Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Cheaper Cup O Joe

I love coffee. I especially love to go out for coffee. While at home there are many distractions, namely lots of renovations in the new house and an overly affectionate cat that wants to play fetch, at a coffee house, there are comfy seats, relaxing music and not a care in the world. I could spend every evening sitting in a coffeehouse. However, it is hard to justify when the cost of a latte is $4 plus tip. Here are some ways that I save money so I can go out more often:

* Drink regular coffee instead of espresso-based drinks to save a buck or two on purchase prices. Remember that frozen blended drinks are almost entirely half and half. Hopefully the caloric horror will be enough to convince you to order the regular joe.
* Find a coffee house that offers free refills on regular coffee or iced tea. This is especially great for entire afternoons spent relaxing with a novel. Chains that usually offer free refills: Caribou, Panera, McDonalds, Einstein Bros Bagels. Locally owned coffee shops usually offer free refills or a discounted price on refills.
* Bring a travel mug for discounts at many coffee houses. Discounts can be 10% off the bill, or $.50 off each drink. I have a coffee mug for hot drinks and a reusable cold-drink cup for those days when I just need an iced coffee.
* Take advantage of customer loyalty programs. Whether its buy 10 get one free or a percentage off when you use a mug with their name on it, you should sign up for the programs at any coffee houses you go to.
* Look for coupons in the paper. Once, I found a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for a chain coffee house near my house. I raided the recycling bin for several more coupons and got cheap coffee dates with Trucker for the next month.
* Ask about any special promotions. Panera currently has a promotion where you buy a travel mug for $10 and get free coffee refills until November 11. Trucker and I each bought one and they paid for themselves after 5 uses. We'll save around $40 each over the course of the promotion and still have use of the mug.
* On Earth Day, Starbucks often gives free coffee if you bring in your own travel mug.
* Check Groupon for specials. When a new coffee house opened in my area, I paid $15 for a punch card good for 10 drinks.
* Check the Entertainment Book ( My book has coupons for several coffee houses, and many more I can print from the website. I save enough on coffee to cover the cost of the book. Any other coupons I use are just extra.
* Go to a local coffee house on a night when they have live music or poetry readings. I discovered one of my favorite musicians at one such event.

Happy living!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Non-Shopping for the Recovering Consumer

I used to be a consumer. I liked to buy stuff. Good stuff. Stuff that made me happy. A lot of it. Especially books. My favorite thrift store used to sell books for $.10 apiece, and I would stop in every payday to spend a few dollars. Eventually, I realized that I had to get my spending under control, or be buried under a mountain of books.

When I go to a used bookstore just to browse (or while waiting for them to make an offer on my old books), I practice non-consumption. When I find a book that sounds interesting, I resist the urge to buy it. Instead, I take a photo of it with my bottom-of-the-line camera phone. Later I visit my library's website and put a hold on that book. I get to enjoy reading it and usually find that, while I enjoyed it, I don't need to own it. I get the pleasure of reading the book without paying a penny.

Sometimes I find the book so amazing that I know I'm going to come back to it again and again. In that case, it goes onto my wishlist on Paperbackswap. If after six month or so, I haven't received it from a fellow swapper, and it still sounds just as amazing as it did before, I might check out Amazon's Marketplace to buy it from an individual seller. Otherwise, I keep waiting for it to either become available at a good price, or I may find that I lose interest in owning it. However it works out, I always save money over just buying whatever books sound interesting as I shop.

I do the same thing with movies. I have a "Films to Watch" file on my computer. Whenever I see a trailer that looks good or hear of a new movie, I add it to the list. I then request these titles from the library. Some aren't available, but most are (I love my library). If I watch a library movie and find that it rocks my world, it goes on my Amazon wishlist or perhaps my birthday wishlist. I do the same thing for CDs.

Sometimes it's not a book or a movie that I want to try out, but an appliance or gadget. I will post a request on Freecycle and watch for listings from others. Sometimes I get items for free to try out. If Freecycle doesn't provide, I will start to keep an eye out at non-traditional outlets such as yard sales and thrift stores. Since I don't know how I'll take to the item, I don't want to spend big bucks purchasing it new.

If you are a recovering consumer, it can be hard to stop shopping cold turkey. Practicing non-shopping can not only keep you from making a purchase, but get you to think about why you want something, or even if you do.

For further reading, check out Penny Pinching PartyFrugal

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Leftovers Pizza

I make pizza a couple times a week, but it never gets old. I don't stick to a basic tomato-sauce-pepperoni-and-mozzarella combo, although that's nice sometimes. I find that homemade pizza is a great way to use up leftovers.

I access my leftovers and any perishable items that I need to use up soon. I have come up with many different pizzas, most of them pretty good. Here are a few of my favorites.

* BBQ-Mix BBQ sauce and ranch dressing for sauce. Top with leftover shredded chicken/pork, diced peppers, onion, tomato and cheddar cheese. After baking, top with lettuce and BBQ sauce.

* Taco-Use taco sauce or salsa in place of tomato sauce. Add leftover taco meat of any type (ground beef, steak, chicken or even TVP), onion, black olives, peppers. Top with cheddar, queso blanco or a taco blend of cheese. After baking, serve with lettuce, tomato and a dollop of salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

* Breakfast-Eggs, bacon, sausage, peppers and other breakfast goodies make an amazing pizza. Visit eHow for the instructions.

* Veggie-This is a great meal to have when your garden is going nuts. Most veggies are excellent on pizza. My favorites are spinach or dandelion, olives, peppers, broccoli, garlic, onions, mushrooms, green onions, basil and tomato. 

* White- Use alfredo sauce, shredded leftover chicken, caramelized onions, minced garlic and mozzarella. Oh my.

* Greek-leftover gyro meat (is there ever really any?), tomato, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, spinach and feta.

* Cheeseburger -  If you'd like you can press sesame seeds into the pizza dough. Make a sauce of ketchup, mustard and relish. Add leftover ground meat, onions, peppers, and diced pickles. Top with cheddar or a mix of cheddar and mozzarella. After baking, top with lettuce and tomato.

* Bacon Cheeseburger -  Same as above, but add crumbled leftover bacon.

What are your favorite homemade pizzas?

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