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Save big on your phone and cable!

Money

During my quest to save money, it has been much easier to find small ways to save. And those small ways can add up over the course of a year. Finding those big-ticket items can be more problematic. However, in the last two days I have found two new things that will together save us more than $1600 a year!

Phone service:

The first came from my friend, Mara, who writes the blog “Kosher on a Budget,” which I often refer to and link to. She did a post on an internet-based phone service. The Ooma system hooks up through your internet connection and you pay as little as $120 for the unit (yesterday’s price on Amazon). Then you pay less than $4 per month for fees (this may vary based on your area). Our current phone bill is up to $64 a month!

THE BOTTOM LINE:

ooma deviceFor one year that means we will pay $120 + $48 = $168 for Ooma. The unit would be paid off after three months compared to what we paid before.

In contrast, a year of AT & T is $64 x 12 = $768!

That is a savings of $600! Now, I do have to add one more expense to this. I bought the Ooma wireless adapter to make sure the unit would work with my wireless internet, because I wasn’t sure we had all the parts to do it using cords. That was an additional $40. However, even adding that in we save $560 the first year! After that we save $720 a year! That is quite a savings. I can’t wait to get the unit and try it out (and tell AT & T goodbye!).

I have heard of other internet-based options out there, but none as cheap as this. The Straight Talk unit from Wal-Mart costs $100 for the unit and $15 a month for service, which adds up to $280 a year.

Cable:

After the excitement of yesterday’s find, I started looking into other ways we might cut some of our biggest expenses, one of which is cable. We got suckered into getting AT & T U-verse a few years back when they first came to our neighborhood. They offered to upgrade our internet service to fiber-optic cabling and we could try out U-verse for a month for free. The cost for the Internet was not much higher than what we were paying them for DSL and I was glad to have a faster connection.

Then I got hooked on the DVR. We had previously used our VCR or DVD player to tape our favorite shows to watch after the kids went to bed. However, there were many times we would forget to program something, the time would change, or the tape or disc was full. The DVR offered a way to not have to deal with all of that. Plus, we were enjoying getting to watch the Disney Channel and a few other cable networks.

Our financial situation has changed for the worse again and this seems like a luxury that we should adjust. I also hate that I am paying so much to the cable company when we really only watch a few channels. So I think we are going to make the leap one of the new streaming device offerings.

Roku unitI did some research today and there seems to be a lot of evidence out there that the Roku device is best. It hooks up to your TV via the internet and allows you to watch tons of free programming and have access to a variety of streaming channels, the most popular being Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. Through some research I have found that Netflix offers many Disney shows and Hulu Plus allows you to be fairly current with the regular timely offerings on TV.

I am no expert on any of this and have been reading many articles on the different channels, their programming, and the pros and cons. But for me, the bottom line is that I can still watch my favorite shows and my kids can still see the Disney Channel. We will be able to use our Netflix account or Amazon Prime right on the TV (currently my husband used Netflix on his iPod and our Amazon Prime was mainly for the free two-day shipping).

The unit costs about $100 across the board at various retailers. However, Amazon has it right now for $99. I had thought Target might be a good place to get it with my 5% Red Card discount, but the tax eats that discount up and you end up paying more than $100. Netflix and Hulu Plus are about $7.99 each per month.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Even if we add Netflix and Hulu Plus on top of the cost of the unit, our yearly cost for this first year using Roku will be $100 + $192 = $292.

Our U-verse cost (taking out our Internet fee which we will still to pay) = $90 + $10 (bundle discount we will lose) per month. That means $1200 a year!

That is a savings of $908 a year.

In two days, I have figured out how to save us $1628! I would say not bad for a few days work!

Please let me know your experience with phone systems and cable so that we can all learn from each other. I will be excited to share our results with you after we install both. However, from what I have read of reviews online, both seem like great options to save a bundle and take advantage of some great new technological options.

Related articles:

Some other ways we save significantly:

 

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Summer savings guide

Summer Fun

With our current predicament of job uncertainty for both my husband and I, spending as little money as possible this summer has become even more important. This is the first summer since my little boys were small that we have all been home, too. That means more expenses than usual – food, excursions, utilities, etc. Here are the tips I have discovered so far for doing summer on the cheap:

Ahead of time:

Prepare for summer the summer before. Buy towels, hats, etc. at the end of the season so you have them for the coming year. When all the kids are in camp, we needed a lot of swimsuits and towels to avoid doing laundry every day! It helped to shop ahead.

Get some of your essentials at the dollar store. Sunglasses and water bottles are best to get at the dollar store because my boys lose them often. I don’t have to feel bad when this happens if I have only paid a $1! See my post on “Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?”

Watch throughout the spring and summer for sales on swimwear. Last year I got rash guards and swim trunks for a great price at the end of the season for my boys for this year. They actually still fit into their size from last year, but I am ready when they need a size up! Good online stores to check include The Children’s Place, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean.

Stock up on sunscreen before summer is here. Last year with all four of my boys in camp every day, we went through a ton of sunscreen. On top of that they broke out from many brands, even Aveeno, which you would expect not to be a problem. They have excema, which can make their skin break out more than usual. Luckily I found out about The Honest Company. I love their products! Their sunscreen is a great consistency, has no bad or perfume smell, and my boys don’t break out or scream in pain from it.

You can try a free sample pack (you pay only shipping). Then you can sign up to receive a bundle every month. The Essentials bundle includes five of their products. (They also have a Diaper & Wipes bundle and Health & Wellness bundle, too, with other choices of products.) I can’t afford to order a bundle every month, but get them a few times a year. You can choose how often you want them delivered. Every time I order, I get a sunscreen, so I am ready for summer!

Be on the watch for great deals on memberships to local attractions. These deals usually don’t occur during the summer. For the St. Louis Science Center’s 50th anniversary of their planetarium, they had a sale on memberships – $50 off! It has been our best purchase ever! See my post “Become a member!”

Early summer or (late spring):

Plan ahead for where you would like to go. The first week of summer that I was home, we had no official plans or schedule. We were making it up on the fly. This really made the days long and me stressed! Putting together my Summer Bucket List really helped because now I have done the research ahead of time and can either choose activities for the whole week or the night before. See my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

Take advantage of the many free or cheap excursions in town. These include:

Watch for sales on crocs and sandals! We were fortunate to get new crocs (fake brand) a few weeks ago at “Five Below,” of all places!

Throughout:

Pack food wherever you go. Even if you won’t be there for long, pack at least a snack and water. This helps with cranky kids and avoiding high cost emergency food purchases.

Take advantage of your local library. We have been going to their great events all summer and check out books and movies each week while we are there. It is so nice to have the time to do this and with the summer reading programs, we all earn prizes for reading! We are enrolled in the county’s program and the local Jewish library’s. I have not updated my Summer Reading programs post, but see last year’s here.

Look out for ice cream coupons. We have found ice cream coupons in our coupon mailer that comes in our mailbox every week. Check local calendars, too. Here in St. Louis, we have a calendar called the Town Planner. It is mailed to families every year and has coupons tailored for your area. They also have coupons on their website. Another source for ice cream coupons is your local Valpak. These come in the mail in some areas and they also have a website, too. You might not always find coupons for the location you want, but sometimes the drive can be worth the savings! You might also earn ice cream coupons from your Summer Reading programs.

Forget about your thermostat timer. Keep your thermostat set as if you are not home and then adjust as you feel it is too hot in the house! See my post Saving money and energy on Shabbos.”

Use your birthday freebies. If your birthday falls in the summer, or if your kids’ do, be sure to sign up for those birthday freebies! See my posts:

Enjoy your summer and share your summer tips in the Comments section!

 

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Printer ink can cost a fortune!

This image shows an opened Canon S520 ink jet ...Our printer recently died and HP told us that it could not be fixed. They offered us an upgrade at a lower price. I checked out Amazon and it was a lower price than they could offer. Our new printer came very fast and I was excited that I can scan, copy, and print from one device. But who knew that the ink would run out so quickly. I have been buying ink every few weeks! Here are my tips for saving as much as you can on printer ink.

1) Print in draft mode as much as possible. This will limit the amount of ink used on each printout. Print your coupons in black ink instead of color to limit your color usage, too.

2) Buy ink online whenever you can and be sure to compare prices with your local stores so you know when you have found a good deal. I often can find my ink for $5 – $10 cheaper than in stores. I mostly purchase through Amazon, so that if I need to return the ink, I have a reputable company to make sure the return goes well.

3) Buy remanufactured ink when you can, but be sure to check the reviews for that company and product. Some remanufactured inks are not as good as others. I have read many reviews of products that did not last long or didn’t even work when they were first opened.

4) Check reviews online for your printer ink. I almost bought a set of three colors and black ink together. By reading the reviews I found out that the four-packs for that ink number are only available as the setup packs that the printer comes with.

5) Buy XL inks when you can. These have more ink for the cost. However, be sure to read the specifications for these. You printer may take that number model of ink, but not the XL version, as mine does not.

6) Get your ink refilled at an office supply store when possible. Many inks can be refilled for a minimal cost instead of being replaced. See what your local store provides.

Related posts:

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Why I love Target!

English: Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

Tonight I had a very successful trip to Target. Some trips, particularly those when I take the kids, I leave exhausted and frustrated. However, there are those like tonight when I find so many good deals that I can’t wait to get home and share them all with my husband. For those of you who haven’t discovered Target’s finer points, or for those who just want to save more there, here are my reasons Target is one of my favorite stores:

1) Coupons:

Target has their own coupons you can print from their website. They can be stacked with manufacturer’s coupons, so you save even more. They have coupons on everything from name brands to their own brands to specific sections of the store. On most trips, I can save at least $20 in coupons! I even get coupons in the mail from Target. I think I get these from having a Target baby registry at one time and for making purchases online from their website.

2) Red Card:

You can get a Target Red Card: either debit or credit card, which gives you 5% back on each purchase. The discount is applied immediately – no waiting for rebates or reward cards. We do not have any credit cards, so I love that I can get these same rewards with the debit card. The money comes right out of my checking account as a regular debit card does. Tonight I saved an extra $10 from using my Red Card!

3) Bag discounts:

When you bring your own bags to use for your purchases, Target will give you $.05 back for each bag. This also comes right off your total purchase cost. Every little bit adds up. For more information on bag discounts, see my post “Reusable shopping bags = savings.”

4) Seasonal sales:

Target is a great place for getting great deals on seasonal items. No matter if you celebrate the holiday or not, the days after can provide some wonderful sales! See my post tomorrow for all the goodies I found during after Christmas sales! Target also has a great variety of items they only have available for different seasons and holidays and some that are only found at their store such as: home decor, organizational items, food, novelties, gift items, dining/cookware, and more. We have gotten several things during some of these seasonal sales that have lasted us years. See my related post on “Shop those Easter sales today!”

5) A fun shopping experience:

I love finding new items every time I go to Target. Maybe it is a new line of dishware. Maybe it is a new line of craft items. Or a new line of toys for that time of year. There is always something new to find and normally at great deals. The dollar aisle has also yielded some great gifts, toys, and teaching items for me and my family!

6) Sales on staple items:

I know that even if I don’t have a coupon, Target is going to have a sale on items I use often at some point. And for many items, even if I do not have a coupon and it is not on sale, their price still beats many competitors. I like not feeling so guilty if I have to make a purchase there without a sale or coupon! This is where my price list really comes in handy. See my post on “Keeping a price list.”

7) Good quality clothing for reasonable prices:

With my busy schedule, I do not get a lot of time to shop. I love that I can find clothing for everyone in the family at Target. I especially like that I can find staple items for good prices, whether or not they go on sale. I depend on Target for pajamas for the family, sweats for the kids and myself, socks and underwear for everyone, etc. Pajamas for my boys can get quite costly. At a department store, you can easily spend $10 or more for one set. At Target, I get the Carter’s First Year brand and spend $12-$13 for two sets together. They sometimes go on sale for a few bucks less, and then there are days like today where I found three sets of the same size for half price! They sell sets year-round tailored for each season and the designs change. They are comfortable and last. My boys love them!

Their clothes last and look good. My little boys wear many items that their older brother wore that I probably paid less than $5-$10 a piece for! I often find such good deals that I even buy sizes for later and then store them in the basement. Today I found hoodie jackets for $2.98. I also found sweatshirts and sweatpants for $2.08 in the boys’ department! I bought three hoodies for each size S – L (I could only find one XL)! They will be set for a few years! See my post “Staying on top of your kids’ clothing.”

8) Black Friday is a breeze!

I am not a diehard Black Friday shopper that will stand in line hours before a store opens or camps out the night before. My Black Friday shopping route in simple: CVS and Target and occasionally one or two other stores. For the past two years, Target has had some great Black Friday deals like cheap pajamas for the family, great toy deals, and cheap hat/glove sets for the kids. I have not had to go right when the store opened. I get there mid-morning, and for the most part all the items I have been looking for were still in stock! They don’t just provide a few each of their good deals, but plenty for many shoppers! I am not shopping high-priced items, but I still come out with some great deals and am quite happy!

9) A clean and usually well-stocked store:

I know I can find good deals, too, at Wal-Mart, but I found the clutter and disorganization to create more stress than success. I like that Target is always clean and orderly and I know where everything is. The order of the store makes sense and it is not so large that I am very exhausted when I finish a trip complete with groceries, too. Occasionally the dollar aisle is a mess, but overall the store is pretty well-kept!

10) Plenty of online deals as well:

Target often has a sale on something I need more than one of, but the store doesn’t have that many or the right size in stock. However, the website does. I recently got tennis shoes for my boys and paid a minimal amount for shipping! Shoe costs can add up, so we were all very excited! And compared to the Wal-Mart shoes I have purchased, these have lasted a lot longer! I have also gotten some great skirts from their daily deals as well as other items. See my post “Online shopping tips” to make the most of your Internet shopping.

11) Clearance sections:

It seems that so many stores have junk in their clearance sections. However, at Target, I find stuff all the time. I particularly love to shop the clothing clearances, as I mentioned before. I always find great deals on clothing for my kids. By putting those purchases and hand-me-downs aside for later, my kids love when they grow out of a size and I bring up boxes of great stuff for the new season. The boxes include new and used, but they don’t care. By thinking ahead, I rarely have to buy much for the new season!

Target also has clearance sections in other departments. The end caps of aisles are always full of surprises and there are always tons of items on clearance in the home department! Today I got two great toys to put aside in my gift drawer and gingerbread cheesecake cookies only available for a limited time and so yummy! See my post on “Preparing for gift-giving = savings.”

NOTE: To find the best deals for Target each week, check out “Kosher on a Budget” and “Totally Target,” two great blogs.

Happy shopping!

Please feel free to share why you love Target in the Comments section!

 

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Wash, store, and save! (Two favorite kitchen products)

We have many things in our kitchen that hardly get used, even though they seemed like such a good idea at the time. Getting cookies just right without burning seemed like a great reason to buy a cookie sheet stone, but I think we have used it maybe twice! The second crock pot was great for making parve soups, but how often do we use it?

There are two things we do use nonstop in our kitchen. They save us time, money, and space. They also help reduce our food waste!

The first is our salad spinner bags.

Our favorite is the Argee “Spin ‘n Stor” Reusable Salad Spinner Bags. We first found them at Whole Foods, but now we buy them online. However, they last a while, so we very rarely need to buy new ones. These bags work just like a salad spinner, but without having one more gadget to store in your cabinet or refrigerator. You wash the lettuce and then place it in the bag. Then you close the top with your hands and spin it around. The water gathers on the bottom in a little reservoir. Then you pour it out the side of the bag. We love it. The boys think it is funny to see my husband swing the bag around!

After we wash a bunch of lettuce, we then store the washed lettuce in our second favorite kitchen product – produce bags.

We love the Debbie Meyer Green Bags. These hold your washed produce and keep them fresh. They work great and help us also distinguish between what has been washed and not washed in the refrigerator. Our fruits and vegetables last much longer stored in these.

I have not priced these out to see who has them cheapest, but Amazon offers them both from various retailers. You can also try Pricegrabber (see my post “Savings Tool Review: Pricegrabber”) to compare prices at several retailers at once. I have seen the Debbie Meyer bags in stores as well.

For more ideas on saving money in the kitchen, see my posts:

Do you have any kitchen products you can’t live without? Please share in the comments section!

 

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Making the most of your AAA membership

Most of us belong to Sam’s or Costco for bulk savings and have a AAA membership for emergency auto assistanceBut did you know that these membership programs have more than their advertised benefits? Why not take a look to see if you are really getting your money’s worth and all the extra perks provided.The AAA logo

Here is what I found out about AAA. For Sam’s Club, see my previous post on “Making the most of your Sam’s Club membership.” Costco to come soon!

Of course, the first thing I checked out was the savings discounts you can get with your membership. Did you know about some of these offers?

SAVINGS DISCOUNTS

Approved Auto Repair – Save up to 10% on parts and/or labor at participating Show Your Card & Save Approved Auto Repair facilities. Some restrictions and maximum discounts may apply.

Jiffy Lube – You can save 15% on their signature service at all participating locations in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri. See my post on “What does an oil change cost?” for more Jiffy Lube deals.

Optical services at LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, & Target Optical – Get discounts on complete pairs of eyeglasses without a coupon. This page has details on each store’s deals.

Payless ShoeSource – Members can receive an exclusive 10% discount on all regular price merchandise, excluding gift cards (at stores in the US and Canada). They even have an extra coupon available on this page.

Six Flags – $5 off general front-gate admission or $2 off general front-gate admission at Six Flags Water Parks. You also can get a 10% discount on merchandise purchases of $15 or more at all Six Flags operated locations.

St. Louis Cardinals – Get $10 off a regular ticket priced $20 or higher for any Monday through Thursday home game during the 2012 season. See this link for ticketing information and how to get this deal.

St. Louis Science Center – $5 off St. Louis Science Center Friends & Family membership levels and $1 off OMNIMAX movies. See my post “Become a member!” on why memberships are a good deal. (They have many other amusement/attraction deals that vary based on your area.)

Target.com – Members can save $10 off $100 online. Some exclusions do apply.

This is just a sampling of savings discounts that AAA offers in categories such as Play, Hotels, Travel, Shop, Auto, Dine, Services and Health.

MORE WELL-KNOWN SERVICES

Automobile splash

Travel:

  • Travel discounts and booking as well as TripTik driving directions and maps, online TourBook guides, eTourBook Guides
  • Travel checklists, event calendars, and vacation ideas
  • Information on foreign travel requirements
  • Car rental discounts

Insurance:

  • Auto, home/renter’s, and life insurance
  • Car buying tips
  • Health/Medical insurance – they even offer short-term insurance. I wish I had known about this three months ago while we have been waiting for my husband to be eligible for health insurance at his work!

Financial:

  • AAA Member Rewards Visa card
  • Travel money
  • Free identity theft monitoring (I am going to look into this, especially since this can be a costly thing to sign up privately.)
  • How to videos on money tips

News & Safety:

  • Information on gas costs and pricing
  • Safe driving tips
  • Travel magazine

Automotive:

  • Tips for taking care of your car
  • Links to AAA approved sites and battery service information

* NOTE: The links provided are for my AAA region, which serves Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, E. Kansas, S. Illinois, S. Indiana, and Texarkana, TX. To find information on your local AAA region, your computer should redirect you to your region’s website. However, if it doesn’t, you may need to click on “Other AAA Clubs” at the bottom of the AAA homepage.

Are you taking advantage of all you can with your membership! Check it out now! Tell me about how you saved!

 

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August is the time to buy… (2012 update)

Necklace

There are certain times of the year that are best for purchasing various items, due to various factors. Here are a few to keep in mind for the last month of summer:

Bottled water: With summer picnics and barbecues, stores often drop the price of bottled water. If you prefer bottle water, now is the time to stock up. However, you can save even more money if you buy a filter for your tap or refrigerator and use your own bottles!

Certain fruits: August is a good time to buy blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, honeydew melons, lines, nectarines, peaches, Bartlett pears, plums, raspberries and watermelons.

Certain vegetables: August is a good time to buy corn, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce, and peppers.

Computers: Back-to-school sales often offer the lowest prices of the year. You can sometimes get freebies like printers, too.

Home Décor: It’s wedding season so retailers will offer sales to help shoppers buying gifts.

House paint: More people paint in the summer months, so stores sometimes lower prices and hope you’ll buy other regular-priced things, too.

Jewelry: August (along with January, March, April, July, and September) are non-gift giving months. Retailers are more likely to offer sales during these months to promote business.

MP3 players: Companies sometimes put older models on sale to make way for the newer models they will introduce in the fall. Consumers can try them out and then give them as gifts for the holidays.

School Supplies and dorm furniture: Check out the great deals at various retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples, Walgreens, and CVS. Even if you don’t have children in school, some office supplies (which are also used by students) are also sold at cheap prices during this time. See my post “School Supply Shopping Strategy” for tips on how to get the most for your money.

Swimsuits: Stores want to get rid of their inventory, so the prices go way down. You can also update your look just by buying a  new separate to match one you already own (like for two-piece suits). Think about next year for your kids as well. I already bought rash guards for my boys for next year so we won’t have the same stress of rashes from sunscreen/eczema.

If you plan to shop online, check out my “Online shopping tips.”

Sources:

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