Sakariasen's Cheapskate Blog

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Cheapskate Coupon Challenge November 9, 2010

I decided, after perusing a forum and reading The 39 Dollar Experiment, that I would try my own “Coupon Outreach” program, as I would like to call it. Now it requires some of my own personal time that I have been able to secure thanks to being jobless and endless typing but I am doing it nonetheless. And really, if you don’t have tons of free time, you can do it maybe for ten or fifteen minutes here or there while you’re on the computer or even while you’re watching television. So what am I doing?

 

I am contacting companies and seeing if they will send me coupons and/or freebies. For the most part, I am not asking for coupons. I find myself mostly complimenting companies of products that I have or currently use. In order to maintain my sanity, I am: (1) breaking it up into periods of time (2) writing relatively short generic messages unless I really, really mean it (3) allowing my browser to auto-fill the same information over and over again. Now, if you plan on doing this as well, keep these things in mind:

 

  • If you have a legitimate complaint, make that clear. They usually require you to provide information regarding the product.
  • If you’re looking for ideas, you can check out my list and my results. I am contacting a ton of companies.
  • If you’re looking for more ideas, check around your house. Every time I saw a product that I have purchased, I wrote it down on my list in order to contact them later. Contact companies if you are particularly loyal to them—after all, you’re probably making them a lot of money.
  • If you want to ask for coupons, go for it. There are a couple of companies for which I asked for a free sample or coupons so that I could try their product. If I haven’t used their product before, I’d rather not lie about it.
  • You can call, write or send an e-mail. To me, the easiest thing is finding the “contact us” button on the website and shooting them a quick message. Like I said, I am keeping my messages more or less the same.
  • Try keeping a list of the companies you contact and who actually sends you coupons or freebies. You might as well contact them another 6-12 months down the line.

 

In the upcoming weeks, I plan on regularly updating my list. Feel free to contact companies who have sent me free stuff. If a company doesn’t send me free stuff, that is good information for you so that you don’t have to waste your time. Stay cheap my friends!

 

Why You Shouldn’t Own a Pet if You’re Struggling November 8, 2010

I absolutely love animals. I grew up in a house where we always had at least one, whether it be a dog, cat, turtle, snake, fish, hamster, frog or lizard. You get the idea. When I moved out, I promptly adopted my own cat and subsequently, another one. Of course, times were good then and now that we’re struggling, we really had to cut back on the types of litter and food that we buy for them. Here are some things to keep in mind if you plan on purchasing/adopting a pet or already have one and find yourself struggling.

 

1. DO NOT PURCHASE OR ADOPT A PET IF YOU LIVE PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK OR IF YOU FIND YOURSELF STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY. I know this is a hard concept for people to digest, especially because there are so many animal lovers in the world, but really, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your family and whatever animals you may choose to bring into your home if you are often struggling with bills. Pets cost a lot of money and you can almost think of them as a luxury item. You need to pay for their veterinary care, which is very expensive. Their food adds up and will end up costing you tons of money in the long-run. If you have animals that are strictly indoors, you might save money on veterinary bills but you will have to pay more for maintenance, such as purchasing cat litter or fixing/cleaning filtration systems in tanks. Keep in mind that some animals require permits and you are supposed to pay a fee every year for that license.

2. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS IF YOU ARE REALLY STRUGGLING. If you already have a pet and you’re finding yourself in enormous debt or unable to make any progress financially, the pets’ expenditures could be weighing you down. When you adopt a pet, the expectation is that you are going to care for it and do what you can to keep the animal and treat it well. But sometimes things change and that isn’t always possible—perhaps you can barely afford to feed yourself, let alone the pet! If this is the case, please look around and see if anyone who is in better standing could perhaps adopt the pet from you. If worse comes to worse and you are deciding between feeding your family and feeding your pets, you really need to step back, perhaps even remove some of the emotions around the situation, and give your animal up for adoption. This, of course, is no easy decision but sometimes, it is one that must be done. I recall seeing a family on Dr. Phil who found themselves in enormous debt after the housing market crashed and they owned five animals. These five animals cost them thousands of dollars a year in food and veterinary bills. If that’s the situation, you really need to get rid of the pets!

3. WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING AND ALREADY OWN A PET. If adopting the dog away is not an option for you or if you’re really trying to cut back on your expenses, look at how much you are spending on your animals and cut back. For example, litter is frequently on sale and you can often find coupons for the litter. If you own a cat, you really need to align these things and get the best price possible. You might have to forget about getting the best possible litter that exists if you’re entertaining this idea. You may love to feed your animals certain brands of food but sometimes people spend more on food for their animals than they do for themselves! We now buy one bag of the cheapest food and one bag of whatever is on sale/whatever we have a coupon for and leave it at that. Also, we stopped buying treats for the cats for awhile until I found Temptations on sale and additionally had a coupon for it, leaving the treats costing me .25 cents. Remember, your animals don’t need treats.

 

Always keep these other things in mind:

  • Look for coupons for both food and maintenance supplies. They are always out there! Always check around in your weekly circulars to see who has the best deals on these things. Try to align sales and manufacturer coupons and stockpile when possible. We often get Catalina coupons for cat-related items.
  • Call up your local shelter and see what kind of services they might be able to provide. They may be able to provide free or discounted services for low-income or struggling families.
  • If you really want a pet but don’t want to spend a ton of money, I am essentially imploring you to adopt one. For example, adopting a cat from our local adoption event cost us only $35 and the cat was given to us fixed, cleaned, treated for any issues and with all of its shots. Additionally, we received a coupon for a free visit to any veterinary clinic listed on the pamphlet they gave us.

 

Stay cheap my friends!

 

Three Ways to Cut Your Breakfast Costs: Part Three November 3, 2010

NUMBER THREE: STOP EATING OUT

Sigh. This one really pains me. Making my own coffee and buying cereal only when it’s on sale is easy. But I love eating at diners. Love them. I love waking up right before the breakfast special is about to end so I can get the best deal possible. The problem with resisting eating out for breakfast is multifold: (1) It’s awesome not having to cook your own breakfast (2) It’s so cheap when you really look at it for the amount of food you’re getting (3) It’s delicious. But when you actually look at how much breakfast items will cost you, you can see that you will save money. Here are some things to consider when you’re buying items for your breakfast needs.

  • Eggs: If you’re not particularly picky about what you eat (read: you don’t need to eat organic eggs), purchasing eggs is a great way to save money. I regularly purchase a dozen eggs for a dollar. If you eat two eggs a day, that’s less than .17 cents/day on your eggs. If you don’t have time to cook in the morning but want eggs on the run, hard boil them! Eggs are great because they will last in your refrigerator for awhile and they’re so fast and easy to cook/prepare regardless of what you’re making with them.
  • Toast: Bread is always on sale and I will never pay more than $2.00 for a loaf of bread. We only buy whole wheat or multi-grain breads nowadays. Keep your eye out for deals: we were able to purchase three loaves of healthy bread for $3.00 from an Entenmann’s outlet. We store the extra loaves in the fridge to keep them fresher for a longer period of time. Keep your bread in mind if you want to change things up for french toast.
  • English Muffins: We buy English Muffins when they are on sale for $1.00. Sometimes it’s just easier to toss in an English Muffin—plus, face the facts, they taste good. We store additional packages in the freezer.
  • Pancakes/Waffles: We tend to buy the mixes when they are on sale and these mixes last for a long time. You really need to think about which is cheapest for you. If you buy water-only mixes, you might save money not needing other ingredients like oil and eggs. Again, buy syrup for these items when it is on sale. It goes on sale regularly. Know your prices to know what a good deal is!
  • Potatoes: I actually never make potatoes for breakfast and only eat them when I go out to eat. If you love your home fries, I would suggest making them when potatoes are on sale. For example, if you know that you will be making potatoes for dinner, save some for breakfast at a later date.
  • Bacon/Sausage: We only buy bacon and sausage when it is on sale. (Sausage is easy to freeze if you want to stock up.) Bacon needs to be less than $3.00/package and sausage needs to be even cheaper. We also don’t make tremendous amounts so that we get to enjoy it for a longer period of time. Generally, we only make 2-3 slices for each of us when we’re making bacon. If you can tolerate turkey bacon, which I cannot, this is generally cheaper than :ahem: real bacon.
  • Cereal: Read my previous entry regarding cereal. 🙂
  • Coffee/Tea: Read back two entries regarding coffee. But the same applies for tea if you’re a tea drinker. Only buy tea when it is on sale and if you can’t afford specialty teas, you’ll have to give them up for awhile if you’re trying to save money.

 

If you really want to go out for breakfast, I would suggest making sure you have the money ahead of time and saving it for a special occasion like a birthday. (I mean, who wants to cook on his or her own birthday? I don’t ever want to cook so I definitely do not want to cook on my birthday.)

 

The only thing I would hope someone could chime in about would be oatmeal. I don’t eat oatmeal because I don’t like it so I generally don’t know about pricing regarding oatmeal. Eat on, friends.

 

Three Ways To Cut Your Breakfast Costs: Part Two November 1, 2010

NUMBER TWO: DO NOT BUY CEREAL UNLESS IT IS ON SALE


Cereal is great. I love cereal. I could go on and on about how much I love it and how much I enjoy eating it. Cereal is a quick, great meal for a number of reasons. For one, there are so many different kinds that if you get sick of one, you can easily purchase something else instead. Secondly, it’s a very quick meal that requires no preparation and it is good if you need to eat something fast before you’re on your way. Thirdly, it is often on sale and this is something you can take advantage of regularly.

 

However, you need to take a few things into consideration. If you are looking for particular kinds of cereal, more expensive kinds that never go on sale, you’re going to have a difficult time partaking in this. The other thing you need to consider is the type of milk you drink. I drink whole milk, essentially whatever I can get on sale. (Read: CHEAPEST.) If you drink different kinds of milk, such as soy milk or more expensive brands, this will also not necessarily be incredibly cheap for you. However, when you consider the costs of meals, you can really work out how much it  costs you per meal once you understand how much your food costs.

 

Rule One: Never buy cereal unless it is on sale! Period. Before you shop, look through the circulars of your local stores. Don’t limit yourself to the grocery stores either. I have noticed that many drug stores, such as Rite Aid, often have cereal sales. Read the print carefully and make sure you’re eligible for the deal. Sometimes stores say you will get the sale “after additional $30 purchase” or make you buy a certain number of boxes.

 

Rule Two: Check regularly for coupons, whether it be your Sunday newspaper or other newspaper that contains them. (Our local paper often has coupon inserts.) Companies that make cereals, such as General Mills, provide coupons regularly for their products. Keep on the look out for Catalina Coupons, those coupons the registers print for you after purchase. I have gotten tons of coupons for cereals from these coupons in particular. Also, check websites, such as BettyCrocker.com or SmartSource.com for your coupon needs.

 

Rule Three: Buy in bulk! I live in small apartment so I know that many people cannot buy in bulk. However, I do have some cabinet space to store cereal boxes. I highly recommend you buy in bulk when you can when you see the best prices available. For example, if you see a great deal on Cheerios and eat Cheerios all of the time, buy as many as you can. Cereals last for a long time and if you eat cereal regularly, it will pay off in the long-run.

 

Try to keep these things in mind:

  • Store brand does not always equate to being cheaper. When “big name” cereals are on sale, they’re often cheaper than the store brand.
  • Get a general sense of what a “good deal” actually is. If you know that you can get particular cereals for $1.50 per box, you would know that the same cereal on sale for $2.50 is not much of a deal at all.
  • Buying on sale does not have to mean you’re buying junk. You can easily buy healthier cereals that are on sale if you want to. Also, if you’re looking for gluten free, we have also been able to purchase various types of Chex regularly.
 

Three Ways to Cut Your Breakfast Costs: Part One October 31, 2010

There tend to be people who always eat breakfast and those who don’t but quaff the coffee as if they’re dying of thirst. Most of us waste tons of money on our breakfast items without even realizing it. Why? Often times, when we’re getting a breakfast item, it seems cheap. You think to yourself, “I’m only spending a dollar on that coffee. This sandwich only costs two dollars. That’s nothing.” But all of these dollars add up and they add up fast. I decided to write a bit about a few different ways to cut your breakfast costs in no time.

 

NUMBER ONE: STOP BUYING COFFEE FROM THE STORE


I know, I know. I heard a few people audibly cry as they read this aloud. If you’re hard up on cash, this is one of the first things you can do to cut your breakfast costs. (Or, for many people, lunch and dinner costs as well.) Consider the fact that a cup of coffee costs anywhere from $1-$5, depending on where you are purchasing your favorite brew. If you buy only one cup of coffee per day at its cheapest price, that costs you $7/week at minimum. That doesn’t seem like much until you compare this to what you can buy from the store.

 

You can buy a large container of coffee for anywhere from $6-$8 and you can always find coupons for popular brands, such as Folger’s or Maxwell House, regularly. That one container makes over 200 8 oz. cups of coffee. And if you’re dying for the iced stuff, make your coffee the night before and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re a coffee snob and need to cut costs, you might just have to get over it! There are plenty of brands out there with a variety of different roasts that you can experiment with to find your favorite.

 

You will be saving a ton of money in the long-run. But keep these other things in mind:

  • If you use sugar or artificial sweeteners in your coffee, purchase them when they’re on sale and stock up depending upon how much you use them.
  • If you need to purchase a coffee maker, you do not need to purchase a state-of-the-art stainless steel one. Mine is simple, does its job, has an automatic brew and shut-off and only cost me $30. You will make this money back quickly from what you otherwise would have spent on coffee.
  • If you don’t want to buy disposable filters, although you can find them very cheap, pick up a reusable filter at the dollar store. They last for a long time and you don’t have to worry about running out of the paper ones.

Stay cheap my friends!

 

Why Credit Cards Are Not Always the Enemy October 29, 2010

I always hear things about credit card companies that, more or less, express nothing but complete disdain for them. People are often fighting against the “evil” credit card companies, as interest continues to pile onto the charges they so happily made days, weeks or even months back. Of course, things happen and sometimes credit cards appear to be the only way to pay for something that is necessary. But let’s face it: much of the debt accumulated by people is not absolutely necessary and in fact, people tend to overvalue what they need and pay much more than they have to for many things. It’s funny how fast personal responsibility fades when debt comes into play.

 

Of course, I think, more than anything, people really need to learn more about their finances. Period.

 

Now, back to the topic at hand. Frankly, I love using my credit card. I have two and primarily only use one. The one I use is a Discover card because of the cash back rewards that I receive. I have never, ever paid them a dime of interest. Ever. As  I always tell people, if you are very tight with money and cannot afford to pay whatever you are buying right off, then forget it. Like I said, emergencies arise and things happen. But I’m talking about people who really think having a newer TV is a necessity and plan on making payments over the course of the next few years. Right now, we are living paycheck to paycheck, as our income has been slashed in half, yet we are not in debt. And trust me, neither of us made a lot of money at all!

 

My first piece of advice to anyone who is considering getting a credit card is to shop around. There are a few main credit card companies out there but within each company are tons of different kinds of cards. Some have cash back rewards. Some have frequent flyer miles. Some offer nothing. It is really up to you to do your homework. I do not travel very often so frequent flyer miles seem pointless to me. Another reason to shop around is because you should not settle for any card. Cards also vary by interest rate. Now, if your credit isn’t so hot, you’re probably going to find some difficulty in getting the best interest rate out there. Thus, you need to be really careful with this. Do not get a credit card if your credit is terrible because you have an addiction to shopping. This is really ideal for people who are good with their money or for people who are trying to get their credit back on track and have self-control.

 

I chose this Discover card because of the 1% I get back on every purchase. Furthermore, every season, I can sign-up for things that will give me 5% cash back. For example, one season might offer 5% cash back on all grocery stores. That means every time that I shop at a grocery store, I will receive 5% cash back credited toward my Discover account.  (However, this can be limited. I have noticed it say, “Up to $300.” And that’s per season.) Additionally, Discover does something where if you shop through their website, you will receive a greater percentage back. For example, if I want to shop at Target.com, I will log into my Discover.com account first and then click through the website to get to the Target website. I have done this before to get 5% cash back as opposed to the 1% regular cash back. I actually went to check and they give anywhere from 5-20% extra cash back, if you click through their site to shop and use your Discover card for the purchase.

 

Now, when you want to cash in your rewards, you have a variety of options, which I also like. For straight shooters, you can have the cash deposited directly into your account. Personally, I do not choose this option because I like getting more bang for my buck. You can also purchase items directly off their website, which I’m not really interested in either. The thing I generally do is I turn my rewards into a certificate or gift card, especially considering I am usually buying things from these places. Discover offers a variety of stores to choose from so your options are seemingly endless. Let me explain why this is usually the best choice. I need to purchase books and I plan on purchasing them from B&N. Discover allows me to use $40 of my cash back rewards toward a $50 gift card. What does that mean? That means that Discover takes the $40 from your rewards account and applies it to a gift card, resulting in $10 of your gift card being free. Essentially, I just got $10 free to spend at B&N, which I was going to do anyway. But this way makes the most sense.

 

Keep in mind—you are not going to get rich by doing this. Again, I have not paid Discover a dime of interest but they have paid me, over the past few years, hundreds of dollars that I can use for whatever I want. We’re going to be really hard-up this Christmas, so my partner-in-crime, who has about $500 in cash back rewards and I will be either distributing gift cards to our families or buying gift cards and, in turn, buying things from those particular stores. Either way, this is why I love my credit cards—because I love getting things for free!

 

Three Cleaning Products to Be Miserly Over October 28, 2010

Household items are so easy to buy. Really. You might walk into a store and find yourself walking right into aisles and aisles of appealing products. But it’s really easy to cut costs here or there with household items. Here are three different products that are used to clean someone or something that you can save money on anytime!

 

1. Soap. I frequently see people buying bottles of soap. Often times, those little bottles are on sale. You’ll see them for about .99 cents. For example, when I first moved into my apartment, I bought a few different bottles of SoftSoap, 7.5 fluid ounces, for .99 cents a pop. I thought, “Good deal. I like the way they smell and they’re only a buck.” After that, I decided to buy a large bottle of liquid soap so that I could continue to reuse the same soap dispenser. I bought a four liter jug of soap over a year ago and I still have it. The jug of soap was approximately $8, though sometimes they are on sale for even cheaper. For the amount of soap I have in the jug, I would have to buy 18 of the abovementioned bottles, thus pay $18 plus tax for what I was able to get for $8. If you want to avoid all of this then I guess you can just ignore the entire idea of washing your hands. (Note: Joke was inserted at the end of this paragraph.)

 

2. Bleach. Drink up! (Note: Do not do that! Ever!) I bought a 22 fl. oz. bottle of cleaner, All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach, for $1. HomeBasics. I thought, “Good deal.” Then I realized, I can buy a big bottle of bleach for less than $2 and make my own cleaner by diluting the bleach.  Diluting the bleach and reusing the same bottle will save me a ton of money. Besides, bleach is one of the best things to use to clean your bathroom and kitchen. It is so simple yet so effective! Proceed to this link if you want to make your own cleaner: 

http://www.bukisa.com/articles/137906_how-to-make-your-own-bleach-cleaner

 

3. Detergent. Detergent is one of those things that lures you in by playing games with your olfactory system. Commercials make detergents incredibly appealing, attempting to wow you with their results. Can’t you tell that you should buy their products just by the sheer joy that people express upon washing their clothing? Their smiles are intoxicating! Okay, enough of that. The first thing you should do if you’re trying to save money and be as frugal as possible is to forget about those lofty dreams you’ve had where all you can think about is keeping the bright colors alive and well in your clothing! (1) You do NOT need to purchase detergent that runs from $8+ a bottle. (2) You do not need fabric softener, as nice as your clothing feels and as great as it smells. (3) Only buy detergent when it is on sale and stock up. I bought five bottles of Xtra Detergent for $10 almost two years ago and I still have plenty of detergent left. (4) Keep your eyes out for any detergent coupons as well.

 

Hope you enjoyed my blog entry for today. I’ll always take recommendations for what to write about and I have tons of ideas coming your way. Keep these ideas in mind to start saving money today!