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FREE Printable Shopping Lists Updated

by Tara Kuczykowski on March 11, 2011 · 0 comments


Two years ago, Mandi from Life...Your Way shared her tips for organizing your shopping list along with a FREE printable shopping list template here at Deal Seeking Mom. Yesterday, she released updated shopping list templates that are easier on the eyes and can be filled out on your computer and then printed.

Click here to get your FREE shopping lists today!


Spring Cleaning Your Finances

by Tara Kuczykowski on May 11, 2010 · 0 comments

I have the pleasure of guest posting on the ING Direct We The Savers blog today about spring cleaning your finances.

Springtime is traditionally a time of out with the old and in with the new, a time to clean and purge and start afresh. Just as the beautiful weather inspires us to throw open the windows and clean out the house, it’s also the perfect time to take a good hard look at our finances and give them a thorough once over for a more prosperous year.

Perhaps this sounds like a daunting task, but if you take a week and devote a small amount of time each day to one of the seven tasks below, you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of 2010 in an organized fashion.

Read more at We The Savers...


Hidden Savings at the Dollar Store

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 28, 2010 · 17 comments

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The following is a guest post from Lina of Grocery Alerts Canada:

Most people spend the bulk of their grocery budget at major supermarkets and small chains. However, we recently started shopping at local dollar stores for great deals on certain items as well. One of the tricks with shopping at dollar stores is that you cannot be brand loyal. Instead, look for the store's private label products. While dollar stores do not typically accept coupons, the cost savings without coupons can still add up.

Here are some of our favorite deals:


At the grocery store, spices can be very expensive, as much as $4 or more for a small spice shaker. On the other hand, dollar stores have spices for a dollar or less. You won't find expensive spices like saffron or Herbes de Provence, but picking up spices like cinnamon and black pepper for less than a buck is a great deal.

Cleaning Supplies

We love to live in a clean house, but cleaning products are not cheap at the grocery store. We have found great deals on rubber gloves, dish soap, plungers, window cleaner, and bleach at our local dollar stores.

Greeting Cards

It is a nice feeling to receive a well written card for your birthday or anniversary, on a holiday or just because. In our family, there are many young children that love receiving cards in the mail. At specialty card stores and grocery stores, greeting cards can cost over $3. At dollar stores, the quality of the cards and paper is not as high quality, but you can often get more than one for a dollar, and the importance of the card is the message inside of it anyway.

Beauty Supplies

It is amazing how much some beauty aids cost at drugstores and grocery stores. We find that the dollar store has great prices on products like nail polish remover and epsom salts.

Cooking Supplies

Tinfoil, baking soda and baking powder are all on my shopping list at the dollar store. On a price per unit basis, these often are great deals. For many products on this list, the best deals are often on the "no-name" products. You must be comfortable purchasing outside your typical brand to save money.

Calculate the Price per Unit

To be sure the products you're purchasing are really a great deal, calculate the price per unit basis of the product:

For example, if a 250g container of baking powder is $1 at the dollar store, the price per gram of baking powder is $0.004. If the grocery store carries a different brand of baking powder at $3.50 for 1 kg, the price per gram would be $0.0035, an even better price. Use a pocket calculator or your mobile phone to calculate what is a better deal.

Keep in mind to consider the expiration dates on anything you buy in larger quantities (especially with baking powder!).

What other great deals have you found at the dollar store?

Lina Zussino is the co-founder of Grocery Alerts Canada, home of canadian grocery deals and printable grocery coupons. She enjoys teaching group fitness and saving money in beautiful Victoria, BC with her husband Steven.


Growing Your Own Produce: Does It Really Save Money?

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 21, 2010 · 16 comments

This following guest post is an excerpt from Your Money: The Missing Manual by J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly:

Your Money: The Missing ManualOver the past few years, I've tried a variety of cost-cutting measures in order to save money. At first, these forays into frugality were a way to help me dig out of debt. After I actually managed to get out of debt, I opted to stay frugal because I saw that doing so would allow me to build wealth — something I never thought I'd be able to do.

Some frugality measures — clipping coupons, buying store brands, using the public library — are clear winners. My wife and I know we save money by doing these things.

But sometimes, it's not clear if our choices make sense over the long term.

For example, we pool money with friends every year to buy a side of beef. This gets us great quality meat, but there's no real cost savings. (It's sort of a break-even proposition.)

We've been growing a vegetable garden for nearly 20 years, but my wife and I had always wondered: Do we save money by growing our own food? And if so, how much?

How much does a garden really save?

Many prominent penny pinchers are proud to proclaim that gardening is a great way to save money. Michelle Obama is growing vegetables at the White House. The Burpee seed company boasts that $50 in seeds and fertilizer will yield $1250 in produce. Burpee CEO George Ball told the Wall Street Journal that $1 in seeds will produce $75 worth of beans.

But how much does a garden really save?

My wife and I set out to answer that question during 2008. For twelve months, we tracked the cost of seeds, fertilizer, water, and electricity. We carefully weighed every fruit and vegetable we harvested from our garden, comparing costs with local supermarkets and produce stands. We also logged the time we spent in the garden. At the end of the year, we tallied the results.

We'd spent 60 hours working on our crops and $318.43 on seeds and supplies. We harvested $606.97 worth of food, including:

  • $225.74 in berries
  • $294.59 in vegetables
  • $66.63 in fruit
  • $20.10 in herbs

Drawing on what we'd learned, we repeated the experiment in 2009. This time, we spent $351.37 (and 63.5 hours) while harvesting $809.74 worth of food. Can $50 worth of seeds and fertilizer really give you $1250 in food? Well, not in our yard. Still, we were able to double our investment in just a year. T's a better return than I get with my mutual funds — and it's tastier, too.

An Actual Weekend Harvest from August 2006

An Actual Weekend Harvest from August 2006

Greens from the garden

Growing your own food is a fun and rewarding way to save money. Food fresh from your yard is convenient and generally tastes better than anything you can find in the supermarket. If you're able to put in the time and effort, you'll be rewarded with a bounty of fruit, berries, and vegetables. Here are some quick tips for starting your own garden plot:

  • Plan in advance. Decide what you'd like to grow. How much space can you devote to the project? How much time are you willing to spend? For those with small spaces (or small ambitions), a container garden is an excellent choice. Others might consider building raised beds to use for square-foot gardening. Square-foot gardening allows you to maximize food production in a minimum of space.
  • Start small. When planning your garden, it's better to start too small than to start too large. In order to enjoy your garden, you have to be able to control it. Don't be too ambitious. If you want to test the waters, try herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and they're cost-effective.
  • Choose productive plants. It's frustrating to plant a bunch of seeds that don't produce. If you want a rewarding, productive garden, do some research to find out what grows well in your area. One excellent resource is your state's extension office, but also ask your friends and neighbors.
  • Share with others. When you buy a packet of seeds, you'll generally receive more than you need. It can be fun and frugal to split the costs with others. It's also useful to share equipment. You may own a roto-tiller while your neighbor has a trailer for hauling manure. Sharing saves money.
  • Buy quality tools. When you buy tools, it pays to purchase quality. Thrift and frugality are about obtaining value for your dollar – not just paying the lowest price. Garden tools take years of abuse. You want equipment that will last and that will also be a pleasure to use.
  • Have fun. Don't make gardening more work than it needs to be. Your garden doesn't need to be perfect. Pick a favorite fruit or vegetable, plant a few seeds, and have fun watching them grow to maturity. Make it a family thing. If you're a beginning gardener, start small. It's easy to dive in headfirst and be overwhelmed. Research the plants you want to grow and the conditions they require, build a manageable raised bed if you're starting from scratch, and use local resources to gain knowledge and cut costs. Build on your successes.

Herbs Grown in an Indoor Container

Herbs Grown in an Indoor Container

Your public library will have many great gardening books, some tailored to your location. Two excellent books for new gardeners are Square-Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and The Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey. You might also want to check out You Grow Girl, a blog about gardening. With a little bit of effort, your yard can be producing food that tastes great and saves you money!

Have you started working on your garden yet?

J.D. Roth writes about sensible personal finance at Get Rich Slowly. J.D.'s first book, Your Money: The Missing Manual, is now in stores and contains tons of tips for saving (and making) money. To learn more about gardening, check out the Get Rich Slowly articles about starting seeds indoors and how to start your own vegetable garden.


8 Ways to Feed Your Coffee Addiction for Less

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 20, 2010 · 7 comments

Save Money on Coffee

The following is a guest post from The Coffee Maker Store:

If you love coffee and are looking for creative ways to save money without giving up the things you love, then this post is for you. Lots of us hit up the drive-thru of our favorite coffee spot when we drop our kids off at school in the morning, and while the occasional latte here and there looks innocent enough, it could easily cost you a small fortune over time.

Just think: if you spend $4 a day on your latte, that comes to over $20 per week, $80 per month, and almost $1000 per year. Have you ever tried getting something from Starbucks with hungry kids in the car? That amount could easily triple. Needless to say, it's pretty easy to spend a lot of money to satisfy a coffee craving.

So if you're looking to build your savings, pay down your debt, or start living within your means, here are 8 cool tricks to save money on coffee:

1. Avoid Temptation

If you're trying to save money by not buying lunch, you bring your own food from home, right? That means buying baloney, bread, and mustard. The same goes for saving money on coffee. If you have a habit of getting coffee on your way to work, or when picking up the kids from school, make sure you bring your coffee with you. That means having a home coffee maker and a travel mug... and if you're feeling fancy, even a $2 milk frother from Ikea. Taking coffee with you is a great way to stave off your coffee craving when you're on the road.

2. Experiment at the Condiment Station

Some people are coffee purists and drink the stuff black. In fact, they may even look at you funny for flavoring it with cream and sugar. Since most people actually do like a little extra flavor to their coffee, the big coffee joints are happy to serve it to you (and charge a pretty penny for it). So if you have to hit up the coffee house, you can avoid the expensive drinks by making friends with the condiment station. An iced latte with extra syrup is a decent alternative to a Frappaccino. Or you can order black coffee and doctor it up with your own mix of cream and sugar or order a double shot espresso and add milk to create your own latte. Of course, it probably won't taste as good as the real thing the first time, but that's ok. Bring a friend along and make your own concoctions'll be fun.

3. Gift Cards

Gift cards aren't the best way to save money. In fact they can cost you money in the long run, especially if you never use their full value. I mean, what are you supposed to do with $1.37 on a Best Buy gift card? But here's a cool way to save money on coffee. Look for used gift cards on sites like Craigslist, Ebay, Cards Again and Giftah. You'll find people selling all kinds of gift cards to major retailers across the country. From sporting goods, to electronics, to housewares, to -- you guessed it -- coffee shops. You can buy a full-value gift card or purchase a gift card with a remainder at a discount. It might not be worth your time if you're an occasional coffee drinker, but if coffee is making your poor, this trick can save you some cash.

4. Flavor Your Own Coffee

Another fun way to save money on coffee is to add your own flavors to plain coffee beans instead of buying the flavored stuff. You can mix dried cloves, dried blue berries, dried orange peels, cinnamon sticks, toasted almonds or walnuts, nutmeg, cocoa, or any other flavor that fits your fancy to unground coffee beans and grind them in your coffee grinder. If you don't have one, you can add liquid extracts directly to your coffee, or even to your cream to create your own flavored cream. Flavored creams are convenient, but they're really easy to make at home too.

5. Re-Use Your Coffee Grounds

This tip doesn't have anything to do with drinking coffee, but it could save you a little bit of money on common household items. The key is to find creative uses for your used coffee grounds. You can use coffee grounds as a natural deodorizer in your refrigerator. Used coffee grounds are great for your garden or compost heap because coffee has tons of nitrogen, which makes your soil incredibly fertile and is especially good for tomatoes. It's also an effective (and safe) pesticide. If the neighborhood cat is turning your flower bed into a litter box, sprinkle a generous amount of used coffee grounds and she'll be sure to find another place to do her business. The nitrogen content in coffee also keeps ants away from your house because it burns ants' legs. Lastly, you can stretch your beans by mixing used coffee grounds with fresh ones. Try a 50/50 mix and see if you can tell a difference. If you can, then of course you don't have to do it again. But if not, you just might save 50% on coffee.

6. A Natural Boost

If you drink coffee just for the energy you get from caffeine, consider the fact that eating an apple is proven to give you as much alertness and energy as a cup of coffee, if not more. Exercising is also a great way to boost your energy levels. There's really no way to go wrong here, so even if you do drink coffee, exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables anyway.

7. Look for Deals Online

You wouldn't be a deal seeker if you weren't looking for deals online, would you? Search Google for terms like "free coffee" and "coffee sample," and you'll find plenty of samples. You can even look up coffee membership websites and see if they'll send you samples before you become a member. This will probably get you some of the best coffee around.

8. Coffee Ice Cubes

Now this tip is for real coffee junkies... if you have leftover coffee in your pot, pour it in an ice cube tray and freeze it so for when you make your own iced coffee at home. Use your coffee ice cubes instead of regular ice so that your drink doesn't get watered down as the ice melts (if it lasts that long).

These 8 tips might not sound like much, but if you're looking to cut costs AND maintain your coffee habit, every penny counts.

The Coffee Maker Store is a daily blog and e-commerce store about coffee, coffee makers, and coffee culture where you'll always find the latest coffee news.