Monday, September 29

Frugal hacks so obvious, you may not be doing them (Part I)

The thing about frugality... What seems obvious to you, may be completely new to someone else. And sometimes we're so busy scouting out new ideas, we fail to see some pretty basic ones.


So this post (and its follow-up) will cover some of the ideas that are so intuitive that we tend to overlook them.



1. Reduce

  • Follow the actual serving sizes more carefully. You'll eat less and you may be shocked by how much you save -- in dollars and calories.
  • Reduce food waste by being sure to eat all your leftovers. This saves money two ways: The food you buy goes farther (lowering your grocery bill) and you never have to throw away Tupperware rather than open it.
  • As a columnist at BeCentsable points out, living green can save green. If you reduce your usage of paper towels, paper plates, and other disposables, you'll spend less. Don't have dish towels? The dollar store beckons.
  • Don't buy Gladware. It's nice in the short-term, but the fact that you can dispose of it means you're more likely to do just that. Meanwhile, my mom is still using Tupperware passed down to her... from her mom. 'Nuff said.


2. Reuse

  • Don't throw away containers. You can repurpose them: Put leftovers in them (saves you the cost of Tupperware); use them in bathroom drawers to hold tweezers, bobby pins or creams; or just have them around the house to hold pens, rubber bands, safety pins or bag ties.
  • For a few years, I used a piece of styrofoam to store my earrings. They went in easily and were all on display nicely.


3. Recycle

  • Most cities have free programs so you probably just toss everything in and don't think anything of it.
  • But if you take those cans and bottles (and, usually, even newspapers) to a paying recycling program, you can make a bit of money off the proposition.
  • If you live in a state with deposits, you probably do turn the bottles and cans back in for cash. But have you considered asking neighbors or friends if you can take theirs in for them?
  • Check the bin in your office's break room. People throw away an awful lot of things. My mom scavenges for Coke tops. (she's an avid MyCoke Rewards member.)
  • Or how about using walks for exercise, money and community service? Bring some bags and pick up discarded cans. This is especially profitable if you live in a state with deposits.


4. Make a dump run

  • Most people pay for a weekly service. It's not a bad deal, but:
  • In Seattle, if you have anything bigger than a 32-gallon trash can, you're paying at least $17.50/month than a monthly dump run. (That's $210 a year.)
  • In Seattle, if you can't completely close the lid, you incur an extra-garbage fee ($6 every time)
  • If you forget one week and have to double up on garbage the next, another $6 fee per bag.
  • Obviously, not the solution for everyone. Some people have nowhere to store the extra garbage, or simply don't want the hassle. But keep an eye on how much garbage you put out each week and check the math.



5. Coupons
  • You make a grocery list based on store specials. Great. You probably even clip coupons. But once the list is made, you should check online coupon sites, as well. You may see ones that weren't in the paper.
  • I tend to put coupons on the fridge... And then leave without them. I know a lot of people who are either misplacing or forgetting coupons. If you get a coupon organizer, you just have to remember it each time you go shopping.
  • You can sort by category, then just check which brands you have coupons for, once you're at the store.
  • If you're worried about forgetting the coupon organizer, put it in one of your reusable bags. Or, as soon as you're done sorting on Sunday, get up and put it in the car.


6. Newspaper

  • If you cut back on expenses by cutting the newspaper, reconsider.
  • Most papers have 6-month specials that allow you to pay for just Sunday's paper but still get the whole week. This is nice because some papers also run coupons or ads for store specials on Wednesdays.
  • Alternately, ask around until you find a friend or coworker who doesn't bother with coupons. Offer to take them off their hands. (Even if you already get the paper, this means you now have multiple coupons, allowing you to stock up.)




7. Take things back

  • If you're not satisfied with something, find out what the store's return policy is. Often, you can get at least store credit, if not an outright refund or exchange.
  • Obviously, you can't take back media, like CDs or software unless you can prove it was damaged when you got it.
  • Lots of people dismiss a dollar or two of grocery problems as no big deal. But it adds up. If you get home to discover some of the strawberries in your carton are molding, take it back. If you end up having bought something you already had (and it wasn't on sale), take it back. If you were overcharged, take it back. Watch the prices. At some stores, if the price rings up wrong you'll get it free.


8. Watch for sales (even after you've bought)


  • Tim recently bought a Swiss Gear laptop carrying case. It was $40. Two days later, the bag went on sale for $19.99. So he went back to Best Buy and got $20 credited back to our card.
  • Most stores have a 2- to 4-week period during which you can come back and requestRecent buy goes on sale, return to store, ask for the difference.

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Sunday, September 28

The worst part of frugality: patience

I've always been an impatient lass.


If I think of something, I want to do it now. And I'm not exactly good with waiting for other people to find their own methods, either.


The latter trait is from being a precocious little overachiever in school. I'm always (annoyingly) convinced that my way is the best way and that no other way will arrive at satisfactory results. When Tim tries to do a web search on his own, he ends up turning to look over his shoulder -- where I'm hovering and offering advice -- and asking if I want to do it myself. That usually shuts me up and sends me back to the couch.


But the impatience, that one's a head-scratcher. It's not like I got everything I wanted when I wanted it. My parents taught me to save up for things. A standing deal was that any big ticket item (ie, $20 or more) would only be purchased if I saved up half.


So I'm not sure why I have so much trouble waiting. I suppose it's tied back to the utter obsession with doing things a certain way. That is to say, my way.


And so you can imagine how difficult it is for me to deal with the necessary wait of debt reduction.


It's necessary, of course. None of us got into our debt overnight. We certainly won't get rid of it that way. (At least, until the lottery this week. Then this will be a very different blog, believe you me!)


Still, it's times like these that make the wait particularly unbearable. The future in uncertain, for Tim's career and for the country's economy. And we have no idea what kind of schooling he will need, how long it will take or how it will affect our ability to pay off debt. So much is up in the air. And I can't do a single thing to make the answers come any faster.


I'm also beginning to suspect that I definitely need to up my medication, but that's a post for another day. Suffice to say, it's not helping the general anxiety and restlessness.


But I'd have those anyway. Once my brain latches on to a subject, it's tenacious. And hard to shut off. I end up trying to guess every conceivable outcome, which is, of course, impossible. But as a rigid, controlling personality (as I often am) I need to know. So mere impossibility doesn't deter my brain.


Somehow this also morphs into a belief that I'm not doing enough to get us out of debt. (I blame osmosis, since so many blogs advocate second jobs. Frankly, I'd be happy with a first job.)


This leads to me trying to do a bunch of little things, as though 20 hours of little chores is somehow less tiring than 20 hours of one big chore, which I know better than to attempt. In fact, it often takes more energy -- much like the difference between one full-time job and two part-time jobs.


I may have been an honors student, but sometimes I wonder about my actual intelligence.


Perhaps the single biggest problem with waiting is that you know it won't be time spent twiddling your thumbs. Murphy's Law is tried and true.


You can't predict what it is that will go wrong, but you can be pretty certain that something will. All you know is that you have very little control, and you have to maintain a long-term frame of mind -- all while dealing with crises in the short term.


So maybe that's the reality of thrifty living: not just saving money, but keeping it up in the face of everyday life.


The day-to-day world inevitably intervenes in all of our budgets: cars break down, kids outgrow clothes or get sick, insurance bills go up...


Whatever happens, it interferes with the long-term plan. You have to pay down a little less on the card, so that you can continue to get to work. It seems paychecks go a long way in the debt-reduction biz.


So waiting is awful because you know at some point, you will be faced with something you didn't plan for. It's one of those unwritten laws of the universe: You can't plan for everything, and the more you try, the more you'll be blindsided when it happens.


Because of this, people like me have a hard time making a good budget. Some people still don't have a problem and can account for the last dollar. Not me.


It might just be my temperament, or perhaps it's the unpredictable expenses of chronic conditions. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. I can't create a comprehensive budget, allocating funds for every aspect of life.


What I can do is focus on small areas of change. This month, it was Blockbuster Online. After comparing plans and usage, I found that we were really not getting the deal we thought we were. Now, we'll see how the limited-exchanges plan goes. If it succeeds, we'll save $15 per month ($180 a year). If not, we'll try the one- or two-at-a-time, unlimited rentals plan and save $5-13 each month.


In October, I would like to really try to focus on groceries. I would like to make sure we're staying in the realm of $200 in groceries each month. I suspect we're well above that. I'm not exactly looking forward to being proven right.


In this way, I have small spheres of control, which soothes the control freak in me. At the same time, I'm learning to survive the broader uncertainty of life.


Mostly, I try to remind myself that part of the fun in life is not knowing. After all, Christmas morning would be pretty dull if I knew what was in each box.


At least, that's what lets me sleep at night. And that's about as true as it needs to be.


*************************************


Be sure to check out the new giveaway that's (finally) been posted! It's a must for any and all who've survived this past week with their sanity even slightly intact.

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Thursday, September 25

Frugal expense-check

That's it.


I'm sick of personal finance blogs that give helpful hints about expenses to cut, like expensive coffee drinks or takeout lunches. I can't take it anymore.


It's not that I have anything against the various bloggers. They are simply talking to their main audience.


But I'm not in that audience.



So this list won't include "lattes" or other frivolous items that most frugal folks have already nixed. (In my case, coffee has never cluttered up my budget. But don't let too many people know. I might be tossed out of Seattle!)


Nope, these will be things that apply to even low-income folks or people already on a tight frugal budget.





Transportation


Okay, we all know about how we should take more public transit to cut down on costs. If you can do this, great. Be sure to check if there's any kind of discount you can get. Student, elderly, disabled, or just check the cost benefit of a monthly pass.


But most of us probably can't make buses tenable. You have kids to take to activities, or you need to pick up groceries on the way home. Whatever the reason, you need your car.


So what can you do?



Fill up whenever the price dips down.


1. This may seem trifling, but if you buy as much as you can hold while the price is lower, you can avoid paying for as much gas when the price is high.


2. If you're really committed, you can get a gas can, to store extra at lower prices




Find cheaper gas


1. Okay, this sounds like a no-brainer but have you thought of all the ways to find it?


2. Try to fill up only where there are several stations. The more there are, the more competitors, the lower the gas price.

3. Sam's Club or Costco have cheaper gas. In a year, you can easily make up the $50 membership fee.


4. ARCO stations have cheaper gas prices -- but you have to pay in cash or deal with a 50 cent card fee.




Have you checked into the possibility of carpooling at your office?


1. Put up a note at work. It's a long shot, but you never know.


2. If you need a car to pick up your kids, ask around at the daycare or after-school program.

  • Maybe you can switch every-other-day with another parent.
  • Then you can take the bus some of the time.




Cable/Satellite


Do you need cable?


1. There are a few dedicated individuals happy to live without TV. I am not one of them. Most of you probably aren't either.


2. Others are fine with simply the basic channels. With two people home all day, every day, Tim and I opt for satellite.


3. But Tim and I still have the second-lowest package available. It's under $50 a month, including local channels and 2 DVRs.


4. When one of us is pulling in more money, I've promised him we can get the next package up ($12/month) which offers G4.



Have you price-shopped?


1. Call up the competition. Get prices. Write them down.


2. Call up your current provider and haggle. Be sure to reference other prices.


  • While your subscription prices do help, all providers rely on advertisers. Advertisers are more eager when more subscribers exist. So your provider has an interest in keeping you.
  • When my $19.99/month cable modem reverted to the regular rate, I called Comcast and said I needed to cancel. The operator gave me 6 more months at $29.99.



Can you pare it down?


1. Some relatives of mine have been going through hard times. They cut their top-of-the-line package to a lower one -- but it still includes premium movie channels and lots of them.


2. If you're paying for premium channels, even if TV is your main form of entertainment, ask if you're getting your value.


3. If your library's movie catalog is too limited, consider one of the lower-cost plans from Netflix or Blockbuster. A premium channel is at least $12.99 and Netflix starts at $9.99





Movies


Are you getting your money's worth for subscription?


1. They sound great but do the math.
  • We have 3-at-a-time, unlimited in-store exchange
  • I checked our history, some months, we watched fewer than 4 movies total.
  • Most months, we traded in 5-10 movies.
  • Now that fall TV is on, we're switching to the 3-at-a-time, 5 exchanges ($15 less)


2. Hidden costs

  • If you're more than a week late returning in-store rentals, your card gets charged
  • If you carry a balance on your cards, that probably means double-cycle billing
  • So that $40, even after it gets taken off, will affect finance charges for 2 months
  • Then there's the $1.50 restocking fee. How many do you pay a month?


In-theater movies


1. I've discussed before how to get cheap or free movies

2. Are you using all the rewards programs to their fullest? All these offer movie theater tickets and/or concessions:

  • MyPoints
  • Coke Rewards
  • Theater's own loyalty programs (I love AMC's)

3. Are you using every possible discount (student, senior, military, etc)?

4. Are you going to matinees whenever possible?





Internet



There are no-charge internet services

1. This is dial-up, of course.

2. Do a search.




Check into prices

1. Don't forget DSL often has equipment charges

2. It can also can involve charges for MSN

3. Be sure to figure these into the price.

4. Clearwire has a price-for-life guarantee



Do a search for "Comcast $19.99 6 months".

1. Sign up and then call to cancel, get the $29.99 offer for an extra 6 months

2. After that's up, use your spouse's or partner's (or relative's) name. Repeat $29.99 deal.

3. By the time you're done with that, you'll qualify for the $19.99 offer again.





Food


I assume meal-planning based on sales goes without saying


As does stocking up when items are on sale


The simple fact is: The fewer trips to the grocery store, the less impulse buying you'll do


Always be sure to have plenty of storage containers


1. If not, food goes to waste.

2. Shop garage sales. I got five tupperware cylinders & lids free.

3. If you're afraid of forgetting about food, try a leftovers calendar



How much junk food are you buying?



1. The more candy, the bigger the bill. (I should follow my own advice on this one)

2. Aren't these generally impulse purchases?

3. Try to avoid special trips. You rarely leave with just one bag of candy.

4. Did you know most cravings are temporary? If you can stay busy for 30 minutes, most will go away.



How much soda are you buying?


1. I guess this technically falls under "junk food" but it's a huge expense at our house.

2. Tim goes through more than a 2 liter a day of Mt Dew. Yep, 2 liters.

3. We shop generic and sales as much as possible & load up at Wal-Mart when we're visiting his parents.

4. I really don't get this. I've never liked soda much. I just drink water. Why don't more people?

5. The route I take with Tim when his intake starts creeping up, one glass of water for each equivalent of soda.

6. If you don't like the water in your area, stop buying bottled water and get a filter. Much cheaper and more eco-friendly



Are you using preemptive solutions?


1. If you know you'll order pizza when there's nothing to eat, be sure the cupboards are stocked.

2. If you know you'll get takeout when you're too tired to cook, keep simple foods around, like soups, Easy Mac or the makings for a PBJ.

3. If sometimes you just crave pizza, keep some frozen ones around so you can't justify ordering from a store.




Spices don't have to be expensive

1. Dollar stores often have inexpensive (and perfectly good) spices

2. Drug stores (Walgreens and Rite-Aid, here) have $1 spices.

3. If it's a specialty spice, check places like Whole Foods or Top Food, where you can get it from bulk containers. This can often be cheaper than "Spice Islands" etc.

UPDATE: Apparently there's a whole article about this.




Finally (and strangely) aluminum foil has gotten quite pricey lately.


1. Like Tupperware, be sure to have plenty of foil and clear wrap

2. Stock up on sales.

3. Weird but true: You can find foil cheap (25-50 cents) at estate sales.





Entertainment



Beyond movies, a lot of times going out costs money.


1. Museums have entrance fees

2. Clubs have cover charges

3. Concerts cost money

4. Drinks with friends get pricey



I've mentioned some ways around social expenses you can't afford.


Always be aware of frugal programs


1. Most museums have a monthly free day

2. Try to meet up with friends during happy hour (there's often a late-night one, as well)

3. Make sure you know of any potential discounts for students/seniors/etc

4. Read through your local Entertainment Book and see if there are any 2-for-1 coupons for museums, entertainment, discounts, etc

5. Find out if local plays have a pay-what-you-can night (they almost all do)

6. If you know someone in a play/concert/club performance, ask if they have any discount passes left.

7. Check out student versions of theater and music. Most are quite good and very cheap.

8. Check out free performances, ala Shakespeare in the Park

9. Try to organize a group for an outing for a better rate




Cheap thrills



Games night


1. Great time

2. Time with friends for free

3. Chips, salsa and soda are about all you need to provide





Girls' night in


1. No shouting over music in a club

2. No cover charges

3. Cheaper drinks

4. Cheaper than going for mani/pedi




General expenses



Always complain if warranted


1. Don't scream or use expletives

2. Use a polite, controlled tone or volume (if you're writing or talking)

3. Point out the numerous people you can influence: coworkers, friends, family



Always flatter if warranted


1. Write an enthusiastic letter to the company, raving about a product you're happy with

2. You'll often get coupons or even small samples.



Want to try a new product? Check your fave freebie blogger for updates on available samples


Want magazines but don't want to pay?

1. Do a trial offer ("no risk") and try to cancel in the first 30 days.

2. Most companies will offer you the rest of the year for $1. (Again, they need numbers.)

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Fed up with the Fed


Okay, actually it's Paulson, who is Treasury, but I couldn't resist a good headline like that!

I was perusing blogs today, only to learn a couple terrifying facts about the proposed bailout.

1. $700 billion is a number the Treasury picked at random.
2. There are tons of better things we could do with the money.
  • $180 billion would repair America's bridges
  • $185 billion would fix the nation's rail system
  • $150 billion would set each American up with private health insurance


Anyone else notice how we're still not at $700 billion yet?


Of course, the article doesn't say whether the insurance is perpetual or for one-year. But even assuming a single year cost $150 billion, that's just over 4 years' coverage.


This talk is all a little moot, since the Republicans walked out of negotiations tonight. (And you know the world has gone screwy when I start agreeing with the Republicans' concerns!)


But the proposal the Dems worked out was relatively more reasonable (compared to the random $700 billion being requested): $250 billion now, with a potential $100 billion more if Paulson can demonstrate it's necessary.


Still, it's placing a lot of undue stress on the taxpayers for businesses' mistakes. And this alleged urgent need is still kind of hard to see. I know people are still being foreclosed on. But how sure are we that throwing money into corporations will mean those same companies create better mortgages? (And isn't that just enabling/rewarding the people who got in over their heads?)


It seems to me like the free market, though in distress, is taking pretty good care of itself when push comes to shove. Everyone speculated that the government was going to bail out Washington Mutual. When that didn't happen, JP Morgan Chase took over.


Wednesday, Warren Buffett shoved a bunch of money into Goldman Sachs -- netting himself some great terms, but still keeping the company afloat. And there's talk that Goldman Sachs may use the capital to prop up other businesses.


So if the government is so edgy, maybe it can make a plan and keep it in abeyance. Then it's ready if things fall apart.


I'm wondering, though, if maybe the opportunism that got most businesses into this mess (greed to take everyone up on the subprime) will also get them out of it (other businesses will swoop in and buy them up when they're down).


Regardless of how this plays out, I think there is no longer any excuse for every American to have health care. Politicos carp about the cost. But they seem to generally agree to spend more than that on private enterprises.


Wouldn't health care have a better effect on the average taxpayer's bottom line? Think about it:


If every American had private health insurance

  • Businesses would no longer have to shoulder the cost of employee health plans. This would free up more capital, which could mean fewer layoffs and maybe even raises.
  • Employees wouldn't have to contribute to their own premiums through work. That would free up at least $100 a month for most insured Americans. This money could go toward debt.
  • The standard of living would go up, as poor people didn't put off seeing doctors and actually got treated when conditions were still minor and non-life threatening.
  • The government would save a ton on Medicare/Medicaid.


I think, in all, this would have a much bigger, more direct effect on the average citizen than to throw some money at banks and rely on the good ole' Trickle Down Theory.

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Money comes and goes so quickly here!

Okay, all, thank you for your patience in the midst of my slight distractedness.



I'd like to start off on a positive note:



As of tomorrow afternoon, Tim's last student loan payment will go through.





So that is one major debt gone. Phew!


We've been paying this off pretty much since he moved in with me, back in July of '06. He was in collections on the debts, since he couldn't keep a job long with his health conditions. The original amount was something like $20,000.


One collections company agreed to settle for something around $5,000 when all was said and done (one big payment, two medium-sized ones). The Department of Education dropped some of the fees off once we got his account back in good standing.


But since June, we've been working at the last $2300. In 4 months, with only unemployment & disability, I'd say we're doing pretty well. (Gosh, but I love to toot this horn of mine!)


So, now we are down to brass tacks: credit cards. I'll be putting some progress bars up soon (Chase's website is fighting me when I try to log on) and then we can all keep track of the progress.


Suffice to say, there's a light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not an oncoming train).


We still have a long road ahead of us -- just over $12,000 to pay down. But clearly we have the means and stubbornness to do it.


For the other issues I talked about -- mainly time management -- Tim is going to help me. The work I picked up on a contract basis is often taking more than the quoted 2 hours. It has to do with social bookmarking and so is taking 3-4 hours, since socializing and building friends is integral.


So, from now on, Tim and I will have a strict "stop at 3" rule. I have to be done my work by 3 p.m. And I have to get away from the computer. Before I'm done my posting, I can't do anything else. It has to be like a regular job.


Then I have to stay away from the computer until after our walk at 4 p.m. This will help me get out and process some Vitamin D which is important to energy. Also, it will get me out of the house, which has been happening less and less. And the exercise should be good for my energy as well.


Finally, getting away for an hour or two should help me keep my day more separate and from feeling like everything is bleeding over into everything else. You have to love multitasking -- it's the only thing that allows you to do a ton of things badly (and all simultaneously!).


And, of course, we're hoping to be done cataloging Magic cards within one week. Then I can just spend a day or two noting different stores' prices. (I'm a huge spreadsheet geek.)


Then, whatever does sell will be sorted into common/uncommon and "rares" since some stores pay bulk prices for those. Luckily, rares are a different color, so they're easyish to spot. In other words, it's not quite as arduous as it sounds.


Why are we doing this? We're getting a 25% commission of the final price. And, about halfway in, we're at about $265. Normally it would be a little lower but Tim's friend owes us some money from when he crashed on our couch for three weeks. This is a way to settle everything all at once.


Finally, I've started doing some online survey programs as another way to earn money. I'm registered on a couple sites. They're all kind of repetitive, I have to say. But I will try and do a brief list of my experiences with that, if anyone wants me to.


Man, after reading this post, no wonder I'm so beat!


That said, I'm not ruling out the possibility that I have to up my medication dosage on my antidepressants. It's been about four years (I'm reluctant to ever bother) so it's something to keep an eye on.


Of course, in this economy, maybe you're only sick if you don't have angst-ridden malaise. Is anyone else reading about the bailout and wondering why the federal government and the corporations aren't being put on debt reduction plans?!


Thanks for listening to my various ramblings and I will try to have some more frugality-related posts again soon!

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Tuesday, September 23

Mental health day (aka link round-up)

Okay, before I get into this post, I need to make an announcement. I have been very harried lately and a bit out of sorts. So I will do a search for "Finding Savings" but if you could contact me about how to get ahold of you (leave a comment, I won't publish it) that would help tremendously.

Also, I know I haven't yet posted a new giveaway for the week. Again, I'm a little frayed around the edges. But I will be giving away more bath & body goodies. I'll post the pics as soon as I have two minutes' quiet, I promise.


OKAY ACTUAL POST BEGINS HERE:

In the interests of being more sanely balanced in life, I'm taking a mental health day Wednesday. I'll still keep an eye on comments, but I'm doing several other things:

  1. Tim's friend Seth was going to sell his Magic cards as a whole set. We convinced him to let us help him. But it means cataloguing thousands of cards (three boxes, four rows per box) then checking prices. We will get a cut of the action, so I'm trying to get it done and over with. (About halfway done.)
  2. Trying to get some errands done that have fallen by the wayside in the past couple weeks of craziness.
  3. Trying to learn a bit about things like SEO and other important web stuff.
  4. Building what might be a new site over on Wordpress. There are assets and detractions from each hoster. When it's more solidified, I'll go ahead and post a link and a poll. You can all vote as to whether you prefer the old site or the new. (I can set the subscription to the new site, so it shouldn't disrupt those of you who have those.)

In the meantime, check out these articles/contests from sites I like:

  • MiB (My Investing Blog) Smarter Money: The blogger is having a $300+ drawing. You can get entries by commenting, social bookmarking and a few other items.
  • Free From Broke: This site is having a contest in honor of its anniversary.Comment or blog about what you plan to do with your finances in the next year. Or social bookmarking. Or linking. There will be Amazon gift cards ($75, $15, $10)
  • In Debt Because I Like Nice Things: Her credit score is up! If you haven't checked out this site, do. You may get a little queasy reading the history of how they got in debt. I'm actually not exaggerating when I say I did. But she took responsibility for everything and has already eradicated $50,000 of the debt -- mainly by selling the purses and such that got her into debt. Given the current conditions, you might need to read a bit of faith in people's ability to snap out of it.
  • The Freebie Blogger: It's early in the week, so I can't suggest a specific item. But I love this lady's constant stream of info. I go there for the freebies I wouldn't otherwise know about. She also suggests how to combine weekly specials with coupons (which you can print out from her site). Pretty much a little of everything. At least, everything that my miser-ly little heart desires!

Crying in a supermarket

It's amazing how uncomfortable people get when you are crying in public. Very strange, really. We all feel so awkward, don't we?


I mean, it's not as though any of us are new to the concept of bawling. But it's as though the person just became highly contagious. People are afraid to approach you.


As you may have guessed from the title, I had a minor breakdown today at Albertsons. And the only reason I was even able to get my butt into Albertsons was because my mom drove me. Talk about feeling mature.


I was so tired that the new layout confused me. It's been this way for about three months, but I'm still adjusting to it. And today I kept looking for things in their old spots.


We'd only made it about three aisles over -- having successfully added milk to the cart -- when I was looking at salsa. We needed some. But Albertsons charges $8.49 for a big bottle of salsa. About two blocks up the street, at Sam's Club, the same stuff is under $4.


So I stood there, looking at the list, looking at the price, list, price, list, price. And all I could think is that I didn't want to take another step. So how could I make it up to Sam's Club? But I also couldn't pay almost $5 more when the cheaper stuff was two blocks away. And I couldn't get it another time: We needed it for that night's dinner.


I went to look at pasta, because it was too depressing to be looking at salsa I couldn't buy. And that's when the waterworks started. I was exhausted, I wanted to be at home, and I couldn't even get something as simple as salsa.


Part of this reaction was simple fatigue. Between the contract work, the blog and Tim's job stuff, there's been a lot going on. The lack of job weights heavily on Tim, as does not knowing what he wants to do.


Partially because of the stress from this (my opinion), his ADD has been worse. He keeps getting very single-minded. He's been more impulsive, which means I have to put the brakes on more often and keep him from buying when he's in these modes. It's just a lot to handle.


Also, it has meant that he latches on to ideas and won't let go -- until the slightest snag shows up. Then he's ready to quit. The snag, of course, has to be something he discovers. My comments don't penetrate. So, he went off half-cocked about medical coding; a month later he's finally finding some logistical problems. Like, he hadn't realized that he'd have to take anatomy courses to do medical coding.


It's all a tad maddening; but I am trying to restrain my temper and be supportive. I remember how painful it was when I first stopped working. It's hard on the ego.


If you think about everything that is tied into careers: We ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up; one of the first questions people ask is what you do (not even for a living, just what you do); we ascribe certain traits to certain fields of work and certain income levels.


So anyway, I've been trying to learn to be the patient, good wife. Especially because in the past I've certainly not been patient. But it really does take a toll, doesn't it?


We had a couple long talks today and I think we've reached a point where he's going to try to be more conscious of his impulsivity.


And we're going to wait to hear from the vocational rehab center before we do any more planning. Those people can help him find a career he can do. And frankly, all our attempts just end in exhaustion, depression and general malaise.


Still, it's all very frustrating. I get up, do some of my work, take a break for breakfast, then go back. Suddenly, it's the middle of the afternoon -- even though the work is only supposed to take about 2 hours it actually takes 3-4 -- and I've only done a bit on my own blog. No errands have been done and we still have to figure out dinner.


And so I found myself bleary-eyed and at the grocery store. I didn't want to take another step. Not even to go sit down. I just wanted my bed to magically appear and cushion me. But I couldn't. Because we didn't have salsa. Or a magical, teleporting bed.


It's so exhausting trying to act like a normal person. I've even scaled my expectations way back. But there's still things I don't get around to. Lately it feels like I blink and the day is mostly over, along with my energy.


Most of the time, I let this roll off my back. I remind myself that I can't change it. But once in awhile, it just hits me, how relentless this is all is. It's not going to stop.


I know this sounds silly, but I'm still a little shocked that it's been a decade of this and I'm still so far from acceptance. More silly: I sort of half expected I'd get a break at such a big milestone.


I know it's illogical, ridiculous even. I knew it wouldn't really happen. But it still seemed so plausible. I keep thinking that if only disability were a relay race, I could handle it. If I knew that I only had to go to a certain point, I could make it there.


But there's no end in sight. No one will come up and take the fatigue for a few years.


If they did, I would come back. Not gladly, but I would. If only I could have a few years of good, old-fashioned wage earning. If I could actually affect my financial future. Then I would come back for another long haul.


I think the impetus of this particular mood -- or perhaps just the proverbial straw on the proverbial camel's back -- was reading an article on Friday about science. The article said a scientist has determined a way to get muscles to better stave off fatigue.


This may very well be pertinent to me. To condense what I understand of the articles on Guillain-Barre, essentially some nerves were damaged and regrew quickly, rather than properly. So they are inefficient and make the muscles have to work harder to compensate. So something like this could actually have some promise.


I felt so hopeful for a minute. Then I realized: This was still in a lab somewhere. Not even a pharmaceutical lab. Just a university.


Even assuming they could miraculously come out with a medicine from this compound in the next five years, there would still be years of getting FDA approval. So likely it will be at least a decade before anything is even available.


After that, everything has seemed a little harder.


So what does this all mean? I wish my ramblings had some deep import or conveyed an important message that everyone could take heart from.


In this case, though, I think it's just that it really sucks to be disabled.


It's funny: you don't ever really think that you expect life to be fair -- until it dumps a bunch of "unfair" all over you. Then you just bleat out the injustice of it, even if you know there's no point.


I wish I could say that I accept my limitations with a quiet, dignified serenity. But the truth is, I often come home and hide under the covers, hugging some stuffed animals, until Tim comes and talks me out. (Why do we think that covers protect us from monsters, let alone wordly affairs? It's a mystery I've never sorted out. But I do feel awfully safe huddled up.)


So I'm not the epitome of grace under pressure. I'm a depressive with energy limitations, which means double the emotionality and grumpiness. It means that I'm often quite a handful to be around.


It means that my limitations don't make me into some Lifetime movie with a happy ending of triumph over a disability. I won't win gold medals or even a local race. I will be lucky to be able to work steady part-time work.


And, sometimes, that just has to be enough. Because it's all I have. It's far from perfect. It's nothing like what I pictured as a kid. But it's a life and it's the only one I've got. So I pick it up and make do with it -- even if I don't always make the best of it.


Because I'm human.


Because I'm disabled.


Because I'm the kind of person who cries in supermarkets.

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Monday, September 22

Mystery shopping companies

This list is compiled from Volition's list of companies. These are based solely on my experience and observations.


Before we get to the list, you should: Enable your auto-fill software because you'll sign up to a ton of companies. If you don't have it, there are plenty of free downloads.


Also, if you can, take a moment to write a brief mention of the last shopping experience you had. Note the employee's name (if you can) or build, hair color, hair length, gender. Mention what they did right or wrong (or both).


Save this somewhere in a document, because many of the application processes require you to submit a writing sample. Be sure to check for spelling, grammar and run-on sentences.


About Face: For reasons I can't remember, I was not impressed by this company. But since the reasons didn't stick with me, you should consider checking it out. I have to take into account energy levels/energy use vs money paid. So a lot of things that aren't worth it for me may be fine for you guys.


Bare Associates International: I love most of the shops these guys let me do. They don't always pay superbly but the shops are fun. Tim and I got to do a bar shop (a nice hotel's lounge). I obviously had to stay light on the drinks, but the expenses covered two drinks each and appetizers. We combined it with some parking lot shops through another company, so we didn't even have to pay for parking. Remember: You may have to do some more mundane shops before they'll start

Beyond Hello: I wasn't thrilled with the one shop I did. It was a lot more work than the compensation, and it required a purchase. The purchase could be returned later, but it required two separate trips. Plus, the purchases are pricey.


California Marketing Specialists: These guys do apartment shops. These can be fun (you get to peek into various communities) and the company had a lot of regular work. But the sheer number of pages you have to fill out versus pay did not impress me. For a little extra paperwork, you can shop Ellis Property Management Services and get around $15 more.



Certified Reports Inc.: This company called me a few times, but only ever with out-of-the-way places. I think that has more to do with demand than anything. The audits take awhile, which is why I stopped trying with them, but you get to see free movies in the meantime. You have to do things like count theater goers or whatever. And it's not sneaky -- you get to introduce yourself to the manager. It's often a relief to be a straightforward evaluator.


Consumer Critique, Inc.: This is a company whose name rings a bell. If it's the company I'm thinking of, it's a great company to work for. They had a LOT of work for me. But the only downside is they operate by phone rather than computer. So you can't self-assign jobs. On the plus side, they never minded that I often wasn't available. They were very understanding about life outside work for them.

Customer Service Experts, Inc.: I don't remember much about this company other than the name. I know I did a couple of shops for them. Wasn't memorable -- but that means it wasn't awful either. Sign up and see if anything interests.


Data Quest, Ltd.: SIGN UP IMMEDIATELY. It'll take some doing, but these guys offer some fabulous hotel. And most of the questions are yes/no. Tim and I have done at least three of these. I love 'em! Just keep trying every time you see a shop in your area. Eventually, your efforts will be recognized.


DSG: This company had a fun rental car shop I liked to do. I'm not that close to the airport or I'd probably still do it. But this place definitely is worth a look.


Ellis Property Management Services (EPMS): If you want to bother doing apartment shops, these are the ones to do. They pay the best. There are a lot of pages to fill out (around 10) but a lot of it is repetitive. That said, apartment shops are a lot of info to remember. And you can't get away from the agent to scribble notes. It's one-on-one.

JM Ridgeway: This company has good restaurant shops. The pay isn't spectacular, but I would do them for a chance to take a friend to dinner. The reporting system is pretty simple and is online.


Maritz Research: This company pays very well. The shops from them tend to be ongoing, over the course of approximately 2 months. The one I did was opening a business account at a bank, using it for a couple of transactions and then closing it. There were a total of something like 5 steps, most of the questions are yes/no with maybe one narrative in each section. It paid over $100. I wish I could do more of those, but now you can't have an account at the banks they do. Phooey.

Speedmark Services: These shops are plentiful. They don't pay spectacularly, but tend to be pretty simple and easy to complete.


This is by no means an extensive list. Another good source of reviews for is Volition's forums. People discuss pay time, jobs, etc.


Please don't forget: It can take up to two months (sometimes slightly more, depending on company pay cycles). If you're in a position to do it, I suggest getting a credit card to devote just to this item. That way, any finance charges can be written off on your taxes. Because, of course, we all know you'll be keeping careful track of money for tax-reporting purposes. Cough, cough.


Remember that any company that pays you over a certain amount (either $400 or $500, I think) will have to send information to the IRS and you.

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Is impulse spending okay?

I think the answer to that question is pretty obvious, but I stumbled upon an interesting little piece on Yahoo! Finance called "Buy Now, Don't Regret Later."


The author talks about times when we become too frugal. When we deny ourselves and end up regretting it later.


He is obviously quite fond of being budget-conscious, but I think he wants to point out that sometimes we go a little too far.


As I was reading, I couldn't help but agree: Any system, however smart, can box you in. It can lead to decisions based on knee-jerk reactions rather than logical decisions. And, as my fourth-grade teacher was so fond of telling us, often your first answer is the right one.


This really resonated with me, but not because I have some would-have-bought item I pine for. I have moved a lot in the last 12 years -- between college dorms and various housing scenarios, it's in the double digits. So I'm usually too busy wrangling the things I already have to yearn for something I didn't get.


But the same frugal impulse -- to quash "unnecessary" spending -- has led to my own dilemma. It's a tad ridiculous, actually, because the answer is obvious; but I can't quite bring myself to act.


Tim and I have a promotional 0% on the biggest card. That amount runs out after October, at which point we will have to either pay the interest (15% on just under $9500) or transfer the balance.


I sat down with various credit card offers recently and read them through. (Our other cards don't have any particularly good offers, at present.)

  1. There's one that's a 7.99 percent, not an introductory rate. But, of course, you never know if that's what you'll really get until you apply.
  2. There's a 12-month 0% offer. This would give us a lot more breathing room while Tim figures out what he'll train for, how long schooling will take, etc. But the 3% balance transfer fee has no cap. In the past, the cap was $75, making it a no-brainer. This time, it'd be closer to $285.
  3. There's a 0% 6-month offer with a balance cap, but the limit would be too low to transfer the whole thing over. And chances are, Tim will still be in school when the offer ends.

I looked through all this and did the math. Even with the 7.99%, we'd be paying more in interest. In fact, by the six-month mark, we would have paid the same amount as if we transferred over to the 0% card. The clear answer is option #2.


So why am I reluctant to do it? Well, a few reasons, actually.

  1. I'll have to open a new card. In this economy, that can be dangerous. Some articles warn that this may cause current card companies to downsize your limit or up your rate. I doubt this would happen, but it's a concern.
  2. It will have an effect on my credit score. Not huge, but not great, either.
  3. Most importantly, it's the psychological impact of putting more debt on the card. I know, logically, that the funds will end up there, whether by balance transfer or by interest. But it's still a hard thing to do.


And it's the impulse in this last one that is so frustrating. I know that it's the right thing to do. But I can't do it. I don't want to put more money on the card, even though I know it will eventually end up there anyway. These are the situations that make staunch, unquestioning frugality a dangerous thing.



But there are necessary transactions that are harder because it's easy to slip into the fast mindset of not spending anything. Ever.


In fact, this mindset is problematic in more ways than one. Tim's natural impulse is to spend without worry. Mine is to quash spending automatically. Neither is a very fun or happy way to live. (Though, admittedly, Tim's is probably more fun in the short term.)


As my mom likes to say, "Moderation in all things -- including moderation." Any mindset that asks for 100% unwavering commitment is pretty unrealistic.


And so Tim and I both make adjustments and try to move toward a healthier center.

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Winner!

"Finding Savings" will hopefully be finding even more savings after reading Jean Chatzky's book.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. I'll get a new giveaway up and running later today. And later on, I'm planning on posting the requested information about mystery shopping companies. I'll run through the ones I've worked with, at least, and everyone can feel free to chime in their own experiences.

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Friday, September 19

A few reminders

It's been a long week, folks. So I am going to do minimal upkeep today on the blog (of course, that's what I always say and then I end up hovering around the computer neurotically).


So in the meantime, I wanted to point out a couple links for you:

On a Quest to be Debt Free has been kind enough to include my giveaway in her blog. Check out her Super Freebie Friday. (I'm a sucker for "free"!)

Ms. ThriftyJinxy has several delicious offers (literally!) from Bear Naked Fruit & Granola sample to (wait for it) FREE JELLYBEANS. There is something timeless about jellybeans, I tell ya. Plenty of other freebies of interest, so check it out.

And another perennial-fave is The Freebie Blogger. True to her name, she has all sorts of goodies listed (though she hasn't yet put up Friday's post, so I guess I get to be surprised along with you all). There's a free book offered, a free pumpkin stencil (I'll definitely need one of those when I get a house... I'm TERRIBLE at drawing freehand), Paul Mitchell sample and more

Thursday, September 18

Optimistic pessimist







I was reading an interesting post over at PT Money, "How to Save Money Like a Madman."


This is the part that really caught my eye:

Get Paranoid - Like the madman, you’ve got to believe that "they are out to get you!" By "they" I mean life emergencies and set-backs: job losses, higher taxes in retirement, medical problems, etc.



Tim and I have been living this way for years. When you have two people with chronic health problems, life setbacks are practically routine. They're everything but scheduled.


Tim's MRSA creates boils that have to be seen by his doctor. Two doctors' visits (treatment and check-up) means $30 of co-pays. That's twice a month (if we're lucky). Then there's the eczema flare-ups. And the cost of his quitting smoking again.


And even in regular "healthy" people's lives, there are always unexpected costs cropping up: there are cavities and illnesses, computers breaking and cars making weird noises, funerals happen across the country.


Anyone trying to live frugally and/or pay off debt needs to live by the motto: "Expect the unexpected."


Most people hate that saying. They think it's contradictory. But nowhere does it say that you have to guess exactly what's going to happen. But you do need to be prepared for your budget to be blown. If you aren't ready for it, you'll quickly go stark, raving mad.


When I used to do very detailed budgets (had to give it up for sanity's sake), I would always allot an extra $50-$100 for what I affectionately called the "Oh, crap!" fund. Well... That's the sanitized name, if you catch my drift.


Nowadays, we just use the broadstrokes: We keep checking around $150 and throw the rest at bills. It's easier and more realistic in the long run.


And so we come to the title of the post: Optimistic pessimist. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. If you're wrong, it's a good thing. If you're right, you're in a better position to laugh it off.


Sometimes it's about life not catching you off-guard. And often, it's about finding the small victories.

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Wednesday, September 17

The obligatory "stock market" post



Unless you're living in a soundproofed house without connection to any media, you should have heard about the stock market panic.


Long story short, inasfar as I understand it:

  1. Lehman Bros called Chapter 11. The Fed wouldn’t bail them out, so they filed for bankruptcy.
  2. Merrill Lynch opted for euthanasia. Lehman left a lot of uncertainty. Merrill Lynch wasn’t ready to gamble. Bank of America bought it up.
  3. AIG is saved. Despite putting its foot down with Lehman, the Fed announced it will guarantee up to $85 billion for AIG.
  4. WaMu sinking? There are rumors that the government is going to help out this bank, which has been foundering for some time.



According to experts, this is only the beginning. Or the middle, if you see this as an extension of the subprime crisis.


Point is, there's much wailing and gnashing of teeth. People are panicked, anxious, angry, pessimistic -- all sorts of unpleasant adjectives. An MSN Top Stock's blogger even went so far as to refer to the "stock market collapse" which I think is still a tad premature.


That said, this isn’t my area. I didn’t want to do a post about it. But as crisis piled on crisis, I started seeing an underlying theme near and dear to my heart:


We've stopped seeing money as real.



Of course, there are plenty of other factors: too much risk, too many rewards for those risks, greed, myopia, arrogance, etc. But, really, at the base of a lot of these problems lies a common thread: People deal with money as an abstraction.





The art of the abstract


We're all guilty of this, to some degree. More technology meant more convenience – but it also meant that money stopped automatically being equated with cash. Instead, it's theoretical money, bits of information, numbers on a page.



The main thing is money isn’t really money anymore.



Most Americans get a slip of paper each payday. It tells them how much they made, how much they kept and whether it's already in their bank account.


We might withdraw some cash for day-to-day needs, but most of the money remains in our accounts.



And what about those accounts? How real are they?


  • Can you point to your account?
  • Is it in a physical location?
  • Is there a cash-filled cubbyhole with your name on it ?
  • When you pay bills, do the bankers bundle up some $20s and run to the post office?



Of course not. The idea is laughable. But if it’s not really anywhere, how do we know that it’s really there?



You could argue that those numbers in your bank buy goods and services. But with checks, debit, credit and EFTs, we still aren’t dealing with actual money. It’s still a game, shifting numbers from one spot to another.






Don’t fence it in


The fact is, this society really can’t handle the limitations of physical money. As it stands now, our money exists everywhere.



  • It could be at any one of several bank branches.
  • It could be in an ATM (and not even, necessarily, your bank’s ATM).
  • It’s always in your debit card, just a PIN number away.
  • It could even be online, so that we can pay bills without stamps.



Cash, on the other hand, is only ever in one place. And if that place isn’t in your pocket or wallet, you’re pretty much out of luck.



So, you can know that your money is real – and risk limitations. Or you can take the bank’s word that it’s available. And, of course, the government’s word that you’re safe in the hands of the FIDC.




Out of sight, out of mind


I really think this is a big source of our growing carelessness with money.



How are you supposed to treat money as real when it’s nowhere and everywhere? How do you take money seriously when it’s all just a bunch of numbers?



We know that this is an attitude that lets people get into debt. They think of credit card purchases as something other than real money. They lose track of their spending. It’s just so easy to spend when it’s numbers, not bills.



And when the debt gets bad, those numbers become pesky or depressing or maybe even scary. So they ignore the numbers. Because how much can figures on a piece of paper really hurt you?



Eventually, this cavalier attitude was bound to spread to mortgages – especially in high-priced areas.



Housing in most metropolitan areas is beyond expensive. This means that mortgages are bound to be sky-high. Since those numbers were so ludicrously large, people were able to dismiss them as abstract. (I’ve noticed a strange trend: The bigger the number, the less real it is.)



The numbers were too big to comprehend, and so people didn’t try. They relied on banks to tell them what they qualified for. And that’s what they spent.



I think we all know how most of those stories ended.





So what now?


I’m not sure there is much of an answer. We’re not going to undo decades’ worth of technology so that money can be a more solid concept in people’s minds. But as long as we’re able to transfer huge sums with the click of a mouse or a swirl of a pen, money isn’t going to seem real.



A small start is what many of you are already doing: using cash whenever possible. But this system only makes a small dent. Even people who only use cash throw around an awful lot of big numbers.



Net worth. What does that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean they could cash out tomorrow. Often it includes a house (minus any remaining mortgage) and retirement accounts they aren’t supposed to access for at least another decade or two. But a net worth of $200,000+ sure sounds nice, doesn’t it?



Salary. It sounds impressive to make say, $60,000 a year. But is that really what you get paid? Yes, in a sense. But a more concrete answer is the amount you actually take home in pay. Planning out finances using pre-tax amounts is just budget suicide.



Debt. Some bloggers are tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Tim and I owe $12,000. I can’t even begin to picture what that looks like. To me, $12,000 is pretty abstract. It’s not real money. It’s money we owe. Money that's already spent, which means not actual cash.



Expenses. Can you picture what it would look like – your entire debt as a stack of bills? How about shelter costs? Can you picture paying your rent or mortgage in cash each month?



Fuel. What about gas? If you had to pay cash at the pump, would you be carpooling more? Would you have traded in for a smaller, more gas-efficient model?



In all, it just makes me wonder: If we didn’t have credit to fall back on? Would people be better or worse? (Tim would be worse off: We financed his expensive oral surgery and dentures on a card.)



Would no credit help inflation? Hurt it?



Most importantly, would people have a better sense of fiscal responsibility? Would they be less prone to thoughtless consumerism? Or would innate greed simply find another way to come out?



These are questions I do not know the answers to. But I feel like I should. What about you?



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Frugal date ideas

I found another frugal Seattleite's blog today!

She talks about trouble thinking of frugal date ideas.







So here, as promised, is my set of ideas:


1. Cheap movies
  • My Coke Rewards and MyPoints offer free tickets or gift cards for AMC.
  • The Entertainment Book has discount ticket opportunities.
  • Check local newspapers for movie preview opportunities.
1. Sometimes you can stop by and pick up a pass (they go fast)
2. Sometimes you have to mail in a form. But that's still under $1.
3. The day of the movie, show up plenty early so you can be sure to get in.
  • Work one or two days a week at a local movie theater. Free movies plus a little extra $$


2. Cheap theater

  • Entertainment Book has 2-for-1 coupons for a lot of theater companies
  • Plenty of plays have pay-what-you-can nights
  • Tim and I know some people who work in plays. They give us discount tickets
  • Volunteer as an usher for part of the run. Get in free another night.


3. Cheap events

  • Again: volunteer. Some companies will let you in for free if you clean up afterward, take tickets before, etc. (Especially true of music festivals.)
  • Matinees (cheaper tickets, plus cheaper meal before or after)
  • Go to the concert even without tickets
1. If it's open air (Seattle has concerts at the pier each summer) you have a picnic.
2. Buy tickets off someone.
**Someone may have friends who flaked out.
**If it's not sold out, the tickets may be reasonable.
**It's not scalping so long as you pay box office prices (or less)
3. In case of open seats, box offices sometimes release tix at a discount 1/2 hour before.

  • Be a tourist in your own town.
1. You have a better chance of finding good deals.
2. Entertainment books are great for this (full of 2-for-1 coupons)
3. Lots of residents never get around to stock attractions (for me it was the Space Needle)
4. It's fun to rediscover your town.

  • Know thy happy hour
1. Many bars have an early and a late one
2. You can afford to order more food and there's often a special drink of the day
3. Some have standing specials, so you can plan around them



4. Take advantage of free


  • A lot of museums have a free-to-the public day once a month.
  • Consider art openings: Free wine, snacks and interesting discussion
  • Enter all the contests you can find
1. Pay attention to call-ins on the radio.
2. If you like the symphony, listen to the classical music channel

**Fewer people listen and/or call in
**My mom won a night of classical music and an after-concert gala with champagne



5. Mystery shopping

  • Offers lots of choices
1. Free meals

**From fast food to casual sit down to full-on upscale dining
**Two of the shops were so expensive, I was sent a $100 gift card

2. Free night of fun

**I've shopped arcade-like stores before and had the meal & night reimbursed
**There are even bar shops, though as least one person needs to limit drinks

3. Free hotel stays

**These take a little more work to get but are fabulous
**Free night in a hotel, meal or drinks plus room service

  • Two drawbacks
1. There is work involved, so it's not a completely worry-free night
2. It can take up to two months to get reimbursed


6. Cheesy date stuff

  • Picnics in the park
  • Go window shopping
  • Go "vacillando" -- spend the day hunting for something you aren't likely to find
  • Go to the fair
1. Pay-one-price bracelet for rides
2. Eat beforehand so you can spend on the good stuff



I'm sure I've left some things out. Help me out folks! (Don't forget every comment you leave will be an extra entry for "Pay It Down")

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Tuesday, September 16

One of those days....

I had hoped to have a post up about the stock market trouble several hours ago. But all yesterday I spent fighting some bug. And today was just hectic and spent what time I did have trying to pare down my wordy, wordy blogger-ness. Which I will not subject you to. So as I trim it down, I present you with a post inspired by another frugal Seattleite, Saving Cent.

Also, be sure to check out Frugal Rhode Island Mama's weekly giveaway of a $10 CVS card.

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