What About Those Random Foreign Coins That Find Their Way To You?
Flickr/cc - dichohecho

Perhaps you have a job that deals with the exchange of money, or maybe you travel internationally for business quite often, or just maybe you travel widely for personal enjoyment.  There are ways that foreign coins make their way into our hands.  The question is what do you do with them?  Is it really worth keeping all of these random coins, or should you just throw them away?

Whether you have extra coins from a trip to the Bahamas, a Mexican peso that shows up in your register drawer, or European coins you find in your suitcase after a business trip, there are many different things you can do with these coins.  Throwing them away is probably the worst idea!  Money is money, and the idea of throwing it away should be an absolute last resort.  Let’s examine what you could do with these coins..

Save Them

Create a special jar that is specifically designated as your “foreign currency jar.”  Every time you come across a coin just place it in the jar and watch your collection grow.  Chances are that the monetary value of the coins in the jar will never appreciate enough to act as your retirement nest egg, but over time you may save up a few bucks.  After the jar fills to a decent level, you could take a trip to your local money exchange or bank and exchange the money for U.S. Dollars.  The amount may not be huge, but it may be enough to get some take-out Chinese or catch a movie!  Remember the “millionaire next door” is usually the gal or guy who pinches pennies, cut coupons, and takes advantage of every cost-saving thing possible.  Saving these coins in a jar is just another way to save money.

Give Them As Gifts

Now if you save up a few random foreign coins and give them to your significant other on his or her birthday or anniversary, chances are it will not go over very well.  However, your 5 year old niece or nephew may love them.  In fact, most kids love to collect coins and the concept of money in general.  Giving away your foreign coin collection can be a genius way to keep from having to actually buy anything for the family “Secret Santa” at Christmastime, and your gift will probably be the most beloved of all.  What kid doesn’t want a foreign coin??

Donate Them To The Local School

Teachers are always in search of free classroom materials, and foreign currency can be a great addition to any classroom.  In elementary classes, a teacher may want to use them to expose students to another culture, while in high school, history and economics teachers would most likely love to get their hands on foreign currencies to use as objects during their various lessons.  This would be a social service and would benefit the schools nicely, and it will make you feel good at the same time because you would be fulfilling your service as a model citizen that cares for the educational system.

Throw Them Away

If you throw them away, you will be either costing yourself Chinese take-out or depriving a child of innocent joy and wonder!  A little creativity could unlock even more possibilities for what to do with these coins, but there seem to be too many possible positive uses of these coins to seriously consider throwing them away.

In the first half of 2010, personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S. totaled 770,000+ people. And, from June 2009 and June 2010, an astonishing 1.5 million bankruptcy cases were processed, a 20% rise from the previous year. Filing for bankruptcy is a difficult, emotionally draining process and a financial outcome that you should strive hard to avoid.

flickr/cc - Wallula Junction

1. Abusing Credit Card Balance Transfers

At times, credit card balance transfers can be a savvy financial move to consolidate and reduce the interest you pay on your credit card account. However, the continuous shuffle your credit card balance is just masking the real problem. A 0% balance transfer is appealing at the onset, but post-introductory interest rates can soar without caps and that, coupled with an improper plan to pay off the balance transfer, you can easily increase your debt to an unmanageable level.

2. Underestimating Health Care Costs

Time after time and study after study have revealed that medical bills and health care cost are the number one leading cause for personal bankruptcy in the United States. A 2007 study from Harvard researchers showed that 62% of bankruptcy were caused by medical bills, and what’s even more troubling is that 78% of those bankruptcy filers had insurance.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way out of this potential financial pitfall. Making sure you have the proper health insurance coverage based on your family’s medical history, actually utilizing your doctor visits from any health coverage plans you have, and being proactive about your lifestyle/health choices will do wonders to negate any avoidable illnesses that can be devastating to your financial life.

3. Frequently Using Payday Loan / Payday Advances

Payday loans may seem like a convenient means to meet your financial deadlines, especially if cash is tight and you have bills coming up. But the fact of the matter is that payday loans are financial products that keep you in the poor house. The business practice takes advantage of those without access to traditional/mainstream banking services.

Thought the 29% interest on your credit card was sickeningly high? Payday loans are an entirely different beast. When the fees are factored in (e.g., $17.50 for every $100 you borrow), the interest rate for such a payday loan are a ridiculous 911% for a one-week loan, 456% for a two-week loan, and 212% for a one-month loan.

4. Spending More than You Earn

This should be rather self-explanatory. Budgeting is never fun but declaring bankruptcy is even more of a joy kill. By being careful with your expenses, you can avoid facing debts that may unexpectedly accumulate. Avoid purchasing decisions that involves thought process such as “We can always pay it off later” or “I’ll just put it on the credit card for now.” While there are other methods to quickly reach bankruptcy, spending more than you earn is an almost guaranteed method. Kick the credit habit and use only a debit card to keep you only buying what you can afford.

5. Keeping Up with the Joneses

Keeping up with conspicuous consumption can be a sure-fire way to bankruptcy. Just because your friends, family, or neighbors are buying new houses, cars, the latest gadgets and jetting off to exotic islands, does not mean you need to splurge to match. The quicker we can remove the tie of materialistic purchase with our livelihood, the happier we’ll all be. Spend your money on what’s truly important: a fun trip for the family to visit grandma; or college tuition for the kids.

Even if you’re not spurred to buy a European-made SUV because your neighbor has one, you might just be living larger than necessary. Just landed a job with a better salary? Be wise and save the extra income -- you don’t need to immediately upgrade your 1-bedroom apartment to a larger one. Even if you can afford it, stretching your dollar and living it up at times can be a detriment to your financial well-being. You can easily cross into the “spending more than you earn” zone and find yourself in financial hot water.

6. Paying for Expensive Degrees that Don’t Pay Back

Here’s the thing about student loans: even filing for bankruptcy will not wipe the slate clean. Along with certain taxes owed and child support payments, student loans are not dischargeable under United States bankruptcy laws. Though you can argue for undue hardship, the granting of this appeal is extremely rare.

Because of this, it is even more important to be savvy when taking out student loans for higher education (which many people are doing to sit out the poor job market). While the merit and earning potential of a college or graduate degree cannot be refuted, as the cost of college steadily rise through the years, more and more students are finding themselves in the troubling position of having an expensive degree, but stuck with a job that doesn’t cover of their education. Figure out what the job prospects for your major/interest may be like, and be realistic about your earning potential with your education.

7. Overindulging in Vices

Balance is life is key. A drink now and then is no big deal. There is nothing more enjoyable than having a good time with friends and family, but doing it responsibly is key. And this obviously isn’t limited to drinking. Maybe you love to visit the local poker room. Perhaps you love betting the spread whenever your favorite team plays. Or indulging in that expensive pair of shoes because you really deserve them. And of course, there are many other things that can easily fall into the “vice” category.

How we choose to live and how we spend our time will eventually affect our pocket book. If you ever worry that you’re partaking in things on the extreme end, step back, and seek help where appropriate.

Special thanks to those filling in while I am on vacation for the next couple of weeks - Article comes courtesty of Billshrink.com

There has come a point that you have read all the forums out there about frugal or simple living, you have surfed the internet finding the answers to “how to live frugally” or “how to live below your means” and now you have the answers you were looking for and can help others even. You know you have reached this when you have seen or read it all and nothing is new.

flickr/cc - kjarrett
Now is the time to move from the “knowing what to do” to “doing what you know”.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a special little pill that will cause us to wake up one morning and we will be the best frugal living expert on the planet, it will take time,  putting in action one idea at time.

Right now, what is the one thing that sticks in your head that you know you need to get acting on?

Is it time to track your spending? Then think for a moment of a way you can keep track of your spending, would a checkbook register be easiest or a small notebook or piece of paper cut into quarters? Go get that set up and place that item where it will always be handy tomorrow morning for you to start. RememberHabits take up to 21 days to kick in, so give yourself time to succeed in it.

Is it time to clean out the closet? Then put the computer to sleep, grab a trash bag and some boxes; mark the boxes as for sale, give away or whatever else you want. Open the door to your new organized self and start.  Grab some help if you can, turn on some head bopping music, but put in a good hour to accomplish something, no matter how small. If you only have a half hour to do this, then set up a schedule – just like going to work or brushing your teeth, it is something that has to be done.

Ultimately, there comes a point where you have to move from the “knowing what to do” to “doing what you know”. If you don’t act on the things that you know you need to get done then all the knowledge and time you have put into finding the answers you are looking for will be wasted and you won’t feel very good about yourself.

The Festival of Frugality has been around for almost 5 years (Dec. 2005) and Frugal for Life has been around since Nov. 2004, though due to a "duh-me" moment, you only have archives from Nov. 2008. Time passes so quickly and it is fun, sobering and enlightening to go over the archives and see what was important to us at the time.

For this edition of the festival of frugality I want to take a walk through the submissions in order the blog was started (based on what I could find), from newest baby blogs to the "old guy" blogs. Enjoy!
The links with a star ☆ are the articles that interested me.

flickr/cc - normanack

The Half-Off Diet - The Frugalist Asks: Should You Throw Away Food?

 Spruce Up Your Finances - Understanding Tax Credits

Richly Reasonable - Money, Saving, Living, Playing -  The Problem with Easy Money

 My Life after Layoff - Variations On A Frugal Theme

Provident Planning - Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 7 of 12) – Practical Applications

Debt Assistance Guru - The Insiders Guide To Cutting Your Cell Phone Expenses

Surviving and Thriving - The blackberry gavotte

Wealth Informatics - Taking a 401k loan – Rules and limits

☆ Squirrelers - Shameless Frugality or Just Plain Weird?

My Personal Finance Journey - "High-End" and "Value" Pricing Strategies on Consumer Goods

Control Your Cash - Lower fees through prevarication


☆ ShopGala Blog - 16 Unbelievable Shopping Disasters Caught on Tape

Live Real, Now - Selling Your Home: The Real Estate Agent

Obsessed Analytic - A Personal Credit Score Designed for You

☆ Wanderlust Journey - Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Shareholder Benefits

Find My Car Seat - How to Save Money on Diapers

Rabbit Funds - HOW TO: Dejunk your home, sell stuff, and be happier


PadBlog - Rental Insurance for Apartments – Do All Renters Really Need It?

Family Balance Sheet - How To Make Iced Coffee

Money Beagle - Don't Be Wasteful When Shopping In Bulk

Money Obedience - Save Money with 2 Rules to Negotiate for a Good Bargain

Passive Family Income - How to Start Saving Money on Food Expenses

Budgets are sexy - Don’t Know What to Make of These “Coupon Books”


Free from broke - 9 Ways For Students To Get Textbooks For Less

Move to Portugal - Reader Question: Do you make your own bread?

Christian Personal Finance - How Do You Avoid Cell Phone Bill Overcharges?

☆ Dough Roller - Comcast Has Lost My Business Forever

PTMoney - Frugal Travel to New York: My $400 3-Night Trip


My Wealth Builder - Look or Ask for a Coupon

The Digerati life - How A Good Insurance Agent Helps Cut Insurance Costs

Dual Income, No Kids - Should You Buy or Lease a Car

Flickr/cc - Dru Bloomfield - At Home in Scottsdale
2005 (or For-ehv-ver)

☆ Free Money Finance - Where You Buy Something Makes a Big Difference in Cost

Canadian Personal Finance Blog - Dumber Than Snake Mittens

Bargaineering - Calculate Your Monthly Freedom Day

Dewey's Treehouse - Abundance of the heart...on the many ways of looking at money

Thank you for reading this week's Festival of frugality. Get your articles in early for next week, it will be hosted at Canadian Finance. Also, let Jim know if you are interested in hosting as well. A bit of work, but a great way to get your blog out there.
If you were included in this list, please don't forget to link back to the festival here. Thanks!

Occasionally I have come across leftover items at the dumpster or as I'm tossing out the trash and wondered if there was another possible use for that item. Here are some ideas:

Film canisters 
- Traveling toothbrush protector: cut a large enough for the toothbrush handle to hang down through and tape the lid in place
- Toy rattle: Drop in a few beans or rice and secure the lid permanently (we don't want choking hazards)
- Tiny first aid kits: Small paper with ICE info,Band-Aids, Bee-Stinger Remover,Antiseptic Wipes, etc
- Stamp dispenser: Buy a roll of forever stamps and cut a slit in the side to pull them out.
- Condiments container: Perfect for ketchup, salad dressing, salt/pepper at work
- Napkin rings: Remove the lid, cut out the bottom and decorate to taste
- Paint storage: Handy for small touch up jobs instead of carrying around the bigger paint can.

Cardboard tubes
- Organizing and Saving: Keep pantyhose inside (mark the outside with style/color), grocery bags and extra extension cords
- Kid Projects: Binoculars for kids and napkin rings
- Start something: Fire, seeds

Plastic pop bottles
- Sand Bottles: fill 20ounce and 2 litter bottle, tie twine around neck of bottle and hold down the fort
- Funnel (use top third of bottle)
- Spray bottle: A spray pump fits nicely on a 20 ounce soda bottle
- Coin bank

Water hose
- Bucket handle, corner table protector, blade guard for tools, tree protector

--Other Tips Found Around the Web--

Save money on return address labels: Cut your address out of everything sent to you and save in an envelope. When you need to mail out, tape your address on the upper left hand side and you have an instant return address label that didn't cost you anything.

A Top-to-Bottom Guide to Saving Money Around Your House: Saving money can be as simple as making a few small changes at home. This info-graphic shows you easy, convenient ways to save up to $8,800 a year, without ever feeling the pinch of a restrictive budget.

Why I prefer the cheapest, sleaziest hotels
- Jeff Yeager never fails to make me laugh and still help me appreciate my tightwad-i-ness.

3 things you should never say to a debt collector - These 3 facts are always good reminders when we aren't stressing during a collection call.

Another Walletpop article on a couple commonly-held retail myths that are lately being proven false- Which is cheaper, Target or Walmart? The answer may surprise you

18 Unique Wallets and Money Clips

Buy This $300 TV for ONLY…… $700?

2.3 percent of U.S. households had used rent-to-own transactions in the last year, and 4.9 percent had done so in the last five years.
• Seventy percent of rent-to-own merchandise was purchased by the customer.
• Seventy-five percent of rent-to-own customers were satisfied with their experience with rent-to-own transactions.

Merchandise purchased from the rent-to-own store was rented for an average of 14 months before being purchased, with 47 percent being purchased in less than a year.
• Nearly half of all rent-to-own customers had been late making a payment (via)

It is amazing how in our desire to achieve the “American dream” we have lost our patience and become blind to reason. Instead of saving for an item, looking through 2nd hand stores, curbside cast-offs, friends or doing without, we have found ourselves in a position where we sell our ourselves to the first person who can give us what we want. NOW!

Rent-to-own stores are the answer to this impatient blindness. If you are waiting on furniture to come in from a move and need something for company, I can see renting tables and chairs for the week you need them. But that is not the intention of most people who walk into RTO stores. People go in because they don’t have enough money saved or their credit isn’t good enough for the local furniture store. Unfortunately, they suffer for this decision.

Here are the options for your TV
Option 1:
Save $300 and go to the local big box store to purchase. No extra money. If you are lucky, you can pay layaway for a few months. But there are no extra charges.
Option 2:
8.50 a week for 78 weeks (18 months)
Plus an additional down payment/processing fee/delivery of 37.00
A total of 700.00

You can certainly pay more than the amount; however, most is still broken down by the week, so you are just paying the same amount. Meaning, your money doesn’t go toward principle, but to pay the full $700 you agreed to.

Sadly, when people walk into these stores, they are only looking at the weekly/biweekly or monthly amounts they have to pay and not the full amount they have paid over the long haul. I can recall going into one such store with some friends and they saw a cool couch they liked for only 23.75 . I had to bring up the fact that they would be paying almost 95.00 a month and if they just saved that amount each month for 5 months, they could buy a brand new one for elsewhere, whereas, they would STILL be paying on the sofa long after.

Something to also keep in mind is that not all items are brand new, sometimes you get used items, repossessed or wholesale, low quality items. If you do your math, you will thank yourself for holding off and not giving into the desire for instant gratification.

Q. My energy efficient light bulbs always burning out in one socket, any ideas?

I had one CFL burn out on me in weeks- there are a couple possible reasons
1. Bad product run - try another package or brand
2. Wrong wattage for the outlet - try a lower or higher one
3. Some outlets are older and don't work well with CFL's
Sometimes you just have to go with a regular light-bulb.
flickr/cc - saaby
Q. What is the best way to drain a small can of tuna?

Hmm... Interesting question. Here are some options
1. My mom would drain the tuna water/oil into an organics container for the garden or flowers around the house
2. I have not drained it and instead used it in tuna salad or whatever I'm making.
3. Down the drain or in the trash
I really can't think of other ways to drain tuna. Whatever suits you is what is best. 

Q. Does charcoal remove smells? 

The charcoal that you put on your bbq is not what you want to use, instead you would want to use "activated" charcoal. And you can buy it at pet stores and health stores
You can learn more about it here -http://science.howstuffworks.com/question209.htm

Q. How do I make my own pancake syrup since so many have HFCS?

Option 1 -
Boil together:
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups of water
3 tbsp. molasses
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. maple extract.
After bringing it all to a boil, let it simmer for 1 minute.
Then turn the burner off and let it sit until it has cooled.
Pour onto pancakes and the rest into a glass jar. 

Option 2 - 
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. water
1 tsp. maple flavoring
Mix sugar and water in saucepan.
Bring mixture to a boil; simmer for 15 minutes. (Don't let it boil again, or overcook.)
Add maple flavoring; chill.
Use more or less flavoring to your personal taste.

Q. I have a lot of old knives that are no longer useful. How can I dispose of them?
Before you toss them out into the trash, I would suggest you wrap the blade in cardboard and tape it so that it won't jab through the trash bag or into somebody digging in the trash (I have a large dumpster and people do go through them)
Otherwise, donate them to shelters, schools (home-ec class) or church. Also I have:
1. Taken steak knives to work to have in my drawer handy
2. Used as a letter/package openers
3. Scraping crud off of a grill
You could also try using them as a garden marker, though you may want to make them more dull just in case you trip over one.

Q. Should I put area rugs down on the regular carpet?

I would strongly suggest putting down rugs near the entry ways and major walk areas as that is the high traffic areas that 'crush' the carpet down and grind in the dirt that we bring in from outside.
But, if you are dead set against that, vacuuming and shampooing the carpet will also do a world of good if done weekly.

I just despise seeing the mildew and mold that creeps into the bathroom or in a dark, damp basement. Both of them are part of the mold family of fungi, with mold often being black, green, red, or blue in color while mildew is usually gray or white. No matter the color, I hate to see it creep around the caulking of the bathtub.

flickr/cc - iLoveButter
 The ways I have found the have helped, whether in a small or larger way, are preventive measures and regular cleaning. When used in combination they seem to keep the bathroom clean until time takes it's toll on the caulking and it needs to be replaced.

➠ Keep toiletries and soaps to a minimum on the counters and inside the tub as water collects around these objects and allows the mold to grow.
Consider hanging a shelf outside the shower with your toiletries, as this will allow your products to air-dry completely, avoiding mold growth.
➠ When cleaning the bathroom, remove all items from the surface and before you place them back, make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and dried.
Keep the window in the bathroom cracked or a vent on while taking a shower and leave on for a few minutes after to help suck out the moisture. If you have neither, keep the door open, if possible, and open a window in a nearby room.
Use a squeegee or towel to dry the shower walls and along the caulking

Always be sure to wear gloves and face mask, keeping vents and windows open to cut down on fumes and the toxic affect mold and mildew have.
➠ Plain old soap and water can be tried first if the growth is not too deep or too severe.
➠ Use bleach chlorine, however it is best to mix with water as overtime it can break down the underlying surface
➠ The other alternative is a paste of baking soda and white vinegar smeared onto the surface and left to dry, then scrubbing off and repeating as necessary.
Hydrogen peroxide can be used if mixed 1:2 with water and sprayed onto the moldy area and scrub to remove.
Other options: Grapefruit seed extract (20 drops to 2c. water), Tea tree oil (1tspn to 2c. water) - The smell of the tree tea oil can be strong but after a few days the smell will dissipate.

➠ The caulking may just need to be removed, cleaned and replaced. Don't do like the above picture and just place new caulking over the old. This will make matters worse down the road.
➠ Also consider that mold may have grown inside faucets, shower taps, etc and you may have to replace those to fight the mold.

flickr/cc - xJasonRogersx

 Really, mold and mildew aren't to be feared, it is just a matter of staying on top of it and when preventative measures and cleaning don't do the job, it is time to take it apart and start over.

Last week I was part of a consumer panel of 50 other ladies who were asked for our opinion about paper napkins. And yes, it was women only. Men, I would presume, are already figured out by marketing when it comes to their opinion on the matter.

I signed up via Green Book for the market research opportunity and in this case I was paid $150 for my opinion on paper napkins for 2 hours of "work" (+ money for parking). The last time I did a market research discussion was over two years ago when the last Spider-man movie came out and they wanted some ideas about what we thought about the movie, the series and it's direction. I was paid $75 for 2 hours of being opinionated about a movie.

This was a fun panel discussion, one that got our creative juices flowing was how we viewed the specific brand name product if it were a human person. I was the odd ball out in my creativity as I just kept thinking, "I would never use paper napkins, I would use cloth napkins." So my opinion came from a very different place than the others around the table.

 flickr/cc - wiennat

One of their questions got me thinking. "If you couldn't use these (brand name) paper napkins, then what other options would you use?"

First, what are paper napkins used for? BBQ, picnics, lunch with the kids, large groups, laying on plates in the microwave, cleaning up spills, blowing our nose.

1. Paper Towels 
 - If paper towels are already in the house, I don't see why paper napkins would be needed as well, since you can rip off a square to hand little Johnny his sandwich or clean up his spilled kool-aid. Also, if you are Eco conscientious then picking up recyclable paper towels would be the way to go as well.

2. Cloth In all it's glory
a. Classic cloth napkins - picked up in stores, thrift stores, craigslist, yard sales.
b. Fancy napkins - Using the material you like, cut to size and hem edges or purchase handmade napkins. The cost up front will save you money over the long haul. Especially linen napkins.
c. Actual towels - whether they be finger towels or hand towels, you can use a more sturdy cloth to clean faces and wipe hands. And if you are eating BBQ, dampen the cloth and nuke in the microwave for 10 seconds for wonderfully clean hands!
d. Old t shirts and jeans - If the shirt had a design on the front you could cut and sew it to make a very unique napkin or just cut to a size desired for cleaning up spills. The same goes for denim material, a bit stiff, but unique.
e. Baby diapers - Might I suggest bleaching and dying them, but also an alternative for the spill around the house

After all the opinions, complaints and praise were given about (brand name) paper napkins and the creativity was sucked out of us in relation to it's usefulness. We walked out wondering two things. How will they use this information and where is my cash?

I buy my prescription glasses online and have for the last 3 years. Nothing bad has happened to me, my eyes are just as poor as they have always been. It was three years ago I first tried buying glasses online because the $200 needed for one pair of very thick glasses seemed way to much for me and there had to be a better way.

I purchased a pair of metal rimmed, gold colored glasses that did not have the high index option chosen - basically my glasses were as thick as the bottom of a soda bottle. I had that pair for two years and they worked beautifully. I paid under $40 dollars for them.

This year I got my eyes checked and knew I was going to get my glasses online again. No hesitation. I had the optometrist measure my pupillary distance (distance between pupils when looking straight ahead) as I wanted it done by a professional, though I did pretty good the last time.

Two years ago, I ordered through Zenni Optical* and was happy with my frames. I decided to order through them again this year, but this time include the high index option to make the glass thinner and lighter on my face and stayed with a metal frame, but smaller in size.

Zenni Optical     /   39 Dollar Glasses

I also tried out a new company, 39 dollar glasses*, since I had heard some good things about them. But instead I chose a  darker plastic frame and high index option.

Here are my pros and cons with the my experience:

Zenni Optical - (A-)
pros - Multitude of designs. Very good prices. Shipping time was 10 days to get them. Able to track shipment

cons - I always have to super glue the plastic sheath that goes on the ear stem to keep it in place on the metal frame. I had to do that with the old pair as well. A bit small in lens size for my taste.

39 Dollar Glasses - (B)
pros - Multitude of glasses. Good prices and able to track shipment.

cons - Shipping was over 2 weeks. Had to reform the ear stem with a little heat. After the 30 day return time, I found a split on the right front of the plastic glasses and now my right lens squeaks when I clean the lens - almost like it might break or fall out, but it appears to still be tight.

I paid $58 for the dark plastic glasses from 39 Dollar Glasses and I paid $43 for the Zenni Optical metal framed ones. That does include shipping and the high index option on both. They both also came with a hard clamshell case and a microfiber cloth to clean the glasses.

With the Zenni Optical frames I bought clip-on sunglasses for $4 that was included in the $43 price. I gave Zenni Optical a better grade (A-) than 39 dollar glasses (B) because the price was lower and the shipping was quicker.

Overall I was happy with my decision. They both weren't perfect as I had to super glue the metal pair and the split formed on the plastic pair. I'm not too worried about the split as I will be getting my eyes checked in another 1-2 years since I have poor vision.

 Script and Clamshell cases

Tips for when you order prescription glasses online:
1. Your prescription - It's a violation of federal law in the U.S. for your optometrist to withhold your prescription from you. You don't have to buy the glasses they offer at the office either.

2. Find your pupillary distance - It is easier to have the optometrist measure this, but it can be done at home with a ruler that has millimeters on it (the red line in the picture above is mine - 62mm). The stronger your prescription is, the more important it is to get this right as the lens curves towards the edges. Also, be prepared to get a lecture about the dangers of buying eyeglasses online if you ask for your PD at the optometrist or to get a dirty look. A friend of mine said her optometrist declined to give it at all.

3. Google for discounts - Keep your eyes opened for discount codes that you can use for additional savings. Some savings are free shipping, 10-20% off and free clip-on sunglasses.

4. Measure your current glasses - If you like the size of your lens frame, measure it
(everything is in millimeters) as you may be choosing a size too small that will make your adjustment time longer. It also doesn't hurt to measure distance over the nose or from ear to eye to get an idea as well.

*I am not affiliated with either of these companies.

What are your thoughts on buying prescription glasses online?

One thing that annoys me is when I go to sites to print out coupons they always pop-up a little box that asks for my zip code. I usually just click out of them and print whatever they have available.

But it has made me wonder, does one zip code have a higher value coupon for a product than another? I have even tried entering NYC, Boston or Los Angeles zip codes thinking that I might find those "better" coupons. But to no avail.

That's until Tara over at Deal Seeking Mom posed this question to her readers:
How do you feel about zip code couponing? Do you feel that it's just a matter of knowing where to look, like using a coupon-clipping service to get more of your favorite coupons? Or do you feel it's unethical because you're using them in a way that they weren't intended to be used?

Those better coupons DO exist! And only certain zip codes have them, sometimes for limited times.

Now I don't frequent coupon forums often enough to know the details, but I understand that if there is a good coupon to be had in one of the 43,000 zip codes in the US, people will post that zip code to the forums so all are made aware - no matter zip code they are in.

My knee jerk reaction to this was that is was unfair and zip code bias (if such a thing exists) and that if an item is offered throughout the US, then the same coupon should be offered for everyone, throughout the US.

From the comments: "The reason coupons are only available in certain areas is largely because of targeted marketing. The company may notice that sales are lower in the suburbs of Detroit, so they release a coupon to that area only to attempt to increase their sales. Also, some coupons are actually illegal in certain states. For example, in Indiana, we can't use beer or certain dairy coupons, so companies don't release them to us. But, the companies do have reasons that have to do with their business goals." - Beth from Ingoodcents.com

There was a point that was brought up in the comments a few times. If we shop in a different zip code than the one we live in, isn't that affecting marketing as well? Or if we shop in multiple zip code areas, what single zip code would we use?

Ultimately the response to Tara's question was as vast as the reason people use or don't use coupons. And it appears the ethical question is a very subjective one.

For myself, I will continue to exit out of the zip code pop-up screen (most of the time) and print out whatever number I am limited to. Am I missing out on some good deals or the chance to stock up? Probably. But that's ok, it's a decision I can live with.

What decision do you live with when it comes to printing out zip code related coupons?

Reading through Best Buy's E-cycle FAQ's, it sounds like the perfect place to drop off all your old electronics; even the old computer (with hard drive removed, of course.) But it seems like the last step to me.

What got me thinking about this was a broken down washing machine that was used for other useful ideas. The picture below is the before and what is left after he has taken what he needed for it.

I certainly don't have the creativity for that type of breakdown but if someone else does and then can recycle the left over bits and pieces. Why not?
[See washing machine drum grill]

Some recycling ideas for electronics that could be used:

1. Selling it -
Newer electronics (less than 5 years old) can still fetch some money. Check to make sure it is working as you will get more money. Always erase your hard drive data or remove the card in cell phones. Selling it on eBay, Craigslist or getting a gift card for it from some sites. (ex:gazelle.com, nextworth.com)

2. Swapping it -
Many times the item you have can be turned in for an upgraded version at a reduced price. Check with your friends and family to swap with them or use it as a bartering chip for something better.

3. Break it down -
Just like the man above, break down the item and save the screws, metal and little bits for some other project. If you have a large amount of electronics that can be sold for scrap metal and know how to get it out. Go for it.

4. Donate it -
If you can't break it down or swap it or get money for it, the next best thing would be to get a tax write-off by donating it to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.

5. Give it away -
Don't care about a tax write-off, and it's working well. Give it away through sites like Freecycle, Reuseit Network and Craigslist. Sometimes old cell phones with dead batteries can be given to little children to play house with or take apart and "see how they work" projects.

6. E-Waste drop off -
Before you dump it in the trash, no matter it's age, check with the best buy e-cycling page to see if they take the item. As far as I can tell, they take everything free of charge except, "There is a charge of $10.00 for TVs 32" and under, CRTs and monitors in some areas which is offset by a $10.00 gift card." Some other sites to check out are ECycling Central, My Green Electronics and 1-800-RECYCLING
flickr/cc- bdunnette

One concern I have about E-waste is that it isn't properly disposed of, so check with the company to make sure they don't end up shipping the e-waste overseas(vid) or just dumping in a landfill. Best Buy states that they don't do this.

*I am not affiliated with Best Buy, just found their site to be of interest for personal use.

I admit, I do look at labels when I buy second hand clothes. My main reason is so I don't pickup something that I know to be of low quality and becomes a waste of money from wearing out quickly.

When I do find a good quality item, I snatch it up right away and if the label is from a more expensive maker, it makes my search all the better. But I don't parade my logo around, making sure everyone knows - my main emphasis, if I do mention it, is that I can get quality items at the second hand store by taking the time to look carefully.

I bring this up because Consumerist recently brought up a study that was done that mentions how "'Elite' Shoppers Ignore Logos, Focus On Subtle Signals".  The study is 15 pages long if you want to read it and I did find a few things that stood out to me.

First, some authors have argued that certain people may just avoid logos. Brooks (2001), for example, suggests that the educated elites engage in “one-downmanship,” rejecting traditional status symbols to avoid becoming materialists, and Davis (1992) argues that the rich dress modestly to differentiate themselves from the nouveau riche who are prone to opulent displays (also see Bourdieu’s [1984] discussion of bourgeois discretion; and Weber 1904/2001). Subtle signals, however, are more than just the absence of logos. As we demonstrate, while some products may not use explicit brand identification, their design, shape, and other aspects may allow insiders to recognize the brand. Further, while desires for distinction may lead people to prefer versions of some products that do not contain logos, this does not mean that they dislike logos per se.
They do seem to clarify why people may not want to have logos as part of their life - from the rejection of the appearance of materialism to not want to be a part of the "new money" and seem more upper crust, but the fact they still desire certain logos doesn't mean they don't ever look at them.

The next graph reminded me about a recent news item on sunglasses price and UV protection (vid) - ultimately, the price you pay is for the logo.
Based on this graph, if I don't want a logo, I can pay less than $100 or over $400 for no obvious logo, but sunglasses in between that price range and I will get a big huge logo along the side of the glasses for all to notice.

The best part about this article, from Consumerist, were the commentors opinions; I'll highlight a few:
"High Class men's clothing tend to follow these rules much more overtly then the women side. Good men's designers usually focus on fit and subtle details, like button material or stitching." -Dinhilion

"In my opinion, items that are plastered with logos are likely inferior in design. The consumer is paying for the logo, not the quality of the item. This is why I do not allow my children to wear logos or writing on their clothes, with two exceptions:
1. It's a cause (or local company) we support, or
2. They're getting paid by a sponsor to wear the logo
" - 339point4

"We're not talking about Burberry or Louis Viuton - but rather names more mainstream brands, such as J Crew, LL Bean, Eddie Bauer and Timberland.

Many people here choose to wear those labels because they belong to a certain social group, many of whom also wear those labels and when they have a first-encounter, the J Crew label say to the other person , 'I'm just like you. I'm part of your group, and I see that you're part of my group - so we have an immediate point of connection and can relax and be comfortable with each other.'" - Straspey

An interesting part of the study  was that when they were asked (study 3, pg9) about how the role of public consumption vs private consumption, or what you wear is determined by what others think.

When they are dressing up for the office, labels have a bigger impact than when they are just dressing for themselves. And this is more noticeable with those who have a "high fashion knowledge" as opposed to those who don't.
flickr/cc - Art Comments

Do you figure that as we become more aware of labels, we become more aware of people's perception of us or maybe it is the opposite, becoming aware of what other's think makes us more aware of the labels? Which came first, the perception or the label?

It is interesting to note the different ways classes of people label themselves in the study. It appears people want to look richer than what they are and dress for a look that is a class above them. But according to the study, the higher class of people try to not have logos or signals that are obvious.
"Just as high-status individuals want to distinguish themselves from lower-status others (vertical differentiation) to facilitate desired recognition and interaction, people also want to distinguish themselves from outgroups of similar status (horizontal differentiation). The jocks may want to distinguish themselves from the geeks, but even within the jocks, football players want to distinguish themselves from swimmers and vice versa. Subtle signals should help provide differentiation from lower-status groups as well as those of similar status"

Consumerist commenter Warble wrote this example:
"A Coach bag is a great example of this, as a middle class woman who buys a Coach bag does so thinking it makes her appear to be more upper class because she's partaking in a more expensive brand. But upper class women don't carry Coach bags, because despite the price it's definitely a middle class bag. An upper class woman wouldn't be impressed by a middle class woman carrying a Coach bag.

But middle class women don't typically know upper class women, and don't need to impress them. Instead, they're actually trying to impress other middle class women who also buy into the myth. And so they're caught in an endless materialistic social treadmill, with the only benefactors being bullshit luxury brands.

After all is said and studied, what is the end result? I believe we have to look at this from a viewpoint of time. How is what we are buying impacting us for the current financial situation and the financial future?

What are your thoughts on brands and their labels?