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Rewards... who'da thunk?

October 24th, 2006 at 08:14 am

As I perused the holiday checklist, I've realized that the amount of people I have to shop for has decreased significantly. Hubby and I have racked up points with different reward cards and now it pays off!! We've redeemed over 12K in points- taking care of ten gifts which are being shipped (recipients not known yet)
8 3-pc pizza maker sets
2 mini Coach (changepurse) bags

Since there are five people outside of the family which I have to shop for, the pizza sets go for the ones with family.


The Wholesaler War- BJ's Versus COSTCO

May 24th, 2006 at 02:50 am

Suburban American packrats like myself often feel the need to buy copious amounts of items as opposed to the standard supermarket portion. Wholesale shopping saves time and money IF done correctly. When I moved to this island ten years ago, I'd never heard of wholesale stores before.
Fast forward a few weeks later and BAM! I found COSTCO.

Don't get me wrong, I love the place. Where else could you buy institution sized coffee containers and hundreds of coffee filters for under ten bucks? Hubby spends that on three cups' worth of Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla (Extra large, extra cream and sugar). Yesterday at COSTCO we spent 100 bucks on things that would normally cost us three times the amount if purchased at an outside convenience store (gotta love brownbagging!!).

It is only after you embrace the love of shopping wholesale several times that you start to wonder what's on the other side of the fence. I knew COSTCO had a few competitors (BJ's, SAMs club) and so the frugal detective in me started to wonder, Could this BJ's be a little less costly? Heh heh....WRONG!

Last Saturday, Hubby and I intercepted a free sixty day membership pass to BJ's. I felt a little naughty, as though I'd defected to the other side of the wholesale cause but I quickly got over it. At first I was impressed because the store looked alot cleaner than COSTCO. Sadly, that was the only positive in my experience. Aside from a few minor things that aren't available in COSTCO, the rest of the items were equal or slightly higher in price. Green seedless grapes were $9.99 in BJ's while COSTCO has them for $7.99. The biggest jump in price I noticed was in the head and shoulders shampoo- BJ's has it for $9.99 while COSTCO's that and other shampoos for $6.99. The meats were MUCH higher in price... I'm talking at least four to five bucks in difference.

I'm thinking location might have something to do with the price difference? If there's one thing I learned from this experience it's this: IT DEFINITELY PAYS TO COMPARISON SHOP, EVEN IN WHOLESALE STORES!!


P.S: Our trip to BJs included a complementary backyard style verbal brawl. Two men fought verbally because one man apparently drove past the gas line (which had approximately ten vehicles waiting) and pulled up to an unoccupied pump in order to fill up his BMW. A few cars honked the horn and shouted a few things but One "special" pickup truck owner noticed, flew off the handle, and proceeded to name a few things he planned to do to said BMW owner. What the truck dude failed to realize was that foreign vehicles usually have their tanks on the opposite side. DUH! The pickup owner taught the rest of us innocent bystanders some innovative ways to conjugative expletives. All in all, it was a mighty fine spectacle to watch on an otherwise typical Saturday afternoon.

Why I don't like eating out anymore...

May 15th, 2006 at 04:44 am

I've been slacking off a little as far as domestic duties are concerned. I have completed my trips to the grocery store as scheduled but I haven't cooked any meals for at least a week. This is a no-no considering I have such a tight budget.

The last two restaurants we visited were the Cheesecake Factory and Chevy's. Bottom line: BOTH bills had errors on them. Since hubby was too proud to show me the bill (perhaps because he knows I would've had a coronary) and thus, the errors weren't spotted in time. In Cheesecake factory they charged us for twelve meals and twelve drinks when there were eleven people in our party. Last I checked, we had one mouth per person?? I wonder had a free meal on us? The charge came out to an extra $20.00 on an already high bill. Since it was a large party, they charged us an extra $40 for gratuity despite the waiters garbage service. Hubby complained about the service to the manager but failed to see the price issue. Last night at Chevy's, they charged us for four adult drinks when only two were ordered. The food was horrible as well. The extra charge came out to $4.18.

This sixty dollar food bill could have yielded us a king's feast chez moi. From now on, I'm cooking ahead of time!!!

Dinner for one? $210 minus gratuity please.

May 8th, 2006 at 04:38 am

Yesterday I had a brush with eccentricity unlike any I've ever witnessed. A friend was discussing the possibility of dining at this restaurant in the city called Per Se (yes, as in "{add wisecrack here}, per se"). The price for a meal in this place is $210. ONE MEAL, folks.

According to the website, Per Se NY, you get a seven course meal packed with nutrition, great taste, and creative presentation. The portion sizes are appropriate for satisfying a bird-like appetite- but then again fine dining is meant to entice the taste buds and fuel the body in moderation.

Had it been a decade ago, I'd be all over this offer because I was once a die-hard fan of the high life. Now I look at those two hundred ten beans as enough cash to feed my family of 6 for at least a month courtesy of the military commissary. I caress my coupons lovingly because I know at the end of my shopping experience, some of my pre-budgeted food shopping cash is coming back home with me. (Envelope for grocery savings in May: $7.00 so far!)

My friend, who has yet to have children or hardships regarding finance, cannot possibly understand the rush of mathematics that swirls in my head each time I part with cash. She has offered to pay my way but my pride won't accept lol. I am more interested in how much more I can save up as opposed to what I can spend my savings on. The various pfblogs on here have become my one-stop shop for frugal ideas and money saving techniques. While my friend dines and shops like royalty, I am satisfied with my marked down products and yard sale exclusives.

(Begin rant here)
Truth is, it really isn't about the money anymore. People shop and overspend because something else is missing in their existence. Fortunately, it is never too late to start a good habit Smile .
Fellow bloggers, personal finance enthusiasts, and guests alike, it is our job to help others become aware of the finance traps. Ironically, peer pressure forces us to make bad choices- why can't we pressure our peers to make good ones instead?
{End rant here}

Spending Triggers.. changepot update etc.

April 11th, 2006 at 05:11 am

The past couple of days have been absolutely wonderful! Spring is finally here- my flowers survived the freak april snowstorm and all is well in this little corner of Staten Island!

After reading some self-help/ motivational books over winter break, I've decided to pay more attention to HOW I spend money- what triggers me, etc. I know now that 99% of my impulsive spending happens because I want to buy things for my kids- things I secretly wanted but couldn't have when I was young. I decided to make it a complete experiment (notebook et al!)
here is what I did for two weeks:

-Created a shopping chart/log for two weeks (March 25-April 8)

- Checked off when I made purchases that
weren't on the budget and wrote down the amount (pretax) on a separate column. Wrote down who it was for and why I thought it was "justified".

After the two weeks were up, I tallied the amount spent and the results were shocking. While I exercised some restraint because of the physical hassle of whipping out my chart in public every time I bought something, I managed to spend $317 on my family (dog included). Some of that hard earned dough bought PSP video games, wicker style purses, bratz accessories, and enough jellybeans to feed the state of Vermont! The oddest purchase was two packs of cherry air freshener for $1.39 each at 2:10am at the local gas station and the reason: "Hubby's boots.". Well, at least it wasn't cigarettes!

So..the lesson I learned here is that despite my frugal attempts to save save save (envelope systems, conserve energy etc), old habits are hard to break. I hadn't set up a "spending account" prior to my little investigation and the truth is sometimes you just WANT to spend on something trivial (the American marketing industry wouldn't survive if we wouldn't shop impulsively!). Since I spent over 300 bucks in two weeks, I have now added this new category to my monthly budgeting cycle.

So ask yourself this... when you went shopping last time, how many items did YOU buy that were absolutely unneccesary (price has nothing to do with it! Smile It would be an interesting thing to tally up, wouldn't it?


I'm not sure if I've posted it here but here's a quick summary of the infamous Changepot:

In early October I started collecting all the money I find in the street and putting it in a cute little jar I call the Changepot. I've acumulated over fifty dollars in this pot so far... it's even outgrown its original container!

Here is a pic of my little changepot