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avatar You are viewing an archive of articles by FruGal. FruGal currently serves as a Professional Development Consultant for a prominent online educational program and as a Social Media Specialist for a Luxury Real Estate company in Atlanta. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Over the next couple of weeks, six finalists will be auditioning for the opening of “staff writer” at Consumerism Commentary. Each will be providing two guest articles to share with readers. After the six writers have shared their guest articles, readers will have an opportunity to provide feedback before we select the staff writer.

This article is presented by FruGal, a consultant for a prominent online educational program.

From the time I was a little girl, I can remember making regular trips to my local library. The sights, smells, and sounds are still with me as if it were yesterday. It’s all still fresh in my mind – everything from climbing up the dark, cobweb filled stairwell in the old building in town, to wandering aimlessly throughout the shelves, trying to find a R.L. Stine horror novel that would keep me up late at night, reading in bed with a flashlight.

Fast-forward twenty something years, and you’ll still find me at my local library. However, I’m immersed in an experience that has been completely transformed from what it was decades ago. Long gone are your old-fashioned, wooden card catalogues to help guide you through the endless shelves of books, and other more traditional fixtures of the public library. Today’s modern library is truly an infinite supply of resources, knowledge, entertainment, and more. And best of all, it’s all completely free!

I could talk for hours upon hours about the different services and materials that are available to you at your local library, which chances are, is probably only miles from your home. However, for the interest of this post, I’ll be highlighting my favorite things you can find at your library today.

I’ll get started with the “what” of the library. Books, DVD’s, and CD’s are definitely at the top of my list. Next time you think about heading to your nearby bookstore, or paying the exorbitant cost of going to the movies (plus popcorn, a drink, etc.), consider heading out to the library. The library is home to an endless wealth of new (and old) releases that are available to community members such as you. I visit my local library about once a week, usually on the weekends, and pick up a wide variety of materials that are of interest to me. Take DVD’s for example. At the library, you’ll have everything from blockbuster comedies that just came out of the theater, to documentaries from around the world. You can even find materials such as Audiobooks, which are great for long drives, or perhaps to share with a friend or family member who, for whatever reason, may not be able to read.

Now, let’s explore the “how”. Your local library has an online catalogue system, called an Online Public Access Catalogue (or OPAC) which has replaced your traditional card catalogue. Within the OPAC, you can search through your library’s inventory of multi-media resources. But to take it a step further, you have the ability to reserve items through the system. This is as simple as securing your library card number, which is located on the back of your card, and establishing a pin if you don’t have one already. If you need help, a library staff member will surely lend a helping hand. Once you’re logged in to the online system, you can search for, and place a hold on the latest and greatest books, DVD, and CD titles, plus lots more. At my library, I can place a hold on up to 15 items at a time, and I’m simply sent an email when my request has been filled. The library has a system where materials are transferred from one branch to another for your convenience. With less popular or older items, you’ll only have to wait a few days, whereas with new releases, it may be a few weeks. Either way, if you keep your “hold” list full, you’ll constantly have a wide variety of materials ready to be picked up and enjoyed. Or, if you choose, you can simply wander the shelves and discover whatever may catch your interest.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the “why”. With today’s economy, every penny really does matter. If you add up the total of just one book, one CD, and one trip to the movies, it’s probably around $50.00 or more. To me, it’s much more practical to take advantage of a free (and fun) resource that so many people have tapped into. Plus, it truly is an enjoyable experience. The other day while I was leaving the library, I smiled as I glanced through the glass that peeked into the children’s area, and a father was sitting in a miniature chair, reading to his son. While the library is constantly changing and evolving, some things never change – which is a good thing.

With this all being said, as a lover of books, I realize that there are some must-haves for your collection. I’m not saying completed deprive yourself of these items, but rather, make an effort to be more conscious in your spending habits. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how you can help the library. After all, it’s done so much for you. Consider becoming a “friend” of your local library, which could include anything from helping to raise funds through book sales, or shelving books. More information about this can be found on your library’s website, or by inquiring in person.

Phew, all this and I’ve barely touched the surface! The library is home to special events, classes, story time for children, author talks, arts and crafts… need I go on? I’ll guess I’ll have to save the rest for another time. For now, if you aren’t already, I encourage you to visit your library and explore the many opportunities that are available to you, as well as your family. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed AND you’ll have some extra money in the bank.

I’d love to hear from Consumerism Commentary readers about your experiences with the local library. How often do you visit? What are your favorite materials?

This is a guest article by FruGal, one of six finalists interested in being Consumerism Commentary’s staff writer.

Photo credit: (Erik)

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Couponing Makes Cents

This article was written by in Frugality. 31 comments.

Over the next couple of weeks, six finalists will be auditioning for the opening of “staff writer” at Consumerism Commentary. Each will be providing two guest articles to share with readers. After the six writers have shared their guest articles, readers will have an opportunity to provide feedback before we select the staff writer.

This article is presented by FruGal, a consultant for a prominent online educational program.

Chances are, I have something in common with either you or someone you’re close to. That’s right, I recently found myself unemployed. After a five-year employment with a steady organization and what I thought was a prosperous future, I woke up one morning to find myself blindsided by the news that I no longer had a job. Luckily, being a financially-conscious individual, I’ve always been wise about investing a percentage of my earnings in various places, such as high-interest savings accounts. While this left me with enough money to “survive,” I knew that there were some concrete steps I was going to need to take in order to ensure I was making the most of my hard-earned dollars and, in believe it or not, cents.

Cents you ask? Yes, cents. Coupon-clipping has changed my life. What has long been considered a hobby of a let’s say, more “seasoned” individuals (a.k.a. senior citizens) has truly become all the rage with today’s average consumer. As a 28 year-old single female, I may not be your “average” coupon clipper, but my point is coupons are a smart move, no matter who you are.

Coupons have long fascinated me, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to master the art of this ever-growing practice. Spend just a few minutes online, and you’ll probably find quite a few useful web pages where people dedicate their whole site to the art of coupon clipping, complete with weekly store deals, coupon links, and much, much more.

I’m excited to share with you just a few simple steps you can take TODAY (well, maybe this Sunday) to STOP seeing your hard-earned money dwindle each week, and START seeing incredible savings in your everyday expenditures.

1. The good old Sunday newspaper is an excellent place to begin your new-found hobby of clipping coupons! On Sunday morning (or perhaps Saturday if the early edition is available where you live like it is In my city), head out to your local grocery store or gas station and pick up a copy of the Sunday paper for generally around $2 or less. Your $2 will go far based on the incredible savings you find inside. (Also check out your local paper on Thursday, as they often have coupons and promotions.)

Inside your $2 treasure, you’ll find a wide array of coupon inserts from companies such as SmartSource, PGBrandSaver, and others. Note that your coupon inserts may vary from ones you’d find in other cities, but regardless, you’ll find endless deals inside.

2. Now that you’ve got your coupons, what do you do with them? Get out your scissors and start clipping! There are tons of different organization systems that you can use, such as keeping a three ring binder with inserts. What I find works best for me is a plastic file folder organizer with tabbed letters of the alphabet. You can find these at any office supply store, and again, the couple of dollar investment you make will be well worth it in the long-run.

Once you’ve clipped all of your coupons it’s time to file them into your folder. I clip just about everything, even if I think I might not use it, because you never know. You also might find yourself giving coupons that don’t apply to you to your friends and family members. Find a system that works for you, but I usually file by the brand name of the item, rather than the general category. That way if I’m going through my sales circular for next week (see the next step) and see that Cheerios are on sale, I can simply flip to the “C” section and pull my coupon!

3. The key to successfully using your coupons is in the timing. You don’t want to go to the grocery store and simply buy items because you have coupons for them. Instead, check out your local grocery stores’ sales papers ahead of time. Prior to your weekly grocery store trip, go online to your store’s website. Most stores I’ve ever shopped at post their weekly circulars on their site. Some of them even have copies of the next week’s sales circular just past the checkout near the exit, so pick it up on your way out to start planning for the next week. Once you know what’s on sale, match up those items that are on sale in the circular with those items you have coupons for.

Of course, you won’t have a coupon for every item you want to buy, but you’ll definitely begin to see some significant savings in your weekly spending. Once you become a coupon-clipping “expert” you’ll begin to see your grocery bills decrease more and more, with strategies such as clipping coupons on the web, taking advantage of stores that double (and sometimes even triple!) your coupons, buying multiple copies of your Sunday paper, and using online resources to plan out how to maximize your coupons at different stores each week if you’re super ambitious.

Since I’ve begun steadily clipping and using coupons, I’ve seen my grocery bills more than cut in half each week. Not only does this give me some degree of personal satisfaction, but it also lets me know that I have a bit more money that particular week to go out with friends, or buy that bestselling novel I’ve been wanting to read. Or better yet, maybe I should just get it from the library for free.

So, Consumerism Commentary readers, what do you think? Are you an avid coupon-clipper like me? Do you have any tips to share on how to stretch your dollars and cents even further at the grocery store? If you get a little thrill from looking at the bottom of your grocery store receipt and seeing your savings, I’d love to hear from you!

This is a guest article by FruGal, one of six finalists interested in being Consumerism Commentary’s staff writer.

Photo: Roadsidepictures

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