Cut the Cost of Your Drive to Work

Many of us (myself included) commute to work every day. Now that gas prices have jumped—again—we're all feeling the crunch. I think I actually winched when I saw the prices on my way home from work yesterday. It's painful!

According to a recent CNNMoney.com article, the typical commuter pays about $200/month to get to and from work. Ouch! The same article offers some really helpful tips on how to cut the cost of your drive to work. Read it HERE.


Follow up to my magazine purchase

A while ago, I wrote about a great way to save money on magazine subscriptions. I wanted to follow-up on that, and let you know how the purchase has turned out. When I wrote about them, I had already started receiving one of my subscriptions, but was waiting on the other one, and mentioned that I would follow-up.

Everything has turned out wonderfully! I received my second subscription just yesterday, and while it took a lot longer to receive it, it did indeed come through. I have been very pleased! I purchased two separate 2-year magazine subscriptions for about $12! You just can't beat that.

Now, regarding the E-bay subscription sellers, E-bay has since changed their policy on selling magazine subscriptions and is no longer allowing them. However, if you are interested in purchasing subscriptions from one of the sellers I mentioned in my previous post, here is their website: 

Superior_subscriptions: www.superior-subscriptions.com

I haven't found a website for the other one, yet. 

But, I was very pleased with my experiences, and would recommend reading my post on cheaper magazine subscriptions for other tips. 


Entertainment Book Date Night

My husband and I go on a "date night" every week. It's a time for us to talk about our marriage and focus on each other. Because we're on a tight budget, these evenings out are never really extravagant, and we try to find cheaper things to do that are fun for both of us and enrich our marriage at the same time. That's a tall order for our very small date night budget, but you would be amazed at how far we've been able to stretch our dollars every week. It doesn't take much work, either.

Last night, we used coupons from our Entertainment Book for dinner and desert. What would have been a $30 date night only cost us $15.98. I'll tell you how we did it.

We decided we wanted a simple, quiet dinner (nothing super fancy . . . just cozy), so we went to Arnie's in Rockford, MI. Granted, their dinners are not that expensive to begin with, but we had a buy one, get one coupon. The total on the bill came out to around $17 before the discount, and without tip. After the discount, it was reduced to $9, and we tipped our waitress $3 to make it an even $12. We sat at a table by the window in the back of the dining room, and were able to watch the Rogue River float by as we ate. We got exactly what we wanted—a quiet, relaxing, simple dinner . . . at half the price. Oh, and I took half of my meal with me in a to-go box. Now, I have lunch for today!

At the end of our meal, we both decided we were in the mood for desert. We decided to forego desert at Arnie's (as good as their deserts are), and try to find another buy one/get one coupon in our Entertainment Book. To our surprise and delight, we found BOGO coupons for TCBY, Cold Stone Creamery, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and many, many others. We settled on Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and off we went.

If you've never been to RMCF, I highly recommend it (with or without a coupon). There are so many yummy  looking treats, we both had a difficult time deciding what to get. In the end, though, we settled on the frozen, chocolate-dipped cheesecake. At $3.75 a slice, our total would have come to around $8. With the BOGO coupon, we paid a measly $3.98 for both slices of the delectable, chocolatey, cheesecakey goodness. 

So, for dinner and desert (both of which were really yummy), we paid around $16 . . . and we had a blast. We keep our Entertainment Book in the car, so it doesn't take a lot of time to find the coupons we want. It was effortless, and we really enjoyed ourselves. And the bonus is that we stayed within our budget. 

The moral of this story is, BUY AN ENTERTAINMENT BOOK FOR YOUR AREA, and use it for anything. We paid around $40 for ours at the beginning of the year, and it's already paid for itself in what we save on car washes alone. They are discounted even more now that the year is underway. What we save on food and shopping is bonus! Plus, we end up trying new restaurants and doing fun things that we might not have done otherwise. Think about it . . . a date night that's fun for both of you, and only costs you around $16 . . . that's worth it!

Happy bargain shopping!


DEAL ALERT: 70% off at Restaurant.com!

Restaurant.com is running a "Wine & Dine" sale, slashing their gift certificates to 70% off. Stock up now, and use them whenever you want. Their $25 gift certificates are now only $3 with the discount. Enter discount code "GOURMET" at checkout, to receive the savings! Check out this deal HERE.


DEAL ALERT: 60% off at Restaurant.com--LAST DAY!

Save some cash on dining out by taking advantage of this offer from Restaurant.com. They are offering 60% off their gift certificates, when you use the discount code "FLAVOR". Click HERE to shop now! This offer ends TODAY!

Washington Post says, "It's cool to be frugal!"

According to this recent Washington Post article, it is indeed "cool" to be thrifty. With the downward trend in the nationwide economy, stores that are typically frequented by teen shoppers are experiencing slower sales. When parents aren't giving out as much money, and teens are not finding a plentiful job market, the younger crowd has turned to more thrifty means of staying trendy. (continue reading)

DEAL ALERT: Free standard shipping on Shutterfly orders of $25 or more

Just in time for Mother's Day, Shutterfly is offering free standard shipping on orders of $25 or more. Click HERE to start your order! The offer expires April 30.


DEAL ALERT: Orbitz 7-day hotel sale!

Orbits is running a special 7-day hotel sale. You can save 20% off any 1-night hotel stay! Hurry and take advantage of the offer by clicking on the ad below. This special ends April 20.

7-Day 20% Off Sale- Exp  4/20/08 (468x60)

DEAL ALERT: $30 rebates on Eureka tents at Campmor.com

For a limited time, you can get a $30 mail-in rebate on Eureka tents through Campmor.com. The office expires 7/31/2008, so take advantage of this now. Click here to get the deal.

They are also offering tips on how to choose the right tent for you and your family.

Gear-up for your camping needs this spring and summer. Happy bargain shopping!

DEAL ALERT: Save an extra 15% off clothing at Sierra Trading Post

Sierra Trading Post is offering 15% off all their clothing right now—all styles, all brands. Click here to get the deal!

Happy outdoor bargain shopping!


Bargain Shopping Tenet #4: ONLY BUY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD

News flash, bargain shoppers . . . if you can't afford that wonderful, priced-just-right treasure that is screaming Buy me now!, then you've just defeated the entire purpose of bargain shopping! We bargain shop to save money on the things we need and can afford. We do NOT bargain shop so that we can live outside our means. 

Many a time, I have personally been guilty of ignoring this all-too-important bargain shopping tenet, and I've lived to regret it. Here are some rules to live by, if your goal is to bargain shop while not breaking your bank:
  • If you have to put the purchase on a credit card because you don't have the cash for it, it's probably not a good idea.
  • If you decide to purchase an item, not knowing if your rent check or mortgage check will bounce, it's probably not a good idea.
  • If you make a bargain purchase just to get the rush of finding such a treasure, or because you're bored, it's probably not a good idea.
  • If you question whether or not to make a bargain purchase, don't do it. If you have to second-guess a purchase, that's a good indication that you should walk away.
  • Distinguish between wants and needs. There is a difference. It's ok to want something, as long as you can afford it. If a bargain purchase is just a superfluous want . . . walk away.
  • If you don't have room in your house for a bargain purchase, it's probably not a good idea. This simple question can help you rule certain things out, and help you to curb that urge to spend money you might not have.
These are just some ideas to help you avoid the pitfall of spending more than you should when you bargain shop. If you have other ideas, please share them with us. The key is to identify those urges to overspend and figure out what triggers them. Then you can be creative in finding ways to avoid those pitfalls. 

Remember . . . to truly reap the benefits of bargain shopping, you have to live within your means. Bargain shopping should be stress-free and enjoyable. Wondering how you might pay for something, or just not caring, will eventually turn your bargain shopping from a blessing into a curse.

DEAL ALERT: 50% off at Restaurant.com

For a limited time, you can save 50% off at Restaurant.com! Click here to get the deal. Enter discount code "ENJOY" at checkout and hit apply to save an additional 50%!


Key to buying a used car: CarFax!

I hate car shopping . . . I mean H-A-T-E it. I'm kinda like George on Seinfeld, when he and Jerry go car shopping. I just assume that any car salesman is out to rip me off. I go in with this huge chip on my shoulder, and my eyes narrowed. I just know they're lying to me!

Last year, our 2002 Saturn L200 started having problems, so we debated about whether or not to buy a new/used car. Our Saturn was a great car. We bought it when it was two years old. It had 48K, and all the bells and whistles, but the price was right. It was in fabulous condition, and we felt like we had found a great deal. Plus, we enjoyed the buying experience with Saturn. It was much more pleasant than I thought it would be—less pressure. The car was great, and we enjoyed many a pleasant road trip in it. The heated leather seats and sunroof were wonderful! And the 6-disc CD changer added a nice ambiance. But, the honeymoon with our L200 only lasted a couple of years.

Somewhere along the way, it started developing front end problems and eventually both the air compressor and condenser went out (a.k.a. our air conditioner was broken . . . really broken). So, in the summer heat with our black leather interior, going to work became more like enduring 15-20 minutes of hell every day. Fixing the air conditioner would have cost us $1100–1400, and the front end work would have cost around $300. After weighing our options, we decided to sell it and try something different. The repairs just weren't going to be worth it.

So, we listed it on good ol' Craigslist for a very reasonable price—much less than the car was worth, and we even factored in the cost of repairs. Nothing. No bites. Nothing. I had even included LOADS of pictures of every angle this car possessed, and included all the details about the car and its history. Nothing, still.

It got to the point that we decided to maybe save up for the repairs and stick with the car. But, I wanted to try Craigslist one more time, just to see if we could find a buyer. I dropped the price by $200 thinking, That's not a lot, but we'll see if it makes it more attractive. Within two days, the car sold.

Then panic set in. Holy cow! We need to buy a car! And fast! We both worked full-time, and couldn't do without two cars, because we kept such different hours. But, this time, we decided not to go through a dealership, and decided to search for private sellers and do a bit more homework on the cars we were looking at. The problem was that, again, we both work and had to do most of our shopping online in the evenings. That makes things difficult. We were calling people, leaving messages, and trying to find something that would save us on gas and that wouldn't need any work. Back to Craigslist, the local paper, and online classifieds we went.

We found a car within 2 days! But, the key that made all the difference in the world was CarFax.com. This is the site that will run reports on vehicles and give you their entire history, so that you go into your car shopping experience with all the cards. It pretty much makes it impossible for someone to lie to you about the car's history. While we were looking for this car, we discovered something about CarFax.com that may help you the next time you're shopping for a used vehicle. To run a single report costs $24.99. However, you can purchase unlimited reporting for 30 days to the tune of $5 more . . . $29.99. Since we were looking to purchase a car quickly, and needed to know what we were getting into if we looked at a car, we opted for the $29.99 option. We knew we would need to run a lot of reports, and would definitely fall under the 30-day mark. It worked wonderfully! Any car we were interested in, we just plugged into the CarFax system and instantly had it's entire history. This tool saved us from looking at several cars that had previously been salvaged, had flood damage, or had been in a lot of accidents. If we hadn't run the reports, we would never have known about these issues!

On another note, as we were doing research to find a new car, we discovered something. The '02 Saturn L200 is known to start having problems with the front end and air conditioner at a certain mileage level. Needless to say, we were wishing we had done our homework before buying that car. We found this out using Edmonds.com, which also helped us figure out what kind of car we wanted to buy based on overall customer satisfaction, average cost of repairs, and typical problems with the model in question.

The car we ended up purchasing had a perfect history, so we knew the previous owner wasn't lying when he said he'd taken care of it. We were able to buy with peace of mind, and I didn't have to walk into a dealership with a chip on my shoulder. Have we had any problems with our new/used car? Nope! It's been great, and we've almost had it a year. Using CarFax saved us a lot of time and potentially money in the long run. I would highly recommend using their system the next time you're shopping for a vehicle.


Not-to-be-missed Tax Breaks

April is full of wonderful, happy things--Spring, flowers, warmer weather, sunshine--and some not-so-happy things like the deadline to file your income taxes. If you haven't filed them yet, time is winding down. The deadline is fast-approaching. Are you panicked, yet?

For those of us who are trying to watch our finances closely, and make wise decisions with our money, not knowing what deductions to take or how to take advantage of them can end up costing us unecessary dollars and stress in the end.

Take a look at these great tips so that you don't miss out on significant tax savings.

Ignorance will not lead to bliss with regard to your taxes. Educate yourself, and you will most likely end up better off in the end.


Online Bargain Shopping 101 from The Bargain Shopper Lady

I just came across another fabulous post from The Bargain Shopper Lady about tips for online shopping. She shares the basics for how to save money online. Take her advice, and you could be saving a bundle on your next online purchase! 

Happy bargain shopping!

A Bargain Shopping Reality Check

Thanks to www.gailvazoxlade.com, here's a good reminder of how to temper your bargain shopping and keep it at a manageable level. Remember, all things are good in moderation. If bargain shopping drives you to purchase a lot of "stuff", whether or not you can afford it or use it, you need to cut back. Gail offers some great reminders, so be sure to check out her post


1 Simple Way to Save Gas

Saving money at the pump requires very little effort, but possibly a lot of self-control. This article that I found on Yahoo! shares how one little change can save you a lot on gas. 

Check it out here!

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