What I saved today

How I saved money, time or the environment today or recently. Relevant comments or questions are appreciated.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

don't be brand loyal, unless its deserved

These days many supermarkets, drug stores and even warehouse stores have their own brands of many common items.  These generics are nearly always less expensive than comparable name brand items and usually just as good. Sometimes I even go into the store expecting to buy a name brand on sale or with a coupon and discover that the store brand is still cheaper.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two more days to another Amazon gift card!

Its only been three weeks since I earned my last Amazon $5 gift card and I've already nearly earned another from Swag Bucks. Just from using the Swag Bucks toolbar to do searches I was going to do anyway.

Monday, June 28, 2010

children's clothes cheap

The below sources work really well for getting children's clothing and toys free or cheap and sometimes for adult's clothing, too.

Hand-me-downs:  These don't have to be from older siblings or cousins. Recently one of my friends gave me a pair of practically new adjustable-waist jeans that she had been given because it would be several years before they would fit her son.  I returned the favor by giving her some hand-me-downs that would probably fit her youngest son.

Yard/garage/tag sales: I once attended a baby shower in a parkMy friend was pregnant with a girl after having two boys. Her mother gave her a huge box of baby girl clothes in various sizes.  She said it cost her about $25 total, all bought from yard sales. Since the clothes were in great condition and my friend was frugal, she was thrilled with the gift.

Thrift stores sell donated goods in order to benefit a charity.  Most thrift stores aren't terribly picky about the condition of the items offered for sale. It generally gets harder to find clothing in good condition as the age of the child progresses.

Consignment stores sell second-hand goods for reduced prices. Consignment stores pay the consignor (seller) a percentage of the sale proceeds and keep the balance. While most items in such a store will be sold for more than those in thrift stores, the merchandise will usually be in better condition.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Its what you spend, not what you save

The upscale supermarket must require their cashiers to tell you what you "saved" with your member loyalty card, because they tell me every time.  But did I really "save" that much?  The receipt may tell me I "saved" $10 by buying three of Item X for $15 when it was Buy One Get Two Free.  And I did "save" that much if I would regularly buy one of Item X at the cost of $15.  But if I would even buy Item X on a regular basis, I would probably be able to buy it for $7.50 or $10 somewhere else.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

avoid convenience foods

Have you thought about how much extra convenience foods cost over cooking from scratch?  Complete meals in a package will save you money if you choose them over a restaurant meal, but they usually cost three times as much as a home-prepared meal.  I choose my conveniences carefully.  For example, the convenience of a jumbo pack of individually frozen chicken breasts is well worth saving the effort of de-boning chicken breasts to me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

avoid restaurants

Have you ever stopped to think about how much more a restaurant meal costs than one that is prepared by you at home?  Around ten times as much.  If you're trying to save money, cutting down on eating out is a good place to start.  You might also consider take-out, you save on the tip and if you can't finish your portion you can easily pop it in the fridge for someone to eat another time.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

use up the last drop

You know something else that's good for the environment?  Don't waste food or personal care products.  I was brought up to automatically let the ketchup or shampoo sit a few minutes upside down to get the last 1/2 oz or so out of the bottle, but I've encountered a lot of people who never heard of the tip.  I also use a rubber scraper to get the last bits out of cans and I try to buy jumbo sizes of items to save on packaging waste.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

use credit carefully, if at all

My parents taught me never to buy anything on credit that I didn't have the money for right then.  They used credit cards mostly as a convenience so they wouldn't have to carry a lot of cash with them.  I am disciplined enough that I don't spend more when using a credit card than I would if using cash or a debit card.  I was able to accumulate several hundred dollars on my Citibank Driver's Edge card years ago mostly by purchasing groceries.  The money had to be used toward the purchase of a new or used car. But if I had seen that I was spending more money because of the card, I wouldn't have used it.  For many people, its too easy to forget to keep track of their spending and be surpised by the size of their credit card bill.  Sometimes they can't pay it off and have to pay large amounts of interest.  This quickly adds up.  Do you want to pay a bank hundreds of dollars of your hard earned money because you couldn't wait to buy something until you had saved enough money to pay for it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

save space and money with travel versions of games

Short on space?  We buy (or wishlist) travel versions of games when available so they take up less room.  They're also less expensive than full size versions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Skip the gym membership

My husband makes good use of the many machines at the gym and even got me to join for a while.  But for me, membership wasn't worthwhile.  I hated adjusting the machines for the proper weight and couldn't keep up in even beginner exercise classes. It was also a pain driving to the gym and I felt uncomfortable exercising in front of other people. Besides, I detest monthly fees.
So, I continue to do aerobics as I have done for most of over 20 years.  At this point, I follow my aerobics routine on a portable DVD player while I watch a TV show I have recorded on DVR.  The time goes by quickly and I can watch an hour show in 40 minutes by skipping commercials.
I also like My Fitness Coach on the Wii and Wii Fit Plus. My boys like Wii Sports Resort and a few other games.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

washing in cold water

Washing clothes and dishes in cold water saves lots of money on heating the water.  Its also better for the environment.  I do use hot water when someone is sick with something worse than a cold.  And for fabrics which can't be washed in hot water, I am now going to be using the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide method I blogged about earlier to kill germs before washing with other items.
I try to at least let jeans air dry because they last longer that way.  I confess to using the dryer for most things because I convince myself "if I hang up only the things that won't wrinkle when air drying, I won't have a full load for the dryer."  I am terrible at ironing and I figure I wouldn't be saving much money and certainly losing time if I ironed clothing instead of letting the dryer take the wrinkles out.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

cloth napkins

We made the switch to cloth napkins a couple of years ago.  I figure they don't really cost extra to wash because they take up so little room in the washer. One thing I have learned, though, is to provide paper napkins when we serve something saucy or greasy.  Sauce and grease stains are not easy to get out and will set if not treated quickly.

Friday, June 18, 2010

saving money and making life easier with a slow cooker

I knew nothing about slow cookers until after I was married and working full time.  One of my coworkers told me how she some times used a slow cooker so she'd have a meal ready when she and her husband got home from work.  I actually didn't get around to buying a slow cooker until after I was home with my new baby because my husband and I weren't comfortable with the idea of running an appliance all day when we weren't home.  But when the baby started getting fussy every day around dinner time, I realized what a help it would be to be able to prepare the ingredients at my convenience instead of while trying to comfort a crying baby.  Later, I checked recipe books out of the library and discovered recipes online.  One woman blogged about using the slow cooker every day in the year 2008 at A Year of Slow Cooking. I also learned that hams and roasts come out delicious in a slow cooker and are easy to keep moist and seasoned.
Another thing which is making my life much easier is the "keep warm" function on the crock pot.  Not only can I set the crock pot to "keep warm" if some one is going to be home late, I can put food in the cooker that I have cooked by other means as long as the cooker and the food are already heated up.  This is a great help when I get a call just before dinner that someone is running late and I don't want the food to dry out.  One caution: this doesn't work well with crispy food.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

take advantage of free programs at libraries

My boys went to a cartooning class free today.  It meets every month.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

get books your library doesn't have yet

If there's a book you want to read and your local libary doesn't have it, request it.  Generally the library can get it for you from another library or will order it for you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

at least attempt to repair things which break down

Once upon a time, one of my favorite gadgets, my GPS, stopped working.  Rather than assuming I would have to do without it or replace it, I decided to see if the cord that allowed it to be plugged in to an outlet would get it to work.  It did, so I now knew that the cord that hooks up to the power in the car was the problem.  I was able to get a replacement adapter cord for much less than it would have cost to replace the GPS.
If something isn't working, check the manual to see if you can figure out what's wrong.  If that doesn't work, call customer service to see if they can help diagnose the problem. If customer service can't help, check the Internet to see if you can find a solution there.  Lots of people even post videos of how they fixed items which weren't working.  If it turns out you can't fix something yourself, you can hopefully at least determine whether or not the repair is going to be worth the cost plus the labor of a repairman (unless you know someone who'll do it for free or barter time).  I can't tell you how many times I, with my very limited mechanical ability, have been able to properly repair an item or safely improvise a solution.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Entertainment Book

The Entertainment Book is a book of coupons which allows you discounts at local attractions and businesses. Right now you can buy a 2011 edition for $35 and get a 2010 free for your chosen area of the United States.  I buy one every year because I can make back more than $35 in savings by using the coupons where I was going to do business, anyway.  Some people buy a book for the area where they will be vacationing, too.  I've also given the book as a gift when I was pretty sure the giftee would use and appreciate it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

save a tree- cut down on paper towel use

I don't remember my mom using paper towels much.  Once I learned that dish towels often harbor a lot of germs, I started using paper towels a lot more in my own home.  But eventually I started feeling guilty about the waste and decided to wash my dish towels after one use.  I keep a plastic container with clean dish towels under the kitchen sink.  Now I pretty much only use paper towels to clean up grease and oil.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Summer = thirst

Now that summer is upon us, I have to be a lot more diligent about having water in the car in case of thirst.  In the cooler months, I can keep a reusable water bottle or two or a couple of juice boxes in the car for emergencies, but during the summer these won't provide much relief from the heat.  So I am being careful to always have a cooler with an icepack and cold beverages, or at least a container designed to keep beverages cold, in the car.  This saves so much on the emergency beverage purchases.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I try to use homemade cleaners whenever possible.  But none of the dozens of stain recipes I have tried work as good as Oxiclean on some stains.  One son has a tendency to fall on his knees in the grass and Oxiclean has gotten out the ground-in grass stains after a long soak.  Recently another son accidentally splattered pasta sauce all over his white shirt while we were out.  Oxiclean got all traces of sauce and oil out of the shirt.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

gift wrap

So, I needed to wrap a couple of graduation gifts and a Father's Day gift.  I really didn't want to buy special, overpriced wrapping paper.  So, I used some of a roll of flowered wrapping paper for the girl.  For the boy, I found a gift bag with a sports theme which must have contained a gift for one of my sons for a birthday.  For Father's Day, I plan to wrap the package in brown paper decorated by the kids.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Swag Bucks

I was really skeptical of this offer, as there are so many others like it which earn you almost nothing.  But about two months ago, after seeing lots of bloggers praising it, I joined Swag Bucks. The directions to install the search toolbar were very simple and now I automatically do my Internet searching through the Swag Bucks toolbar. I average about 15 Swag Bucks a day just on searching, something I do anyway, and it takes 450 Swag Bucks to get a $5 Amazon.com gift certificate, so I figure I'll get one about every month.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

do an online search for free events in your area

I spent about an hour today searching up free events in my area to tentatively put on my calendar for summer.  There were a number of things in the most recent Charlotte Parent that I hadn't known about. Now there are several things each week which I think my kids will enjoy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sterilize produce, clean your home with two simple ingredients

Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar have abilities to sterilize, but together their strength was magnified. According to one study "If the acetic acid got rid of 100 organisms, the hydrogen peroxide would get rid of 10,000, and the two together would get rid of 100,000." [1]

In later tests at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, it was found the combination will kill almost all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

I don't want to kill the good bacteria in the house, so I only use the combination when I fear some bad bacteria, like when I work with raw meat or when washing vegetables that will be used raw.  The vinegar and hydrogen peroxide need to be kept in separate bottles, as combined together they form a weak acid.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Clorox Greenworks toilet cleaner

Another product I will buy is Clorox Greenworks Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner.  I don't want to use harsh chemicals and neither a vinegar soak nor a special scrubber were working to get the rings out of the toilet, so I checked reviews for natural cleaners.  Clorox Greenworks Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner worked best and has worked great for me, too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Free Movies in the Park

Many communities have free movies and concerts in parks during the summer.  I just got back from taking my youngest two to see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."  Due to sponsorship by local businesses, the kids were also given a glow stick, balloon creation and soap bubbles.  I knew snacks would be sold, but I warned the kids they'd better pack their own because I wouldn't be buying anything.

Friday, June 4, 2010

home hair relaxing

My teenage son is trying to grow his hair a bit, but he has awful cowlicks and more curl than he would like.  He wanted me to take him to a salon to get his hair chemically straightened, but I got a curl relaxing kit and "permanently" straightened his hair for him.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

learning to hem can save a lot

My mother did not inherit my grandmother's sewing talents, and neither did I.  But I did learn to hand sew a hem and that has really come in handy since I am short and need most of my pants taken up.  And today, I turned two pairs of my son's jeans that had holes in the knees into denim shorts. Directions can be found by clicking on this wiki.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

tired of disposable tape dispensers?

It suddenly occurred to me one day that if offices could use reusable tape dispensers, we could, too.  I bought a tape dispenser and a bulk pack of tape reels several years ago and still haven't needed to buy more tape.  I'm not sure if we've made up for the cost of the tape dispenser, yet, but I know we've done a little bit to save the environment by not throwing away several disposable tape dispensers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

my mega grocery shopping trip

Kids will be out of school for the summer next week, so it was a good day for me to do some major stocking up on groceries.  The bagel shop, upscale supermarket and warehouse store are five miles from my house, but within a half mile of each other.  By visiting them one after the other, I saved time, money (less gas used) and the environment (less carbon monoxide produced by car).

My kids love bagels, and I love the whole grain bagels this particular bagel shop makes. Ideally, I would have gone tomorrow because the bagel shop discounts a baker's dozen bagels by $2 on Wednesdays.  But I really needed to shop today as I won't have time tomorrow.  And I had hoped to get my bagels from the half price bin, but there were only bagels we don't like.  I've heard that if they don't have a half price bin, many bagel shops will still sell you day-old bagels if you ask.  While the bagels taste good fresh, we also like them toasted.  I slice the bagels in half and put them in the freezer.  We can just pop the frozen bagels in the toaster as needed.

I'm very careful about what I buy at the upscale supermarket.  According to my price comparison list, I can get nearly everything there cheaper someplace else.  However, this store does double and sometimes triple coupons, so sometimes it's worthwhile to buy an item when using a coupon, especially if the item is on sale.  I buy beef and pork at this store because this is the nearest and least expensive place I know of to get these items without added hormones and antibiotics.  I generally wait for a sale.  There is a particular brand name cereal one son really likes which I was buying in bulk at the warehouse store, but today I bought it at the upscale supermarket because I could combine a sale with a coupon and beat the warehouse price. I had a coupon for $.55 off one 17 oz. box.  The store doubled it to $1 and the box was $2.50, so I was able to get it for $1.50, only $1.42 per pound! (yeah, I know homemade granola is cheaper).  There was also a Buy 2 Get 3 Free deal I took advantage of and a couple of other unbeatable sales.

At the warehouse store, among other things,  I purchased a jumbo pack of chicken breasts without added hormones or antibiotics, a five-lb. bag of shredded mozzarella (block was the same price, or I might have shredded it myself), frozen mixed fruit for fruit and juice smoothies, chewing gum and a bulk package of imitation crab meat.  When I got home, I broke up the mozzarella and imitation crab meat into approximately 1 lb. portions, put them in square reusable containers, and put them in the freezer.  Buying bulk also saves the environment when it cuts down on packaging waste.

A Great Day to Print Out Coupons

The first of the month is a good day to print out coupons from online sources.  I like All You, Red Plum, Smart Source and Coupons.com use barcode-printing software that helps remedy that problem.