Monday, April 28, 2008

Science Center and BBQ

On Saturday, we took the kids to the Orange County Discovery Science Center to see the Clifford exhibit which, naturally, although that's what they'd requested to see, they liked the least. They enjoyed the Dino Quest area and all the other cool science experiments like the pulleys, the tornado, etc. We were able to save some money by using our AAA membership for the admission price. We've been working on their table manners/restaurant manners so we went to Denny's for breakfast to start the day and they were remarkably well-behaved. We took our lunch with us so that was a good savings since the other option was Taco Bell or Pizza Hut in the center. Afterward, we had an early dinner at Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ which was not a frugal meal by any means. Sandwiches start around $9 or $10 and most are $12. Most entrees start at $12. DH and I split the BBQ Porch Platter with 3 types of BBQ meat and two sides for $25. The boys split a kids' meal. We all had drinks and dessert and DH bought two bottles of BBQ sauce, $4 each. I should be happy it ended up just under $70. However, by this time, the kids' behavior had deteriorated to a large degree so it was not a pleasant, relaxed meal like in the morning. So, while I'd say that $20 for breakfast, $35 for admission to the Discover Center and $70 for dinner is pricey, it's still far less than a day at Disneyland or Legoland!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are we the richest country on earth?

Per capita, Americans make the most money per year than any other country in the world. But, we have a very low savings rate and we borrow money from credit card companies, mortgage companies, and banks to maintain our lifestyle. So, where does that leave us? I don't know enough to write a treatise on the subject but it seems to me that if we're constantly leveraging our assets to create a cash flow to keep up with the Joneses, that this is not a sound principle. Gone are the days when people aspired to own their own homes free and clear although there are some good arguments to be made for the advantages of using the tax-break for mortgages. Also, there are other ways to gauge wealth and riches. Are Americans healthy and happy? Do we find spiritual fulfillment? So, I don't know that we are but it seems to me that we should all take stock of where we are in all areas of our lives to find a balance. And, in the midst of personal decisions, the government is creating an inflationary situation which never helps. So, perhaps we are the richest country in the world still but I think that on a personal and institutional level this question is worth considering.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Getting on the Green Bandwagon

If you're interested in saving the environment along with your money, there are numerous websites that can help you in your goals. Try Tech Forward if you want money back for your tech purchases. Choose your product from their list, pay the fee and they'll guarantee a buy-back price for you and they'll provide packaging and then recycle or resell it. A new magazine and website, AllGreen or contains articles on living a green life in all areas. We know that green has caught on in this country when there are reality TV shows and an entire channel devoted to the topic!

If you're interested in investing in green stocks, you could consider the New Alternatives fund or the Spectra Green fund. Both had returns of over 25% in 2007. Keep your eye on them!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Get the Scoop! (The Free One that Is!)

From my SIL, a Frugal Queen...!

Free cone day is coming to Ben & Jerry’s on Tuesday, April 29th from noon – 8 p.m. Yes, it’s a free single scoop cone, any flavor! (Note on the pic below that the date is for LAST YEAR so don't go on April 17!)

And the following day:

Visit Baskin-Robbins® on Wednesday, April 30th from 5 – 10 p.m for 31 cent scoop night
and help us honor America’s firefighters. Participating stores will reduce prices of small ice
cream scoop to 31 cents. At some locations, you may also have an opportunity to make a donation
to your local fire charities.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fun Day Trip to San Pedro - Free, Almost Free, and Not Free!

A special thanks to Nicole Radoumis who wrote this post below on Peachhead:

There are several places in San Pedro I used to take my kids when they were
little. Most are free or cost VERY LITTLE!!!

The Cabrillo Aquarium _www.cabrilloaq.org_ ( is
very nice and has a wonderful touch tank. From there you can hang out on the
beach for a while and have a nice picnic.

Not too far from there is the Maritime Museum. _www.lamaritimemuseum.org_
It has replicas of many battleships and passenger ships throughout history.
The docks are right there and huge boats dock. The kids loved to see them
up close.

Right across the parking lot from the Maritime Museum is the San Pedro Port
of LA Red Car Line Trolly. _www.railwaypreservation.com_
( This is the old railway that used to connect to the
trolly/trains running from LA to the Harbor back in the 40's and 50's. It's only
$1 per person and the kids get a fun little coloring book!!! the trolly
/train only runs Fri/Sat/Sun....

From there, you can go to Ports O Call Village
_www.parkhurstartgalleries.com_ (
and walk around the little shops. There is a little ice cream shop the kids
loved. There is also Fisherman's Wharf where you can go on Friday or
Saturday nights during the summer and get a wonderful lobster, shrimp or other fish
dinner pretty cheap. (Ok, it's not the BEST lobster in town, but it is fun)
The meal is huge so beware - one meal can feed a couple kids! You pick out
your fish item and they cook it up for you. They add some potatoes and
veggies and pour it out on a tray - fun stuff and VERY messy! My kids used to
love this place.

Another fun place in San Pedro is the Marine Mammal Rescue Center
_www.marinemammalcenter.org_ ( it is free to the
public and you can see the animals, take a quick tour and watch feeding times!!!

Right next to the Marine Mammal Rescue Center is Fort MacArthur museum and
Osgood Battery. (Walking distance) _
( You can walk through the old armory battery and take a tour with a
guide talking about San Pedro during WW2. Very interesting stuff. Kids have a
lot of room to run around and get to see things that might spark their
interest (Especially school age kids!)

Not too far from Fort MacArthur is Angels Gate Park with the Korean Bell of
Friendship and Pagoda. _
( This is one of the
most beautiful parks overlooking the ocean. You can even do whale watching
from this high vantage point, or just have a nice picnic and fly some kites
(or watch others fly theirs!!!)

Last but certainly not least..... Schedule in advance a reservation for
Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro _www.papadakistaverna.com_
( . Very Fun Greek Restaurant walking distance from the Maritime
Museum. Tell them that Nicole RADOUMIS sent you (the magic word is Radoumis...)
they know my family well and will treat you very well!!!

Have fun!!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Both a Borrower and a Lender Be!

More and more we're hearing about peer-to-peer lending networks. It seems to me that these networks will become increasingly more important in the days ahead.

Through various blogs and magazines, these three networks have caught my attention:

I hope to become a lender and a borrower through one or more of these in the near future. I love the idea helping someone out. I like win-win situations. If I can lend money at 10-15% to someone who's paying 20% or more on credit card debt, then benefits both of us. Also, these networks allow you to lend small amounts as well as large. And, I might want to borrow in the future for a franchise idea that I'm considering. I've signed up for using my oldest son's savings account in the hope that I'll be able to get a better return on his money than his current <1% interest! It takes a day or two for the process to get started so I'm still waiting to officially become a member. I've enjoyed looking through the lists--the majority are for debt consolidation but there's a diversity of requests-business loans, remodeling, honeymoons, etc.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Smackdowns at Jellyfish!

I couldn't resist the heading, which I created by myself by the way. I have lifted this blog post wholesale off written by Erica Douglass who temporarily "retired" since she became a millionaire before age 30 but she's now out of retirement. Anyway, here it is, from November 2006:

(I have not verified accuracy or credibility of info below.)

Like many of you, I use Froogle to search for prices. Unfortunately, this means Google has made a ton of money from me. I knew about this, and had previously made a habit of just searching through Froogle and then going to the website I wanted directly instead of “clicking through” on Froogle. But that’s a pain in the butt, and doesn’t really help me that much.

Enter Jellyfish. Like Froogle, they take a cut every time you buy from online retailers. Unlike Froogle, instead of buying Googlers more free food, you get the cash (well, they split it with you, but it’s still better than pumping up GOOG a few more cents.) They have the same set of retailers Froogle does, including,, Barnes & Noble, and other places you already shop. With every purchase you make through Jellyfish, you get cash back. Combined with already-good free shipping offers through most retailers, this is an excellent way to save a lot of money this holiday season and not have to deal with ridiculous lines and lack of parking at malls and brick-and-mortar stores.

Jellyfish also has their “Smack of the Day”, which gives you the opportunity to get first-run items at discount prices. Basically, it’s a reverse auction. You agree to buy the item for the full price from one of their retailers, and the amount of cash back you get increases every minute until they sell out of items. The Smacks start at 10AM PST/1PM EST every day. Apparently this Friday they’re doing “Smack Friday” and they’ll put up a new product every two hours. That is also worth checking out. I’ve already earned $54 of cash back by using Jellyfish. Screw you, Froogle!

I also use to get good deals on discontinued or overstock items. Woot is an interesting site — they only sell one item per day, and the item goes up at 10PM PST/1AM EST and lasts until it sells out. Occasionally they will do a “Woot-Off”, where they sell 1 product continuously until it sells out, then put up another product… I got several Christmas gifts on the last (48-hour-long) Woot-Off.

Disclaimer: The Jellyfish links above put me ( as your referrer. I don’t put ads on this blog and have never made a dime off of it, and I think Jellyfish is neat. Woot doesn’t do referrals, but I also think it is neat, so I threw it in there as well. I ask that you keep the referral there if you enjoy reading my blog; it doesn’t change your amount of cash back, but it gives me a little something to buy Christmas gifts with. Go buy your Christmas gifts on Jellyfish too, and you can have a little something for yourself as well. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Success, frugality and other questions to ponder

I've been reading a book called Raising Lifelong Learners which basically asserts the idea that parents should encourage the magic of learning--during playtime, at school, while doing household chores, etc. It's a wonderful book brimming with super ideas. I'll post more on this later.

In the meantime, family is still in town and we're swamped at the office and I'm over-committed on all sorts of committees and groups, whether it be for business, at my son's school, at church, or something else so I'm feeling overwhelmed. I need to take some time to consider what my priorities are, including this blog. One of the issues I'm contemplating right now about my blog is its title. To some extent "frugal", to me, means a life of denial and that's not always so fun. Also, to be successful in business, one needs to think big, to imagine the possibilities, to set lofty goals, to spend money to beget money. All of this is at odds with my personal life and I want these to jive, so to speak. What alternative title can I use that will encompass all that I am--a mom, a business owner, a careful spender and investor, etc? I don't want my children to think that a life of denial is how we reach success although I do encourage moderation, respect for the environment, and avoiding excess. I've chosen a school for my son, in fact, that helps students explore their own potential and to think big. If that's what I believe, I have to live that way, too, in all areas of my life, and living frugally, in my mind, is unfortunately defined as living with a scarcity mindset although living frugally also means living wisely, consciously, and carefully while still having abundance. It's just a question of semantics and the power of words. I'd like to choose wording that reflects possibility and abundance but also moderation and sensible spending. I'm wondering what that word or phrase might be.