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!