Dec 27, 2010

Post-holiday thrifting tips

Our major gift-giving holidays are over, that means some quick action could save some cash for next year. Here's what to do:

1- Save received holiday bags, boxes, bows and sturdy ribbons. Toss tissue paper and wrapping paper unless it's in pristine condition, otherwise it shows its wear. All of these things can be re-used next year if they are still looking good. This saves you money because you don't have to buy as much next season. Plus, reusing is going green.

2- Hit the after Christmas sales! Buy the rest of the gift bags and bows you'll need for next year and buy more decor, tissue paper, wrapping paper, holiday cards, and labels - its all half off! If you're really feeling daring, buy some 2011 gifts...just make sure you buy stuff the person won't buy from now 'til then or won't go out of style (future gift examples: holiday scented candles, decor or whatever you may find!) Keep an open mind and always keep your receipt.

3- Look to exchange, and re-gift appropriately but don't let that stuff pile up. I know what it's like to receive an ugly sweater, unneeded scarf or silly game that you're really not interested in. Don't hang it in your closet, don't put it on your shelf. Every time you look at that item you'll feel a little sense of guilt for not wanting it (or is that just me?) I recommend you google the item, find out where it was bought or where it can be bought and try to return it. Many stores will give you a store gift card without a receipt. If that idea fails, just give it to goodwill or look to regift. If you're not sure about giving it away, consider: will I miss this item in a month? If the answer is no, get rid of it...it's just taking up space.

4- Consider changing the date of next years' festivities til after the holiday. This is for our expert thrifters. The idea is you wait to buy your gifts until the one or two days after Christmas because everything is on sale! Everyone could get more gifts for the same cost, or the same amount for a cheaper price. Remember, Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25th, that's made up, so if your family is strapped for cash, consider moving your Christmas party to a later date. A merrier Christmas for everyone!

Dec 24, 2010

I want to live like Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg has more money than Steve Jobs. He drives a black Acura TSX, rents a house in Palo Alto, and lists "eliminating desire" as an interest on his Facebook page. He says, "I think it would be very easy to get distracted and get caught up in the short-term things or material things that don't matter". Considering his estimated $6.9 billion fortune, he lives a modest life. Not to mention that he just signed The Giving Pledge, promising to donate half of his fortune to charity. It takes holding quite a healthy perspective on money to join that foundation.

We are living in a society whose health and wealth depends on people spending money above their needs. We are living in the season of celebration, and shopping. We stack wrapped clothing, coffee makers, laptops, and toys under our green fir symbol of everlasting light and life.

We must maintain a loose grip. Otherwise we may see financial stress clouds hovering over our day and our desire for nicer things mastering our minds.

The challenge: live a simple, content life above our desire for more and better stuff.

How can we accomplish this task? We start by finding satisfaction in our current state of affairs and proprietorship. We continue by seeking only items of practicality. We end by living in financial freedom and a sense of inner-contentment. This enduring process can be accomplished with determination and an understanding to resist temptation.

Start after Christmas. Stop going to your favorite store. Stop peeking at the shopping websites on your toolbar. Aim to make and create above purchase, and to learn and discover above items of gratification. Look within and pour out a sea of spirit and inspiration. Find a boat to rest on that sea and leave the life of longing behind.

Cast your anchor. Feel satisfied because you've eliminated the plugging desire for the bigger, the better, and the shinier. Feel cool because you live in the same neighborhood as Mark Zuckerberg.

Dec 20, 2010

Microtraveling: Holidays on the Cheap!

As part of the 20 Something Blog swap, Andy Jones, our guest poster from England (as in the country, not New England), will now tell a tale of how he thrifted his way through Europe. I believe we can all be inspired by his story. Check out his blog here: Andy hmmm and enjoy his post!
During my final year of University I invented something that I call Microtravelling*. I had three problems; I am quite a wanderlustuous, I didn't like the final year stress, and I was in a job that effectively paid less than minimum wage. Those three things don't go well together.

Anyway. To skip to the end of the story, between November 2008 and November 2009 I had been to Denmark, Spain, Poland, Wales (it counts), Sweden twice, Norway, Germany, and Italy. When I tell people that (not that I tell people, but more when they see on Facebook) they think I must have loads of money, but that is far from the truth!

It all started when I saw a 'Flights 1p' offer. These offers are renowned for actually costing much more (more like £100) due to the hidden costs. I was determined that, since that is the advertised price, I would do all I can to pay as little as possible. I had to prove it to my family with receipts, but the final cost of my flight to Denmark cost 8p... 1p there, 1p back... I even treated 3 of my friends. Getting that price wasn't too difficult. I had to open a new bank card, the only card that doesn't incur £10 fees per person, and I had to accept not having any bags, which was fine.

The hotel I found was £25 each, for two nights, which is the benefit of having 4 people. It had the bonus of not needing a map to find, as it was pretty much attached to the airport. But still, beggars can't be choosers. Denmark is a notoriously expensive country... I had to accept that I couldn't eat too much. This was made easy by finding a big pack of biscuits that cost £1. In the time I was there I got by on one burger, one pizza, one pack of biscuits, 70cl of vodka and two bottles of coke. Student style. Total cost: £48.02. And great memories, and a Captain Vestman picture**.

Finding the cheapest flights can take some time, but it’s worth it. Take time to find out which cards don't carry any fees and make sure to get one. Hotels can often be expensive; instead I usually look for alternatives such as apartments (which you can usually get much cheaper). Norway was a little bit different. To avoid paying fees for that I had to get a 'prepaid MasterCard'... I hadn't even heard of one before. Hotels cost a stupid amount there, so we decided to split a £25 bag fee between us and take a tent! That’s thinking outside the box. Although the holiday became much more expensive when I paid £6 for a 6" subway. £1 an inch! In Sweden we saved money by staying on a boat!

It has taught me that you don't need much money to go on holiday. The flights may only be relevant to European, but the idea that saving money by 'slumming it' any way possible is relevant everywhere, and in my experience, leads to much better memories!


*I may not have invented it, but I haven't heard it used before.
** Souvenirs cost too much money. A drunken photo of me, wearing a tight, gay vest is more than enough.

Check it out

Today I am participating in a blog swap hosted by 20 Something Blogger's. That means I will host a post from a guest blogger and he will host a post from me. Come back later as Andy Jones will take a shot at posting on The Thrift World.

For now, check out his site: Andy hmmm to read my guest post! His blog is based on 100+ things he wants to do before he dies. I beat him to number 3. For the full story, click here.

Dec 16, 2010

Weaver's $20 gift certificate giveaway!



Thank you Weaver's for giving me a free $20 gift certificate for simply showing up at your store yesterday. No minimium purchase, no fine print, just plain free. The line out the door was CRAZY! I actually had a "wait, is this black Friday?"moment.

We got there, and the line was 15 people long. According to the Amish woman in front of us, it was the shortest it had been all day! And we walked up to the door and they just handed you the ticket, no form to fill out, no questions asked, here's your money. Needless to say, I didn't buy anything yet because the check-out lines were half the length of the store. But I will be back because the gift card doesn't expire:)

Men - your chance is coming up. That giveaway is happening next Wednesday, December 22 at Weaver's Store in Fivepointville from 5-9pm. Just show up, be a man or do some fine convincing and you're golden. Don't miss it!

Dec 13, 2010

Best gift card deals

I decided to expand on one of my previous posts about buying gift cards because I had a couple sweet deals to share...

Recent and/or Local Gift Card deals:

**Weaver's Store in Fivepointville is giving out free $20 gift cards their customers who drop in between 5-9pm and who are 16 years of age and above on the following days mentioned below. You can spend the gift card that night or any time you like. I know it sounds a bit too good to be true, and that's what I thought too, so I just called to confirm and it's true.

Free gift card for ladies: This Wednesday, December 15
Free gift card for men: Next Wednesday, December 22

**Again, today restaurant.com is offering a discount on their gift cards. Today's code is "GIVE"; with that you'll receive 70% off your purchase.

**Starbucks offers rewards to card-holding members. So if you load a Starbucks card, register it, and then use that card for your purchases, you can earn rewards such as free birthday drink, free coffee & iced coffee refills, and free soy & extra flavor shots. They also send you a coupon for a free drink via snail mail for every 15 purchases you make.

**Discounted gift cards can be found at: plasticjungle and ebay (if you're lucky).

**Receive free gift cards when you redeem your credit card points. Unless you're using your rewards to donate to a charity, this is the best bang for the buck. Usually buying items in the credit company's rewards store isn't the best deal. If you need help learning how to earn rewards with your credit card, visit billshrink.com.

**I'm tempted to again, use the "G" word...but I've overused it these past few posts...

Additional gift card strategy
Around the holiday season, businesses are dying for you to buy gift cards for everyone on your shopping list. It means they get money for that purchase, because when you receive a gift card without a receipt (as a gift), you can't return it. Plus, if you don't use it, the company makes that money back without giving away any product. So they REALLY want you to buy gift cards...some places are even offering deals and discounts associated with the purchase. Here are just a few I saw offered in the past couple weeks:

-Free lunch with a $40 gift card purchase (Hoss's Steakhouse)

-20% off gift card purchase (Lords & Ladies Salon)

-Buy a gift card over X amount and receive a free cup of coffee or bag of coffee(Starbucks, Max Crema's)

Why does this matter? Because if I'm already going to Lords & Ladies every six months to get my hair done, I may as well buy a gift card while it's discounted and use it on myself. That's 20% off all my purchases. The best part is, you can combine that 20% off with other coupons or deals. Or if I know I'll use that Hoss's Steakhouse card, then I may as well take the free lunch and hold on to the card and just use it next time I go there.

Just be sure you will definitely, absolutely, without a doubt use that money, otherwise it's lost. And of course, it's best to do this with places you already frequent so as not to spend additional money at extra places.

Dec 8, 2010

Restaurant.com: 80% off today w/code!


Today restaurant.com which already offers discounted gift cards to local restaurants, is 80% off with a special code. Today's code: JOY. Great to buy for yourself for future use or even to use it a semi-lame gift; after all, it is a coupon.


Make sure you read the fine print, all gift cards have a minimum purchase amount required BUT, it's still a great deal. So today, and today only, you can get a $25 gift card (with $35 minimum food purchase) for $2. There are lots of restaurants and gift card dollar amounts (10, 25, etc) to choose from.

Save money on oil changes

I am happy to say that beginning Monday of this week I will spend half as much on oil changes for the rest of my car's life.

I was reading an article I posted in the Frugal Living in the News tab of my blog, which is where I post recent articles about living thrifty, mostly from Yahoo! news. Anywho, the article is called "6 Ways Conventional Wisdom Wastes Money" (very intriguing title). #1 of the article caught my eye.

#1 - Change your oil every 3,000 miles. This is what your mechanic tells you, this is what the sticker on your car tells you, and this is what conventional wisdom tells you... BUT, this may not be what your owner's manual tells you. And really, we should listen to our car (especially when it saves us money).

The article goes on to say that most newer cars do not require an oil change every 3,000 miles because newer car engines and oil have advanced beyond that; in fact most cars only need an oil change every 5-10,000 miles.

I already was trying to save money by having my sister's boyfriend change my oil, giving him some cash and still saving some as well. Plus, I was using synthetic oil which supposedly lasts longer than the typical oil change, so I was changing my oil every 5,000 miles, not 3,000. Then I came across this article and decided to consult my manual (who would have thought?). My car isn't that that new, it's a 2000, but I figured I'd check it out anyway.

And walah! My owners manual actually says change your oil every 10,000 miles!!! I feel a little silly for not realizing this early, but I just assumed 3,000 was standard for every car. Now, I can change my car's oil HALF as much as I did before which is half off!

So, be sure to go out to your car, find your owner's manual and make sure that you are not over-changing your oil. Who knows, you may save as much as cash I will!

Two additional tips: 1- do not assume your car can go more than 3,000 miles without an oil change before first consulting your manual. 2- if you can change your oil less frequently, you should still check your oil levels periodically and add more as necessary.

Dec 4, 2010

Save money all year with an Entertainment book

Last year my boyfriend and I received an Entertainment book for Christmas loaded with coupons to local restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment and travel. Many of the deals are buy one get one free (BOGO), or buy one get one half off (BOGOHO?). You can check to see which coupons are available in your town by doing a zip code search.

Today the website says book are $10 off (which makes them $25) with free shipping but I think $25 is the normal price, so never pay $35. You can also order the book through ebates.com and get the book $25 and then receive 35% cash back in your account, which is $8.57.

In my experience, we definitely saved more than the cost of the book, especially considering it was bought for us (put it on your Christmas list). But every person is different, so check the locations out to see if you actually go to the places listed. Coupons are good til Nov. '11.

Sometimes coupons can get you to spend more money because you weren't planning on going to that restaurant or shopping at that store, but if you're already a customer, you may as well get a coupon, which is why I recommend this book. It could also be a great gift for someone who just moved as a way to explore their new location. Personally, I'm excited to find my Entertainment 2011 book under the Christmas tree this year.

Go go go BOGOHO!

Dec 1, 2010

How to save money on Christmas gifts

'Tis the season to be jolly...and thrifty. Not cheap, thrifty. It is the gift-buying season, which means Christmas lists and shopping trips. But don't think you need to spend a fortune. Sometimes the most practical and meaningful gifts can be less money than the traditional, generic gifts that fill the aisles of department stores. Here are a few ideas to get you started shopping.

The best places to buy gifts are the wholesale retail and discount stores like Ollies, Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Tuesday Morning and much more. For many people, it can be difficult to shop at these stores because you never know what they'll have in stock or what you'll find. But during the holiday season, go explore these places and bring your list. You never know what treasures you will find for much less than the average retail prices. Plus, they're great for buying inexpensive gift wrap.

Allow yourself to buy less. If you find a wine rack for $12.99 instead of $25, don't feel obligated to buy more stuff. Honestly, most of us don't need more impersonal, obligatory gifts to fill in those monetary gaps. Buy great gifts for your loved ones, and when you find it for less, reward yourself. Cross that person off your list.

The best gifts are not the most expensive ones. People appreciate gifts that are well thought out and personal. Really take time to think about what each person would like to receive. Also, consider buying practical. If you're not sure what the person would like, think about what they "need". My favorite gifts are the ones that I can use immediately, not the typical throw-away gifts that serve no purpose. We buy those only so we can say we got them something; it's more for us instead of them.

If you're really not sure what to get someone, consider buying a gift card to a place they frequent or you think they'll enjoy. Think about where they like to go out to eat or where they buy their coffee in the morning. Even though giving gift cards can seem impersonal at times, most people love to receive them. Just make sure you double check that there is a store nearby their place. I've already received a gift card to a store, where the closest one was 45-minutes away. Don't make it hard for them to spend your gift! If you do decide on a gift card, be sure to check out discounted gift card deals at restaurant.com (requires minimum purchase amount), groupon.com (my latest obsession) plasticjungle.com (a gift card exchange site).

Good luck bargain hunting! More holiday tips coming soon...

By the way, if you have a thrifty idea that you'd like to see mentioned on The Thrift World, just post it as a comment or send me a message. I love hearing readers' ideas on creative ways to save money.

Nov 27, 2010

Sick of paying .99 cents per song?

I have only met one person in my entire life who did not like music. I imagine right now that person has a sad, dark life...when he cries he only has his silence to comfort him. I have "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. in my corner which reminds me that the world hurts too...and I can sob aloud, not feeling so alone, but feeling a bit of comfort, even camaraderie in my sorrows. This person sobs with no comfort and no friends.

I'm grateful that I have music, but like any other thing in my world, I feel that everything has a price and then everything has a fair price. I do not feel that .99 cents per digital download is a fair price.

Sure, it beats buying an entire album for $15 when you're paying for songs you don't want or even like without ever having the chance to listen to them (what did we ever do without the internet streaming music?) But, if you consider that many albums have 12-15 songs on a cd, at a dollar a song, you're paying the same amount for the digital download but without the physical disc or the casing. Same music but with less overhead - if they get a break on the deal so should we.

iTunes does sell some songs for .69 cents and $1.29. For a little bit cheaper, Walmart.com sells mp3s, which range from .64 cents to 1.24 cents per song, but who really wants to support Walmart? There must be better options! Alas, Amazon comes to the digital music rescue!

Amazon offers 100 albums at the price of $5 each every single month. In fact, this month The Weepies new album Be My Thrill is on that list: $5 of pure musical bliss. They also have some albums by Norah Jones, Beyonce, Maroon 5, Jimmy Eat World, and many more listed for $5.

They also offer certain "best-seller" albums for $7.99 and then even some other music for free. Might be worth checking out if you're into the Veggie Tales' Christmas album, various sample cds or a bunch of stuff I've never heard of (maybe you have?)

Check out their full collection of $5 albums here. While you're there, check out the $3.99 daily deal of the day (this is what I call a legal music steal) and let the music bargains begin!

Nov 24, 2010

Black Friday Tips

The biggest shopping holiday of the year is just two days out. Are you prepared? Here are some tips to keep in mind as you depart on your early morning shopping extravanganza.

1. Bring a game plan. Do some research before you head out. I found this website black-friday.net that uploads all the ads of the major companies that are running Black Friday specials. It's a good place to look at all the deals in one place.

2. Comparison shop. Even though Black Friday is the day for deals, not everything on the shelf is on sale. A lot of things are still regular price. Check out pricegrabber.com for the best deals on what you're looking for.

3. Leave the coffee at home. Coffee + stress = more stress. Your adrenaline will already be pumping, so have a couple less cups in the morning. Plus, you'll get out of the house earlier and you'll be able to skip those long bathroom lines.

4. Eat a protein bar. You will need energy and strength to complete this day of shopping turmoil. And more importantly, when another customer tries to shove you out of the way before lunging for the last $179.99 Acer Netbook...you will have the strength to knock them on their butt and snag it first and then yell HA! in their face (if you're really into it).

5. Consider staying at home. Save the gas, save the stress and avoid impending injuries. Lots of companies are doing Black Friday online so check out Black-friday.net/online for those deals before you leave the house.

***Another way to save money and protect yourself is to drive safe on Thanksgiving and beware of other drivers. Thanksgiving is the most dangerous holiday for driving, not New Year's Eve.

Have a safe holiday!

Nov 22, 2010

Groupon comes to Reading, PA!

Recently when I was in Boston (finally I felt like I was on the map) the friends we were staying with told us about the website Groupon. I was really excited about finding daily local deals at restaurants, attractions, events and even on local goods. The problem was, I checked into Reading, PA and it said "coming soon". I was like: yeah, sure. But I did sign up to be alerted when the website reached my town and that day came before I knew it!
My friends, you can sign up TODAY Groupon delivered for free to your inbox. The whole idea is the coupons are local deals and they are pretty extraordinary. Things like 50% to 90% stuff in your city; it's a great way to explore new places! You can print the coupons directly from your email or show the coupon to the local business with your smart phone. For example, the Groupon today is for Pauline's Soups & More on the corner of 5th & Penn in the city. You get $8 worth of lunch for $4, not bad. So you actually pay Groupon $4 and then print your coupon. This one specifically expires in 1 year. It works like any other coupon except for you show up to the business and you already paid s0 you can leave your wallet at home.
This website really appeals to me because I love the idea of exploring the area and knowing all about what's around me so I can take full advantage of it. Hopefully this website can begin to introduce me to new places around Berks County by giving me a discount (a pretty good reason) to try them out. Thrifting and exploring: for me it's like chocolate and peanut butter - they just go together.

I'm excited to get my Groupon on!

Nov 19, 2010

Use a coupon, get it free

My friend Amanda just wrote a thrift-worthy post on how she acquired 3 Yankee Candles for free... with just a little creative thinking in the pocket.

We can all learn from her story. It's posted on her blog: Project 365: day 137. Click here to check it out.

Nov 17, 2010

$1 Burrito!



















My last post supported mom and pop shops, and so with this post I may look like a hypocrite... BUT who can turn down a $1 burrito?

Specifically a Moe's most expensive burrito: the Homewrecker: normally $6.99, today only $1. Unbeatable.

Basically that food chain lost money on me today. No drink, no thank you. Thrift success!

Nov 13, 2010

Sense of generosity > cents on the dollar

Last night I was at Lickity Split, a food and ice cream shop in New Holland, PA, seeing my boyfriend and a friend do some fine playin' and singin'. The experience reminded me of how much I love mom and pop shops. I love seeing their unique menus and charming decor as well as supporting a couple or a family in a dream business venture. In these businesses, family members often serve as staff and treat you like they truly appreciate your visit and want to give you the best they've got. You feel like you're in their second home, because, well, you are.

The owner was actually our server and we were complimenting her place and asking her to tell us more about it. She told us that while her and her husband were restoring it to open, her husband was collecting unemployment. When Lickity Split did open, the government found out about the business and told him he had to repay all that he had collected because he was not considered eligible to work. She explained the frustration they felt that by trying to make it for themselves by opening their own business; they felt as though they were being punished because they must repay this money.

At the end of the night when everyone was leaving, the owner called out, "does anyone want a cup of coffee for free?" I, of course, said "oh I do!...while various people I didn't know started chuckling. Apparently I was a bit eager in my response. We know how much I love free stuff.

I admire this woman, who only just aired her financial dilemma frustrations but followed it with a generous offer to her customers to give away product for free when it could have easily just been dumped out.

She was not changed by that situation; she was grateful to have so many people eating in her facility and was eager to take care of her customers in a way that any chain restaurant/ice cream shop would not have done.

Throughout the years of my life when I, undoubtedly, will experience being swindled or financially punished for something I felt was unfair, I hope I can still grasp that sense of generosity, of giving more of myself, because that's more important than holding on to feelings of resentment.

Mom and pop shop, I will return!

Nov 10, 2010

A natural cleaning alternative for much less $$$

I am a big fan of the Earth. I don't think anyone can say that they truly hate the Earth (unless you are an emo kid). But oftentimes when it comes to buying Earth-friendly products, we don't want to dish out the extra money...and it always costs extra money. But we don't want harmful chemicals fumes* in our home and going into our environment. What is the price we are willing to pay? Consider my green cleaning product of choice:

Green works by Clorox. It's all natural, cute packaging and I can usually find a coupon for it. The problem is, without the coupon, the product costs just under last week's pay. Okay, it's not that bad. It runs about $4.39 per 32 ounce spray bottle. That's almost 14 cents an ounce.

A Thrift World reader recently suggested a cost-saving, streak free cleaning alternative: ammonia. For about $1 you can buy a half gallon jug of the stuff equaling only $0.015 per ounce. Buy a spray nose for your jug or transfer to an old spray bottle and you're good to go! For some people, the smell is a bit a too much, so start by adding it to water and increasing the amount of ammonia to see how strong of a scent you are willing to deal with.

It's great for all surfaces including stove tops, windows, bathtubs, tile and much more. Plus, you can use it to unclog drains. A few articles I read said do not combine it with a product using chlorine, which is lethal. I'm suggesting you use ammonia only with water, completely avoiding mixing products.

Check out these two resources for more info on how to use ammonia to replace all your pricey cleaning products.
How to clean with ammonia
Using ammonia to clean

By the way, I added a new page to my blog called "In the News". This page is dedicated to recent news articles about thrifting. I'm always reading articles I want to blog about but don't have the time, so I'm posting them there. :)

*I have received some comments regarding the safety of ammonia fumes. I will say that although ammonia is considered natural, the fumes can still be harmful so it is best to use it within a well-ventilated room. Here is another article that specifies its hazards as I do not wish to overlook its dangerous capabilities: Is Ammonia the Best Oven Cleaner, Floor Cleaner, Microwave Cleaner? and Guide to Green Living: Natural Cleaning Products

Nov 7, 2010

A new way of shopping

Last week, one of my old college roommates and I got together to go shopping and hang out. We struggle with finding an inbetween spot for us to meet up and she said suggested we go to the Park City Mall. Admittedly, I was a little excited about this venture because I had not been casual shopping with a female friend in a mall for possibly more than a year. Quickly I remembered what it was like. The stores hold beautiful shiny, new items, packaged in delightful boxes and papers, but with prices that don't appeal to me much. I feel as though, in general, the mall leaves me wanting more and more stuff that I didn't realize I ever needed. Luckily, it's browsing at the mall is not a frequent habit of mine, so the temptation was minimal and I was able to resist.

My preferred method of shopping is going to second hand stores to buy used clothing, games, household items and decor and whatever I need! Recently my boyfriend and I took a trip to Boston and of course we stopped at several thrift stores in the hip city. I got extremely lucky in my finds - I was hunting for jeans and scored two pairs. One of them Gap, the other Abercrombie and Fitch for a combined total of $11.

Many times, it's not always so easy to find great name brands for a cheap price - though most of my clothes are from thrift stores and fit that category. But in fact, if you've been through thrift stores, you know that there is tons of ugly crap on the shelves that you would never dream of buying. This mini plaque-like item of a deer hoof (?) is one of those items. My boyfriend, who is a committed vegetarian, actually found the piece to be quite vile. For some reason, the Goodwill in Shillington has this item on its shelf expecting that someone might buy it. Honestly, I almost did. I think it would make a great gag gift.

You never know what you'll find at second-hand stores. But I've learned that it really is a way of life. Once you get into it, you know what you can find and you don't buy those things anywhere else. Look hard enough and clearly, you can find just about anything.

Nov 2, 2010

Utilize your Christmas list

Though stores have not yet started playing Christmas music (we'll give it a few more days) it is still getting closer to the big day. Remember, when we were kids and Christmas was a magical holiday? Those were the days we tried to be good and left Santa cookies and milk by the tree because we wanted to up our chances of getting the best stuff under the tree. Somewhere between ages 5-10 we found out the truth - some of us held out longer than others including me. As soon as that hit, Christmas has never been the same. Now it seems more about shopping, decorating and parties. Overall, Christmas can be expensive. But thinking about your own list carefully can save you time and money in the future. How do you do that?

Ask for things you "need". I'm 24 years old and I have to say that there are few things I am in need for. I have plenty of food, a more-than-adequate shelter despite the old wood-paneled walls, and plenty of clothes. But, there are things I spend money on like body care products, groceries, coffee (obviously), entertainment and other items I am likely to buy in the future. Thus, my Christmas list is full of items I will eventually buy throughout the year so that I actually save money by not buying it myself. The other half is filled with gift cards to places I will eventually buy things at.

So this year, consider your list and what you fill your list with. Do you really need that Keurig single-cup coffee maker with pricey refill cups, even more clothes or a bigger iPod? Do yourself a favor and ask for things you "need". It will save you some cash down the road.

More Christmas savings tips to come!

Oct 29, 2010

Cheap & last minute costume ideas

Last year I stumbled upon this fabulous website that gives a great last-minute-guide to halloween costumes. Last year I was able to create a costume from what was already in my closet, while still getting a positive response from the masses. This year, by using the same site, I found another great last minute costume that I'm eager to try out! It's called Robin's FYI and even though the site looks a bit tacky, it's got a lot of good info on it. I even used it to download free Halloween Bingo cards for a job-related event. Definitely a useful site.

If you don't have the right stuff already to create something, you could always take a couple hints from this Saturday Night Live 3-minute scene and embrace a costume in any condition.



Good luck costume shopping & happy halloween weekend!

Oct 25, 2010

How to cook with ingredients in your pantry

We all know that by eating out less and and cooking at home more, we can save a little bit of cash on food. But if you like to try out new recipes, you know that buying groceries doesn't always seem cheaper. Sometimes shopping for every single item the recipe calls for can really add up, especially if you don't start with most of the food. The best case scenario is always using up the food you already have in your pantry before shopping for more.

Unfortunately, I often look in my pantry, and as a novice chef, I have no idea what to make out of what I have. Sometimes I try to make dishes up, but this has proven to be unsuccessful and sometimes even disastrous. Luckily there are two websites I've discovered that make cooking good food cheaper and easier.

1)The website I most often use is allrecipes.com. There are a few things I love about this website.

- It can pick recipes based on food already in your home. If you go the site, click on "ingredients" right above their search bar. Type in the main ingredients you would like to use, and voila! It picks out recipes using your key items so you have to shop for less.

-Reviews are right on. Since this is a high traffic site, lots of people rate the quality of recipes. I've found that if a recipe has over 20 or so people rating it at 4.0/5.0 or higher, the final product is pretty delicious. Once I've decided on a dish, I always scroll through the comments where readers post comments on how they tweaked the dish or substituted ingredients and how it worked out. This site is not to be underestimated.

2) Mere minutes ago I discovered a new website I am very excited about. It's called recipematcher.com. I just spent some time registering for the site an entering all ingredients we have in our kitchen via a provided checklist. In return, the site produced a list of recipes that I can make with the food I already have. It stores "my pantry" on the site, so I can just log in and update it as necessary when I eat food or add more ingredients to my kitchen.

This does take a little more time to get set up, but not if you consider the fact that it saved you a trip to the grocery store. Tonight, I think I am going to try the Grilled Chicken with Lemon-Thyme Dressing. It sounds delicious and best of all, I don't even have to go shopping. Woo hoo!

Readers, any other grocery tips to share?

Oct 22, 2010

My love for IKEA

Today I noticed a difference in myself. This morning I was browsing through the latest IKEA pages in my early morning stupor accompanied by my trusted cup o' joe and it's almost as if I'm looking through "O" (Oprah). Nothing grabs me. I'm not emotionally seized by the Norden occasional kitchen table, though it is chic, or the simple yet dashing Ulsberg nightstand.

Last year at this time, I could not STOP looking through the IKEA magazine and website, convinced I needed almost everything to make my apartment look as clean-cut, organized and smart as the collection of rooms featured within those vibrant pages. Reflecting back, I realize, I've been there, done that. And perhaps my 500 square foot apartment is a blessing in disguise. There is no room for anything else.

Sure, I could fit a couple Salong vases or a classic Dekad alarm clock, but I feel something I didn't expect. I feel satisfied. My apartment is certainly not nearly in contest with the perfect rooms within those flashy pages, but it's got something to offer and I've done by best to turn our outdated wallpaper and hideously cheap maroon rug into the setting for a stylish apartment, with touches of updated furnishings and decor. Oh, the glories of renting. There's only so much I could do and I did my best.

Maybe this year, I'll just settle for the vases.

So long, IKEA!

Oct 17, 2010

Boston & beyond: Get free beer

Besides the Freedom Trail, there is another source of free entertainment in Boston, and in almost any other big city. Brewery Tours and tastings are held at local breweries across the country. Be sure to visit one when you travel and soak up the local culture.

We visited Harpoon Brewery at one of their daily tasting times, which are listed on their website. Everyone was given a 4 ounce taster cup and a staff member talked about each of the beers... and then we got to try as many of them as we wanted! We didn't have to buy anything, we didn't have to pay for the tasting, it was all free.

Lots of breweries host free brewery tours and tastings hoping that you'll really like their beer and take some home or become a lifelong fan. So for us, that means free beer, sometimes occupanied with a free brewery tour...and that is free cultured entertainment, folks.
Cheers!

Oct 13, 2010

Boston: Get some culture

Jeremy (my boyfriend) and I arrived in Boston yesterday evening around 7pm. With only a couple days to explore the city and relatively little cash, we had to be a bit creative with our entertainment options. My boyfriend is a vegetarian and हे saw that a Hare Krishna Temple called ISKCON Boston was offering a free vegetarian dinner at one of their public programs. The program included devotional singing, a "message" given by a spiritual leader and a wonderful vegetarian meal (pictured below). I had to sneak a picture of the meal when I could, as you can tell, I already enjoyed a good portion of it.

The talk given was on karma: the different types of karma and the way to reach transcendence through lack of karma. . The most interesting thing I heard was that they believed that to achieve spiritual transcendence, one must live without karma, almost like above karma, where your actions have no consequences. This is achieved by communing with God through meditation and service.
At any time a person can achieve this transcendence and it does not have to be through Krishna, a devote catholic can reach this stage as well as other intensely spiritual devotees.

I enjoyed the different cultural experience. It's one thing to read or hear about a different religion or culture, it's another to experience it. In this case, we just happened to leave having had a great cultural experience as well as a delicious free meal. Definitely a win-win-win situation (we win for obvious reasons, they win for having visitors, and Krishna wins, probably).

All in all, unique religious experiences with free meals attached = great entertainment at a great price.

Oct 10, 2010

Leftovers inspiration

I LOVE saving leftovers. In fact in college whenever my friends and I would go out to eat or order out, I would make a point to eat only half of the meal so that I could turn the food into two meals. At the time, I was very broke and I had to make the most of the food I had. Now I'm just cheap.

My friend Crystal has a blog I follow called The Food Aisle. Her latest post is on experimenting with leftovers in a creative way... to literally spice it up. It was an inspiring post to read.

I would encourage you to read her article: Reviving leftovers: Chinese. I believe it will open your eyes to new possibilities in relation to saving your leftovers. When it comes down to it, saving leftovers = saving food = saving money. And as we all know, that's the point around here. Enjoy the read.

Oct 7, 2010

Craigslist: Save money, don't get scammed

Craiglist is a fabulous online buying/selling website set up like a message board. You can skim through items local people are selling as well post your own goods to sell, and it's all completely free. I've bought iPods, furniture, and other electronics. I've also sold textbooks, an iPod, purses and much, much more. If used wisely, it can be a great resource for saving money through buying stuff cheap and selling off what you already have... BUT, it's important to be careful because there are tons of people lurking on Craigslist who don't want to buy your product, they want to take it off your hands for free or take your money. These people are also known as scammers.


Here is an example of a scammer at work. I posted my laptop for sale on Craigslist a couple weeks ago. Here is the conversation I had with a "Dr. Melvin Nelson". (He sounds all official, right?) But just look...

Hello,
I am interested in purchasing your item.
I need to know the final price of the item.
Thanks.
Dr. Melvin.

It's two hundred cash only.
Angela

Thanks for your quick response to my mail... Alright, am ok with the Price. I want to purchase it for my son who is in Over seas for his job with the construction company over there...And i will be paying you through PayPal or money order Company... So if you have an account with them send your PayPal address to enable me send the Payment to you but if you do not have an account with them, just send your full name and full contact address and i will send it through money order Company that will deliver the payment in cash to your resident address....Note: I will be paying you extra money to cover the shipping cost through USPS EXPRESS MAIL....Also i wanted you to consider this sold to me and please remove the post from the craigslist site.....Thank you and God Bless
Dr. Melvin. Frm(English Rd.Foristell, Montanna.)

Sorry, I don't do scams.
Angela


What exactly do you mean?
Are you insinuating that am a scammer!!!
Am gonna inform my lawyer about this and as tell my brother
Agent Smith.
Have a lovely day ahead.
Dr. Melvin Nelson.
-end of conversation-


Ways you can tell you're dealin with a scammer:

1)They make up a reason to not deal with you in person; i.e.they are away on business, they are on a church missions church, they are sending it to their son/daughter in (insert name of third world country here). Don't fall for this. They don't want to meet you because they live in a far-away country. They want you to send your product to their middle man at said address and then their check/money order will not go through. Bam, they just got your product for free.

2)They offer more money than you're asking. They want to make sure you take their offer, so they offer more money. Sounds like a great deal, but really it's just a scam.

3)They want YOU to send money somewhere/give it to someone. You're selling something, you should never have to give money to ANYONE. It's a scam!

4) You don't have to understand how they can scam you. My parents are landlords and they posted that they were looking to fill an apartment. They had a man respond who said he was moving from Canada and that he would be happy to send my parents a money order. Once they got the money order, he was going to send his furniture to the apartment and my parents had to sign for it and give the mover $200.

They told me about it, they were very excited and I said DON'T DO IT! Honestly, it took us a long time to figure out how this guy would take my parents' money and run...we figured he would cancel the money order and we would be stuck with furniture? We don't really know but if you can't figure it out, you don't have to. Just know that if it seems shady, just don't deal with that person...regardless of how tempting it is.

I'm telling you all this because I want to encourage you to use Craigslist. I LOVE it. Testimonial: I bought an 80 gig iPod on Craigslist for $90, that's incredible...I also sold my 4gig iPod on it for $50. I got a MAJOR upgrade for just $40, not bad. And remember, you can buy almost anything on Craigslist and you can sell almost anything.

With all that being said, I just want you to know what you might come across so you can go on saving without being scammed out of money/product. Craigslist can save you money, but only if you don't get scammed.

P.S. Stay away from singles on Craigslist, bad news bears.

Happy shopping!





Oct 3, 2010

Five things you could do this month to save money on your water bill

Toilet with flush water tankImage via Wikipedia
1. Drink less water.

2. Use the "water closet" sparingly. Because you are already filling up your glass less, you'll be urinating fewer times as well, which will save crap loads of money from being flushed.

3. Shower less. At first this one might cause some problems at work or with a partner, but explain that you care deeply for the environment and you are just doing your part in trying to save water. They will quickly apologize and thank you for your efforts to go green.

4. Wash hands with less water. It has been said that you should wash your hands for as long as you can sing the entire "happy birthday" song. In this case, simply cut it down to quick "happy birthday" statement instead.

5. Collect water from your roof for emergencies. It's tough to not use water, so grab some from that holding spot so you have some available, just in case you need some.

Obviously these suggestions are not for the novice thrifter. It takes dedication to save water...but I know what you're thinking: it's worth it.
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Sep 30, 2010

Read that banned book...for free!

This week is officially Banned Books week. This is the week where we celebrate great books like Huckleberry Fin, The Catcher and The Rye, The Wizard of Oz,  Harry Potter, The Giver, even The Lorax by Dr. Seus (cause we all know he's inappropriate for children). These are all books that have been removed from the shelves in libraries, schools and bookstores due to their controversial content. What a great week to download one and read it online for free!

There are a couple places on the web that you can read the full text of books for free, and you should know about them.

1 - Project Gutenberg: a source for over 33,000 books you can download and read online, on your phone or on your digital book reader. Perfect for finding classics, like many banned books.

2-  Google Books - with 7 million books for you to choose from, it's a great place to search for your reading needs. In this past spring semester, I was required by a class to read a book called "Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach. I just happened to search for the book on Google books and I surprisingly found the full text online for no cost to me.

3- ...and there are many, many more places. This article called "Online libraries: 25 Places to Read Free Books Online" does a nice job of analyzing all the websites that provide free reading. Definitely a good read.

Also be sure to check out the Kindle app. Everyone wants an e-book reader, and now everyone can have one for free. Kindle is offering a free application for your phone/netbook/laptop that turns your device into a reader of e-books...so download the app and start browsing all these free books!

Obviously these freebie websites don't have all the books you're looking for. But before you hop in your car to go to the bookstore, remember to make a stop at your public library...they might have what you're looking for.

Sep 27, 2010

A semi-shady way to save on produce

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with a friend, trying to pick out a snack for that evening's small group meeting. I wanted to grab some apples and caramel dipping sauce, so I headed for the produce section.

When my roommate buys apples, she always mentions that I should grab the bag of apples because it's cheaper. I inspected the prices of apples per pound and found that she was indeed correct. A bag of apples was $1.19 per pound verses non-bagged apples ranging from $1.49 (red delicious, which consequently are genetically altered and offer less nutrition) to $1.99 per pound, which was the average.

I stared at the huge bag of apples and after weighing them and doing the math, I realized I would have too many apples and paid over $7 for the bagged apples...I really only needed about 10. This was a problem. I hate paying too much for stuff, so I stared at the problem hoping it would go away.

Luckily, the friend who was with me, suggested that since the price was per pound that I remove apples from the bag, dispersing them into other bags.

Genius! I took out the apples I didn't need and I got only the amount I needed.

I'm not sure this is really the purpose of these produce bags. I think the idea is you buy them in bulk so you pay less, but since I went through self-checkout line, I was safe from reprimand.

 Now I wonder if there are other ways I can capitalize on this new-found-knowledge in other produce sections or aisles in the grocery store. I will have to keep my eyes open on my visit.

Sep 24, 2010

Kick the habit: bottled water

I love bottled water. There's just something about the cleanliness, the crispness, the wonder of cracking up a sealed bottle filled with cool, refreshing liquidy goodness. In college, I would go through several cases per month, using mounds of plastic and drinking gallons and gallons of reverse osmosis filtered water, chilled from the fridge.

Just a month or so before I began this blog, I decided it was time to give up this costly habit. Sure, a case of water costs only $4-5 for a case of 24, but if I buy 3 cases per month, the water was costing me as much as an extra texting data package, and it was unacceptable. I decided to invest in some reusable metal water bottles, bpa free of course, to start my new way of life. Even after I managed to lose both of them and buy two more, I am still saving money overall. My new plan is to watch where I put them for even more savings.
Ice cubes take shape in a trayImage via Wikipedia

Convenience usually has a price tag, but you can used to anything. At first I really hated having to wash the water bottles and fill them with ice cubes and then water, when before, I could have just grabbed a bottle from the fridge. I seriously considered going back to my old ways, but my money-conscious mind-set got the best of me, and I am still using reusable water bottles. Thrift habit success!

This is a very, small practical way to change your spending habits that's easier than slashing your cell phone bill. I would highly recommend cutting bottled water out of your life. After a few months, you won't miss it.
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Sep 16, 2010

Thrifty alternative to restaurant beverages

In my previous post, I discussed the overpriced cost of buying beverages while out at restaurants. Here's a helpful suggestion for those who long for a flavorful drink with dinner but don't want to pay for it.

Pictured on the left is a cheapo make-shift lemonade, available at a restaurant near you. Here's what to do. Ask for a glass of water and some extra lemons. Grab some sugar on the table and get to work. Squeeze the heck out of the lemons and dump them in your water, then add a packet of sugar. Stir well and Walah! You have just created your own free lemonade. If you would have ordered it, you would have paid around $2, but this one costs you zippo.

I discovered this frugal recipe as a result of having dinner and my dad made this concoction at the dinner table at a restaurant. I was a bit embarrassed, ashamed even that he would ever do such a thing. I felt like everyone was watching. Surely someone would tell him "You can't do that!" But, no one did and eventually I got so used to it, I started following in his footsteps. I do this almost every time I go out.

It just goes to show that sometimes becoming more like your parents isn't such a bad thing...or depending on how you view this, maybe it is. Does anyone else out there make these? Would you ever?

Sep 13, 2010

1.99 Breakfast's hidden costs

This past Saturday, my boyfriend and I decided we want to hit up a local diner's $1.99 breakfast to try something new (and thrifty). As soon as we were escorted to our table, our server called to us from afar, asking what drinks we would like. I panicked. Normally, I have sufficient time to glance over the menu to see if the place's drink prices are acceptable. I searched and searched the menu and could not find any prices. So, I decided, well, it's a cheapo diner, the drinks should be cheapo as well. "I'll take an orange juice" I responded, figuring I'd live on the edge.

To my dismay, I finally found the drink prices on the back of the menu and saw that my OJ cost $2.29. That's a full 20 cents MORE than the prices of my 2 eggs, home fries and toast meal! I was even more shocked when she brought out my OJ in a teensy little glass; it must have been only 6 ounces of juice.

Restaurant drink prices in the past few years have gone out of control. Just a few years ago it was unheard of to be charged more than $2 for a Coke or lemonade, now places are charging anywhere from $2.29-2.49 for a soda. I've seen up to $3.99 for a flavored lemonade. Restaurants are making absolute bank on us. The cost for a restaurant to deliver a customer a soda is only 12-15 cents per glass; that's about $2 profit assuming you only get 1 refill. That is immoral, unacceptable and just plain robbery.

How do you avoid this beverage baloney? Get in the habit of asking for water. Your wallet and your stomach will thank you for it.

Sep 7, 2010

How to save money at coffee shops

As I sit in Borders with my Seattles Best iced coffee, which consequently is disgusting, I think about the short interaction I had with the barista to change the amount of product I received for the price.

Without a coupon or a discount card, you are a slave to the rising costs of coffee and the extremely overpriced, delicious specialty and iced drinks such as lattes, frappes, macchiato and the beloved iced coffee, which I have previously admitted my infatuation for. But, don't sit back in take it. Here are few quick tips on how to change your coffeehouse experience for the better and leave with more monies in your pocket.

1. You don't need room for creamer. In most coffee shops, when ordering a cup of coffee or an iced coffee or anything you might add creamer to, the barista will often ask, "would you like room for creamer?" I believe they are trained to say that because it is a way for coffeehouses to give you less coffee...and they definitely give you less coffee.

For instance, just a few moments ago, my roommate indicated she would like room for cream and they gave her about 1/2 inch less coffee (surely she would never put that much cream in). I responded "no thank you" to the question but I still had plenty of room to add lots of cream and sugar...and I do mean lots. In the event that they do indeed give you so much coffee that you do not have room, simple take a sip before adding cream and sugar.

2. Save on iced drinks. I asked for less ice for the first time a few weeks ago at a coffeehouse, assuming they might charge me more for my drink but they did not. Have you ever gotten an iced drink and gulped it down in two sips? Why? It's got so much gosh darned ice in it, there's barely any drink. Ask for light ice, you'll get more coffee for your dollar.

3. Pick up a discount hole-punch card. If it's a place you frequent or even hit every once and while, grab a card. If the shop offers every 10th drink for free, that's a 10% discount on your drinks, assuming you get a lavishly expensive drink on your freebie, which you definitely should.

4. Bring in your own cup. Many coffee places will give you a percentage off or give you a larger size if you bring in your own cup for them to fill.

5. Don't buy coffee, make it yourself. If you're in the habit of buying a regular or iced coffee in the morning, save some real cash and turn on your coffeemaker in the morning. At first it will be difficult to make the transition, but trust me, once you're in the habit you'll wonder why you wasted so much cash on something you can brew yourself. Making the perfect iced coffee can be tricky, be sure to read up on how to make one as good as Dunkin's.

Since I'm addicted to specialty coffee, I actually got an espresso machine for around $35 and bought Starbucks chocolate to make my mochas at home. It's definitely paid for itself since I got it.

As you can tell, I really love coffee and I do spend a fare share of cash on it, but at least I've got it down to a science. Try to enjoy your back-to-work Tuesday and don't forget to turn on the coffeepot in the morning.

Sep 3, 2010

Read all the books you want for nothing

The interior of the Barnes & Noble located at ...Image via Wikipedia
My friend Jennifer* told me about a free activity she's been doing for the past few weeks. She goes to Barnes and Nobles, grabs a book, plops down and continues reading where she left off. She's been going consistently, reading the book solely at that location and just spending time there enjoying the book.

So, while reading at your local bookstore may seem like an obvious free activity at first, I think it possesses a few unique qualities.

1. Unlike a library that has a limited selection of new books, somewhere like Barnes & Noble has all the newly released and most popular books on its shelves. Here you can read all the best sellers, read Oprah's new one or skim through your favorite magazine.

2. B&N (or other similar bookstores) are large enough that you can sit and read without buying anything consistently and go unnoticed.

3. There are couches for goodness sake! They are basically inviting you to sit there and read all day. In fact, I'm pretty sure they want you to.

4. In a small way, you're actively fighting "the man". Sit on their couches, use their products and don't spend a dime. Feel good about yourself for this one.

5. You're reading - which is great for obtaining knowledge, improving your memory, and looking really smart.

Basically it's a win-win all around. So save your cash, hit the bookstore and get reading!

Look for more free/very cheap entertainment options to come.

*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.
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Sep 2, 2010

Outrageously Overpriced Products (news article)

Article originally featured in Yahoo! News
I like to scope out other news articles about saving money and thrifting. I found this article below discussing some things we buy that are extremely overpriced. Check it out below.

1. Movie Theater Popcorn
At the grocery store, microwave popcorn runs about $3 per box, and each box includes three 3.5 ounce bags. So why on earth would consumers even consider paying a whopping $6 for a single medium-sized bag of popcorn in the movie theater? No one knows exactly why - but for some bizarre reason, movie-goers continue to drain their wallets to crunch on a bag full of those greasy little nuggets during their favorite film. After considering that movie theaters purchase popcorn in bulk, the average markup of movie theater popcorn is a whopping 1275%! At that steep price, you'd think those buttery bags were laced with gold.

2. Greeting Cards
Since when does a folded up piece of paper cost $2.99? Since someone slaps a precious kitty picture and a cleverly written message on it and then stamps the back of it with a well-known logo. That's right - we're talking about those pricey greeting cards. Many consumers spend hours poring over the neatly arranged stacks in the greeting card aisle, searching for the perfect message for their sister's birthday, their parent's anniversary or "Just Because."

The average greeting card costs between $2 and $4, and we consumers don't seem to think twice about paying that precipitous price. The markup is between 100 and 200% - which is not quite as shocking as movie theater popcorn, but it adds up quickly. When you consider how many of those paper jewels you buy each year, it's enough to send you running for the construction paper and markers. After all, it only costs a few cents to create a home-made card.

3. College Textbooks
In 2010, the annual in-state cost for the typical state university soared to more than $15,000, and private colleges now charge an average of $35,600 a year. As if college kids (and their parents) aren't financially drained enough, there's yet another inflated price they face: college textbooks. College students pay an average of $900 a year on textbooks and other supplies.

College textbook prices have skyrocketed by 186% since 1986, and these expensive volumes of knowledge now account for 26% of the overall cost of college. Unfortunately, broke college students are required to purchase these costly books for their classes. At least they can try to sell their books back to local book store at the end of the semester - for a few measly bucks.

4. Bottled Water
You've probably heard that "Evian" is simply "naïve" spelled backwards. OK, so the well-known company probably did not choose their name for that reason - but many people believe that consumers who buy bottled water are certainly naïve. After all, water is one of the most abundant resources in the world and is available for free from countless water fountains and sinks across the nation. Yet, many consumers are still willing to pay $3 a bottle of it.

In 2009, the U.S. Congress revealed that about 45% of bottled water comes from municipal taps - and then the bottled water company may or may not do some additional filtering before pouring it in their logo-stamped bottles. Still, Americans continue to buy more than 500 million bottles every week, making it the second most popular purchased drink (after soda).

5. Printer Ink
You may be able to buy a surprisingly affordable printer at your local office supply store, but don't start celebrating just yet. The printer companies make their biggest bucks on ink.

Over the life of your printer, you'll probably pay more than 500% of the total price of the printer itself on ink refill cartridges. At $30, a 42ml cartridge of black printer ink comes out to 71 cents per ml. On the other hand, the Red Cross charges $200 for 500 ml of blood, which comes out to about 40 cents per ml.

6. Brand-Name Fashions
How much did you pay for those True Religion jeans, that Burberry scarf and those towering Louboutin stilettos? Probably a small fortune. But it was worth every penny, right? Not so much. When it comes to designer clothes, it's pretty obvious that you are paying for the label.
As a matter of fact, brand-name clothes are often marked up by 500 to 1000%. Yet, fashion-conscious consumers continue to drain their bank accounts and pile up massive amounts of debt to stay on the cutting edge of couture.

Broke Consumers Are Saying No
The recession has hit many households hard, and thousands of broke consumers are passing on these and other overpriced products. So, does that mean the inflated prices of these items will eventually fall? Only time will tell. In the meantime, you may want to check your bank account before you hit the movie theater snack bar.
___

Look for future posts regarding how to save money on bottled water, greeting cards and printer ink. Missed some of my previous blogs? Check out what I already said about movie theatre popcorn and college textbooks!

Aug 30, 2010

Stop paying too much to do your laundry

白色的洗衣粉和量匙Image via Wikipedia
One thing I hate buying at the store is laundry detergent. It's one of the few things I don't skimp on by buying the cheapest one out there. I've found that the bottom shelf detergents don't clean my clothes nearly as well as the name brands do. Unfortunately, name-brand detergent can be pretty expensive. For example, Tide's High Efficiency costs about $8.32 for 32 loads. For a thrifter, this poses a spending dilemma.

Luckily, I have a mom - and who really knows more about doing laundry than a mom? I didn't even notice that our Tide containers were really soapy and messy recently, all I knew is my laundry was clean when I picked it up (yes, I do my laundry at my parents' house). Then, my mom told me that she doesn't buy the expensive name brand Tide anymore, she makes her own! She just puts it in the old containers.

"I thought paying $12 for laundry detergent was way too expensive, "says my mom. "So I decided I'd make my own." Apparently, my parents happen to own a high efficiency (HE) front-loading washing machine that requires special HE detergent.

But even if you don't need special detergent, the recipe below can make quite a few loads of laundry for a very low price. And that's what this blog is about, finding ways to save money. So save some cash and get washing!

- -

Here's the make-it-yourself detergent cost & recipe breakdown
Ingredients:
3 pints of water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soup, grated ~ cost: .99 for 1 bar
1/2 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda) ~ cost: $2.50 for a very large box
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax ~ cost $4.99 for a very large box
2-gallon bucket for mixing
additional hot water

Directions (inserted from this Woman's Day article):
Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints hot water and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in washing soda and borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to a two-gallon bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket to about 3 inches from the top with additional hot water, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.
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Aug 26, 2010

Beware: Keurig single-cup coffee maker

I've spoken to so many friends and acquaintances in the past several months who have told they have bought a Keurig single-cup coffee maker. They say, "it makes so much sense. I only need to brew one cup for me". Genius, right? Marketing-wise, yes. Otherwise, for the price they're asking, it's not at all worth it.

This product starts at about $100. This one, pictured to the left is actually priced $109 at Walmart, but many of them are around $160 and up. You pair it with the infamous k-cups (pictured also) that act in place of the coffee grounds. The idea is you can pick any flavor, any brand, anything you want, including tea and hot chocolate. Simply place the k-cup in the maker and brew away for your perfect cup of coffee by the touch of a single button. While many people love this product, for me, there are at least 3 problems with the Keurig single coffee maker.

1. No one needs this product. You can take a regular 12-cup coffee maker and just make "2" cups, which really is equivalent a large mug of coffee. I know this because I do it almost every morning...there's really no problem with this system.

2. Keurig wants you to buy the little nifty k-cups for your new Keurig machine...but guess how much they run you? I checked out Target.com who is selling Green Mountain Coffee's k-cups, for example. You can get 108 cups for $59.99. That comes out to more than 50 cents each cup, even when you buy them in a rather large quantities. For that price, you might as well stop at the gas station every morning and buy a cup.

3. There are products that do this very same thing but for much less money. Here are some options: Black and Decker's Brew-N-Go runs about $20; Hamilton Beach has a personal coffee brewer for $24.99; Toastess has a single-cup brewer for only $14.99. These products are all over the web. They brew a single cup of coffee and let you use your own grounds, so your saving money from both ends.

In fact, tonight I was at Goodwill and look what I found for $2.97 (pictured to the right).

The Keurig has done a really good job of making us feel like we need it. Our lives will be better if we have one, and we will all be lacking something if don't. Products often evoke an emotion within us and can create an unhealthy desire that screams "I must have it!"That's great marketing. But, let's see marketing what is it and see the product for what it is. And the Keurig, sorry folks, you don't need it.

Upcoming post: Save major cash on laundry detergent...how you may ask? Make your own.
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