Sep 29 2007

"Are you as frugal as you should be?" and other odds and ends


Some things on my to-do list for the upcoming week:

My husband’s car has a flat tire. GRR! And not just any flat tire–it’s punctured on the side wall, so it can’t be patched. Lucky for us, he takes the bus to work, so it’s not causing transportation problems. But, it still means we need to get a new tire or four.

I’ll be shopping for tire deals and I’ll report back what I find. Anyone have tips?

Second, I want to reduce our electric bill. Of three bills, the first two were about $76, but this month’s is $86. I don’t really understand what’s going on. I’m going to unplug every unnecessary thing, make sure the windows are open more often … and whatever else I can come up with. We’ll want to winterize it soon, too, by taping the windows and possibly buying some air vent covers. Covering vents in unused rooms is supposed to reroute the air to affect the rooms you’re using. Anyone know how well this works?
Here’s a link to a story about programmable thermostats. We have one, but hadn’t bothered to program it to change temperatures at different times. We just changed it manually whenever we felt like it. So, programming that contraption is absolutely on my list of things to do.

Finally, I don’t know if this will work, but I’m going to check with our leasing office to see if there’s anything I can do to reduce our rent. In past apartments, I delivered the apartment newsletter (what a waste of paper!) and in university housing, I was a vice president of the council. That earned me $150 and $200/month off my rent, respectively. Quite a chunk! Since it’s a rent reduction and not a paycheck, there’s no tax to mess with.

Anyone have ideas I can pitch to the leasing office? I was thinking I’d offer to deliver the newsletter thing, volunteer my apartment to be a “model” to show to prospective new tenants.

Oh, and here’s a link to a quiz on iVillage called “Are you as frugal as you should be?” It’s a fun little test to see where you stand, and to give you ideas on how to improve.

Sep 28 2007

How a price book will save the day…or at least save you money


I mentioned a nifty thing called a price book in an earlier post. The idea comes directly from The Tightwad Gazette, and I’ve seen it mentioned in other frugal hotspots, as well. This thing is brilliant.

How can you be sure you’re paying the lowest price possible on a particular item? You have no way of knowing unless you have data to back it up. So, you keep track of each item you regularly buy, and the lowest price you’ve seen it at several stores.

Shopping at just one store will not save you money. I used to shop only at the Giant Eagle down the street, until I realized that they aren’t always the cheapest. This week, I didn’t go there at all.

The price book doesn’t take that much effort to put it together, and you can build it gradually. Start with weekly sales fliers for several stores and write down those prices. Include what store it is, the brand name of the item, cost and size, and then break it down to cost per ounce, pound, each … whatever makes sense.
Take a look at my example page. I had no idea what the lowest price for apples was until I started keeping track. At Shop ‘n Save one week, Gala apples were $1.39/lb. Sounds good, right?

But, the next week, I was able to find them for $1/lb. at Kuhn’s, .83/lb. at Giant Eagle, and a fantastic .66/lb. at Shop ‘n Save.

So, I picked up a bag of apples when I was there this week. Saved me $1 than if I bought them at Kuhn’s. I might start writing the date next to the price as well, so I can figure out how often it hits that price. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find them that cheap in the cold of winter. We’ll see.

And, if peanut butter only goes on a super sale every 3 months, I’ll know to stock up and buy a 3-month supply at that time. Makes sense, ya know?

For items not listed in the weekly circular, just keep your eye out for them when you hit the aisles. Write the price down on your shopping list and update your book later. The point is to make the system work for you to help you save money. Make it how ever you want.

I found the little binder at a Meijer store with index cards already in it. I like the binder because I can move cards around and add more, but any sort of system should be fine.

Your turn! Do you have a price book? What’s your method for finding the lowest prices?

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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