Money Savers

Last week I had the thrill of having an article published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette for the first time.  The article was about consignment sales and ran as the lead story in the family section on Wednesday, September 29th.  I’m not going to re-post the whole article here, but it ran with a sidebar that listed all the upcoming Fall sales across the state.  I thought that might be useful, so I’m posting it.

For those of you who have not experienced a children’s consignment sale, it’s a great way to score some excellent clothing, toys, and gear at great prices.  It’s also a good place to make some money on all the stuff your kids are growing out of.  It’s also very eco friendly, as you’re helping to recycle tons of products instead of consuming more new things.

Oct 7: 9am – 8pm
Oct 8: 9am – 5pm
Oct 9: 9am – 1pm
Northeast Arkansas District Fairgrounds
2731 East Highland Dr, Jonesboro

Duck Duck Goose
Oct 7-10 8am – 5pm
612 JP Wright Loop Rd, Jacksonville

Central Arkansas Mothers of Multiples
Oct 8th: 6:30pm – 9:30pm
Oct 9th: 7am – 3pm
Trinity Lutheran Church
3802 N Olive Street, North Little Rock

Oct 14: 9am – 7pm
Oct 15&16: 9am – 5pm
2213 N. Reynolds Road, Bryant

NWA Mothers of Multiples
Oct 15: 7am – 2pm
Oct 16: 7am-Noon
Trinity Fellowship Church Gymnasium
1100 East Rolling Hills Dr., Fayetteville

Duck Duck Goose
Oct 14-16 7am-6pm
Crossgate Church
3100 East Grand Ave, Hot Springs

Just Between Friends
October 24-25 9am-6pm
NWA Convention Center
Hwy 540 & Hwy 412, Springdale

Duck Duck Goose
Nov 11-13 7am-6pm
Former Sonshine Academy at 803 Harkrider, Conway

Second Look Kids
Nov. 11&12:  8am – 7pm
Nov. 13: 7:30am – 3pm
Elm Springs United Methodist Church
Hwy 112, Elm Springs

If you know of any other upcoming consignment sales, please leave a comment and I will add it to the list.

I’ve written before about saving money at the grocery store by playing The Grocery Game as well as about ways to save with or without coupons.  I thought I’d share a few more tips I’ve picked up since then. I must be getting pretty good because I’ve averaged 48% savings over my past four shopping trips (one per week).  To quote one of my favorite original-Arkansan sayings, “I’m not braggin’.  I’m just tellin’ ’cause I’m proud.”

A $4 loaf of bakery bread for 75 cents

Oops, We Baked Too Much – This rack can be found in or near the bakery in most grocery stores.  In Kroger, it really is called the “Oops We Baked Too Much” rack.  It is filled with bakery items that are about to go past their sell-by date.  In most cases the markdowns are 50% or more.  I stop here first and ferret out the good bread, cookies, etc.  I freeze the bread until I need it.  My picky husband did not notice that he was eating previously frozen bread until I asked him to get a loaf out of the freezer one day. Generally the bread lasts 5 days after I buy it off of this rack.

Manager’s Specials on Meat – I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I just recently realized that the marked down meat is all moved to one area of the refrigerator case.  Makes it much easier to browse.

Clear-Out Corner – I’ve also found that most stores have a clearance corner where they throw random items in a last-ditch effort to get rid of them.  High discounts can be found, but you have to dig through a jumble of dry goods, personal care, and non-food-and-drug items.

A little helper searches the lower shelves for sales

Look High and Low – In every aisle, higher priced items are placed at eye level.  You’ll often find less expensive brands, off brands, and sale items placed on the lowest and highest shelves.

Ten cents off Gas at Shell – This tip is specific to Kroger card holders in Arkansas.  You can now use your Kroger card to save 10 cents per gallon at all Shell gas stations in the state.  You do have to have at least 100 points ($1 spent in groceries = 1 point) accumulated on your Kroger card to use this card benefit.

Store-Specific Digital Coupons – Many grocery chains are now featuring their own digital coupons on their websites. You register your store shopping card, click the coupons you want, and they are automatically loaded to your card.  When you swipe your card at the register, they are automatically deducted from your total.  Visit your store’s website to see if they have digital coupons, and go here for  Kroger e-coupons.  If you are a Target shopper and have a smart phone, you can sign up to have coupons sent directly to your phone.  At the register, you bring up an image of the coupon, and the cashier scans it. – Groupon is not really grocery specific, but I think it deserves mention here as a great way to save money (as long as you only buy Groupons for things you normally use).  Sign up for a Groupon account, and they will email you a city-specific deal every day. You decide whether you want to buy it or not.  Savings are usually 50 to 65 percent and cover a wide range of goods and services: everything from car washes to trendy clothing boutiques have been featured here in Little Rock.

And finally, a little tip for my WLR tribe members.  It’s about saving time, not money.  But then, time is money…

Our new Marketplace Kroger (read: sort-of-Super-Kroger) is beautiful, but slightly overwhelming.  On my way out of there today, I noticed that they have store maps with a product index available.  They’re on the same stand as the weekly ad.  Grab one to take around with you, at least until we all learn the place.  You might think you’ll look a little silly carrying a map, but you also look a little silly doing three laps through the store, spending two hours finding everything you need. (I know this from experience.  I saw the sushi guys pointing and laughing at me today.)

I love alliteration.


If you haven’t picked up a copy of the June issue of Little Rock Family magazine, go get one! The magazine is free and you can usually find it at the front of your neighborhood Kroger. In addition to a listing of the 2010 Family Favorites poll results, there’s also a list of  24 places in Central Arkansas Where Kids Eat Free,  compiled by yours truly.  The list is organized by day of the week, so if you plan it right, you can feed your kids for free every night! (The list is much prettier in print than online, so I recommend picking up a hard copy so you can tear out the list and keep it in the car, or in your purse.)

If you don’t have access to a hard copy of the magazine, you can check out the electronic version on the Little Rock Family website.

So, what’s your gpm?  GPM?  Gallons Per Minute!  How many gallons per minute does your shower head spit out?  If you don’t know, you might want to find out.  It’s likely that it’s 2.5 gallons per minute or more.  That’s what our shower heads were rated at, so our One Small Change for May is to replace our shower heads with low-flow versions, which use only 1.5 gpm.  I have been wanting to do this since we moved in, but I really started focusing on it during the months of February and March, when Craig was gone every week for work, and our water usage dropped substantially (according to our meter readings on our water bill).  Hubby loves his 10 minute morning showers.

So, some simple math here.  If Craig takes a 10 minute shower every day, and our new shower heads save us 1 gallon per minute, that’s 10 gallons a day, or 3,650 gallons per year.  I probably take a 10 minute shower every other day, so that’s another 1,825 gallons saved.  So total, we’re looking at saving approximately 5,475 gallons of water per year.  Based on our water bill, we pay approximately $0.72 per gallon (including the sewer fee, which is based off of how much water you use), so switching our shower heads will save us $39.15 per year. We paid $14 and $20 for our two new low-flow shower heads, so our total cost is $34. This first year, we’ll come out $5 ahead in our pockets, not to mention the value of conservation itself, and of teaching these concepts to our children.  It should be noted here that we are on the low end of the spectrum of water usage, averaging 400 cubic feet of water per month.  According to Central Arkansas Water, the average family of four uses 800 cubic feet of water per month!  So, the average family would stand to save a lot more money by installing low flow shower heads than we will.

Many people say that low flow shower heads do not provide the same quality of water pressure as regular shower heads.  So, here are a couple videos so you can see for yourself:

Above is our old 2.5gpm shower head.

Above is Craig’s new 1.5 gpm shower head.

As you can see, the spray style is completely different on these two shower heads, and when I first saw the videos, I was a little concerned that Craig would not like the new style of spray.  He said that he actually prefers it, as it provides MORE water pressure than the old shower head.

Another statement that I hear about low flow shower heads is that people are concerned about the installation process.  So, here’s a video of Craig installing the new shower head, one handed while holding the camera in the other hand, in less than a minute and fifteen seconds.

Low flow shower heads come in many different styles, ranging from the basic model that Craig installed which you can likely purchase at your local home improvement store, to higher priced heads with massage settings, “rainstorm” spray, and whatever else you might require.  I have a somewhat fancier low flow shower head on order from Amazon, so we’ll post video of it as soon as it gets here.

Dasani is a brand of water bottled by Coca-Cola.  I did a little research into the origins of the word Dasani and found that it originates from the Coca-Cola marketing team. There is no definition for it, although one exec tried to insinuate that the word Dasani conjured a “Roman God of Water”.

For me, though, Dasani conjures visions of home, of my kids playing in the bathtub, of my sweaty yard man (hubby) drinking from the water hose, and even, *gasp* of me doing the dishes. You see, Dasani is bottled here in Little Rock.  From tap water.  Sure, they filter it (so do I, with a Brita pitcher), and they add some salt and potassium chloride (you know, the stuff in the chemical cocktail used for lethal injections) to it for taste, but it’s essentially bottled tap water, bargain priced at $1.50 per 20 ounces. So, it’s not quite champagne, but if I want to get my yuppie on, I can boast that I bathe my children and wash my dishes in Dasani (without the salt and the criminal-killer).

On the other hand, on the rare occasion when I am caught somewhere without my reusable water bottle or with a whiny, thirsty child with no sippy cup, I feel like a hypocrite buying a blue-labeled bottle.  As soon as I open the cooler, I know there’s a big blue light flashing above my head as I make my way to the checkout and the PA blares the announcement “Attention shoppers, we have a compromised tree-hugger making her way to checkout number seven!” But I still have to do it sometimes.

Can you find your favorite brand?

So, my point here, mostly, is that the word Dasani is about as valuable as the product it’s stamped on: a definition-less word for a re-styled, up-saled product, as are MANY of the bottled waters you find on store shelves.  So, think twice before you reach for that fancy bottled water.

Also, my blue “compromised tree-hugger” light will go off again if I don’t point out the other problem with bottled water.  I know you already know what it is, but I have to say it anyway.  Americans alone throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.  If you like water on the go, get your own container and use it, use it, use it, but don’t throw it away.  In fact, if you’re hell-bent on supporting the local (Arkansas) contained water industry, I’ll recommend CynerGreen: a local, family run company whose mission is “saving the world, one bottle at a time.” In the long run, it’ll save you money and it’ll save your kids from having to live amidst heaps of plastic.

In honor of Earth Day, my TWT posts will center on energy and “green” concepts this month.

kWh stands for Kilowatt Hour, which is the measure of energy used by your electric company to figure your bill.  A kilowatt hour is equivalent to using 1000 watts of electricity in one hour.

This lightbulb only uses 11 watts, compared to a normal 100 watt bulb.

You can figure how many kilowatt hours an electrical appliance uses by multiplying its wattage by the amount of time you are using it, and dividing by 1000. So, for example, (caution! english major doing math here!) if you have a 100 watt light bulb in your lamp, and you have the lamp on for one hour, you use 0.1 kWh of electricity.  If you keep that same lamp on for 10 hours, you’ve used 1 kWh.  You can use this simple equation to figure out the electrical usage of many of the small appliances in your home, which are usually labeled with their wattage rating.

(wattage   x   amount of time used)/1000 = kWh

Here in Central Arkansas, a kilowatt hour costs about 12 cents after taxes and fees.  You can figure out your cost per kWh by looking at your energy bill. Divide your total bill cost by the amount of kWh used, and you’ll have your per kWh cost.

microwave label with output of 1000 watts

So, you can save a substantial amount of  money by decreasing the number of kilowatt hours you are using in your home.  Do you know what the biggest energy user in your entire house is?  Your refrigerator!  Obviously you need to use your fridge, and it has to be plugged in all the time, but you can reduce energy use by turning the temperature up to a medium setting in your fridge.  If you have two refrigerators, and your last name is not Gosselin or Duggar, GET RID of ONE!  If you are looking to buy a new refrigerator, pay close attention to the energy use ratings.  Look for the Energy Star logo, and avoid the side-by-side models, which are the least efficient.

Unplug It!

The second biggest energy sucker? Your clothes dryer.  Now that the weather is getting nice, you can easily reduce your costs of drying clothes – the sun is free, and has many benefits that you can read about in my previous post, Ode to my Clothes Line.

And finally, don’t forget the little guys.  Even when they are not in use, small appliances like toasters, coffee makers, phone chargers, and hair dryers still pull wattage out of your electrical sockets. If you start unplugging five of these small appliances when you’re not using them, you’ll save enough money each week to buy yourself a latte.

What can you do in your house to decrease your watts?

Do you have questions about other energy or earth-friendly concepts?  Let me know and I will do my best to address them!

At least, not all the time.  Like all habit-altering, budget-affecting decisions, delving into buying organic produce for your family can be overwhelming.  I thought these two lists might help.  You’ll have the greatest impact, ecologically and healthfully, if you try to buy produce from the first list organically.  The second list is a few items for you to cross off of your worry list.

Produce with the most pesticide residues*:

Organic peaches sometimes get holes in them...from your kids nibbling on them when you're not looking.

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Imported Grapes
  • Red Raspberries

Items with the least pesticide residues:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Corn
  • Kiwi
  • Mangos
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas
  • Watermellon

*Based on data from studies by the USDA, Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group

Please welcome my first ever guest blogger, Kristen, who has come out of the kitchen long enough to tell us about a fun way to make some extra cash.

If someone told you that you have buried treasure in your house, wouldn’t you try to find it? I know I would. I’d enlist the whole family, hand them each a shovel, and tell them to get digging!

This is no fairytale: You just might be sitting on a gold mine and not even know it. The treasure I’m referring to isn’t underground and marked by a great big “X.” Instead, it’s most likely packed away in your attic, sitting among your old high school memorabilia, or stuffed in the bottom of your jewelry box. Bracelets, necklaces, rings, and watches that you haven’t worn in years could be worth a ton of money at a gold party.

I went to my first gold party completely by accident. I was at a friend’s house one night, and she said she wanted to go by her neighbor’s party for a few minutes. Since I had no idea what went on at a gold party, I was curious and went with her. One of the women who came brought a bag of gold and made several hundred dollars. She was so excited that she went back home to find more jewelry.  She returned with another full bag. That night she left with a total of $1,600 cash! After I saw that, I said, “Sign me up!” and hosted my own gold party a few weeks later.

Having a gold party was a great experience for me. If you’re interested in making a little extra moolah for the holidays and have considered hosting a party, now is the perfect time. The best part about a gold party is that no one feels pressured to buy anything. Your guests have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In fact, you can tell people to leave their checkbooks and credit cards at home. They won’t need them!

Take a look at a few more reasons why you should book a gold party:

  • Gold is VERY profitable right now. As of 11-17-09, gold sells for $1,136 an ounce. Wow. This is an ideal time to cash in on your gold jewelry while the price is high.
  • It’s an easy way to make money…and lots of it. Anyone who hosts a gold party makes 10-15% of the total amount of gold sold by those attending. For example, if all the gold sold at your party equals $1,500, you get to keep $150. Not bad just for having a few people in your home and setting out some treats. I made about $500, and I was thrilled with that amount.
  • Come and go format. People are more likely to come to your party because they don’t have to block out two hours in their extremely busy lives for it. They can pop in, sell their gold, and leave whenever they want. Or, they can enjoy a night out with friends and stay the whole time. It’s totally up to them.
  • People that can’t come can give you their gold ahead of time. This is a BIG plus. Tell your friends to collect all their gold, put it in a plastic baggie, and get it to you before the party. Most of the money that I made was through people who dropped off their jewelry in bags.
  • People MAKE money at your party, not spend it. We tend to dread invitations to most home-based parties because we feel obligated to buy something if we attend. At a gold party, there is no pressure to spend anything. You go home with more money than you came with!

If you’d like to host a party, start by finding a reputable gold buyer in your city, and get a date on the calendar. Spread the word among your family and friends. Talk it up! Then, don’t forget to search high and low for your hidden treasures that are just waiting to be found.

Kristen Feola is a freelance writer whose popular blog,, supports individuals and churches worldwide who are doing the Daniel Fast. She is currently working on her first book. She enjoys cooking, riding her bike, and going rock climbing in Arkansas with her family. She lives in Springfield, Missouri, with her husband and two daughters.

bad-180-150I’m excited to be taking part in my first mass-blogging event. Today is Blog Action Day, and this year’s theme is Climate Change.

Being a former science center administrator, I know first hand that discussions on climate change can start to feel overwhelming really quickly.  That’s doubly true when you’re five and you don’t even know what the word “climate” means.  Throw into the mix that many families have different beliefs, religiously based or otherwise, about climate change and what we should or shouldn’t be doing, and you’ve got a hot spot.

No matter your background, your age, or your beliefs, the bottom line is that we need to take care of our Earth, since, at the moment, it’s the only human-friendly environment around.   The numbers don’t lie, and they do seem overwhelming.  We’ve got too many people, too many factories, and too many plastic bags and bottles dirtying up the place.  BUT, it is true that we can each make a difference, and when families work together, the impact is even greater.

Today, I’m posting up a list of actions you can take around the house to help take care of your earth.  Each of these actions will cost you nothing, and many of them will actually SAVE you money.  So, earth friendly and money savings: two of my favorite things to write about!

  • Stuff a Sack In It.  Your car that is, BEFORE you go to the grocery store. Reusable bags are so much more earth friendly than plastic bags.  Over 500 Billion plastic bags are used every year, and although some of them are recycled, most end up in landfills (or stuck in trees, fences, power lines, etc.).  Plastic Bags are a petroleum product, meaning they are made from oil, so even the production of plastic bags has a huge impact on our earth, and on our wallets.  Even if you don’t have cloth bags around the house that are suitable for toting groceries, you can bring the plastic bags from your last shopping trip back to the store and use them again.  Most stores offer a discount per reused bag at each shopping trip, so if you decide to purchase reusable bags (at about $1 each)  you’ll pay them off in a matter of months.
  • Kill A Watt. Unplugging electronic items that are not in use can cut your electricity bill substantially.  Most people pay more for the wattage that flows to their electronics when they are off than when they are on.  So, unplug those coffee makers, phone chargers, TVs and video game systems, and whatever else is sucking electricity out of the grid and money out of your wallet.
  • Put a Cork in It.  Or a snap-on lid. Whatever kind of water container you opt for, make sure it is reusable (preferably metal) and stop buying bottled water!  It took 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the plastic bottles for bottled water last year.  For those of you here in Little Rock, know also that Dasani is bottled right here in Little Rock, from city tap water.  So, you can fill a reusable water bottle out of your tap for pennies, or you can buy a flimsy plastic bottle full of water for $1.50.
  • Let if All Hang Out.  I bet you’ve got some string around the house somewhere.  If you don’t already own some, a pack of clothespins will run you about $1.  String up a clothes line and hang your clothes out to dry.  In addition to all the great benefits of using a clothesline that I’ve written about previously, keep in mind that your dryer accounts for about 6% of your total utility bill, so you can earn back the $1 cost of clothes pins in just a couple loads.
  • Start Something New.   Many new products start out as old products. Many towns and cities offer curbside recycling at no extra cost.  If you don’t have access to curbside, you’re probably closer than you think to a recycling drop-off point.  You don’t need fancy bins.  You can start off gradually if you like.  Place a cardboard box or paper bag near your trash can and pick one type of recyclable item to collect (paper, plastic, metal).  You’ll be amazed at how much less trash you have each week and how many recyclable items you are keeping out of the landfill.  To find the nearest recycling center or curbside service in your area, visit
  • Take it Down a Notch.  If you haven’t turned it on already, you’ve probably at least started to think about turning on the heat in your house.  When you do turn it on, keep in mind that 2 equals 5.  That’s right, your heating system is an english major, and is really bad at math, but that’s a good thing for you.  For every two degrees cooler that you set your thermostat, you’ll save about 5% on your utility bill.  So, turn down that temp, and let the warm fuzzies you get from saving money keep the chills at bay.

In most cases, each of these six actions can be done RIGHT NOW.  What are you waiting for?  Pick one and go do it!  Remember, habits take 21 days to learn. Get the whole family on board so you can keep each other in check.  I thank you for your efforts.  The Earth thanks you too.

If you like to eat out, shop, or travel (who doesn’t like at least ONE of those things?)  then it’s time to get your copy of 2010 entertainment bookthe 2010 Entertainment Book.  The Entertainment Book contains over 400 coupons, many of which are BOGO for restaurant entrees, specifically for your local city or region.  I picked up my 2010 Entertainment Book last week, and was happy to find that there are 13 coupons for $5 off at Kroger again this year. Those coupons alone more than pay for the book.  In addition, we often turn to our Entertainment Book for discounts on last-minute hotel bookings, venue tickets for places such as museums and plays, car rentals, and the occasional online shopping venture.  All in all, my local book (Little Rock) offers over $12,000 in coupon savings, separated into the categories of Fine Dining, Casual and Family Dining, Fast Food and Carryout, Entertainment and Sports, Travel and Hotels, and Retail and Services. The book has two indexes, one sorted by location and another sorted alphabetically, that make using the book really easy.

On the downside, the cost of the book went up from $20 last year to $35 this year.  However, if you use at least 5 of the BOGO coupons, you should earn your cost back.  If you can find someone selling the book as a fundraiser, you can get it for $30.  I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble.  You can also order the book online at When you order online you get a $25 restaurant gift certificate with your purchase. However, I will say that I experienced some really terrible customer service from this company when trying to order my book last year, so it was worth it to me to buy from somewhere else.

What?  You don’t want to pay for your Entertainment Book?  Well, then, I have a contest for you.  Coupon Cravings is giving away an Entertainment Book here.  Good Luck!

Once you buy your book and register your membership on the website, you can also print more coupons online.  This includes coupons for other cities, which is great for when you travel.

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