Coming soon to a store near you.

The old notion of lining up at the cash register could be a thing of the past, with mobile POS (point of sale) systems. Could we now be given surprise rewards and impromptu discounts, even as we are trying on clothes in the fitting rooms?

I don’t know whether to publish this in the “Frugal” section or the “Too Cool” section. Oops, it seems I don’t have a “Too Cool” section, so…

Most frugal shoppers keep one eye open for sales and the other for loyalty programs. Over the long term, they amount to the pretty much the same thing: take 10 percent off, or win 10 percent more merchandise later on.

Well, this post is inspired by a local gas station that keeps trying to get me to take on their points card. Notice that I did not say points “program”. I said “card”.

“Sorry, I don’t want another card in my wallet.”

There is a company called Coin working on a card that will replace all the other cards. You just push a button and it becomes any card you want. But that hasn’t yet arrived and it will cost us (consumers) money.

Why does a loyalty program require me to carry an extra plastic card? I found myself both laughing and nodding my head at about 12-18 seconds into this video by Vend …

Tweet quote: “I don’t want to carry another loyalty card in my pocket.

The video goes on to show how stores can run loyalty programs using Cloud-based Vend from an iPad. Aside from freeing our wallets and purses from card-bulge, it also means that store staff can run around the store and do all sorts of crazy things with their loyalty programs.

Who knows, maybe some creative stores will start offering on-the-spot prizes, windfalls, contests and all sorts of entertaining stuff. Why not? – online marketing over the past few years has become all about engagement, so why shouldn’t the same thing apply to the retail environment.

And now that they are integrated with PayPal, I don’t need cash or a credit card to pay, either – which makes it easier for consumers and less of a headache for retailers.

Shopping in a mobile-enabled store

Imagine this scenario. You are trying on two items in the fitting room, unsure which one to pick, and you decide to buy one. You don’t want to wait in line at the checkout, so you make the purchase right there in the change room. And – Surprise! – you have just earned enough points to get the other item free, so you don’t even have to choose between the two.  And no need to even reach into your pocket for a credit card.

Actually, I can see clothing retailers using this system to offer buy-two-get-one-free specials only accessible right there in the fitting room.

Although I have yet to see anything this creative in the stores around here, this mobile system is already being used by numerous small retailers.

This soup is not for saleThe Not For Sale Campaign is using it in stores In the Netherlands to sell merchandise that it uses to funds its charitable works around the world.

The Ben Espresso Bar in New Zealand makes it easy for customers to enjoy seasonal brews.

LoMo Market uses the iPad based system to be mobile – to bring farmers markets near to you, so you don’t have to travel so far (assuming you live near Durham, North Carolina – if you live in Norway or Botswana, I suspect you’ll have to drive pretty far to get to LoMo).

Not only might we soon do away with loyalty cards, but also with those pesky paper receipts. “We just ask if they’re happy to receive a receipt by email, and not one customer has said no,“ says Andrew Paine of Sitka, a surf shop and retail clothing store in Victoria, British Columbia.

For the retailer – the guy who wants our loyalty – the whole Vend system is much more than just about loyalty programs, as Mobile Commerce Daily reports. In fact, that is a pretty small portion of what Vend does. The folks at GetApp point out that the big benefits of a cloud-based system is that it allows an entrepreneur or manager to keep track of things from anywhere. So if you are flitting between store and factory and warehouse and another store and…well, wherever you are, you have real-time data on sales and customers and whatever else you’re tracking.

And the folks at GrowMap point out how easy it is for smaller merchants to use Vend because it integrates well with PayPal. Can you say “Frustrating banks that won’t give my small business a merchant account with Visa or Mastercard”? Sure, I knew you could.

So don’t be surprised if over the next few years, you see a lot more iPads checking you out – I mean “checking you out” as in a check-out counter without the counter. And not just at the “store”. Your kid’s piano teacher might bring Vend to your house. Your plumber surely will. Your insurance agent, too. The volunteer firemen who stop your car at the main intersection in town. The cow you milk…no, wait. Maybe not the cow.

* Want to keep up with the news on Vend, Follow them on Twitter or GooglePlus.

The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

Protein is one of the most important nutrients in our diet.  It is the one responsible for growth and bodily repair.  It is also one of the most expensive nutrients, which is why the protein part of your meal (the meat) costs the most.

But wait!  Not all protein is as expensive as your filet mignon.

So I set out to put together a short study of the various sources of protein readily available and their cost, as much for my own use as for blogging here.  The goal is to find out how I can get a complete serving of protein for under a dollar.

I used the assumption that a complete serving is 20 grams, although you might want more right after a workout…and also you should have some between meals, because 60 grams of protein per day is pretty low.

Before reporting the results of my study, I must offer two big caveats:

  • First, I am strictly reporting on the cost of various sources of protein.  I am not judging the value of the sources, some of which might have a lot more fat or sodium than others, or a lot more other important nutrients than others.
  • Second, prices vary.  They vary from store to store.  They vary over time.  They vary from brand to brand or even from package size to package size.  I attempted to report pricing based on the most common package size available at regular grocery stores.  Specialty stores might sell for more, discount stores for less – and, of course, you can always get your protein for less by watching for sales, couponing and all the other sorts of things that a frugal-minded shopper will do.

One last thing before reporting the results, because I really need to get this off my chest…

funny gifs
Yes, trying to convert back and forth between grams and kilograms and ounces and pounds and cups and… Aaauurgghhh!

Well, now that that’s over with, here are the results:

Copy this code to publish this table on your site:


So you can see that there are several fairly frugal alternatives to steak. For instance, making a milk shake or a smoothie with protein powder allows you to control both the taste and the levels of other nutrients. I often add some protein powder to “milk shakes” (mostly fruit, some milk and just a little ice cream) as a snack for my kids.

Peanut butter is also quite inexpensive, although pretty high in fat. Peanut butter on a whole grain bread gives a nice between-meals level of protein.

Do you enjoy mixed nuts? Very healthy, great for protein, but not great for fat if you eat too much of them. Make sure you have plenty of peanuts and dry soy beams in the mix – a great frugal way to add protein, and the soy beans will dilute the overall fat content.

READ ALSO: Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

Turkey and canned tuna are still the cheapest meat sources of protein. Both make great sandwiches or great salad toppings.

Chick peas and lentils are both also quite cheap and very healthy. Both go well in pretty much any salad or soup, and most meat dishes. The only problem with them is that to get enough protein form them alone, you would have to eat an awful lot. However, they are not complete sources of protein, so they would need rice or bread or some other grain with them, anyway.

Rounding out the under-a-dollar sources of protein are eggs, milk and chicken. Most people drink milk anyway for the vitamin D and the calcium, but it can also be a great source of between-meals protein. Chicken is very similar to turkey, but usually pricier (although often on sale – hint, hint). And eggs are packed with other nutrients, too, and if you don’t mind it turning out more like scrambled eggs, you can usually squeeze more veggies into an omelet than eggs.

As for the rest of the protein sources, some of them are also very healthy in many ways, but they will cost more. So if you are committed to frugal, there is only one thing you can do about these – watch for coupons and specials.


8 sneaky ways to get free furniture

I hope that title is not misleading.  While there is nothing sneakier than tiptoeing into somebody’s house in the middle of the night and stealing stuff from them, that is not what this post is about.  This is about being creative.

Free furniture is there for the taking.  All you have to do is open your eyes, and you will never pay for furniture again.  Not all of these methods might apply to you, and some might be a little…er…eccentric (yeah, that’s the word!) than others.  But all are real and some may even be realistic.

Use less. This is the most obvious and simplest way to get free furniture.  You don’t pay anything for furniture you don’t have.  And let’s face it, most of us have too much furniture and too little space.

DIY. There are books in the library that will show you how to build your own furniture.  There are plans.  There are step-by-step instructions.  You can become a one-man furniture factory.  Or a one-woman furniture factory.

Of course, this is only free if you already have the tools (or have a brother-in-law who does) and the materials lying around.  If you have to buy materials, this won’t count as “free”, just as “frugal” or “thrifty“.

Roadside scrounging. You would be amazed at what people throw out.  Sometimes, it is total trash (not so amazing), but sometimes it is almost like new (amazing).  If you “shop” around various neighbourhoods on their respective garbage days.  If you don’t mind having furniture that might look like you have had it for a few years – and even new furniture looks like that, after a few years – this is a great way to stock up on pretty much anything but mattresses.

Barter. This is a great way to add new furniture to your home and clean out the clutter at the same time.  One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, so trade junk and you both win treasure.  There is always someone around who has the piece of furniture you would like, and bartering is becoming more popular.  And why complain if they are foolish enough to pay for a new piece to replace it.

Inherit. Unless your parents are living in a cardboard box, chances are you will inherit some furniture.  This is absolutely free, because society has set up the system of inheritance to make sure that everybody qualifies for free end tables.  Be forewarned that this method does require more patience than bartering or scrounging.

Watch for sales. I love this one, because you get to be such a helpful person and so sneaky and under-handed at the same time. Why would you watch for sales if you are looking for free furniture? To help your friends out, of course – out of their current furniture.

For instance, if you would just love Jenny’s couch, mark up all the furniture sale flyers by circling some of the best deals on couches she might like.  Then pass the flyer on to Jenny.  Sooner or later, she will take the hint and buy a new couch.  And guess which helpful friend will likely walk away with the old couch.  It’s a win-win.

Rewards. Credit cards offer rewards.  Well, all the rewarding ones do.  And those rewards can usually be spent on – you guessed it – a new dining room set.

Refinish. I saved the best for last, because this one can be combined with scrounging or with DIY or just on its own to extend the life of your current furniture. We once had a plan, long since forgotten.  We were going to scrounge wooden kitchen chairs.  We wanted to collect an entire set with no two alike.  All wood.  Each a different shape.  We were going to pain all the seats one colour, most likely in a textured multi-tone paint.  We were going to paint all the backs and legs in another colour, most likely a glossy complementary single tone.  Each chair different in shape.  Each chair, the same in coloring.  And, of course, the table to match.  This was not planned as a frugal project, so much as a decorating project.  But, aside for some paint to buy, totally free.

Not all these methods are for you.  And some are easier than others.  But with a little creativity and a willingness to compromise, there is no reason that you should have to pay to furnish your house.

Does it make Financial Sense to Trade in your Car?

There is nothing better than the new car smell. The thought of this alone attracts many people into a car dealership. While there is nothing wrong with buying a new car, you have to consider your current situation before moving forward. For example, what are you going to do with the vehicle that you have right now? You may think that it makes financial sense to trade in your car and upgrade to a new one, but until you focus on the finer details you will never really know for sure.

Are you Upside Down?

If you own your current car outright, you are in good position to trade it in if necessary. This means that any money you receive on your trade in can be put towards the down payment of your new vehicle.

On the other hand, you may still owe money on your car loan. If so, you have to decide if you are really in position to upgrade. If you owe more than the car is worth, you are going to “take a hit” when you trade it in. In turn, you will have to roll this amount into your new loan.

Does your Car have any Life Left?

If your car is paid off you may be tempted to trade it in. After all, you can receive money for your trade that can be used to lower the cost of your new vehicle. But remember one thing: you are going to be spending additional money. In most cases, this means another car payment. And most likely a higher car insurance premium, as well.

Although buying a new car may be exciting, you don’t want to jump the gun if it is not going to benefit you financially. If your car is doing its job without showing any signs of breaking down, you may want to hold onto it a bit longer. With each month that goes by, you can save the cost of a car payment.

READ ALSO: Quirky ways to save money on your car  

Should I Keep my Trade In and Buy a New Car?

In some cases, it may make sense to keep your current car and buy a new one. Of course, this is based on a case-by-case situation. For example, maybe you have a child who just received his/her driver’s license. At this point, you may want to give your child your old vehicle and buy a new one for yourself. This gives you access to enough cars, without having to buy two new ones.

Some people decide to keep their old car and buy a new one, even though they don’t need both vehicles. Even if your car is paid off, there are other financial considerations such as the cost of insurance and maintenance.

Sometimes it makes sense to trade in your vehicle. Other times you are better off keeping it. In the end, you need to make the decision that is going to best benefit you from a financial point of view.

Does it make Financial Sense to Trade in your Car? is a guest post by Chris at

Enough – [Christmas video]

This is my favorite Christmas song, by Alberta country artist Remi Boudreau.

I’ve got enough
I’m completely satisfied
I don’t need stuff
Just this thing that’s true and tried
I don’t need the perfect gift to fit me like a glove
I’ve got enough

Even on an average day, I find that we are surrounded with so many messages that tell us that no matter how much we have, no matter how gluttonous we might become, that we could never have enough.  More.  More.  More.  And those messages only seem to grow in abundance as we get closer to Christmas.

Given that we are full-steam into shopping season, this might help us all to keep it real. Watch and listen to the video, and hopefully it will put you in the Christmas spirit.  In THE Christmas spirit.

READ ALSO: Proud to Be a Grinch