Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Save on Heating Costs

Although this is coming a little too late, I am hoping that you'll remember these tips for next year. We all know that the cost to heat your home is getting more and more expensive. The good news is that there are some simple remedies to help you save some money during those cold months.

1. One of the first things I would recommend is investing in a programmable thermostat. This allows you to program times where the temperature of your house will automatically go up or down. They are easy to set up and cost anywhere between $40 to $100. By programming your thermostat to reduce temperature when you are at work or in bed, you can save on your heating budget. (Be careful with any daylights savings time changes, though...we just realized we're always really cold in the morning because our thermostat didn't automatically adjust after Daylights Savings Time!)

2. Another easy fix is to check for leaks in windows or doors. One good way to do this is to take a lit candle or lighter and hold it next to the window. If the flame flickers or goes out, it's likely you have a leak. This can be fixed with weatherstripping or caulk.

3. Keep your furnace in working condition. Make sure you check the filter and change it when needed. Filters are cheap and keep your furnace running efficiently.

4. One of our favorites: Do your laundry in cold water rather than hot water (when possible).

Follow these tips, along with others you've picked up, and you'll see your gas bill fall next winter.

Please add tips in the comments section. I'm always interested to hear how others are saving.

Mr. Thrifty

Sorry for any confusion!

Hi folks! There was a temporary glitch affecting our site - our apologies! It looks like a lot of folks tried to access through LipglossBreak, so sorry for any disappointments. Thanks for bearing with us, we're glad to be back up and running!

Monday, March 23, 2009

You're Shopping Where?

I have a confession. I've recently turned into a grocery store snob. Now that I have a house, and don't shop for just myself, I'm starting to understand the importance of a well stocked pantry. But I DETEST grocery shopping at most major grocery stores.

Enter my new love, Busch's. Or, even more scandalous....Westborne. Both are higher end grocery stores, with Bush's being a more traditional grocery store, and Westborne is more of a meat and produce market. Both are clean, well stocked, and are actually enjoyable to shop at. Until you reach checkout.

I've been trying to tell myself that the extra money is worth it because I am more willing to go to actually go and shop for fresh groceries, rather than putting off the trip and having to grab fast food or go to a restaurant. But, how much am I really costing myself in the end?

I'm obviously not the only person to analyze my grocery spending habits, and found one woman's 'study' enlightening. She found wrote a list of the top 20-30 items she purchased most often, then comparison shopped any nearby grocery stores she was willing to to tolerate. She discovered that one store was notably less expensive than the rest, and that since she could save $10/visit, she was saving herself about $520 a year!

I plan to do a similar test soon, and see if I think the savings is worth making the switch. While I hate long lines and crowded meat counters, I'm wondering if $500 or more may be enough to make me change my mind!

Mrs. Thrifty

Cheap Books!

As much as I want to be green, and save some cash, I am a horrible library patron. I don't return books on time, and I hate taking them on vacation out of fear they'll return home damaged, or worse, that I'll forget them at my destination! There are somethings you just want to have to keep, and books fall under that category for me.

So, out of necessity, I buy books, but I hate paying for something that most likely will only be read once.

Enter CheapestBookPrice.com, a comparison shopping site for, what else...books!

You can enter a title, author, or ISBN number, and the site will return several results from major websites like Amazon, Half, and TextBookX. I did several searches, and it seemed that the best prices were always on the Amazon Marketplace. My favorite option on the sites is that you can either go directly to their coupon section and get coupon codes for retailers!

Mrs. Thrifty

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My interest rate is what?

Credit cards are great, right? They're convenient. Every store accepts them. Some cards even offer rewards, like free airplane tickets or cash back when you use them. If you have a solid credit score, you might even have a low interest rate. However, credit cards can be dangerous, especially if you have a late payment.

The Universal Default is a clause written in most credit card contracts that states if you are late on ANY payment to ANY creditor, you are subject to the default rate, which could be as high as 28%. Basically, that means if you are late on your car payment, you get the default rate. You might be saying, “What does my car payment have to do with my credit card payment? The correct answer should be nothing. But the credit card companies feel that if you are late on one payment, you are more likely to be late on another, and thus, a risky customer. And we all know what risky customers get - a higher interest rate.

Once you get the default rate, it’s tough to talk the credit card company back down to a lower rate. So, the goal should be to avoid being late. We’ve all been late or close to late on a bill at some point in our life. The phone bill got lost in the pile, or I forgot the due date was last week. Below you’ll find some tips to keep you on-time and out of the default interest rate.

Some tips to avoid being late:

  • Set up automatic payments from your checking account for all your bills – This is the best way to be sure all of your payments will be on time. Even if you never use your credit card, set it up to deduct the minimum monthly payment (if there is one) out of your checking account just in case. Paying the minimum isn’t going to put in a dent in the balance, but it will help you avoid being late.
  • Set up online billing for all your accounts – Online billing is fantastic. You don’t get paper bills that you have to shred. You can see your account balance at any time. And you can usually make payments at any time. This is faster than mailing a payment and you can be sure your payment gets to the company on time.
  • If you get paper bills, pay them when they come – Don’t wait until two days before the due date to mail the check to the cable company. Pay the bill when it arrives. I’m guilty of this and I agree it’s a tough habit to adopt, but one that could save you money by never being late.
  • Call your credit card companies and request a different due date – Most credit card companies will let you change your due date if you call. Some will even let you request a different due date online.
  • Keep an Excel Sheet of all your bills and mark them off as you pay them – This one is easy. All you have to do is start and Excel Document and make a list of all the bills you pay each month, along with the due date (amounts aren’t necessary). When you pay the bill, place a check mark next to that company.

The default rate is no joke. It won’t always raise your minimum monthly payment, but it will affect the balance you pay over the life of the loan. If you have a $1,000 balance on your credit card with an 8% interest rate, your minimum monthly payment is probably around $25. If you pay that every month, it will take you 97 months and $285 in interest to pay off that $1,000. If that same card goes to a 28% interest rate, it will take you 667 months and $9,173 in interest to pay off that same $1,000. Don't fall into this pattern - you'll end up paying way more than you should in the long run!

Mr. Thrifty

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eatin' Good In The Neighborhood....

If you eat at chain restaurants from time to time, you'll love Applebee's current promotion: dinner for two for under $20.

Provided that you and your date can agree on a shared appetizer, you can definitely enjoy a cheap night out and go home full! My favorite option is clearly the Spinach and Artichoke dip, though Mr. Thrifty is more of a Buffalo Wings guy. Even if one of you has to make a compromise, you'll both get to enjoy a full size entree of your choice. With options like a 7 oz Sirloin, Fiesta Lime Chicken, Crispy Shrimp, and Oriental Chicken Salad (which is hands down, my favorite salad on the planet), Applebee's is offering you some of it's best entrees.

Of course, you'll have to factor in drinks and a tip, but when all is said and done, a sit down meal for you and a friend will easily cost less than $30!

Mrs. Thrifty

Holy Mackerel - Saving Money Now Adds Up BIG!

As twenty-something newlyweds, Mr. Thrifty and I find it as hard as most people to put aside savings in our 401K and other investments each month. However, a recent article on MSN Money confirms that saving money in our twenties is going to pay off big when we're older.

"Consider this scenario: If you begin saving for retirement at 25, putting away $2,000 a year for just 40 years, you'll have around $560,000, assuming earnings grow at 8% annually. Now, let's say you wait until you're 35 to start saving. You put away the same $2,000 a year, but for three decades instead, and earnings grow at 8% a year. When you're 65 you'll wind up with around $245,000 -- less than half the money."


Hard to believe that if we were to wait just ten years, we could be losing out on half of the money we'll see since we're starting to save at a young age. The savings/year numbers used above seem fairly conservative, and if you are fortunate enough to have a company that has a matching program, it makes saving over time even more fruitful. I realize that a half million in 2048 won't be the same as a half million in 2008, but if you're able to save more and more each year, that puts you in an even better position.

However, like I mentioned above, most twenty-somethings don't realize the importance of starting to save now. Human resources consultant Hewitt Associates conducted a study and found only 31% of Generation Y workers who are eligible to put money into a 401(k) retirement savings plan do so. That's less than half of the 63% of workers between ages 26 and 41 who do invest in employer-sponsored savings accounts.

One book that may help young investors is Getting Started: The Financial Guide for a Younger Generation by Brian Jones. The book breaks down different stages of life, and offers suggestions on how to make the best financial decisions at each stage.

As a gentle reminder, we're not claiming to be financial advisors, we just do our best to pass along information that we find helpful as we make financial decisions. We always recommend doing your own research, and enlisting the help of a financial planner when appropriate.

Mrs. Thrifty

Editor's Note

**From now on, to make it easier for ourselves and our readers, we will be signing our entries Mr. Thrifty, Mrs. Thrifty, or The Thrifty Suburbanies. Hope this helps! **

Flying For Less

You can get some great deals on airfare these days, but you definitely need to do your homework! These days comparing flights is easier than ever, with sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Farecast, and my favorite - Kayak. However, most websites charge some type of service fee, so you have to do your research and see if the end price is really saving you money.

With the arrival of no-frills airlines like Southwest and JetBlue, you can often be guaranteed a lower rate than traditional airlines, if you're willing to skip the 'frills' (like having your seat assignment ahead of time....if that can be considered a frill!). Just make sure to check in online early so that you don't get stuck in the last seating group and end up in the middle seat!

If the cold weather's got you down, and you need an escape, we've found a few great deals (through InternationalLiving.com) that can get you to warmer weather without breaking the bank (and have also listed flights to avoid). Even if you don't live in one of these cities, it may be worth it to catch a connecting flight, or take a bus to get these great deals!

1. New York JFK to Puerto Vallarta

Best deal: Mexicana Airlines through kayak.com--$421 roundtrip, connecting through Juarez International, flying out March 31, returning April 2.

One to avoid: Delta--$1,064 for same dates and connection. Yikes

2. LAX to Rio de Janeiro to Salvador to Recife to Fortaleza to Rio

Best deal: Delta for the international flight (LAX to Rio)--$754 roundtrip, connecting through Atlanta, flying out May 24, returning June 4. TAM's Brazil Airpass for the four internal flights--$599. Total cost: $1,353.

One to avoid: Northwest for the international portion--$1,053 for same dates and connection. To get the internal flights without the Airpass, even booking the cheapest individual flights, would cost $915. Total cost: $1,968.

3. New York to Paris direct

Best Deal: American Airlines 7.5-hour flight--$522 roundtrip, flying out April 12, returning April 19.

One to avoid: Air France--$682, plus an extra four hours as you connect through Dulles International.

And for those of you flying domestically, here's a flight we wouldn't mind taking...
4. Detroit to Tampa Bay, 1 Layover each way

Best Deal: Southwest Airlines -- $212 if you book on their site.

One to avoid: Anything Northwest this day - you'll be paying upwards of $350, most with layovers.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do you still need cable? Maybe not.

Hello fellow cable lovers. If you're anything like us, you're tuned in to the TV almost every night of the week. You might even be so bad that you have two shows recording on the DVR, so you have to watch a third show on a different TV (guilty as charged, but in our defense, on the rare chance this happens, we're watching different shows). As much as we love TV, every time we get the cable bill we think, "Why do we pay so much for this?"

Thanks to a few new sites on the internet, cable may be becoming a thing of the past. One of those websites has a pretty funny name. Hulu.com is a website where you can watch your favorite TV shows and movies for free. Yes, absolutely free. The site is also completely legal, and NBC is actually one of the site's co-owners.

Our initial assumption was that this was just a place to watch old re-runs of Seinfeld and Friends, but we were quickly proven wrong. Hulu hosts hits from NBC, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, MGM, Sony Picture Television, and more.

We had been considering buying or renting DVDs of Arrested Development, as it came highly recommended by many friends. Instead, we Googled, "Watch Arrested Development Online" and were pleasantly surprised to find the entire series available for free on Hulu. Another time, our DVR stopped working, but new episodes of Chuck were right there on Hulu so we could quickly catch up in time for next week's episode.

So, how does this thing generate a profit? Short, 30 seconds commercials placed throughout the videos. And though you can't skip through the commercials, they're much shorter than the ones you would see if you were watching on live TV.

In addition to Hulu, most TV networks host episodes online the day after they air. You can watch them by visiting their website. However, the streaming isn't quite as seamless as Hulu, and you may have to wait while the video buffers, which can be annoying.

For you sports lovers, cutting the cable may not be an option yet (unless you can deal with listening to everything on the radio).

If we cancelled our cable and relied on Hulu and other sources, we would save about $60-$70 a month (more than $700 a year). Keep in mind that with the digital transition coming, you can get many local channels with a digital converter box. Digital converter boxes cost anywhere from $50 to $100. To offset the cost, each household is eligible for two coupons valued at $40 apiece to purchase digital converer boxes. For more information on the digital transition, visit http://www.dtv.gov/.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jay Leno's Stimulus Plan

Late night talk show host Jay Leno says he wants to do his part to lift the spirits of Detroit area residents by hosting a free comedy show April 7, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. "I like Detroit. I think it gets a bad rap," Leno told Reuters. "Most people don't have money to spend, or waste, on entertainment. So the idea is come out -- everything's free -- and get your mind off your troubles for an hour and a half."

Leno's generous offer is coming at a time when many Metro Detroiters could really use something to smile about. With one of the nation's highest unemployment rates and a crumbling auto industry, there are few of us who can't think of a friend or family member not feeling the affects of tough times.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the reactions of many Detroit city council members, particularly Martha Reeves, and President Monica Conyers, who are both upset that the show won't be hosted within Detroit city limits. Coincidentally, the show will occur on the same weekend that Detroit will be hosting the Final Four Playoffs, which will affect nearly every venue in the city. Reeves adamantly suggested the event occur at Ford Field, and seemed oblivious to the fact that one of the nation's biggest sporting events will be occuring there that weekend.

While this isn't a political blog, we find it hard to ignore the ridiculous nature of these council member's complaints. If Detroit ever wants to regain any respect in this country, council members will need to shape up and gratefully accept help from it's friends without making demands. Residents of the city don't have the patent on tough times, and residents and venues of outlying cities are all feeling the affects of this economy.

Getting back to business...Tickets for Leno's show are available at 10 am Monday, March 16 at the Palace Box Office. You can get in line as early as 8 am, and will be asked to show photo ID. You can get up to four tickets, which will be given out on the honor system.

Thanks Jay!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cash In With Coupon Codes

Our motto: never shop online without a coupon! There's just no reason to, especially with sites like RetailMeNot.com out there! This site, along with other online coupon sites allows you to search by store, and then give you a coupon code to use at purchase. This site relies on users to pass along coupon codes they've received from frequent buyer or cardholder programs, to share the savings with other bargain hunters! After entering a stores name you'll see any coupon codes (usually listed with an expiration date), and comments from users who've used the code (sometimes they list restricitions, like minimum price)

A few examples of great savings coupons going on now:
Urban Outfitters: WELCOME 4109 will save you 10% and eliminate sales tax.
DSW: LOVE will save you 10% off any order over $50.
REI: GMNSJ9 will get you 15% off REI brand items.
Borders: IPL1255 saves you 25% off the list price of one item.

There are codes to almost everything: apparel, handbags, toys, gifts, sporting goods, and more. There are also quirky clues to get free things....visit the site to learn how to get a free whopper in a tough economy!

Another quick way to find coupon codes is simply Google 'store name + coupon codes' and you'll likely be taken to a savings site. Happy shopping - but be careful - buy too much and you'll blow the savings from the coupons!


Hi! We're The Thrifty Suburbanites - a newly married couple living in a suburb of Detroit. Stick around, and we'll bring you loads of money saving tips that will allow you to have fun and save money at the same time! We'll also be looking for ideas, so feel free to post comments and we'll do our best to take your requests!

**While we think we're pretty thrifty, and have some financial training, neither of us are licensed to give formal financial advice, and advise you all to speak with a financial advisor before making any major decisions. This blog is simply intended to find easy ways to save money so that you're not strapped for cash!