Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Action Shots for the Ivy Fans

Perched on her favorite spot by the window:

Snooping while I am trying to stage a cereal photo shoot:

Coupon Myths Article

If you're new to couponing or are thinking about starting, read this article.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How to Do a Stupid Budget

If you're reading this blog, it's probably because you like saving money (or because you're one of my family members. One of the two.). I hate to break it to you, but a budget is CRUCIAL to saving money. I know, I know, I hate them, too. This will never be the most exciting thing that you do, but it may be the most important thing for your financial life. Money has a way of slipping through your fingers when each dollar does not have an assigned purpose. Here's a very painless way to start budgeting:

1) Write a budget every month- do not try to make one budget for a whole year. Some of your expenses are fixed and won't change from month to month (rent, insurance, etc.) but many things will change monthly. For example, in May I had to get an oil change and in June I will get a haircut. In June I will also need to have extra in the budget to get my dissertation bound. These are not fixed expenses, and if I used a yearly budget I would not have the money available.

2) Go grab your checkbook. You will use this to determine what your budget categories are and to take an average of what you spent in each category last year. Some suggested categories are housing, grocery, restaurant, entertainment, insurance, auto, clothing, medical, pet needs, gifts, savings/investments, miscellaneous, and debt. You will probably have more categories as you figure out where your funds go.

3) Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to determine what your tax responsibility will be.

4) Use an online budget calculator to give you a place to start. I like the Crown Financial calculator.

5) Print off your budget and tweak the categories and percentages until they work for you. Every dollar needs to have a "home" that it goes to. If you have extra money, it needs to go to your debt or to savings.

6) Decide if you want to use cash or if you're okay using checks. Cash is easier since you can put the assigned amount in an envelope and you can easily tell how much remains in that category. If you are diligent, checks/debit card can work for you as long as you carefully note how much is going out from each category.

7) Evaluate the budget at the end of the month. What worked and what did not? Keep these things in mind as you write your budget for the next month.

I admit that I have never been great at following a strict budget. I am determined to change this as I prepare to pay down my student loan debt. I don't want money being frittered away when it could go to my good friend Sallie Mae. Or to her cousin Citibank.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Donna Freedman

Lately I have really been enjoying the writings of Donna Freedman over at MSN Money. I remember a while back when they profiled her very frugal living, and I recently found that she had been hired to write. If you have time, check it out.

Freebie: Nature Made Vitamins Samples

The very wonderful Lisa, who works for Nature Made, emailed me to give me a heads up about this freebie. You can request a fourteen day supply of your favorite liquid softgel vitamin here.

Here's my Nature Made plug:
I have an unholy love for Nature Made vitamins. This is because I can purchase them at a buy-one-get-one free sale at (surprise!) Walgreens AND use coupons AND "bank" wellness rewards points. Those points add up and then they send you great $5 or $7 coupons in the mail. This means I get vitamins for very cheap.

Thanks, Lisa!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cereal Coming Out of My Ears

I went to Wal-Mart last Friday and got this stuff free after internet coupon (nosy cat not included). The Scrubbing Bubbles was a manufacturer's rebate, though, which I have already sent in. I also got Silk Soymilk for .75 per carton. After that, I went to Walgreens and bought four more boxes of cereal for .50 each after coupons and Register Rewards. Guess what I'll be eating for a while?

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to Make Your Cashier Like You (or at least not run away screaming)

If you have used coupons for any length of time, you will know that cashiers generally do not like you. We can potentially cause a lot of extra work for them, and sometimes they think you're trying to do something illegal. I have heard all sorts of horror stories on the web about cashiers and coupons, but I have had generally good experiences. Here is what I do to make it easier on both of us.

1) Shop slowly. Make sure that you select the correct item for the coupon that you're trying to use. This is not the time to rush through the store.
2) Carefully select your cashier. If you're at Wal-Mart or Target, you probably have a bunch to choose from. If you're at Walgreens, not so much (at WG, check out at the makeup counter if possible). Look for someone who appears pleasant, not too tired, and fairly competent. If
3) Approach with pleasant-ness. I'm going to be honest here- I'm a pretty happy person and it shows (as a reference, I generally don't make people want to vomit, but they do sometimes laugh at my optimism). Because of this, it is much easier for me to make nice with people since it is genuine. However, large stores with bunches of people make me cranky, so even I have to fake it sometimes. Greet your cashier very happily and tell them immediately that you have coupons. Ask them where they want you to place the coupons and do so. Gently remind them when they try to "forget" to enter them in.
4) Use your coupons properly. Don't try to pull a fast one. Comply with store and manufacturer's policies, and never do something like copy coupons or try to slip the wrong product or an expired coupon past a cashier. If you do, you make all of us look bad and make it that much harder for couponers to be seen as legit. You also can be banned from stores.
5) Be polite but firm. If you're using your coupons legally and within the limits of the store's coupon policy, then request a manager. It helps to carry a copy of the store's coupon policy with you. You can email Target and get their policy, and Wal-Mart has their coupon policy here. Once I had a cashier at Target tell me something that I knew wasn't true and I politely but firmly corrected her. She didn't like it, but she did honor the policy.
6) Recognize the great cashiers! Take the time to tell their managers how easy they made your life. The cashiers that enjoy talking to me and don't mind my coupon use (or even look forward to it!) have my devotion for life.

Happy couponing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Earning Free Gift Cards

Have you heard of My Points? I've been a member for a couple of years now and have earned multiple gift cards. All you have to do is just click on a website link in their emails and you will earn 5 points. You can try their offers or use them as a shopping portal and earn points, too, but I think the best/easiest way is to just click on the email links and earn 5 points each.

If you do want to try their offers and such, I'd recommend getting an additional email address as they will submit your email address to the company that is offering the deal. If you plan to just click on the 5 points links, then it's safe to use your primary email address. I've been a member for 2+ years and have yet to see an increase in spam.

Right now I have 3,410 points. I normally save up enough points for a $10 gift card, get impatient, and cash them in. This time I'm saving up to see how long I can go before going crazy. ;) This takes at most one minute out of each day. Go earn some FREE gift cards!

Monday, May 12, 2008

New to Me Freebie: Redbox DVD Rentals!

I've known about Redbox for a while. You've probably seen the machines outside of McDonald's and some grocery stores. Basically you can rent DVDs for $1 per night. One nice thing about Redbox is that they often offer FREE rental codes. It's my understanding that you just go to the machine, enter the code, and rent your movie for free. This has never meant much to me since I didn't have a machine nearby. Now I do!!!!!!! To get your first free code, go to their website and click on the get a free rental link.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Your Burning Questions Answered!

Q: Why do you do all this frugal stuff?
A: Well, for one thing I find it to be really fun. I am a competitive sort of gal, and so I'm competing against myself to get the best deal on everything. I also have a jillion dollars in student loan debt that will go into repayment in October. I am not willing to have that hanging over my head for 20+ years.

Q: How did you get started doing all of this stuff?
A: I lived at home throughout grad school and really wanted to help out in some way financially since I felt like a freeloader. Unfortunately, I mostly had no income. I started printing coupons online for groceries, but was only saving a few dollars per shopping trip. One day I was standing in line and the man in front of me saved something like $18 on his one bag of groceries. I figured there had to be a better way to save, and so I started googling and found blogs and websites that explained how to shop better.

Q: Yeah, it sounds great, but who has the time to do it?
A: If you have debt and/or are just tired of paying too much money for things, then you don't have the money to not do it. I work forty hours a week and am finishing a doctoral dissertation, so I know what you're talking about. At first it will take some time to figure things out, but as you get more practiced it doesn't take any time at all. And there are websites out there that will tell you the best deals each week.

Q: How do I get started with grocery/toiletry savings?
1) Buy a newspaper every Sunday and save all of the coupons. Some people prefer using a coupon clipping service so that they can get multiple coupons for particular items. I don't do this because, frankly, I do not NEED forty-seven automatic air fresheners for free. One or two is enough for me. I am in favor of getting extra stuff and donating it, but I am NOT in favor of clearing out the shelves for pure greediness. Don't do that. If you have a large family, you may need to pick up multiple papers. Walgreens sells the Sunday paper for .99, which is the cheapest price I've run across. Another good source for coupons is All You magazine, available by subscription or at Wal-Mart.
2) Check out the Walgreens ad on Sunday and try to match your coupons to the sales. Better yet, go to Pinching Your Pennies or Money Saving Mom and let them do the work for you. Both sites will tell you what is a good deal and what coupons to use!
3) When your weekly grocery store ad comes out (usually Sunday or Wednesday), apply the same principle. If it is a national chain, chances are that some place on the internet will tell you what the good deals are. Or you can use Coupon Mom.
4) Don't forget stores like Aldi and Save a Lot for basic inexpensive food needs. I *love* Aldi and do much of my grocery shopping there. I cook mostly from scratch and don't use a lot of prepackaged foods, so I don't wind up using a ton of coupons on grocery items. Save a Lot does take coupons, though.
5) CVS has a lot of great deals in the form of their Extra Care Bucks (ECB) program. I can't explain this program to you because I don't use it, but Money Saving Mom lists the good deals each week.

Q: How do I save money on clothing?
1) First of all, brainwash yourself into NEVER paying full price for clothing. I *rarely* ever pay full price for anything and if I do it is usually some kind of comfortable, orthopedic-ish shoe. There are good deals to be found everywhere, you just have to look for them.
2) Don't be a snob. Once you learn how to spot a well-made garment, then you can shop anywhere. I'm not gonna lie, though, I still buy cheap little items that will just last a season. But when they cost me $7 or less, I feel okay doing that.
3) Some people find great deals on clothing at yard sales and thrifts, but I unfortunately do not. That's okay. Once again, there are deals to be had everywhere.
4) If you shop online, make sure you use a shopping portal/rebates program such as Ebates. Shopping rebates programs such as Ebates, Fat Wallet, Lucky Mag Rewards, etc., give you a percentage of your purchase price back. I use both Ebates and Lucky Mag Rewards. (If you would like a referral to Ebates, sign up using this link and we will both get a $10 bonus. I don't care if you don't use my link, just make sure you sign up with some sort of shopping portal so that you save money!!!).
5) ALWAYS search for a printable coupon if you're shopping in-store or a coupon code if you're shopping online. Also sign up for email from stores that you frequent. I get a lot of coupons and coupon codes this way.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

KY3 Interview Link

For my bloggy friends that don't know what I am talking about, I present to you the link to my KY3 interview here. I look/act a little goofy, but overall I think it is a good piece. I really hope it inspires people to save more money! And how exciting to be interviewed for something that I enjoy doing. :)

Link to the article here, but I want to preface this by saying that I DO NOT look as goofy as I do in the still shot that they used to accompany the article. It will be surprising to no one that they caught me with my mouth open. ;)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Welcome KY3 Watchers...

...and welcome to the land of frugal living. This blog has been a bit boring lately- for the good stuff, you can start in the archives. Also click on the Frugal Blogroll button on the right- there are many great frugal living blogs listed that are much more interesting than mine. You will find that frugality is practiced on a continuum, with a wide range of variation between how frugal people are. Start small and enjoy the journey!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Walgreens Rebates- Submit Online!

Hallelujah! You can now FINALLY submit your Walgreens rebates online! I just went and submitted last month's rebate and it was really easy. Check it out here.