Tag Archives: dollar store

30 Day Discount Detox

1 Nov

…a title so good I bought the domain name. I must say I probably buy more domain names than anything else and it can get to be an expensive habit. The $12.17 total I got while checking out at GoDaddy didn’t sit well with me. That combined with my rent check due today and the chance of a poorly timed automatic debit for some bill I’ve forgotten about could put my account in the red. If I see another overdraft fee on my BofA account I will flip. It costs money to have money (service fees) and even more to not have it (overdraft fees and credit card interest). I’ve been really good about that this year so I’ll stop before my blood pressure gets too high.

So in the spirit of my new financial diet I, according to the rules I’ve set for myself, had to find a discount online. There was no way in hell I was going to let my first purchase get the best of me. Found a promo code, which took about 90 seconds, and saved 49%. Well done. Just about anything you search online, if followed by “promo code”, in the search box will give you dozens of codes, most of which will actually work. There is never any reason to pay full price for anything online.

1) Bills, utilities, prescriptions and subscriptions that I’ve already been paying consistently will continue at their current price, any discount I manage to get on those is a bonus.

2) Dollar or 99¢ store items can be purchased at current prices.

3) No restaurant meals unless purchased with a Groupon or Living Social coupon, it’s happy hour or someone else is buying.

4) Everything else must be purchased using coupons, promotions, 2-for-1 type deals, news paper ad specials, rebates or some other form of discount.

5) All discounts must be documented with receipts or photos.

And I’ll be posting my purchases at the end of everyday.

Now I must say, I am a bit apprehensive. None of my favorite fast food places have coupons that I know of and I dont know if I can go 30 days without a Chipotle burrito. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen eggs for sale. Does Trader Joe’s even have sales? Are there discounts in the produce section at all? This is going to be interesting.

At the moment I have a serving of frozen pasta, 2 pieces of Naan from TJ’s and 3 packs of Ramen. It’s going to be a long 30 days…

The best places to buy awesome stuff at great prices.

31 Oct

Food: Smart & Final has a surprisingly good selection of just about any food; name brands as well as some smaller regional companies that have equally high quality products but just not enough pull to mass distribute. I found some great frozen ravioli in the freezer section and when I add a bit of pepper, garlic and olive oil it tasted fairly close to what I spent $16 on just 3 nights ago at Buona Vita. This $6.99 item gives me 5-7 portions, that’s a dollar per meal, and if I’m feeling guilty I add fresh mushrooms, tomatoes or spinach on top.

Name brand cleaning supplies and toiletries: The Dollar or 99¢ store. These places get a lot of “rejects” of whatever comes out on the assembly line. All that means is it’s not up to the brands high aesthetic standards or insanely critical taste tests so they place it on the shelves anywhere where these minor flaws won’t affect the buyers willingness to actually purchase it. I doubt an oddly faded logo or bar code slightly askew will ever keep me from buying something.

Medication: I’ve been getting medication monthly from Costco without a membership card.  They probably order so much for their current customers that there’s plenty to go around and it’s an excellent way to get perspective customers in the door. Just say you are going to the pharmacy and they will let you through.

Watches: Ross. That cheesy watch display across the aisle right as you walk in is actually full of some really cool stuff. They also have great men’s & women’s fragrances (most designer or well known brands), some decent bathroom decor items and really good quality luggage for dirt cheap.

Casual clothes: The used or vintage clothing store. Here in LA it’s American Vintage, Popkiller and That’s a Wrap, all awesome local gems. In the film industry wardrobe is purchased in excess for background actors and in very specific styles and sizes for the main characters of major studio films and TV shows. Either way when shooting is over typically these items are returned (if it’s low budget, and the tag hasn’t been removed), cast members will take the clothes home (if the producers are in a giving mood), they get put back on the rack for future productions (if the studio is saving money) or it will be sold to a used clothing store. The quality of the garments are usually good to start and some of them are even one-of-a-kind pieces made specifically for one scene or character so you don’t have to worry about seeing 10 people wearing your jeans while enjoying an afternoon in Hollywood. Obviously outside of LA you won’t get that in particular but if it’s vintage it’s probably cooler than what you paid double for last time you went to the mall.

Produce: Farmers markets are the obvious choice. Buying from these small time vendors supports the local economy and the growers are average people who grow food without hormones and pesticides (typically, but do ask if you happen to care). The second choice: produce markets. These storefronts sell fruit, nuts, berries and other agricultural items exclusively. Culturally specific markets, like Hispanic or Asian markets that aren’t big chains are also a great choice. And community gardens…okay, okay at this point you’ve probably gotten the sense that I am much more than just money conscious. I’m also environmentally, ecologically and health conscious. I recycle, use energy saving bulbs, don’t cook with butter or processed salt and am aware of where my stuff is made. I’m not hugely active in this way of life but these are a few habits that I’ve adopted along the way that have had a positive affect on my life. So anyway…community gardens. You put x number of hours in per week or month and you get x number of squash, apples, avocados or whatever happens to be in season. Yes this is time out of your busy schedule but it is a great way to meet your neighbors, find a girlfriend if you want her to see you as sensitive, nurturing and good with your hands or get your kids out of the house more without spending so much of your hard earned cash. Something happens to a person when they are fed literally through the fruits of their labor. It’s a drastically different connection with your food. And heck, all of these taste infinitely better than what you will buy at any grocery store.

Collectables: Estate sales. Buying rare stuff on eBay is convenient but you are also bidding against dozens, if not hundreds, of other people. And in the end the price is determined by a frenzy of competitiveness and a rabid need to consume. Conversely, driving the long way through a neighborhood on your way to wherever you spend your Saturdays can often result in a gentle negotiation with a very pleasant middle aged lady or gentleman. And this is a great place to find gifts for the old grannies and fogies in your life. Don’t know what to get grandma? Some other old lady’s crystal pitcher you bought for 20$ will suffice. She’s happy and so is your wallet.

Home decor: At World Market overstocked shelves and merchandise spilling into the aisles is expected and adds a bit of authenticity to the whole experience. This place is a cross between Pier 1, IKEA and the bizarre in your favorite non-western country. The stuff they sell looks unique but is made in a factory like anything else mass produced and you put a lot of the larger pieces together yourself, so…well…just be forewarned.

Anything in the kitchen: I love Sur la Table but this is NOT the place to buy anything for your kitchen if you are on a budget. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything in there that was for sale. It’s in my top 3 favorite stores to shop in which is exactly why I don’t go. It’s like a museum for cool and useful stuff that makes other deliciously edible stuff. But they are not known for their reasonable prices. Try a restaurant supply store, especially in a Japanese or Chinese populated area. Not the commercialized “Chinatown” but someplace a bit more suburban where the food is more authentic. Here in LA that place is Monterey park. I lived there for 3 years and let’s face it, tons of our stuff is made in these countries so it’s logical that these places would have the least mark up. Items are a dime a dozen but actually pretty good quality.

Mac products: The Mac store. Yes, I said it. The Mac store is the best place to get discounted Mac items. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it myself but it surprises me that many people don’t know about refurbished units. These are products that were either returned right after being purchased but had to be sent back for repackaging or testing, or were defective in some way that was easily corrected. The units undergo the same testing as a brand new product, are checked for cosmetic issues, have anything that needs to be replaced, replaced and put on sale at 20-50% off, typically hidden somewhere on the manufacturers site. Type in the name brand, “refurbished” and the type of product you’re looking for. The first result should be a link to the refurbished section of the online store. Remember when you actually go to buy the products that it is in fact the manufacturers site you are buying the product from. Refurnished items are sold in a lot of places but only the manufacturers site will guarantee full warranty of the product, extensive inspection to the manufacturers standards and overall quality control.

These are off the top of my head and since I don’t shop much I’ll have to do a bit of research the next time around. Speaking of research I am doing a 30 Day Discount Detox in November so…I’m sure I’ll get lots of material. More on that tomorrow.

-Half-Price

Hello, my name is Half-price, and I’m in debt.

7 Oct

I started this blog 3 weeks ago. My first and only entry strayed from what I had intended: speak honestly about debt, explore ways to live a healthy lifestyle without losing my shirt while working towards financial freedom and really just keep myself accountable. My first entry did all those things but was also coming from a place of negativity and complaint. Can we start over?

Hello, my name is Half-price, and I’m in debt.

I am currently $9,042.59 in debt according to Mint.com, my favorite online personal finance application. Much better than the national average: $47,568[1] of debt per capita…holy ****! So with that fact, the current state of the economy (which is actually good for some), the current unemployment rate, especially in California AND the fact that I’m only 25? I don’t feel that badly. At least much better than this guy. He is attempting to cut 100% of his $90,316 debt in ten months. But then again at least he spent it on something useful…a law degree from Harvard. Unlike mr. harvard I have no college debt. I got a full scholarship to a great 4-year University and didn’t see the need for an advanced degree for what I wanted to do. So what does my $9k of debt consist of? Three “investments” that have yet to yield much return in any sense of the word.

I’m attempting not to be bitter. After all it did gain me a great health product that will last me 15 years, contact with the producer of a major blockbuster film who calls me by cell phone and my first lesson in entrepreneurship…starting (and closing) my first business.

I’ve began cutting back on my already simple lifestyle. I have cut back on alcohol almost entirely (10% because of money, 90% because for some reason I all of a sudden have a tendency to get hangovers). Is it me or have my bank account and my liver conspired against me? My friends did warn me about the year 26 alcohol intolerance syndrome. I started shopping at the dollar store for basic toiletries. What would have cost me $35 at the grocery store was only $8 at the 99cent store. The only name brand item I bought was Colgate toothpaste (I’m typically a Crest person but I wasn’t going to be picky). The 99cent liquid detergent, foaming hand soap and body wash haven’t made me feel any less clean than normal…not once.

What is the stigma around debt? Where does it come from? Chances are we are ALL in it. A couple weeks ago I attended a talk given by Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics. He kept coming back to the story of how money began in this small village however long ago where instead of the traditional gift society model the mayor decided to introduce a currency made of round pieces of animal hide. He distributed 10 pieces to each family at the beginning of the year and said “at the end of the year each family will owe me 11 pieces”. Now this makes sense when compared to modern day money. We borrow $500k to buy a house and by the time we pay it back we’ve probably paid back double the amount that we initially borrowed, at least. This is very interesting, by the end of the year ten families would have to go bankrupt. Why? because where would that 11th piece for each family come from? So in actuality debt has been in existence almost exactly as long as currency itself.

It used to be that families would have a trade or a crop and they would produce way too much for themselves to consume so they gave away what was left…which was actually a lot. And if everyone in the town was producing and giving away a portion of what they had then everyone would get enough of what they needed: food, clothes, basic services, everything.

If you think about it some of the “poorest” people in America are not in fact the poorest. Why? because they have no debt! They live paycheck to paycheck? Yes. Get help from the government? Maybe. Are homeless and/or jobless? Some of them. But there are doctors, lawyers even Fortune 500 CEOs that are up to their ears in debt. THESE are in fact the poorest people in our society. So then “poor” is not a measurement of how much money you have in the bank (or under the mattress, or in the coffee can in the cupboard or in the safe behind the family portrait) but “poor” is a measurement of assets, relationships, borrowing power and class. Interesting.

I wasn’t exactly expecting to come to that conclusion…in fact I’ve never even seen the word “poor” from that angle. I’m thankful for the change in perspective.

Buy what you need, create what you want.
-Half-price

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[1] When the news is scaring US citizens with “$47k of debt per capita” they fail to mention to the public that this number actually refers to public debt. That’s what the government owes per capita. Personal, private or “consumer” debt, how much actual individuals, not companies, or any level of government owes is actually between $7-20k depending on your sources.