12 Ways to Go Co-op and Save Money

Logo: People’s Food Co-Op La Crosse WI www.pfc.coop
Mention the word ‘co-op’ and readers of a certain age will recall hippies in a college town selling granola.
Photo credit: Carol Browne via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

But cooperative efforts are still relevant today. And they can save you considerable money and time.

Here are twelve ideas for co-op efforts you can organize with neighbors and friends; they can benefit all parties involved!

  1. Baby Sitting – alternate date nights with another family who has children of similar ages. With the going rate for a babysitter at $10 per hour, a date night might cost $30 or more just for the babysitting. By alternating baby-sitting duties once a month, two families would each save $360 per year!

    Photo credit: JohnLafornara via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
  2. Pet Sitting – use the same strategy as co-op baby sitting. Boarding fees can range from $20 – $50 a day, or higher. (This arrangement would be contingent on all the pooches or kitties getting along.)
  3. Tools – Form a tool co-op; borrow and lend tools with neighbors and friends. Frequently an expensive tool is purchased for a project and then gathers dust for years. I’m guilty; I once bought a mitre saw for a project. The saw then sat in the garage for 10 years until I sold it on CraigsList. But do exercise consideration when borrowing: return the tool promptly in good condition. Lend as well as borrow. When returning a tool, give the lender a $10 -$25 gift card to Lowe’s or Home Depot. That’s still far cheaper than renting.
  4. Rent tools together – a variation on #3. Join with neighbors when renting a specialty tool (say, a tiller, log splitter or lawn aerator) Typically, a full-day rental is not that much more than a half-day rental.
  5. Gardening – community gardens yield a bounty of benefits: a source of fresh produce, savings on groceries, a great experience for kids, bringing a neighborhood together and reducing crime.
  6. Gourmet Supper Club – rather than dining out at high end restaurants, form a gourmet club that rotates hosting. It’s an opportunity to practice and showcase your culinary skills.
  7. Clothing Exchange – particularly worthwhile for infant and children’s clothing.
  8. Toy Exchange – we all get excited about new toys (or at least toys that are new to us).
  9. Books, Magazines, Videos – share magazine subscriptions, books, DVDs and CDs
  10. Education – home schoolers are known for co-op organizations that teach art, music, drama and science. Swapping books and other educational materials is another option. Do you have a particular skill or expertise? Share it by teaching and mentoring others.
  11. Car Pooling – save on auto expenses – whether commuting, shuttling kids or running errands.
  12. Banking – Credit Unions are a type of co-op; they are owned by their depositors – review my posting on Credit Unions: Credit Unions are Divine. They Can Show Your Finances a Better Way.

I’m sure these twelve ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. What co-op ideas would you like to share?  Cheers, Paul

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

Photo credit: the_chronicle via Foter.com / CC BY
Photo credit: incanus via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

 

Photo credit: Pedro de Montjuic via Foter.com / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos via Foter.com / CC BY
Photo credit: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos via Foter.com / CC BY

Update on My Trash-Picked Weber Grill

I am happy to report that the Weber Grill I trash picked two weeks ago is ready for service!

Details: It’s Weber Genesis Gold Model B manufactured in 2004 (model 6240001). It retailed for $550 – the equivalent of $720 today. (BTW it’s rare for Weber grills to be discounted from list price, maybe for end of season closeouts or model discontinuations.)

Here’s why I believe the previous owner put it out at the curb:

A hinge on one side was broken. The hinge was part of the side endcap casting.

I contacted Weber. The end cap is not available by itself; I would have to buy the entire top lid assembly for around $250 with tax and shipping – but at least they stock parts for a grill made 13 years ago!

I have to admit that I seriously considered ordering a new top. Instead, I came up with this makeshift solution:

I fabricated a new hinge out of an aluminum angle bar and bolted it to the lid (it’s painted black). There was little to lose by trying. The grill also needed new caster wheels.

This past weekend I cleaned and polished it.

The burners and checked out fine. With the lid closed, it gets up to 600° F in a hurry!  I also got this cover on Amazon; it’s half the price of an ‘official ‘Weber grill cover.

So, with a little bit of effort, someone else’s trash has been transformed into.. …well, maybe not a gem, but at least a semi-precious stone.

Keep a lookout, folks; you never know what you treasure you might find hidden out in the open! And I do promise you a trash picking post real soon.

Also, here is a great article about a couple who rehabbed a Weber grill they purchased from a thrift store for $50. They put a whole lot more effort into theirs than I did into mine but, their’s looks like it just came from the showroom floor!

Cheers, Paul

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

 

I Just Trash Picked Another Weber Grill!

It does needs a bit of work (the right hood casting (where the thermometer is) needs to be replaced. It’s heavy and was tough to drag home. Luckily, it was just on the other side of our block!

It’s actually a nicer model than the our current Weber which I trash picked 3 years ago (see below) — It’s a Genesis Gold vs our Genesis Silver; it has 3 burners instead of 2, a stainless steel hood and an extra work shelf.

I promise you an article on trash picking real soon. And Trash Pick of the Day postings, once the Proverb of the Day postings conclude. Meanwhile: keep a lookout. You never know what might be out lurking by the curb…

Cheers, Paul

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

Kiplinger’s 70 Ways to Build Wealth

The April 2017 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recently arrived. It is a special one indeed: celebrating the 70th anniversary of a venerable publication. To commemorate this occasion, the lead article is 70 Ways to Build Wealth. Definitely a worthwhile read for the Frugal and Wise. (Check for the issue at your local library.)

I am pleased to note that, of the 70 actions listed in the magazine, I have, to date, mentioned at least 19 of them on Frugal, Wealthy and Wise. Refer back to Twenty-five to Thrive, 31 Essential, Frugal and Wise Actions and Take These Five Actions Before Year-End.

I certainly cannot claim such ideas as original but neither did I merely copy them from other sources. Any number of fundamental, financial actions can lead to building wealth and living better on less. But there is the satisfaction in knowing what I mention on Frugal, Wealthy and Wise is also being espoused by such a prominent source as Kiplinger’s.

I have been reading Kiplinger’s Personal Finance for at least two decades. It has been influential in my journey towards being a savvy consumer, a shrewd manager of family finances and a builder of wealth. (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and The Economist are the only two magazines I read.) The introductory rate for a year’s subscription is $15 or less – worth checking out; see if it earns its keep for you.

Words from the Chief
The 70 Ways to Build Wealth article contains 10 saying from Knight Kiplinger, Editor in Chief (page 28). These sayings are comparable to words of wisdom from Warren Buffet, Jack Bogel – or even King Solomon in Proverbs.

1) Wealth creation isn’t a matter of what you earn. It’s how much you save.

2) Your biggest barrier to becoming rich is living like you’re rich before you are.

3) Pay yourself first.

4) No one ever got into trouble by borrowing too little.

5) Conspicuous consumption will make you inconspicuously poor.

6) The key to stock market success isn’t your timing in the market. It’s your time in the market – the longer the better.

7) Diversify, because every asset has its day in the sun – and its day in the doghouse.

8) Keep a cool head when others are losing theirs.

9) Money can’t buy happiness but it can make unhappiness easier to bear.

10) Sharing your wealth with others is more fun than spending it on yourself.

Cheers, Paul

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

The (not so) Ubiquitous Bed, Bath and Beyond Coupons

Getting those 20% discounts at Bed, Bath and Beyond may not last forever.

For as long as most of us can remember, retailer Bed, Bath and Beyond (BB&B) has been plying us with coupons. The most common is the 20% off a single item. But there are also ones for $5 off purchases of $15 or more and $10 off purchases of $30 or more.

Here are some facts and recommendations for utilizing those (formerly) ubiquitous coupons. And making the most of your dollars spent at BB&B:

  • Printed coupons (from newspapers and mailings) have expiration dates. But the expiration dates are largely ignored. I’ve had the local BB&B store accept coupons that expired 10 years ago! Don’t throw out BB&B coupons just because they expired!
  • More than one 20% off coupon can be used at a time; example: if you are purchasing 5 items and have 5 – 20% off coupons, you get 20% off each item, all in a single transaction.
  • Forgot your coupon(s)? You can return later with a receipt and get a refund for the difference.
  • Keep in mind that emailed coupons may be subject to the expiration date.
  • Select the coupon that gives you the most savings. The table below works for purchasing a single item. For multiple items, figure out which combination of coupons saves the most.
Under $15.00 20% Off
$15.00 – $18.75 $5.00 Off
$18.76 – $30.00 20% Off
$30.00 – $37.50 $10 Off
More than $37.50 20% Off
  • Some brands are not eligible for discounts: Wusthof knives and Waterford crystal, for instance.
  • Just because you’re getting 20% off doesn’t mean you’re getting the best deal. Price similar items at Target, Walmat, Boscov’s or Macy’s.
  • Don’t let a coupon ‘burn a hole in your pocket’. In other words, don’t feel compelled to buy something, anything just because you have a coupon.
  • If not using a coupon on some of the items you are purchasing, make sure the prices are in line with other retailers.
  • If you return an item purchased with a coupon, you will be refunded the net cost you paid but will not get to reuse the coupon.
  • Use your BB&B coupons judiciously, i.e. don’t use up your supply purchasing a bunch of $4.00 items. (see next point)
  • The last few years, the supply of BB&B coupons has been scaled WAY BACK. Traditionally they arrived via mail or in the Sunday newspaper. In late 2016, there was even talk that BB&B would eliminate coupons altogether! Apparently, the coupons have been too Keep track of the ones you’ve got!
  • Don’t have any BB&B coupons laying around? Sign up for email and get a one-time 20% off online or in-store.

Do you have a Bed, Bath and Beyond shopping experience to share — please post or send me an email. Meanwhile: be frugal; be wise.

Cheers, Paul

P.S. I tallied our collection of BB&B coupons accumulated over the years: 34 – 20% off, 19 – $5 off, 4 – $10 off. We should be OK for a while.

© 2017 Paul J Reimold

To Pay Cash of Not to Pay Cash: That is the Question

Is it better to pay cash than use credit cards? It depends.

Wikipedia Commons

To pay cash or not to pay cash: that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler to charge everything, to gain rebates and frequent flyer points, but to suffer:
The demand of paying balances in full: each and every Month.

Or to take up Arms against a Sea of debts
And by opposing, end them: to pay them in full, to sleep soundly and worry-free
No more shall we carry balances on our credit cards
We shall end the heart-ache of indebtedness.
‘Tis our consumption that must decline
For who should bear the Whips and Scorns of outrageous Interest?

(with my apologies to the Bard)

If Hamlet were amoungst us today, would he contemplate out loud whether to use credit cards or cash? He probably had bigger worries. But the best choice for you, dear readers, depends upon a number of factors.

Personally, I despise cash and use it only when I absolutely have to. For me, paying with cash means forgoing – at a minimum – a 1 ½% rebate, or as much as a 6% rebate on purchases. It’s the hassle factor finding a (fee-free) ATM and dealing with handfuls of left-over pennies, nickels and dimes. But most of all, cash expenditures are difficult and tedious to track. I try to keep meticulous records of our spending. Yet, at year-end, there is usually around $100 cash that I cannot account for!

However, if you carry a month-to-month balances on your credit cards and/or make impulse purchases, cash may be the way to go. Here are pros and cons of each:

Cash Pros:
  • Paying cash is a great method to limit spending – studies prove that paying cash reduces impulse purchases and spending overall
  • Unlike credit cards, if your cash gets lost or stolen, there’s no risk of identity theft (assuming your driver’s license or other documents did not disappear with the cash)
  • Some restaurants and retailers only accept cash
  • Some gas stations offer a cash discount
  • Cash is the ‘universal gift card’ – for tips and presents
Cash Cons:
  • If you lose cash, it’s …. gone.
  • Carrying around lots of cash could make you a target
  • The time and effort required to physically withdraw cash from an ATM or bank. Possible ATM fees
  • If you have lots of cash in your pocket, you may be inclined to spend it all (‘burning a hole in your pocket’)
  • Travel can be much more challenging to arrange: from booking hotel rooms and flights, renting cars, to getting cash in a local currency
  • Cash expenditures are difficult to track. An essential element of being Frugal and Wise is knowing where your money goes
Credit Card Pros:
  • Convenience – a credit card is always in your wallet. It can be used for faster transactions at gas pumps, kiosks and the like
  • Security –a lost or stolen credit card can easily be deactivated and replaced, with no financial loss
  • Rewards, whether cash back rebates (generally a statement credit) or travel points
  • Protection and the ability to dispute charges when in disagreement with a merchant
  • Perks such as extended warranties and rental car insurance
  • Ease of use when traveling abroad (just be sure your card that does not assess foreign transaction fees)
  • Statements that are a record of your expenditures
Credit Card Cons:
  • Very easy to spend too much or buy impulsively. Using credit cards requires considerable self-control
  • If you don’t pay the full monthly balance, you will be subject to interest charges that could really sap your finances
  • ‘Convenience fees’ are sometimes accessed for using a credit card. Example: property taxes, income taxes, vending machines. Be vigilant. A credit card is probably not worth using in these situations
  • The possibility of identity theft or unauthorized use. Regularly checking credit card activity and credit reports is a must do
Recommendations and Takeaways:
  • Although the role of cash is diminishing, it’s virtually impossible to use cash exclusively or credit cards exclusively. We all exist somewhere on a continuum (or blend) between the two
  • If you are faithful paying your credit card balances in full every month, go ahead and use credit cards for the advantages mentioned above. But be sure that you have credit cards that work hard for you. See recommendations in earlier FW&W postings: 31 Essential, Frugal and Wise Actions – 6, My Favorite Things Part I
  • If you currently carry credit card balances, cease using your credit cards until the debts are paid off. That should be one of your highest priorities.
  • Ditto if you are unhappy with your high spending levels and low saving rates.
  • If you do go with cash, utilize the ‘envelope’ method: split it your cash for the month into spending categories, both discretionary and necessary. Once all the cash in a given category – particularly a discretionary category — is spent, similar expenditures will just have to wait until next month

What are your experiences with cash or credit cards? Please let me know.

Cheers, Paul

© 2017 Paul J Reimold