Monthly Archives: November 2008

The last word on savings: Couponcode!

To wrap up the discussion of money-saving tips, let me stress the importance of shopping online. It not only saves you on car gas, but you can comparison shop to get the best price. Best of all, many online retailers offer a place at checkout to enter a Coupon Code or Promotional Code, which can save you even more.

Say, for instance, you need some copy paper, so you compare prices at the major online office supply stores, and decide to go with Staples. Before you confirm your order, open a new window in your web browser, and google “Staples Coupon Code”, and you’ll pop up links for sites like Coupon Cabin and RetailMeNot. It takes a few minutes, but scroll down the lists on these sites and see if there’s a coupon code that applies to your purchase (ie. “20% off orders of $50 or more”). If so, enter that code at Staples’ checkout, and you’ll see the discount reflected, saving you more.

And don’t hesitate to shop sites like eBay for stuff you use a lot of. We go through a LOT of packing tape shipping our orders, and a pet peeve of mine is the cheap, flimsy tape a lot of manufacturers sell. I like Manco or 3M’s offerings, but they’re pricey at Staples, OfficeMax, etc., and we need LOTS of rolls. So I search for it on eBay, and narrow the listings to only the “Buy It Now” offerings (so I don’t have to go through the annoying process of bidding on stuff, and possibly not getting it), and I can usually find bulk boxes of good tape for about half what I’d pay retail, even after adding in shipping costs. And best of all, I don’t have to waste my time at the store.

The lesson is this: with the Internet, you can shop anywhere in the world, and easily compare prices. Discounts abound. So use your computer to save you time and money whenever you can, and don’t forget those Coupon Codes!

And then use the savings to buy TwoMorrows stuff, of course. End of economic discussion; hope it helped!

Join the club

Another major savings for us was joining Wholesale Clubs. You know the ones: Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s—those honkin’ big, ugly buildings, with their cinderblock exteriors, where you’ve seen hordes of people streaming in and out every weekend. There’s a reason so many people are there; big savings, as long as you can buy in bulk.

My mom had been after me to join Sam’s Club for years, but I never saw the value—until I had kids. Now, I only wish we’d joined sooner, when our girls were still in diapers, cause we would’ve saved a boatload of cash. As it is, the older the kids get, the more they eat, the more their friends eat when they’re over for a playdate, and the more hot dogs we inexplicably go through (despite my wife’s concerns about how unhealthy they are). We just had a campout for our daughter Lily’s YMCA Princesses tribe a couple of weeks ago, and I was on the hook to bring the hot dogs. Getting enough for her whole group would’ve cost about $20 at our local grocery store; it cost about $8 for the exact same items at Costco. I find that, if I can buy it in bulk at Costco, I’m generally getting twice as much for the same price as somewhere else (resulting in things costing half as much at Costco).

Huge savings also come from Costco’s gasoline. Even though it’s dropped from $4 a gallon back down to $2, Costco’s gas in our area still averages about 20 cents less per gallon than the cheapest I can find anywhere else. So I’m saving about $4 a week on fill-ups (or more, depending on our driving habits), which equals over $200 a year. How many TwoMorrows books could you buy with that $200 next year?

I prefer Costco, although we’re also members of Sam’s, because it’s closer to our home. Generally the two carry the same basic stuff. I still use our grocery store for items we don’t need in mass quantities, like fruit and milk (which’ll go bad before we consume a ton of it). But on things like laundry soap, ziploc bags, trash bags, toilet paper, tissues, tea bags, potato chips, car tires, vitamins, pharmaceuticals, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, kids’ snacks, bottled water, and meat (which you can freeze), buying in bulk saves a LOT in a year. I’m looking at close to $2000 a year in savings on this stuff based on my estimates, and that’s bound to climb as our kids get older. So it’s like I’m giving myself a $2000 per year raise right there.

Another nice perk: Costco offers a great American Express card, which doubles as your Costco membership card. We now use it for just about everything we charge (and, of course, pay it off in full each month, so we’re not accruing finance charges). Whenever you use it, you not only get discounts on any purchases made at their partner companies (Federal Express is one, which saves us on shipping), but at the end of the year, Costco sends you a rebate check based on what you purchased at Costco the past year. That check has to be spent at Costco, but hey, we’re on track to get close to another $1000 this year in rebates, which I can use to buy more hot dogs for my kids to eat, or new car tires, or even a flat screen TV, or iPod, or lots and lots more toilet paper. (If, like me, you’ve got a house full of women, you know this is a major issue.)

Costco also has a great website where we can buy stuff they don’t have in our local store, including discounted theme park tickets (for our annual Anaheim, California trip after Comicon International), cheaper car insurance, car loans, even a car-buying service that’ll save you thousands if you’re buying a new car (it worked for us on our recent carpooling vehicle).

These clubs cost around $50 a year to join (we splurged for the more expensive business membership, which saves us even more each year). If there’s a club near you, don’t waste another day spending too much at other stores on the everyday, unglamorous, disposable stuff that you have to use everyday. Just be careful to only buy things you really need, and that you can use a LOT of fairly quickly. It’ll pay off big within a few months.

Free subscriptions by phone

To continue my much-delayed discussions about ways to save money in this down economy (and thereby use it to support your TwoMorrows habit!), a simple one is as close as your phone. If you’re a cellphone-only person, with no landline, this tip isn’t for you. But if you’re still paying one of Ma Bell’s little sisters a monthly fee for your phone service, I’ve got an easy way for you to save enough to pay for your TwoMorrows subscriptions in one swell foop.

If you’re viewing this via a high-speed internet connection (cable, DSL, etc.), use it for your phone service, and even if you’re paying a flat-rate to “bundle” some of your services together, you can probably do better. Forget “digital phone” from your cable TV company, and go to, and check out their rates. Do it today. It’s generally about $24.99 per month, per phone line, for unlimited local and long distance service. Prior to our switch, we were paying $44.95 for an unlimited local/long distance plan through our phone company, and then an additional fee for our DSL service. To use Vonage, you’ve gotta keep your DSL or Cable internet access, but switching to Vonage saved us a quick $20 per month, or $240 per year. Consider that a year’s subscription to Back Issue, Alter Ego, Draw, Jack Kirby Collector, Write Now, and Rough Stuff COMBINED costs exactly $240, you will have just saved enough to subscribe to all our mags for FREE every year! And if you have more than one phone line (like we do), there’ll be enough savings to get a bunch of our books as well.

A couple of caveats: Vonage has probably the WORST customer service I’ve ever experienced from any company. You spend forever on hold, and when you do get someone on the line, they generally don’t have a clue what to do in all but the most basic situations. It took me four months (and hours on the phone) trying to get our old phone numbers transferred, because of the way our old phone company had our account set-up. This was an unusual situation, but I never could get anyone at Vonage who understood the situation, and they repeatedly told me they were “elevating” the problem to someone more knowledgeable who’d call me back, but never did. But if you’ve got a basic phone number switch, it should be very easy.

That said, the actual set-up of the equipment was pretty easy, and the sound quality is about the same as our landline used to be. And our phones work exactly as they did with our old phone company. My only issue is our fax line; since we switched it, we have intermittent problems with connection quality on faxes coming in to us (but not going out). We’re still trying to get that fixed, but see the customer service comment above to understand why it’s dragging out so long.

Also, Vonage charges you a fee every time you switch plans, so compare all their options, and do your math to determine if you really need unlimited calling. If you use less than 500 minutes of call time every month, get an even cheaper plan, and save another $100-200 per year (to spend on our books and mags, of course).

We’ve had Vonage for over a year, and other than the initial number switching problem (which likely wouldn’t affect you), and the ongoing static on our fax line (which might), I still think it was one of the best money-savers we implemented.

TwoMorrows Tune-In #14: Eric Nolen-Weathington – Modern Masters 19: Mike Ploog

TwoMorrows Tune-In #14: Eric Nolen-Weathington – Modern Masters 19: Mike Ploog

On the show this month, host Chris Marshall talks with Editor Eric Nolen-Weathington. This November Eric presents us with Volume 19 in the series featuring the work of Mike Ploog. Also, Eric touches on Alan Davis (who was the subject of Modern Masters Volume 1), and his Captain Britain collaboration with Alan Moore!
Chris also goes over all of the November releases.

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e-mail Chris with questions and/or comments.

He may even read it on the next Tune-In!