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More Latte for less Loote!

Our son-in-law, Collin is a college student and works part time at QuikTrip (QT) gas stations / convenience mart. QT operates about 700 stores across the country. As a working college student, and a new member of our MoneySmart Family, he is always looking for ways to save money.

He recently shared this tip for those of you who love to have your morning jolt of Java or flavored coffee.

If you go into a QT and bring your own cup (smaller than 54 ounces) you can get a refill for 86 cents! If you’re looking to build savings through David Bach’s “Latte Factor” you don’t have to give it up whole-hog. You can merely change where you get your coffee from and bank the savings. If you’re normally buying a Starbucks coffee for $5 per day, changing to QT could save you around $20 each week or $1000 each year (based on a 50 week work year).

This money-saving strategy works for all of their fountain drinks, no just coffee.

Sometimes a change of thinking, convenience or location can end up saving a whole lot of change!

Grocery, groceries, prices, price, food, shopping, shop, grocer, veggies, staples, vegetables, budget, frys, vons, fry's, smiths, albertsons, safeway, walmart, wal-mart

Surviving Grocery Sticker Shock!

Leigh from Burlington NC asked about changes to our grocery budget.

Question: I have all three of your books, and in it you say that your grocery budget is around $350 per month. In recent interviews I have heard you all say that your budget has increased to $390 per month due to food costs. Would you mind detailing some of these changes in your budget?

Answer: When we walk into the grocery store these days, we're hit by Grocery Sticker Shock! It's hard to believe how expensive things are getting.

Our grocery budget when all five kids were at home was was $350 per month for many years. 

The interview you heard was broadcast last year (2014). With food prices increasing and five adults in the house (two in college and one graduated, plus Steve & Annette) our budget had to change a little—it amounted to an 11% increase in the last 10 years. 

What hasn't changed is the way we manage money / our budgeting system—saving a pre-determined amount of money from each paycheck for specific “budget accounts” within one checking account. You can read more about the system in our first book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money.

In 2014 we raised the amount of money we allocated to our food account by $40 per month (to $390) due to the increase in the cost of many items. But honestly most of the other items in the grocery store have increased by 10 to 30 percent over the past 4 years. And those things that have stayed the same price have been made smaller — ice cream for example.

But this year with just three of us at home (Abbey married Collin and Joe married Sarah last year) we've scaled back our food budget - we're now setting aside $300 per month.When we walk into the grocery store these days, we're hit by Grocery Sticker Shock! It's hard to believe how expensive things are getting. What grocery item price has left you with sticker shock?

We’ve also gone to doing an intermediate shopping trip (in the middle of the month) to supplement our “big shopping trip” at the end of each month because of a decision to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

We’re still using coupons when we have time, doing Ad Match at Walmart (when we don’t have time for coupons) to get the best loss leader prices. We’re still stocking up on storable / freezable food when it hits a rock bottom price (recently cherries were 99¢ a pound here and we bought about 10 pounds and froze them). We also found a killer deal on Top Round for $1.33 per pound – bulk cut – and we bought about 40 pounds of it.

Our strategies and methods have remained the same, we've adjusted our budget and our shopping strategies to deal with higher food costs. Welcome to a recovered economy! Sigh!

What grocery item price has left you with sticker shock?

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Smarter, Smart Phone Buys


This is a comment about your Free MoneySmart Family Email newsletter. You had a brief article about T-Mobile and their monthly plans without contracts.  BUT, what do you do about buying a phone? New phones cost a lot of money. Some cost as much as $400 to $800. That is way out of our price range. Our family has used Go Phones for the past 6 years, but we need to upgrade. The T-Mobile family plan looks great, but how does one afford a phone?


We’ve purchased several great condition, used cell phones from private sellers on eBay, paying anywhere from $45 to $180 depending on the type of phone we wanted. You could also check out CraigsList or talk to friends who are upgrading and offer to buy their old phones. Taking time to research various phones and their features, limitations and user reviews will help you make a better decision. When we finally switched to a prepaid plan the cost of the “new” phone we purchased on eBay was recovered in about 5 months. 

When researching a phone we consider the following features:

  • Screen size
  • Processor Speed
  • Camera Resolution
  • Operating System
  • Front / Rear view camera
  • Storage capacity
  • Price
  • Age (no more than 2 or 3 years old)Reader Question: How can I save money when buying a cell phone? They're very expensive.
  • Reviews from bloggers about problems associated with the particular model.
  • Cost for replacement parts / batteries / backs / cases / charging cords 

Sources for Purchasing Used Phones

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Crushing College Debt for Everyone

Most of our kids never borrowed any money for college. It was sometimes hard to watch, but thrilling to see them work out their financial situations. Because of the excitement we experienced with our kids, the following question was really sad for us to receive and answer. But, the situation isn't hopeless. Keep reading.

Question: Do you have suggestions for my son who has accrued college debt of close to $90,000? He is paying for most of his loans, but we also took out a ParentPLUS loan. We know that was a big mistake but it’s done now and we have a loan that we can’t pay. Is there help for us?

Answer: Our hearts go out to you. There are hundreds of thousands of parents who have done the same thing – taken out a loan for their kids, thinking they were helping. Your heart is so big and generous, but like many, you’re feeling the delayed consequences of borrowing money you really couldn’t afford. We recommend a two-pronged approach:

1)    Your Son – He should shoulder ALL of the responsibility for repaying his student loans–not you. No matter what you’ve talked about in the past. If he got a degree that cost $90,000 he should have a decent job, so let him scrimp and save (like you probably did) for a few years and pay that loan off in record time. Perhaps he could get a job where loan forgiveness is part of the compensation package. Read this article at (a great resource for help with mountains of debt) or he could enlist in the military where they would pay off much of his loan balances. 

Here is a list of a few of the Loan Forgiveness Resources we know of:

a.     Teacher Forgiveness Program Up tot $17500 for Stafford and entire Perkins

b.     Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) – full time job with: a federal, state or local government agency; at a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit; in the military; or in an AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position.

2)    Get Help — Since the Parent PLUS loans are crushing you, get help from Money Management International. They may not be able to get the loan forgiven, but they can help you manage your own finances better so you can survive. The have a special program that focuses on Student Loan issues.Reader question: Do you have suggestions for my son who has accrued college debt of close to $90,000?

As you dig your way out of this situation, you’ll gain more resolve to manage what you do have so that you’ll never borrow again.

You’re going to make it.

It won’t be easy, but it will be good!

And you’ll be so much stronger and smarter when it’s all paid off that you’ll be able to help others avoid the same pit of despair.

Do you have any other suggestions for these parents? Read More...

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Freezer Burn on My Bread Costs Me Dough!

Using a freezer to stock up on discounted food and preserving the sale price for months to come is one of our top money-saving strategies. But if you aren't careful, your savings can leave a bad taste in your mouth! 

Diane from Ukiah, CA asked about Freezing Bread.

Question: Some of my store bought loaves of bread get freezer burned on the outside! I wrap them individually in plastic bags before freezing but I saw on one of your videos that you freeze your bread in a brown paper bag. Do you put them in plastic bags first, then store them in the paper bag before freezing?

I store the bread on one side of my upright freezer— should they be put into the middle so the sides of the bread aren't near the side of the freezer?  

MoneySaving Tip: Freezing Bread without getting Freezer Burn. I would never have purchased a freezer without having read Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half! It's a real saver.

Answer: Diane, the paper grocery bags are used to group similar items in the freezer—see the diagram in Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half page 186. The paper bags don’t protect from freezer burn. You're doing the right thing by double bagging your bread in a plastic grocery bag. Just try to get all of the air out before tying the bag closed.

Whole wheat bread freezes fine, if put in a plastic bag and stored for a couple of weeks.

White bread doesn’t freeze well and becomes mushy when defrosting (due to the accumulation of frost insided the bag and the lighter nature of the bread). You can put a paper towel in with the bread as it’s defrosting to absorb moisture and that should help.

Your freezer burn problem more likely the result of having a frost-free freezer and leaving the bread in there too long. Most upright freezers are frost-free, which means they will dehydrate food because of a fan that constantly circulates air to prevent frost build-up. This same fan can cause food to dry out if it’s left in the freezer for too long. Where you place the bread in your freezer should not matter. 

We recommend using a Non-Frost-Free freezer for preserving food better. But if you have a frost-free freezer, just be sure to packgage your food in better, air-tight packaging and it should be just fine.

Used correctly, a freezer can save you a lot of dough (cooked or uncooked!)


Here is a link to Amazon's listing of chest freezers (our preferred type). Prices range from $170 to $499 — with an Amazon Prime membership, shipping is free.

Full disclosure: This page does contain links to affiliates who Read More...


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