Welcome, MSN Money Readers!

I hope you enjoyed the “Get Freebies by Complaining” article by Donna Freedman over at MSN Money, and thanks for visiting my little slice of the Internet. You’ll find many of the posts on The Penny Frugalista are centered around what’s going on in my everyday life, such as organizing coupons, dealing with infertility — and, then babies! — and bad customer service tactics.

However, I do want to clarify that I don’t endorse the idea of complaining to get freebies, as the article headline states. My original intent was to blog about the crazy experience of having my (and my husband’s) finger sliced open by a Tostitos dip jar, and to then contact the manufacturer to let them know there was some sort of defect with the glass jar. When The Consumerist picked up the story, it caught the attention of Tostitos’ parent company, Frito-Lay, and I was contacted by them. At no point did I ask for “freebies.” I can honestly say that the company representative freely offered to send me some coupons, and later, unprompted, a gift basket of their products. Of course, I did not refuse them — who would pass up free product coupons and some Fritos? Of course, they were nice enough not to send any Tostitos dip.

Take a look around The Penny Frugalista, and feel free to leave comments on any posts that pique your interest. Happy reading, and thanks for stopping by!

— Nicole, The Penny Frugalista

Buying in Bulk Isn’t Always Cost-Effective

Many stores and those big clubs were you have to pay membership would have you believe otherwise, but bigger isn’t always better. I discovered this the other day, at two different stores: Target and ShopRite, our grocery store.

Example 1

In Target, I needed to pick up a multipack of AA batteries. The best deal I saw was 16 batteries for $14.50 — not ideal, but it seemed reasonable. Then, when I was at the checkout, I saw a 12 pack for just $9.50. I’m not the best at doing math in my head, but even I could see that the 12 pack was a better deal.

Here’s the breakdown:
16 batteries at $14.50 = 90.5 cents per battery

12 batteries at $9.50 = 79 cents per battery

While I was getting 4 fewer batteries, my spending power was increased. Maybe I should have gotten two of the 12 packs, but I don’t need that many batteries.

Example 2

As any good North Jersey resident of Italian ancestry will tell you, it’s a pleasure to have some fresh mozzarella in the house — it goes especially well in a little antipasta with roasted peppers and olives, or on a grilled chicken sandwich. When I got to the cheese section at the grocery store, my eyes were immediately drawn to a sale price on my favorite brand: $8 for 16 ounces. Then, I scanned to the right, and saw the smaller 8-ounce size was only $2.50. Hmm.

Here’s the breakdown:
16 ounces at $8 = 50 cents per ounce

16 ounces (in 2 packs of 8 oz) for a total of $5 = 31 cents per ounce

So I got a total of 16 ounces by purchasing two 8-ounce packages for $5. That’s a much better deal than paying $7.99 for the 16-ounce version.

It pays to compare costs not only across brands, but within the same brand, for the best deals. If the store offers a unit price next to the retail price, it’s even easier — the one with the lower unit price will get you more product for your money. Just make sure the two unit prices you’re comparing measure the product by the same weight (ounces, pounds, etc.).

Little Bites: Christmas Shopping, Credit Cards & Cleaning

So far, December has been a busy month, financially. We did our Christmas shopping for Baby Frugalista (and, as first-time parents, I can say with confidence that I think we went overboard). We know she’s going to get a bunch of stuff from others, and we should have taken into account that her 1st birthday is just 5 weeks after Christmas, but we just couldn’t help ourselves.

Then Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I got each other fairly expensive, combination Christmas/birthday gifts — yes, we already know about them. Buzzkill, but he wanted his first-ever non-work-issue laptop NOW and I had to order myself a new desk for my home office. I suppose we’re making up for last year, when we barely did gifts because I was pregnant and we were trying to save money. This year, we decided we had the means to spend a bit more than usual, and they are things that we actually needed. Plus, we both have birthdays that are just weeks away from Christmas, so we almost always do one bigger gift to cover both events.

Because the new purchases were put on a credit card, I decided to completely pay off the balance on our one interest-charging credit card in anticipation of doing it all over again when the January statement arrives. Our other two major credit cards have balances at 0% interest that will last until mid-2012, so we still have time to pay those off, too. It’s not an ideal situation, and as a personal finance blogger, I’m a bit embarrassed to even admit we have a credit card balance of a few thousand dollars. Much of it was from Baby Frugalista’s birth and our hospital stay, but I deferred payment while I was out on maternity leave and wanted to rebuild our savings before tackling those balances. That’s why we’re just getting to it now, and why I’d transferred those balances to cards with 0% interest offers.

In anticipation of the desk shipping from Amazon (hurry up!), I’ve been cleaning out my two 5-shelf bookcases. They won’t match the new desk, and I may put them up for sale and get a new, shorter and baby-safe bookshelf instead. I have numerous copies of dictionaries and thesauri, but I can’t bring myself to part with them… yet. Old papers have been shredded, and little knickknacks either thrown away or put in a box for storage. There is just too much paper in my office, and I’ve got the cleaning bug.

In between all of this, I’ve been decorating the house for Christmas. The tree is up, and today, I start decorating it while my little elf helps. I’ve always loved this time of year.


Another of My Frugal & Financial Quirks

Oh, the neuroses multiply. Today, I fully recognized another of my fabled frugal quirks: If I want to get rid of an old box, I faithfully cut the UPCs off the box of every major item we purchase.

Well, maybe that’s two quirks.

1. I hold on to the original packaging of most electronic items, or other merchandise if I deem it will be useful sometime in the future. You never know, in 2024, I might finally need to put the bed blanket back in the plastic zippered pouch it came in. Cell phones, handset phones, laptops, cameras — you name it, I have the box around here somewhere. I kept a lot of the boxes to Baby Frugalista’s stuff for a while, just in case we needed to return a defective swing or Pack ‘N’ Play.

2. When I finally decide to toss one of these boxes — either after I can no longer return the item for a refund or I go on a decluttering binge — I have to cut the UPC out and save it. Many times, the item’s model number and serial number are also printed above or below the bar code. I’ve never actually had to use it, but it will eventually help if I need under-warranty service on any of our stuff. Again, perhaps in 2024.

Lest you picture our house as a box-filled hovel, realize that we rarely buy new electronics and use the hell out of most other things. I do periodically throw stuff out, and any boxes we’re still holding on to are carefully secreted away in one of the closets or in the basement storage area.

As for papers and books, I gleefully admit that I hoard those. In fact, I’m staring at a huge pile of papers right now. It’ll get done, eventually. Right after I rake the leaves in the yard this weekend. Or not.