Open Mic 7/5/12

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Open Mic is a post every Thursday that is a mini-version of a discussion board. You can leave a comment with whatever coupon, money-saving or debt reduction tips or questions you have and other readers chime in and answer.

When you leave a comment on this post, you’ll be able to choose whether you’d like to be emailed follow-up comments or not. Getting comments via email is a great way to stay connected without having to visit the site a bazillion times (although I don’t mind if you come a bazillion times).

As always, I look forward to hearing the voice of the Pocket Your Dollars community. Read through the Open Mic archives here.

Your turn: Leave a comment with your money-saving, coupon or debt reduction question, thought or suggestion.

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  1. Amy says

    Looking for a dj or band for a welcome home party in Brooklyn Park the end of July. Willing to go with someone new or a band that is just getting started. Many Dj's are over $400 and I want to spend about half of that.

    • LP says

      Have you looked at using Pandora (a free internet radio station that lets you make "stations" of songs/artists you like) then hooking your internet device up to speakers? Also, Grooveshark is another free internet music site and lets you choose specific songs you want to play and create a playlist. If all you need from a DJ is music, I would recommend using either of these 2 sites and save the $200-400. Just thought I'd throw it out there. Good luck!

    • says

      Have you checked Consumer Reports site for ratings? I've heard, but not confirmed myself, that you can get access to the online Consumer REports website free via your library. Beyond their ratings of specific models they also have a reliability chart that lists brands and how likely they are to break, which has helped me buy products beyond what they specifically review. I'd also read up a bit at and see if they have any thoughts on good models.

    • Ruth W says

      We got ours at the Sears outlet store. They have one in Coon Rapids and Mpls. You can see what they have online before you head in. They have always been very helpful and backed their product.

    • scat says

      Tiff — Never thought I would fall in love with a washing machine — til I got my Maytag Bravos. IT's a top loading high efficiency washer. It is two years old. It is available at all the major appliance stores. There is a price range because some are pretty colors and some have a see-through lid.

      IT's pretty easy to shop on line and compare prices.

      I got it because I did not want a front -loader which I would find difficult on my back. It's like a front loader sitting upright. It does not have the agitator. It does such a better job than my old top loader, which was only about five years old. It was highly rated by consumer reports when I bought mine. I do the laundry for an animal rescue group so it gets a work-out. You can get large things in it easily, such as comforters and rugs.

      • Crystal says

        My husband and I just bought a house and had to buy all new appliances. I did a TON of research and found LG to be a highly rated brand by consumers. I price checked a lot and ran every discount I could. If you're looking at Whirlpool made products and have an employee discount that gets you a log-in for VIP link, you can find some good deals. We were told by many people how great Appliance Smart was but our employee discounts were better than their prices. My husband and I ended up getting lucky. LG discontinued 4-5 models (half of which we were considering) around the time we needed to buy. We quickly looked around the stores in our area for floor models and ended up getting steam wash/dry LG models for 55% off the regular Best Buy price. Yes they have a few minor scratches but we got a better price, better washer and they are even one of those funky colors you pay $100 more for typically.

        • Crystal says

          I should say too that we strongly priced the Sears discounts we got with each one of our employers. If it hadn't been for the luck with floor models we probably would have gone with Sears + our discounts with them.

  2. LP says

    Hey Carrie!

    Thank you for your PYD website. I've been using it for shopping lists and it helps so much! Awhile back, you asked for suggestions to enhance the website. My suggestion is that the headers, such as Month-Long Deals, Ongoing Deals, New Deals, etc., be included on the printouts. This would be really helpful so that I can easily see what is an ongoing deal at the store and can differentiate what deals will end that week. Thanks for your consideration!

  3. sally says

    My Daughter needs an Air Conditioner for her bdrm. & is considering a portable. Has anyone ever used one? Also who has the best prices? She has slider windows so she can't use a window air.

    • Mikey says

      My mother-in-law has a portable and it works pretty well. We got it for her as a gift several years ago. She just wheels it into a closet to store it when not in use. It really helps in this nasty, hot weather. She just pulls it out and plugs it in when she needs it. I think it has to vent to a window though for the air circulation but I'm not sure.

  4. Elle says

    Does anyone have a tree service that they'd recommend? I have two trees that probably should be removed. We live in St. Paul. TIA

    • scat says

      Elle — I had an 80 foot maple taken down about three years ago and was very impressed with both the price and workmanship.His name is Jason Helke,651-755 0701, Helke's Tree Service, Inc. They came when they said they would, worked til it was done and hauled it away. There price was about half what I expected to pay. I was amazed watching the process. They didn't even need to have the wires taken down, although both the electrical and phone wires ran right through the tree.

  5. Mikey says

    Any stores have good deals on kitchen trash bags this week? I never seem to remember when there's a good deal on these to stock up on them.

    • says

      Deals will start this coming weekend and run through labor Day. July is the best time to buy. Starting next Monday I will post a weekly price comparison chart where we compare prices on 40+ items at about 10 stores. For reference it'll include the lowest price we've seen so far this year on each item and the lowest price we saw last year for each item.

      • Allison says

        Carrie- If you see a napping mat can you list the price for that as well? The kindergartner teacher wants entering students to have one. I have never seen them before. A vinyl mat to nap on. I know this is not a typical supply that most students beyond this grade level need. Thanks!

        • JoAnna says

          Allison–I didn't check the price but I did see one at Chaska Super Target in the school supply section (aisle with lunch boxes) on Monday.

  6. Tiff says

    Crystal, Can you please explain what you mean by an "employee discount that gets a log in for VIP link?" I'm afraid I'm unclear what you mean by this…Thanks!

    • Crystal says

      So I'm a teacher and a union member. My national union, National Education Association (NEA) offers member benefits. I found VIP link when I was looking through my NEA member benefits. You should check to see if you or someone in your household has employee benefits and whether or not VIP link is one of them. I don't think everything is discounted this much but we got our double oven gas range for $1080 when every other store we looked at was over $1300….so VIP link had some pretty decent deals.

    • Crystal says

      When you sign up on their website it requires a group code. This is the code your employer or union could give you if you have that as an employee discount.

  7. Elle says

    Target does have some trash bags on sale this week. I don't remember the brand, it might be Hefty. I don't know if it's a fantastic deal though.

  8. Julie says

    I posted this on FB too…Just wondering if anyone uses Dave Ramsey's Gazelle budgeting software and what you consider to be the pros and cons?

    We are currently using Mint., which is free (A huge plus, unless using the Gazelle could help us save more). Mint does not force us to use a "zero budget" like Gazelle advertizes, and we by nature are big picture, not detail-oriented. I like the idea of every dollar having a name…but if it doesn't have enough perks to help us save even more, then we'll just stick with MInt. Any thoughts?

    • tag says

      I used the Gazelle program when we were going though the class last year and thought it worked great. I did what I needed it to do and I was satisfied with that.

      I wish they sold the software for individual computers. I was (and still am) very uncomfortable with keeping my finances grouped on someone elses server. Which is why I don't use Gazelle or Mint now.

    • Crystal says

      We had a speaker at our church this spring, Joe Sangl, who talked about debt. He has all sorts of spread sheets and tools for free on his website for budgeting, saving for something special, etc. He wrote a book called "I Was Broke Now I'm Not." I haven't read his book but did sit in on his conference for 2.5 hours one afternoon. He also has an app for Ipod and Ipad. Here's his website:

      • says

        I have been using a budget software called YNAB (Stands for "You Need A Budget"). It gives every dollar a "job" and makes it very easy to save for big purchases/emergencies. I can't remember what it cost initially, but it has been well worth it for our family!

  9. tag says

    My parents have one for the living/dining/kitchen area in their house. Theirs is several years old and works really well but is expensive to run. I'm assuming that with a little shopping around you'll be able to find an Energy Star rated portable and I'm sure they have been improved in the last five years.

    • Kari says

      I have one in my home and it does help cool. It's a pain to put in ( we have crank out windows and so coming up with something to make it stay in and tightly has been quite a trial and error process. We paid $200 for it 2 yrs ago on Ebay ( brand new with warranty) . It does cost quite a bit to run though.

  10. Babs says

    I have been using your site for the past couple of years and have saved and learned so much. I am moving to East TN and wondered if you knew of a similar site based in that area. Knoxville area

    • Jae says

      If you want grocery lists and an coupon database, try CouponMom. It's not local and doesn't have money saving articles but it's free and it's a good site.

  11. Sue says

    Sorry if this is a dumb question, but for Target and Rainbow it states you can get $0.5 off for each reusable bag (up to 5) that you use. What constitutes as a reusable bag? Can I use Target bags from a previous trip at Target? Thank you.

    • Debster says

      I returned something today at Target and then purchased aome additional items; and the checkout person took .05 off when i said i'd just use the bag from my return . I don't think they care what kind of bag you use.

      • Carol says

        That reusable bag business drives me bananas! For example, when I don't use any bag, I don't get the credit – & that's best for the environment!

    • Allison says

      You can't use plastic bags at Rainbow, but they have taken $0.05 off for carrying it in my purse/tote bag.

    • Kari Mc says

      Sue – This is not a dumb question. Target has refused the .05 credit when I have re-used their own brown bags stating it must be Fabric/Reusable for the credit. The best deal is the bag tag at CVS (.25 toward an Extra Buck) and you can attach it to any bag, not just a bag purchased at the store. I think you can only do once per day though.

      • Jill says

        I've discovered that the magical words are "I brought my own bag" even if you're just buying one or two small things that you're carrying out in your hands. The bag credit drives me nuts. I've been using reusable bags for YEARS because plastic bags give me the heebie jeebies. I think the $0.05 credit is a nice incentive, but I wish they'd be more consistent with the spirit of the law and not the letter.

  12. Erin says

    I am in the process of trying to plan a bachelorette party for my sister, but there is a wide range of financial situations among the other bridesmaids and guests. Does anyone have any suggestions for some activities we could do around the Cities that wouldn't cost everyone an arm and a leg, but would also not seem like a cheap party? My sister isn't really big into the bar scene, so more low key activities would be best. Thanks!

    • Melissa says

      You could think about doing pedicures at a salon in the area, everyone could pay for their own and usually only like $25. Maybe follow up with dinner and drinks somewhere nice. Another lo key idea is wine tasting. Their are lots of nice vineyards within an hour of the twin cities area. Also, not too expensive.

      • Emily says

        ACME Comedy club in Minneapolis does an open mic night every Monday that is FREE and pretty entertaining. The end of the show is usually local pros trying out new material. Best deal on Monday night entertainment in town, in my opinion.

    • Crystal says

      I've heard of people going to comedy clubs. My husband and I went to one in Minneapolis a few years ago and it was only 10$ per person. My sisters took me bowling for mine because I wasn't into the bar scene either. There are usually plenty of bowling coupons out there if you look around.

    • Christine says

      I second the comedy club. That is what I did since one of my Bridesmaids was under 21. We went to Joke Joint which was at the Ramada in Bloomington, now its on 13 in St. Paul. We called and got a grounp discount for $2.00 off per ticket. We had so much fun then went out for cocktails and dessert after the show was over.

    • Kira Campbell says

      There is a dueling piano bar in Minneapolis that can be really fun, and everyone can buy their own drinks. If wine tasting would appeal to your group, there's a wine shop on Washington in Minneapolis called North Loop that has a room you can use for free as long as you purchase a certain amt of wine (cost could easily be split among all the guests), and you're allowed to bring in your own food. There's also a TON of free outdoor music happening throughout the summer, in all parts of the cities — you could pack some fancy picnic nibbles, and then finish the evening with going out somewhere for fun desserts/drinks.

      • AS says

        My maid of honor had a wine and cheese party with appetizers for me and it was great! So much fun for everyone to sit and chat. She also had the bridesmaids & guests invited fill out a page for a memory book she made for me. It was the best gift of all! Some wrote poems, some stories with pictures.

    • Mikey says

      Are they pretty durable though? My hubby tells me I always try to cram too much into them so I'd need something durable. I know Aldi is very good about satisfaction guarantee too so may just have to check them out! Thanks.

      • mary says

        I just found some trash bags @ Rainbow that were marked down. 3.99 for 70 bags. They were made from recyclable materials, etc. Don't remember the brand. Can't speak on how durable they are; not nearly thick as Glad Force Flex, but for .05 per bag, it works for me :)

  13. Bonnie says

    Is is possible to add blank lines to write on to the printed lists? Or to be able to type in your additional items that you need, turning this into my grocery list? I usually print out the lists out then write on the bottom, but it would be easier (and look nicer) if it was on lines…

    • sharon says

      Camden Pet Hospital in North Minneapolis, near victory Memorial Drive and about 45th. VERY caring staff and affordable.

  14. Heather says

    Where is the best place to buy fresh basil besides the farmer's market? Every grocery store I've tried seems to be at least $3 or more per oz.

    • wtfci says

      The most cost effective option is a plant. Basil will grow pretty easily in most conditions if it gets enough water. $3 is about the market price for basil in a grocer chain.

      Mom and pop stores may have a lot more basil for $3, but I don't know of any around the twin cities.

      • Melissa S says

        If you plant your basil in a big pot it will grow to fit the pot and you will have enough to use for pesto, etc. My plant gets huge but you need to keep it watered.

  15. REL says

    Carrie, this morning on KTIS you mentioned a 2 for 1 ticket deal for Water Park of America but I don't see anything on the site. Did I misunderstand or mishear? Thanks and love your site and your visits on TCL.

    • Mary says

      I did get an email about the deal from WOA. (I am on their mailing list) You might want to check their website.

    • says

      They start next week at Walgreens. Back to school seems to start immediately after July 4th, so give stores a few days to rearrange stock and you will have the back to school sales beginning. Watch those flyers! :)

  16. Andrea says

    spotify is another good one. its basically pandora and itunes put together you can create stations or also play your own music you already have.

  17. Rebekah says

    We just bought ours online – number1direct. Their customer service is not super great (if you have an issue you have to push the number that says you want to order something instead of needing help – that doesn't seem to get answered). But we got free shipping/delivery and a free 10 year warranty for less than what we could find the models at any store. No tax either.

    We bought the Whirlpool Cabrio 4.6 Cu. Ft. White Top Load Washer – WTW8600YW ($684) and the Whirlpool Cabrio 7.6 Cu. Ft. White Gas Dryer – WGD8600YW ($851). Our friends purchased the same ones a year prior and loved them – I love them too.

    We had an issue with the washer – there were some scrapes on the top from where the packaging rubbed the machine. Took some time to figure out which number to push to get assistance, but then got a $75 credit for that, too.

  18. Crystal says

    Just saw a commercial for a tent sale at Appliance Smart in Apple Valley that runs June 22- July 8. The commercial says everything in the tent is under $599.

    • Shopwalker says

      We just bought a refrigerator at the tent sale in Apple Valley. Paid $599 for a GE side-by-side to replace the AWFUL Maytag Wide-by-Side we paid twice that for and suffered with since purchasing it 8 years ago. We bought the Maytag based on perceived quality, but had we checked the Consumer Reports Buying Guide, would have found that Maytag side-by-side refrigerators had nearly three times as many repairs or complaints as GE. We've only had the GE a week but are so grateful to have ice and cold, filtered water again. All the scratches were easily covered up by the walls, cabinets, appliance paint, or the myriad notes, pictures, calendar, etc. that normally grace the fridge's surface.

      With regard to the Consumer Reports access, if you have a Hennepin Library card, you can access CR for free online (just do a search for consumer reports at their web site, If you live in a different county in Minnesota that is part of the regional library system, you can register your library card with HCL and may still get access. If you can't get access through HCL, check if your library system has access to EBSCO, as that's the portal through which you gain access through the library.

  19. Carol M says

    Does anyone have any canning jar coupons that they are not going to be using. There was suppose to be one on Kerr jars in the 6/3 SS but mine didn't have it.

  20. angela says

    I'd like to compliment the Store Mgr at Rainbow on American Blvd in Blmgtn, Joel Kram. He went out of his way to help me on DDDaze with all my Qs. When I mentioned PYD he laughed and said "We print that out every week to keep up with you guys." He may not look friendly, but he's great on customer service and treats his staff well too.

  21. Cris says

    I would recommend Dave from He charges based on how big the speakers need to be, rather than by time. He was the DJ at my wedding and I liked that he just played good music and didn't feel the need to talk much. He clearly enjoys what he does.

  22. Anna says

    With CVS's Green Bag Tag You can use any re-usable shopping bag, re-use a plastic bag from a previous purchase or simply carry out your item.

  23. Carol says

    I have the same machine and it is horrible! It doesn't rinse off the soap. I've talked to their "people" and even talked them into sending a repairman. No luck. Guess even within the brand the quality varies. Yes, Cons. Reports said it would be great. NOT!!!!

  24. Tina says

    We bought the Maytag Bravo XL from Lowe's and LOVE IT! It's top loading but HE and it has a huge capacity, is quiet and does the job very well.

  25. says

    Mikey – I use Aldi's kitchen trash bags all the time and haven't yet had a problem. I empty my garbage nearly every day, though, so it might not get as full as yours.

  26. says

    Nicole – I am also a big fan of YNAB! What I like about it is that you use last month's income to budget for this month. I'm not a fan of projecting what we're going to earn this month and going off of that, so this method really appeals to me.

  27. Jodi says

    A good friend of mine has a daughter that is trying to win a contest. Her twin sister has autism and is on a strict diet, which Rudi's bread is part of. Please vote for her design. You can vote once per day… she's 53rd out of 15,000 as of yesterday. Thanks in advance!
    It's the entry titled Benschoter.


  28. Jen says

    Feel free to delete this, Carrie or Laura if it's not allowed, but I created a FB group dedicated to FINALLY bringing a Trader Joe's south of the river in the South Metro! =)

    The closest Trader Joe's we have now is on Randolph in Saint Paul, and the new one opening at France and 494 will technically be closer if you're not fighting traffic on 35W and 494.

    So….more of as a fun way to see how many people are interested (and *maybe* spark some more discussion with Trader Joe's) I created a FB group called "Bring Trader Joe's South of the River Twin Cities" and would love it if anyone who lives down here in the Eagan, Burnsville, Apple Valley, Lakeville, Savage, Prior Lake are will join if they are so inclined. =)

    To make it fun, I set a goal of 100 "likes" by July 31st and will randomly give away a $10 Trader Joe's gift card (I assume they have them…..I suppose I should check on that….either way the winner will get a $10 to somewhere local like Rainbow, Target or Trader Joe's…..maybe the winner's choice?) to one "liker".

    If you'd like to help us get a Trader Joe's down here, you can visit and like us at:

    Please "share" the post about the contest if you can on your wall to help us get to 100+ likes by July 31st. I thought it would be a fun way to spark some interest. Will it work? Will we get our much-loved Trader Joe's down here? Who knows, but we'll have fun trying!

    Thanks PYD'ers!

    • Jen says

      BTW, anyone can come over and "like" and have a chance to win. You don't have to live in the South Metro. =)

  29. Brenda says

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a good, yet inexpensive stump removal company?

    I 'd like to remove a small stump from a dead evergreen tree that we cut down last year. Trunk is only about 6 inches in diameter. I would like it out asap, so we can move forward with planting a new tree there.

  30. scat says

    Brenda — some pines have very short stumps. I found that out when I cut down about a 7 foot juniper. We dug the stump out with a pitchfork. There is also a chemical stump remover that you can get at most any good sized nursery. You drill a hole down the middle of the stump and pour this granular chemical into the hole. Eventually the stump becomes dead and weak enough you can just pull it out.

  31. kris t. says

    Yes!! I'd love one in Eagan. I heard a rumor we'd be getting one near the intersection of Pilot Knob/Yankee Doodle..

  32. says

    I would LOVE to use YNAB, but after 8 years of entering every. single. expense we've had into a spreadsheet I just can't keep up any more and want that part automated. I know that YNAB thinks you need to enter the expenses in order to stay better connected to your money, but it's a turn off for me. If they had a auto import and attempt to categorize, then it is my DREAM solution for personal financial management.

  33. Shelly says

    Good luck, Jen! We live near the original Trader Joes (Excelsior and Grand by SLP/Mpls border), and now I cannot imagine not having one nearby. I just ran in there today for 3 quick things which I wouldn't do if I had to drive a distance. Great, great store!

  34. says

    It's been a while since I've used it (need to start up again!) but I think you can download the transactions from your bank and then it will categorize (although it's not auto-import). Mint doesn't support my credit union which is where we primarily bank so I don't use it.

  35. Flannel Guy says


    The problem might be finding a portable….my store sold out long ago. On the other hand, there **are** units designed for slider/casement windows.

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