Monday, April 25, 2011

The Scoop on Social Buying Sites: Groupon, Social Living, and Some Sites You've Never Heard Of

A way to save money that's been growing in popularity are social buying websites.

What are social buying sites? Basically, they work like this. You sign up with the website to get email notices about local buy-in deals for restaurants/entertainment places/services/what have you. Often, the deals are daily or weekly. So, the deal one day might be something along the lines of: "Pay $25 for a $50 gift card to Bob's Cafe downtown!" It's a buy-in deal because you have to "buy in" to get it - you pay the $25 online through the social buying site. It's call "social buying" because in order for the deal to go through, a certain number of people have to "buy in." This is how local businesses are willing to be a part of these sites - because through "buy-ins," they're guaranteed a certain number of customers. The amount of discounts range generally from 40% to 80% off. Some of the sites also offer additional discounts - like money for signing up or referring friends. 

Disclaimer: I generally don't post about things unless I've personally used them, but while I'm registered with a few of these sites, I have not "bought in" to any of the deals (yet). But. Several of my friends DO regularly use sites like these, and they've gotten some really awesome discounts. Click the names of the sites below to visit them!

The major "buy in" sites are:
Here are some others you might want to check out: 

BuyWithMe - This is focused on about 15 major U.S. cities, including Seattle, Chicago, and Boston. 
CBS Local - Major metro areas represented, including Detroit (woo woo!)
Dealster - Offers deals for a huge amount of major and more minor metro areas, including Yakima, WA, and Lansing, MI.
KGB Deals - Includes a nationwide option, as well as more localized deals for specific cities
PriceBunch - Deals for major cities and also a few smaller-ish cities, like Charlotte and Fresno. 
Tippr - The regular line-up of major metropolitan areas, as well as Honolulu and Columbus, Ohio.
Trubates - Allows you to search by your specific town - rather than by metropolitan area. 
Yipit - Deals for U.S. cities as well as some Canadian cities for you readers from the Great White North!
Zozi - Includes activity-based deals for several U.S. and Canadian cities
There are also city-specific websites, such as WeDeal (Chicago), BogoTown (Indianapolis), and Get Sugar (Boston). 

There are several more that are up and coming, too! 
In order to not get overwhelmed by all these sites, you might want to check out Daily Dibs, which shows you current deals for your city from Groupon, TravelZoo, KGBDeals, and Living Social all together. 
If you use Google Chrome, the Groolu app does something similar, grouping together "buy in" deals from Groupon, Tippr, Zozi, Dealster, and Living Social for you for your specific area. 

Happy deal-shopping, readers!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cheapster Feature: Libraries

This last week was National Library Week, and in honor of that, this post is dedicated to those paradises for frugal people - libraries. A lot of people don't make use of libraries at all, which is pretty sad for their wallets, but even those of us who do probably aren't getting the most out of our library experience. Here's Captain Cheap's advice to maximizing the (cheap and awesome) benefits of libraries.

* First, get as many library cards as you can for free. Most people think they're only eligible for a card at one library only. They might be true, but it's worth checking into. Ask your local community college and universities if they offer free community cards. Also, you might be eligible for library cards for other cities if you work or volunteer there. I just learned, for instance, that I'm eligible for a library card for the next town over because I volunteer for a nonprofit in their city limits that has a partnership with the library for all its volunteers.
        >>For the record, I currently hold four valid library cards, and this one will be my fifth. While I know that's a little extreme, heck, the more the merrier, right?

* Second, don't not go to libraries just because you're not a big book reader. There are a ton of other things to be had at libraries that will save you money, like:
      - DVDs that you can check out,
      - CDs that you can check out,
      - Audio books you can check out,
      - Bulletin boards that advertise local (often free/cheap) events,
      - Copies of local publications that might have coupons for nearby restaurants, services, etc
  Some public libraries also have video games, board games, and puzzles for checkout.

* Third, see what events your library offers. These are often free, and great ways to meet new people. Keep an eye out for:
         - Book clubs
         - Readings by local authors
         - Classes around technology/books
         - Movie showings
         - Used book sales

* Fourth, if your local library branch doesn't have a book you want when you go to visit, don't be afraid to request it from another branch or through interlibrary loan or to put it on hold. You're very rarely limited to what's on the shelves. Also, many libraries are starting to offer e-books for checkout, so ask your local librarian about that.

* Fifth, and I'm horrible about this, but avoid late fees by remembering to renew your stuff... most libraries let you do this online OR over the phone.

* Finally, I would suggest making one day every week or two a library day, like say, Saturday mornings or a day during the week when you pass by on your way to work/school. If nothing else, just go in and see what's new! You might be surprised at how much money your library could save you when you add up the savings from movie rentals, book purchases, and fun things to do on the cheap!

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Parks & Ice Cream: FREE

That's right, money-saving friends. Two awesome free things are right around the corner.

National Park Week starts April 16th and goes through April 24th, 2011. During these seven days, admission to over 100 National Parks will be free.

For a list of National Parks participating, visit !

For more information about National Park Week, visit !

Also, tomorrow, April 12th, is free ice cream cone day at Ben and Jerry's ice cream shops across the country. For more information (and to find a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop near you), visit:
Happy trails, cheapsters!

A special shoutout goes to for the heads up about the free ice cream!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quiz: What Kind of Money Saver Are You?!

That's right, readers, a quiz written just for you from me! Keep track of your answers as you go! (It's only five questions.) Ready?

1. The library is:
A. A place you don’t need to visit – you have a lot of books at your own house you haven’t read yet
B. A place you rarely visit
C. A place you go to get collage materials and to hit up used book sales
D. A place you go to read community bulletin boards and/or to get free newspapers that might have coupons or specials
E. A place you have mixed feelings about because of the potential of accruing late fines
F. A place you go to get music or movies for parties and/or books for book clubs you’re in

2. Something coming up in your life requires you to acquire a pair of black pants, which you don’t currently own. How do you go about getting a pair?
A. What do you mean I don’t own a pair? I bought five pairs of black pants on sale ten years ago for such a situation!
B. Think about shopping around, but really just run into the nearest store and grab a pair
C. Thrift store and/or garage sale
D. Check your e-mail for digital flyers about sales at stores whose email lists you’re on, and/or hit up the clearance racks at a store
E. Wear brown pants.
F. Borrow a friend’s.

3. The most radical thing you’ve ever done to save money is:
A. Bought more than 20 of the same item at one time because it was on sale
B. Shopped on Black Friday
C. Dumpster dived for food
D. Stolen someone’s Sunday paper from their porch for the coupons
E. Stopped showering
F. Lived in a communal house “off the grid”

4. If asked, you could most easily explain:
A. The different sizes and types of Ziplock bags
B. Recent changes in gas prices
C. Ten uses for an old shirt
D. What “doubling” and “stacking” coupons means
E. The cost per hour of running your oven or dryer
F. Who brought what to the last potluck you went to

5.  Your house/apartment is mostly decorated with:
A. It alternates. You have a lot of things, so you switch it up a lot, like on a rotation, and keep the rest in the closet/a drawer/under your bed.
B. Things you bought because they match your decor
C. Things printed from the Internet or from garage sales
D. Discounted posters and prints
E. Nothing – I don’t want to put anything up because tape or tacks might reduce the mount of money I get back on my security deposit
F. Art from friends

Now, add up how many of each letter you got, and...

If you got mostly As, you are: The Stocker-Upper
You save money by spending money – by buying things in bulk and stocking up.  By looking at the big picture, you can save a lot of money in the long run. Being this type of money saver has one big risk, though, and that is your house turning into a warehouse.

If you got mostly Bs, you are: The Theoretical Money-Saver
Your heart loves saving money (hey, here you are reading a blog about it), but your everyday life hasn’t quite gotten into the swing of things yet.  Start out by signing up for free rewards cards at the grocery store (use your phone number or e-mail address so you don’t have to remember to bring your card every time.) Also, visit your local library to see what DVDs they offer. It might help cut down on your movie rental expenses. Then, move into incorporating one money-saving thing every month. You'll be surprised at how quickly you add up the savings!

If you got mostly Cs, you are: The Salvager
You save money by simply not spending it. Reuse, reduce, and rejoicing at the money still in your wallet is your approach. You know how to put objects to multiple uses and are a DIY master. You'll probably be happiest living in places like Portland, Oregon or Austin, Texas, where there are lots of people who can appreciate your outlook (and where you won't be expected to wear brand new clothes in order to be employed.)

If you got mostly Ds, you are: The coupon-clipper
You are all about the sales! …and the coupons, and the flyers, and the rewards cards! Your strongest tactic to saving money is by hitting up clearance racks and discounts.
Beware of money you may be spending on gas or bus fare going from store to store to find the best deals, though.

If you got mostly Es, you are: The Intense Budgeteer
You LOVE saving money.  Balancing your checkbook for you is like ice cream is for other people. Chances are good you’re also good at math. But beware of missing out on fun or exciting opportunities because you are afraid of spending an extra few cents. 

If you got mostly Fs, you are:  The Social Butterfly Cheapster
Saving money is actually not something you try to do – it’s just something that happens as a result of your social life. This is probably the most painless way to save money, since you’re not thinking about it. But beware of being lured into social scenes that might ultimately require spending money!