I found the top I wore today at a new shop in Sumiton: Grandma’s Treasures Variety & Thrift. It was new with the original store tags, but I got it for only $4. Grandma’s Treasures has only been open a few weeks, but they have everything from clothing to toys to household goods. They’re located right on Highway 78 around the corner from Yi Cuisine Chinese Restaurant.
You’ll find some great deals right now in-store at Charlotte Russe and online at CharlotteRusse.com. The website’s clearance section pricing starts at under $2 and includes bargains like this regularly $22.99 plus size skater dress for only $4.99. Charlotte Russe carries women’s regular and plus sizes, as well as shoes and accessories. They have stores in Brookwood Village, Riverchase Galleria, the Shops of Grand River, and Tuscaloosa.
lot of farmers markets are open this summer and they’re great places to find
fresh local produce and more. You can find the ones nearest you by going to
this website: FMA.Alabama.gov. FMA stands for Farmers Market Authority, and
their site shows a map of the state that lets you click on any county to see
that area’s markets. There’s even a full page of recipes you might want to
cocoa mat hanging basket liners look great, but require a lot of watering to
keep the plants you put in them looking healthy. One way to keep your plants
better hydrated is to put a plastic bowl in the center of the mat before adding
your soil and plants. The bowl allows for drainage around it, but acts as a
reservoir to keep your plants from drying out. I found the mats and packs of 4
bowls at Dollar Tree.
Ladies, whether you’re looking to pick up some extra pocket money or add to your wardrobe, you need to check out Style Encore with locations in Inverness Corners near Kohl’s and also in Madison, Alabama. Unlike a regular consignment shop, Style Encore pays you cash on the spot for ladies’ gently used in-season clothing, shoes, and accessories, and they offer reasonable prices with some items as much as 90 percent off retail.
ROAD TRIP! If you’ve never made a trip to Sylacauga, Alabama, you need to put it on your day trip list. Larry and I were there a few days ago and found more things to see and do than we even had time for.
I found this brand new Kenar brand top for only $4 at Think Again Consignment Shop on North Broadway Avenue in Sylacauga. Think Again offers gently used clothing and accessories for women, men, infants, and children.
Sylacauga’s B.B. Comer Library is enormous and has one of the biggest and best organized bookstores I’ve ever been in. Prices start at 25 cents, so you’re sure to find a good bargain. (bookstore photo)
Not far from the library is the Isabel Anderson Comer Museum with local artifacts, including a replica of the Hodges meteorite – now that’s an interesting story – and admission is free.
What about lunch? Sylacauga is packed with good places to eat, including Buttermilk Hill, Odie’s Deli, and Southern Plate. Buttermilk Hill is in an elegant old house, with lunch entrees starting at $10. Odie’s is a friendly downtown spot with soups, salads, and sandwiches starting at around $5. Southern Diner has only been open a few weeks and features a fabulous buffet of home cooking for about $10. (Odie's photo - white chicken chili, a Gomer Pyle sandwich, incredible pasta salad, & another sandwich I forgot the name of)
about some fishing and picnicking? 180-acre Lake Howard offers both, and daily
fishing permits or boat launch is only $2. Plus there’s a 14-mile hiking and mountain
biking trail. Visiting the lake & using the trail is free.
no trip to Sylacauga would be complete without a stop in the Blue Bell Creamery
where you can go up to the observation deck and watch their ice cream being
made, plus get a dish of your favorite flavor for only $1 in their ice cream
parlor, and pick up a souvenir in their gift shop. I found out a lot of
Bargainomics fans work at Blue Bell! Admission is free.
If you’re not familiar with AirBnB.com, it’s worth checking out. It lists individuals’ and some businesses’ condos, apartments, tent sites, RVs, and even private rooms to rent, and the savings can be substantial. For example, the KOA Campground in Kingsland, Georgia – that’s near the Florida state line and Cumberland and Amelia Islands – has tepees similar to yurts renting for as low as $26 a night. They have wooden floors, air conditioning, real beds, and wifi, plus you get the use of all the amenities of the campground. As you can see, for a 3-night stay, fees include a $15 cleaning fee and a $13 service for a total of $106. Not bad at all.
But these added charges can be a real deal-breaker. Take a look at this 3 bedroom, 2 bath condo in Panama City Beach. The complex has a lot of great amenities, even though you’re not beachfront. And $52 a night is an excellent price. However, take a look at the added fees – they jump your $156 3-night stay to $331.
Another website where you can get a good deal on a getaway is SkyAuction.com where certificates for 7-night stays in unused RCI timeshare units can be bought for around $300. You can buy a generic certificate to use where and when you choose – and you can check availability before you buy – or you can buy a certificate for a specific location, like this one at Calypso Cay in Orlando. These are the real deal and Larry and I have bought over a dozen of them and never had a bad experience. As with anything you plan to buy, read all the fine print, but it’s hard to beat less than $45 a night for a stay in a really nice resort. You will be offered a tour of the property so they can try to sell you a timeshare, but you aren’t obligated to go, and the smart answer is an emphatic “No, thank you.”
means warmer weather and a great time to get out and see the great state of
Alabama. With that in mind, Alabama’s Tourism Department offers free mobile
apps that are sure to put your road trip planning in gear. There’s a Civil
Rights Trail app; a Barbecue Trail app; a 100 dishes app; and another loaded
with suggestions for great day trips and other road trips. You’ll also find all
sorts of brochures you can download, plus a link to click to order a print copy
of the Alabama Vacation Guide.
Instead of talking about tips, the term “life hack” is now how we describe anything that can simplify life and help with time management and organizing. I’ve got the coolest hack yet. You know those commercials you see about the hangers that are connected and drop down so that several items can be hung in the space of a single item? I’ve found an easy and free way to do the same thing: soft drink tabs. Each tab has two openings. Slide one over the hook of each hanger, then use the other opening to connect the next hanger. Instant extra closet space!
NOTE: If you don't mind paying $3.99 to get your closet makeover done in a hurry, I found a seller on eBay who has 300 drink tabs for $3.99 w/free shipping.
ROAD TRIP! While Larry and I were in Vernon, we had lunch at Max’s Fried Chicken, a cafeteria-style restaurant with home-cooked everything like their signature fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and more. Your choice of meat, two sides, & bread is only $4. The food is delicious and the price is unbeatable. (Note: There are two doors into Max's. The front door goes into the regular sit-down & order part; the cafeteria is the door to the right of the main entrance.)
And about 20 miles from Vernon we made another stop, this time at Sorghum Hollow just off Highway 278 in Beaverton. Sorghum Hollow is a deer processing facility & taxidermy shop, but they also have a country store with the best prices I’ve seen on homemade preserves, honey, all sorts of cheeses, handmade soaps, & a whole lot more. And outside, they have an enclosure where you can see and even hand-feed deer. If you’re up in that area, this is a fun stop for the whole family.
If you have school-age kids or grandkids, here’s a website you can really get excited about: Schoola.com. Schoola is an online thrift shop that helps fund school programs. A parent can request a donation bag and it will be sent to the home, postage paid. The items sent to Schoola will be sold online and the proceeds will go to your designated school. And for every $5 spent on Schoola.com, $2 goes directly to schools. Imagine if an entire school got involved. Let’s say 250 parents and teachers donated 10 items each and all those items sold for $5 each. That would mean $5,000 going to their school. So check out the website. It’s loaded with great bargains on new and gently used clothing and accessories for men, women, and children, and you know your dollars are going to a really good cause. To see exactly how all this works, here's a short video.
DAY TRIP!!! Larry and I made a road trip to Decatur driving straight up Highway 31 North – which is such a nice drive this time of year – and loaded up on bargains while we were at it. I found this Conrad C Collection top at the Downtown Rescue Mission Thrift Store for $3.99. Keep reading - more about Decatur below. (Top in the photo is similar to what I wore, but not the exact one.)
We found even more deals at Big Lots and Bargain Hunt, plus we had lunch at City Café, a little spot that’s been voted the top restaurant in Decatur every year for ages. A 4-veggie plate is $6.99 and a meat ‘n’ three with iced tea is $9.99. Great food and prices.
But our very best bargain was free admission at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge where we enjoyed the displays and movie at the visitors center, plus walking some of the trails and seeing the ducks that are starting to come in for the winter.
Find out more about all you can see & do around Decatur at: www.DecaturCVB.com.
DAY TRIP! Boaz may not be the shopping mecca it used to be, but there are still some outlet stores there, including Bon Worth where I found this $12 necklace marked down to just $1.99. The Hanes Bali lingerie outlet is still there, and the VF Outlet has moved right up the road on Highway 431 in Albertville. Even though outlet shopping is no longer the major draw, there’s still plenty of shopping bargains and much to see and do, including the Sand Mountain Twin Screen Drive-In Theater, with a real steal on admission at $15 a carload. You can find out more about the area at MarshallCountyCVB.com.
DAY TRIP! I found this $30 lace top on a sidewalk sale rack at Cosa Bella in downtown Oneonta for $10. If you haven’t been to downtown Oneonta in a while, you’re missing out because that area has had a makeover. There is shop after cute little shop, plus great places to eat. Keep reading. More about Oneonta below.
I tried out Swamp Tails, a new downtown restaurant, and loved their shrimp and grits, boudin, and gator bites. They offer a variety of foods, but Cajun is definitely their specialty, plus they have live music on weekends and some other nights. In the same area, you’ll also find Miller’s Drug Store, a really cute ice cream/soda shop and coffee house with some of the best-looking homemade desserts you’ve ever seen.
And don’t forget that Oneonta is also home to Palisades Park, which has made National Geographic Travelers top 50 small parks in America. It’s a great place to picnic and hike, has historic buildings, a quilt shop, gardens, and more, plus it’s a very popular spot for rappelling. And admission is free.
BARGAIN VACATION! How would you like to spend 7 nights in a nice resort for under $300? You can by buying a certificate from SkyAuction.com. SkyAuction sells a lot of different things, but their biggest seller are 1-week stays in RCI timeshare units all over the world. There’s a buy-it-now deal for $279.99, with a $20 processing fee tacked on no matter how many you buy.
You have to book your reservation within one year of buying your certificate and you can even check to see what locations have availability before you make your purchase. For example, when I checked the Disney area, I found almost 3 dozen resorts with open units. Be sure to read all the fine print about upcharges for bigger units and for certain dates like holidays.
Larry and I have bought over a dozen of certificates and stayed everywhere from Florida to Maine and never had a bad experience. They will offer you a chance to take a tour of the property and hear a sales pitch about becoming a timeshare owner, but if you’re smart, you’ll just smile and use the magic word NO.
And speaking of bargains, did you know you can shop Goodwill online? Their website ShopGoodwill.com shows off the best from Goodwill stores all over the U.S. and lets you bid of the items of your choice. Categories include collectibles, designer shoes and purses, art, antiques, and more, like, for example, this beautiful 14K blue topaz & diamond ring. Don’t expect anything to be dirt cheap, but you can find some amazing bargains. I recently saw a set of 5 certified Hummel figurines sell for $9.99. Each store sets its own handling fee and shipping cost, but the site includes a tool to let you see what that cost will be. That’s ShopGoodwill.com.
If you aren’t familiar with 2nd & Charles, it’s a gigantic store where you can buy, sell, and trade books, CDs, DVDs, video games & game systems, comics, iPads, iPods, vinyl records, audiobooks, and more. Just bring in your gently used items and they’ll look them over and make you an offer for cash on the spot or credit in the store. But even if you’re familiar with 2nd & Charles, you may not know they have a clearance section. I've found several $15-$30 audiobooks brand new still in the wrapper for 95 cents each. If you don’t spot the clearance area, ask an employee, but don’t miss out. You’ll find 2nd & Charles in Hoover and in Oxford.
And speaking of bargains, if you enjoy yard sales, there’s an easy way to keep up with where a lot of them are happening. Check the website YardSaleSearch.com. Whether you’re at home or on the road, this website can help you find the yard sales nearest you. And there’s no charge to post your own yard sale.
You might also want to check out the free app Yard Sale Treasure Map. It shows you all the Craig’s List yard sales and it will also let you post your own sale. Look for it in your Apple or Google playstore.
MINI-VACATION! Fall Creek Falls State Park near Crossville, Tennessee is less than 3.5 hours from Birmingham and one of the prettiest parks you’ll ever visit. They have an ongoing $80 special which includes a Sunday night stay in the park’s 145-room lakefront inn plus breakfast for two Monday morning. There are also cabins and campsites, four waterfalls within the park, hiking trails galore, plus a nature center, zip lines, a golf course, and all sorts of water activities. Crossville is home to well over a dozen golf courses, plus the Cumberland County Playhouse with Broadway style live performances, the Crossville Outlet Center with about 20 outlet shops, along with two thrift stores and a model train museum. It’s a beautiful area to visit. To get the Sunday Special at Fall Creek Falls, call (800) 250-8610 and ask for the Sunday Bed and Breakfast Special.
If you’re a bike rider, you might want to join the group that meets at Bob’s Bikes in Homewood every Saturday at 9am – weather permitting – for about a two-hour ride through Mountain Brook, Crestline, and Irondale. For more information, you can call Bob’s Bikes at 205-879-2258.
DAY TRIP! If you’re looking for a nice place for a day trip or even an overnighter, let me put Cullman on your radar. I was there earlier this week and stopped in Better Than Before Consignment where now through August 15 (but it's still worth the visit ANY TIME), all their clearance merchandise is buy 3, get 2 free. This $72 brand new with tags Madison brand dress was one of the five items I bought, plus another dress, a blouse, and Larry’s Croft & Barrow polo shirt and Claiborne khakis – all for a grand total of $10.68. I also made a stop at The Foundry Thrift Store, but I’ll save that deal to show another day. Keep reading - more about Cullman below. (The dress in the photo isn't the exact one I was wearing, but similar.)
And speaking of deals, I had lunch at one of the two Brandin’ Iron Steakhouses in Cullman. Lunch prices are an unbelievable $4.99 to $6.99 and include steak, catfish, and chicken. I went crazy and had the $6.99 6-ounce ribeye and even tacked on $2.50 for the salad bar. But for $9.50, it’s a serious bargain. And I’ll be going back to try other lunch deals. TripAdvisor rates the Brandin Iron 4.5 stars. You can see more info and find both locations at BrandinIronSteakhouse.com.
I also took a spin around Sportsman Lake Park. No, this isn’t a part of Smith Lake. This park is right in the heart of Cullman and admission is free, plus you can fish & rent pedal boats, flat bottom boats, kayaks, and bicycles. They also have hiking & biking trails, a splash pad, miniature golf, a train ride, a playground, picnic pavilions, tent & RV camping sites, a dog park, a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park area, & I’m sure I’m leaving out several other things. They’re open daily through October 31st & the park is walking distance to the Cullman County Fairgrounds. You can see all their info at SportsmanLakePark.com. And let me add that you have to check out he Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center - it's like a water park & more for kids to senior adults!
Alabama State Parks don’t do much to advertise their senior discounts, but they have them if you ask. Now through October 31st, if you’re 62 or older, there’s a 10 percent discount on hotels and cabins, and starting November 1st and continuing through the end of February, that discount goes to 15 percent. Year-round, there’s a 15 percent discount on campsites.
DAY TRIP! I wanted to tell you about a bargain day trip Larry and I took on a Friday. We went to Greensboro, which is about 45 minutes south of Tuscaloosa and is the Catfish Capital of Alabama. We had a great time without spending a lot of money in the process, and wouldn’t you know it! I found a thrift store to shop. I got this embroidered linen top for only $4 at Take Two on Main Street. (Photo isn't the exact blouse, but a similar one.) The next 3 sections continue my day trip info about Greensboro.
And who can go to the
Catfish Capital of Alabama and not eat catfish? Where we’d find the best
catfish in town? M&M Mustang Home Cooking Convenience Store and Gas Station,
where we joined a whole lot of other happy diners in a fried catfish dinner
that was seriously good food. And on Fridays, the price is only $6.99. It’s
$10.99 on other days.
We did save room for dessert, though. We decided to try out the Pie Lab on Main Street in Greensboro and shared a slice of fabulous pecan chocolate chip pie.
And talk about bargain entertainment. You can ride along just about any street in the downtown area and see beautiful old homes galore. We had a really nice day, and if you decide to check out Greensboro, I believe you will, too.
With vegetables and even fruits starting to come in, now’s a good time to visit some of the farmers markets and pick-your-own farms around Alabama where you’ll find fresh produce and at probably at better prices than your grocer’s. The Farmers Market Authority maintains a website loaded with information listed by county. Eight you-pick farms are listed just in Jefferson County and 18 farmers markets. Check out the county nearest you and see what kinds of deals and fresh fruits and vegetables you can find.
DISNEY TIPS. If you have toddler to early school age children and are thinking about a trip to Disney World, I hope you’ve been planning and saving for a long, long time. But experiencing Disney can be done less expensively if you’ll consider these tips:
(1) Consider buying 1-day single park tickets or else 1-day Park Hopper tickets that allow you to visit all of the parks. Why go through the expense and exhaustion of days of Disney when you can hit the highlights in one day? You’ll have been there and done that and you’ll possibly even come out with enough money to enjoy some of the far less expensive attractions around Orlando.
Tickets are now priced according to Value, Regular, or Peak Season. Peak season begins May 27 and ends July 23. Value season begins August 22. A family of 4 going during peak season and buying 1-day single park tickets will pay $464. For 1-day Park Hopper tickets, they’ll pay $644. If they’d chosen 3-day tickets, ticket cost would be between $1,124 and $1,344 – that’s between double and triple the cost of a 1-day visit. (These prices may not be exact, but they're very close.)
(2) Don’t stay inside the park. The least expensive hotel inside the park will cost around $150 a night once the taxes and other charges are added. Consider one of the hotels along International Drive where rates can be as low as under $50 a night and many of the hotels include free breakfast and free shuttles to and from the parks running almost every hour – which means not having to deal with traffic or pay the $20 a day parking fee.
(3) Don’t buy your souvenirs inside the park. Instead, order them in advance from DisneyStore.com and take them with you. For example, Ifound a girls’ Disney World t-shirt regularly $29.95 on sale for $10.99 and a boys’ $24.95 Disney World t-shirt for $6.95. When you present items like these to your kids, they’ll be just as happy and you’ll have saved a bundle.
(4) And although discounts are usually minimally, the website MouseSavers.com keeps up with any and all Disney-related discounts.
(5) If you are a member of the military, you can get discounted Disney tickets through your military base.
BARGAIN HAIR & NAILS. I was in desperate need of a haircut and my regular stylist wasn’t available, plus there aren’t a lot of salons open on Mondays and that's what day it was. I went to the Cosmetology Department of Bevill State Community College at the Sumiton campus and got a great cut for only $3. And while I was there, I decided to splurge for a manicure and a pedicure. Can you guess how much money I ended up spending? $14. $3 for the haircut; $3 for the manicure; and $8 for the pedicure. Yes, the work was done by students in training, but the work was totally overseen by their instructors and I couldn’t have been more pleased with all of it.
If you want to save a bundle on salon services, check out Bevill State’s Cosmetology Department. They accept walk-ins on Mondays and Tuesdays and it’s recommended to arrive between 8:30 and 10am to insure there’s plenty of time for you before the students leave at 2.
Services include facials; makeup; hair services from cuts to weaving, braids, color, perms, and more; plus men’s haircuts, beard, mustache, and eyebrow trims. Both Bevill’s Sumiton and Hamilton campuses offer these services. And you need to know they don’t accept debit or credit cards.
CANCER PATIENTS who’ve experienced hair loss know how expensive wigs can be and that not just any wig is safe for a cancer patient. With both these factors in mind, the American Cancer Society offers free wigs, as well as scarves and turbans. Call (800) 227-2345 to find the location nearest you.
Did you know you can shop on Dollar Tree’s
website? Not only that, but you can have your items shipped to your nearest
store without having to pay a shipping fee. There are minimum purchases
required, like on Anchor Hocking 8-inch vases - you have to buy a case of
6 to order online. When it comes to party supplies, Dollar Tree has a lot to
offer from decorations to paper goods, so instead of driving from Dollar Tree
to Dollar Tree trying to find enough coordinating items, order online and save
time and travel. You can also order grocery items & more. Sign up for their loyalty club, the Value Seekers Club, and get exclusive offers.
If you are a veteran or the widow of a veteran and you’re either disabled or age 65 or older, you may qualify for benefits you don’t know about. The VA provides an Aid and Assistance or Housebound benefit to those who require the aid and attendance of another person, whether that’s in your own home or in an assisted living facility.
Qualifying for this benefit depends on a number of factors, including your health condition, income, and more. But monthly benefits can range from $1,149 for a surviving spouse to $2,120 for a qualifying married veteran. And if a husband and wife are both qualifying veterans, the benefit can be as much as $2,837 a month. In some cases, there may even be benefit for nursing home care.
As I said to begin with, there are a large number of factors that determine whether or not a person qualifies, so you should begin by contacting your local VA office or going to the website on the screen. You can also call the toll-free number 800-827-1000 if you have time to sit through a zillion prompts and finally get to where you can request a call back instead of having to be on hold for ages. Click the blue words - it's a direct link to the correct web page.
Make sure you ask about the Aid and Attendance or Homebound benefit. And just so you know, it can take six months or more to get the benefit started once you file all the required paperwork and no matter how long it takes or how long you’ve been qualified without receiving any benefit, they don’t make any retroactive payments.
Another excellent website is www.VeteransAidBenefit.org. It even includes links to the forms you'll need completed.
IMPORTANT! There are dozens of companies online that claim to help deserving veterans & their widows receive VA benefits. DON'T contact any of these! You don't need their help to get your benefits & if you do use them, they will receive a percentage of every check you receive.
If you’re a senior citizen, you may want to check into Silver Sneakers. Many gyms and fitness centers offer special classes for senior adults and many Medicare and other health plans will pay for your membership. There are at least 12,000 participating fitness centers, including YMCAs and Curves. Contact your healthcare provider to see if Silver Sneakers is included in your benefits.
If you’re not familiar with the website MyKidsEatFree.com, you may be missing out on free meals for your kids or grandkids. Whether you’re eating out locally or traveling on vacation, you can search this website by state and see to see what restaurants offer free kids’ meals.
If you're looking for the best deal ever on prescription eyeglasses, you need to check out www.ZenniOptical.com. Their prices start at $6.95 and this includes frames, single vision lenses, scratch-resistant coating, glasses case, and cleaning cloth. Shipping is around $4.95 no matter how many pairs you order - and they do sunglasses, bi- and tri-focals and any other types of glasses you can think of. Price is based on the frame and type of lenses you want.
You can even upload your own photo so you can try on the different styles and see how you look. It usually takes between 10 days and 2 weeks to receive your glasses once you've placed your order. You'll need to input your prescription information. If you have questions, you can call them at (800) 211-2105, or email them or do a live chat on their website.
And we pay a total of around $28 a month for two phones!
Whenever I’m talking Bargainomics to a group, I often begin with this question: if I gave you the choice between a burger and fries or a cruise, which would you want? Believe it or not, I’ve never had anyone pick the burger. But in real life, that’s what most people are choosing.
Even spending a little here and there can add up to a lot, so the same people who say they can’t afford a cruise may be frivoling away far more money than they realize.
According to ariix.com, the average American spends $232 per month going out for dinner plus coffee-loving Americans tack on an additional $1,100 a year making stops just for coffee. Forbes’ website said that the average businessperson who goes out for lunch only twice a week spends about $936 a year. When you figure all that up, it comes to $4,820 a year per person. In a two-person household with these habits, that’s just short of $10,000 a year.
Life is about choices and the ones you make today can greatly influence your future – for better or worse. That’s why it’s important to make smart choices and wise financial decisions.
No beach lover should miss out on enjoying the surf, sun, and sand even if he or she is in a wheelchair or has walking difficulties. Right here in Alabama’s own Gulf Shores, Beach Power Rentals offers specially built beach motorized beach wheelchairs, with rates starting at $60 a day. You can contact them via their website: BeachPowerRentals.com or call them at (251) 967-3729.
WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH $1,200 A YEAR? According to a recent news report, the average household pays around $100 a month for cable or satellite TV service. While we love it when you choose WBRC Fox 6 – and we also have the Bounce station on 6.2 & Grit TV on 6.3 – you may be surprised to see how many channels may be available to you without paying for anything other than a good indoor or outdoor digital antenna. The web address is a long one, so I’ve posted a direct link, so click HERE and you'll be taken straight to the site.
START YOUR OCCASIONS LIST NOW! What’s that? On your computer or on a plain ol’ sheet of paper, write the names of everyone you plan to buy gifts for all year long. Out beside each name, note things like his or her birthday, sizes, and even things like wedding or anniversary date, graduation date – any occasion you plan to buy that person a gift for in 2017. This way, you can bargain shop all year long and fill up your occasions list paying cash as you go. Each time you buy a gift, make a note of what it is beside the person’s name. Tuck the gift away and you’ll be all set when the occasion rolls around. I’ve heard from so many people who’ve started doing this since I told them about my occasions list and most tell me they’re spending about 75 percent less and buying better gifts than ever before.
And speaking of travel, what’s the cheapest way? First and foremost, know the “on” and “off” seasons for wherever you want to go. For example, whether you’re thinking of the beach or the mountains, November, January, and February are the least expensive months in either location.
I did a quick check for a November stay in both locations and here’s what I found on www.Kayak.com: I found a link to hotels.com with $25 a night for Days Inn Apple Valley in Pigeon Forge. And for Gulf Shores, I found rates as low as $54 a night for the Beachside Resort Hotel on West Beach Boulevard. And since November through February is snowbird season at the beach, you’ll find lunch specials galore, like the $4.95 lunch deals at King Neptune’s.
Did you know there’s a Volunteer Program for the National Park Service? If you’re retired or work a job that allows you some generous off-time or vacation blocks, you may be interested in participating in some of the opportunities you’ll find on the website Volunteer.gov. You can search the entire United States or by state, including Alaska and Hawaii. In Alabama, I found several park host positions available, as well as other opportunities like as a volunteer at the Wheeler Wildlife Visitor Center. Park hosts are usually provided with full service campsites, but have to have their own camper or RV. Click any listing to see the details. You can find them all at Volunteer.gov.
And speaking of Fairhope, we stayed at the little mom-and-pop motel, Barons Inn, on our trip down a few weeks ago. Barons is located directly across from the bay and walking trail, plus an easy walk to many of the shops and eateries. The rooms are newly remodeled and cost $79 to $109 weekdays and $129 to $159 on weekends, depending on the season, and all rooms include free wifi, cable TV, pod coffeemakers, and mini-fridges. Their prices are the best in the area, but now they’re offering an even better deal: if you ask for The Bargainomics Lady Discount, you get 20 percent off the current rate. And that deal is good all the way through the end of this year. Call (800) 928-2328 and ask for The Bargainomics Lady Discount.
you or someone you know has a vision impairment or other health problem that
affects the ability to read or hold printed material, check into Alabama Radio Reading Service. You can listen to newspapers, magazines, books, and more
read to you through a special radio that’s provided as part of this free
service. For more information, call (205) 934-6576. You can download an
application online that has to be filled out by your health care provider, plus
see more information on their website. (Scroll down to see a special audiobook service, too.)
My stepmom has always been one of the most avid readers I know, but macular degeneration has made it impossible for her to see well enough to read any more. Now she listens to free talking books. The Library of Congress offers a free braille and talking book service to anyone with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that makes them unable to read or hold a book. The books and even the special player for the talking books are mailed to you for free. To find out more, use this link to LOC.gov. To register, use this one. Or for more information, you can phone 888-657-7323.
If you enjoy Alabama’s Gulf Coast, you’ve probably stopped to eat at the Gift Horse in Foley. This elegant Southern buffet is about $12 per person, but on Sunday and Monday, you get 50 percent off when you present that week’s church bulletin. Also, if you come in for dinner between 4:30 and 6pm and tell them you saw their info on their website, you’ll receive the early bird discount. The Gift Horse is open every day from 11 to 9, serving lunch and dinner.
And here's a tip about washing fruit and vegetables. Instead of plain water or even liquid soap, use a mixture of half water and half white vinegar. Keep it in a clearly labeled spray bottle – I picked mine up at Dollar Tree. You don’t want to re-use one that could have contained harmful chemicals. Spray the fruit or vegetable. Wait a couple of minutes and rinse in plain clear water.
If you’re a fan of designer clothing and accessories, but not their prices, check out the website, Tradesy.com. This site puts buyers and sellers together and offers new and used designer label items at big discounts. For example, this Tory Burch sweater sold before I could even tell you about it, but it was listed as like new and originally retailed for $175. It sold on Tradesy for $15 and shipping was another $8.50. Still, $23.50 isn’t too bad for a $175 designer sweater. Tradesy offers ladies’ clothing, purses, shoes, and even bridal gowns and accessories.
2018 cars are out and the temptation to get a new car may have already bitten you. But whether you’re thinking about a new or used car, don’t buy anything until you check on the cost for insurance. Even within the same line of vehicles, the particular model you choose can make a lot of difference in insurance expense. And if you’ve been with the same insurance company for ages, it’s time to do a little comparison shopping. Too, read the reviews on the vehicles you’re considering and check out the maintenance, dependability record, and gas mileage.
Even the size tires a vehicle uses can mean a big expense when you need new ones. Taking the time to do a little homework will be well worth it. There are a lot of good websites with car reviews, three of which are Cars.com, Edmunds.com, and CarAndDriver.com.
WORK FROM HOME? Are there any legitimate work-from-home jobs out there? Yes, but unfortunately, statistics show that there are about 60 scams for every one real job opportunity. Clark Howard has long been a trusted name in money talk and he’s posted a great list of real at-home jobs.
Always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it's a scam.
Just because you’re not a homeowner doesn’t mean you don’t need insurance. Spending a little now could save you a fortune should a disaster strike your rental property. My nephew was one of hundreds of uninsured renters who lost nearly all their possessions during one of the 2013 tornadoes. I talked to Alyson Sabatini with Allstate Insurance in Vestavia and she told me that rental insurance was very inexpensive – in some instances as little as $10 or $20 a month for coverage of around $20,000 worth of personal property. Even if a fire started in another apartment and spread to yours, your renters insurance would cover your losses, plus it also provides liability insurance should a guest get hurt. Whatever company is already insuring your vehicles may also offer renters insurance. If not, check around and get quotes from several reputable insurance companies.
Even Bargainomics style shopping takes money, which is why I stretch every dollar I can. As my daddy always said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees;” and we need to make sure our kids and grandkids understand where it comes from, how to get it, and how to both save it and wisely use it. Their best example is you, but you can also use this excellent website, www.RichKidSmartKid.com to show them fun, age-appropriate games that teach them how to properly manage money. Game levels range from kindergarten to high school.
And speaking of children, the website www.LittleSproutsResale.com makes it easy to sell your children’s gently used clothing as well as buy designer and name brand kids’ clothes at really good prices. Shipping is only $5.95 on any order, and orders over $50 ship free. This is a good spot to save money and maybe even make some.
If you’ve never shopped a Dirt Cheap store, you may want to check them out. This store doesn’t carry as many big ticket items as Bargain Hunt, but you can find some great buys. I was there a few days ago and they had a good selection of used DVDs for only 25 cents each. There was also a section of new hardware items like door hinges and things like that for only 50 cents each. They also bundle items together into sort of a grab bag – a whole shopping cart of items for only $10. Within the viewing area, they have stores in Albertville, Anniston, Homewood, Rainbow City, & Tuscaloosa.
How about a month of free audiobooks and ebooks? You can get unlimited both when you try AllYouCanBooks.com. You’ll have access to over 30,000 Audiobooks, eBooks, and even Foreign Language courses. Download as many audiobooks, ebooks, language audio courses, and language e-workbooks as you want during the free 30-day trial and it's all yours to keep. If you decide to stay on as a member, you pay $19.99 a month. You do have to provide your credit card information to get the free trial, but you won’t be billed as long as you cancel before the end of the 30-day free trial. All You Can Books is registered with the Better Business Bureau and has an A rating.
A quick and easy way to remove dust from TV screens and computer monitors? Used dryer sheets do a great job.
To get longer life out of your nail polish, store it in the fridge. Already have some polish that’s gotten too thick to use? Add a few drops of nail polish remover and shake to blend. If it’s still too thick, add a drop or two more at a time until you get the consistency you prefer.
If you’re homeschooling or know someone who is, you’ll want to know about this website: www.Homeschool.com. Homeschool.com is the top online homeschool website and it’s loaded with information about homeschool groups, teaching aids, free curriculum, and more and includes all ages group all the way up to college level.
I found this $200 evening gown for $20 at Bargain Hunt, but the discount date on the sales tickets gave me another 50 percent off, which means I paid $10. Bargain Hunt stores carry overstock and closeout merchandise from clothing to furniture, appliances, and electronics. What’s available changes constantly, so the more often you stop by, the better chance you have of finding the best bargains. There are Bargain Hunt stores on Lorna Road in Hoover, on Crestwood Boulevard, and at Brook Highland on 280, as well as in Gadsden. (NOTE: The photo is NOT the gown I showed on TV - I couldn't find the photo I'd taken!)
If you know someone who appreciates flowers and plants, you can give a nice get-well, hostess, or just-because gift for very little money. Buy a cup and saucer at a thrift store or yard sale and a small plant from any garden center and you’ll have a lovely gift for around $2. I got this cup and saucer for 79 cents at a thrift store and the plant actually was a cutting from one of my own plants. So my gift – unless I decide to keep it – has only cost me 79 cents.
When it comes to finding the best deals on hotels anywhere in the world, I have a three-word phrase that can help you get the very best deal: reserve, reserve, cancel. What do I mean? Nobody wants to wait around until the last minute trying to get the best deal and then end up without a hotel to stay in. So instead, reserve the best deal you find and then continue shopping for a better deal right up until 48 hours or so before your trip. When you find a better deal, make a second reservation. Then go back and cancel the first one. Keep doing this and you’ll sometimes find a better deal for the hotel you reserved in the first place. The important thing is to be sure and record your reservation numbers and cancellation numbers.
Larry and I were in Austria recently and we applied this method until we landed rooms at the gorgeous historic Hotel Schloss in Vienna for under $100 a night and that included free wifi, free parking, and free buffet breakfast on the terrace overlooking the city. Remember: reserve, reserve, cancel. This works for rental cars, too. Before trying this, though, be sure you read the cancellation policy for every site you check.
Want to know about a store with everyday bargains? There are Z Outlets in Forestdale, Green Springs, and on Lorna Road and they carry costume jewelry, scarves, and a variety of other items at rock bottom prices. Granted, this is a far cry from upscale, but I found colorful wooden stretch bracelets there for only $1 each. It’s well worth a stop to take a look around. (Pic is similar, but my bracelets are either multi-colored or one solid color.)
I planned to tile our concrete porch floor – until I found out the cost of floor tile. I’d planned to use a bargain tile I’d used on an indoor project, but found out that you need a far more expensive and durable tile to withstand outdoor moisture and freezing temperatures without cracking. So instead, I created my own tile floor. I used 1-inch wide painter’s tape to evenly divide the floor into squares. Then I painted the floor with latex porch and floor paint. Once the paint dried, I pulled up the tape and the unpainted areas gave it the look of tile grout.
If you enjoy ebooks and would like some good clean reads absolutely free, you need to check out the website www.CBD.com. Right now there are over 100 ebooks on their website that you can download for free, including romance titles like Jeanette Oke’s The Tender Years; Travis Thrasher’s The Foreboding; and classics like The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. There are also nonfiction titles from devotionals to home school and teaching aids, as well as cookbooks. You’ll need to download the CBD Reader app, but you can get it free in PC or Mac format. Check the Google Playstore or iTunes App Store.
When you take a break from a paint project, put your roller or brush inside a plastic bag and tie it shut to keep the air out and the smell in. Place it in the fridge until you’re ready to start again. This way, you save the cleanup until you’re finished. You can do the same thing with you roller pan.
You don’t need to invest in a lot of different cleaners to do most household cleaning. A little borax sprinkled onto a damp sponge can be used to clean greasy surfaces in your kitchen and soap scum in your bathroom; plus it’s a natural deodorizer and freshener. It’s also great for cleaning and removing stains from floor tile. In your washer, presoak stained clothes for 30 minutes in water and a half cup of borax to remove most stains like tomato sauce or even grease. You can find borax on the detergent aisle in most stores. At around $4 for a 4-pound box, it’s definitely a bargain.
Whether you're near home or clear across the U.S., the website Restaurant.com is loaded with certificates that will save you money on eating out. Typically, a $25 certificate costs $10 and requires a $35 or more purchase. More and less expensive certificates are also available for some eateries. Just be sure to tip on the full cost of the meal before the coupon is deducted.
You can make your own cleaning cloths and keep them handy in your kitchen and bathroom. Use a knife with a big serrated edge to saw a roll of high quality paper towels into 3 equal sections. Put one section into a big plastic margarine tub or coffee container. Mix ½ cup of your favorite cleaner like Lysol or Pinesol with 4 cups of water and pour it into the container. Cut a slit in the center of the tub lid and insert the end of the towel roll. If you want to get fancy, you can paint the tub so it’ll look nice sitting out on the counter. Krylon makes the best spray paint I’ve found that sticks to plastic.
Ladies, would it be worth $49 a month to have an unlimited wardrobe of fabulous new clothes? If your answer is yes, you need to check out GwynnieBee.com. If you wear any size between 10 and 32, this site can ship you your choice of the latest styles for only $49 a month. It’s a members-only online rental company. As soon as you return one outfit, order another. If you need or want the hottest new fashions without breaking the bank, this is a great way to do it. Marie Claire, In Style, and even Forbe’s Magazine has featured Gwynnie Bee.com.
Cancer patients who’ve experienced hair loss know how expensive wigs can be and that not just any wig is safe for a cancer patient. With both these factors in mind, the American Cancer Society offers free wigs, as well as scarves, turbans, hats, bras & more. Call (800) 227-2345.
How can you make your home more energy efficient? It may be easier than you think. Alabama Power offers a free online energy checkup that helps you see where your home is using the most energy and gives you cost-saving recommendations. Completing the entire checkup takes about 10 minutes.
Walmart has a unique program called Savings Catcher that’s the easiest way ever to save money. Your receipt can be scanned to see if any of the items you bought could have been purchased elsewhere for less money. The difference for each item will be credited to your Savings Catcher account to use just like cash.
There are two ways to do this: Download the Walmart app to your smartphone, set up your account, and then scan your receipt; or go to the Savings Catcher page of www.Walmart.com and register, then type in your receipt number and date of purchase to see if any of your purchases qualify for additional savings. If you are due anything, it may take up to 72 hours to see the credit posted. But it’s simple to do and an easy way to stack up some savings.
Sears and Kmart have a savings program. While it doesn’t give you back money on items you could have bought cheaper elsewhere, it does give you points for every cent you spend on either of their websites or in their stores. These points can be converted into cash to use when you’re shopping, plus members frequently receive bonus points just for being members.
I recently received 20,000 bonus points, which were worth $20 toward a purchase. I already had 5,000 points in my Shop Your Way account, so that gave me 25,000 points – which is $25 – to spend. I had shown a $100 metal detector on TV that was sale-priced at $25. I used my points to buy one, which means I paid zero – since my points covered the entire cost. Sign up for your own Shop Your Way account at www.ShopYourWay.com.
Does your refrigerator's icemaker have a door dispenser? If it does, it may look like the one in this photo, but who thinks to stoop down and stare up into their icemaker opening? Your dispenser opening needs to be cleaned at least every week or two; but never use harsh chemicals. Mix a solution of 1 cup white vinegar & 1 cup water in a clean spray bottle that has never contained dangerous cleaners or chemicals. Spray the area and wipe it with a clean cloth. And use a soft toothbrush or other small brush to clean the spots you can't reach with the cloth. This vinegar solution is also ideal for washing fruits & vegetables, and it’s very easy on your wallet.
You can watch live Bargainomics segments online by clicking this link: www.WBRC.com. I'm on the News at Noon between 12:30 & 1pm every Thursday and on Good Day Alabama around 8am on the 1st & 3rd Thursday of each month.