Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Fight To Be Frugal

Gas is $3.19 a gallon near our house. So we drove down the road where we know it's going to be less, $2.95 a gallon last night in Ypsilanti. Since we needed to visit the Secretary of State to purchase vehicle plates, I dropped Wendy off there and drove to get the cheap(er) gas.

Cars were lined up, even blocking part of a five-lane highway. When I got in line myself, cars were turned every which way trying to maneuver. It was like the bumper car ride at the local amusement park, except cars were inches away from eachother trying NOT to bump. Soon I learned why. There was only one pump open. But I was in the right line, quietly waiting, happy as a clam, as horns blew and drivers stewed around me.

That's me. I'll go the extra mile to save a dime. I have one of those rewards credit cards from the local department store, which occasionally has a special day where I can save 15 percent on general merchandise. This includes phone cards. Since we have one of those cell phones where you pay for minutes by purchasing a pre-loaded phone card, I can save $3 on a $20 card.

But last time I tried this, there were no $20 phone cards to be found in the store. They started at $30 and went up. We don't use our cell phone card that much. Has anyone noticed the conspiracy afoot with businesses all trying to get you to consume more than you ordinarily would? Like discount coupons you clip now ask you to buy multiple quantities before you get a discount?

Bunch a hooey, I say. So I went scouting for a $20 phone card. Inspected each check-out line, since I knew they usually stock them there. Only $30 or $50 cards. Dang! So I went back to where they sold them in bulk. Maybe hidden among them was a $20 card. Bingo! I had to remove about 100 $30 cards from their spool and replace them, but I got my $20 card. And I only paid $17 for it. El Cheapo Dave strikes again.

Frequent flier miles, loyalty programs, stores like Costco and Sam's Club where you pay a tidy annual membership for the privilege of buying in bulk, buy now pay later . . . I say beware. It's a fight to be frugal. Here's a little story I heard recently: my cousin went to a casino with $50 to spend. Of course, many casinos now have slots that don't accept quarters or coins of any kind. You pre-pay your money and get a card that resembles a credit card, then insert the card into the slot machine of your choice.

My cousin did that, putting her card into the slot machine and pushing the button to spin the wheel of fortune. Except that she inadvertently pushed the wrong button. Instead of betting a quarter or a dollar, she was letting it all ride. One spin, goodbye $50. I think these cards are a win-win proposition for the casinos; how many others have made similar mistakes?

So back to my cheap gas. It took me nearly a half hour, but I got it. Then I drive on to the Secretary of State, hoping that Wendy was finished there. Nope. She had taken a number along with about 50 other people waiting there. See, Michigan has closed many of its Secretary of State offices in its efforts to save the state money. It would be more than another half hour before we would finally get our turn.

*Sigh* Everyone's fighting to be frugal nowadays.


Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

A candidate for governor once went into a Motor Vehicles Office where that same thing was occurring and said, loudly, "What are we? Sheep?!!"

Soon as he was elected he did much to get rid of the long lines...for awhile. Then he found out how much it cost. So...sheep it was.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

We're lucky. Our gas here is $2.95 on the high side.

Sometimes I go to the store (armed to the gills with coupons) and leave with several bags of groceries for under $50. I love being cheap. :o)

6:24 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

BTW, thanks for voting for me. :o)

6:25 AM  
Blogger Babette said...

Costco is dangerous, even though it is headquartered in my hometown.

There is nothing "normal" about Ypsi anymore. I must confess to loving EMU's Spirit Song:

Go GREEN, roll up the score!
Go GREEN, let's get some more!
Raise a cheer for old GREEN and WHITE!
Let's show them we came here to fight!
Go GREEN, vic'try we'll claim!
Go GREEN, let's win this game!
We'll always fight
for old E-M-U!
Come on and let's go GREEN!

Our old Mercedes Benzes run on doughnut grease, thank the lard. So, even though my car is orange, it is considered GREEN.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

I'm so glad the day job's only 2.6 miles away Dave. I paid $3.19-at Costco!!!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

I need to go fill up at the WalMart gas station where I have a prepaid card. I haven't been out much in the last two weeks, so I'm not even sure how much gas has gone up.....

Now Dave, let's see how much you saved....You drove an extra distance to get the gas, you used up gas waiting in line...I just wonder how much you saved..

I am a big coupon and rebate user....Tomorrow I will be going to Marine Tools to show the sales and use my coupons that I cut out of the paper.

I do a group order of Herbs and Spices every November just so I can get discounts and save money on shipping.....We will be sending in an order for nuts and seeds next Monday, just in time for Christmas. When we buy 20 lbs or more we get free shipping....Some of the prices are really good and others are cheaper at Sams. I've done my homework, so I know.

My kids call me cheap, I call me frugal...I can get two pair of jeans on sale where they will buy one pair at the same cost as I paid for two....

I'm glad you found your $ 20.00 phone card....Get used to being frugal, money will get tighter once you retire.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Secretary of State? Par for the course. I bet they make the DMV look like the paragon of customer service, no?

3:58 PM  
Blogger Babette said...

How are the gas prices in Pontiac?

Life is just a Bowl of Cherries!

5:05 PM  
Blogger Trucker Bob said...

Boy, this post could have been written by me, the theme at least, not so much the writing.

Since I have lots of time I'll walk 2 blocks to save a nickel on a can of beans sort of thing. It's almost become a game with me to see how much I can save by doing my homework.

Great post Dave!

12:57 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

The trends are exactly the same here in Oz Dave, buy more save more waste more.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

HOSS--Well, yes, we may have been all sheep waiting at the Secretary of State office, but just to make sure, they had a security guard there--something I've never seen at a S.O.S. office before.

BONNIE--So besides being a diehard fan of those befuddled MSU Spartans, you're also fond of the equally befuddled Eastern Michigan University Eagles? Well, both do don your favorite color green. But why am I then reminded of the Kermit the frog song line, "It isn't easy being green."

LUCY--Yes, I know I probably spend a little in gas getting "gas to drive for", but I also figure it sends a message to those stations who continue to overcharge--you're not going to get my business.

7:00 AM  
Blogger simply me said...

Strange you should bring this up. Allen in PA just went to Dept. of Motor Vehicles to change his license from NY to PA. Well his only days off are Wednesday and Saturday. The local DMV is only open on Tuesday for a couple of hours and Saturday. So he drives to the nearest one - 40 minutes away and his wait -----a grand 4 hours.
People are trying to save a buck everywhere including us, hence our new coal furnace.
Honestly, I am boycotting our annual Christmas party because I refuse to pay $50 just to hang out for 2 hours and watch people get wasted. Not for me.
So call me El Chepo...who cares.

2:48 PM  
Blogger simply me said...

BTW gas is 3.27 here in NY and about 3.20 in PA.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Carine said...

okay Dave, you said the sitemeter thing was going to be easy-I signed up then the site has come back as a blank page ever since. I printed out the directions to put on blogger, but I do not have "add and arrange page elements" page! It seemed so easy until I tried it!
I also tried to do neocounter and that's no picnic either! I'm doomed, doomed I tell you.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Dust-bunny said...

Wow, $2.95? I haven't seen this since passing through northern NJ this summer on the way to Simply Me's PA house! Cheap up here in the metro area is $3.27, and that's even hard to find.

I agree about the whole financial "raping" of society, for lack of a better phrase. But with six people in my house and no time to travel to different stores for sales, sometimes Costco comes in handy over here (although believe it or not, I don't buy paper goods there because they don't have any that are made from recycled paper. No Scott or Charmin for's only Marcal or CVS brand)!

4:37 AM  
Blogger Nankin said...

And I complain about paying 2.77 a gallon. I'm cheap too. IWhen I start getting low, I check all the local stations to see who has the best price before filling up,

Do you really have to go to the SOS office? Believe it or not, once you register your car or get a driver's license here in Texas, you can renew them both online.

No wonder our insurance rates are so high. You don't even have to take a driving test the first time you get a license.

1:17 PM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Big Dave ~ Gas used to mean a pain in my stomach... now it is a pain in my wallet! Maybe I should put some Zantex in it too? ~ jb///

9:05 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Dave - When I filled up at Wal-Mart it was $ 2.79 a gallon, not too bad....and you are right that it sends a signal to the other gas stations that you won't give them your business....for a while at least.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous The 'Ville said...

fight to be frugal? What about the $5.00 you spent to have your fantasy football stats before everyone else?

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave's Dad here.
Yeh!! Dave how about that.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

It was $10 actually.

Stattracker--$10 on Master Card

Fantasy Football Magazine--$7

Being in first place at the end of the regular season and having bragging rights at the family Christmas party . . .

PRICELESS!!! Heh, heh.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Rock dweller said...

Very true about Gas... Its starting to come down in price here in Pa.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too You remind me of the male version of Erma Bombeck.
And about the businesses trying to get consumers to take more than they ordinarily would...ever notice restaurants do the same thing? ALL that food, which isn't really required and they jack up the prices.
I's tough being frugal nowadays.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:57 PM  

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