Tips for Spending Less

If you’re like me, one of those things on the list of New Year’s resolutions was to spend less. Actually, I had already put that plan into place toward the end of last year with some nice results so the goal is really to continue that savings plan.

How did I manage to cut my spending last year? Well, here’s just a list of some of those things!

1. Brown bag lunch to work. An average lunch in Manhattan is about $6 so at 5 times a week times 48 weeks, that’s a savings of over $1400.

2. Skip the Starbucks and other fancy coffee in the a.m. Hubby now makes me my morning cup for the train and I rely on the office coffee pot for my other morning fix. With a typical latte at around $4 in NYC, that’s a savings of another nearly $1000.

3. Charge everything I spend. I know that sounds awful, but here’s why I do it:

    a. I get my reward points for every purchase.
    b. I know how much I spent every month.
    c. I use the tagging feature on my charge account every week to flag business expenses.
    d. I have my account send me a daily snapshot so I know whether I am deviating from my monthly spending limit.

4. Coupons. I always hold onto those Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons and only go when I have several of them handy. I also only go when I absolutely need something, which means my trips are generally geared around holidays, birthdays, etc. I also use online coupon sites such as coupons.com and pgeverydaysolutions.com for weekly specials and since I shop at A&P for my every day items, they have a clipless coupon system connected to my shopping loyalty card. That’s wonderful because if you are like me, you often will forget those coupons at home. Another big thing: Only buy what you would normally use and buy it in reasonable quantities. I read an article the other day that Americans throw out 40% of the food they buy. 40%!!! That’s a huge number.

5. I shop at Costco for the paper goods and other bulk items. I also buy their Kirkland name brand for things like toilet paper and dishwasher detergent. Just as good and generally cheaper.

6. I’ve cut back on dining out and when I do, I try to use restaurant.com certificates or those I’ve purchased at a discount from groupon.com. I also try to frequent local places and they often have online coupons available for discounts on dining.

This year I also plan on brown bagging breakfast to the office. I’ve got a stash of oatmeal and will find a way to make my eggs. Breakfast is important for helping with another New Year’s resolution: Losing weight and eating healthier.

Have you found some other ways to spend less? What will you do with the savings?

Tempus Fugit or in other words, How can it almost be December?

There are so many expressions about time, two of which come to mind immediately this morning.

Time flies when you’re having fun.
Time flies when you’re older.

Does getting older therefore mean you are going to have way more fun?

For me, time has been flying this year, and while it’s been fun, I hate the thought that it means I’m that much older. Of course, growing older beats the alternative.

It seems that in the blink of an eye, the year is gone and December is almost here. I don’t know about you, but I’ve already started my Christmas shopping, scoping out sales so I can watch my pennies. Since it’s a day of old adages, take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves, right?

For me that means using coupons, scouring the circulars for my regular haunts, cashing in any rewards points that I have and trying to see if with all that combined, I can keep expenses to a minimum.

How about you? Do you feel as if the year has flown by? Have you started your holiday shopping and if so, do you have any hints on how to save a little cash during this season?

Events, Coupons and More!

As much as I was planning to do a Thursday 13 today, I am without a thought this a.m. I could not even name 13 things sitting on my desk right now. Well, maybe I could but I don’t think you’d be too interested in knowing. LOL!

I want to thank everyone who dropped by the live video event last night. I had a blast talking with all of you and the marvelous Donna Grant. Donna is so much fun and it was so interesting to hear about her books and her wonderful Dark Sword series. Also got to see her wonderful trailer for UNTAMED HIGHLANDER. Can I say AWESOME?

I’ll be picking winners from the event later this a.m. and posting them tomorrow, so please drop by on Friday to see if you’ve won.

Well, maybe I can after a double dose of coffee since I was both tired and excited after our event last night. Went to bed early as I usually do because I’m normally up at 5 a.m. to head to work. So not fun.

But as I lay there I turned on the television and zapped between PAWN QUEENS and AUCTION WARS. I love seeing what they find, maybe because I’ve recently discovered that there is an adventurous treasure hunter buried deep inside of me. (Duh, I guess I should have realized that way before writing AZTEC GOLD and THE FIFTH KINGDOM, but I didn’t!)

Then I caught my first episode of EXTREME COUPONING. Whoa! A young couple got thousands of dollars of items for FREE. The nice thing was they gave everything away to local area charities.

Next was a single mom who relied on couponing to support her family. More power to her. Why not take advantage of savings, especially in these difficult times.

I used to coupon more. Once saved 75% of my grocery bill with coupons. Now I have little time for that, but I still try to predominantly buy what’s on sale and what I need. I don’t want to end up throwing away items that have reached their expiration date.

I also make sure to check the sizes and prices. 5.98 a pound chicken breasts at 50% off is no bargain. I hate when stores do that to make themselves look good, but are not really giving their customers a break.

So do you coupon? Extremely or just average?

Oh wait. I guess I did have some thoughts this morning. LOL! I hope they made sense.

Fun Friday – Eating out!

I don’t know about you, but after a long week of work the last thing we want to do is cook on Friday night. Whether it’s ordering up a pizza or heading out to a local restaurant, it’s a night to relax and unwind.

But being inherently frugal, I always try to find a bargain if I can and I’m going to share some of those with you today!

To purchase certificates for reduced dining, you can check out these two sites. I’ve used them and they are pretty good. Just make sure you check all the fine print as to when you can use the certificates. For example, the one seafood restaurant we visit down the shore only accepts the certificates from October to May.

Also check your local big box store like Costco. They have also been carrying reduced gift cards to area dining spots.

Many restaurants and fast food joints offer discounts as well. Check these out to either get coupons on their sites or have specials e-mailed to you.

Hope you all have a great weekend! See you on Monday!

Tuesday Tip – Saving on Prescriptions

As you know from previous coupon tips, I am fiscally cautious (I know my husband is laughing loudly over this!). But seriously, I am frugal. I shop around for the best prices, take advantage of sales, clip coupons, etc. in an effort to make sure I’m not spending money needlessly. I guess that’s why when a friend sent around an e-mail about saving on prescriptions, I thought it would be good to share it with you for various reasons.

The e-mail my friend sent around is at the bottom of this blog for you to read.

My friend checked this out and noted that by her calculations she would be able to save nearly $60 a year by using Costco for her prescriptions even though she was not a member. My friend was able to order a prescription she used regularly and instead of paying the $30 copay for 90 pills, she was able to purchase 100 pills from Costco for $10.24. She did it online and got free shipping to boot!

You can check out the veracity of the Costco Prescription E-mail at Snopes by following this link:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/drugs/generic.asp

There is one caution I would make about the hyperbole in the e-mail about 569,958% markups and the like.

Any statistician will tell you that it’s possible to skew numbers to make your argument. In this case, it is inaccurate to compare the cost of active ingredients to the price of non-generic medications.

Why? For starters, it takes someone years and years of research to discover how to combine those active ingredients into a useful and safe product. Case in point: Many years ago the laws regarding patents had to be changed because many pharmaceutical patents were expiring before the testing of the products had been completed and the products had been approved by the FDA. The term for patents prior to this extension: 20 years.

Imagine taking 20 years – yes TWENTY – years to develop a product and have its use approved by an administrative body. Imagine the cost of research, testing and prosecuting the FDA approval and patents.

Of course, those are extreme situations. The average time for approval of a new drug is approximately 10 years at about a cost of anywhere from $100 to $230 million dollars according to Kevin Oliver in his paper on Drug Approval in the United States (click here for the full text of Oliver’s paper on Drug Approval). By the way, the paper also helps to explain why drugs are cheaper in other countries, namely, because of the time it takes for the U.S. government to approve a drug versus approval by governments in other countries.

But back to the reason for this post. In fact, you can buy certain pharmaceutical products at much lower costs using Costco even if you are not a member. Like anything else, you should shop around to see if they offer the best price. Also check with your local independent pharmacist who oftentimes can provide additional information on the the best prices. Regardless of where you buy your prescription medicine, be sure to tell your pharmacist about all medicines you are taking, including non-prescription drugs and over-the-counter herbal/natural remedies, to avoid dangerous side effects and interactions.

The Original Text of the Costco Prescription E-mail

Costco – Unbelievable!

Make sure you read to the end. You will be amazed.

Let’s hear it for Costco! (This is just mind-boggling!)

Make sure you read all the way past the list of the drugs. The woman that signed below is a Budget Analyst out of federal Washington , DC offices.

Did you ever wonder how much it costs a drug company for the active ingredient in prescription medications? Some people think it must cost a lot, since many drugs sell for more than $2.00 per tablet. We did a search of offshore chemical synthesizers that supply the active ingredients found in drugs approved by the FDA. As we have revealed in past issues of XXXXXXX a significant percentage of drugs sold in the United States contain active ingredients made in other countries. In our independent investigation of how much profit drug companies really make, we obtained the actual price of active ingredients used in some of the most popular drugs sold in America .

Celebrex:100 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $130.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.60
Percent markup: 21,712%

Claritin:10 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $215.17
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.71
Percent markup: 30,306%

Keflex:250 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $157.39
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.88
Percent markup: 8,372%

Lipitor:20 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $272.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $5.80
Percent markup: 4,696%

Norvasc:10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $188.29
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.14
Percent markup: 134,493%

Paxil:20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $220.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $7.60
Percent markup: 2,898%

Prevacid:30 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $44.77
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.01
Percent markup: 34,136%

Prilosec: 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $360.97
Cost of general active ingredients $0.52
Percent markup: 69,417%

Prozac:20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) : $247.47
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.11
Percent markup: 224,973%

Tenormin:50 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $104.47
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.13
Percent markup: 80,362%

Vasotec:10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $102.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.20
Percent markup: 51,185%

Xanax:1 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) : $136.79
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.024
Percent markup: 569,958%

Zestril:20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets) $89.89
Cost of general active ingredients $3.20
Percent markup: 2,809%

Zithromax:600 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $1,482.19
Cost of general active ingredients: $18.78
Percent markup: 7,892%

Zocor:40 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $350.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $8.63
Percent markup: 4,059%

Zoloft:50 mg
Consumer price: $206.87
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.75
Percent markup: 11,821%

Since the cost of prescription drugs is so outrageous, I thought everyone should know about this.
It pays to shop around! This helps to solve the mystery as to why they can afford to put a Walgreen’s on every corner. On Monday night, Steve Wilson, an investigative reporter for Channel 7 News in Detroit , did a story on generic drug prices gouging by pharmacies. He found in his investigation that some of these generic drugs were marked up as much as 3,000% or more. So often we blame the drug companies for the high cost of drugs, and usually rightfully so. But in this case, the fault clearly lies with the pharmacies themselves. For example if you had to buy a prescription drug, and bought the name brand, you might pay $100 for 100 pills.

The pharmacist might tell you that if you get the generic equivalent, they would only cost $80, making you think you are saving $20. What the pharmacist is not telling you is that those 100 generic pills may have only cost him $10!

At the end of the report, one of the anchors asked Mr. Wilson whether or not there were any pharmacies that did not adhere to this practice, and he said that Costco consistently charged little over their cost for the generic drugs.

I went to the Costco site, where you can look up any drug, and get its online price. It says that the in-store prices are consistent with the online prices. I was appalled. Just to give you one example from my own experience I had to use the drug Compazine which helps prevent nausea in chemo patients.

I used the generic equivalent, which cost $54.99 for 60 pills at CVS. I checked the price at Costco, and I could have bought 100 pills for $19.89. For 145 of my pain pills, I paid $72.57. I could have got 150 at Costco for $28.08.

I would like to mention, that although Costco is a ‘membership’ type store, you do NOT have to be a member to buy prescriptions there as it is a federally regulated substance. You just tell them at the door that you wish to use the pharmacy, and they will let you in.

Book Bargains!

Amazon is running their 4 for 3 promotion on select books and SINS OF THE FLESH is one of them!

You can click here to visit Amazon and buy SINS OF THE FLESH or some other favorites.

Click here for this Borders coupon for 30% off which is good until December 7th! Or use this code online at Borders.com: BSL2696D

Barnes & Noble is offering free shipping to members for any purchase over $10. If you’re not a member, you can get member pricing and also get 15% off one item by using this code: B3U9U7U. I believe this code expires on December 9.

SINS OF THE FLESH is part of the Barnes & Noble Holiday Gift Guide! So exciting that they’ve decided to feature it this way.

Want to see what other romance books B&N is showcasing for the holidays? Just click here to see the Barnes & Noble Holiday Gift Guide.

Happy book shopping! Books make great gifts and stocking stuffers.

Thoughtful Thursday – The Economy

moneyI’m not normally one to dream much less remember them, but lately I have been dreaming. Or maybe it’s better to say I’ve been having worries at night and like many people, those worries revolve around money.

The market is up, although some are calling it a “dead cat bounce.” (Wonder where they got that term). In other words, the slight up phase might not last.

The Fed is printing lots of money to buy bonds. Hmm. . . . If I could print more money for my bills . . .

Anyway, there was one article the other day about how people are cutting back to save by eliminating things like house cleaning services, taking shirts to the laundry and eating out less. Estimated savings for this one family – $10,000 in a year.

A big savings. Playing devil’s advocate here – it’s also not stimulating the economy since now there’s someone with less work cleaning, laundering and cooking/serving food.

Still, I totally understand the reaction to not spend. I’ve cut back by brown bagging it everyday for lunch, finding ways of using up stuff in the pantry before buying new things, shopping at the outlets, big box stores and using coupons (well I always did those last two anyway!).

Have you changed your spending habits lately? Are there any tips you can offer for saving during these worrisome times?