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When did you last hold a $50 bill in your hand? The new ones look strange … faintly colored, graphically random.

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You should pick one up some time to reacquaint yourself with something called U.S. currency. Look closely. It still reads: This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

Here’s my question: Does pumping my own gasoline at Costco constitute a debt, either public or private?

Between the moment my gas tank is full and the moment I actually pay for the gas, I owe Costco some money. I have incurred a momentary debt, and it seems to me I should be able to pay it with my U.S. currency.

Just try. In fact, at Costco filling stations my only choice is to pay with plastic—even though there are plenty of human attendants readily available.

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It’s been more than 10 years now since I first looked into a membership service called “Amazon Prime.” Being the frugalista that I am, of course, I dismissed it out of hand for one simple reason—currently the $119 annual membership fee. For what, I asked? Nothing tangible, that’s for sure.

I wish I’d researched Amazon Prime more thoroughly back then. I had no idea what I was turning down. By not joining until two years later in 2009, I spent far more in shipping costs alone than I would have paid for the annual membership.

 

 

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Honestly, I am in love with Amazon Prime and my love only grows as the years go by. My life is busy and I am such a disaster-waiting-to-happen in a shopping mall environment. I rely heavily on Amazon for household needs, personal items, and business supplies and equipment, too.

Free shipping alone saves me hundreds of dollars in shipping fees every year, not to mention time, gasoline, frustration, and impulsive disasters.

Since I first posted about Amazon Prime, the benefits have increased tremendously!

How do I love Amazon Prime? Oh, let me count the ways: Read more

I’m not proud of myself for loading up a shopping cart and then in some kind of retail panic, leaving it in the aisle and fleeing the store. Well, maybe I am a little. 

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It was about the most impulsive (repulsive perhaps) thing I’ve done in some time. And it’s all because despite how far I’ve come, I’m still me. And I just happened to be in the area. 

I don’t normally travel in the direction of the largest fabric store in the universe. But I did and there I was, only a few short blocks from the entrance. So I stopped in to just … uh, … look around.

Potential. That’s what I saw. Aisle after aisle of potential gifts, quilts, tablescapes, sweaters, hats, decorator pillows, blankets, pure joy.

There were several bargains that quite frankly one should never pass up. And that is the ONLY reason I found a shopping cart. I mean come on … my favorite brand of flannel—the really good stuff—BOGO (that’s buy-one-get-one-free for you novices)? And flannel-backed satin in the perfect shade of Christmas red for $4.59 a yard? And the most adorable fleece for next to nothing!

I made my way to the cutting table when I noticed something new: A take-a-number machine. Hate those things. But now I’m stuck, so I plucked 73 from its little mouth and pulled back to notice Now Serving 61. 

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1. If last week’s Saturday blog stats hold any meaning at all, it appears my readers enjoy a numbered, quick hit list of, well … random things.

 

2. I love to knit. It’s not the least expensive hobby in the world, but I do enjoy a good Yarn Sale. This woman, on the other hand, knits for free—dubious as her sense of style may be.

 

3. People who consistently save 20% of their income can do that because they scrimp on this one thing you probably don’t.

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I wish I had a dollar for every stupid purchase I’ve made in my life. I’d have quite a stash. Regrettably, my financial faux pas have been remarkable in both quantity and quality. I’ve made some real doozies.

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Here’s one: Purchasing on credit an above-ground, 7,000-gallon inflatable swimming pool. On a whim. At a Home and Garden Show. For the kids, of course.

Its à la carte price was bad enough. Adding everything required but not included took it from barely reasonable to absolutely ridiculous.

First, there was a heater and filter. Then, a cover, chemicals, and test kit. We needed search and rescue equipment (this was one monstrosity of a pool) and a few necessary pool toys. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost of eventually getting rid of the albatross.

Let me put it this way: There is not a lively secondary market for this kind of thing. If I’d had the courage to consider the consequences of such a major purchase before making the decision to buy, we could have avoided a five-year industrial-strength headache and saved one huge pile of dough.

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Extreme bargain hunters have something in common—timing. They’ve got it down to a science and I’m talking about specific days and even the exact time of day to get great bargains.

They wait patiently and then swoop down to pick up bargains unknown to the novice shopper. Thankfully, they’re willing to talk and share their secrets.

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HOTEL

The best time to snag a great deal on a room is at 4 p.m., local time on Sunday, says CBS Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg. This is when you will have the best shot at speaking with an employee whose job depends on keeping rooms filled, who can also negotiate room rates.

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“I don’t do math—numbers give me a rash.” That’s a line I’ve used a lot, mostly because it’s true, but also because it gets me a laugh. Truth be told, most of us stink when it comes to doing math on the fly. That’s a problem, because being hopeless with math makes us putty in the hands of retailers.

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Why is it socially acceptable to say that we’re bad at math, but not socially acceptable to say we’re bad at reading?

The truth is that it’s not okay to be hopeless with numbers. Here are three ways that our aversion to math costs us money:  Read more