Have you heard of Flipp? It’s the best way I’ve found to check all the sales ads without having to manually flip (get it?) through them or visit each retailer’s website. You can do this directly on the Flipp website, or even better, through the app on your phone or tablet.

The feature I like the most is being able to search for a particular item and seeing which store has the best price. For instance, if I put in avocado, I can see that Aldi currently has the best price at 49 cents each. I also scored my favorite deli cheese, Lorraine Swiss, for only $4.99/lb at our local grocery store. You can certainly get swiss cheese for cheaper, but this particular one is some of the creamiest I’ve found. It’s normally $6.99/lb so I don’t purchase it often. I’ll wait for a sale but I’d always seem to miss it until I discovered the Flipp app. It’s really help cut our food costs down without sacrificing eating what we like.

Christmas means family, friends, giving, and the whole holiday cheer… yada yada yada. But the best part of this time of the year for frugal people like me are all the good deals just ready for the taking. Our first round of good deals includes gift cards. Quick warning: most of these places are Chicago area only. But I’m willing to bet there are plenty of places in your neck of the woods which have similar deals if you keep an eye out.

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There’s a couple of places in particular where we like to get gift cards because of the added bonus they give you for purchasing one.

Lou Malnati’s – Lou’s is the, yes *THE* best deep dish pizza in the Chicago area. Side note: try deep dish, sausage, butter crust, with extra sauce on the side. Freakin’ sublime! Every Christmas they offer a deal where if you purchase a $100 gift card, you’ll also receive a $25 bonus certificate. We don’t order from Lou’s a ton, so it’s not unusual for the $100 and the bonus to last the entire year and then some. The bonus certificate has to be redeemed by June of the following year. Great deal!

Culver’s – If you have a Culver’s in your area, I’m betting you’ve been there already. Their burgers are in my Top 3 burger joints. And as an ice cream fiend, their frozen custard is great, especially when you add sprinkles. Anyway, they have a heck of a deal around Christmas. Purchase a $25 gift card and you’ll get a coupon for a free value meal (needs to be used by the end of February). We’ve redeemed the coupons for value baskets that are worth $8-$10. For a $25 gift card purchase, this bonus is something else!

Savers – Savers is a resale store ala Goodwill. I really like Savers. They have special discount days pretty often where they offer an additional 50% off regular prices. During Christmas they offer up a bonus for purchasing a gift card. If you buy a $25 gift card, they’ll give you a $5 bonus certificate. $30 goes a long way at a resale shop.

Bulldog Ale House – Bulldog is a local bar/grill that has some really good daily deals. Our fave is Sundays because they have boneless wings for just $.39/each. For me though, it’s the Bloody Mary w/beer chaser for $5 and the $4 domestic 32 ounce beer! For their Christmas deal if you purchase a $50 gift card, you’ll receive a $25 bonus. We didn’t make it in time to purchase last year, but we’ll get one this year!

Noodles & Company – From November 14th until December 31, 2016 every time you purchase $25 in gift cards, you get a $5 Great Giver Bonus Card (bonus card valid 11/14/16 – 1/16/17).

As with any gift card purchase, be sure to learn all the details and/or restrictions that go along with the card and any bonuses. It’s not unusual for there to be some restrictions. Know what they are before buying so you’re able to take full advantage of the offer.

Joe-

A couple of weeks ago I met up with a friend for dinner at the mall food court. After dinner we decided to walk around the mall for a bit and found ourselves in a Bath & Body Works. I’ve always liked their products even though I feel they are overpriced. I only purchase them occasionally when I can get a hefty discount. The last time I bought anything was in December 2015 when I placed a fairly large order online for several foaming hand soaps and other assorted items and received a $20 discount. The soaps came out to under $2 each, which to me, while still not cheap, were reasonable compared to the $6.50 sticker price. I’m one of those people who finds pleasure in even the smallest of things so these soaps bring me joy every time I wash my hands. Luckily, I still haven’t gone through all the soaps because I add water to them to make them last longer. That didn’t stop me from wanting some new ones, however, especially when I came across a new scent I really liked (Sparkling Mint Blossom in case you’re curious). I didn’t buy anything, however, because I don’t need any new soaps, I just wanted some. But with Joe still out of work (and our Marketplace insurance doubling in price for 2017 – more on that in another post) I really don’t want to spend any money since we’re short every month as it is (thank goodness for savings).

Psychologically speaking it’s been really tough dealing with curbing our non-essential purchases even though when we were both working and could have easily blown money on whatever we wanted I still wouldn’t have purchased that soap anyway just because $3.50 (the current sale price) is still too much for a small bottle of soap. It’s simply the fact that I “can’t” buy what I want verses choosing not to that is starting to get to me. It’s funny how that works. I’m struggling to keep things in perspective but I’m not gonna lie – I will be so much more relaxed when we have enough money coming in again.

Since my unforeseen departure from my job in February, we’ve done a pretty good job (IMO) at cutting as many of our monthly expenses as we can. I thought I would outline the things we’ve done to accomplish that.

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Landline

Okay, I’m taking a little latitude with this one since we switched to Magicjack a while ago, but it deserves to be mentioned! For less than $4 a month, it’s hard to beat unless you do away with a landline altogether. We could just cut the landline totally, but for me, having the comfort of a landline is worth the few bucks a month.

Car Insurance

In the category of it doesn’t hurt to ask, Nicole called our auto insurance agent and basically said, hey we’re driving much less now because Joe is out of work and I don’t drive much and we can’t afford what we have. What happened? They were able to drop our insurance by about $80 every 6 months. Call and ask, it doesn’t hurt!

Cell Phone

We switched to Ting Wireless back in April. Switching to Ting Wireless has by far been the best cost savings thing we have done so far. I wish we would have done it long ago. We used such little data and voice back in August, our bill was just over $30. That’s for two smartphones for a month! Compared to our $135/month AT&T bill, it makes me feel like I was getting robbed by AT&T. Check out Ting Wireless here.

Those are the ones that come to mind first. There have been several others which have definitely helped us save a few dollars over the last few months. We’ve wrote about several other things which may not add up to much right away, but they do contribute to our “blow” money. We use different reward programs such as Discover cashback, Shopkick, Bing, Swagbucks and survey places like Harris Polls and Pinecone research.

Joe-

Have you heard of Hoopla?

From the website:

Bringing you hundreds of thousands of movies, full music albums, audiobooks and more, hoopla is a revolutionary digital service made possible by your local library. From Hollywood blockbusters to best selling artists and authors – not just the hits, but the niche and hard-to-find as well – you’ll soon discover that hoopla provides you the freedom you’ve been searching for to experience, explore and enjoy what you want, when you want, and where you want. Simple to access and use, without the hassle of having to return the items you’ve borrowed, all you need is your library card, a web browser, smart phone or tablet to get started.

Our library just started offering access a year ago and at first I wasn’t using it because there didn’t seem to be much content. I happened to log in a few days ago and was amazed by how much it has improved. In fact, I was able to find somewhat rare albums in the music section – stuff the library itself doesn’t carry.

One thing I really like about Hoopla is that you can temporarily download a borrowed album to your device so you’re not using any data while listening. The only downside is your library sets a limit on how many items you can borrow each calendar month. In my case it’s ten. Given those limits, I wouldn’t necessarily advise using it to stream an entire season of a television show since you wouldn’t be able to binge watch it.

My biggest problem, which is a good one, is that there’s so much stuff I’d like to borrow that I had to create a favorites list which already has around thirty items on it.

OverDrive is a similar service although its main focus is on books. I like that you can download titles in e-reader format if you happen to dislike reading on a tablet (like I do). The downside to OverDrive is that your library only has a set number of licenses per digital copy so the title you want may not be available. Due to this I don’t use OverDrive as much; I end up going to the library and taking out a physical copy of the book inside. I haven’t come across this license issue using Hoopla; everything listed on the service is available right away.

In any case, I highly recommend both these services as an alternative to going to the library if that’s not your thing (or you’re just too busy).

I’m not sure about you guys, but this month just flew by for me. The beginning of September marks 6 months I’ve been out of work. I’ve been able to get a few side gigs for a few bucks here and there to help supplement my unemployment compensation. Mostly in the form of surveys and market research studies. I’ve been getting more aggressive with my job hunt lately as well as making changes to my resume in order to try and help bring in more interest.

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I’m kind of ready for autumn, my favorite time of the year. The cooler weather, the fall colors, football, and hockey too! It also means we’ll be able to keep the windows open more frequently saving some money not running the AC or heat.

Here’s a recap of postings we had for August:

Garage Sale – Recap

It’s Not A Treat If You Have It Every Day

Social Security Numbers

College Costs

Joe’s Top Movies

There is much debate about whether the latte factor can really make or break you when it comes to finances. For the record, I think it can result in “death by a thousand cuts” (a phrase I just saw someone use in the comments on another blog), but what I really want to focus on is how in addition to it affecting your bottom line, it’s wasteful and detracts from your overall enjoyment.

Something isn’t a treat if you’re enjoying it on a regular basis. Is anyone really savoring their morning Starbucks (or Dunkin Donuts) if they get it every single day? Doubtful. It’s just routine at that point. So in addition to blowing $4 a day, you’re not even getting all that much enjoyment out of it. If instead you got your iced coffee once a week (or less), you’d be saving money AND you’d really enjoy the experience. You just have to be willing to try it.

HarrisPoll

I’m not a big fan of most of the survey places you find online these days. They’re too much work for what amounts to little payoff, but I do like being rewarded for providing my input and doing some everyday things. I’m still a fan of Swagbucks even though I’ve been slacking lately on their surveys and videos you complete/watch for credit. And when it comes to physically going to the store and being rewarded, Shopkick is another great way to be rewarded.

I joined Harris back in the beginning of April of this year. So far I’ve accumulated about 4400 points. This is more than enough for a $25 gift card, and about 1000 points towards the additional 3000 points I need for a $50 card. I know, it’s not earth shattering money. But for what amounts to about 10 or 15 minutes every other day or so, it all adds up. We use this as “blow” money so to speak by redeeming the points for restaurant gift cards. We don’t actually incur this expense of eating out, so it’s like a nice bonus since we’ve pulled back on our unnecessary spending with me being out of work.

I’m pretty confident I could have been at the $50 gift card in three months. To me this is a nice deal. We can typically eat out at one of the places offered twice with a $50 card further taking advantage of the “freebie”. Additionally, when we combine this gift card with the others we receive from our Discover rewards and Swagbucks, we’re pretty much able to eat out a couple times a month without having to actually use money needed for other things.

HPRewards

And if you don’t want to spend Harris points (they call them HI points) on restaurant gift cards, there are plenty of other items they offer as rewards. Check out the list!

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