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Cheap Glass Frames Come Into Focus

Amanda Bar

As someone who has been wearing glasses since the 2nd grade, I know that replacing or upgrading your eyewear can be pretty expensive.  Dependent upon the style or brand name a single frame can cost me anywhere from $100 to $250, so I only change up my glasses once every three or so years.  I don't really mind limiting myself to a single pair of glasses, but I miss out on experimenting with funkier styles and colors in order to save money.

Several websites can be found online that offer cheap frames, but I've never known anyone who took advantage of these online deals until recently.  A friend told me how she had saved big bucks by purchasing several glasses via Zenni Optical, a website that carries a wide variety of styles at prices starting as low as $8!  With prices as low as that you could buy several frames (in a wide variety of styles and colors) that would otherwise be impractical for everyday wear.

I was instantly excited to check out the website for myself, but was dismayed at the confusing order forms; they ask for your "PD" (Pupillary Distance) as if this is obvious information, so you'll probably need to consult with your optician before filling out an order.  Also, if you're thinking of getting prescription lenses through Zenni you'll be out of luck if you have a high prescription like me (-10).  I can still purchase the frames, on their own, at low prices...though, as mentioned, I'd have to trek over to the optician to get the pricey prescription lenses.

For all of you four-eyed people with low prescriptions, however, enjoy the deals!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 03:17 AM on June 30, 2010 in Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

A slick price

Name barAside from invading every minute of our lives, penetrating into our subconscious and clouding once idyllic images of the Gulf of Mexico, the oil leak could forever change our everyday spending habits.

And it doesn't matter if you don't eat seafood or vacation in the South or go to the beach or never drive a car, ride a bus or fly.

That's the message of this piece created by MoneyWatch.com. They mention that the price of seafood will rise -- and already, some types of shellfish, including oysters, are becoming scarce. As if Florida needed it, property values could take another deep-well plunge. Barrel-of-oil-and-dollar-sign

Never mind the environmental price tag, which I can only assume will be an unfulfillable debt, and breaks the heart of this admitted nature lover and vegetarian who has had the opportunity to see an endangered species of turtle lay eggs on the beach and kayak in the Everglades.

But the other side effects of the slick: Taxes could rise, gas prices could increase (though at the moment things seem cheaper than they have been) and everyday stuff could cost more because so much cargo is handled by ports in the Gulf.

Granted, the disaster is creating some jobs, but at what price?

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 12:06 PM on June 23, 2010 in Housing , Savings , Shopping , Vacations | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Price of Perfect Hair (Part 2)

Amanda Bar

Two months ago (on April 13th, to be exact) I began a little home experiment involving a bottle of highly priced shampoo and conditioner that I was persuaded into trying by my hairdresser.  Normally I'm a Publix aisle shampoo shopper - Pantene Pro V or Herbal Essence is about as costly as I get - but together both bottles for my trial experiment (It's A 10 brand) cost over $40, and I was wondering if the difference in my hair would prove worth the excessive price.

Just today my bottle of conditioner sputtered to an end, leaving just a small bit of shampoo remaining.  For $40 I got over two months worth of product, which isn't bad considering 1) I shampoo and condition my hair every day, 2) my hair length (well past my shoulders), and 3) I've had house guests that have been using them as well.  And I would actually say that I did notice a difference in the quality of my hair; I seemed to have less of an issue with frizz or dry-looking strands.

All in all I'd say the cost proved worth the results, though I've bought a slightly cheaper variety (Paul Mitchell) of salon-quality hair products to test out next.  Considering that I don't waste money on extraneous hair care products like hair spray, gel, or mousse I think I can justify to my wallet the extra shampoo/conditioner expense.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:22 AM on June 23, 2010 in Cleaning , Savings , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (0)

When Household Hardware Goes Bad

Amanda Bar

When I purchased my house last year I made sure to change the front door locks before I moved in.  Not caring about any particular brand I settled on a Kwikset "SmartKey" lock & bolt combo.  The main selling point on this type of door lock is a feature that allows you to re-key the lock...even if it's unintentional.

My roommate learned this the hard way when the deadbolt suddenly stopped working, essentially locking poor Bridget out of the house (I was out of state at the time for a wedding).  Upon a locksmith arriving to our house he declared that this was a common problem amongst SmartKey locks - the internal pins will randomly reset themselves, making it impossible to open the door without drilling into the deadbolt.  After a little under one year of use my $50 door lock is trash!

The locksmith charged $80 for destroying my lock, and I now have to buy a new lock set to replace the mangled monstrosity that is my current deadbolt (which I'm going to estimate at costing another $50).  I suppose this disaster could have been avoided if I put some thought into researching my door locks before I bought them, but who knew such problems existed in such mundane items?  I'll definitely shop smarter next time, just not SmartKey.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:07 AM on June 18, 2010 in Housing | Permalink | Comments (1)

Financial Crisis Hitting Where It Hurts

Amanda Bar

The financial crisis has been a danger for most American citizens this past year, but it never really touched me personally until recently.  The city in which I work is currently scraping the bottom of the idea barrel in order to recoup several millions of dollars worth of lost budget funds, and some of their current solutions have been to outsource many city jobs to a private firm.  Approximately 200 jobs in over a dozen different departments throughout the city are at risk.

Negotiations are currently underway to save these jobs, but the terms come at the expense of other (and previously unaffected) city jobs.  My income specifically would decrease by 4%, and I would be required to contribute an additional $100 a month in health insurance.  Worst of all, upon retirement my pension would be completely lost and I would no longer be covered by my health insurance plan. 

It’s a sensitive issue, and many of my co-workers are stuck between and rock & a hard place in deciding on how to vote; we’re essentially being asked to take a hit for the momentary good of our fellow city employees, as even this new plan would only insure their jobs for a six to eighteen-month period before they are again put up for “review”.

No matter how the vote turns out the situation is dire for many, and serves to make me aware that this financial crisis is closer to home than I’d like to think.

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 08:58 PM on June 12, 2010 in Job hunting | Permalink | Comments (1)

Priced to sell

Name bar Some stores make a big deal out of their low prices. Others tout their clean stores (This is a given for me. If you have to sell me on the cleanliness, I'm already wary.). Others keep a low profile, but apparently are the ones with truly the best deals.

A survey of more than 30,000 Consumer Reports subscribers found that Costco came out ranked best for value, while stores you'd think would rank high on the cheap scale -- Walmart and Kmart -- came out much lower. In addition to citing the warehouse club’s prices, people who answered the survey praised Costco's bang for the buck: It was the only store judged "much better than average" for value. 

“In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books. In recent years, the chain’s Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests,” said Tod Marks, senior project editor for Consumer Reports.

Part of the reason Walmart didn't get any shopping love: while prices are low, so is quality, according to survey answers. Walmart was the only chain to receive below-average quality scores in more than half of the product categories. You can read more details about the survey's findings for yourself.

My sister swears by Costco, but she has two kiddies, including one still in dMiapers. She buys in bulk to save time and money. (It's no fun shopping when you have to deal with taking two kids in and out of car seats at every stop.)

As I find my me time dwindling, I am more likely to go to one store where I think I'm getting the best deals, or shop at a store that requires the least amount of driving. I know that means I'm not getting the best price on everything, but I don't get a rush off saving 50 cents on a bottle of shampoo if I had to go to three stores to save it. I use coupons, but I'm not obsessed with them -- I can lose half a day trying to get a good deal, only to discover the fine print killed my savings, or the darn thing is expired. (But if I do think I've scored a deal, I'll brag about it for days, mind you.)

An offshoot of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart, did some undercover shopping recently that compares prices at outlet stores, regular retail stores and designer stores, too. Sometimes, shopping a designer store or department store was actually the better deal.

I loathe outlet shopping, partially because outlet malls seem to be so sprawling I find them overwhelming -- and because some of the prices don't seem like steals at all, nevermind that the merchandise is often obviously lower quality. I admit to living in South Florida for 10 years now -- and never having been to Sawgrass Mills!

But I'm game to give them a second try if you think it's worth it, so share with me your shopping secrets.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 03:17 PM on June 10, 2010 in Clothing , Coupons , Shopping | Permalink | Comments (1)

Summer Tips For Cooling Down Costs

Amanda Bar

Since I'm trying to be more conscientious of the money I spend, I've been looking up a lot of helpful ways to save some cash this summer by lessening the load on your air conditioner.  A lot of advice websites suggest options that (for various reasons) don't appeal to me - such as cooking outside - but I've come across a few websites that offer viable suggestions for my over-heated summer lifestyle.

1) Change your air filter. A filthy filter can hike up your cooling costs by working your AC unit harder to produce the same temperature. Filters can be found relatively cheap at any home supply store, and they're easy to replace.

2) Use fans instead of AC. Small spaces can be cooled just as well with a standing or ceiling fan while saving you money. By raising your AC temperature to around 75 degrees and keeping a room fan handy you shouldn't notice a difference, except in your electricity bill.

3) Check your weather stripping. Personally I need to follow up on this advice as there is currently a gap at the bottom of my front door that not only lets in the occasional crawly critter, but also lets out precious cool air! By making sure these cracks are covered you'll find it much easier to maintain a comfortable temperature inside your house.

4) Run your appliances at night. Appliances generate heat when they're in use, so by saving that load of laundry or dirty dishes until bedtime you're less likely to crank up the AC to compensate. I can only hope, however, that your dryer isn't a clunker like mine that bangs and bumps the entire cycle...not exactly sweet night music!

There are many more suggestions available via the web to help keep costs down this season, so make sure to take a moment and figure out what works best for you!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 07:48 PM on June 6, 2010 in Housing , Savings , Utilities | Permalink | Comments (1)

Automatic Banking Bloopers

Amanda Bar

It's one thing after another when you own a home, I suppose.  A new emergency sprung up again this evening as I went to check my Bank of America home loan account. Recently money has become a little tight for me, so instead of waiting for the June 1st mortgage payment to be automatically deducted from my checking account I had decided to pay it off a little early (on May 25th to be exact).  The money was removed from my account, and according to the Bank of America website my next scheduled payment was for July 1st.

Thankfully I happened to check my loan today, because when I pulled up my information I see that I am currently in the negative; despite my early payment the June 1st mortgage had been deducted from my account a second time, and I now had a big fat -$900 next to my checking account!  I called BoA's 1-800 number and spoke with a representative who assured me that the fee could be transferred back into my account just as soon as I can make it to a bank location in person, but unfortunately that requires I wait until tomorrow morning.

I have no idea if this banking error will have any impact on my credit, but it certainly has done a number on my nerves; as if finances weren't enough of an issue without this bank blooper stirring up the pot!

Posted by Amanda Conwell at 09:16 PM on June 1, 2010 in Banking , Savings | Permalink | Comments (0)

 
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