Showing posts with label spending. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spending. Show all posts

2013 Financial Review of Expenses

It's always interesting to figure where your money goes. Even if you track receipts and sync up all your investments with Mint.com, its still a little blurry and murky to pin point the exact amount of money you take in and put out. Really our finances are one big game of offense and defense, with the goal being to gain in the end. That means if your offense is weak (you don't take in a lot of money), you have to be really good at defense by minimizing spending and getting the most of the money you do spend. If you have strong offense and make a lot of money, its really tempting to spend a lot and then you really aren't any better off than the household that has a weak offense.

In my opinion my DH and I don't have much offense, since we are state employees and of course the State of Florida has not been generous with wages - ever. We get paid in sunshine. So, we have a strong defense and minimize what we spend in most areas, but we get what we want in other areas. We are fortunate to have already paid our dues working in corporate America and made decent wages years ago, where we paid off all our debts - student loans, mortgage, vehicles and credit cards. I'm going to say that even though we are frugal, we are not scrooges. There are certain luxuries, pleasures and conveniences that we "want" and are willing to pay the price for. With that being said, even though there are some discretionary expenses in our budget we try to get them as inexpensive as possible. There are many things we do in our life that are absolutely free - like gather firewood from curbsides when a tree is chopped down, split it with our hydraulic splitter and enjoy backyard fires in the chiminea every weekend.


Our household expenses for 2013 were $32,177. Here is a breakdown:

  • Travel (7,037) - this was our largest categorical spending. In the past few years we've had to remodel our home, so we traveled less. This was 21% of our budget and I see this staying the same whether its for a big household project (next year is a new roof) I would like to have about 20% discretionary budget to either travel or make a big purchase.
  • Allowance (6,000) - we each get $250/month to do as we want that doesn't come out of household budget. DH buys cigarettes and goes racing. I buy electronics and victoria secret. This is also where beer kegs come out of budget. Allowance also includes dining out at our favorite pub for wings and beer on Fridays and Saturdays. This is one area we could try to cut back since most of my allowance just goes into my allowance account and is more than I need.
  • Maintenance (car/mc/home 2,876) - this is kind of large this year because we had our 15 yr old Ford Explorer painted at Maaco, and we also had brakes replaced on both cars, plus motorcycle maintenance is a rip off. Motorcycles are not frugal when you consider the maintenance and insurance costs.
  • Home Insurance (1,960) - a necessary evil, but luckily we're not in a flood zone and we're lucky State Farm still finds us worthy of insuring in Florida.
  • Life Insurance (1,860) - these whole life insurance policies are not really necessary now in our life, but we keep them because cash value is worth more than we've paid in premiums. Actually, we have pretty risky lifestyles with our daily commuting by bicycle and motorcycle, and if one of us die, it means a loss of future pension and social security income for the household. So maybe we do need these policies.
  • Electricity (1,702) - we spend way to much on electricity but with our pool pump, hot tub, chest freezer, 2 refrigerators, kegerator and electronics its to be expected. We try to unplug when we can, empty the hot tub in the summer and I'm trying to get us back to just one refrigerator if we can get rid of all our food.
  • Internet/Cable TV (1,539) - This is an expense we should work on lowering. DH will not give up live sports broadcasts, and I like good fast internet and wifi. But we should threaten Verizon FIOS and try to get them to lower our rates or something - maybe they want to sponsor me?
  • Cell phones (1,409) - this category was expensive because I upgraded to a new Samsung S4 and my plan increased to $56/month. I passed on my old Samsung Epic to DH and his plan through Ting is only $20/month. So next year we'll spend $500 less in this category.
  • Car Insurance (1,212) - our 10 yr old car and 15 yr old truck should be a lot less expensive to insure, but this is Tampa where over 40% of drivers are uninsured. The majority of our policy expense is uninsured motorist coverage which we have at 100/300. Next year we plan to lower this to 50/100 since we don't drive much. It should save us a few hundred dollars.
  • Groceries/HH Supplies (1,248) - We purchased $21,529 worth of product using cash and gift cards this year. This involved 355 trips to stores. I save every receipt and log in the spending and saving, which I have done for years. We saved 88%, which averaged out to $104 per month spent. This is significantly less than we have bought in years past because couponing is getting harder to do with stricter usage policies, increased competition for goods and smaller value coupons. I expect to continue to coupon to save, but plan to continue to budget $100 per month for groceries and HH supplies.
  • Motorcycle Insurance (1,088) - again we have maximum coverage since the probability of needing it are good since riding is risky and most drivers will hit and run if they can, its best to have your own insurance because many drivers do not, and more than likely an accident will be the fault of the other party. 
  • Property Tax (1,088) - we are protected by the save our homes legislation that prevents tax increases in homes that people have lived in for many years.
  • Shopping misc (1,064) - This includes gifts, electronics accessories, clothing, and other weird stuff that doesn't fit in any other category. There is probably some room to cut expenses here. 
  • Water/garbage (725) - provided by the city so we don't have a choice in vendors. We do have an irrigation line so all outdoor water usage is charged at a tenth of the city water cost. We use less than 3000/gal water per month which is the threshold for the surcharge.
  • Newspapers/coupons (441) - this is large because I bought Winn Dixie $5 off $30 coupons, and I also get 8 Sunday papers for coupons. I might cut the newspapers back to 4 per week since I use a lot of printables now.
  • Health Insurance (450) - includes visit co pays and rx. Just trying to stay healthy to keep this cost low.
  • Pet (435) - includes dog food, meds and vet visits. The 13 yr old dog has been healthy this year except she has gone deaf. We also have a vet surgery scheduled to remove a cyst on her eyelid that will cost a bunch in early 2014.
  • Gasoline (291) - this includes cash we have used to buy gas cards at Publix, and the occasional time we have purchased gas while traveling by car.

So that's it for 2013. We want to spend less next year than this year, a simple goal. If we could keep our expenses under 30K that would be good. Looking forward to a prosperous 2014 with hopes of increasing our networth so that retirement is a little bit closer to reality.

Wishing you a healthy, prosperous and stress free life.

Happy New Year to You! 

When Things Don't Work

Last January, I bought a couple items. Actually, I'm sure I bought more than a couple items - but two of them come to mind recently because they no longer work as designed. The first one is a nice twelve inch Cuisinart pan that works great for making breakfast and dinner on the stove top. At least it used to work great, until it developed a concave rounded bottom so that only the center touched the glass stove top surface. Whenever I would try to dispense or move foods around it became a two handed operation since I had to hold the pan still so it wouldn't spin around on that nice little round hump.
 
It was kind of annoying, so I checked my order history on Amazon and was surprised to see it was just over a year old. So then I checked the product information and it said it had a limited lifetime warranty. I wasn't sure that my problem was bad enough, so I jumped over to Facebook and left a message for Cuisinart explaining my problem. They directed me to call customer service. When I spoke to the rep, they thought it sounded like I had a legitimate defect and they would replace the pan, after I shipped it in for their inspection.
 
So a couple weeks went by and we continued to be annoyed by the pan spinning circles with our food. During this procrastination, we looked for a box that would fit, I wrote up a letter explaining the problem and we wanted a replacement, and carried the package around in the car for a couple days too. Finally, it made it to the post office and in the mail - then things started happening. I'm pleased to report that our pan was deemed defective and a new one was shipped out and is due at our front door today!
 
I hate when things don't work. I have very little tolerance for defects in products. Just last night I was trying to print coupons on my newest Dell laptop that I just got last January. We keep it plugged in mostly by the TV since we stream video and movies from Amazon on the big flat screen. But when I unplugged it to run on battery power it died. Actually the battery has died. Conveniently a month past the warranty. I guess that's what you get when you buy refurbished stuff. Anyway, I ordered a new battery pack and it should be in business again by the end of the week.
 
I'm sure there will be something else that needs attention soon.

2013 No Spend Challenge - Clothing

Now that I've laid out what we spent last year, you can see that there are a few areas we can really cut back. Some of you might think our allowance of $6000 is excessive (which I think too - but DH won't cut back), but at least any of it that is not spent is sitting in a savings account. I usually only get $100/month in cash from my allowance and put the rest in my savings. DH does the same. So really we have a good chunk in extra savings accounts if the "household" ever needs it for an emergency.
 
But the one category I really want to cut back on is spending, specifically online shopping, and specifically clothing. We have a lot of clothes. Just this morning as I was getting dressed for work, I needed to select a pair of shoes to go with my khaki pants. And of course, there are several pairs of tan/khaki shoes in my closet to choose from, in addition to a few brown pairs too that I could wear. I really only need one pair of light colored shoes to wear with my light colored pants. I'm probably not going to throw out perfectly good shoes, but I can put my foot down and quit buying any more shoes. Or any more pants. Or any more shirts. And I certainly don't need another Tshirt in my entire life, with hundreds on hand already.
 
So our challenge this year is to not purchase any clothing. I'm debating whether that should include free clothing. I'm thinking it should include any clothing whether it was paid for, or free. I can just pass on those $10 GC for free clothes at Victoria's Secret, and not reach out my hand to get that free Tshirt at events.
 
In addition to stopping any more clothing from coming into our home, we need to continue to purge excess items we have but no longer wear. Part of our challenge is to empty every single closet in our home this year and only put back the stuff we use. We already did that to our front hall closet and now the floor is actually empty! Prior to the cleanout, we had a large bucket of stuff that took up four square feet of space. The stupid thing is, we didn't touch that bucket for over ten years. We didn't miss anything in it.
 
So this year, even though I know there will be items I'll want to get, I won't.

How We Spent Our Money in 2012


One of my favorite websites, Mint.com makes evaluating your expenses much simpler at the end of the year. They actually have a pretty good app for smartphones too which I check everyday to make sure no one stole my identity, or money. One of my other favorite websites, Mr Money Mustache has posted his yearly spending so I feel compelled to also drop our drawers and lay it all out there.
 
I thought it would be interesting to see where all our money went last year and what opportunities there are for improvement this coming year. You might not really care what we spend, but you're probably nosy and will continue to read and see how you compare to us, a couple of cheap asses who recycle plastic baggies (not really). I think this may be a useful exercise to see where our money goes and to try to manage it so that when we retire we'll be able to fully enjoy ourselves on a limited budget. We learned a long time ago how fun it is to not have a car payment. And we learned a few years ago how fun it is to not have a house payment. And we learned last year how fun it is to not have to pay for food, gas or household products. So, just there we have three categories of expenses that have just went poooffff! up the air, gone to heaven and hopefully, never be seen again.
 
As you recall, we did a pretty extensive remodel of our home including all three bedrooms, dining room, living room and office. This ended up being our largest expense of the year and its worth every dime. Now our home is totally renovated and modern, and we're on our way to a clean, uncluttered existence as we sort through the outcast stuff we still have in our "green" room or the stockpile room.
 
Anyway, listed here are our largest expense categories of the year.
 
1. Home (Insurance, taxes, remodel, furnishings, appliances) $13,291
This was by far our biggest expense even though we have no mortgage or loans. The taxes $1000 and insurance $2500 are pretty much out of our control so that is a fixed expense. The remodel and new furnishings were a one time expense we  don't anticipate this again, although there are other projects on the horizon in years to come such as a new roof, fenced yard and we expect a new A/C unit will be needed someday since ours is over fifteen years old. However, we paid for everything and expect next years home expenses to be less than a third of what they were. There are opportunities to repair rather than replace, and preserve what we have so it lasts longer. My goal for 2013 is to spend less than $5000 for the year on this category.
 
2. Utilities (mobile phones, internet, TV, electric, water, garbage) $6,056
We are generally frugal in our use of utilities such as water, electricity and try to recycle to minimize garbage. I've unplugged one dorm size refrigerator and hope to empty our small freezer so we can unplug that as well. That leaves two full size refrigerators and a kegerator sucking down electricity at a high rate. In the warm weather, I unplug and drain the hot tub since we use the pool. Likewise in the cool weather I run the pool filter pump less hours per day since we don't swim in it for half the year (although the dog does - every day!) I was hoping to decrease our TV/Internet expense when our contract was up, but that didn't turn out and I feel fortunate to pay the same rate for another two years. Maybe by then DH can be weaned off cable and we can subsist on online streaming of sports events and TV programs. I'm looking to cutting our cell phone costs in half this year as I combine my smartphone with DH's account at only $40 a line unlimited everything. We are both eligible to upgrade our phones, but the frugal thing is to just keep them both as is. So there is definitely opportunity to cut expenses in this category, so my goal this year is to spend less than $5000 in this category as well.
 
3. Allowances $6000
DH and I each get an allowance monthly to pay for stuff that is not a household expense.This category would also include going out to restaurants which we only do a couple times a year - except for the Firehouse where we go regularly for wings and beer. These optional expenses like beer, cigarettes, going out to eat, massages, extravagent unnecessary expenses (Ipad, extra computers, music) are paid for with cash from our allowance. We both save a significant portion of our allowance being the frugal spenders we are. DH used to spend a good portion of his allowance on driving a race car and I purchased computers and photography equipment. If we decide to do something extravagent that the house "can't afford" we both chip in from our allowance. This category will stay the same next year.
 
4. Auto & Motorcycle (insurance, maintenance, gasoline) $4,126
Our two old cars and two newer motorcycles are very expensive to insure in this state of Florida where almost half the drivers do not carry insurance, and I'm sure a good portion of them are driving on suspended licenses as well. It is dangerous and therefore we have probably excessive insurance compared to most people. But after DH was struck by an uninsured driver in 2010 and we received a nice settlement from our own insurance, we feel safer on the roads having sufficient insurance. But this is one area we can still cut back on insurance with the red truck since it sits in the driveway the majority of its life, and its the biggest boxiest safest vehicle we have. Of our auto expenses, over half is insurance $2470, $1657 was maintenance on all four vehicles. I've made a note to mention $1722 for gasoline even though this was paid for with gift cards we got at Publix from overage, and yard sale proceeds. So the opportunity here is to cut insurance a little and to ride my bike more this year, so this year we can spend less than $4000 in this category.
 
5. Travel $3,384
This category has suffered since we have been remodeling. Now that our home is updated, we plan to resume frequent travel. We already have booked a nice seven day cruise to the Virgin Islands this spring, and plan to book another for Fall 2013, in addition to our annual trip up North to visit our families. We have let all our season tickets to NASCAR races go unrenewed and we may attend these types of events at most once a year. I actually desire to travel to places I haven't been to before, or places I traveled to as a child. I would love to visit San Francisco, Hawaii, Yellowstone National Park, Colorado and Canada. We're actually in a holding pattern for extended long trips as long as we have our old dog. When she passes in a few years, we'll be able to take longer trips overseas without having to worry about finding a caretaker for her. So this year, I would expect this category to at least double, if not approach $10,000.
 
6. Shopping $2,793
Amazon is the death of me. It is way to easy to shop online and it shows up here in this category. We have way to many clothes and shoes and could easily go years without purchasing anything to wear. I see this category as an opportunity to cut in half to about $1400.
 
7. Health (Rx, copays, insurance) $1,722
This category just increased this year because of our Governor, for the first time in ten years we were required to pay health insurance premiums. I hope to just maintain the cost of this category in the future, not much hope of decreasing it until I hit menopause or quit having sex, and can quit going to the doctor for those little pills.
 
8. Entertainment (Busch Gardens, Concerts) $1,656
This category is actually not very much of our budget and I hope to be able to maintain that amount this year. We do go to a lot of free festivals and inexpensive concerts to keep this cost down. Actually, since we used to work concert events we have seen almost every performer we care to see and the cost is often not worth it if we've seen it. We did splurge and buy good tickets for an upcoming Lady Gaga concert this spring.
 
9. Pet $695
The love, companionship and protection we receive in exchange for vet bills and medications is worth the cost for our dog. Dog food and treats are paid for with overage at Publix so this is actually less than most pay for a pet. If we keep this expense under $1000, that would be good. In the future this expense will go away when the dog dies.
 
10. Personal Care $249
This category is probably low since DH pays for his haircuts with cash and takes out the money when he gets his allowance. So it really should be double, closed to $500 for hair cuts and perms. It helps being low maintenance people - no manicures, hair color, no pedicures or expensive massages. All that individual stuff comes out of allowance anyway, it is not considered a household expense.
 
The missing category -  Food & Beer
This category is one where we have eliminated the expense by using coupons and shopping the sales. We buy stuff we don't need, to use the overage to get what we need. We actually made $803 last year, spending $2951 in cash and gift cards to purchase $32,729 worth of products (including $3755 in gift cards and gas cards). The cash used in shops was proceeds from yard sales selling our stockpile from couponing. We also use the cash to pay for our beer kegs, and extra spending money when we travel.
 
So, in summary our goal for the upcoming year is to cut our spending by 10% overall.
 
How did you do?

 

Are You Locked In?

I am not delighted to tell you that we have renewed our cable and Internet package with Verizon. We now have less services, but it costs more. Go figure - less for more. Not exactly the way a frugal household likes to operate. We have had heated discussions with each other, and company representatives letting them know how undelighted we are. After the honeymoon of the being a new customer to FIOS a couple years ago, we now feel locked in. But we don't like it. And just so you know, before you get that big fancy HDTV - you're going to want to have the hundreds of cool HD channels that the big conglomerates offer for a high price. But when you get it, watch out.

In my opinion, Verizon just doesn't care about one little customer. They figure we're locked and that's that. When you believe your customers have no real choice, either because they've signed a long term contract, or the technology locks them in, or they're stranded in Okeechobee with no other options, you're likely to move away from delighting them.

This is the story of Verizon and Microsoft and Apple. When you believe that people are stuck with no options, it's not important to keep convincing them to stay there. And while you might be correct that this particular customer is locked in, it doesn't mean she doesn't have friends, colleagues or a blog. Word of mouth and recommendations don't come with a lock-in feature.

There are choices in all decisions, and it's essential to know what you're getting into when you buy that Windows computer, or HDTV, or Ipad. Getting locked in with a vendor that doesn't play well with others, or limits my choices is not going to sit well very long. Sometimes it is the low price that keeps you locked in, sometimes it is the cool, satisfying product you touch, and sometimes its because it "fits" in your system and communicates well with all your other stuff. I have found there are dissatisfiers with all my products and vendors, but usually it is not enough to seek alternatives. But sometimes it is.

So, before your contracts are up - investigate your options. Ask your neighbors and friends what service provider they utilize. Take their recommendations with a grain of salt though. Investigate reviews on the Internet, Google it and read some stuff. Find out the rules - how can you be considered a new customer again - how long do you need to stray? What will competitors offer you?
Be informed before you decided to get locked in, again.
 

How To Earn Whilst You Spend

Shopping From Home
Shopping online is a popular hobby for many people around the world. Without having to leave the comfort of the home, individuals can purchase clothing, home goods, groceries, and just about anything their hearts desire with just a few clicks of a mouse. In recent years, retailers have noticed the increase of online shoppers and are now offering rewards programs for those who participate.
No Strings Attached
This might seem fishy to some who are wary of getting anything for free. However, when you utilize the sites that are legitimate, you can reap the benefits of online shopping while earning cash back. Many of the sites provide links to other popular retailers. Shoppers must go to the store site via the link on the reward website, or the purchase does not count for cash back.
Benefits Everyone Involved
This type of marketing works because retailers attract more business when their names are all over the Internet. In turn, they offer a commission to the reward website, who turns around and passes that reward on to its customers. Any site that requires an enrollment fee should be avoided, since the most popular sites are all free to use. The amount of the earned reward is dependent on how much shopping you do and what the percentage rate is for that retailer. Typically the rate is somewhere between 1-10% of the purchase price.
Gift Card Rewards
Some of the reward sites offer gift cards, which is a great option. Learning more about gift cards is useful, since they are used just like cash at a specific store or restaurant. Equally as worthwhile as cash, earning a gift card reward is a special way to take friends or family out for a good time without having to spend too much hard-earned cash.  
Enter Contests Online
Another great way to earn extra money online is to enter contests and sweepstakes. Companies are always offering giveaways, and winning is an exciting experience. Winning a sweepstakes doesn't have any cost associated with it, so it is a no-risk way to get the thrill of a win. Those who want to get sweepstakes help can log onto popular blogs or other rewards sites, where they will usually list the fine print and entry requirements.
Saving Up for Something Special
Earning a little extra cash while shopping for things that you and your family need is very beneficial. With the cost for food, gas, and rent steadily increasing, every little bit helps for most people. These rewards could go towards a fun family vacation, or towards buying something special for the house. Earning extra reward money is a positive way to splurge a little without breaking the budget.

This article was written by Kathryn Thompson, a freelance writer and mom to three young daughters. Kathryn specializes in money making schemes specific to the internet.

How Payment Method Impacts Your Buying Decisions


The choices you make in the marketplace are all about knowing what you’re getting and how much you’re paying. Being frugal is about more than pinching pennies here and there; it’s about knowing what causes you to spend more than you should, and avoiding those things.

While some of those things are pretty obvious to recognize – such as not picking up items while you’re in the checkout lane, knowing they’re probably cheaper somewhere else in the store – other factors aren’t as intuitive. You might not realize it, but even the payment method you choose to use can have some bearing on the decisions you make.
In a series of recent studies by Professor Promothesh Chatterjee of the University of Kansas and Professor Randall Rose of the University of South Carolina, the connection between payment method and how we look at products was examined.

What the researchers discovered was that customers who were primed for credit were more likely to focus on benefits, whereas customers that were primed for cash were more likely to focus on costs.

Among the specifics that the researchers discovered:

·         Consumers who were primed for credit were much more likely to remember benefit-related words than they were to remember cost-related words.

·         Cash primed customers, on the other hand, had better recall of cost-related words than they did of benefit-related words.

·         Cash customers were more able to identify all aspects of cost, including things beyond simply the purchase price of an item. They looked at things like delivery or installation costs, installation time, and even warranty costs.

·         Credit customers were more likely to be drawn to high-image products, and those products with greater benefits.

·         For credit customers, the “pain of purchase” is low. The purchase process is separated by a month or more from the payment process. This isn’t something that was newly discovered in this research; rather, the results in these studies seemed to confirm the idea.

·         Consumers who were primed for credit responded more quickly to benefits than they did to costs.

·         Consumers who were primed for cash responded more quickly to costs than they did to benefits.

·         Researchers were able to prime consumers simply by putting credit-related ideas into their minds. In retail applications, this could include things such as placing credit card stickers on the doors, having offers for credit inside the store, etc.
This research has a number of implications for us as consumers. It reminds us that, while we might try to always make good purchase decisions that fit within our budget, credit can be alluring.

It’s easier to make an irresponsible and frivolous purchase with a credit card than it is with cash. When you pay with cash, you immediately get to watch your cash deplete. When you pay with credit, you don’t feel that pain, and are likely to make decisions that don’t factor in cost as much as they do benefits.
If you want to make a cost-conscious buying decision, you need to pay with cash and train yourself to ignore all of the credit priming that businesses do when you walk through their doors.
David Rodwell is a seasoned writer in business and personal finance who takes a particular interest in payment processing technology. You can find more of his articles located at CreditCardProcessing.net.



How To Buy New Tires For Your Car

As I spun my wheels at the intersection the other day, I realized that yes, it is time for new tires on the car. The Michelin HydroEdge tires we have on the Camry are great looking tires and performed well in all kinds of weather. But, it's time to get some new ones as they are weather checked and brittle. They just don't grip the road like they used to, and a couple times lately during quick stops they have slid forward.
 
We've been putting off the process because it is tough to spend hundreds of dollars for something like stupid tires. Actually, for me it is tough to spend hundreds of dollars on anything. I generally give myself one day of research for every $100 spent, so this one took about a week to get to the point of making a decision. And we have finally decided and found a vendor to purchase from and install them. But it took some effort.
 
First we looked through the car file and determined that last time we bought tires for the car, over 45,000 miles ago we spent $105 each and had them installed at Costco. The final price after shipping, disposal fees, balancing, valve stems, installation and taxes was $550. But then we had to spend another $60 at the dealer to get a tire alignment, since Costco doesn''t do that service. So about $600 became our target since we had done our research last time and found Costco the cheapest. But it was not the most convenient. The Costco was way on the other side of the bay and when I visited another service center for my job I dropped the car off, and rode my bike a mile to the office. Then at lunch I rode my bike back and brought the car back to the office. We also never took advantage of the free top-off or refill of nitrogen since the shop was across the bay from our house. So we wanted to try to investigate more convenient options. These days we both have bikes or motorcycles we use for transportation so being without a car for a day is not a problem - we can leave it at the shop all day.
 
We also decided we wanted the exact same tire as we got last time. They have this cool swirly pattern that drives away the water on the road, plus it looks sporty. They are expensive tires at over $100 each, but in our opinion they are top quality and worth it. At this point, we started letting our fingers do the walking - at Google. I googled "michelin hydroedge coupons" to see what discounts we could find. Michelinman.com was the first site and lucky for us, there is a new $70 Michelin rebate on the purchase of 4 tires, and our tire model qualifies for the rebate. The one catch was it had to be done at certain dealers. The most convenient rebate qualified dealer was Olin Mott so we requested a quote. They emailed a quote the same day and their total install cost out the door was quoted at $674 which included an alignment, and the $70 rebate. The actual cost of each tire was $138, which was higher than anywhere else. We checked tirerack.com and the hydroedge is $104 each and they will ship the set for $60 to a local installer, but none of them qualify for the rebate. Sears had the tire for $122 each and the install out the door was $623, but was not eligible for the $70 rebate.
 
Now that we had some information, it was time to get on the phone and make a deal. DH called up Olin Mott and asked if they price matched or took competitor coupons. They said they would consider making a deal. DH said he would like to get 4 tires installed if they matched the Sears price and we still got the rebate. It didn't take long for the guy to go sharpen his pencil and come back with an out the door price of $582, plus we get the alignment included and the $70 rebate. They took off almost $100 from their price! So, the bottom line is we'll get our tires cheaper this time than when we bought them last time.
 
So we're getting new tires this week since we have a trip across the state planned in November. The shop is less than a mile away so we can drop off the car and walk home. The next day I can stop by after work on my bicycle and pick up the car. How darn convenient.
 
Even though we're spending a lot of money on tires, I feel like we've done a good job of doing our research and getting the best deal. It takes time, patience and persistance to be frugal and save money. So next time you're making a big purchase do yourself a favor and take your time, check out your options and don't be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for a discount. You just might get it.

What Can You Learn From Ted Williams? (The Guy With the Golden Voice)

What can you learn from Ted William's sudden fame?
Ted Williams shot to fame when his interview went on YouTube. The interview was made at the time when he was homeless and used to ask for donations at a bus stand with a board in his hand and his recorded voice asking for donations. The interview became so famous that lots of job offers landed in his lap. Even NBA has asked him to join. There are a lot of financial lessons one can learn from his sudden shot to fame. This is true that happiness as well as misery is not permanent and it depends upon you to have a determination in life to change your misery into happiness. You need to have a good savings plan so that you can tackle any financial shortcoming.

Frugal lessons worth learning from Ted Williams' story
There are a lot of times in life when you feel confused about the debts you have and how to get out of financial misery. There are a lot of people who have a lot of money and don't know what they can do with it. You can also win sudden lottery and may not know what to purchase first. You must have a clear vision of everything so that you don't get greedy and lose everything in the process. Take a look at the financial lessons you can learn from Ted Williams' story:
  1. Clear about what you want
    You must be clear about you want from life. There may be times in life when you may get confused about the different things that may land into your lap. If you get confused about the job offers or other financial things you get, you must prioritize the things and choose the ones that match your needs. If you have a lot of job offers, you may try to go for those interviews that solve your purpose and recognizes for your caliber and whet you can do. If you have a lot of debts, you must pay the ones with the largest interest rates first while paying your other debts minimally. This clear vision of yours can really help you reach the goal you've set for yourself. 
  1. Put a stop to reckless spending
    You may be a millionaire or a pauper. But if you earn $5, you must try to save $3 and spend $2. This is smart financing and if you're smart with money, you can reach anywhere you want. At least, you'll not have debts to pay off. Money doesn't take time to get over and once it's over you need to think of other ways to secure your future. You need to draw a line between "wants" and "needs". If you know the difference between the two, you'll be able to save money. Try to consult your family before purchasing any big thing so that you know if others are ready for it. When you get a check, try to save most of it. Don't spend any money till the time you get the check in your hands. Try to work out a budget and include your kids too in the budget formation so that they can learn to be money responsible. 
  1. Get experts advice
    This is another way you can manage your finances. If you are confused about the money you want to save and the amount you need to spend, you can seek financial advice from your experts or elders so that you don't fall into debts. Try to put all your problems in front of them so that they can give you the required advice on the ways to manage your money. When Ted Williams was asked about the jobs he would choose, he said that he'll seek help of a therapist and would focus only on few offers. He also wanted to solve his previous financial problems so that he wouldn't make the same mistakes again. 
  1. Invest apart from savings
    If you have a savings account and want to grow our money more, you can go for investment options so that you can have a safe and secured future. Look for lucrative investments so that you can get better returns. Start small and don't get greedy in the process. You must also lead an honest life and pay your taxes on time. Keep away some money for emergencies so that you don't have to break your investments. Try to seek experts' advice when you're going for investments so that you know which ones suit you the most.  
Apart from the financial tips and lessons given above, you must take things slow in your life. If you have any problems in life, try to tackle it smartly and never get carried away. Manage the money you earn and have so that your future doesn't get into debts.

Author's Bio : RP is a guest writer for various finance related Communities including CDFA, FCB, Debt Consolidation Care etc. She is a PG degree holder in Marketing and Finance and right now working in a reputed bank as a relationship manager. She is well equipped to write articles on debt consolidation , debt settlement, frugality, savings, economies of states etc.

Oops! I Just Spent My Grocery Money

So, I'm all caught up at work, perusing one of my favorite sites www.slickdeals.net and happened upon a deal today at www.Cowboom.com. It was kind of impulsive, but my sister and I have been "skyping" and she questioned why don't I have a built in web cam and microphone? Well, I got my web cam and headphones a long time ago, before the handy dandy built in ones. Besides it was free for doing an online focus group.
 
Anyway, As I'm F5'ing my way through the available laptops, a really cute Dell mini 10" laptop came up for $129. So, after about 2 seconds I put it in my cart. Then I thought about how long it would take me to get a return on my investment. You see, with a new laptop I can print a whole slew of coupons that I've already done on my other four computers. I figure I can print $129 worth of coupons and redeem them in just a few shops.
 
Actually, I figure I already paid for it with my grocery money - from last year. Over the last year, we made money on our grocery shopping, even though we brought home over fourteen thousand dollars worth of products - they didn't cost us anything. We spent about $1400 at stores to gather all this food and product, but it also included $1760 worth of store and gasoline gift cards, so we actually made a few hundred dollars. You may wonder how this can possibly be true, but I assure you it is - with using coupons. Lots of coupons. Lots of deal hunting online. Lots of trips to the store (253 to be exact). Lots of stuff to stockpile. And unfortunately, it was a very sad day in our house on Dec 31 when thousands of unused coupons expired. We had a funeral for all the booklets, inserts, peelies, blinkies and coupons.
 
Granted we wouldn't have purchased as much product (we give a lot of it away) if we paid cash for it, but we used to spend over $100 a week on groceries. The five thousand dollars we didn't spend on groceries last year paid for my new laptop I just bought, our cruises in Feb and Apr, and our new appliances. It's not rocket science, anyone can be a couponer - it takes less time than I bet you spend watching TV each week.
 
So, the new year has already started and the new coupons are rolling in. I went "recycling" last night for the first time in many months because last weekends paper had 5 great inserts. There are a lot of new deals to be had. Don't let them go by this year.

Yearly Totals 2010

This was my second year of couponing and it is finally coming together. When I first started saving with coupons, I bought lots of the processed foods and then subsequently gained weight. Then I stockpiled too much and stuff would expire before I could use it. Then I would under estimate how much we consume in our regular lifestyle and actually have to pay full price for something, while waiting for it to go on sale again. But in the final analysis, I did awesome and hope to do the same in 2011. My goals are to use rainchecks more to my advantage to even out the pantry stock and pick up more product after its been restocked in the stores.
 
I'm had a terrible time trying to find those Clorox wipes that were free after coupons because the stores were bare. I also can't seem to find the Centrum vitamins at any stores. Anyway, I've got my rainchecks. So, here's how I did this year. My DH has been an invaluable resource and coupon helper. It really helps to have support in doing this activity - from getting booklets, clipping coupons, counting items in the cart, doing the high math in the store aisle to make sure my overage is accounted for, and encouraging me to get stuff we don't need because it makes us money.
 
And we did make money on our grocery and household supplies shopping this year, about $263. That's right. We spent $1,496 on products and this included $1,760 in Publix and BP gas cards, and products valued at $14,278. We saved 89% ($12,782) on our products and food. I was kind of shocked to see these totals, but after summarizing our 253 trips to the store to get yearly totals, it was amazing to see. I would encourage everyone to keep a yearly savings log of all your receipts to help you manage your savings.
 
Prior to couponing, we used to spend $5000 a year on groceries - so that money goes to savings and travel now. I just hope after seeing shows like the Extreme Couponing episode on TLC, that our world of savings isn't revealed too much. I'm noticing more and more couponers and there's only so much product the stores have to sell.

Ice Ice Baby

Finally, this morning we got the final upgrade to our kitchen. Previously, I wrote about how the ice maker quit working on our refrigerator, and we had a few choices to make about how to live with no ice. Here's what went down. Of course, we all know that Black Friday sales are taking place this week and it's a great time to buy something you've been shopping for and finally the price comes down. Well, we knew back in October that we finally needed to get a fridge because the icemaker died. We decided against craigslist because of the uncertainty of the the remaining life of the appliance, so that left buying it new. We researched the features we wanted - my sister made me swear to get black handles on the stainless finish because they get fingerprints if you don't. We also have our fridge tucked into a corner so the only visible side is the front, so we opted for the frugal option to just get stainless steel doors, with black metal sides.
 
To complement the rest of our appliances we stuck with Kenmore by Sears, and ended up getting this model for $749 during the past Friends & Family sale. It is regularly priced at $1249. Currently its going for $1062, but on Black Friday it will be $699. We decided to go ahead and pay the $50 more to get it delivered when we'll be home this week, rather than have to try to arrange delivery around work. The real factor in pushing us to get the fridge now was the fact that we're home for delivery this week, and we want to start cranking out ice for our next vacation in early December at the condo in Naples.
 
So, I know you're wondering what we're going to do with the old white fridge. If you're a couponer, you know how wonderful it would be to have a stockpile fridge for all those milk, cheese and creamer deals. Well, you guessed it, the old fridge is going to be my stockpile fridge. I convinced DH to get rid of our small college dorm size beverage fridge, and we'll unplug the small extra freezer too, so really I'm unplugging two small appliances to keep the big one. Hope it works out like that. If I fill both full size refrigerators, then I'm in trouble.

Frugal Flopping

I'm feeling troubled this week because I feel like I've spent too much money. I'm excited to report that the last payment has been made to completely pay off our Lowe's Project Card where we carried our interest free, counter top and cabinet purchase for the last six months. All year we've cut back on travel, clothes shopping, Amazon purchases and other supplies because we had a monster payment of $1500 each month to pay for the kitchen remodel we did in February and March.
 
So after paying off the kitchen this week, I wanted to get our automated savings level up again to "before remodel" levels. But somewhere between logging into the bank, I stopped at www.leejeans.com and bought some capris, visited www.sierratradingcompany.com and got 4 shirts and a pair of pants, also purchased a toner cartridge from Amazon, and a new camera battery, along with shopping at my local bicycle shop University Bicycle Center to use my $25 off $60 coupon and get a new bike tire, bike shorts and some repair supplies like tubes and patch kits.
 
I was totally sucked in by the email deals on the first two (free shipping and 1/2 price clothes), but I did need the toner for my printer, and its not very often the bike shop has deals. So I justified it. But I still feel like I fell off the frugal wagon. I've spent more in one week than I have all year on basically non-essential stuff. I was happier denying myself stuff and feeling proud of my restraint, and frugalness to get by with what I had.
 
So that's it. No more spending for a while. At least til July anyway.

Un-Frugal Boobs

Saturday night we went out for a pitcher of beer and chicken wings at our favorite little pub, and our favorite bartender was telling us about her upcoming surgery. Mind you that she is about 36 years old and normal weight with maybe a little muffin top above her jeans. She used to weigh over 300 lbs many years ago, and lost all the weight and has kept it off. As a treat to herself years ago, she bought some boobies. She saved her hard earned tips and has paid $10,000 for a nice pair of C or D cups, and she shows them off in the halter tops, and clothes that I would consider underwear. I would wear the tops she wears under another shirt, certainly not alone for fear of attracting too much unwanted attention. Granted DH would love it if I wore clothes like that, but I don't mind if he looks around at the other girls instead - just so its only looking.

Anyway, she was telling us that she is having surgery this week to get bigger implants. My jaw almost dropped because in my opinion her implants are plenty big already. Then she went on to tell us how this will be her third surgery, and that the first doctor was pretty conservative and only would put in the 320 cc size. Then the next doctor put in 360 cc size, and now she's going to get 390 cc implants. The kicker is she went to the bank to get a loan to get financing for her new boobs. We're not sure of the new price tag yet, but I'm sure we'll hear all about it when she gets back in a couple weeks. The bartending is her second job that she works on Saturday to help with the bills, since she is divorced with 2 young kids.

The funny thing is that DH is excited to see the new boobs. Its like if you get a new car and you want to show your friends. He expects her to practically flash him to show off the new improved implants. Personally, I think its dysfunctional to replace perfectly good boobs with new bigger ones. Granted there may be a leakage problem or something she didn't share with us, that requires more surgery - and maybe she is just getting more boobs while they're in there operating anyway.
I just shake my head, I don't understand it.

Frugal Car Insurance

I think I mentioned earlier this month how our Progressive car insurance renews next month and they sent the billing notice. I was surprised to see the premium for 6 months to insure our Camry and Explorer was over a hundred dollars more at $742. We've been with Progressive for all our mobile insurance since they have the best rates for motorcycles and boats, we decided to give them our car business too.
 
But not this time. When we called for an explanation, they didn't have one. We hadn't had any claims, and didn't move or anything so there was no justification for it. So we shopped around and found out that State Farm actually had the same level of insurance for the same rate we currently pay $637 for 6 months. In the past we have boycotted State Farm even though they have had our homeowners insurance for 15 years, because they raised rates so much and threatened to leave Florida. We never got dumped by them, even though our neighbors did.
 
So we sign up the cars with State Farm and paid for 1/2 the premium and have the start date of the policy for the middle of next month. Imagine our surprise when we got the billing notice for the 2nd 1/2 to be due 11 days after the policy starts. WTH! So when we had the vehicles inspected, we asked them what the deal is with the billing. Well it turns out they want the 2nd half just 30 days after the first payment. It doesn't matter if the first payment is way earlier than the policy starts. We asked to talk to corporate and it was very easy to change the billing so that its due 30 days after the policy starts, rather than 11 days after. It wasn't a big deal to us, but we questioned why offer to let the customer make 1/2 due now, 1/2 due later when there really wasn't a "later". It was the principle of the thing. Of course they have already charged the credit card for the first half of premium, even though the policy doesn't start for over 20 days. We suggested them give us our money back and we would pay them next month when it was due, but they didn't like that, they would rather change the second 1/2 payment due date.
 
Anyway, lesson learned. Don't pay your car insurance early, they take your money right away even though they don't give you services right away. Needless to say, it was not a very good first impression.