Sunday, November 23, 2014

Brooks Brothers on the Cheap

If you are like me, you dream of the day that you can walk into a Brooks Brothers store and feel okay purchasing one of their clothing items without it killing your budget. $100.00 for a dress shirt, are you kidding me? What, are there strands of gold weaved in or something? While I am sure their shirts are nice and are of higher quality compared to most dress shirts, my intoxication level would need to be off the charts in order to make a purchase at one of their regular or factory outlet stores.

Recently, while driving back from our vacation to Charleston (yes, Charleston sounds like an expensive vacation, but it isn't. I'll tell you more about that in another post), we decided to take a detour off I-95 to Garland, NC. I have heard several people mention that Brooks Brothers has a factory outlet store in Garland where everything is much cheaper than the regular store and factory outlet stores you see at Tanger/Prime Outlets. Garland is honestly in the middle-of-nowhere. Living in Eastern, NC I thought I understood middle-of-nowhere, but it wasn't until we arrived in Garland that I truly understood where the middle-of-nowhere was. By the way, below is a map of Garland.

 Fayetteville or Wilmington may be the closest city to Garland. When you start hearing banjos, you know you are close (only kidding).

Evidently, Brooks Brothers has a shirt factory in Garland, NC which makes the small town the perfect place for the company to sell items that may not pass completely for Brooks Brothers' quality. When you arrive at the store, you will be looking at two small retail spaces (below):

Of two spaces that the outlet occupies, the right side is the men's side, and the left side is mainly women's (with some men's). As you enter the store, you will immediately see a tie rack directly in front of you.

The ties are probably one of the best deals in the store. When I visited, they had $1 black ties near the counter and the other colors front and center. Brooks Brothers ties normally sell for around $80. The three ties I purchased were $17.99 each. The store also has a selection of dress shirts, suits, and pants. Being a size 38 short, the selection of suits in my size was very limited. For most average height men, they had a decent selection. The dress shirts were decently priced. Most ranged from $15 - $25 per shirt. Remember, because this is the island of misfit Brooks Brothers clothes, some of the shirts may not be of quality high enough to purchase. They have a $10 rack of shirts of which most I found too low of quality to purchase. The shirts had a small hole in them or some part of the shirt was frayed.

Make sure you try on everything you purchase at the store. All sales are final. Another tip, take some time to study and learn their sizing colors. They no longer type the word "fitted" or "tailored fit" on a fitted shirt. They use a different color tag. They also have one set of colors for their regular stores and another set of colors for their factor outlet stores. Since they carry clothes from both the regular and factory stores, it can get real confusing real quick. It is important to have patience while browsing. I spent over two hours in the small store sifting and re-sifting through their selection.

All in all, it was a good trip to the store. My total take was three ties and two shirts. I plan to return at some point to re-browse their selection.

If you have a tip or suggestion, please feel free to email me at

Happy Saving!


Friday, October 24, 2014

What's In Your Lunchbox?

It's 12:30pm on a Thursday, and you are hungry for lunch. What do you do? Do you travel home to eat leftovers? Do you quickly stop by your favorite fast food restaurant for a bite to eat? Do you go out with friends to a restaurant? Or, do you go to the refrigerator where you work and grab your lunchbox?

For the majority of my working career (as well as my time in grade school), I have been an avid fan of bringing my own lunch. Lunch prices at local restaurants continue to increase. It seems that a decent lunch meal at a local sandwich shop can cost $7.00 or more depending what you get, not to mention a tip if you sit at the restaurant to eat the meal. For the last four years, I have basically eaten the same meal for lunch each day; A peanut butter sandwich, small salad, and an apple. Over time, I found ways to save on some of these items as I would purchase them. Recently, I asked myself, how much does my daily lunch indulgence cost me? Putting pen to paper, this is what I found out.

Exhibit A - Lunch Table

As mentioned in a previous post, the bread I buy is Nature's Own from the Dollar Tree. Sometimes, there are sales on the other items as well. Over time, I have tweaked this lunch arrangement somewhat. Recently, I have moved to green leaf lettuce over romaine as green leaf tends to last a few days longer. I have also found that lettuce seems to last longer if purchased from a Food Lion and not WalMart. Most WalMart employees will tell you that they get their lettuce from the same place as Food Lion, and while that may be true, the WalMart lettuce is handled more frequently given the number of shoppers they have. I believe this constant handling of the lettuce probably causes it to go bad sooner. 

Most of the other items on the lunch table show the normal everyday price for that item. At times, I'll find a coupon for dressing or peanut butter and will stock up on a few, but most of the time, I'll pay the normal price for the item. 

Some may be asking, "What kind of salad is just lettuce and dressing?". I must admit from time to time, I will add another vegetable to the salad, but not always. It generally depends what is in the refrigerator and what must be eaten sooner to prevent spoiling. Sometimes the vegetables will add variety.

Also, some might wonder, "Where is the jelly?". When I first started eating this lunch, we really couldn't afford jelly and since it doesn't add much nutritional value (if you buy the normal concord grape) I decided to forgo having it on my sandwich.  

Given the low price of $1.16/day, one might imagine the amount of savings compared to going out to eat each day. In one year, assuming it is $6.00 to go out to lunch, this meal will save you around $1,200. Even if you just bring your lunch two days a week, you will still save over $500.00 in a year. 

Most  understand that it is cheaper to bring their lunch but complain that they do not have the time to prep everything needed for the meal. I'll admit that it does take discipline. I make the majority of my lunches for the week on Sunday night and Wednesday night. 

If you have a tip or suggestion, please feel free to email me at

Happy Saving!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cable vs. Satellite.... How About Neither!

Cable and satellite providers are constantly quarreling over who is the best and is therefore more deserving of your hard earned dollar. If you visit DirecTV's website, they claim that they are number one is satellite TV and "beat cable". If you visit Time Warner Cable's website they tell you you can "Enjoy Better".

So, which is better?

...How about NONE OF THE ABOVE!!

About twenty months ago, we were moving to Elizabeth City. We were in a two-year contract with DirecTV (one which we voluntarily but regrettably signed). We informed DirecTV that we were moving and they visited the new town-home to determine the best satellite location to transfer the service. Since our landlord would not allow us to place a dish on the roof, we could only have the dish on a pole. Unfortunately (well actually fortunately), given the positioning of the trees in the backyard, we did not have a clear view of the southern sky. DirecTV allowed us out of our contract without penalty since we had no logistical way of continuing service from our new residence.

As we started taking a look at our local cable option, we started to weigh the benefits of having some form of upgraded television. I enjoyed watching ESPN, Comedy Central, and USA; and my wife enjoyed Oxygen and HGTV. Other than those channels we were not particularly interested in other shows on TV. (Ok there was one or two shows on A&E that we were interested in, but that was really about it). We started to look at the cost of us enjoying these television shows. We saw the range was between $60 and $80 each month for cable alone. There were bundling options available (triple play, etc), but seriously who has a house phone anymore and even those were starting around $100.00. My wife and I made the conscious decision to go without cable or satellite for a few months to see if we could survive without our favorite shows.

We purchased an indoor/outdoor antenna and continued our Netflix subscription (which at the time was only $7.99). After the first six months, we realized we were really not missing much. Most of the TV shows we enjoyed would pop up on Netflix (albeit sometimes six to eight months after they aired), and the antenna received okay reception (like four channels). Given where we live, we are right on the cusp of reception limits. Most TV stations are around 35 - 40 miles away. On a cloudy day we can receive seven or eight channels, but we only expect to receive four or five normally. While our selection is fairly limited, it is sufficient for our needs. We find ourselves watching tons of PBS, which contrary to by belief as a kid, isn't all that bad. One TV show in particular, North Carolina Weekend, has become a favorite Saturday morning show for Aimee and me.

Getting rid of satellite/cable for twenty months and netting out the cost of Netflix and the antenna has saved us around $1,389.

Yea, that's big money! "Franklin, Grant, and Jackson!"

Just as equally important, not having the upgraded TV options has allowed my wife and I to focus our spending on other, more useful items.

Getting rid of satellite and cable has become a somewhat popular trend recently. There are other alternatives that we are not taking advantage of currently. Hulu plus allows you to watch more current TV shows and Chromecast/Apple TV/Roku provide other options as well.

If you have a money saving story regarding television, and would like to share, please feel free to post a comment. Also if you have a savings idea you would like to share please email

Happy Saving!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Shave and a Haircut.... For Free!!!!

In the movie, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" there is a scene where Judge Doom (the villain played by Christopher Lloyd) is attempting to catch Roger. In order to locate Roger, Judge Doom taps the famous rhythm to Shave and a Haircut. He goes from wall to wall tapping the same rhythm "tap....tap tap tap... tap.." As cartoons cannot resist finishing the phrase, eventually Roger bursts out through the wall from the area he was hiding and yells, "two bits". (Click HERE to watch the scene)

Unfortunately, a haircut costs much more today than "two bits" (which would have been equal to 25 cents). Several years ago, I became tired of paying for haircuts. While I always appreciated the work of the barber or hair stylist, I disliked having to make the time to physically go barber shop, and spending the funds to have it cut. Unfortunately my hair grows about as fast as a Chia pet on miracle grow, so there was no possible way to skip a month and save money that way. The cheapest cut I could find averaged around $12.00 plus tip. There are certainly some hair cutting specials that are much cheaper than this, but I decided to leave the world of organized hair cutting and employ my own barber. Ever since February of 2010, my wife has taken on the task of cutting my hair each month. We purchased a set of Wahl clippers for about $25.00 with multiple accessories (similar to those seen below).

She watched several YouTube videos to learn a variety of cutting methods (there are literally hundreds of tutorials out there). When she first began cutting my hair, I kept my hairstyle fairly simple with no need to use the hand clippers that came with the set. As her cutting skill advanced, so did my desired hair cut. Assuming an average of $12 per cut and netting out the cost of the clippers, we have saved around $635.00 since she started cutting my hair 55 months ago.

If you have a suggestion for a savings tip, please email me at

Happy Saving!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Serious Cereal Savings

My food of choice for breakfast is (and has always been) cereal. I am generally not very picky as to the brand or type although my favorite is Frosted Flakes. Since I eat cereal almost every morning, we tend to go through quite a bit of it. Walking down the aisle at your local Walmart or grocery store, you'll see an endless selection of brands and types. There are the name brands offered by General Mills, Kellogg's, and Post as well as store brands. Store brand cereal does not bother me.

In 2011 I first noticed while shopping at Walmart that pricing of their cereals were constantly changing. I began not paying attention to the actual price I was paying, but rather the price per ounce. After several years of watching the price per ounce, it seemed that most cereals averaged a little over 20 cents per ounce. The Walmart brands were lower, but still ranged between 13 and 19 cents per ounce. There were a few cereals (mainly the Walmart brand of Frosted Flakes and Honey Bunches of Oats w/ Almonds) that were less than 12 cents per ounce. Those were generally the cereals I would purchase.

When Aimee and I moved to Elizabeth City in December of 2012, we discovered Ollie's. We had always heard about the store, but never ventured into the discount retailer until we moved. Among many of the other cheap items they had for sale, we found Ollie's generally sold cereal on the cheap. At first, we were apprehensive and wondered about the quality of the cereal (expiration date, staleness, etc.) but nevertheless gave it a try. None of the cereals we purchased were out of date, nor did they taste stale. When doing the math, many times we were purchasing cereal between 8 and 10 cents per ounce, and some of these were name brands! At one point in 2013, Malt-O-Meal (the cereal in a bag people) had a campaign to put some of their cereals in a box in order to try to raise awareness for their bagged cereals. They figured that if people tried their cereals in boxes, maybe they would switch to the bag and effectively "bag the box". I'm not sure if their campaign worked, but they had quite a few leftover boxes of cereal on closeout at Ollie's. These cereals were priced around 8 cents per ounce and included their off brand of Captain Crunch w/ Berries, Frosted Flakes, and Apple Jacks. On one occasion in early 2014, we were able to pick up a box that contained two bags of Frosted Flakes at 5 cents an ounce.

One might wonder, what the difference is in a few cents per ounce. Assuming I consume around 2 ounces of cereal each day six days a week and another ounce once a week as a dessert, my annual cereal consumption is 676 ounces. Conservatively, if am saving around 7 cents per ounce (most of the time it is more than that) my annual savings is $47.32. Some might balk and say that is not much, but in my Toyota Corolla, that is a tank and a half of gas (600 miles worth).

I have often times wondered the potential savings of purchasing in bulk from Sam's Club or Costco. Unfortunately, I do not own a membership so I cannot analyze whether or not the bulk savings is equivalent to that of Ollie's.

If you know of a way to save on cereal or have a suggestion for a savings tip, please email me at

Happy Saving!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Time to Suit Up!

For the last few days, Jos A. Bank has had their 75% off sale on suits. This is one of their better sales. Normally, you have to buy one at full price to get two or three suits for "free". With this 75% sale you can get the same deal as a buy one get three, but without actually having to buy three. This is convenient if your budget only has room for two suits and not four! Also, if you don't live close to a Jos A. Bank and you still want to take advantage of the sale, you can order online as well. Generally, I find that their selection online is greater than in the stores. You also won't be pestered by sales men all the time that way.

I believe this sale is only good through Saturday, August 30th, but honestly you can probably just wait another month and you'll find the same sale. Check out their website HERE. While you are there don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the page and check out their clearance center. They put a selection of items on clearance from time to time, so it is worth while to check often.

Happy Saving!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Save Some Bread on Your Bread

Since our last blogging series a few years ago, Aimee and I have found a simple and easy way to save money on loaf bread. At most grocery stores, a decent loaf of bread (Nature's Best, Sara Lee, etc.) will set you back at least $2.25. Sometimes you may find a special for under $2.00. Since we eat sandwiches everyday for lunch, our bread consumption is fairly constant and waiting to find a deal on a loaf of bread can leave us with the possibility of not having it available for lunch.

For several years now, we have been eating higher quality loaf bread while only spending $1.00 plus tax. The local Dollar Tree sells every item for $1.00 or less and includes bread. As bread in regular grocery stores nears its expiration date, the loaves are collected and distributed to discount stores (such as the Dollar Tree) and sold at a discounted price. The bread is delivered several times each week and each Dollar Tree has its own schedule as to when it receives the loaves. At our local store, we have found that it is delivered normally Friday evening or Saturday morning. We plan the trips on Saturday mornings in order to get the best selection on the loaves. The selection each week is not always the same, so we visit often to stock up on our favorite bread brands (mine is Nature's Own Honey Wheat).

One might ask, "Since the bread is near expiration, how can you stock up with several loaves without them going bad?" The answer is simple, freeze the loaves not currently in use. There is a common misnomer that you cannot eat bread after its expiration date, as if it would go bad a few days after the sell by date. While this may be the case with other store bought items, such as milk, this is not the case with bread. We have found that if you freeze the loaves of bread you are not currently using, you prolong the life of the bread. This allows you to eat bread that is still fine a month or two after the sell by date on the loaf.

At our house, we tend to eat about a loaf every two weeks. Assuming consumption of 26 loaves annually and an average savings of $1.25 per loaf, we are able to save about $32.50 each year on bread alone.

As always, if you have a savings idea that you would like to share, email it to

Happy Saving!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Change Your Serpentine Belt and Save a Ton!

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible if you incorrectly install a serpentine belt and you damage your car. If you do not feel comfortable performing this repair, pay the extra money to have the belt changed. The purpose of this article is to show that replacement is not as daunting of a task as it may at first appear. I also do not claim ownership of the pictures and diagrams in the article. 

You hop in your car on your way to go somewhere, and as you are backing out of your driveway you continually hear a constant squeaking coming from the car engine area. The squeaking can have multiple sources, so you take the car to the repair shop and they tell you that your serpentine belt is worn and needs replacing. Next, they tell you that the total cost will be around $130.00 to change the belt. Unless you are someone who can't get your hands a little dirty, it will generally make good sense to change the belt yourself. On a car like mine (a 2005 Toyota Corolla), it's fairly easy to complete, takes only about 15 minutes, and will only cost you around $30.00. I have changed the belt on both of our cars multiple times over the last several years, and have saved at least $400.00 on replacement costs (two replacements for each car). Below are instructions on how to change the belt yourself and save $$.

1. Check to see if the belt is worn. The belt should look like this.

You will see that the grooves have cracks in them. This is when you know it is time to replace the belt.

2. Visit any auto parts store and RENT a serpentine belt tool (some use a socket wrench, but I prefer the tool as it has a longer handle for greater leverage) shown below.

I normally visit AutoZone, but most auto parts stores will have a similar program. They will charge you the $30.00 for the tool, and once you complete the replacement, you can return the tool for a full refund. This is offered under their "rent-a-tool" program. While you are at the auto parts store, go ahead and pick up the new belt. The auto parts store should be able to assist you in finding the correct belt. I normally opt for the more expensive belt at around $30.00 as I feel that since I am already saving money by performing the belt change myself, I can splurge a little on the quality of the belt.

3. Once back home, wait for the car to cool. It is no fun burning yourself on a hot car.

4. VERY IMPORTANT: Draw a diagram of your current serpentine belt's path (as each vehicle's can be different).

It's a bad day if you have to figure out how to snake the new belt without the use of a diagram.

5. Place the rented serpentine belt tool on the stationary nut (known as the drive belt tensioner bracket) and pull down on the tool's handle to release belt tension as shown below.

 Different vehicles have different places where this nut is located.

6. With the tension loosened, remove the old belt.

7. Snake new belt using the diagram you drew that follows the same path as the old serpentine belt. This is probably the most tricky part as some vehicles provide you with more room to feed the belt around the wheels than others. My Corolla doesn't give me much room.

8. Use the tool to assist in slipping the belt over the last wheel, and ensure the belt is positioned correctly. The belt should be tight. If it is not, then you have it on incorrectly or you purchased the wrong sized belt. The wheels will either have a smooth side or be grooved. The grooves on the belt should be matched and facing the grooves on the wheel and the wheels with the smooth surface should be matched with the smooth side of the belt (shown below).

9. Crank up the car and hope you did it right!

10. Don't forget to return the tool to get your $30.00 back!

If you find yourself have a little trouble at first or if you are slightly uncomfortable completing the task, search on YouTube how to change the serpentine belt on your particular vehicle as a confidence booster.

This is one way that we have been able to save over the last few years. Hope you find the article useful.

Happy Saving!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bringing it Back!!!

Beginning this week 8/18 - 8/22, I will begin posting again on PennyPinchingPaul. There are many new money saving ideas to share that have worked for us the past three years. Stay tuned for a new article this upcoming week!