Saturday, January 31, 2009

Help! I'm buried!

It's the last day of January & I'm snowed in.....buried under financial forms & receipts. It's our designated day to finish the 2008 taxes(federal, state & local), as well as help oldest son out with his form filings. I must say, I'd take what HE has to file(both the form, amount of time it takes and what he pays or doesn't pay)over what husband & I are required to suffer through.
I don't mind paying my taxes, don't get me wrong, I just wish this whole PROCESS wasn't so complicated and convoluted! Bring back STEVE FORBES and his FLAT TAX Deal I say!! Get rid of all the loopholes and have everyone pay their fair share across the boards.
Of course, the federal government would much prefer you just told them how much you make, write a check for that amount and mail it ALL to them. 8-P



Please keep in mind that I am NOT a Tax Professional, nor do I play one on the Internet, so follow my advise at your own risk. ;-)

1. If you are going to have to pay, wait until the last possible day to send in your return. This is kind of self explanatory, isn't it?

2. If you are due a refund, file your return as quickly as you can! It is your OWN MONEY you are getting back. You've already let the government BORROW it for up to a Year, why should you let them have it another second longer than they have already?

3. About that refund...don't look at it as FREE MONEY. It isn't! You worked VERY VERY HARD to earn that money in the first place, don't blow it on some cheap/expensive hunk of plastic. If you have DEBT(the FOUR LETTER WORD)of any kind, put your tax refund toward paying down that Debt! If you will feel deprived to the point of distraction by using that Tax Refund to pay down your Debt, take a tiny piece of your refund and go buy yourself something(Chocolate comes to mind). But take the Lion's Share of that refund and dig yourself a little more out of that suckhole of Debt! If you are one of the lucky ones without any Debt, then put that money toward your kid's COLLEGE FUND or into your RETIREMENT FUND. Or start an EMERGENCY FUND. There are oodles of better things to do with Money than to BUY FLAT SCREEN TVs or NEW CARS, etc.

4. Double check ALL your math on the Tax Return before mailing it in. If the math is wrong, it WILL affect when you get your refund or affect how much you owe. It may also RED FLAG your return and trigger an audit.

5. NEVER....I repeat, NEVER apply for an Advance on your Tax Return at one of those places that advertise INSTANT or QUICK REFUNDS. It isn't a refund, it is a LOAN against the refund they THINK you are getting. If something happens(like you didn't check your math, etc.)and you are NOT due the refund amount you thought you had coming, you will still have to pay back what these Tax Advance Businesses give you. PLUS, the Tax Advance Businesses charge you fees and interest on that Advance payment. They are nothing better than those Check-Cashing Businesses that prey on the financially poor and uneducated to make their profits, or the Credit Card Companies that practice Usury.

**If you NEED a Cash Advance against your anticipated Tax Return to keep yourself financially afloat, you have a MUCH bigger financial problems than you think. Run, don't walk, to a professional Financial Planner! Use a little of that Tax Refund you get in 2008 paying someone to help you toward a Financial Plan for your future. INVEST a little bit of your money in YOURSELF!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Couponing Part 2

So I took notes. I had all the terminology down pat. I felt ready to try my luck at CVS. CVS for those who don't know it, is a chain drugstore. You can get a Customer Loyalty Card(like the ones at the Grocery Stores). This Card is the key to getting the deals that the store offers. When you buy certain things in the store(and use your card), it triggers the register to print out ECB(aka Extra Care Bucks). These are $s off your next purchase. Also, if you use your Card you get the sale price for some items. Sometimes you need to buy a certain amount or certain $ amount to get the ECBs to print for you.
The week I went to CVS they were running a sale on boxes of Soy Joy bars. The daughter likes these and asked for some. If you bought 1 box for $6, you received a $6 ECB for $6 off your next purchase. There was a limit of 5 boxes per Loyalty card. So I bought 5 boxes, spent $30 and received an ECB for $30 off my next shopping trip.
In the world of the Couponing Queens this is getting all those Bars free. Well, if I didn't have to spend $30 I now have $30 of FREE stuff I can buy. Get it?
But actually, I handled this transaction all WRONG! I neglected to ROLL THE DEAL!
A TRUE Couponing Queen would have....
1. Bought 1 box of Soy Joy for $6 total, triggering a $6 ECB.
2. Gone back through the line with 2 more boxes of Soy Joy for $12 & paid with the $6 ECB they just obtained + $6 more. She would have received another ECB, this time for $12 for the new purchase.
3. Buy 2 more boxes, use the $12 ECB to pay, receive another $12 ECB. Or in the Couponing Lingo, this step would be a "Rinse & Repeat".
4. You have now purchased 5 boxes(the limit), have spent Out of Pocket(aka OOP)$12, have a $12 ECB for a future purchase & you have $30 worth of soy snack bars to eat.

If your CQ was Molto Savvy, she would have multiple Customer Care Cards(one in her hubby or SO's name, one in her mother's name, her father's name, etc.), and she could repeat this whole series of transactions again, up to 5 boxes for each card. She would also have known this deal was coming up weeks beforehand and would have Manufacturer's Coupons(aka MQs) to use to take more money off the purchase of the 1st 2 boxes, thereby lowering her OOP expenses even more.

Remember when you were a kid and use to complain about having to learn math because you would never need it in life? I have just proved your inner child wrong!lol

So I studied some more and made another attempt, this time at Walgreen's. While they don't have a Loyalty Card Program, buying certain items in certain quantities can trigger RRs(aka Register Rewards), which are basically the same as CVS ECBs and are good on a future purchase.

Walgreen's had a deal-Buy $20 of Pepsi & Frito-Lay products(these were on sale), get $10 in RRs. So I loaded up on Pepsis & Chips for the kids. As far as they are concerned, I can't buy enough of this stuff. Oh, I also got a FREE jar of Salsa($2.99 value) when I bought 2 Tostitos, because I had a "Peelie"(aka a coupon stuck onto a product that can be used instantly or later). I spent $21, I got a $10RR & 23.99 worth of stuff.
Took the pepsi to the car, then went back in and bought 9 jars of Peanut Butter & Spaghetti Sauce....on sale for $1.99 each. I also used 4 x $1 off MQs on the pb & sauce. $17.91 total - $4 coupons - $10RR=$3.91 for 9 jars. That's 44 cent a jar. AND I got another $10 RR because I bought 8 Unilever products in one transaction.

Then I bought 4 Nyquils on sale for $6 ea., used $6 in MQs & the $10 RR. I ended up with $24 of cold gunk and was out of pocket $8($2 per bottle). AND I got yet another $10 RR to use next time.

Then I bought $21 of Pepsi and Chips again, used the $10RR, so my snack foods only cost me $11. If I had been longer into the couponing deal, I would have had Frito-Lay & Pepsi MQs too, bringing the cost down on the OOP for this transaction too. If I had more PB & Sauces coupons I probably would have 'Rinse and Repeated' the Unilever deal......and then more Soda again.
Just this little adventure into Walgreen's & I am stockpiled to the rafters with junk food and sauce & peanut butter AND I have a $10RR to keep rolling the deals my next trip to Walgreen's.

I also saw a bottle of shampoo with an MIR(aka Mail in Rebate)hangtag. So I am out $7.99 and the cost of a stamp, until they send me a check for $7.99 for trying their shampoo.

I learned you can also 'stack' coupons at Walgreen's. You can use the Walgreen's coupons in their flyer WITH an MQ for the same product. Stacking and going to stores that double or triple coupon values is how those Couponing Queens get all that stuff for practically nothing.

Total OOP-$43.91

8 12-packs of Pepsi products
8 bags of Frito-Lays products
1 Shampoo
4 Nyquil
6 Peanut Butter
3 Spaghetti Sauce
1 Salsa

Value of Products-$94.89 PLUS $10 to spend next time

I couldn't get the second Pepsi Deal I did in the photo, let alone fit it all in my kitchen.

This is crazy stuff I tell ya!


Couponing for Fun & Profit....well, maybe

Feeling like poo the last couple of weeks, I did alot of sitting on my not-so-tiny rear staring into the internet via my computer's monitor. I have found some of the most interesting blogs and such just letting my fingers & my mouse take me meandering around cyberspace. I did a search a few yrs. ago on how to make an omelet in a ziploc baggie(a useful thing to know how to do if one is camping in the woods and has no Wolf Range outfitted with Calphalon to cook with). I stumbled upon a blog by a guy in Syracuse NY. Three hours later I knew more about this guy and his life than some people in real life I have known for He was dealing with a grown son who relocated across the country, a combative father with Alzheimer's, a job that was unfulfilling(imagine that!), and a wife who he barely talked to anymore. It was so sad.....but enthralling! I followed his blog for a few months(it was like a train can't help but watch even though you want to look away)until my ancient computer crashed. Back in those days, I had NO files backed up. UGH So I lost him and I have spent a few hours over the last couple of yrs. trying to find that blog again to see how he is doing now. It really bugs me sometimes that I don't know. Concerned? Maybe. Nosey? You bet!lol

Anyway, this was a Waaay too long way of prefacing what I meant to say. Meandering around the internet can be fun but also a huge suckhole for time. It can also spark you into a course of action sometimes. While poking around last week, I happened upon a Couponing blog. After a bit more looking I found there is this whole subculture of these SAHM(aka Stay At Home Moms) blogs & websites mainly about Food Shopping/Couponing/Deals/Frugality. They even speak a strange shorthand language....ECBs, SCRs, CRTs, Catalinas, 'rolling the deal', Peelies, RRs, MQs....I read and read until I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am the gal that never met a Clearance Sale Sign she didn't like. That was before I joined the Compact List and swore off Shopping as a Lifestyle choice 2 yrs. ago.

But these Blogging Couponers are beyond intense in their devotion to finding the Deal! Have you ever seen some woman on tv(usually the local news) or in person in a grocery store and she's wheeling a cart out, overflowing with food and she's only spent $4 for it all? She would be one of these Couponing Queens! Ever gone to a drugstore and someone has wiped out the entire shelf of 1 certain product? That is the tale-tell sign that a Couponing Queen has been there!

Most of them don't get carts full of food for almost free but they are out there working the system, getting stuff for cheap and like a bee hive, communicating the deals with all the other worker bees in search of the great finds too. They buy stacks of Sunday newspapers just for the multiples of coupons, have elaborate filing systems & planners, trade/buy/sell coupons via eBay or online swap forums and plan their store strategies way ahead of a sale thanks to spies who post the upcoming Stores' ads surreptitiously weeks & weeks ahead.

What can I say? I was enthralled and hooked! And I went out Couponing about 10 days ago for the 1st time as a Deal Warrior. Want to know how I did? Check back for Part 2 in our next installment of DON'T READ THIS:IT'S BORING! I guarantee, you won't be able to look's AWFUL!


Monday, January 26, 2009

Is that a Sausage in Your Pocket?

I read last weekend on someone's blog about how the online Hickory Farms store was having this BIGTIME After Xmas Clearance Sale. I went to the site and ordered all the goodies pictured here. Everything I bought was 85% OFF and I got another 15% off at checkout with a code I found. It's almost $350 worth of fancy pants knoshing food and WITH the shipping I paid....are you ready??


I ordered it on Sat., they shipped it Wed.(my birthday!) and it was here on Fri. I was in the grocery store last night and saw that my local market sells those little HF Summer Sausage rolls for $6.99 EACH!! I am now the proud owner of 14 of those bad boys. It's enough to make my arteries shutdown just thinking about all that yummy, fat laden, lip smakin' hog goodness.

Ok, ok.....yes, I am part of the Compact group and we don't buy stuff, but this isn't stuff, it's FOOD. So it's aok. And I don't feel too bad about all that packaging either. HF now uses recycled paper for their boxes(well, that's what they say) and there was not a fleck of styrofoam in my shipment. I can tear up every piece of packing materials here and throw it into my compost pile! Cheap cheese, crackers and meats and saving the planet, all in one fell swoop...
Well, except for all that fuel burned to transport this feast to PA.
Ah, the guilt takes over once again. You truly can't have your carbon neutral and eat your pig cake too.

Looking all this yumminess over, I feel the need for a Super Bowl Party next weekend. Time to tuck it away in my homemade root cellar in the garage until the game.
The party starts at noon. Don't be late.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Extract Success Exactly!

So, part of the Compact thing I am following(loosely) is to avoid buying new non-consumables.
I have been wanting to make my own Vanilla Extract. Real Extract is soooo expensive and the Imitation Extract is plain nasty. You can make your own with just Vanilla Beans and Vodka or Rum. You slit the beans down the side and place in the alcohol. Seal the bottle up, put it in a dry dark place and let it make it's magical elixir. While transporting vanilla beans here from Madagascar or Tahiti widens your carbon footprint, buying the ready-made Extract isn't any more earth-friendly. The ready-made stuff has to be transported here too, just not by you but by a mega corporation.

I needed a large glass bottle to place the vanilla beans in with the vodka, with an air-tight lid. A bottle with a ceramic topper is the perfect container. When we went on vacation last summer in Maine, I bought some lemonade for the kids that came in the perfect type of glass bottle. So instead of turning the bottles in, in Maine for the return of the bottle deposit there, I carted them home to wash and reuse. Wouldn't you know hubby recycled my bottles when I wasn't watching! ARGH

So I've been scouting out for replacement bottles since August. Some brands of beer come in these type bottles but they are green colored and I don't drink beer and hubby doesn't drink those brands. No luck in the Salvation Army either for used bottles like this.
I was about ready to buy NEW and plunk down $3-$3.50 each for a couple of bottles.

I happened to be in Target(just to get out and walk around since it's too cold/bitter to walk outside here)perusing the grocery aisles. I came upon a clerk marking down products. She was marking down big glass bottles with ceramic stoppers! So I now have 2 perfect bottles for my Vanilla Extract making and lots of Lemonade to drink. The lemonade was $1.74 each, about half of what the container supply store wanted for a new identical bottle, empty.

I would call that a Compact-y coup!
Check back in a couple of months to see how the Vanilla Extract turns out.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let the Saving Begin!

So I'm part of a newsgroup called THE COMPACT. We support each other over there in our individual quests to be good stewards of our selves, our families and our planet. We avoid consumerism(don't buy new)as we try to live a life using as little of the earth's resources as we can.

One of our members has initiated a Savings Challenge for 2009. I have taken up that challenge gauntlet and am using this Blog to chronicle my efforts to Save a Big Ol' Wad of Ca$h in 2009.

My list-mates goal is an ambitious $100,000. My goal is a 'mere' $60,000. Yes, you read that correctly, 60 THOUSAND DOLLARS! That averages out to $5000.00 a month. And Yes, I AM out of my mind.
Since I am taking up this challenge on Jan. 20th(the day before my Birthday BTW), I am already nearly a month behind my monthly goal!EEK

I'll be tracking monthly expenditures for our family vs. family income and throwing any cash left at the end of the month into this Savings Account. Additionally, I'll be thinking up ways to bring in additional monies into the home.

I'm starting off with the cash I received for Christmas totaling $50.00 Hey, that's 1% of my monthly goal! Only $4,950 to go..... woohoo
I'm off to go search sofa cushions now....