Friday, December 30, 2011

Gift Bags are a Rip Off.

Gift bags are one of the biggest rip offs of all time.  You can pay up to $7 at a big chain store for a paper gift bag and some tissue.  Can you say "Big Rip Off?"

Go to the dollar store and buy a gift bag for $1.  Buy a package of neutral (white) tissue for the gift bag.  This will allow you to recycle future gift bags with new tissue paper that doesn't clash.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I hate wrapping gifts, and happen to think that the gift bag, while one of the biggest rip-offs, is also one of our greatest inventions.  And if you give me a Christmas gift in a gift bag, you may see that same gift bag next Christmas.

Also, I never write my name on the label on the gift bag.  I view the gift bag to be part of the gift--the opportunity for the recipient to recycle it on someone else.  Plus, I save the Justin Bieber and iCarly bags for my friends.

You just saved $6.


The Frugal Maestro


Monday, December 26, 2011

Delicious Pasta for Under $5

WIth hectic after school schedules, parents and kids often find themselves very hungry on their way home from ice rinks, dance studios, den mother's houses, or swim practices.   Passing the Golden Arches can often be a temptation to get a quick fix to the hunger.  Here's a good, quick recipe that can be ready in minutes, instead of eating fast food.

One 16 ounce package of whole wheat spaghetti noodles, or 16 ounces of your favorite pasta.
One 8 ounce package of shredded 2% Mozzerella (or 8 ounces of your favorite shredded cheese)
One 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes
I also add a teaspoon of garlic salt.

1) Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain (do not rinse) and return to pan, still warm.
2) Stir in shredded cheese, garlic salt (optional) and tomatoes (drained).

Serves 4.

If you had hit Subway, Arby's or McDonald's, a family of four could easily spend $20.   You just saved $15, and probably ate a lot healthier.


The Frugal Maestro

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Trees - Go Artificial

There are Real Christmas Tree people, and Artificial Christmas Tree people.  It all depends on how you were raised, who in the marriage has the stronger opinion, etc.

Every year, people make a tradition out of cutting down a tree in the snowy woods, or haggling with some Christmas Tree dealer in a lot somewhere.  Prices vary by region, but larger trees generally cost $60 to $80, and smaller trees generally cost $35 to $50.  The tree lasts a few weeks, and the needles fall out, and you throw it out.  The following year, you spend $60 to $80 again, and repeat until you die.

I grew up with the almighty artificial tree.  I bought my tree on 12/26/1996 at Kmart for $50 (half-off Christmas decorations).  You can spend in upwards of $600 for a beautiful artificial tree.  I checked the websites for Kmart, Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot.  All have nice artificial trees ranging from $50 to $200.  Amazon has trees ranging from $30 to ... (plus shipping).

That's a one time expense.  Heck, my Grandfather, in his later years, stored his decorated tree away in a closet.

It's a question of sentimentality versus cost.  You can save $80 a year after that one initial investment.  Check Kmart or Walmart or Lowes or Home Depot on December 26th.  Maybe Amazon will have some deals too.

That's a savings of up to $80 a year.


The Frugal Maestro


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Lights: LED versus Standard Bulbs

When you're decorating your house this holiday season, take into consideration how much energy your decorative lights consume.

Traditional CF7 bulbs use 6 watts per bulb, so a strand of 50 uses 300 watts.  Let's say you use 300 bulbs on your exterior.  Using simple math, at let's say 9 cents per kilowatt hour, six hours per day, for 40 days, that comes to almost $39 in energy over the holiday season.

LED bulbs use 4 watts per 50 light strand.  The same math yields just over 50 cents, using LED bulbs.

In addition, LED bulbs, while more expensive,  last much, much longer, burn cooler (safer). and go on sale at most stores on December 26th.

That's a savings of up to $38 a year.


The Frugal Maestro

Thursday, December 15, 2011

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The Frugal Maestro