Thursday, July 31, 2008

You Get What You Ask For

Retailers really want our money. Sales are down as people are buying less in this down economy. If you want to save money, sometimes all you have to do is ask.

Borders sends out email coupons to reward members frequently.... 30% or 25% of one item, 40% off any movie, etc. Did you know that you can ask for discounts even if you don't have a coupon!? Shocking, I know. It was a store clerk that told me this. Just go up to the counter during check out and ask, "Are there any discounts available to reward members today?" The two times I've asked, I got 30% off my most expensive item. Rewards membership is free and it only takes a minute to sign up.

Are you in the market for a major appliance or electronics item? Pick out what you want: brand, model, size and shop it online. Print out the item with the best price you can find and then take it to a local retailer that carries the same item. Many will price match even if they don't advertise it. Just show them the print out and say, "I can get this same television at for $x,xxx. Can you match it?" Don't feel badly when they roll their eyes and tell you they have to ask the manager. You'll feel better when you're heading home with a television in your back seat and an extra couple hundred dollars in your bank acccount.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Common Sense Off Coupons

I admit it! I'm not much of a coupon clipper. I have been enticed by stories of women that clip coupons and shop circulars and spend $40 to feed their family of six for a week. It just doesn't work for me.

An investigation of my shopping habits shows that I am a perimeter grocery shopper. What that means is that I shop the food sections around the outside walls of the store the most, eg. meat, produce and dairy. This is healthier eating. The inside aisles are processed foods, of which I buy very little. Coupons are generally on processed foods. Ever seen a cents-off coupon for flank steak or lettuce? I didn't think so.

I also will not drive around to three or four different grocery stores to save a few cents on orange juice and graham crackers because their circular says they're on sale this week. At current gas prices hovering at $4.00/gallon here, driving 5 miles out of my way will cost about 80 cents and that doesn't include the cost of my time spent leafing through circulars, travelling and standing in check out lines. If I see a good sale on something I regularly use at my store, I might buy three or four of them as long as they aren't perishable.

Here is how I save money on food. I look at the sales for the store at which I shop every week. I plan a week's worth of dinners, which eliminates multiple trips to the store (more wasted fuel and time). I try to work in meat, fish and produce that is on sale that week. Generally, we have one night each of fish, chicken, pork, beef, and a homemade pizza night. I'll double the night of whatever meat is on sale to make up seven dinners. I check the cupboards for pantry items that need restocking and add those to list. Finally, I go Coupon Bug to see if there are any coupons that I can use. Occasionally, there are one or two.

About once a quarter, I go to one of those big warehouse clubs and stock up on things we use a lot of: laundry and cleaning supplies, olive oil, trash bags, etc. You can get some great deals, but you have to know prices and stick to a list. I keep a checklist on my computer of my regular warehouse items, so I can go through it before I shop.

Find a system that works for you. It's not the same for everyone. I've got plenty of storage space; you might not. Maybe you are a "coupon goddess". Good for you! If you aren't, explore other ways to save.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forced Adult Time-outs

Call me crazy, but I like waiting rooms as long as they're stocked with a diverse supply of up-to-date magazines. It's a chance to chill for a few minutes, people watch, eavesdrop, do a little reading or just sit and breath deeply. It's sort of like being held hostage... you have an appointment and you can't leave, but I get a little Helsinski Syndrome since I don't mind being held captive for awhile.

I find myself disappointed when my name is called too quickly, like if I'm in the middle of a good magazine article or was eavesdropping on a interesting conversation. Twenty minutes is the ideal wait. Fourty-five minutes, and I'm feeling antsy which is counter-productive to the whole experience.

If I have to bring my six-year-old daughter along, then waiting is not relaxing at all. It's more like Chinese water torture with a constant drip, drip of "how-much-longer-do-we-have-to-wait" being bounced off my eardrum. If there is something to hold her attention... say, another kid have a total meltdown, tantrum... she's spellbound for an untold number of minutes. As much as I love spending time with my daughter, waiting rooms do not seem like a good use of togetherness, and it's only a true time-out for me if I'm alone.

My favorite thing to do is eavesdrop. I just grab a magazine and pretend to read it while I soak up the conversations around me. Husbands and wives often sit and not talk to each other, so they're not that interesting unless they pick that time and place to have a disagreement. Two friends are the best because they probably have a lot of catching up to do.

Today, I had to wait about 30 minutes to get my car serviced. I flipped through a couple of magazines, read a couple of interesting articles and eavesdropped as a couple of other customers were told what was wrong with their cars. It was relaxing, interesting and amusing.

Relish your time in the waiting room. It might be the only time-out you get all day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pain in the Vacation

Getting ready to go on vacation can be such a pain, that I inevitably ask everytime, "Why are we doing this? Wouldn't it be more relaxing to stay home?" There's all that packing, mail holding, bill paying, plant watering and setting up dog care. We're going to be gone for 10 days, so it amounts to cramming everything I would have done for 7 of those days into this week, and when we get back, I'll be racing to make up those other 3 days.

Truthfully, it would NOT be more relaxing to stay home. You have to leave home in order to leave the responsibilites. I can't sit in my living room without noticing a cobweb in the corner or the fact that I need to vacuum. If I walk by my desk, I'll see all that paperwork I need to catch up on. There's always a closet that needs cleaning out or something that needs scrubbing. When I'm away, the cobwebs and dust are someone else's problem and my paperwork is out of sight. I'm am forced to relax, read a good book, paint with Pipsqueak or take a walk.

During the next 4 days, while I'm feeling tortured by my to-do list, I'll look back at this post, and try to remember that it will be worth it.

The view from the porch of our rental house in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Cape Ann Whale Watch, Gloucester, MA taken in August 2007.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Going Out of Business

The economic slump is forcing some smaller retailers out of business. In my area in the past couple of weeks I've seen a sport shoe store, a dollar market, a furniture store and a pet supply store close their doors.

While seeing these businesses go belly up makes me sad, it can be a real boon for bargain hunters. I've got more furniture than I need, so I didn't go there. I didn't need anything at the shoe store either, but I sent Sweetie in to look for sneakers. I saw the dollar market "going out of business" sign on their last day. Everything was 50 cents. There wasn't much left, but I found a few useful things. I stopped at the pet supply store today. They've got a couple of weeks left, but the mark downs were good. I found a couple of dog toys that I hope will be indestructible (we'll see).

Watch your newspaper for "going out of business" notices and keep your eyes open for signs while you're out running errands. Don't buy things you don't need, but keep in mind that some stores diversify their stock, eg. the pet supply store carries bird feeders, and the sport shoe store carries socks and some sports equipment. If a fancy clothing boutique is going out of business, they may be selling their fixtures, too. If they display their clothes on nice wooden or satin hangers, they might sell them to you, if you ask. They might have a nice coat rack or full length mirror, too.

Earlier on, mark-downs will not be great, but in the last few days they'll be drastic, often below cost. If there's something you like, but can live without, ask when they'll be closing and wait. If it's still there later, you'll save some money, but you might miss out. It's a gamble, but it's gambling that will only save you money... either it's gone and you don't buy it at all, or you save a nice chunk of change for your patience.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why am I here?

I've been reading blogs for a long time. They looked like fun... and I was missing out! I thought about what to write about. A creative writing teacher I had in high school (oh, so long ago) said to write about what you know. Sage advice.

So what do I know? You're about to find out, if you keep coming back. In a nutshell: finding bargains, raising an only child and living in rural Vermont.

Bear with me while I hone my writing skills. I swear I'll get better, and maybe you'll save a little money like me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Monster Sale!

Oooo! Just the sound of it gets my blood pumping! That was a subject line in my inbox this morning from the Children's Place. Unless it's food or fuel, I hate to spend full price for anything. Next to "sale", my favorite word is "clearance".

The Children's Place is marking down all there summer stuff, and I love buying pretty things for my 6 year old Pipsqueak. I realize prices will drop further in another month, but by then sizes and styles will be limited. Now is when there is good selection at mouth watering prices. I ordered:

  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 halter top
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pairs of pedal pushers
  • 2 skorts
  • 1 nightgown
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses
  • 1 headband

all for under $100, including the shipping. Regular shipping is only $5. That's 20 items, averaging less than $2 each.

You might be thinking, "But summer is almost over. Pipsqueak won't get to wear the stuff for long." Ah-ha! I almost always buy her clothes a year ahead and pack them away by size. Her age and size have always coincided. It won't work for everyone, but it will for some and you can save a lot of money buying at end-of-season markdown prices. Now stop reading blogs and go to the The Children's Place before all the good stuff is gone.

Pipsqueak doing her Paris Hilton imitation. It's obvious she likes clothes and pink.

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