Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stocking Stuffers to Buy Now

It is almost October and have you done any Christmas shopping? I’ve picked up a few items on sale    and put them away. Adults like my siblings, even husband, are the easiest to shop for because their interests don’t change. I can keep my eyes out all year along for Gone with the Wind merchandise or 1000 piece plus puzzles. 
What can you buy in October that would be good for Christmas or stocking stuffers?
  •           Art supplies-basic supplies are on clearance everywhere since the back to school frenzy is over. Michaels and Joann Fabrics also offer coupons in the Sunday ads that allow you to buy one item 50% off. If you start doing this now, you can get a half price item per week.
  •            Socks- Depending on the recipient you can go for zany ones if they’ll  be appreciated. You are looking for sales or clearance items, not full price.
  •  Small games-not the electronic type.  These can be found often are the clearance table of book stores and discount stores.
  • Jewelry- cruise the jewelry section every time you shop for bargain basement finds. Earrings are usually the most popular.
  •  Toiletries-this can work for both young and old. The Dollar Tree will yield fizzy bath balls and bubble bath.  Higher end is Bath and Body Work. Keep your ear open for the buy free, get three free. You can even use the coupons you made have form the store. I’ve walked out with $90 of toiletries for $30.
  • Wind-up toys-I actually found a few in Kohls that I applied my 30% discount too. 
  • Gloves can be amazingly expensive. You can also order them online. 
  • Candles—I am always looking for these on clearance. Krogers usually has a few on clearance.
  • Kids Toy and puzzles-do you have a ton of stockings to make? Try Oriental Trading and order items in mass. Often, you get free shipping.
  •  Unusual or quirky items-can be found everywhere from yard sales, street festivals and curio shops.
  • Design a photo mug on Vista Print or
  • Ornaments are popular, especially personalized ones. Create your own on They are always running specials. Be sure to take advantage of them.
  • Quality headphones can be picked up for less at T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. I used a Groupon to buy Skull Candy headphones.
  • Gadgets-A foodie would appreciate corkscrews, garlic press, or even a food thermometer.
  •  DVDs-these go on sale on a rotating basis. Amazon as flash sale of popular movies that may last only minutes.
  • Lottery tickets
  •  Book marks
  • Match box cars or similar
  • Key rings- fun or sentimental.
  • Book lights.
  •  Toothbrushes
  • Fake tattoos and stickers
  • Glowsticks
  • Harmonica
  • Nail polish, lip balms and hand cream
  • Individual face masks
  •  Batteries
  • Jerky
  • Barrettes, combs, ribbons
  • Disposable camera
  •  Wallet
  •  Journal
  • Pens, pencils, erasers
  • Tape measure
  •  Golf tees
  • Puzzle book
  • Flash drive
  •  Hand warmers
  •  Canned nuts
  • Car air freshener
  • Fishing lures
  • Phone chargers
  • Craft kits
  • Stamps & ink pad
  • Legos
  • Action figurines
  • Hot sauce
  • Individual drink mixers
  • Kazoos
  • Balls, tops, balloons

Friday, September 20, 2013

Making Money on the Side

Money is tight at your house. You need a way to bring in some more money. There are all sorts of work available, depending on your situation.
1.       Substitute Teaching – Always a good way to coordinate your schedule with your school age child schedule. The pay ranges from $70-$100 a day, depending on your district. Expect to attend a class and pay for your own background check.
2.       Tutoring - This is a great option for retired educators. The going rate for tutoring is $11-15 an hour. You can sometimes leave flyers at schools, community bulletin boards or even run an ad. What parents are really looking for is raising ACT/SAT scores.
3.       Lawn Care - This old standby of children looking for extra money can work for adults too.
4.       Snow shoveling - This works especially well if you have a snow blade on your truck. One man in my neighborhood cleaned up during an especially snowy winter by scraping people’s driveways before they went to work. It took him about five minutes with his truck.
5.       Pizza Delivery - It just isn’t for kids anymore.
6.       Ebay - A friend combs yard sales looking for good quality children’s clothes and collectibles to sell online.
7.       Childcare – If you are already staying at home with your child, another child shouldn’t make that much difference.
8.       Paper Delivery - This usually happens in the wee hours of the morning, allowing you time to get to your main job.
9.       Pet sitter - Most people prefer to have the pet “sat” as opposed to going to a kennel. A typical price is $25 for the first visit, $15 for the next visit and $10 for the third visit in the day.  Anything from walking the pet to getting the mail will make you the more desirable pet sitter.
10.   Give lessons - Is there something you are expert in from singing, piano, art, dancing, even bee keeping? If it’s music, you might want to leave flyers in an appropriate place or even become associated with a music store.
11.   Web Design - Many people have websites or want properly designed ones. You can become a web designer. Offer to do a few sample sites to have something to show prospective customers.
12.   Editing and proof Reading - Another pair of eyes does help catch mistakes. Be certain you have the background and genre-specific experience to take this one on. Starting price is a $1 a page on editing.
13.   House Painting - Most people would prefer not to paint. Most painters get business with local advertisements and word of mouth. Check out to see what the others are charging.
14.   House cleaning - You might want to start your business with friends, relatives, and neighbors. Later on, you’ll need to be bonded to assure new customers that you won’t steal from them while cleaning.
15.   Dog Walker - This is more popular in the cities, but plenty of people have dogs they do not have time to walk.
16.   Dinner delivery - You cook meals in your home and deliver to those who do not like to cook. It is nice to have a menu for them to choose from. Scout out the ingredients first to have a realistic idea what to charge.
17.   Party planner - Do you give great theme parties? Mothers with children would especially appreciate this.
18.   College Student Care - Live close to a college and offer to bring homemade goodies or care packages to students. The best way to advertise this is to get your flyer into the student registration package.
19.   Night shift jobs - Most people do not want to work the night shift. Even if you have no experience you can often pick up might work as a cleaner, delivery person, or waitress.
20.   Bartering services - This won’t result in actual money, but by not paying for a service that you do need, which would have taken actual money.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Restaurant Savings Review

Recently, I couldn’t help notice that the price of eating out keeps going up. The average dinner for two at a chain restaurant such as O’Charley’s, Applebee’s or The Olive Garden hovers around $30-$40 depending on what time you go. With this in mind, I have tried to take advantage of coupons and savings.

Applebee’s- if you want to take advantage of their happy hour prices then you will be dining very late. You used to get discounted drinks and appetizers during happy hour. Now, you only get CERTAIN appetizers discounted 8-10pm. The same salsa and chips you get free at the Mexican restaurant is one of your discounted appetizers.

Burger King- puts out booklets of coupons with one meal being free if you buy a similar meal. Current survey has BK in front of McDonalds as far as flavor.

Groupons are a good deal. I have never had anyone refuse one at a restaurant. Usually they are for about half off the normal price. Sometimes they are for a set meal.

KFC-I noticed that you get less chicken pieces in a bucket for what looks like a savings. They are good about honoring coupons they print in the paper. Used one recently for buy one meal, get one free.

La Hacienda (Mexican Restaurant)-offers you phone coupons on your smart phone. Warning no one in the restaurant is aware how to type it in yet. Instead of getting 20% off our $40 dinner as the coupon stated. We receive $4 off.

Logans-in your Sunday coupon section, you find Logan coupons for about 25% off your meal or buy dinner, get one free on certain days. They do honor these coupons. (This may seem like a no brainer, but if you read on you find out not everyone honors their coupons.)

Paneras-remember when using your Panera’s card resulted in rewards? As a frequent customer, I can’t remember the last time I receive anything for using my card. The company has definitely cut back on this policy. The prices have sneaked up too. A recent lunch for one person was nine dollars and some change. using restaurant coupons from is still a good deal, but pay attention to restaurant requirements.  Individual restaurants put requirements on the use. One local restaurant would only allow us to use it on a Sunday morning and if only 4-6 people were in the party. Our coupon was never used.

Subway is notorious for not honoring their coupons. Their reason is that stores are individually owned and each owner decides. Ask first, if you're unsure. Still, it is hard to beat a foot long sub for $6 that can easily be two meals.

Many restaurants offer daily deals too. The Irish pub, Claddagh, offers buy one, get one free Fish and Chips on Mondays.

You might be up for an extra discount too. I remember when my son joined the National Guard; he asked everywhere he went if they had a military discount. Most restaurants do. They have senior prices too. A few even honor AAA memberships. Listen for special advertisements. Sometimes the special at Red Lobster, really is the best deal on the menu.

Eating out is never a bargain, but you can always try for the best deal. Remember to tip your server because that is part of your expense too.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Beating the High Price of Gasoline

I live in an area where the price of gas spikes as much as .80 cents in 24 hours. One of the reasons gas stations do this is because there is no reliable public transportation. Gas becomes a major part of our budget.  Here are some tips for beating gas prices.
·                     Use public transit if you have it. (We don’t, but you might.)
·                     Combine trips. One day is for my shopping, dry cleaning and post office trips. I drive in a linear fashion to save mileage.
·                     Carpool when you can. This can just be family members too.
·                     Walk when you can or even ride your bike.
·                     I used to drive in to work with my daughter, but because we left at different times. I would walk the two miles home, saved gas and got exercise at the same time.
·                     Work at home one day a week if possible.
·                     Car tune-up- little things influence your fuel efficiency.
·                     Use Lucas Oil Treatment. It is available at Auto Zone. My mechanic believes using this once a month improves mileage. I have proof to back up his claims.
·                     Fill up your tank every time to prevent condensation forming in the gas tank.
·                     When you drive, be a gentle driver. Don’t stomp on the gas pedal and slam on the brakes at stops. This cuts into MPG besides irritating other drivers.
·                     Speeding. Anything above 60 decreases efficiency because of the energy it takes to propel your car forward. If the speed limit is 70, and everyone around you is going 80, you might want to pick it up for safety. Speeding costs you a quarter for every mile you go over the car’s maximum efficient speed, which is between 50-60 miles depending on the model.
·                     Drive the car that gets the best gas mileage the most. (This depends on if there are two or more cars in your household.)
·                     Try to fill your car up between Monday and Wednesday. Most prices spike for the weekend and holidays.
·                     Try to fill up in the mornings, before they raise the prices for the day.
·                     Use Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas in your area. Remember driving ten miles out of your way to get five cents off a gallon is not a savings.
·                     Unload your trunk because carrying around the kids sporting equipment cuts into your gas mileage.
·                     MapQuest unfamiliar destinations. Often MapQuest will offer three different routes allowing you to pick the best one. Keep in mind, your GPS isn’t always looking for the shortest route or even the easiest one.  It is better to review it first.
·                     Going on vacation, keep in mind, whatever you strap to the roof will reduce your gas mileage. You can drive just as fast, but your engine has to work more.
·                     Use grocery loyalty points to save money off gas.
·                     Prepaid gas cards often save you $5 per card purchase
·                     Pay in cash. Often credit card purchases are more
·                     Driving with the air conditioning cranked up to full blast can gobble up gas. Keep it low if possible.
·                     Do not allow the car to idle more than a minute. At a long train crossing or wreck, turn off the car.
·                     Use cruise control
·                     Use overdrive gears
·                     Buy cars known for good gas mileage as opposed to reading the MPG stickers. Most manufacturers use creative math coming up with these figures. Read reviews before purchasing.
Try the above suggestions before resorting to taking out the back seat to make the car lighter or removing the side mirror to have less drag. The days of aimless Sunday drives are over forever, but there is always the Sunday walk.