Downloaded songs from Freegal.
Downloaded the Amazon Local app, but then couldn't do Audible.com $10 deal I'd read about because it's only for new customers.
Loaded new Shoprite ecoupons onto my Price Plus card.
Printed out coupons from All You magazine's website, Kimberly-Clark (at pickupthevalues.com), and pillsbury.com.
Printed out a hair salon coupon from the Citi Easy Deals credit card reward program, and also bought a Restaurant.com gift card at 90% off there.
Made a big pot of mashed potatoes to use up some potatoes. Some are in the fridge for tomorrow, some are frozen for later.
Used up some eggs by hard-boiling a couple, and using one in corn muffins, which I froze.
We are using up a slightly-outdated can of La Choy chow mein for tonight's dinner. I always keep one on hand for emergencies, and then forget about it. I only thought of it today because of this recent news story:
Viewing the 'Food Costs and Healthy Eating' Category
Downloaded songs from Freegal.
After several layoff scares over a period of three years, my full-time job at the library finally ended, in July. I was able to stay on part-time, but of course I'm losing my health benefits. DH left an awful job in 2007 and hasn't had a job since then; we've been able to afford his being a househusband until now. Luckily, here in NJ you are eligible for partial unemployment when your hours are reduced, so that's a help. I've gotten one payment so far.
Well, that's all I'll say for now. Anyone who's been looking for a job lately knows how frustrated I'm feeling right now. I think I'll look back in my blog to see how we managed during previous lean times, and then go downstairs to make dinner. We are having cheesesteaks, but home-made ones using Old Neighborhood shaved beef and a loaf of Italian bread. I hope they turn out well, because it should cost about 1/2 the price we used to pay for take-out ones.
Over the past couple of days, I've pulled prices from some grocery receipts and started a new price book using Excel.
Most recently, I was using Splash Shopper on my old Palm PDA, and liked it. I'd refer to the database on the Palm, and use the desktop version to input the prices. But I've switched to an ipod Touch as my PDA, and I wasn't impressed by the reviews I've read for their app. I've tried some other apps, but it's tedious trying to enter much information on the ipod. Plus, I want to be able to choose what information I record.
For example, I want to record both price per pound and per item for some things. When I go to Shoprite they price bell peppers by the pound, and when I go to Walmart they are priced by the piece. At Aldi, right now they're in 3-packs. In Excel, I can add as many columns as I want for different types of unit prices, rather than having to choose just one.
I'll email it to myself when I feel it's done, so it's accessible on the ipod. But I still might print it out and carry it in my purse. I don't like whipping out the ipod inside stores if I don't have to.
Monday was an NSD. I spent some time before my afternoon shift doing some produce prep and planning out food for the week.
Tuesday I spent more than necessary because my organizational skills fell short. I forgot to take my mug in to work, so I bought coffee in order to have the use of a cup throughout the day. I'd planned to pick up salads for dinner but didn't take the time to dig out a coupon before I left home for the day. I also forgot to take my empty iced tea pitcher home to refill; luckily I had another container at home to use this morning.
Wednesday I needed to order a shower gift for a coworker's daughter before all the less expensive items in her wishlist are purchased--otherwise a NSD.
I've been trying to use up some food items before they get so old I'm afraid to eat them. So far: the end of a cucumber, a bit of leftover pasta salad, a jar of cheese that had a use-by date of March, one last Wasa cracker, a Dinty Moore beef stew that had a use-by date earlier in April. Today I'll be making some Jello that's dated February, and using up some cooked corn by adding it to a can of vegetable soup. I'm taking some dry creamer into work to help use up some instant coffee I keep there. It isn't drinkable otherwise and I end up either buying coffee or using my own K-cups which aren't that cheap, either.
Today can't be an NSD because we're paying the property taxes, but there's hope for tomorrow.
All of a sudden, I'm finding myself buying in bulk, in a big way. I'd love to have a year's supply of whatever is practical. Two things spurred me to do this--
1) My mother casually mentioned how her friend buys blueberries in season and freezes a whole year's supply. It reminded me of how I like to buy a big carton of red-skinned sweet potatoes in the fall, and eat them all year. It's nice to know they're there, and that I don't have to run up to the farm market every few weeks. And I don't have to think about them every time I make a shopping list.
2) I had another scare this past week with my mother--nothing serious, but something that's going to take extra time again, taking her to doctors and such. Something is always coming up. I just can't devote that much time to grocery shopping. Many weeks I only have a few hours to myself, and I'll be darned if I'm going to spend them all looking at circulars, sorting coupons and running to sales.
So I'm starting to think big. So far, I've ordered some stuff on Amazon and joined BJ's Warehouse (like Sam's or Costco, but a smaller chain). I'm going ahead and spending like crazy, but at least I'm using my price book. My goals is to get stocked up as much as possible while on a vacation week, and then try to relax and enjoy my spring and summer as much as possible. It's throwing any concept of a weekly grocery budget out the window, but I think it'll be worth it.
I've gotten back into that vicious cycle that Carol Keeffe describes so well in her book*--one month you charge some groceries and toothpaste, the next month when you pay the bill it leaves you short to buy the new month's groceries, and you end up using the credit card again and again each month.
When things were really wild over the past few months, I'd just shop when I could. I didn't always have cash with me, and didn't always know for sure how much was in our checking accounts. I didn't want to overdraw an account, so I used the credit card to be safe. If I was using the credit card, I couldn't go to Aldi, and I didn't have time to shop the sales and use coupons, either. I didn't always take time to record what I spent. Often I had to charge things that were really for my mother, which confused things even more. (She doesn't have a credit card of her own.)
Result--a balance I've been paying off each month, but sometimes painfully so.
This weekend I "borrowed" $140 from our bills account to cover a big food shopping trip. I've got a lot of catching up to do, as we've used up a lot of stockpile items, and a lot had to be throw away because it got spoiled or was way out of date. I'll probably have to "borrow" some more next week. So far this month I've already spent $284 on groceries and we're only half through.
But at least I can pay myself back at my leisure with no interest adding up. And it's enabling me to take advantage of some really good sales and coupons, like a series of $5 off $40 coupons at one of our stores.
* "How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"
I hardly know where to begin. A few weeks ago, I was actually in tears because of money worries and now I'm trying to figure out how to divvy up a 45% increase in our cash flow. I just found out that my boss really went to bat for me, and got approval for me to go full-time with benefits! Not only is it more hours and free insurance, but also an increase in my hourly rate. Things sure can change fast, down or up.
I've been very worried about how we'd cope when DH's Cobra coverage ran out. That's a big part of the reason I went ahead and sold the rest of the ETFs I had in my IRA. I didn't want to raid the IRA to pay for health insurance, but I wanted to have the option if it came to that. If the stock market kept tanking, I couldn't be sure of how much I'd have available.
I've been trying really hard, running around to to buy things on sale, using coupons and rebates again, and had our freezer pretty well filled up.
One night DH got out some pizza and left the door open about an inch. In the morning, I heard it running like mad and discovered it. That's when I finally broke down and cried, fearing that all the food was ruined and money wasted. (We've been using the food up as fast as we can, with no ill effects so far.)
DH started looking for work, and finally signed up with a rather cheesy temp agency out of desperation. You can read about them here, and either be forewarned or just see how the bottom half lives:
I even went so far as to tell my mother I couldn't chip in the tip anymore when she took us out for a meal. It was really embarrassing, but felt I had to do it.
She likes to get out to restaurants, but is housebound now and needs one of us to drive her. She pays for the meal, and we've been paying the tips. But what with gas prices, I didn't feel I could keep shelling out more money on tips than we could have made the whole meal for at home.
Now, amazingly, the tide seems to have turned. Instead of feeling stunned and unsure because of all the bad economic news, I'm now feeling stunned and unsure about how to handle this good fortune.
I really, really, don't want to blow it.
No, not McDonald's stock--coupons.
DMom and I sometimes go to McD's for coffee because it's cheaper than some places and we like it just as well. Yesterday there was a sign on the door about Halloween coupons books, so I asked about them.
For $1, you get a coupon folder with 12 coupons for free items. In other words, for $1 you get coupons for about $10 worth of food. Can't beat that with a stick.
I suppose they're meant for kids--they have Ronald McDonald on them, and they're for small items--hamburgers, cones, juice, milk, and apple dippers. They expire 12/31.
I bought two. They are just the kind of things DMom and I might want to snack on with our coffee. Or that would hold off the hunger pangs if I'm out on errands a long time.
Somehow this lifts my spirits more than hearing that the Fed has lowered interest rates.
I hardly ever have these. I've been spending way too much on coffee at work, even at 50 cents a cup. Yesterday I drank water instead.
Life has calmed down a little, so I'm trying to get back to some little frugalities. I made macaroni salad over the weekend, and am using it up even though it's rather bland. Making a pitcher of iced tea in the mornings to keep from going into my diet soda stash. Having toast instead of bagels or English muffins, because the price per serving is about half. Using up home-made soup I have in the freezer instead of opening a can.
I'm planning my driving trips more carefully--I actually made it through the past week on $25 worth of gas. This morning I'm in the mood to go to Aldi's before work, but I'll wait til tonight. I can combine the trip with getting my hair cut. Tomorrow I'll hit Petsmart on the way home from work, rather than making a separate trip. It's kind of aggravating when you want to go NOW, but I'm sure I can get used to it.
I've also changed some computer settings so my pc goes on standby sooner when it's idle, and turns itself off earlier at night. May save a little electricity, I hope.
Nothing more exciting going on right now--which is a GOOD thing.
A blogger named Homeschool Dad came across a printed price list in his local Aldi, and posted it online!
I've been trying to keep a price book of Aldi prices, based on my receipts. At one point I even put it up online hoping it would be useful for other people to use as a comparison for sale prices at other stores. But I never managed to put together such a comprehensive list as this one.
Here's the link location as of today (it will open an Adobe Reader .pdf file)
Homeschool Dad had to take the file off his own website because he got too many hits. Go, Aldi fans!
Homeschool Dad's blog--
I've never seen a printed price list at my Aldi, and I've never noticed some of the products on his list. OTOH, the special seasonal stuff isn't listed, just the stuff they have all the time. The price list also says every product in their store has a price tag on it--not the case here in NJ.
Happy comparison shopping.
I'm trying to rethink our food budget again, in light of the freezer's arrival and our upcoming lower income. So I went online to find the latest USDA Food Plan as a guide.
It got me thinking--they keep saying inflation is well under control, but I'm definitely noticing higher prices on certain foods. I haven't been keeping good spending records lately, so am I just imagining it?
The CPI figures that just came out say food is up 4.2% on an annual basis (August to August). www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm
I compared the USDA food plans for last June and this June (June is supposed to represent an average figure for the year.) Their food budgets have gone up 5.9% in a year.
And here's an article that says:
"According to figures from the United States Department of Agriculture, the price of foods containing high amounts of protein have increased the most. The cost of beef has increased by 6.4 percent. Poultry is up 7.8 percent.
"But both are trumped by milk, which costs 9.5 percent more than it did at the beginning of the year.
"For the year, the USDA is forecasting a food inflation rate of 4 to 4.5 percent, with the highest increases being seen in dairy and eggs. Historically, retail food prices inflate at a rate of 2.5 percent. “Very rarely do we get above 3.5 percent,” said Leibtag. But even if prices fall some this autumn, it appears this year's inflation rate will be the highest since 1990."
It really makes you wonder what to think.
I guess it sounds nutty, being that DH will be unemployed in less than two weeks. But I'm glad I did it.
The reasons I had for deciding to get one a month ago have just gotten stronger. My stress level is even higher, and it's even more important to cut down on the time I spend on errands. I know I'm going to have to devote time to the computerized end of DH's job search, and I want to be able to pick up extra hours at work if they're available. We need to have enough easy stuff for dinners at home so I'm not tempted to pick up take-out.
On Sunday at Shop Rite I was behind a woman with three girls, who spent $495 on two piled-full carts of groceries. I was shocked at first--I would have at least used some coupons and not bought full-price pomegranate juice!
But then I looked at how calm they all looked, and how the mother was slim and looked like she took care of herself. I thought, well at least she's done shopping for awhile now and can go live her life, exercising, playing with the kids, whatever.
That's what I want, in addition to keeping the grocery budget under control. I'm tired of having to make a weekly trip to the bread outlet for the whole grain light bread that helps me control WW points. Why weekly--I don't have room to freeze bread for future weeks. And I'm sure not going to pay full price at the supermarket.
I'm tired of having to decide between the bag of burgers and the bag of chicken at Aldi's, just because there won't be room in the freezer for both, and then having to make another trip there a week or two later.
I'm tired of shopping sales all day, not able to really stock up at each store, being so tired I stop at Wendy's for dinner, and then having to do it all again the next week.
I'm also tired of putting things in my mother's freezer temporarily, and not being able to get to them right away.
I've spent hours pursuing possible used freezers on Craig's List, to no avail. I've been watching prices online for the model I really want, and the sale prices at the big box stores aren't any better than our local appliance guy is every day.
So today I did it. With actual cash money out of our home/car repair savings account.
Yikes, it didn't take long.
I stopped doing my 4-week reports here after February. Thought I didn't need them anymore, and was tired of the tedious work involved.
I stopped recording what I was spending out of Cash, figured I'd just chalk it all up to Everyday Expenses.
Life's been getting busier, and I started using the Discover card when I wasn't sure exactly how much was in checking. Rather than stopping to check, I charged things rather than risk having a debit purchase turned down. (Also I was lured by the cash-back rewards.)
Gas prices have gone up, and I haven't revised the rest of my budget to make up for it.
I've been buying special foods for myself to help with The Diet--but honestly, many of them have been luxury items I could do without and still eat healthily.
So, now I've got $135 on Discover from overspending on groceries that I can't just pay off. It's either pay it off over the next 3 weeks, or just don't eat this week! I know it's a tiny balance, but it's a Red Flag, for sure.
When will I ever learn?
Here's my plan for today, totalling 30.5 WW points (which is within my limit), and costing $3.50 (which is below the daily allowance of $4.38 for the USDA's Thrifty Plan for Dec '06). It includes the minimum 5 fruit/veg servings and 3 dairy servings that Weight Watchers recommends. I've also got 2 servings of whole grains.
Breakfast, fruit and grain bar .21, and 1/2 cup pineapple chunks .17
Lunch, 3/4 c baked beans .25, 1 corn muffin .07, 8 oz glass skim milk .18, 1 raw carrot .06
Dinner, salad made with 1/3 bunch romaine .19, large radish .03, equivalent of 1/4 of one pepper from tricolor package .23, 1/2 cup cauliflower .27. 10 sprays of Wishbone Balsamic Vinaigrette .07 (Aldi had it this week.) Ten cheese ravioli .54 with 1/2 cup Grandessa sauce .30
Snacks, hardboiled egg .10, tropical fruit snack bowl .35, 7 triscuits .10, yogurt .43 and 1 cup popcorn .08.
The snack bowls are twice the cost of the fruit that comes in larger cans. I'll try to only use them when I'm not home.
The Grandessa pasta sauce is twice the cost of Mama Cozzi, but it has half the fat and calories so it's worth the extra money to me.
I'm actually still using up some Act II popcorn rather than Aldi's brand, so the price is based on the Act II right now.
I'm not just eating the beans and corn muffin to be cheap--I actually like them and they are pretty filling.
Someone is posting Weight Watchers points for Aldi food items:
Here you can track and analyze your food intake according to the latest version of the government's Food Pyramid:
It's been a hectic week, and I'm really scampering to figure out what I can eat in a day on Weight Watchers. I just haven't had time to sit down and figure out cost per meal like I'd hoped, plus I'm missing some cost and label info for stuff I bought awhile back. I think I'll have more time after I have some good menus worked up that I can repeat.
I'd started to work with the Pyramid Tracker above, but that system allowed me a lot more food than WW is, even though I set it to maintain my weight at 50 pounds less than I am! So this a second change to my eating habits in about a week. My head is kind of spinning right now.
I just got back from the doc, and have some additional motivation. My blood pressure has gone up a bit, and he's talking about increasing the dosage of my medication--the pill I want to get off of altogether because I'm tired of running to the bathroom!
I have a 6-week reprieve to see if I can lower it by losing weight, watching salt, and exercising. I asked the doc, of his patients who have lost weight successfully, what did they do? What's the common denominator? His answer--Weight Watchers. I asked him for a note of "medical necessity" so I can use HSA money for Weight Watchers fees. I guess I'll give it another try.
On the good side, my blood work was fine. Total cholesterol under 200, and HDL 50. At least he was happy about something!
Stopped at a different Aldi on my way home, to see if they had anything different from mine. I scored some sugar free Mystic mints--my usual store only has the sugar free gum.
I started a new file in my shopping list program for keeping cost per portion info. (Such as, one Italian sausage is 50 cents and saltines cost less than a half a cent each.)
I figure I've been counting calories for almost 40 years, and it hasn't done me a whole lot of good. I'll try something new and see how much I've eaten in dollars and cents each day.
I thought of just continuing to track what I spent on groceries overall, but it would be hard to take into account how much DH and I each ate. Also, it wouldn't give me such a close look at which items are the best buy, like a banana vs. an individual applesauce cup.
Made a trip to Aldi's last night, at what I hoped would be a slow time. I was able to take my time in the aisles, looking for things I couldn't find previously, and writing down prices.
Nonstick cooking spray (canola-based) $1.29
Turkey bacon $1.89
Splenda, in addition to their own brand of aspartame
Plain, nonfat yogurt
Sugar free "jello" and fat free pudding, in the refrigerated section $1.79 for 6 cups
Fat free "cool whip" 75 cents
Baked nacho tortilla chips $1.49
Mixaid (like Crystal Lite) $1.75
Lite mayo $1.49
Corn tortillas in the bread section, that I turn into baked chips myself, by slicing and baking, 89 cents
Sunflower seeds 39 cents
Tomato juice, large can 89 cents
No 1% milk; there's skim but I'm not wild about it
No reduced fat sour cream
No reduced fat sliced cheese
No vinegar besides white distilled (cookbooks say too harsh to be used in salad dressings)
Not much selection in bottled diet salad dressings
No flavored lite cream cheese, only plain
Diet frozen meals limited to "Lean Pocket" type wraps
Still and all, I think I'll find plenty to eat and lose weight. I'll try their diet dressings, and I'll try making some homemade ones calling for lemon juice rather than fancy vinegars.
No, I'm not entering the blog contest. Actually, I'm not even starting this project til May 1.
I signed up over on the Let's Lose A Person thread, and am getting nowhere. I need some way to jumpstart my weight loss, some way to make it interesting enough to stick with. The accountability of blogging helped me to get out of debt--maybe it could help me lose weight, too.
So, for the month of May, I'm going to eat nothing but Aldi food and see how it affects my weight and other health factors. I made a doctor's appointment for May 1, so I can get official weight and blood pressure numbers. And I'll be getting some long overdue blood work done this week, so I'll know where I'm starting with cholesterol and such. The trick might be getting a slip for more blood work after only a month!
I'm actually looking forward to working within a limitation like this--I think it can force you to be more creative. And being creative is usually fun. Wish me luck!
Sorry about the new colors--I was going for Springy, but it's hard to tell what a color will look like from those little squares!
Last night and again this morning, I took the time to sign up for some freebies, and signed up for some good ones. Purina One (again!), Good Life Recipe pet food, a free book on Windows Vista, and a CD-ROM of computer games from AARP.
I've been trying to do advance food prep more often, like hard-boiling eggs and cutting up veggies. Hopefully it will help with eating healthier as well as cutting down on food waste. So far so good--I've put it into some task scheduling software I got recently, and it does seem to be helping.
Another task I put in was checking my Yahoo mail. It's where I get all my paid emails from MyPoints and Inbox Dollars. When I get busy with other things, I can go a whole month without dealing with those emails, and then the offers expire. I don't want to be checking all the time, but I do hate missing out on those points.
For the 2nd Sunday in a row, I managed to have noplace I needed to go, which means a full day to putter around the house getting ready for the week.
I've done some cooking, which has made me feel a bit warmer, even if it's just psychological. Made beef stew, pumpkin bread, and then Yummy lured me into making some yellow split pea soup. None of this is exactly diet fare, but I'm trying to use up what I have around the house.
Also exercised, did a lot of laundry, and ran the dishwasher twice.
It's really helped to make my shopping list on Friday mornings, based on what we actually need. When Saturday morning comes, I just head out the door and start my errands. If I spent time going through the newest coupons and circulars first, I'd get out much later. And if I tried to take advantage of sales at too many stores, the errands would run over into Sunday. I like it this way much better!
Did you know you can freeze orange juice in the carton, and that maybe you should freeze some this week?
DMom and I were in the Acme yesterday, where her shopper's card entitled her to 6 cartons of Tropicana at $2 each. She bought one, but when we checked out the cashier suggested we get the limit.
They've started seeing the higher fruit and veg prices resulting from the California weather problems--a crate of oranges is now costing the store $48 where it used to be about $6 or $8. She said the price of orange juice will be jumping to about $8 a 1/2 gallon carton next week.
She also mentioned that she's always frozen orange juice in the carton when it's on sale, and never had a problem with the carton bursting. She does freeze it inside a plastic bag, just to be safe.
(Yes, we did turn around and bought all we could. I'm thinking of stocking up on the frozen cans from Aldi's, too.)
The good new is--I went straight over to Commerce to switch our account to the 50+ Club. Free checks, free or reduced fees on some misc. services, and interest checking that's currently paying 1/10 of 1%. (Not kidding!) Also, your safe deposit box is supposed to be free the first year and then 1/2 price thereafter. A nice little perk for getting old.
The bad news is, we seem to have meal moths in our pantry closet. They must have come in with something new, because I've had a stockpile of grain products going for years with no problems til now.
If I didn't have such a big stockpile, the problem wouldn't seem so overwhelming. But from what I've read, the moths and larvae (meal worms, basically) can be in brand-new sealed packages. They can eat through plastic bags. You basically have to go through every package in your house, looking for the main infestation, and get rid of it asap. Cereal, cake mix, dry pet food, rice, etc. Even things that look ok could have eggs in them, that you can kill by freezing the food. But do I really want to eat a cake made from a mix with possible dead moth eggs in it?
The whole thing is creeping me out, OTOH it's really difficult to just throw all this stuff out. Even though I bought most of it very cheap.
Anybody else have experience with this?
Boring, I know, but reporting here keeps me honest! For four weeks ending 12/16:
Everyday Expenses are staying pretty stable, despite the craziness of the holidays. It came to $554.76, only about $10 over where I like it to be. And, of course it was due to an organizational problem, sigh... I was watching the budget as I shopped through the month, but I'd forgotten to record a trip to Pathmark in Quicken so it looked like I'd spent less than I had. Oh well, not a disaster.
I had the credit card completely paid off, then I paid for the gym membership with the Discover card on 12/16. But it's paid for now, plus I have a weird $1 credit balance because of a mysterious trial offer refund.
Savings for emergencies stood at $458 in the Emergency Fund, and $570 in the Health Savings Account.
I'm going to keep reporting every 4 weeks, even though the debt is paid off now--I can use it to track savings goals.
Basically, it's a study to see what the cheapest subsistence diet would be, meeting minimum nutritional requirements.
"...the optimal solution diet for a 25-50 year old man consists, on a daily basis, of 1.31 cups of wheat flour, 1.32 cups of rolled oats, 16 fluid ounces of milk, 3.86 tablespoons of peanut butter, 7.28 tablespoons of lard, 0.0108 ounces of beef liver, 1.77 bananas, 0.0824 of an orange, 0.707 cup of shredded cabbage, 0.314 of a carrot, 0.387 of a potato, and 0.53 cup of pork and beans. The daily cost of this diet is $1.78."
"The optimal solution diet for a 25-50 year old woman consists, on a daily basis, of 1.13 cups of wheat flour, 1.61 cups of rolled oats, 16.7 fluid ounces of milk, 3.31 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2.59 tablespoons of lard, 0.00724 ounces of beef liver, 1.2 bananas, 0.234 of an orange, 0.561 cup of shredded cabbage, 0.219 of a carrot, 0.384 of a potato, and 0.297 cup of pork and beans. The daily cost of this diet is $1.47."
I've been wondering if I could actually survive on the lowest USDA food plan, and now that looks absolutely luxurious!
Maybe it could work, now and again:
Breakfast--o.j., oatmeal and milk
Lunch-pb and banana on whole wheat, carrot sticks, with a liverwurst sandwich about once a week as a change
Dinner-beans, whole wheat rolls, coleslaw, baked potato
(Not sure how I could eat all that lard, or that I'd want to!)
I haven't been going to the local IGA very often, but since my schedule is tighter now it seemed like a convenient alternative to Pathmark. But it doesn't save time if you frequently have to go back to get things fixed.
Today's fiasco--There was one checker on, the girl with one paralyzed arm. She really can't bag very well, so I bagged myself instead of watching as each thing rang up.
Since I record my spending in Quicken, and divide things by grocery, pet, nonfood and tax, I look at my receipts pretty carefully. As it turned out, she missed taking off some coupons, took another coupon off too many times, and one item rang up higher than the sale price. It wasn't easy to figure out as their receipt is very hard to read. I actually made up a spreadsheet to show the customer service person where the mistakes were.
The checker is one problem, the weird receipt is another, the final one is a store policy. Every other store around here gives you the item free if the price rings up wrong. Not the IGA. As a result, I ended up getting $2 back rather than $4.19. And that, after fooling around for 1/2 an hour trying to figure it out.
I've had problems there several times before, even though I don't go there very often. OTOH, I go to places like Pathmark, Target, Aldi, and Stop and Shop much more often and I can't remember the last time it happened.
I think it's worth my while to continue with Pathmark, even with the drive time. And, it's another example of why I don't feel guilty for shopping at chains rather than local businesses.
Usually, the recommended coupon strategy is to get to the point where you're only buying items at their bottom sale price, with coupons. Theoretically, you could do this shopping at just one store because eventually, on some kind of cycle, everything will go on sale. And most of the time in our area, getting that bottom sale price means using a store's loyalty card.
For me, though, there's always something that has thrown me off. A coupon's about to expire and the store is out of that item, so a rain check isn't even going to help. So much is on sale one week that I can't afford to buy everything I'd like to. They have a 3-day sale and I can't get there during the 3-day period. They require you to buy 3 or 4 of some perishable item to get the sale price, when I can only use one. Which means I either have to start trying to catch the sales cycles at store #2, and #3, and #4... or pay inflated "regular" prices at that one store when I need something not on sale.
Now what if you only have one day to do errands, or have to use a taxi, or just can't afford all that driving anymore? If you can't hit all those different stores every week--which ONE store do you pick?
What I've found out is, your best bet for one-store shopping is probably one WITHOUT a loyalty card. I've found quite a few studies comparing shopping trips at stores with loyalty card programs, and without. All the ones I've found have had the same result--the total is virtually always better at a non-loyalty card store. It's almost shocking to read this stuff. Here is a representative sampling:
East Coast, in 2003--www.nbc10.com/consumeralert/1992223/detail.html
Midwest, in 2002--www.nocards.org/savings/regular_price_study.shtml
California, in 2000--web.archive.org/web/20001120044300/http://www.kfmb.com/bob/g...
I hadn't thought about it in those terms, but several of my current favorites are Aldi, Target, Wal-Mart and IGA--all stores without loyalty cards.
I have liked the feeling of going into a store, knowing I'm going to be getting a decent price even if there isn't a special sale going on, and even if I don't have a coupon. I can go at my convenience and buy exactly what I need.
And I feel like these stores respect me more by not making me play games. It's a much less stressful way to shop.
Now that I've read those studies, it kind of confirms that I've been moving in the right direction. So it's going to be the core of my plan to reduce errands and gas usage.
I can't get everything I need at any one of those non-loyalty card stores, but I should be able to get everything I need over time by rotating the trips. Maybe not at the absolute lowest price, but a fair price, and that's good enough for me considering the time and gas savings.
My 4-week "August" period ends this Saturday, and I've been peeking at how I've done. To be exact, gas came to $100.92, my highest month ever. That's not including $10 worth that I used attending the wedding reception, and the $10 DH and I used on a drive in the country to visit a used bookstore. I've put that in the Family Stuff and Dates categories.
It's not like gas prices are the highest they've ever been. I've just been driving a lot, mostly shopping. Moneywise, grocery spending came out well this month, but I also paid in gas, stress and time. I always thought I'd keep "cherry picking" bargains until it wasn't worthwhile anymore. I think that time has come.
I've been re-reading some old housekeeping and organizing books where they talk about having ONE errand day, ONE paperwork day, or spending no more than 20 minutes a week on your financial affairs.
Simplifying. Staying home and being happy in my little box, as someone wrote about recently. That is sounding heavenly right now. So my theme for September (starting Aug. 27) is K.I.S.S.
Awhile back, I asked DH if we could cut back on his Tastykakes and just get one box a week instead of two. On sale, they are $2.50 a box for 6 servings. Full price, I've seen them as high as $3.69. I figured it would save money to get a package of cheap cookies for desserts at home, and DH could still take his Tastykakes to work in his lunch.
I guess the problem is, I don't eat his Tastykakes, but if cookies are in the house I'll eat them. I've gained way too much weight back, and in an effort to fight the fat, I recently decided not to bring cookies into the house--forgetting their relationship with the Tastykakes budget.
Now while I'm starting to eat less junk, DH is going through his Tastykakes at a 2-box-per week rate again. Not only does it cost more, he is liable to gain more weight while I'm losing it.
If I don't buy his 2nd box OR the cookies, he's liable to spend more on junk at the convenience store, run out of his allowance and bug me for more money. Or he could end up smoking more on his lunch hour, out of frustration at not having the Tastykakes. Bad for his health and his budget, too.
I feel like I'm going around in circles! To get through this week, I'll get the 2nd box of Tastykakes and keep thinking.
Yesterday a mysterious package arrived on our porch, a UPS 2nd day air box, from Colorado, filled with something heavy. I couldn't imagine what it could be... Here, the Express PotatOH! people had actually sent me 4 of their microwavable baking potatoes to replace the 2 moldy ones I'd complained about.
I feel kind of bad that they went to the expense of sending out a 4 lb package of potatoes. (Maybe someone should tell them about free item coupons?) But I'm glad to essentially get double my money back on them. They look fine, nice and fresh.
Smuckers' response was excellent, too. I'd written them about their sugar-free preserves, which I didn't like the taste of. They sent me two free-product coupons to replace the two jars I couldn't face eating. The really impressive thing was, within 24 hours of my email they actually called me on the phone to ask some questions (such as the product codes on my jars). Within the week, the coupons were here.
It really only takes a few minutes to email a company about a problem (especially with the aid of Flash's contact list), and very satisfying when you get a response.
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