Saturday, January 31, 2009

Your Bargain Hunter: Chainsaw Air Filter

My husband's chainsaw needs some tuning up, so he asked me to find him a deal on an air filter for a Craftsman chainsaw. He wants to get back to cutting stuff....I've never seen him giddier than when he's wielding his chainsaw to rid the world (aka our little piece of recreational property) of fallen, dead trees that camouflage creepy copperheads.

So, he found the right part on for 2.91. Pretty cheap, you say? After shipping is added, the total cost jumps to $11. Still not bad. But I knew I could do better....

I just ordered for him a chainsaw airfilter (same part #) on for $3.77 including shipping. That's 2/3 less. Hey, a dollar is a dollar.

  • Make sure it's the right part. Sometimes it's even hard to tell by a picture whether a part is the right fit. Using a part number virtually guarantees you'll get the right part.
  • Feedback score is key on In general, my personal guideline for judging an ebay seller includes never buying from someone who has lower than a 95% rating, and if the seller has a small number of feedback ratings (<100),>

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pizza Friday

My kids love pizza Fridays; in fact, they never let me miss one. And I know a number of families who eat pizza on Friday as well, but the cost can add up. Here's a way to keep pizza Fridays less expensive using the "step-down" method of money management. It works like this:
  • If you normally go to a restaurant for pizza, try pizza delivery.
  • If you normally order pizza every Friday, try buying a frozen pizza.
  • If you normally buy frozen pizza every Friday, try buying the store brand frozen pizza.
  • Or the next "step down" would be to try making it from scratch.

Here are the latest deals on pizza delivery:
  • Domino's best deal is 3 medium pizzas for $5.55 each.
  • Pizza Hut has a deal for 2 medium, 1-topping pizza for $10.99.
  • Papa John's: 3 medium 3-topping pizzas for $21.00
Frozen pizzas have come a long way since my college days (which weren't that long ago!). DiGiorno and Freschetta make great rising crust pizzas. They run about $5 at Tom Thumb or Wal-mart, but occasionally go on sale for $4.

Another option is the generic brand frozen pizza. Tom Thumb's store brand, Safeway Select, offers a rising crust pizza for $4 that rivals DiGiorno and Freschetta .

Finally, my family's favorite pizza night includes homemade pizza. Here's the best recipe for pizza crust that I have found yet:

Traditional Pizza Dough

2 C warm water

1 T dry yeast

1 heaping teaspoon granulated sugar

5 1/3 C all-purpose flour

1 1/3 t salt

3 T olive oil, plus additional as needed

Toppings: ie pizza sauce (store bought or homemade), mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, sausage, fresh vegetables, etc.

Stir together water, yeast, and sugar. Let mixture rest until yeast blooms, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, adding flour a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 to 4 minutes. Turn dough onto a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise for 30 minutes. Stretch or roll into desired shape. Top with desired toppings. Bake on a pizza stone at 450 F for 10-12 minutes. Makes dough for two 12-15 inch pizzas.

We usually make one large pizza and a smaller one for breadsticks. For the breadsticks, prick the dough with a fork before baking for 8 min. When it's still hot, rub butter or margarine on the crust until it melts, then top it with parmesan cheese and garlic salt. Sometimes I add fresh rosemary leaves for a different flavor.

Depending on the toppings used, this meal costs roughly $3.


  • Ask about deals. Even if you don't have a coupon for delivery in front of you, ask the person that takes your order what deals they have. They won't tell you if you don't ask, but you may save a few bucks by speaking up.
  • To keep homemade pizza from costing more than delivery, make your own sauce from canned tomato sauce and italian spices; buy pepperoni, sausage, and pre-shredded mozzarella in bulk (store them in the freezer).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Old Navy Clearance, Revisited

Remember the Old Navy Clearance sale from Jan. 16 to Jan. 19? If you missed it, you get a second chance online. Here are the details:

Take an EXTRA 50% off Old Navy Clearance!

5 DAYS ONLY--exclusively online

Don't miss your chance to save even more on already low prices,now through February 2.

Enter promo code HALFOFF at checkout.


  • This is a one time deal. The fine print states that the online code can only be used one time.
  • Know your budget. Remember, even if it's dirt cheap, if it's not in the budget, don't buy it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Digital Camera Deal

We have had a rash of electronics deaths in our household, one of which being my Fuji Finepix 2800Zoom digital camera. This camera has lasted for over 6 years, and I have loved it. It takes good quality pictures, 60 second movies, and has given me no trouble. I believe one of my 5 lovely children got their hands on it, unfortunately. (Or could it have been when I dropped it the other day? We'll just blame it on the kids....)

So now I am in the market for a new digital camera unless someone out there can tell me how to fix it. I have scoured the internet looking for repair helps to no avail.

Here's what I want:

  • 10 megapixel or greater (for picture quality)

  • at least 3X optical zoom (optical zoom is real zoom--lens-driven; digital zoom merely enlarges a portion of the image)

  • a slim body that will fit easily in my purse

  • a price around $100

When I purchased my Fuji Finepix 6 1/2 years ago, I paid over $300 for 2 megapixels and 6x optical zoom. Technology improves so quickly that I can easily find a camera with the features I listed for $100. The challenge remains to find the highest quality camera for that price.

I'll let you know what I find!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bargain Birthday at the Sheraton

Recently, my husband and I spent the night at the Sheraton for his birthday, thanks to his parents (they babysat) and Travelocity listed a room at the Sheraton (a 3 1/2 star hotel) for $107, but I paid $49 (the price of a budget hotel).


  • If possible, travel during off peak times. We stayed over a Monday night rather than a Friday or Saturday.

  • Do your research. Priceline advertises savings of up to 50%, and I knew what the published rate of a 3 to 4 star hotel was.

  • Don't leave money on the table. I bid just a little lower than 50% of the published rate. In fact, my first offer was rejected. You can always try again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Your Bargain Hunter: Nexxus Vitatress Biotin Shampoo

This request comes from a friend who has been using Nexxus Vitatress Biotin Shampoo for hair thickening. She paid just under $40 for a 10 oz bottle. She has been pleased with the results and would like to purchase more, but the price is prohibitive.

I found a few options for her:

1. sells the shampoo for $7.65 (+$7.00 shipping).

2. An eBay seller has 3-10oz bottles on sale for $19.99 (+$6.00 shipping).

3. sells a different brand biotin shampoo for $5.34 ($5.95 shipping).

She decided to go with option #2, but the other two options would be money-savers as well.


  • Don't give up. Do a little research. Ask around. Be creative. The right solution will materialize.
  • Buy from reliable websites. In my opinion, consumer ratings are the best indicator of a trustworthy seller. I try to buy from sellers that have a seller rating of 95% or better. (More on this later....)
  • Consider the cost of shipping. Shipping costs vary widely between online vendors. In this case, even with the cost of shipping, all three options were good deals. Sometimes, though, the cost of shipping can take the bargain out of it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Banana Republic Clearance

I got word that Banana Republic (BR when texting) is having a great clearance sale, so I went to check it out this afternoon. Here's a sample of what's on sale (and what has now been added to my wardrobe):

This silk cotton cashmere sweater originally retailed at $59.

Originally priced at $98, these denim trousers are a steal!

This top is so soft and perfect for layering. Original price: $34.

This cap-sleeved top will transition nicely into spring. Original price: $39.

Originally $69, this cardigan sweater is made from extra fine Merino wool.

These items averaged a savings of 75%. My local Banana Republic store still had a fairly good selection, including drastically reduced dresses and coats.


  • Don't be too wowed by the difference between original price and sale price. The Banana Republic brand name significantly inflates the original price, so make sure you are getting a quality item for the price you pay. On the other hand, Banana Republic tends to use higher quality fabrics than, say, Old Navy.
  • Stock up on basics. In my wardrobe experience, BR clothing tends to last longer than less expensive clothing, so take advantage of the sale to acquire great basics, like classic pants, white shirts, etc.--pieces that will continue to be stylish through many seasons.

Let me know what you find!

Country Style Pork Ribs

This week at Tom Thumb, Fresh Pork Shoulder Country Style Ribs are on sale for $0.99/lb. That's a really good deal, so it's time to stock your freezer. The sale price runs through Tuesday, January 27th.

Here's my favorite recipe for country style ribs:

Easy Bar-B-Q Spareribs

3 lb spareribs
1 (14 oz) bottle catsup
1 1/4 C water
1/4 C vinegar
3 T brown sugar
1 T dry mustard
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t chili powder
pinch of ground cloves
pinch or garlic powder

Cut ribs into serving pieces; place in a 13 X 9 X 2 inch baking pan. Bake 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients; mix well. Spoon over ribs. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F; bake and additional 1 1/2 hours or until tender, basting occasionally. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

  • Choose the least fatty spareribs, in order to get more for your money.
  • Freeze and thaw properly. Make sure the ribs are wrapped well, so they don't diminish in quality while in the freezer. Ideally, the meat should be thawed in the fridge overnight. Finally, don't refreeze meat that has been thawed. If the meat doesn't taste good because of improper storage and handling, it wasn't a good deal after all.

For other recipes check out

Monday, January 19, 2009

Your Bargain Hunter: Serger

Heather writes:

" I am looking for a babylock serger. I saw a serger at Costco for $200—is there anything cheaper?"

The simple answer is, "Yes."
But let's take a deeper look....

Sergers range in price from $88 (no-name brand, no-name website) to $4000+ (industrial). The lowest in the price range, though, involves high risk, since there's no evidence that the serger or the website is reliable. On the other hand, you probably don't need an industrial serger for personal use at home.

For the specific serger you mentioned (Brother 1034D), Costco offers the lowest price. The only other place that sells this serger for $200 is refurbished (although the company throws in a few small accessories for free).

On this serger received 4.7 out of 5 stars (126 reviews). On it received 4 out of 5 stars (9 reviews). Lastly, rated it a 3 out of 5, stating that it peformed better than they expected.

Since you mentioned Babylock sergers, I checked into those as well. Information online is hard to come by, because they are only sold at a brick and mortar store. Used Babylock sergers on eBay ranged in price from $300 to $2000. Consumer guide rated them as top of the line. I called a local sewing store near you to find a little more information. They have a higher end Babylock serger, which is their most popular, on sale for $1299. The lowest end of the Babylocks is on sale for $299. You can visit the store to try out various sergers.

Bottom line: In my opinion, the serger from Costco is the best deal out there. Besides getting a good price, you also have the security of Costco's return policy. If it breaks or you don't like it, you can always return questions asked.

What Would Becky Do?

Heather writes:

"I bought PJ’s at Macy’s on sale which I LOVE: perfect color and fit. After 4 wearings (2 washings) a seam has come apart. Do I return it or fix it?"

You should never feel restricted from returning a defective item. That being said, some stores accept returns more willingly than others. You also have to consider the time and cost it takes to return an item.

In this case, specifically, my first question is, “Do you think you can find another set of pajamas that you love as much for the same price or less?”

Macy’s return policy states that they will accept returns with tags and a receipt up to 180 days from the date of purchase. However, several websites complained of grudging Macy’s clerks when they returned an item.

I called your local Macy’s and talked to an employee in the Initmates department. She very kindly asked for you to bring in whatever you have, and she will work with you. Without a receipt she would have to get approval from a manager, but she seemed very willing to help and make sure you’re satisfied.

My second question: “Are you willing to take the time and effort to travel to the department store and potentially haggle with a clerk?”

WWBD: If I didn’t think I could find another set of pajamas that I loved as much, I would keep them and fix them. If I thought I could find another pair just as great, I would take them back--absolutely. (In addition, I would let Macy’s know that I shop with them, because they have a reputation for quality clothing. This situation dissatisfied me, because my favorite pajamas disappointed, and returning them required time and effort. Of course, all this would be stated very kindly, and I would thank the sales clerk very much for helping me. Kindness always gets result!!!)

Let me know what you decide!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Old Navy Clearance

Take an extra 50% off all clearance at Old Navy. The sale runs through Monday, January 19th. Now's a great time to stock up.
  • Know what you need. Before you go, take a quick pick into the closets of household members to see what you might need now or in the future.

This morning I got a pair of men's dress pants, 2 long sleeved shirts (3T), a knit shirt (sz 10/12), pajamas (3T), and jeans (3T), and athletic socks for me for $20. That's an average of less than $3 per item.

Friday, January 16, 2009


If I need produce, I go to Sprouts. Period. They have the best deals on produce and occasionally on chicken or pork. I still don‘t know how they sell produce at the prices they do. Have all the other grocery stores been gouging us for the last several years?

Sprouts call itself a Farmer’s Market. It is comparable to Whole Foods, but with lower prices. Their produce section includes produce from local farmers when possible, organic produce, and “hard-to-find treasures…from around the world.” Their meat department offers free-range, organic beef at competitive prices. Their poultry, priced as low as the best prices at other grocery stores, comes without added hormones, chemical additives, or sodium solutions. Finally, their bulk section offers great sales on whole grains that are sometimes hard to find in a regular grocery store.

The rest of the store contains organic and all-natural groceries and supplements whose prices aren’t as noteworthy, but are products that may be hard to find elsewhere.

Sprouts’ locations present the only drawback--to date they are only located in California, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas. However, they are adding stores rapidly. Hopefully, everyone will have the opportunity to experience the great grocery deals at Sprouts in the near future!

To give you an idea, here's this week's ad for my local store (click to zoom):


  • Buy produce that’s in season. Fruits and vegetables in season cost less and contain more nutrients.

  • Shop on Wednesdays. Sprouts weekly specials run from Wednesday to Wednesday. That is the day when both weeks’ specials overlap, so you get double the deals.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Frugal Fashion I

Fashion doesn't have to cost a fortune. My friend and I both love shopping, and we both love fashion. Here are some examples of similar items (with different pricetags) that my friend and I have purchased:

I got my coat (on the right) on sale at the London Fog outlet.

Here, I benefited from a sale at Ann Taylor.

These pants (on the right) were on clearance at the J. Crew outlet.

Notice the similar linings. The one on the left is from TJ Maxx.

My friend paid full price for her Lucky jeans. I got mine at the Lucky outlet.

Here are some of my other favorite fashion finds:

That's for the whole outfit!
Shoes from Nordstrom Rack : $16
Jacket from Ross: $15
White shirt and black skirt on clearance at Old Navy: $1.99 each.

G-star skir from the outlet: $20
Calvin Klein woven shirt from Ross: $8
Anne Klein belt from Ross: $2
Shoes on clearance at Old Navy: $8

Max Studio Specialty Products ( on sale at the retail store.

Diesel shoes (that retail for about $90) from the clearance section at DSW Shoe Warehouse .

My two favorite shoe brands are Kenneth Cole and Steve Madden. I fell in love with these shoes at the Kenneth Cole outlet in Vegas, and almost paid the $70 pricetag. At the last moment I decided I couldn't pay that much for shoes. We were a match made to be, though. Back in Texas I found the exact same shoes at Burlington Coat Factory for $30.

  • Sometimes it's better to wait. If it doesn't feel right--if the price doesn't match the need or the desire, you should probably wait. The right deal will come along.
  • Know when clearance sales are. In general, at the end of the season you can get better prices.
  • Outlets don't always have the best deals. Sometimes you can find better prices in the regular store during sales than you can find at the outlet.

    Thanks, Heather, for the idea and helping with the photo shoot!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pier 1 Sale

Here's an opportunity to decorate with style for less!

Check the website: to find what's on sale and where the nearest store is located.

The sale runs from January 10 to February 1, 2009.


  • Don't wait. If this is the right time for you to look for furniture and accessories, especially if there is something in particular you're looking for, go early on in the sale. Otherwise, it will get picked over.
  • Not every item on sale is a bargain. If you don't need it, don't like it, or can't afford it (ie, you would have to use credit), it's not a good deal. Look for the items that are marked 50 to 75% off.
  • The website doesn't tell the whole story. There most likely will be items in the store that are not listed on the website. Sometimes the price reductions on these items are the greatest.

Go get 'em, tiger!!

Bargain Decorating, part 1

Decorating a room “on the cheap” thrills me almost as much as Nordstrom's Anniversary sale. I don’t mean buying cheaply made furniture and accessories. (In the long run, cheaply made furniture costs you more most of the time.)

My bedroom may be my favorite endeavor to date.

I bought this vintage chest of drawers from a local seller on eBay for $113 (including two matching end tables). It is solid hardwood, very sturdy, and well-constructed. I refinished it and added new knobs for $50. The frames on top came from a second-hand store, after which I painted them to match ($2 total).

This nightstand (I have 2 of them) came from a garage sale for $10 a piece. Refinishing and new knobs totaled $10. The lamps were on display--the last ones left. I bartered with the store manager to get them for $11 a piece.

My curtain rods are made of electrical conduit ($3) and cabinet knobs ($3 each). I used hooks from the hardware section to hold the rod up ($1 each).

Curtains from Ikea ($19 a pair)

Bed frame: $500 from

My mother-in-law had given me these prints (unframed). They were an odd size, but I happen to find these frames (which were the right size) on clearance at a craft store for $1.50 each. They had other prints in them that I took out and tossed. I painted the frames to match the bed ($1).


  • Think outside the box. I happened to see the electrical conduit at Home Depot, and decided it would work for curtain rods by cutting with a hacksaw and sticking cabinet knobs over the ends.
  • Take one step at a time. I didn’t decorate my room overnight. I took my time having a vision in mind. Then when I came across a great deal that fit with the vision, I snatched it up.
  • Affordable, quality, new furniture is hard to find in retail stores. But there are solid pieces out there that will stand the test of time. Look past the surface (it can be refinished to your liking). Look for furniture with dovetail joints (definition), that’s sturdy/non-wobbly/heavy, and is made of solid wood. Pull drawers out and look inside and underneath to determine the quality of the piece.
  • Be flexible. I had my mind set on a chaise lounge chair for my bedroom. However, when I decided a loveseat from the living room didn’t work in there, I moved it to my bedroom instead of a chaise.

Including the loveseat, this room cost $975. Home decorating doesn't require breaking the bank!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's Get Down to the Bargain Basics

My two biggest passions are fitness and bargain hunting. There is an information overload about exercise and nutrition, so I will leave that to others.

It seems to me the turn of events in the economy of late has prompted more people to talk about saving money, ways to cut back, how to get out of debt, etc. As I have searched for more information myself (on TV shows, websites, magazine and newspaper articles--even I could stand to improve), I have decided that I might have something to offer others who are searching for ways to save money.

Don’t get me wrong….I am not perfect myself. I have experienced deep buyer’s remorse on occasion. I also know what’s it like to feel the pressure to keep up with the “Jones’s.” I live in an affluent area of North Texas where most of my friends and acquaintances drive luxury cars and wear designer clothing. It’s hard for me not to give in….

However, the things I am most proud of are the equity we have built up in our home, the retirement account we have grown, and the fact that we have NEVER paid interest on a credit card.

Each topic includes a short experience of my own and some tips on saving money and finding the right price.

Finally, I want to help! You can email me the item you’re searching for and the price you’re willing to pay. I can research for you the best price.