Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Download Free Music From the Topeka & Shawnee County Library

I bought my first car, a cream colored 1968 Ford Mustang in 1982, right after I graduated from High School. In 1982, the car was only 14 years old.  At some point, someone had installed an 8-track player in it. By the time I bought the car, 8-tracks were already old technology, though you could still find places to buy them. I really wanted a new stereo but couldn't afford one so made do with the three 8-tracks I owned.
To this day, I am quite confident I could belt out any song from Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" or Carly Simon's "Boys in the Trees" albums. It's true...the songs you listen to in high school are the songs you will be listening to in your retirement years.
So, in my lifetime, I've gone from 8-tracks to cassettes to CD's to Mp3's. It gets expensive to be constantly buying the same old music in different formats.
For our anniversary, my husband bought me a Google tablet, which I love. I wanted some music on it but hated the thought of spending a lot of money. This is when I discovered I could download songs from the Topeka and Shawnee County Library's website.  Here's how it works:
Go to the website located at http://tscpl.org/.  On the banner across the top of the library's home web page, click on "Find Stuff," which is the first item listed on the top left side of the home page.

After clicking on "Find Stuff," you will see the above page with a link to "Downloads".  Under Downloads, click on "Music Downloads (Freegal)".

Once you have registered with freegal, you may download three songs a week for free. You log in using your library card number and library password and then can search for songs by title, artist, album or composer.

Not all artists or albums are on freegal.  You will find a lot of newer artists, seeking to build an audience and a lot of older music. That's fine by me because I love me some Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Judy Garland and Dinah Shore. To date, I've downloaded almost 40 songs. These are songs I probably would never have gone out and bought but still enjoy listening to...like my bagpipe music or classical instrumental cowboy theme songs.
I once had a boss who had moved to Topeka from out East and was unfamiliar with our town. One of the first thing he did was have all the employees in his department make a list of the ten best things Topeka has to offer. My list definitely included our library.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How to Enter Sweepstakes and Contests to Win

My prize?
In the early 1990's, I worked in management at a very large car dealership.  The dealer and/or manufacturer often sponsored promotions, sweepstakes and giveaways to increase product recognition and sales. 
One year the manufacturer co-sponsored a local sweepstakes in which a vehicle was to be given away.  To enter, contestants had to go to a local store and fill out a paper entry form (this was the 90's) by a certain date. The winner was drawn from the entries received.
The winner of the contest had to pick up the vehicle at the dealership where I worked and I was assigned to complete all the paperwork transferring ownership.  She was very excited when she arrived with her husband and small children to pick up the vehicle.  As I completed the paperwork, she told me she was a stay-at-home mom. She explained she saw the contest advertised in the newspaper and asked her husband to take her to the location so she could enter.  Her husband was reluctant but agreed. He waited in the car with their small children while she ran inside to enter the contest.  She went on to tell me she entered only once and on the last day.
Interestingly, I was told that though the contest was heavily advertised and the box in which to enter was placed in a major department store at a mall, the contest received relatively few enteries. I assume many people saw the box or the advertisement and thought, "Why bother? I never win anything".
Later in life I spoke with another lady who told me a story of also winning a vehicle from a car dealership. She stated you entered the contest but then had to be present to win at the drawing. She said they drew many names before her name was called. However, her story did not have a happy ending.
The lady went on to explain she then learned she had not "won" a vehicle but rather a two-year lease of a vehicle with mileage restrictions.  The contest was advertised as winning a vehicle, not winning a 2-year lease. She  contacted an attorney but because she had signed a release agreeing to accept the 2-year lease as the prize she apparently had little recourse.  She was very bitter and felt cheated.
I occassionally enter advertising promotions, sweepstakes or contests. I do not enter anything that requires paying money, including charity raffles since I would consider these to be a form of gambling. Personally, I consider gambling just a legal form of greed. But, if I were to become obsessed with entering contests, would I be any better? Would I be simplifying my life?
This spring, I wanted to get tickets to go the "Symphony in the Flint Hills", a local event where the Kansas City symphony plays a concert outside each year in a different location in the Kansas Flint Hills (http://www.symphonyintheflinthills.org/).
Symphony in theFlint Hills
My husband and I have attended this event for the last several years but it has become increasingly difficult to obtain and expensive to buy tickes.  I saw a local bank had a contest giving away two tickets to the concert. I decided to enter. When I went to the bank's website, I noted there were several other contests and I just went ahead and entered them all. I did this on my laptop while watching television. I was bored.
Though, I didn't win tickets, we managed to obtain tickets and went to the concert. I forgot all about entering the contest. Months later I was checking my junk email and noticed I had received a notice I had won a contest. Usually, I would have deleted without opening. However, the email title stated the name of hte bank and the contest, which I remembered entering. I also recognized the parent name of a local radio station which co-sponsored the contest. I was being notified I had won a contest for backyard items.
If you do enter a contest, many will only notify you be email (which may go into your spam folder). Often, you must respond by a certain date (typically 48-72 hours) or risk forfeiture. I would not advise opening any email stating you have won a contest unless you actually know you entered that contest. And remember, no legitimate contest requires you to pay taxes or any other fees upfront. If you do not remember entering the contest, you didn't. Con artists are betting you will become so greedy you will throw caution to the wind.
In the case of this contest, I was given the choice of patio furniture or a children's playset. After doing some research, I chose the playset. I had to go to the radio station and obtain a certificate which I then took to a local lawn and garden store to obtain the swingset. The radio station gave me a "1099" form which I will file with my taxes. The playset will be considered income by the IRS. You do not pay the taxes upfront but you will pay income tax on the total value of the item won.
I was speaking to a friend of my mine debating whether to get the patio furniture or the playset. I wanted the furniture but thought the store was really inflating the furniture's value.
She said, "It's just not free enough for you, is it?"
I had to laugh. But since I knew I would be paying taxes on whatever value the store placed on the item, I wanted to make sure it was a fair and reasonable evauluation.
It took a couple of months from the time I received notification to when I actually received the certificate for the playset. It took a lot of emails and calls to arrange. I had to make a trip to pick it up. My husband had to put it together. I need to buy mulch and spread underneath it.
Not simple. Not really free.
So, if you still want to enter contests, do so with caution and don't waste a ton of time doing it. Your chances are highest of winning:
1)  local contest over national;
2)  small prize over large prize;
3)  less popular prizes (ie: $25 gift certificate to Dairy Queen vs an iPad)
Why?  Simple statistics.  The fewer the enteries, the more likely your chances of winning.
If you want to enter sweepstakes or  contests, this website provides a current list:


I like this website because it allows you to search by region, prize, end date, number of entries allowed, etc.

Often trade shows (such as lawn & garden or home shows) offer many booths featuring giveaways. I have noted many older individuals who bring address labels with them to such shows and place an address label on the entry instead of having to hand fill out each form. I think this is pretty smart.
My Grandpa always advised folding an entry so it would have multiple edges and thus easier to grab when being drawn rather than simply folding it in half or not at all before placing in a box of entries.   

Also, be aware that by entering a contest, you may be giving permission to a company to contact you in the future in an attempt to sell you something or to sell your name, contact information and demographics. So, always read the fine print before entering. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Use a Sock to Make an Easy, Cute Candle Cover

Do you have an old, boring candle sitting around the house?  Here's a neat way to dress up a boring candle or cover up an unattractive label. Personally, I hate candles with labels you can't easily remove.
The only materials you need are a jar candle, an old sock and a pair of scissors.

First, take an old sock, any sock will do. I used an old, brown trouser sock with a hole in the toe.  Cut off the foot portion of the sock. 

Now, slide the sock over the candle. The candle above is only half dressed. Try the sock on the candle, if too large, remove and trim off as much sock as needed to cover the candle fully.  
Voila! Instant designer candle!  Since I used an old trouser sock with a lace pattern, the candlelight shines through and looks quite lovely on my mantle.
Personally, I think these are cute enough to give as gifts. You do not have to use a trouser sock, use one of your husbands old dress socks or one of the kids cute patterned socks.  The thinner the sock material, the more light you will have to shine through the material but even an old wool sock would look cute.
I believe even the most craft-challenged among us can handle this project!

Topeka HyVee Deals Through Nov. 22

It seems every week, one grocery store in Topeka will have far better deals than the other grocery stores. This week, in my opinion HyVee by far had the better savings.
If you have not taken advantage of purchasing a Cure 81 Ham and receiving a FREE turkey, I suggest you hurry.  The trick is, of course, is to find the smallest ham possible and the largest turkey (Up to 12 pounds. You will pay the difference for anything over 12 pounds).  I found a ham for $21.46 and a turkey for $16.66. I also had a $2 off coupon for the ham. After $2 off manufacturer coupon (www.hormel.com/updates/coupons/) and store coupon for free turkey, I paid about $1.05 a pound for around 18 pounds of meat (ham and turkey combined). Anytime, you can find meat for around a $1 a pound, it is a great savings. I should get 15-18 (or more) meals from this much meat.
My projected menu for this week includes:
Turkey and mashed potatoes
Turkey and noodles
Ham and pineapple pizza
Ham and potato casserole
Honeyed Ham, baked sweet potato and grilled asparagus
Loaded Nachos (will need a break from ham and turkey!)
Ham and Potato Chowder with Ritz crackers
Another deal I took advantage of was this "Buy 10, save $6 instantly at checkout" coupon. I ended up purchasing Velveeta ($4.39 after doubled manufacturer coupon combined with store coupon), two boxes of Ritz (89 cents each after doubled manufacturer coupon combined with store coupon) and seven packages of cream cheese (69 cents each after store coupon).  Hy-Vee allows you to stack manufacturer coupons with store coupons resulting in great savings.  Even without manufacturer coupons, 69 cents a package is a great price for cream cheese, especially name brand cream cheese. I don't think I have found cream cheese much less than $1 a package for a long time. This cream cheese does not expire until March 2013 so I should be stocked up for quite a while.
You always find certain things on sale around Thanksgiving--a holiday devoted to gluttony and football. One of those is Cool Whip so I went ahead and got a couple of packages for 69 cents each.  I bought a couple of packages of butter for $1.88 (Aldi's everyday price is about a dime cheaper but I didn't feel like making another stop to just save 20 cents--I'm frugal, not crazy.) There were lots of good deals at HyVee this week but it's really only a deal if it's something you want and will use.
The only other special I took advantage of this week was Apple Market had ten pounds of potatoes for $1.68 and asparagus for $2.98 a pound. I love asparagus! I don't like shopping at multiple stores so I try to keep it to two a week. I just know certain things are cheaper at certain stores and wait until they are having a great sale, then stock up on the other less expensive items they sell at the same time I purchase the sale items. For example, the cheapest cat litter I have found in Topeka is at Hy-Vee so I bought some while taking advantage of these sales. It really doesn't take as much effort as you would think to save a ton of money on groceries.
I will likely be holding another "Couponing" class in January in Topeka (date yet to be determined). If you or anyone you know would like to attend, please make a pre-reservation by emailing me at ksfarmgirl@live.com.  The cost to attend is $10 a person. Your ten dollar investment will save you hundreds of dollars.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Kansas Consumers Can Get Coupons Off Pork

If you live in Kansas and you like pork and coupons, I recommend signing up for the Kansas Pork Associations newsletter. Since signing up, I have not been inundated with pork spam but do receive occasional emails with coupons off specific cuts of Kansas pork. You do not see a lot of coupons off fresh meat so I recommend taking advantage of these offers. (http://www.kspork.org/coupons#.UKUGsMXAeQJ).
Growing up on a farm, I am partial to pork.  My Dad called hogs "mortgage makers" because you could take a hog from birth to butcher weight in about 6 months. In contrast, it takes beef cattle about two years to mature.
Here's another reason to like pork: it's diet food. Pork is high in protein and low in carbs.  Pork has about 140 calories in every 4 ounces, compared to beefs 200 calories. Pork has 4.5 grams of fat, compared to beefs approximately 11 grams.
Also, pork is usually a little less expensive than beef. Adding pork dishes to your menu can help reduce your grocery bill.
I hope to post some great, inexpensive pork recipes soon! In the mean time, head over to the Kansas Pork Associations website and check out some of their great recipes at www.kspork.org.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dillon's Mega Event through November 6, 2012

$11.58 for all pre-tax
Dillon's is having another one of their Mega Events this week. Their are some fairly good deals but this is one of those promotions you have to be careful to make sure you purchase items in the right quantity.

I will probably go back later in the week and pick up a few more items after I have a chance to match up more coupons with sale/event items.  For example, the creamer is $2.49 (if you purchase 10 participating items) and after 55 cent coupon which doubled, it was only $1.49. The Windex is $2.51 and after 50 cent doubled coupon was $1.51 each. If you want to be really frugal, it's easy to make your own cleansers.
I actually went to Dillon's in an emergency to buy butter...I paid $2.49 (on sale) for this butter and it almost killed me because the regular price of butter at Wal-Mart and Aldi's is about $1.78.
The baggies were $1.21 after coupon. I have a baggie obsession. This was cheaper than the store brands anywhere else but obviously if I had to drastically cut my grocery budget, baggies would be be an easy cut.
I had coupons for all of the items pictured above. This, combined with the sales event made many of these items very inexpressive.
The toothpaste was free after coupon. I frequently see items such as this at garage sales. Extreme couponers turning around and selling items they have obtained free or almost free. They would take this toothpaste and resell it for around 75 cents. I've been to a couple of garage sales where the seller literally had hundreds of items. Of course, I recognized the items since I had recently purchased them, just not in near the same quantities.
Many of Dillon's mega event items do have current coupons. I suggest making an exact list including the number of each item you plan to purchase. If you miscount by 1 item, you could end up paying full price for 9 items. Such a mistake would cost you $4.50.

HyVee Two Day Sale November 1 & 2

$10.24 before tax

Don't miss HyVee's 2 Day Sale (Nov. 1 & 2)!  Eggs are just 98 cents a carton (limit 2) and soda (Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, 7-up, Mountain Dew, RC or A&W) is only 68 cents a 2-liter bottle (limit 4). Ocean Spray Juice is also on sale for just $1.79.  This is the same price as Aldi's juice but there are many more varieties in OceanSpray. Personally, I love the White Cran Peach.
Lettuce is on sale all week (through Nov. 6) for 99 cents.  This is cheaper than Apple Market which usually sells their green leaf lettuce for $1.29. The potatoes were 99 cents for 10 pounds.
I estimate I paid about 50% off the normal price for these items and that is without using any coupons.
HyVee is also starting a new fuel saver program. You have to sign up for the program and get a plastic tag to put on your key chain. It works quite a bit differently from Dillon's program. With Dillon's, you basically earn a point for every dollar you spend. At HyVee, you will earn so many cents off a gallon based on buying specific items.
For example, each week in their ad, they will state which items earn fuel discounts. Let's say one week you can earn 5 cents off per gallon for every box of Kellogg's cereal you purchase. If you purchase 5 boxes, you will earn 25 cents off a gallon.
I never earn more than`10 cents off a gallon at Dillon's. This is because I really don't buy very many groceries at Dillon's. I have to spend a $100 to earn 10 cents off and it takes me all month to spend that amount at Dillon's.
My neighbor says he purchases gift cards at Dillon's and then uses those to pay for his groceries. He earns points when he purchases the gift card and then again when he uses the gift card to pay for his groceries. He says he saves about $70 a month in gas by accumulating double points in this manner. He also accumulates his points until he reaches the highest possible discount, then takes both of his cars to the pump at the same time, filling first one car and then the other without turning off the pump. I asked him if this was allowed and he said no one has ever told him he couldn't do it.
HyVee's new program does not start until December 5. There are restrictions but it sounds as if you may be able to earn some rather large discounts. We will have to wait and see...