Sunday, April 26, 2009

Upcoming workshop on couponing this Saturday!

Couponing In Critical Times
Save over 75% on your groceries!
Get Free items when you shop!
Come to our workshop and learn new resources for getting the
most out of coupons.
Bring a friend and register for a door prize.
Where: Faith United Methodist Church
1120 Dry Gap Pike, Knoxville Tn.
When: Saturday, May 2, 2009
10:00am to 12:00pm
Suggested Admission: Canned goods donation to
Faith’s Food Pantry
Presented by Gabrielle Blake, featured in the Knoxville
News-Sentinel for her couponing expertise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lessons To Learn from Those Cheaper than I Am

For cheapsters, there is excellent reading in the current AARP bulletin, entitled "Fabulously Frugal: Living Well on Less Money."

At first I was appalled by their extreme measures. Something scratched at my sketchy knowledge of Scripture, so I Googled around a bit and found what I was looking for: Matthew 6, which starts: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." HA! I contrasted these people with my own state of living. I strive to achieve a look of normalcy. I don't practice cheapness to the point where, if you saw me on the street or came into my home, you could see nothing that overtly pronounces "CHEAP." I do not want to be a walking billboard for frugality.

So after I read the article, I am sitting on this point of view, feeling smug, when I read further into Matthew Chapter 7:

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you."


After I realized how much I was judging those featured in the article, I decided to re-read it. Glad I did. My judging had kept me from understanding the lessons to be learned from these people's lifestyles. I will NEVER live like these people, but just because I won't doesn't mean I couldn't learn something from them. I got a lot more our of the article reading it a second time. Lots of tips in there! Hope you check it out.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thrifty 'til the End

Because my technical skills are limited, you have the additional benefit of the ads that were linked to the original on-line article. ANYWAY, I have been investigating ways to keep costs down, even through the end, so I was very interested in this article that came across my "desk" this morning:

Woodworker crafts furniture to die for
Waterville man offers tips on home funerals
UNITY, Maine — In Chuck Lakin’s competent hands, the plain pine box can double as a bookcase or even as an entertainment center.

During a session of Saturday’s Rural Living Workshop at Unity College, the Waterville woodworker cleared a little space at the front of the classroom and quickly assembled two of his handmade coffins. He also showed photographs of his more multipurpose models, which evidently can serve a useful life long before reverting to the traditional business of coffins. Attendees scribbled notes and asked him questions, their imaginations clearly tickled by the coffins.“Why isn’t every home furnished like this?” one attendee called out.

Today's Poll

Would you consider having a home funeral?


For Lakin, the customized coffins’ best use is that they spark conversations about something that often can make people feel uncomfortable — home funerals. “When my father died, I wanted to be part of whatever happened next but I didn’t know how,” he said. “What I would do now is that we would have built the box, and he would have been kept at home. I don’t think people know this is possible. I’m providing the possibility that they’ll have a more meaningful experience.”

Lakin and two like-minded colleagues have created a resource guide to do-it-yourself funerals, called “Last Things,” and they are working hard to educate Mainers about home funerals.

They are part of a trend that’s on the rise for reasons as diverse as economizing, environmentalism and an increased desire to honor loved ones at home, he said. The last time having home funerals was a widespread custom was during the 1950s, but that is changing fast.

“Home funerals right now are where home childbirth was 30 years ago,” Lakin said. “I’m not trying to put funeral directors out of business, but I just want people to know there is an alternative.”

Lakin shared some surprising facts about the funeral and cremation industries, including: ä One-sixth of the mercury pollution in the air comes from cremation.

ä What’s left after cremation is actually bone meal. People have opted to blast this into space, turn it into an artificial coral reef or a diamond.

ä Maine is home to two green cemeteries, the Cedar Brook Burial Ground in Limington and the Rainbow’s End in Orrington.

Perhaps the most surprising fact he shares is also the most basic.

“Home funerals are perfectly legal,” Lakin said. “There’s no part of the process you can’t do yourself.” He emphasized that people have the right to choose the funeral goods and services that they want, and that a funeral home can’t refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket bought elsewhere.

For Susan Lachlan of Waldo, Lakin’s presentation wasn’t just handy information to file away for an undetermined future. Lachlan’s mother is dying, she said, and has made it clear that she wants no part of a funeral home funeral.

“With her death being imminent, this gave me more of an idea for the possibilities,” Lachlan said. Lakin reminisced for a moment about the best part of his own father’s funeral — which happened after the burial.

“People sat around our backyard all afternoon, laughing, crying, telling me stories I’d never heard,” he said. “What a gift that was.”

Resource guide: Web site for Last Things:; Federal Trade Commission's "Funerals: A Consumer’s Guide:"


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fried Trying To Be Frugal

Sunday afternoon a few "warnings" popped up on my computer screen, and I followed instructions to eliminate some stuff; but unfortunately things slowed down to a freeze within an hour.

I declared the computer dangerous to my husband and shut it down. He called one of those wonderful people, who have the gift of understanding all this stuff, who came, cleaned our system out and added some more protection software; and we were back and running within 24 hours after the crash. Our "computer guy" is a kind soul, and after seeing what kind of junk he had to clean out ("save here . . save there!"), I think he took pity on me and didn't charge us for the whole time he was here. But the final charge was, nonetheless, a major step back in my effort to penny-pinch. I felt some shame and last evening I declared to myself that I would never look at a money-saving website again.

In my pursuit of finding great coupons, I had gone too far. I should have known. Offers would pop up in my e-mail list, and I would sign up to get a free box of cereal, etc., but there were always page after page of having to enter a few more responses. Red Flag!!

The morning brought on a sense of renewal, but I was almost afraid to get back on the computer, like getting back on the horse after being thrown. Should I trust no one, including all those mommy-blogs about saving money? Of course not. Maybe they have better filters than I do. No, I know what I did wrong. I'll be more careful and am thankful for the extra software protection. It is reinforcement, though, that there truly is no such thing as a free lunch. Some people would call it "stupid tax."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Clothes Washing & Energy Minutia

Now that there are just two of us, we don't do nearly as much laundry as when the children were in the house. Right now we have an energy-efficient dryer and and old-fashioned washer. We used to have an energy efficient washer, but the drum split three years after we bought it (It was a KENMORE :( !!), and it was going to cost almost as much to have it fixed as a new one would cost.

At the time we had to replace the washer, we had X amount of credit at Home Depot, which set our budget for a washing machine. That meant we bought the conventional top-loader type; which I think I would have bought anyway, because 1) I like using it to soak stained clothes: I can stop it after it has filled up, which you certainly can't do with a front loader, and 2) It doesn't sound like a jet airplane landing in the condo when it is in its final spin stage.

Recently I pulled up a table of wattage use, and I noticed that the clothes dryer was at the top of the appliance consumption list. With just the two of us in the house, all of our loads are half washer capacity, with the exception of the cotton knits and towels. I calculated that by eliminating two dryer loads of cotton knits and towels a week, I could save a whopping $14 a year. $14 is $14. And then I got to thinking an additional plus: eliminating all that lint, which made me think that my clothes and towels will probably hold up longer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TANSTAAFL: The Most Important Thing I Learned in College

I was an ok student in high school, so when it came to my education, The University of Tennessee at Knoxville was just fine for me. I applied nowhere else, and it was virtually in my parents' backyard, although I did live on campus. My mother was not really happy with what she saw unfolding in the next two years. The problem was that I grew progressively what she might refer to as "fringe-y." My friends were "different," (my escort's hair was probably four inches longer than mine at my debutante presentation), but most disturbing was my choice of curriculum. I was the Renaissance woman of Liberal Arts, studying everything from cultural anthropology to art history and came out of my sophomore year with a 3.78. I had sort of played around with the idea of delving into the roots of poverty, but that was going to take a lot more years of schooling than I wanted to give at that point. I was already tired of going to class. As we were both unhappy with my prospects, Mom and I had a heart-to-heart talk. Result: I switched to the oh-so-practical business school.

I moved into a four-year bachelor program in the College of Business called Office Administration. The next two years were pure business courses which included the secretarial core, but it also forced me to other business basics including economics.

I wasn't as good in economics as I was in sociology or zoology, but I enjoyed it. I feel fortunate to have been lectured at by the great Dr. Tony Spiva via recorded tv about the basics of economics, along with a few hundred other undergrads jammed into lecture halls across campus. He taught me a lot; but there was one important truth that I process every day: THERE AIN'T NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH or TANSTAAFL.

There are costs to saving money. Costs in time planning, reading other frugal people's blogs, clipping coupons, mapping out shopping trips, making those trips, mailing in rebates. It's all about making the commitment and maintaining the discipline. But as we all know, once a discipline becomes a habit, it's something to which one looks forward.

Gotta go--time for my exercise class!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Comment on Green Stamps

A dear friend commented on the remark I had made about Green Stamps not being "up north."

"Green stamps were in the North also. It was interesting to see that you said to ask someone from the south. Yup, us Michiganders licked them stamps and stuck them in the books too. As a matter of fact, that was one of my jobs as a child. The other one was ironing my dad's handkerchiefs on my little ironing board with my little iron that really worked."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Updating Marketing Techniques

For those of us who are really into couponing (like I am getting to be), it is great sadness that we mourn the demise of the Walgreens EasySaver rebate program. You could make FREE MONEY because if you selected to receive your rebate electronically loaded on a card, you got ten percent more. April is reported to be the last month for this program.

I was chatting with a Walgreens manager about this (fun fact: there are 36 Walgreens in Knox County. Yes, I thought the count would have been much higher, too.), and I made some comment about "well I got used to Green Stamps going away and I can get used to this."

Blank stare from the mgr. Not surprised. He looks just over 30. Green Stamps probably went away in the early 60's. But it started me thinking: what are the gimmicks that marketers use to get us loyal? Green Stamps in the 50's? I think I am right in remembering that my aunt bought her entire everyday tableware through Jewel Tea. Jewel Tea had one of those services where a man drove a truck by every week and delivered the goods you ordered the week before. There would be some dry goods as well as foodstuff. And my aunt would periodically order a new plate, bowl or cup at a "special rate." Did that desire to complete that set of dishes make my aunt a more loyal Jewel Tea customer? You betcha!

What's out there today? Banks have long ago given up on giving toasters for newly opened accounts. Do car dealers throw in a year's worth of gas to make the sale? It seems that the edgier sales gimmicks of today involve downloading something.

Have we become more sophisticated where we won't be swayed by dishes? maybe

P.S. If you don't know what Green Stamps were, ask someone over 60 who grew up in the South. I have asked my friends who moved here just 25 years ago, and they hadn't heard of Green Stamps, either. I'm figuring it was a southern thing. But I could be wrong.