I'll freely admit it to everyone here: I'm a lazy saver. It's not my fault, you know, it's because I work with computers.
How's that, you ask? The concept of elegant design. Ask anyone in computers what 'elegant design' means, and they'll give you this wonderful schpiel about something that is beautful and effective and concise. What they're really saying is the best way to do something is the way that gets it done right and fast, taking up the least amount of time and energy. This is the backbone of the techology industry, and being a tech-head it is my backbone too.
When I was a trainer, I actually taught this concept to people. When you're working in customer service, being goaled on how many seconds you're on the phone with a customer (!), you need to get your job right and get it done fast. And pleasantly, otherwise you'll lose points on your Quality Assurance Monitoring form.
Perosnally, though, I don't like the word 'lazy'. Too negative. I prefer the phrase 'time effecient'. So, instead of calling myself a lazy saver, I should say I am a 'time effecient' saver.
I'm not going to try to fool you into thinking my tactics save me the absolute most money. They won't. Saving the most money takes a lot of time and effort, and I send great kudos out to the uber deal finders on this site. I'm just not one of them. You will, however, be able to save a significant amount of money. For example: I shopped tonight and saved over 44% without a single mail-in rebate or newspaper-clipped coupon. Could I have saved more? Oh heck yeah! Would it have taken a considerable amount longer? You betcha!
First things first: save your change! Easiest thing in the world to do: pay cash for stuff and save your change. If you're adventurous, save your dollar bills, too. Over the course of a month I have found I save right around 25% of what's in my pocket by not spending change or ones. It also makes me consider my purchases a little more thoroughly, too. How often would you buy a $1.50 cuppa coffee if it resulted in another $3.50 becoming untouchable?
This next tip only makes since when you realize that I pay cash for everything but bills, and in my wallet I have two sections: my money and house money. My money is my allowance, my pocket money for the week. House money is grocery money for the week and a small weekly slush fund for things like a box of nails, a refill on the grill tank, etc. I will loan the house money during the week from my allowance if a great deal pops up out of the blue, under the condition that the house pays me back the next week. I will not, however, do the reverse; once the allowance is gone, it's gone. This saves me money because if I find a great deal on something in the grocery store (like fryers 49c/lb and sirloins $2.99/lb like they are this week), I can stock up without worrying about running out of 'house money'.
My other 'trick' is to pick my stores and stick with them! In any given week I shop at two grocery stores (Bloom and Publix), two drug stores (CVS and Walgreens), and one natural food store. I'm also particularly lucky because all of these are within 4 miles of my house. I have customer cards for the 3 stores that offer them, and all 3 of them offer me extra coupons based on my spending amount. The more I spend at a particular store, the more I get in coupons. For me, this combined with the price of gas makes it ineffecient to go out of my way for most deals.
The sales papers for 4 of my 5 stores are available online. 2 come out on Sunday, 2 on Wednesday. On Wednesday, I will compare all 4 paperless copies and determine which deals are worthwhile. I will do my shopping whenever it's convenient Wednesday-Saturday.
I keep the same basic grocery list of staples from week to week and add to it based on the sales papers. If there's something on the generic weekly list I don't need, I cross it off with a BIG black marker so I won't glance at the item and pick it up by mistake! I find it helpful to print this generic list en masse so I can grab one and have it with me when I go through the sales. This way, you can include the 'normal' price you're willing to pay for your weekly staples on the list. Also, all of my standard weekly list items come from the same store, so that if there aren't any super specials I just go to one place, I'm in I'm out I'm done! Unless, of course, one of my pet stores has a staple at a great bargain, which I'll know, since my list will tell me what I'm willing to pay as a normal price!
If you're not a coupon clipper (and I'm not), one must also pay attention to other sources of coupons. My favorites, in no particular order, are the Walgreens salespaper, my CVS receipt, aisles of the grocery store, and smack on the package I'm going to buy.
Walgreens coupons requiree no clipping: just note which items require coupons and grab one of their sales papers as you walk in the door. Often, since the coupon isn't clipped, they'll also let you take the paper with you resulting in the possibility of another visit a little later in the week! CVS gives Extra Care bucks for certain purchases and CVS coupons as you spend. In the past week I've been to CVS 3 times (only 2 were planned), spent less than $35, and have gotten $17 worth of coupons on my receipts. When I'm cruising through Publix, I'll grab the coupons they have in their aisles for items I know I buy (cereal, creamer, pudding, organic soup, shampoo), and stash them. They're manufacturers coupons, so I can use them at any of my 5 stores.
And don't forget the coupons on the stuff you're already buying! For instance, Hefty zip bags almost always have a coupon on them where I shop. Not ZipLock, Hefty. I went into the store today intending to buy the ZipLock bags that were advertised on sale. I walked out with the Hefty bags that were on unadvertised special with a coupon on each box. Knowing which brands frequently come pre-couponed makes it easier to save money.
And speaking of unadvertised sales: take a look around the store when you're walking, folks! I'm sure we're all aware that not everything that's on sale is in the sale paper. But, when you're so focused on making budget and sticking to the list, it's really easy to miss some awesome deals out there! This strategy takes some will-power, otherwise you might be tempted to buy every BOGO you see just because it's a good price. We all know better, but it bears repeating that a deal is only a deal if it's something you will actually use. Or be able to give as a gift. Or possibly resell for profit...
I have also been a time efficient saver by shopping with my mom. She's a frugal frugie, too, so we compare who can find the best deal. And sometimes there are offers for a better deal when you spend X amount of money. Your choice: spend more than you need to by yourself, or buddy up with someone and pay for everything on one ticket. Mom and I did this the Saturday before TG and that's how we got our 20 lb turkey for free. Plus, with the buddy system, your customer card will get the credit for the bigger purchase which means you might wind up getting more coupons in the future! Rock On!
What about you: what are your tips for being a 'time effecient' saver?
Archive for November, 2006
I'll freely admit it to everyone here: I'm a lazy saver. It's not my fault, you know, it's because I work with computers.
Well, folks seemed to like the last article link to Violent Acres, which was in fact Part 2 in a series as Fern pointed out. I thought Part 1 was ok but didn't grab me, but the last one and this one did.
Again with the blunt, again with the language. I think for a lot of SavingAdvice.com folks, #2 about investing in what you enjoy might be the most meaningful section in this one.
Warning on the use of vulgar language, so those who are offended don't follow the link.
For those who aren't, this is FUNNY and BLUNT and TRUE!!!
My husband has been taken over by an alien intelligence, I just know it. How else can one explain the weirdo turnaround in his behavior since just before Thanksgiving?
DH did dishes last night while I cooked dinner. This is the 3rd? 4th? time he's done dishes since 11/21. This is abnormal behaviour for my spouse as 11/21 is the first time I remember doing dishes in this house since we moved in 7/21. I'm starting to get creeped out by it. Thankful, but creeped out.
He has cleaned up the area around his chair (nicknamed the 'throne' by baselle!) at least every other day, sometimes more.
We talked about finances after dinner last night (second night in a row!) and DH asked what the interest rate is on my car. I told him, he pondered for a minute, then said we should probably pay off the car after we pay off his Honda Card...
WHOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAA! Hold on a second!
When I mentioned a month ago we should pay off the car after paying off his Honda Card because it would save us over 7k in interest, he literally said "But you can't think of it that way, it's not going to help to think about the amount you're paying in interest." VERBATIM.
Either DH has been taken over by an alien intelligence, he has been possessed by a financially responsible being, or someone on SavingAdvice.com has started sending him threatening emails
Or perhaps I'm starting to wear him down. All the subliminal tapes I'm playing at night while he's asleep might be kicking in!
Granted, his progress in certain areas is a little slower than I'd like. For instance, we're making more than minimum payments on the Honda Card, hospital bill, and money owed his parents. His idea for paying off the Honda Card is to cut the payment to his parents down to the minimum required and throw the extra $50 per month to the Honda Card. All well and good in theory, but it'll take us over a year to pay off just that one card that way...
Another thing he's not catching on to: house money vs my allowance money. I pull out my allowance, grocery money, and a small amount of 'house money' every week. As the budgeter, I control the house cash, and when we go do something, he assumes the house is always paying. For instance we went on our weekly monday-night chinese food pilgrammage, and he wanted to eat my leftovers I was saving for lunch. He was trying to be funny and said "This is house money, which means we're both paying for it so I can eat some of yours too!" And I had to look at him and say "No, actually, this is coming out of my allowance, because the house is out of cash until Friday." The initial response? Blink blink. Then he pulled out his wallet and chipped in from his allowance, which was nice.
The moral of this story is he hates hearing that the house is out of cash. More specifically, he hates when I say the house is out of cash and anyone is around to hear it. I guess he gets embarrased because he assumes anyone who hears it will think we're broke. Apparently I need a euphamism for 'the house is out of cash' that I can use with DH so he'll know what I mean but won't get embarrassed.
"We're driving on empty"
"All our cash is tied up in the market till Friday"
"We're outta checks with no ATM card"
"I wrote the grocery list on the benjamin in my pocket, and don't want to spend it"
Dulce de Leche is literally translated as 'sweet from milk'. For those who aren't familiar, dulce de leche is a a smooth, creamy, caramelly gooey instance of pure heaven! I could eat the stuff with a spoon. Oh, who am I kidding: I HAVE eaten the stuff with a spoon!
When I was in Argentina last year, the stuff was EVERYWHERE. Not that I minded, but it was exceptionally noticeable. Take my trip to the WalMart just outside of Cordoba.
PAUSE: This was before I started boycotting Walmart, but even if it wasn't I would have to have gone. It's like a car wreck: I couldn't help but look!
So, in the Cordoban WalMart the signage looks pretty much the same but is in Spanish. It was a bit surreal, as a lot of the signs here have Spanish on them too, so it was like WalMart from home got dropped off on the other side of the world!
First thing you come across is a small appliance and electronics section. After currency conversion a coffee pot was about $50, a microwave close to $300. To put it in perspective, the call center reps I was training were making about $300 per month...
The back of the store is one giant wall of wine, beer, and liquor. Cannisters were sold in sets of three: 'cafe', 'te', 'yerba'. Coffee, tea, and herb. No, not that kind of herb! Yerba is slang for mate, a tea-like drink that is popular in Argentina & Uraguay. 'Bitter is Better' they say... And while I was tempted to have a cannister set with a specific place for 'herb', I had visions of customs not quite seeing the humor.
Anyways, mayonnaise and peanut butter were in the tiny 5 shelf 'import' section of the store, because nobody buys them. Dulce de leche, however, has an entire aisle to itself. Think of the bread/PB/jelly/condiment aisle at your WalMart, and that is how much space was alloted to dulce de leche.
Creamy, caramelly goodness as far as the eyes could see. Talk about some folks who like their dulce de leche!
Anywho, this rambling preface is simply my way of introducing the easiest way I know to make dulce de leche at home. I believe this to be a fairly authentic method since several Argentine friends confirmed this is how their grandma did it. The result is something that tastes like a cross between caramel and a Sugar Daddy lollipop.
1. Get a can of sweetened condensed milk. DO NOT OPEN, but take the label off.
2. Place a pot on the stove, put the unopened can in the pot (probably don't want to use non-stick otherwise it'll get scratched). Add enough water into the pot to cover the can.
3. Bring the water to a boil.
4. Boil the can for 90 minutes on one end. Turn over with tongs, boil for another 90 minutes on the other end. NOTE: you might want to add water periodically during all 3 hours of the boiling process.
FYI, when and if you attempt this you'll probably want to make a couple of cans up at once, as it'll use the same amount of energy as making 1 can. I just opened a can I made last Christmas and it was good, so it'll keep a while.
So, after you've boiled your can/s for 3 hours (1.5 on each end), you have 2 choices. Open a can now when it's molten, or let the can cool on the counter for a few hours. If you open the can when it's hot the dulce de leche is easier to work with but hot enough to burn. If you wait till the can is cooled, the opposite is true. Your choice here.
If you open the can when it's hot, use a mechanical can opener you can submerge in water for cleanup! When opening a hot can, the 'carmel' will spurt up about 6 inches or so out of the can when the pressure is released, so be ready!
If you open the can when it's cool, you'll need to spoon the 'carmel' out, or use a knife to loosen the sides like you would tomato paste.
So, what does one do with homemade dulce de leche?
My sister and I make carmel pie, for one. Take 1 graham cracker crust, fill with 1 can of 'carmel', allow to set in the freezer, top with whipped topping. YUUUUUMMMMMMMMMM!!! She mixes apple pie fillig in her carmel, I mix toffee bits into mine. Get creative and use chocolate, PG, different kinds of crusts, or poor man's mouse (pudding mixed with whipped topping).
I drizzle warm carmel on cookies and sprinkle toasted coconut on top. I make homemade turtles by mixing nuts with the carmel, dropping spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet to set in the freezer, and then toping with chocolate.
Heat it up and drizzle it on ice cream and/or pie.
And my favorite: eat it straight with a spoon!
Just because you're driving a Beemer doesn't mean you can ignore all traffic laws, not to mention common decency!
Today during my 20 minute lunch hour, I went to get a cuppa joe. I was happily sitting at a red-light in the right-most left turn lane listening to NPR, and you Mr. Beemer Butt Munch were on my right in the 'go straight' lane. There was traffic everywhere.
When our light changed, I and the car to my left both began making our left turns when you, MR. BEEMER BUTT MUNCH, gun your engine and make a swinging left turn in front of me from a NON-LEFT TURN LANE!!!
You are a lucky rat bastard that I know how to drive and do it well, otherwise me, you, and the car to my left would have all wound up on the news tonight. Bad news for you, Mr. Beemer Butt Munch, because the county sherrif, a state trooper, and a SLED agent are all loyal cigar store customers!
I know for a fact you saw me. I drive an 'Egg Yolk Yellow' Ford Focus, for cryin' out loud, how could you not see me?!??
Granted, I know this car does not scream "EFFECTIVE DRIVER" or "FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE", but beleive it or not that is WHY I DRIVE IT! I drive this car so my property taxes will be lower, my gas bill will be lower, and I can afford a $250 deductible and 100 grand in liability coverage in case I ever happen to run into a MR. BEEMER BUTT MUNCH such as yourself.
I admit, I was sorely tempted by you today, Butt Munch. I had a golden opportunity 5 feet from my front bumper. My car would have been totalled, but I have GAP insurance which would have paid off my loan in full. Your car would have been totalled, but me, the guy to my left, and the 50 other cars at that intersection (NOT TO MENTION THE FREAKIN' TRAFFIC CAMERAS) all would have stated it was your fault.
I could have made your life miserable today, Mr. Beemer Butt Munch, and I chose not to. Next time, why don't you try and do the same?
Don't remember where I stumbled across this concept, but I know it was last summer or fall at some point. I was reading up on environmental conservation, and one of their suggestions for the holidays was giving 'disappearing gifts', or gifts that typically don't come in a lot of packaging and don't wind up cluttering up your house. As soon as I read it I heard the echo of my mother saying "Please, don't give my anything I have to dust!" and I knew I had found my calling!
I don't take the disappearing gift concept too literally: if I find a 'thing' that will be absolutely perfect, I will of course get it. But more often than not, I will purchase the ephemeral. Here's what I mean.
* My parents: gift certificate to their favorite restaurate, a Black Friday deal flash drive for dad and a cert to her favorite stylist for mom
* DH's parents: car rental and gas money so they can make a trip to see family in the middle of December (otherwise they weren't going to go)
* My sister & her DH: a bottle of their favorite tequila and a cert to their favorite sushi restaurant
* DH's sister and her boyfriend: a neato knife block and a cert to the new natural foods store
Lots of things can fall under the heading of a disappearing gift, some more obvious than others.
* gift certificates of all sorts
* food and beverage
* bird seed
* animal treats (for pet owners, obviously!)
* subscription to a cleaning service/yard service/garbage service, etc
* a weekend getaway at a hotel
* subscription to NetFlix (or similar)
I'm trying to find more and more ways to bring the 'disappearing' concept into the rest of my holiday celebration. I've found Christmas cards made on recycled paper impregnated with wildflower seeds. After the holidays, simply toss the card in your yard and in the spring you have a patch of wildflowers! Don't know if I'll buy some yet, but I like the thought. Wish I could find wrapping paper that did the same!