Monday, May 30, 2011

Free Stuff in June (2011)

Lots of cool stuff is free in June. Here's a list so y'all can start planning ahead: 

June 3 – Free doughnut day at Krispy Kreme (free doughnut of your choice), Lamar’s (free doughnut holes), and Dunkin’ Donuts (free doughnut at Dunkin’ Donuts requires a beverage purchase. No purchase required at Krispy Kreme or Lamar’s):

June 3-5 Free Museum Admission Weekend for all Bank of America customers. Admission to 150 museums nationwide free all weekend, and the first weekend of every month:

Free Fishing Days, June 4-12. Many states offer free fishing for one or more of these days- no license will be required for you to fish. Click here to see if your state is participating, and what days fishing is free:

June 18 – Free RPG Day. Free quickstart rules and adventure modules for gamers at participating game stores nationwide. To find a store near you that’s participating, click here:

June 21 – Free admission to 100 National Parks that usually charge admission fees. Click here to see the list of participating parks by state:

June 1 – July 15 Free Private Website Registration on


***This list is only partial – I haven’t researched ALL states. Be sure to research when your state offers free state park admission! ***
Maine – June 19 – Free admission for all cars with Maine license plates to state parks:
Oregon – June 4 – Free admission and camping at Oregon State Parks:
Vermont -- June 11 & 12 -- free day use at Vermont State Parks --
Wisconsin – June 5 – Free admission to state parks, trails, and more:

Here's to cheapness - today and next month!... Until next time, value seekers and dollar savers!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Garage Sale Strategies

A cup I scored in a free box at
a garage sale this weekend now
holds spare change.
'Tis the season for garage sales and yard sales! This is happy news for cheapsters everywhere. Before you run out in search of signs on street corners with those telltale hand drawn arrows (Yard Sale This Way!), here are some strategies to consider:

* Remember that driving around in search of garage sales actually costs you money - in gas. You can cut down on this by:

           - Garage sale-ing in your own neighborhood first, especially by bike or on foot. I yard-saled on foot last weekend and managed to make it to five garage sales near my house. Start out on the biggest non-highway road near your home and then just keep an eye out for signs!

            - Finding other yard sale enthusiasts to carpool with as you garage sale hop around town by car. You can even make it a social event, like the Saturday Morning Garage Sale Club. Even doing this with just one other person will cut your gas costs in half.

* Don't buy things just because they are cheap. This may seem to run against yard sale logic, but spending $2 on something that would normally be $200 is still a waste of $2 if you're never going to use it. Whenever you are paying money for something (no matter how little), be sure that that thing will serve a purpose.

* Make liberal use of boxes marked "Free." These are where you can stock up on objects you might use (but aren't sure) - no waste of money worries if something is free!

* Be wary of yard sale hosts who are actually trying to make a profit on their sale rather than just get rid of stuff. I've been to garage sales where t-shirts were $5 or $6 - twice the price of the local thrift store, and in fact pretty close to the retail price for new shirts. While those types of sales might benefit the sellers, they will not benefit your wallet.

Here's to another money-saving week, readers, and smooth sale-ing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Saving Change by Changing How You Want Things

I've often heard people say that happiness is being able to afford what you want.

What I've noticed, though, is that once someone has everything that he or she wants (say, a new car, a cell phone with internet capability, and a house with a garage), it is not happiness that follows. Instead, what follows is just more wanting (like maybe a car that parallel parks itself, a cell phone that streams live TV, and a house with three bathrooms instead of two.)

The problem with wanting stuff is that it is a vicious circle: the more we want, the more money we spend, and the more in debt we tend to go. Telling yourself not to spend as much money on things is one way of tackling this, but then you might perpetually feel like you're punishing yourself -- you see things you want, and then tell yourself, "well, I can't have that thing because I can't afford it. If only I had a better job/richer family / etc..." which really doesn't seem like the road to happiness at all. Actually, it sounds pretty unhappy, doesn't it?

But what happens when you go straight to the source and change the wanting? What happens when you don't buy things right away (just because you want them), or train yourself to want different things? What happens when you reduce the amount of things you want altogether?

I live walking distance to a Dollar Tree store, which right now has a plethora of awesome flamingo themed stuff. I'm very into birds (flamingos included), so I'm pretty interested in some of this merchandise. My favorite is a pack of 18 bendy straws - there is a folded-up paper flamingo on each straw that pops out when you unbend them.I thought they were cool when I saw them and they made me laugh in the store. Now, that packet of straws is, of course, just $1. However, I did not buy the pack. Instead, I waited, and I'm still waiting, for the want to simmer and to see how much I do want them. When I go back to the Dollar Tree, it will be with absolute certainty that I definitely want those 18 festive flamingo straws.
So what, right? It's just a dollar, either way. But this type of training can be really helpful in the long run.

A frozen credit card thawing.
I had a teacher in high school who told us she used to have a problem buying things from the Home Shopping Channel. She finally decided to put her credit card in the freezer. Whenever she wanted to buy something, she would have to wait for the card to thaw before she could call  to order -- and more often than not, by the time she could read all the numbers on the card, she'd realized she didn't really want whatever she was going to buy, and had simply been caught up in the moment.

Re-training yourself on the types of (non-essential) things you find yourself wanting and buying can also be a way to save some money. For instance, let's say you buy a lot of clothes. Count up the number of clothing items you bought last month - shirts, pairs of shoes, etc. Let's say it's around 15. Next, tell yourself that this month, you aren't allowed to buy any clothes, but can buy the same number of songs online as you bought of clothing items last month - 15. Since mp3s can be bought online generally for about $1 each, you'll only be spending $15, rather than however much you spent on clothes (probably at least ten times that much.) Space out what you buy throughout the month, or buy songs at the same time you would normally go to the mall. At the end of the month, think about how the experiment went - did you feel like you were being punished, or do you feel satisfied with what you got instead and with the money you saved?

Finally, simply wanting fewer things overall can alleviate some financial burden and also stress. This can take lots of time and effort, but learning how to change the way we think about wanting things can actually be pretty great. Check out this article: "How to Want Very Little" on zenhabits and also the 100 Thing Challenge (a challenge to live for one year with only 100 possessions).

Here's to another money-saving week, friends -- and to that packet of flamingo straws, waiting to be brought to their new home.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Vacationing on the Cheap: A Few Tips

Some of my more memorable trips have included a hostel with bunk beds and several days on a Greyhound bus, but I realize that not everyone wants to spend their time off the way I do. Here, however, are some cheap traveling tips that can help any vacationer: 

* Remember that even if you're flying, you can bring your own food for your trip wherever you're off to. With a sandwich at an airport or in an Amtrak station costing up to $10, you can save some serious cash by packing snacks at home and taking them with you.

* If you need to get from a terminal (like an airport or a train station) to another place (like, say, a motel), look at options beyond airport shuttle companies and taxis. Sometimes city buses and/or light rail can get you to where you need to be for just a few dollars. 

* If you're taking a trip that involves a motel/hotel and you can swing it, plan your vacation for a series of weekdays rather than during a weekend. Motel/hotel rates are usually lower during the week than Friday-Monday, because there are fewer people traveling.

* If you are renting a car, however, be aware that rates for car rentals are the opposite: usually you get a lower rate on weekends, rather than weekdays. 

*If you're like me, you might enjoy eating your way through destinations. This is quite possibly my favorite part of traveling, and it DOES cost money. But let me tell you, Memphis would not have been the same if I would have forced myself to eat dollar store crackers instead of barbecue just to save a few bucks. HOWEVER. What you can do is figure out where you can still cut a few corners on food based on what you care about. For instance, with me, I don't really care what happens with breakfast when I'm on a trip. I like to buy quick breakfast foods (granola bars, toaster pastries, bagels) at a grocery store that will last me through my stay (a very cheap way to go) -- and then spend money on what really counts for me, which is mostly lunch, dinner, and dessert related.

*Most of all, of course, a vacation should be about relaxing, and not being stressed out about money. Plan out a budget in advance, allowing some money for spontaneity. If you feel safe doing it, consider paying for things in cash so that you don't absently overspend using a debit or credit card. 

On that note, friends, here's to another money-saving week, wherever you may roam!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Five Ways To Be a Community Hero With Money-Saving Skills

When many people think of being cheap, they think of Ebenezer Scrooge denying his workers coal for their fire, or perhaps the all-too-well-known phrase: "cheap bastard." However, being frugal does not have to mean being selfish. Here are five ways that you can use money-saving strategies to give back to those around you and share in savings.

1. Use coupons combined with store sales to buy food for your local food bank/food pantry. To those in need, it doesn't matter how much you paid for a food item, only that it IS a food item. Make a game out of it every few months to see just how much food you can get for $5 or $10 to donate. Use as many money-saving strategies as possible to fill a basket.

2. Organize a clothing or book swap in your city or for your friends. People (yourself included!) come with books or clothes they no longer want, and trade them with each other. Reuse, after all, is one of the best ways to save money.

3. Create community art using reclaimed materials. 'Zines can be made by cutting up thrown-away magazines;  materials for 3-D art, with a little imagination, can often be found in dumpsters, recycle bins, and free boxes at yard sales.

4. Offer your skills. Do you cut your own hair to save money? How about hemming your own pants or doing your own car repairs? Who in your life could use a free haircut, hem, or oil change?

5. Save your pennies and donate them. Put any pennies you get as change into a jar or tin. Once it gets full, or maybe once a year, donate all of your pennies to a local organization or cause.

Here's to another great week, folks! Whether it's sharing a buy one get one free coupon or taking a friend along for a sale, be sure to share the savings!