Would You Pick Up a Penny?

One person’s inconvenience is another person’s treasure…

I will pick up a penny off the ground and I am not too proud to admit it.

The other day, I was walking into our bank and I saw a penny on the ground. I asked my teenage daughter if she would like it, and she said, “It’s not worth picking up”. 

Well, I picked it up, and then saw more change on the ground near it.  In fact, there was a trail of change leading to a man, still in sight, walking away from the bank.  I called out to him to let him know that he was dropping change. He waved me off and said, “it’s okay, it’s not worth it.”  This was a young able-bodied male. Again, I told him he was dropping money, no big deal was his basic response. 

In my eyes, it was a big deal.  I bent over and followed the trail, picking up change and putting it in my purse. We then continued with our errands.  When I got home and counted the change, it totaled only $1.16. That’s  not much on its own, but it took me less than 30 seconds to pick it up. 

Was it worth it? Absolutely it was! 

I now have another $1.16 in our change bucket to put towards something bigger.

A Trip to the Discount Market

Yes, we stuffed all those cool things into that box!

On the same day that we ventured out to a bakery outlet we also made a stop at a discount market. Although it’s called a discount market, I think a better description for this place would be “salvage grocery store”. The store sells food that is past its “best by” date, or that has cosmetically damaged packaging. While many of you may be put off by the idea of buying food “seconds”, Mr. Frugal Source and I have been purchasing food in this manner for years from several different stores and we have never had any safety issues with any of the food we’ve purchased. We are careful what we buy, making sure the package is completely sealed, cans are not too dented and items are not too far out-of-date for our taste.

Like most discount and thrift stores, salvage groceries are hit or miss with regard to both selection and discount, but we have yet to go to this particular store without being able to fill our $30 dollar box to the brim. The way the store is set up is there are prices for each item or you can fill a box for set prices: $5.00, $10.00, $20.00 and $30.00. With our family of 6 we use a $30.00 box.

The rules are: fill your box to the top with anything in the store except produce and frozen foods. If you return your box you get a $1.00 discount. You also receive points for every each visit and once you hit 100 points you get $10.00 off your next purchase.

Here is what we purchased on our last trip for a total of $29.00:

  • Kraft Mac & Cheese assorted varieties 7.25 oz. – 4
  • Canned jalapeños 7 oz – 3
  • French’s crispy onions 6 oz – 4
  • Wild Harvest Organic Bars 7.9 oz – 3
  • Saltine crackers 4 oz – 2
  • Welch’s Fruit Snacks .5 oz – 1
  • KitKat Dark 1.5 oz – 6
  • Skittles Sweetheat 3.3 oz – 5
  • Combos – variety 1.8 oz – 4
  • Twix Dark 1.8 oz – 1
  • Refresh eye gel 30 .4 ml vials – 2
  • 9 Lives cat food 5.5 oz – 13
  • Stride gum 14 pieces – 2
  • Tic Tac 1 oz – 1
  • Altoids smalls .37 oz – 1
  • Hall cough drops 9 drops – 4
  • HubbaBubba gum 5 pieces – 1
  • Bubble Yum 5 pieces – 1
  • sugar free Breath Savers 1.27 oz – 1
  • La Croix 12 oz – 9
  • Diet Coke 12 oz – 2
  • canned refried beans 16 oz – 8
  • field peas & snaps 15 oz – 1
  • sardines 4.38 – 1
  • YES soup 11.1 oz – 1
  • Beefaroni 7.5 oz – 1
  • Bush’s Baked Beans 16 oz – 1
  • Campbell’s HomeStyle Soup 18.8 oz – 1
  • canned great northern beans 15.8 oz – 9
  • canned pinto beans 16 oz – 3
  • canned butter beans 16 oz – 2
  • natural sunscreen 4oz – 1
  • Quest Bars 2.12 oz – 2
  • Power Crunch 1.4 oz – 1
  • Mauer Bar 2.6 oz – 1
  • Epic Performance Bar 1.87 oz – 1
  • Quaker Sandwiches mini 5 – 1.23 oz in box
  • DVD – season 2 Sliders

Tips for your trip

Is That Really an Expiration Date?

While many people think of the date on a can of peas, a box of crackers, or a bag of chips as an expiration date, in most cases it is not. Most often, the date you see is the “best by” date, and usually represents the date by which the manufacturer suggests the contents be consumed to ensure optimum flavor and texture. Packaged foods are typically quite safe beyond the printed date. In our experience, the less durable the package, the less time you have after the best buy date before you start to notice changes in flavor. To be clear, we’ve never encountered anything gross tasting, but we have occasionally found things to be somewhat stale or seeming to have less flavor.

Something many don’t realize that properly stored canned goods can be safe years or even decades beyond the date on the can; in at least one case the contents of cans over 100 years old were found to be safe. Of course we’re not suggesting anyone ever try anything that old, just know that, with some knowledge and sufficient caution, it’s easy to make treasure out of what others might pass over.

If you want to try your hand at shopping discount or salvage groceries, realize that there is some trial and error involved in figuring out just how far past date you find the taste of nacho chips to be acceptable. In other words, YMMV. Also — and this is something we can’t stress enough — do your own research and be sure you are able to recognize the signs and understand the dangers of potentially compromised packages, especially when it comes to canned goods; always err on the side of caution.

Don’t Make a Special Trip

This is just sound general frugal advice; whenever possible, plan your visit to an outlet (or anywhere) as a stop on an outing, not as a single destination. This will tend to save not only gas, but time as well, as you will reduce the total miles you drive and time you spend doing so. Even if you only save a few miles each time you do this, over the course of a year, that can add up to several gallons of gas, not to mention the time you’ll save.

Be Aware of “Regular” Prices

As we often experience, not everything at an outlet or discount store is necessarily a bargain. In fact, every once in a while, nothing is. If you’re not prepared to compare the outlet’s prices with what you see every day in the store(s) you normally shop, you could end up paying more for the same stuff you normally buy, just in a different location.

Our First Trip to a Bakery Outlet

Quite a haul for just under $15.00!

Everybody likes to save money, especially those of us into pinching pennies.  If you’re like us, you’re always looking for new and interesting ways to stretch your dollars.  We recently found a “new-to-us” way to save some grocery money when we learned of a couple of bakery outlets in our nearby city.  This time around, we decided to stop at the Aunt Millie’s thrift store as it was the closest to another planned stop.

The store was very small, but still had a wide variety of breads and other items for sale.  These ranged from fruit cakes to pita bread to condiments and even some pasta.  Looking at the prices of the non-bread items, we were not impressed.  In fact, we know that we could find those items or similar at much lower prices in several of the stores we normally visit.  Being a bakery outlet, however, the prices on bread products were quite good.

Here’s what we got:

4 packages of 12 count  whole wheat buns – $0.49 each                                 $1.96

4 packages of  8 count onion buns – $1.00 each                                                   $4.00

5 loaves of Best Grains non-gmo 12 grain bread – $1.49 each                       $7.45

2 packages of 8 count whole wheat hot dog buns – $0.79 each                  $ 1.58

1 package of 5 count wheat pita bread – Free w/purchase

Total spent:  $14.99

The regular prices for these items vary from store to store, so I did my best to average those prices.  Based on those averages, we saved about $27.00, which definitely made a little bit of extra driving worthwhile; we are now stocked up on bread for weeks.

The moral of the story for us; plan to visit the outlet as least every 6 weeks and do our very best not to purchase bread in a regular store again.

As my grandpa used to say, “quarters makes dollars.”

Some Tips for Your Outlet Trip

Know what forms of payment they accept before you go

While most places in the sane world still accept cash, not all will accept checks (this outlet did) or even debit or credit cards. It would be a drag to find a bunch of great stuff for cheap and get surprised by having to choose between using your credit card (gasp!) or leaving it behind.

Don’t Make a Special Trip

This is just sound general frugal advice; whenever possible, plan your visit to an outlet (or anywhere) as a stop on an outing, not as a single destination. This will tend to save not only gas, but time as well, as you will reduce the total miles you drive and time you spend doing so. Even if you only save a few miles each time you do this, over the course of a year, that can add up to several gallons of gas, not to mention the time you’ll save.

Be Aware of “Regular” Prices

As we often experience, not everything at an outlet or discount store is necessarily a bargain. In fact, every once in a while, nothing is. If you’re not prepared to compare the outlet’s prices with what you see every day in the store(s) you normally shop, you could end up paying more for the same stuff you normally buy, just in a different location.

We have nothing to show for it

If I was to take a couple of hours and add up all of the money that we have made since we were married all those years ago, I would look at the total and throw up.  Yep, I would literally puke and wonder where in the world did all of that money go?

We have always lived in a decent houses in safe-ish neighborhoods, had clean and mostly decent clothing, and have driven reliable vehicles.  But when you look at the debt we have been in and how long it is taking us to get completely out of debt, I realize we do not have lots of great memories to show for our money woes.

We took very few vacations over the years, and those we did take were at minimal cost. We did not drive fancy or expensive vehicles.  We did not live in lavish homes.  We did not buy the latest and greatest technology, and our kids grew up hearing “no”, way more than yes when they would ask for things.  We did not eat out at fancy restaurants and we didn’t shop at expensive stores; in fact, we’ve done most of our shopping over the years at thrift stores.

So, looking back at all the money we both brought home, we have nothing great to show for it.  Our money literally ran through our hands like water pouring out of a faucet.  We always paid our bills on time, but the rest of our money just seemed to disappear and we lived paycheck to paycheck, just like the majority of Americans.

It wasn’t until we ran across Dave Ramsey that we learned the importance of having — and sticking to — a budget.  It is not that we lived in a cave and had never heard of budgeting but to be honest, it just didn’t seem to work for us.  But Ramsey’s zero-based budget was so easy, and it made perfect sense… assign every dollar a job, period.  Nothing more.  It is simple, to the point, and it has changed our financial lives.

Why are we here?

Before we start sharing the details of our story, it seems appropriate that we should first introduce ourselves, and give you a little background into who we are and why we started The Frugal Source.

We are a family of six; we’re a mom and dad with 4 teenagers, several rescue pets, and some backyard chickens thrown into the mix just for fun. We live in the Midwest of the United States and are a one income family. There are many reasons for this, and we will explore each in its turn as we share our journey.

We came to this whole debt free living idea much much later than most of those you see within this community. To be frank, it was very intimidating to read post after post of people who were retiring in their 30s and 40s and us, with most of those days in the rear view mirror, and here we are just starting to figure this whole thing out.

We discovered Dave Ramsey several years ago and followed his baby steps, with our own spin. We have been debt free, except for our mortgage, for about 2 years now. We were happy to not have any consumer debt, but still felt the mortgage hanging over our heads. About a year ago, we really cranked up the effort around paying off our mortgage, and we’ve knocked another $30,000 off the principal. Even so, with the remaining balance at $162,000, it still looks and feels very overwhelming. In fact, looking at that number makes us downright mad. IF, we had done anything financially correct in our younger days, we would be debt free and be sitting pretty with regard to savings. But we didn’t; we made almost every… single… mistake you can possibly make with money.

We are here to share our mistakes, what we have learned from them, and the frugal habits we have implemented to help dig ourselves out. In short, we hope that we can be a cautionary tale to others, encourage them in their own journeys, and prove that it is NEVER too late to start working toward financial independence.

It is so awesome to see you here!

Welcome to The Frugal Source!

Those of you who have been here before will notice significant changes since your last visit.

If it is your first time here, please be sure to check back early and often, as we will start sharing stories from our debt free journey soon.

Either way, while we have many topics in mind ready to go, if there is something in particular you’d like to read about or some way which we might be able to help, please drop us a line at info@thefrugalsource.com

In the meantime you can check out our books on Amazon.com for loads of frugal tips.

 

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