Aug 27, 2013 review: beware

As a blogger, I often do reviews. I'll review products, websites, or reward programs. Most of the time, I think its something my readers should know about, so I write on it. Other times, very few times, a company will contact me and ask me to review whatever they're selling. If it's relevant to this blog, I will say yes. I've already said yes to a sunglasses company, and a special company promotion, and in response, I do my best to give a fair and accurate view of what I'm reviewing.

I recently  received an email from a woman named Eva who said she was a manager at  and she asked if I would review her site in exchange for a "donation". I told her that the site looked relevant to being thrifty, but I couldn't review something I had never tried. I told her I wanted a credit to the website so I could use the site and then write about my experience. This was her response:

"Hi Angela,
At present, we can't provide any products or credit. Is that Okay with you we send you the article then you just post it. We have a team of copywriters who specialize in writing articles on various topics and would like to write an original article for you to use on your website – this article will not be used anywhere else on the Internet. So, what do you think about  it ? "

My question is: what is this company hiding? Why can't I experience and review their site like a normal blogger/advertiser relationship? I don't know. I do know that if you google " scam" quite a few hits come up. I also know you or I can't trust any positive review anywhere on the internet about this company, because it was likely submitted by the website's very own writers. Obviously I can't endorse a website that would chose such a dishonest method of self-promotion, and I would advise anyone to stay away from it. It can't be trusted.


I often get asked if I make money on my blog. The answer is basically no. I've gotten paid in very, very small monetary payments from google ad words that pay pennies on the post. I mostly get paid in happiness when someone offers a comment, but pretty much, that's it.  When I do get offered a free product or gift card, I like to be able to take up the project and use the kickback as my reward. But let me be clear - I am not a sellout.

I will not be dishonest. I will never say something that I believe is untrue. And I will never post an article written by a company to make them more money. This is my commitment to you. Another semi-commitment/honest fact: I may try to brainwash you into sending me all the money you save through my helpful tips. Whatever, I'm just trying to be honest.

Aug 23, 2013

How to get more for your money

If you didn't already think that I'm cheap, this post will likely solidify that for you.

I have this trick that I employ at coffee shops and ice cream shops. I imagine it will work in other settings as well. First, the coffee shop technique.

I frequent a coffee shop (I'm actually there now) and despite the fact that their free coffee punch card requires 12 drinks before you get a freebie, and despite the fact that I order a $4+ drink every single time I go there, the permitted free coffee, is a simple cafe or decaf, beans seeped in water. Yep, coffee...plain coffee. This really irks me, and I recognize its due to my 1st world entitlement issues, but nevertheless, I use that fire to get more for my money.

I currently have a free coffee on my account, in fact I acquire them quite often. Yes, there is one thing I am NOT thrifty about, and its coffee. Anyways, so I approach the counter and give the cafe my customer name. They say - oh, it looks like you have a free coffee. And I say coyly, yeah but I can't use it for my mocha (frowny face). Tip: only use this trick when you don't recognize the person behind the counter, or if its a barista who is into customer appreciation or something. Then the barista, male or female, will reply, oh don't worry about that - I can do that for you. (Yeah, I kinda thought you could).

Next, when I go to ice cream shops, I offer a challenge to the person who is making my blizzard/freeze/flurry/whatever. I always ask for a small Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Flurry. Now usually you have to pay an additional cost for "extra stuff". I really got a kick out of it the first time I saw "extra stuff" on the menu, but hey, it's really a thing.

So I order my flurry, and I say, so... how much stuff do you really put in them? Is it just like a little or is it a lot - like a good flurry? (This works best by the way on a guy). To which he feels this pressure - like I'm giving him an opportunity to demonstrate his manhood. He can make me a kick ass flurry, which is a little bad-ass because there's probably a measurement, or something he really should be following. But no, he always takes the dare. He replies, oh yeah don't worry - I'll hook you up. Valah! Extra stuff, no extra cash.

At this point you're probably shaking your head a little, maybe you're embarrassed by my actions that are unequivocally born from a place of being a complete tight-wad . But honestly, this is who I am. And this is why I write.


For more coffee money-saving tips, be sure to check out my coffee category.

Aug 16, 2013

Bizarre Scams: International Hot School

When I think of scammers, I imagine a group of people who live out in the woods, wear dark clothing, and spend hours daily interacting on craigslist. While my description is likely 100% accurate for at least one group of friends, the reality is, scamming comes in many different forms. Since the unemployment rate is so high in the U.S., I imagine some folks probably hop on the trend, as way to creatively make some cash...this seems like the likely explanation for the story you're about to read.

I received a first hand bizarre account of how a friend of mine almost got scammed through a woman she met at a yoga conference. She wanted me to share her story with you.

This story is written by Jessica Walsh, owner and blogger at YogiDance.

I recently was almost the victim of a scam. There are many of them out there, and I’ve heard stories, but never experienced it until last week.  Let me start at the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC. I met a seemingly nice woman there who I chatted with for a short time. I exchanged information with her since I visit the city fairly frequently and thought we could get together next time I was there. I thought it was cool to meet someone who seemed so nice, and only thought good things; not associating people who go to yoga events with trying to scam you. Well, I was wrong! 
About a month later I was in the area and we met up for lunch. We had a nice conversation, she told me about herself and I told her about me. I went on about my business and career goals. This is when she told me that in a few hours she was going to this event called, Superstar Machine. Where successful career and business people help you achieve your goals and give you advice. “It’s by invitation only,” she told me, and I thought, wow this is really cool. What a great opportunity that would be. Unfortunately I had to get home and was not able to go with her. I was bummed, but said maybe next time I could come to it, because it’s monthly.
We caught up after a few weeks with a phone call. I was telling her what was going on in my life, and shared a situation I was having with a guy I was interested in. “What do you think I should do?” I asked her. “I think you should come on International Hot School!” She exclaimed. I never heard of it before and she told me that it is a monthly conference call, like a talk show type thing where you get advice to help with your “man woes” and it totally transformed her relationship with her boyfriend. I’m always interested in improving how I handle my relationships and thought it would be interesting to check out. She said she’d see if she could get me on the call because you have to be invited. Low and behold, I was invited to join the call one night. 
I called in, and was joined by this girl and her friend who were, “super hotties” and they told me and whoever else was on the call how great it is and how much better your life will be and guys will just be so attracted to you, and you learn how not to be a “crazy bitch.” That’s about when I realized that she was selling to me. Which I thought, okay this is a little strange but I’ll just go with it. I thought this girl was my friend and I wanted to keep it that way. After they hyped it up, and sold it completely over the top for a good half hour, we finally get “International” on the call, the man who gives advice to these women, supposedly. They cut us off early and we go into the “party room” another line where they try to really sell it to us. That’s when they finally say that it’s $100 a month.
I immediately start thinking about how I’m going to tell her nicely that I’m not interested. They go on and on about how it’s such a great energy, and no more crazy bitch and the most over the top stuff, but really targeting women’s weaknesses and being super manipulative. Finally they say that they have to discuss whether or not we’re the right fit to join International Hot School and they will let us know tomorrow, then we have one day (or something like that) to join. She calls me the next day so excited to tell me that I got in. Wow, I was so surprised, obviously not. I politely told her, “I am on a budget and do not have the money for that right now, but thanks so much for thinking of me and sharing it with me. Maybe in the future I’ll consider it.” 
Well, she wasn’t hearing it, so she got her other friend on the phone and she was supposed to take my payment. I reiterated that I’m not able to do it right now, and they then told me it was lame that I couldn’t afford it. To which I thought was rude. She said it would bring me money to do this, and would be so great for my life and career. Then I asked, is there a website for this? Do you have online resources? No to both. I told them that I wasn’t comfortable giving my credit card info over the phone. She was like, I understand that. I continued to say that I would expect to see a website, so there’s some credibility and I just don’t think this is something I can do, sorry. 
Then their whole nice attitude quickly changed and they were like, uh I guess this isn’t right for you. Well, good luck out there! So we hung up and I was really surprised at the whole thing and not sure what to think of it all. Then half hour later this girl, who I thought was my friend calls me. I answer and she says, “what happened on that call? You were acting really lame!” I thought, what is she trying to do, this is so strange. I said I was sorry and I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it. “Don’t be sorry for me, I’m sorry for you! You are going to have such a hard time. Good luck out there. Bye.” That was that, and I was glad it was over! 
I just couldn’t believe what lengths this girl went to to try to sell this to me. They mentioned that the Superstar Machine is run by this same “International” guy, so she was trying it right from the start. It was really a shame to know that these women are perfectly fine with exploiting other women’s weaknesses and I just had to share my experience. I hope that no one else falls for this, and if you hear of either of these things, RUN!!  

Jun 20, 2013

Your cell phone bill is How Much? Let's save some money folks

Words you will never hear me say: "I have the best cell phone plan". Words you will hear me say: "I have the best cell phone plan deal".
Friends often chide me for choosing T-mobile. Yes, my service is sometimes spotty. Yes, I sometimes drop calls. But yes, I pay half the price that all my friends do, and yes I will be staying with T-mobile. For the few times that difference shows up, I would rather stick with my plan and save.

For some of you that might seem like a ridiculous move. In our culture, its often the norm to use products that come with the works, and the most convenience packed in. The problem is, those services are very expensive. Convenience comes with a price, and frankly, its not in my budget. And it doesn't have to be in yours either.

Currently my cell phone bill is $38/month including 2 gigs of 4g data. Friends on the main cell phone providers are easily paying double that for the same services. It bewilders me that people will pay $30/month for data alone on some plans. Is it really worth it? Or rather, can you really afford it?

Being thrifty is all about saying "I don't absolutely need that upgrade". It would be nice if we all had infinite dollars to buy the nicest things all the time, but there wouldn't be blogs like this if that were true for everybody (sad thought, right?). Cuts need to be made somewhere, and I always say the best place to make cuts is in your recurring payments: cell phone plan, cable bills, insurance costs, etc. If you can free up your monthly income, that just means you have money free for whatever comes up.

Besides choosing T-mobile (no, sadly, I am not getting any kickbacks for this post), here are general ways you can save on your cell phone expenses:
1. Choose a less popular or local plan. I once had a cell phone rep say to me "those no name brands can't compete with us, so they choose to give you the world in minutes and data usage". Yes, thank you, and I'm happy to take the world and run with it.
Photo Link
2. Consider losing your contract. If your cell company offers the choice, do some research. This means buying phones on craigslist or ebay, but trust me, you can get a much better deal than you're getting from your service provider anyway.
3. Buy your cell phone cases, screen covers, chargers, etc online. Do not buy it from your service provider, where you are paying like 5x's more than you have to. Do your research.
4. Join a family plan. And by the way, they don't actually have to be your family. You can join a family plan with friends, neighbors, boyfriend/girlfriends, or people on the street (not recommended). This means you share the cost of the minutes/texts/data and then you just add lines.
5. Think about forgoing your data plan. :loud gasp:

Take a second and see how much you pay for your cell phone on a yearly basis. If you feel comfortable paying that each year, then great. If it makes you uneasy, I'd encourage you to consider what conveniences you actually need and which ones you can go without.

May 19, 2013

Subway breakfast review

On Friday I picked up my free breakfast meal from Subway and brought it the office. I got the bacon, egg, and cheese on flat bread  adding spinach, red pepper and tomato; it came with a free small coffee. Normally the combo is $3, which is a pretty good deal in my book, but today it was free because I reserved my free breakfast with their promotion.

My breakfast experience: I thought the flat bread sandwich was tasty and healthy, especially once I added some veggies. I appreciated the Subway coffee to-go-cup because it wasn't styrofoam and it didn't use a sleeve. Sleeved coffee is just the darnedest thing to fit in a car cup holder. I just hate it. Instead the coffee cup was made of a thicker cardboard that was well insulated, fitting very conveniently in my vehicle - so props on that.

What I don't like about the Subway breakfast is the wait in line. Call me antsy, but I'm normally in a rush, especially at breakfast. It's difficult for me to have enough time to get out of my car, and tell the person what I'd like in my meal, grab my own coffee and then hop back in my car. If it's a morning before work, I will pretty much never have time to go through this process unless it's my day off, but that's just my personality.But despite my my constant state of rush and tardiness, this $3 combo is a still good deal.

Speaking of good deals, I've been CLEANING UP at yard sales lately, purchasing outdoor yard equipment. Check back for my next post on The Thrift World for more word on that. Until next time...

May 16, 2013

Get a free Subway breakfast! Plus, win a gift card!

I try not to make freebie posts a main part of The Thrift World because many of them require you to jump through hoops, such as registering for unwanted deals or services, or pay a hidden fee. Not so with Subway's free breakfast promotion.

This is how it works, customers can register to pick up their breakfast now through May 18th and then pick up their free breakfast until May 19th. You do need to provide an email address, but otherwise there are no hidden fees.

To get the deal, go to their website, choose a conveniently located store, pick when you want to go get it, and choose your sandwich. Boom, you're registered! I was pleased to see you also get a free small coffee...I mean, you can't argue with this stuff. I am registered to get my breakfast tomorrow morning, and I will do a short follow-up post about the experience.

To all my readers, today I am offering your chance to win a $10 gift card to Subway! Here's how to enter:

1) Like The Thrift World on Facebook (1 entry)
2) Share my blog with your friends via any type of social media (1 additional entry)
3) Post a comment telling me what you did.

I will choose a winner at random using a random number generator. The winner will be announced Sunday, May 19th so be sure to check back! Good luck & thanks for playing!

May 13, 2013

Don't yard sale that! Sell used items for more

It's yard sale season again, arguably the best season there is. But don't put dollar price tags on all your stuff just yet. Your stuff has value, and if you're willing to do a little leg work, you could reap some cash from your unwanted goods.

What to Sell:

I sold this beat up glide chair
quickly in a Facebook group
Your 2-year old cell phone that is slightly beat up, your brand spankin' new phone you just cracked on the sidewalk, your netbook you've since replaced with something a bit snazzier, your 20 gb old school iPod: my advice is, don't take these items to the recycling center just yet. I urge you to spend 5 minutes on Craigslist, Amazon or Ebay looking up your device's value. Most people would never guess that people still pay for older electronics. I recently sold my 3-year old netbook (for which I paid $200) for $100 solid on a yard sale Facebook site. My boyfriend bought an iPhone 5 and dropped it, cracking the screen in every which direction. We sold it on Ebay for more than he paid for it. It might not make sense to you, but people want your old electronics because they have value.

Home Goods
No, I'm not talking about my favorite retail store, I'm talking about your extra coffee maker, microwave, toaster, home decor, old wheel barrel, grill, or other household items. Believe it or not, there IS a market for this stuff. Again, the first thing you need to do is check online before you take it to Goodwill. With home goods I've had a lot of success selling my items on Facebook group sites and Craigslist.

I must admit I don't sell my clothes, but I still believe they have value. My friends and I have quarterly clothing swaps (no, I'm not joking). We gather at someone's house and everyone brings clothes they want to get rid of and we spread them out throughout the house by category: tops, pants, skirts, dresses. Then we eat some food, and go back to our piles and root through everyone's stuff. I've never left a clothing swap empty handed, and I always leave with stuff I like much more than the stuff I brought. Another option for folks who have name brand clothes in good condition: take it to your local consignment shop. Every consignment shop has different rules, so call ahead and ask before you stop in with all of you stuff. Sometimes they only take clothes during certain hours when specific staff are available.

If you are still in college or fresh out, your textbooks may have value. I've even had some success selling old editions for high prices. Amazon is your baby on this one. It's very simple to list a textbook on Amazon because you only have to list the condition and name your price. Sell it quick, and list it for less than other people's asking prices. Look to sell it in August or January for the best turnaround. Here are some other tips on textbooks: How to Save Major Cash on Textbooks

Where to Sell it:

What to sell: Household goods, lower-priced electronics
How to Use it: I LOVE craigslist, but it's important to stay safe. Never allow anyone into your home. Always meet in a public place. I'd also recommend reading my previous blog post: Craigslist: How to not get scammed

What to sell: Nearly anything small in size (you don't want to ship a bookshelf), or things of high value. If you have electronics worth over $150, stick with Ebay for secure payments.
How to Use it: The most valuable feature on Ebay is to see what items have sold for in the past. On the main page search bar click "advanced settings" then check the "completed listings" box and search again. Now you know what people will and have paid for your items. If you want to sell your item, price it lower than that price.

What to sell: textbooks, electronics in good condition, smaller items in size.
How to use it: Always do a quick search to see if your item is listed, and if it is, click the "sell on Amazon" icon on that product's page. If your item isn't selling on Amazon, try Ebay. Amazon is the easiest site to use but the fees are the highest.

Facebook groups
What to sell: household items, electronics
How to use it: Log in to Facebook and then in the search bar type in your town or nearby city name + yard sale. In my town you can search "Berks County Yard Sales" and a couple groups come up. Read the site rules posted at the top, and then take photos of your items and post them on the site. Simple, easy, local.

Have you had luck reselling items? Please leave a comment & share your story with our thrifting community!

Apr 26, 2013

Shopping homemade doesn't break the bank

It's a common misunderstanding that if its homemade, its expensive. That's just not the case anymore.

Ever since the era of the great recession & Pinterest, miniature craft shops have been popping up in the homes of mothers everywhere. And they know as well as we do, price matters... so if you look in the right places, you can find these amazing items for slammin' prices. One of the reasons I love shopping local/handmade is that your product is unique and sometimes you can even personalize it.

Take this sign decor. I asked Kristin of Lil' Red Brick House to make a sign for my boyfriend. It lists all the quirky names he has for his house in this subway style piece of art. Kristin asked me what style I'd like it in as well as what colors she should use. Oh, and what size do I want? Hey, when is the last time Walmart asked you those questions?

My sign looks authentic because it is authentic. Forget the machine made reproductions. Handmade art is the real thing and its done by people who would say they are wired to do it.

"I've always been a diy (do it yourself) girl," Kristin said. "Even when i was 5, I remember constructing barbie houses from leftover cardboard scraps. So, I would say it's just nature to me. "

We don't even think about it sometimes but another benefit to being thrifty is it is (oftentimes) environmentally conscious. Like Kristin using scraps of wood for her projects, reusing an item cuts down on waste - the waste of creating a product that eventually ends up in a landfill and the waste the manufacturer creates to produce it. It's the same thing when you go to the thrift stop or buy something second hand. You are helping reduce waste.

"I really love the idea of being able to take wood that has been thrown out and able to recycle it into something great. Recycling, composting, reusing, re-purposing (if you can put them all together) is something I am becoming passionate about" Kristin said.

The unique quality, the personalization, and the respect you're giving the environment are just a few benefits to shopping local, handmade. And if you haven't done it before, today is your lucky day.

Lil' Red Brick House is giving The Thrift World readers a special offer to shop in her store. Kristin lives in Lancaster, so if you live in the area, you can skip on shipping and pick it up out her way. Want something personalized? Click the "contact" button on the left hand side & she'll make something special just for you. Support local art today! 

Lil' Red Brick House etsy store
20% off Promo code: ttw20off

Apr 10, 2013

Credit Card Disconnection: Get in tune with your purchases

I've told people I pay my credit card bills in full every month, but recently I realized I was telling a lie. Sure, I pay the balance that's due each month, but I noticed I still have a remaining balance on my card. When I pay my monthly balance, I am not paying for all the money I spent in the past month...I'm paying for stuff from last month. 

On one hand this is nice because it gives a buffer of time before I need to pay for those purchases. If I pay the balance off in time, essentially, those purchases are interest free for an additional month. But this convenience has another implication: being 1 month behind, I am becoming more disconnected to my purchases.

Studies often claim people who use credit cards will spend more money than they would have with cash. One reason that's often stated is that people have access to more funds than they do with cash. They feel more powerful and capable than they do with cash, and I think it's because people become disconnected with their spending.

When you pick up your credit card, you may see a beautiful landscape scene, your initials  or even a picture of your dog, (all made possible with personalized credit card designs...). But what you don't see is your balance. Compare that to looking in to your wallet, where you see exactly how much money you have on hand. You are connected to your money because you can see it and you can feel it. Looking at a credit card doesn't tell you a thing related to your budget. The fact is, you could have absolutely no money and still have a credit card in your hands. It's quite deceiving, really.

When I saw that paying my credit card meant paying last months bill, I realized it's another effort by the credit card companies for consumers to become even more disconnected with their purchases. I don't feel as accountable for my purchases because I'm not immediately paying them off. By next month, I won't remember what I bought anyway, I'm just paying a balance.

Auto-pay is even worse. If you have your credit cards all set on auto-pay, you might completely forget what you spent your money on, and you don't even have to look and face your purchase history.

Here are some tips on how to avoid this credit card disconnection.
1. Cancel auto-pay.
2. Every month LOOK at your purchases on your credit card bill.
3. Pay your current month's balance.

Get connected with your finances, otherwise you'll lose a grasp on where your money is going. And trust me, that's not a good path to go down.

Mar 24, 2013

Gym membership alternatives

I've heard lots of friends say, "if I pay for a gym membership, then I'll work out". I've also heard many of those same friends say later "I went for a few weeks, but now not really. I'm gonna try to go again soon" or even other says "yes, I belong to a gym, but (they chuckle) I don't really go".

I read an article once that will probably stick in my brain for a long time. It was explaining how we can all work out regularly without joining a gym. The author talked about parking in the back of the mall parking lot to gain some extra steps, or intentionally taking the stairs instead of the elevator, basically integrating small forms of exercise in our everyday life. And while its a very nice idea, we all know that parking in the back of the grocery story parking lot will not transform our bodies and put us in shape, in fact, we'll probably just get frustrated when we realize how many groceries we now have to lug to our car. But, the concept of working out without a gym is a notable one.

Workout materials are actually integrated in many of the services we already have and use. For instance, there are workout programs on Netflix, On Demand, Hulu, and all over the internet. Not to mention the numerous app for your phone, tablet or desktop with all kinds of workouts.

I just started using the free Andriod App called c25k free. The app is based on the Couch to 5k website where a person who isn't at all in shape can do their walk/run program that will help them run a 5k in 8-weeks time. I like it because 1) It's free 2)It's not that challenging but challenging enough 3) It's a 30-minute workout. If I just go for a run, my workout is going be very short because I have no endurance. But this program has you walking for a period, running for a period, alternating back and forth, and slowly increasing the time spent running, so the time I spend working out is longer.

This app isn't a good fit for everyone, but there are plenty of options out there, and not just for running. There are apps for biking, yoga, kickboxing, you name it-there's an app for it. Here's one list of some highly rated workout apps to try. Didn't find what you're looking for? Simply Google "workout apps" or "free yoga apps", there is a lot of information out there.

Besides saving money on the gym membership, working out at home or near your home helps out in other ways. It saves you the time and gas it takes to go to the gym everyday. I really appreciate being able to start my workout the second I step out the door - it's a real time saver. I also enjoy being outdoors and breathing in the fresh air while I work out.

Now some of you may be chuckling at this point, and saying "hey, I don't need an app to run, I can just run" (my boyfriend included). Please, by all means, go for a run. I, like many others, do not have a passionate love for exercising and working out. I would love to be that person who can't wait to get up and run in the morning. Maybe I'll get there, but I'm certainly not there today. In the meantime, I will use my free app which will spoon feed me exercise. Sadly this is what I need to get in shape. But I think plenty of others are in a similar place.

Do you have a workout app that's worked for you? Please post it below in the comment section!

This post is linked to The Thrifty Home Penny Pinching Party.

Feb 27, 2013

Can I really do my taxes online for free? Is really free?

I can happily say I've completed my taxes for 2012. My favorite part is it didn't cost me a penny to do them. Okay, not technically true, I paper mailed my state and local, so it was the cost of 2 stamps. Overall though: free.

How? You've seen the commercials and I'm sure you were skeptical, because I sure was. Dozens of companies claim to do your taxes for free, only to get you in the door or on their website, to then charge you a bunch of miscellaneous fees. But, good news, is actually free.

When you sign on the site, you answer a quick few questions, and depending on your income level, you are eligible to use various free tax programs from across the web. The lower your income bracket, the more choices you have. I chose Turbotax because I was already familiar with the program.

Once I started the program, I typed in all my information and finally hit send. They had a fair amount of options, double checks, and other perks that were included in the program for free. I'm finally finished, I'm feeling good, and I hit send. Oh, but wait? For $19.99 I can just hit send again and they will submit my local taxes. Tempting, but it's not free, and this is how their money is made.

Here's the thing. After you've completed your federal taxes from their website, just print a copy for yourself, and do your state taxes yourself. Yes, it's very easy to just click "send" and forget about your state taxes for $20, but the fact is, state taxes are super easy to do, so don't pay someone else to do it. Besides, you still have to pull out your paperwork to do your local taxes, so there's no instant gratification in being BOOM done, cause you're not anyway. is great for people who have more simplified taxes and fall into lower income brackets. If you are in an upper level income bracket and have various stocks, accounts, retail properties, etc, the website is probably not your best bet to ensure you get the proper tax return. But, for someone like me, in a lower income bracket, with fairly straightforward taxes, the site is great tool that I will bookmark and use year after year.

So tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell that weird guy who wears suspenders and lounges in your mall (okay, maybe you actually shouldn't talk to him), is actually free. So use it.

This blog posted is linked in to The Thrifty Home's Penny Pinching Party and We Are That Family.

Feb 12, 2013

Save on electronics: skip the extras

Click for coupon. Good until 2/14/13
Buying electronics can be stressful. Most of the time I take my chances on Craigslist, but every once and awhile I venture into a store. Today, I purchased a new notebook/laptop. Staples is having some incredible deals right now. Lots of laptops/tablets/notebook are on sale and a friend knew I was looking so he forwarded me the email detailing the sale. Plus, the email has a coupon for $75 off the sale price. That's my kind of coupon.

I chose my laptop, very inexpensive of course, and reserved it over the phone. When I go into Staples, I go over to the display model just to make sure I like it. The salesman approaches. Oh, here we go.

The dreaded questionnaire ensues: "What do you use your laptop for?" You recognize this question. The Internet and Cable companies ask it all the time. What would you like to do with our service? I can tell you why you need to upgrade.

The salesman tells me that I don't need this notebook. In fact, I'd be much better off with a tablet with a $70 case with a fold out keypad. We had some conversation about and to be quite honest, I was pretty confused. Maybe he's right? Before I can make a decision, the man proceeds to start telling me about the warranty I should probably buy for either device to cover any accidents or defects. Did I know the manufacturer warranty doesn't cover labor and that costs a bajillion dollars? Thank you, no I did not know that.

So I just stare at the two devices for about 10 minutes, no joke. Finally, it dawns on me: I've researched this notebook, read reviews, looked through all the specifications - this was going to be an informed decision. Now, this salesman is asking me to consider a tablet I've never even looked into, and I'm thinking about buying it! There is something wrong with this picture. So I quick google the proposed tablet on my phone and started reading reviews.

I ultimately decided instead of making a split decision on a large purchase, because of a conversation with a salesman who cared more about selling me the extra warranty, I better just go home. I did. I went home, I thought about it, and you know what? I returned the next day and bought the notebook I came in for the day before.

I knew what would come next: all the questions:
Question:Would you like to make your laptop safe and sign up for our extended warranty; its $100 for 2 years.
Answer (aloud): No, thank you.
Answer (in my head): This is how the company makes its money, but trying to scare me into believing that I am going to walk home and drop my laptop on the cement floor, or that it will burst into flames. I mean, someone's laptop has probably burst into flames at some point?

Question:Would you like to add Microsoft Office for $100?
Answer (aloud): No, I have Office
Answer (in my head): Open Office is a free version of Office that is compatible with the Microsoft edition. I'm not in school, so I don't think having Microsoft at home is a necessity.

Question: Do you *need* a case or a mouse?
Answer (aloud):No, I don't.
Answer (in my head): Need is a strong word. So, she's saying it's as valuable as food or shelter?

Question: Would you like someone to help you install your device ? It's $100.
Answer (aloud): No, thank you.
Answer (in my head): Is this a joke? You want me to pay someone to turn it on for me and snap the battery in?  For real, there is no other explanation for what this is.

The conclusions to this story are as follows.
1) Don't make significant impulse purchases. On an impulse you don't have time to really weigh the products pros and cons or research the product.
2) Expect salesman to try upsell you on just about everything. Come in with an amount you're willing to spend and stick with it...otherwise you might just double your limits.
3) I have no idea how to use Windows 8. Okay, you probably didn't glean this from my story...but it's totally true.

In the end, I do really like this laptop (I'm on hour 4) and no problems yet. See, who needs a silly warranty!

Jan 29, 2013

The problem with window shopping

I've been feeling broke in the past couple months. Buying Christmas gifts for my family, friends, my boyfriend, and secret Santa exchanges is enough to make anyone feel a little strapped. Let's face it, we're all feeling it. But coming out of the spending season, I think we can all recognize something about ourselves.

I went to the mall with a friend in early December. That was the first time in a long time I had set foot in a shopping mall. I've found that when you're used to shopping at discount outlet stores, and thrift stores, this type of shopping experience can be quite overwhelming. For a normal person I can compare this to the shock of going into White House|Black Market, Louie Vuitton, or some other outrageously priced store. I'm so used to spending half or even a third of the prices that real stores are asking that I just can't bring myself to buy stuff. And even though I'm not spending cash, I'm still being affected in other ways.

Whether you're used to shopping at high end stores or low end stores, I believe something magical happens when you go window shopping: You realize you need everything. You might not have known it before, but you sure know it when you step in the stores.

For me, it's like every piece of clothing, tablet, organizer, clock... it all looks better than what I have at home, and honestly, it probably is. It's newer, it's shinier and the dang packaging alone makes me think I will be more trendy and have more friends if I would just buy this product. I know that sounds ridiculous, but c'mon, we've all been there.

After Christmas, after the day-after-Christmas (probably the best shopping day ever) and now getting into February, the shopping season and post holiday shopping season is officially over. The sales are done and picked through. I recommend you go home, and stay away from shopping districts for a while. Instead of going to Target or Walmart to buy food items, go to the actual grocery store, so you don't have to walk by the aisles of clothing, purses, office supplies, home decor, and whatever that weakness is that you have. Just buy groceries.

For me, I realize how little I crave stuff when the stuff is not in front of my face. It's when I watch commercials, visit stores (physical and online), and look through catalogs, that I find stuff to want.

In a society where the average American is up to their ears in debt, but yet completely provided for, we don't need stuff to want. We need to stop wanting stuff. Avoiding shops is a good first step.

Jan 21, 2013

Discount Combos: how to save more money at the pump

Every time I go get gas, regardless of the station, there are always signs, banners, stickers bragging about how you can save money at their facility on the black, syrupy stuff. Sign up for our credit card, you'll save 3-5 cents off the gallon. Buy groceries in our partner groceries store, you'll save 10-50 cents off a gallon. Buy a Snickers bar and a coke, you'll save 5 cents off a gallon. I've seen it all.

All of these things sound REALLY good because gas stations know we HATE paying for gas, so they capitalize on it. They tell us to buy something from them to save money on gas, so we think we are getting a better deal. Here is the reality.

We are not saving very much on gas. Sure, 5 cents, 10 cents, even 20 cents off the gallon sounds like a lot of money, but do the math. I usually put about 12 gallons in my car when I fill up, 5 cents off is only saving me 60 cents total, 10 cents saves me $1.20, and 20 cents saves me $2.40. Sure, it's nice to save a buck or two, but that's really not that impressive considering I just spent $45 bucks filling up my tank, and in a lot of cases, I had to spend money on something else to get it. For instance, shopping at that grocery store to get 10 cents off the gallon is generally not the most frugal way to buy food. Discount grocery stores offer far more in savings.

The point is, these little discounts aren't much...but, what you can do is to put them all together. Here's what I mean.

I went to the gas station last week to fill up. I fill up at Sheetz in Hamburg because it's on my way to work and gas is usually about 5 cents cheaper there then it is in Reading.. I happen to get my prescriptions filled at Weis Markets which partners with Sheetz for gas discounts. And I use a credit card that gives me 5% cash back on gas for half of the year.

The other reason I choose Sheetz as my gas station is I can save 5 cents off a gallon WITHOUT using their credit card. It's simply a swipe card, similar to a grocery store card. What this means is, I can use discount combinations. I can swipe my Weis card, save 10 cents, swipe my Sheetz card and save 5 cents, and then, I can pay with my Chase Rewards card and save 5%. And by the way, saving 5% on gas is about 3-4x's better than saving 5 cents on the gallon.

So let's add up my discounts:
Gas was $3.45
-10 cents off for Weis
-5 cents off for Sheetz
-5% off from Chase
Gas final price = $3.135/gallon

That's a $3.78 savings for 12 gallons.   Now I'm not going to lie to you - gas is still expensive. But until we all get smart (or desperate) and start riding our bikes to work, combining gas discounts is the best we're gonna get. And by the way, I am totally open to riding my bike everywhere to save money, I'm just looking for someone to push me. Inquire within.

Jan 11, 2013

Ebook freebie until midnight

I always feel it is invaluable to consider the lives and the culture of those who have much less than us. It changes the way we view money and view the things that we have. 

When I was in college, I went on a cross-cultural missions trip to Egypt which ultimately changed the way I view giving to others. On the trip, I met a guy named Ted Oswald who immediately struck me as someone far more intelligent than me, and someone who had a sincere love for grilled cheese sandwiches. Another love of Ted's (besides food) has always been social justice and serving the urban poor. I was very excited to hear that he was working on, and has finished up a book based in Haiti. One Amazon book reviewer said it "takes the reader into the heart of Haiti's political, social, and cultural climate". 

Up until midnight, you can download a FREE copy of his eBook "Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti". Currently, I'm anxiously awaiting the physical copy of the book to arrive at my house. In the meantime, download your own copy. I have no doubt it will entertain you and challenge you.  

Book Description: When a mother and her infant are murdered on the outskirts of Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most infamous slum, two unexpected detectives emerge: Libète, a brash and headstrong girl of ten, and her brilliant but impoverished friend Jak.

Though made rough-and-tumble on the slum’s streets where gangs, police and UN peacekeepers have long battled for control, the murders stir Libète unlike anything she’s seen before. With the dead quickly forgotten as the community limps on in its grinding struggle to survive, Libète resolves to pursue the truth despite the costs, plunging headfirst into an insidious plot that will threaten her and everything she holds dear.

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