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

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 22nd February 2016

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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The Broke Grad’s Guide to Thriving in the Real World

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 23rd March 2015

Email this guest post to your new grad.

Graduating college is an exciting moment, right? Maybe not.

Total student debt has topped $1 trillion this year and the average college graduate owes more than $33,000 in outstanding payments upon commencement. So, it’s understandable why young adults are filled with more fear than joy about earning their diploma and entering the real world. While finding a good job is paramount, learning how to budget and discovering ways to save on everyday expenses offers the best chance to surviving life after college.

If you or a recent grad in your life faces this same scenario, consider these top money moves for making the switch from college to real life manageable.

Optimize your repayments. Get a handle on what you owe by reviewing all your accounts. If you find you’re struggling or falling behind, get help before it’s too late. Making late student loan payments (or missing them altogether) will negatively impact your credit score which can take years to rebuild. For help, check the Student Debt Repayment Assistant from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can often negotiate a repayment schedule that fits your budget or even get your loan payments deferred.

Lower your rental costs. You may be eager to live on your own, but roommates offer a significant financial relief for rental costs. The more roommates you have, the cheaper your total living expenses will be. Keep in mind that location matters, too. The closer you live to the city center, the more expensive rent will be, so look for a place located further from the hot spot of town. To avoid broker fees, use sites like Craigslist and Apartable.com for no-fee listings.

Join a credit union. Credit unions offer the same services as regional and national banks but typically have less fees and lower loan rates. Credit unions also typically pay higher savings yields and are more sympathetic toward struggling borrowers. To find a credit union that suits your needs, review this list.

Search for coupons before you pay for anything. Whether you need new shoes, food for your pooch or an oil change, search for coupons before pay. Free mobile tools like the Coupon Sherpa mobile app make this task easy, offering savings for our half a million physical locations in the U.S. You can also use your phone to compare prices with the Pricegrabber barcode-scanning app or earn rewards while you shop with Shopkick.

Get savvy in the kitchen. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner will seriously drain your paycheck and leave you with just enough to cover basic living expenses. Get in the habit of preparing lunch and cooking meals for yourself. Cook one large meal like this Roast Chicken to give yourself plenty of options throughout the week, including chicken salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes.

Live without cable and prepay your cellphone. Cutting the cord on pricey cable bills is easier to do these days thanks to free online video streaming services like Hulu that hook right up to your TV. For more programming and newer release options, check out Hulu Plus and Netflix for just $8 per month — a cheap bill when split among roommates. You can also hook up an indoor HDTV antenna to get more channels than basic cable with no monthly bills. When it comes to your cellphone, consider switching to no-contract, prepaid wireless services to avoid hidden fees and punitive charges. This way, you pay for what you use and nothing more.

Become a second-hand shopper. A wise man once told me that no one will know the shirt you’re wearing was bought at the Salvation Army. This is a great principal to live by considering buying used can reduce your total spending by up to 90 percent. Whether you need professional clothes, kitchen goods or furniture for your new apartment, search gently-used options at garage sales, local consignment stores, speciality sites like RecycleYourFashions.com and thredUp.com or more mainstream sites like eBay. Don’t forget, this is a great time to sell clothing and other goods you no longer use for funds towards a future purchase.

Get a side hustle. At this point, maximizing your cash flow will help you pay down debt faster. Take on an extra gig after hours like waitressing, bartending or freelancing. Or consider doing other people’s “to-dos” via TaskRabbit, where you can peruse tasks in your area and submit offers for such activities as grocery shopping, dog walking and even photography. If TaskRabbit is not available in your area, check the “gigs” section on Craigslist for options ranging from labor to writing to creative.

Build your credit wisely. Opening a new line of credit may seem counterintuitive while paying down school debt, but building a healthy credit score now will ensure you receive the best rates on future mortgages, insurance and other expenses. To help manage your credit card wisely, treat it like a debit card and only charge transactions for which you have the cash to cover. Pay off the balance in full each month so interest doesn’t overwhelm any rewards. For help finding the right credit card with low APR, consult Nerd Wallet’s list of the best credit cards for 2015.

Save for the future. It’s tough to think about retirement when you have student-related debts to pay. However, if your employer offers a 401k match plan, turning it down is like leaving money on the table. Even if you can only match the percentage they’re contributing, you’re doing your future self a financial solid. Most experts agree that young people have a distinct advantage over everyone else when it comes to saving for the future: time. Don’t waste yours!

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc., who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

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September Is National Coupon Month

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 18th August 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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Entertainment Book

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 15th May 2014

It has been a long time since the Frugal Diva toted around the Entertainment Book. I had lost touch with the great savings that could be had by buying a membership. Everything from dining to car washes to hotels are available at a discount. The best news is that they have moved into the digital age with a user friendly app.  If you are traveling to the East Coast, receive the 2014 book now for only $5 and they will send your 2015 Greater New York City & North Jersey Entertainment® Book next year for $5 off the retail price with free shipping. PLUS, as an Annual Renewal Member, you get early access to great member benefits!

Families especially love the Entertainment Book , not only do they have many kid friendly restaurants, they also have tickets to a variety of attractions, fun activities like bowling, theater tickets, and exercise classes just to name a few.  With summer vacation coming up this is an especially good time to take advantage of the coupons for a day of paintball and a pizza for dinner afterwards. Or treat Mom to a spa day while the kids sign up for Brazilian Jujitsu.

Disclaimer: I received a free activation code in order to research this article.

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Super Bowl Savings Tips

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 16th January 2013

When did the Super Bowl become a national holiday?  It seems like you must be either attending a party or throwing a party to not be considered a total social reject. Here are some great ideas for savings.

Super Bowl tips from coupon site BeFrugal.com founder Jon Lal:

If you are throwing a party:

o Use an online service like Eventrbrite for free invitations & tickets.

o Go with a potluck style party – where attendees each bring a dish – to reduce the expense of throwing a party.

o Purchase supplies like decorations and paper plates in advance. Plan ahead and buy them online from a store like Party City, Target, Walmart, CVS or Walgreens so you can double dip your savings by using a promo code plus earn cash back! For any last minute party needs, check a weekly ad online before heading to the store so you know what is on sale, and don’t forget to use a grocery coupon.

· When purchasing game day gear and buying a new TV, be sure to make your purchase online so you can use a promo code plus earn cash back. If you are using BeFrugal’s CouponomaticTM browser add-on, there’s no need to search for a promo code. When you reach the checkout stage at 3000+ online stores a drop down list of coupon codes will magically appear to help you save.

If you want to travel to the big game:

o Use an online tool to see what’s the best transit method. The free Fly or Drive calculator compares the time, cost and carbon emissions to get from one area to another.

o Book online so you can get immediate savings from using a promo code plus get cash back (a portion of your spending) deposited in a free account for you).

o Book early as prices will increase as the date gets closer (with the exception of very last minute travel).

o Accrue rewards or points for free membership of travel companies. It only takes a minute and signing up is free with most travel providers.

o If you are 50+, ask about a senior discount when you book travel. Some senior discounts are offered for folks as young as 50. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

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A Pantry Makeover: Get Healthy, Save Money

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 21st August 2012

Clean Out Your Pantry, for Better Health and Savings!

This is a guest post from the folks at Vita Cost who help you get healthy and save money with a Pantry Makeover.

Toppled bottles, expired cans, scattered remnants of a bag of rice that fell on its side. We’ve all been there. After months of hurried meal making, rummaging kids and intentions to eat well falling by wayside—your pantry is a mess. You’ve got stuff you’ll never use, stuff that’s stale and stuff you may not even be able to identify.

Cleaning out food cabinets every once in awhile isn’t just necessary for sanity’s sake, or to keep bugs at bay. It’s also a great way to get back on track with healthy eating habits—and to shave a little off your family’s food bill. Staying organized helps prevent waste, which can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Roll up your sleeves, slide the trash can close to the door and follow these simple steps for a budget-friendly, healthy pantry makeover:

Clear the Way
First, remove everything from your pantry shelves. Glance at labels as you do, and toss anything that’s expired or has a funky smell. Divide what’s left into two piles: things you know you’ll use in the (near) future and things you’re pretty sure you won’t. Chances are if it’s been stacked in the back since last Thanksgiving, you should get rid of it. Donate these items to a food pantry or soup kitchen.

Make It Shine
Skip the harsh (and expensive!) cleaning solutions. Make your own wood-shelf cleaner by filling a spray bottle with ½ cup water, ½ cup vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Add six drops of essential oil for scent, if you’d like. Shake well, spray shelves and wipe with a soft cloth until clean.

Makeover Time!
Before you start lining up spice jars and arranging cereal boxes by height—stop. Take a good look at what your family is eating. Are smiling cartoon characters dancing on your cracker boxes? Do you have enough canned soup to survive a month-long power outage?

Start weeding out unhealthy staples and snacks, replacing them with whole, unprocessed foods that actually nourish rather than harm health. For example, trade white rice for brown; vegetable oil for olive or canola; processed peanut butter for natural. Avoid anything with “hydrogenated” on the label, and always buy fresh and frozen over canned.

While healthier foods can be more expensive, you’ll find great discounts at online health food retailers such as Vitacost.com. You can also buy in bulk, watch for sales, use coupons and sign up for emails from (or “like” the Facebook page of) your favorite natural food brands, which may offer exclusive deals for subscribers and fans.

Get Organized
Ever open a snack package, stick it back in the cabinet and forget it exists until it’s no longer edible? Of course you have. The best way to avoid food waste is to keep things well sealed, clearly labeled and easily accessible. Buy a variety of large glass jars or canisters and BPA-free plastic storage containers, and label them with permanent marker or decorative tags. When you buy something—say, a bag of whole wheat flour—dump it in, seal the container and place it with similar items on the shelf.

Once you’re used to labeling foods, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to start. Just like your entire pantry makeover—stop putting it off, you’ll feel fantastic when it’s done!

This article has been provided by the folks at Vitacost.com. Vitacost.com has been selling discount vitamins since 1994. Since then it’s grown into one of the biggest online marketplaces for healthy living essentials-with vitamins and supplements being just one of their many helpful categories! Get the best price on vitamins, nutritional supplements, health foods and diet products. Want to read about chia seeds benefits or just want some green cleaning tips Vitacost is the place for you. Vitacost.com’s customers mean the world to them, and it’s their goal to provide you with the best nutritional supplements, natural foods and sports nutrition to help with your health and wellness. Vitacost.com is not affiliated with this blog, and isn’t responsible for content outside of this article.

By: +Rebecca Chopin writer for Vitacost.com

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Finding the Best Back to School Clothing Deals!

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 15th August 2012

Today we have a guest post from Jason DeCosta who writes about shopping and parenting.

Although the beginning of the academic school year can prove an unwelcome jostling to most kid’s peace of mind, parents relish in the back to school sales. Adding to the laundry list of necessary items for back to school season – books, pens, and folders – many parents scramble to locate the best deals on back to school clothes for their kids. This article will outline some general strategies to employ alongside some specific stores to frequent in order to locate the most affordable, highest quality back to school clothes.

Mailing Lists
Identifying one’s favorite clothing store and subscribing to that store’s mailing list might be the most prudent way to capitalize on back to school clothing deals. Sometimes the choice of store is almost chosen for parents because only certain stores carry, say, the right uniform or in vogue pair of jeans. At any rate, mailing lists can usually be found both online and in stores. The beauty of being on a mailing list is that you have a good chance of becoming the first parent on the block to be informed on back to school deals on clothes, school accessories, and backpacks.

As an adjunct to traditional mailing lists, parents might opt to look online or in stores for coupons on children’s clothes. Although quite similar to online mailing lists, coupons found online can apply to individual items and alert parents beforehand to upcoming sales. There are some helpful websites out there – like Coupons.com – that cater to just this kind of parental need. One would simply go on a site like Coupons.com, enter one’s location and favorite stores, and voila: instant savings on back to school clothes. Another effective strategy, perhaps less planned and more desperate than subscribing to a mailing list, is to enter the name of one’s favorite store alongside keywords like “savings” or “coupons” into a search engine and see what materializes. This is really a wildcard option but the payoff can be tremendous!

Free Shipping?

Most vendors savor this time of the year because it affords them the opportunity to generate revenue while moving clearance items. That said, the best deals can often be found online! Online retailers, like Target.com or Walmart.com, and broad purveyors of back to school merchandise, like Amazon.com, often provide free shipping on already discounted back to school items as further incentive to shop with them. Especially as regards the three sites in the last sentence, parents can actually do all of their back to school shopping – including clothes and school supplies – from an omnibus online retailer while paying zero dollars in shipping!

Search Engine Shopping!
Search engines like google.com are not only places to squander time researching. In fact, sites like google are increasingly being used to pinpoint the best deals on apparel. From the main menu of top of the google homepage, parents would be wise to select shopping, enter the piece of clothing that they need most for their kids, or perhaps the items that their kids need most from their parents, and then filter the results by price. Oftentimes there can be a disparity of double the cost of the item, say a girl’s top or boy’s Converse shoes, between items of identical make and quality! As an added bonus many of the yielded items will be free shipping!

This article has investigated the ways in which parents can save the most time, money, and energy while purchasing back to school clothes for their kids. All of the listed options have included some online component. Actually all parents interested in saving money on back to school clothes should explore online shopping options. With perks like free shipping and optimized searching, why not?

Jason DeCosta writes about shopping, parenting & finding the most affordable dental insurance quotes.

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6 Super Secrets for Saving on School Supplies

Posted by The Frugal Diva on 13th August 2012

Today we have a guest post from Melissa Collarson
When it’s time for the kids to go back to school, moms feel the big hit on the pocketbook with all the school clothes, supplies, and accessories for that first day back. Even though spending money is great for our economy, there needs to be some kind of budget and way to save on all those expensive items you have to purchase to go back to school. Below are 6 great secrets for saving some money on school supplies and accessories.

School Lists
Most schools give your child a list of things they need to get. Parents often go out and buy plenty of school supplies while they are on sale before they get this list which can actually cost you more money. Wait for your child’s list to come out and stick to only buying what’s on the list and nothing more. If you buy ahead of time, you may buy things your child won’t even need. You can find some really cool deals for “hip” school supplies at dollar and thrift stores.

New Clothes
Kids consider new clothes a part of their school supplies. Kids don’t need a new wardrobe just because schools in session. Your kid’s clothes didn’t disappear from a month ago and they can wear what they have been wearing those first days back to school. If your child needs a new pair of shoes or jeans, get those things as opposed to things they probably don’t need yet. Winter will be just around the corner and you will be buying new clothes then. Save now, buy later.

Take advantage of the back to school sales you see. If your kids go through a bunch of wide ruled paper, get it when you see it on sale. Crayons, notebooks, backpacks and lunch boxes will go on sale plenty of places before school starts for just about nothing and that’s the time to get out and get them. Don’t buy things on sale your child doesn’t normally use just because it’s on sale.

Last Years Supplies
Go through all the supplies you bought last year and see if you have things that are still usable. Rulers, a good calculator, binders that never got used and file folders are all things you won’t have to buy if you still have plenty. Save where you can save.

No Tax Weekend
Some states offer a weekend that you don’t pay taxes on any type of school supplies, clothing, computers and more. Take advantage of this tax free weekend so you can save a lot of money. If your child is going to college and you need to buy tons of dorm supplies and a laptop, the savings can be amazing just not paying a tax.

New Look
Let your child use some of their old things but pizzazz them up with a new look! What about that book bag that’s not so bad but could use some changing up or the book covers and lunchbox? Let your child get out some glitter and stickers and decorate them up to personalize them with their name or school mascot symbols. It’s a unique way to make things look great and have it very personal to your child.

Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be as expensive as it seems to be. Use a few of these smart tips above and save lots of money when going back to school.

Melissa Collarson writes about finance, parenting & finance finding cheap dental insurance.

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