Archive for the ‘Money Saving Tips’ Category

Triple Coupons at Harris Teeter – April 28 through May 4

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Grab your coupons and head down to your nearest Harris Teeter!  If you live in one of the 8 states and 1 District of Columbia that Harris Teeter is located in you are in luck.

From April 28 through May 4 they have triple coupons up to $0.99.  You can use 20 coupons per day, per household.

Check out my earlier post about triple coupon madness.  This time around, I’m going in prepared!

Save Money on Printer Ink by Changing Your Default Font

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

About a month ago, an article circulated the web about how the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was saving $10,000 a year by switching all computer default fonts to Century Gothic.

I gave it a try and found that the Century Gothic font lines are thinner and use less ink.  The font is also very easy to read, but I noticed the letters seemed much bigger than Arial.  This meant that a full 4 page doc in Arial now took up 4 1/4 pages.  For printing short one pagers like emails, directions, recipes, etc… I love Century Gothic.  In fact, I think I will keep the font for longer docs as well.  Ink for my printer is more expensive that a few extra sheets of paper.

When I researched this further I found that Printer.com tested out which fonts used the less ink thereby costing less to print with.  Century Gothic came in first, Times New Roman second, and the old Microsoft Word standard, Arial, came in 6th.

  1. Century Gothic= $46.32 /yr
  2. Ecofont
  3. Times New Roman= $47.53 /yr
  4. Calibri
  5. Verdana
  6. Arial= $66.73 /yr
  7. Sans Serif
  8. Trebuchet
  9. Tahoma
  10. Franklin Gothic Medium

After reading about the test done at Printer.com, I will be staying with Century Gothic and getting off of Arial.

Change Your AC Filter or Shell Out the Big Bucks for a New System

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

We had a strange heatwave here a few weeks ago.  At the end of March, we hit temps in the 80s!  We had to turn on our central AC 2 months ahead of schedule and found out that there was no cold air coming from the vents.  I called our trusty HVAC handyman and he had us up and running in less than an hour.

It was getting so hot in here the baby had to take off all his clothes!  He supervised our AC guy to make sure we didn’t get ripped off.

AC was broke so baby got to wear a diaper all day

Here was his Number 1 piece of advice for keeping your AC unit working:

#1 – Do not let the air filter get clogged up.  Change it regularly and use good quality air filters.

I’m sure we have all heard, “change your filters every month” or other words of wisdom along the same lines, but HONESTLY – how many of us actually check our filters regularly?  75%? 50%? um 25%?  I had always thought the filters were in place for the breathers benefit – clean filter, clean air.  WRONG – that is one benefit, but not the prime benefit.

I’m going to attempt to explain how a central AC unit works and why it’s so important to change the filter.  I’m not an engineer nor do I have any HVAC experience.  I’m translating what my handyman, my husband, and my dad have explained to me…

The AC system basically has 3 parts:

1 – The evaporator coil/blower unit, which is generally under your house or wherever your furnace is.

2- The compressor, which is co-located in the outdoor unit with the condenser.

3- The condenser coil, which is co-located in the outdoor unit with the compressor.

Here’s the gist:

All these parts are connected to each other via copper tubing.  A refrigerant, normally freon, is pumped into this closed system as a liquid.  The liquid freon is cold and goes down the pipes from the outdoor unit to the evaporator coil.  At this point, warm air from your house is blown over this evaporator coil.  The liquid freon absorbs heat from the air and turns it into vapor inside the tubes.  That heated vapor then gets sent down another set of pipes to the compressor unit.  The compressor forces the vapor back into a liquid and gets pushed through the condenser coil where the heat is expelled and that big fan blade blows the heat out into the air.  The liquid freon is now cold again and loops back around to the evaporator under your house, etc…

My handyman said that when the air filters in your house get clogged, or if you use very cheap air filters, the evaporator coil gets covered in dust/dirt.  That directly affects how the freon is able to absorb the heat from the air.  By having a clogged filter you also affect how much air is being blown over the evaporator coil.  The less air, the less heat can be absorbed.  On top of all this, when a clogged filter doesn’t allow enough hot air to get through to the evaporator coil the freon doesn’t turn to vapor.  It just gets colder and colder until it freezes up your system.  When I say freeze, I mean literal ice coating the pipes and parts (this has happened to us).

Long story short!  Spend a few bucks on air filters and change them when they are dirty to save you thousands of dollars on a new AC unit years before its time.  How often to change the filter depends on what type of filter (a high quality filter that traps more dust will need to get changed more often), what type of dust your create in your home (how many people/pets, etc…), how often you use the AC (more in the summer than spring, etc…), and how clean you keep your home (if you dust often or very little, etc…).

Frugal Tip of the Day: Check your air filter monthly and write down the date when you change the filter.  After a year, you will notice when the filter needs to get changed once a month versus every other month, etc… Don’t use the cheapest filter you can find.  Those type let too much dust get through to clog up your system.

Save a Pretty Penny by Shopping at Aldi for Groceries

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Aldi was founded by 2 brothers in Germany in 1962 as a low cost grocery store.  Aldi opened its first store in the US in 1976.  Today, there are 1,000 stores throughout America and over 8,000 stores worldwide.

They have a “no frills” approach to selling groceries and strip away any excess spending on their part to bring the cost of groceries down for you.  Here are examples of what they do to maintain a low overhead:

1) Require a $.25 deposit for a grocery cart.

This is my personal favorite! To use a grocery cart you need to have a quarter.  The carts are all hooked together by means of a chain, a “key”, and a “lock box”.  You insert your quarter in the “lock box” and it pushes the key/chain out of the box from the rear and you are free to take the cart.  When you are done shopping, bring the cart back, insert the chain/key into the rear of the box and your quarter pops out of the front.  By doing this, they have eliminated the need to have employees constantly gathering carts.  I have NEVER seen a stray cart in Aldi’s parking lot.  People always want to get their quarter back.

2) Sell food off pallets and do minimal shelf stocking.

Their grocery items are sold stacked in boxes on pallets.  In some cases they have shelves, but the shelves are intended to hold the boxes of smaller items.  When an item sells out, they wheel out another pallet.  It reminds me of a small scale warehouse store like Costco and Sams.

3) Sell Aldi brand products.

Aldi, as an international juggernaut, has made the best deals with companies to provide quality products and the best cost for all their stores.  I saw a special on TV where many of Aldi’s products come off the same production line as name brand items just with an Aldi brand name. They are so sure of their products that they offer a double guarantee:  If you do not like the taste or quality of the food you buy at Aldi they will replace the product AND refund your money.

By the way, they also sell name brand products of items that they have collectively bargained for. Ex. Hershey chocolate chips, etc…

4) Keep a smaller inventory of staples.

They sell what moves.  Think staples: milk, bread, eggs, cereal, flour, sugar, spices, canned soups, canned veggies, paper products, etc…  They also have popular veggies and fruits:  lettuce, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, bananas, oranges, apples, etc… And they sell meat and frozen items:  Hamburger, hot dogs, lunch  meat, chicken, beef, pizza, ice cream, hot wings, etc…  I shop Aldi first and then go to a big grocery store later to get specialty items like cilantro or saffron.

5) Their checkout process is FAST and efficient.

Once you shop at Aldi, you will develop a strategy for putting stuff on the belt at the checkout.  Generally, they only need ONE cashier.  They do not bag any items at Aldi.  You put your stuff on the belt and they have a shopping cart at the end of the line to put your items in.  They don’t stack or arrange, they don’t organize or worry about crushing things – they just scan and drop stuff into the cart.  I have seen them put bread and eggs in the child seat, but mostly the food is FLYING off the belt.  This is no joke, by the time you have unloaded your cart, the cashier is done ringing you up and is waiting for your payment.

7) Cash or debit ONLY

Nice and simple.  No credit cards, no checks.

8 ) Charge $.25 for grocery bags.

Since they do not bag for you, you must bring your own bags or pay for theirs.  When you are done checking out, you wheel your cart over to one of the long counters and bag your own items.  You can also scan the aisles for empty boxes as you go and use those to box up your groceries.

Those are a few of the highlights of how they save money to save you money.  I just spent $89 on groceries to feed 6 people 5 meals for our camping trip this weekend.   That’s $2.96 per meal!  While I was bagging my groceries, I overheard a lady exclaiming over the cost of her purchase.  This was her first time and she was shocked that she got an entire grocery cart of goods for $80.  She said, “I’d pay twice this much if I was at Food Lion.”

If you have never heard about Aldi, go to their website and see if there is a store near you.

For the Brave of Heart: DIY Haircuts

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

One way we save money is to have the boys’ hair cut at home.  My husband used to cut his own hair before he met me.  Now he makes me do it.  If you and your significant other aren’t a strong couple, then do not attempt home haircuts – it could really wreck your relationship!  Nothing says I love you like a 2 inch wide reverse mohawk down the middle of the head.

Now that the baby needs haircuts, I do his as well.  So far, I’ve done it twice in the last two months.

In my hair salon, I have a set of hair clippers with the different length attachments and a good sharp pair of hair cutting scissors.  A stool helps for the big guy as well as a brightly lit hallway mirror.  For the little guy, the first time I cut his hair was in the high chair and the second time while he was laying down on the changing table.  Laying down was way easier.  I kept him occupied with a toy and his body was still since he was laying down.  After I did the top and sides, I sat him up to trip up the back.

Is it worth all the work to cut my guys’ hair?  You bet.  A cheap haircut goes for around $12 in my neighborhood, plus $2 or $3 dollar tip.  Say it’s $15 (including the gas to get there).  My husband likes his hair nice and short on the back and sides and we cut it every 2 weeks – that’s $390 per year!  Say we cut the baby’s hair once a month – that’s $180.  By cutting both of their hair, we save $570 a year.  That’s a conservative $570 as nice quality cuts are much more expensive.

It takes a lot of practice and a very forgiving husband, but it is doable and saves us money.

Frugal Tip of the Day: Make sure you have nice sharp hair cutting scissors. Don’t use them on paper or anything but hair – keep them sharp!  It makes all the difference in the world.  Use a rat tail comb to separate the hair pieces.  Smooth the hair between your fingers and make the first cut at the length you would like.  Move on to surrounding pieces of hair and smooth those chunks between your fingers – INCLUDE a part of the hair that you just cut.  You will instantly have a guide to show you where to cut this chunk of hair. Continue around the head in the same manner.

Here’s Oliver’s first haircut.  He wasn’t too thrilled.  After a trim off the top, I snipped around his ears and he turned out adorable! :-)

by Needs a Haircut

Oliver was getting a little shaggy.

First Hair Cut“Hey…you don’t have food!  I’ve been tricked.”

Cute as a buttonCute as a button!

Target Lets You Stack Coupons

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Did you know that Target let’s you stack coupons?  This means that they will accept one manufacturer’s coupon and one Target coupon for the same item.  They also accept coupons printed off the internet.

Last week, Target sent out coupons for baby products.  I remember hearing somewhere about stacking coupons and looked up Target’s coupon policy.  Here’s the gist:

•    Target accepts one manufacturer coupon and one Target coupon for the same item (unless prohibited)
•    Super Target coupons can be used in any Target store if the store carries the item
•    We gladly accept valid internet coupons

I searched through my coupon stash to find ones that matched Target’s coupons.  If I didn’t have a coupon for an item that I wanted, I went online to the manufacturer’s website and printed one off.

Here’s how much I saved:

A & D Diaper Rash Cream: Original price  $3.94 minus $2 Target coupon minus $.95 manufacturer’s coupon = $.99

Desitin: Original price $4.94 minus $.75 Target coupon minus $1 manufacturer’s coupon = $3.19

Earth’s Best Rice Cereal: Original price $2.09 minus $.75 Target coupon minus $1 manufacturer’s coupon = $.34

Total cost pre-savings: $10.97

Total cost after savings: $4.52

Total saved: $6.45

Frugal Tip of the Day: Deals like these sound good, but be smart about your coupons.  I had a coupon for Pampers and 1 for Huggies.  Combined with the Target coupons I could have saved 6 more dollars.  However! Even after the coupon deals, the Pampers and Huggies were still more expensive than the diapers we buy at Costco.  Keep an eye on the prices and don’t get suckered by the bargain.

Magic Jack It!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

While looking for ways to save money on our utility bills, I decided to give magicJack a try for home telephone service.

magicJack is a USB device that has a USB connector on one end and a phone jack on the other.  The device plugs into your computer’s USB port and then you plug your standard phone into the other end.  The entire device is about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide.

The magicJack provides free local and domestic long distance calling using Voice Over IP technology.  Instead of using the telephone lines to transfer your calls through, you use your internet provider.  magicJack also offers 911 service, caller ID, and has voicemail.  The device costs $39.99 and includes 1 year of service.  Additional years are only $19.95 per year.  There is a complete money back guarantee for the first 30 days.

Does it Work?

I purchased it from Radio Shack, brought it home and had it setup within 10 minutes.  The software self-installs when you plug the device into the USB port.  I chose a local telephone number and skipped through a bunch of screens asking you to buy more features or pay for more years up front.  I did spend $1 to get the 1 year warranty where magicJack will replace my device for any reason whatsoever.  Personally, I think the $1 pitch is just to get your credit card info on file so that they can auto-bill you when your year is up.

I hooked a cordless phone into the magicJack and everything seems to work okay.  There was initial confusion answering calls from my hubby where he couldn’t hear me.  I solved that by clicking answer using the magicJack software on the computer.  My cordless phone sometimes has a little static, but the people on the other end don’t hear it.  When I got too close to the microwave, the static picked up.  Not sure if it’s my crappy phone or the magicJack.    I can call any telephone number in the United States – cell or landline – and anyone can call me.

As far as the cost, I’d say it is a good deal.  Bell South offers local and unlimited nationwide calling for $40/month.  That’s $480 per year.  I only have to pay $39.99 for the first year and $19.99 after that.  That’s extremely competitive if you ask me.

The Catch:

The magicJack sounds too good to be true.  There has to be a catch right?  Yep.

1) You must have High-Speed Internet Access for this to work.
2) Your computer must be ON for this to work.  If your computer is off, all incoming calls will go to voicemail.  You will not be able to make outgoing calls, even for emergencies.
3) 911 is not guaranteed.  e911 will only work if your computer is on and if you have the right address, etc… in the magicJack software.
4) The magicJack desktop console must always be running.  They do have a nice option to minimize it to your system tray so it is not taking up space on your task bar.
5) The magicJack desktop console will always pop up when your place or receive a call.  This hasn’t been a big deal for me.  In fact, when I have the microphone hooked up I can actually answer the call while at my computer using the computer speakers and the microphone.

We are still in our 30 day trial period.  I’ll let you know if we decide to keep it!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  If you purchase your magicJack from a store, you don’t necessarily need to purchase the store’s warranty (ie. Radio Shack or Best Buy’s additional consumer warranty).  When you set up the magicJack you will be asked if you want to purchase a 1 year warranty for $1 that will cover the cost of replacing the device under any circumstance (ie. lightening struck it, the dog ate it, etc…).

CVS – A Total Steal of a Deal!

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Here’s what I bought last Sunday for $15.57 pre-tax:

15 Bucks Worth of CVS Groceries

I felt like I had robbed CVS.  Well, to be exact I told the cashier – “Man, you all are just giving it away!”  Yes, I said “You All”.  Moving on…

I don’t know if I am more shocked that I only paid 15 bucks for all that loot, or that I shared a picture of my maxi-pads and hair dye with the world.

Building upon what we learned from my CVS lesson, I meticulously scanned the Sunday CVS insert in the paper and looked for sales.

These are the 4 things I looked for:

1) Sale items at a discounted price.
2) BOGOs – Buy One Get One offers, either free or half price.
3) If buying the item would earn me Extra Bucks – bonus if the item was also on sale.
4) If we would actually use the item.

I circled everything interesting that I found and then went to my coupon stash.  I found all the matches that I could and crossed off everything on the list that I did not have a coupon for.

With 9 coupons, one CVS $4 off $20 coupon, and $12 in Extra Bucks in hand I went to CVS.  I left CVS with 14 items, another $4 off $20 coupon, and $10.50 in Extra Bucks.

Total cost: $18.50 after tax

CVS receipt showing the savings after the coupons.
Total savings: $53.09

Total Money Saved at CVS This Shopping Trip
Total discounts for next time:  $14.50

More CVS Coupons and Extra Bucks

As I said earlier, a total steal!

Frugal Tip of the Day: Look for a Customer Care Card Coupon Kiosk.  I’m not sure if that is the official name, but it will be a tall machine where you scan your CVS card to print out coupons on the spot.  I scanned my card and got a $4 of $20 and some EBs that had been adding up in my account.  Also, buy the Green Bag Tag for $0.99.  Attach it to your reusable tote and earn 1/4 of an EB each trip.

Here is why we need 4 boxes of cereal:

Baby Spilled His Cheerios Everywhere

The baby grabbed the cereal container off the table and dumped the entire thing in his lap and onto the floor.  This little dude knows what he wants!

Triple Coupon Madness at Harris Teeter – The Results

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I meticulously organized my coupons and chose THE 20 that I would use at Harris Teeter’s triple coupon day.  I tried to find items that we actually used, or might use, and I tried to use the most expensive coupon under $1.  For example, I pulled a $0.75 coupon over a $0.25 one. I waited until the baby had a nice long nap and then we trundled off to the store.

Wow.  It was crazy.  There were money-saving moms everywhere with recipe boxes overstuffed with coupons, envelopes, file folders, and even a 3-ring binder which used baseball card inserts to separate each coupon by product!  I was such an amateur.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Get the VIC card and subscribe to their emails.

They alert you as to when the triple coupon sales are.

2) Shop the first few days of the sale, NOT the last day.

Most of the items that had coupons in Sunday’s paper were all sold out.  Most of the BOGOs were sold out too.  (BOGO – Buy One Get One free/half-off, etc)

3) Don’t just bring 20 coupons!

Of course, I seemed to be the only newbie with my handful of coupons so this probably wouldn’t apply to most of you.  Luckily, I had stuffed all my other coupons in the diaper bag.  Of the 20 I wanted, 5 were sold out and 2 didn’t bring the price down to a satisfactorily level.  I scrounged to find replacement coupons to take advantage of the triple savings.

4) Harris Teeter is expensive.

Just because you can triple a coupon does NOT mean it is a good deal.  I couldn’t believe how expensive the food was at Harris Teeter in general.  I could get some items cheaper at other stores without even using a coupon.  It helps if you know your prices in general before you are suckered into a “deal”.

5) Don’t shop with a 9-month old baby on triple coupon day.

The incessant hunting and pecking through the aisles for that ONE item didn’t thrill my child.  By the 16th coupon he was done and let me and the general population know it.  That literally explains my last 4 items purchased – 2 Pillsbury cinnamon bun dough packs and 2 Pillsbury pizza crust dough packs.  My husband was like, “what the hell?”.  I’M SORRY, I PANICKED!

6) Be nice to the cashiers.

I talked with 2 of them.  After a week of triple coupon mania, they have had a rough day.  Please have your coupons in order.  No expired ones.  Buy what you are supposed to.  They will be more willing to help you out when the coupon doesn’t scan for some reason or another.  It is the difference between, “this won’t scan” and shoving it back at you versus “this won’t scan because you didn’t get the right size” and letting you run down the aisle to get the right one.

With all that trauma behind me how did I do???

I ended up paying $42.16 and had coupons worth $47.65.  I still felt bad for paying the $42.16, because I bought several items that I never would have in the first place had I not been consumed with trying to triple a $0.75 coupon.  $2.25 off of $5.00 is still $2.75 I never would have spent in the first place.

On the whole, I would definitely do this again. I would be smarter about my shopping and leave the baby at home with the hubby.

Tutorial: Making Foaming Hand Soap

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I always thought foaming hand soap was too fru-fru for me.  I had tried a few of my friends nice smelling foaming hand soap and thought I would give it a try.  Well, I didn’t like my hands smelling like flowery cucumbers, so it sat in my bathroom forever.

Having a baby changed my mind real quick on foaming soap.  It is a million times easier to use to wash his hands than bar soap or plain old liquid soap with a pump.  When my fru-fru foaming soap ran out this week I was dreading paying another $3.50 for SOAP.  I researched online and came up with a foaming hand soap recipe!

Ingredients:

1 Empty foaming handsoap dispenser
Water
Clear liquid handsoap

For this experiment I cleaned out the foaming dispenser until clear water ran through the pump.

I used a ratio of 1/5 liquid soap to 4/5 water.  This dispenser was 8.5 oz.  I guessed that the pump took up an 1/2 an ounce of space.  I divided 8 by 5 to get 1.6 ounces of soap.  Subtracting 1.6 from 8 I needed roughly 6.4 ounces of water.

Remove the pump and add the water to the empty bottle first.  Next pour in the liquid soap.  By adding the water first bubbles will be minimized.  Twist on the pump and shake gently to mix the soap into the water.  (NOTE: The pump was about 1/2 an ounce larger than I expected, ergo the excess spilled all over the counter.)

I used the same method to fill an ordinary liquid soap dispenser as a control.

The ordinary pump produced no foam, just watered down soap.

The foaming pump actually produced soapy foam!

The results side by side.

I washed my hands with the foaming soap and it worked like a charm.

Provided that you have an empty foaming soap dispenser, the cost of this recipe was rougly $0.30.  That’s a steal!

Things to remember:

1) Do not use moisturizing liquid soap.  It can clog up the pump.
2) The ratio of water and soap may vary depending on the pump style.  Use more or less until you find something that works.
3) If the pump gets clogged after a bit, pumping vinegar through the dispenser should clear it up.

I will report back in a month to see how the soap and dispenser held up.

Frugal tip of the day: Need I say it?  Make your own refills for pennies instead of buying a new bottle.

UPDATE:  I emptied out a little of the soap mix and added more liquid soap to the bottle.  The ratio is now probably 2/5 liquid soap and 3/5 water.  Upping the soap made a thicker foam and has not clogged up the pump yet.  I’ll report back in a while to see if this penny pinching idea is worth it!

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