Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free Stuff : Rite Aid

My next free deal resource is Rite Aid pharmacy. If you don't have a Rite Aid near you don't despair as there are other drug stores with free deal programs. Check out the coupon forum listed below which has info on Rite Aid and other stores.

If you are lucky enough to be in one of the 31 states that has a Rite Aid and have a store nearby then go every Sunday – early! This little drugstore has a good old fashion weekly circular which comes out on Sunday with many free after rebate deals. You can view it on the Rite Aid website or, even better, check out this coupon forum which posts the circular in advance so you can plan your attack. Planning is key as many items must be paired with newspaper coupons to come out free.

And I'm not talking about just some free toothpaste or junk you don't want or need. You can find great brand-name toiletries, shampoos, expensive beauty care products, over the counter medicines and more. Many of our Rite Aid freebie shopping trips adds up to around $30 a pop or more and that's just one week's worth. This can easily be a savings of $50-$120/month - times that by a year and you have some serious money worth of free products.

I love Rite Aid because they have the easiest, most organized, and dare I say, pleasant rebate programs I’ve ever encountered. All you have to do is register on their website and enter a few lines of info from your receipt online. A little postcard check comes in the mail a few weeks later. Super simple and I've never missed a check.

A few tips to remember:

  1. Stack coupons: Some free after rebate products must be stacked with the manufacturers’ coupons which you need to clip from your newspaper or get online. The Rite Aid circular will point these deals out.
  2. Move fast (literally!): You’ve now joined a secret club of sorts (well not so secret – the deals are posted all over their circular but the majority of shoppers don’t read it or care.) Every Sunday at popular Rite Aid stores is like a mini Black Friday with people-in-the-know going early and sometimes literally running through the aisles to get the good stuff before it’s snatched up. You’ll recognize the freebie Rite Aid regulars by the intense look in their eyes, clutching their flyers, and running around to find the best deals. It’s hilarious!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free Stuff : Fat Wallet

There are a lot of free websites and companies on Twitter devoted to advertising free deals which you can easily find on Google. In the next few posts of my beginners’ guide to free stuff I’ll list a few of my favorite places to find free stuff and tips on using each.

One of my favorite places to find free deals is the FatWallet free forum. If you are not familiar with this site already, FatWallet is one of the web’s premiere deal website. What makes the site special is its large and highly involved community of followers, “FatWalleters,” who constantly post, rate, and comment on deals in the site’s many forums. There are people out there who practically live on FW so there is a constant flow of new information. If you are like me and too busy to search all over the web for deals then FW is a great place to go. Let others do the work, scan for highly rated posts, and grab those deals. Not only are there great deals but it’s easy to scan by rating as well as use the forum filtering tool to filter by free deal type (totally free, free with survey, etc.)

The only problem with FW is it's so popular that good deals with limited availability often go fast – and I mean lightning fast. If there’s a killer deal on an online product it could be sold out in minutes. If the product is sold in the store you have to go quick especially if you live in a techie urban area with a lot of potential fellow FatWalleters. Another thing to look out for are store workers who are FatWalleters themselves and may hide the product till they are done with their shift. I know, it sounds paranoid but it actually happens!

Case in point, once at Staples I was looking everywhere for a $80 laptop bag which was free after rebate. The salespeople said they were sold out but I was determined and wouldn’t give up my search. Sure enough I spotted one on the very top of the 15 foot display. I politely pointed it out to the manager who acted strangely, got mad at me, and argued it wasn’t the same bag. He practically refused to help me but I stood my ground and politely insisted he get the ladder to satisfy me. He grudgingly did it and sure enough it was the bag I was looking for. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t up there on accident!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why do companies give away free stuff?

You may be wondering why companies give stuff away for free. I wondered this myself and have even felt guilty at times getting stuff for free. Before you start on you free shopping spree, it helps to have a basic understanding of the most prevalent types of free offers out there so you know what's legitimate, what to avoid, and how this game works.

Legitimate Free Offers
  1. Free Trials: Most free product offers are provided by companies to get people interested in their products or services with the hope you’ll turn into a paying customer later.
  2. Double Offers: Double offers occur when the company who owns the product and the store selling the product offer discounts at the same time which can result in the product being so heavily discounted it’s free – or better yet, if the discounts are more than the product itself you may actually get money back!
  3. I'll Scratch Your Back If You'll Scratch Mine: There are also plenty of free with purchase and other “semi-free” offers in which you need to do something, like take a survey, to get your freebie.
  4. Extra Stock: Finally, companies may offer a product free in order to get rid of extra stock. This can be the pay dirt of free stuff as these offers often are on large, expensive items.
Non-legitimate or Grey Areas
  1. Fraudulent Coupons: Fraudulent coupons are among the most serious and should be avoided. There are con artists out there that hack coupon codes, create fake coupons and post them online. You should be wary of and avoid these types of "coupons" as the last thing you want is a free ride to jail :)
  2. Data Farms: Another thing to be wary of are some of the sketchy freebie websites which entice you to sign up for free products just to get your personal info to spam you. You can find a list of websites to avoid here.
  3. Marketing Mistakes: A common grey area is the world of marketing mistakes. This is an area which you may or may not want to avoid depending on how legitimate it seems and of course your own conscience. Since it is sometimes hard to tell if an item is heavily discounted on purpose or due to a mistake, if you think it could be valid, you may want to try to get the deal and see what happens. If it is a mistake and the company knows about it, then they will simply refuse the discount. Some online companies may even send you an email apology for their mistake with a gift card so you still may legitimately get something for free!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nothing's More Frugal Than Free!

Let me tell you a little secret. For some people already in the “free club” this may be old news but for those of you new to frugal living I hope to amaze you with this little tidbit (hey I’m still amazed by it!) Get ready for the best deal of your life…a lot of stuff you never have to pay for, or that is, eventually after rebates :).

My hubby and I receive anywhere from ten to a few hundred dollars of free products every month from free sample toiletries and DVD rentals to expensive electronics – all FREE. There are a lot of resources out there to find free products – including some to avoid. This week, each day, I’ll outline my favorite tips and resources to help get you started!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Whole New World Of Grocery Savings

No matter what your background, shopping at so called "ethnic" grocers is a fabulous way to eat well on a budget while supporting local businesses. These stores are usually the best place to find low cost produce, spices, and other foods. I hardly ever shop at regular grocery store chains favoring my local Indian, Mexican, Chinese, and Middle Eastern markets for all of my staples.

In particular, you'll save serious money on items which are stereotyped as "exotic" in regular grocery stores (such as Basmati rice and Indian spices) but are staples for people from that area of the world. For example, I've seen small pouches of Basmati rice at Whole Paycheck for the cost of a 10 pound bag of it at my local Indian grocers! What's more I get a free Bollywood movie for every $20 I spend - gotta love it!

Try it. Not only will you save money on groceries but you're bound to open your world to new cuisines.

Photo Credit:

Learn To Love Craig

For those of you who snub your nose at CL and refuse to buy "used" furniture think about it. What are "priceless" antiques after all? If you are on a frugal budget but want to decorate your home in style you really should learn to love Craigslist. It can be a treasure trove of heavily discounted designer furnishings, artwork, and other high end items.

And for those who snub used furniture, take a closer look. Sometimes you can find unused items for a steal. For example, we purchased a gorgeous brand new (still wrapped in plastic!) sectional sofa for ~$1,500 off retail on CL. The seller just couldn't fit it in her new penthouse loft & it was too late for her to return it! Home stagers also use CL to sell their unused staging furniture but be wary of these ads as I've found most of the furnishings are cheap Chinese knockoffs sold for close to retail prices.

To find the best household furnishings, filter your CL search for urban and more wealthy areas. I also tend to search by brand name ("Crate Barrel" etc.) to find what I need. Also note that the "furniture" category defaults to "furniture-all" which includes lots of cheap furniture dealers which often sell junk & over post/spam. To avoid this just choose "furniture-owner" from the drop down.

Happy searching!

Don't Buy Cheap Stuff

Strange title for a blog on frugality but as I've said before, frugal is not cheap. I've found time and again that buying cheap junk ends up being a waste of money in the long run. This is especially true for "investment" buys like furniture which you plan to keep for years. I'm an avid home decorator and have learned to stay away from cheap veneer which scratches & peels easily. Instead, I invest in solid wood furnishings and purchase designer, quality pieces at bargain prices with the help of Craigslist, second hand stores, and good old clearance sales. Whether it's furnishings, clothes, a car, etc. buying quality items on a budget affords you the luxury of enjoying a fabulous lifestyle now while saving money in the long run.

Frugal Is Not Cheap

My hubby and I are often asked by friends how we afford to live so nicely with our modest means. We are a young couple, just starting our careers, and live in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the country. Yet, instead of an overload of debt, we have a pretty fabulous lifestyle - comfortable apartment, beautiful furnishings, the latest tech gadgets, new car, etc. Our friends, who know we are not making the big bucks yet, often ask how we do it.

The answer is simple. We live frugally but not cheaply. Sure, some people may think I’m cheap when I brown bag it to work everyday, but frugality and cheapness are distant cousins. Cheapness is never wanting to spend a dime on anything. Frugality is never wanting to spend a dime on anything you don’t need or really, really want. It’s about finding great deals and discounts and learning to plan and calculate your spending so that you save enough to live even more fabulously in the future.