Open Mic 12/27/12

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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. Mags says

    Coat cleaning question. Have long-length winter wool coat with fur around hood. Hand lotion spilled on the coat. Does anyone know of a way to clean that. Have not tried anything. Thought dry cleaning would be expensive due to the fur around the hood. Thank you.

  2. Jen says

    With all of the talk of the looming "fiscal cliff" what are you planning to do differently, if anything, to make up for any losses in your income if taxes go up?

    I'm curious if anyone has any specific plans? My husband and I just started talking about what we might do yesterday. Apparently middle-income families, $50,000-$75,000 or so, will see a tax increase of about $2400 a year if a deal isn't made soon.

    FYI, this comment isn't intended to start a political debate, just to talk about what families are going to do IF it happens. I'm not interested in talking about blame, etc….wanting to just have a constructive brainstorming thread.

    • Heather says

      I have thought about this too. I am considering going to a cash only budget. Envelopes with money budgeted for each week. When it is gone it is gone.

      • sarah says

        For us a double whammy because we can no longer put more than $2400 in our pre tax medical account, plus the increase in taxes. I think I'll just wait and see what the change in the paycheck is before I do anything. But I do budget each month and so will have to budget less in the flexible categories. I also have somewhat of a stockpile built up and will depend on that for a while.

    • Crystal says

      Just budgeting for it. If we don't have the extra that will mean fewer meals out, more conscious spending than we already do, less of an entertainment budget, etc.

      • Jen says

        I think our entertainment budget will take a hit too. I may have to call Comcast and see what we can do about our channel package. I've tried to reduce the channels and I'm always told that if I do that, I'll actually pay more than the deal we have now and have fewer channels. But it seems every month, that bill creeps up by a few cents here and there.

        We may have to give Comcast a mini-heart attack and cancel our television for a few months so they can woo us back (12+ year customers). We have Amazon Prime and Netflix already so we wouldn't go dark here, but our location in the metro is pretty far from the antennas for the major TV stations. We may have to restart our Hulu plus account in that case. Still, with those three services, we'd pay less than we do now. Hard to give up indoor entertainment in the middle of winter though. :(

        • Janna says

          Jen, if you have Amazon Prime & Netflix, consider the Comcast level where you get just the local channels + a few extras for around $10. I think it's called "Limited Basic". Seems the reps won't mention it as an option unless you ask – I found out about it by reading the yearly rate sheet that came in my bill.

          Dropping the the digital triple play package & DVR and instead getting Limited Basic plus the same internet & phone service levels that I had with triple play reduced my Comcast bill by $100/month. Even after adding the cost of an Xbox Live membership + Netflix + paying to stream a single current episode of a TV show from Amazon occasionally, still saving over $80/month.

    • ShannonS says

      We are not sure, totally, what we will do.

      Here are a few ideas we have tossed around:

      Turning down the heat more (even when we are here)

      Conserving on errands/trips going only when we can do two things at once

      Canceling a gym membership — this is one that we may just change to another gym.

      Changing Netflix subscription

      Barter with friends/neighbors for services.

      Try and find a way to avoid daycare totally (it's a pipe dream and may not be easily doable, but in the summer that would save us $250 a week).

  3. Sally says

    All the cleaning, wrapping, shopping, baking, cooking , did I mention wrapping ( almost 100 gifts ), all the sore feet, hands, back, all the money and it all comes down to (1) trip to the recycle bin. (Insert picture here of wrapping paper) and it's all over til 2013. But it was all worth it. Happy New Year everyone.

  4. Lori says

    I need to get organized and start using more coupons. Need suggestions on organizing coupons so they are easier to find…I welcome all suggestions!!

  5. Christine says

    I'm looking for a vacation idea. My hubby and I have reached our 5 year anniversary, and we would like to take a 4-5 day vacation somewhere. We really wanted to go to Europe, but we don't have that much money saved up. Our anniversary is in April, and we would like to travel over our anniversary. We have been to San Diego, Las Vegas, Mexico, and Jamaica already, so we want somewhere different. We have also ruled out New York City, New Orleans, and Washington DC. We are hoping to keep air, car, and hotel under $1500. Any thoughts? We are in our 20's and we are foodies.

    • RHONDA says

      Miami Beach/South Beach area is nice for varieties of food, I would not suggest staying in South Beach as it's expensive, but if you can find a reasonable condo to rent it's a very fun area and the beach is always fun.

      • AS says

        We love San Francisco and Napa Valley/Sonoma. Its our favorite kidless vacation spot! Fly into either San Fran or Sacremento.

        • sarah says

          Try Texas. The food is amazing and Austin is a great music destination. You can get flights out there for around $200 and its warm,

        • Heather says

          My thought would be the russion river valley. Korbel is there along with a ton of wineries great resturants, and some great out door activites.

        • Heather says

          My thought would be the russian river valley. Korbel is there along with a ton of wineries great resturants, and some great out door activites.

    • Jen says

      If you want a shorter travel time and you don't mind the weather being similar to here, I'd try Chicago. There are some amazing restaurants Downtown and the Northern Suburbs have some beautiful B & B's near Lake Michigan.

      When you mentioned being a foodie, I immediately thought of Napa or San Fran. Not sure about the costs out there in April, but Napa is on my list of places to visit. Congrats on your anniversary!

      • Darrick says

        If you haven't been to the mountains before Colorado is beautiful, I'm not sure what the weather is like in April though. Savannah, GA was also a fun town to visit.

        Since you don't have a specific spot in mind check out Living Social/Groupon for the escape/travel deals and see if anything catches your eye, sometimes they have some awesome deals.

    • Mary says

      Hubby and I went to San Francisco for our tenth. We had an awesome time and there is is much to see and do, not to mention the sourdough!

    • Melissa F says

      My hubby and I just had our 5 year in May and we did a 5 day/4 night vacay in Chicago. It was awesome. We spent about $1000. I bought a couple groupons for a hotel in downtown. We walked everywhere or took a cab a few times. We bought a gold star saving pass to get into all the museums and tours. It was a very affordable time. Would highly recommend.

  6. AS says

    Looking for a place other than Whole Foods that is more reasonable for gluten, dairy, soy & peanut free products. Any suggestions would be great. I live in the west metro.

    • Christine says

      My hubby is trying gluten free for a month, and we bought some things at Trader Joes. For pasta, we switched to Rice noodles. You can get those at an Oriental Market. We usually go to United Noodle.

    • Jen says

      I was surprised, but Target has some of the best deals on these things but they are hidden among the other items. Target has gluten-free pancake mix, cereal, frozen meals, and pasta. they carry Tinkyada pasta products at a great price, although I did find a better deal on Vitacost when I had a coupon. Amazon is also great.

      We did gluten and dairy free for a few months for my son who has autism. We still do some dairy free things. We drink rice milk and the best price is Costco's Kirkland brand for organic rice milk in a case of 12 cartons. It's just a bit over $1 a carton which is awesome! It's also gluten-free which, surprisingly, some rice milk is not.

      I'd check Target before you try a specialty store, especially if you already shop there for other things and especially-especially if you have the RedCard so you can save an instant 5% off the top. I have the RedCard debit card and we've saved literally hundreds this year and the prices were better than our co-op for most things. Made a big difference when we were buying more expensive items like Amy's brand frozen foods for example.

      Amazon was great once we knew what we liked because we could buy it by the case and have it shipped on "Subscribe and Save" in any interval we wanted and could save a certain percentage and get free shipping. Our local co-op was good for the occasional item that Target didn't carry, like Amy's gluten free AND dairy-free macaroni and cheese that my son had to have. Target carries the gluten-free frozen mac and cheese but not the GFDF one. But many regular foods are already gluten and/or dairy free. It's just a matter of narrowing those down to a list of trusted brands and filling in with the oddball foods that you need from specific places. That's why I tried Target first so that I wasn't driving all over town. Check the top shelves and bottom shelves in each section at Target. Gluten-free stuff will very rarely be at eye-level or middle. Target's baking aisle has TONS of options: GF baking mixes, Betty Crocker stuff, flour alternatives, pancake mixes, etc…

      Good luck! It's not as hard or as expensive once you get used to it and know where to buy which things.

      • Jen says

        Replying to myself to mention that if you wanted to get a good deal on GF foods, our pasta came from Vitacost (as I mentioned above) and they are having a year-end clearance sale. Not sure if GF things are included, but I just opened the email after I replied to you. If you're new to Vitacost, you can get $10 off if you are referred by a customer. Carrie, feel free to delete if you want but I'd like to share the $10 with the commenter: . Full-disclosure, I get $10 too if you buy but that's how I originally saved so much on my main order of pasta (that lasted us for months) when I used someone's link from here too. Just wanted to mention that it's a way to cut that cost a bit if you're getting sticker shock from GF stuff like I was at the time. Good luck to you!

    • Crystal says

      I have dairy, egg and gluten allergies. I watch the coop ads and stock up when a product I like is on sale….like hemp milk for $2.99 till New Years. Some products you just can't buy online so I still utilize the coop quite a bit for my cold stuff. You said no soy but I did notice that the dollar tree has shelf soy milk. Here are my favorite places to buy my allergy free foods though…

      Vitacost – this is the one I use most. You need to know your prices though for products to make sure you're getting a good deal compared to other stores.

      Amazon – I didn't utilize this untili figured out which products I liked. Now I use it most for pasta but also for bread mix and crackers.

      Coop- like I said, watch the sales. Also Lakewinds in Minnetonka and Chanhassen do a "Gluten Free" round up once a year in April. I went last year and there are free tasting /sample spots with most of those products on sale or vendors will give you coupons when you sample.

      Some local stores: Rainbow has some bread I like and there are frequently coupons to print online so I use that with double coupons for a good deal. Target has many things at decent prices without having to wait for a sale. Vans waffles for $2.99 or Ian's chicken nuggets/fish sticks for $4.99….both of these are a treat for me. I've learned to use flours, etc to make my own stuff now versus expensive mixes. Cub also usually has a few things but prices aren't that great unless you can find stuff marked down….I've made it a habit to look each time. I know Walmart has decent prices on dairy free ice cream, earth balance and the bread mix I like all the time but they still don't beat just watching the coop for a sale. The coop takes coupons too so that helps! You can also get monthly discounts if you are a member. I've thought about becoming one but haven't yet. Hope that helps! I agree it can be tricky. Ultimately though you can cook food without allergies just fine but its those wheat like products like pasta and breads or dairy free cheeses that are going to drive up costs. My family decided the happiness we get from that stuff though is worth it versus missing or being sad about not being able to have something.

    • Melissa F says

      A coworker of mine, her husband needs gluten free and she has found really good prices at Wal-Mart, and a pretty good selection.

  7. ShannonS says

    It's a long shot, but I am looking for a WORKING iPod Nano 5th Generation. This is for a 9 year old who really wants an MP3 player, one he can pick his songs from. I don't want to buy a new one, as well he's 9. I have tried Craigslist but have not had much luck.

    • j.m. says

      I bought my oldest son his first iPod at Pawn America. I did this after X-mas for the best slection from all the people that maybe have recieved a new one for X-mas. This was about 8 years ago and iPods where just becoming more popular. He had it for over 3 years and finally the battery just died. I think we had to bring it to the apple store one time for something? Where they fixed it for free. I thought this was a good option to buying new. If you have something of value you can bring it in and get $ towards your purchase. Keep in mind they don't give much $ for trade ins, but if you are in a pinch it helps the botton line a bit.

    • wtfci says

      Not an Ipod, but better. Radioshack will sell you a HTC One V prepaid cell phone for $50. You don't have to activate the phone. It will work as a wifi device, camera, video recorder and MP3 player.

      • ShannonS says

        Thank you for the suggestions. I may try a pawn shop or two tomorrow (we do not live near any so that's harder). I will also try Craigslist and see what happens. Thank you for your help. Would the HTC one use iTunes? I am trying to avoid loading music using another method, also don't want/ need wifi for him (he would disagree).

  8. Jessica says

    Is there going to be a new Rainbow Foods list? It was double coupon day at Rainbow yesterday and I felt like I was going in to battle with an unloaded gun because there was no list to go off of. I didn't realize how important this website has become in my life.

  9. Kristina says

    Cub has their Glade and Febreeze holiday scents air fresheners and candles on clearance. Just got 3 Febreeze air effects, 1 Glade air freshener, 4 scented oil plugins, a plugins starter kit with 2 oil refills, and 2 pkgs of scented oil candles for $4.13! I used a $3 off of 3 Febreeze products coupon (they were $0.82 ea, so I got them for free) and various Glade coupons (most were $1 off). There was a display by the holiday clearance and some in the cleaning products aisle. This was a much better deal than Target right now. This was the Cub in Savage. Happy shopping!

  10. Merry says

    Looking for low-cost veterinary care for my pooch. Adopted him in July from the Minneapolis pound. He is an eight-year-old Jack Russell. His breath is AWFUL, I'm sure he needs a teeth cleaning. Checked with a couple local vets and its pretty expensive—up to $750! Is there a school or training center that might provide this service for less?? I live in the Payne/Phalen area.

    • A says

      When I've priced vet services the price decreased the farther I traveled from the metro area. If you're interested in driving you could check with vets outside of the suburbs. Good Luck!

    • Aga says

      U of MN vet school should still offer this (they did when a friend went through a few yrs back). Sorry I don't know more details but checking into the vet schools website should give you contact info to find out more.

    • Christine says

      South St Paul Animal Hospital – I started using them about 2 years ago and love the service I get, plus they are really cost effective. I used to bring my cats up north when I went to visit my parents, but one cat gets motion sickness after being in the car for 4 hours, so we had to find someone local.

    • Melissa F says

      I would look outside the metro. My sister in law is a vet tech at the Big Lake vet and they are always about 30-40% less than the metro vets here. We have a cat so for her yearly routine stuff we just stay local but when we had her teeth cleaned or other procedures, we make the 45 min drive out there to save a couple hundred bucks.

  11. RHONDA says

    Don't clip them out, leave them in the inserts they come in, then come to sites like this one and they will reference which inserts to look in for the coupons to match up with deals

  12. Jenell says

    I noticed that too. Looks like Rainbow is doing a Tuesday to Wednesday ad now….a little strange.

    Also anyone out there south of the river no longer getting the Rainbow ad in their StarTribune home delivery? I am in New Market and it appears that Rainbow has pulled their ad for our zip code….such a bummer because I am a loyal weekly shopper there & will now have to use online only.

  13. Jan says

    Just a clarification. The new Health Care Reform contribution limit on flexible spending accounts is $2500 (although employers may limit this even more). You can also reduce your gross income by increasing your contributing to a traditional IRA or your 401k. If you have a high deductible medical plan, you can put funds into an HSA account.

    • sarah says

      Putting funds in a IRA or 401K does not help with the medical expenses part of the equation. That is more of a concern than the reducing taxes. And don't have a HSA only the FSA -so like I said double whammy.

  14. mary says

    Hi all! wondering when the best clearance deals are for Christmas items? Like at Target or World Mkt, Pier One, Michaels? Anyone have tips on best items to stock up on, etc? TIA!

    • Jennifer says

      I have been looking for mainly ornaments – the best place I found was the Target in Woodbury (Valley Creek). Kohls in Cottage Grove had some, but the one in Woodbury was pretty picked over. I haven't been to Pier One this year yet but last year, I got some deals on wrapping paper that was pretty enough to use for birthdays too.

  15. Pam says

    Wondering if someone can recommend what type of case to purchase for an iphone 4 and where to get a good price on one? Thanks!

  16. Anom says

    Consider buying a Roku and then purchasing PlayOn – we cut our Dish/Cable bill completely and now have more choices of things to watch on TV whenever we want. Obviously we still pay for internet service but I even found a free DVR service.

  17. Sally says

    My Grandson is going to Mexico for spring break. I was wondering if anyone of a site that I can print the $ conversion for him?

  18. AJM says

    If you want the "feel" of being in Europe you should consider Montreal and Quebec City. VERY awesome cities with a euro-vibe.

  19. tag says

    Um, we live 45 min. from the Cities and get 20 channels via indoor "rabbit ear" ANTENNA. $0/mo. I wonder what you folks so close to the big towers would get.

  20. tag says

    i second Rhonda AND my daughter found a Q binder at Walmart that works for the loose Qs I come across. The two together really organize my savings efforts.

  21. Kris says

    Happy New Year Everyone!

    I am looking to organize my workshop and would like to get a bunch of plastic bins with lids to do this. I am looking mainly for bins that are about the size of an empty copy/printer paper box or a little smaller. (Actually, I could just use those boxes if anyone knows of anyone getting rid of some)

    Does anyone know where to get these bins cheap or on sale? I would also need a few larger and a few smaller bins.

    Or I could use some drawer cabinets as well if anyone has any cheap sources.


  22. John says

    Ok here is a tip I am sure someone already posted it here but in case is new here it goes.

    Every $5 dollar bill that falls in my hand it goes to my coin box that is stored in the freezer. LOL yes the freezer. Then at the end of the quarter i go to the bank and deposit the cash to my savings account. The end of the quarter is today so far i have 200 dollars in that box, so on Wed the money goes to my bank account.

    Happy New Year!


  23. Christine says

    Depending on where he is going in Mexico he may not need it. If he's going to the more touristy areas they take American currency. Otherwise a quick Google search should be able to get you today's exchange rate. Just put that into Excel and let that do the work. Currency rates do change daily, so let him know it is a guideline.

  24. Jennifer says

    I have heard some talk of " gift card weekend" but cant really find what deals you might get. They say you can get discounts when you use your gift card at select locations. Anybody know any details?

  25. Bonnie says

    I have been looking for an affordable loft bed for my 6 year old, to give her more play space. I don't want to spend a lot, because she will probably only use it for a few years. I am amazed at the prices people are asking on craigslist. The IKEA one looks ok, although I would prefer wood. Does anyone have a good source for these beds?

    • wtfci says

      For what it's worth, I owned the metal frame Ikea loft bed in the full size. It worked just fine for my 170lb size at the time. It had a little wobble, but you can always attach it to the wall if you want to reinforce it.

  26. linda says

    Mary, I have one of the $5/2 target q's…i didnt see the Fancy Feast q in that insert, is it somewhere else? Im just walking out the door so i wont have time to email you now but wanted to let you know i have at least 1 q for you.

    • John says

      The best deal for an oil change is DIY = Do it yourself. However if you don't have the skill or boyfriend or hubby to do it you can check Valvoline. Discount Tire is excellent for tires.

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