Tis The Season To Be Frugal
December 3, 2009 6:58 PM   Subscribe

 
Metafilter: Or decorate with nature!
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:12 PM on December 3, 2009


I must be doing it wrong
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:17 PM on December 3, 2009


Just to pick nits...

Of the six that don't really save you money - Two most certainly will, and one can. Coupons, if and only if you would have bought that exact item, can save you quite a bit over time. And free shipping, if and only if you would have bought enough to qualify for it anyway (and not at a price more than local+tax or mailorder+shipping), can really save a fortune, particularly on heavy items.

As for the third... Zero percent financing can save you money in two ways - First, if you normally keep your money tied up in decent investments, a year's earnings can amount to quite a bit; And second, every year the value of a dollar drops by roughly 3.5%, so simply breaking even actually means a modest gain over time. Of course, if you have any chance of screwing it up and not paying back the full amount before interest comes due, give this one a pass and just buy what you can afford in the present.

As for the "frugal tips" - Remember how your cheap-assed grandmother used to do a variety of things that drove you nuts to save a pittance? This list enumerates them. They will save you money, but unless you live on a fixed income (ie, your time has a value of $0.00 per hour), you'd probably do better to skip these and work some overtime (or take a second part-time job at a store with good employee discounts and get all your xmas shopping done there).

And on that last note - My tip to save some money: CD/DVD specialty stores, and some book stores, often have employee discounts of 30-50%. If you have a media-heavy xmas list, in exchange for putting in 10 hours of mindless retail work, you can save hundreds on your shopping.
posted by pla at 7:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I can never find any good ideas in these "money saving tips" articles that I'm not already using.
posted by orange swan at 7:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


Save used wrapping paper all through the year, just roll them back onto the paper tube and place a small piece of scotch tape on the edge to hold in place.

So my grandfather wasn't crazy all those years where he would try to save the used wrapping paper to the dismay of my grandmother and the rest of the family! He's rolling around in his grave right now.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Decorations:
17. Don’t decorate, that is always an option!


Cheater.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:27 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're not against getting used media, you can save even more by shopping on various well-known places online. You could even buy new cases in bulk and make the package look new.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:28 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The second link should be 39 ways Christians could be.

I already save all that money by not being Christian.
posted by birdie birdington at 7:29 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Haha I can't read.
posted by birdie birdington at 7:29 PM on December 3, 2009


39 ways you could be (that you're not doing)

40) Re-use your old web design from 1997!

AMIRITE
posted by rkent at 7:39 PM on December 3, 2009 [11 favorites]


18. Don’t decorate with expensive things!!!

Wow, thanks for the tip!!!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:41 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


38. Give all your money away to hippies! Preferably the one writing this comment right now. He'll save your money for you. Whaddaya say?
posted by not_on_display at 7:57 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you're not against getting used media, you can save even more by shopping on various well-known places online.

I've tried that the past few years with CDs, and it's been a waste. Half arrived too dinged up to play properly. Going forward, I'm only buying new CDs (or new MP3 downloads).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 PM on December 3, 2009


My tips

- paperbackswap.com
- cake in a jar
- write letters - nice looking stamps don't cost more

I tried #23 and mice invaded and ate all my acorns. Yay for #39.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that any incoming student that buys a laptop and doesn't get the extended warranty is an idiot. I bought my dell freshman year and that sucker got dropped so many times I had to get two replacements (for free!). My parents have bought three laptops in the last 4 years and only one has made it longer then 2 without either dying or suffering severe failures (I'm looking at you apple).
Of course they're saying that these extended warranties cost about 30%-40%, but a quick look at apple shows a 1,400 laptop gets an extended warranty of three years for about 170 bucks, and if you don't have any major failures you can at least get your sticky keyboard replaced.
posted by cyphill at 7:59 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I must be doing it wrong

you and me both, buddy
posted by squorch at 8:00 PM on December 3, 2009


Man, being a scrooge saves lots of money. I don't send out Christmas cards, I don't decorate and I put presents in the cheapest bag I can find (I don't wrap.)
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:01 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ignore religious holidays!

Oh fuck that's too obvious and not really do-able is it? Come on, 2030!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:02 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bah, I save boatloads of money with Amazon's free shipping. Not Amazon Prime or anything, just regular Super Saver Shipping. It arrives extremely quickly; any time I have paid for non-super-saver shipping it has actually taken longer than the average super saver time.

Yeah, if you decide you just gotta buy the $3000 television because, hey, FREE SHIPPING you are not saving money. But if I buy $1000 in books a year in maybe 15 orders, the free shipping saves me a whole bunch.
posted by Justinian at 8:06 PM on December 3, 2009


Sit around a warm fire

*Sets carpet on fire.*
posted by dirigibleman at 8:18 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man. I LOVE seeing links for money-saving tips, because I'm constantly trying to shrink and streamline my bills. But by the end of the article I am always bitterly disappointed, because "Do your own pedicures!" and "Cook more at home!" is so utterly unhelpful.

At this point, if it's not suggesting that I start collecting fireflies in a jar if I want to read at night, or put on six layers of sweaters and set the thermostat to 45 degrees, or that I just get rid of the damn fridge already since it is clearly eating up most of the electricity, given that I have religiously unplugged every single other electric device in my home that is not in use in case it is one of those electricity vampires -- I'm looking at you, DVD player that has a tiny red light on even when it is turned off! -- it is seriously nothing new.
posted by hegemone at 8:34 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I can't remember to use a coupon if I staple it to my forehead. I'm pound wise and penny foolish, and okay with that.

If you're truly looking for the best ways to manage your money, these piddling things aren't it. I suggest something comprehensive, like Get Rich Slowly.
posted by zinfandel at 8:42 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pay. Down. Debt.

Of course, I'm not perfect at that...but I have a plan and will be completely debt free, including mortgage, within 7 years. The lesson I had to learn was actually any easy one...at 10% interest, the $10,000 you owe costs you $1000 per year and provides nothing worthwhile back.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 8:46 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


29. Cook your turkey in a large Reynolds cooking bag and you won’t need to buy an expensive Butterball, any brand of Turkey should turn out great!

What? Buy a special turkey-cooking bag? Why not just learn to cook a turkey properly?
posted by padraigin at 8:46 PM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


I tried #23 and mice invaded and ate all my acorns.

Ha! I have this squirrel that licks the door on my balcony! I still can't find out what it finds so tasty. It's been doing this for a month. A month in which the acorns are so plentiful that when the wind picks up it sounds like a hail storm, and a nearby abandoned parking lot is so covered that you can't see the asphalt.

Anyway, acorns.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:01 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Many grocery stores are offering great deals during the holidays, some are even giving away food, or cash!"

Really? Where might these cash-offering stores be?

Are they kinda like the "Money Store" Phil Rizzuto (sp?) was always talking about on WPIX when my best friend and I were trying to watch important reruns?
posted by emhutchinson at 9:02 PM on December 3, 2009


4. If you send postcards, whether purchased or homemade, remember they require less postage than a regular card!

Not in Canada, unfortunately.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:34 PM on December 3, 2009


I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that any incoming student that buys a laptop and doesn't get the extended warranty is an idiot.

I'm a student. I bought my laptop two and a half years ago with no extended anything and it's still in perfect running order. I never got around to buying any kind of bag for it either so either put it in my backpack or just carry it around. I do have a sticker on the top that stopped that getting scratched and I did buy a portable mouse because I hate the trackpad but that's all. To be fair I don't have classes and don't take it to work every day, but it does get used every day and taken places and goes all around the country with me. Overall I'm just careful.

Turns out, being careful is actually a really good money saver in general.

Where might these cash-offering stores be?

Lots of supermarkets here do Christmas Club where you buy vouchers all year to go in your saving book then near Christmas there's a night or two to go spend them and you get 15% extra. We always mean to do it but hardly ever spend Christmas at home and are never organised.

Turns out being disorganised is a really good way to waste money in general, now I think about it.
posted by shelleycat at 10:43 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


shelleycat: Turns out, being careful is actually a really good money saver in general.

Definitely, definitely, definitely. I foolhardily tried to wade through a river this summer, slipped, and killed a camera.

But even so, I still go all-out with accidental damage protection and extended warranty when it comes to laptops. If you're really always that careful, then OK, but it's not the scratches and dings that pose a problem -- it's spills and drops. Not exactly unheard of in cramped classrooms where everyone has a bottle of water or a cup of coffee.
posted by SpringAquifer at 10:59 PM on December 3, 2009


Going forward, I'm only buying new CDs

Don't the used shops where you live guarantee what they sell? My shop does.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:02 PM on December 3, 2009


I save money by claiming my MetaFilter sockpuppets as dependents come tax time.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:14 PM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


If my laptop went to class each day I might have bothered with extra warranties and stuff (although when I last took classes a couple of years ago there were no laptops being used) but really, the consumer guarantees act covers me for faulty workmanship/poor lifespan and the really obvious accidental stuff generally isn't covered by warranties anyway. I just can't imagine being that careless about something I spent so much on (maybe I'm old?).

I got a few second hand CDs for Christmas a couple of years ago and they were great, but it was from a store that does a big second hand trade and takes the time to rate the condition before selling. Last year was even better, I got two new $5 bargain bin CDs that I still listen to regularly. But it took my boyfriend ages to go through the bins to find something decent plus I have weird taste anyway. If you have time the bins in Real Groovy Queen St apparently are a gold mine, but I don't have that kind of patience.

I don't think I'm the target audience for those articles. I don't send cards (well, occasionally to friends overseas), I don't decorate, don't have room for a tree, only buy presents for immediate family and only for Christmas (no birthdays). But then it's summer here now, who needs decoration when you can spend boxing day at the beach?
posted by shelleycat at 11:44 PM on December 3, 2009


At this point, if it's not suggesting that I start collecting fireflies in a jar if I want to read at night... it is seriously nothing new.

Seriously. I was in grad school for the past few years, and I still haven't found a job. Tell me where to find seeds for a money tree, please, or teach me how to graft it.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:50 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coupons, if and only if ... And free shipping, if and only if ...

Yes, sure, but what they're saying is that people don't buy like that. For every iff buyer, there are many non-iff buyers who happily pay for a stack of unwanted (or unaffordable) extra shit because a flabby part of the brain tells them they must get that chunk of Free! in the advertisement.

When people are looking to be frugal, especially when giving gifts, maybe they should try to think of how much pleasure time it will result in, how much it will cost per useful (or pleasurable) day.

When you buy a toy for a kid, think about how many times (or hours) that kid is actually likely to enjoy it. Some toys, for some kids, can turn into days and days of cheap fun. Building blocks, for example, cost pretty much nothing if the kid is the sort who will tinker forever building and rebuilding things. If it's a video game, think about how many hours it will take that kid to work through from start to finish. Other toys look like great fun in the television commercials but turn out to be My Little One-Trick Pony, boring or broken after a few uses. Generally, stay away from toys that do one thing, even if that one thing looks pretty impressive in the ads, unless your kid is dull enough to be fascinated for hours on end by that one thing.

And that works when buying for yourself. A 100-dollar pair of uncomfortable party shoes that you will wear only a couple of times a year and that will probably go out of style in a year because they're pretty weird is a 50-dollar-a-day pair of shoes. For that kind of money, they'd better be guaranteed to get you a hotel room with an attractive person who will massage your feet before moving on to other things. Whereas a 200-dollar pair of sturdy but boring shoes you will wear to work every day for a year is about 75 cents a day, well worth it if they keep your feet happy all year.
posted by pracowity at 12:17 AM on December 4, 2009


Ooo, there was a really interesting Planet Money podcast about the economics of gift giving recently. Interviewing an economist who talked about how inefficient it was cos you give something they don't quite want. The end result was cash is best but frowned upon, gift cards are good, but charity gift cards are even better cos charity giving is aspirational plus does someone else some good. Although when I told my boyfriend that if he didn't give me an idea of what to buy him he'd get a charity gift card he said "that would be disappointing", so not so cool in my household. (I got him some old school industrial music so we're all good).

Oh and their blog has a cool follow up too, which would work in a large-ish family living somewhere with Thanksgiving.

(I love Planet Money. Found it via ask.me. Have one got other person listening already and have suggested it to several others so far. That question was full of win for me.)
posted by shelleycat at 12:36 AM on December 4, 2009


Interviewing an economist who talked about how inefficient it was cos you give something they don't quite want.

Take it from me, you can get out of this trap if you really want to.

1) Stop buying gifts. You buy gifts for no one, ever.
2) Tell others not to buy you gifts. If they do anyways, tell them you did not want gifts and make a point not to give positive reinforcement to the behaviour (i.e., no thank you, oh it is lovely, etc.).
3) Leave gifts behind conspicuously, or give them to others who are close to the gift-giver.
4) When people reject your rejected gifts, tell them that if they make you take them you will throw them in the garbage.

Downside: people think you are an asshole.

But hey, I have not had to give or receive gifts going on 10+ years now. SAVE THE PLANET PEOPLE!!!
posted by Meatbomb at 2:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Interviewing an economist who talked about how inefficient it was cos you give something they don't quite want.

The only "Cos" I know is Bill Cosby. What does he have to do with this?

Gift-giving is all well and good, but I think it ought to be limited to gifts for kids, and maybe Secret Santas. Anything I need or want, I can usually afford, and if I can't afford it, it's definitely not going to be given to me. Kids have no disposable income, so they have a greater appreciation for gifts.

I'd much rather friends and family poured the money they'd otherwise spend on gifts into a nice meal or party. It's the experiences and the company that's important, not the monetary expenditure!
posted by explosion at 4:25 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


How does not being a Christian or ignoring religious holidays save me money during the celebration of the return of the Sun after the winter solstice?
posted by DU at 4:29 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does not being a Christian or ignoring religious holidays save me money during the celebration of the return of the Sun after the winter solstice?

I don't know, but at least we've got six months to ponder that.
posted by pompomtom at 5:18 AM on December 4, 2009


I mean the American winter solstice.
posted by DU at 5:26 AM on December 4, 2009


Yeah, I'm not convinced by the coupons stuff either (and the same goes for special offers in general). I'll freely admit that I'm a terrible food shopper (I don't make a list, I go shopping when I'm hungry, I don't plan ahead by more than about half an hour), but I'll only get tempted by a special offer if:
  • It's a significant saving (ie. more than a few pence) and
    • It's something I would have bought anyway, or
    • It's something more expensive than I would have bought, but the special offer brings it below the cheaper price, or
    • The new price is higher than what I would have paid, but the quality is high enough that I'll enjoy it significantly more
  • Or, it's really tasty.
So there's actually a lot of cases where special offers can be worth it. Sadly, it's that last point that keeps catching me out...
posted by ZsigE at 5:27 AM on December 4, 2009


Yeah, and you don't really see coupons for food you can, like, cook with, either. If I made a habit of buying Hot Pockets or pizza rolls or Cheez-its or what-have-you, coupons would be great! But as most of my groceries are produce, dry grains, beans, and canned vegetables, I kind of have to rely on the rare "manager specials" that Kroger runs when, I assume, they need to move a lot of product quickly before it turns.
posted by hegemone at 5:58 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here are my top money saving tips:
1) Don't waste money buying expensive binoculars. Simply stand closer to the object you wish to view.

2) If you smoke, save on matches and lighters, by simply lighting your next cigarette from the butt of your last one.

3) Old telephone directories make ideal alternatives to expensive personal address books. Simply cross out the names and address of people you don't know.

4) Save petrol by pushing your car to your destination. Invariably passers-by will think you've broken down and help.
posted by jonesor at 6:10 AM on December 4, 2009 [20 favorites]


Biggest money saving tip: Buy less crap. Good for the environment, too. A lot of stuff you might need or want is offered on Craigslist or at Goodwill. But seriously, less stuff.
posted by theora55 at 6:18 AM on December 4, 2009


The one that always got me working at Borders, that the company flatly admits is money-grubbing, is the "4 for the price of 3!" type book table. You want ONE book. You buy it. But... since it's on the table, you think "Man, if I get three more, one of them is FREE!" No. You just paid for two extra books you didn't need.

Also, BoGo sales drive me bats. I had to buy a pair of shoes for a funeral (yes, my first thought when an old friend died was "I don't have black shoes!") and when I went into Payless, the first thing the cashier asked me was "Do you want to buy another pair for half off?" I said no thanks, that these were for a funeral and I couldn't wear two pairs at the same time. It was one of the only times I've successfully stunned an "upseller" into silence.

Yeah, it's "half off" but it's not SAVING any money when you only NEEDED ONE.

/ GRAR.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:45 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am always bitterly disappointed, because "Do your own pedicures!" and "Cook more at home!" is so utterly unhelpful.

I guess you're already knitting your own tires and raising lambs to get condoms, then. But do you do your own blacksmithing? You can save a bundle making your own shackles and plowshares, instead of buying them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:49 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have not dipped into blacksmithing yet but for Christmas gifts this year I am reviving the tradition of Victorian hair wreaths. I think my loved ones will really appreciate the planning, thoughtfulness, and craftsmanship.
posted by hegemone at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Give big a sloppy hug and a kiss instead of a Christmas card. You can save your whole family money by throwing a pre-Christmas party when they might be out shopping on 23 December. :)
posted by jeffburdges at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2009


Save used wrapping paper all through the year, just roll them back onto the paper tube and place a small piece of scotch tape on the edge to hold in place.

Pfft. Wrapping, paper, seriously? Amateur.

Gift bags can be reused up to four Christmases in a row. If you hit the after-Christmas sales of them, you can have a stash of many sizes that will work for years (esp. if you save all the gift bags you get from others). Then your only expense is tissue paper. Use ribbon to tie them instead of Scotch tape, keeps them from being torn up. If you have an equally cheap family like mine, the same gift bag might even come back to you. More than once.

For fancier, small gifts, pick up some Christmas cloth napkins at the after-Christmas sales, also, and some fancy ribbon. Tie small gift in napkin, finish with ribbon. Voila, you look like Martha Freakin' Stewart.

For really huge gifts (TVs or whatnot) which might need wrapping paper, you could just stick a giant bow on the unboxed gift and bring it out at the last minute. More dramatic, and much less cursing on your part.

Also, if you buy books from Borders (don't know about B&N) they have free gift wrapping there. So let them do it for you.
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Drink alone: a 750 ml bottle of whiskey contains about 25 1 oz shots. A pretty good bottle runs something like 20-25 dollars. A shot of whiskey at a bar costs probably 3-5 dollars. Since most places have crown royal for 4 dollars a shot I figure I save about 75 dollars for each bottle of whisky I drink by myself. It adds up this week alone I save 300 dollars!
posted by I Foody at 7:43 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


18. Don’t decorate with expensive things!!!

[sheepishly takes down wreath made of F-117A Stealth Fighters]
posted by rusty at 8:00 AM on December 4, 2009 [15 favorites]


I can never find any good ideas in these "money saving tips" articles that I'm not already using.

Yeah if you ever read a Redbook or a Ladies Home Journal this is filler material that has been floating around since 1968 with a few changes here and there. In order to really save money you have to get personal. I've never had a professional pedicure in my life but I used to get my hair cut every 8 weeks or so. Now I let it grow out between cuts so I only go to my hairdresser every 4 or 5 months.

I am not spending $60.00 on winter annuals to brighten up the yard during winter and early spring. I usually plant 6 flats of pansys or more, but not this year.

This year we are not turning on the main heater which is a wall gas unit. It's a pretty inefficient way to heat the whole house so we are relying on electric space heaters to heat one room at a time and at night I turn off the space heater and use only my electric blanket. So far so good. This is saving us about $100.00 a month.

We begged for a "kids only" gift exchange. The parental units on both sides were a mite concerned but saw the sense of it. In addition to saving hundreds of dollars we are also saving time and stress (what to get Dad was always the most difficult poser of the season.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:13 AM on December 4, 2009


How does not being a Christian or ignoring religious holidays save me money during the celebration of the return of the Sun after the winter solstice?

A la Meatbomb, if you ostentatiously burn last year's gifts in the Solstice Bonfire, people will think twice about getting you gifts this year.
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


We begged for a "kids only" gift exchange. The parental units on both sides were a mite concerned but saw the sense of it. In addition to saving hundreds of dollars we are also saving time and stress (what to get Dad was always the most difficult poser of the season.)

My parents told us this year that they do not want any tangible gifts for Christmas. They are mindful that money is tight for both my family and my brother's, and that they are old people who do not need to own one more damn thing. So they told us that instead of gifts, on Xmas day we are each to sing a song, tell a story, or recite a poem for them. We can do it as individuals or in groups, so long as everyone participates. I cannot help but think that this is going to be our most fun Christmas ever.
posted by not that girl at 8:27 AM on December 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Buying nothing is always an option. They even have a website for that now.
posted by Megami at 8:32 AM on December 4, 2009


cyphill : I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that any incoming student that buys a laptop and doesn't get the extended warranty is an idiot.

Keep in mind that "warranty" does not mean "extended warranty". Just because you don't pay extra for some third party scam artists to do absolutely nothing, doesn't mean you don't still have a fully enforceable manufacturer's warranty. And even in the absence of that, you still have a "warrant of merchantability" by law, which basically just says that if you buy something presented as in working condition, it better actually work (many states have more comprehensive "lemon laws" along the same lines).


I bought my dell freshman year and that sucker got dropped so many times I had to get two replacements (for free!).

Ah, You spoke the magic word here. Dell counts as something of a special case when it comes to extended warranties - Not only do they actually honor them, but for their gold service plans, they'll even honor them for intentional damage. "Yeah, I got pissed at powerpoint and put a 9-iron through the screen, can you cross-ship me a new one?". And they will.

And no, I don't work for Dell, but I'd never trust sales staff with anything else.
posted by pla at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2009


Man, I really hate that construction of (that you're not doing).

How the fuck do you know what I'm doing to save money?

And my urge to smack is increased 10 fold when I read the actual list: "compare prices".

HOLY SHIT, WHAT A MIND BLOWING IDEA! YOU MEAN I CAN SEE HOW MUCH A STORE IS SELLING SOMETHING, AND THEN FIND OUT WHAT IT COSTS AT ANOTHER STORE BEFORE I PURCHASE IT? THAT HAS LITERALLY NEVER OCCURRED TO ME BEFORE!

Ah, xmas rage is starting early this year.
posted by the bricabrac man at 8:52 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Many grocery stores are offering great deals during the holidays, some are even giving away food, or cash!"

Really? Where might these cash-offering stores be?


I have a credit card that is just for groceries. I'd use my general purpose card, but my grocery store doesn't accept it. By accumulating points, I get $20 of free groceries once or twice a year, and this year I received vouchers for free frozen ribs, cheese and orange juice. I don't like orange juice, but I happily redeemed the other two coupons. I also like the convenience of not having to worry if I have enough cash in my pocket to get groceries, and being able to track my monthly grocery spending easily. It also has helped to have a back up credit card when making major purchases in a given month (i.e., having half the roof reshingled) meant I didn't have room on my main credit card for a purchase. And since I pay the bill in full every month the card doesn't cost me anything. So not a bad deal.

Saving money is really all about being mindful and doing the math and being aware of what will work for your specific situation. There are good deals out there, but one must avoid being enticed into spending more money.

I am preparing myself to sell the idea of changing the way we do Christmas presents in the Swan family this year. Until now everyone gives a present to everyone else. The Swan family is getting so large what with all the marrying and reproduction that it's getting out of hand. I had 35 presents on my gift list this year — no, not all 35 were Christmas presents, but they are a significant proportion. And we don't need all that stuff. It made more sense even 10 years ago when we all were poorer, but now it's getting wasteful.

I've proposed that we do a Secret Santa several times in the past and everyone seemed open to the idea, but it never happened, in large part because I could never get my head around some of the logistical problems of doing one and so never organized it. We can hardly ever get everyone together at one time what with the schedules of so many people having to agree, and then you run the risk of leaving people out of the draw or of someone not getting a present because the person who drew them doesn't show up.

So what I think we should do is have everyone who is 18 or older bring a wrapped, generic gift that cost a max of $30 and then do a Snitch and Grab. There's no organization required, and it's easy for everyone to opt in or out as they wish. If someone brings a date, he or she can take part if they want. If I can get my family to go for it, it'll chop my 2010 gift list down to a much more manageable 16 presents. I don't mind buying for the kids. They need more stuff because they are regularly outgrowing their belongings, and anyway the stuff we adults will be giving each other won't be suitable for kids. So I've marshalled my arguments and am hoping for the best, because trying to get the Swan family to do something is like herding cats.
posted by orange swan at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2009


So they told us that instead of gifts, on Xmas day we are each to sing a song, tell a story, or recite a poem for them. We can do it as individuals or in groups, so long as everyone participates.

Wow. That's so awesome. My family would never go for it though.

However, on both sides for grownups we do the gift-raffle. Each person brings one gift, preferably non-gender-specific, no tags on it, under a given price limit (usually 15.00). Gifts can also be white elephant/gag gifts.

When everyone is there, the gifts are counted. Then an equal number of lots drawn up and everyone picks a number.

Number one goes first; picks a present, opens it. Number two can then a) take Number One's gift or b) pick another gift. Number Three can take One or Two's gift, etc. Continue till all gifts distributed.

No gift can be "stolen" more than twice. If no one steals the hideous Christmas socks from you, you're stuck with them.

Thrifty, fun, and even better when there is actually one or two "good gifts" where the stealing is fast and furious. I'm still mad at my brother in law for getting those Godiva chocolates before I could.
posted by emjaybee at 9:29 AM on December 4, 2009


Ooh, orange swan, I think you should do a raffle too. We used to do name-swapping but it got to be a PITA for all the reasons you describe.

(and I should have noted: my family still calls the raffle/steal "Chinese Gift Exchange" which hey, racist! So if any Mefites know a better name, post it. I would really like to change that tradition.)
posted by emjaybee at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2009


So they told us that instead of gifts, on Xmas day we are each to sing a song, tell a story, or recite a poem for them. We can do it as individuals or in groups, so long as everyone participates.

Couldn't I just immolate myself while committing seppuku instead?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:47 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Quote from me: So they told us that instead of gifts, on Xmas day we are each to sing a song, tell a story, or recite a poem for them. We can do it as individuals or in groups, so long as everyone participates.

Reply from ROU_Xenophobe: Couldn't I just immolate myself while committing seppuku instead?

Honey? Is that you?

I suspect my partner feels the same way. I'm envisioning a role for him where he stands behind me and the kids and claps his hands or something.
posted by not that girl at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2009


Number one goes first; picks a present, opens it. Number two can then a) take Number One's gift or b) pick another gift. Number Three can take One or Two's gift, etc. Continue till all gifts distributed.

I always thought that was called a "Yankee Swap"?
posted by fancyoats at 10:16 AM on December 4, 2009


and I should have noted: my family still calls the raffle/steal "Chinese Gift Exchange" which hey, racist! So if any Mefites know a better name, post it. I would really like to change that tradition.

In my family we call that the "greedy little indian-giver jew fag swap-o-rama" and it works for us.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:20 AM on December 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Saving money is really all about being mindful and doing the math and being aware of what will work for your specific situation.

Yes, that's it in a nutshell. The problem is that we assume that most people have the basic ability to read the details and do a few simple calculations. A surprisingly large number of people can't do this and are financially illiterate. According to the study quoted in that article, about a quarter of the population fell into the 'below basic' level of quantitative literacy (unable to compare the ticket prices of two events) and around half the population was below the intermediate level (able to calculate the total cost of ordering specific office supplies from a catalog).

Saving money by exploiting the credit card reward programs without getting shafted by fees must be the equivalent level of accomplishment of going to the moon for these people. It's sad.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


not that girl: I suspect my partner feels the same way. I'm envisioning a role for him where he stands behind me and the kids and claps his hands or something.

Not clapping - you give him the signs to hold up that say, "Wait for it...wait for it..." "Behold the sheer awesomeness of their song (poem/story, whichever)" and "APPLAUSE". Make sure he rehearses with you.
posted by faineant at 10:37 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not clapping - you give him the signs to hold up that say, "Wait for it...wait for it..." "Behold the sheer awesomeness of their song (poem/story, whichever)" and "APPLAUSE". Make sure he rehearses with you.

faineant, thank you, thank you, this is going to increase our Christmas performance awesomeness 100-fold.
posted by not that girl at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2009


I always thought that was called a "Yankee Swap"?

Heh, fancyoats, that wouldn't go over so well in Texas. Unless it was construed as a slur. Maybe "Carpetbagger Swap." But that really brings up a lot of the same regrettable politics.

Apparently, the game came from White Elephant parties and mutated to Christmas, but maybe it's older than that; if I was a cultural anthropologist, I could probably get a research grant and trace it back to the 16th century, when it was called "Moors Playe At Being Christianes" or "Pass the Friar's Foreskin" or something.


/derail
posted by emjaybee at 11:42 AM on December 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


(and I should have noted: my family still calls the raffle/steal "Chinese Gift Exchange" which hey, racist! So if any Mefites know a better name, post it. I would really like to change that tradition.)

In my previous comment I referred to trying to get my family to do a "Snitch and Grab", which is carried out exactly as you described, with a few different rules: the same gift can be stolen more than twice, but you can't have any one specific gift more than once and you can't open or steal the gift you contributed. It's also much more fun if the gifts are all nice. I'm thinking I might make a neutral afghan for it sometime, and picturing the men in my family coming to blows over a Tim Horton's gift card if there should ever be one among the gifts.
posted by orange swan at 12:37 PM on December 4, 2009


My big money saving holiday thing is going to Dollar Tree. I can usually get all the wrapping supplies, stocking stuffers, and decorations I need for under twenty bucks.

Oh, and my Christmas tree was a fiber optic deal purchased for ten dollars from a CVS. Trashy, maybe, but pretty.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:39 PM on December 4, 2009


Store brands are great when making casseroles and side dishes… no one will even notice!

(Eyeroll) Sigh. No one will notice if you use them ever, in anything, anyway, unless you read the label or maybe if you're wasting money on processed frozen microwave crap instead of cooking. This woman still has a ways to go on that whole "saving money with common sense vs. snobbery carefully cultivated through advertising and marketing" course.
posted by dilettante at 3:30 PM on December 4, 2009


Sigh. No one will notice if you use them ever, in anything, anyway, unless you read the label or maybe if you're wasting money on processed frozen microwave crap instead of cooking.

I have to beg to differ with you.

About 8 months ago we started making a concerted effort to save money (spouse lost all his overtime) and I've managed to save about $200 a month on groceries (avg. $160.00 a week vs $110.00 a week.) This required a few changes: simplifying some of my more complicated recipes, using coupons, switching to store brands. Not all of the store brands are equal to the non-store brands.

For example, I'm drinking a gin and tonic right now! Last week it was Kroger store brand diet tonic-- which was nasty. This week for 30 cents more I opted for the Schweppes diet. Far superior. Other, inferior items from Kroger: Crystal Lite-type of powdered ice tea drink, peanut butter, orange juice, pasta, sausage, ketchup, coffee. Some of the acceptable substitutes are green tea, packaged nuts, canned tomatoes, milk, sugar, flour, butter, eggs, canned beans, canned olives, spray cleanser, glass cleaner. Paper goods like paper towels, tissues and bathroom rolls depend on how much you are willing to pay for thick and soft vs. thin and scratchy. It is really a matter of trial and error.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:47 PM on December 4, 2009


Weird. I like Kroger's orange juice and their peanut butter is pretty good, too (although I go for the natural stuff). Their pasta is just pasta except for lasagna, but that seems to be a possible handling problem with all the broken noodles. My former roommate quite likes their coffee, and oddly enough their green tea is one of the few things that I tried and didn't care for.
posted by dilettante at 5:19 PM on December 4, 2009


You *can* save money with coupons, with things like The Grocery Game but it's very, very time intensive. I read this woman's blog, and she's *really* dedicated to saving money with coupons. I tried but I just don't have the patience to go at it like she does, and honestly, she has two or three kids and a husband, and it's just the two of us and the cats. I've been laid off so I'm trying to save money by using coupons, but it really does just have to be for stuff we're going to get anyway. Maybe in the future, it won't seem so daunting to do the Grocery Game method. I do, however, like this thing - Coupon Mom offers something similar that you have to sign up to see, but it's grocery deals by state, and there is a list of what is on sale and what has coupons (which is similar to GGame but free) which is helpful to me, anyway. I mean, I might buy mostly beans and veggies and the occasional turkey sausage, but I, too, need dish detergent every now and then.

Also, if you shop at Publix or wherever you shop, go to their websites and sign up for their circulars. Publix has one for Greenwise that we're getting, which I like, because we do actually BUY Publix Greenwise.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:53 PM on December 4, 2009


This is the web site I use which is only for North Carolina, but it is very thorough. Not only do they list the store by store deals and coupon match-ups but also IP coupons (internet) and catalina deals (that "save $4.00 on your shopping trip" thing that prints out.) Yes it takes time and some organization, but if you do it right you can save quite a bit. For example I got a jar of Fleischman's yeast last month for about $1.00 after you figure in the sale price, the coupon, and the catalina rebate.

I don't buy too much processed food, but I like having Progresso's Tomato Basil soup in the cupboard, just in case I'm feeling lazy and don't want to cook lunch for myself. This week it was on sale for $1.00 a can, plus from the Sunday paper coupon insertions I had 3 "buy 2 cans get $.50 off" coupons that double in value at Kroger plus I also had 2 $.50 off coupons "charged" on my Kroger card from here. So I got 6 cans of Progresso soup for $2.00 or about 33 cents a piece. It helps a lot to have a web site that covers the deals in your area because it is a big job for one person.

The ultimate deals usually do involve snack food or processed food. I actually made money buying 4 boxes of Special K bars last month. They were on sale for $2.50 a box plus the store had an instant rebate of $5.00 if you bought 4 boxes, plus Special K had a mail-in rebate of $10.00 on the purchase of 4 boxes. So I came out ahead $5.00. Most people are dismissive about the coupon thing because they think it takes too much time, but I spend about an hour a week checking the web site, making my grocery list, collecting my coupons and I save at least $10.00 or more. Some weeks I save much, much more.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:53 PM on December 4, 2009


"It's not a bargain if you don't need it."
-My Grandpa

Also, re store brands - Publix brand laundry detergent is the bomb. It doesn't get super sudsy, but it cleans really well and you don't need that much. I like it better than Tide, etc. And so cheap!
posted by mkim at 9:16 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should probably get into the coupon thing more. Up until now, coupons practically had to fall into my lap for me to use them. It's easy to dimiss these small, incremental savings, but that's a mistake, because they do add up.
posted by orange swan at 8:47 AM on December 5, 2009


I once went for one of those hard-sell extended warranties at a big-box store when I bought a DVD player (this was many years ago, and good ones were not so easy to come by.) You know what? Smartest (well, luckiest) thing I ever did.

I got four new DVD players out of the deal as the various name brand models I bought conked out over the next 2-3 years and they had no choice but to repair it (which is nearly impossible because modern electronics are almost impossible to service) or replace it each time.

At the end of the saga, one big-box manager guy said "this is last one you are getting out of this deal" to which I replied "I have 2 more months left on this warranty, and if this one fails in any way, you are replacing or repairing it at your cost, because that's what it fucking says in the warranty."

He had no choice but to agree. But he didn't like it. Oh, the sweet, sweet justice.

SRSLY, it was awesome. As the various models were expired they had no choice but to let me shop for "similarly priced" models and take it home, and all we had to do is staple the 100% discounted receipt to the stack of receipts from the original purchase.

So, don't ever get an extended warranty, unless you know you are going to be lucky and have both the luck and the patience to use it. Because mostly it is a license to print money.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2009


Interviewing an economist who talked about how inefficient it was cos you give something they don't quite want.

If you think of gift giving as an economics exchange, it is inefficient. But it's meant to be a personal exchange. The gift someone gives you isn't intended as "i spent this much money on you" but "I saw this and thought of you" - so you're saying something about what makes you think of your friend, how you understand them. They're a non-verbal form of sharing some level of intimacy. Doesn't quite work when it all ends up being wish lists and gift cards, and in a mass produced and data driven world, perhaps the whole notion is outdated, but that's the idea behind it.
posted by mdn at 2:49 PM on December 5, 2009


I save a lot of money by not giving presents or putting up decorations.

But then I'm an atheist of Jewish descent, and my family isn't exactly close.
posted by Target Practice at 9:41 PM on December 5, 2009


I once went for one of those hard-sell extended warranties at a big-box store when I bought a DVD player (this was many years ago, and good ones were not so easy to come by.) You know what? Smartest (well, luckiest) thing I ever did.


What I'm taking away from your story is reinforcement for my previously existing stance that it's a bad idea to be an early adopter. Those first models of anything really suck.
posted by orange swan at 10:10 PM on December 5, 2009


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