Archive for March, 2008
Last week Spring Hill Nurseries ran a special $20 off $20 purchase special. I purchased two items, a strawberry kit complete with a 14” Dura-Cotta pot and 25 plants and a blueberry kit complete with one blueberry plant, 10″ pot, soil and saucer. To take advantage of the offer I purchased the plants in two separate orders, paying only for shipping at roughly $16.
The grocery stores around my way have horrible produce. I’ve been trying to eat more fruit and vegetables lately but when the broccoli is yellow, the bananas brown, and the fruit mushy… well it’s a little hard to convince myself to eat it. On Saturday, I drove up north to the closest farmer’s market to check out their produce. I found amazingly fresh produce, but I refused to pay the market’s prices. One mid-sized container of strawberries was over $7. I couldn’t convince myself to pay that amount, fully knowing that I can purchase organic frozen strawberries for less than $3. Seeing that $7 container of strawberries convinced me that my recent purchase was entirely worth the money.
Of course, I run the risk that the berries will not grow, but if they do grow, and produce a mid-sized container worth of berries, then at worst I’ll have broken even. At best, they’ll produce a summer’s worth of berries. Plus I’ll get to enjoy planting the bushes and tending to them. I’m thinking of taking over a small plot in the backyard to grow other fruit and vegetables. Some areas of the backyard are extremely shady, but with just a small plot of land I should be able to make at least a few things grow.
This morning I unhappily opened my credit card statement and found yet another finance charge from our failure to pay the credit card on time back in January. My husband usually pays the credit card online via bill pay, but he was out of town in January and simply forgot to schedule the payment. He realized the mistake two days later and paid the credit card in full.
When we received the bill in February I expected to see the late fee and finance charge and immediately called the credit card company to ask that the charges be waived. Chase agreed to waive the late fee but refused to waive the finance charge. I wasn’t happy with Chase’s response but I was willing to accept it, until today. Today, when I opened the bill and found a second finance charge I was furious.
I called Chase and asked why we received finance charges two months in a row despite the fact that we were only late once. The representative couldn’t clearly explain why the second finance fee was assessed. I asked her to waive the second finance fee but she refused. Unwilling to give up, I handed the phone to my husband (who was yelling stuff in the background), to speak with a supervisor. A few minutes later the larger of the two financing fees was waived. In addition, the supervisor credited our account $10 for being value customers.
Oddly enough a few hours after hanging up the phone this morning I came across this post by J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly. It seems we’re not the only ones calling our credit card company to waive late fees and finance charges.
I received an email a week or so ago from the Gold Points program currently utilized by T.G.I Fridays. In essence, Gold Points announced that the program is converting to a redemption-only program on April 1, 2008. T.G.I. Fridays will continue to redeem awards through April 30, 2008, but after that they are transitioning over to an entirely new awards program.
When my husband and I were in college we went to Fridays a lot on date nights. We don’t have a whole lot of restaurants in our area so we chose Fridays because the food is relatively tasty and inexpensive. I signed up for the Gold Points award program eons ago and I have been racking up points there ever since. When I first graduated from college my office was located across the street from a Fridays and I racked up even more points when my co-workers and I went out to lunch.
The other night my husband and I enjoyed appetizers, two entrees, and an alcoholic drink for roughly $40 after tax and tip. We cashed in 11,000 gold points for a $30 Friday’s Gift Certificate, leaving us with a tiny $10 bill.
The Gold Points program will allow online point redemptions after April 30th, but T.G.I Fridays will stop redeeming points after that date. The awards at Fridays are a much better deal than the other Gold Points awards. For example, you can earn a $15 gift certificate for Fridays with only 5,750 points, but it’ll cost 9,175 Gold Points for a $10 Amazon.com gift card.
If you’ve racked up Gold Points you might want to consider heading over to T.G.I. Fridays prior to April 30th. To learn more about the program changes click here.
Shortly after my sixteenth birthday my dad bought me an old, used Ford Escort. That Ford Escort was nothing but trouble. It broke down at the most inopportune times, leaving me stranded on the side of the road on a number of occasions. About a year after buying that old bomb my dad bought me my first AAA membership.
AAA has been my knight in shining armor on more occasions than I care to remember. In fact, they came and picked my husband and I up after my car broke down during one of our first dates. After my Ford Escort finally called it quits, I drove an old Toyota Corolla and an even older Toyota Camry station wagon after that. My current ride, a 14 year old Oldsmobile, is the oldest yet. I think of my AAA card like an insurance policy against breakdowns. If I do breakdown I know I can call someone at anytime, anywhere to come pick me up.
The AAA membership isn’t cheap, but the peace of mind it provides is totally worth the cost. Plus AAA members receive a whole host of benefits. For travel purposes, they offer discounts on dining and hotels and once you know where you’re going you can order maps and tour books for your next trip. AAA also provides discounts to amusement parks, attractions, movie tickets, museums and sporting events. Not to mention a whole host of shopping discounts.
Just today I saved 10% buying shoes at Payless and last week I saved 15% at UPS. You don’t normally have to clip coupons or print advertisements from the AAA website. Most stores simply ask to see your AAA card. 1-800-Flowers, Circuit City, Dell, Lenscrafters, Linens & Things, New York & Company, Payless, Tanger Outlets, and UPS are just a few of the participating merchants.
As long as I continue to drive old cars I’ll keep my AAA membership. I don’t like the idea of being stranded without it.
Now through March 31st eBay is providing 1¢ listing fees for all auction-style listings starting at 99¢ or less. I listed a number of books and DVDs I’ve been meaning to purge, but just haven’t gotten around to yet. I’m willing to risk 1¢ on each of these items in the hopes that they might sell. If they don’t I’ll just donate them to the local library. I was pretty successful in selling unwanted books and movies last summer and I’m hoping this round of sales will go as well as the last. You can find more about the 1¢ listing fees here.
From now until March 31st you can earn a $10 bonus just for signing up for Ebates, via this link, and making a qualifying purchase by March 31, 2008.
Once you’ve signed up with Ebates, type Old Navy in the Ebates search box. (Make sure you’re logged in first.) When the search is complete click the oldnavy.com link to earn the $10 bonus plus 3% back on all Old Navy purchases. It’ll look similar to the following:
The flip flops pictured above aren’t part of the sale but they are selling for only $5. Some are selling for as little as $3.50. All Old Navy purchases cost just $5 to ship. So, search for items that cost less than $5. When used in combination with the Ebates sign-on promotion you will receive the item for free.
Remember you will have to pay for your purchase at checkout, but your Ebates check should arrive after May 15th. It should include the $10 sign up bonus plus the 3% cash back earned from your Old Navy purchase.
While waiting for a prescription at the drugstore I took a few minutes to leaf through the latest issue of Natural Health magazine. In an article called Save the Planet Today the magazine listed 16 ways you can reduce your impact on the earth. As is often the case I found that some of the earth-saving tips will also help you save money. Here are a few of those tips:
- Choose Matches, Not Lighters. (On the environmental side: Lighters are made from petroleum based fuels and plastics, while matches are made from biodegradable wood or cardboard. On the financial side: Lighters cost money, while matches can often be picked up at local restaurants and hotels for free.)
- Keep Your Tires Inflated. (On the environmental side: Proper tire pressure can improve your vehicle’s gas mileage by more than 10% and can extend the life of your tires by 15%. Accelerating slowly and braking gradually can reduce gas usage by 35%, compared to aggressive drivers. On the financial side: Fewer fill-ups clearly saves you money.)
- Pick Pans That Fit Your Burners. (On the environmental side: Matching pans to burners increases energy-efficiency. On the financial side: The more energy efficient the less money wasted on sky high electric bills.)
- Pat Your Razor Blade Dry After Each Use. (On the environmental side: Wiping moisture from the blade prevents microscopic rusting and can double the life of the blade. This simple act will reduce the number of disposable razors and razor blades being tossed each year. On the financial side: Extending the life of the razor means you’ll have to buy new ones less frequently.)
- Cool and Cover Foods Before Storing Them. (On the environmental side: Placing warm foods in the refrigerator forces your fridge or freezer to work harder to maintain cold temperatures. On the financial side: The less energy spent, the smaller the electricity bill.)
- Clean the Lint Out of Your Dryer After Each Load of Laundry. (On the environmental side: You’ll improve the dryer’s efficiency by 30%. On the financial side: You’ll save $40 a year on your utility bill.)
As a kid I was fascinated with coins. Every few weeks my father would count his coins and roll them into coin wrappers. I vividly remember the first time I helped him count the change. He let me start with the pennies, because they were, (of course), the easiest coins to count. My dad has always kept his change in the same container. An old cheese curls container, that is roughly twice the size of a package of Pringles. I can picture that container as clear as day. I know the background is blue and the words ‘Cheese Curls’ appear in orange across the side.
When I was a little girl I was given a silver piggy bank to keep my coins. I could’ve sworn the piggy bank had been my father’s, but I asked him recently about it and he couldn’t remember where it came from. Ever since I can remember I have used that small piggy bank to hold my change. It traveled to my dorm room, my first apartment after college, and eventually my first home.
Initially, I fed that piggy bank by raiding my mom’s purse for change. Back then she carried an extra large pocketbook and I could always find loose change hidden in it’s crevices. She jokes to this day that I accumulated hundreds of dollars by picking her pockets. I asked for my dad’s coins too, but unlike my mom he wouldn’t part with his change. Oh, if I needed a quarter or two to finish a roll he’d chip in, but otherwise I knew better than to ask dad.
I have vivid memories of my dad counting out coins, placing them into piles, rolling them into wrappers, and driving to the bank to cash them in. I remember a few occasions where I held the rolled coins in my lap while we drove to the bank.
In the past, whenever my piggy bank filled with coins I would dump out the coins and roll them into wrappers, but these days with coin counting centers the need for counting and rolling coins has clearly diminished. Still, every once in awhile I count out my coins, just so I can think back to those early childhood days.
Frugal Babe’s recent post about green smoothies inspired me to pull my blender out of storage. Honestly, I’m not ready to drink spinach and kale, at least not yet. I figured I’d start with the fruit versions first and work my way up to the hard-core green ones as time progresses. My first smoothie concoction consisted of:
- 1/2 cup frozen blackberries
- 6 frozen, organic strawberries
- 1 cup vanilla soy milk
- 1 teaspoon honey
I’m very conscious of the food I purchase and I try to buy organic or locally grown produce whenever possible, but my local stores didn’t offer organic blackberries. I know that all produce does not have to be grown organically. For example, experts often say there is no need to buy organic bananas, because the outer peel protects the contents of the banana from pesticides.
On the other hand I know that some fruits absorb large quantities of pesticides. Strawberries top that list, so I allowed myself to spend more money purchasing Nature’s Promise organic strawberries.
According to the article, Organic Food: Is it Worth the Money?, shoppers should spend money buying organic versions of the following fruits and vegetables:
- Grapes, imported (Chili)
- Bell peppers
On the other hand the following fruits and vegetables are more resistant to pesticides and may not be worth the extra money:
Needless to say, in the next round of smoothies I may replace my blackberries with bananas.
I found a print version of the following list of financial fairy tale lessons in an article called fairy-tale finance by Melissa Balmain.
- Be patient while your nest egg grows — and for goodness’ sake, forget about making a killing. –The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
- Beware of shaky real-estate investments — The Three Little Pigs
- If a get-rich-quick scheme sounds too good to be true, it probably is. — Rumpelstiltskin
- Don’t trust sweet deals if the company offering them is unfamiliar — Hansel & Gretel
- Your assets can grow dramatically if you just wait out the current economy — Sleeping Beauty
- Two words: soybean futures — Jack and the Beanstalk
- Never miss a window of opportunity. — Rapunzel