Frugal Living 
19
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Best Dollar Store Deals

Dollar StoreWe live within walking distance to a dollar, it’s in the same shopping center as our grocery store, and we’ve found many a good gem in there, mostly by accident. When I saw this Kiplinger’s article on the best and worst dollar store buys, I was curious to see what they found to be a good deal and what they found to be a bad one. They force you to go through a quiz but I won’t. :)

They said that good deals could be found on party supplies, cleaning supplies, greeting cards, seasonal/holiday items, pregnancy tests, gift wrap, and cooking & dining accessories like utensils and flatware/glassware. You should pass on vitamins, basic school supplies, over-the-counter medication, toys, canned food, batteries, and electronics. The winners were winners for reasons you’d expect, they’re simply cheaper. The losers were losers because they were either not cheap enough (you could go to Wal-Mart and pay the same or even less) or their efficacy, in the case of medication and vitamins, were suspect. A lot of dollar stores sell overstock merchandise, it’s possible to find things beyond their expiration date. That’s a good thing for seasonal items but not a good thing for vitamins.

We typically hit the dollar store whenever we’re looking for party supplies. The store is closer than any other store that carries party supplies, which is probably the greatest incentive, and there’s a surprisingly good selection.

What’s your best dollar store find?

(Photo: fireflythegreat)


 Frugal Living 
22
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Batteries Don’t Dischange Equally

Batteries!My good friend Dave recently emailed me something fascinating about how he goes through batteries like crazy. He has a daughter and many of her toys are battery powered, not to mention remotes and a host of other battery powered devices and appliances. The other week he managed to mix up some “good” batteries with fully discharged ones and, rather than recycle the entire bunch, he opted to test them… and discovered something very surprising:

I was thinking of you recently when I discovered a super easy way to be frugal… I have discovered that batteries (AA, AAA, C, D) in devices don’t all discharge at the same rate – I bought a battery tester a couple of weeks ago because I had accidentally mixed a whole bunch of batteries that were both good and “bad”. I thought that I had about 10 bad batteries out of the 20 I tested (10 were completely unused) but in reality, of the 10 that were “bad”, only 2 were fully discharged. The other 8 were still between full and half charged and as long as I removed the “dead” batteries, I could still use all the other batteries I had that I had origially planned on recycling.


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 Frugal Living 
54
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4 Things You Shouldn’t Be Cheap About

When I say you shouldn’t be cheap about something, I don’t mean you should pay through the nose. You should be prudent. Shop around, get several quotes or prices, and then buy at a favorable rate.

The tricky thing about pricing and quality is that they’re not necessarily correlated. We intuitively think that something that is more expensive is of higher quality (the Chivas Regal effect). That was probably true a hundred years ago until savvy marketers realized they could charge more for an inferior product because the higher price sent otherwise absent signals of quality. So while I say you shouldn’t be “cheap” about something, I don’t mean you should spend top dollar. You should be savvy and spent as much time as you need to make the smart purchase.

So, what should you avoid being cheap about?

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 Your Take 
60
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Your Take: Student Discounts When Not A Student?

Graduation CupcakeLifehacker shared a list of tips on how to get student discounts long after you’ve graduated and many of the tips resort to forgery. For some people it’s not an issue, I mean it’s a dog eat dog world and you have to do whatever it takes to shave a dollar off movie ticket prices or get a discount on travel. For others, it smacks of unethical behavior. For people like me, it’s a gray area.

My feeling is that if you are forging stickers or class schedules or entire IDs, you’re doing something wrong. If you have an expired ID and you present it as your student ID, then that’s OK but in that gray area. It’s a little like getting a “senior” discount when you look older but you may not necessarily fall into the age range.

What do you think?

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 Frugal Living 
54
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Frugal Ideas I’ve Always Wanted to Try

One of the really fascinating parts of the recession is the effect it has had on news stories. During the boom, mainstream media focused heavily on the excesses of those who had money. You had stories of the most expensive wine or the most expensive dessert. There were stories about luxury cars and of fantastic mansions on enormous estates. Nowadays, the stories are focused on more pedestrian subjects. They’re focused on people who grow gardens on their deck or raise chickens in the city. I find those stories infinitely more interesting because it shows our creativity and our resourcefulness, not our ability to write a check or swipe a card.

The stories that share tips on reducing electricity are great – I try to use as many of the tips as I can to reduce our own bills. The stories about how to drive more efficiently are even better, who doesn’t like saving money at the pump. However, there are some ideas out there that fall in the category of “cool I’d like to try that” but I have yet to try. This is a post about those ideas (and why I have yet to try them).

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 Your Take 
49
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Your Take: When Frugality Becomes Stealing?

I loved this post by Clark Palmer on Bankrate about when people take frugality too far (it even features Liz Pulliam Weston, one of my favorite personal finance writers). In it he talked about a guy who would take advantage of hotels when traveling on business – swapping out burned out light bulbs from his home with the ones in the hotel, taking towels from hotel pools, and getting free breakfast at local (to his home) hotels. That’s pretty ridiculous.

One thing I was interested to read was that “There are certain things that hotels expect you to take, like shampoo. So, the hotel basically builds the loss into the cost of the room, says Weston. But taking toilet paper and towels crosses the line.” I thought they threw out anything we used but didn’t finish, so I always took the half used shampoo because they come in nice TSA-friendly containers. I still think they toss them but I never thought a hotel would build that loss into the cost of the room.

There are a few other crazy things in that post about how frugality can go a little too far… I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this!


 Frugal Living 
28
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9 Quick and Easy Penny-wise Frugal Home Tips

PennyLast week, I wrote a post about how you shouldn’t work so hard to save very little. The basic premise is that there are a lot of things you can do to save money that, when you calculate the time and effort involved, aren’t worth it. In some cases, the tips are dangerous and, should your luck go south, will end up costing you more in the long run. The post seemed like one of those “don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” which is an idea I think we can all agree with, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take a second to pick up a penny.

That’s why I’ve put together a list of easy frugal home tips that don’t take a long time to complete and, while the savings won’t pay for a new Bentley, will cut out a bit of the waste in your life.
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 Frugal Living 
9
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Calculate Your Monthly Freedom Day

Pocket CalendarEvery year, the Tax Foundation points to a day in April and proclaims it Tax Freedom Day. It’s the day after which you have effectively earned enough to cover your tax liabilities for the year. For 2010, that day was April 9th. In 2009, it was April 8th. The idea is that, based on what you are projected to owe in taxes, every hour you work until that day goes towards funding that liability. It’s more a gimmick than anything else but it does underscore an important point, each month you experience your own “Freedom Day.”

Your personal Monthly Freedom Day is the day where you earned enough that month to cover your fixed monthly obligations like your rent or mortgage, your car loan or your student loans. Today, I’m going to help you calculate your Monthly Freedom Day.

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