10 “Tax Free Weekend” Rules

1. Take a list and stick to it! Prioritize the lists for each person.

2. Stick to your clothing budget or use cash. Avoid temptations; be prepared.

3. Buy only the clothes and shoes you need. Buy the size kids are wearing now.

4. Be sure the cost per item is under $100.00. You will be taxed on items over the limit.

5. Shop the clearance racks first. Some stores will have items at 70%-80% off.

6. Buy the basic items first. Underwear and socks should be at the top of your list.

7. Buy the best quality you can afford. A good pair of jeans, not 3 cheap t-shirts.

8. Take advantage of packages that have an extra. Look for bonus packages.

9. Purchase durable styles and fabrics. Classic, not trendy.

10. Remember this is not a large discount. Your discount will be 6% or 7%.

Iowa’s Tax Free Weekend is scheduled for August 1-2, 2014.

The tax-exempt savings applies only to:

Clothing under $100
Shoes under $100

Write the date you bought your shoes on the inside.

Write the date you bought your shoes on the inside.

Black and Decker Redeems Themselves

My working title for this post was…

All of My Appliances Were Black and Decker

You notice that title was past tense. I did have Black and Decker for every appliance. What changed?

Failure to communicate.

I chose Black and Decker appliances because they had a longer warranty than the other less expensive brands. I was always pleased with their price and reliability.

Then my mixer died. I got out the warranty and read the instructions. It told me to fill out a form online at Spectrum Home Appliances.

I received a reply right away wanting to confirm the date of purchase, model number off of the end of the plug, amount of purchase, a telephone number, where I purchased it, and if I still had the receipt. I replied with all of the requirements and threw the unit and box away. (I save the original box for the duration of the warranty, see here.)

The trash went out that night and imagine my shock when I got another email telling me to cut the end of the cord off and send it to them.

Nowhere in the warranty papers, on the box, or on the website, did it say I would need to mail in the cord. So, I’m just out the price of a mixer?

Hardly.

I am sending a copy of this post to them, and if I do not get a positive response, I will  contact the Better Business Bureau.

***************

I received a reply the next day.

Thank you for contacting Spectrum Home Appliances.

We did receive approval that we can release the replacement unit to you as a one time courtesy without requirements. Please allow 7-14 business days for delivery.

If we can be of any further assistance, please contact our Consumer Service Department at 1-800-231-9786. Our hours of operation are Monday thru Friday from 8:30 A.M. to 7:00 P.M.,EST. Alternatively, you may e-mail us at homeappliancessupport@spectrumbrands.com, or go to http://www.prodprotect.com and fill out a contact form. A representative will be happy to assist you.

Consumer Support Team
Spectrum Home Appliances
A division of Spectrum Brands, Inc.
www.spectrumbrands.com

Well, they redeemed themselves!

Through this experience I learned to hang on to the broken appliance until the warranty is honored and a replacement arrives. Yes, I keep all warranties, you can see my filing system here.

My Replacement Black and Decker MIxer

My Replacement Black and Decker MIxer

You need a 2-Speed Fan and a 2-Speed Motor When You Add AC

It was 1988. My son and I had just been diagnosed with asthma. I already suffered from allergies and it was strongly recommended that we get central air to keep the pollen out.

We had a small income tax return, so I went to my favorite plumber, the plumber we used at work, and a plumber who attended school with my husband. The third plumber’s bid was half price of the other two.

Now our memory gets fuzzy. I say we chose the last one because my husband wanted to help out a classmate. He says we chose the last one because I was so cheap.

Frugal is being smart. Cheap is taking the cheapest bid.

It was a mistake. A week after the central air was installed the motor burned up. The classmate installed a different motor and that was the last we heard from him.

Then the nightmare began. It just wouldn’t cool. Our favorite plumber tried every test and every trick, but the house was always 10 degrees warmer than the air outside.

We had our electric company do an energy audit twice during those years and still could not figure out why it didn’t work.

Finally, in desperation, we called in a friend who handled industrial heating and cooling in businesses in the area. He listened to everything we had tried over the years and ripped the thing apart.

What he found was a one speed motor that was wired to a two-speed fan. When you have central air you must have a high-speed on your fan to push the cool air up. In the winter, heat rises, so you can move air with the low-speed.

He put on a two-speed motor and IT WORKED!!!

We had three days of temperatures over 100 degrees and my house stayed consistently at 77 degrees where I set it.

Then we were sick when we realized for over two decades we had been cooling the bottom two feet of the house and since the cool air never reached the thermostat, the air ran constantly for weeks at a time.

I called my favorite plumber and reported what we found.  I am not going to see him as much now. At least not to work on the air conditioner! I also wrote a letter to the electric company with the findings in case the auditor ran into a similar situation.

It was a painful lesson to learn. It is better to wait until you can do it right than to take a bargain.

We added central air to this furnace.

We added central air to this furnace.

In Lieu of a “3 in 1 Slow Cooker”

It started out like any other potluck. I made chili, but the Crock-pot was only half full, so I added cooked macaroni and corn and ripe olives and green peppers until the Crock-pot was full. I found if it was only half full it burned around the edges. Besides, you don’t go to a potluck with a half full Crock-pot.

I was envious of my sister-in-law who received a “3 in 1 Slow Cooker” for a gift. She gets the best gifts. (I think she goes through the store and makes a list like a bride filling out a bridal registry. She always gets the latest thing, and usually, I have never heard of it.)

Back to the “3 in 1 Slow Cooker” – it was hard enough controlling my envy the year she received it; but it got worse each year because it came to every family dinner after that. She always had the right size bowl for whatever she wanted to bring – usually “Little Smokies” wrapped in bacon.

At the beginning of the summer I started making many meals in the Crock-pot instead of heating up the house. I decided I was going to buy myself a “3 in 1 Slow Cooker” and justify it by the savings on the air conditioner.

Then I saw the price.

I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I wrote down the measurements of the two Crock-pots I already own. One was 4 quart and the other was a 1 quart. All I needed was a 2 quart Crock-pot for the recipes that were smaller in volume.

I went online and found one for $10.00. That was much easier for me to spend than the $50.00 to $70.00 on the “3 in 1 Slow Cooker”.

I  used all three Crock-pots for one family dinner in July. We had three hot dishes and the house did not get heated up.

The moral of this story is to look at what you already have and buy only what you need.

As for my sister-in-law – I give up, she will always be more trendy than me!

These are my three Crock-pots!

Smart Couple

We had a substitute drummer for a few months this summer and I would really like to get to know his parents.

Why?

Because he is driving the vehicle that his parents drove him home from the hospital in when he was born.

Many people change vehicles every few years, or when they pay off the vehicles they are using right now. I heard one couple say, “You are always going to have a car payment, why not let it be on a new vehicle.”

I have two problems with that statement:

  1. You do not have to always have a car payment. You can pay off your car and make those payments to yourself. Then when you are ready to get a different vehicle, you not only have a car to trade in, but also cash for a large down payment. If you continue to use this strategy, you will get to the point that you can pay cash for a vehicle.
  2. I would never buy a new car. A car depreciates the most in the first three years. I always buy a car that is over three years old and let someone else take the hit. Another bonus is, if there is a dangerous defect in any vehicle, hopefully it will be found during that time.

*******

Keeping vehicles for years is a family trait on my father’s side. My uncle purchased a large car in which his children learned to drive. Later, I learned to drive in the same car out in a dusty field on their farm.

Fast forward a few decades and my then 12-year-old son wanted to help cousin Danny on his farm. Guess what car he learned to drive in…yep, the same green monster in which I learned!

********

Another farmer told me the secret to longevity in vehicles is in the fluids. He said to keep the oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, etc. topped out. He also advocated timely oil changes. He drove a van until it was close to 200,000 miles. A friend acquired it from them drove it a few years more.

We own a 1995 truck. Our mechanic son replaced most of the guts of it: engine, transmission, alternator, etc. We put several new parts on it and had it painted, see here.

When we bought it, I told my husband I wanted to keep it until our youngest graduated from high school. Since the heart of it has been replaced, we decided to keep it until our granddaughter can drive it!

********

Below is a picture of Eric our substitute drummer. I got that smile out of him when I asked about his girlfriend. (Sorry ladies, he’s taken.)

He apologized for not washing it before we took the photo. Then he said, “There’s a little rust on it, but who cares, it’s paid for.”

Smart drummer!

Drummer Eric standing by the car he drives in which his parents brought him home from the hospital as an infant.

Drummer Eric standing by the car he drives, in which his parents brought him home from the hospital when he was born.

 

(Note: Whenever you see a word in blue, it is hyperlinked to another article, resource, or more information. Click on it and it will take you to there.)

Saving at Kids Ball Games

Baseball and Softball are in full swing! You can spend a lot of money on food, drinks, clothes and equipment. Here are some tips and tricks I have learned over the last fourteen years of having kids playing ball.

Food –

  1. Bring it from home. Pack several snack bags with non-perishable snacks. Raw veggies, fruit, pretzels, crackers and nuts make good healthy snacks. Kids like cookies and hard candies. If you pack perishable items use a cooler and have plenty of ice. Keep the cooler closed and in the shade.
  2. Sunflower Seeds. I buy a large package and put one-half a cup into snack size baggies. I think he could do with one-fourth a cup, but my husband wanted me to use one-half a cup. (He probably gets into them too!)
  3. Bubblegum. Another “must have item”. Buy the large bag at a discount store and just take what you need in snack size bags for the game.
  4. Just the Entrée. Pack your own drinks and chips and purchase just a hot dog or hamburger. This is a good alternative when you are at a tournament all day long.
  5. Plan to Eat Out. Or eat a picnic lunch and plan to stop at a local restaurant after the tournament. It will give you a good meal and a place to cool off.

Drinks –

  1. Water. I fill bottles with water run through a Brita or “Pur” pitcher. I freeze a couple of bottles when my son is scheduled to play at a tournament.
  2. Gatorade. You can buy canisters of powdered Gatorade and mix it up yourself. It is much cheaper than purchasing bottles at the store and exponentially cheaper than buying it at the concession stand. It also freezes well for a tournament.
  3. Coffee. It is not always hot at games. Sometimes it is freezing! Bring a thermos of coffee, or hot chocolate for the kids, and cups.

Special Note – Umpires are sometimes given a bottle or two of water or Gatorade. Some ball parks will even give them food. If you know the rules of the game and are willing to spend the day or part of the day at the ball field you will be kept busy. It is best if you umpire games your child is not playing in, at least behind the plate. You will need to start with the younger kids and work your way up.

Concessions Stands – Sales from the concessions stand helps keep the cost down for the individual teams. Many stands will have a bucket or pass a bucket for donations. I prefer to bring my own food and make a donation when I see the bucket.

Clothes –

  1. Pants – My son wears 32″  x 34″ pants. When his uniform was given to him the pants were too short. I let the hem down and sewed black elastic strips to the bottom of each leg. The elastic can go over his socks or over his shoes. It keeps the pants down to a respectable length. If the pants are too long you can roll the legs up inside them a couple of times. The elastic will hold them in place. If the waist is too big you can either tighten the belt or sew two darts in the back to make the waist smaller. If the waist is too small, ask for another pair. The legs would be too tight and would restrict movement.
  2. Socks – At the end of the season, baseball socks will go on clearance. I used to buy one of each color in his size for the next year. If your child is selected to play on the all-star team, you never know what color they will choose.
  3. Shoes – Do not buy used shoes. They are broken in to conform to the first wearers feet. I start looking for baseball shoes between Christmas and Easter. The shoe stores are trying to get rid of last years models before this years models arrive. We have used  final-score.com (a division of eastbay.com) and baseballsavings.com.
  4. Unisex clothing – Baseball pants are the same as softball pants. Baseball socks are the same as softball socks. Under-armor for the cold games are the same. (They do wear different types of sliding shorts.) Save the unisex clothing for your other children.

Equipment –

  1. “Play It Again Sports,” playitagainsports.com, is my favorite because not only can you buy equipment, you can sell the equipment your child has outgrown.
  2. Garage Sales and “Resale” shops are another place to find used ball equipment.
  3. Gifts – Ball equipment makes great birthday or Christmas presents.
  4. Budget – When your child is old enough to earn their own money you can give them an amount to buy, say a glove, and if they want a more expensive model have them pay the difference. They seem to take better care of their equipment when some of their hard-earned cash went into the purchase.
  5. Storage –  Clean the dirt and sweat off of bats, balls, catchers equipment and allow them to air dry. Wash gloves with saddle soap, wipe off excess, put a baseball or softball inside it and place a rubber band around it.

Park Proactively – You don’t want to park too close to the field. Many a foul ball has cracked a windshield.

Gas for the “Away” Games –

  1. Gaspricewatch.com. You can zoom in on the map to any city and it will show you the gas prices at the stations there. You can compare them with the stations at your destination and the towns in between. You may save if you wait to fill up at your destination.
  2. Take the team – give kids a ride and ask their parents to chip in a buck or two for gas. Make sure at least one other parent rides with you for crowd control. It will make the trip more pleasant and you will be able to concentrate on your driving.
  3. Leave early – you don’t want to make up time on the road by speeding.
  4. Combine errands – If you have an older child that has to ride the bus to and from the game you can use this tip. We do not have an Aldis grocery store in our town. When our son is playing in a town with an Aldis we go an hour early and stock up on non-perishable items. The money we save can cover the gas. (I don’t recommend this if you have a van full of ten-year olds!)

Umpires – It’s a part-time job!

  1. Umpires for the Babe Ruth Leagues are paid – You need to go to baberuthleagues.org for details.
  2. Money and Time –  You will need to take a class, take a test, pay yearly dues and purchase special clothes and equipment.
  3. Physical condition – This is for the serious athletic dad or mom. You will need to be able to squat for hours at a time and take cold, high heat and humidity.
  4. Strong Marriage – Your spouse will be alone for most of May and June.
  5. Wisdom of Solomon – Every play is viewed through the lens of how it affects their team. You will have to know the book of rules to back your call.
  6. Be a Diplomat – You will be tempted and tried to the nth degree of your patience by parents, fans and sometimes coaches or players. You have to be able to keep your cool while retaining your authority.
  7. Need a Bookkeeper – The money paid for umpiring must be reported on your income tax. You can deduct dues, mileage, equipment and clothes you buy for yourself. You must keep good records and have receipts to support all of your deductions.
  8. High Pain Tolerance – You will get hit by the ball. You will get bruised and run into from time to time by players. Avoid the bat at all costs!
  9. Allergies? Forget it. – Part of your job is to sweep home plate to keep it visible to the pitcher. It will be hot, humid, and windy most of the time.
  10. 20/20 Vision and Thick Skin. – You will be accused of blindness at least once a game. If you do not have 20/20 vision then you will need to see the eye doctor every year. Having an accurate glasses prescription is a must.
  11. Love Kids – Baseball and softball are for the kids. Parents, coaches, and fans forget that sometimes in their quest to win games. Part of your job is to make sure the kids play safely. Their shoes need to stay tied, shirts tucked in, no jewelry and they need to slide correctly to prevent injury.  You also have to watch for behavior that would injure another player.
  12. Understand the Weather – The umpire calls the game when storms threaten. If someone sees lightning, the game is called to protect the kids. You don’t want kids playing when it is too cold to control the ball. You need to watch for heat stroke and heat exhaustion during hot weather…especially the catcher who is wearing all of that protective gear.
  13. Make it Fun – You will need a sense of humor. Enjoy your time on the field. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be there. Remember these kids will only be here for a couple of years.

My kids are grown; but I couldn’t resist posting a picture of college boy when his team won the championship for the 10-12 Year Olds.

Saving at Kid’s Ball Games


A Tale of Two Purses

My first job was working in a waterbed store next to a shoe repair shop. It was a family business and the son would help us out after work setting up waterbeds for our customers.

Normally, you do not get fashion advice from a shoe repair shop, but they told me if I bought a leather purse, that had a cloth lining, I could use it for years. They said they could repair any part of it that broke.

I thought of their advice when I bought a purse a few weeks ago…and ignored it. Yes, it was man-made materials, but the color was perfect and it was so cute!

It broke 11 days after I bought it.

I chose it because it was the backpack style and I had one of that style several years ago. After a few shopping trips, coming home with a sore shoulder, I decided I needed to go back to that style.

The plastic zipper on my purse doesn’t always close and I knew it was just a matter of time before it broke completely. Besides, I don’t have the best posture and I believe it will help in that area, too.

After the rivet broke, I dug out my old backpack purse. It still looked fine. No wonder…it’s leather with a cloth lining! It has to be 15 years old! I am not even sure why I stopped using it.

This weekend, we went to University of Iowa Hospital to visit a man injured in a motorcycle accident. I remembered when my dad was in the same unit. I rolled up a tee-shirt, undies, a few toiletries, and that purse doubled as an overnight bag.

We went shopping at the mall and ran into some old friends. As we stood and talked for an hour, my shoulders didn’t complain at all. The weight of my purse was evenly distributed between them. We returned the new purse.

Frugal people do not make a purchase, they make an investment. Cheap items are neither an investment or frugal.

My 15 year old leather purse and my 15 day old man made material purse...with a broken rivet.

My 15-year-old leather purse and my 15 day old man-made material purse…with a broken rivet.

Logo Contest!

Last week I was reading a post from “blogging101” and realized I have never made a logo for my blog. I am not artistic and I decided to have a contest and let the artists in the blogging community help me out.

I want a fish, facing left, with the word “frugal” inside. Or the word “frugal” in the shape of a fish.

Any takers?

Oh…the prize?

I will give you credit under the logo.

I doubt I will have many responses because we want money, not credit!

Yet, that is exactly what many stores do. When you return an item, they give you credit to be used only at their store. They are keeping our money and we let them get away with it!

Sometimes, they just say you cannot return an item…even when that is not the store policy!

My point is…we need to check the return policy at any store before we make a purchase.

After all, it’s our money!

 

Twitter – @frugalfishorg

Facebook – Frugal Fish

 

My Shopping Gene is Broken

It has never happened before…I went away for the weekend…went shopping…and came home with nothing.

I used to be an expert shopper. I remember going to one retreat with $5.00 and coming home with a swimming suit from a clearance rack. I wore the belt from the suit as a scarf on the second day.

I really tried. We went to all the stores from Von Maur to Wal-Mart! I tried things on, but didn’t buy anything.

My sister-in-law was with me and she found all sorts of things.

What happened?

I blame missussmartypants.com. She taught me to ask several questions before I purchased an item.

  1. Do I love it?
  2. Does it flatter my figure?
  3. Do I have three other items in my closet I can wear with it?
  4. Do I need it?
  5. Do I really have a place to wear it?

Obviously, I don’t need a prom dress! But I also don’t need those earrings that look so heavy they would be uncomfortable…or that hat that was a little too big…or that blouse in the right style, but wrong color!

I didn’t just settle. It wasn’t even about the cost. Why spend $3.00 on something I will send to Goodwill in the next year anyway.

Oddly enough, the last time I found something that was perfect was at Goodwill. It was a red jacket that was the right size, color, something I will wear often, and the price tags were still on it. I wore it to the retreat. In fact, my sister-in-law kept referring to me as “the lady in the red jacket.”

What’s my point?

I had fun last weekend…without retail therapy.

My sister-in-law guarding the men's room at Ladies Retreat. Don't judge...you all have done it!

My sister-in-law guarding the men’s room at Ladies Retreat. Don’t judge…you all have done it!

Resume Paper Rip-Off

This is week 8 of unemployment.

My husband was looking for ways to stand out in the pile of applicants. He decided to buy heavier paper…resume paper, on which to print his resume. We live in a small town and the only place to get it was Wal-Mart.

I picked up a package of white, 24 lb “resume paper” that cost $8.97 for 100 sheets. My husband said, “No.” He didn’t think it was worth the money.

I started to walk out of the aisle and noticed various reams of paper. There was a ream of white, 24 lb paper for $5.97. That was five times the number of sheets for a little over half price.

It didn’t have a “watermark,” but he managed a lumberyard not a publishing company. It is still heavier and will stand out. We bought it. Sometimes, all you are paying for is a fancy package.

Same paper...different packages.

Same paper…different packages.