Sam’s Club Membership

If you’ve been considering getting a membership for Sam’s Club today is a great day to do it. For some areas Livingsocial is doing a deal today where if you spend $45 (the usual membership fee is $40) you will get a $20 gift card and some coupons for a free chicken, pizza, and cookies. It’s a pretty good deal, but it wont last long so hurry up and check it out here: Sam’s Club Membership.

Edit: This deal has been extended through the March 7th so you still have time if you are interested!

Buy Some Forever Stamps Today!

A perforated Penny Red with letters in four co...

Penny Red Stamp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now is the time to stock up on Forever stamps from the USPS if you want to do it before the price increases.The good news is even if you can’t get to the post office the price is only going up a penny per stamp.That’s more of an annoyance than anything. I always buy forever stamps, but if you have any $0.45 ones laying around you will be charged an extra penny to mail a dang letter.But be honest with yourself, if you are just going to take them home and lose them on your desk under a heap of papers, probably best to save yourself the $4.50 for a sheet of stamps and only buy them when you need them anyway! 

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 27, 2013 include:

  • Letters (1oz.) — 1-cent increase to 46 cents
  • Letters additional ounces — unchanged at 20 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1oz.) — $1.10
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 33 cents

Losing Weight This Year?

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

A diet rich in soy and whey protein. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know this blog is generally about saving money, but honestly, losing weight CAN save you money. I used to think I can’t afford to be fit. The fact is, America is one of very few countries where our poverty-stricken areas are the MOST OBESE.

There are two conclusions that researches investigating the topic generally reach:

  • 1) These people don’t have time. They feel like fast food and out of the box microwave meals are the only things they can eat.
  • 2) There is a lack of education to tell them that #1 is untrue. The most impoverished communities learn from the television. The television will lie. The television tells you that beauty is skin deep. That you can buy cosmetics to improve the look of your skin. There are commercials for fad diets and infomercials about belts that give you abs. The only way to lose weight and look better is to SPEND MORE MONEY!

Weight loss does NOT cost money. It DOES take time and education. But when you decide that being healthy is worth taking some time, it will start to come naturally.

Losing weight WITHOUT losing money:

  • Step 1: Change your mind. Don’t concentrate so much on the negative. If the only thing you tell yourself is that you suck and you can’t stick to a diet, just remember, when it comes to self image YOU ARE ALWAYS RIGHT! If you feel like a lousy piece of crap, you will only be a lousy piece of crap. If you feel like you can take on the world and that you are awesome right now, you are. Don’t wait until you lose weight to think you are incredible. You will never be incredible if you are always waiting until tomorrow to be somebody. If you need encouragement enlist friends and family in this endeavor. Text and tell each other that you are awesome. Changes are more successful if you don’t go it alone. But if none of your friends are family are open to this idea, take a trip to the library and pick up a feel good book. I like 101 Things To Do Before You Diet by Mimi Spencer. Don’t let the ability to take this on alone make you ashamed to ask. I posted on Facebook and the response and support was overwhelming! I have diet and exercise buddies now.
  • Step 2: Educate yourself. Just going to the store and grabbing every food with buzzwords like “organic,” “fat free,” and “natural” is not only financially irresponsible, but you wont lose weight. First, start with what you know. Use a daily tracker like Lose It or a calorie counting notebook. (Just a notebook you keep a daily record of your calories in.)
  • Step 3: Do some research on the foods in your kitchen and ingredients. Of course avoiding sugar will help you lose weight, but not as fast as avoiding high fructose corn syrup and MSG. Do your research on these ingredients. If you have a Netflix subscription (or a library with these movies) watch Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Hungry for Change, Food Matters, Food Inc. and Vegucated,
  • Step 4: Now that you know what you DO eat, and what you SHOULD eat. Start making the switch. Switch out a few things a week until you are eating all healthy food. Then continue to live this way. Even if you don’t become a vegan, consider dropping as much meat as possible from your diet. Start exchanging simple parts of your diet and try to keep the costs even. For example, I switched from $1.88 a gallon fat free milk, to $3.98 a gallon organic milk. But instead of having a $1 roll in my lunch I take a $0.25 banana. Try to change two things a week that will even out financially until you have foods that work for you. To save time, make a lot of meals at once and freeze or refrigerate them appropriately.

Wrapp

WrappIf you have a smartphone Wrapp is another way you can get it to help out with it’s own bill. If you have friends or family with smart phones you can give each other gift cards for free! The free ones are usually $5-10 but you can exchange them with the same person every month or so. The more people you get involved the more you can get! And they do work as regular gift cards. One word of advice, don’t open the gift card until you are in the store. Once it is opened it goes away forever. I like the Sephora and the Office Depot ones because I can always find something to buy. Also, it will cover taxes, but you can’t get money back.

Price Comparison Websites

Here are some places to visit before making a large purchase:

May be a little late for Christmas shopping but one thing you can do to save money on last minute gifts is purchase gift cards from PlasticJungle or CardPool. Some send you the gift card code right away so you can print it out or email it to the recipient. You can also email Amazon.com gift cards to far away family members. (But you will pay full price for them!)

Extreme Couponing and My High Horse

Extreme-Couponing

I feel like you can’t live a frugal life and coupon without someone bringing up TLC’s show Extreme Couponing. I have waited patiently and finally the first season is available on Netflix. Some of the people are completely loony! Then again… so am I. I watched the show to see if I could pick up any tips or tricks. The good news is you definitely can! They could stand to go into more detail about some of the strategies, but they explain a few different ones in every episode. It also inspires me when I see families of 7 or 8 that have enough food in their home to sustain them for months.

I think the MOST heartwarming thing is that many of these people are teaching their children FINANCES! I am often shocked by the amount of parents that don’t teach their children anything about financial health and then consider their children “entitled.” If you never explained money, cost, or saving to children how can you expect them to appreciate what they have been given? Or not run a credit card right through the roof?

I do have some problems with the show though:

1.) I do believe that it’s a bit out of grasp for most people. If you don’t have a Kroger nearby and a newspaper fairy dropping coupon inserts into your living room for you, it’s not realistic. Once on the show a couponer said, “When people ask me where I get my coupons I tell them they came from God.” I’m paraphrasing, but they still don’t really EVER explain how to get 37 copies of the same coupon. A lot of these people buy coupons (which is illegal), hire clipping services (legal loophole), or mail away to companies using stamps. While these things aren’t expensive, if you buy a coupon for $0.50 that gives you $1 off, you aren’t saving the full dollar!

2.) Stockpiling is great, I am the first person to tell someone to buy a year’s worth of something if they can get a good deal. I say, “Get while the gettin’s good!” like it didn’t go out of style. But I am driven crazy when I see people with thousands of tubes of toothpaste because toothpaste DOES expire. It only lasts a couple of years. Which is usually fine for the person buying it one or two tubes at a time, but when you have a hoard of them, it WILL go bad. I know from experience, expired toothpaste isn’t pleasant. I knew without reading the label that there was something wrong (although the label DID confirm it!). I am all about being frugal, but don’t be greedy or ignorant about it. Donate things that you wont be able to use. Check expiration dates and be realistic about what you will need. The space in your home is valuable too!

3.) These people know they are going to be on the show, they prepare for weeks for the one trip, let store officials know, and have help from the crew as far as taking their carts through the store. I also don’t believe in counting things that will be donated as “saving.” I do enjoy donating things, but I wouldn’t donate $20,000. So if I get that much product free and donate it, I don’t consider it a savings. It’s more like enabling. I just don’t want anyone too get excited when they see the person on TV not even have to pay tax (you wont get out of tax at any store in IL, btw).

4.) These people spend up to 60 hours a week “couponing.” Rounding up the coupons, checking circulars, preparing the trip, and of course shopping. Well, this is more than a full-time job. Even at minimum wage in IL with a 40 hour work week you are looking at around $250. I don’t spend $250 a week in groceries, so even if I got that much in free merchandise, it still would not even out to just having a job. Of course, if employment isn’t an option this is a great alternative, it’s just waay too time consuming for me to consider it that much of a “savings”.

Utilizing Your Smartphone For Frugality

I have a nasty habit of starting something good, and then just forgetting about it completely. This happened to me with Jingit. Jingit is a website where you can be paid to watch advertisements, and if you have a smart phone you can go to different stores and scan products to earn money. There are two large drawbacks to Jingit:

1) You need to provide them with a social security number if you want their debit card (which is where they load the money). This makes it legal, but also more intimidating. Most people don’t want to enter that kind of information online. I did because I was broke, but I probably wouldn’t do it again today without hearing from a reliable flesh and blood source.

2) They have gone waaaay downhill since I started. This is why I forgot about it for months. You used to be able to watch several ads a day and actually reach the $10 a week limit. It’s not much, but when you have $14 to last you two weeks every penny helps. And that’s an extra $40 a month! Now you are lucky if you can make $2 a week, which, now that I’m employed isn’t really worth my time.

The reason that I bring all this up is a new app called Ibotta. It seems quite similiar to Jingit. Although, from what I understand you get reimbursed for buying certain products after you watch an ad in the app. They reimburse you to your Paypal so you don’t have to offer up your social security number, and because they reimburse purchases, the companies don’t have to pay unless you actually try their product. This makes it seem like it will have a much easier time getting companies to stick with it, as opposed to Jingit. I did get on their mailing list so I will be informed when it is released for Android, I am excited to check it out for myself.

Another similar app is Shopkick. With Shopkick you are rewarded for visiting stores. You can get free items in the stores or even earn “kicks” (points).You can link your credit card to earn more “kicks,” but it’s completely voluntary. You don’t have to in order to use the app.

Happy Shopping!

Insulate Properly!

Ceiling Insulation - Day 67

Ceiling Insulation – Day 67 (Photo credit: Velo Steve)

I know it seems like every person in the world tries to bash this into your head over and over again, but some people just aren’t getting it. Newer homes are not built with an even remotely decent amount of insulation. And even in an older house you should check the weather stripping around the doors and windows EVERY YEAR. This seems like a lot of hassle but really, it’s not that much work. Having a house that isn’t properly insulated is the same as throwing dollar bills out the window and into the wind.

If you don’t want to do the inspection yourself, there are companies that will do it for free! Since the companies available usually only cover small areas, I can only really recommend Googling the term “Free energy audit.” But be careful! ALWAYS check the BBB rating of a company before calling, and see if you can find any reviews on Yelp.com. Remember, these people can save you a ton of money, but they will have to be in your home. DON’T just call and invite a stranger over because they posted on the internet.

There are ways to do these energy audits yourself. I would only recommend this to people who follow through with projects and don’t just get bored and stick duct tape to something and call it fixed. Energy.gov has a pretty good Do-It-Yourself guide.

Amazon Add-On

2215016650This is a useful program started by Amazon and it makes a lot of small items very cheap and affordable. The downside is that you have to have a minimum order of $25 from an Amazon fulfilled seller in order to purchase them. Good news is this also means you will get free super saver shipping! I always put them in my cart and just wait until I have enough things to make a purchase. I usually use Secret Clinical Strength deodorant because everything else makes me itchy. However, it’s $9 at the store and you know me, cheap! Ahem… I mean, frugal. Anyway, with Amazon Add-on it’s only $2-3. Less than a third of the cost and no more itchy! It might be a worthwhile to check Amazon for things like deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, or even soap. Dove soap bars can be expensive at the store! To see some of the new things that are available with Amazon Add-On you can go browse the new items here.

Christmas Cards!

Assuming you haven’t already, it’s time to start sending out those Christmas cards! You have quite a few options this year that wont cost you much at all.

Those possessing artistic talent can, of course, make them themselves. Just head to Micheal’s with a 50% off coupon and pick up a kit or some blank card stock with envelopes.

If you have a bunch to make or you don’t possess the talent to make a blank white card beautiful, then you can order some to be printed for you by a company like Vistaprint or Snapfish.

Let’s say, like me, you are even cheaper than THAT. You can make a card yourself using your printer and some free software like Serif Craft Artist. The only downside is having to buy high-quality paper to print on, but once again, a trip to Michael’s with a 50% off coupon can help you out there. If the software is kind of complicated you can find a video on Youtube like this one: