Small Ball (Finance). . . Earning $160,000/yr. one minute at a time


In past posts, I’ve focused on concepts that will save you thousands of dollars per year.  Today, I’m going to talk about something that is decidedly “small ball”, but nevertheless will help you achieve our goal of “living beyond your means without debt”.

I recently bought a used car for my daughter (something I swore I would never do, but so much for youthful oaths!), which requires 91 octane premium gas.  Now, I hear you saying, “doesn’t that violate the idea of spending less and saving more?”.  Well, the idea is to live better, which isn’t the same as living as cheaply as possible.  So, yes, I bought her a premium car, because it was a much better value than a crappy econo-box that cost more money.

So, when my daughter expressed concern about the cost of gas, I started thinking about to lower that cost.  Of course, I told her about CostCo, where gas is typically 5¢-15¢ cheaper per gallon than neighboring stations.  I also told her about using a credit card that will save her 4% per gallon (CostCo American Express card).  So, right off the bat we are saving 20¢-35¢ per gallon or almost 10% per gallon.  Now, where we live in Florida, premium gas is 93 octane; the car only needs 91 octane.    Essentially, drivers like me are buying octane they don’t need.  The solution: combine 93 octane and 87 octane gas to get a 91 octane blend.  The blend is 2/3 93 octane and 1/3 97 octane (if you are interested, the math is: 93x + 87(1-x) = 91).  If your tank holds 20 gallons and your typical fill-up is 15 gallons, you simply put 10 gallons of 93 premium in your tank and then another 5 gallons of 87 regular and viola, you have made your own 91 octane blend.  Remember, I started talking about “small ball”.  Well, we substituted 5 gallons of 93 octane for 87 octane; in Florida, the average price differential is about 28¢.  I know that in many parts of the country, the difference is about 20¢, so I’ll use that.  Basically, we have saved about $1 . . . for less than one minute of work (I timed it!).  Again, remember “small ball” is today’s theme.  You may be saying, “$1, who cares”.  Well, think about this, $1 dollar a week is $50/year or a free $1,000 over twenty years.  More importantly, saving $1/minute = $60/hour (after-tax), which is the same as earning over $160,000 (pre-tax).  Now, I’ve earned more and I’ve earned less, but I don’t recall a time where I ever turned down an opportunity to earn incremental money at a rate of $160,000 per year.  So, there you have it, nothing dramatic, but an easy way to “make” money, $1 at a time (or, as I like to think about it, $160,000 at a time).

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Smarter On-line Shopping


Hi and welcome!

I’ve always liked nice things, but never wanted to pay “asking price”. I quickly discovered that there are plenty of merchants willing to make a smaller profit and earn my business. The trick is finding the best deal where merchants want you to buy based on their advertising. No thank you! Well, I have been able to find “deals” for pretty much anything I need. I’m not talking about saving $0.50 cents on cereal- I actually don’t really get into coupons as the return on investment is typically pretty darn small (who wants to make the equivalent of $3/hour clipping coupons), so my efforts were focused on saving real money (or saving a little money everytime I buy a many times a year item, like gas).

I plan to share my tips in a series of posts. I hope you enjoy and save!

With the holiday shopping season officially open, I think it’s a good time to talk about how to shop on-line for less.

First, narrow in on what you want. For example, you may be looking for a computer generically or the Sony Vaio PCG-71314. If you are able to identify the exact model you want, go to a price comparison site like Nextag (www.nextag.com) or Price Grabber (www.pricegrabber.com) and enter the description. Ideally, you will have the UPC code, which is most precise. Often you will be able to compare the prices offered from multiple sellers (when comparing, make sure you take shipping and tax into account). Sometimes it’s as simple as the search and you have found your best seller. However, sometimes, when I am not so set on a specific product, I am able to use my target product to find a great seller and then see if that seller offers a better deal on a comparable product. You would be surprised how many times I’ve started looking for product A, and wound up buying product B (often a more featured product for less money)! If you are buying an electronic product, you may also want to check a consolidator such as ECost (www.ECost.com) for a similar but potentially cheaper product (this works best for “commodity” items like TV’s, monitors, Bluetooth headsets and the like).

That was a long “first”. Your second step is to go to Google and search for a merchant coupon (type, “merchant name” and “coupon code”). Many larger merchants have coupons that will save you anywhere from 10% to $25 on common transactions. Coupons are especially common with clothing, office supply and housewares. Often there are multiple coupon codes. Either write these down or open a new tab on your browser.

Your third step is, prior to making your purchase, to check with a rebate site such as Ebates (www.ebates.com) or Mr. Rebates (www.mrrebates.com) and see if your chosen retailer has an associated rebate. For example, if I want to buy the Vaio at Sony’s site, I could get a 4% rebate (off of the total transaction) at the Mr. Rebate site or 3% from Ebates. What you need to do is register with the rebate site sometimes you will get a sign-on bonus and then click on the merchant link to get your rebate.

Finally you are ready to buy! Click on the rebate site to get to your merchant. Put your product in the electronic shopping cart and look out for the box that says “Promotion Code” or “Coupon Code”. Enter your coupon code here. Sometimes a code may have expired, which is why you should check your list or toggle back to the other open tab. Pay. Congratulations, you have probably saved serious money over going to your favorite store or just buying from an ad!

Good luck and good shopping!