January 28, 2008

Free Money!!!

Most women I know have a diamond wedding ring of some sort. If you do, and it was purchased after 1994, you get FREE money back! As part of a class-action suit against De Beers diamond company, you can get up to 59% of your money back. Here is a news article about this lawsuit:


To file your claim and get your refund, go to:


Saving on Prescriptions

Did you know that both Target and Wal-Mart have $4 prescription programs? They are amazing! I personally use my local Target pharmacy, and have personally used this program. I usually say "Is this prescription covered by your $4 program?" and they will look it up for me. My insurance co-pay is $25 for generic prescriptions, so already I have saved so much money by getting them cheaper this way. Not all prescriptions are covered, but all of the antibiotics for my kids have been. Yippee! Here is the link for what prescriptions are covered at Target:

January 8, 2008

Saving on Airfare!

I am amazed at how many people pay full price for airline tickets, not knowing how many great deals are out there. One person can pay up to $500 for a flight, while the person sitting next to them on the same flight paid only $79. It helps to know where to look for these deals, so here are some tips for you:

1) I always check the major travel websites first, to see what's out there and what the going rate is. These sites will quote the lowest available fare that they know of on the web. Great sites to start with are: http://www.orbitz.com/ and http://www.travelocity.com/.

2) If you prefer a certain airline or know that an airline services the area you are going to, check that airlines website yourself. Practically every airline I know of offers "internet only specials" that you can easily find by going to their web page. Southwest Airlines frequently offers internet only specials of only $39 each way to various places across the country. These may not show up on the sites listed in tip #1.

3) It helps to fly out of a larger airport than a smaller one if you want to save money. For instance, try LAX for cheaper flights instead of John Wayne (Orange County) or Long Beach.

4) Flying on "off" days are also cheaper. For instance, Tuesday or Wednesday instead of a Friday or a weekend. On the travel sites listed in #1, you can also enter in different dates and times to see which would be cheaper options.

4) You can always try sites like http://www.cheaptickets.com/ or http://www.priceline.com/ if you want a really low ticket price. Just be aware that any discount tickets do not allow changes or refunds.

5) If you want to buy a very cheap ticket but need the assurance that you could get your money back should something happen, you may want to look into getting travel insurance which might only be about $30 a person, versus an expensive plane ticket where you are allowed to make changes.

Overall, I would personally never buy from a travel agent, as they will not get you a rock bottom price, and they make money off of the tickets you buy. It does take more work to do the research yourself, but it is worth it if you want to save money!

January 5, 2008

Where to Find the Best Deals on FOOD!

I admit, grocery shopping on a budget can be a daunting task.  To save the most money, I have been known to go to about 5 stores in one day to get different items at the cheapest price.  If I don't have time, typically I'll just head to Trader Joe's and then a regular grocery store to pick up the extras.  But here are where I have found the best deals:

1)  The 99 Cent Store:  I know what you're thinking, "Ewww!  Aren't all their products old or expired?"  The answer is thankfully "No!"  More and more, the 99 cent store is stocking Organic produce and items that you would find at your local grocery store.  In fact, many times I go to both stores in one day and find the exact same items.  I always check the expiration date first, but have never gotten an expired item from there.   It is almost always cheapest to buy the following items here:  Napkins, Paper Towels, Soap, Soups and other canned food items, and items from their freezer section and refrigerated section. 

I am fortunate to have a brand new 99 cent store down the street, and it is the nicest one in the area.  But if you have an old smelly one by you, it might be worth the drive to find a better one! :)

2)  Costco:  I wrote a previous blog about the pros and cons of Costco, but they do have cheaper dairy, bread and meat.

3)  Target:  Have you checked out Target's food section lately?  WOW!  They have the same great products that are at Ralph's but for half the price, not even on sale!  This is the best place to buy cereal, canned food items, drinks, and household items (cleaners, detergents, etc.)  Their cereal is so much cheaper than a regular grocery store, as well as shredded cheese (only $2 a bag vs. $4 at Ralph's!)

4)  Trader Joe's:  Some people think Trader Joe's is more expensive, but I have found the opposite to be true in many cases.  Their cheese and meat is more expensive here, but canned food items are comparable, and they have great cheap snack items.

5)  Ralph's:  Ralph's is one of the more expensive grocery stores out there, BUT if you are a coupon clipper, this can be the best store for you!  I can't even count how many free items I have gotten by using double-coupons (esp. toothpaste).  However, if you don't use coupons, it is probably best to stick with Albertsons.

6)  Your Local Farmer's Market:  Almost every week I head to our Farmer's Market for fresh produce.  It tends to be cheaper and fresher than at the stores, and you don't pay extra typically for organic items.  I have a rule that for fruit, I won't pay more than $1.50 a pound.  If a fruit is more than that, I'll choose a cheaper item instead.  It also helps to go an hour before closing, because many vendors start cutting their prices to sell what is left.  Sometimes, if I know that Ralph's is selling apples for .99 cents a pound, I will buy them at Ralph's instead of the Farmer's Market (since it might be cheaper), but the FM often sells at very low prices.

Costco & Sam's Club: Are We Really Saving Money?

I am actually one of those people that loves going to Costco, even during the rush hour.  The prospect of finding some good  bargains, along with food samples to keep my tummy full - what more could I ask for?  :)  I don't know if you saw the expose' of Big-Box Stores on 20/20 a year or so ago, but it talked about this subject exactly.  Do we really save money by shopping at these stores? 

Well, if you are buying name-brand products like shampoo, many food items, toiletries, etc... then the answer is NO.  I have comparison-shopped numerous times and found the prices to be exactly the same as if I bought 40 rolls of toilet paper at the regular store.  However, if you buy the Kirkland or Sam's Choice brand, sometimes you will find them to be cheaper.

Where CAN you save at these stores?  

1) Dairy - For instance, a 2-lb. block of cheese is $5.35.  At the grocery store, a 1-lb. block of cheese is $4.99 or higher.  Milk and eggs are also cheaper.

2) Bread and Tortillas - You can get 2 loaves of whole-wheat bread for $3.99, whereas you might pay $2.99 for one loaf at the store.  You can also get 36 tortillas for $2.65.

3)  Meat - If you need to buy meat in bulk, this is the place to go.  I love Foster Farms chicken, but it is $5.99 a lb. for chicken breast at Ralphs or Albertsons.  It is only $2.99 a lb. here, with the breasts packaged separately, which I love!

4) Laundry Detergent and other household items (store brand).  It is nice to have a 3-month supply of laundry detergent, but you'll probably only save money if you use the store brand.

I know there are many other great deals at these stores on books, clothes, electronics, etc.... so I'm mainly talking about Food Shopping.  

The bottom line, though, is that if you don't have the money in your budget to spend $10 on 8 rolls of paper towels, then don't do it.  Go to the .99 cent store and buy what you need for 2 weeks, and spend only $2.  Don't go over your budget because you *think* you are saving money.  You don't need to buy 5 months worth of shampoo if you don't have the money right now.  Stay within your budget and don't get lured into the temptation of  thinking"if I buy it at Costco, I am saving money!"  

Saving on Eating Out

If you are anything like me, eating out is a hobby.  I enjoy it immensely.  Not only do I not have to cook and do the dishes, but I love getting out of the house, trying new things, and getting great meals for cheap!  

So, how can we save money on eating out?

1) Cut coupons!  I actually do go through my junk mail just to find coupons for local eateries.  I also cut coupons out of our paper on Sunday.  In my coupon book that I use for groceries, I have a section titled "Restaurants" where I put coupons for eating out.  When we decide we want to go out to eat, we make our decisions (many times) based on what coupons we have available.  For instance, Acapulco Restaurant has a regular coupon in the Sunday paper for "Buy one meal, get one for $3.99".  We eat out a lot at this restaurant because we love mexican food and it is cheap!  SoupPlantation also has regular coupons in the paper.  

2)  Get an Entertainment Book.  At the beginning of each year, these sell for about $20.  The book is packed full of "Buy one, get one free" coupons at various restaurants.  Saving money on one meal out can pay for the whole book!  

3)  Find out what nights or times restaurants offer food cheaper.  For instance, The Cheesecake Factory offers all of their appetizers for at least 50% off Monday-Friday from 4-6pm.  Some Mexican restaurants have "Taco Tuesdays" where you can buy tacos for $1 and appetizers for 1/2 price.  You will probably have to sit in the bar area, but most restaurants have booths available in these sections, and the earlier you go, the better.  

4)  Split a meal if the selections are big (we do this often at Lucille's BBQ).  Instead of ordering a kid's meal (if your kids are young enough), share your food with them and order an extra side salad instead.  

5) Skip the drinks.  These alone can save you over $5 each meal.

We eat out about 3x a month at restaurants, and each time is special because we don't do it all the time.  You CAN have a great, full meal and save money at the same time!

FREE Stuff?!!!!

Many people have asked me how my husband and I have gotten so many things for free.  Honestly, the #1 reason is God's blessing.  When we need something, we rarely go out and  buy it immediately.  We almost always wait until we can at least find it at a price we can afford. Sometimes that means we wait a long time.  But in the waiting, occasionally someone will find out about our need and just give it to us!  By waiting, we have received a computer, three vehicles (at different times), a piano, two guitars, baby furniture, a television, a stereo, and many more items.  So, my first tip for you would be - WAIT.  Keep a running list of "needs" and "wants" for your household.  We keep ours in a notebook.  We also check it off and date it when we obtain the item, and are always sure to thank God and pass a blessing on to someone else.

I want to share with you two websites you may not know about where you can find free things:

1)  www.craigslist.org  - Find your local city, and there is an entire FREE section (under "For Sale")!  You can type in what you are looking for in the "search" box.

2) www.freecycle.org - Find your local city, again, and check this site daily for things you need.  Just last week I got a free umbrella stroller for our baby that we needed for a trip we were taking.  The woman who gave it to me also gave me a bag of clothes for my oldest son.  What a blessing!

Be sure to post items on these sites that you no longer need, as well, because we have definitely found that God blesses us when we give!

Saving Money on Books, DVD's, and Videos

Whenever I need to buy a book, DVD or video, I almost never buy it from a store.  I always go online FIRST.  My favorite site to buy these items from is www.half.com.  This is a site connected to EBay, where individuals or stores can sell books or videos to you for dirt cheap.  They are required to put the condition that the item is in:  Excellent (Brand New), Good or Fair.  Shipping is usually a standard price, around $3.99 for media mail, or you can upgrade to expedited shipping for $5.99.  While this may deter some people, keep in mind that you can easily find brand new books for as low as .99 cents, so you can get a brand new book, with shipping included, for under $5.00.  WOW!  

Just this week I ordered three brand new  books, and got all three for less than $25 which included shipping.  I received them all within one week.  This is also a great site for college students who need to buy new or used textbooks.  Just be sure you have the right ISBN number and volume number before you purchase it, to make sure you are getting the correct edition.

If you absolutely cannot wait for a book to arrive in the mail and need it immediately, only then would I suggest going to Barnes & Nobles or Borders.  To me, these stores are expensive and I would only go there if I was desperate.  However, it is fun to peruse through their books if you're not sure exactly what book you need on a certain subject yet.   For DVD's, I would choose either Wal-Mart or Target, or Blockbuster if you are okay getting a used copy.  These stores usually carry them cheaper than other major retailers.  Good Luck!

PocketWise is Up and Running!!!

In the spirit of 2008 and New Year's Resolutions, along with the encouragement of family and friends, I have decided to start a blog on how to save some money!  Many of my friends have encouraged me to start this blog so that I can share some tips I have learned on how to find the BEST deals on things they want to buy.  Please give me your feedback and let me know what topics you would like me to cover.  I am still learning, but will pass on anything new I come across!