Archive | May, 2012

Why You Shouldn’t Pass Up a Free Sample

29 May

Growing up, I always loved getting free samples. I mean, who doesn’t?

In the past year, however, I have really started to pay attention to whenever a free sample is available online. Various blogging sites, and even some company websites such as Target or Walmart make it incredibly easy to get free samples. Nowadays I very rarely pass up a free sample for many reasons.

Why I Always Try to Get Free Samples

There are many reasons I always try to get free samples. Some of these include:

  • Many items are travel-sized, perfect for either short trips or carry-on luggage if you’re flying. Considering that you can buy shampoo in the store for a low price, having to pay $1-$2 for something that is travel-sized is a huge mark-up.
  • If I just ran out of something that I haven’t gotten to shop for yet, it’s great to have the free sample available. It’s more cost-efficient than just running out to the closest store and buying whatever is available. In fact, I’ve been thankful to have free samples of soap, tooth paste and coffee for when I hadn’t had the chance to shop in awhile.
  • It allows me to try it before I buy it. For example, I would have never purchased Burt’s Bees lip balm before because it’s on the more expensive side. However, after receiving a free sample from them, I am a believer. The lip balm works so much more efficiently than the cheaper brands that I only need to use it on occasion, making it last a long time. (I have noticed that many of the cheaper brands have drying agents as part of their formulas.)

How to Find Free Samples

  • Follow some popular frugal websites, such as Money Saving Mom, in order to know when a free sample is available. Another site, which also offers a newsletter, is I Love Free Things. Many of these frugal bloggers will post something as soon as they know a deal is available. Generally, the sooner you know about the item, the better—many companies offer limited quantities and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
  • Some bigger companies, such as Target or Walmart, have pages dedicated to free samples and coupons. Once in awhile I will check on these pages for myself.
  • If you have a Facebook account, you can easily “like” or “subscribe” to certain pages, especially to larger companies that often have giveaways.

How to Get Free Samples Without Being Inundated With Crap

Many people do not want to sign-up for free samples because they feel it will lead to additional spam or junk mail. While this may be true, there are specific things you can do to avoid much of this headache:

  • Create an e-mail account that is just for “junk.” Do not start signing-up for samples, giveaways, etc with your personal e-mail; slowly, but surely, you will start to notice an increase in unwanted e-mail. Make your junk e-mail account simple and free of personal details.
  • Be sure to free the fine print. You may be able to “uncheck” the boxes that sign you up to receive e-mail offers from them and other advertisers.
  • Many companies offer freebies through Facebook. In order to get these freebies, you generally have to “like” their company page. You can always unlike the company page shortly after you get your free sample. Also, many companies will ask if they can post things to your page—always read everything through carefully as you sign-up for a free sample. You can click off these items.
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When a Cheap Person Wants to Exercise…

25 May

When I was a kid, I used to be fairly active. I would play outside all summer long. Gym, like many kids, was my favorite period of the day. I would spend my entire summer playing tennis multiple times a week for hours a day. Sometimes I found myself on softball teams. Summation: Good stuff.

Then…

I got older. Why does this happen? There was no one left to play tennis with and I couldn’t get enough people interested in playing a game of softball. I found myself sitting in front of the TV more and more. I was always studying for an exam. There were no more athletic activities for this old soul.

Years go by and I am still lazy. I am thankful for the genes that have allowed me to stay on the thinner side while I continue to stuff my face. To be fair I am not as thin or toned as I was in high school but I am no where near being overweight either. Go me?

Every once in awhile I get this crazy idea in my head that I want to exercise. Yeah! I want to be in shape. I want to get rid of these love handles. I want to tone up. Of course, then you remember that you’re too cheap to join a gym and want to partake in free exercise. Maybe I need some more inspiration or maybe I want to try to figure out what I should do because I currently do nothing. Maybe that’s why I am documenting everything for you guys.

For kicks, here are my attempts (and subsequent failures) for my exercise on-the-cheap:

Jogging

One day at an old job of mine I made an astute observation—everyone who was a “runner” was a type A personality. I am not so I should have known that I would have immediately failed at this venture. Every once in a while I decide that I am, once again, going to take up running. I get the sneakers on. I get the sweatpants or other related gear on. I put the headphones in my ears. I’m off! I have an absolutely gorgeous spot to run that is right next to the water. The views are spectacular. You would think this would be nothing but inspirational.

But then again, you don’t know me.

For whatever reason, I am the queen of side stitches. No matter what I do, no matter what I try to do beforehand, I end up with side stitches. Sometimes I try to jog through them. Other times the pain is so bad that I have to stop. In fact, the last time I jogged my side stitch was so bad I think I ended up tearing something behind my rib cage! (I know they can’t do anything for rib injuries but allow them to heal so I just found myself to be in pain for two weeks.) I also have a lot of trouble breathing whilst taking a jog, so much so I need to stop at times.

Thus I have failed at one of the cheapest forms of exercise—but I am sure it will make its triumphant return one day! I mean, triumphant attempt. Yeah.

Biking

I have to say I always liked being on a bike. I used to ride a bike when I was a kid. Bikes are fun.

Except I find that I have a general hatred for people on bikes.

People on bikes seem to think they can do whatever they want. Something in their way? Sure, just dart right in front of your car. They’re coming from behind? Get out of their way. There are some seriously angry people on bikes and as a result, there are some seriously angry people in cars (read: me) who find themselves behind these bikers.

Now I have had bad knees since I was about thirteen. I did ride a bike on occasion after the age of thirteen but not very often. One day a couple of years ago I got a bike from my grandma’s basement and brought it to my apartment. “I don’t want to jog. I want to ride the bike. Much easier!”

Words of infamy, my friends.

I started off well. I biked down to that same beautiful landscape that I can run on—it has a bike path as well. At first, all seems to be going well. And then I realize it’s happening—the knee pain. I think that I can bike through it. I keep going. I get to a point not too terribly far that I realize the knee pain is overwhelming.

I can only describe this pain as someone is violently stabbing me in the knees. Repeatedly.

You see, I have found that biking must bother my knees far more than anything else because they are essentially completely bent when I am biking. Something about this really hurts the old joints. I took a breather. I sat down for a few minutes. “I’m ready to bike back,” I thought. This thought process was so successful that I ended up walking my bike halfway home.

The Result of Failed Ventures

I don’t know about you, but I foresee myself attempting to jog or bike in the near future.

The “Nicer” Vacation

22 May

I have been posting about my big camping adventure that is set for September. However, I am also in the midst of planning our October vacation.

In 2010, we embarked on a seven-night cruise. I really enjoyed it but felt as though I was done with cruising for another five or ten years. This year, however, the thought crossed my mind—cruises can be ridiculously cheap if you allow them to be, especially if you’re lucky enough to live on the coastal United States where you can leave directly from a port without having to travel to it first. Then I found myself considering an all-inclusive vacation but found the cost of flights to be prohibitively expensive. Ultimately, I decided that in October I would like to stay somewhere warm and perhaps even obtain some type of color, preferably something tan not red. Let the planning for Florida begin!

I have only flown a few times in my life and three of the four times I have flown have been to Florida. While it’s unfortunate that I won’t be going anywhere new this year, I am just happy to be able to go somewhere.

How to Try to “Cheapen” the Trip – The Beginning

The first thing I did, once I decided upon Florida, was to consider the locations I planned to visit. I knew that I did not want to be on the Gulf since that is where we traveled last time and as beautiful as it is, a beach without waves makes this girl sad. I also decided that I wasn’t interested in Northern Florida, the Orlando area or the Southern most areas of Florida. From this, I compiled a list of beaches that seemed reasonable and began my research.

After looking around online, I noticed some beaches were definitely more expensive than others. I started my search by just going through general travel sites, such as Expedia, to get a general idea of what the rates might be. This alone allowed me to narrow down my search. Other things helped me narrow down my search and that you should also consider:

  • Is there anyone nearby I want to visit?
  • Are there other activities besides keeping my body on the beach all day?
  • Is there an airport nearby?
  • Is it easy to get around?
  • Do I have to rent a car? If so, how much will it cost?

I’ve Decided on a Location – Now What?

I decided to narrow my focus to a few different areas that I was looking into — Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and anything else nearby. I looked through Expedia some more to get a general sense of the costs of different hotels. I also decided to pay attention to the following because these things can be huge additional costs that people do not take into account:

  • Do I have to pay for parking? When I do, I find this to usually be somewhere between $12-$20/day.
  • Do I have to pay for daily resort fees? These can vary greatly and depend on how many people are going on your trip. In addition to resort fees, do I have to pay additionally for beach rentals?
  • What is the difference in price between an oceanfront, a room with an ocean view and a city view?
  • Does the place include any extras — free breakfast? Discounts on activities? Credits to the room?
  • Does the place charge automatic gratuities and service fees for everything?

Don’t Forget to Look on Other Sites

Sites like Expedia, Travelocity and their various incarnations are great and all but they can be quite limiting. One of the best places I have ever stayed in was no where on any of those sites—it was a gorgeous B&B that I found on TripAdvisor. I find using a website like TripAdvisor to find places to stay is generally my best bet. Not only will you find very in-depth reviews about lodging but you will also find reviews for everything else in the vicinity. You will always find complainers but I have found that most people review things quite honestly.

Using TripAdvisor is a good place to find smaller motels and inns that might be in the area but don’t charge exorbitant rates. They are usually smaller, family-owned joints that might be right off the beach, just a block or so away, that offer the basics. Remember: You can always choose to stay at multiple places, although sometimes you will find certain places at certain times require you to stay a minimum amount of days. When we went up North for a vacation, we spent one night in a very, very nice hotel and spent the other night at a much cheaper motel.

Are You Getting Ready to Book Your Trip?

If you have decided on where you are going to go, keep these other money saving tips in mind:

  • Always check for discounts that may apply to you, such as a AAA membership. You never know—you might end up with a better deal.
  • Look around at different sites—some may offer extras, deals or even slight price variations.
  • Check to see if bundling will save you money—what would be the price difference if you booked a hotel with the flight?
  • See what the difference would be for weekday versus weekend reservations. The prices can vary a lot especially in the summer. Avoid taking trips around holidays or when big events will be taking place, such as conventions, in the area you’re interested in visiting.

Any other tips you have in mind? Feel free to share. Happy planning!

Why I Don’t Pay for Magazines (Anymore)

21 May

I used to subscribe to various magazines throughout my lifetime.

When I was a teenager, I probably subscribed to something like Seventeen or one of its relatives. When I was in my early twenties, which sounds awful considering I’m going to enter my late twenties this year, I subscribed to science magazines, such as Discover and Science News. I had entered a stage in my life, however, where I seemed to have completely stopped reading anything beyond a few hundred words. Thus, I didn’t want to find myself purchasing magazines.

Approximately a year ago I started to read blogs and decided to mostly stick to one in terms of freebies and deals called Money Saving Mom. I chose this one because it was easy to remember and because she seemed to list tons of deals via other bloggers as well. I began to notice that she even posted ways to get free magazine subscriptions as well.

If you’re looking to score some free subscriptions, keep the following in mind:

1. Beggars can’t be choosers: You will find that you cannot get every magazine for free. Some magazines will never offer free subscriptions while others only offer heavily discounted deals. Generally, I have found that very well-known magazines are more likely to offer free issues as opposed to very specific, smaller magazines. I have noticed that certain bloggers like Crystal at Money Saving Mom will post deals for these niche magazines that make a subscription substantially cheaper. Do not always expect to receive a subscription forever either—I have found that many of the issues I have received have been anywhere from 3-6 months, though they can be for up to 12 months.

2. Check on your deals regularly: If you’re following a blog or partaking in a forum, make sure to check on the deals you’re interested in regularly. Many of these free subscriptions are only available for a certain period of time or for a certain number of people.

3. Always check for terms: Generally, I have found that the frugal bloggers are pretty good about avoiding scams or things with specific terms and agreements. That being said, you should always double-check and see what you are signing up for when you find a free magazine subscription. Never provide a site with your credit card number or bank information. Generally, when a company has you do that, they will send you some issues for free and then bill you for an additional six months to a year. For all of the subscriptions I have received for free, I have never once provided anything other than my name and address.

What magazines have I received for free over the past six months?

  • Woman’s Day
  • Newsweek
  • Forbes
  • Bloomberg Business Week
  • Smart Money
  • Outdoor Life

You can easily ascertain that I’ve received quite the variety in terms of magazines!

Frugal Adventures in Camping – Making the Reservations

17 May

I am bubbling over with excitement because I have officially booked all of the days for our camping trip. Our trip will be rather long; in fact, it spans over the course of nine nights. Yes, I will be sleeping on the ground for nine nights straight and I seem to be okay with that—you know, until I reach that point where I cannot move my neck. We are actually heading to the opposite side of the state and then creeping back two hours closer but this trip will still entail a lot of driving. We will be staying at state parks for the entirety of our trip.

This is how things are looking right now:

  • Park One: 2 Nights @ $43.00
  • Park Two: 3 Nights @ $72.00
  • Park Three: 2 Nights @ $51.00
  • Park Four: 2 Nights @ $43.00

Thus, nine nights for two people will cost $209.00 or $23.22 per night. I think that’s pretty cost-effective in terms of sleeping arrangements.

Making Things Even Cheaper

If you are thinking about taking your family camping or if you plan on taking a trip with friends, you can have an even cheaper camping trip in terms of making reservations by doing the following:

1. Plan for weekdays and non-holidays: Generally, most campsites will have cheaper rates during the week and they bump up their prices for holidays and the rest of the holiday weekend. If you’re looking to save a few more dollars, this might be a good thing for you to look into.

2. The more the merrier: In my experience, campsites will allow up to six people per site. Just imagine for a second you took a trip with five of your friends—each of you would only be paying $34.83 for nine nights of rest or each person would be paying $3.87 a night to sleep. Now compare that to the cost of staying in a hotel and just be amazed at the price difference. If you’re a family staying at a hotel, you usually have to pay an extra amount for either an additional room, a bigger room, a bed with a roll-away or merely for having extra bodies. This might be a great way to save money.

3. Less park hopping means more savings: I have mentioned previously that we are making our way to four different parks. Even when making reservations at the same time, I was required to pay a transaction fee of $9.00 for every park. If I had just chosen to stay at one park I would have saved $27 dollars.

4. Location matters—sometimes: In my state, out-of-state residents are charged more than in-state residents. Thus, staying within your home state might be a cheaper option for you if it’s available. Also, do some research—is a state campsite more or less than a private campsite nearby? Evaluate the cost-benefit of the amenities that are available for your friends and/or family.

Do you have any additional tips in terms of making reservations even cheaper for your camping trip? I’d love to hear them!