Saturday, January 31

My philosophy

My loyal readers know me by now and may be wondering- with all this coupon cutting and life focus on savings money- where is all the fun?!

While besides the fact that I find saving money to be fun in and of itself, much of the fun in being frugal is the freedom is allows. Because I spend so little, I save a lot. This allows me to purchase the big things that matter to me when I want them. I never feel like I can't afford something, which is a wonderful feeling.

Friday, January 30

Skip the Soda

Ever since I was a child I was taught that when going out to eat, you drink water. Through today when I go out to dine, I still only get water (free water- not bottled water). Every venue, including places such as Cosi, give you free water upon request. At soda fountains, free water also includes seltzer water which can be found on the water tab that says "soda."

Avoiding soda not only helps your wallet but helps your heath and teeth as well.

Luckily I married a man who also believes in this philosophy!

Thursday, January 29

Things You Shouldn't Pay For

Here is a family picture of some of my Colgates.
I realize my linen closest looks look I robbed the back of a Colgate truck but truth be told all these Colgates came to me costing between $.50 and negative $.50 each.
I get my Colgates for free by taking advantage of when they are on sale at CVS combined with CVS extra care bucks on Colgate weeks combined with coupons ranging from $1.00-$1.50. When this combination strikes I go crazy.
Other items you should never pay for are the items that are often free at CVS and Walgreens - including contact lens solution, foundation, powder, nail polish, fash wash, mouth wash, etc.

Wednesday, January 28

Learn to Enjoy Cooking

Cooking is a fun and creative outlet after a hard day at work. Learn to appreciate the different ways to cook the same vegetable or meat with fantastically different results. Watch Food Network and emulate Alton. When you cook at home you are able to eat healthier since you care about your health and most restaurants do not.

When making dinner, make double the amount that you need that night in order to have leftovers for work the next day. Pack the leftovers in Tupperware so they are ready to go the next day. Doing this is usually cheaper than buying pre-packaged meals such as Lean Cuisine, etc.

Have fun with it and experiment! Get a husband/wife so you have someone to cook for and you'll enjoy it even more. If you married an alpha cook, read this New York Times article to help betas deal.

Tuesday, January 27

Rewards Cards- Use them!

I admit I have a fair amount of 'rewards cards' tags on my key chain. One you should get if you ever purchase new books is the borders card which often gives you 20% or 30% off discounts for new books.

Another card I love is the Cosi card. The Cosi card requires you to buy 10 entrees and you get the 11th free. This is a lot of money on signature salads to earn your free salad. Few tips- only go there when you are having a business lunch so that it may be reimburseable. If you must go with friends, ask your friends if they too have Cosi rewards cards- if not ask them to swipe yours! This way you will reach your reward much faster.

Monday, January 26

Getting a Hair Cut?

When I first moved to Washington, DC I was flabbergasted with the cost of haircuts. An $80 cut means the tip alone is more than I used to pay for the entire haircut.

The amount Stephanie likes to pay for a haircut=$12.00.

I've dealt with this problem in several different ways since moving to Washington back in 2001.

1) Often I wait until I return home to visit my parents in the suburbs of Chicago where there are hair places that still charge $8-12 for a haircut.
2) I always clarify the price before I start the process. I've found that you may think you are paying one price for the cut and think they're "throwing in" a 5-minute blow dry or the pre-rinse but then the cost ends up being $20 more than expected. Don't be embarrassed about seeming frugal- ask the stylist if what they are doing is included in the basic "cut" price!
3) Look for online coupons for salons before getting your hair cut.
4) Consider only getting your hair cut once a year. Choose a short cropped look for the summer and then spend the rest of the year growing it out. Because you are only paying for one cut a year, you can splurge and find a place that charges $30 instead of $12.
5) Wait two years before getting a haircut and then donate your hair to Locks for Love. You need 10 inches to be able to donate your hair for wigs for children who can't grow hair. There are certain salons who will cut your hair for free if you are doing it for Locks for Love. This is really a win-win situation for everyone.
6) Are you thinking about getting your hair colored? Don't.

Sunday, January 25

Go Out and Avoid Cover

Do are you in the mood to meet some new people at a bar, maybe dance a little, and avoid paying a cover on weekends? Try Lucky Bar, Madhatters, and Cafe Citron (all in Dupont Circle) to save the dough and get your groove on!

Saturday, January 24

What to do with that raise

Did someone mention raise?!

Okay so if you're not dealing with a salary freeze, you received some type of increase- either a raise or a cost of living increase. Do you really need the extra money? As you may have figured out by now, once you get accustomed to a higher living style it is really difficult to go back. Thus, keep your living style to the basics and put your raise in a 401K account. You won't really miss the extra trip to a restaurant and you'll be thankful when you are able to retire earlier.

Friday, January 23

Shoppers is Tripling Coupons!

For the next seven days Shoppers in Northern Virginia is tripling coupons up to $.99. This is not as great as their previous deals (tripling up to $2.00) but it's still something!

Thursday, January 22

Buying Books for School

I'll let you in on a little secret.

In college I ended up making a profit off of my books.

I believe in buying used books for my classes, even if they are one edition old. When possible I also check out my books from the library (either the school library or public libraries). When I finish using my books I sell them (unless I loved the book).

My alma mater had a book sale at the end of each semester and any book that did not sell (and was not picked up by the student selling it) was sold for $1. I would purchase many of these books and sell them online for their used value.

Be creative and you won't need to spend cash on books either.

Wednesday, January 21

The Best Buy at the Grocery Store

Hint: What was Beethoven's favorite fruit?

You guessed it! Ba-na-na-na! (Sorry for the corniness- (corn is most affordable April through August!))

Bananas are so cheap I can hardly believe it every time I head to produce.

For $.39-$.59 cents a pound you get all that scrumptious potassium!

Plus if you let it sit out for too long, you can make banana bread.

PS Can anyone name the university with the adorable banana slug as their mascot?

Tuesday, January 20

Travel from DC to NY for $2 RT


Now how will you return home?

I feel like everyone knows about Chinatown buses to get from Washington to New York for $40 (roundtrip) but there is a relatively new company called BoltBus which is pretty incredible.

Basically Bolt's tickets range from $1 (yes they offer at least one $1 seat per bus) to approx $25 each way to NY from Washington. The best part of Bolt though is not that it can be cheaper than Chinatown buses but that these buses have wireless internet free of charge!

Bolt also has a reward program - travel 8 times, get a free trip.

Bolt also travels to Philly, Boston, and Cherry Hill. Check out their schedules here.

While you're at it, save your company money and take Bolt instead of Amtrak! Plus those work trips will count towards your rewards.

Monday, January 19

Read your Employee Manual

About once a year I re-read my company's employee manual. While long, you should make sure to know of all the benefits your company offers, many of which you may not have been told about. Some things that may not be in your manual but you should ask HR about include: tuition reimbursement, gym membership, and discounted movie tickets.

Sunday, January 18

Fun with your Friends

On a typical weekend evening my husband and I go to dinner parties or entertain at our home.

Cooking dinner for friends is much more affordable than going out to dine.

I encourage people to have a game collection at home for fun activities. Some of my favorite games are Apples to Apples, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit (couple teams), and Cranium. Do you have any to add to this list?

Saturday, January 17

FREE Inaugural Event at the Lincoln Memorial

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) is pleased to announce the producers and initial talent lineup for WE ARE ONE: THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL, the Opening Celebration for the 56th Presidential Inaugural, to be presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday, January 18 (7:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT). The event will be free and open to the public, kicking off the most open and accessible Inauguration in history.

The special will be executive produced by George Stevens, Jr. (The Kennedy Center Honors), and produced by Don Mischer (Olympic Ceremonies) who will also direct the special, and Michael Stevens (The American Film Institute Salutes) who is also writing the special, and will be a production of The Stevens Company in association with Don Mischer Productions.

Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder. Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation. Rob Mathes will be the music director and arranger for the backing band, which will support all of the artists. Additional performers will be announced as they are confirmed.

Friday, January 16

Save money on Waxing!

Two years ago my husband used his credit card points to buy me an epilator. An epilator is an electronic tool that pulls hairs out from their roots. I use this on my upper lip once a month and save the money I used to spend getting this area waxed. Although epilators can cost around $60 (you can do better than this price), it pays for itself after you miss that waxing appointment 6 times.

Did I mention it hurts just a bit? Well, ice helps, plus the skin gets used to it.

You can also use this product for legs, arms, etc.

Thursday, January 15

90% Off Wrapping Paper!

Visit a CVS near you to receive 90% off their holiday wrapping paper! Now is the time to save up for next year! It's maddening to see how expensive wrapping paper is otherwise- really? it's enough paper to wrap 3 boxed shirts? wow!

Wednesday, January 14

Free: Bottles of Suave

Today, January 14, 2009, Suave is giving one bottle of any Suave Product (ie shampoo, lotion, styling aids, etc) to every woman in America!

To claim your coupon, visit:


Tuesday, January 13

Going out to Dinner? WAIT

Did you check for coupons online first?

I never go out to dine without checking their website for special offers. Often if you join their e-clubs they will give you free appetizers, desserts, or buy 1 get 1 entree free. Example.

You can also find great dining discounts from the Entertainment Book (wait for 50% off and free shipping halfway through the year), NPR membership (donation more than $120), and (wait for to have an 80% off sale)!

Monday, January 12

Tiny $300 Laptop

If you are starting graduate school, I would recommend purchasing a laptop. Last December I bought an eee PC for $299 from Amazon (including shipping0. This little laptop weighs 2.2 pounds and fits inside all of my purses. It is only 8.9 inches. It gets internet, word processing and other programs, and games.

Today eee PCs are a little more expensive ($320) but have double the ram and a much larger screen. This picture is of the newer version of the eee PC.

I also take this tiny laptop to work meetings and office retreats. The battery power on mine lasts around three hours when I turn the internet signal off and 2 1/2 hours when it is on.

Sunday, January 11

Custom Framing

I really believe that custom frames are the biggest rip off out there.

If you have ever paid to get something custom framed, you know the cost is ridiculous. Stores across the board charge hundreds of dollars for framing - and that is after the common "50% off discount".

Here are my custom framing tips-

1) Don't. Instead buy a pre-made frame and purchase a custom mat that will allow your painting, diploma, etc, to fit snuggly in the frame. If you go to a place like Michael's, remember to bring a 40%-off-any-product coupon from your Sunday paper.

2) If you don't want a mat and still want a custom frame, try buying it online and doing the assembly yourself. You can save big bucks.

Saturday, January 10

Rebates: To do or not to do

I was recently asked if I thought rebates were worth the hassle.

Here is my opinion- if you have forgotten to redeem rebates more than twice in your life, I would advise against rebates. Business Week had an article back in 2005 that claimed only 60% of rebates were redeemed. That is, of course, why companies love them.

If you are organized rebates are definitely worth it. Now days some companies such as Walgreen's and Rite Aid make rebates easier to redeem by allowing you to submit a claim online using your receipt. This makes sending away for your money much easier and allows you to track your rebate check online.

When I need to snail mail a rebate form I always make copies of everything before I seal the envelope and keep the copies on my desk until I receive the check. This way I don't forget about it and can call the processing center in case my check never arrives.

Friday, January 9

You Paid WHAT for your Wedding Dress?!

For those who want the perfect dress for the perfect day, no matter the price, knock yourself out. For those who want a great dress without spending thousands of dollars for something you'll wear once, read on!

Three great places to find a deal on your wedding dress:

1. Filene's Basement- Filene's has a Running of the Brides event that travels the country every summer. This is a great chance to get last year's styles for a super discounted price. Bring friends and get there early.

2. Find a local consignment shop (such as I do! I do! in Maryland) that sells used dresses at super discounted prices.

3. Go to craigslist and buy a used dress straight from the seller. Maybe you'll get lucky and won't even need alterations on the used dress!

Notice I did not include 'family hierloom' on this list. No offense to our parents but really? Lace from the neck to the wrist? Keep your mom's taste in mind when deciding if you should keep your dress for your daughter to wear in 30 years from now.

After the wedding, wash the dress in your bathtub with soap, rinse it off, let it airdry, and then sell it on craiglist for what you paid for it. I used the craigslist method and earned $50 from my wedding dress (it was a good deal for the buyer as she didn't need alternations and I did!).

Thursday, January 8

Cheap Ways to Get to Dulles and BWI Airports

For those needing to get to Dulles Airport for the holidays, save yourself the cab fair and take the 5A from L'Enfant Plaza or Rosslyn Metro to Dulles. This express service is only $3 each way. The bus comes every 30-50 minutes. Go to to plan your trip. If you get back too late the bus will stop running so check the bus schedule before booking your flight.

For those needing to get to BWI, take metro to Union Station and buy a MARC train ticket to the Baltimore Airport Station for $12. There are free shuttles to the airport terminals.

Safe Travels & Bon Voyage!

Wednesday, January 7

Trash the Gym Membership

If you live in Washington DC, there are so many ways to get a free workout around the city that leaves no excuse for paying for gym membership. Try these alternatives:
  1. Go to your nearest metro and run up and down the escalators.
  2. Truth be told, there are plenty of super long escalators in the Washington Metro System. Stop standing on them and start walking up them to burn the calories.
  3. Buy a bike and use it! DC and the surrounding areas have incredible bike trails. Save a ton of money by biking to work (my bike ride from Rosslyn to Farragut West area is only 20 minutes). Or else just bike on weekends on the trails around town.
  4. Want an arm workout too? Declare yourself the official water cooler replacer at work and make friends at the same time.

Tuesday, January 6

Free CVS Extra Bucks!

CVS has an online advisory panel to give them tips about their policies and products throughout the year. As a thank you for taking part in some of these surveys, you will be rewarded with free extra bucks ranging from $5-$15. Click here to become a CVS Advisor.

Remember, once you have extra bucks, only spend them on products that give you the same amount of extra bucks back. This will lead to many free products throughout the year! Just watch out for the expiration dates.

Monday, January 5

"This is Nordstrom's, My Dear"

So the holidays are over and you have gifts you love... and gifts you don't.

If you are thinking of returning gifts when you don't have the receipt, make sure you know the store's return policy.

For example, if your receipt-less gift is from Target or Macys, don't waste your gas- you're fu*ked.

If it's from Nordstrom's, be prepared to get cash back (upon request).

Sunday, January 4

Trash Diving!

First to clarify from the title- there is no actual diving involved here. I did engage somewhat with actual trash diving in my college days (it was worth it- I went to Georgetown-- good expensive trash) but now days it's more like trash walking. As you know, I live in an apartment complex where people throw away really nice furniture and electronics all the time. The two places I look for such items are 1) the outside trash area where people place such items in front of the trash bins and 2) in the recycling/trash rooms on each floor.

My husband and I keep some of the things we find and sell other items on craigslist. The 27 inch bedroom television we use is a 2005 Sony that we found in the trash (so we sold our 2003 bedroom television for $100), and my beautiful Ethan Allen desk is from our trash area. We've taken in, cleaned up and sold other items including carpets, bed frames, lamps, desks, etc.

The best part isn't even the money that we're making- it's that we're helping the environment and helping someone get something they need at a discounted price.

Saturday, January 3

Marry in Financial Harmony

I cannot stress how important it is to marry someone who agrees with your financial values and priorities. If you are very careful about how you spend money and marry someone who loves to shop we're looking at many fights and years of frustration.

At the same time it's healthy to marry someone not quite as frugal as you may be. Instead of getting frustrated the two people can learn from each other. One can learn the value of saving, compound interest, and delayed gratification and the other can learn to have more fun and relax a little when it comes to money.

There are degrees of saving and spending so I would never recommend an extreme saver to marry an extreme spender. Money is one of the main reasons for divorce!

If you are on the same page financially, it will also make it much easier to share bank accounts and credit cards, if you are so inclined!

Friday, January 2

Save on your Energy Bills with a Small Investment

If you live in a house or apartment where you need to pay for your energy bills, it makes sense to purchase a programmable thermostat. These nifty devices allow you to set the thermostat so that your house is automatically set 8 degrees cooler/warmer (depending on the season) during working hours. This feature can save you hundreds of dollars a year while helping the environment.

If you decide to purchase a programmable thermostat at a place like Home Depot, make your purchase through your account so you can receive 6% of your purchase back in cash!

Thursday, January 1


I was at my friend's the other day when she sat down to pay a few credit card bills. I watched in disbelief as she took out her check book and stamps!

We are in our 20s. We are internet savvy. There is no reason any of us should be paying our bills with checks and $.42 stamps- unless you are trying to keep USPS alive and well out of principle.

Credit cards all have autopay features. All of my credit credit payments are automatically deducted in full from my bank account the last day it is due. This means that I am able to collect interest on my money until the last possible second and all I need to do is make sure I remember to transfer enough funds from money market accounts (ie paypal or emigrant direct) back to my bank account in time for the autopay deduction.

To set up autopay on your credit cards, go to your credit card website and link your account to your bank. Then call the credit card company to tell them you want to pay in full via autopay each month and they may send you paperwork to sign and send back in. This can take a month but it's worth it in the long run.

Also, if you are still getting credit card statements in the mail, tell your company you only want to receive electronic statements- you'll help the environment and I received a $5 statement credit as a thank you after my first year of receiving only online statements from Citibank.