Do This Before Festivus Shopping


gift-card-grannyBefore you buy hundreds of dollars of stuff for Christmas / Hanukhah / Festivus, consider this.  Buy gift cards to those stores at a significant discount (10-20% less is common).

Use the gift card(s) to make your purchase.

Doing this saved me $793.58 in 2015.

If you give gift cards, pick some up here at a discount!

Here’s the deal. Sites sell discounted gift cards that are:
Physical (card mailed to you)
Electronic or eGift (online use only)
Mobile (show on your phone in store)
Voucher or Printable Electronic (Emailed. Print out to use in store or online)

Choose which you want when making your purchase.  I prefer Voucher or Printable Electronic whenever available because I can use them in store or online.

But First… Do This Now

Get registered with these sites now.  This will get your discounted gift cards delivered in minutes, sometimes instantly.  Not being registered can delay delivery.

Use these links to register and you will get $5 off your first purchase at Raise and Cardpool

Otherwise, sign up by clicking these links: Cardpool or Raise.  I have used them repeatedly with no problems.

Gift Card Granny

Once you are registered with various sites, go here:  This is an

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Starbucks $10 Bonus if Add $10 to App with Visa Checkout


AStarbucks-50% Off @ Starbucks _ Grouponre you a coffee-achiever like Mrs. Olsen?  If those nouns sound like gibberish to you, congratulations on being under 30.  I’m talking about the bean, man!

Starbucks has another deal going.  If you load at least $10 onto your Starbucks app using Visa Checkout you will get a $10 bonus Starbucks eGift card.  Click here for the offer while it lasts.  Card-carrying Starbucks junkies can add this eGift card to your existing card account or app.  My eGift card arrived a few hours later.

Remember: Stay away from that last drop!

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$800 Tax-Free from Chase


800jeopardy-200What would you do with $800 tax-free?

Chase wants you to use their new Chase Ink Business Preferred sooo badly that they will give you 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $5,000 on that card in the first 3 months it is open.

I need to repeat this… An $800 bonus!! That’s eight $100 bills. That’s forty $20 bills. That’s 80 sawbucks.

The old Chase Ink business card had a nice 50,000 point bonus.  80,000 is more than 50,000.

For more information on this card, shoot your eyeballs over to the right side of this website where it says “Chip’s Favorite Credit Card Offer$”.  Then encourage your mouse to click “Business Credit Cards”.  Once at the next page, it’s like the 9th card down.  Email me if you have ANY questions.

Full disclosure: I may get a commission if you apply using my link, so… Thanks!

How To Frugally Spend $5,000 in 3 Months…

Check out my post 11 Ways To Meet A Spending Requirement for ideas.  I use a card to pay for everything except my mortgage and natural gas bill.

Are You A Business?

This card is designated for “business”.  Fear not.  You can be a business even if you don’t have a Corporation or LLC?  If you just said, “A what?” don’t worry about it – you don’t have one.

What you do is apply for the card as a “sole proprietor”, which the IRS defines as

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The Ol’ Tax Dodge Donation Double-Dip!


Charity Jar-175Most know that when you donate to a charity, you can claim a tax deduction for being such a swell human being.  That’s a fine “attaboy”!

Here’s another snazzy way to save on taxes by making a donation: Instead of donating cash, donate stock that you have owned for at least a year that has appreciated.  By donating this way, you get to avoid paying the capital gains tax on the stock’s appreciation. You also get to write off the full value of the stock at the time of donation (not just what you paid for the stock many moons ago).

Let’s say you bought a bunch of NetFlix for $4,000.  Now it is worth $10,000.  If you sell that stock, you will have to pay capital gains tax on that $6,000 gain.

At a capital gains tax rate of 15%, you would have to pay the Feds $900.  That’s just for the Feds.  Some states and municipalities want a taste as well (see map below).  My adopted home state of California has the highest capital gains tax rate in the country at a whopping 13.3%.  That’d be another $798 for me.

In this example, I can avoid paying $1,698 in taxes by donating my appreciated stock directly to a charity.

Another way of looking at this: I donated something that cost me $4,000 but got a write off as if I paid $10,000 for it.

Some of you are saying, “But I love my Apple / Amazon / Buffalo Wild Wings stock!”  That’s fine, donate it and buy some more.  I assume your new stock purchase price

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Sweet Sweet Charity (Giving Tuesday)


We have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Lazy Sunday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday.

Being charitable is a good thing – especially if it will get the guy next to the red kettle to stop testing your eardrums with his bell.

Some people “tithe” – which is giving 10% of one’s income. It’s like God is their agent and that is his commission. I can hear Him now, “I put you in America, how about a little something for the effort? Thank you. Me Bless.”

We hit the lottery just by being born in the good ole US of A.  Everything else is gravy.  Still, some folks here have legitimate needs.

It’s great to do things for charities. If you were looking for ways to be able to give more to charities, I have a few suggestions that have worked for me.

  1. I have a savings account at my bank that I call my “Donation Fund”. Every month I have an automatic transfer from my checking to that fund.  The savings account pays interest, has no minimums and no monthly fees. It’s amazing how fast those funds will grow, little by little, month by month.
  2. Now that I have my Donation Fund, when I get a request to Save The Tatas, Bike
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$25 Restaurant Certificates for $3


Everyone eats, right? November 21-23, you can buy a $25 restaurant gift certificate for ONLY $3.

I was late to the party because it sounded too good to be true. Then I received $25 and $50 gift certificates from friends. Even though the gift certificate said that alcohol was not included, when I called to make a reservation, the restaurant/bar said alcohol could be included – so ask.

On my last purchase, I picked up three. I decided not to use two of them.  Both were credited back to my account as two $25 credits.  I can use those credits to buy a combination of $10, $15, or $25 gift certificates to ANY restaurant.

So, buy any restaurant now at the $3 special offer.  Enjoy the restaurants you chose, or use that work-around to go to a different place that they offer.

You can search by zip code or city.  Certificates do not expire.

This would make a nice gift for your mailman, hairdresser, gardener, dog-walker or anyone who helps you out during the year.

Once you apply the code “THANKS”, the $25 gift certificate, that was priced at $10, will drop to only $3 each.

This deal ends tomorrow night. Get one now!

It’s Not Water… It’s H2O


Do you have lawn sprinklers? It’s November. That means it’s time for my annual post about turning off your sprinklers.  Woo-Hoo!!  That’s right.  “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle” also applies to money tips.

For Los Angelenos, the reason you should do that is really SEXY: Saving on your Sewer Service Charge (SSC). Hubba-hubba. A recent bill’s SSC was only $15.46. It had been TEN TIMES as high – as much as $155.55 until I wised up.

I will tell you the answer first, because the explanation could put you in REM 3. If you have automatic sprinklers and you live in an area that charges you a sewer usage charge based upon water you use – you might wanna shut them off until spring time. I live in the warm and sunny, drought-riddled Los Angeles “Valley”. I turn off my lawn sprinklers between the first rain in November until March-April.

To be clear, the savings I just mentioned was not money I banked from bill to bill by cutting back on the water itself, that I used to soak my lawn.  That was additional savings in the “Water” portion of the bill.  I’m talking about a separate part of the bill under “Sanitation Charges” called the Sewer Service Charge.   See below.

I started doing this a few years ago and my lawn, in full sun, has not suffered a bit. Individual results may vary. Void where prohibited without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball.

Serve your environmentalist side with your “green” stance on water conservation while currying favor with your inner capitalist by keeping “green” in your wallet.

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How To Un-Impound Your Property Taxes & Homeowner Insurance


impoundLots of folks emailed me in response to my post $500 Tax-Free Paying Your Property Tax.  Turns out people like free dough.  Mmm… Fritos.

Click here to find out when your area’s property tax is due.

For my Los Angeles peeps, it’s due November 1st but it’s not late until December 12th.  So you have plenty of time (six weeks) to get $500 Tax-Free Paying Your Property Tax.

Some folks have their property tax, and sometimes their homeowner insurance, rolled into one big bill with their mortgage.  That is called an “impound” or “escrow” account.

  1. Some folks like it because they just write one check a month instead of a few extra per year.
  2. Some folks had to set up an impound account as a condition of getting their mortgage.
  3. Some folks got a rate reduction if they went along with the impound.

It is possible to get your impounds un-impounded.  I speak from experience.  A few years ago when I refinanced my home I somehow accidentally had my property taxes impounded.  Well, that didn’t sit well with this control freak.  I also didn’t cotton to someone else getting interest on my money until they paid the bill months later when it was actually due.

To remove the impound, I simply called the mortgage servicing company (the place where I sent the check) and asked to have it removed.  They obliged.

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Up to $300 Back When Buy a Wi-Fi Sprinkler Timer


rachio-logoDo you have sprinklers that run on a timer?  You can get back up to $300 if replace your existing irrigation controller (aka “sprinkler timer”) with one you control from your smartphone, tablet or computer from anywhere in the world.

The rebate caps at $200 here in Los Angeles.  No worries – the timer costs less.  So… at the end of the day it is free!  I got the Rachio Generation 2 (8 zone).  They also have a Rachio Generation 2 (16 zone) for sprawling estates.

These new-fangled Wi-Fi irrigation controllers tap into local weather stations to automatically adjust your watering schedule.  It won’t water before, during or after it rains – unless you override that feature.

I’m not one to dabble in “lawn-shaming”.  Many of my neighbors waste a lot of money leaving their sprinklers on all winter.  I used to be one of those folks.  Now I leave mine off from November – March. Read my post It’s Not Water, It’s H20 for the why.

Installation is simple.  Take old timer off the wall and put the new one in its place.

I went with the Rachio Generation 2 because it had all the bells and whistles and was EPA Water Sense Certified – a requirement for the rebate.  It requires a smart phone to set it up.  It’s also made in USA.

Find your Rachio rebate nationwide.

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$500 Tax-Free Paying Your Property Tax


propertytaxscrabble-smTwice a year I have to pay property tax.
Twice a year I make $500 paying that tax.

How?  Twice a year I get a new credit card that will give me a $500-$600 tax-free bonus if I spend $4,000-5,000 on the card in the first three months I have it.  These cards and their bonuses are not limited to paying property tax.

I mention “property tax” because that can meet the spending requirement quickly!  Then you can get on with your life – spending that free $500-$600!!

What are these cards of which I speak, you say?  Three come to mind.  Two I can’t mention in this post, as per the bank.  But I am happy to tell you what they are if you send me an email asking for the scoop.

The one I can mention is the “Capital One Spark Cash for Business”.  Check out 20 Minutes=$592.23 Cash Rewards for how I did it last March.

If you’d like to find out more, click on this little widgetty thing right below:

Email me if you have any questions. Full disclosure: I may get a commission if you apply using my widgetty thing, so… Thanks!

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