Saturday, January 31, 2009

January's quantifiable savings

January’s quantifiable savings: at least $95. For the first time since I’ve been keeping this Blog, I am going to actually save the money instead of reuse it for other purposes. . .Oh, and I brought my lunch to work nearly every day this month.

Buy one, get one free

Bought a BK chicken sandwich with a “Buy One, Get One Free” coupon. Saved $3.79.

Attentive customer service still exists in this economy

Like millions of Americans, I am trying to file taxes on the early side. I realized I was missing my December 2008 AmEx statement, so yesterday I called to re-order it. However, I forgot the precise date that I was missing, so the Customer Service Representative told me to call back tomorrow and that there would be a $5 replacement fee. I called back on Saturday, verified that it was indeed the December statement. John, the CSR, commented that a customer for 17 years should not have to pay the $5 fee. Wow! I offered to compliment him to his Supervisor, but he declined and wished me a blessed day. God bless you, too, John. Saved $5.


I went to the mall to finally replace two watch batteries. One jeweler told me they’d have to send my watch away. Zales, their competitor across the mall aisle, gave me a discount coupon for the mall’s watch kiosk. I ended up getting $5 off what should have been $20 ($2.50 off per watch at $9.99 each). Which jeweler do you think I’m going to see next time I’m in the market for bling?

While waiting for the watch to be fixed, I wandered to Bath & Body Works because a friend gave us BBW gifts for Christmas and I loved them. I purchased lotion and shower gels for $2-$5 clearance. Great deals.


Purchased color paper at a cost of 4.29/packet. The same item was priced earlier in the week for $6.29, but I kept an eye on it. Additionally, I saved 50 cents using a CVS coupon. Saved $2.50 Same day: was offered opportunity to purchase a discount card for $5 at a beauty supply. I had to weigh the volume of my business with getting 20 cents off of today’s order. Decided to pass for now.

Free meeting dues

I attended an entrepreneurial meeting valued at $20 for free.

Cross-checking & cost comparing previous records

Ordered special folders for my Press Kits. I referred to previous invoices for the item numbers, and learned that the cost has risen 20 cents from 7.29 to 7.49 per pack. I commented on beginning to feel the effects of inflation. The CSR nervously chuckled. Ordered 4 packs anyway. Negative 80 cents.

Affiliation I.D. and tripling coupons

Purchased books at the university bookstore using staff discount. Should have cost $70, but cost $63 with 10% university I.D. Saved $7. Also bought items at the local Christian bookstore using coupons. Saved a whopping $29 off of the total order tripling coupons.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Special offer…with limitations

Received a notice in the mail that our bundled Phone-Internet package, which is currently $74.99 monthly, can go down to $69.99 per month if we renew for one more year. My guess is that a lot of folks are cutting out the landline and using cell only, so they want to make sure they keep us. Just as I was giddy about saving $5/month, amounting to $60 this year…my bubble was burst by the Customer Service Rep when he told me that I’d be reducing my Internet speed by 50% if I downgraded to the 70 bucks. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

Comparison shopping & clearance prices

I went to the store (I won’t mention which one) to try and find a ream of paper for less than $8-9 bucks, and the cashier at the jewelry counter asked if I wanted to open a line of credit with the store. I looked at her in bewilderment, commenting that I’m astonished that in this current economic climate of tightened lending, they’re even offering this. I took my $3.99 office paper and got out of there as fast as I could. Savings: $4 after hunting down affordable paper for my home office.

I also subsequently bought some small office supplies off of the clearance rack at the office supply store. I didn’t necessarily need them right now, but thought it’d be a good time to stock up. There was one item that rang up at its normal price until I brought the clearance sign with me to the register.

Supermarket versus Restaurant

Today I had chili for lunch. I love chili, especially when it’s snowing like crazy outside, like it is now. Since there’s no Wendy’s nearby, I have in the past gone to the restaurant down the street and paid upwards of 3 bucks for a small bowl. However, they loaded the chili with sauce, very few beans, and were stingy with the hamburger. So I recently bought can of chili at the grocery store for 99 cents, and an additional can of diced stewed tomatoes also for 99 cents. This afternoon I microwaved a hearty bowl not for $2 but rather, $1 if you factor in the fact that I can only consume half of a can. I’ve set aside the other half for another meal. What about the quality? Granted, it’s not the same as a bowl of freshly-made chili, but it was good—and hearty—nonetheless. Savings: 2 bucks.

Shopping for name-brand items at the discount store

I went to the dollar store and stocked up on a variety of name-brand items (toothpaste, soap, I even threw in some candybars). I—along with millions of consumers—are feeling the pinch of inflation kick in during this economic recession—so if I can get the same items at the 99 cents or dollar store as I can at some other fancy schmancy store for less cost, then so be it. Plus, I’m not wasting gas—this store is on my way home from work. Bought 15 items for 14 bucks. Can’t beat that.

Clearance combined with coupon plus rebate

It looks like the year is getting off to a good start money saving-wise. First, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and found a 3-piece set (tumbler, soap dish, liquid dispenser) for the guest bathroom on the 50% off clearance rack, and I also had a choice between using a 20% off coupon or a $5 off coupon. The 20% off would have yielded $3.10 worth of savings, so I used the $5 coupon instead. Cost before savings: $30.97. Cost after savings: $10.47 for a savings of $20.50.

Gas prices are low everywhere right now, but I still utilized my BJ’s Wholesale Club membership. Regular unleaded would have cost $1.959/gal. @ 11+ gallons/gas. Cost: $19.66. Would have cost $21.90. Saved $2.24.

Bought house slippers at $13.99. Instant rebate of $2 was applied, thereby making the price $11.99.

Today’s total savings: $24.74.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Single Blog entry for money saved in 2008

Dear faithful bloggers: Some of you have been inquiring about 2008 updates. Please know that I have not forgotten about the blog, but an incident happened of recent that is going to revolutionize the way I maintain records.

You see, I had indeed been retaining receipts all year through of instances where I saved money. I collected the receipts in a yellow envelope clearly marked “Money saved for 2008” with every intention of posting the updates during the last week of this year. You may ask, “Why didn’t you update the blog as you went along, Me’Shae?” Valid question. The answer is that I have to balance the following: full-time job, running a small business, being involved in my church, not to mention being a wife and running a household (which in and of itself requires managerial acumen).

I lost the receipts. That’s right, “Miss Organized” somehow lost the receipts. Over the past month, I have been in travel status thrice (three times). I brought the receipts with me in order to finally update the blog by year’s end. But they fell out somewhere because I have the envelope sans the receipts. Talk about being upset! Fortunately, I have my credit card statements so from a tax perspective, I’ll be O.K.

I invite you to check-out the following so you can agree with me that it has indeed been a busy year and perhaps these accomplishments can atone for the lost receipts:

• Appeared on the cover of the Syracuse Post-Standard’s MoneyWise supplement:

• Uploaded radio interviews on YouTube:

• Became a columnist for two newspapers. If you live in the Central New York area, pick-up a copy of The Good News (Christian) newspaper:

o “Financial Stewardship within the Body of Christ” (September 2008)
o “On the Economic Crisis and Yes, Giving” (November 2008)
o Coming in February 2009: “Assessing needs, wants and desires in both time and money as we herald the New Year”

• Again, if you live in the Central New York area, pick-up a copy of The CNY Latino newspaper:

o “Beyond Food, Shelter & Clothing: Being Grateful” (November 2008)
o “Gift-giving during the holiday season” (December 2008)
o Coming in Jamuary 2009: “When is enough, enough and how much is too much?”

• Download your FREE Personalized Budget Sheet from my website:

• In addition to the obligatory Amazon, B&N, and e-Bay, my book has been added to GoogleBooks; as well as “America’s Cheapest Family’s” website bookstore. Any others that I need to know about out there?

• A plethora of speaking engagements, seminars, lectures and author appearances

• Look for online articles addressing financial literacy and profiling my book to appear in 2009!

This experience has also made me a believer out of electronic organizing. I already keep my address book updated in my e-mail address book; and finances on Quicken®. I also download electronic invoices and keep them in a special computer folder. Apparently, that’s not enough. For Christmas, I am asking my husband to get me a device that electronically organizes receipts and business cards after you scan them in; this compact machine also calculates the amounts once it categorizes redundant information (i.e., if it sees the supermarket multiple times, it categorizes the amount under “groceries” unless I so designate otherwise). I am reticent about publicly naming or endorsing manufacturers’ merchandise until I have had a chance to try them out myself. Will this mean more ink cartridges? Perhaps. But the advantages are moving towards the place of having a paperless home office and “going green” in order to help preserve the environment. Why didn’t I do this before? Good question.

Here are the ways I know for sure we saved hundreds of dollars this year:

Affiliation Discounts & Rebates

• Using our 10% discount university I.D. and staff discounts
• Received across-the-board entrepreneur’s discount on all meeting dues, continuing education and professional development classes at the local business incubation center
• Bought Apple Mac notebook (my baby) and received rebate for free iPod (my 2nd baby) valued at $299.99! I didn’t know at the time what an iPod was, and now I love it. Plus, they gave me an educational discount since I teach at the university
• Discount stores (I’ve set-up a special e-mail account to receive online/electronic coupons); 99 cents stores, dollar stores and consignment shops. (Factory Card Outlet is the only place I buy my cards—I can purchase quality card between 49 cents and 99 cents…I’m going “all out” when I pay more than a buck)
• Using coupons at places like McDonald’s, the local Christian bookstore; OfficeMax, Best Buy; CVS Store prints out coupons to entice me to come back
• Saved my job money by using my professional discount ID card at places like FedEx Kinko’s and Staples

Coupons, Sales, Clearances, Discounts

• Marking the expiration date of places I shop at on my calendar
• Rendering coupons for vehicle service maintenance (I created a special bucket folder cleared marked “Coupons” in big, bold letters)
• Made sure the grocery stores scanned my frequent shopper card single time I shopped (my husband even did the same—good for you, honey☺ I can say with certainty and accuracy that the annual savings totaled $101.94
• Taking advantage of buy 1/get 1 free
• Redeemed restaurant gift certificates
• During this summer’s gas crises, we went to BJs wholesale or Sam’s Club and paid lower amounts
• Rendered receipts while vacationing in FL; was careful to not under- or over-spend on groceries while there so we wouldn’t have to throw out extra food

Price Comparisons/Research

• Ordered plain-looking checks versus the “fancy smancy” checks
• 20% discount on upgraded cell phone service + rebate off of the new cell phones Conducted research & made price comparisons on big-ticket items such as rental car (i.e., additional 10% off by using the AmEx card)
• Weighed receiving a “freebie” over the price of the “real cost”/cost-benefit analysis in an effort to avoid entanglements in the long-run when dealing with salespeople

Saving money in general

• Sticking to what I needed at the Post Office and department stores, even though clerks asked me if I need anything else; maintaining my consumer rights by still asking for the receipt—particularly after a debit transaction
• Being treated by my boss for lunch, eating at university and church events
• Getting parking validated at special events (i.e., hotel, convention center)
• Our tail light went out during a road trip to NYC. James bought the bulb from an auto shop and had a friend help him put it in since we’ve never done this before. The cost of the bulbs was nominal; I can’t imagine what labor would have cost in the city
• Giving: to church, charity, and in intangible ways

Making pre-payments

• My husband and me took advantage of early bird conference registrations
• I bought 100 Freedom stamps @ 41 cents for personal use and 100 for business mailings before they went up to 42 cents, and have been using them all year—I still have some left
• Paid some bills quarterly if I had the money in order to avoid the processing fee
• Paid one bill annually in order to avoid extra monthly or quarterly payment; plus, it saves me time in the long-run

Avoiding administrative glitches

• Paid bills on-time even while out-of-town; avoided Pay-by-Phone fees
• Found mistake on bank statement; avoided administrative glitches by keeping meticulous notes/records
• I called in and tried to move a utility bill due date to coincide with the 15th (the 2nd payday) of the month, but to no avail; they wouldn’t budge
• Inquired of insurance company about an insurance premium hike (Quicken® alerted me to this, as I bet they thought I was going to miss it; was told it was an across-the-board increase)
• Inquired of medical office regarding a due date—which is correct? 60 days from the date of service or 60 days from the date of billing? Hence, I am learning how to ask all of the right questions so I can get the answer to what I’m really seeking
• Called, asked for, and received decrease in credit card interest rate on business credit card
• When resolving a dispute over the phone, jotted down date, time of call & politely asked for the name of the Customer Service Rep; tucked the information away in a neatly-labeled file folder for future reference
• Inquired about how to lower the amount due on our bundled phone-Internet-cable package, which mysteriously increased after I signed-up for a plan meant to reduce our bill!
• In the midst of the credit crises, we received a not-so-favorable notice about our credit card even though we’re good customers (pay at least the minimum balance in full, on time). When I called to inquire about these changes, I was informed that it was a “business decision”. We subsequently made the “business decision” to pay-off the balance on the card.

Previous documented savings:

• 2001-2002: $2,304
• 2004-2005: $2,600
• 2007-2008: $3,500
• Totaling well over $8,404 not including 2008!

Since it's clear I saved 300 bucks on the iPod and $100 on groceries, then there’s $400 right there; and I'm certain 2008's savings exceeded this amount. Wish I had it in the bank, but I don’t. It got recycled, re-allocated and re-consumed. Perhaps I need to start physically saving the money saved in 2009. Not just for myself, but for worthy causes. A Bible study class at our church saved $58 simply by reducing their consumerism—saving 5 bucks here, 50 cents there, and then setting the savings aside for a specific purpose: they were able to purchase 300 doses of parasite medicine for children in Honduras!

There now—I feel better sharing my mistake with the world. How cathartic. Season’s Greetings and I implore you—find a way that best works for you in terms of getting financially organized and saving money in 2009!