Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Researching New Retailers

One of the hardest things about finding deals and good prices is knowing which retailers to trust. Some of the best deals come from new up-and-coming companies, yet a store without name recognition may also just be looking to harvest your email or scam you out of money.

Before you start clicking and ordering you want to check out a company and website's reputation. The first step is to Google the company name and see if results like "HUGE SCAM" show up. The next step is to head to the Better Business Bureau and ResellerRatings. Both of these sites have merchant reviews and are even great for seraching brick and mortar stores and service providers as well as online businesses. Don't focus on any one review. Instead look at multiple reviews across the websites to be sure you get an accurate depiction. Make sure reviews are current and look for specific details. Fake reviews paid for by companys are often heavy on adjectives and light on actual descriptions of product or experiences.

Make sure you have a way of contacting this company in the case of an issue. Is there a clear channel for contacting the retailer? If not this is very suspicious. Call phone numbers to make sure you can get an actual person on the line and send an email to listed emails to make sure these are active accounts that someome is monitoring.

ALWAYS know the return policy before you buy. Also be aware of the warranty and how to use it. Make sure to read the fine print about who pays for return shipping if it is needed and be on the lookout for "restocking" fees. Yes, they even charge to restock things like electronic items that require no actual physical stocking.



When in doubt use a service like paypal to pay rather than giving out your credit card info. You can also contact you bank for a "virtual" number that you can use in place of a credit card. Banks provide this service for free. Numbers are one time use only or limited to a dollar amount that you determine ahead of time.

Godiva Sale

This is a rather indulgent deal. Godiva is holding their Semi-Annual Sale with up to %50 off some items. If you are spending $50 or more the code "SUMMER11" will cut another $10 off. Shipping starts at $6.95.

Free Custom Birthday Card from Cardstore

Cardstore.com
Cardstore.com is offering a free birthday photocard with shipping included! This offer is for 8/31 only so act fast! Simply enter the code "CSFC0811"at checkout.

Free $20 at MyPublisher

MyPublisher is giving out a free $20 coupon. Just fill out this form. The coupon is valid for new customers only, and must be used on a hardcover photo book. However if you select the right book it will be free as several are priced under $20. I've gotten books from them in the past and they arrived quickly and looked very professional. The code will expire after September 30th.

Wii Fit Plus Deal

Buy.com has the Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board for $69.99 today. They are also offering free shipping. This is a great price for this popular set and will only until midnight tonight!

Baskin Robbin's BOGO

Baskin Robbins is offering a Buy One Get One Deal. Simply buy one cone and get a second cone of equal or lesser value for free with THIS coupon. Lasts until September 5th.

New Clothing Coupon Codes - Land's End and Old Navy

Land's End is now offering free shipping with no minimum purchase. Simply enter the code "SEPT1" and the PIN "9473". This code can even be used with back-to-school itmes that are 40% off. Code will expire on September 1.

Old Navy is offering 20% off site wide no minimum purchase when you enter the coupon code "ONSAVE20" Shipping start at $7 or is free when you spend more than $50. This code will last only though the day. (August 31).

More Free Children's Music!

Just Me Music is offering three personalized Elmo songs for free when you enter the code "MYELMO". The song will be customized with your child's name in it and are downloaded in MP3 format.

Amazon has Five Super Silly Songs from Veggie Tales or  The Wiggles Summer 2011 Sampler for free. You will need Amazon's MP3 downloader which is also free.

When it comes to price, you can't beat free.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Free Blockbuster Rental



Use the code "ROCKNROLL" at any Blockbuster Express kiosk to get a 1-night DVD rental for free. Valid only for titles that are renting for $1 a night. Expires October 9th.

Free Children's Music

Amazon has this 5-Track Sesame Street Music Sampler for free download.

Free $10 at J.C. Penny

Click here to get your coupon for $10 off any Liz Claiborne purchase at J C Penny. Minimum purchase is $10, so if you choose the right item you can get something for free. I suggest browsing the accessories. Good for in store and online purchases.

If you are shopping online consider shipping to store, which will make shipping free if you use code FREESHIP.

Tom Tom GPS Under $80

Today's Gold box deal on Amazon is a TomTom XL 340M 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator (Lifetime Maps Edition) for $79.99. That's 50% off list price for this great gift for dads, newly licensed teenagers the perpetually lost and frequent travelers. Act fast because these deals are one day only.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Free target Beauty Bag

Click Here to get your free Target beauty bag full of samples and coupons. These go fast! SO act quickly. You will complete a small survey and then give a shipping address for the samples.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

MotherHood Maternity 40% off.

Motherhood Maternity has put all ready discounted items on sale for 40% off. Shipping is flat rate at $6. To get extra savings use a cash back site like Shop at Home when buying!

90% Off Textbooks

Barnes and Noble is slashing prices on used textbooks. They now have books for up to 90% off. That's a huge savings if you are buying books for the new semester. Spend $25 or more for free shipping. Otherwise shipping starts at $3.99.

Vistaprint Freebies


Vistaprint generally always has very low prices and a variety of freebies - as long as you pay shipping. Right now they have a custom print T-shirt and a 12 month personalized photo calendar for free. Shipping is usually around $6-7.

Revnue Review

This week has been such a whirlind I almost forgot to post an update on my new revenue earning measures. Last week I decided to focus more energy on writing at least one article a day (or six per week) and that really paid off! However, this week my energy level has not allowed me to do this and I am now making a big push to try and make up for missed days. I have also rethought some strategies.

Here's last weeks earnings:

Demand Media - $ 140 (I really got out a lot of articles, and many more were in the que so they will spill over into this weeks revenue) One thing about Demand, while the pay may not be great, it sure is fast!

Private Client - $82 (This is actually pay from the last couple of months, but I never count something until it shows up)

Not bad for a tired, pregnant, graduate student who is doing this as supplemental income. But I have though about revamping things a little. I am going to focus a little more on the private clients, because while they do take more effort to find they also pay more and often come back. I am also thinking about changing my daily tasks to include creation of some form of passive income - like a squidoo lens or a chapter in my book. While this will not produce revenue for some time it has the potential to be a great source of passive income. This week has really been about mulling over those options more than anything else. Next week is time to get back into the swing of this and try out that new strategy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wedding Deals

On Sale at Wedding Channel StoreThere are a few good deals out now from Wedding retailers. These are especially great for bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts.

Wedding Channel has many items in its sale and clearance categories- up to 70% off. Plus if you are spending $99 or more you can get Free shipping and 15% off by using the code "15BONUS" at checkout.
Free Personalization on Favors
The Knot wedding store has up to 65% off groomsmen gifts in its sale section. If you are spending $99 or more, you will get a free gift. No coupon code necessary, valid through Sunday.

Free Laundery Samples

Two laundry freebies are upt oday.

Shout is offering A samples of Shout Color Cather for free in exchange for filling out this form. It purportedly allows you to mix whites, lights, and colors in the wash without worrying about color runs. It's limited to one per household and will arrive within six weeks. Remember to use your junk email.


Woolite is offering a mail-in-rebate (up to $5.99) when you purchase Woolite pet-urine eliminator. Click here to find an eligible retailer near you.

Free Museum Entry for you and a Friend!

Smithsonian Magazine is hosting it's annual Museum Day on Saturday September 24th. Participating museums across the U.S. offer free admissions for those with a museum day ticket. To get your ticket fill out this form. Some museums are running the deal on Sunday instead because they are closed Saturday. The Smithsonian itself is free every day, without a special ticket.

L.L. Bean Moccasins for $20

L.L. Bean is offering the North Haven Moccasin shoe for just $19.99. The North Haven Kiltie shoe is also available at this price. Shipping is free! These shoes look incredibly comfortable and usually retail for way more.

ThredUp Flash Sale

The timing could not have been more perfect, after mentioning ThredUp in my post yesterday I got an email announcing a 48 hour ThredUp flash sale. Boxes are 30% off today and tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reader Questions: Affording a Child

I recently received an email from a reader who is about to transition from being a SAHM. She was asking for advice on transitioning to a single income and I gave her a lengthy reply detailed to her specific situation. However there is one part of her query that I think all would benefit from reading:

"Thing is we are pretty frugal people already and that is how we have been able to save money over the years. It seems like we won't be able to put money away now but I don't want to have to dip into savings either. I guess for big ticket items, carriage, crib, doula, will have to come out of savings but I would like to keep the monthly budget even. Can you help me figure out how much diapers and things for the baby will be or what is included there?" 

It's a great question. First I would reassure readers that every now and then there are times when you have to dip into savings - that's what they are there for. When someone loses a job, when there is a major life change, and when you make a big purchase you have been saving for (like a house) then savings get used. It's a normal part of the savings cycle. As longs as you are using savings for a reason - to increase future earnings by getting a degree, to invest in the value of a year at home with a baby - and it is a temporary situation, you should not feel guilty. 



The key is to  always keep an emergency fund and to have a strict definition of emergency (most say this super reserve fund should be between $500-2,000 ). This fund keeps you from using a credit card or high interest loan when a sudden disaster happens.  You should also minimize savings depletion as much as possible. You will begin to replenish savings as soon as the temporary period of depletion time is over. This means when you buy a house, your mortgage should still allow you to put a little in savings every month. If not, you have taken a mortgage that is way over your head. When you get that degree, or return to work you will have more income to replenish the savings. Retirement savings are NOT to be thought of as usable savings. You should not dip into them unless you are in dire circumstances.


On to the crux of the question: how to afford a new baby. The answer is that babies can be as expenssive or as cheap as you make them. 

Nursing - If you nurse the baby you will need to eat more (but usually not more than you did during pregnancy) and you may want a pump and some bottles but you won't need to buy costly formula. It's also really good for the baby. So if you can nurse I would highly recommend it from a health and budget standpoint. If you have trouble, and many do, there are people to help - I recommend La Leche League. They have helped many people I know. If you are going to bottle feed, sign up for programs like Similac strong moms to get free samples and coupons.


Hand-Me-Downs need not be ancient and covered in mothballs like they used to be. Remember how I did not need much maternity clothes because people were itching to give it away? Same for kids clothes, once their kids are grown. Kids wear them and outgrow them so fast people want to see more use from these articles, especially family members. Check out your local freecycle board as well. And if that's not your style - log onto thredUP where parents post boxes full of kids clothes and toys and you pick one and have it shipped to your door for $5 plus shipping. You can get a whole kids wardrobe for very cheap and most looks new so no one will ever know. Avoid used car seats as this can pose a safety issue.


Do Not Buy - Yet!- If the urge to look for a great deal on a carriage hit you the minute that home pregnancy test turned positive, you are not alone. But wait a bit on those big ticket items. Unless you see an insanely good deal, keep your money in your wallet. The deal will come again but you may not need to buy these items. If this is your first baby, then you may get them as gifts. In the first few days you only need a few outfits and will be getting some baby gifts. Save yourself the hassle, see what comes in before buying, to avoid duplicates. Before each purchase ask if you or the baby really needs this item - they make tons of things for infants, but most are not necessary and just clutter your home.


Know Your Prices - Start scoping out sales now, just don't buy. This will help you keep a price book and know how much you should be paying for things. My research so far has led me to believe the ideal price point for diapers is aout 10-20 cents a diaper, but I am still working on it. This will help you set a budget. Scope out baby websites and compile a list of items you think are "needs" for the baby. Go over it with another mother who has a similar financial and parenting philosphy. This will help you figure out how much it will cost and will help you avoid purchasing things you do not need.


Save - Loosing one income means you need to try and cut more out of the budget to still be able to save. If you can achieve it, it is worth it. Babies become toddlers that become kids that become teens that all need money. Sit down with last years bills and make a new budget based on the single salary. Start learning about how to stock sale items, what ideal pricing is, how to use coupons, the best stores in your area, and how to tap into freebies. Also look for ways to supplement income at home. Be prepared - having a new baby is tiring and you may not have enough energy as you think. So don't formulate a budget based on your being able to bring in a set amount each month from Work at Home, unless you have a steady client all ready set up with deadlines. Instead set the budget for the one income and do not exceed it. Then the extra money is bonus savings. My favorite kind!

Have a question YOU want answered? Email me at caristramd@yahoo.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

Borders Liquidation Update

A few weeks ago I posted about how Borders Liquidatoin was really not such a great deal. After all book stores typically run 40-50% coupons and this sale was starting at 20-30%.

This week I decided to check out some Borders. I went to one in NJ and one in NY by Columbus Circle. I was still not impressed. Things had now gotten to 50-60% on some items but in gerneral the deals were not great. Instead, it was a lesson in the genius of liquidation sellers and how few people are truly educated consumers.

The store was designed to make you feel like you were getting a bargain. There were signs everywhere proclaiming "everything must go" and "nothng held back". The books were jumbled onto the shelves, and the shelves were all labelled "for sale". Various pieces of furniture were staked up for you to peruse and purchase. The books were actually laid out pretty well but somehow an aura of clutter and rush still pervailed. Shppers ate it up.

People were running around with carts grabbing books. They felt that this was a liquidation - the company is just trying to make back whatever they can. It must be a great deal. Here's where they went wrong: the company all ready sold off the inventory - to a liquidator. That liquidator got the rock bottom price you are hoping for, they just had to buy the entire inventory ot do it. The liquidator wants to get as much out of you as possible. So they start markdowns low. They are not stupid. They know popular categories - like cooking and children's books - will fly off shelves and they barely marked those down. Yet people were scopping them up. Because they did not know what they ought to be paying.

An example I randomly selected from the shelf: The tech section was 40% off. The Book "Creating Websites Bible" third edition came out to $23.99 after all the discounts. It is currently listed on Amazon for $21.99 with free shipping. Some sale huh?

I'm still waiting to see if things get better. The percentages have slowly been creeping up, but who knows. Stock is moving, so why bother?

The best deals I found - the furniture. Some of it was nice, especially the small display desks, and reasonably priced.

Cookinex 52 piece storage set for $10

Just deals has the Cookinex 52 piece food storage set for $9.77. They are dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe. Adding the code "DEALNEWS1" at checkout will get you free shipping. Great for taking lunch to work and stacking containers in the freezer.

20% off Cover Your Hair

Another deal from Cover Your Hair. Today, August 22nd, they are offering 20% off the entire site. Just click the button below and enter the code "SCHOOL20"at checkout.

30% Off Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic

Now until August 24th you can get 30% off you online orders at Gap, Old Navy or Banana Republic by entering the code "THANKS". Shipping is 4& or free on orders of $50 or more.

Not valid on the following Gap merchandise: baby sleepwear, select Kids and Baby pants, leather and suede apparel, Design Edition shoes, Keds®, Junk Food™, Medela®, or Leading Lady®. Not valid on the following Old Navy merchandise: Everyday Steals and jeans. Not valid on the following Banana Republic merchandise: Mad Men Collection, Banana Republic Timeless collection, Monogram Dresses, Men's Gavin, Dawson, and Emerson pants, men's bags, and Chan Luu products. Not valid on international purchases.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Frugal Formula

A recent Yahoo News article features Warren Buffet's frugal formula. I find it very inspirational, as this is one of America's Wealthiest individuals, telling you that frugality helped him get to where he is, and having a lot of money does not mean you need to spend it. It's about setting a state of mind and work ethic that can help you achieve your goals. In fact, he still lives in the home he bought in 1958 for around $31,000. Here are his five tips:

Live Below Your Means: Living a good life does not mean spending every penny you earn. In fact  being wealthy involves a lot of saving. Saving is the key to preserving your financial well being. Your income and expenditure should not be equal. By living below your means you set yourself up to save and to survive during harsh times. Just because you CAN get something (like a highly leveraged mortgage) does not mean you should.

Don't Get Discouraged: The job market is a tough place right now. Millions of people are unemployed. It can be easy to get down on yourself. Don't fall into this trap. Most successful people have had their ups and downs too. What sets them apart is their ability to go on and bounce back.

Self Promote: We've all heard it before - "it's about getting yourself out there". Having a strong self of self worth, this does not mean arogance it means knowing you skills and abilities, can help you get on the right career track and speak up for yourself. You need to use you connections and not be afraid to network amongst your peers. And when they need a hand and you are in a place to give it - do so. That's what networking is all about.

Be Smart:This does not mean geting an ivy league education. It means trusting your gut when you feel someone is taking advntage of you. Don't just assume things are gong well because someone else said so, do your own due diligence, and be careful about who you invest with and who you go into business with. Friends and family are great sources of inspiration, support and comaraderie, but ayone that tries to convince you that you don't need to go through the usual channels of protecting yourself, looking over the books, having formalized agreements and money tracking systems etc. because "we're family" is doing you AND your family a disservice. Setting up proper boundaries is a street smarts move that many people ignore.

Buy Cheap- That does not mean inferior. It means realizing that just because you can splurge does not mean you have to in order to get the same quality. Paying more than you have to just makes no sense. Know prices for items and what you should be paying for them. Plenty of wealthy people frequent designer consignment shops - because they love a god deal too.


Free Honey Nut Cheerios Sample, plus a coupon!

You can get a free sample of Hone Nut Cheerios and a 75 cent coupon for this cereal when you sign up for the Betty Corcker e-mail newsletter. Just fill out the form and make sure to use your junk email.

15% Off Kohl's

Kohl's has new code for 15% off site wide. It stacks with clearance items that are all ready on sale. Just enter "LPS15FORME" If you have Kohl's charge you should use it, s you can Kohl's cash as well.

Shipping starts at $5.95 but is free on orders of $50 or more.

Staples - 1 cent Back to School!

Staples is having a big back to school sale in which some items are 1 cent. The stock is varied by zip code so be sure to check the circular in your area.

In my NY/NJ area:
Staples college ruled filler paper 120 pack - 1 cent
Staples 70 sheet 1 subject notebook - 1 cent
Scotch Magic tape - 50 cents
BIC Retractable Ballpoint Pens 5 pack - 50 cents

and many more great back to school items!

Walgreens Deals 8/21-8/27

Walgreens NeighborsThere are some pretty good Walgreen's Deals this week. Make sure to save the coupons from your weekly paper to get even better deals!

Mini composition and memo books - 15 cents
Wexford or Penway 80 sheet composition book - 99 cents
Arizona Tea or Drink - 2 for $1
Deerfield Farms or Nice! Seasonings - 89 cents
W Bleach, 96 oz. - 99 cents
Penway or Wexford 3 subject Notebook or Composition Book 120 pages - 99 cents
Corner Office 5 Tab dividers or 10 pack sheet protectors - 2 for $1
Scoth Mailers (various sizes) or tape - 39 cents
Penway or Wexford 10 pack Number 2 pencils - 39 cents
Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief Dental Care (4 0z toothpaste or 360 toothbrush) Normal price is $.499, you get $4 Register Rewards making this like paying 99 cents. PLUS you can add any toothpaste coupon you have saved - there was a good one in the 7/31 paper for $1.50 off 1 Colgate toothpaste.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Target Goucho Pants $5.22 per Pair Shipped!




Target has  Mossimo Goucho pants as the deal of the day for $12, plus it is buy one get one free. I like these for around the house lounging, the gym and other such activities.

Shop at Home has a 13% cash back coupon going for Target right now. That takes the total price to $5.22 per pair. Plus there's free shipping! New to Shop at Home? Then you can get an extra $5 for singing up with them! Just click this link.

ShopAtHome BannerShop at Home is one of the largest websites offering free online coupons, grocery coupons, cash back rewards, free samples, restaurant coupons and contests.  The site is unique from other online deal sites because it gives cash back to shoppers for purchases made through ShopAtHome.com.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Free eBooks

I am always looking for free downloads for my kindle. Here are some of the books latest on Amazon's free list. Act fast, these typically remain free for a few days and then revert back to full price items.


Robert's Rules of Writing Great for students heading back to college or high school this Fall.

Hurricanes in Paradise Light reading, has pretty good reviews

Grammatically Correct Another great pick for the writers and students among us!

The Everything Guide to Study Skills (Everything Series) AND The Everything College Survival Book, 3rd Edition (Everything Series)Your child/teen will either love you or hate you for downloading these for him.

The Slackers Guide to U.S. HistoryA lighter take on learning. Hysterical and informative.

Portable MFA in Creative Writing (New York Writers Workshop)Who says you have to pay through the nose for a liberal arts education?

Sixteen BridesLooks like easy, enjoyable guilty pleasure reading. I'm in.

Dinners Made Easy Yay! A cookbook! Brought to you by the Stonyfield farms people, best known for their yogurt.

Organized Teacher, Happy Classroom I know I have some educators as readers. Perhaps this will be inspiring for the back-to-school season.

Stress proof your life (52 Brilliant Ideas)This is a really popular book. I am surprised to see it on the free list.

Living off the Grid: A Simple Guide to Creating and Maintaining a Self-reliant Supply of Energy, Water, Shelter and More For those into extreme frugality, this could be a good book for learning new tricks and tips.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin I am sneaking this one in. it is not "new" but it is such a great free book that I felt it worthy of mention.

I'm an English Major--Now What? The title alone has me cracking up.

5 of the USA's Best Trips This is from Lonely Planet. They have never disappointed me before.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents - 10 Summertime Treats They keep putting up these free mini books, and I keep downloading them. Soon I think I will have all the recipes from the full priced book!

Happy Reading!