Penny Pinchers

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By Brittany Dale
Thursday, February 6, 2014

Growing up in Colorado I remember recycling being important. We didn't necessarily do it religiously in my household but I knew it was... a thing. It wasn't until I moved closer to Denver and then to Boulder that a smaller footprint became a realistic idea in my head. Boulder being the tree hugging capital of the world gave me plenty of examples of how to live much like a plant; use my resources and give them back. Yikes, that sounded hippie. Let's be clear though, I'm pretty far from being Boulder-ite, but I appreciate living smaller and keeping my waste down. 

I once heard someone say “people seem to forget about the two words in front of Recycle. Reduce and reuse are in front of recycle because they are more important.” I never considered recycling wasn't really what I should focus on. Using less is the best way to save money and lessen my pollution. There a couple of things we do to reduce and reuse before we recycle, which we also do.

I have room for improvement in this area. Paying attention to the amount of packaging on an item, making food at home so I am not buying package waste, refurbishing items that I no longer use so I don't need to buy new ones – clothing or furniture specifically – are all ways I could be minimizing my waste. But it's a journey people; one step at a time.
Here's a couple of things we do to reduce:

We don't use those plastic produce bags at the grocery store. We simply throw everything in the cart and then throw it in the fridge. When I switched to this method it was amazing how much quicker it became to shop for produce.

My produce pile is a bit tiny at the moment.

We bring our own shopping bags. We have turned around in order to go get the bags when we forget them. The small punishment only had to happen a few times before we quit forgetting. 


The scary part is that even though we use our own bags, somehow our under-the-counter plastic bag collection is HUGE! Where do they come from??

I wash our plastic baggies. Yes, I am nuts. I scrub them and hang them to dry. Those suckers are expensive and if I threw them away every time I used one for a snack, we would use 4x as many as we use.

I save plastic containers for Tupperware. Somehow we manage to misplace lids to our “real” containers so I started saving things like butter and lunch meat tubs. If we lose one it's not the end of the world and I'm not buying new ones every year.

While recycling is the last step, it is also a way to save some money.
In some cities you can turn in aluminum and other products for money, which is better than a kick in the knee! In fact, there is a coupon in The Daily Sentinel's bi-monthly coupon book that gives you extra money for the aluminum that you turn in!

Here in Grand Junction you can pay to get recycling canisters and have it picked up a couple times per month, just like trash. We chose to save the extra money and take it to the recycling place ourselves. The facility is close to our house and we only need to go once a month or so. For us, it makes sense.

There are hundreds of ways to lessen our negative impact on the environment and a lovely reward for doing so is often the fact that reducing our impact also saves money. Brilliant!

What do you do to reduce, reuse or recycle?  


Free Superbowl Snacks! (and why I don’t have a grocery budget)

By Julie Norman
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Last Friday as I was planning my Superbowl snack menu, I got an email from Safeway telling me to claim my FREE offer.  Well I love a free offer, so I signed in to my Safeway Just For U account and, lo and behold, I had THREE FREE offers!

Those Red Hot Blues chips are a favorite of ours and we usually only have them on vacations.  They're $5 a bag! Immediately I formed a plan for the Superbowl. We'd have nachos using cheese I already had, and the Red Hot Blues tortilla chips. I could make guacamole with avocados that were already in the fridge too!  The Almond Dream ice cream bites would be a great dessert (especially for consoling ourselves after that horrendous loss). The milk...well, who can't use milk? In fact I had to open that carton this morning because I ran out of regular milk for my coffee.  THREE FREE items.  Not all weeks are like that, but even one free offer is still pretty sweet!

This is one of the great things about a grocery store's loyalty card.  They don't cost you anything and sometimes they hand out pretty great rewards.  Last week we had .50/cents off per gallon of gas at Safeway!

Which brings me to my next point...the grocery budget.  Lots of people have grocery budgets and I think that makes a lot of sense.  It's very easy to overspend or to buy unnecessary things when you're at the grocery store.  Having a budget can help you avoid the pitfalls of endcaps, "buy 2 get 1 free" offers and more.   I've tried the budget thing...I really have!  But it just doesn't work for me.  I get stressed about it and if I go over by $20 one week I'm just filled with ridiculous guilt. So instead of having a budget I try to just make good choices.  I don't buy much processed food and I check the clearance sections every week.

Just last week here's what I found: 

That was 3 lbs of chicken wings (each package 50% off), spaghetti noodles, a huge bag of flour, and a box of chicken broth...all 50% off! If I had set a budget for myself and already reached it I wouldn't have been able to purchase any of this! We had the wings for the Superbowl, the flour has already been opened and used when I was making pizza dough, and that carton of chicken broth is long gone. You just never know what you might find in the clearance bin! 

If you have to set a budget, I think maybe it's a good idea to include a separate, small amount per month for clearance items (if you can).  That way if you're like me and that budget is source of stress, you can still find a way to include clearance and unexpected grocery items.

So I guess my "budget" consists of sticking to the outside aisles of the store as much as possible (with an exception for grains, pasta, broth and tomatoes or tomato sauce) and checking the clearance bins. This way when I leave the store I can feel like I did a great job of purchasing good foods at good prices.  Side note:  I do have an actual budget of around $100 a week...sometimes I only spend like $60 and other times it's closer to $120.  We rarely eat out though, so all that food gets eaten...but I still don't like to focus too much on the budget.

Speaking of which, asparagus is on sale at Safeway this week for $1.99/lb!  I know what we're having this week!


Sweat is Free - Mt. Garfield

By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Tuesday, readers! It's Free Adventure Tuesday!
No, you didn't miss something, I just made that up and don't expect it every Tuesday, I'm just spontaneous like that.

Last weekend we decided to take on a challenge that people have been talking about since the first day we moved here.

We climbed Mt. Garfield. Dun Dun Dun!

Photo: Panoramio (Google Maps)

I decided our little adventure was a great subject for Penny Pinchers because a great way to save money is to find free or nearly free activities, which can be more challenging than expected. We had an entire day of activity without spending a penny (not counting the 1/6 gallon of gas it took us to drive there).

If you are from the valley you know which one is Mt. Garfield. Based on the chatter we have heard about this mountain, most of you have probably attempted the trek. If you aren't from around here, it's the gigantic mound of sandy looking spines sloping straight to the sky on your right hand side as you pass by Palisade on your left. Okay, maybe that's a little exaggerated, but looking up at the summit from the parking lot, the trail may as well be ascending straight into a cloud.

The entire hike is a challenge. The first portion is a steep climb that makes you suck air like it's going out of style. The section that tight-ropes the sides of the huge castle-like structure on top is super calming. The rest of the climb is exactly that, a climb. Over rocks, around rocks, digging in your toes and grabbing whatever you can to keep yourself as close to the ground as possible. Despite the agony in some moments, it was incredibly rewarding, as most activities like this are.

See those? Those are HORSES. Horses are more agile than me! 

There are people who leap and bound up and down this mountain, I saw them, and my jaw dropped. I also read about a race that happens each year that goes up and over the summit. Loony bins, gazelle-like loony bins. I, on the other hand, used very technical skills such the skid on my butt until my pole catches something sturdy and repeat reassuring mantras while sideways-baby-stepping down the spines. They do it their way, I do it mine.

I wasn't convinced I was going to make it to the top. We decided that we were in no hurry, we would stop when we needed to and whenever we were finished would be fine. We made it up and back down in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Once we got up the spine part of the mountain, it was still challenging but less so-much-cardio-I'm-gonna-die! I was amazed when we finally reached the top. This valley that we live in is so beautiful. Even more beautiful is the feeling I had when I let it sink in on the car ride home that my legs took me there. My body is powerful and I underestimate myself too often. The fact that we came home with two exhausted dogs, sore bodies and spent no money was also a great feeling. Using the nature and opportunities we have here really makes me grateful for the area we live in.

My awesome little family. 

Leisurely hiking is an activity you, generally, don't need to buy anything for. Mt. Garfield is a step up from that. I wore my regular workout clothes and tennis shoes which I later realized was a mistake. To climb Mt. Garfield in January I would recommend hiking boots. One week later I still have a some nice shiners to prove tennis shoes don't quite cut it. The only other thing I would recommend is hiking poles. Given the incline and decline, the poles were very helpful. Outside of those two items, this was a completely free adventure. Tired dogs, good workout, no money spent; win, win, win.

Proof. Don't wear tennis shoes.

What's your favorite little or no-cost adventure in the valley? 


Let’s talk about cars

By Julie Norman
Monday, February 3, 2014


I've had the same car, Little Red Car, for 10 years.  She is the first car I purchased on my own; I have a soft spot for her.  In her 10 years Little Red Car has spent much of that time just tooling around town because I was working for a curriculum company from home.  Even today she gets to spend her time just making the 5-mile-round-trip commute to work with occassional side trips to the grocery store.  Little Red Car has had a pretty easy life and only has about 60,000 miles on her.  I haven't had a car payment in 5 years and that's pretty sweet. 

Last week, however, Little Red Car needed quite a bit of maintenance.  First she needed 2 new tires.  Alignment, tires, oil change...all that set me back about $275.  The tires weren't even expensive for my little car!  Things just add up. When I went to pick up Little Red Car, the tire guy told me that I really really really needed to have the Power Steering fluid and Tranmission fluid changed out.  Sometimes I forget that Little Red Car is 10 years old.  With so few miles on her some things get neglected.  So I drove her down to my favorite maintenance shop, Scotty's, and left her for the guys to work on.  A Transmission Flush is $175.  The Power Steering change was another $40 or so.  So...there went another $215.  GAH!  I was ready to pull my hair out! 

Right then I wasn't seeing the big picture.  I was seeing almost $500 leave my account in two days. Tuesday afternoon I was working on some automotive inventory updates for our site.  Even some used cars from as far back as 2007 were being advertised for over $20,000!  These are great cars in great shape and I'm sure they'll sell fast, but for me, seeing those numbers really put things in perspective.

  1. Little Red Car is perfect for what she does:  shuttle me around town during the week and rest on the weekend while we take the Subaru to Powderhorn, bike trails, etc.
  2. $500 isn't even 2 car payments on a new or gently used car. 
  3. Little Red Car means that I don't have a car payment.  Period. Her insurance is cheap, her registration is cheap and she doesn't use much gas.
  4. In the end, Little Red Car is in great shape. I do not need a new or different car that would require money from my account every. single. month.

Sometimes we think we "need" something...we see the paint peeling or the vinyl coming off the steering wheel and thing, "Well I need a new car!" But do you really? A car is just a vessel.  It doesn't define you.  Little Red Car is doing her job and doing it well.  She's getting me from place to place.  That's what's important.  She does her job without costing me an arm and a leg and most importantly, without breaking my budget!

(Photo by


Two very different ways to save

By Julie Norman
Friday, January 31, 2014

Brittany found this post from the Passionate Penny Pincher this week about standard prices for basic grocery items.  Keep in mind that the Passionate Penny Pincher is a couponer and so she's found ways to get a lot of items for free or very little.  Still, it's a good plan to at least have a roudabout idea of what you're willing to spend or what you think is a good price for items.

Do you have certain prices that you're willing to pay for particular grocery items?

My article this week is a link to that savings plan everyone has been talking about recently - the 52 week plan?  I'm sure you've heard of it.  It's the one where you save $1 the first week, $2 the second, etc. 

While on the one hand it's cool to see how much you could save, especially if you currently DON'T save, on the other hand this means that in December, that month of Christmas giving, you're putting $200 in your savings account.  I find it hard to think that people will have that much extra cash at the end of the year.   Here's the link to a blog post about it by Survival Mom:

For me an easier way to save has been to just set up automatic transfers from my checking to my savings acct for every time I get paid. That way I don't even think about it, the money just goes where it needs to.  What are your best ways for saving?

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