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When to Splurge & What to Save Money on for Your Pets

Posted by The Frugal Diva on September 19th, 2014

Today we have a guest post from Jeffrey O’Brien who blogs about food and entertainment. When he is not writing about the latest and greatest, he is hiking or fishing in Howard County, Iowa.

Americans have a love affair with their pets. So much so that in 2011 they were willing to drop over $50 billion on pet needs. Almost two-thirds of the spending was on basics: food and medical bills. Services for pets made up almost $4 billion of the splurging. The other third went to toys, accessories, and beds. Why not let them sleep on your comfy mattress from Sleepys.com instead of spending money on their own. As both families and their pets get older, this particular service segment is expected to grow in 2012, increasing spending overall.

The spending begs the question how much is enough? There are plenty of areas for saving, but some make more sense than others.

Potential Savings

Training is a big service cost that many pet owners will pay just to get some peace of mind. That puppy or kitten is so cute when it first comes home, but six months later when the $10,000 couch is destroyed, it’s another story. Because we tend to be a convenience society, we want quick solutions. So we pay people to train us to care for our pets. With a bit of studying and researching, many owners can learn what’s needed to self-train. That alone saves $25 to $50 an hour for training sessions at a minimum (private lessons reach $100 an hour).

Toys are a cheap, addicting expense, especially if an owner takes his pet with him to the pet store, which many now allow. Keep in mind, dogs especially and cats will stick their nose in everything new; it doesn’t mean they want that toy! But we think they do, so we buy them. Savings are easy here; buy the cheapest toy possible. If it squeaks and rolls, good enough, doggy or kitty will be more than happy with something new. They don’t care if it came from the 99 cent bin either.

Cleaning supplies in the form of cat litter and puppy pads are necessities which add up over time. The big box stores tend to have the best discount deals for bulk purchasing, allowing a pet owner to save up to 30 or 40 percent on retail cost. They also have good pricing on dog chew toys, pet beds, and bulk pet food. Alternatively, a pet owner can save further money on his dog or cat by letting them sleep on his own mattresses or floors rather than a distinct pet bed.

Pet daycare has become a hit service for pet owners, but it costs a pretty penny. If you like to see your dog running around with other dogs, find a dog park in your area. Dog parks are popping up as cities are finding they are good resources for spending tax dollars on recreation. Dog parks are far cheaper to use, your dog is happy as can be, and most parks tend to be free to use.

Potential Splurging

Yes, there’s a lot of cheap pet food out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best, healthy option for the ol’ pooch. For a long, healthy life in a pet, the best food mixes tend to be a better path. A bit more in food spending could save hundreds or thousands in vet bills later on in the pet’s life. Cheaper foods tend to include a significant amount of filler material that is eventually unhealthy. More expensive brands tend to have direct, organic food components which digest far better.

When working with a vet, the right pet care is essential. With a serious condition, trying to go cheap could permanently disable a pet or worse when treating a condition. However, directly paying vet bills can be expensive. For example, an eye scratch in a dog with surgery and drugs can run upwards of $2,500. So consider pet insurance to lessen the financial hit. Still pay for good care, but with an insurance plan you can offset some of the bigger hits at least partially. In some cases, the insurance can cover as much as 40 or 50 percent of treatment cost.

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Pet Insurance and Matters of the Heart

Posted by The Frugal Diva on September 18th, 2014

Insurance is a gambler’s game. You and the insurance company are playing the odds. You can be sure, the game is rigged in favor of the insurance companies. When it comes to health insurance, the deck is stacked against you. There is no way most people can afford to risk the possibility they will suffer a chronic illness or catastrophic accident that will be financially devastating. So health insurance is pretty much a necessity. Automobile insurance is required as is homeowner’s insurance if you have a mortgage. Life insurance is the biggest gamble of all, and the only way you win is by dying.

Now, it is possible to buy health insurance for your pets. Of course, the standard concerns apply. Does it pay? You have to ask yourself some pertinent questions:

  • How much is the monthly premium, and how does it change over time and with respect to the age of your pet when you start the coverage? How does it change if you use the policy especially if you end up with a chronically ill pet?
  • Can the policy ever be cancelled by the insurance company because you have used it too often?
  • Are there limitations on the amount of the payments and acceptable fees? Does it take into account where you live? A specific operation might cost $1,000 in a big city and $600 in a smaller community. The insurance company might only allow $400 and pay only 80% of that.
  • What is the deductible and how does it affect your premiums?
  • What is covered and, more importantly, what is not covered?
  • How long has the company been in business, and what is their track record?
  • What does your vet think about the different companies and pet insurance in general?

In the end, it comes down to one thing. What will you do if your pet comes down with a chronic illness or has a serious accident? If you think you could let your pet go, you might be wrong. Faced with the prospect of losing your companion, you might not be able to do that. You might find yourself spending the thousands of dollars it will take to care for the loving creature that keeps you company and accepts you for who you are, warts and all.

That is the big question and, ultimately, the one that matters the most. If you are certain you would do whatever was necessary to take care of your pet, then insurance is probably a very good idea. If you are absolutely sure you would not and have had the experience that allows you to know this is true, insurance may be a waste of money.

Here is a suggestion. Sit on your couch and call your pets. While they are busy wagging tails, snuggling up and purring, make your decision. If your heart melts, and you can’t imagine life without them, pick up the phone and start to learn everything you can, so you can make the best decision. Otherwise, take a look at the numbers and make your decision based on the cold, hard facts. Regardless of why you choose to take out a policy, if you do, remember to read the fine print.

Guest post by Nancy Richardson who writes for Key Insurance Quotes.com and has four dogs and two cats. They were all rescues that didn’t even make it to a shelter. They were street rescues, and she loves them all.

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The Eyes Have It

Posted by The Frugal Diva on August 19th, 2014

The process of purchasing glasses seems to be an inevitable daunting task, as prescription eyewear can have shoppers forking over hundreds of dollars.

With no overhead charges, such as rent for a brick-and-mortar store or licensing fees for designer frames, online glasses websites are alleviating customers’ fears (and pockets) by providing affordable, high quality eyewear options.

First here are the tips to “what you need to know before purchasing gasses online”:

1.       Get your prescription (RX) from a doctor or eye care professional

a.       Please note that in the USA it is federal law that a prescription must be given to you at the conclusion of an eye examination.

b.      A prescription provides 39DollarGlasses.com with your doctor’s recommendation for clear and comfortable vision. The numbers on your prescription tell 39DollarGlasses.com how strong the glasses need to be.

c.       For more information on perscriptions visit 39DollarGlasses prescription information.

2.       Measure your Pupillary Distance (PD)

a.       Your pupillary distance, or PD, is the distance between the centers of your pupils in millimeters (mm). This measurement is necessary to ensure the correct positioning of your lenses within the frame you have chosen.

b.      Steps to measure PD:

i.      Place a millimeter ruler on the bridge of your nose.

ii.      Have a friend face you about arms length away.

iii.      Have your friend measure the distance between the center of your pupils (the black dots in the middle of your eyes).

iv.      Or you can do it yourself simply by looking in the mirror. If you need your glasses on to do this, you can draw dots on the lenses where your pupils are (using a magic marker or highlighter); then take the glasses off and measure the distance between them.

3.       Review websites’ warranty policies

a.       39DollarGlasses.com offers a 100% Worry-Free Guarantee (certain lenses excluded*).

b.      For more information please visit 39DollarGlasses Warranty Page.

This is an array of sites. The Frugal Diva does not wear glasses (except sunglasses when she needs to travel incognito) so please let me know if you have any preferences among the following options.

39DollarGlasses.com

39DollarGlasses.com is a leading online optical store that offers quality prescription eyewear at great affordable prices (prices range from $39 – $150). Since 2000, the company has sold prescription glasses and sunglasses, reading glasses, bifocals, progressives, and sunglasses to men, women and children all over the world. With high quality materials, a knowledgeable customer service team, and a quick turnaround time, 39DollarGlasses makes it easy to get great eyewear at an amazingly low price. Also, every pair of lenses is custom crafted in the company’s world-class facilities in Long Island, New York. For more information, please visit: www.39dollarglasses.com.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is an vintage-inspired prescription eyeglasses e-tailer (prices range from $95 – $350). By circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, and offering at Home Try-On Program, Warby Parker was able to provide high-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear to online shoppers. For more information, please visit: www.warbyparker.com.

Coastal.com

Coastal.com is an online retailer of eyewear products (prices range from $69 – $200).  Established in 2000, the Coastal.com family of brands offers an extensive, in stock selection of prescription eyewear, contact lenses and sunglasses. Coastal.com’s vision is to make the eyeglasses shopping process simple.  For more information, please visit www.coastal.com.

Mezzmer.com

Mezzmer.com offers a wide variety of eyeglasses, sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses online (prices range from $69 – $120). Tracking the latest style trends, Mezzmer products are of designer quality and appearance, without compromising on the style or quality aspect. For more information, please visit www.mezzmer.com.

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Shopping Tips For The Fall

Posted by The Frugal Diva on August 19th, 2014

The Frugal Diva wants to share a great guide for fall shopping tips.  Check out what is most cost effective for October.  Who knew that wine was a good buy in early fall. I like this guide because it not only tells you what is a good buy, it tells you why. Let me know if your experience bears this out.

FreeShipping.org’s “Best Time to Buy Guide”

Fall Highlights:

Air Conditioners
The price of air conditioners rise and lower with the temperature. Most old air conditioners expire when the temperature goes up which creates a high demand in the summer months.

If an air conditioner is a must buy right now, then begin looking for discounts today on last years models. If you have a unit that can make it through another season, then the best option is to wait until stores are clearing their inventory at the end of the summer. As temperatures cool the prices will drop and you can find great deals to keep you cool next year.

You can save money on the purchase of a new air conditioner by having your current system serviced. Early in the season is the best time to find deals on service for your air conditioner. In the heating and air conditioning business, the summer months are the most profitable. Many companies will offer discounts on air conditioner service before the heat arrives to stay busy.

Best time to buy an air conditioner: October
Best time to have your air conditioner services: February

Big Appliances
The new models for large appliances roll out in September and October, so stores will be working to make room by discounting previous models.  Some stores will keep older inventory in stock through the holiday months and then reduce what ever is left at the beginning of the new year.

During the rest of the year look for holiday sales around Memorial Day and Independence Day.

Best time to buy big appliances: October and January

Cars
New model year vehicles are typically introduced in late summer. The end of a model year can be a great time to get bargains on a recommended model as dealerships are making room for new models. Vehicles remaining on the lot at the end of the model year are considered to be “leftovers”. They have been on the lot the longest and can generally be negotiated for considerable savings.

The end of the month can be a good time to buy a car also as many dealerships establish monthly quotas and salespeople may be willing to take much less than asking price in order to make a sale to earn their bonus. The best way to save on end of the month purchases is to walk onto the dealership with a good idea of what you want to buy. Some salespeople may try pressuring you into making decisions about a car you are not prepared to buy if you don’t know what you are looking for.

Throughout the year, manufacturers offer rebates, incentives and cheap financing which often coincide with a holiday, long weekend, or special promotion. Sales incentives can be worth investigating to see how much money you can save.

Best time to buy a car: October, and end of the month

Gas Grills
Gas grills are in high demand during the summer and prices rise to match the demand. This makes Fall and Winter the best time to buy a new grill. Companies like Home Depot and Walmart will cut prices on summer grills when winter merchandise arrives.

Best time to buy gas grills: October

Jeans
There’s a double bonus if you buy new jeans in October: You miss back-to-school crowds and can take advantage of clearance sales scheduled before holiday shopping season. You’ll also have less of an audience to squiggle into new jeans if the store has one of those communal dressing rooms.

Best time to buy jeans: October

Toys
Early winter is the best time to begin your wish list if toys are what you want for Christmas. Retailers will be trying to maximize holiday sales by reducing prices and pushing sales as early as October. Your chances of finding cheaper games and puzzles are especially good during this time.

If you simply can’t wait to buy toys but you still would like to find a bargain, then August will be the best time to look for discounts. With holiday shopping on the horizon, retailers will be reducing prices on current stock to make room for the seasons hottest toys. Retailers will be willing to let items go at huge discounts in order to make room to stock newer items.

Best time to buy toys: October and November

Wine
The best selection of wines will be available after fall harvest. The latest vintages are released by most vineyards at this time. This is also the best time to find good buys on “cult wines”.

Many wine retailers are trying to keep a low inventory in these uncertain times and are marking down prices to sell off overstock. There are great deals being offered on wines of all quality so today may be the best day to buy your next bottle of wine.

Best time to buy wine: Early Fall (though with the earthquake in Napa this might not be true in the coming months).

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September Is National Coupon Month

Posted by The Frugal Diva on August 18th, 2014

Ironic, coincidence, or  just the inevitable star crossed event – September is National Coupon Month and the month The Frugal Diva was born.   How appropriate that my birthday falls in the month for celebrating savings.  Coupon usage continues to rise and as a nation we are very interested in keeping more of our hard earned paychecks.  When economists tell us to spend more they never tell us where to get the money.  For those who are not trust fund babies, lottery winners, or living off the grid, coupons and budgeting help keep us ahead of higher prices and able to maintain our lifestyles.

While they put up this site in 2013, all the rules still apply.  The I Love Coupons site is right in sync with the our philosophy for strategizing  coupon savings.  And the most important rule is number 4 – if you don’t need it, don’t buy it!  The most expensive item you own is one you never use.  Even if it was half off  with a 30%  discount, there is no point to buying an item that will sit in your closet, stay in your pantry, or be relegated to your garage.  Check them out every day this month for everything you ever wanted to know about coupons and more.

There are others out there helping you save and Daily Finance has some great tips. Before you shop, hit up my two favorites Coupon Cabin and Coupon Sherpa.

On September 6th this year I will be in Los Angeles enjoying brunch, some pampering, and being ever so grateful for my relationship with The Frugal Dude.

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Student Savings

Posted by The Frugal Diva on August 17th, 2014

Gift Card Granny has 81 student discounts savings.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 19-million students enrolled in higher education institutions across the country. Whether you’re gearing up for your first day on campus or are counting the days until graduation, make sure to take advantage of your status as a student while it lasts.

Besides the prize of a degree or just learning something, students get to partake in many savings around town and around the Internet. Here are some other ways to save as you pay your way through school.

JourneyEd.com has all the best software and fantastic prices for those enrolled at a degree giving institution.  They will need verification of your student status and then you are free to roam this site for Microsoft, Adobe, and some good deals on hardware.

Before you start the school week in Los Angeles, take a break with the Laemmle Sunday Night Student deal.  For all shows that start after 6pm on Sundays, Students with ID are $7 and  popcorn is $1 for the small size.

Amtrak will help you get home for the holidays with a student discount.

Yapta.com will make sure that plane ticket is the cheapest even after purchase. Track prices for free.

Get the the Student Advantage Card, the nation’s largest student discount program, giving students access to thousands of discount locations across the country, near your campus and online. Get a full year of savings for only $20.

Stores and restaurants near your campus have plentiful discounts and coupons for students.  Remind them you are a struggling student who needs every break they can get.

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Made in the USA – Food

Posted by The Frugal Diva on July 23rd, 2014

Do you want pickles that have traveled halfway around the world? Why send a fish from across the ocean when we have two coasts and numerous lakes?  Do you need out of season fruit picked thousands of miles away? If there is one time you want to shop local it’s where nutrients are concerned.  Shelf life shouldn’t be into the next millennium for food.

What I like about Annie’s Organics is that there really is an Annie.  Annie lives on her certified organic farm in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters, where she grows a wide variety of vegetables and flowers for her local co-op and farmer’s market.  She remains the inspiration and corporate conscience for the Annie’s family of products. Her products are a twofer – organic and grown in the USA.

Lundberg Family Farms has been producing rice in California since 1937. They have branched out into other rice products such as chips, rice cakes, and rice flour however most of their products are still organic and sustainably farmed plus they participate in the Non-GMO Project.

For the best local fruits and vegetables try the farmer’s markets. My only problem was figuring out where and when.  This site solved all my problems. LocalHarvest.org has all the markets nationwide so you can keep up with any changes, find out what’s fresh that day, and plan your weekly produce shopping.

Let me know your favorite local provisions and they will be added to this ever growing list.

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Made In The USA – Stuff

Posted by The Frugal Diva on July 22nd, 2014

There is still stuff being made in America. Let’s give them our support.

Burt’s Bees natural, earth-friendly personal care products are made in the US. They not only make great products, they try to package them with a view towards sustainability.

In California, we love Dr. Bonner’s products since they are organic and smell delicious.

Buy organic teething clothes manufactured here in L. A. by my friend Sasha Taylor for her company Bodhi Babies.

Your pet should also buy American with these Amish pet supplies. They are great accents for a craftsman style home.

While we are shopping for Fido, let’s get him some fresh food at Freshpet Natural Pet Food.

We started these sports so lets support American made gloves for baseball, softball, and football. The Nokona Athletic Goods business plan has historically emphasized buying raw materials in the United States, while employing highly skilled leather crafters from the small town of Nocona, Texas, who assemble each glove by hand from more than 20 individual pieces of leather.

Let’s add to this list. Send me more companies that you know about!

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Made In the USA – Clothing

Posted by The Frugal Diva on July 21st, 2014

The Frugal Diva likes to emphasize the positive. Let’s concentrate on how we can shop American.

American Apparel clothing at great prices is manufactured right here in downtown Los Angeles employing 5000 workers. Let’s support this local business and their efforts at not only manufacturing in the USA but keeping it sustainable, donating to local schools, giving their employees ESL classes, access to health care, benefits, and encouraging workers to bike or bus to work. While teens are the target market, there are plentiful items for kids that include organic and natural play dough, organic cotton clothes, and fun hair accessories. Even if they are mocked on Sex and the City (a bit dated reference),  a scrunchie keeps hair out of your eyes and off your neck while working out. Dov get your act together! Check out a store near you.

C and C California is super trendy, super comfy, and made here.  Great sales page!

Let’s not forget the gentlemen. Ebbets.com has all manners of throwback sports attire and some are even on sale.

The Made in America Foundation champions manufacturing in the USA and has great resources for finding companies.

Let me know about your favorite made in the USA clothing, accessories, and shoes. I’ll be happy to add them to the list.

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Johnson & Johnson Coupons

Posted by The Frugal Diva on June 24th, 2014

These savings come with an added bonus – support in the fight against bullying. Hats off to Johnson & Johnson for supporting this great cause.

Half of all children are bullied at some point in their school years.  The statistics are even worse for LGBT youth with it rising to nearly eight out of ten.

To help combat this epidemic, Johnson & Johnson created the Care with Pride campaign to raise awareness of bullying’s negative impact on all youth - by the end of 2014 they will have donated over $500,000 to three charitable organizations that are working to fight bullying – PFLAG, Trevor Project and Family Equality Council.

This year, my savvy readers can help by simply redeeming J&J Care with Pride coupons worth $55. The coupons are available for downloading at carewithpride.com.

They can also send an additional donation by uploading a photo via the Donate a Photo app.  J&J will donate $1 for each photo uploaded, up to one photo a day, every day until the goal is reached or the donation period ends.

Take advantage of this opportunity today!

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