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I have always been leary of the Costco’s and Sam’s Clubs of the world. Something always seems off to me when you have to pay to get in the door and then pay to get the stuff. Same thing with cover charges at a bar. I am here so I am going to be buying stuff, why are you taking my money just to get in. This doesn’t mean that the concept is off, just the execution. I am a firm believer in buying in bulk, I just don’t think warehouse stores are necessarily the best places to stock up.

Buying in bulk is a great way to cut your costs on both the food you eat and the gas it takes to get to the grocery store. I think the last time I bought chicken at the store was over 3 weeks ago, I still have around 10 lbs in my freezer though. Now I understand that is a lot of chicken but we pretty much only eat white meat around here so we are going to use it. I did not buy any of that meat from a bulk food store though. It was all purchased “fresh” from my local grocery store. Not those giant bags of frozen brick chicken breasts, but actual “fresh” packages of chicken breasts.

Buying meat in bulk is almost always best done when the meat is on sale. The big box stores don’t ever put it on sale so you have to watch the local grocery store. I buy whole chickens at .79 lb and boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $1.79 per lb. I wait and watch for them to go on sale and when they do I stock up. So while the packages themselves are not bulk the amount of meat I pick up usually is. This is a great way to maximize your grocery budget without paying Costco type fees.

In the interest of full grocery disclosure, I am a paying member of Sam’s club because there are certain things you can find cheaper, and that work great bought in bulk. We usually stock up on dry goods like spaghetti, paper towels, toilet paper, and other easily stored products. When you can pick up a ton them at once you usually save money so it is worth it.

The key to buying anything in bulk is being able to compare it’s base unit price to what you typically see when shopping. The only way to do that is if you keep a detailed journal of what you spend on groceries. The easiest way to keep up with these price swings is to start  a price book. By using a price book you will be able to identify when a sale really is a good deal or when the chain/bulk store is just pulling your leg. More often than not you may find the sale price at the chain store beats what you can get paying the “discounted” rate at the bulk store.

Photo: (David)

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Ok maybe it isn’t all that secret we all seem to have our own notions of what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to tipping. There are so many professions now that seem to “require” you to leave a tip that we are left wondering what is the magic number to make this guy not spit in my food or egg my house.

I spent 3 years working in the restaurant business doing everything like bussing tables, hosting, bartender, prep cook, expediter, dish washer, and waiter. Making money in as a waiter/bartender is completely dependent on tips. I made something like $2.13 an hour as a waiter, which isn’t much without tips. Depending on the time of day you worked and how well you interacted with the customers you could do good, or bomb horribly. Because of my experiences as a waiter I tend to tip extremely well for good service, like 30% +. If the service was ok they get 20%, if the service sucked they probably get 10%.

You may have seen the recent story in the news regarding the gentlemen who refused to pay the included 18% gratuity because their service sucked (Associated Press). They were actually arrested on charges of theft of service. I didn’t know you could get arrested for refusing to pay someone for crappy service. Essentially it was one of those where the tip was autmatically included and they refused to pay it. It amounted to all of $16.87. In an actually intelligent move the District Attorney has asked for the charges to be dropped. This brings us to the question of what is the generally accepted practice (GAP) for tipping. I have tried to outline below those “PC” amounts and my own philosophy for each of the services.

GAP: 15%
Mine: 10%-30% depending on service received, sometimes even more for exceptional service.

Hair Stylist/Barber
GAP: 10%-20%
Mine: $5 tip (around 50%) – I get my hair cut at lower cost stylists because it is basically just a clipper job but they are providing me an actual service not just putting a plate on a tray and bringing it to me. I make sure to tip well because I go to the same place for service month after month.

Pizza/Chinese Delivery Guy
GAP: 15%
Mine:15% Minus the Delivery fee. They are charging me to have them deliver food so I take that amount out of the tip seeing as the delivery fee is to help offset the cost of gas to the driver.

Taxi Driver:
GAP: 10%-15% of the Fare
Mine: I don’t know I have only rode in a cab once and someone else paid so I didnt’ have to tip. I took a cab from the airport yesterday and I paid $29.50 for the fare and gave $5.50 as a tip.

So that is my rundown on tipping. I tend to tip more than the average in most scenarios but in all scenarios the tip is dependent on the service I receive. If you give me crappy service you get a crappy tip. That is just the way the world should work. If you give me exceptionally crappy service you may not get a tip at all. What do you guys think/do when it comes time to leave the tip?

Photo: (emdot)

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Those wily folks at are running another special. Now through October 12, 2009 you can get $25 Gift Certificates for only $2 when you checkout with the Coupon Code: FOUR. Pop on over to and order your certificates before this promotion ends.

Coupon Code: FOUR
80% off
Expires: 10/12/2009

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Freeganism – Extreme Frugality or Extremely Crazy

October 1, 2009

You are probably asking yourself what is Freeganism. Freeganism is an extreme form of activism against waste and over consumption. Freegans try not to participate in the “regular” economy and minimize their use of resources. What this actually entails may appeal to you or appall you either way it is rather interesting. The core concepts […]

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Why My Garden Was a Bust

September 30, 2009

Back in April I built two garden beds with dreams of free produce and delusions of grandeur. In May I planted what I thought would be the perfect mix of greens and fresh vegetables. In June I had some beautiful pictures of my garden and still I thought I could handle it. We live and […]

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