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 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.
Enhanced by Zemanta

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.
Enhanced by Zemanta

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!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...