Monday, November 14, 2011

Special Focus: Discounts for those 50 and older

If you're 50 - or older than 50 - be sure to take advantage of these awesome discounts! If you're NOT 50 yet, you might want to start taking an older friend or family member with you whenever you visit these businesses!

The lists below are organized by the minimum age you must be to qualify for the discount or deal. Some businesses only offer discounts to AARP members - AARP-only discounts are listed at the bottom of this post. There are also many other age-specific discounts out there that aren't listed here - be sure to ask around! ** Also, please note: Not all of these discounts apply to all locations. Please be sure to ask at an individual store or franchise before assuming that you will receive the discount. **

50 and older: 
Banana Republic - 10% off at many locations
Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Econolodge, Sleep Inn, etc) - 10% discount; additional discounts for those 60 and older
Kmart Pharmacy - Up to 20% off on prescriptions.
Krispy Kreme - 10% off

55 and older: 
Arby's - 10% off
Best Western - at least 10% off
Chili's - 10% off
Dairy Queen - Depending on location, either a free small drink or 10% off
IHOP - 10% off
Jack in the Box - up to 20% off, depending on the order
Popeye's Chicken - free drink or 10% off, depending on location
Ross - 10% off on Tuesdays
Salvation Army Thrift Stores - 15% to 50% off, depending on where you live
TCBY - 10% off

60 and older: 
AMC Movie Theaters - 30% off at most locations
CiCi's Pizza - 10% off a pizza or buffet ticket
Culver's - 10% off
Einstein's Bagels - 10% off on a baker's dozen of bagels
Golden Corral - 10% off
Great Clips - $3 off haircuts
Motel 6 - 10% off at 900 locations
Mrs. Fields Cookies - 10% discount
Radisson Hotels - 10% off
Supercuts - $2 off haircuts

62 and older:
Amtrak - 15% off of adult fare (some exclusions apply)
Burger King - 10% off
Greyhound - 5% off adult fare
Kohl's - 15% off total purchases on Wednesdays
Marriott Hotels - at least 15% off
National Park Service - Pay $10 for a senior pass and use it to get into all parks for free (pass never expires)
White Castle - 10% off (may need to sign up for a discount card)

65 and older: 
Boston Market - 10% discount
Carmike Movie Theaters - 35% off
Hardee's - Get a small drink for $0.33 when you purchase a meal
Taco Bell - 5% off

AARP Members: 
Avis - up to 25% off.
Budget Rent-A-Car and Truck Rental - Up to 20% off.
Denny's - $1 coffee; 20% off total bill between 4 and 10 p.m.
Dunham's Sports - 10% off
Enterprise Rent-A-Car - 5% off car rental.
Hampton Inn - up to 10% off
Hertz Rental Car - up to 25% off
Howard Johnson - up to 20% off
Ramada Inn - up to 20% off
Super8 Motels - up to 20% off
Teleflora - 20% off on flower orders

All of these came from:
AARP's Benefits Pages, like this one
and Gift Card Granny.

Here's to yet another money-saving week for those young and young-at-heart alike, readers!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Couponing: Quick Tricks and Shortcuts

Last February, readers, we looked at how to get started with coupons. Now, let's look at some quick tricks and shortcuts from coupon experts that will take your couponing skills to the next level! 

1. Wait to save. Trent at the Simple Dollar says that the best thing to do with newspaper coupons is to not use them right away. Instead, he recommends saving coupons for four weeks,  and THEN going and buying the products. This is because typically, coupons are released by manufacturers for products, and one month later, those same products go on sale at grocery stores as the second step of their marketing strategies. By saving your coupons for a month, you can cash in on both the coupons and the sale prices, multiplying your savings. 

2. Think twice about subscribing to newspapers to save money. Tamra over at Discount Queens recommends NOT subscribing to a daily paper for coupons. Instead, she suggests shopping for manufacturer's coupons online on sites like ebay instead. It sounds wacky, but it's actually very easy (on ebay, anyway)! From's main web page, just type in "____________ coupons" (filling in the blank with whatever you want to find coupons in.) When your results page shows up, look at the expiration dates on the listings, and choose the coupons with a "Buy Now" option in order to guarantee that they get to you in time for you to use them. This saves money and time, because instead of spending money on a paper that may not have any coupons that you will use - or time looking for them -you know that every cent you spend will go towards saving. 

3. Start a conversation. Stephanie Nelson (aka "The Coupon Mom") says that talking to someone at the customer service desk or a manager at the stores where you regularly shop is a key component to scoring on savings. The best part - She gives you a list of questions to ask here. 

4. Don't fall for the myths. Jill Cataldo,one of the great coupon masters of our time, has a great article here about how the "reality" show "Extreme Couponing" is not an accurate or honest portrayal of real life couponers or deals actually achievable by regular couponing. 

And with that, friends, here's to another money-saving week! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Free Stuff Calendar - November 2011

In all the hubbub of Halloween, friends, don't forget to mark your calendars for all the free stuff November offers!

The first week of November (October 31-November 6): Get a free small coffee at any McDonald's location nationwide.

November 11-13      Fee free weekend for over 100 National Parks. Click here for more information and for a list of participating parks.

November 24th - 6 a.m. on November 25th Free AAA "tipsy tow" in participating states. You do not need to be a AAA member...You just need to have had too much to drink to drive home, and AAA will come and tow your car back to your house for free.

****Special Feature: Free Stuff for Present and Past Members of the U.S. Military ****

November 7-November 11  Free Bloomin' Onion at Outback Steakhouse

November 11: Free meal at Applebee's (choice of 7 entrees)  
                         Free meal at Chili's (choice of 6 entrees)
                         Free doughnut at Krispy Kreme
                         Free doughnut at Tim Horton's
                         Free six-inch sub at most Subway locations
                         Free meal at Texas Roadhouse until 4 p.m.
                         Free car wash at thousands of car washes around the country. Click here for a list of              
                             participating locations.

November 14 (5-9 p.m.):  Free dinner at Golden Corral Restaurants

(Special thanks to The Military Wallet for the list provided here. )

Here's to another cheap month, readers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting in Shape Without Going Broke

Fitness can mean paying for a gym membership, then feeling pressured to buy "cool workout clothes" to wear to this gym, and more! In other words: It can be quite a costly venture! However, it doesn't have to. Here are some tips that can cut down on the cost to cut down your weight!

1. Try using a free online fitness plan like Couch to 5K or Stew Smith's 45-Day Beginner's Plan to plan your daily workouts. Both of these are designed to do at home - which means no gym membership fees, and no worries about looking dorky in your old sweatpants. (Before starting any fitness plan, check with your doctor and all that jazz!)

2. Make your own weights. Fill up empty Gatorade or two-liter soda bottles with water to do strength training workouts. As you increase your strength, you can replace the water with something heavier, like gravel.

3. Don't pay for workout videos. Instead, check out workout DVDs from your local library or stream them online for free on sites like ExerciseTV or 

4. Get support from other folks for free online. Websites like provide message boards, recipe sharing, newsletters, and more.

5. Get a free pedometer. has some great tips about how to do that here!

...Here's to another cheap -- and healthy -- week, friends!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seven Halloween Costumes for $1 or less (and links for lots more cheap ideas!)

The Great Pumpkin will soon arrive, and so will the Halloween party invitations! And the big question is: What will you wear? Well, worry no more, dear readers. After searching high and low, I bring you: Seven Halloween costumes that will cost you $1 or less (and links to a whole lot more cheap ideas!) ...Here we go!

1. Identity Crisis. This suggestion is by Steve and Annette Economides. Dress in all black. Then, buy a pack of adhesive name tags, write a different name on each one, and stick them all over yourself. For nine more cheap ideas from the Economides, check out this article.

You could look as
cool as this Static
Cling Kid this
Halloween! Photo
courtesy of
2. Static Cling. Dress in all one color, and safety pin dryer sheets, socks, and underwear to yourself. If you or a friend has hair gel or hairspray, you can also spike your hair up straight in the air. This is one of the many, many ideas on Robin's FYI Halloween Costume page. Visit the webpage to see 'em all!

3.  A tweet (as in a Twitter tweet). On the front of a white t-shirt, write the words "140 characters" in marker. This is from Glamour Magazine - and they have 20 more low budget costume ideas here. 

4. Chalk Body Outline. Wear all black and outline the sides of your body with white tape! Check out more ideas from Consumerist readers on this page. 

Ceiling fan = Cheap and quick
costume! Photo from
5. Ceiling Fan. Write "Go Ceilings!!!" on a T-shirt. If you have some lying around, add in some football war paint and a pair of pants that sort of match your shirt. For a bunch of other corny and cheap costumes (warning: not all are safe for work!) check out's Quick Costume Page here.

6. Pig in a Blanket. Ok, so it's not the classiest costume on the list, but look, sometimes you just want to be comfortable, and what could be more comfortable than lounging in a blanket or, oh, I don't know, that Snuggie in the back of your closet? Pick up a pig nose in the Halloween aisle at the Dollar Tree, and you're all set to settle back with some candy! Jill at Moolanomy has 24 other ideas to check out here. 

7. Cloud Nine. Throw on a white shirt and white pants and tape a $1 bag of cotton balls all over yourself. Stick on a sign that has the number 9 written on it, and voila! This is from Learnvest, and they've got plenty more ideas on this page. 

Good luck with your costume planning, peeps!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Have a Cold? Frugal Ways to Feel Better

Well, readers, this last week, I was sick, and being sick is always a bummer. But... knowing some cheap(er) tips for helping yourself feel better can... well, help you feel better! 

For those of you who might be fighting the first round of back-to-school cold season, here are some Captain Cheap-endorsed frugal cold busters:

Drink Tea - Or Even Better, Make Your Own
One of the best things I know to do when I'm sick is make up a pan of ginger tea. All you need is an inch or so of fresh ginger root and a saucepan of water. Boil for about 20 minutes; toss out any pieces of ginger that are left behind, and drink. Ginger has been shown to improve your immune system, works as an anti-inflammatory, and can also calm an upset stomach.  I've gotten a piece of ginger root for as little as $.30 before, and it got me through an entire winter!

Whether you're drinking homemade ginger tea or tea made from a box you got at the store, you can add in some honey and lemon juice if you've got a few extra cents to spare. 

DIY Steam Treatment

This is a big favorite of my parents, and it is absolutely free if your water is covered in your rent. Simply close your bathroom windows (if you have any), keep your fan off, turn on your shower to hot, and close the door. Sit in the bathroom for ten or fifteen minutes -- the steam will help relieve sinus pressure almost immediately. 

Another option is to boil a pot of hot water on your stove and put your face above the steam, breathing it in. 

Clear Out Your Sinuses With What's In Your Cupboards

Sometimes when you're sick, all you want is to be able to breathe through your nose for a few precious minutes. You can make this happen yourself by eating spicy or acidic food that is  already in your cupboard - taking a shot of apple cider vinegar, eating a dab of horseradish, or adding sriracha sauce to something you're eating.

Stock Up on Soup in Advance with Coupons and Sales

Sure, the benefits of chicken soup are mostly psychological, but so what? Even if you're tricking yourself into feeling better, you're still feeling better. Besides, when you're sick, the last thing you feel like doing is cooking, and canned soup can be a quick fix. You can get pre-made soup relatively cheaply if you stock up when it's on sale or when you have coupons. Here's the website for Campbell's direct manufacturer's coupons and promotions, and  you can get Progresso coupons by signing up as a member (it's free) on

Invest in a Hanky. 

At only around a dollar or so, a handkerchief is a much cheaper alternative to buying boxes and boxes of Kleenex. They're also better for the planet. Added bonus: Other people might think you're rockin' a retro style by carrying one. 

That's it for now, readers... stay frugal -- and healthy! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scoring Savings: Spotlight on Cereal!

Readers, where do you buy your breakfast cereal? Are you getting the most for your money?  This week, let's take a look at where you could be buying it, because changing your cereal-purchasing location can save you up to $10 per month!

Before we get talking about cold cereals, though, let me say this about breakfast foods: Oatmeal is almost always the cheapest way to go. Not instant oatmeal, but rolled oats, purchased from the bulk foods section or in a big cardboard tub. You can cook these up in the microwave just like instant oatmeal, and then add your own flavorings, like maple syrup or fruit, for cheaper than almost any other breakfast option. Oatmeal is also one of the healthiest foods out there, stocked full of protein and fiber. 

However, not everybody likes oatmeal. So here are some other ways to cut down on your breakfast cereal expenses: 

 See if Trader Joe's carries a version of your favorite cereal. Yes, Trader Joe's is known in some places for carrying expensive food, but it has one of the best deals in cereals around. One of my roommates claims that you can't taste the difference between Joe's Os (TJ's version of Cheerios) and name-brand Cheerios. Your wallet sure can tell the difference, though: A 15 oz. box of Joe's O's is $2.50, and the same size box of Cheerios can run up to $4.50 someplace like Walgreen's.

Try Target. Strange though it may seem -- since Target is not necessarily known as a grocery store -- Target offers mean deals when it comes to name-brand cereals. My favorite cold cereal, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, are $3.36 a box at Target at regular price, but are $5.19 at the grocery store near my house. Target offers other cereals even cheaper - a box of Rice Krispies come in at only $2.75, NOT on sale. 
Look up or down on the
grocery aisle to find
cereal like this, just
waiting to be taken
Look Low! A commercial a few years back encouraged people to squat down in the cereal aisle and look at the bottom shelf to find a good price, and that's still true. This commercial was for Malt-O-Meal, which has been the industry leader in discount breakfast cereal for years, but that's the case with all generic cereals;  they're still often stocked on the bottom or top shelves at grocery stores. No matter where you shop, be sure to look up and down to consider ALL your available choices, and not just the brands the store wants you to buy. 

Of course, coupons and sales can alter the playing field, too, so be sure to shop smart and rack up the savings in as many ways as you can! 

Here's to a week of scooping up some good deals on breakfast, friends! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grocery Budgeting: It's As Easy as $1, $2, $3

Managing a complicated grocery budget can be a pain in the neck, especially when you're busy and on the go. But what I call the $1, $2, $3 method is a really easy way to get a handle on your spending on food.

Ready? Here it is. Spend:

$1 for breakfast,
$2 for lunch, and 
$3 for dinner. 

Now, some of you expert frugalites out there might be thinking: "Six dollars a day?! I can do way better than that!" Yes, you most definitely can. BUT for those who are just starting to budget -- or too busy to cook things from scratch -- the $1, $2, $3 Method is a great starting place. There are several estimates out there that say that it costs $200 per month for food for a single person living alone; this puts you right under that and can help get you in the habit of watching what you spend.

Here are some $1, $2, $3 ideas to get you started:

My favorite cereal, Oatmeal Squares,
sells regular-price at Target for
$3.36 per box, and lasts me
seven days! 
A box of cereal, costing $3.50 per box, could last you a week, which comes out to $.50 per breakfast, plus the cost of milk. 

Oatmeal is even cheaper than cold cereal per bowl - and more nutritious! :) 

A package of saltine crackers can be gotten for around $1.00, and you can pick up a can of tuna for as little as $.65. 
Macaroni and cheese is often $1.00 or less per box, and if you spread it out over two days, you can include hot dogs! 

Who doesn't love a
dinner of chicken
Caesar salad? Especially
when it comes out to
A "bag salad" can be as cheap as $2.50 - and  your remaining $.50 can go towards a package of chicken you can cook and toss into this salad -- as well as eat in three or four other dinners (or salads) throughout the week. 

For the TV dinner fan, you could eat up to three $1.00 Michelina frozen pasta meals for one dinner and with tax, still be pretty close to the $3.00 range. 

Heck, even a 6-inch Veggie Delight sandwich at Subway is $3.00 plus tax! 

The $1, $2, $3 Method is particularly handy when it comes to being tempted to buy pre-made food at a grocery store's deli or visit a drive-thru. Often, these choices are more expensive than $1, $2, or $3. The good news, though, is that isn't hard to meet these limits at all if you're willing to throw something in the microwave yourself!

Want to start budgeting your groceries? Just remember - it's as easy as $1, $2, $3! :)

Here's to another money-saving week, friends!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Birthday Giveaways: Where to Get Free Stuff and Coupons on Your Birthday

Well, readers, this last Saturday was my birthday, and I got a bunch of stuff -- free stuff and coupons, that is!

Want to score some stuff on YOUR birthday? Check these links out:

Arby's - Sign up online for Arby's Extras, and they'll e-mail you a coupon for a free 12 oz. milkshake when you purchase anything on their menu, good for the week before your birthday (it expires on your birthday).

Baskin-Robbins - Sign up for the birthday club online, and they'll e-mail you a coupon good for a free 2.5 oz scoop of ice cream (coupon expires five day after your birthday.)

Biggby Coffee - Register for their e-wards club online, and they'll mail (snail mail) you a postcard coupon for a free 20 oz. beverage of your choice.

Best Buy Reward Zone - If you're a member, you can earn triple or quadruple points when you make a purchase around the time of your birthday.

Chicken of the Sea Tuna - Sign up for the Mermaid Club online, and they'll send you a coupon in the mail (snail mail) for $.25 off a can of tuna on your birthday.

Cold Stone Creamery - Join the My Cold Stone Club online, and they'll e-mail you a buy one-get one free ice cream coupon.

IHOP - Join the "Pancake Revolution" club online, and they'll e-mail you a coupon good for a free Rooty Tooty  Fresh 'N Fruity -- or any other menu item of equal value. Coupon valid up to one week after your birthday.

Also: If you go to Denny's on your actual birthday (they may ask for ID), you can get a free Grand Slam!

What could be a better birthday present than some awesome deals?! Here's wishing you all a very happy, and frugal, week!

A special thanks to friends who gave me the heads up about some of the places featured here. Thank you, all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cut Down Expenses by Cutting Down on Meat

Many folks in today's world know that meat is expensive. But let's take a serious look at just how these prices break down, and then look at small changes you can make to trim down your grocery budget without losing real value -- nutritional value, that is!

According to MSN Money, these are some average prices of popular meats by the pound in the U.S.: 

Cheapest Ground Beef                       $3.00
Boneless Chicken Breasts                   $3.40
Canned Tuna                                      $2.00

Compare this to their price estimates for non-meat protein items: 

Dried Beans and Lentils                      $1.00
Rice (tasty mixed with beans)              $.69
Tofu                                                   $1.80

So, what are we supposed to do with this information? Not everybody wants to become a Super Vegan or something, right? (OK, well, I sure don't.) But here are some ways even meat-eaters can benefit:

  •   Challenge yourself to eat just one dinner per week without meat.  Try black beans and rice (basic recipe here), red beans and rice (basic recipe here), or eliminating meat from a dish you already cook (for instance, making spaghetti without meat, or making tacos with pinto beans instead of ground beef.)
Ham and bean soup, courtesy
of New Gourmet
  • Let meat share protein duties with non-meat. Choose a meat protein and then find a recipe that mixes it  with  a plant-based protein. This will require less meat overall, and will save you some money in total costs. For example, you could make chicken chili or red beans and rice with sausage.
  • Keep in mind that completely "going vegetarian" (depending on what a complete vegetarian diet entails) isn't always a money-saver. Be sure to check prices and to look at different options! 
...Here's to another happy week for your wallet -- and your stomach! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Save Money On Laundry! Some tips from "Everyday Cheapskate" Mary Hunt

Recently, I skimmed through Mary Hunt's book Everyday Cheapskate's Greatest Tips: 500 Simple Strategies for Smart Living. The whole book is full of great advice, but here are some laundry-related tips from the book that you can use:

* Wash your clothes inside out. Your clothes get just as clean, but it reduces the wear on them and will help them last longer.

Suave shampoo, often only
$.88 or $1, makes a cheap
pre-wash for laundry.
* Use cheap shampoo as a pre-wash before throwing your laundry in the washing machine.

* If you spill something on your shirt, don't worry about having a name-brand stain remover stick handy. Instead, use a bit of hand sanitizer (available in three packs at the dollar store!)

* If you use fabric softener sheets, cut them each into four strips: You only need one strip to do the job, and the box will last four times as long!

For more helpful hints, be sure to check out Mary Hunt's book! Here's to another happy week for your wallet, peeps!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Free Museum List

Hankering for something fun, free, and maybe educational to do? Well, never fear! I've scouted around, and.... it looks like all of these museums are free!* (*according to the Internet. Please, please double check with museums near you!) Here's a list for several U.S. cities - Let me know of others that can be added!

Ann Arbor:

University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History (suggested $6 donation)
University of Michigan Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry

Atlanta Metro:
The King Center
Fernbank Science Center
Autrey Mill Heritage Center

Museum of African-American History 
Boston Fire Museum

The Museum of Contemporary
Photography - Admission: $0!
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art                             

Museum of Contemporary Photography
National Museum of Mexican Art

National Geographic Museum
National Building Museum
The Smithsonian Museums

Visit the California African
American Museum for free!
Los Angeles Metro: 
California African American Museum
California Science Center
Santa Monica Museum of Art

Miami's Holocaust Memorial
Bakehouse Art Complex

New York: 
National Museum of the American Indian
Fashion Institute of Technology Museum
Socrates Sculpture Park

Phoenix Metro:
The Riparian Institute (Gilbert)

Portland, Oregon (and around the area)
Kidd's Toy Museum
Portland Police Museum
Wells Fargo History Museum

San Francisco and the Bay Area: 
Learn all about the trolleys of San
Francisco for absolutely nothing!
San Francisco Cable Car Museum                                           
Chinese Culture Center
San Francisco Fire Department Museum

Seattle and Northwest Washington State: 
Frye Art Museum
Olympic Sculpture Park
Whatcom Museum (Bellingham)

Special thanks to National Geographic Travel, twice!, thrice!, four!   no really it's a great resource, for real it, Hidden Portland, Discover Los Angeles,, Lonely Planet, and

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Frugal Fashion Feature

You may be wondering: Captain Cheap, how do you get, and stay, so stylish? 

But wonder no longer, because the answer is: On the cheap! Or, even better, for free!

This is my favorite T-shirt. The front of the shirt features the logo of my local library, and the back has the library's website on it. How much did I pay for this shirt? $0! 
I actually "earned" this shirt by participating in my library's adult summer reading program. You could score a certain amount of points for checking out materials and going to library events, and then cash them in for prizes. I cashed in mine for this awesome shirt! 

Last year, I got a free sweatshirt for opening a checking account. Last week, my summer job just passed out t-shirts to folks to reward us for working the summer. 
I like these free shirts because, first of all, they're free. But secondly,  because when I wear them, people can see that I belong to a community. People can see that I'm a proud library patron, or that I worked with an academic support program over the summer. Pretend vintage shirts that they mass-market (and that cost money) only say: Look, here's a shirt I spent money on. Which is not nearly so cool. 

So how can you get ahold of free shirts, hats, and other fashionable gear? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for other readers who wrote in with their advice!: 

Free "parrothead" hats
passed out at a Detroit
Tigers baseball game. 
* Drew, a Captain Cheap reader, recommends volunteering. He got some free shirts from helping out a concession stand at a local high school. (Captain Cheap hint: Volunteering also often involves free food, too!) 

* Jen, another reader, reminds us that there are often free hats and shirts to be had with the price of a ticket to sporting events. If you're thinking about going to a football, baseball, hockey, basketball, or any other sporting game, check to see what nights are giveaway nights, and get more for your money!

...Here's to another frugal, and fashionable, week, friends!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quick Tips on Saving $ on Your Electric Bill

ATTENTION READERS!!!! Next week will be a Special Frugal Fashion Feature!! Send in pictures of clothes (shirts, hats, etc) that you've gotten for FREE and a story about how you got each of them (Did you win them? Were they giveaways? From where?), so that YOU can be included in the Frugal Fashion Feature!! Send them to:! 

Saving Money on Your Electric Bill

Are you responsible for paying for utilities at your place? (As in, electricity's not covered by your lease?) What a bummer! Fear not, though! Some of these tips can help you shave down the costs!

Could books help keep you warm
this winter? 
* A certain member of my family has claimed that lining his walls with bookshelves (filled with books, of course!) helped to insulate his house and cut down on heating bills. Could it work for you?

* Erin, a Captain Cheap reader, suggests filling 2 liter bottles with water and placing them in your freezer. They will help keep your freezer hold its cool temperatures, so that it will require less energy, and save you up to $3.00 per month!
A full fridge is a happy
electric bill! Photo
courtesy of TimJFowler

* According to Oh My Apartment, filling up your fridge with food - or bottles of water - does the same thing. A full fridge, rather than an empty fridge, means that less cold air is lost when you open the door.

* Have a dishwasher? Why not open the door and let your dishes air dry instead of using energy to have the dishwasher do it?

....Here's to another cheap week, folks! Looking forward to hearing from you AND your frugal fashion!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A List of Stores That Pay You for Bringing Your Own Bags

Please note, y'all: These prices were gleaned from stores in my local area (Southeastern Michigan) and Internet research. Be sure to ask your local stores what their bag policies are -- These may not be accurate for your regional stores.

Stores that charge you for using their bags (bring your own and you don't have to pay this amount):

IKEA - $.59/bag

Stores that give you a discount, store credit, or something else for bringing in your own bags:

Fred Meyer's - $.05/bag

Fry's - $.05/bag

Kroger - $.03/bag

Safeway - $.03/bag

Sunflower Markets (in the Southwest) - $.10 for every bag of theirs that you bring back and reuse

Target - $.05 / bag

Trader Joe's - Holds a monthly drawing for those who bring in their own bags for a gift certificate.

Whole Foods - $.05/bag for you or as a donation to charity

Special thanks to Frugal Hacks for help with research:

Here's to a week of more money in your pocket, and less money lost on bags, peeps!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Four Money-Saving Myths: Busted

1. Everything's Cheaper at the Dollar Store.

I'm a big fan of the dollar store. (Holla to the Dolla Tree!) But sometimes, it's actually much cheaper to get things elsewhere. For example, the dollar store near my house sells Powerade for $1.00 a bottle. I can get the same bottle at the grocery store across the street for $0.69 a bottle on sale, and anywhere from $0.79 to $0.89 at Kroger regular-priced.

2. Making Your Own Everything Will Cost Less Than Buying Stuff Pre-Made. 

DIY is great, and sometimes does save you money. But be careful before jumping in to buy materials for projects: Sometimes it really IS cheaper to buy stuff pre-made, especially when it comes to clothes, notebooks, and growing/canning your own food. Take a few minutes to do the math and figure out the price difference before committing to making something from scratch if saving money is your goal.

3. Buying in Bulk is Always a Money Saver. 

Per ounce, buying things in bulk generally does result in savings. However, buying in bulk also usually requires paying more total. Let's take a look at this example:

Medium Bag of Rice - Total: $2.99 (price per ounce: $.20)
Huge Bag of Rice - Total: $5.99 (price per ounce: $.14)

As you can see, buying the huge bag of rice does save you money per ounce, but requires more cash up front. This is OK if it's a product you eat a lot of, but use caution. A second problem with buying in bulk is that certain foods can go bad quickly, and if you don't manage to eat all ten pounds of those bananas you bought in time, you will end up actually throwing away your money.

4. The People on those Extreme Couponers Shows Are Saving More Money Than Anybody Else!

Yep, people who massively stock up on coupons can save hundreds of dollars in a single shopping trip. BUT keep in mind that many families featured as "Extreme Couponers" have a family member who does not work, and spends all their time rounding up newspapers and organizing their thousands of coupons. Now, having that person home all the time may save the family money in other ways, like in childcare costs. For those of us without kids, though, (single or otherwise) I can guarantee you that working even twenty hours per week will put more money in your pocket than sitting at home cutting coupons all day ever will.

... Wishes for another frugal week, friends!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Want to save money? Join the club! -- Or e-mail list, or membership team...

This last week, I embarked on a mission - to sign up for company-run fan clubs and e-mail lists. My goal: to get coupons and free stuff. So far, it's paying off! Maybe you'd like to join some of these, too. Just click on the name and it will link you to their sign-up website:

Cold Stone Creamery - I got a buy one-get-one ice cream coupon just for signing up.

The Mermaid Club - Official fan club of Chicken of the Sea tuna. Their website promises a surprise gift on your birthday! (A can or a pouch? In oil or water? I can't wait to find out!)

Wendy's - $1 off coupon gets sent immediately to your e-mail as soon as you sign up.

The Blizzard Fan Club - Dairy Queen blizzards, that is! A buy-one blizzard - get-one-free coupon will be e-mailed to you as soon as you register.

Arby's Extras Club - As soon as you sign up, you get a coupon for a free roast beef sandwich with a purchase of a beverage.

Walgreen's E-Mail Offers - Digital coupons e-mailed directly to you every week.

Biggby Coffee (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin, Alabama only) - A coupon/deal sent to you every week, and the promise of a "special treat" on your birthday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cheap Ways to Cool Off This Summer

1. Put Your Pillowcase in the Freezer. 

When you wake up in the morning, throw your pillowcase into a plastic grocery bag and toss it in the freezer. When you're ready for bed, pull it out and toss your pillow back inside. Voila! An instant chill-out.

2. Use Free Air Conditioning. 

This is an old trick of my family's. When it gets really hot, while away the hours in an air-conditioned public place. The public library or the mall (especially the food court area in a mall, where you can actually get away with things like reading a book) are free to everybody. Remember, too, that grocery stores have frozen food aisles...When it's really, really hot, who's to stop you from sticking your head in there for just a minute or two?

3. Use Your Freezer for Food, Too. 

There are lots of foods we don't normally freeze that CAN be frozen and that make "cool" summer treats! Granola bars, for instance, can be quite tasty frozen. Bananas can be peeled and thrown into Ziploc bags (optionally dipped in chocolate) and eaten hours later as a nutritious (or not so much) popsicle. I've never tried it myself, but I've also heard rave reviews about frozen grapes.

Gather your gear and you'll
be all set for a swim in
the bathtub! 
4. Go Swimming in the Bathtub.

You don't have a swimming pool? No problem. My pal Wendi introduced me to a solution for this many years ago: going swimming in your own bathtub. Simply put on your swimming clothes - trunks, swimsuit, flippers, whatever you've got - fill up your bathtub, and hop in! Yes, it's not quite like doing laps at the Olympics, but it won't cost you an airplane ticket, either, and can help bring down your core body temperature to something more bearable.

Whatever you do to stay cool as the temperatures rise, friends, remember to play it cool, too -- saving money never goes out of style!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dumpster Diving 101

The coupon section of the Sunday paper might be a highlight of a cheapster's week, but even it can pale in comparison to a real money saver's haven: a dumpster. I was lucky enough in my younger days to be taught how to dumpster dive by a true master, a guy named Tim who lived out of his van.

Because of the stories I tell from those bygone times, I've had several reader requests to pass on some of the wisdom from these headlamp-wearing, backseat-of-a-car-filling days (and nights). And so I bring you, dear readers, some tips for those of you thinking about trying it out.

  • First, understand that dumpster diving is illegal in some places and almost everywhere else is highly discouraged. Dumpster dive at your own risk. 
  • Don't dig through a dumpster on impulse. Plan it out. Seek out store dumpsters that are not physically hard to access, that aren't connected to an alarm system or filmed by a security camera, and where you won't be visible to a large number of people while you're doing your digging. 
  • Get insider information about stores and their dumpsters whenever possible. Most grocery stores empty shelves on a schedule. Find out what day of the week stuff is thrown out, and plan to go as soon as possible after this happens. That way, you'll have the best selection. 
  • Bring the right equipment. Gloves are pretty much essential; headlamps and flashlights are helpful, and if you're putting your findings in the back of a car, putting down a tarp can be a good idea. Also, wear long pants, rather than shorts, and closed-toed shoes. 
  • If you've never dug around in a dumpster before, start out with something easy, like one outside of a university dorm or one outside of a thrift store. Build up to grocery store dumpstering. I say this because grocery store dumpsters are messier than other dumpsters (this is what happens when a dumpster includes a lot of produce!) and it's often easier to dig around in dumpsters that include things like furniture and clothes. 
  • Don't forget to have fun! :)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Free and Cheap Stuff Calendar - July 2011

July 4th - Free admission for active, retired, and "honorably discharged" military service folks to several amusement parks, such as Six Flags America (in Maryland) and Cedar Point (near Toledo, OH.) If you've served in the military, check the websites of your local amusement parks to see if you can spend today there for free.

July 4th - Free "Tipsy Tow" from AAA in most U.S. locations. If you've celebrated a little too much at a 4th of July party and aren't able to drive yourself home safely, call 1-800-222-4537 and ask for a "tipsy tow."  An AAA tow truck will come and pick you up and tow your car back to your house. You do NOT need to be a AAA member to use this service! Good until 6 a.m. on July 5th.

July 8th - Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A. Any customer who comes in fully dressed as a cow to ANY chick-fil-a location gets a free chicken combo meal! Those with "cow accessories" can be eligible for a free entree item. More info here:
July 11th - Free Slurpee Day at 7-11! At all participating locations.  Get it? Because the date is 7/11! More info on the Facebook page here:

July 30 - National Cheesecake Day at the Cheesecake Factory... Get cheesecake for half off if you buy and eat it inside the restaurant.

...Here's to a fun and free (or at least cheap!) July, friends!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Quickest Way to Save Money

....For all the cheap living strategies out there, there is one sure way to save money, and that is..... actually saving money! Of course, saving is sometimes one of the hardest things to do.  But here are some quick strategies that just might help!

*  See if your employer or bank offers a direct savings option. That means that part of your paycheck will automatically be taken out and put into savings every month - and since you'll never see the money, you'll never miss it! (Well, that's the theory, anyway. :) )

*  Consider opening a savings account at a different bank than your checking account or open one that isn't connected to your checking account. That way, you won't easily be able to draw money out of your savings and instantly into your checking account - and that will help you from spending it immediately.

* If you're someone who keeps track of their expenses, "round up" in your check register. If you spend, say, $43.34 at the grocery store, don't write "43.34" down. Instead, "round up" - write down $44. When your bank statement comes, voila! You will have a bonus amount of money in your checking account.

* Never spend coins. Put all the coins you ever get back after you buy something into a container at home.

...Good luck with your saving endeavors, readers -- and tune in next week for some exciting news about free stuff coming up in July! (P.S. It involves cows and chickens!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Free Trial Roundup: Stuff You Can Try Out For Absolutely Nothing!

Many companies & services offer free trials for people who haven't used their stuff before. Sure, you only get to use it for a few days for free - but still - that could be a few days of awesome. Here's the skinny on some you might want to take advantage of (and I know you peeps are all smart enough to read the fine print before signing up for anything...but just in case you need a reminder...don't forget to read the fine print about needing to cancel a subscription!)

Movies & TV: 

Netflix - Offers a 30-day free trial of movies (online streaming and by mail) for new users. Info about this offer is on the right side of their main webpage here.

Hulu Plus - Access to streaming episodes of most TV shows (all the ones you can't get on free Hulu) plus movies. Free 30-day trial for college students; free 7 day trial for everyone else. Click here to sign up with your e-mail address.

Crunchyroll - Offers a 14-day free trial of access to 250,000 minutes of Anime and Japanese, Korean, and Chinese drama tv shows as they air. Click here for more about the free trial.


Napster - 7-day free trial of access to the ten million music tracks in their library for new users. Click here to get more info about your options for free trials.

Rhapsody - 14-day trial of access to THEIR library of ten million songs - available to new users. Click here to learn more about the offer.


Gamefly - Free 10-day trial of video game renting (like Netflix, but for games) for new members. Click here and check the free trial option to sign up.

World of Warcraft - Free 10-day trial for new players. Info on the WoW main webpage here. 


24 Hour Fitness - Free 7-day trial pass for their fitness centers nationwide here.

Bally's Total Fitness - Free 7-day trial gym membership.  Click here to see if there's a Bally's near you.

Curves - Free 7-day "guest pass" for women interested in a women's only fitness center. Information on their main page here. 

Gold's Gym - 7-day pass for free. Find a location close to you here. 

Lady of America Club - Free 7-day trial for women who are interested in a women's-only fitness club. Check out this webpage for locations near you.

Here's to another money-saving week, friends!