From the category archives:

Frugal Living

99 Cent Shopping TripAbout once a week I drop in the 99 Cent Only store to explore the produce selection and yesterday it occured to me…do my readers know what kind of amazing deals can be found here?!? My local store carries an extensive produce selection that is always changing daily and at only $0.99, the prices often can’t be beat. I’ve even scored organic produce there too.

Check out my latest trip pictured above, versus the cost of the same items at Vons (Safeway):

(2) Hydroponic Butter Lettuce – $0.99 each (Vons: $3.99 each)
(3) San Luis Sliced Sourdough Bread – $0.99 each (Vons: $4.99 each)
(1) Guerro Corn Tortillas – $0.99 (Vons: $1.99)
(1) Limes, 3-lb. – $0.99 (Vons: $3.29)
(1) Garlic, 4-ct. – $0.99 (Vons:: $0.50 each)
(1) Blackberries, 6-oz. – $0.99 (Vons: $3.99)
(1) Cilantro, 3-bunches – $0.99 (Vons: $0.99 per bunch)

99¢ Only Total: $10.00 | Vons Total: $37.19
Total Savings: 73%

4 Tips for Shopping at the 99¢ Only Store:

 

  1. Watch expiration dates.
    A lot of the items that make their way to this discount store have a short shelf life so always be sure to read the expiration dates on products before throwing them in your cart. This is especially true with perishables, such as produce.
  2. Ask when deliveries are made for the best selection.
    Because the selection of items is always changing, if you know when deliveries are made you can often get first dibs on name brand products & produce. At my store, fresh produce is delivered every other day and dry goods come in on Tuesday & Thursday. Knowing this has helped me snag some awesome finds, like the San Luis Soudough Bread I snatched up for just $0.99. I’ve had great success with freezing bread, so I picked up an extra two to throw in the freezer.
  3. Not everything is a good deal – look at unit size.
    As you become more familiar with price points and sale cycles at your local grocery store, you’ll start to notice that some of the “deals” found at your local 99 cent store are far from great. When it comes to refrigerated grocery items, which are often sold in smaller sizes than what you might find at the regular store, look at the unit size. Does it make sense to buy it for $0.99? What do you usually pay at the grocery store with a sale and coupon?
  4. Don’t stock up until you try it.
    One time I thought I majorly scored on several 3-count boxes of microwave “caramel” flavored popcorn made by a name brand. Caramel popcorn, that has to be tasty right? It would have been, if each bag didn’t catch on fire in the microwave. Sometimes there is a reason products end up at the discount store.

What hidden treasures have you found at the 99¢ store? Do you have any additional tips for shopping at the dollar store? Share below!


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Thought I’d pass along a fun little money management tool that I’ve personally been using for well over a year, Mint.com. Mint is a secure FREE online money management and budgeting program trusted by over one million users. I previously was devoted to my dear Microsoft Money software, and ditched it the day I found Mint.

If you’re familiar with Quicken or Microsoft Money, that’s what Mint is, but much more user friendly – and free. Setting up your accounts and creating budgets are super easy, and I really enjoy the weekly text alerts on my balances.

It’s really hard to know if you’re actually saving money if you don’t have a clue about your spending habits. If you’re not managing your money, or even if you are, check out Mint!


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Save Money with SmartyPig!

by Jess on June 3, 2010

Two months ago, with the help of living a frugal lifestyle and couponing, I was finally able to hit a major financial goal by paying off my car! It’s been an enormous weight off my shoulders, I can’t even begin to explain. Now that I have more funds to work with each month, I’m concentrating on replenishing my emergency fund while also working to aggressively pay down the balance on my credit card (evil thing).

One of the new tools I am using to replenish and save for my Emergency Fund, as well as to save for a trip to Texas to visit my mom, is SmartyPig. SmartyPig is an online savings account with an above average APY of 2.15% that is FREE to use and is FDIC insured. Considering other online savings accounts such as ING and Emigrant Direct are currently at 1-1.10%, SmartyPig takes the cake in my book. A higher APY (even if it is only a percentage more) will help me reach my goal faster and I need all the help I can get.

How it works


SmartyPig is unique in that unlike other traditional savings accounts, with SmartyPig you can set up individual specific savings goals for yourself, such as saving for a new car, college, vacation, down payment on a house, or whatever else floats your boat.

Simply tell SmartyPig what you’re saving for, how much you want to save, and by what date you’d like to meet your goal by and SmartyPig will help you set up an automated savings program specifically for that goal. It will even go so far as to suggest how much you need to contribute each month in order to meet that goal. Of course, you can pick whatever amount you want to contribute each month and if you’re not comfortable with it being automated, you can choose to contribute each month manually.

Another interesting feature unique to SmartyPig is the social sharing aspect. SmartyPig allows you to share your savings goals with friends and family so they can contribute funds to your goal as well. You can even pick up a widget for your Facebook page! I decided to opt out of this feature, but it does seem pretty cool.

Setting up an account is easy

Setting up a free SmartyPig account is super easy and takes only about 5 minutes.

SmartyPig is just like any other financial institution online and you can trust your information is encrypted and secure. Once you sign up you’ll want to start setting up savings goals for yourself. You’ll need to make an initial minimum deposit of $25 for each goal and the goal itself must be at least $250 (if your actual goal isn’t that much don’t worry, you can stop the goal at any time and withdraw the funds).

As I mentioned, you can add funds to your goals whenever you want or you can set them up with recurring contributions. Whichever way you choose to fund the account, you’ll need to deposit a minimum of $10 each time.

3 Easy Ways to Withdraw Funds

SmartyPig does NOT penalize you with any type of fee to withdraw, and that includes even if you need to withdraw from your goal early. Life happens, things come up, and they understand that. There are three options for withdrawing funds at SmartyPig and they are all FREE:

  1. Transfer back to your bank account
  2. Convert to a SmartyPig MasterCard Debit Card
  3. Convert to a gift card
    This option is perfect if your goal is for a vacation or material item because you get your deposits, plus interest, plus an additional bonus!

    Saving for a trip? Have part of your goal converted to an American Airlines gift card and you’ll earn an additional 3%, or maybe choose a Travelocity hotel gift card and earn an additional 10%! The best gift card bonus is currently the Macy’s card which is at 12% but you can choose from many other retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Sears…the list goes on.

Anyway, thought I’d share SmartyPig with you all because I’m really enjoying having fun watching my little piggy bank grow each month. You can learn more about opening a free SmartyPig account here and don’t worry, if you’re not sure what you want your goal to be, you can set that part up later. I hope you find this tool useful!


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    Couponing For Community Update!

    by Jess on May 5, 2010

    Just a friendly reminder that this week is Couponing for Community where couponers and over 50 bloggers are teaming up to support our local charities with goodies from our stockpile! In fact, this effort is so big it was recently highlighted on MSN’s Smart Spending!

    It really is exciting to see how many people are jumping on the bandwagon and participating. If you have a minute, make sure you check out the official Facebook page for Couponing for Community for a little inspiration. There are lots of photos!

    This is the week to rummage through your stockpile and see if you have any items you can donate to a local charity or friend in need. Remember you can also leave your non-perishables by your mailbox this Saturday for the USPS Stamp Out Hunger program as well!

    My Game Plan:
    I’m working on sorting through all my health & beauty items as well as food items so that I can support my local food bank as well as the animal shelter where my dear kitty came from. In addition to donation items I already have in my stockpile, today I’ll also be shopping a couple of my favorite stores to see how much I can pick up with coupons on a budget of only $5. Here’s a rough list of what I’m going to try to snag:

    Target:
    3¢ Taco Seasoning Packets
    FREE Nexcare Bandages
    FREE Carefree Liners
    49¢ Pedigree Dentastix
    77¢ Tidy Cats Litter

    Vons:
    49¢ Capri Sun Juice Pouches
    9¢ Betty Crocker Cake Mixes, Cookie Pouch, and Frosting

    CVS:
    FREE Emerald Mist Soap (if the magic coupon machine cooperates with me)
    FREE Depends
    FREE Reach Floss

    What are you donating? I’d love to share pictures of your donation if you e-mail me them!


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    Couponing has not only saved me money, it’s allowed me to give back to my community in ways I never could before. Being unemployed and on a tight budget, it’s not always easy to make monetary donations.

    With couponing I’ve been able to fill my pantry so much so that it is overflowing. Being able to take bags of food to my local food bank where the supplies are dwindling has not only been a blessing for them, but for me. It’s a wonderful feeling to be a part of something like that. It doesn’t ever cost me much and the hunt for donation deals is always a rush. Win-win for all.

    Next week, thousands of coupon shoppers around the country are teaming up to fill our local food banks, churches, shelters – you name it – with excess items from our stockpile during the Couponing for Community Event May 2-8.

    How you can help:

    1. RSVP on Facebook!  
    2. Ransack your stockpile. Now is a great time to purge any excess items you have hanging out in the pantry, bathroom, closet etc. We all have a few tubes of toothpaste I’m sure we can also part with it ;)
    3. Think about where you want to donate your goodies next week. If you don’t have time to drop your loot off anywhere, the USPS “Stamp Out Hunger” event will be held on May 8th. Simply leave your donation of non-perishable food items in a bag by your mailbox and your mail carrier will pick it up and do the rest! How easy is that?!?
    4. Let’s face it. We couponers love to brag. Join other frugal folks just like yourself and upload your donation photos to the official Couponing for Community fan page, leave comments, and inspire others.

    I’m in. Are you?

    Thanks to Kaley for organizing this AWESOME event!


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    Friends that come to my house always freak out when they remember I don’t have cable. I really don’t know what it is, but people freak out. It’s actually pretty funny.

    When I moved into my apartment last August I almost splurged and ordered an expensive cable package. Did you know that Americans spend an average of $700 a year on a cable tv? I had lucked out at my previous rental where they had provided my Dish Network free of charge which in turn spoiled me to several new shows and 300 free channels. How was I going to know what was happening with my girls over at Real Housewives of NYC if I didn’t have cable?!?

    Instead of giving into my need for cable, I ditched it. You want to know why? The internet provides all of those shows for FREE. You can watch them when you want (with shorter commercials may I add) right on your computer. Better yet, hook up your computer to your tv and watch video on the big screen. Of course, if you’re going to ditch your cable you’ll need to learn to be a little patient. Some shows can go online within a few hours while others can take up to a week.

    Once you get into the routine of online tv I promise you’ll never miss your cable. You might also find you have more time to do productive things since you’re not sitting in front of the tv zoning out channel surfing.

    Hulu
    Cost: FREE
    Hulu is my favorite website around for watching television online for free. What’s awesome about Hulu is they comb all of the network websites and bring you the recent episodes of your favorite television shows in one spot. Now I can make sure I never miss The View or 30 Rock and if I want to watch reruns of Friends, I can do that too.

    They have full length movies, documentaries and other fun shows you wouldn’t think you would be able to watch online. Hulu is also where I get my HGTV fix.

    NetFlix
    Cost: FREE for one month. After that you will need to pick a subscription package. I currently get the 1 DVD out per time, plus unlimited streaming videos for only $8.99 a month.

    Netflix is great because you can subscribe for literally a fraction of what cable would cost you. They offer hundreds of streaming videos that you can watch whenever you want – including tv shows straight from your computer. They even offer the option to stream movies through a Playstation or Wii game console. Also just like with Hulu, you can set up your computer to stream to your tv set.

    Network Websites
    Cost: FREE
    If you can’t find the show you want to watch on Hulu, check out the network website. Most networks offer full episodes of their current line up online that you can stream for free. A couple of my favorites are:

    CBS (plus CBS Classics – hello, Beverly Hills 90210!)
    ABC (plus ABC Family)
    NBC
    FOX
    CW
    A&E
    Bravo
    Comedy Central
    Discovery Channel
    HGTV
    MTV
    Nickelodeon
    TBS
    TLC
    TVLand
    The WB
    VH1

    Clicker
    Cost: FREE

    You know that channel, TV Guide, that always shows you what’s playing on what channel? Think of Clicker as your internet tv guide. It’ll show you what websites are currently streaming what shows so you don’t have to hunt them down. They also have fun web exclusive television shows which are fun to watch.

    Fancast
    Cost: FREE
    Fancast is very similar to Hulu. They also have a rather extensive full length movie category that includes quite a few of my favorites.

    Hit the Library
    Cost: FREE
    Remember the library? That place where they let you borrow things for FREE? Have you checked out the video section at your local library yet? You might be really surprised at what you might find. I checked out the entire series of Felicity at mine as well as other newly released movies. The check out times on these items are going to vary greatly from the books, so make sure you know your library’s policy when you check out any movies.

    Honestly, with all of the free options available on the internet and other places like borrowing dvds from the library or friends, I really don’t miss my cable tv. Sure, it does tend to come in handy when you’re in the mood to just “veg” and not think about what you want to watch, but for me, that’s when it’s a good time to pick up a book.

    I do miss Oprah though…she doesn’t stream any of her full episodes online. That’s when I utilize the free cable that is provided to me at my apartment complex’s gym. One must never miss Oprah. Plus it’s good to work out.

    Have you ditched your cable?


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