Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ways to add money to your budget

I wrote down a list of ways I have 'found' money within my budget. Basically by cutting costs, shopping differently, and overall making different choices, you can find more money in your budget. Here is a list - I know there are many more -

1. Cell phone - change your plan, remove unused lines (with Sprint you can do *2 and say credit for drop call 20 times per month saving you $10 on your bill each month!)

2. Land line- If you still have a land line, do you use it? Do you have features 'bundled' together? do you use them? It might be cheaper to remove some features you don't use.

3. Cable - remove premium channels or cancel all together

4. Haircuts - Beauty schools in my area charged any where from $5-$10, sure beats the $50 I used to pay

5. Insurance - home and auto - have you shopped rates lately? looked at coverage?

6. Limit eating out

7. Take your lunch to work

8. Coupons! (see my other posts)

9. Utilities- Does your electric company offer budget billing?

10. Yardsales

11. Sell on ebay or craigslist

12. Rent movies instead of going to the movies

13. Shop at the grocery store once a week vs. running in when you need 1 thing. When I did that, I would always walk out with much more than I anticipated on buying.

14. Cut out daily trips to the gas station/ vending machine etc.. Its the little things, when added up, that make the biggest impact on the budget

15. Carpool

16. Gym memberships or misc memberships - are you using them? if not-- cancel!!!

17. Call your credit card companies to get your interest rates reduce, threaten to go to the competition and see what they can do for you

18. Have a clothing swap with friends

19. Have a dinner swap with friends (everyone brings something and then you can 'swap' and take leftovers home)

This is just a small listing of the ways you can cut expenses out of your budget. Once you start doing some of these, you will be surprised how quickly it all adds up!

Monday, December 3, 2007

You can give by saving - or save to give

I'm always on the look out for a good deal. No matter what. I read a lot of freebie forums and chat rooms and find out what kind of deals people are getting. Because I want in on it!

I stockpile a lot of the normal things like toothpaste, shampoo etc.. I buy this stuff for next to nothing when I am doing my weekly shopping. The trick to that is to find it on sale, use a coupon, and keep it on hand so you are not forced to buy something and pay full price just because you need it.

I have so many coupons and I'm always signing up for more. Even if I know i'm not going to use the item, i'll get the coupon and try to find a good deal. I do this especially with pet food. A lot of times you can find these items and pay very little - then turn around and donate it to your local animal shelter. The volunteers there love it because you are giving them much needed supplies. It makes you feel good doing a good deed, and on top of it all - you didn't pay very much for the item! Its a win win for everyone.

I also donate my overstock of items to our local food pantry when my storage supply has become over run. It makes me feel good giving to those who are less fortunate and I'm doing my part by paying it forward. Only I know that I didn't break the bank to do a good deed.

It really doesnt take that much more effort to start to add a few of these types of items to your cart the next time your out. By watching the sale ads and matching it with coupons you will be surprised how quickly it adds up. Once I have a couple of bags full - I go ahead and drop off the donation.

I have done this for years and I hope after reading this you will consider doing the same. Even small steps can help out those less fortunate.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Importance of Organization

I was thinking the other day just how important it is to be organized before you go shopping. People always say not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. I say don't go grocery shopping unless your organized!

The first thing I always do before I go shopping is start by doing a little homework. This doesn't have to take a lot of time. I take a few minutes to skim the grocery ad and check out what is on sale. I generally jot the things done that I want to buy. I also keep an ongoing list, when I am out of something I write it down so I remember to get it the next time I go.

I am a collector of coupons. I find them in the Sunday paper, print them online, sign up to have them mailed, etc.. Having your coupons organized and ready to go makes things so much easier for you when you are going shopping. I recommend using "The Couponizer" - google it, they are very inexpensive and well worth it.

By matching the coupons you have to the items on sale, you can end up with big savings. This is generally how I do my shopping every time I go. Plus it helps me to "mix things up a little" and buy a variety of things. Keep in mind, just because an item is 3/$5 (or $1.66 each) doesn't mean you have to buy 3 of them to get the sale price. (Check your grocery store to make sure, but many times this is the case). For example, on my last shopping trip Nestle Break and Bake cookies were 3/$6 or $2 each. I had a coupon for $1 off 1 package. I got the break and bake cookies for $1. Rinse and repeat and you've just shaved quite a bit off your grocery bill.

REPAEAT AFTER ME - YOU MUST GO TO THE GROCERY STORE WITH A LIST!!! May sound very basic and you could be thinking "I don't need a list, I have it all in my head". Try again my friend. The grocery store is made to suck you in, with many items to choose from that will catch your eye. Without a list, its very easy to get sidetracked and end up adding more items to your cart than your "mental list" calls for.

The last time I was at the grocery store my bill before my coupons was $72.70. Total after coupons $45.08.

How's that for organization!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why I love Walgreens

I am amazed by the amount of items I get at Walgreen's that are free or next to free. My recent trip to Walgreen's will prove this. i got the following items:

6 Scotch Brite Mailing Envelopes
2 Boxes of white envelopes (small)
2 Boxes of white envelopes (large)
2 Boxes of Playtex Tampons
Oral B Pulsar Toothbrush
2 Boxes Q-Tips

Total Before Coupons $30.40
Total Coupons Savings $17.15
Total $13.25
Rebate $4.99

Total $8.26

I generally do something of this nature every week at walgreens. By watching the coupon inserts in the walgreens ad and using manufactures coupons along with it (yes Walgreens allows this) you can get some good deals.

Walgreen's also has their easy savers catalog--which is a rebate program you send in monthly and can get your rebate in the form of a check or a gift card. If you choose the gift card Walgreen's will add 10% to the gift card (free money!) You are also able to use coupons on the items that you do the rebate on - making money!!!

A lot of times Walgreen's will have items on sale 2/$x.xx or buy 1 get one free. You are still able to use coupons on these items making it even cheaper for you!

The one thing to watch at Walgreen's is the total size of the item - especially in the laundry soap/dishwashing detergent/household items etc... The sizes are usually smaller than Wal-Mart or Target and its not that great of a deal.

I have been doing the easy saver rebates catalog this year and my total savings is approximately $143!!!

For this reason - I love Walgreen's!

My $3 shopping day

I have been meaning to get on here and write about this--I don't know where time goes some days!!!

Last week I decided to see if I could go on a 'free' or nearly free shopping trip. I had a lot of coupons for free items - you know the ones meant to lure you in the store so you buy more- well not me!!! I was all about getting free things!! Here is what I got:

1. Kirklands Home - I started the trip here because I had a mirror I returned to Gordmans (previously purchased for $30.00). I saw the mirror at Kirklands after I had already been to Gordmans--ended up getting a coupon for Kirklands for 25% off. Returned the mirror to Gordmans and bought the mirror at Kirklands for $24 - ahead $6
2. Kohls - Had a $10 Kohls cash coupon from a previous shopping trip. Spent $15 at Kohls buying 3 shirts and 1 pair of pants - used the $10 coupon and $5 from my overage at Kirklands - ahead $1
3. Kmart - Had a halloween coupon for 1 free bag of candy - didnt need anything else at Kmart so i didnt buy anything! Walked out of the store paying $0 - got a $2 bag of candy
4. JCP Optical - Did a mystery shop at JCP optical - total time spent 15 min - pays $12
5. Chic-Fil-A - had a coupon for free chicken sandwich and coke - bought the fries (love their fries!) out of pocket spent $1.59 (approx value of freebies $4)
6. Victorias Secret - Had coupon for free underwear - got my free undies $8 value
7. The Limited - had coupon for $15 off $15 purchase - could not be on red line items so this was hard to find-found a pair of earrings for $16 - $15 coupon = total out of pocket $1.06

So my total spent that day was around $3.
Total amount of free items that day - around $30!!!
That doesn't include the $12 mystery shop I did!!!

Every once in a while doing something like this can be fun!!! Its amazing what you can legitimately get for free if you only pay attention!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The beauty of a Beauty School

I used to pay $50 for a haircut (without tip). I had a friend recommend a beauty school when we were getting ready for a formal event. So I went with her and got my mani/pedi while she got an updo and a facial.

I was surprised at how 'trendy' the inside of this beauty school looked. It looked like any normal salon I would go to. I started talking to the girl who was doing my nails. She told me they are required to learn everything from haircuts/color/perms to nails, extensions etc.. i asked the cost for a haircut. It was $9. $9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What!!! Why did I not think of coming to this place to get my haircut!! This would free up at least $40 in my monthly budget.

Well i know why. I was nervous they would royally screw my hair up.

10 months later, I am still a huge advocate of beauty schools. Not only are the prices so cheap, I feel like a lot of times I was getting much better service since the students are getting graded on what they do. They are so careful and want it to be just right!

I have had a few bad experiences at a few different beauty schools. Nothing major - luckily. Mostly because I didnt speak up and say what I wanted.

With that, I have compiled a list of things to think about when you go to any beauty school to get any type of service done.

1. SPEAK UP!!! If its not what you want, say so! Its a good idea to know what you want before going in (take a picture in with you) that way the student and the instructor know what you are looking for
2. Coloring- I have had my hair colored multiple times. The one time I did not speak up I ended up with a color i hated. Make sure you ask the student to show you the color book, discuss the color options so everyone is on the same page
3. Time-expect any service done at a beauty school to take a little longer. Average time for a haircut is 1 hour. Average time for color (depending on length etc) is about 2 hours. Keep in mind the student is learning. I have found this time factor was a positive thing for me - I get what i want. The previous stylist who did my hair would have me in and out (styled and washed) in 30 minutes. Towards the end she didn't even listen to what I wanted. Probably because she didn't have time given the 30 minute slot alloted for me.
4. Length - One thing i discovered at the beauty school is the students are afraid to cut to much off. I have left a couple of times when it looked like i didn't even get a cut. Here is another time when you should speak up. I actually would take my hair and show her how much I wanted cut off.
5. Price - Yes you might be shocked when you get your haircut under $10 or colored for under $30. The prices there are still baffling to me--just because I can't believe i didn't get in there sooner.

All in all beauty schools are an awesome way to cut down expenses in your budget. I have found that I can get quite a bit done, really cheap.

I still walk out feeling great about my cut/color etc.. I feel even better because I know it didn't break the bank!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Emailing the grocery store

I made a big decision a few weeks ago.....(drum roll please).... I decided to switch grocery stores! This was a big deal for me because the store I now choose to go to was not one of my favorites the first time I went to the store.

My reason for switching is I firmly believe this grocery store is lower in prices and has more items on sale. One of the other reasons is this is the only grocery store in the area that offers double coupons. I can learn to like the layout of the store.

Prior to my decision to make the big switch, I got a coupon in the mail for $8 off a $50 purchase. At the time, this did not excite me to much. Now I would do something crazy to get this coupon! This is a great coupon! And I didn't use it when it was valid and now there are no more in circulation! I know this because I emailed the grocery store and asked.

Yes you read it right, I emailed the grocery store and asked!

I wanted to know if the company regularly sends out the $8 off a $50 purchase coupon. I got a response from Bret, the Consumer Response Specialist, who told me "The **store name** coupon that you mentioned was what we call a targeted mailer. It is mailed to a specific number of households near a particular store or stores that we are targeting. There are no coupons of this type in circulation currently." (Dang)

My other question to the grocery store was if they matched a $10 off $50 purchase that is available at the competition - and former store where I used to shop. Bret told me "Thank you for your message. We are very sorry for any misunderstanding with regard to the "match" of **competitors** offer.

When this competitor discontinued their paper coupon program and began to advertise automatic deductions (in mid-January of this year), we made a decision at that time to stick with our own program, which included the lowering of more than 10,000 prices... for ALL customers, EVERY day. At that time, we removed all signing in our stores that communicated any matching of competitors' offers. We do not accept this promotion at any of our stores.

We understand the short-term attraction to an offer of this type but for now we plan to remain committed to our overall price-lowering efforts. We will, however, certainly let our marketing and merchandising teams know of your thoughts and opinions."

Ok Bret, I can get that. I do believe their prices are lower. And when you combine the double coupons (up to 40 cents) with items that are on sale, you can get a pretty good deal...

On my last trip I walked out saving $23 in coupons! The cashier did not like this, she seemed annoyed actually. She scrutinized each coupon and then went through the bags to make sure I had bought the item!!!