The Bargainomics Lady 

Judy Woodward Bates

Tips & Trips


Scroll down this page to see money-saving info galore,
including some great day trips to consider!


I love to talk BARGAINOMICS! When are you going to invite me to speak to your group?


Turn a regular ol' flat screen TV into a smart TV for $25? Yep. If you have WIFI in your home, for $25 you can turn your OLD TV into a SMART TV with a ROKU or AMAZON FIRE STICK. Easy to hook up - I connected mine with no help - & loaded with FREE entertainment (plus plenty of paid options you can ignore).


Watch movies, TV shows & more absolutely FREE on Tubi TV. Just register, sign in & enjoy! Works on most smart devices, including phones, tablets & computers: www.TubiTV.com.

Need more TV show & movie options, but don’t want to pay for them? Check out www.Pluto.TV. You can watch live or on demand programming, plus it’s loaded with music stations like the 60’s Decade oldies station I’m listening to right now. It’s FREE & works on most smart devices, including phones, tablets & computers, as well as your TV (if you have a smart TV or you’ve bought a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick and connected it to your TV). Register, sign in & enjoy!



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. Consumer advocate Clark Howard has long been a trusted name in money talk and he’s posted a great list of real at-home jobs. 

 

And always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it's a scam.



Because I’ve been dollar-stretching for years, Larry and I are debt-free. No house payment. No car payment. No debt, period. Owing money can become a lifelong lifestyle unless you choose to change your spending habits and maybe even your current lifestyle.

 

Let’s say you eat lunch out weekdays. Nothing expensive. But in addition to that inexpensive lunch, you might also pick up a coffee en route to work or grab a snack from a vending machine. The average person is spending about $10 a day on food during their work hours. Even allowing 2 weeks for vacation, in those 50 weeks of work each year, that’s around $2,500. If two people in the same household are doing this, you’re looking at $5,000.

 

Become a brown bagger. Take your lunch to work. And put that $10 a day you would otherwise be spending into a savings account. $2500 or $5000 for two people could go a long way toward paying off debt; saving toward a new car or that dream vacation.

 

Spending even on small things can add up to big debt. A great resource to help you improve your finances is the website 360FinancialLiteracy.org. It’s free and provides all sorts of tools to help you become a smarter money manager.



But what's a date without food? As members of Ruby Tuesday’s So Connected Email Club, Larry and I receive notices for all their specials, many of which are $5 lunches on Tuesdays that aren’t advertised anywhere else. Club members get notices about plenty of other deals, too.


You can join Ruby Tuesday’s So Connected Club on their website, RubyTuesday.com. Just for joining, you get a free appetizer, plus a free burger or garden bar entrée every time your birthday rolls around – which explains why Larry and I are both members!



If you’re retired or work a job where a month-long vacation is possible and you have your own camper or RV, you may be interested in participating in the Alabama State Parks’ VIP Program – Volunteers in the Park. Volunteers are given a free campsite and typically stay in a park for one month and earn their keep by assisting the park staff in tasks of all sorts, like campground hosting, guiding tours, providing information and more.


There’s also a volunteer program for the National Parks & other federal programs, like the U.S. Forest Service. As with the Alabama State Parks VIP program, this is a great opportunity for anyone who’s retired or works a job that allows for some generous off-time or blocks of vacation. You can search the entire United States or by state, including Alaska and Hawaii. In Alabama alone, I found over a dozen openings, many as park hosts. Park hosts are usually provided with full service campsites, but have to have their own camper or RV. You can see all these volunteer positions at Volunteer.gov.



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 and more, and it includes all age groups all the way up to college level.

 

There’s a freebies section, a free curriculum section, and even helpful podcasts.



GET OUT OF DEBT! Getting into debt is a whole lot easier than getting out of it and there’s definitely no simple solution. You’ve heard this many times, but it’s true: you didn’t get into debt overnight and you won’t get out overnight, either. The important thing is to decide you want to stop living in debt.


When you owe several different credit cards, paying a little extra here and there doesn’t give you much of a reward for your effort. That’s what I call the shotgun approach. Remember: unless you’re aiming at a specific target, you’re never going to hit it.

 

That’s why you need to look at all your debts and begin with the credit card or other debt that has the lowest balance. Let’s say it’s a department store credit card and you owe $200. This is your starting point. Apply as much extra money as you can manage toward that one debt every month until it’s paid in full.

 

Seeing that one debt disappear is going to feel good. That’s your first reward. Then take the amount you were paying on that debt and begin applying it to the next lowest balance debt. If you continue to do this, pretty soon you’ll be able to pay more and more above the minimum payment, and that means eliminating that debt even faster. The more debts you see disappear, the more pumped you’ll be to eliminate the rest of them.

 

A great free online resource is FeedThePig.org, which takes you to the website 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. You can learn how to better manage your money; create a plan to pay off debt; start your nest egg; work toward buying a car or home. And it’s all free


A couple of weeks ago I talked about protecting your credit by opting out of pre-screened credit card offers and shredding personal information before putting any sort of papers in your trash.


If you’re not planning on applying for any credit in the future, you can freeze your existing credit information so no one is able to request it or apply for credit in your name. You’ll need to contact each of the four major credit reporting companies – Transunion, Experian, Equifax and Innovis – and complete a freeze request for each one. The steps are clearly outlined as you see on Experian’s website.


Once your account is frozen, you’ll be given a PIN number to use if you ever need to unfreeze the account.


If 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 the 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. There’s an online application that has to be filled out by your health care provider.  Or for more information, you can call (205) 934-6576.



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.

 

There's an online application form you'll need. You can also call the Library of Congress to ask about Talking Books. That number is (888) 657-7323.



Did you know that all four major credit reporting companiesTransunion, Experian, Equifax and Innoviscan sell your contact information to credit card companies? While they won’t give out your personal information like date of birth and social security number, they will let these companies know you’re a good qualified candidate for their credit cards.

 

So if you’re receiving pre-approved credit card offers, that’s why. You can stop this by completing the opt-out form on the website: www.optoutprescreen.com, or you can call toll free at 1-888-5-OPT OUT (888–567–8688).

 

If you drop that credit card offer in your trash, it could very well end up in the hands of an identity thief. A smart way to help protect your personal information is to shred all your personal information before putting any sort of paperwork in your trash. Walmart has a basic home paper shredder for around $27, and that’s not a bad investment to help protect your information.



If you want to stay out of debt and plan for Christmas and all the year’s special occasions, the smartest way to do that is by starting an occasions list right now. You can create an electronic list on your smartphone or use a plain ol’ sheet of paper to write down the names of everyone I plan to buy a gift for this year. Out beside their names, note birthdays, anniversaries, sizes, whatever information is pertinent. And include miscellaneous bridal teas, baby teas, and graduations at the bottom of the page – for those unexpected invitations. Then as you shop all year long, look for great gifts at discounted prices.

 

Write a description of the item out beside the recipient’s name and here’s the important part: when you get home, write the recipient’s name on the bag and store it in a designated gift closet so you’ll know where to find it when the occasion rolls around. Keep the list with you and commit to pay cash as you go. I’ve written and talked about occasions lists for years and I’ve heard from many people who now keep one and tell me they’re spending about 75 percent less on gifts now and giving better gifts than ever before. Shopping ahead can mean great savings, but only if you can afford to pay cash.



SCOTTSBORO DAY TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! I took a day trip this to Scottsboro & found this brand new Tulip brand tunic top for only $5.97 at the He Sells She Sells Thrift & Consignment there. This is a big building with tons of new and used merchandise of all sorts. I found a the same brand tunic online in the same style but a different pattern sale-priced at $94. I think I got a pretty good deal.

I also made a stop at the Goodwill Store in Scottsboro got these brand new $35 boots for only $10.

And yes, I did do some serious looking in Unclaimed Baggage and found some great buys on special occasion dresses. But if you travel, you also have to eat, right? And that’s how I discovered 50 Taters. When they say they serve comfort food, they’re serious. Their menu includes great home cooking, including fried chicken, barbecue, steaks, catfish, burgers and fabulous desserts.


You can see more information about Scottsboro by clicking this blue link to the city's website.



DEMOPOLIS DAY TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! I made a day trip to Demopolis and had to show you a little of what I discovered. If you’re not familiar with Demopolis, it’s less than a 2-hour drive southwest of Birmingham. I also discovered the Bargain Box, a thrift store loaded with great merchandise like the Valerie Stevens top and camisole set I got for only $1. They're only open until noon each day. Call for details about days and hours: (334) 289-9399. There's also a small but nice Salvation Army Thrift Store in Demopolis



You’ll see beautiful historic homes (private residence photo, right) as you drive around Demopolis. There’s also Bluff Hall, a beautiful 1832 home on the banks of the Tombigbee. It’s beautifully furnished and packed with history. There is an admission charge to go inside.

And if you travel, you’ve got to eat, right? I had lunch at Stacey’s Café (photo, left) in the Demopolis Inn downtown and got a delicious Southern home-cooked meat and two for only $8. Later in the day I decided on some coffee and dessert, so I went to Simply Delicious Bakery & Eatery and tried out a serving of “Earthquake,” an incredible chocolate and cream cheese dessert. Simply Delicious also has a buffet of home cooking, and dessert prices are unbeatable at just $2.99 a serving.



Demopolis is also loaded with free things to see and do. Since Demopolis sits at the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers has built several beautiful parks, like Foscue Creek Park where you can spend the day or bring your tent or camper. Spillway Falls Park (photo, right) offers some great fishing opportunities – I saw a guy land a 15-pound catfish while I was there. And Bigbee Bottom Trail is one of many easy hiking trails and popular birding spots around the area. There’s a lot to love about Demopolis and I plan to visit there again soon.



ALABASTER TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! Larry and I took a trip all the way to Alabaster! If you don’t live in that area, you need to pay Alabaster a visit because you’ll discover a lot of fun bargain spots. We started out with a visit to The Foundry Thrift Store where I found this 100% cashmere sweater for $3.99 with an 80 percent off tag color – which means I paid 80 cents

We also visited K and J’s Elegant Pastries where we tried some butter crunch ice cream, a slice of sour cream pound cake, and a chocolate fudge cupcake. K & J’s $5 deal includes a scoop of ice cream and one of their amazing cupcakes - you choose the flavors.

Then we walked off those calories at Buck Creek Park (photo, right) next to Thompson High School. The park has a playground, picnic tables, a walking track, and a walking trail that follows the creek. 


Alabaster has tons of places to eat, several nice shopping centers, and some neat antique shops like The Blue Building on Highway 31. Plus their Beneful Dog Park inside Veterans Park is nice enough to have received national recognition.


You can learn more about the Alabaster and the surrounding area at CityofAlabaster.com or ShelbyCountyTourism.org.



The Birmingham area has so many great free attractions. Just a few of examples: (1) the Birmingham Museum of Art offers free admission and free parking. Of course, they’ll gladly accept donations. (2) In Columbiana, there’s the Harrison Library contains the Museum of George Washington with an impressive collection of documents, personal items, and furniture that belonged to our first president and his descendants. (3) The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson offers 700 acres with beautiful Turkey Creek and plenty of walking trails.



THINNING HAIR? True confession time here. The older I get, the thinner my hair gets. And with all the products I use to spike and glue my hair in place, my scalp will be shining through if I’m not careful. I’ve found a solution that helps me and, if you’re battling thin hair, it may help you, too. It’s this little fiber product call Toppik. It comes in 9 different colors. You use the one that most closely matches your hair color, sprinkle it on the thin places like fairy dust and sort of pat it in. And presto! No more bald spot. On Toppik.com, the travel size costs $7.95 with free shipping. Sally Beauty also carries Toppik, but not a large selection of colors & they don't ship free unless you spend $25 or more. Ulta also sells Toppik, but shipping isn't free until you spend $50, & again, the color selection isn't great. I’ve been using a travel size for months just for touch-up and I still have plenty left. Larger sizes cost a lot more, so I’d definitely try the travel size first. Salons offer a lot of other fiber products and they can be very expensive.



Estate sales are great places to pick up all sorts of things, from clothes and jewelry to tools and furniture. But how do you find the ones around you? Check out the website www.EstateSales.net. Just type your zip code into the search blank and you’ll see the sales nearest you.

Whether you’re interested in books, movies, or music CDs, these three websites can help keep you supplied: PaperbackSwap, SwapaDVD, and SwapaCD. You sign up and post the items you have available. Then, when another person requests one of your items, you mail it to them in a very inexpensive media rate wrapper you print from your computer. You earn one credit for each item you send out. Then when you want to request an item, you pay 49 cents and one credit. Some items cost more than one credit, but it’s always only a 49-cent fee. PaperbackSwap includes hardcover, audiobooks, and even textbooks. And SwapaDVD also includes Blu-rays.



WHERE'S YOUR MONEY GOING? If you can’t seem to figure out where your money’s going each month, spend the next 30 days keeping a list on your phone or on paper of every penny you pay out, whether it’s your car payment or what you paid for a pack of gum. At the end of the thirty days, go over your list and add up all of the unnecessary outgo. If you’re like most people, you’ll be shocked to see where you could have cut back and used that money toward paying off bills or maybe saving toward a vacation.




CUT YOUR TV EXPENSE! According to a recent article in USA Today, the average customer’s cable or satellite TV bill has increased 53 percent in the last ten years and now averages $101 a month. Larry and I got tired of paying to watch TV and switched to an outside antenna with remote control. We’re over 30 miles from Fox 6 and you can see how clear our signal is even if this is a low resolution photo I took with my cell phone.

This is the antenna we bought and we’re receiving a total of 49 channels, including all of Fox 6’s channels like Bounce and Grit. Hooking up the antenna was easy and the remote control makes it simple to adjust the antenna if you ever need to. And for less than a $25 investment we have plenty of channels without paying for cable or satellite.

Walmart’s website sells a similar antenna in the same price range and Amazon lists an antenna with remote control for only $15.99 and it ships free if you’re a Prime member.


So what could you do with $1200 a year? I can think of a lot better things than paying to watch television when it’s so easy to watch it for free.


Dollar stores are the cheapest places to pick up these 60-inch rolls of non-slip shelf liner, and this stuff does far more than line shelves.


(1) Cut pieces to fit trays so you and your family can carry and eat off trays with cups and dishes a lot more stable.

(2) Put a piece in the seat of a high chair and babies won’t slide around so much.

(3) Put pieces under pet dishes to keep pets from pushing their dishes across the floor.
(4) Cut a piece to put under mixing bowls whenever you’re mixing anything by hand. Sure beats chasing a moving bowl across the countertop.

(5) Cut a piece to use as a jar opener. It really gives you a lot of extra grip.

(6) It works great in RV cabinets and drawers to keep dishes from sliding around, and you can put it in between stacked dishes or bowls to keep them from rattling.

(7) Glue a small piece to the inside of a hair barrette to help hold the barrette in place.

(8) Glue a strip to the backside of a ruler and cutting fabric becomes so much easier when your ruler stays in place.

(9) Use pieces or whole strips under area rugs to keep rugs in place for a lot less than the cost of regular rug pads.

(10) Crafty folks even use it to make beautiful wreaths. Click HERE to learn how.


RENT A BEACH WHEELCHAIR! 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 ShoresBeach 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.



CASH FOR YOUR CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES! 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.



SYLACAUGA ROAD TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! If you’ve never made a trip to Sylacauga, Alabama, you need to put it on your day trip list. Larry and I 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.


Scroll on down to see more about Sylacauga.

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)



How 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.

And 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.

Spring 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.



VERNON/BEAVERTON ROAD TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! 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.




DECATUR DAY TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! Larry and I made a road trip to Decatur driving straight up Highway 31 North 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

ONEONTA DAY TRIP INFO STARTS HERE! 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 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.




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.



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. Better Than Before Consignment is my all-time favorite consignment shop. The Foundry Thrift Store is another spot where you might find a good bargain.




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 during warmer months, 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. 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.  If you’re 62 or older, there’s a 10-15 percent discount on hotels and cabins, depending on the time of year. 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 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. 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.

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.




No matter what website or real store you’re shopping, always check RetailMeNot.com for discounts codes that can save you money on merchandise and shipping. You can also download their free app.




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.

I’ve discovered an easy way to find thrift stores galore whether you’re shopping around home or off on vacation. It’s the website TheThriftShopper.com. Just type in the name of the city and choose the state – or input a zip code – and you’ll see a list of nearby thrift stores. It may not show every single one, but it will give you a pretty impressive selection.



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 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.



If you’re retired or work a job where a month-long vacation is possible and you have your own camper or RV, you may be interested in participating in the Alabama State Parks' VIP program - Volunteers in the ParkVolunteers are given a free campsite and typically stay in a park for one month and earn their keep by assisting the park staff in tasks of all sorts, like cleanup, guiding tours, providing information, and more. Scroll down to the next section to see info about volunteering in national parks, too.



Did you know there’s a Volunteer Program for the National Park ServiceIf 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 recently remodeled and 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. Call (800) 928-2328 and ask for The Bargainomics Lady Discount



If you’re looking for a group of fun people who enjoy outdoor activities, you might want to check out Southeastern Outings. This is a nonprofit organization that plans all kinds of year-round outings and you don’t have to be a member to go along. Even if you decide to join, dues are only $10 a year and there’s no charge for participation. You can see more about this group and find all the contact information at SEOutings.org. This Saturday’s outing (July 16) is a river float, swim, picnic, and day hike in Locust Fork.


If 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.




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.



2020 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 opportunityClark 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.



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.



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.



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.




Remember what I keep saying:
a bargain isn’t a bargain unless you can afford to pay cash for it. Spend cash, not credit.