Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Does Anyone REALLY Win Those Things?

Since reading every line of a store receipt to determine savings and value is one of my fav things to do, I often note the online survey at the end of many, many retail receipts these days. Some claim prizes of gifts cards, some claim prizes of cash, and all of the prizes are BIG (in my humble opinion).

I have never participated in one of these surveys. So inquiring minds want to know...

Have you ever participated in a survey at the end of a retail receipt?


Have you ever one the prize they claim they give away to one lucky participant?

Do tell!

I Saved Over $51 Today - And You Can Too!

LL Bean - Free Shipping Code!

Tis the season for Internet shopping at our house. I totally understand that it costs $ to get my goodies to me, but I try really, really hard to exhaust all options for finding a free shipping code whenever I shop online. "Really, really hard", btw, is a general Internet search - sooo simple. I guess Amazon has spoiled me with their free shipping over $25.

Anywho, LL Bean has a shipping code that has worked for me twice in the last 2-3 weeks, so I'm going to share it with you now so you can save a few bucks too. Enter promo code: 3012422 and you too should enjoy free shipping (until 1/1/2010).

Enjoy! :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Save Money in Chicago

I posted previously about my discovery about a year ago that I could save a lot of money if I stayed a few blocks off of N. Michigan Avenue vs. right on the Miracle Mile. So here I am at my fav hotel called The Ambassador East, and it's a holiday and my room is $119/night. There is a faux fireplace in here (pretty!) and a huge bathroom - I'm loving it!

Update: I wrote the above paragraph last night. After I wrote, the wheels were turning and I came up with a new idea: we got all of our downtown site seeing wrapped up yesterday so we packed up and headed about 30 miles west of the city to the suburb of Hoffman Estates. Really, it doesn't matter what suburb we landed in. The point of the exercise was to find a hotel that offered a 2 room suite, pool, hot tub, free breakfast and free internet. A few clicks and I found a Hampton Inn and Suites for $79. We have saved 50% on the original plan for today (no charge for parking, no charge for a pool pass at the athletic club, no charge for internet and no charge for breakfast tomorrow) - off to the pool!

I'm Baaaaaaack!

It's time to resurrect the Money Saving Mama. I was grocery shopping at Target the other day and used $8.25 in coupons - nice! If I would have been better organized (ha!) I could have shopped at the grocery store in town that will double up to five coupons on Wednesdays - that would have brought my savings up over $13 bucks - that's no joke!

So The Money Saving Mama is back on the scene...get ready to save!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shipping Costs

I'm the first to say that I think the costs to ship anything is downright mind boggling, in terms of how cheap it is! That we in America can mail most any standard card or letter to anywhere in the country for 41 cents and it takes 1-4 days is absolutely amazing.

What irked me very recently was a promo I got from an internet based company that designs marketing materials and offers tons and tons of their products for free. Once in a blue moon I feel like wasting time and I create and pretend to order everything I can get for free. Yesterday I racked up $50 worth of freebies...mailing labels, note pads, checks, business cards... Then I checked the shipping...$17 and it would arrive mid to late February. My point: these items are not free. Actual shipping will run about 5 bucks, so the other $12 is really what I'm paying for my stuff. 75% off is not too shabby, but it's not free, as advertised.

Always be on the lookout when taking advantage of deals...there is often something that will even everything out...for the merchant!

Free Cookie Recipe

As you can imagine, I think store bought cookies are a total ripoff! Bakery are usually ok, but homemade are best!

I took a recipe I found and then modified it with ingrediants I had in the house and used healthier (verrrry loose term in this case) ingrediants when possible. They turned out awesome (seriously) so I'm going to share my recipe now...

Peanut Butter Cookies - By The Money Saving Mama

1 stick butter
1 egg
1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Dash of salt
Dash of baking soda
Dash of baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in microwave. Stir in sugar and brown sugar. Then stir in peanut butter. Then stir in egg. Then stir in remaining ingredients. Roll into little balls and place on a non greased cookie pan. Take a fork and press down on the cookie ball twice, making a grid. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from pan onto a cooling rack or in my cheapo case, a sheet of wax paper.

Put a couple on a plate and hide the rest or I guarantee you will eat them...


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Check Your Services!

I wrote about this last year...call all of your service providers a couple of times a year to make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck. I know the cable company's number by heart, because they seem to be the biggest offender in this department. You can literally call the cable company every 6 months and find ways to tweak your bill...

But this gleeful post has nothing to do with cable...I've uncovered a consumer's goldmine with our phone provider. Since I last called, they offer unlimited long distance! Yesterday I had 250 minutes per month. Today I have unlimited minutes. And the best part...I'm paying less.

Oh, yeah!


The title of this blog entry gets caps and two question marks because this one will just blow your mind...

We have to refinance our house. We have a balloon mortgage and at the end of a balloon mortgage you have to pay it off...so a refinance is usually the answer. I'm not thrilled about paying closing costs again, but we've had a rate of 4.625 for 5 years, so I'm not complaining!

We have enough equity in out house to not escrow for real estate taxes. This means we'll save our own money all year and pay the taxes ourselves. The alternative is we would pay 1/12 of our taxes every month to the bank, and they would send us our money back at the end of the year to pay the taxes.

The paperwork arrived to get the refinance started and the banker marked that we would escrow for taxes. I emailed the banker and advised we weren't going to escrow. She let me know that would be fine, but there would be a fee of .25% of the loan amount due from us at closing to do this.


I've yet to receive a clear explanation as to how this is legal or ethical, but I've done checking all over the place, and this is indeed what banks are requiring when a borrower chooses not to escrow these days. I know why they are doing it...there's good money in babysitting all of our money all year, and if consumers don't let banks babysit their money, they lose.

.25%, for us, would be over $600. Now why on earth would anyone do that?

I'm dumbfounded and I'm angry about this. We work hard to maintain perfect credit, and we have more than enough equity in our house to make it worth the bank's risk to let us save for our own tax bill. If we don't pay our taxes, and the bank took our house, they would win, big time.

Hopefully I'll read about more people encountering this scam and being equally outraged. Not that misery loves company, but maybe someone else can figure out what the heck to do to put a stop to this nonsense!


Oftentimes, I just don't get it. This year, we've made up our mind at our house to lose some weight. We're eating a lot better (which isn't cheap, I might add!). But, we're not perfect here, and like to still dabble in Subway sandwiches now and again. We stick to the "Jared Menu"...look what those sandwiches did for him! Anyway, here is how it goes:

"Hi, I would like two 6" turkey and ham sandwiches on wheat..."

You really don't care about this part, so I'll fast forward...

"I would like one bag of baked chips and a small fountain soda."

"Would you like the meal deal, which is a bigger soda?"

"No, I'll stick with the smaller soda, thanks."

"Ok, but it's cheaper to get the bigger soda, just so you know."


Tough as it is for this thrifty gal, I stick to my guns and pay more, and get less...

Maybe someday I'll fit in the size 8 jeans again and it will all be worth it...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cost Vs. Value

I have spent the better part of my working years in the real estate industry. Cost vs. value is a hot topic because people sink a lot of money into real estate, and hope to get every penny back (and more!) when they sell. Some times they do, and sometimes...

Enough with the brainy lecture! I am an avid knitter. I didn't say I am a terrific knitter, I say avid because I knit a lot. Anyway, I like creating small things that knit up fast because a project can get boring if it takes too long (my husband wonders why his wool sweater is nothing more than a front, back and a sleeve for so many months...). Recently I took on the challenge of learning to knit socks. They are small so they must be easy and quick, right? And they cost about a buck in the mega pack at Target, so they must be cheap to make, right? Nope, nope, and nope! For a beginner like me, a pair of socks will take about a week and 10 bucks of yarn to make.

This is where we get to the value part. My handmade socks are soooooooooo comfy. They are worth every penny and every hour I spent swearing over them.

Hand made items are usually no bargain to make, but the value is unspeakable, and worth the splurge!

See, I do spend some of my saved dollars sometimes!

Saving Money Takes A Lot Of Work!

I'm a little worried that I am losing my money saving mama fire. More than once this week I've weighed out the value of my time when deciding if a money saving avenue is worth pursuing...I never dreamed I would become this person! But alas, I eventually come back to my saving sense (or maybe it's my cheap-o mentality!) and get back to work saving money here, there and everywhere...

I think the reason that I have questioned this hobby of mine lately is because I've realized that it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to police any and all accounts that we have. Add to it the "fun" stuff we sometimes pursue...like joining a gym...and saving money for your family could easily be a full time job. Here are my latest encounters:

I mention joining a gym. I have been dreading going through the process for months. My gym membership expired today and it's a better bargain for me to join the gym next door. In a nutshell, I can't stand the paperwork...voiding and parting w/ a perfectly good check to set up draft payment, posing for a pic for your new card (and the machine always seems to be broken when you are there to use it...).

The gym I joined this time around had a start up fee. Generally I would not even consider a gym with a start up fee, but I did my homework and found out that my husband's employer has a perk that the fee is waived if you produce a letter from their company to the gym. So, about 2 months ago I had my husband get me the letter. He sent me the link to his HR dept. I explained those are password protected sort of things and I can't waltz in and grab what I need (duh).

Then he was told by HR that the form had been faxed to the gym. Then the gym informed me that's not the process and no letter was faxed. At this point I thought: is this worth 50 bucks? My husband has spent a ton of his time and the HR Dept's time working on this. My time is worth something...and all together it's probably time to pay the 50 bucks, get my pic taken, and hop on a treadmill! When I get like this I put it to myself this way: 50 bucks is several small trips to the grocery store...which you will for sure take. 50 bucks is 15 lattes at Starbucks...and you will for sure consume those before Christmas. 50 bucks is a tank of gas... The list goes on, and my budget is constant...so I can use the 50 dollar savings!

Here is the kicker...I sat at the gym yesterday and went through all of the sign up hoo ha. At the end the nice man said: that will be $110...your first month plus our start up fee. I almost cried. But that would have been extreme, so I reminded him of the 8x10 sheet of gold I had worked so hard to obtain and handed to him 15 minutes earlier...and gone was the 50 bucks...

On to my latest encounter...got a statement in today's mail for a line of credit we have open. Zero balance, but somehow $100 is due. I called, sat on hold, tricked the system into putting me to a human (pressed lots of zeros), got disconnected when the human put me on hold, and called back to find the $100 due was an error and they removed it on the spot. 100 bucks. One phone call...well two if you count calling back. How many account holders will pay the computer's malfunctions this month? I'm probably naive when I predict thousands...unreal. Watch your statements, zero balance accounts or otherwise, like a hawk!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Affordable Trips To The Grocery Store

I really wish I could recall where I read an article about a lady who, as part of her research to determine if she could quit her job and stay home with the kids, offered the following tip to cut grocery bills: In addition to clipping coupons, use the sale ad that comes weekly in the mail to plan menus. This is the part I was missing...I was clipping coupons like mad, and then spending a fortune on, say, meat. If you think about it, there is always meat on sale. Today it was ground beef and chicken...as well as a host of frozen chicken and fish.

So, I made my grocery list using the sale ad, I clipped coupons, and off I went this morning. This is no joke...my total was $86. Then I ran my grocery store savings card through and the total reduced to $76. And then I ran the coupons and the total was...$65. I saved 20 bucks just like that. I don't feel I skimped a bit...I bought fresh fruit, I bought organic veggies, I bought meat, I bought 2 loaves of bread, I bought two gallons of milk...my cart was full!

Try it...you will not believe how easy it is to save money at the grocery store!