv that works. We just don't have ANY programming. That's right, no public tv, no cable. We do Netflix for $13.99/mo. It also has streaming video on the computer, so my kids love that.

Now, it would only cost us about $10 per month to add cable to our phone and Internet package. Less than Netflix and we would have a bazillion movie channels at our fingertips. But we save a TON of money by not exposing our kids to the ads on tv.

I don't know the exact numbers off the top of my head, but there is a ton of money spent on television advertising targeting American children. None of those ads are ever seen by our kids. They don't know what toys they are SUPPOSED to want. They are content with thrift store, garage sale, and hand me down toys. They even understand now that you pay a lot of money for the packaging of a new toy, and they are appalled.

They like to wander down the aisles of the toy section at Target, but they comment on how expensive everything is - especially when they can get it for free or next to free. They do not whine to me to buy them any toys at the store.

Now, there is another dimension to this, it is education. This is actually one of the first reasons we got rid of tv. When my DH was getting his PhD at Stanford, we had the opportunity to talk to a lot of the undergraduates there. We asked them what their parents did to help them get to Stanford. Most of them said, "We didn't have tv."

I would immediately say, "What did you do?" Their response, "We played instruments, we talked, we did family activities, we did our homework, we played when we were little, we joined clubs when we were older. We became so busy, that we didn't have time for it anyway."

Now this, in combination with some really gross programming on public tv during prime time, was enough to convince me to get rid of it. We didn't want there to be an easy access to our kids from the outside world. Because let's face it, if our kids are in front of the tv, most parents are doing other things. This leaves the kids watching programming that in uncensored, and I am not okay with that. With movies, I can have a little more control.

I need to end this and go join my family. They are in the music room, DH on the guitar, DD1 on the piano, and the other two DDs singing. Can't miss out on that!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Email Response from Wegmans

This is the response I receive from Wegmans.

We only double manufacturer’s coupons with a face value of $.99 or less with thefollowing exceptions and limitations:
• Coupons with a face value of $1.00 or greater will be redeemed at face value.
• One manufacturer’s coupon per item for a SPECIFIC BRAND product.
• Only FOUR (4) manufacturers’ coupons can be doubled on FOUR (4) of the samebrand product per day. Additional coupons for the same brand product will beredeemed at face value.
• Only FOUR (4) manufacturers’ coupons for free products can be redeemed per day(excluding Internet coupons).
• The double or face value of a coupon may NOT exceed the retail price.
• One manufacturer’s coupon and Shoppers Club discount or store coupon may beredeemed on the same item. The combination of a manufacturer’s coupon and aShoppers Club discount/store coupon may not exceed the retail price.
• One manufacturer’s coupon may be redeemed for each Club Pack product.
• We cannot give you a raincheck for manufacturer’s coupons.
• We do not accept manufacturer’s coupons for free products downloaded fromthe Internet.Face Value Redemption For...• Alcohol coupons• Coupons not for a specific brand name item• Rebate/refund certificates• Free item coupons (excluding Internet coupons)

Additional Shoppers Club NotesDiscounts on certain items (marked by MFR) are supported by the manufacturer; weare required by law to charge sales tax on the manufacturer-sponsored portion ofsuch offers.Forgotten coupons and Shoppers Club discounts must be redeemed within two weeksof the original purchase date with original receipt.Coupon Acceptance

Now, regarding our flyer. A few years ago we changed our approach to pricing. We now operate with Consistent Low Prices - which is our version of everyday low prices versus the traditional retail high/low sale pricing approach.

We do this so customers can buy what they want, when they want to and not have to wait until items go on sale to purchase them. We also comparison shop our competitors to make certain that the items people buy most have the best most competitive low prices.

It is a different way to shop, on we feel is a simpler way to shop, and a simpler way to save. We always have more national brand as well as Wegmans brand items that are being promoted with Shoppers Club as additional value items.

We would recommend you visit the 'browse the store' section of Wegmans.com and select the check box for Shoppers Club items. Here you will see (currently) the 2,650 items, all Shopper Club items with prices and product details. You can sort them by name (alphabetical) to view brands, or use the left side navigation to view them by departments, brands, or Wellness Keys.

Additionally, you can then create a shopping list sorted by aisle and set up with the store layout. These tools may also be of interest to you when teaching people how to save time and money.

We are not sure if the store understood your question, and we aplogize if they gave you the wrong information but the ad - printed or online, is just a very small subset of the overall number of items available with great prices. It is a presentation of the items we are focusing on for that week - not the comprehensive list. It never has been, even in the non-CLP days.

Please check out our lower prices, look at the comparisons, and try our online tools.
We hope this information will be helpful to you and your students. If I may personally be of further service to you in any way please feel free to contact me any time.

Sincerely,

Ann
Consumer Services Specialist

My Take on Wegmans

Many of you have asked me about my thoughts on the new Wegmans store, so here it is.....

First of all, I HATE their flyer that they send in the mail. It highlights mostly Wegman's brand products. This makes my life difficult for two reasons. 1) It makes it hard to compare prices 2) It makes it super difficult to match manufacture coupons with sales. Also, they waste a lot of space on pictures that give no information, and there is a lot of wasted space besides.

I wrote an email to their marketing branch telling them these things. I have yet to hear back, but in talking with other couponers, I am not the only one that feels that way.

WITH THAT SAID... I decided to go ahead and visit there in person. They were running a few good sales, and I needed to do some grocery shopping.

My mom was going back home (after a three week visit - Thank you mom!) so I needed to do some shopping. I did it a little differently than I usually do. I made up my menu for two weeks and went to buy those ingredients. Usually I buy what is on sale with coupons and make my menus around that.

I will break down my observations into categories for ease of reading and writing...

The Store:
Wear your walking shoes gals. This store is HUGE!! Also the layout is different than other stores I have been in so that threw me off. I am sure that after going a few times, I will become more comfortable with it. It was nice, but didn't seem over done, but I will be interested to see how this store ages. It also didn't seem like the highest quality either. However, in their deli/meat section it did get nicer. A marketing strategy I am sure.

Also, they mostly sell their own brand. This allows them to control their prices better, but makes it harder to use coupons.

Produce:
The quality of the produce seemed good, not fabulous, but it passes in my book. The prices were really good compared to Giant (which has the best of the other stores). They had a bag of iceberg lettuce for $0.99, you can't beat that. They also had mini apples, perfect for the kiddos, for under $1/lb. if you bought them in a bulk bag. (The kids have LOVED these.)

Cheese:
I was amazed at their cheese prices. You can get pre-grated cheeses for $1.80/pound. You can get block cheese for around $2 per pound as well. Keep in mind that these are all Wegman brand things, but to save $ you can't be brand loyal.

Canned Goods:
I was floored at the prices on canned veggies. Way cheaper than you can get with sales and coupons.

Cereals:
A little bit better than other stores.

Milk:
About the same, maybe a little more expensive

Eggs:
These were more expensive, but only by $0.15

Frozen Veggies:
Wegman Brand at $0.89 per bag. Again, this was an everyday price. The coupons that are coming out right now and the sales going on, you could maybe get them a little cheaper, but not my much.

Meat:
This is another thing I was excited about. They had boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.69/pound and chicken roasters for $0.69/lb. I have noticed that this coming week each was raised by $0.10 but even then that would be a great price. This week they have 90% lean ground beef for $1.99/pound. That is way cheaper than even Costco. However, I heard from someone else that nicer meats were more expensive than other stores. We stay with the basics so I didn't take the time to compare these.

Bread:
I usually grind my own wheat to make my own bread, but Wegmans bread was $1.49/loaf. The quality was good and my kids seem to like it.

National Brands:
From what I could tell, their national brands were comparable to other stores if not a bit cheaper. Their Viva paper towels were $1.99/roll. With the $0.85 coupons that were doubled, I got four rolls for $0.30/roll.

Specialty Items:
This is where it gets steep. They have to make their $$ somewhere, and this is the place. If you need really nice items, my suggestion is to shop at Giant.

Coupon Policy:
This rocks! They double everything up to $0.99. No limit, and all in the same transaction (Giant, should take notice).

They also have a childcare center, which excites my chillens, and me. (I won't use it until after this awful flu season though. :)

So I bought groceries for 2 weeks worth of meals for $141.35. I will have to pick up fresh produce and milk in between, but I thought this was pretty good for planning from a menu. I am keeping a healthy pessimism though. They may be suppressing their prices to win customers and then raise them, so it is good to keep a good eye on that.

I will however, keep hitting the other store's loss leader sales and use my coupons. Right now all the stores will be fighting for your business so you are going to see some killer deals. Take advantage of them! Make them fight for your money, you worked hard for it and so should they.

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Current Read

My DH and I just returned from a week long trip from California. While there, we spent some time with dear friends and had a great time. Some of our friends (and old neighbors) are Dick and Mimi Peery.

You will hear me talk about Dick and Mimi (like, "me me, you you") from time to time on this blog. They are some of my all time favorite people for many reasons, but one of them is because we learned great wealth building tools from them.
Let me tell you a little about Dick, he is one of the 10 richest men in the San Fransisco Bay Area (according to rumor among close friends). He is also listed in the Forbes 500. While we were living next to him, he and his business partner had a real estate deal go through that was worth $1 billion, yes $1 billion.

Now, I have to say, you would NEVER know that the Perry's are worth this much money. Yes, they do live in a very nice house, but not overdone for the area. They wear clothes that they get on sale (Dick was laughing because he bought Mimi a new sweatshirt on sale, and she was wearing it that night, she thought it was great). They have an oven that is 30 years old, but still works - sometimes, but hey, it still works. They DO NOT flaunt their money at all - which is another reason I love them.

While my DH and I were visiting with Dick and Mimi, I was telling them about all of the cool things we are doing with our budgeting and the skills we are teaching our kids. They got really excited about it. Dick was so excited about what we were doing that he gave us a copy of one of his favorite books, "The Richest Man in Babylon", by George S. Clayson. He said that it had been very influential in his life while he was building his fortune.
I was so excited to get my hands on this book, because I know that getting advice on how to build wealth is better than just getting handouts. If this book helped Dick, than I knew that it could help me.

I started reading it the next day, and WOW, it has so much great info!!! It is interesting to read, because it is written in story form. It is also fairly short. I am marking it up like crazy, rereading sections to make sure I am retaining the info, and then talking to DH about it to reinforce it one more time.

If you are looking for a path for financial soundness and success, I , along with Dick, highly recommend this book.
You can find it on Amazon.com. There are actually two copies available from different publishing companies, one is $2.99 the other is $11.20. Remember the title is, "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George S. Clayson.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Microwave Potato

Here is a quick way to make a baked potato.

1. clean a raw potato
2. wrap it in Saran Wrap
3. put in in microwave on high power for 4-6 minutes
4. let it sit for 2 min.
5. enjoy

If you want to do more than one, place desired amount in a microwave safe bowl. (I use a 2 qt. size.) Put 1" of water in the bottom. Cover with Saran Wrap. Cook for 8-10 min. depending on how many you are trying to cook.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My New BFF



I wanted to tell you about my new BFF - a digital voice recorder. I carry this thing with me everywhere and tell it everything.

This has spawned because of headaches that DD2 has that we are tracking. She has multiple headaches everyday that we need to know the time they happen, the severity, what she ate, what she had been doing, how long they last, and how they finally resolved.

It was too difficult to find a pen and paper every time she had one, let alone, keep all those random papers together, or find the pad you were writing on. So, I got this idea to carry a digital voice recorder in my pocket.

It has turned out to be invaluable. If I am driving, and DD2 has a headache, I just reach into my pocket, turn it on and record all the info I need.

It has also been nice to capture other things too. I have started to use it as a type of a journal since I don't have a lot of time to write right now. I record feelings and frustrations, ideas for blog topics, phone conversations with the insurance company, capture the kids saying funny things - in the moment, I even use it to record the small blessings that I see from the Lord. I love doing this, because otherwise all these things would be lost in my brain, even if I try so hard to remember them.

I recently suggested this to a friend who's mom is dying of cancer. This friend is spending 8 hours in the car one way to help take care of her mom. I had thought of getting her a journal to serve as an outlet, but knew she had no time to sit and write.

I thought that this would be perfect, she could drive and talk everything out. She loved the idea so much that she didn't want to wait for me to ship one to her, she went out and bought one that day. She is a go getter :)

One suggestion though, spend a little extra money and get one that you can transfer the data to your computer. I went with the cheapest model possible ($30) and it doesn't do that. Trust me, on this one it is worth it. Now don't go crazy buying the most expensive model, but the extra $20 would be worth it. You can also find them cheaper on ebay.com.

To All the Tired Moms Out There - Let It Go.

Tonight I am blogging to all the tired moms out there, me included. Have you had a hectic day? Sick kids, picking them up from school, running them to the doctor (twice, because you forgot the right time of the visit), running back to school to pick up missed homework, going to the grocery store to get dinner, going back home, high fiving DH as he comes home and then leaves to help a family pack a moving truck, get the kiddos in bed, etc. etc.
I know that there are a bazillion women out there who are feeling the same way I am. I guess putting it out there into cyber space helps me feel connected to them some how.
With all the mistakes I made today, I did do something smart. I put my 2 year old to bed in the clothes she had been wearing all day. I did not have the energy to dig through the mountain of laundry to find her pajamas. If I had, I knew it would be a struggle to get them on. Why do that just to take them off again in the morning?
Nope, instead I brushed her teeth, read her books, rocked her, and kissed her goodnight. Then I left with a smile on my face because I let something insignificant go - and I good with that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

FREE SHIPPING and 10% off your entire order.

This blog was born in part with my business, www.TheCouponBinder.com. They both were ways that I could reach and help a lot of people save money on life.

Right now I am running the above sale until this Saturday 17 Oct 2009. Free shipping is automatically on everything, no code required. However, to receive the 10% off you need to use the code "FABULESS10".

So if you want to buy a binder for yourself, or as a gift for your frugal friend, now is the time. To make it easier to get to the store front, here is the direct link www.shop.TheCouponBinder.com.

Happy Shopping!

Great Appliances on Craigslist.org

If you have been following my blog you have seen that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE http://www.craigslist.org/. Recently my dryer died and I was in need of a new one, but was determined to find a great deal. I am going to tell you how to do it.

Research Phase
First of all, do a search for what you want. We will use the dryer for an example. I searched Craigslist for "gas dryer". Found a TON of Kenmore dryers and some other options. I would find a dryer that looked interesting to you, then go to the next steps. (Hint, if there is a lot of a particular brand for sale, be weary of that brand, or really low ball on your offer because there are so many competing on the market.)

Then find the original price of the item by going to http://www.sears.com/ . If it is a non-appliance item go to a few websites that sell that item to see it's full retail.

Next, find out it's quality and consumer ratings. Do this by going to http://www.consumerreports.org/ to see their ratings, reliability, and consumer feedback. (This costs $25 per year but is well worth it. You can even share the cost with some friends.) You don't want to buy used things that are rated poorly so it is important to check this out. You can also see consumer ratings for a lot of things at www.Amazon.com.

Back to the dryer story....I figured out that I didn't want a Kenmore, plus the dryer that had just broken was a Kenmore. Not doing that again. So I decided that I wanted a Whirlpool, middle level dryer. So now I know what I want. (Hint: don't get sold on the fancy bells and whistles. Most of the time you don't use them anyway and they just cost more $$.)

Finding Phase
Next, narrow your search on Craigslist. I go back to Craigslist and type in "Whirlpool Gas Dryer".

This next step is IMPORTANT. I start looking at the postings that are about two weeks old. This give the owner time to realize that their dryer may not be worth what they are asking. This makes them much more open to negotiations.

Negotiation Phase
Next, email them, asking if the dryer is still available. If it is yes, give them a low ball, but reasonable offer, in my case I offered $150 for a dryer listed at $300. Start your negotiating price at or a little above 50% of the asking price (If their price is reasonable).

Usually you will want to start lower than you are willing to pay so that you can meet somewhere in the middle. In this particular case I couldn't afford much, and I knew it was going to come across as low balling. So I explained that all I could offer was $150, I could pay cash, and could pick it up the following day. My DH also had to drive for 1 hour to get it, so that helped in the negotiating as well.

This particular man was very gracious and took my offer, and even said he wished he could give it to me for free, but he needed something from it. (Remember I said that people will help you out if they can?)

So that is how I got a Whirlpool Dryer, 18 months old, used for 5 months, worth $550 new, for $150. I also got a 2 year old Convection oven worth $1500 for $45o this same way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ask

I have learned another huge frugal tool from my friend Eileen - ask. If there is something that you need, ask the people you know if they have that item and no longer are using it. Most people want to help out others and so will do what they can.

I have to admit, this is a harder one for me because I am so independent. Picking up things from the side of the road is easier for me than asking. BUT I am also on this journey and decided I needed to try it out.

This is how it has worked out so far... Remember how I said that my computer died at the same time we had other major crises and expenses? Well, buying a new computer just seemed too much, even with sales and coupons. But I absolutely need one for my business. So I decided to try asking if someone had an old one they didn't need anymore.

Eileen was the first person I asked. She was the one that taught me this tool, so I figured she was a safe place to start. The following is how I fumbled through it.

Me: Okay Eileen I am going to follow your advice about asking before I buy something new, so I need to ask you a question.
Eileen: Okay, what is it?
Me: Our laptop died and so I was wondering if you have one that you may not be using that we could have. I know it is a long shot, but you said to ask first, so I am.
Eileen: Actually, my DH just got a new laptop. Let me ask him.

Come to find out he didn't need his old laptop and wasn't sure what he was going to do with it. So guess what I am writing on right now. That is right, his old laptop. That right there saved us over $400.

Now if you are going to try this, you can phrase it something like this, "Dear Friends and Family, I am following this frugal blog where she suggests asking for an item before you buy it. So I thought I would give it a try. We are looking for ___________. If any of you have an extra kicking around or an old one that you aren't using, would you be willing to let us have it/borrow it?"

I agree with Eileen, if they can, people will usually try to help you. It also goes the other way too. If someone needs your help, try to help them. Before you toss out an item you no longer need, send out an email to see if anyone wants it. You can even post free things on Craigslist.org. In tough times like these it is good to help each other out.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Savor "Saling"

I have found a new realm/level of frugal shopping - Yard Sales. You can buy great stuff for SUPER CHEAP. In fact, if you pay more than 10% of original retail for something at a yard sale, you have paid way too much.

My friend Eileen introduced me to the thrill of "saling". She is indeed a professional. You may wonder what a professional yard saler is. She makes money off of yard sales buy negotiating super cheap prices on brand new things, collecting these things, then having a sale where she sells them at marked up prices.

I thought that I was pretty good at negotiating, but I look like a kitten compared to Eileen. She has written an article for a national magazine that she has given me permission to post. However, as I started to post it I thought it would be better timed in the spring when yard sales are just starting up again.

For now I will give a few tips:
1. Try to pay around 10% or less of original retail
2. Always ask if clothes are $1, that is what you can expect to pay. If they want more but you start this way, most of the time they will give it to you for a dollar.
3. Carry gold one dollar coins or half dollar coins. These cost you the same as dollar bills, however, they look more valuable to the seller because they are rare. According to Eileen you can get these from any bank.
4. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

These are just a few tips, I will post a lengthy post and the article in the spring. However Eileen says that the first step is to, and I am quoting, "Get up off your butt and try." I have to agree, try it out. Around my area they are still going strong, surprisingly. You will be surprised at the things you will find and the fun you will have.

In my quest to help you find the inner frugal you, this is the next step. Go to a yard sale, not a consignment sale, but a true blue yard sale. To find a list of yard sales near you go to www.Craigslist.org and type "yard sale" into the search. And don't forget to take your dollars.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Safety in Frugality


Okay, so I admit it has been a few weeks since my last post. We were recently hit hard by life's challenges and we have been working through them.


I am writing about this, not for sympathy, but to show how important it is to be frugal in times of plenty, so that you can be safe through challenging times.

A few posts ago I was wondering if I would be frugal even if I didn't have to be. We were starting to make headway in our financial goals and I was tempted to "loosen up" a bit. I am SO glad that I continued to be frugal.


This last month we were hit with two severe and expensive medical happenings. I ended up in the back of an ambulance headed to the ER with heart problems. Then DD2 has had frequent and sever headaches.

We finally took her to a neurologist. After an MRI and other appointments, we have found out the she has a very rare and inoperable brain condition. We are not sure if it is causing the headaches so we are continuing to see specialists for this problem.

At the same time as the health problems, our dryer broke and so did our laptop. These are not cheap things to replace. Thank goodness for craigslist.org and back to school sales on laptops. I was also glad I already knew how to get major discounts on these items. It is more stressful to learn frugal skills when you are in a crisis situation - learn them before.

Again, I tell you these things not for sympathy, but to show how fast and hard life's challenges can come, and they can be VERY expensive. We have paid thousands of dollars for these conditions.


Had we not been so frugal and saved while we could, we would not only be struggling with the stress of these conditions, but also the financial stress of HOW we would pay for them. My DH has commented on several occasions that he is so grateful that we can take care of our family's needs during a crisis.

I have thought about how there are no coupons for health care. You can't really negotiate either. So you need to save up to be able to pay the bills. You do this by using coupons, negotiating, and being frugal in other areas of your life.


Good luck in your journey of frugality. I promise it will give you security in troubled times,great skills, and hopefully you have fun along the way.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shop Summer Clearance This Weekend

This weekend is the last hurrah of summer and the stores know it. They are having big sales and you should take advantage of them - especially the clearance racks. They will be trying to get rid of camping gear, summer toys, swim equiptment, etc.

Think ahead for Christmas and next summer. Buy things that you anticipate you will need for these times and you will save a bundle! I am planning on buying a $40 inflatable pool for $9.99, $20 camping chairs for $5.99, and wrapping them for Christmas and seeing my girls get so excited.

You may be wondering how I know the clearance prices. I payed attention last year, so I know what to expect. Happy Hunting.

p.s. This is also the last big yard sale weekend. You can find a list of yards sales close to you by going on www.Craigslist.org

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Save Time Getting Kids Ready for Church

Every Sunday morning, my DH leaves at 7 am for church leadership meetings. That leaves me -alone- to get our three DDs ready for church. Keep in mind we have to leave by 8:30 am to be there on time. This is no small task.

Yesterday (Saturday) I figured out a way to cut down on the getting ready time. I put DD3 to sleep in her church dress and this saved me 20 minutes. I was amazed! Now keep in mind, her church dress was a cute, and comfy knit dress. So it didn't wrinkle and was comfy to sleep in.

If you have little boys, dress them in wrinkle free slacks, and a nice knit polo and you are set. Or you can keep the shirt on and put the pants next to their bed. Then you don't have to hunt around looking for the clothes (and getting the kids to agree with them.) It is all done the night before.

LOVE IT!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Furniture Markup - 300%

I have a friend that sells furniture at retail, which means that she buys at wholesale. She told me that the markup on furniture is 300%. I couldn't believe it when she told me, but she was adamant, and an authority in the field.

So the next time you are shopping for brand new furniture, NEGOTIATE! Do not let them rip you off!! Start your beginning price around 50% less than their listed price and only go up a little. If they won't work with you walk away. With the economy this bad, furniture stores are hurting right now.

If you want to get great furniture at a great price, go to www.craigslist.org. There is so much furniture that people are trying to sell, and it is much easier to negotiate prices. Plus most of it is in pretty good condition.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Baby Steps

I was thinking about my frugal transformation today. Often I have mentioned that it came on out of necessity and a bit of work. So I decided to help many of you take the same journey, tell you how to do it step, by step.

I am hoping that this will help transform your attitude and thinking into a more frugal one. Then, you won't have to rely on other people to tell you where the good deals are, but you will be able to do it yourself (This reminds me of the DH's Musing post :).

The first challenge this week is to visit a Thrift Store. The mission, to buy a really great Christmas present for cheap. Many times Thrift Stores get a bad rap. I know, I used to swear them off or laugh when people talked about them. But I can tell you that now, most of my DH's professional wardrobe comes from the Thrift Store - and he gets compliments all the time.

You will be surprised at what you find. If you don't find something at one, visit another. Hit this link to find a list of thrift stores near you. www.TheThriftShopper.com. I can't wait to hear what you find.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DH's Musings

We all know the quote, "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."

DH came up with, "Teach a man to fish, and maybe he'll invite you to dinner." Wow, I was impressed :). Actually I really was.

There is a lot of truth to this. I have taught many people in my area how to coupon shop. One of the things I do when I shop is leave coupons with matching items in the grocery store. I have encouraged others to do the same thing.

It has been fun to see more coupons being left on the store shelves. A few times they have come in handy for me. If we create a spirit of caring for one another it will be easier to get through these tough times.

If you help others, you will be surprised at how much help you will get back in return. The Golden Rule works!

Trading Post

The last three generations in America have been the first that you don't have to trade a good or service, for the same thing. We do trade money, and that is a good, however I am talking about trading wheat for potatoes, or auto work for home repairs. There is a lot to be gained in doing this right now.

I do this with my consulting services. For example, I wanted to learn about makeup. What type/colors to buy for myself, how to apply it, etc. I knew that knowledge in this area would save me time and money. It so happens that one of my friends is a professional makeup artist and has a bridal makeup business. She also has six kids that she has to feed - big grocery bill.

I asked her for a trade. She teaches me about makeup, I teach her about coupon shopping/frugal living. It has been great! She has been saving big on her grocery bill, and I am looking fab (if I do say so myself :). She has given me free makeup and can get me a 40% discount on professional makeup.

I have done this for other things as well. It is a great way to build friendships, help each other out, and save money.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quick Chicken

This is one of my favorite recipes because it is so EASY and CHEAP.

1 whole chicken (can get on sale for between $0.69 - $1.00 per pound)
1 bottle marinade ($0.50 with coupons)

Take chicken, place in 5 to 6 quart Crock-pot. Pour marinade over it. Let cook on low temp. for about 8-10 hours or until internal temp is between 170-180 degrees F.

*Time and Money saving tips:

~But a few whole chickens when they are on sale. Leave them in the heavy duty plastic they come wrapped in. Put each chicken individually into grocery store bags to catch leaks if necessary. Freeze. You can prepare the same as above, you don't need to take the innards out. But do make sure to take it out of the plastic.

~After your meal is over, take all remaining meat off the bones, place in quart-sized freezer Ziplock, freeze and use again for sauces, stirfry, or in meal kits.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Double Dutch

I picked up this info from "Speed Cleaning", by Jeff Campbell.

Making the bed is four times faster when two people make it as compared with one. WOW!

Crushing Crayon Marks

Do you have a little budding Picasso, and your walls are his canvas? No need to repaint or scream. (However a time out might be in order.) The tool for this project is right in your bathroom -and you can get if for free with coupons. TOOTHPASTE.

Dampen a clean, white cloth, put a little toothpaste on it, and scrub. I find that using my index finger works the best. The abrasives in the toothpaste scrub the crayon off the wall and leave it looking good as new.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sleeping on Dirt (Cheap)

If you are in the market for a new matress, now is the time to do your shopping and negotiating. It is the time that the matress stores are changing out their floor models for new ones. At least it was at the Sleepy's by us. Here is the story of how we got an expensive mattress set for dirt cheap.

Last year, this time, we were in the market for a new matress set. We had around $500 and didn't want to go higher than that. We set off to see what we could find.

First we went to Matress Giant to get a feel for prices, bed quality, and negotiating opportunities. We know that to get the best deals you need to then go to another store. The two stores start slashing prices, trying to win your business. (However, you need to be willing to negotiate and to walk away).

The next stop was Sleepy's. This particular store was new, and wasn't doing well. We knew that (in fact both stores weren't doing well). We told him our price range $500. He started showing us bottom tier matresses trying to make them look great. I started asking about quality and how they were made. (Info I learned from Matress Giant.)

It didn't take long for him to know we also wanted quality. He offered to show us the high end beds, hoping that we would buy these. We agreed to LOOK. (There is no harm in looking.) We liked the beds much better, but they were way too expensive $2,400 for the set.

After about 20 minutes of us humming and hawing, we said that we needed to keep looking around. This was his breaking point. The following conversation ensued:

guy: "Are you in a hurry to get these?"
us: "No, we can wait."
guy: "The new model season is coming in two weeks and we need to clear out our floor models. Our store hasn't had much business so these beds have hardly been laid on."
us: "What price could you give us for this bed?"
guy: "$1,000, plus delivery and old bed removal. So about $1,300 total."
us: "Mattress Giant offered delivery and old be removal for free."
guy: "We can match that."
us: "What about the price."
guy: "$1,000 is as low as we can go."
us: "We can't pay that."
guy: "Okay, let me work the numbers. (Goes to his desk and comes back) $860."
us: "Well we have to think about it, we will get back to you. (get up to leave and take written quote with us.)"
guy: "Hey, where are you going? I am in the business of selling mattresses, not just giving quotes. If you want that price you need to buy it today."
us: "Oh, okay, let us take a minute to talk it over and test out the bed again."

We go over lay on it. Decide we want it. I say to DH, "Let's offer $800. We are willing to pay the $860, but it doesn't hurt to try for something lower." We go back over to the guy.

us: "We will buy it right now for $800 including tax."
guy: "I don't know if I can do that. I would have to ask."
us: "Okay, we can wait."

At this point the guy starts telling his boss how we had been to the other store, we had other quotes (however for lower quality mattresses - he didn't add that info), and that they could justify giving us this low price because of their company price beat policy.

End of story. We got a $2,400 mattress pre-tax, pre-delivery, pre-old bed removal, for $800 including tax, delivery, and old bed removed.

The mattress guy even told us that he was amazed at the price we got. It was actually lower than even the outlet prices.

Bottom line: Timing and negotiating are key to getting HUGE deals!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home Flooring and Granite Counter Top Deals

My friend posted this to the email list for our ladies church group. I thought you all might be interested, or have some suggestions to add. Here it goes.....


Hi gals!
I am wondering if anyone out there has a recommendation for where to go for granite, wood floors and carpet. Just in case we decide to make a purchase I want to get a good deal! Jennie, do you have any tips while I shop for these things??? Any suggestions would be appreciated!
Ally



My first suggestion is to NEGOTIATE on every one of these things - even in the big box stores. Do your homework on what you want and then start calling around, telling the different shops the cheapest price you have been quoted, and see if they can beat it. This also means that if you are seriously thinking about it, start now. Negotiating killer deals takes time and patience. Then you POUNCE quickly when you get the right price.


Granite - the cheapest (I should say least expensive) option I have seen so far, actually comes from Aubrey. For her kitchen remodel she put in granite tiles instead of solid granite. You would never notice unless she either told you, or you used the counters a lot. They look fab.


Formica also has granite look-a-like options. Home Depot has prefabbed formica counters that cost $13 per LINEAR foot, which works out to $6.50 per square foot, uninstalled. It is their second tier quality. For your island you would need something custom, but you can get the same formica custom fitted as well. Craig and Margie have something like this in their kitchen and it looks great! We are actually thinking about this for our kitchen upgrade.


Wood Floors - My first question is how much wood floor are we talking about? Are you thinking of redoing your entire kitchen and entry? My first line of defense for anything is craigslist.org. You would be absolutely amazed at what people get rid of. My neighbor put down brand new wood floors, didn't like them, tore them up 2 months later, and put in something else. She tried to give the old/new flooring away!


The home where I scored my dream oven was gutting their kitchen to the studs - including the flooring. They were getting rid of brand new cabinets - with granite attached, and many other high end things for dirt cheap. You can also post on craigslist that you want wood floors, include sq. footage you need, and then maybe someone will contact you.


Now is a great time to check the clearance areas at the stores. They may have bought so much wood flooring, then weren't able to sell it with the poor economy. Home improvement season is winding down and they will be trying to dump this stuff to free up space for next year's/season's items. This goes for any other item as well.

Carpets - again it depends on how much you want. If you only need to do one room, check carpet stores for remenants, or clearance pieces. If you want to redo your whole house in the same peice, negotiate, netgotiate, negotiate. You will be buying more, thus making them more $$. They should be willing to cut you a deal. If they won't - walk away. In this economy EVERYTHING is negotiable.

Other than that, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Get recommendations from friends, then see if the company will give you a referral discount. It never hurts to ask and usually saves you tons!


Hope this helps!

Jennie

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homemade Microwave Popcorn




It has been a crazy day doing business stuff, my mind if feeling like blubber, and the kids are playing well. So I wanted to do something light. Think light microwave popcorn.

I learned that you can pop popcorn in the microwave. Simply put it in a brown paper sandwich sack, turn the microwave, pop, pop, pop, and there you go. Now, the thrift inside of me wondered how well it would really work and what the cost is compared to professional products. Keep reading for the findings.

1. Do not use Ziplocks. I get freezer Ziplocks (yes brand name) for around $0.25 per box thanks to my coupon binder. So I thought I would start with this since I get these so cheap. One problem, they melt, so don't try this. See the pics.

2. Use brown paper sandwich bag. It won't melt, in fact you can use it over and over. The one in the picture had just been used for the second time. It still came out like a champ. If you want to be technical these come out to around $0.02 per bag (I added this into the costs below). Also they are a more reasonable size of you are popping corn for yourself. I hate feeling like I have to eat a big bag of microwave popcorn. But with the mini bags it's more per oz. Another bonus for the bag is it is recyclable, reusable, and compostable (if you don't add any toppings). Love that (and so do my compost worms).

3. Price breakdown.
Orville RB smart pop 1.2 oz. mini bags
price per bag $0.40
price per ounce $0.33

Generic smart pop 1.4 oz. mini bag
price per bag $0.36
price per ounce $0.26

Generic kernel popcorn 1.8 oz. in brown paper bag
cost per bag $0.16
price per ounce $0.09

I was surprised by these findings. The brown paper bag popcorn blew (or should I say popped) the others out of the water! It was almost 75% cheaper than the name brand popcorn and almost 66% cheaper than the generic microwave popcorn. Plus you get 18 popped bags per one bag of kernels.

Another thing that my hubby will like is that it doesn't have the butter on it that the other microwave popcorns have on them. Studies have found that the butter put in these causes cancer, so he is against them.

The other benefit is that the brown paper bag popcorn is 100% Fat Free. A great bonus for those on Weight Watchers. If you want to add topping try this idea. Spray butter flavor cooking spray, then add salt.

The How to:
Pour 1/4 cup popcorn kernels into the brown paper bag. Fold the top down twice, making sure to crease it tightly with your nails. Place in microwave for 2 min. 30 sec. I popped mine for 2 min. 15 sec. My microwave is 1.6KW power rating. You might have to experiment to see what is best for your microwave.

Enjoy!

*Time saving tip. Prepare multiple bags at once to save the time of getting out the materials over and over.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good Old Ben

I came across this fantastic quote from Benjamin Franklin. "Beware of small expenses: Small leaks sink great vessels." So true, so true!

*Here is a little tidbit, Benjamin Franklin is the ONLY person I know of that is still given money even though he is dead. When people visit his grave in Philadelphia they throw pennies on it. This is because he coined the phrase, "A penny saved, is a penny earned." My questions is, where do all those pennies end up?

The Little Sheet that Never Stops

A few posts ago, I shared some great tips for using Dryer Sheets. This week I learned another one (of course it has to be AFTER our camping trip :).

My neighbor swears that dryer sheets keep bugs away. When she goes camping she hangs one in the door way of her tent and no bugs come in. I wish I would have known this last week! Oh well, live and learn.

Free Shipping from TheCouponBinder.com

As you are all aware, I LOVE to use coupons to shop. I LOVE to save money, and I LOVE to help you do the same. This week I am doing a Complete Coupon Binder system giveaway on www.5dollardinners.com. Along with this I am offering FREE shipping when you buy a Complete Coupon Binder system. Use promo code "VALUEDCUST" when checking out. Offer good until 8/31/09 so visit www.TheCouponBinder.com and get one of my most valuable tools for saving money!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our Budget Vacation

We went on vacation this week - YEAH! DH took a whole week off of work (can't remember the last time that happened :) and we went away. However we were determined not to break the bank. For a vacation that lasted Monday through Friday I think we did pretty well.

Many of my friends have been interested in what we did. So I am going to tell you here and break it down into what we spent. We already had the equipment and borrowed what else we needed.

MONDAY thru THURSDAY
Camping at a State Park for 4 days 3 nights $57
motor boat rental 1 hour $30
swim pool entrance fee + swimmy diaper $24
Fishing + worms FREE (We brought our own compost worms)
Wendy's on the way home $24

FRIDAY
Zoo + rides all day FREE (we have a membership)

FRIDAY NIGHT
DH and I go see Harry Potter $10 (we used a gift card to help pay)
Babysitter $35
(the girls had their own sleepover this night and got to stay up until 11 pm. They LOVED it.)

FOOD
Ice cream at zoo $16 (we packed a lunch, snacks, and water)
Food for the week $150

GAS to get to all these places $30 (both camping and the zoo are close)

GRAND TOTAL for 5 days of vacation fun $331

We went camping not only because it was inexpensive, but it also gives an entire experience. It is something that once you are there you don't feel like you need to go and find something else to do.

At the campsite, the kids are content finding bugs, playing in the tent, throwing things into the fire, playing at the playground, etc. When we stay at hotels we usually feel like we need to go find something to do. That "something" usually costs more $$, and takes us away from the place that we spent a lot of money to rent.

I also have to say that we chose this particular State Park because it was 1)cheap, 2) had a nice pool, and 3) we could go fishing. We also found out that State Parks are cheaper than privately owned campgounds. One night at a private campground would have cost $50/night.

Now, I am not going to try to sugar coat this into sounding like it was the perfect vacation. It wasn't. Camping takes a lot of work in gathering the stuff, packing it, getting there, unpacking, setting up, cooking over a fire, fighting off monster insects, etc. By Thursday I was ready to come home.

However, it is a process that you all contribute to. It is something that the whole family has to work at together and that is a beautiful thing. It also teaches the kids that getting dirty, doing without, forgetting something and making due are all great things.

It also forces you to talk because there are no phones, t.v.s, or computers. We played a lot of card games, read "Lord of the Ring" books out loud, and ate a lot of junk food (DD2 LOVED that aspect. We rarely get junk food.) I learned that our girls pick up really fast on card games and LOVE ganging up on dear old mom. (All the times we played card games I lost, and not on purpose, they really whooped me.)

We came home with a car full of mud, hearts full of memories, and money still in our pockets. LOVE IT!

I would love to hear about your fun, frugal vacation ideas. You can either leave a comment at the end of this post or email it to me at info@thecouponbinder.com

p.s. If you are wondering what we did on Saturday, I am going to potty train DD3 today. It is a one day process that requires DH to take the other girls away. I have no idea what they are going to do. It is his job to figure that out.

Cash Only Experiment

Next month I am doing an experiment on myself - CASH ONLY for one month. My hypothesis is that I will spend even less money than I currently do if I have only cash.

I have wondered about this quite a lot lately. The tipping factor was an article I read on CNN about shopping. (Look at my "Must Read Article" post for the link if you are interested.) In one study they found that people that used credit cards payed 300% more for an item than those who had only cash to spend. WOW!

Now, I am really good at keeping a budget, even with credit cards. However, if I am under budget I do find myself "indulging" more in little expenditures. So next month I am going plasticless. It will be interesting to see how my spending habits change. It will also be interesting to find out how it feels to see the green backs actually exchange hands.

I am devising a TOOL to keep my categories straight. So far it includes envelopes and a small baggie for change. If any of you have a whiz bang way of keeping a budget with cash only I would love to hear about it.

Make sure you stay tuned in for the results of my "highly scientific" self-research :)

A Must Read Article

As I was cruising the news this morning I came across a fantastic article about shopping. It detailed the findings from studies done by Stanford professors. (I loved that part too. My DH spent over five years there and my DD1 took part in their children's studies.)

I won't go into the details of it, but it gives a lot of good scientific details about how the brain reacts to spending, what factors drive spending, how credit cards are dangerous and how we justify spending more when we use them, etc., etc.

Here is the link http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/08/13/o.six.shopping.traps/index.html?iref=werecommend

Happy reading!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Online Coupons

A frugal friend of mine, Ellen, suggested I blog about online coupon sites. I am not talking printable grocery coupons. I am talking about discount codes for online retailers.

There are several websites out there. Ellen suggested http://www.retailmenot.com/ and http://www.savings.com/. She used these while planning her daughter's wedding. There are other ones too like http://www.couponcabin.com/ or you can Google "discount code for _____" and insert the store you are looking for.

Many retailers (especially in this economy) are running promotional deals to generate business. It is well worth the time to look for codes to use during your check-out process. It only takes about five minutes, but you can find great deals.

Thank you Ellen for this blog idea and the links! You are fab!

If any of you have frugal ideas or tips, please email them to me at info@thecouponbinder.com

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Deadly Vinegar - for some

If the garden abundance, is also bringing on an abundance of fruit flies, try this trick. In a tea cup pour about 1" of apple cider vinegar. Then put two drops of liquid dish soap in the vinegar. This breaks up the water bonds on the top of the vinegar. The fruit flies will be attracted to it, go to land on it, and then fall in and drown. It works like a charm.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Goldfish Party Pinata

This was so cute I just had to blog about it. My five, almost six, year old is stretching her frugal wings and it makes me smile.

I recently bought a big package of Goldfish. (You parents out there know the size I am talking about, the one that opens like the school lunch milk cartons.) When we were done I put it by the garbage can to throw it out.

DD2 (Dear Daughter 2) saw potential in it and snagged it from the garbage. She wanted to make something from it. I was against the idea. In my mind I saw this big package kicking around the house driving me crazy. However, DD2 quickly came up with the idea of turning it into a pinata for her upcoming birthday party.

She glued printer paper to the outside then colored pictures of mermaids on all four sides. We will fill it from the spout, close it up, punch a couple of holes in the top to hang it, and presto a FREE pinata that she absolutely LOVES, and I do too :).

Pantyhose Power

So you are getting ready for a very important event. One that calls for your little black dress. You have taken great care to get ready BEFORE you put the dress on, to avoid getting the LBD dirty. However, you put it on and even though you were so careful you still get the dreaded antiperspirant white marks - AAAAGGGHHH!

Don't worry, take a pair of pantyhose and rub them over the mark and it will disappear. (I learned this tip from the man who actually invented pantyhose. He was my textiles teacher in college. You will hear about him periodically because I learned a TON from him.)

*Did you know that during the testing phase of pantyhose about 1,000 women were asked to wear them to work. By the end of the day the pantyhose had disintegrated while the women were wearing them. So back to the drawing board. If you don't succeed try, try again.

Goggle over Google

Google is amazing to me. They not only help you search on the computer, but they also have an information phone number. Not only that, but it is FREE. If you are using your cell, you just pay for the minutes you use.

So here it is... 1-800-GOOG-411 or 1-800-4664-411. I LOVE this number. It makes it so much easier to make appointments or to call a store for info before I drive out there. It is a lifesaver when I am out with the kids and need a number quickly. I don't have to take the time to look up a number.

They have also included a search feature. Let's say you want to find a pizza parlor in Mountain View, California. You tell them the category and the town, then they give you the top eight results.

Then to top this all off, they will automatically connect you. You don't have to worry about finding a piece of paper and pen while you are driving, just tell them which one you want, and they will connect you. LOVE IT!!

One thing though, it is all automated and the computer does voice recognition. Sometimes it doesn't understand you so it may take a few tries, but hey I'll be patient. A FREE service that is super handy, I'll take that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Piping Pizza

Here is a way to reheat your pizza to avoid the soggy crust that comes with the microwave. Place the pizza piece on a hot skillet to reheat it. This will make the crust crispy again, and you don't have to reheat your whole oven to do it. Gotta love that!

Ripening your Romas

Tomato season in on - YEAH!!! However, if you have some tomatoes that have fallen off and are green, I have a trick for you. Put them in an empty egg carton that has the lid still attached. Close the lid and let them sit on the counter.

The tomatoes (along with other fruits) releases a gas that helps them ripen. This is why leaving the lid closed is so important. This is also why grape bags have holes in them to let the gas escape.

If you need other fruit to ripen. You can place them in a bag with no holes and let them sit out on the counter as well. (My mom used to use brown paper bags so that the fruit wouldn't stay moist on the outside and rot).

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shave $ off shaving cream

Here's a quick tip for saving money on shaving creams for the ladies. Instead of buying the expensive shaving creams, use cheap hair conditioner instead (like suave - free with coupons and sales).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Buy Used and Save a Bundled!

I have been so excited about my latest find, I just have to write about it. (This has to be quick I only have 10 min. :) To delay any suspense this is about how I got a killer deal on a killer range/oven.

For a while I have been wanting/some what needing a new oven. The one we had was a cheap one from 17 years ago, and so today was starting to wear out. I have been mulling over this purchase over in my mind for two and a half years now, but not wanting to pay full price for a new one. So I have been keeping my eye out for a good deal - remember for two years now.

One day on a whim I decided to check Craigslist.org to see what they had. I found this BEAUTIFUL Kenmore Convection oven that retails for $1,500 before taxes. This particular oven was two years old and barely used. The asking price was $500.

Now keep in mind I never pay full asking price for ANYTHING used (even on already deeply discounted items). Through some negotiating I got the price down to $450! Less than 2/3rds off the original price!

When I went to pick up the range, the lady asked me if I wanted anything else (they were doing a total kitchen remodel). She had two chandeliers that would retail for around $500 -$600 for the both of them. I ended up getting them for $48 for both. Less then 10% of retail!

I wish I had time to write about the negotiating (my hubby is sitting right here waiting to go to sleep). However, the bottom line of this post is: BUYING SECOND HAND SAVES YOU BUNDLES OF $$$. I think of it this way, letting other people use your stuff for a few years/months saves you a ton of money!

Some websites to try:
www.Craigslist.org
www.Freecycle.org - for FREE stuff
also check out the Internet classifieds on the local news station/paper website. For instance in Utah www.KSL.com is a huge one as well.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Would I Continue If I Didn't Have To?

With the combination of frugality on my part and my husband's successes at work, I feel like we are finally getting a bit of breathing room. Just a bit. This makes it sooooo tempting to let loose a little. The situation has made me wonder, "Will I continue in my frugality - even if I don't HAVE to?"

After much thought and temptation on this question my answer has once again come to YES - at least until my kids are grown. I realized that our kids (all girls for now) may not marry men with the same earning potential as my husband. If we give them a lavish lifestyle, then that is what the "norm" will be for them. That is what they will expect and anything less will not be acceptable.

If their husbands can't provide the same "lavish" lifestyle then there are three potential problems that I see.

1. They will go into debt trying to fund what they think their "normal" lifestyle should be. Debt is crushing, life ruining, and a potential marriage breaker.

2. They will not be able to fund what they want and so will turn to good 'ol dad and mom to still fund the "lavish" lifestyle we taught them. Not happening.

3. I will become the full time babysitter while my daughters work. I started having babies at 23. Even though I know I will love our grand kids and will enjoy babysitting every so often, I am looking forward to some freedom and travel.

So to avoid these potentially HUGE problems we will continue to live frugally. We will go camping for vacations and stay in hotels as occasional "treats". We will find joy in picking a fresh raspberry from our garden. We will thrill at a good yard sale find and congratulate each other on negotiating skills. We will continue to talk about life as we clip coupons together.

When they leave the house they will each have their own Coupon Binder for groceries, a Palm for their budgets, and a Speed Cleaning Apron. They will have the tools and skills to take care of themselves and we will be cheering them along the way.

Then when the last one finally leaves, maybe, just maybe, I will go to the mall.