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Christmas Shopping Help – Free Shipping Day December 17!

December 11, 2010 · Filed Under Frugality · 2 Comments 

It seems like everyone is extremely busy nowadays – especially this time of year (you might have noticed how long it has been since I published a post. In fact, I’ve been too busy to even read my BFN email lately – I apologize if you’ve written me an email lately but haven’t received a response yet!). Parties, Decorations, shopping, travel (or preparing for visitors), cooking, shopping, and doing all those end of year financial tasks that I’m positive my readers take care of each year! Oh, and did I mention shopping?

Free Shipping Day

Well, for those of us who like to do as much shopping on-line, in the comfort of our own homes, in comfortable (and warm) clothes, at whatever time of day is convenient (last year my pregnant wife did most of our shopping in the middle of one night when she couldn’t get to sleep!), I’d like to point out an upcoming event that might hold a great deal of interest for you- Free Shipping Day 2010!

Free Shipping Day this year occurs later this week – Friday December 17th – and it is pretty much what it sounds like it is. According to the website, FreeShippingDay.com, “On Friday, December 17, more than 1,000 participating merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve in the continental United States.” In fact, the website currently states that more than 1300 merchants are participating in Free Shipping Day.

These include big name merchants such as Sears, Ann Taylor Loft, Office Max, Toys R Us, and so on. For those with kids (like me) you might be interested to know that Melissa and Doug is participating. For those who play around musically (like me) you might also be interested to know that Guitar Center is participating. Ok, I’m not going to list all of them!

So, if you are still scrounging around for those little minute gifts and don’t have the time to actually leave your house and scrounge around for them, you might want to check out the participating merchants.  Hopefully you can get that perfect something (or that list of perfect somethings) and still get it shipped in time for Christmas without paying more for shipping costs than you do for the actual gifts!

Reader Question – Buy Me Now or Buy Me Later?

August 12, 2010 · Filed Under Random · 4 Comments 

I was recently presented with this question from one of my readers:

Thought you might be interested in weighing in on the decision we are needing to make. We are nearly entirely on a fixed income now, so there is no cash from the working budget for any large purchase. Our clothes washer is at least 13 years old and has been making strange noises for some time. The repair man said not to put any more money into it if breaks down again. So here is the decision: do we gamble and wait for the thing to die and then possibly have to pay a larger amount (from savings) for a new one OR do we take the money (again from savings) and purchase a new one now, hopefully on sale and while we can get a little Energy Star appliance “clunker” rebate from the government? Which move is more financially prudent?

I think the key here is to not have to put the purchase on a credit card and pay a high interest rate on it thus making a difficult purchase even more so.  In either case you describe, you are using your own money to purchase the washer.  If you were saving up to be able to buy one later but had to use a credit card to buy one now, I would say wait and save.  That is not the case for you.

Let’s look at the details a bit more.  We’ve already established that you are using money from your savings.  The question is should you wait or do it now.  The advantages of buying now are that you can be proactive about finding a sale and use the appliance clunker rebate (of course, each state handles this differently).  Another advantage of waiting would be to earn interest on the money in your savings account while it sits there.  That is not going to amount to a significant amount of money even if you do get another year or two out of your washer.  At $1000 with current rates maybe at 1%, that’s $10 a year – not very much.  As long as we’re talking small sums of money, don’t forget to consider how much more energy efficient a new washer would be compared to one that is 13 years old.  A new one will most likely save you some energy costs and the sooner you purchase one the sooner you’ll start realizing those savings.

On the flip-side, the pros for waiting are that your washer could in fact continue to work for a long time thus saving you that cash outlay for months or possibly years.  I guess that’s all I can come up with as a pro for waiting (I’d have a better argument for waiting if you told me you were going to charge it and pay it off over the next 24 months!)

Again, I think the overarching key to this question is whether you can make the purchase now with your own money or if you have to use a credit card.  If I were in your position with money in the bank to purchase a new washer, I would start looking for one.  Do your research for price, effectiveness, and reliability, check out different stores, search for coupons and sales, etc.  Basically, I’m suggesting that you prepare yourself ahead of time so you can take your time but still be ready to pounce when you find a great deal.  Good luck!

I’d love to hear if any readers would like to chime in with some (possibly different) advice…

Guest Post: Remodeling in a Recession: Why You Shouldn’t Wait

June 29, 2010 · Filed Under Frugality · 4 Comments 
Today’s guest post was contributed by Jennifer Kardish.  Jennifer is a communications coordinator at Kitchen Cabinets. You can check out their free design tips for your kitchen and home.

With the economy still in a decided downturn and foreclosures reaching all-time highs, now might seem like the worst time in recent history to think about remodeling your home. It certainly won’t be easy to get a loan or a line of equity on your house with the real estate market slow to rebound and banks pulling the purse-strings tighter and tighter. However, if you can find a way to scrape together a little cash, or if you’ve been saving, now is a great time for the frugal shopper to do some home upgrades.

For starters, a little can go a long way in this economy. Retail spending is, simply put, not what it was. Vendors that were thriving a few years ago are now being forced to slash prices and even close their doors. The point is, they want your business! And you can use it to your advantage. Shop around to find the products you want and you will be amazed at the discounts you discover (shopping online may be even more fruitful). Then go to several stores and find out if they are willing to price match or give you a better deal to stop you from going to the competition. You can often get an outrageous bargain just by asking for it. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, consider a merchant that sells reclaimed items (like flooring, cabinets, hardware, etc.). Although it may not be the newest product on the market, and it might have a little wear and tear, you can often find merchandise that has a higher value (in terms of construction, quality, materials, etc.) than you could get for the same price if you bought something new.

And that’s just the parts. You can also save on labor. Of course, there is always the do it yourself method, which is great for handy people. For the rest of us, a contractor is necessary to get the job done. And while contract work has a bad reputation for getting very pricey, very quick, we are currently in a buyer’s market. Building of new structures has slowed significantly and as a result, the market is flooded with contractors looking for work. If you seek several bids (make sure to get recommendations) you stand to save a lot of money on labor. That said, don’t be afraid to do some of the work yourself. Almost anyone can learn to install a backsplash, replace a lighting fixture, or swap out a faucet, so get yourself a home improvement guide to save even more.

Why wait to build your dream home? Even if you plan to upgrade as a way to get more value out of your house, you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to sell. Remodel now, while you can get the best price, and you stand to appreciate an even better return on your investment in a few years when the housing market rebounds. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a custom-made interior in the mean time.

Once-a-Month Shopping and Cooking Checkpoint: Month 1 Completed

April 7, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 2 Comments 

It has been about a month since we started our experiment with once-a-month shopping and cooking.  We spent some major moolah at the grocery store and then my wife spent one very long day cooking.  To get the full scoop, check out the posts where I mentioned getting ready to try it , where I discussed our first weekend , and then gave an update on our experience after a week .

So after a month….

It’s been about a month since we did our big shop and cook, so that means it must be time to hit the grocery store again.  The only problem is that we still have a ton of meals left!  My wife originally made 32 meals (she divided 2 of them in half for freezing) and we still have 12 left in the freezer!  I guess that means we will need to adjust our strategy slightly.  Remember, the month plan calls for literally 30 meals – one for every day.  Our family just does not eat that many meals at home in a month.  We occasionally eat out, eat with friends/family, usually eat Wednesday night at church, etc.

Our non-meal supplies are running out (I’ve been dangerously low on salsa for a week or so), so we definitely need to get to the grocery store again.  We certainly do not need to do a full shop and spend another day cooking 30 more meals, however.

We’re altering our once-a-month plan

For this coming month, we will continue to do the once-a-month plan (I absolutely love not having to go into the store for the entire month!)  We will do our "staple" shopping the same way we did last month.  By staples, I mean all the normal stuff you need for a household – cereal, milk, fruit, veggies, snacks, drinks, toilet paper, salsa, beef jerky (all the essentials).  We will push off the meal shopping and cooking for at least another 2 weeks.  When we do another round of meal cooking, we will only do a 2-week cycle and make 14 meals.  For our family,  I think this will still last a month.  And it will take a lot less money to buy and a lot less time to cook 14 meals instead of 30!  We are also going to take another trip to the store at 2-weeks for fresh stuff like fruits that won’t last a month and milk because we don’t have room to store a month’s worth.

Hopefully this month we’ll save some money

I felt like we spent a lot of money on groceries last month – as I mentioned, we spent over $700 during our shopping weekend.  We actually did pretty well, there were very few things that we had to get during the month (other than milk…a lot of milk).  This month, since we don’t have to do the meal shopping, we are looking to spend much less.  My wife took a trip to the grocery store yesterday and spent a little less than $100 and I have a Click-N-Pull order in at Sam’s Club for ~$150 plus tax.  That is obviously much less than we spent last month.  Even with another trip in the middle for milk and fresh stuff, I am hoping that we will get nowhere near $700 this month.

What have we learned so far

The most obvious takeaway is that we drink a tremendous amount of milk – but I already knew that.  We simply can not buy a month’s worth of milk as we would not have the space to freeze all of it.  So, I’m going to start off with 8 gallons and hope that lasts us at least half of the month.

The main thing I learned is that I consume a vast quantity of salsa each month.  I totally lucked out and found the kind of salsa that I like (second to my homemade salsa based off my buddy Spencer’s recipe) at Sam’s club so I ordered a jar.  Have you ever seen a 47 oz jar of salsa?  It was a bit larger than I expected.  The bad part is that I ate all of it this month – in fact, it was basically gone a week ago!

Once-a-Month Shopping and Cooking Update

March 10, 2009 · Filed Under Once a Month Cooking & Shopping · 9 Comments 

It has been a week since we tried our hand at once-a-month shopping and cooking and so far the results have been great.  Before last week, I discussed how we were going to make an attempt at grocery shopping and cooking only once a month and then followed that up with the results of our first weekend of it .

Once-a-month Shopping

Ok, so I must sheepishly admit that we have already been to the store again…well, sorta.  Neither my wife nor I have actually stepped into a grocery store, but we did have my mother-in-law pick up some milk for us when she was out shopping the other day.  In fact, we asked her to pick up four gallons of skim milk and another gallon of whole.  If you add that to what we bought last weekend, that’s eight gallons of skim milk and 2 gallons of whole that we’ve bought so far this month.  That seems like a lot to me – my wife and daughter drink a tremendous amount of it each day.

When we did our first big shop, I was nervous about how well the milk would freeze so I purposely did not buy enough for the month.  So far we have been happy with the frozen milk (after it defrosts, at least) so I will be more comfortable with buying more next month.  Of course, at this pace I am not sure we’d be able to fit a month’s worth of milk in our freezer anyway.

Other than that, we do have a list started up of things we are already running out of and will probably have to replenish before the month is up.  So far it is not huge so that’s good.  We are treating it as a learning experience as I think it will take a few months before we get a good feel for how much of everything we need to buy to last a month.  Fortunately, we are not out in the jungles of Brazil (like some of our friends) so if we do run out of something, we can make a quick jaunt to the store.  That being said (besides having my mother-in-law pick up some milk), we will probably try to make one more trip to the store about half-way through the month.  We don’t want to fall back into making frequent store trips and the wasted time and impulse buys that accompany them.

It’s actually a pretty nice feeling to not have been in grocery store in a week.  And an even nicer feeling knowing that I probably will only venture into a grocery store one more time this month.

Once-a-month Cooking

Oh, I have eaten very well this week.  Actually, I usually eat very well every week as my wife (who does most of the cooking) is a very good cook and she takes time to plan out tasty meals for us.  So, I guess the big change would be whether it was easier to prepare these tasty meals.

My wife is happy with the time that it takes to prepare the meal each evening.  It is definitely less time consuming that cooking a normal meal.  And these are real meals here, too, not macaroni and cheese from a box.  An unanticipated bonus is that meal cleanup is faster as well.  Instead of using multiple bowls and measuring spoons/cups and pots/pans, all of that is already done and usually a single skillet is used to heat up the meal (with maybe pasta cooked up in another pot).  The verdict thus far is less time cooking and less time cleaning up.

So far we have eaten Mrs. Ringle’s Brisket (phenomenal), Spaghetti with homemade sauce (excellent), some strange ham and cheese thing in a pie crust (so-so), barbecue chicken (excellent flavor), and taco pie (very good).  All but one of the meals this week were really, really good.  Through one week, the once-a-month cooking is a winner!

Photo Credits: hive and karindalziel

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