July 26, 2008

Goodwill Online

If you like to make things for people, have I found the Jackpot for you!  Goodwill is now online, and they have 2 full pages online of craft kits for around $2.25 each.  You can make a Baby Memory Frame, a Lamp Kit, necklaces, bracelets, keychains, scarves, totes, etc... These would be great for church groups or retreats!  They have a LOT of other great things as well.  Shipping is a flat fee of $7.99 but you still might be able to find a deal here you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.  Visit Goodwill Online.

I found out about this on one of my new favorite websites (I have a link to it on the left and below).  Check this webpage out weekly for the best internet deals (including Dooney & Bourke purses from Macy's!).  Visit Bargain Hunting Moms.

July 24, 2008

Greeting Cards!

Every year, I estimate that I give and send about 30 greeting cards: birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, sympathy, thank-you's, etc... It just pains me that to get a nice card I usually have to spend at least $4.00 each at Hallmark. This equals about $120 a year just on greeting cards! I am not crafty, so making them is out of the question for me. BUT, I have found ways to save on greeting cards:

1) Costco. Every year Costco sells this huge pack of assorted greeting cards. These are quality cards. There are 41 handmade cards in the box, which retails for $119. Amazon sells this box for $54.95. However, Costco sells the same box for only $15. I use these all year long.

2) The Dollar Tree. I know, not the place you'd think of buying a greeting card. But they actually have some cute ones here! I bought a few recently and couldn't even tell the difference between these ones and some Hallmark ones I had purchased. (I wouldn't buy the ones at the 99cent store, though - they look like you bought them there).

3) Friends- if you have friends who do Stampin' Up, you may want to ask if they make and sell their own cards. I have a friend who has a whole box of homemade cute cards and sells them for only $1-3 each. I usually look through her box and purchase a few at a time.

4) Hallmark - You just can't beat a Hallmark card. So, if it's a really good one, I will shell out the $4-5 for the card. But be sure you get a Hallmark Crown card. That way you rack up points every time you buy a card, and you get coupons in the mail towards more cards, or even gift certificates. Their dollar cards are okay, but you can usually tell if someone bought you one. I would stick with the Dollar Tree cards if I am going to only pay $1.

5) Trader Joe's - Trader Joe's actually sells greeting cards for only .99! They are good quality and cute. Stock up next time you're there!

Good Idea!

My friend Melanie has a great idea to help save money. You can read about it on her blog here. Basically, she bought this soap dispenser that you put on your shower wall, and it helps you to use less product (which, in turn, saves you money!)

Melanie also inspired me recently to do more to save on gas money. Her husband, who was commuting to work, decided to start taking the bus instead. He found it only added 20 minutes per day to his commute time, and cost only $1 a day. They are saving around $8 every day he rides the bus instead of driving. Amazing! You can read her blog about this here. Go Melanie!!!

July 22, 2008

Coupon Codes

A recent visitor to this site, Lana, reminded me about Coupon Codes! Coupon Codes are online codes that you can use for discounts or free shipping for online purchases. Many times you can find items cheaper online than in the stores, especially if you use a coupon code. There are entire websites devoted to updating these codes weekly and even daily. So, next time you want to make an online purchase, if you know the site you want to order from, simply type in your search bar "Coupon Code for _________" (and insert item or store name).

For example, say I want to order some clothing from Eddie Bauer online. I would simply type in "Eddie Bauer Coupon Code", and immediately I would find a code to use that will give me either $10 off or 20% off my online purchase. I would type in the code at the end of my transaction on their website. It's that easy!

Discounted Dental Work

I come from a family with a LONG line of bad teeth. I have spent more money on my mouth than I have on either of my cars. Here are three ways to save on dental work if you need it.

#1) Shop Around. Dentists charge different fees for the same work. If you need a particular procedure done, it may help to call 3 dentists to see what they charge baseline for, say, a crown, a filling, a cleaning, etc. Many times dentists in large practices (groups) encourage more work done to your mouth than is necessary, as this is how they make most of their money. I had a dentist who recommended 4 cerac crowns, and said I had no other option as he did not do any other cheaper types of crowns. These are $800 each and insurance does not cover them. When I found a new dentist, she told me I only needed one crown, and the rest were small fillings. She "filled" me in on what other dentists do - that sometimes they recommend unnecessary work that insurance will not cover. I am so glad I found a new dentist.

#2) See if there is a "school of dentistry" in your area. These schools provide dental treatments for much less than a typical dentist. The downside is that the appointments usually take longer, because they are done by students being overseen by teachers. Before you balk at this idea, remember that many procedures done in doctors offices and hospitals are also done by "residents" who are being taught and overseen by their doctors. Two schools of dentistry in the Southern California area are the USC School of Dentistry and the Loma Linda School of Dentistry. (On a side note, I would not really recommend taking a small child to these schools as the environment can be a little scary for them, especially if it takes 3x longer for a procedure than it would at a regular children's dentist).

#3) If you don't have dental insurance, you may want to check out AmeriPlan. This is not dental insurance, but is a discounted program for dental services. You simply join AmeriPlan for a small fee and then choose one of their providers for your dental service. This is similar to an HMO. I have compared the rates with my own insurance plan and they are similar.

If you have any other tips, please let me know!

July 9, 2008

Student Loan Forgiveness Program

While this program may not help those of us who graduated 10 years ago, if you graduated from college within the last few years (or especially in 2007), this program may be of tremendous help to you. In October of 2007, The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 was passed, which forgives any remaining balance of your student loans after 10 years of full-time employment in public service or in a non-profit agency. The catch? Only payments made on or after October 1, 2007 count toward the required 120 monthly payments. Some of the jobs that make people eligible for this program include:
Government employees, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, public school teachers, employees of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations (i.e. churches?!), public child-care workers, public healthcare workers, public social workers, and librarians.

So, if you are like me, and have TONS of student loan debt, this program may help you. Especially if you re-consolidate your loans through the federal government, which often times stretches out your new loan balance over a new 15 or 20 year term. Unfortunately, our loans will be paid off before 10 more years is over. Bummer.

Anyway, to read more about this to see if it might work for you, visit www.finaid.org or read this very informative article from the LA Times.

July 8, 2008

"Cheap" Jewelry

I don't spend a lot of money on jewelry. In fact, right now every necklace that I own is tied up in a big knot in my bathroom. Why? I have nowhere to hang my necklaces! I do appreciate earrings, though. So I have been on the hunt for places that sell nice, but inexpensive, jewelry. Here are some places I have found:

-Kohls. They always seem to have jewelry on clearance. You just have to look for the racks in the jewelry department. I can regularly find jewelry that is 70% off here, so I don't even shop anymore from the regular priced racks there.

-Claire's Boutiques. Yeah, it is not the greatest quality, but if you just want some cute options, they do have some good sales. I love their 10 for $5 sale.

-Forever 21. While nothing in this store would actually fit my body, they have a great jewelry section where everything fits! :) Their prices on jewelry are fantastic, probably because they know that teeny-boppers are usually strapped for cash. Their normal price on earrings, necklaces, etc. is around $6-12 each.

Where have you found the best jewelry deals?

July 6, 2008

Video Rentals

While I have been a loyal Blockbuster customer for many years, I have not subscribed to their monthly service, nor have I joined Netflix, for the simple reason of not wanting a new monthly bill to have to pay. Yeah, I know it's only $10 a month, but we don't rent very many movies. And still, it's another commitment, and another bill.

Well, I just discovered a rental service at my local Albertson's the other night, and I'm a big fan of it now. It is a vending machine for DVD's called "Red Box DVD". They had a ton of new releases, and it's only $1 a night. I rented a movie on a Friday night, watched it, and had it back by Saturday at 9pm, and only spent $1!! If I remember correctly, I pay $4.32 every time I rent a video from Blockbuster. Yeah, I get to keep it for a few days, but I usually end up watching it the night I rent it anyway.

It may not be as fun as perusing the aisles looking for something interesting, but if you know what you want already, then give Red Box a try. You can save a few bucks!

Red Box DVD (locate one near you).

Aquarium of the Pacific

If you live near the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, you may want to consider getting an annual pass. For only $110 a year, an entire family can get unlimited admission. This includes 2 adults and any dependent children in the same household. You can also get 5 parking passes for only $15 (parking is normally $7 each trip). In addition, they often have a promotion which includes 1-2 free guest passes when you purchase an annual membership.

However, you can also get FREE admission once a year if you work for a non-profit organization. The only catch? Your HR office has to fill out the form and send it in, and then the admission is good during the month of September. In order to qualify, your application has to be received by August 8, 2008. For more information, visit this site.

We have passes to the Aquarium and can tell you from first-hand experience that our kids love it, and it is great to be able to go for 2-3 hours at a time. It's not Sea World, but it's sure a lot closer to us! :)

Emotional Shopping

Recently I was feeling really overwhelmed at home, and decided that I needed to get out of the house. I got in the car and headed down the street, feeling the urge to go shopping, which is fun and relaxing for me. I realized that I was getting excited about the prospect of finding some good deals, and I felt my stress and anxiety turn to happiness and excitement as I drove towards the shopping center. I also thought that maybe after I went shopping, I could go pick up a cupcake at the bakery on the way home. "That will make me feel better!" I thought. But this time was different. I felt really strongly that I needed to turn around and go the other way; I needed to go park the car in front of a park by my house. Normally I would just ignore this "sense" and keep driving, but I couldn't do that this time. I felt like I really needed to go park at the park.

So, this time I listened. I drove to the park and sat in the car. It was silent. I wondered "What am I doing here?!" As I sat in the silence in the warmth of my car, my emotions swept over me and I started to cry. I allowed myself to feel what I had been trying to push away. I felt overwhelmed. I felt sad. I felt angry. I felt tired. So I just sat in the car and cried. Definitely not what I had been planning to do. Then I prayed. I prayed for a long time. I prayed through all of my emotions, I asked God my tough questions, and I sat in the silence. After awhile, for the first time in a long time, I felt peace.

God spoke to my heart that day in the car. He reminded me that I was seeking pleasure and fulfillment through my "shopping spree" instead of going to Him. I realized that I do that a lot. Many times when I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed, right when my husband gets home, I will jet out of the house for some "alone" time and go shopping. I spend money on things I don't really need, including food that I think will help me feel better, and try to cover my emotions with temporary pleasure.

Just like there are emotional eaters, there are also emotional shoppers. Many people do both (including me - note the reference to CUPCAKES?!) :) Next time you feel the "need" to go shopping, just stop. Ask yourself if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed or tired. Is that why you are going shopping? If so, turn that car around and find a park. You may find more peace and joy than you ever would at the store. You will also save your pocketbook! :)

July 5, 2008

Coupon Clipping

If you are a coupon-clipper, you probably already heard that Ralphs is no longer doubling coupons that are $1.00 or more. This is sad news to those of us who have religiously planned out our shopping adventures so that we can fill our carts with numerous free items every week. Vons stopped doubling coupons about two years ago and then did an about-face shortly after they lost thousands of customers (including myself) for doing so. So, I guess it is back to Vons for me.

Clipping coupons is not fun for some people, but for those who take the time to do it for about 10 minutes once a week, it is well worth it. Some people don't clip because they feel they will end up with a bunch of items they don't need, but I only clip coupons for things I do need, unless I will get it for free (if I know it is about $2 and I have a $1 off coupon that can be doubled).

If you would like to get the MOST out of your coupon clipping, you might want to try visiting The Grocery Game website. This is a site where you pay for a monthly subscription to the store of your choice (Ralphs, Vons, etc...) and they do the work for you. They tell you what coupons are coming out each week, where your best savings will be, and what you can stock up on. I have done a trial subscription to this site and it was pretty amazing. However, I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe's (where they don't take coupons), so I don't really need a subscription. My shopping at Ralph's has been mostly supplemental. Check it out! It pays to use coupons! When I do shop at Ralph's I regularly save 40-50% on my total bill by using coupons.