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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Be "Eco-Friendly/Frugal"!


We talked about ways to be "green" and save some "green" a few weeks ago. Today, two suggestions for being frugal while "green"!

Check out www.tenthousandvillages.com for gifts and housewares from a chain of fair-trade stores that works with 138 artisan groups in 30 countries to pay fair wages for handmade goods (FYI the jewelry is amazing and prices are reasonable and for a cause!)

For sportswear made from eco-friendly bamboo fiber, check out www.moseau.com. The firm, based in Tempe, AZ, specializes in clothing made from this breathable, sustainable and naturally antibacterial fabric! Shop for yourself or for gifts!

What a great way to shop and feel good about it!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shop 'til you drop!


Yes, I know there are some great flicks at the theatre right now but given the topics I cover in this blog, have I got a recommendation for you! My daughter and I just watched "Confessions of a Shopaholic" on DVD (just released this week!)...the book series this is based on is hysterical and gives some perspective on why we (women and men alike) shop 'til we drop! Watch this one with friends...great fun!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Christmas in (almost) July!


Another great coupon/deal site friends! Take a second (or more) and check out:

www.shopping.aol.com

There are amazing deals ranging from coupons to free shipping, etc. and all at the click of your mouse :)

It's almost July folks...time to start that pre-holiday shopping to avoid the credit card overload in the fall.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Shopper's Dream...


So I have jabbered non-stop about the benefits of clipping and using coupons, but here are a few additional hints (feel free to skip over this blog post if you are bored or don't mind overspending...HA!)

* Check the weekly ads for your local stores and compare prices...it doesn't take that much time! Here in Phoenix you need to check Sunday papers as well as on Wednesdays! Who is offering the best deal once you compare coupons and sales????

* Plan your meals around sales/coupons...this is a no-brainer!

* Start a coupon club...exchange coupons with friends and families to ensure you get favorite brands and items...I send my mom cat-food coupons (yeah, thanks, I have 7 dogs, I could save $$$ if they would eat her cat...lol!)

* Checkout manufacturers' coupon sites (on their website generally) to get extra deals!

* Make your grocery list based on items you need NOT items you want!

* Two for one or three for one (yeah they do happen!) deals are the BEST!!!!

Feel free to suggest other ideas...we can all use them!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time is on your site (side)?


OK, so note the really cool world clock gadget here on the blog. I picked Phoenix and Guam because my daughter's best bud is stationed there...makes life simpler when you can tell times elsewhere and for free! You can show up to six different cities on your website at no charge with this version from Google. Also check out:

www.freedownloadmanager.org/worldclocksoftware

or

www.clocklink.com/

These offer similar versions! Time will tell which is the best (bad, I know!) ;)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Make-up the $ difference! (pun intended!)


Ah...beauty deals...the ever elusive bargain! Here are a few to check out:

Sephora Sign up for Sephora's beauty insider program at sephora.com. You get discounts and free product deals via email. You also get a birthday gift (nope, not telling you and spoiling the surprise!)

Ulta Join the Club at Ulta at ulta.com. For every $50 you spend you get a freebie (i.e. nail polish, hair products or salon services). You also ge special general merchandise coupons!



CVS Join the "ExtraCare" program for rewards including coupons and lots of beauty product deals!



Eyeslipsface.com Check out this site for beauty product deals, most of which are priced at $1...wow!!!!!!

Splurge a little!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mmmm...more chocolate!


Chocoholics rejoice! A month or so ago, I mentioned free candy from Mars...well, now here is the Cadillac of chocolate offers! Godiva launched its loyalty program in May. Join the Godiva Chocolate Rewards Club to get free shipping for online orders and earn free goodies when you buy $10+ per month! Sign up online or at any US Godiva location.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Revitalize yourself...and do it for free!


Can't afford the gym rates but you want to "destressify"? (ok, not a real word, but it says it all!) A couple of thoughts for you:

* Check out churches, the YMCA and community centers for free or inexpensive meditations, yoga and exercise classes.

* Try out a gym with a 2-week free pass...they almost all offer them and you can try a few out and get over a month of free services! Use what you learn there and incorporate it into an exercise routine at home.

* Check out a DVD on water aerobics and practice in a public pool (early AM when it's not filled with kids)

Feel free to post your suggestions as well!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Some great summer savings!


Ah...Just when I think the "think tank" has dried up, a new source of money-saving info comes to light! Check out usaweekend.com (June 19-21, 2009) for some good tips for the summer. Here are a few examples:

* Check www.SeatKarma.com for great deals on seats at concerts, Broadway plays, major theatre productsion and sports events around the US!

* Make your own snacks: Make mini-pizzas or burritos at home...freeze on a cookie sheet then store in freezer bags. Mix trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, cereal, mini-pretzels or M&M's and put them in individual snack bags.

These are just a couple of a long list of great ideas offered by USA Weekend! Check it out!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Blog Block...




Once again it is time for my monthly rant! I am totally winging it in terms of what you may want to see on this blog, so please (groveling here!) toss out some ideas!

I will research and address any topic that relates to the overall purpose of the blog. Post your ideas whenever you think of something you would like to see included...Thanks!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day Gift Ideas



OK - so admittedly: (a) I am a little late with suggestions for Father's Day gifts since it's tomorrow (oops!) and (b) some of these ideas are better suited to young kids giving a gift to Dad than a 40+ year-old (hmmm...me perhaps?) sending one to Dad, but use your judgement and creativity!

* "Chip off the Old Block" - get creative with a block of wood, a little varnish and a permanent marker (yep, reminiscent of the "pet rock" days!)

* Baseball Cap Organizer - pretty self-explanatory; requires a yardstick, some clothespins and a little paint.

* Chef's Apron - have the kids craft-paint there hands on the apron and add a clever phrase.

* Cook's Gift Basket - (ok - this is ok for us older kids to give to a dad who likes to cook and/or eat!) - put together a gift basket of meat rubs, salsa (homemade?), BBQ sauce, etc.

* Coupon Book - these have always been a hit! Young kids can include hugs, watching a movie with Dad, playing a game, making breakfast (cereal counts!). Older kids can include car washes, yard work, making dinner, etc.

And, if time has run out for you, a homemade card and/or a phone call may save you yet again!

Happy Father's Day!!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cutting the Tab when Eating Out


I've covered a number ways to save money when dining out (the Entertainment Book, coupons, and Restaurant.com), but ran across a few additional ones suggested by Donna L. Montaldo at About.com:

* If you are trying an expensive restaurant, go for a late lunch rather than go when the higher-priced dinner menu is out.

* If you are taking kids along, check for kids' night deals - i.e. free kid's meals for each adult entree purchased.

* Limit purchases of alcoholic beverages - they really add to your bill!

* Take home a doggie bag of leftovers - gives you an extra lunch or dinner and makes the cost of dining out more palatable.

* Ordering a meal at a nice restaurant and splitting it with a friend or spouse may actually be cheaper than both of you buying a meal at a fast food place.

* If you want the ambiance of dining out without the expense, go to a nice place, order a house salad, a nice appetizer, water with a lemon slice and get refills on the free bread!

* Seniors - don't be afraid to shave $ off your bill by playing the age card!

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

To Market, To Market



I recently read an article online (by Robert L. Williams) about how you actually can get "free" seeds when you grocery shop. Here are a few examples:

* Buy packaged beans (pinto, limas, black-eyed peas, kidney, etc) - not canned or frozen. Plant just as you would any seeds.

* Get watermelon or cantalope - and use the seeds in your garden.

* Potatoes - they sprout in the bag anyway, so they will definitely grow when planted!

* Dry the seeds of peppers, squash or cucumbers when you are preparing them for meals - add them to the garden!

Admittedly, my kids will vouch that I do not have a green thumb, but it still sounds like fun...let me know if you try (or have tried) this and it works!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Check this out!



A short one today! I've mentioned "walletpop.com" before, but check out its "deal" page. Lots of links, coupons and ideas!

http://www.walletpop.com/deals

Monday, June 15, 2009

Free Online Resources!


Occasionally, some unusual and very helpful "freebies" catch my eye. Following are a few that may prove useful for you!

* www.Nolo.com
Check this site out for free articles related to legal advice.

* www.OpenOffice.org
I checked and don't think I've mentioned this one before! OpenOffice.org offers a free software package that provides word processing, spreadsheet and presentation capabilities.

*www.bbc.co.uk/languages
The BBC offers free online language courses - complete beginner courses in French, German, Italian and Spanish. There are also some courses in Chinese, Japanese and Greek.

Check out these practical, free solutions to what could cost you a lot of cash elsewhere!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Money Savers - in your home or out and about!


The Arizona Republic recently published some ideas sent in by readers re: how "to save money in difficult times." Some were a bit over the top, but here are some that are worth a try!

* Plant a vegetable garden - inexpensive to do and you reap the rewards later! (pun intended!)

* Turn off your water heater in the summer (ok - perhaps down, vs off?)

* When your doctor prescribes a medication for you or a family member, request samples first - saves on an initial prescription fee or puts it off a bit!

* Bake your own bread - the smell alone is worth it!

* Sign up for birthday deals at restaurants (& retailers - Barnes & Noble and Borders both offer great birthday deals!)

* Do laundry/wash dishes at off-peak times for electricity.

* Bring your own coffee to work!

What, you ask, did I consider a bit over the top? Here are a couple:

* Take the kids to see the "stuffed animals" at Cabela's - might entertain them, but my hubby would want to shop!

* Send Christmas postcards vs. cards...ok, if you are out to save money on this, send email cards!

* Turn brown paper bags inside out and use them as scrap or drawing or wrapping paper! (ok - admittedly have used Sunday comics pages as wrapping paper for a kid's gift in the past!)

* Don't wear your shoes in the house to save wear and tear on your floor...mmmm...I'm not wearing cleats! But technically in the the long run they might be correct.

Share your ideas with us! (and any good bread recipes!) :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quick Meals to Save Time & Money



Even more than saving money, I value saving time - especially when cooking dinner! It seems schedules in our family are never quite coordinated, so crock pot meals offer a great option. There is a never-ending variety of meals that, by tossing ingredients in the pot (ok, so I may be oversimplifying this a bit!)and letting it cook slowly through the afternoon, allows everyone to eat at their convenience (or together if it ever works out that way). No one slaves over the stove and you can make it to an evening event on time. I wouldn't want to do this every night, but it allows some meal (and budget) flexibility.

Check the following site for some simple recipes:

http://www.50plusfriends.com/cookbook/crockpot/index-5b.html

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nice Try!



By now you know that I am all about saving money, but bartering has its limits in the real world! For laughs, check out this video of how to go a few steps too far!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

At the Starting Gate - Free Small Biz Services!


So yesterday, I wrote about some "no strings attached" freebies more for home and fun. Today, I have a few more to list (a few more from "Woman's Day" - big surprise!) and some from my own digging around!

Do you run your own business? Does the current economy have you thinking about this as an alternative (or addition) to your current employment situation? Well, here are some free resources to get you started!

* www.sba.gov
Free online business courses from the Small Business Administration. Courses are self-paced and take about 30 minutes to go through. TOpics include writing business plans and financing your small business. (You can also look here to find free in-person classes near you!)

* www.protonic.com
Get free computer support from volunteer experts via e-mail.

* www.vistaprint.com
You can create and receive 250 free high-quality business cards on this site (you only pay about $5 for shipping) They also offer free rubber stamps. They may keep pestering you a bit as they want to get you hooked on their services, but even then their prices are pretty reasonable!

* www.wififreespot.com
Ths handy site can tell you with restaurants and coffee shops in your area offer free wireless Internet access. This could come in handy!

* www.officelive.com
Microsoft Office Live allows you to create a free online workspace...I don't know all of the details, but it looks really helpful! You can create your own website for free and store documents online!

* www.Go-Co.net
Get free business "How-To" Guides (though some of the "free" business services looked a bit shady!)

* www.smallbiz.att.com
This site provides a learning center with advice on technical solutions for your business as well as news & insights (re: tech, marketing, finance and HR) and a community of Small Business Experts. This site is definitely worth a second look!

* www.Freebyte.com
Freebyte provides a wide range of free business software...check the site for details and available products!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Strings Attached!


"Woman's Day" always has something budget-worthy in their issues (and, yes, I realize that admitting I read this magazine may tend to date me...oh well!)

In the June 1, 2008 issue, Mary Hunt identified some great websites for some great free stuff! Check these out:

* www.silverjewelryclub.com
This site offers silver jewelry (rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets) that are high quality and FREE! You pay only a shipping charge of
$5.99. This is their way of introducing you to their products.


* www.rememberthemilk.com
Check out this site to create a free time-management organizer that allows you to produce an up-to-the-minute "to-do" list and get reminders via instant message or e-mail. Upload this to your cellphone and you'll get updates on the go!
Most of the features are free, though if you opt for a $25/year subscription, you can also access additional premium features (and no, I don't really know what those are!)

* www.spamato.net
Free spam filtering for your e-mail...check it out!

* www.famundo.com
Go here to get a free online family calendar, complete with address book and message board. As with the "rememberthemilk.com" site, it's fre, but you can upgrade to their "Plus" version for an additional $10/month (I would be the only one in the family ever checking it - not sure that is worth $120/year! :)

* www.MutopiaProject.org
Get free classical music downloads of sheet music. Over 1,000 piecese are available and, while higher quality copies are sold here, there is no pressure to buy!

* www.pandora.com
This is a very cool site! Create your own personal radio service. You type in an artist and the service plays songs by that artist and others with similar styles. There is no downloading allowed, but you can always listen to and change your own "stations". This one I've actually seen in "action" as my daughter has used it a lot.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Freeloading?"


Check this site for "freeware" - free software you download right from the site!

http://www.switched.com/category/download/

I should add a disclaimer here! I have not downloaded any of these myself, although the variety does look tempting! If you try this, please let us know what you recommend. Thanks and happy surfing!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bailout!

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Just thought we could all use a lighter look at the economy! Funny yet hits close to home for many these days! More useful stuff tomorrow!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Save Some Green & Be Green



I obviously like to save money and, to some extent, work to be "green" - we recycle (Phoenix as a great program and picks up once a week). I use reusable containers when storing leftovers. And I try to get all of my driving done in one trip to avoid driving more than necessary. Where I fall short is on my constant use of paper towels (back to that "I have too many dogs" excuse!) and I still buy bottled water...(and I'm certain there are lots of other things I should be doing, but don't).

The April '09 issue of "Woman's Day" (p.16) had a great feature on this particular topic. A few of the suggestions include:

* Ditching paper towels and using a sponge or old kitchen towels instead.

* Buy the smaller size concentrated liquid laundry detergent (cuts back on packaging)

* Cut 5 minutes from your daily shower (this saves water and your water bill!)

* Use old loofahs to scrub your tub.

* Attach a scratched DVD or CD to a child's bike as a safety reflector.

For more ideas along this line, check the cited issue or go www.womansday.com.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Make a Difference



I received an e-mail from a friend the other day and at the bottom of her message was a comment that read "i'm EMAILING FOR THE GREATER GOOD." So, out of curiosity, I clicked on it and found another amazing way to help a wide range of charitable causes!

Microsoft started the "i'm Initiative" in March, 2007 and since then it has raised over $2.4 million dollars for its partner causes. Sign-up and every time you use Windows Live Messenger or Windows Live Hotmail (their free webmail service), Microsoft shares a portion of their advertising revenue with the cause you select from their list.

Go to the following website to join now!


http://im.live.com/Messenger/IM/Join/


You can select from the following causes:

* UNICEF
* Susan G. Komen for the Cure
* National Multiple Sclerosis Society
* The Humane Society of the United States
* Boys & Girls Clubs of America
* StopGlobalWarming.org
* Sierra Club
* ninemillion.org
* National Aids Fund
* American Red Cross

Make a difference!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wow - Room AND Board at College?



My son, soon to be a junior at the University of Arizona in Tucson, is wait-listed as a potential Resident Assistant (RA) for the 09/10 school year. This may not seem exciting to those of you whose kids haven't yet hit their college years, but from a budget-perspective this is a biggie! (And yes, we are also proud of it as an achievement for him, make no mistake about that!). When a student is selected as an RA, he is the "guide/leader/head honcho" for a floor/hall in a dorm. This is definitely a great responsibility and will look great on a resume. But, from a mom and dad's perspective: WOW! He has just scored free room and board with this gig!
Needless to say, we are waiting to hear if he gets in...if not, it's back to the Student Union deli - (not a bad job, but room and board it is not! :)

And, FYI this is not my son in the photo above...many thanks to Google!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Music to our Ears!



Concert tickets are quickly becoming a luxury...me, I try to win tickets but often to no avail as the radio station lines are jammed (nothing new!). My husband sometimes scores tickets through colleagues, but the opportunities don't come up often. So what are you to do if you want to see a big-name act and don't have the mega-bucks to shell out for seats? First, be willing to consider less than premium seats...the sound quality will still be good and big screens in the venues (and binoculars of course!) still provide a good experience.

And don't doubt for a minute that your idols are not aware of the economic concerns that you face. Check out the article "Bands Offer Concert Deals in a Tough Economy" (4/10/09) at:
www.mainstreet.com/article/lifestyle/bands-offer-concert-deals-tough-economy

Keith Urban offered some tickets as low as $20/seat to accommodate fans on a budget. And "No Doubt is giving away a digital download of their entire catalog in exchange for the purchase of a premium ticket ($42.50 before taxes and fees)..." And the list goes on...Kudos to those giving a regular fan a break!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spend Some to Save Some


We all have made purchases of certain things for which we (and our budgets) are forever thankful! Today, I thought I'd address a few of those that over the past few years have been "priceless"!

* An extra freezer: It wasn't too expensive to begin with (fyi, paid for it with proceeds from a garage sale a number of years ago), but it saves me lots of grocery money by allowing me to stock up during sales. It is also great for when I bake since I can make a double batch and freeze one.

* Home Warranty: OK, so the price seems a bit daunting when the bill rolls around each year, but they do allow us to break it into 3 payments! For just under $600 per year, we have warranty service on most aspects our home's plumbing, electrical work, spa, air-conditioning, roof, etc. And not a single year (out of seven!)has passed that we haven't used that service. We pay $50 on a service call and anything covered by the warranty is fixed or replaced at no additional charge. We have had two air-conditioning units replaced, electrical rewiring, roof work, plumbing and replaced a hot water heater. Not a bad deal at all!

* Water purifier: In Phoenix where our water is safe but by no means a beverage of choice, this is a "must". We use it for drinking water at home (and making coffee!). If I were true to my blog, I would probably also be refilling water bottles and stop buying bottled water...just haven't been moved to go to that level though.

Those are the top ones that come to mind, but I'm sure another day I will add to this! I would like to note that the espresso machine, while occasionally used, has not yet replaced my yen for lattes! No, I no longer go to Tully's or Starbucks daily or even once a week, but I lean toward my "regular" coffeemaker versus wrestling with that other contraption in the early mornings!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Warehouse vs Supermarket Shopping Debate



I have until recently been a cardholding member of Costco and gladly paid my annual membership fee to wander the aisles of larger than life grocery products. I will concede that typically the non-food items sold there represent a significant value versus what I would pay for similar products elsewhere. But what about the groceries?

This is by no means a true price comparison, but rather my comments here are based on my own shopping experiences. Feel free to post your thoughts on the subject (even if they don't agree with mine!). And note that I can't speak to the prices and quality at Sam's Club...although I have also shopped at Smart & Final here in Phoenix.

Here is my personal take on best/worst bets of the warehouse over my supermarkets:

BEST:
* Alcoholic beverages are much cheaper at warehouse prices (also check-out BevMo or similar stores for good prices)
* Meat is typically a great deal and even if the packages are larger than what you would typically buy, you can always repackage and freeze the excess.
* If you do a lot of baking you can usually get good deals on bulk sugar and flour.
* Coffee has typically been cheaper - I could even get Starbucks whole bean coffee at a good price.
* Paper goods (TP and paper towels) and cleaning goods (laundry detergents, cleansers, etc.) are items that you always need extra of.
* Bottled water and soda are usually cheaper at the warehouse too.

(These accolades do not however mean that they are ALWAYS the best bet - sometimes the supermarkets run amazing deals that beat these out!)

WORST:
* Large frozen dinners - unless you are really into leftovers, these huge boxes take up valuable freezer space and cost more than making something from scratch anyway.
* Dairy products - unless you are certain you/your family will eat all of that yogurt, think twice!
* Fresh produce - prices often are better at the local supermarket!
* Canned vegetables/fruit - great for restauranteurs, but not so great for the average family - once opened they don't save well anyway!

Other considerations - at Costco, you can use a debit card or American Express card but NOT a VISA, MasterCard or Discover...not so convenient for everyone (though personally, I'm opting on debit for everything anyway). And, as you are aware if you've been following my blog, I am a fan of coupons and those are frequently doubled, tripled or even quadrupled at supermarkets but not at Costco. It may come down to personal preference in the long run, but shop smart regardless!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Now That's Entertainment!



I've covered some inexpensive "out-on-the-town" experiences, such as the Culture Passes offered by the Phoenix Public Library. And we all at one time or another have rushed to catch that last matinee at the local movie theatre. But when you'd like to have a live theatre or concert experience for little (or sometimes no) money, consider going to a local high school production. We recently to see "Little Shop of Horrors" at Desert Vista High School here in Phoenix. It was so close in quality to the Broadway production we saw awhile back at ASU, that I was in awe! And the band, orchestra and choirs also perform several times each school year. Sometimes we underestimate the talent that is just down the street!