Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cold-EEZE vs generic - Real Relief

It's the cold and flu season again. Guess who is sick first? Yep, it's me. But, I since I found out about using zinc lozenges for colds I won't suffer nearly as much.

My cold is not too bad, but I do have a cough and irritated throat. I'm sure my throat would hurt more if I still had my tonsils. I had a tonsillectomy as a child and haven't had a really painful sore throat since.

Anyway, a friend told me about using zinc lozenges for a cold years ago. I was skeptical at first. I knew there was no cure for the cold since it was a viral infection rather than bacterial. And, I had used most over-the-counter (OTC) medications meant to treat the symptoms of a cold.

Most OTC meds offered limited relief, but they were all that was available as far as I knew (other than vitamin C). Then I tried the zinc lozenges, and I was sold.

The most commonly known brand of zinc lozenges is Cold-EEZE, but there are generics. I usually buy generic zinc lozenges from Dollar General. They are more a tablet than a lozenge, but are meant to be dissolved slowly in the mouth just like a lozenge.

All brands of zinc lozenges leave a funny taste in your mouth that seems to coat your tongue. This means the zinc is doing it's job. The taste is not pleasant but the relief of cold symptoms coupled with a shorter duration is definitely worth the unpleasant taste.

The generic zinc, in my opinion, has a stronger taste than Cold-EEZE but it's about half the price and works just as well.

If you begin taking the zinc lozenges at the first sign of a cold you can sometimes stop it in it's tracks. Taking it after your symptoms are full-blown will still reduce the longevity by almost half. And, the zinc actually relieves your symptoms for about 2 hours.

I have bought the brand name of zinc when I had a bad cold. After a few days of taking the generics, the taste can be off-putting, and Cold-EEZE does taste better.

Other than taste there is another potential side effect. Some people experience an upset stomach if the lozenges are taken on an empty stomach. That's an easy cure though. Just eat before taking it.

Overall, I would recommend the generic zinc lozenges mainly based on cost. If you have kids, you will want to keep zinc on hand, and if everyone is taking it 4 times a day it can get expensive to buy the brand name lozenges.

If the taste is more important to you, buy Cold-EEZE. Whichever brand you choose, I would definitely recommend using zinc lozenges to reduce the symptoms and duration of your family's colds. This stuff really works!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Stock Up On Food Sales - Maybe

Buying in bulk to get a good price or because something is on sale is a great way to save money - but only if you don't end up using more than you normally would.

When my partner and I make up the grocery shopping list every two weeks, we check the sale papers. Often there are sales on items that we normally buy anyway. These sales help us to keep our food budget low, and if the sale is good enough we will stock up.

We are careful about what we stock up on, though, because in the past we've found that sometimes we ended up spending more money rather than less. Why? Because with some items we tend to eat more when we have more.

The way to prevent this is to ask yourself a question before you buy more than you need. "Will we eat more of this if we have more in the house?"

An example of something we will eat more of if there is an abundance is cheddar cheese. Everyone in my family loves cheddar cheese. Cheese is a good source of calcium, and since we don't drink much milk the calcium we get from cheese is an important part of our nutrition.

The problem is if we see a large amount of cheese in the fridge, we tend to eat more. Besides the fact that cheese is high in fat, we don't want to eat more than we need because of the cost of cheese (if you don't know the price of cheddar cheese, I'll tell you. It ain't cheap.)

So, if we stock up on cheese and everybody knows we have an abundance, everyone tends to eat it more often. This ends up costing us more money than it would have if we only bought what we needed.

We found a way around this when it concerns cheese. We just hide it deep in the freezer and once a week we move 1 pound of cheese to the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind works for us in this regard.

I think every family probably has something that tends to be consumed as quickly as it's brought home. With these foods, be careful about how much you buy, or hide the excess from your family (or yourself). Allot a certain amount per week and only have that amount available for consumption.

Make sure those sales actually save you money.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Unexpected Expenses - Are they Really Unexpected?

You know how it seems that as soon as you get close to accomplishing a goal something always comes along to set you back? That happens often in my life, especially with my financial goals.

It seems like every time I free up money - by paying off a debt, getting a raise, or a money gift - something comes along to eat up that money. And, that "something" always shows up AFTER I've made plans to spend the extra money or have actually already spent it.

So, I've paid off my credit card debt and freed up $185 a month. I planned to put that money toward paying down the mortgage, saving to buy a house in the country, and adding a little extra to my food budget.

And that "something" showed up. That "something" is Major car repair. OK, it wasn't really unexpected. I knew it was coming, eventually. Both of our cars are OLD, and my car has been sitting in the driveway - not working - for several months now.

I've had my car in the shop 3 times in the last year to fix the same problem. It seems there is not one mechanic in this town that can figure out what is wrong with it, so I just keep paying to fix something else "that might be the problem," but isn't.

So, we just parked the car and decided we could get by with just one car. We've been told that the transmission in this car is on it's way out. The "brilliant" mechanics in our area told us that the transmission could last another 6 months or another 6 years. That was 3 years ago. So, I guess it's close now.

The car still works, but it's something that we just can't keep ignoring. There are little sounds and symptoms that warn us of imminent doom. So, why haven't we been saving and preparing for this major expense?

When you've lived poor as long as I have you learn to just push the specter of major expenses out of your mind, because you know you don't have the means to really prepare for them.

But, that has to change now. I have money freed up that can be saved for this expense.

So, I've re-written my goals again, including the car repair.

New Goal #1: Pay Off Credit Card Debt

SHORT-TERM GOAL: 3 more months till all credit card debt is paid.ACCOMPLISHED

LONG-TERM GOAL: Stop using credit cards unless total can be paid each month ACCOMPLISHED

New Goal #2: Save for Transmission Repair/rebuild

New Goal #3: Save just for Home Improvements needed to Sell the House

New Goal #4: Save for Down Payment and Closing Costs on a Home in the Country.


They say that Life is what Happens When You've Made Other Plans. I guess they were right.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Buy Contact Lenses Online - Save Big

I have found another reason to keep one of those credit cards after you've paid off your debt. Buying contact lenses online.

I had no idea how much money you could save buying contacts online until my partner was advised to switch from rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses to soft lenses (replacement/disposable).

Switching from gas permeables to soft lenses meant an increase in cost of almost 100% since gas permeables can last for years and soft contacts last, at most, 2 months per pair (soft lenses are recommended for 1 month's use, but most eye docs will ok their use for 2 months or until there is a noticeable difference in vision or comfort).

After being quoted a price of $30 for a box of 6 soft contacts lenses at the docs office, I decided it was time to do some research. I knew there was big online market for contacts, I'd just not looked into it since my partner hadn't needed contacts for the last 3 years.

After reading up on contacts and learning what I needed to know (OD, OS, Base Curve, etc.) at AllaboutVision.com, I did a Google search to compare prices. And, boy was I surprised.

It seems the eye docs really mark-up the contacts they sell. The highest price I found online for the contacts my partner needs is $25 a box, but the lowest price was only $15.

Even after you add in shipping (most online companies won't charge shipping if you spend $99 or more) you still come out saving about 40%.

So, how do you take advantage of this great savings? You order online and pay with a credit card, of course.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm certainly in favor of buying ONLY what you have the money for, but paying with cash is sometimes NOT the best way of being frugal.

So, hold on to at least one of those credit cards. You might find that with a little discipline, it actually helps you SAVE money.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Credit Cards for Online Shopping

Who used a credit card for Christmas shopping? Raise your hand.

I not only used a credit card for some Christmas shopping, I also applied for a new one. I know what you are going to say. It's not a great idea to get a new credit card when I have worked my hieny off to pay my credit card debt in full.

And, if you subscribe to Dave Ramsey's way of thinking, you would be right. But, I've found that cutting up all my credit cards and using cash for everything just does not fit my lifestyle.

Since I'm frugal, first and foremost, I must find the best deal on the things I buy. And often, the things I've decided to buy are a better bargain online.

For example, I decided that I was going to buy a better air purifier this Christmas. I have been using a Holmes air purifier, and although it is a good price at my local Wal-Mart, it doesn't do a great job cleaning the air. Also, the filter has to be replaced often and the price of the filter is almost as much as the machine itself.

So, I decided I was going to do some research. I wanted to find an air purifier with a better customer rating, and one that has a washable/permanent filter. The first place I look when I want customer ratings is Amazon.com.

Amazon.com has just about everything I'm looking for, and most things at Amazon have customer ratings (if there is no rating, I wouldn't buy it unless I have recommendations from friends or family).

So, anyway, I went to
Amazon.com to find ratings on an air purifier and found one with 4.5 stars that I liked the look of. This air purifier (Honeywell HFD-120Q Tower) has a permanent (washable) filter and the manufacturer offers a $20 rebate.

Also, Amazon had a promotional discount for purchases over $125. This discount deducts $25 from your order when you enter the promo code at checkout.

See the savings adding up?

Now here is the clincher. Amazon.com has partnered with Chase to offer a branded Amazon.com Visa credit card. If you apply for this card through Amazon's site, you will receive a $30 credit after your first Amazon purchase.

How could I pass this up? I was going to buy an air purifier anyway. But, buying it through Amazon.com with the Amazon credit card would save me $30. Once I deduct the $25 promotional code and the $20 rebate, I end up paying $75 for a $150 air purifier.

Now, how can you be frugal and NOT take advantage of this deal? Since I make purchases from Amazon several times a year, this credit card will continue to earn credits for me everytime I use it.

Using credit cards saves me money, especially when I shop online. So, I won't be cutting up all of my cards.