Smart SpendingSmart Spending

You don't need your own garden in order to get fresh food.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 2:20AM

Seattle is loaded with blackberry vines. The sight of all that free fruit makes me want to forage each summer. My arms get so thorn-raked it looks like I’ve tried to exorcise a cat, but I fill the freezer, make jam, and eat blackberries almost every day for weeks.

On my way to pick berries one end-of-summer day, I saw a dark-purple blob in the dust. A plum had fallen from a tree in a nearby yard. I broke open the windfall and took a tentative nibble from its golden interior. Sweet as the memory of first love.

Peeking through the fence, I could see the tree was loaded. I asked the homeowners if I could trade them a jar of jam for the fruit I’d need to make some. They told me to help myself: "We’re glad someone wants it."


You might be surprised where you can find bargain goods.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 2:15AM

Want to get a roll of paper towels for 39 cents? Hit the auto supply store. Shocked at how expensive canned fruit has gotten? The drugstore might have an alternative. In the market for deeply discounted coffee, trash bags or toilet paper? Visit an office supply place.

These are some examples of the deals you can get if you stop thinking that foodstuffs and sundries can be purchased only in supermarkets. With the costs of basic foods continuing to rise, it really can pay to break out of the grocery gulag. 

Yesterday I noticed long-grain rice on sale for $1.13 a pound at a local supermarket; the dollar store across the street sells 2 pounds for $1. Condensed soup is 99 cents and up at the grocery store, but I've gotten three cans for a buck on sale at Rite Aid. Five pounds of sugar costs $3.49 at Safeway but was $1.99 this week at Walgreens.


How long can you make that flattened toothpaste tube last?

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 2:09AM

A Smart Spending message board reader reports that "empty" doesn't always mean "empty." Posting on a thread about general frugality tips, "Canoes" told about cutting open a depleted tube of lotion and scraping out up to an extra week's worth of product.

Boy, am I glad I'm not the only one who does this. 


Focus on 'experiences' rather than unwanted items.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 2:03AM

This post comes from Abigail Perry, who blogs at I Pick Up Pennies

The holidays mean joy and giving -- and garbage. 

This isn't social commentary on commercialism -- I literally mean garbage. Think about the post-Christmas morning battlefield that was once your living-room floor: ripped, shredded wrapping paper and ribbon and toy boxes, waiting to be thrown in the trash. 

Add to that all those "they meant well" gifts, and you have, well, waste. Household garbage levels increase 25 percent in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to this MSNBC article


Resist the temptation to hit a drive-through.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:59AM

School's back in session and retailers are trying to sell us items like breakfast cookies and individual bowls of cereal. Convenient, maybe, but also fairly pricey -- and would you really trust a 7-year-old with a bowl of cereal and milk in a moving car? 

Besides, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for all ages. Over on the Smart Spending message board, some readers offer grownup strategies beyond granola bites and fast-food drive-throughs. 


Your time might be more valuable than your money.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:52AM

The less you earn, the more you’re likely to give away. People who earn $20,000 or less per year donate more (relative to their income) than higher earners. 

Or so Arthur Brooks reports in his book about American benevolence, "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism."

Charity appears to benefit the givers as well. An article from the Christian Science Monitor noted that “greater charity tends to push up income."


Here's an idea: Split lunch duty with a co-worker.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:45AM

Get tired of bringing your lunch every day? Smart Spending message board reader "toucan77" has a solution: Split lunch duty with someone else.

This reader and a co-worker take alternate days bringing in lunch for two. According to toucan77's suggestion, posted on a thread about general frugality, this takes almost no extra work and it provides several very nice benefits. 

Just as having an exercise buddy gets you to the gym on time, having a lunch partner keeps participants away from the Dollar Menu -- you wouldn't leave the other person high and dry by not bringing lunch, would you?


Reader nixed phone fee 10 years ago and is now $600 richer.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:41AM

Recently, a Smart Spending message board reader posted a plaintively titled thread, "Can anyone list all of the proven ways of saving money? Not about cups of coffee or restaurants." 

If anyone could do that, he'd publish it in book form and retire early, and rich. Besides, cutting back on restaurant meals and coffee away from home are proven ways of saving money. And small changes can mean big savings, noted a reader posting as "Great Arm."

In her case, $600 worth and counting. 



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