This is a guest post from Karen who lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two daughters. Besides being a frugal stay at home mom ,she blogs at about weekly deals/sales/freebies and more. In her spare time she enjoys taking surveys and doing some mystery shopping. You can see a list of Karen's survey earnings on her blog.


Everyone seems to be looking for ways to make extra cash and the one place they seem to be looking to is the Internet. There are a lot of scams but there are also legitimate ways to earn some extra money. You won't get rich but who couldn't use gas money each month, or extra money to pick up those lattes that you love so much, but can't quite fit into your budget. One way I've found to earn a little extra cash is by taking online surveys.

I started doing online surveys a few years back but it's taken me a while to find companies that really do pay. There are so many out there they say they pay but they really don't. They just want your email address so they can Spam you. If a company really wants your opinion then they are not going to Spam you.

I've had success with a few survey sites and I've made well over a $100 with some of them and I don't even take every survey that is sent to me, I just don't have that much extra time most days. But when I do it's nice to earn a little extra cash and know that I'm helping companies make better products or services.

When you sign up for just about any survey company, they do want a lot of information, but this is how they will match you up with surveys. They will most likely want to know about every member in your household. Some companies will send you surveys for your family to take, even your children. I've done a few with my 4 year old. I just basically walk her through it asking her the questions.

They may ask for your social security number when you sign up. The reason why is if you make more than $600 in a year, they have to report it to the IRS. You may not have to give it to them when you first sign up, but you will need it to receive your first payment. This is very normal.

You will probably get a few screener surveys a week from most companies but that really depends on your demographics. If you don't receive many emails from them, it just means they don't anything that will fit you at that time. When you get the screener emails, it will tell you what your compensation will be for taking that survey and how long it should take if you qualify for it.

Each company has a different way of compensating you. Some of them do pay cash either by check or paypal. Other's will let you choose gift cards or prizes. Some of them will enter you into monthly drawings. But before you begin any survey they will always tell you so then you can make the decision of taking that survey or not. It's OK if you pass up on some of them but after a while you may become inactive so be careful about that.

Here are a few companies I have been working with for a while now and they do pay and they are REAL:
Daily Survey

Before you sign up with any survey companies I suggest you get a separate email address just to use for your surveys so your inbox won't be flooded with emails and your personal stuff gets buried. Some days you may get more emails than others.

If you take a few surveys a week you could probably fill up your gas tank for the month. With the price of gas going up again, that would be nice.

Thrift is defined: the characteristic of using a minimum of something (especially money). I also believe that thrift defines a person because, to be considered thrifty means that a habit must form; a habit and a mental desire to use less.

The habit of thrift is simply the habit which dictates that you shall earn more than you spend. In other words, thrift is the habit that provides that you shall spend less than you earn. Take your choice.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

If you are thrifty you are deciding to not live beyond your means, so that would require a discipline of character. It means that when your mind says, “I want this, I want that and now!”, you will calm your desires by telling yourself not now, later, or just a NO. Since it is an ongoing act of discipline, the patience learned and the satisfaction in having less does spread throughout your whole life, in many areas. Once you find that you have more control of your money and wants, you become a more content person. With that, you are able to not only take care of yourself but, those around you as well.

Thrift is that habit of character that prompts one to work for what he gets, to earn what is paid him; to invest a part of his earnings; to spend wisely and well; to save, but not to hoard.” ~Arthur Chamberlain

Thrift allows you a surplus that gives you the power to dictate terms, to lead a life without the control from an outward source, such as being a slave to debt.

Thrift allows you to say to yourself and those around you, “I am sufficient with who I am and what I have.

The habit of thrift allows you to understand the care of items and how to make them last. You also determine how much or how long you will use the item. In essence you provide self–sufficiency and who wouldn’t be happier knowing they are taking care of themselves and can also help others.

Save a part of your income and begin now, for the man with a surplus controls circumstances and the man without a surplus is controlled by circumstances.” ~ Henry H Buckley

More people should learn to tell their dollars where to go instead of asking them where they went.” ~ Roger Babson

When you are thrifty and caring for your items, it is obvious that someone who makes their money last or to extend the life of a coat, will also be someone who respects their life and the people and things around them.

Thrift allows you to be healthier; you see the good in not overeating, getting a good amount of rest, and putting your body in the best physical condition it can be for a longer life as well.

Thrift gives you new perspective on life. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and “Time is Money”.

Debt is the secret foe of thrift, as vice and idleness are its open foes. The debt-habit is the twin brother of poverty.” ~Thornton T. Munger

Thrift is not about skipping a meal or dressing poorly for the sake of a savings account. It is about having what you need and not buying what you don’t need. Moderation is the twin to Thrift; where as you have thrift you have moderation in life.

Where thrift is moderation on larger spectrum, overspending with no thought of the future is on one end and hoarding with no thought of today is on the other end of that spectrum. Because this spectrum is constantly moving, we may find ourselves sliding closer to one end or the other. We need to make every effort to balance ourselves as close to moderation as we can, this also helps keep our world more in balance as well.

Thrift in thought will produce thrift in deed and as every person understands, a little done every day produces a person who grows stronger in the discipline.

I don’t mention it too often but one of the main reasons I started living frugally was because I didn’t want to get into another situation where I had to claim bankruptcy.

The process of claiming bankruptcy was eye-opening and frightening.

Frightening because the lawyer I hired to help me through this made it clear that some of my creditors may not want to be included in the bankruptcy and I would have to settle out of court with them, by that time I was worn down with phone calls I really didn’t want to deal with them ever again; Eye-opening because of how easy it was, back in 1998, to get all of it wiped out and I owed no one but the lawyer. Of course that is before I truly understood the impact my credit score tanking would have on my future for getting any kind of credit again in the next 10 years.

I knew that I would have to re-establish credit because of the bankruptcy, but someone telling you this and then going through it seem to be world's apart. Through the process of trying to re-establish credit, I came across more rejections or 30% interest rates that it scared me about my future.

That is when I realized I HAD to start living within my means. In Denver, it meant downsizing to as small an apartment as I could stand that was close enough to walk to work and getting rid of the car. It also meant using only the money I had on hand, cash.

Using only cash involved a few learning experiences:

1. Putting it off: I had to figure out my priorities, plan for emergencies and put off the other bills until later. My to do list was constantly in flux and I had to be patient.

2. Chasing my money: Every penny I spent was scrutinized to determine if this was the best way to spend it.

3. Creating Money: Some things that were put off until later, were asked for as gifts to save myself money. The ‘stuff’ in my home had little money signs on them for selling on eBay for extra money when times got tight.

4. Tightwad shopping: This is where I learned the art of dumpster diving and making other people's trash my treasures. The same is true with grocery shopping; I had it down pat when the staples would be on sale and how much to get to last me until the next round of sales. And any rebates or coupons that I found for things I already bought were not forgotten on the kitchen counter like before.

5. Advertising blinders: When you have a very tight budget to stay within and no credit to fall back on, you notice all the advertising that tells you how much more complete your life would be with a cell phone, new car or quick pizza delivery. It helped me become more powerful than I thought I could be at tuning it all out.

6. Limited giving: I made it clear to family that I had limited funds and asked for gift ideas that were under a certain range. Sometimes it meant going in together with someone else to buy a gift or giving a gift that was second-hand but looked new.

7. Power of ownership: There is nothing quite like being able to sleep in a bed or sit on a chair that you have paid for in cash and don’t still owe on to a nameless creditor.

Actually the power of ownership still gives me the shivers. To say to myself, I own it and it is mine, no one can take it back because I missed a payment. There were times I would pinch myself and have a goofy grin on my face because I was so happy.

As another anniversary of my bankruptcy nears, this shock to the system has diminished and the power of ownership now barely entices a grin, I not only want to remember, but need to remember the fear and frustration that debt caused me so I don’t do it again!

Get your frugal living posts in for next week's festival of frugality because I'm hosting for June 2nd. This week a cool new blog Suburban Dollar hosted and put together a wonderful Memorial day frugal festival.
Thank you SD for picking my beer post as an editor's choice as well.

I would also like to point you to a few posts I found enjoyable to read:
▲ Cheap Like Me writes about whether a warehouse membership is such a good deal.

▲ If you have left over coupons that you aren't using then you may want to send the coupons overseas to some of the military families as they can use them even past their expiration date.

▲ Want to reuse your ketchup bottle - use it for pancake mix via Crafter-holic

A few frugal tips to consider this month from Twitterers:

@DebtDiva For an all-purpose cleaner, mix 1/2 C. vinegar and 1/4 C. baking soda with half gal of H2O. Perfect substitute for commercial cleaners.

@frugalforlife Freeze wet washcloths in sandwich bags to use as an ice pack

@MonroeOnABudget Great Depression generation shares stories of survival - article and video

Summer seems to be coming up fast and the dog days are laying in wait right behind it. So before it gets to hot to think and all the fans are snatched up at the store, I’d like to highlight a few ideas that I have found work in my residence and of course if you have further ideas, don’t hesitate to speak up and comment below.

1> Smaller areas, smaller bills
I forget to do this occasionally; running to the thermostat to drop the temperature in the house a degree or two, when a fan would have done it faster and cheaper for the room I am going to be in most often. That is why it can be important to close doors in rooms that aren't being used regularly throughout the day, even the bathroom.

Ceiling fans can cool a home up to 8 degrees cooler in minutes and shave off up to 40% off your cooling bill. (Just make sure the blades are going the right direction by checking here). And if you are cooking in the kitchen, use a fan to direct the heat out a window and cool your home down quicker.

2> Look for leaks
Just like you do in the winter, or should have but it was to cold and so you don’t have to hear the howl of the wind through your home; don’t lose precious coldness to the outside as well. Replace the seal around the doors and windows; or just make sure they are shut when the air in the house is being cooled. As my Mom would say, "We aren’t air-conditioning the neighborhood, Shut the door!

3> Keep the heat out
Sun heats up your house extremely quickly, great for the winter but horrible for the summer.

A few years back I lived in a studio apartment just under 400 square feet, with no air-conditioning and the only two windows in the apartment faced east. During the winter, the sun was wonderful, but once summer rolled around I learned in one day that I needed a way to block out the sun. I once measured the temp in the studio at about 104 degrees one day!

That taught me to close the shades in the morning and keep them closed until the sun had a higher angle in the sky, then I would open the windows and try to get a breeze blowing into the room to help cool things down to something more manageable.

At the time I used cardboard and tinfoil to keep the sun out and that worked, but I felt like I was closed off from the world. Another option is to buy some bubble wrap and cover the windows but still see something outside.

4> Use the thermometer wisely
If you don't like the idea of opening the windows and chancing bugs getting in and instead want to keep your windows closed through most of the summer, make sure your thermostat is set at a decent temperature.

First, if you aren’t doing much, watching tv or sitting at the computer, your metabolic rate slows down almost to the equivalent of sleeping, because of this you should be able to have a pretty standard temperature for waking or sleeping. Your best bet is to try and live in a temperature that is as evenly matched to the outdoors as possible. The reason being that the air kicks on less and you are then prepared for the great outdoors a bit more and don’t collapse into a puddle on your front step.

If you are cold in the house, move around more or bump up the thermostat a degree or two as you may have it set to low. Of course having a digital thermostat that has an auto setting is always a nice invention; I've just never lived in a home that had one so I've gotten pretty good at setting it and leaving as high as I can stand.

5> Other little ways - In the past I have:
* Worn a wet t-shirt around the studio to keep cool (this is with the curtains closed of course)
* Worn a wet towel around my shoulders and neck
* Stuck a bowl of ice in front of a fan
* Gone to the mall or library to just have a few moments of air-conditioning
* Drank lots of water to keep my body temperature down

One of the ways I have found to get out and about and not spend a lot of money is to find ways to do things for free that are right under my nose and within driving distance. And what is nice is that we can just do one tour a day and feel that we have done enough for the day and have learned something as well.

A few years ago my family and I went to the Denver Mint for their free tour of the history of coins to watching the process of coins being made from 15 feet above.

This last tour that I went on was to the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO and unlike the Denver mint, I got to check out the product up close and personal.

The Coors Brewery didn't require any reservation and they had a separate parking lot that they would bus you to and from the brewery. The drivers were extremely nice and positive. On the trip to the brewery we first got a quick tour of Golden, CO and it's history.

Once at the brewery, the smell of hops and barley is quite noticeable and will take a few minutes to get used to. And while you are taking in the can and bottle history of Coors you can get your over 18 bracelet for product testing.

With Golden, Colorado the home of the School of the Mines, they are used to college students meeting at the brewery for a few beers. They definitely come and go, while we were waiting for our tour about a half dozen people came in to just get their beer bracelet and head to the bar.

The brewery tour ran for about 30 minutes and took us through each stage from the hops and barley to drying process to the mixing kettles and the distribution, from the top of the factory to the bottom. Those kettles are HUGE by the way, pictures don't fully show the size.

The items I found most interesting to learn was about the origin of the beer as well as the the fact that they recycle a majority of their waste - which not only saves the company money but helps the environment.

After the tour was all over we descended the stairs into the brewery lunch/store area to sample beers. The funny part was that these samples weren't little 4 ounce cups but you were allowed 3 12 ounce beers to test out. That explains why the college students hangout at Coors - that is a generous amount of free beer!

Overall, I have to say that my experience was enjoyable and I certainly wouldn't mind going back with someone new.

This is a devil's advocate post to look at an idea from an uncommon perspective and you can thank Jim from for the idea.

Recently JD posted over at Get Rich Slowly about what he was seeing around him in the market place:

"Still, I’m happy to see so many people discovering frugality. It’s an opportunity for us to spread the gospel of thrift."
He points to different mainstream news articles that are coming out lately about people who are taking on the new frugality and learning the art of spending less and still being happy.

To be frank, I don't like this new age of thrift and it isn't good our future.

Thrift Stores
More people are going to thrift stores and finding good deals on name brand items and that means there is more competition. There is a greater chance that someone will snatch that unique sweater or name brand pants, and I will have less to chose from.

Let's also look at the fact that as people become more frugal they hold onto items longer by fixing them and sewing them up instead of donating them to the thrift store or consignment shop - also cutting down on the great name brand deals.

And let's not even talk about how the lines at the cash register are getting longer. You can pretty much forget about going on the weekends any longer because it is crazy busy - like ants to a popsicle. Plus, everyone wants discounts on their items and wants to save an extra dime and by the time I get to the cashier I'm not all that special asking for my discount.

Fix it Yourself
People now are fixing their clothes and their vacuums and their furniture and that leaves fewer items dumped quickly in the darkness of night at the dumpster.

I haven't seen a decent piece of salvageable furniture at my favorite dumpster in over 2 months and let's not get into the clothes and toys I used to find because they are long gone now and I only have the stories left to tell my amazed friends.

I loved finding "new-to-me" furniture and clothes and toys that I could refurbish and keep or give as a gift to someone else, but now I have to go to thrift stores to pick that stuff up and I already mentioned the pain that can cause.

Cooking at Home
Yes, even your cooking at home cuts into my thrifty ways because you are using coupons more and throwing them out less, which leaves me fewer to pickup after you dump them in the trash. I even have more competition on eBay for coupons that I didn't used to have.

Coupons are not the only items disappearing quickly. Now when there is a good coupon for an item, something free or almost free, those items are cleared out from the shelf and this causes me to have to go back twice or even go to another store to find the item for my coupon before it expires. This not only wears me down but causes me to use more gas.

In Summary
I would like to say that I'm just thrilled you have found frugality and thrifty living to help you make ends meet but you have made my life more stressful, competitive and frankly I can't wait until you go back to your spendy and wasteful ways as they benefited me a whole lot more than the way you are now.

This has been a devil's advocate post to look at an idea from a different perspective. I am taking an opposite view to a common idea, sprinkled with a bit of sarcasm.

Please give me your thoughts one way or another on this new frugality

Recently the Washington Post ran the article When Debt Collectors Disrupt Dinner and they mentioned something important to remember,

"When talking with a caller about a debt, caution is the watchword. While it's essential to be completely truthful, a consumer cannot be forced to answer any questions. Some experts advise avoiding even acknowledging owing the debt. And there are some things that should never be said."
They bring up some good points in the article and these are a few things I have personally learned. Just because you owe someone money doesn’t mean that they can walk all over you, call you endlessly, and make life a pain. There are some things to keep in mind as you try to organize yourself to pay off your debts; the debtor has rights as well.

$1 - A collector may contact you by phone, mail or in person. However, they can not contact you before 8am or after 9pm. Also, if you let the collector know that your employer does not approve of collection calls they may no longer contact you at work.

$2 - The next step to narrowing down their contact with you is to send a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter. This is done via regular ’snail’ mail and best sent registered mail so you know they received it and have physical proof. This letter would be similar to this letter. This does not mean that you do not owe the debt necessarily, it simply narrows down the way they can contact you by legal means and you can start a ‘folder of proof’ if it ever goes to court.

$3 - A debt collector can, by law, contact other people who know you, but they can only ask for your address, phone number and place of employment. In most states they are FORBIDDEN to reveal that the call involves an unpaid debt.
If this happens, having the people who are being contacted, write down the call date/time and any other information will help you in court.

$4 - Collectors can contact your place of employment only once and that is to verify employment status and location. They can’t ask for any other information and they are in violation of the law if they contact your employer after the initial contact.

$5 - It is illegal for a debt collector to use obscene or profane language when they speak with you. They are also FORBIDDEN to threaten you with violence or telephone repeatedly with the intent of harassment. They are also FORBIDDEN to misrepresent themselves as law enforcement or working for the government.

$6 - Debt collectors can not use false names or give you false information about their company. They can’t threaten to take your property unless it is handled legally and they can’t contact you via postcard.

$7 - If you dispute a collection you MUST contact them in writing within 30 days from the time you receive the notice. Collectors can demand money from you or take legal action during this time until they receive the letter on file. This also a good reason for sending any letters via registered mail.

$8 - If you offer to make a partial or incremental payment, the original creditor nor can the collection agency later ask for full payment.
Some collectors work on commission and will press you for a full payment, but if you know that the original creditor would accept the partial, they are in violation of the law.

$9 - Collectors can legally discuss your debt with your spouse, even if you weren’t married at the time you incurred the debt. If the debtor was a minor, collectors can talk to the parent as well.

$10 - Finally, This is NOT legal advice. If you believe you are being illegally harassed, take notes and keep all paperwork, also contact the Federal Trade Commission (877.382.4357) or your Attorney General. You can also speak with a certified lawyer for advice as well. Personally, I have found a great amount of help through the CreditInfoCenter forums, however they are not official legal advice either, but will direct you down a proper path.

This week I took a friend to her first minor league baseball game. The Iowa Cubs [farm team for Chicago Cubs] came to play the Colorado Springs Sky Sox [farm team for Colorado Rockies] and I had the joy of watching someone experience minor league baseball for the first time.

I chose this game for a few reasons:
a. It was a birthday gift - one that didn't cost a lot but shared my time
b. It was for teams that we had an interest in - a local team against a home-state team
c. There was a great promotion going on - this was lucky for us but not uncommon for farm teams

The promotion for this specific game was a 2 dollar Tuesday - 2 dollar parking, 2 dollar tickets, and 2 dollar Coors and Coors Light beer. The tickets for the area that we sat in saved us $18 right away, plus the little bit for parking. Overall we spent 18 dollars total which included my large glass of Alaska Amber ale, large popcorn and large pepsi for 4 hours of fun, food, and a little time away from home.

I wish we could have brought in food with us because that would have kept the cost down even further to only $6 - but I understand the need to support the local minor league team. I do have to say that the prices of food and drink are equal to or slightly better than the movie theater.

Overall the cost spent for the game and the gas to Colorado springs (1/4 tank)was well worth it and beat out the cost of going to a movie theater, if I didn't have movie gift cards.

I love movies - I like new ones, old ones, cult classics, foreign movies - I like them all, give me a good summary that interests me and I'm game. Even better is when I can watch the movies on a big screen.

Movie theaters are expensive and I try to pick up gift cards from the local theaters when I can via holidays, birthdays and point gathering sites like My points. Then I can go to the theater for free.

However, a lucky day comes along on occasion where I don't need to have a gift card and I can go to the movie theater for free or a couple of dollars.

Every Summer the local movie theater chains have summer kids movies for cheap and I always fine a couple on the list that interest me. I have already verified with the theaters that it is ok if an adult comes w/out a kid.

Regal Theater has a free family movie festival starting in June through August - Selected G & PG movies start at 10AM each Tuesday and Wednesday during the festival. Check the state selector for any theaters in your area.

AMC Theaters bargain movies aren't free, but for $1 I can give to charity - All admission proceeds from AMC Summer MovieCamp will benefit Variety – The Children's Charity and the Will Rogers Institute. Their movies are twice a month during the summer.

One very cool benefit to the apartment complex I live in, and one no one uses, is the 70+ inch screen that I can watch dvd rentals on. I get the movie theater seats that I eactly want (chuckle), I can pop my own popcorn, and I can bring my own drink, and have some friends over to see a movie off the big screen, and have a day in the dark watching movies I've rented.

For the best deals on movie rentals I find the following places the best:
1. The Library - new releases, old classics, documentaries and foreign films are all here.

2. Swapping w/ friends - One of my co-workers always buys his movies, never rents and he is kind enough to let trusted friends borrow them.

3. Redbox - For a dollar you can't beat it and if you have one of the free codes it is even better

4. Online Movies - Websites like Hulu offer movies free, documentaries can be found at places like Snag films among other free video sources. And if you feel technical enough, you could hook up a laptop to the tv set and watch it on a bigger screen.

5. Movie subscriptions - I'm not a big fan because I always seem to get the scratched ones, but if you have a subscription through Netflix or Blockbuster you can easily rent movies for 2.50 a piece or cheaper, depending on your subscription plan.

6. Finally, catching the big fish is getting free tickets to public screening of a movie that has yet to come out. For these you want to check with your local theater if you live near a larger Metro area or, try searching free offer websites or just search online for public screenings

Overall, when you really think about it, you can see some pretty great movies for a cheaper price than $4 for PPV or $5-10+ at the theaters. It just takes some planning and a big bite of patience.

I have had a breakthrough, sure it's not something major to most people but, I have found a simple recipe that makes me a little more comfortable in the kitchen. Up to this point I've been fine with making pancakes, eggs, bacon, and other 1-2 ingredient meals.

I've always wanted to be more comfortable in the kitchen and put together something bigger and better but I've been too scared to try it or burn something. A three course meal sounded overwhelming; actually a main dish with more than 3 ingredients sounded frightening.

So, last year I found a recipe to a food item that I can't stand to pass up at a state fair - a funnel cake. It is a small step I can make that will help me become more comfortable in the kitchen and it is for a food that I enjoy and that desire for the end result inspired me to make the step. It allowed me to break out of my comfort zone yet still feel comfortable doing it.

I have found the same thing to be true about taking steps to be more frugal or living more eco-friendly. It is about taking small steps that inspire us and put us just on the edge of comfortable.
Oh and here is the funnel cake recipe
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

2 tbsp. sugar

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1. In a deep skillet, heat about two cups of oil over medium-high heat until hot. Test the temperature by dropping a pinch of flour into the hot oil. If it sizzles right away without smoking, it's perfect.

2. Beat egg and milk. Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly add to the egg mixture, beating until smooth.

3. Using a funnel, drop into hot oil working from center outwards in a web pattern. (You can use a gallon sized freezer bag instead of a funnel by pouring the batter into the bag, snipping off a small corner of it, and squeezing the batter into the oil.)

4. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, remove from the oil when golden brown and crispy.

5. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
It was a lot of batter for two people so next time I will cut the recipe in half. It did come out just a tad crispy around the edges. I was so happy to have accomplished something in the kitchen and I'm ready to try it again and do better.

A few years ago I was big into free product samples, well anything free really. It could be free magazines, books, and dvd's. I didn't care what I got because I was addicted to get any item free and seeing my mailbox full of items that weren't bills or advertising all the time.

In my addiction I would sign up for free products and give them to people who I thought would want them. Four years ago I signed up for a free 3-pack of golf balls [I don't golf] from a hard liquor company [I rarely drink and never hard liqueur] and I still get advertising from them today.

At the height of my addiction I was receiving 8 magazines subscriptions that I rarely read or even cared for and my mailbox was crammed full of samples most every day with items that I didn't remember why I signed up it for them. The amount of junk this generated for my trashcan was embarrassing.

After throwing away unopened samples I realized I had gone too far with the sample offers and decided I had to figure out a way to cut down.

The first plan of action was to call up the contact number in all the magazines and cancel them all, most of the calls were quick and painless. I got all but a couple completed in about 15 minutes.

The next plan was to carefully consider why I was submitting my information to get these free products before I entered my name, address and zipcode. It came down to asking myself two questions.

1. Do I need or want this item? Needs have higher priority and would be a situation where I was running low on laundry soap, this would help extend what I already had.

2. Is this something I can use immediately? If I can't use it immediately I won't apply for it as I will probably forget I have it and not use it at all.

With these questions I have cut my sample amount down and I have less trash again and less junkmail as well.

The types of free products I get now are ones for free food that I can grab for lunch, health products like deodorants, razors and soap, paper products that can extend the life of what I already have, and the occasional clothing item or canvas bag I can use for shopping.

Now I feel that I'm more in control and not just signing up without thinking it through.

How about you, do sign up for them all or do have guidelines for yourself?

Rebate offers cause an immediate reaction from me depending on my latest experience with them. Up to a month ago I had wonderful experiences with rebates, in most situations I would photocopy my information before I sent it out so that if anything was in dispute over the rebate, I had the copy to back up my complaint.

Over time, I have gotten lazy about photocopying them because the rebates I have sent in for items ranging from 1-6 dollars have had no troubles at all, I usually get the rebate check mailed back in the typical 6-8 weeks.

A month ago I tried out a new protein bar at the store that had a money back guarantee on the back of the packaging if I only sent in my sales receipt and the upc code from the protein bar. No trouble, the bar tasted horrible and I sent in the entire [empty] wrapper and the receipt with the circled price without photocopying it.

Four weeks later I get a letter back from the company that the upc was not sent in and the offer of the rebate was declined. I was mad, but not necessarily at them because it wasn't totally their fault. I was too confident that things would go smoothly and I didn't photocopy the wrapper/receipt as a back-up.

Because of that I am back on the photocopying bandwagon for my latest rebate offer, Reynold Wrap's recycled tin foil that they offered for a couple weeks after Earth day.

I circled the date I bought the tin foil and the item on the receipt as stated by the rules. I then mailed it off with the UPC cut out and the rebate form filled out. I then photocopied them and have them in my rebate folder.

It seems like a lot of work to go through for 2.50 back on some tin foil, but I figure it took me all of 5 minutes maximum to do that, so all that work is the equivalent of $30/hr, and I'm ok with that.

Now I just wait the 8-10 weeks for the rebate check and when it comes I can breathe a sigh of relief and pull that sheet from my rebate file as I don't have to worry about fighting for my rebate check.

Here are the steps for a quick rebate process:
1. Read rebate form rules at least twice and note all items needed whether original is needed and if more than one rebate can be used at the house [rarely].

2. Use any coupons to get the front end cost down as the company will still reimburse you for the scanned price. In this case I received 80¢ off the tin foil at the check out but the company will still send me a full refund for the 2.50

3. Immediately organize what you need and cut out the required UPC, circle the price of the item on the receipt and fill out the rebate form and place in an envelope so they aren't separated and lost.
If you are buying a large amount of groceries you may want to have rebate items rung up separately in case you have to bring something back to the store and need a receipt for the return.

4. Photocopy everything you are sending. This would include the rebate form, the UPC and the receipt.

5. Mark your copy with any information you may need, such as date mailed out, date item bought if the receipt doesn't show it, approximate arrival of rebate check, etc.

6. File your copy away for safe keeping and don't forget to mail your envelope right away if you are already close to the deadline.

Now I just wait for Reynold's Wrap to send me the rebate check in July and watch out for other rebates that I will be able to use.

May is a rough month for my family when it comes to gift giving. There are two birthdays, one anniversary, and one Mother's Day and that is just in the immediate family. Add in the extended family of aunts, uncles, and grandparents and you have double that.

Since birthdays are the individual special day for each person I want to let them know I was thinking of them, but I also need to stay within my income.

For myself, I like to get ideas from each person so that I get what they need or want. In March I sent this email out to the members of my family (You are free to use):

"Ok, it has now been 80 days since Christmas passed and I am giving you this notice that I am gathering your want lists for Christmas 2009. (I use this for birthdays as well)
I will notify you one more time this year and if I don't hear from you then you will get my 'backup plan' gift.
Since it is hard to come up with ideas for gifts, you can email me as you think of them or send a list. Obviously since Christmas is quite a few months off, please let me know of things you WANT and not things you NEED that can't wait.

Ok, there you have it... your official notification that I want your Christmas list.

Of course you don't have to do something like that so here are a few more ideas for ways to save money on those situations where one must come bearing gifts.

1. Baby Showers – Buying baby clothes at the yard sale or getting stuff from Freecycle or Craigslist are ideal. Make sure you inspect them well for stains, rips, buttons missing, and snaps that don't work. Mother’s just want their babies clothed, no one notices the brand name over the squeezable goodness of a baby anyway.

2. Anniversaries – If you are close enough to relatives and friends, offer to baby-sit their kids/pets for a night to get them out of the house and have a date. You give the ultimate gift – time together.

3. Large Families – My father’s side of the family is large and they would draw names for adults and some older kids for Christmas. That keeps the amount of gifts down a bit and no one is forgotten. Another alternative is a ‘white elephant’ gift – you wrap a used item or joke gift for everyone.

4. Spending Limit – At the very least set this up for yourself and let others know what your limit is. And if you can persuade others, make the cap a family affair.

5. Give Home-made – This includes baked goods, home-cooked dinners for a busy family, or hand-made items that you see they may need around the house. Obviously give yourself time to get the item finished, so pre-planning is a must. For my mother’s Birthday, some of her favorite songs were burned to a CD for her for one birthday..

6. In Their Name – Donate to a cause THEY feel comfortable with. In some cases this may go against what you feel is right, but would show your respect to that person and what their beliefs are. Remember to keep the tax deduction receipt for taxes next year.

7. Receiving – Sometimes you just don’t have the money for giving a tangible item. Sometimes the best gift you can give is one of graciousness and gratitude when others help you out. Sometimes a letter that breaks down all the ways they are special and helpful to you can be the most valuable gift that they keep the longest.

And last, but not part of the list - don't forget the Thank you notes for what you have received. Sometimes people feel that what they gave wasn't enough or wasn't appreciated, and receiving a thank-you note lets them know your personal thoughts.

Reader comments:
Let us know what ways have you saved money for anniversaries, birthdays and other gift giving occasions?

Twitter has become my little microblog for frugal thoughts, ideas and pictures I come across - for those who don't follow me on twitter - here is an update from April as I wrote them at the time.

§ I helped a former co-worker figure out the 27 page food stamp program. They only have two to feed so it looks like they may get $165-175 a month. After filling out the 27 pages for food stamps, they found out they had done them wrong, the Social Services lady was nice and helped fix - all approved!

§ Yeah for libraries! I put a dozen different movies on hold -Tudors, Dexter, independent movies, etc. Just waiting for my bookmobile to come in. Also put 5 PS2 games on hold at the library as well.. only get them for a week, but that should be enough time to complete them.

§ At the beginning of every month our team (I use that loosely) at work puts together a potluck and last month had a theme - only bring your favorite junk food. This was my response after nibbling..... Nothing like a desert potluck at work to keep you on a sugar high for the rest of the day!

§ Want a cheap activity for summer? Find a Minor league baseball game in the area and get in on some good promotions. On May 12th we are going to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox game versus the Iowa cubs (Go cubbies) - they are minor league. Tickets were $2, Parking $2, and Hot Dogs are $2. I'll write up a report when I get back.

§ How do people drive and talk on the cell? I almost got hit talking on the cellphone while I was walking! - My own fault though.

§ In an hour I'm going to go check out an auction at a storage place. My curiosity is going strong..... Back from the storage auction, it was an experience - got lots a tips to tell you about... with picture

§ I actually saved 100% at the store, I didn't buy much but it was fun to see on the receipt. I rarely get chances like this unless I buy a small number of items.§ Overheard at the store: Mother to son - "If you don't straighten up right now, you won't get to go to Starbucks!" - eh? Starbucks? (The kid looked about 6-8 years old, that is why I did a double take on what she said.)

Got my free $25 GC to the movie theater today from Mypoints - gonna wait for Wolverine movie to spend it. (May update: Did I ever tell you about my horrible lack of patience? Well the card was burning a hole in my pocket and we saw DisneyNature's Earth instead-great movie-scenes were spectacular-go if you can)

§ For when you are tired but can't sleep - I watched the 1958 movie "the Blob" - kinda slow but good (the movie that is, but then again so was the

§ At a light, I saw a smart car next to a hummer - kinda looked like the equivalent of a Great Dane next to a Miniature Pincher and it made me laugh - Then the guy behind me ruined it by honking.

§ Wohoo! I got 4 packages of bacon for 50¢ each - I found out from an employee that the store was not going to carry the brand any longer... the taste: decent, but paper thin - still for 50¢ you can't really go wrong.

§ For earth day, just like other mornings, I listened to the birds calling - I'm thinking it's God's version of new age music

§ Was reminded of a wonderful quote: "The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things." ~Elise Boulding

§ Yeah, rental office called and will be painting our apartment in May - been here 6 years, it could use some work. (Water leaked through the ceiling twice and general use makes it look less than stellar.)

Love to see this type of creative recycling - Clothes Dryer Chicken Coop

Someone should rent out "kill-a-watt" meters... I'm tempted to buy one and take one back.. but that sounds way too cheap and NOT frugal at all. Any one have some ideas as no one I know has one to borrow.

I buy non-rechargeable batteries because they are convenient and I don't use many, one is for my mp3 and one for the book light. When I am done I usually just toss them in the trash and move on. However, I recently found out through, they wrote wrote about recycling batteries, where to take them or send them and how they might be better 'trashed'. Certainly something to look into this weekend and it would be time to start keeping a stash of used batteries to send off.

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I've come across a couple of new [to me] blogs about the cross between frugality and living and thought I would share a post from each for you to enjoy:

It's frugal being green - How To Want Less - I liked this post because I like the ways we trick train our brain to live a frugal life.

RePurposeful - Repurposing home decor - I like this post because she lists a few unique items in her house and how she is re-using them in new ways. Most of her posts are about taking one item and coming up with new ways to re-purpose them.

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One of the areas in my life that I am not good at is cooking, it is quite overwhelming to me - my forté is breakfast and BBQ as it doesn't involve a lot of ingredients. Because of this I like to read the tips about cooking and food and thought these were of interest

Top 50 Kitchen Tips - I like tip #16: Before buying grapes you should shake the bunch gently, if grapes fall of the bunch is not fresh. To store grapes, wrap loosely in newspaper and keep in the dark.

Kitchen Myths - This was interesting to read through and found the following myth interesting "You can make a baked potato in the microwave"

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Finally, I'm always looking around for these type of sites if I need a recipe for the left-over ingredients in the house:
Cooking by Numbers - Click on what you've got and they will show you what you can cook
Super Cook - Finds recipes you can make with only the ingredients you have at home
All Recipes Ingredient Search - Enter in the INGREDIENTS I WANT and INGREDIENTS I DON'T WANT