Wednesday, December 31

New Years Resolution: Floss More

Happy New Years (almost)!

For those of us born and bred to be frugal we are accustomed to purchasing the cheapest generic version of any product.

Today's post is a product review of dental floss because this is once instance where I really think buying the cheapest floss is not the best way to go. It took me 25 years to realize this. I used to buy the most yards of floss for the best price, period. Then one day I was mailed a free sample of crest glide deep clean floss* and flossing became an entirely different experience.

It does cost more but wait for a $1 coupon coupled with a store sale and try it out. Hey- if the flossing experience is less painful you'll do it more often.

*Crest is not a sponsor of this website. Although I am willing to entertain sponsorship offers! : )

Tuesday, December 30

Where to buy your wine

Trader Joes.

Seriously, their wine is amazing and really really inexpensive.

Try the Boca Malbec from Argentina for $4. Guaranteed to be a hit at any party.

For cooking wine, try Charles Shaw for $2.95 I believe.

Monday, December 29

Save your company $$ on conference calls

Most companies, even non-profits, continue to spend thousands a year using conference call services. This is crazy!! FreeConference.Com gives you access to your own dedicated call in number & password that you can use for FREE 24/7. Registration takes less than 5 minutes and is free. To get your dedicated number, click here and then click on "sign up."

While the number they give you is not toll free, remember that most people use cell phones and cells phones charge the same amount of minutes for toll free calls as they do for long distance.

I use this service and love it! Your company will love you too for using it.

Sunday, December 28


I found out about through my friends Lex and Marisa. MyPoints is a site that gives you free points every day for answering quick surveys, making purchases, etc, which you can use to buy gift cards and other items. One of the cool parts about MyPoints is its coupon section which always has printable coupons for food items- plus you get 10 points for every coupon that you use. How great is that? Check the site out here.

Saturday, December 27

Stop Paying for Bad Produce

I admit I go to the two cheapest grocery stores in town and only buy produce that is on sale. That said, the amount of really bad produce that I bite into once nestled back in at home is not cool. I used to just eat what I could and throw the rest out. I always knew that grocery stores guarantee their produce but it didn't seem worth the hastle to return the item- plus I only go grocery shopping every week or every other week.

At some point half way through the year I decided I had enough of throwing money away due to bad produce. No, I didn't start shopping at Whole Foods. I started calling the grocery stories and letting them know my produce was bad. The stores will gladly refund the money the next time you are in the store if you bring in the receipt. Let them know you called the next day but couldn't come in until now. It's that easy. You usually don't need to bring in the bad produce (verify this when you call)!

Friday, December 26

Go Bowling with Prices from the 1980s!

Few people realize that military bases are open to the general public and have really discounted prices on their bowling allys! Ft. Myers, the nearest military base, is metro accessible (Rosslyn Metro) but you can also drive onto the base (be prepared for a quick car search). Come on it adds to the fun! Anyway just let the guards know you are there to bowl and they will tell you which way to go.

The prices are super cheap - I believe it's $3 to rent shoes and $2 a game. They also have an arcade and sell food and beer.

Thursday, December 25

Really Good and Cheap Ethnic Restaurants

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

For those who don't and want some good Chinese, read on!

Really everyone should know about these two restaurants which are amazing and among the cheapest in Georgetown!

1. Harmony Cafe- This Asian restaurant is located on M Street in Georgetown. If you're walking up M Street from the district it will be on your right just past the Subway. It has a green vertical sign and is a basement restaurant. They make all their dishes for both vegetarians and meat eaters. Plus- if you get their "lunch special to go" at any hour of the day, it's only $4.95 for an entree, salad, and egg role! Who can beat that? Though I am no longer a vegetarian I still get their vegetarian General Tso. mmmmm.

2. Ammas Indian Restaurant- This Indian venue is also located on M Street in Georgetown (for those who don't already know I have my undergraduate degree from Georgetown- Go Hoyas!). Ammas is all vegetarian and is 1/3 the price of Adittis downstairs but is just as tasty. Ammas is upstairs to the right of Rhinos. The prices are so affordable I go a little crazy ordering everything there. Skip the chocolate shop downstairs for dessert- it's a different owner and the prices are ridiculous.

3. I wasn't going to mention Rhinos since I usually don't like bar food and it's not an ethnic restaurant but check out their $.10 wing night on Mondays!

Wednesday, December 24

60-80% off at Linens and Things

In case you have been living under a rock, Linens and Things is going out of business. Online, you can get 40-60% off merchandise and at their stores, everything is 60-80% off. There are not a ton of products left but if you're in the market for bed shams, curtain poles, sheets, mirrors, etc, you can find a great deal.

The Linens and Things near Pentagon City has a sign saying the store would only be open for four more days- so this is it! Get in there.

Tuesday, December 23

Shoppers is Doubling and Tripling Coupons

Sorry this post is only getting to you all now but I had to share that Shoppers is tripling coupons $.50 or less and doubling coupons $.55 to $1.00. That means your $.50 coupons will get you $1.50 off and your $1.00 coupon will get you $2.00 off. Take advantage- Shoppers only offers this incredible deal a few times a year.

This coupon extravaganza is taking place through Christmas Eve!

Monday, December 22

CVS has two pages of FREE Items today only

Every once in a while you can strike it big at CVS and today is one of those days. There are two full pages of free items (you pay for it and then get the money back in extra bucks). Remember to buy one item and then keep exchanging your bonus bucks for more free items to minimize your financial investment. Visit a store to find out what the free items are - they include nail polish, cough drops, pain relivers, and so much more.

Remember not to spend your extra bucks too quickly- I hear there will be many more free items after Christmas.

Sunday, December 21

Attention Nexflix Users

I wanted to call to everyone’s attention that Netflix offers instant movie and TV shows online. Netflix users get an unlimlited amount of online viewing (unless you are already in their cheapest limited plan). This feature means you can cut down the number of movies sent to you and save $$. The only downside is that not every movie or TV show is available through the internet. However, Netflix is constantly converting additional films to expand their offerings.

Saturday, December 20

Read this before you buy anything else online!

I recently learned about If you register at this site you automatically get $5 cash in your account or a $10 gift card. When you make online purchases through this site at over 1,000 stores, they give you a percentage cash back in your account (the percentage varies depending on the store). Then they mail you checks with your savings. Amazing.

Friday, December 19

Prescription Drugs

Let's face it- with health care costs rising, even generic drugs are expensive. That's why I'd love to encourage everyone (especially women on BC) to take advantage of mail order drug benefits. Not only do the drugs get mailed straight to your house but you pass a ton less! I pay 1/3 less of the price I would pay at my local pharmacy. Combine mail order drugs with medical FLEX benefits and a "5% cash back on prescriptions" credit card and you'll barely miss the money. Okay maybe not. But spending $26.6 instead of $60 for a three month supply makes an impact.

Check with your employer to see if your health insurer offers a mail order drug program.

Thursday, December 18

Something Tells Me it's All Happening at the Zoo

The Washington Zoo is amazing and it's free so I find myself there several times a year. Go at different times of the day for different experiences.

Some highlights:
  • The orangutans jumping over your head on those tall beams (this happens before 11 AM I believe)
  • The naked mole rats- when active they are just about the funnist things I've ever seen
  • The anteater's baby on the anteater's back

Plus they are creating an elephant trail for a whole group of elephants to walk beneath a bridge that you stand on. The only dissapointment is Lemur Island. I swear they escaped sometime before 2001 since I've never actually seen a lemur on Lemur Island. Please comment if you have seen a lemur at the National Zoo and the year of the spotting (the gift store doesn't count).

Anyway, before you enter the zoo on a hot day, get a slurpee from 7-Eleven across the street first for $1.19 to save yourself from spending $5 on a drink inside the zoo.

If you want to spend money to support the zoo, become a member OR check out ZooLights in December ($12). Save $2 with coupons from Giant. Plus I hear there is free parking for attendees.

Wednesday, December 17

Don't worry about your November Stash of CVS Extra Bucks

As you know, extra bonus bucks from CVS only last for one month. If you took advantage of the post-Thanksgiving CVS free product shopping spree, you probably have a plethora of extra bonus bucks set to expire as soon as December 26! There haven't been a lot of free items since then to "pay the extra bucks forward" so you may be getting antsy this close to their expiration dates.

I've received an inside tip that CVS will have another free product shopping spree during the two days after Christmas. So you can relax and wait to see what is in store! Remember the rule of thumb to only buy things you really need with the extra bucks or to use them to buy other free products!

Tuesday, December 16

It's not too late: Sign up for Flex Money!

Tax free money. Happy sigh.

Yes I'm a Democrat but I still enjoy tax free earnings!

Most employers offer medical flex accounts which shouldn't be ignored! Basically you guess how much money you will spend out of pocket on medical expenses for the following year and the amount you elect is saved in a medical account for you tax-free. "Medical expenses" is broad and includes products such as contact lens solution (although CVS recently offered contact solution as its free product two weeks in a row so no one should need contact lens solution for another year or two).

Anyway you spend for co-pays or allergy medications or prescription drugs or lasik and then mail your receipts into the flex company and they'll send you a check back!

While overestimating leads to potentially losing the money at the end of the year, there is a grace period that allows you to continue spending your flex money for the first few months of the following year. Plus you can always stock up on pharmacy products if you overshoot by too much.

I know a lot of people who wait until December to mail in all their receipts at once. I wouldn't recommend this. First of all, if you request the money as soon as you spend it you can make interest off of the $$. Second, you never know when they will reject what you feel is a valid medical product so it's better to know what you'll get reimbursed for sooner than later.

One last important piece of info- the minimum amount you need to put in your flex account varies based on your organization's plan but can be around $240 for the year and the max is $5,000. Hopefully you keep all your expenses in a budget so you actually know what you spent on medical products and services in 2008 to help you predict for 2009!

Send questions to

Monday, December 15

Lower your cell phone bill

Do me a favor and call your phone company and ask how many minutes you've used in the past few months. If you are paying for a plan with more minutes than what you use, switch to a lower plan!

I'd like to speak now about Verizon, though you may be able to find equivalent deals on your own company (though if you live in DC you should have Verizon- hey it's the only company that works on Metro!).

First, if you don't need text messaging, block it to save $$.
Second, you may think that $70 is the lowest plan Verizon offers for two people. However, they have the 65+ Plan that is only $60 a month for two people. While it is true this is for senior citizens, which we are not though perhaps in spirit, they allowed us to switch to this plan for the cheaper price.
Third, your company may offer a discount through Verizon. My husband's company told him they do not participate in the Verizon discount program but at Verizon they looked up his company and it was in their database so now we save 12% on our monthly bill.
Finally, please cancel your land line phone if you have one. There is no need for this!! You are just throwing out money! Use skype if you are tired of your cell phone.

Sunday, December 14

Walgreens Rebates

I don't live near a Walgreens (there is one in Old Town and where Lulu's used to be) but I try to make it to one at least once a month for their Rebate Club. Basically there are several free items a month that you buy and then get a refund for in the form a check. Rebates used to require mailing receipts in and circling things, etc but now days you go online and type in your receipt number and you are done! Your check arrives in a matter of weeks.

Note that you can use coupons on items that have partial rebates and you will then be able to get that item for free too.

Finally, if you choose to get your money back on a Walgreens Gift Card instead of by check, they will add 10% more money than you spent.

Have fun!

Saturday, December 13

$1.00 Movie Theater near DC

Arlington Draft House is a movie theater/restaurant at 2903 Columbia Pike (Arlington VA). The food is pretty bad but the place is a lot of fun. Monday nights are $1.00 movies and there is no food/beverage minimum. If you are hungry, Bangkok 54 next door is not cheap but their crispy duck salad appetizer is worth a pre or post movie visit.

Friday, December 12

CVS Extra Bucks: Clarification Part 2

Welcome back.

The correct answer to yesterday's post is "C".

The coupons that print out for random products you do not purchase (see "A") are wasted paper and I throw these away (unless they are for a free product- which my sister sometimes gets but I never do).

The $10 off of $50 purchase is too much to be spending at CVS so I thow those away as well. More helpful are the $4 off $20 purchase or the $5 off of $15 purchase but I rarely get those now days.

The CVS extra bucks that I often rave about can be found in exhibit "C". I remember the first time I got a extra buck back in 2005 it was for $1 and I thought it was random that they were giving me free money. Was I a novice back then, or what? CVS puts out weekly circulars as well as monthly circulars (both can be found at their circular stand near the front door) that list all products that qualify for extra bucks that month or week.

The free products (meaning you get the same amount of $$ in bonus bucks as the amount you spend on the product) are not always easy to find. Blogs like help point them out for you so you know what to look for in the circulars.

The way to take advantage of extra bucks and not let the bonus bucks take advantage of you is as follows:

1) When you buy products that are free, use coupons. If a product is $8 and you get $8 back in extra bucks. But say you have a $2 coupon. You will spend $6 and still get $8 bonus bucks back! Incredible, right?

2) Only use your extra bucks to buy products A) you were going to buy anyway or B) that are also free items therefore giving you even more extra bucks.

3) Let's say there are 3 free items one week. Don't buy them all at once! Then you'll end up with a large investment on products you don't need and a large amount of extra bucks that you need to spend in one month! Instead buy the items one at a time (the cheapest first) and keep using the extra bucks you get back to pay for the next item. This lowers your investment and keeps you with a reasonable amount of extra bucks. I know it's slightly embarrasing for you and annoying for the cashier - this is why I am thankful my CVS has a self check-out.

4) This is important and you'll understand why once you get the system (it may seem confusing if you still haven't experimented with extra bucks). I was once told by a CVS cashier that you can't use your extra bucks if the product you are buying is less than the amount of extra bucks you want to use. So you have $4.99 in extra bucks and the product you want to buy costs $4.60- it's a no-go. Their system won't let you lose money. However, I was also told that the product needs to be more than the extra bucks value BEFORE taxes. So you have $5.00 in extra bucks and the product you want costs $4.99. It turns out the cashier was wrong. I've been using a self-checkout which counts taxes as the total (so in my example above the total would be more than the $5 extra bucks). This will save you time trying to find the cheapest item CVS sells (which by the way is travel cough drops or travel Q-tips for .50- what a rip off. Better value is the CVS enviornmental toliet paper at .89 but ouch!).

Thursday, December 11

CVS Extra Bucks: Clarification

It has come to my attention that people are still confused about CVS extra bucks. Here's a test: Which one of the three end-of-receipt print out coupons in this photo are extra bucks?

Come back tomorrow to read the answer and to learn how to control when you get extra bucks.
Getting extra bucks is not a random process!

Wednesday, December 10

Learn the Value of Triage at the Register

Use this post as an opportunity not only to get free lipstick but to learn the value of ordering your coupons when checking out.

Here is what happened: In the newspaper's coupons from this Sunday there was a $4.00 off coupon for any Maybelline lipstick/gloss, etc.I was able to find a second $4 off coupon in my apartment building's recycling room. Meanwhile, CVS was also having a buy one get one free sale for these very products. The lipsticks I chose were $6.69 each.

I should point out my thought process at this point:
1) I realized if I swipped my CVS card at the beginning of the purchasing process the system would ring up the two lipsticks but deduct one from the store's sale, and thus I wouldn't be allowed to use both of my coupons. I knew I needed to swipe the products, then the coupons, and finally my CVS card.

2) I also realized if I only purchased two lipsticks the my post-coupon price would not have been high enough to deduct the full price of one of the lipsticks. So I needed another product priced around .$99 in order for me not to "lose" the value of the second lipstick's deduction.

My estimates were correct and I only ended up paying $.06 for these three items. Note that no bonus bucks were used to make this purchase. Only coupons and brain! : )

One last comment: I'm not quite sure what happens if the amount "owed" at the end of purchase is negative money. While it's possible the store will pay you cash back for taking products, most likely you will lose the funds. If someone knows the answer to this, do share!

Tuesday, December 9

Credit Cards!

Oh how I love credit cards.

First of all, I should say since it can't be assumed, that I always pay my full balance the day it is due through the auto pay feature. I have never been late with a credit card and believe in having three credit cards so that I have enough credit lines open to boost my near perfect credit score.

I love them because they let me earn interest on my money for a month until I have to pay the credit card bill and because I earn amazing rewards.

The three cards I have (and love) are the Citibank Diamond Rewards Card (which I use for all work expenses and get reimbursed for), the American Express Blue Cash Card, and the Citi AAdvantage Card.

When I rack up points on the Diamonds Preferred Rewards Card I always cash them in for student loan rebates to pay down my husband's law school debt because the value for student loan rebates is much better than for products I don't need or for their cash back rewards. Plus by spending my rewards on student loans, I save on the future interest so it's the gift that keeps on giving!

The American Express Blue Cash card is pretty nifty. There is NO fee (I would never pay a fee for a credit card- what a waste- if you have a card that you love and there is a fee talk to them on the phone and say you'll cancel unless they waive it and they will probably waive it!). Basically this card gives you 5% cash back on food, pharmacy, and gas, and 1.5% cash back on everything else. To get these high percentages you need to spend $6,500 on the card- for which you get .1% back and .5% back respectively. The money comes to you once a year in the form of a statement credit. We're already up to more than $500 this year from rewards (note the majority of the money we spent was for my office which I got reimbursed for or for my graduate tuition bills).

The third card I love is my Citi AAdvantage Rewards Card. Basically they waive the fee for the first year and when you sign up and spend $750 you get 25,000 airline miles posted to your American Airlines account. You can cancel before the year is up or request them to waive the fee for the second year. 25,000 is a free flight!

Monday, December 8

New Years Resolution- Be Organized About Saving

Hi everyone,

As you can probably guess, I love to keep track of how much I spend, no matter how big or how small. I keep track for a variety of reasons.

Keeping track of spending allows me to compare how much I spend from month to month, and year to year, while helping me to figure out where our money is going! It also lets us see where we can try to save more.

When I talk about keeping track of spending there are many ways one can go about this process. My favorite is using a simple excel chart where I have columns for the date, item/location (ie Safeway or new shoes Marshalls), category (ie clothing, grocery, car), and then the price. I keep every receipt and store these receipts in envelopes marked with the month. At the end of the year I put all the envelopes from that year into a manila envelope to file away.

The benefit of saving all the receipts and having my excel chart is if a product falls apart I can easily search for the store in my excel chart and then look up that month's envelope so I can easily return the item.

Make it your new year's resolution to become organized with your spending habits. Saving is a lot more fun if you can try to beat your spending amount from a previous month by spending LESS. Set goals for yourself and see if you can achieve them.

Sunday, December 7

Too much frugality even for Fun & Frugal Stephanie

Please trust me when I tell you not to try to cure your own olives, especially if you live in a small apartment.

It's not worth it. You may think you're saving $$ but the massive quantities of salt that must be used make me question this assumption.

We can either play- guess all the things wrong with this picture or you can just trust me.

Since I don't think there are too many olive trees in the Washington area, I think we should all be safe from this non-fun activity. And like these olives, I may be bitter about this experience.

Saturday, December 6

Hate Going to the Doctor?

I know many people, okay men, in their 20s who avoid going to the doctor because they hate shots and are sure they are healthy (my husband included). I go but hate it for another reason.

Almost every time I see a doctor (eye doctor, dentist, specialist, etc) the billing departments overcharge me. Sometimes they send me a bill for a co-pay I already paid. Other times they miscode a visit. It is always something.

This is incredible since I actually call my insurance company before I see any doctor to make sure it is covered to and check the amount I will have to pay.

The purpose of this blog is to encourage people not to just pay a doctor's bill they get in the mail. I'm not saying to throw it away- they will just hound you and sell it to another company that will hunt you down (via phone) and ruin your credit score. I am saying to call the billing department and talk it through.

I'm almost convinced some billing errors are made on purpose to get more money from patients since offices know people will be annoyed but will just pay them to avoid confortation.

I've saved hundreds of dollars (rightfully and successfully) through negotiating with billing departments.

Good luck, be strong, and keep going to the doctor.

Friday, December 5

Give $100 to charity for only $35

When you look at it this way, how can you not give:

Many of our companies will match our donations to non-profits. Donations are also tax-deductible.

That means it only costs us $35 to give $100 to our favorite charities.

(We give 50 but get $15 back from taxes and the $50 is doubled).

Thursday, December 4

Save Hundreds at Safeway

A little known fact that can save you hundreds:

Safeway guarantees the accuracy of their electronic checkout system. Safeway will give you the item FREE if the price on the detailed receipt differs (higher OR lower) than indicated in ads or shown on the shelf price tag. Limit one. The store manager will refund your money after you go through check out.

This policy is not advertised in their ads or online as far as I could tell so I wanted to share here on Fun and Frugal 20s. Every time I go to Safway at least one item rings up at the wrong price (always higher than advertised) but now instead of getting frustrated that they are overcharging so many people I look forward to these moments when I get food for free! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3

Free Brunch on Weekends

One of my husband and my favorite weekend activities is going to our membership club- Costco. Saturdays and Sundays offer a dozen free samples and if you make the rounds twice you’re feeling pretty satisfied.

If you’re still hungry, Costco offers a food station with jumbo Kosher hotdogs (unlimited toppings) AND unlimited soda refills for only $1.50. If you still have room for dessert (you probably won’t) they offer a large cup full of frozen yogurt for only $1.25.

If you have a Trader Joes near you it’s also worth a stop as they usually have wine/cheese samples as well as generous portions of a new product they are selling. Whole Foods has great samples as well.

Tuesday, December 2

Save on Public Transit

Here are a few ways to save on public transit:

1) Enroll in your company’s transit program so you avoid paying taxes on commuting costs.
2) Consider a bus route instead of the metro. In Washington, DC taking the bus is $1.25 compared to $1.65 for the metro during rush hour. The bus is often a much more pleasant experience. While your commuting time may slightly increase, I know I’d rather be sitting down reading Express watching Georgetown go by than going into the depths of Metro and cramming myself onto a crowded train.
3) Find out the times your city changes from rush hour to regular prices. In Washington, DC if you wait until 9:30 AM to use the metro instead of 9:25 AM you will save $.30. Going home it’s the same- the prices go down to $1.35 at 7:00 PM when rush hour ends. They calculate the fare by the time you ENTER metro and not by the time you leave it.

Monday, December 1

Want to pay less than $600 for an LSAT Prep Class?

One of the greatest parts of Washington is the Graduate School within the Department of Agriculture. For 85 years USDA has provided DC residents with an affordable higher education option. Classes range from test prep to language classes, from paralegal studies to human resources. Basically the options are diverse and the cost is affordable (around $375 a course versus the $2500+ per course charged for graduate classes at Georgetown, GW, and Johns Hopkins).

Learn more here.