Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day

We are certainly selecting a trendy topic to consider for the new direction for our De-Clutter Club. On the Today Show this morning, they had a segment about 11 ways to get free stuff. This is a link to the article:

Their list is primarily to get free things on your birthday from restaurants and shops if you register as a fan or frequent customer, so if today is your birthday, you had better get going since your birthday won’t come around again for another four years!

This is part of the concept that I talked about in my blog a few days ago, that customer loyalty is often rewarded with free things and coupons for discounts, so make a list of your favorite products and check the manufacturer’s website or Google the product name, to see if they have any offers or, if you don’t see something, then ask for something!

Our favorite De-Cluttering Expert, Jamie Novak, has developed a perfect plan for the direction that we are planning for our group. In her book Stop Throwing Money Away (Wiley, 2010), she introduces a concept for creating a support group for the process of trimming down your life – such as de-cluttering and making money. Her group is called a “Moneyize” group. I have written Jamie to see if she still has a call-in about Moneyize and if she might do some kind of new program about getting rid of clutter and at the same time making money and spending less. I will bring a copy of her book to the meeting tomorrow evening for our discussion on how we can expand our discussions. She has some steps for starting and running a Moneyize group and she has a ten-question self-assessment Clutter and Money (CAM) quiz that will help determine where we all are along the road to self-improvement in this area. I will have the quiz and the scoring instructions at the meeting.

I will also bring a copy of The Cheap Book by Robin Herbst and Julie Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio: F&W Publications, 2008) which takes a humorous look at the way you can approach “your inner cheapskate.” On pages 3 and 4, the authors describe the rating system applied against certain behaviors from Cheap Factor 1: Sensible (like buying your college textbooks used) to Cheap Factor 5: Cheap (you use a coupon on a first date and make your guest pay their half of the bill). There is also an extreme category called Cheap Factor 10 that makes Scrooge look like Santa Claus (you save your calendars so you can reuse them ten years later!)

I spoke with Kathy, who will be our group leader for discussions about living well on less, last week about our group and we are both very excited about the way the group is headed. I hope to see all our “regulars” there as well as some new faces. I will pass around a sign-up sheet for contact information so that we will be able to share information in email blasts and through this blog.

See you tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. – we have both halves of the Program Room (1A and 1B) so we can handle a larger group.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another Aid in a Quest Toward Cheap Living

Today I checked the Bookmobile collection and found a few more titles in the same vein as the ones I have been featuring in the past few blogs. I grabbed a little one called 365 Ways to Live Cheap that seemed to be on point. The book is by Trent Hamm, founder of the website (F&W Publications, 2009). The “ways” are presented in short paragraph format and, yes, they are numbered. But they are also divided into chapters by subjects, so there is commonality between every 20-25 topics. The chapters all start with “Cheap Tactics for:” and cover topics such as: Appliances, automobiles, clothing, electronics, groceries and supplies, insurance, utilities and bills and vacation.

There is a short little quiz at the front of the book to determine “Where Does Your Money Really Go?” but I would say that the quiz actually helps you determine, “How does your money go?”

The first chapter is “The Ten Biggest Tips for Living Cheap” and these are like the 10 easy ways to reduce clutter – they are obvious but worth reading and keeping in mind as you move toward a goal of living within your means. 1) Take little steps, not big ones, 2) Realize that you are not alone in your mission, 3) Spend less than you earn, 4) Calculate how much your really make, 5) Record every penny you spend for an entire month, 6) Master the 10 second rule that says you should consider each impulse type purchase you want to make for at least 10 seconds and ask yourself if you really need to have the item, 7) Master the 30 day rule, too, which says just about the same as rule 6 but applies to larger, more costly and potentially more impulsive purchases, and wait 30 days before you really commit to buying an item you saw in the store, 8) Keep track of your progress, 9) Talk about your money, especially with your partner and 10) Automate your savings, by which they mean to have your bank automatically deposit or transfer the amount of money you are “saving” into a savings account to be saved for an emergency.

Pretty basic stuff, but like rule number one says, take baby steps. A lot of what is suggested by both de-clutter experts and frugal living experts is unlearning old habits and forming new habits and habit changing takes time. If you try to do it all at the start – you are sure to fail. If you need another kind of pep-talk, there are a host of websites that give you ideas about how to change bad habits into good one. It is all part of the plan! Use resources wisely and liberally!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Extreme Cheapskates

Last night there was a new show called Extreme Cheapskates on TLC at 10:00 p.m. It seems to be a single episode at this point, but perhaps it will grow into something larger. It was repeated early this morning at 1:00 a.m. I missed both. The description of the program on TLC’s website is: “Extreme Cheapskates gives you an insider's look at the most outrageous penny-pinching people around. From making their own reusable cloth toilet paper to singing for their supper, you won't believe their extreme and inventive ways to save money.” I will try to see if TLC is planning to air this program again in the future – just in case you have an extreme idea to make reusable toilet paper!

On the TLC Website, they have a section called Dollars and Sense Guide ( that includes videos, tips and advice on the kind of issues that we will be discussing in future meetings of our Savings Club: How to Half your Gas Bill, Saving Big on Groceries, Home Renovations on a Budget, and Low Cost Thoughtful Gift Giving Tips, to name a few.

I also noticed on a visit to a CVS Pharmacy last evening, a scanner near the entrance where you could scan the items you wish to purchase and if a coupon is available, it will print out for you on the spot. That seemed to be a pretty good deal, if you remember to use it and if you have the time. I should have checked to see what this scanner was called to see of it can be found in other locations or if it is exclusive to CVS.

There seems to be no shortage of advice in books, magazines, online and on TV about how to live a frugal life. I think the next topic of discussion will have to be how to create a longer day to be able to digest all of this good information. Once you start to look into this subject, there are cost saving opportunities all around us – hopefully we will discover a few of these by sharing our knowledge and experiences with others in our group – this will save us all some time in getting to the best tips and tricks without having to read everything ourselves. Like de-cluttering, this is an easily overwhelming subject!

By the way, I visited the Monroe Public Library yesterday and all the free tickets for Jamie Novak’s program are taken. They suggested that I show up early and maybe I could get in, but that sounds too risky to take a day off of work for. Hopefully, if someone from our group wanted to see Jamie, you were able to get to Monroe for your tickets.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rediscovering the Frugal Zealot

I mentioned in my last blog that Amy Dacyczyn, know as the Frugal Zealot, may have been one of the first to write about the concept of thrifty living. In 1990, she started a newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette that was sent (monthly via mail) to over 100,000 subscribers and were later compiled into several books by the same name.

Paula Gardner, editor of Michigan Business Review, contacted Amy Dacyczyn, retired since 1996 to her home in Maine with her husband and six children, to ask her what she thinks of today’s economy. Her blog: published in March 2009 is worth reading – it solidifies some of the reasons that this is a good time for the South Brunswick Public Library De-Clutter Club to shift our focus from lightening the load in our homes, offices and cars to thinking about “de-cluttering” our spending habits and simplifying our lifestyle.

One of my co-workers shared her (signed) copies of The Tightwad Gazette and The Tightwad Gazette II with me so that I can write about them in this blog. The South Brunswick Public Library no longer owns a copy of any of Mrs. Dacyczyn’s books, but they are available by placing a system hold in our catalog online at I will see if I can purchase a copy of at least one of the titles for our use.

The subtitle to the newsletter and the books is “Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle” and I think that this is an apt description – this is not a must do “bible” of survivalists and misers, but rather an easy-to-use (with a comprehensive index) digest of suggestions of ways to live frugally and at the same time, be kinder to the environment. The word that I think Amy Dacyczyn coined for this way of life is “tightwaddery” and when her ideas were proposed and first discussed there was a lot of negative reaction – that it was way over the top to do things like reusing aluminum foil and sandwich bags – and the word was defined in a negative way. This is the definition from Wikipedia: “A miser, cheapskate, curmudgeon, niggard, penny pincher, piker, scrooge, skinflint or tightwad is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts and some necessities.” That was before we all got on the “Green” bandwagon and recycling became a way of life – now tightwaddery might be a badge of honor.

Although some of the things that she lists in these books have been solved, or replaced, with inexpensive alternatives since the 1990s, her ideas are still interesting and useful and some are even more relevant that ever before. By the way, she says that her last name is “pronounced ‘decision,’ as in ‘I made a decision to marry a guy of Ukrainian ancestry.’”

More about these books in the days to come and don’t forget to join us on March 1 for our first meeting discussing this new topic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Books to Help You Save

Another book we have in the library collection is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar: Creative Ways to Live Well and Still Save Money by Shannon M. Medisky (New York: Penguin, 2009).

The book starts with a very helpful Contents at a Glance (III - IV). These pages, in addition to the annotated Table of Contents, give a very short and succinct summary of the kind of information contained in each of the 15 chapters. The book covers: saving, spending and stretching your money; cost cutting on things for your home, your car, on your health care, on your clothing, on your child and pet care, on food, on entertainment and on travel; living green, celebrating the holidays and on stretching your future dollars. There is also a Resources section at the back of the book that includes: a list of the "shelf-life" of certain foods you may want to buy in bulk; contacts for Coupon-Clipping Services, Coupon Sites, Free Sample Sites, Cheap Travel Sites, Price Comparison Sites, Online Outlet Shopping and Product Review Sites. The book also has a comprehensive Index which is useful when looking for specific advice.

Since we are starting our Savings Club on food shopping and coupons, I thought I would share some of the tips that this book suggests. The author adds a few more ideas about where to find coupons, beyond the ones mentioned in my earlier blog. She reminds you to look on the back of your cash register receipts for "coupons toward dining out, dry-cleaning bills and car maintenance." She suggests asking the cashier to run out some additional tape to get multiple coupons for something you use regularly. She also suggests you contact the manufacturers of products you like, either on their "tell us what you think" toll-free line or through Customer Service either by phone or email. She says to just ask the manufacturer for coupons so that you can continue to use their products.

The author says that you should be friendly with the cashiers - they may have coupons that you can use on the spot or they may be able to tell you when an item may be going on sale in the near future. She also suggests that you keep an eye on the register display to make sure that things do not get scanned more than once, that the proper discounts are applied, that the correct prices are charged and that additional weight is not added to your produce. Now try to call the cashier on a discrepancy and still keep on friendly terms with them for future transactions!

The author, like other coupon strategies for loose coupons, says to keep them with you, in an envelope or wallet, by date order with the first to expire on top, to make sure you don't miss something useful. Perhaps the club might want to set up a collection for expired coupons at our meetings and send them off to a military base.

I will bring these books to the club meeting on March 1 in case you want to look at them yourselves. I will also share some additional tips between now and then in this blog.

Happy saving!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Use the Internet to Save Yourself Lots of Money

I think the subject of coupons, thrifty living, how to economize and cost savers might be more prolific these days than even the subject of de-cluttering and organizing. I used search terms like “thrifty,” “frugal,” “coupons” and “economize” in Google and got more hits than I could handle in the way of sites that can help you keep more of your money in your pocket. Most of the sites include tips and instructions on how to use the information on their site (and others) to save you money. If you spend time reading through all these sites, researching and planning, you can save yourself lots of money – you won’t have time to shop, cook or eat so you won’t have to worry about over spending!

The site I mentioned in my last blog,, probably came after the publication of the book. Spurred on by the popularity of the book, Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee must have found that creating their own website to provide the kind of information they found in other sites they recommend in their book was a profitable business. Their site, like many others, is a great site to find coupons for the items you normally buy and for finding some new, perhaps less expensive and better discounted items that would work as well as any others.

One of the sites the authors’ recommended, that undoubted gave them ideas about what to include on their own site, is This is a site that has a full list of “training” information: Couponing 101, 102, 103 and Stockpiling 101. There is also a list of abbreviations that they use in their coupon database. These can be found in the box to the right of the opening screen labeled Couponing Basics.

Another site, I have even seen advertised on television, is Coupon Suzy’s website: This site even has a calculator feature that can give you a total of the money you will save by using the coupons you print.

Perhaps the person that may have been one of the pioneers of this savings craze is Amy Dacyczyn who started publishing her Tightwad Gazette back in 1990. She is quoted in many of today’s “frugal ways” websites and blogs, including,,,,, and, all of which come up on a Google search of Amy Dacyczyn’s name.

Interestingly, a lot of the authors of these sites also have books to sell, which will cost you some money! Come to the library and borrow all the books you will ever want or need! We are one of the best cost savings available that is free to you to use as much as you like! Happy reading!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Be Organized About Your Couponing

The next topic in the Be Centsable book by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee (New York: Penguin Group, 2010, pages 11-18) seems to be a perfect combination of our group's foci of de-cluttering/organizing and couponing - Organizing Our Coupons! We have heard some basic information from many of the Organizing Professionals that seems contradictory to the idea of Extreme Couponing. We have been warned not to purchase in bulk or to purchase things that you don’t need, because it can add to your feelings of having too much stuff in your life. And I think that the idea of cutting out excessive amounts of coupons would be on the "Don’t" list of many de-cluttering experts, but we are going to find the justification for learning to control your expenses by using coupons wisely, and what better way than to find out how to apply all of our organizing knowledge to collecting coupons. The authors remind us of one of the “Golden Rules of Organizing: Touch it once!” This is the art of putting things where they belong as soon as they come into the house. They provide a system that will debunk the myth that clipping, sorting and filing coupons takes too much time. The system that they use is actually one that they got from Stephanie Nelson, the self-proclaimed “Coupon Mom.”

This “system” is done online – the authors call it a “virtual” filing system. They promise that the system will clear up your time to “plan your shopping trip, create menus and count up all of the money you will save…the coupons are sorted, filed and cross-referenced by some specific criteria with a simple click of the mouse.”

The “How to” of this system is described on page 14 of the Be Centsable book. They suggest you get an expanding box file with divider tabs to separate the contents by month or get a large three-ring binder with page protectors. Every insert you get should be filed, whole and unclipped, in a section of the box or in a page protector in the binder. The insert should be labeled on the front (using a blank address label) with the date that the insert was issued (either printed on the spine of the insert or taken from the date of the newspaper it was pulled from) and the source of the insert. Use the following code to identify the source of the coupons: GM: General Mills; KG: Kellogg’s; PG: Procter and Gamble; RP: Red Plum and SS: SmartSource. The inserts should be filed in date order.

The reason you want to do this is so that you can find the coupon you want when you want to use them. This will be done by using one of the free publicly available coupon databases on the Internet such as or the one found on the authors’ own website These databases list where particular coupons can be found such as online on the manufacturer’s site or in an insert issued on a particular date (i.e.: 01/05/12 SS). If you have filed your inserts properly, you should be able to find the coupon you need a few minutes just before you are heading out to the store.

The authors talk about ways that even expired coupons can be used. We had a collection box in the library for a while that was provided by the Greater Brunswick Area Womans Club. They sent 20 lbs. of expired coupons to the U.S. Army Base in Grafenwoehr, Germany. The authors of the book suggest visiting the Overseas Coupon Project website at about where to send unused or expired coupons to military families stationed overseas.

But, as you might be able to tell from the brief description above about how to handle coupons and from watching the TV show Extreme Couponing, this kind of organizing does not come easily. It takes a lot of planning and discipline. Are you willing to take on this challenge?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Working Title: South Brunswick Savers

Can you think of a better title to rename our De-Clutter Club into something larger? We have branched off in our conversations over the past few years to discuss coupons, free deals and ways to make money from your clutter, so now we are going to embrace this concept and add it to our agenda – to discuss the myriad of ways to keep your household budget under control and still live comfortably and be generous to your neighbors.

Kathy W. Quinto-David is a local resident who has been exploring these cost savings options for some time now and has great information she would like to share with other residents. She will join us for our meeting in March when we can discuss the expansion of our “mission” to include related topics such as “couponing” and resource sharing.

To get us started thinking along these lines, I am including some tips from some of the books I mentioned in my last blog that are available in the library on this topic. I will continue to share a few of these tips every other day or so until we meet again on March 1.

From Be CentsAble by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee about coupons (Chapter 1: “Everything You Don’t Know about Coupons,” New York: Penguin Group, 2010, pages 1-23):

Couponing requires some research and strategies to do effectively, but with a little preparation time and rethinking the possible, the authors say that you can actually get brand-name items you use at a deep discount and even for free! They say that you need to use your resources to get coupons – your local paper has coupon inserts as well as the large regional papers and the local paper costs less to purchase or subscribe to. But not only can you get coupons from the paper, but there are many online sites that feature high-value coupons including manufacturers’ websites. They suggest joining the mailing lists of manufacturers that you use frequently; they will send coupons to their loyal customers by email and by snail mail.

Create a “junk” email address with Hotmail or Yahoo that you can use on the sites that require you to register. The authors say that most retailers will accept online coupons as long as they have a barcode and an expiration date and they also suggest printing them in black and white to save on the cost of ink! Great suggestion for most of your printing needs – you can find these print options under PRINT in your web browser; you can probably also select a draft mode that uses less ink but still prints a readable page.

They also remind you to look on the product itself for a peel-off coupon to be redeemed at the register. And there are coupon books that are sold as a fundraiser by a lot of non-profit agencies. The Friends of the Library used to sell the Entertainment® Books that you can also purchase online at the publisher’s website at; the books are 35% now that it is February. And, in order to stay competitive, magazines are including coupons that make their magazines pay for themselves.

And not all junk mail that you get at home is junk. Look through some of the circulars that are left in your mailbox or driveway – you could be throwing away free money!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Living Cheap

You may have seen all of the coverage in the past few years on talk shows and morning news programs about the trend these days to cut your expenses and live cheap. There is a family that has even renamed themselves the Economides to embrace their new way of living on a limited income to be able to put more into their savings. They bill themselves as America's Cheapest Family. Out of this frugal trend that became necessary because of the shape of our economy, have come TV reality shows like Extreme Couponing.

The De-Clutter Club has always talked about ways to sell some of your excess to make some extra money - be it a garage sale or selling on eBay, so it seems natural that the group would be interested in discussing things like couponing. There is a wealth of information available in the library on this topic.

Books on personal finance can be found in 332.024. Here you can find Suze Orman's books on getting a hold of your finances and the many books that have been written lately about preparing for retirement since the Baby Boomers started to turn 65 in 2011. There are also a number of books like: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar by Shannon Medisky; Suddenly Frugal by Leah Ingram; Be CentsAble by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee and the lighthearted illustrated book The Cheap Book by Robin Herbst and Julie Miller.

Another section of the library that has books on similar topics is 640.73 where you can find book on Home Econimics, which is an archaic term that seems to have taken on a new life. Here is where you can find the Economides book Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half and other similar titles.

I hope that the new and improved De-Clutter/Extreme Couponing Club will take advantage of all of the ideas available in these resources to discuss with the other club members. If this kind of information is interesting to you, stop into our first meeting in the new format on March 1 in Program Room 1B.

Friday, February 3, 2012

De-Clutter Club to Go in a New Direction

We had another meeting of our De-Clutter Club last night and discussed the future of the club. The interest in the club the way it has been running seems to have run it's course. I am going to be changing the nature of this club to include other ways to simplify your life and put dollars in your pocket. A patron has offered to run an Extreme Couponing Club. We discussed this last night at the meeting and it seems that this would be a popular diversion for the group.

I will have a changeover type meeting the first Thursday in March, on March 1, where we will discuss the future of the group. We can brainstorm about the direction it will go by adding in the extreme couponing component and discuss if there are other topics we want to explore.

I hope our regulars will come, that we will see some old friends back again and some new members will join us in planning what will be the best way to use our time.

A reminder from last evening - Jamie Novak, who has been to the South Brunswick library several times in the past few years, will be giving a "Spring De-Cluttering in 3 Simple Steps" program at the Monroe Township Library on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. The program is free and available to non-residents but you must get a ticket from the Welcome Desk at the library before March 10. The Monroe Township library is located at 4 Municipal Plaza, Monroe Township, NJ 08831. There is a map and directions on their website at

We also discussed a few more online resources for de-cluttering that take a little different approach from most of the others. On the website, Organizer Kim Woodland writes about "Organizing for Creativity." She has her own website at where she "writes about using organization in the service of relationships and adventurous experiences. She takes a fresh approach, blending organizing with mindfulness, simple living, and minimalism for a highly focused approach that anyone can use to shape a life that is meaningful to them." Her article can be found at Check out these websites; I think they make a nice segue into the new focus of our group.

Hope to see you all, and some new faces, at the next meeting on March 1, 2012