Bargins and ways to save money pt 2

I should be getting some stuff done today before my appointment at 11:30, but I can’t bring myself to. Which sucks, but oh well. It’s cooler today and overcast, and I’m tired. Not working has thrown my clock off in a big way and I need to try and get it back in the swing of things. Anywho, here are a couple things that I should have put in the entry yesterday and never did.

One is this neat little website. If you are like us and never have money when things go on sale, then it’s not that big of a deal, but once in a while we can find something that we actually need or want and have the money for it. I’m talking about SlickDeals.net. We’ve stumbled across sales for Pampered Chef (we got almost $200 worth of things for $35!) and I believe we’ve found amazing deals on the Gold membership for XBox Live. They are always updating and some days they have tons of deals and other days you are lucky to find anything. But check it out, it’s worth a peak at least.

Let’s talk shop. Computer shop. Let’s say you are tech savvy or you know some who is who is willing to help you out. You want to set up that home theatre thingy with your PC or you just need to get some parts to fix your PC. You need some electronics for school, whatever. About seven or so years ago the my BFF’s now brother-in-law turned me onto a lovely website called TigerDirect.com. Since then, roughly once a year (sometimes more if the money is really good) we get really awesome deals from there to help with compter repair, upgrades, etc. Last year my processor went bad and the motherboard was the wrong one to play Sims and a slew of other things. For almost two years I could have kicked my PC out the damn door. Anyway, I managed to get the new motherboard (complete with new processor), upgrade to Windows XP, get a 250 GB harddrive and some larger RAM for the PC. I cannot recall the exact total and I know we didn’t get it all at once, but it was less than $300. Back then that was an awesome deal. If you own a small business you can often find really good deals on things for the office through them as well. Now this is not to say that you will always find the best prices here. By all means, no. It pays to shop around and if you aren’t much in the know of PCs and such, make sure you have either done your research or gotten somebody you know and trust to help you. Otherwise you WILL spend 10 times more than you need to. Amazon and Best Buyare good places to go to see what comparable or better prices are. Best Buy I believe offers warranties and protection plans on most if not all of their product. Amazon not so much, as it depends on who the retailer is that is selling through them.

Which brings us to Amazon. Which if you know me, you know I love this shopping site. 9 out of 10 times I can find better deals here than anywhere else. You can find nearly anything here, and depending on what it is, you can score a great deal on the price. We found a nice bed set for our Queen sized bed for $30- comforter, sheets, sham, pillow cases. Yes, Queen sized. I’ve gotten 4 GB flash drives off of their for $6. Movies are generally $5 cheaper than Wal-Mart (I’d still compare though). They have a nice way to ship the items for free, if you get $25 or more of stuff. That can be a draw back sometimes, but it’s not really that hard coming up with the stuff to do so. They also have what they call Amazon Prime, which you pay $80 a year and not have to pay shipping and get things w/in two days (faster than the free shipping by almost a week), or you pay 3.99 flat shipping and have it in one day. The annual fee can be intimidating, but trust me, if you can scrounge up enough $$ to get it, and you find that you either shop a lot off of Amazon or would like to, it will pay for itself. And sometimes they even offer deals exclusively for Prime members. Amazon also has their Deal of the Day, or the Gold Box. I recall one of them being a series set for the TV show Angel. MSRP was $200. You could get the whole set of five seasons worth of discs for 50-60. I’ve seen small kitchen appliances go for dirt cheap. And the rating system and customer feedback for each item is simple and easy to use, so you can see what everybody else is thinking or saying about your product of interest.

Food is a major concern for a lot of people, mainly due to raising costs and not much in the way of pay raises. IF you don’t have a lot of dietary restrictions, then this one is for you. I believe it was through my in-laws we discovered this, but it was great right up until Hubby became diabetic. Check out Angel Food Ministries. They are not located everywhere, but enough places that if you dig deep enough you might find one near you. I know when my BFF and I were roommates we used this a lot and it helped our grocery bill in a huge way. I think we spent on average 80-100 a month (splitting the cost two ways) and the amount of food we got was incredible. It wasn’t always the best tasting or the greatest quality, but it was never bad and most of the time our other food shopping trips the bill was always low. You do not have to be a member of a Church or convert or whatever to do this. It is open to EVERYBODY, even if it is Christian run. It is something purely for the community and I have yet to run into anyone pushing religion or being rude because we weren’t apart of their faith or church. Now, like I said if you have dietary restrictions, it may not be for you. You don’t get a choice on what is in each order (and if you do, its limited). So if you are diabetic, have blood pressure problems, etc, you may want to go over the menu each month with a fine tooth comb if you decide to go with them. The salt content in the meats is extremely high and they (last I knew) do not offer sugar free anything. It’s still a great deal and every now and then consider going to check it out.

Now, if you happen to have those dietary restrictions and cannot find the food you need for good prices, it’s a bitch. I know. Go to your local market and try to find cheap Sugar free items. It’s hard to find anything Sugar Free, for starters (though some store are getting it through their heads) and it’s even harder to find them at affordable prices. Low Salt is another and the costs of fruits and veggies are going up. This is where bargain hunting comes in handy. And it does not hurt to explore a bit. We’ve managed to find some diabetic friendly foods at Whole Foods Market that don’t break the bank. For your fresh fruits and veggies, try your local farmer’s market. Most (not all, as I’ve run into in the past) will offer better prices than the grocery store. It will also give you a chance to get to know the people growing your food. And sometimes you can find other food treasures for great prices. Flea Markets, believe it or not are another place to go and get them. Always take those with caution though. If it doesn’t look clean or you see something that shouldn’t be there with the food, don’t buy from them.

Another place to check out is a Bargin Food store. We have one about thirty minutes from here, and all you have to say is “The Bargin Store”, and everyone knows what you are talking about, it’s that popular. Search out in your own community and close by ones, and see if there is one. They often get the items the stores wont sell (dented cans, etc), but are still in good shape. They will also work with local farms and get fresh produce in. They will also have outstanding deals on household cleaners, items, etc. And they will have items for those with special diets. Be wary of the meat and dairy selections though. I haven’t been in a while, but when I used to go all the time, the meat looked and smelled bad and the dairy was right there with it. But when I went, I would spend $40 and come out with bags and bags of food that would last me a good long while. I think my sister and I figured it out the one day. I went and spent my $40 and would have spent over $150 at Bi-Lo for the stuff.

Another way to save money on food, if you happen to have the space and the green thumb for it, is grow some of your own food. Really. It does not cost as much as a lot of people think. For maybe $30 you can set yourself up with a nice selection of herbs, and veggies. The key is to go small scale and make sure it’s stuff you eat. Too many go large scale and go overboard and end up with things they don’t eat and it goes to waste. If you have pets or have a lot of organic trash, you can do a web search to see about creating your own fertilizer or compost so you can use that with your little garden and save even more money. We’re talking of doing something like this next spring, mainly to coincide with Hubby’s chef classes, but also he’s got one of his teachers willing to give a few seeds to get us started.

One of the worst things people can do to try and save money is by eating out. I know, I know. It’s quicker and easier and cheaper. The quicker and easier I wont debate much. The cheaper I will. We love to eat out, but for a family of four, even at most fast food places, we’re looking at over $20 a meal. If you work it just right, you can work it out to $30 a day to feed that same family at home. See, compare per meal to per day and see how much money that is. And we don’t go light most meals. We love our meat and we love our food in general. It’s hard sometimes with prices going up, but remember this: If the prices are going up in the grocery store, they are going up at the restaurants as well. I’m not saying don’t eat out (that’s my livelihood there, folks!) but don’t do it as much. Learn to read a recipe. Some colleges offer cheap or free intro cooking classes, if you are that scared of it :p. And you can find quick recipes for the busy live style. I like browsing the Food Network’s site. They give you the ingredients, the difficulty level, the amount of time and sometimes will have videos attached to the recipe.

It’s also no secret that ‘m a huge fan of Alton Brown, who is all over Food Network. I use a lot of his recipes for a few reasons:

  1. He tends to be more blue collar and shows you economic ways to do things. And if there is no economic way, he says why and usually its for a good reason.
  2. The majority of his recipes are open ended. This means that they are easy to change around to suit your needs or budget. He will even tell you to do it another way for those reasons. And if it’s not open ended (which is rare) its for a specific reason and not to be snooty.
  3. He’s fun and easy to understand. A lot of the other celebrity chef’s wont explain anything or are sticks on the mud. Alton will typically show you several different ways and encourage you to find what works best for you.

Now, with anything I’ve said in this entry or the last one, it does not mean you have to follow it, that I am being bossy or what have you. Nope. Just some friendly suggestions and the want and need to help others. There are a lot of ways to save money out there. It just takes a lot of research and the biggest one, discipline. If you can’t make yourself save the money, then you have a problem. Cheaper does not always mean crap or low quality. In fact recent studies have shown generic brands are better and win over the name brands in a lot of areas.

Ok, I’ve procrastinated enough. Time to get going and try to finish up some stuff before I leave.

 

Edit: A post script if you will. Completely forgot one of our favorite ways to save money and we’ve been doing it for years and years. Game Stop. Granted it wont help you if aren’t a gamer, and I’m sorry. But we are big time gamers and we know it costs a lot of money. But Game Stop can help you either save money or to budget your wants out so you aren’t going broke all the time. We like pre-ordering games. Games that we know we want and cannot live w/o are pre-ordered. Halo 3 ODST was pre-ordered a while ago. And how this works is this: you still pay full price for the game, but you stake your claim on it before it comes out. You have to put a minimum of $5 down on the game and you have until the day it is released to pay it off, or you lose out on the money you already put on it. During the time you pre-order it and when it is released you can pay as much or as little on it. So say you have Game A and you put you five down on it. You also have eight weeks to pay the rest of it off. You budget $5 one week and $10 another and if keep doing that you have your shiny $60 game brand new. Ok, we don’t do that with every game. If we did, we’d still be broke. So they have this nice little thing called pre-owned or used games. They will offer games that other people traded back in at lower prices than buying it new. It’s harder to get good deals on the newer used ones, especially if its popular. And sometimes you have to go to several Game Stops if you are looking for specific ones. They also have it set up where you can trade in the games you aren’t playing anymore and get store credit to go towards anything in the store (except pre-orders, I believe). On older games you might get a buck or two, but on newer ones you can sometimes walk away with $15-20 or more in trade in value. Call ahead to ask them about the games you want to trade in- and keep in mind, Game Stop no longer takes original XBox consoles or games for trade. You are SOL in that department. You can also subscribe to Game Stop’s Game Informer magazine for $15 a year (which is a nice little mag) and get with it a Game Stop card that gives you 10% discount on all used games, plus extra credit on trade ins and other specials that they let you know about from time to time. I recall a time when Hubby took about ten games in to trade them in and walked out with five games, at least one brand new, and I think we paid $2 or 3 out of our pocket. It was nice. We got rid of a bunch of stuff we weren’t going to look at and got some new ones for almost free! It was a combination of the card, getting some used games and they had this trade in deal where you get an extra 10, 20 or 30% depending on how many games you were trading in. And returning things to the store is easy compared to others. If you get it with in a certain period you get cash back, otherwise you can exchange it or get store credit. They do deal with cash for trades, but you don’t get as much back if you had gone with store credit.

Ok, I’m really gone this time you all!

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