What’s going on.

thSummer is in full swing in Anchorage, by which I mean the garden is planted and the clouds came back.

A little rain, even, although not nearly enough. After weeks of relentless sun I have to admit that it was good to see “normal” weather again.

Some people refer to clouds and rain as “state fair weather.” I don’t agree. State fair weather requires low-40s temperatures plus enough wind to blow the rain sideways. What good are carnival rides and barbecued turkey legs when it’s actually nice out?

But as with every summer, I’m losing track of time in a huge way. Look at the clock and it’s 6 p.m. The next thing you know it’s 10:30 – who let that happen?

Losing track of blogging, too, i.e., I haven’t written much lately. Let’s play catch-up.

First up: The winner of last week’s giveaway did not respond in time. In fact, she hasn’t responded at all. Thus I had to choose an alternate winner for “How to Coupon Effectively: Learn How to Save Thousands Per Year Spending Only 2 Hours Per Week” by Lauren Greutman (who blogs at IAmThatLady.com).

This has happened before. In fact, it’s happened more than a few times. One initial winner wrote to me almost a week later and asked whether it were too late to claim her prize. This despite the fact that my e-mail to her specified responding by 7 p.m. the next day.

So please: If you’re going to enter the giveaway, check your e-mail within 24 hours. Make it a rule that any time you enter a contest – any contest – you write the deadline on a calendar or set yourself some kind of electronic reminder.

Incidentally, if you want to buy a copy of the couponing book, use the above link and the coupon code “mealplanning” (without the quotation marks) to save 25% at checkout.

Summertime shopping

My monthly “best things to buy” gig at Retail Me Not continues. The best things to buy in June actually make quite a long list so I focused on just three: dishes/décor, gym memberships/equipment, and tools. Read the post to find out how two of them actually intersect.

Because I tend to overwrite the editor had to trim a section relating to wedding apparel. That isn’t actually a BTTB but I associated it with the gym aspect. Specifically: If you’re invited to a wedding and want to lose a little weight/tighten up what’s left, you may want to strut your stuff at the reception.

RetailMeNot has coupons for a site called Rent The Runway, which rents designer dresses and gowns. Through the end of June you can get a coupon for $25 off your first rental, which will let you wow ’em on the dance floor.

Just don’t rent a white designer gown, or even a cream-colored one. That option is  traditionally reserved for the bride, whether or not she decides to exercise it. So to speak.

Guys: You can get discounts on your monkey suits, too. Check out the tuxedo category at Retail Me Not for deals like $40 off a tux rental at Men’s Wearhouse.

Or just buy a swell suit and be set for the next 10 years’ worth of special events. (Maybe 20 years, if you keep using that fitness equipment.) Current deals include up to $605 off tux packages at Buy4LessTuxedo.com, up to $247 tuxes and suits at TuxedosOnline, and 56% off Calvin Klein tuxes at FineTuxedos.com.

Check local formalwear places, too, because they eventually put tuxes out for sale. I once wrote about a guy whose son bought a surplus suit for $99 and used it for three proms and three weddings before passing it on to a younger brother. Their proud dad noted that “a classic tux never goes out of style.”

Don’t forget to check thrift stores, either: DF owns several tuxes that his sons have been known to borrow, and all three came from la segunda. Whether you buy it online or on sale, having your own formalwear means you’re ready for the next fancy-shmancy invitation.

What to give the grad

Got a family member or friend graduating in June? Check out “9 gifts that grads can actually use,” a guest post I did for Behind The Blue (aka the Val Pak blog).

Rather than just sticking a gift card (or a Benjamin) into a card, why not make a choice that will make a difference? For example:

  • Security down payment: Or maybe the first month’s rent, if you can afford it.
  • Student loan help: Offer to cover one month’s payment, if you’re flush. (And do the same thing next year, if you can afford it – what a nice surprise that will be.)
  • Roth IRA match: Budgeting even $50 a month for retirement might seem impossible to a new grad who’s stunned by student loan repayment and/or the inability to get a decent job. So offer to match whatever the grad can set aside for a Roth or 401(k), for as long as you’re able to do so. You’ll be establishing a savings habit – and the grad has compound interest on his or her side.

Not that I have anything against gift cards, you understand. I mention them in the article as well (specifying that they be bought on the secondary market, of course), and also include inexpensive tips for those who can’t afford big-bucks options.

Speaking of the secondary market: At the top of this page, under the “subscription options” section, you’ll see a widget for Raise, a discounted gift card reseller. While the frugal part of me thinks you should shop the aggregator site Gift Card Granny, the business part of me hopes you’ll consider clicking on my Raise widget when you’re in the market for a discounted gift card.

Best-case scenario: You check Gift Card Granny and find out that the best deal on the card you want is, in fact, through Raise – and you come back and buy it here. As I always say, a solvent blogger is a happy blogger.

A bonus, and an epiphany

Or earn your own gift cards via the Swagbucks rewards program – which is offering another bonus for new members. Anyone who signs up through my referral link between now and June 30 will get an automatic bonus of 500 SB points if he or she earns 1,500 SBs before July 14.

That may sound daunting but, depending on your habits, it doesn’t have to be. You can earn through searching, doing surveys, shopping, watching videos or playing games. (Hint: While I often get disqualified from surveys – wrong demographic – I’ve also earned 200 or 300 points at a clip when I am accepted.)

The only thing that doesn’t work? Those “Swag Codes” that I post on my Facebook page whenever I can. But again: 200 or 300 (or more) for surveys. I’ve also scored some bigger-ticket search wins, from 29 to 50 SBs. Wish those happened more often.

Finally: I do plan to give away more gift cards this summer, but I’ll also be offering alternatives. A few of those who won Wal-Mart cards during the fifth anniversary giveaway were absolutely delighted with their prizes. One winner wasn’t, because she does not patronize Wal-Mart.

I offered her an alternative prize of an Amazon gift card and this made her happy. It also made me think. Not everyone wants to shop at Wal-Mart, but not everyone can afford to shop at Amazon or wants to patronize Starbucks (another popular prize).

In the future, any time I give away gift cards to Amazon or Starbucks I will offer a couple of alternatives, probably Wal-Mart and Walgreens. This will be a little more work for me but I think it makes the giveaways more egalitarian. If you’re running on fumes you might not have the luxury of Amazon shopping, but one of the alternatives will get you the milk and bread (or ibuprofen and flip-flops) that you need.

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  1. Vicky Fox

    Your giveaways are stellar, and Thank you for keeping us with new and great ideas for saving 🙂

  2. Linda G

    How’s your daughter?

  3. Abigail

    Dont forget that cash back sites also have Rent The Runway with a similar discount. Jezebel sayin.

  4. Big fan of the “give-aways” … Still wear my Money Talks T-shirt…and folks crack up at the saying on the back….Excellent advertising for Money Talks IMHO…

    • Jack, don’t leave us hanging. What’s on the back of the t-shirt?

      • I thought you’d never ask….On the front of the shirt it says MoneyTalkNews.com and on the back it says “…because broke, stupid and lonely is no way to go through life”. I can’t tell ya how many folks have gotten a kick out of it … AND then asked to borrow a pen to write down the website….

        • Donna Freedman

          I’ll let MTN founder Stacy know about that. He’ll be glad to hear it, even though I think the T-shirts are no longer available. 🙁

          • …no longer available? Holy Cow… I have a “collector’s item”….

          • Donna Freedman

            Well, scratch that: When I told Stacy about your experience, he wrote back, “That reminds me: I have to get more of those shirts made.” 🙁

  5. That’s thoughtful of you to widen the GC net.

    Personally I’ve loved the Amazon cards but it’s the easiest way for me to shop on these mostly bedridden days. I’ve been working the Swagbucks (a paltry few bucks at a time but they eventually add up) for my Amazon monies as my needs outstrip my GC flow 🙂

  6. Great tips – especially what to give Grads! I, too, love Amazon gift cards, but it’s nice that you are thinking of everyone. Thanks for the post!

  7. Julie

    If someone doesn’t want to win a Wal-Mart then they shouldn’t enter the contest.

  8. Thanks for the “heads up” Donna. Maybe suggest to Stacy that the new T-shirts be green (the color of money) rather than blue OR plain white with green text…Just a thought. Thanks once more for the give-aways and informative articles….

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