This morning, while I was out running other errands, I dropped into a nearby grocery store to purchase jelly for my son’s school lunches. I visited this store once or twice before, but I’m not particularly familiar with the store layout or the brands available for purchase.
The jelly jars were actually segmented into two different sections of the aisle. For the record it took me a little while to figure this out. The first set of shelves contained the common brands like Smucker’s and Welch’s. The second area, which was located a shelf or two to the right, contained more specialized jars of organic and all natural jams and jellies.
I stood in that aisle for a few minutes longer than I would have liked. I settled on a non-organic product, before realizing that other options were available. Although organic products tend to be more expensive I am willing to pay more for them. This is especially true for food that my son will consume on a regular basis and although I hate to admit it; peanut butter and jelly top the list of things my son eats regularly.
I wasn’t familiar with any of the available brands, so I read the labels on a number of jars, checked the prices and ultimately settled on a brand that was on sale. The final price: $3.99. A similar product with the same flavor and size was also available for $3.99, (regularly priced), but I settled on the more expensive brand because it just looked tastier.
When I reached the self checkout lane I noticed the register didn’t reflect the sale price. There was a long line growing behind me and I chose not to hold up the other customers by trying to figure out the problem. It was only 50 cents more per jar, (I bought two), and for one dollar it didn’t seem worth the hassle.
I began to walk out of the store, but I felt irritated by the whole scenario. I wasted time comparing sizes, flavors and prices. If the little sale flag hadn’t been hanging off the shelf I would have purchased the other brand of organic jelly without any question.
In general I have a rule about approaching customer service; since time is just as valuable, if not more so, than money I will not wait an inordinate amount of time to save a dollar. I glanced at the customer service area and found only one customer standing in line counting out change. I just happened to approach the counter as she pushed forward her last penny and the cashier asked how she could assist me.
I explained the situation and the cashier stepped out without saying a word about what she was doing. I immediately wished I hadn’t approached the counter. I didn’t want to wait ten minutes for the clerk to find the item, look at the price tag and make a decision on whether or not I was owed one dollar.
But as I waited in line I noticed a large sign hanging on the wall that said pricing errors will result in the first item being provided free of charge. Lucky for me the cashier returned within two short minutes, (yes I kept close note of the time), and offered to refund the full cost of the first item plus provided fifty cents back on the second.
Those two minutes, (probably three or four by the time she actually refunded the money), resulted in a $4.99 refund. In essence, I received one jar of organic jelly for free.
It certainly helps to know and understand a store’s policies. I am much more likely to take the time to resolve issues with customer service if I know a two minute wait could earn a $4.99 refund instead of $1.00.
About the Book
About the Author
Let’s Revisit the Characters…
Some Fun Stuff!
And now for the giveaway!
Once or twice a year my dad invites a few of his friends down south to spend five or six days at our beach house. My parents always arrange the date around a convenient time for us. In essence, they make certain that we won’t have a need or desire to stay at our house during that time.
My husband and I are happy to share the house with my parents and their friends and because they stay during the off season we’ve never asked them for a rent check or any other form of payment.
My parents typically invite three other couples to the beach with them. The first year two of the couples bought us a thank you gift. They purchased the gift together and wrote both of their names on the card. The same thing happened the following year. This time around we received a very generous gift from one of the couples, but nothing from the other couple. The third couple didn’t provide a gift this year or any other.
For the record I don’t expect a thank you gift from any of the couples. I do find it interesting though that some couples always think to send us a gift and others never do.
I am not always great about providing thank you gifts, but I do send cards and notes quite frequently. Do you have a rule for providing thank you gifts to others? If you stayed in a friend’s beach house do you think you would provide a gift to them?
My son has been sick three times since starting preschool a little over a month and a half ago. Every time he gets sick he seems to pass those lovely germs on to the rest of us. I’ve gotten sick three times in that same span of time. My husband managed to avoid this last cold, but caught the prior two.
Luckily our little guy recovers quickly, typically within a day or so, but the symptoms seem to linger in me for days on end. This time around my runny nose has turned into a deep and violent cough, which wakes me from my sleep every hour or so.
After a particularly rough night my husband suggested a dose of Robitussin. With my son happily playing at preschool, (most likely getting infected with another virus), I planned a quick, solo trip to Target.
Before heading out of the house I searched for this week’s Target deals. After all, I was heading to the store alone, which means I could take an extra five minutes to snatch some inexpensive deals. Seems simple enough, right?
Honestly, I have no idea why the impulse to clip coupons and look for bargains grabbed a hold of me. Whatever the reason I found myself printing coupons and taking note of the items I wanted to buy before heading out to the store.
I didn’t feel well and I didn’t want to risk the lure of Target’s endcaps so I went directly to the aisles I needed to visit and didn’t hesitate once along the way.
I wasn’t in the store more than five minutes when I remembered why I gave up coupon clipping so long ago.
- Problem #1 – None of the items were in stock. Sure I had four coupons for cereal, but that doesn’t do a girl much good when the shelves are bare.
- Problem #2 – The prices listed on bargain sites weren’t reflected in my local store. One item priced at $7.99 on my favorite bargain blog was actually $14.99 in the store. Of course, I dragged that item to the price checker to verify the price and back to it’s original location when I realized it wasn’t on sale.
- Problem #3 – The promotions offering $5 Target gift cards with a purchase of ‘x’ number of items didn’t work. The cashier said the items I selected weren’t part of the special deal.
I’m certain feeling ill added to my frustration, but after failing to find three of the six bargains I quickly moved on to the register.
When all was said and done I walked out of the store with one good bargain and a roll of shipping tape that was desperately needed in our house despite the fact that it wasn’t on sale.
After much contemplation I decided against a big party for my son’s third birthday. We invited our families to the celebration but chose not to invite any of my son’s friends. I am so happy we took this approach. We don’t see my brother’s children very often and it was great to see my son playing along side his two older cousins without any distractions from other children.
Rather than focusing on a large celebration we spent time baking a cake with my son. He helped measure, add the ingredients, mix and even pour the batter into the pan. Once the cake cooled we let him choose the icing color, (with the help of a little food coloring), and helped him cover the cake with it. He added a few little decorations on top too.
I didn’t stick to the two gift rule, but I wish I had. Last year I only bought one gift for my son and this year I think I could have stuck to that model. One of his favorite presents was a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar that I purchased for $3.99.
I bought four gifts for less than $20. My son loved all the presents I bought, but in retrospect I wish I’d only given him two and saved the other two for some other time.
I chose to buy him one puzzle, one book, one tub toy and one just for fun toy. On the night before his birthday my husband and I also filled my son’s bedroom with a dozen helium balloons. On one hand you can say balloons are a complete waste of money, after all they deflate in a matter of days. On the other hand I can honestly say that the experience of waking up to a room full of balloons was probably more thrilling than any gift my son received.
As always our families purchased an inordinate number of gifts for the little tike. The pile of presents stood at least eight or ten high. Just another reason I should have stuck with only one or two gifts this year. There were so many gifts in our living room that I have absolutely no idea how we’ll handle Christmas two and a half months from now.
I still have a few of the new toys in boxes and I’m hoping I can sneak them down to the basement for a bit and then add them to the toy rotation at some future point in time.
My son seemed to enjoy the festivities. At night we tell stories about the day’s adventures and he seemed most proud that everyone enjoyed the cake he baked. It just goes so show that the experiences of life are much more important than the things.
I’ve been keeping my eye on LeapFrog LeapReaders for my three year old son and finally spotted a deal. Amazon is currently featuring $5 off LeapReaders plus a free book or flash card set with purchase.
Simply click the link above. Choose the LeapReader you prefer, (pink or green), then check the box to the left of the free item you’d like to add.
You will NOT see the discounted price until you reach the checkout page. Please note Amazon prices change quite frequently, so make sure the price and deal are valid before proceeding through checkout.
I chose the LeapFrog LeapReader Learn to Read, Volume 1 (works with Tag) as my free gift, which typically costs $14.43. I saved $19.43 after the free gift and $5 discount.
My finances have been all over the board lately.
On the good side of things:
- My husband never watches television and I typically only watched Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen once every couple of days so I downgraded our package and requested a monthly discount. Yearly savings: $324.
- We increased the deductible on our insurance policy from $1000 to $2500. Actually I asked to change it to $5000 but that wasn’t possible through our particular policy. Yearly savings: $240.
- Requested off-season rates for internet service to our beach home. Yearly savings: $137.48.
- Our mechanic purchased our broken 1999 Toyota. We agreed to the deal for $350. That’s not a whole lot of money, but it’s more than a tax write off would have provided.
On the not so good side of things:
- I opened a new IRA account. Somehow my husband and I missed the opportunity to contribute to our IRAs the last two years! I set calendar alerts to remind me from this point forward. That will not happen again in the future.
- I ordered new black flats and boots. I actually picked out a few pairs from Zappos with the intention of returning whatever doesn’t fit. Estimate: $200. By the way does anyone know a place to purchase super comfy, good quality boots that don’t cost a fortune?
- I drained $250 on new clothes last weekend. My clothes don’t fit particularly well right now and I need to prepare for the colder weather.
- We are closer to choosing a vehicle to replace our old Toyota. My husband originally wanted a commuter car, but recently started dreaming of something bigger.
Despite what certain magazines may tell you, it is possible to create a beautiful home on a budget. Smart designers, however, work to create homes that not only look good right away but that stay in good condition for many years to come. Frugality isn’t just about doing things cheaply in the short term, it’s about saving money over the long term, and there are lots of ways you can make this happen in your home.
The first thing to think about when doing up your home is repairing damage. If you live in a city like Toronto water damage restoration is likely to be a major concern, especially in basements and attics; doing this promptly can stop mold from spreading and protect the structure of your home, so make it a priority. If you have to cut away water damaged wood, remember that taking out too little in the immediate term can end up costing you a lot over time. You’ll also need to identify and address the leaks that led to the problem in the first place—even small ones need to be carefully sealed and if water is pooling on surfaces it needs to be directed elsewhere.
Simply walking around your home with putty and sealing up all the small cracks you can find will do a lot to insulate it and so lower your heating bills.
If you want to give your home a new look but can’t afford expensive wallpapers or paints, look for a paint shop that’s willing to mix colors to give you exactly the shade you want at a lower price. Making your own stencils provides a cheap way to decorate walls in line with current trends.
By using online auction sites it’s possible to buy rugs direct from the Middle East at surprisingly low prices. Good quality items like this are designed to last and really help to stop heat loss through floors. You can also make your own rugs by weaving together rags or cutting old pieces of carpet into novel shapes.
Many thrift shops sell curtains and can often find just the type you want if you ask and are prepared to wait. Old theatrical curtains can be a fantastic option as they tend to be much thicker than average—great for insulation—and their length means heat doesn’t easily leak out from underneath them.
Thrift shops and antique sales can also be a great place to pick up solid wooden furniture that’s built to last, unlike a lot of its modern equivalents. A bit of work with sandpaper and varnish will soon have an old table, chair or bedstead looking as good as new.
Some furniture is easy to make at home, even without much skill. Kids love giant beanbags and they can be just as comfortable as armchairs. You can also pick up sofas and chairs very cheaply if they have torn or stained fabric, which is easy to replace, and you’ll find videos on YouTube to guide you through it.
Although money can make decorating simpler, if you’re equipped with a good imagination and a willingness to work hard, you won’t need much of it to create your dream home.
I sat down this weekend to review our insurance options for next year. As owners of a small company my husband and I spend a ridiculous amount of money on insurance premiums each month. I don’t miss much about my working days, but I do miss the benefit of employer provided insurance. In 2011, (the last year I was gainfully employed), I paid less than $2000 in premiums for an entire year’s worth of insurance! My employer paid $8,725. These days we are on the hook for the entire $10,000 to $18,000 bill!
Our options for next year include three different plans; a PPO, an HMO and a high deductible HSA plan. The breakdown is as follows:
|Type of Plan||Yearly Premium|
These numbers are quite specific to our little family of three. The premium is based on each of our ages, so I know that the PPO plan costs $611.94 for me, $615.89 for my husband and $313.88 for my son.
The difference in premiums is quite substantial. The PPO plan costs $698.64 more than the HSA plan per month and $8,383.68 per year.
|Type of Plan||Yearly Premium|
Of course the premium calculation is not the only factor to consider. The breakdown of deductible costs are as follows:
|Type of Plan||Deductible|
Comparing medical plans is like comparing apples to oranges. To better even the score I added deductibles to the yearly premium totals. In the worst case scenario, (like this year), we will pay the entire deductible before our insurance kicks in.
|Type of Plan||Yearly Premium|
As you can see the HMO plan is the cheapest overall option, but I am not a fan of HMO plans. I’ve experienced my fair share of medical issues and I know how difficult it can be to navigate the health care system when troubles abound. I have no desire to wait around for doctor referrals when I am in pain or in need of care. Especially not to save $122.04 a year.
After ruling out the HMO I tried to break down the costs of the PPO and High Deductible plan even further. There are definitely more upfront costs with the high deductible plan. For example, I would owe a $30 copay for medical treatments like allergy shots, physical therapy, and acupuncture. The same goes for x-rays, lab work and other diagnostic procedures. If we experienced a truly horrible year we could easily pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for these services. The maximum out of pocket costs for the HSA plan are $8,000, which means I could pay a total of $5,000 more after meeting the yearly $3,000 deductible.
It seems even in the very worst case scenario the HSA plan is a better deal. After accounting for deductibles the difference between the HSA and PPO plan is $5,883.68, which means even in the very worst case scenario I will save $883.68 by choosing the HSA plan.
The high deductible plan also allows me to save $6,650 per year in a tax advantaged account, which means some of my dollars will be spent before tax further boosting my overall savings.
What do you think? Am I missing something important? Is there something else I should consider when choosing between these plans?