Budgeting for 2011: Creating a Price Book

In 2011 I will be doing a short series of articles on creating a grocery budget as well as some other topics (if you have any questions you would like me to address e-mail me!)  I don’t want to start the full series yet because I know the holidays are crazy, but there is a simple step you can take now to help you at the first of the year. 

One of the best tools to save while grocery shopping is keeping a price book or list (I personally did it in excel when I first got the hang of things but lots of people just carry around a small notebook).

In the most basic terms, a price book is a list of how much your normal grocery items cost at local stores.  By taking this book with you when you shop, you will automatically know if you are getting a good deal!

So here are the steps you can follow to begin this process:

1.  For one month, record the name, price and size of everything you buy at the store. Do this as long as it takes to get the normal price for your regular purchases.

2.  Once you have the prices for your items, just compare them when you shop!  Let’s say you pay $.79 at Walmart for Campbell’s Soup, but Harris Teeter has them on sale this week for $.50.  You pull out your book, compare the prices and if it’s a good deal, maybe buy one or two extra.   (Remember many grocery stores now have on-line shopping so you can see their prices without having to go in a store!) 

3.  Remember to update your grocery pricebook anytime you find items for less than the price you recorded in the pricebook. Then this becomes your new baseline price!  The longer you use coupons and search for deals, the lower these baseline prices become!

So for right now. while you are running around grabbing groceries for the holidays, take a few minutes to jot the prices from your receipts down on a piece of paper, in a notebook or on the computer.  Then in January we can start using your new tool to save big!

And if you aren’t feeling very creative, you can use these pricebook worksheets from Money Saving Mom!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Suggestions for Articles?

In my constant pursuit of becoming the best blogger I can be, I would like to flex my muscles and start writing some articles- both for this blog and others, as well as some publications.

My biggest obstacle is that I never know what to write about.  Something I find completely fascinating about saving money, budgeting, shopping or blogging may bore everyone else to death.  And if no one wants to read it, it’s not a very useful post.

So I am asking- what do you want to know about?  It can be anything having to do with couponing, rebates, budgeting, spending, saving, grocery shopping, drug store deals, my limited cooking capabilities, gift giving or anything else along that line.  Don’t be scared to send me something I will have to research- that’s what the web is for!

So if you have something you want to know drop me an e-mail, leave a comment on this post or stick something on the facebook page.

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Give Freely 12/1 – 12/7

Welcome to the second Give Freely post! 

Our goal is to present you each week with freebies or near freebies from your local grocery stores.  Because these items are so inexpensive we are hoping that you will spend the extra few cents to pick up a spare item to donate to your community center, church, local food bank or shelter.  Even if the items aren’t food, they can often be used in some way!

This gives you the opportunity to Give Freely!

Dollar General (click here to see the whole list of deals from The Thrifty Military Wife)

Wolf Brand Chili No Beans 15 oz. $1.25
- 75¢/2 coupon (10/3 SS)

= 87¢ each

Farm Fresh (click here to see the whole list of deals from The Coupon Challenge)

Crystal Farm Cheese $1.50
Use $1/2 from the 11/21 SS insert
Final: 2/$1

Hot Pockets Side Shots $2
Use $1/1 Facebook printable
FREE

Birds Eye Veggies and Steamfresh $1
Use $1/3 from the 11/14 SS insert (excludes steamfresh)
Use $0.50/1 Facebook printable
Final: as low as FREE

Barilla Plus Pasta $2
Use $1/1 printable
FREE

Zone Perfect Bar $0.99
Use $1/1 from the 10/31 SS insert
FREE

Food Lion (click here to see the whole list of deals from A Frugal Chick)

Green Giant Canned Vegetables, 11-15.25 oz., at $1.39 ($.69 each!)

Progresso Classic Soup, 18.5-19 oz., $1
$1/4 Progresso Soup, exp. 1-15-11 (SS 11/21/10)
$1/4 Progresso Soup, exp. 02-13-11 (GM 10/03/2010)
$1/4 Progresso Soup, exp. 1-8-11 (GM 11/14/10)
$1/4 Progresso Soup, exp. 12-18-10 (SS 10/24/10)
Final Price: $.75 each

Harris Teeter (click here to see the whole list of deals from Mom on Dealz)
Green Giant Veggies $0.77
-$0.50/2 coupon from SS 10/24
Final=$0.54 each

Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce BOGO so price for 1 is $1.57
-$0.50 coupon from RP 10/24
Final=$0.57

Walmart (click here to see the complete list of deals from The Thrifty Military Wife)

Nabisco Wheat Thins or Triscuit Crackers $1.98
– $1/1 coupon from the 11/14 SS
- $1/1 Wheat Thins printable
= 98¢

Morton Sea Salt $1
– $1 coupon from the 11/14 RP
= free

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Unusual Things To Do Before Black Friday To Save $$$

We all know the normal things to do before Black Friday (scope out the ads on www.afrugalchick.com, make a list, set your alarm, use the bathroom before you leave the house etc.) but here are some tips you may not think about:

1.  Grab your reuseable shopping bags-  If you are heading to Target you get $.05 per bag you use.   If not, you will have sturdy bags and not get stuck with big awkward paper ones.

2. Throw a bottled water and snack in your bag- don’t wait in line for mall food.  Bring it with you and you can eat in line waiting to check out with your bargains!

3.  Start at a place that will price match- as much as I can’t stand WalMart on Black Friday, their representatives have said they will price match.  So if an item is cheaper at another store and you have the ad, they will match the price.  This may save you some trips.

4.  Call the stores about rare items ahead of time- one of my most vivid Black Friday memories is Sears last year.   There was a nice long line of people waiting for a great deal on a washer and dryer.  The store only had three of them and they had given out tickets to people who had asked for them… on WEDNESDAY NIGHT!  I have no clue if this is common practice but if you want something and think there may be limited quantities call ahead and find out what time they will be giving out tickets.

5.  Leave someone at home on the computer.    If the store you are in has a line two hours long and the same item is available with free shipping on-line, why on earth would you wait in line AND pay sales tax?  Leave someone at home in their pajamas with their cup of coffee- they can find you some great deals too!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Holiday Website #1- Etsy.com

I like getting people unusual gifts. Mostly because I like receiving unusual gifts. My taste in jewelry and art is a bit different from what you would see in a magazine or watching a top ten television show.

So when I want to find a unique gift, I head over to etsy.com. Wikipedia describes Etsy much better than I ever could: “Etsy is a social commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items as well as art and craft supplies. These items cover a wide range including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, edibles, bath & beauty products, quilts, knick-knacks and toys. Many individuals also sell craft supplies like beads, wire, jewelry making tools and much more.”

Now, it’s true you can’t use coupons on Etsy, but there are a few ways you can make shopping on Etsy frugal.

1. Shop Local. When you go into the buy section of Etsy, you can select the option of looking local. Type in the name of your town, or the biggest town nearby, and it will pull up all the stores in your area and show when the merchandise was last updated. If you find a local store you can contact the owner and ask for a discount if you pick up the item. They may even have a storefront where you won’t have to buy on line if you would like to look at more merchandise. Without shipping and handling, you may be able to get a better deal.

2. Search by price. One of the worst things about looking for gifts is knowing your budget and finding that perfect item just out of  price range. By using the advanced search function, you can search for the item you want and put the maximum amount you want to spend. That way, you won’t have something more expensive catch your eye.

3. Have your product created. Etsy has a really neat function called Alchemy. If you have a specific item you would like created, you can put it on their posting board with a price. So if your daughter would like a bracelet with her name on it, you can list that on the board and the price you would like to pay. If one of the artists on Etsy is willing to make it for that amount, they will place a bid to create it. The lowest bidder with a design you like gets to create it. It’s secure and you can get some beautiful customized pieces.

So if you are looking for something unique for the holidays, don’t run around town getting frustrated because nothing has quite the right feel. Check out Etsy for some great deals!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


77 Days Until December 25th

As of today, October 7, 2010, there are 77 days until Christmas (if you celebrate Hanukah, Kwanza or Festivus you don’t have too much longer either). It’s time to start planning, so you don’t go broke doing your shopping.

In 2009 the average American household spent $417 on Christmas shopping. When money is already tight, $417 can really make a difference. There are a few simple things you can do to try to keep a cap on your spending and not begin 2011 in the hole.

1. Make a list now. Sit down and figure out who is getting gifts. (This one here from Real Simple magazine is pretty basic if you don’t want to create your own.) If the list is lengthy discuss with your family drawing names or doing a sort of Secret Santa arrangement. If you are comfortable ask your friends if you all could skip doing gifts this year and spend some extra time together instead. Talk to your spouse and maybe this year skip gifts to each other.

2. Take that list and give it a dollar amount. Harness the power of the internet and find out how much each item on your list will be. Or, if you are a frugal shopper, set the price you are willing to pay for the item. That way when you become overwhelmed by the sales, you know what price you are looking for.

3. Make sure you have the cash. I am a BIG fan of not having credit cards. Make a goal this year to only pay cash for items (that means on-line shopping with the debit card, not credit). Since you are starting your shopping now, you should be able to spread it out over the next little bit and not have to go into debt for the holidays. If you know there is no way you can afford the gifts you want to give without going into debt, it might be time to revise the list with some less expensive items.

4. Make a home for your receipts. Receipts are a huge part of holiday giving. Sizes change, colors might be a bit off or what you thought was the perfect gift could be completely wrong. Be sure to have everything in one place where it can not be lost. Also, if you buy something now and then it goes on sale later, you might be able to take the receipt to the store and get some cash back!

Over the next few days, I will share some of the websites I love to use when I shop. Each of these can help you save valuable time and money as you prepare.

Let’s make it a great, frugal holiday!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Do You Have a Side Hustle?

I have a really hard time only working one job. My interests are just too diverse to be limited by one type of employment.

When I worked in banking, I also pierced ears at Claire’s (saving to backpack in Europe). When I worked for a broker, I also was a singing hostess at a local Italian restaurant (saving to buy my first place). And now that I work in construction, I also teach voice lessons and blog (paying off grad school loans).

I don’t seem to be able to survive without a side hustle- a part time gig that helps bring in some extra money.

Celebrities know the value of this. Jennifer Lopez does movies and music but also has a successful perfume. Justin Timberlake makes movies and music, but also owns a record label, fashion label and two restaurants. Donald Trump has real estate, a university and a television show. By diversifying they eliminate their need to depend on any one thing.

And a side hustle is a great comfort in a down economy. If you lose the big 40 hour a week job, the back up is there to keep food on the table and the lights on.

So for those of you who think a side hustle is sounding kind of nice right now, what exactly should you be looking for? Here was my list of criteria:

1. It needs to be a topic you are interested in. One of my majors in college was Music. So I always like my side hustles to have something to do with music, particularly singing if I can. Look for something you enjoy.

2. You need to good at it. If I was tone deaf, a side hustle doing music might be a poor choice. So make sure people actually think you are good at what you are trying to do.

3. It’s legal. I will leave that one alone.

4. You know who will pay you for it. A side hustle can be working for someone else- guaranteed check and guaranteed hours with less worry. If you want to try to start a business yourself, make sure there is a market for it.

5. No big investment up front. Don’t look at spending a bunch of money to make money. If you decide to wait tables there is nothing wrong with buying some comfortable shoes and a white shirt, but don’t go crazy.

Sound like a lot of work? Let’s look at some of the benefits:

1. More income. Always a good thing right? Pay down some debt or bump up your savings account.

2. New Job Skills. Always wanted to see what it was like to work the counter at the YMCA? That’s a great side hustle! Love sports? Call about being a referee or umpire for your local recreational league! Always wondered if you could be the guy yelling “Popcorn, peanuts!” at the local baseball game? Now is your chance to check it out! Some side hustles turn into full time jobs!

3. You get to do something you love. Don’t get me wrong- there are some nights where my voice students drive me insane. But 99% of the time, I feel myself relax as soon as I walk in the studio. I get to concentrate on doing something I love with creative people I enjoy being around. And when someone finally gets the Italian diction right or figures out how to draw a treble clef, it’s all worth it! Find a rewarding hustle.

So if these benefits sound good to you, make a list of possible side hustles. If you are just sitting home at night doing nothing, this could open you up to a whole new world!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


You Don’t Have To Buy It Because It’s On Sale

Buying something you don’t need because it is on sale isn’t a good deal.

If no one in your family eats oatmeal, a $.25 box of oatmeal (while it’s a good deal) is a waste of money. It’s going to sit in your pantry until it expires and then you will throw it away. Getting a flat screen TV 50% off means you are still paying that other 50%. And if there is a perfectly good television already in your home, then you are wasting money and resources.

Here are some simple steps you can take to not be sucked into the “I must have it because it’s on sale” problem:

1. Don’t cut out coupons for things you don’t need- if it’s not an item you will use in your house, give the coupon to someone who will.

2. Make a list before you go to the store- and stick with it. Someone told me the other day of a friend who calls Target the “$100 store” because she can never leave without spending at least $100. A list can help with that.

3. Know what you already have- How many times do you go the grocery store, buy something and come home to find you already have it? Try to know what you have so you don’t end up with too much. One woman takes a picture of her pantry on her cell phone before she leaves the house. That way she has a picture of what she already has.

What about you guys? What do you do at the store to make sure you don’t overspend?

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Gift Ideas

Still struggling with that perfect gift for someone? Check out some ideas from the bloggers:

Trying to figure out the perfect gift for the man in your life? Check out this video blog with some ideas!

Some unique stocking stuffer ideas!

10 Holiday gift ideas for Runners

If anybody wants to get me something, I will take the door mat from this list of 30 items for the creative person in your life!

And now my list of the top 5 things to get people for the holidays (these are in no special order and give at your own risk):

1. Popcorn- I love popcorn and most people do. The two places I personally recommend are Jody’s (locally owned and operated in Virginia Beach) and Garretts. (Side note on Garretts- every year members of my family would go to Chicago and promise to bring me back popcorn from Garretts. It never made it back- they always ate it on the plane. Finally a friend went out to visit and brought me back a whole tin, which I refused to share with my family. It is THAT good.)

2. Movie gift certificates- Movies have gotten ridiculously expensive. What was once something I did on a Friday night if there was nothing else going on has now turned into an event. When it’s cheaper to get a pizza and a redbox, something is wrong! So for your friends who love the movies, help ease the pain on their wallets!

3. Ticketmaster gift cards. Did you even know Ticketmaster did this? I didn’t until two Christmases ago when my boss gave me one. The gift card made the pain of paying all of their stupid fees a little bit easier!

4. The gift of information- Can you do something one of your friends can’t do? Play an instrument, upload photos on facebook, juggle? See if there is something you can teach them to do! And maybe they can return the favor?

5. Agree to do nothing. I have several friends that I have always exchanged gifts with. And this year, I just asked them to agree to do nothing. And not one of them argued with me!

So there is my two cents for what it’s worth!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.


Living Without a Savings Account

When I was in my mid-twenties I was completely miserable working at a bank. The pretense and stressful corporate environment made me uncomfortable. After two promotions I found myself as far up as I could go without changing who I was or compromising my morals. My boss (who was also a friend) knew how miserable I was and offered me an out. So I walked in one Friday, quit my job, threw everything in a box and went home with my cashed out vacation and a little bit of severance pay, unemployed for the first time in my life since I was 15 (except this time I had a mortgage).

After a few weeks working for a document storage company doing database entry, I managed to land a job in my dream industry- assistant box office manager for a local theater. I loved working the late night hours, meeting the actors, hanging out with the people who built scenery and hung lights and the fact that everyone who worked there was just as broke as I was.

It was a 55% pay cut from the bank and my severance pay was now gone. I did everything I could to cut back- got rid of my gym membership, lowered my cell phone minutes, stopped eating out, quit going to movies, and sold everything I could on ebay. Friends and family bought me tickets to concerts and picked up the tab for dinners so I could continue to hang out. Christmas that year was all much needed gift cards.

In spite of the help, every month I was always a little bit short on being able to pay my bills. So I pulled just enough out of savings to cover myself. And 9 months later when the season and my job ended, I had no money in savings.

When I started my next job with a temp agency, I decided that no matter what I was going to save SOMETHING. So I started with a dollar a day. I got paid every Friday so every Friday I put $7 in my savings account. And slowly but surely, I watched my savings account grow to where I could breathe a little bit easier.

I tell you this story because I want you to see that anyone can save something- even with a savings account with a balance of $0. And while I am no expert, here are my pieces of advice:

1. Open a savings account somewhere that is accessible, but not too accessible. I keep my savings at a different bank than my checking account. If I want money out of savings, I have to go out of my way to get it. And there is no way to transfer money electronically from the savings to checking. That way, I don’t transfer money for things I don’t really need (which in my world translates into food).

2. If possible, set up with your employer or bank to transfer the money automatically. Having the money come out automatically means saving without thinking. I don’t know about you, but I have enough to think about.

3. Come up with a doable amount. Let’s take a look at some of those and see how they add up.
a. $1.00 a day for a year = $365 at the end of the year (plus interest earned)
b. $.30 a day for a year = $109.50 at the end of the year (plus interest earned)
c. $10.00 a week for a year= $520 at the end of the year (plus interest earned)

4. Forget about it. Let the money keep building. And sleep better at night knowing that if something happens, you have that little bit of a cushion to pull you through!

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It is important to note that this blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorships, paid insertions, or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All opinions stated in this blog belong to its author and no one else. I will only endorse products, companies, and services that I have found worthy of my time and opinion. A Frugal Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.