Archive for November, 2007
The quest for cod liver oil got me thinking about other health products, so I dug through my medicine cabinets to find out what other items I already own. I found quite a few bottles of vitamins. I noticed that all of the Nature Made bottles contained the following message: “Visit our website & earn free vitamins.” So I took a peek online. According to the website each Nature Made bottle contains a Wellness Rewards Code. If you create an account on the website you can enter the Wellness Codes. These codes are then converted into Wellness Reward points. Once you earn 500 points or more you can request a coupon for $5 off your next Nature Made purchase. For every additional 500 points they’ll send you a $7 coupon. The site says you can also receive other rewards like fitness DVDs and classical music CDs.
The point system is a little funky. You earn a different number of points depending on which bottle of vitamins you purchase. I rummaged through our medicine cabinet and found six bottles of vitamins. Some of the bottles were worth 85 points, others only 60. In total I earned 460 points, plus 15 extra points just for signing up. If I earn another 25 points I should be able to request the $5 coupon.
Nature Made vitamins are more expensive than the generic brands, but every so often they run a buy-one-get-one-free offer. We don’t purchase vitamins often but if we’re in need I always wait for one of these sales. On rare occasions I’ve seen coupons in the newspaper and every once in awhile I receive coupons when I checkout at Giant.
If you buy vitamins you might want to checkout the Nature Made site for more information. I’m not endorsing the product, but since I purchase these anyway, I might as well earn coupons towards future purchases.
My grandmother is 85 years old. She dyes her hair and dresses like a 50 year old. She’s in great health for her age and despite two falls in the past two years she hasn’t suffered any broken bones. Yesterday she told me she attributes her good health to cod liver oil. It seems her mother force fed her a tablespoon full every morning of her childhood. Apparently her mother, my great-grandmother, would hand her a tablespoon of cod liver oil in one hand and a quarter of an orange in the other. She’d hold her breath, swallow the cod liver oil, and suck on the orange. Her brother and sister who stood next to her in line would do the same.
In my thirty years on this earth I have already visited more doctors than my grandmother has visited in eighty-five years. When I told her how much I was spending on medical treatments she told me to stop paying so much money for expensive remedies. She told me to swallow a tablespoon of cod liver oil every morning. When I told her I didn’t think that would solve my troubles she told me to give it a shot. “After all,” she said, “we’re talking about $5.”
I’ve spent the better part of the year purging my house of unnecessary clutter. As I reorganize rooms I am constantly coming across gifts from past Christmases. So many knickknacks and trinkets from relatives that fill the corners of our home. Although I’ve managed to donate most of our unwanted items I feel especially guilty whenever I try to rid our house of one of these gifts. I know that generous relatives had the greatest of intentions when they purchased the items for us and I don’t have the heart to give many of these items away. After all, isn’t it polite to display these items whenever a relative visits?
So now as I am nearing the end of my Christmas shopping I realize that I too need to be mindful of the gifts I give. I don’t want to add to the clutter of my family and friend’s homes. Of course I think long and hard about the items I purchase for others, but let’s face it you can never really know whether or not the recipient will love the gift you gave them. In a year or two they may decide they simply don’t need that trinket, gadget, or gizmo, and I don’t want anyone to feel guilty for getting rid of an item they no longer love.
Last Christmas I asked for gift certificates to restaurants, hockey tickets and cooking lessons in order to spend more time with family and friends. This year I realized that last year’s list not only allows us to spend more time together it also ensures a clutter free home.
Today after a long week of crock pot dinners, thanksgiving turkey, and a lunch full of leftovers my husband decided he wanted a night away from the kitchen. Now my husband and I rarely go out to dinner. This is partly for financial reasons, partly because I love the way a home-cooked-meal can make a house feel like a home, and partly because we don’t exactly live in the mecca of fine dining. With limited options and rumbling stomachs we decided to head to TGI Friday’s.
Before we left, my husband, who is usually less frugal than I am, decided to Google for a coupon. Sure enough, within a matter of minutes, he printed out an $8 coupon for a free appetizer. I grabbed the coupon, my Friday’s Gold Points card, and a gift card we received for Christmas last year and headed out the door.
When the bill arrived they subtracted $8 for the appetizer, applied the remainder of the gift card balance, and awarded points to our rewards card. We now have just enough points to redeem a gift card from the Gold Points catalog. In addition, our receipt includes an $8 coupon for our next visit to Friday’s. (We just have to fill out a short online survey.)
When all was said and done we saved $8, received a future coupon for $8, received a $15 gift card through Gold Points, ate a delicious meal, and enjoyed quality time together after a stressful week with relatives. Not a bad way to spend the evening after Thanksgiving.
Tonight as I was fast-forwarding through a Tivo’d version of Oprah’s Favorite Things I realized just how sensible I’ve become about my finances. When Oprah revealed the most expensive gift ever, an LG HDTV refrigerator, I wondered who needs a $3,799 refrigerator with a LCD TV and DVD hookup? I’m happy with my $600 refrigerator that simply keeps the milk and cheese chilled. I have no need for a $100 panini press, when I can make the same sandwich with a frying pan and a brick. And who wants to spend $59 for 9 cupcakes when I can bake two dozen for $2?
I know, I know, I shouldn’t think these things. The point of Oprah’s show is not to introduce the audience to sensible, cost-conscious products. The point is to wow the audience with items that Oprah uses and loves. And although I know Oprah is one of the richest women in the world I still admire her for sharing these products and boosting the bottom lines of these companies, without taking profit in their sales or charging them for the advertisement of their goods.
But still as I was watch her reveal a $141 turtleneck, $42 soaps and a $1500 watch I realize that there wasn’t much on her list that I am desperate to own. Perhaps I’ve become too frugal to enjoy Oprah’s Favorite Things?
I never purchase anything online without performing the following list of activities:
First, I use comparison sites like Froogle and Price Grabber to find the cheapest online prices available. I type the top names from my search results into Ebates and Fatwallet. I’ve written about Ebates a lot in this blog, but it really is my favorite online rewards site. To date I’ve gotten back over $520 in cash. (By the way if you sign up right now via this link you’ll earn $10 after you make your first purchase.)
I compare the rewards between these sites because they provide different cash back incentives for the same store. For example, right now Ebates is offering a 6% reward for Petco, while FatWallet is offering 10%. If the two rewards are equal I always go with Ebates (it’s just a personal preference.) I also know that there are other referral sites out there, but I’m not a big fan of sharing personal information with smaller websites, so I tend to stick with one of these.
If the selected store isn’t in the list at either of these reward sites try UPromise. UPromise has a very large list of stores offering cash back rewards. This weekend I used UPromise to earn 2% back at LL Bean, which neither FatWallet or Ebates support.
With this information in hand I search the Internet for coupon and promotion codes. I usually check RetailMeNot first, but if I don’t find anything good I’ll do an old fashioned Google search to find a coupon. I make certain to check the price at the lowest store against other stores offering promotional discounts. For example, a store may carry an item at a higher price but provide free shipping. Shipping alone, even on a small item is usually in the range of $6 – $8. So when comparing items don’t forget to take shipping and other discounts into consideration.
Just for comparison I often search for used items on eBay as well. But beware, eBay is rarely the cheapest alternative. If fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen individuals pay more than retail for an item.
When I find the store with the lowest price I log into Ebates, search for the given store, enter my promotion code, (if I have one), and finalize my purchase.
I realize this seems like it must take forever, but actually I can usually do all of this comparison shopping in less than 10 minutes. In fact, I won’t search for longer than 10 minutes to find the best deal. After all, I don’t want to waste an hour of my time to save myself $1.
Lastly, it never hurts to comparison shop in brick and mortar retail stores. The other day I was shopping for a doll for my niece. In the store the item cost $19.99. Online the cheapest price was $29.99. When I calculated the shipping the item cost over $35. I would’ve kicked myself if I overpaid this much for an item.
Most of our bills are paid through automatic withdrawal from our checking account. My husband and I jointly own one credit card that we use to pay for just about everything. I do own two credit cards that are only in my name. One is a credit card that I’ve had since the beginning of time. Really, I opened this account way back in college, and I no longer use the card, but I do keep the account active and the credit card locked in the safe in our home. I also own one store credit card. I only opened the account because they often send me coupons in the mail and they offer savings on just about every purchase.
The store credit card is not paid automatically. I have to remember to log on to bill pay to pay it. But for some reason I have the hardest time remembering to pay it. Maybe it’s because I use it so infrequently or because it’s one of the few bills that aren’t paid automatically. Either way I forgot to pay it last month. The bill was a whopping $5.19.
This month I received retribution for my sins with a $1.00 finance charge and $15 late payment. $16 for failing to pay a $5.19 bill? The letter actually reads As a result of the minimum Finance Charge of $1.00 being applied to your Revolving account, the actual ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE charged on that account is 228.96%.
Thankfully since this is the first time I’ve missed a payment on that account the fee was waived, with the note that it would not be waived EVER again. Really $16 for a $5.19 bill?
Now I will admit something a little unusual about myself. I used to be a bit of a book snob. I used to read only NEW books. There’s something about the feel of a new book. I loved knowing that I was the first to flip through the pages. That no one else had read it but me. My dad has the same issue with newspapers. He likes to be the first person in the house to read the morning paper. He likes to read it while it’s clean and neatly folded. He hates when my mom reads the paper first and turns the pages inside out and mixes up the order of the sections. That’s probably weird, but nonetheless true.
But over the last few weeks as I’ve been reorganizing my home and removing unnecessary clutter my perspective has changed entirely. As I was cleaning I realized that there were tons of books on the shelf that I had only read once. It seemed so wasteful to destroy a tree, so that I could read a book once, and then let it sit on the shelf forever. So I took the majority of books off the shelf and donated them to the local library. I’m not sure when I became such a tree-hugger, but in keeping with the theme, I also decided to stop purchasing new books.
Now I buy books from half.com, ebay, or used from amazon. Most of the books I’ve read cost less than $1.00. Add in shipping and I’m up to $4.00. But then I’ll either resell the item on eBay or donate it to the library. It’s a win-win-win. The books are inexpensive, I feel like I’ve saved the earth just a little, and the books are no longer wasting space in my home.
I am sick of not feeling well. I know better than to pity myself or cling to the hope that things will get better. After three years things are not going to get better. This is my life and I should be thankful to be alive at all. I know that people have it much worse than I do. I know there are people fighting terminal diseases. I know there are people who are losing their battles, but it’s hard to wake up every day in pain. Pain that is invisible to the rest of the world.
Today after spending one hour and $125 at the massage therapist’s office, my practitioner informed me that my original medical problem may be causing new symptoms. If this is true there is nothing I can do about it. Surgeon’s have already done all they can. So if there will be pain, there will be pain, and I will simply continue paying for anything and anyone that can provide momentary relief from it.