Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dining Out on a Dime

Dining out deals vary by where you live, so I am going to focus on the more "national" opportunities as well as general ideas where to get coupons and locate local deals. Please post your own suggestions if you have ideas to share!

One of my favorites is and they always have a special running. If you read this today, you still have time to get in on the current special:
purchase a $25 gift certificate for only $2! Go to and select your restaurant from their members. Enter the discount code: LUCKY at checkout and hit "Apply". Some quick info about this site - you can purchase as many certificates as you want, you get them to print out immediately online once you've paid, you can order for restaurants anywhere from their list (i.e. great if you are going on vacation and get them in advance) and you can even email them as gifts.

What you need to be aware of:

* You have to pick the restaurant the certificate will be used at (they are good for 1 year from purchase) and it can't be switched "use it or lose it!")

* The restaurant must be identified from their site (they have a great search engine)

* Use of the certificate requires a minimum purchase (i.e. $50) at the restaurant and this in generally for "dine in" only and may exclude alcoholic beverages.

* Check to see if there are blackout dates prior to buying a certificate for a certain restaurant...I haven't run into any, but that doesn't mean it might not occur for different restaurants.

* You can only use ONE certificate per visit to a given restaurant. But if it's a favorite watering hole, stock up when the $2 or $3 sales occur!

Another obvious source of dining deals is the Entertainment book - check it out at The book generally retails for $30.00 each year, but local schools and non-profits and sometimes stores will sell it at a slight discount as part of a fundraising project. Deals are generally buy one/get one 50% off or free. There may be blackout dates for certain restaurants and other rules, so always read the fine print. Also, always tell your server you are using this discount when you order. The cool thing about this book is in addition to dining deals you also get coupons for entertainment, museums, services, events, retailers, travel, etc. At the very least you will make back what the book costs and then some!

Other budget-worthy sources for dining out:

* Valpak (or other mailers) coupons for local establishments (check expiration dates)

* Coupons that are sometime squeezed into the Sunday paper coupon sections...more often these are for pizza and fast food, but lately I've seen coupons for Red Lobster, Olive Garden, our local Asian food buffet and some sushi places.

* Check specific restaurants' websites for specials, coupons, and events...sometimes these deals aren't as well-publicized but may be worth the websurfing time!

* Don't be afraid to ask what type of deal is available if you are taking a large party (8+) out for a meal...given the economy, everyone is willing to make a deal these days!

Big note and very important: ALWAYS tip your server based on what the full price of the bill would have been without the coupon, deal, etc. They need to make a living too!

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Charity on a to give when you can't afford to!

Having just covered tuition and the benefits of volunteering yesterday, I thought I'd tag today's topic on to the charitable aspect of the volunteering. Face it, in these trying times, not everyone can afford to donate money or even to get out to do in-person volunteer work. So today's blog is short and sweet and helps you give back to your community without hitting your wallet or taking too much time away from your own family.

My favorite way to donate is eScrip. Below is an explanation from their site at

"eScrip is proven to be a fantastic resource for fundraising where participating business partners contribute a percentage of your grocery loyalty cards, credit card, and debit/ATM card purchases to the school, group or organization of your choice. Visit our family of merchants for a complete list of participants in the program.

Here's How it Works

• You register any one or all of your existing grocery loyalty, debit and credit cards for use in the program.

• Participating merchants will make contributions to your chosen group, based on purchases made by you, just by using the cards you have registered.

• Your purchases are tracked and available to you online, allowing you to see just how much you are earning on your child's behalf!

About ESI
Electronic Scrip Incorporated (ESI) is a California-based corporation dedicated to establishing relationships between commerce and community -- to provide resources to organizations and projects that support children. ESI introduced the eScrip program in 1999 and has distributed over $120 million to schools and youth organizations across the country."

In addition to selecting where your money goes, you can also register your own non-profit organization to be included on their list. For instance, the music groups my kids were active in in high school are on the list and we got all of the parents, their friends and relatives to pick those organizations for donations. The more people that sign-up, the more funds come in. It is a win-win situation, donors are shopping as they would normally, but a % goes to charity, and the kids win by more money supporting these organizations!

If you want to donate time but can't get out or go too far away or you have a tough schedule, check for ways to give from home! One time I worked on making baby blankets for AIDS babies. Another option is reading books onto tapes for distribution to shut-ins. Again, check with local organizations and also to see how you can help to the best of your abilities.

Please post your suggestions and ideas as well! Thanks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Help Paying for College

Yes, it's the race for college funds again! This topic hit the blog as I was reminded again on Sunday what a chore this was time once again to fill out the FAFSA form to apply for grants, financial aid, etc. for my son. The deadline for this lengthy form is May 1st each year and each year I do it just a little closer to the deadline! So for those of you reading that have high school and college students in the family (or fall into that category yourself) here are a few quick tips for getting help with the huge college bills:

1) Always fill out the FAFSA - even if you don't think you qualify, you might! Even a little $ helps and besides, if you don't qualify for funds straight out, they can set you up with the appropriate student loans.

2) Look REGULARLY (not just once or twice because sites are updated) at websites providing information on scholarships as well as college testing details (i.e. SATs).
Two I strongly suggest looking at are:

Also check your high school and college websites. Consider checking re: scholarships related to the parents' companies, your religious affiliation, community organizations, etc. Sometimes there is $ available where you would least expect it!

3) Students' academic achievements are very important but now schools also look for well-rounded students. Students should have extra-curricular activities that include clubs, leadership roles, work experience and, most importantly, volunteer work. I suggest that these experiences be tied to future career goals if at all possible; for example, my daughter wants to be a veterinarian and currently has a part-time job at our local vet plus has done volunteer work with a local animal shelter. My son wants to teach and volunteered many hours at our public library (and as a result got his books paid for by a library scholarship freshman year). Don't know where to look for opportunities? First try the school counseling office, your local community paper and, if you need more ideas, check out:

4) For parents of younger kids, check out This site helps you save money with minimal (and your family and friends) sign up and when you use certain credit cards or club cards, a % of your purchase (generally between 1
and 8%) goes into your "account" for the specified child. When you have enough saved to open a 529 savings account, you can do that online as well and transfer your Upromise earnings into the account. There is nothing to lose with this and, while it doesn't necessarily produce a lot of earnings, it's still like getting "free" money. I even signed up much later (my kids were already teens), but why not? (and if you don't have kids or relatives with kids...let me know! I will invite you to sign up for mine...HA!)

5) Don't overlook opportunities to earn college credits as early as 9th grade! Many schools offer dual credit courses where you earn both high school and college credit for certain courses. You do have to pay for the credits but it cuts some time off school when you are paying room and board! Also, you/your student can take Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school which give you high school credit and then allow you to take a placement test at the end of the course. If you score well, you can place out of entry-level courses in college and/or receive college credit for the comparable college course. Check with your school for additional information. Also be aware that how credits are applied can vary by college - be sure to check on requirements for the schools of your choice.

One final note: I was unaware at first, but quickly found out that scholarships are still available once a student is actually attending college! You should continue to check the scholarship sites and with the career counseling center at the college as opportunities continue to become available! Also DON'T FORGET, the FAFSA must be filled out every year...not just for high school seniors!

Happy tuition $ hunting!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Summer Parties - little on the wallet, big on the fun!

So planning birthday parties for young kids is still fairly easy to pull off on a tight budget...but what if you want to throw a party this summer for your friends? In Phoenix, granted, with most homes having pools, a pool party is always a safe bet! But themes often make for a change of pace so here are some quick, easy and cheap ideas.

I actually did this one for a group of 16-18 year olds but it's perfect for older groups too! We took turns as dealers and food consisted of appetizers and mocktails (virgin daquiris and margaritas) and sparkling cider.

Dining: green table cloths (plastic or paper) from party stores or sometimes even at the dollar store - gives casino color without expense; plastic champagne & margarita glasses from grocery store or dollar store; no silverware if having only appetizers/finger food; red plastic plates from Walgreen's or grocery store and same for the cocktail napkins.

Decor: we splurged a bit at a party store but cheapest options are red/green crepe paper, a couple of casino related balloons weighted as centerpieces; confetti that fits theme (we got dice confetti and gold $ sign confetti) to sprinkle on tablecloths.

Games: we opted to keep it simple - primarily Black Jack and tables for poker. For $20 we bought a felt table cover for craps as well. In many party stores you can get a cheap version of a roulette wheel for $15 or less. We used plastic poker chips that we bought bags of at (get this!) our local Goodwill store. At the end of the evening, chips were tallied and person with highest number got first pick of prizes and so on down the line...everyone got something. Prizes were simple and gathered over the course of a few weeks prior to the party. Most were obtained at the dollar store: fuzzy dice, mini "how to play poker" books, decks of cards and some poker sets with cards, chips, etc. A few were obtained cheaply at Walgreen's - Yahtzee pens (use your imagination to visualize those!), handheld battery-operated poker and blackjack games, etc.

Other easy cheap gathering ideas:

Wine-tasting parties (or beer) - plastic glasses and guests all bring a bottle of wine and an appetizer or specialty cheese.

Murder Mystery parties - we've all seen the boxed games to throw a party with...personally never tried it, but sounds fun!

Luau - yes, corny, but certainly simple and inexpensive - back to the virgin daquiris, fruit platters and BBQ - set up a few tiki torches (literally $1.99 each at Michael's) and any additional decorative touches and you are ready to go. You can also go the appetizer route instead of a BBQ - less expensive and far easier to clean-up!

Other suggestions? Feel free to post your ideas! Party on!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Savings one penny at a time!

Yes, I do realize that one penny doesn't amount to itself...But they do add up! I must, to my chagrine, admit that I will pick up change I find on the sidewalk, in a parking lot and from my washing machine (yes, I have no shame, if it was my kids' money, then that is the price they pay for laundry service!). My daughter and I took a trip to Paris a year ago (yes, the flight was on mileage points, the hotel on a bargain and meals on the cheap for the most part!) and our "play" money consisted in part of a bank we threw all of our spare change in.
Don't knock a couple of months we stashed away over $100 - picking it up wherever we found it or saving it from purchases. Every spare cent went into our travel fund and it was worth every penny!

I particularly enjoyed the bank we got for this purpose (and yes, it too was on sale!). It is one of those jar banks that tallies the amount of coins you put in...makes you feel like you really are accomplishing something! And, at the end of the savings period, we dropped the coins in the Coinstar machine at our local grocery store. While Coinstar charges a fee for adding up your life savings and spitting out a receipt you can cash in at the customer service desk, call me crazy, but I think it beats getting your hands filthy and trying to fit the coins in those miserable little paper coin rolls! (I am only cheap to a point!)

Happy trails (and savings)!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action...and don't forget the popcorn!

With the weekend comes the need for movies...and preferably affordable ones! I have never been a big fan of going out to theatres to see movies unless they are filled with special effects that beg for big-screen viewing. I don't like the inevitable sticky floors (and sometimes seats), kids texting during the film so that the theatre has flashing lights throughout and the fact that some rude person (often NOT a child) kicks my seat during the crucial scenes! That said, I find I am a much nicer person when I've had my movie fix on my own sofa.

I have a bit of a movie rental deals and steals comparisons for your viewing pleasure today. And, even if you typically rent from one place, you may want to check and see if you are getting the best deal for your viewing style. Most of the services/stores here offer plans tailored to how many videos you rent at one time, how quickly you can return them and whether you want that special DVD tonight or next week.

* Your movie selections are delivered directly to you in the mail (not in the pretty spiffy movie case, but is that really necessary?)
* There are over 100,000 titles available (I never requested one they didn't have though granted I only lasted 2 months!)
* Plans start at $8.99/month where you can check out 1 DVD at a time and exchange for another as often as you want during the month (in addition you can instantly watch as many movies online on your PC, MAC or on your TV via a Netflix-ready device instantly and as often as you want for no extra charge)
* A prepaid envelope is provided with each new rental to allow for convenient returns
* They also carry Blu-ray movies.
* Movies are shipped within 1 business day.

My take: Netflix delivered as promised...if you watch the movies quickly it is a great deal. Unfortunately, I never got to it the day it came in and it could sit a week on my counter; therefore I paid way over average per movie rental! Also, what sounded good when I ordered, didn't necessarily seem that wonderful when it came in.


* Blockbuster has in-store rentals as well as an order online version.
* In-store they generally have some great deals on previewed movies - wonderful for classics or that one comedy you tend to watch over & over!
* The Total Access plans allow you to return DVDs by mail or exchange them in store (up to your plans limits per billing month)with movies shipped to you within 1-2 business days.
* Blu-ray titles are available.
* Over 90,000 online titles available
* Renting in-store, you often earn coupons after renting a set number of movies

My take: For the same reason as with NetFlix, I don't do the online rentals with Blockbuster. They are the closest video store to my home, but their selection is ALWAYS limited, they are ALWAYS understaffed and frequently their DVDs are scratched/don't work. I typically use Blockbuster only when I've earned free rentals through eRewards surveys or Those allow me free new release rentals...Blockbuster's coupons are generally for non-new releases. Bear in mind that my opinion is based on my own Blockbuster franchise so don't be afraid to give it a try in your area; they can differ!


* Like Blockbuster, you can get some good deals on previously viewed movies and their quality is typically good.
* Hollywood offers a free birthday rental for you and each person on your account from their Hollywood Film Library (check to see what titles this includes!)
* They offer senior citizen discounts of 10%.
* Rent any 3 movies and you get a FREE single popcorn or M&M candy.
* They have "PowerPlay" plans which allow you to select a plan. You can upgrade (or downgrade) from one plan to another and you earn PowerPoints for movies or games from the store. Slight difference with their plans pay a per month fee to get cheaper rentals (got that? you still pay per rental!), no due dates, no late fees and discounts on game rentals and concessions. You also get discounts on movie purchases (previewed movies).

My take: I love Hollywood's in-store selection and there are frequently coupons in the mail or on inserts for free rentals. They have typically more copies available of new releases too. I don't see a great benefit to their "plans" as I still pay for rentals and I don't really want to pay a monthly fee on top of that...I don't see the overall value on this one!


* Redbox is exactly that...have you seen a red vending machine (red box) outside a local store (in our case Walgreen's)? In a couple of easy steps you can rent a DVD or several from the machine.
* You must use a debit or credit card to pay and enter some basic info on the touchscreen to make the rental
* You can actually reserve movies in advance online at and movies can be returned to ANY Redbox.
* Movies are $1.00 per night and there are no late fees or other charges. Your card is charged immediately for the first night, then for the remainder upon return of the movie.

My take: This is my new favorite! It's a quick fix when I want to watch a movie the same day. It's cheap, it's easy and the only catch is that it offers a rather limited selection and that can vary by Redbox location. They do, however, typically have a good selection of new releases readily available the minute they come out! You can occasionally find promo codes for the boxes too!

OK, so we've already established that I don't do the movies by mail routine (own personal preference!), but for those with young children or who are very concerned about appropriate content in movies, I did find a site online: This is also an online DVD rental club with plans simmilar to what others offer price-wise. They also offer a "Fast Pass" for $34.95 per month (designed for churches with regular movie nights that allows up to 5 titles out at one time). There are no due dates, no late fees and all shipping is free. They also sell new and classic DVD releases. They refer to their movie selections as "faith-friendly" but before you assume this means they are all religious films, take a look! There are also lots of classics and top-run movies - just clean and fun! I haven't tried this site, but you might be interested!

Have fun!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Keeping in Touch (on a budget of course!)

I am trying to be a good correspondent...keeping in touch with whoever is willing to respond from high school through college through (ok...I'm old, face it!) today! But to send e-mails can sometimes be boring...and, face it, there are a lot of dates to keep track of (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, births (ok a bit beyond by age group...HA!), etc. etc.

Like many of you, I tie into (only the freebie version, thank-you!), LinkedIn (but that's more professional than social) and FaceBook (but too much cutsie stuff cluttering that site so I don't use it for "real" correspondance).

I truly miss letter-writing (but no one writes these days so it becomes very one-sided) and while my preference is to send cards for any and all occasions, the cost of cards and the postage make that tough on a budget right now. My best solution?
I absolutely swear by the ecard sites you can find on the Internet...yes, many of them charge subscriptions, but we are talking about $13 or so for annual unlimited use of their services! My personal favorite is

You can send music cards, talking cards, animated cards and the list goes on...for any occasion (or non-occasion!) you can think of. Most sites provide you with address books you can set up, reminders for special dates, calendars and ways to archive your favorite cards (sent or received).

Here are a few additional sites that offer similar services: (sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation)

Have fun and if you find another site you prefer, let us know!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let's Play "Punt the Prescription"!

Yes, I am well aware that I may ultimately be declared a public nuisance by my local pharmacies, but I swear they started it! Who could possibly resist all of their enticing coupons - a $30 gift card to transfer your prescription to Safeway; $10 if you take it to Target; $25 for going to CVS or Walgreen's...I'd be crazy to pass on these deals! And so it began...!

My husband and son have asthma and allergies, my daughter and I have a couple of prescriptions that occasionally require refills...this concept is absolutely made for us! I currently have $50 in Walgreen's giftcards in my wallet and another $25 from CVS (and I just spent a $30 card at Safeway and another $25 at Walgreen's).

This seems like pennies from heaven, but before you get carried away, take note of the following important "public service" announcements:

* Always read the fine print on the coupons - some require a transfer of a prescription, while others may allow a new prescription to qualify for the cash. Some may not allow a prescription to be transferred to their pharmacy if they have filled it there within the past, for example, 3 months (ah, so discouraging to those of us shuffling them around!). If the coupon end date doesn't coincide with when your prescription can be filled (per your insurance), then you are out of luck - sorry!

* The gift cards generally cannot be used for certain types of purchases, such as alcohol, tobacco products, or other types of gift cards sold at the store you obtain the card from. In some cases, you have to use the funds received in full at the time of use and, if you don't use the full amount, you lose the balance (however, often I've received the remaining change error? Who knows?!)

*Finally, and this is the most important aspect of this shuffling of prescriptions:
it is very important that (a) you keep strict track of who has which prescription where...keep a chart so you know for sure who to call for refills or transfers! and (b) BE SURE YOUR PHARMACISTS ALL KNOW WHAT OTHER PRESCRIPTIONS YOU ARE ON...they need to be advised in order to avoid giving you products that will negatively interact with your current regime. Getting a deal is great; messing with your health is not!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earning a Good Deal!

So is it still a "freebie" if you have to do something to get it? Call me gullible, but if it is only taking a few minutes of my time or is connected to something I am going to buy or where I would shop anyway - yep! It's definitely a deal!

I have a few examples of how I get some of these deals, but please feel free to share your own favorites! (And readers are from a variety of states, so even if they are local to you, we might find similar offerings in our areas!)

First of all, I am a diehard Diet Coke (and preferable Diet Coke with lime) drinker (hey, it could be worse...Bud Lite?) I save every 20oz bottle cap and box tabs from Coke products to enter the blurry little codes on If you are a regular consumer of their products, points add up quickly. My son earned free game rentals at Blockbuster as well as a telescope. I've earned lots of free video rentals as well as over 3000 points for Holiday Inn's frequent traveler program and a few year-long magazine subscriptions. OK, so it isn't worth doing if you don't consume a lot of the product, but if you do, the added minutes to log your points on at the site are well worth the added goodies.

Store "club" cards are a "no-brainer" - if you shop someplace regularly, you have nothing to lose by earning their points. At Safeway, I earn United Frequent Flyer miles; at Fry's I earn Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks merchandise and tickets; at CVS and Walgreen's I earn "bucks" to spend at their stores. And in addition, the cards typically get me better deals on merchandise and coupons in the mail which are often tailored specifically to my personal buying habits. Petco gives me a free bag of dog food for every 10 I purchase...and so on! Do check the rules of each card though as some, such as Barnes & Noble require a membership fee to get their can be really worthwhile, but only if you shop there frequently; a $25 annual fee gets you 10% off all store items as well as at their in-store coffee shops. I don't change my shopping habits around the cards, but I sure make good use of the ones available at my favorite retailers!

What about you? Suggestions?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beauty is not just skin-deep, it's wallet-deep!

OK, so we have already established that I'm cheap (face it! "Penny-Pincher" is just a euphemism for "cheap" - HA!)

Given that I've been laid off 2x in the past year, I am Queen of Cheap! :)
I began, immediately following my last layoff, looking for quick income fixes and found it in selling Avon. I have to say: (a) I love the products - better deals and still the high quality I've grown used to from much pricier brands and (b)what a great company to work for...lots of positive reinforcement (you miss that in a lot in Corporate America!) and the product practically sells itself!

So...(ah... the shamelessness of begging for blog subscribers...tell me who you are and why you are reading this blog and I will hook you up with a discount deal on my Avon site at

Yep, no shame...I want readers and people to share my need to beat this economy! If you are interested, post a comment online with an email I can reach you at! Also, consider Avon as a second (or first?!) income...what a great opportunity this is for both men & women! Happy to discuss if you are interested! :)

We are now "Swap-O-Holics"!!!

I admit it...I am hooked! My daughter and I went to the Phoenix "Swap-O-Rama-Rama" at The Trunk Space on Sunday and it was great. We got there just as it was opening so stayed on to make sure we got to investigate more of the clothes added to the pile with new arrivals over the course of about 2 hours. We worked it from different perspectives...I am by no means a fashionista as my daughter will readily agree; I went looking for existing items in good condition in my size - ready-made with no creativity required. She, however, joined the more popular movement; picking out quirky items with great materials, fringes, and potential and then remaking them to fit what she saw as fashion statements! This from a girl who I doubt has ever even seen a sewing machine let alone used one!

The sponsor provided 7 sewing machines, a couple of irons and ironing boards and loads of trims, buttons, accessories...everything to recreate the items with a dash of your own personality. By the time we left, we both had two full bags of clothes and she had designed and sewn her own skirt and two scarves. Not a bad deal for only $5 each plus a bag of our own used clothing! (And to make the day even better we had a free breakfast at our local IKEA...the Penny Pincher's perfect day!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"My Mama Told Me, 'You Better Shop Around'"

Yeah, corny title I know, but I couldn't resist it!

So somewhere along the line I will address coupon clipping, filing, etc. but even I must admit that topic is well-worn in the papers, blogs, websites and so on. I want to address what I think is even more important (although it can be even better when you use the coupons along with this practice!).

In my Phoenix neighborhood, there are a wide range of supermarkets: Safeway, Fry's, Trader Joe's, AJ's Fine Foods, Basha's, Albertson's, Whole Foods, Fresh & Easy and other newcomers that offhand I am not yet familiar enough with to name. Every Wednesday, at least four of these chains include inserts in our daily newspaper offering store-specific coupons, special deals and extra-special deals for club card members.

OK, so maybe I need a life, but I really look forward to Wednesdays and absolutely plan my grocery shopping around these circulars! I first look at what I am stocked up on, what I am short of and make note of any special occasions (potlucks, holidays, birthdays, school or volunteer bake know the drill!). I make a grocery list of what I plan to buy and then read carefully through each store's insert. I identify the best deals on what I need and set up my list by store. If I list an item under one and then find it for a better price or deal elsewhere, I shift the item to that store. I will also indicate on the list how many of each item I need and if I have a coupon for the sale item as well. (NOTE: if a store provides their own coupon, typically you can also use a manufacturer's coupon IN ADDITION to their coupon - double the fun!)

And then there are the added benefits that you sometimes see in the circulars - "triple coupons," "quadruple coupons," or "will accept all competitors' coupons" - Jackpot! If you juggle all of these offers correctly you can get an amazing amount of shopping done for surprisingly little cash! (My all-time favorite is Basha's "Buy One-Get Two Free" offer on various items - cases of water, meat, etc.)

One word of caution; you need to take into consideration how far you have to drive to get to the stores with the deals. In my area, Safeway, Trader Joe's and Fry's are all within 1/2 mile of my house. Basha's is about 3 miles away and Albertson's about 10 miles. I will only hit Basha's or Albertson's if the deal is amazing or is a hard-to-find item (i.e. monkfish...really tough to find in AZ!).

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Work with me here!

So...I know some of you read this, but don't "follow" the blog. PLEASE, if this interests you, register on the Blog. It is very encouraging to know that it is being read and I would love some feedback...are the entries appropriate for what you are interested in? Too long/short? Any suggestions for entries? Do you have an idea you would like to be interviewed about? I am very flexible and would love to make this more interactive! Please subscribe and share your ideas! Thanks!

OK - so this is just a fun one to share!

I received this e-mail from a friend down south! Funny if not really realistic!

"Grilling tip: As every Southerner knows, come next spring it will time to get ready for that all-important cooking technique of the south --- outdoor grilling!
I have just found out there are many stores (not just in the South) where you can get a FREE Bar-B-Q grill! In these tough times free useful items are very welcome. You can get a free BBQ grill from any of the following stores:

Food Lion
Home Depot
Big Lots
Sam's Club

Trader Joe's

I especially like the higher rack -- which can be used for keeping things warm!

Just make sure to get a metal one... the plastic ones don't do so well.
Y'all enjoy now!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Garage Sale Planning - Part 2

So...we left off with advertising your sale with signs. Your signs (including at the end of your street) should be put up the day prior to the sale. Make sure they are taped with clear packing tape otherwise you risk a lot of lost signs due to wind, kids, etc!

I am a firm believer in leaving as little as possible to set-up the day of the sale. I have price tags/labels ready for the larger items, i.e. furniture, appliances, etc. and general prices for books and clothing. I do not even begin to try pricing knickknacks, games, toys, etc...let them ask you and you name your price then (ALWAYS make it higher than you expect them to pay so when they talk you down you both feel like you are "winning"!). If you really want to make it easy, set out grocery bags and sell clothing for $3 per bag (more or less depending on the quality of what you have out there). You may want to separate particularly good items - designer brands, suits or evening dresses and coats - and price them accordingly and not allow them in the "all you can fit in a bag" deal.

The evening before the sale day, I make sure all of my folding tables are in one spot nearest to the garage door. I ensure that I have a dolly to move any furniture and that there is an extension cord to allow potential buyers to test electronic items. I have a fanny pack ready (yes, stylish, I know!) with a small calculator and adequate change (about $50 in bills and coins) to start the sale with. I also make sure I have a comfy folding chair for me to relax in between what I hope will be hordes of customers. Finally, I make sure the coffee pot alarm is set and so is my bedside alarm - Always allow 1/2 hour to get coherent and an hour for set-up before your start time. And (no kidding!) hard core shoppers will show up as soon as you turn on a light outside and pull the first table out. Do not let them negotiate prices on large items until you've actually been up and running for at least an hour...if they really want it, they'll be back.

Other day of sale notes:
* DO leave lots of room for people to move between items (aisles so to speak)
* DON'T (if at all possible) throw clothes on the ground on a tarp - hard for people to sort through and easy for them to get stepped on. Try to arrange to hang up the best items and put the rest on a long table.
* DO separate kids' books from adults' as this will give them something to look at while parents shop.
* DON'T sell baked goods - too much possible liability, BUT when my daughter was selling Girl Scout cookies, I did put those out for sale.
* DO have a contingency plan for if it starts to rain (or as it did one late spring in Boise, snow)...clear tarps help immensely.
* DO keep the money on you at all times and don't let people rush you when you are counting items or making change. Be aware that sometimes someone may try to take off with an item or cash and you do not want to leave the sale without someone running it at all times. Also, when you get large amounts of cash, put some inside the house - you won't need it all for change.
* DON'T take personal checks unless you absolutely know the person!
* DO take down all of your signs at the end of your sale - keep the neighborhood clean!

With these guidelines in place, you can count on a successful sale...and be realistic - any money you make is more than you had before you started! Enjoy the "game" of the sale and meet people!

Happy selling!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring is in the air and Garage Sales are down the block (Part 1)

As the weather warms up (ok...always warm in Phoenix but warmer still now than a month ago!)it is the perfect time to clean out your attic, garage, etc. and have a garage sale (note to readers in different areas - garage sale=tag sale=yard sale!) I am pro-donation of my old clothes and furniture, BUT if I can make some extra cash from some of it beforehand I'm all over that!

So to help you get the most $$$ from your sale, I have some suggestions for how to advertise, set it up, price items and close it down (that usually comes with a chilled glass of chardonnay!)

* First be sure you actually have enough items to make a sale worth the effort. If you only have a stack of used clothes, half-colored coloring books and some broken chairs, stop right there, do not pass go and skip immediately to the (cheap)chardonnay! No one is going to stop if that is all they see on your need at least a few quality items of furniture or lots of items in the kid realm (bikes, toys, games) or absolutely loads of a mixture of the odd, quirky and yes, even junky items to keep cars stopping.

* Have your items ready a few days before your sale and have them grouped (think in terms of store departments)by types of items such as books, games and toys, kids' clothing, adult clothing, shoes, furniture, holiday items (Halloween costumes, Christmas ornaments or knick-knacks, Easter baskets), office equipment and supplies, and so on...Having them set in one easy-to-get-to location for set-up the morning of the sale will make your work a lot easier!

* Decide in advance the times and date(s) of your sale. Here in Phoenix, sales are often held for 2 days, typically Friday and Saturday mornings, opening at 7AM and running until around noon.

* I've found that, while newspaper classified ads do increase traffic to my sale, they don't necessarily do enough to make up for the expense of placing them. Besides, what if I decide, oh say, sleep is more crucial than a sale that morning when I wake to a horrible alarm at 5:30AM?! If I've placed an ad, I'm stuck! With signs at the end of the street, I can at least remove them and lock myself inside and wait for another weekend. Plus, well-placed signs (not even particularly fancy) with clear PRINTED info on fluorescent posterboard seems to do the trick. Place arrows providing directions; not everyone will know how to find an address - in fact I usually rely on arrows along the route from the signs and leave the address off altogether. There is also the option of placing a free ad on "Craig's List" for your sale.

Day of sale hints coming up soon! Stay tuned!

Fashion Swaps - Fun & Wardrobes on a Budget!

So many topics to cover and already I've shuffled my planned topics! But a great article in "The Arizona Republic" this morning set me on a different track. This Sunday, April 19th (11AM-4PM), "Swap-O-Rama-Rama" is coming to downtown Phoenix. Just $5 plus a bag of clean, used clothing, gets you in at the Trunk Space, 1506 NW Grand Ave. in Phoenix. You can pick clothes and, for the more adventurous of you, they will have sewing machines and DIY workshops to give your selections your own bit of fashion flair! Watch out "America's Next Top Model!" Check out the home page for this event and others across the nation!

While this particular event looks like great fun, you may not be into the public swap concept. I have heard about some fun swaps that are held at homes - like Tupperware or candle parties but the host/ess and guests bring out their used clothes, jewelry, shoes and accessories and over beverages and munchies (fancier if you prefer) swap wardrobe items. The "pros" of this are that you know who wore the item before, you do this in a fun atmosphere and it's easy to go try the items on. On the downside, you may not like showing up in your best friend's outfit when you are together after the party. And, the biggest issue can be with friends of varying can be a major faux pas having all but one or two of the guests in the same size range...someone may not be able to find something and their clothes may not be wanted by the others. You need to know in advance how you are going to handle this - if the size range is too variable, then concentrate on a swap of accessories and bags. The idea is to have fun and save money, not to alienate friends!

Happy swapping!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So what qualifies me as a penny pincher?

Married, mother of two teenagers (one in college and one in high school), recently laid off from executive position and we have (count them)seven dogs...need I say more? If this is not the ideal penny pincher profile, I don't know what is!

I will be sharing great deals, coupons, money-saving hints and funny anecdotes on this blog. Likewise I look forward to readers sharing their ideas! Thanks and welcome!