Sunday, September 30, 2007

Over-the-counter drugs: generic vs brand-name

I've been struggling with a bad cold for the last few days (inconveniently taking all the fun out of my weekend, rather than letting me use sick days and stay home from work, alas.)

Now, my health is one of the few areas in my life where I don't worry too much about prices. Saving a few dollars is just not worth being more miserable and/or in pain.

But on the other hand, I still don't want to get ripped off, and I know perfectly well that most brand-name drugs are identical to generic/store-brand alternatives. It's the law in the U.S. So you just need to read the active ingredients on your brand-name box and then match it up to the proper generic to find the same medicine at a fraction of the price; in other words, paying extra for the brand name is like throwing your money away in most cases. Naturally, I buy generic/store-brand OTC medicine most of the time.

(Also, be sure to read the label on some of the "specialty" drugs; here's a really eye-opening article about migraine medicines which are identical to-- but more costly than-- general pain relievers.)

I do make some exceptions, though. Advil Liqui-Gels may have the same 200mg of ibuprofen as any generic pill, but thanks to their form, they bring faster relief (at least in my experience). That can be huge when I'm in serious pain. So I pick that over cheaper alternatives. I haven't found any generic versions of the liqui-gel where I shop; do you know of any?

And then when I was shopping for some relief for this latest cold, only Tylenol sold a package which included both the daytime and night-time versions of the pills I wanted. They were more expensive per pill than the generics, but overall I would have had to pay more to get two separate boxes with more pills than I needed. Since I'm typically pretty healthy (knock on wood), I didn't want to buy the extra on the theory that I'd need them again sometime in the year before they expire; I've wasted plenty that way before. So Tylenol's packaging approach won out.

How about you? Do you buy only generic drugs? Or are there certain products you make an exception for, and if so, which and why? (Or do you buy all brand-name?)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Think before you buy! A wallet-sized reminder of your priorities

I stumbled across something online recently that I think is absolutely fantastic: a credit/debit card sleeve [PDF] from the Center for the New American Dream that serves as a reminder to buy less and think about your values while shopping.

Just click on the link, print it out, cut on the dotted line, and tape it up. Then put your card(s) inside, and you'll see the questions every time you pull out your credit/debit card to charge something. This is what's on the sleeve:

Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want & the quality of life I value.
Sample questions to ask before buying:

• Is this something I need?
• Do I already own something that could serve the same purpose?
• Can I borrow one, find one used, or make one instead of buying new?
• Was it made locally?
• Was it made with environmentally preferable materials?
• Was it made with fair labor practices?
• Will it serve more than one purpose?
• Is it made well enough to last a useful length of time?
• Will it be easy and cost-effective to maintain?
• Will using it require excessive energy?
• Does it come in excessive packaging?
• Can I recycle or compost it when I'm done with it?
• If I'm still not sure, can I wait a month before deciding to buy it?

I personally think this set of questions is really fantastic and spot-on for me, so I'm going to use the wallet buddy as-is. I ask myself some of these questions some of the time when shopping, but I certainly don't think about all of them all the time, and I could use a handy reminder. This is the kind of conscious consuming I'm aiming for.

But if you have different questions you want to ask yourself, you could make your own sleeve. They could remind you about avoiding bad habits ("Will I enjoy this in the short-term but regret it in the long-term?" or even "Am I buying another X even though I know I shouldn't?"), being selective about credit card use ("Can I pay this off at the end of the month?"), not using your credit cards at all ("Is this an emergency? Is this worth the interest charges I'll have to pay?"), or whatever else fits your priorities.

Of course, I'm sure that the effect of seeing the questions on the sleeve will wear off after time. And by the time you're pulling out your card to check out, it's an awkward time to stop and reconsider! But I'm hoping that the repeated exposure will keep the questions in my mind.

What do you think? Corny or effective? And more importantly, what questions belong on your sleeve-- or your mental checklist-- when you're shopping?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The 93rd Festival of Frugality takes the cake!

Hi, and welcome to Festival of Frugality #93! I'm so glad you're here. Money and Values is a blog focusing on the connections between personal finance and our values, ethics, and priorities-- I write about things like being a conscious consumer, socially responsible investing, frugal living, being environmentally friendly, and more. If that sounds interesting to you, check out some of the best Money and Values posts.

Also, I want to direct your attention to the Carnival of Ethics, Values, and Personal Finance, which is posted every other Thursday. The September 20 edition is up here and you can check out other editions from the carnival web site.

Now, without further ado, let's get to the Festival of Frugality! I've divided it up into sections, so I hope you'll be able to hone in on what most interests you. I've marked my favorites with *. And because I am fascinated by the masterpieces that talented cake artists can put together, this edition of the Festival is illustrated with pictures of amazing cakes that it's hard to believe are real...

Lists and Compilations

* Frugal Panda presents Top 100 Blogs to Help You Find Free Stuff posted at Frugal Panda.

David presents Ultimate Frugality - Ten New Ways For You To Save Money posted at My Two Dollars.

R.Pettinger presents Easy Ways to Save Money posted at Mortgage Blog.

KCLau presents Should you focus on Increasing income or reducing expenses? posted at KCLau's Money Tips.

Food and Drinks

Kris presents Chop Til You Drop:The Ultimate Guide to Slicing, Carving, and Cutting Your Food into Tiny, Affordable Pieces posted at Cheap Healthy Good.

Mel Rimmer presents Ginger Beer Plant posted at Bean-Sprouts.

Trent presents The One Hour Project: Price Compare The Things You Buy Regularly posted at The Simple Dollar.

FIRE Getters presents $6000! Save Your Hard Earned Money! posted at FIRE Finance.

Stephanie presents Dinner and a Movie - That Doesn?t Cost a Fortune posted at Unclaimed Money.

Maggie W. presents Fitness on a Budget Part 1: The Poor Man’s (or Woman’s) Precision Nutrition Plan posted at Caustic Musings.

Mr. Debtbeater presents Removing Unnecessary Expenses - Use Tap Water posted at Debtbeater.

The Financial Blogger presents Failing to Be Frugal Again; a Grocery Store Story posted at The Financial Blogger.

Dean presents The Latte Factor: Starbucks is Evil posted at Mr. Cheap Stuff.

JvW presents Adventures in Grocery Shopping posted at The Good Life on a Budget.

Frugal Questions and Values

* Kyle James presents Would You Remain Frugal If You Won The Lottery? posted at Blog.

* Melissa presents When Frugality Becomes A Dirty Stinkin' Excuse posted at A Penny Closer.

Paula presents WWYD: Buy or Read in the Store? posted at Queercents.

Lynnae presents Why have Americans become so overindulgent? posted at

Babies and Kids

Linsey B. Knerl presents DIY Baby Care for Your Cheap Bum posted at Wise Bread.

Silicon Valley Blogger presents Saving Tips For New Parents: Get Ready For Baby! posted at The Digerati Life.

mom & dad presents How to Build a Double (or Single) Desk on the Cheap, Part 3 posted at

savingadvice presents The Great Crayon Reform: How To Revitalize Used Crayons posted at Blog.

General Frugality Strategies

Daily Idea
presents Find the Cheapest Days to Buy posted at Daily Idea.

Yan presents Brand name premium, should you pay one? posted at Pro Bargain Hunter.

Ben presents Are You Being Held in Rebate Ransom - Sales Tactic #4 posted at Money Smart Life.

Cars and Car Insurance

ISPF presents Auto Insurance Discounts posted at Grad Money Matters.

Jonathan presents What Is The Best Fun-But-Cheap Used Car Under $5000? posted at MyMoneyBlog.

Shadox presents Reducing Our Car Insurance Bill posted at Money and Such.

Super Saver presents Insurance Update Saves Money posted at My Wealth Builder

Being Frugal vs. Being Cheap

Matt presents Being Frugal doesn't mean being Cheap posted at One Million and beyond.

baglady presents My Super Cheap Ex-boyfriend posted at xynny.

Vacations and Travel

* juicefairy
presents 5 Important Travel Tips posted at Juicefairy.

presents Mini vacations posted at Frugal Underground.

presents House Swapping: Fad or Possibility posted at Saving With Me.


Lazy Man and Money presents Save Money on Hobbies posted at Lazy Man and Money.

K T Cat presents Frugal Videography posted at The Scratching Post.

General Finance

Golbguru presents Top High-Yield Savings Accounts: Interest Rates And Some Thoughts posted at Money, Matter, and More Musings.

Terry presents Bad Economic Times on the Way? posted at Savvy Frugality.

Tim Ramsey presents How To Save Thousands When Paying Off Student Loans posted at My Debt Relief Blog.


* Sara Goldstein
presents How to choose better-quality clothes posted at The Bargain Queen on Fashion and Beauty.

Deals and Recommendations

Hustler Moneyblog presents Eat Free on Your Birthday posted at Hustler $$$ Blog.

Hustlerama presents ViewPoint Bank Free Ipod Promotion posted at Hustlerama.

CC Dude
presents AmEx Starwood Preferred Guest: Best Travel Rewards Credit Card posted at My Credit Cards Blog.

Mr Credit Card presents HSBC Weekend Card - Frugal Weekend Savings? posted at Ask Mr Credit Card's Blog.

Garage Sales

presents Frugal Fiesta: Quickie Garage Sale posted at SAHMmy Says.

Amy Fontinelle presents You Never Know What You'll Find at a Garage Sale posted at Two Pennies Earned.


Brett McKay presents 12 Ways To Save Money On Your Wedding posted at The Frugal Law Student.


Stephanie presents What! Christmas Already? posted at Stop the Ride!.

presents Save $$ - Consider Free Software posted at What Works For Us.

EMF presents Future Programming for Analog TV: Snow posted at Engineering My Finances.

Dianne M. Buxton presents Wahm Homeschooling Internet Marketing Course posted at manifestingsuccess.

presents Being Frugal can be Fun! posted at I've Paid For This Twice Already...

Patricia O'Rourke
presents cash for cans posted at (spare) change is good.

presents Day 20 of 33 Days And 33 Ways To Save Money And Reduce Debt: Create A Binder For Manuals posted at No Credit Needed.

Frugal Babe presents Our New Backyard posted at FrugalBabe.

Mrs. Micah presents Mr. Micah and the DIY funnel! posted at Mrs. Micah, or a young wife's odyssey.

The Free Geek presents The Ultimate Guide to Freeloading posted at Free Geekery.

... Well, that's it. I'm hungry now, aren't you? Thanks for participating in this week's Festival of Frugality! Submit here for next week's edition.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Highlights of 18 months of Money and Values

Just a little bit late, I'm celebrating 18 months of blogging here at Money and Values! Here's what I think are the best posts of the last 1 1/2 years:

  • Sweatshops or co-ops? Finding sweat-free apparel
  • Fair trade basics & Bananas, rice, sugar, and more: Where to find 12 types of fair trade products
  • Locally-Owned Businesses vs. Corporate Chains
  • Socially Conscious Gas Guide, Part 1 (Environmental Rankings) & Part 2 (Workers)
  • ... and click here for more posts about being a conscious consumer

  • Socially Responsible Investing: Part 1, Part 2 ,Part 3, & Part 4
  • When your mutual fund speaks for you, what does it say?
  • Socially Conscious Finances: Spotlight on GLBT (& Why GLBT-friendly policies are smart for businesses and investors)
  • ... and click here for more posts about socially responsible investing

  • Making your money fit your priorities: budgeting advice for new (and not-so-new!) grads
  • Eating less or no meat
  • Picking money over time-- are we working too much?
  • Work, retirement, and financial independence
  • Save for tomorrow or live for today?
  • Salary negotiations and the gender gap
  • ... and click here for more miscellaneous posts about money and values
  • Cable TV for -$7
  • Frugal Vacations, Free Souvenirs, and Buying frugal souvenirs that multi-task
  • 15 tips on how to enjoy baseball games cheaply
  • Gas mileage tips for cheaper road trips
  • Slay your energy vampires
  • What to do with those unwanted holiday gifts
  • Look out for abusive overdraft charges at your bank!
  • ... and click here for more posts about frugality and saving money
  • Thursday, September 20, 2007

    Carnival of Ethics, Values, and Personal Finance

    Hi everyone! I've got a really great edition of the Carnival in store for you this time around.

    Let's start with my personal favorites:

    Here are some other fantastic posts that illustrate what this carnival is all about:

    And a few more posts for your enjoyment:

    Well, that's it for this week! The next edition will be up on October 4th, so please submit using this form. Please contact me if you'd like to host a future edition.

    Also, please comment or e-mail me with suggestions of other great posts you've seen around the blogosphere that you think would fit this carnival-- let's work together to make this a real showcase of the very best writing on the web about ethics, values, and personal finance!

    Technorati tags: , .

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Vacation tradeoffs: being frugal vs. maximizing experiences

    How do you decide if it's time to quiet that frugal voice in your head while you're on vacation?
    This came up several times for me while on my latest vacation.  I knew that it was going to be much more expensive than my usual camping/road-trip variety, for lots of reasons, so I was definitely keeping my eye out for ways to cut costs.
    But, as usual, cutting costs comes with a whole set of trade-offs.  Here are just a few of the questions we faced during our trip:
    • Should we stay in lodgings very close to cities and/or other sites of interest, in order to make the most efficient use of our time... or stay farther away and save money but spend an extra half-hour or 45 minutes driving?
    • Should we pick the most interesting and appealing attractions every time, regardless of the price... or choose cheaper or free ones sometimes, which we would enjoy but maybe not quite as much as our top picks?
    • Should we pay to enter a museum or visitor's center when we knew it would close before we had time to see the whole thing... or skip it and save the entrance fee but miss out on learning what we could in the time we had?
    • Should we always choose to eat good, authentic local food, even when the only options were pricey... or sometimes grab cheap food of the kind we could find almost anywhere?
    As we wrestled with these questions, I noticed that I generally found myself on the money-saving side of the issues.  "Do we really want to pay $25 for the four of us to spend a half-hour in this museum?"  "Look, this B&B is almost $50 cheaper, and it's not too far outside of town..."  On the other hand, my father was very focused on making the most of the trip.  "This sounds really interesting, don't worry about the price.  Who knows when we'll have a chance to see this again?"  "Yeah, that hotel is more expensive, but look at the location!  I bet that means we can fit in something else we wouldn't have time for otherwise."
    I found myself feeling a little guilty about the dollar signs (or should I say Euro signs?) popping up in my decision-making process.  One of my most important values is that money concerns shouldn't interfere with living a happy, fulfilled life.   Wasn't I doing exactly that by penny-pinching on a once-in-a-lifetime (or at least once-in-a-decade) trip, at the cost of maybe passing up some really special experiences?  I didn't want to be distracted by worrying about money! 
    In the end, though, I think it was valuable to have both perspectives involved in the decision-making process, and we ended up somewhere in the middle, which was probably more-or-less the best outcome.  We had to find a balance that let us fill our vacation with things that made us happy and satisfied, but also kept costs in control so we can afford to take our next great vacation sooner!
    How do you strike the balance while on vacation?  If you're trying to keep frugal, do you feel like you miss out on some experiences?  Or do you plan to indulge on vacation and budget around that?  Do you have a different mindset about spending money at home and on vacation, and if so, do you find it difficult to switch over?  Do you and your traveling companions usually agree on the approach?

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Contact the SEC about their proposals to silence shareholders' voices!

    The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) is considering new rules that would drastically decrease ordinary shareholders' ability to voice their opinions on corporate policies. Make your voice heard! Click here to send comments to the SEC before October 2.

    As I wrote recently:

    Every year when companies have their annual meetings, there are a series of resolutions for stockholders to vote on. Many of these are introduced by the company and have to do with things like confirming board members, but there are also increasing numbers of resolutions introduced by shareholders, often having to do with issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

    These votes are only advisory, but they express the positions of shareholders on the company's approach important social and environmental issues, and often lead corporate management to take action. Resolutions are filed every year on issues from environmental impacts to non-discrimination and diversity to animal welfare to executive compensation to political contributions to human rights and many, many more.
    The SEC is considering a number of changes including:
    • Allowing companies to opt out of allowing shareholder-filed resolutions
    • Substituting online chatroom/messageboard discussions in place of votes on shareholder-filed resolutions
    • Significantly increasing the number of votes that shareholder resolutions must get in order to be refiled the following year
    Click here to send your comments to the SEC (cc:'d to members of Congress) if you oppose these changes. Similar changes were proposed several years ago but were withdrawn after public outcry. Now they're back on the table. We can beat them back again, but only if enough citizens make it clear that we believe shareholders have the right to file resolutions and make their positions clear.

    The SEC is taking comments until October 2nd so click through today!

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    Buying frugal souvenirs that multi-task

    I'm really happy with my souvenir-shopping on my recent vacation... because I didn't pick up a lot of "just because" souvenirs, but instead looked for things I already wanted or needed. This way I have items that will remind me of the wonderful time I had in Ireland, but instead of adding clutter to my home and straining my vacation budget, they fill needs that were already there.

    For example, after moving from Chicago to Washington DC earlier this year, the decor in my apartment has remained rather sparse. One of the reasons I've held off on purchasing things is that I knew this vacation was coming up and I'd have the opportunity to look for art that would be especially special because of the associated memories.

    Of course, for this to work well, you have to be patient and only buy things that are really right for you. Nina recently wrote about souvenirs that "don't translate" when you get home from vacation, and that's really true. So you have to be very honest with yourself about what will still seem like a good idea when you get back to everyday life. For me, this meant that I decided that if I couldn't find something that fit my criteria, I wouldn't buy any art at all. I didn't want to get something that reminded me of Ireland but after a few weeks or months ended up in the closet gathering dust! I just kept reminding myself about my plans to enlarge some of my nicest photographs from the trip to put on the walls, and made myself pass up a few items that temporarily tempted me but didn't hold up to scrutiny.

    Luckily, I took my time and eventually came across a beautiful piece of pottery in a Dublin craft shop. It has a spiral motif, which I came to strongly associate with Ireland and my vacation due to the prehistoric art we saw, so that was a great and subtle connection. (If I'd gotten something covered in shamrocks and leprechauns I bet I'd have gotten tired of it pretty quickly!) It's my favorite color, blue, and goes well with a few pieces I already have. And even with the exchange rate, it was in my price range. In other words, it was something I would have realistically bought at home-- but I'm so happy to have bought it on vacation because it means a little more.

    My next souvenir was smaller, but followed the same theme. We visited the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Now, the Aran Islands are famous for their sweaters, hand-knit by island women with each pattern having a meaning. However, the sweaters are rather pricey, and even more to the point, I don't need any new sweaters! What I did need, however, was an earwarmer/headband-- something I intended to buy all last winter every time my cold ears started to ache, and yet somehow never got around to. So I picked up a hand-knit Aran Island earwarmer instead of a sweater... same intricate pattern, same connection to the islands and their people, but more affordable and something I will actually use.

    (I have to admit that my last souvenir was not nearly so useful, but it was sort of a last-minute airport "I-have-5-Euros-in-my-pocket-to-use-up" kind of thing... and I am enjoying my tin whistle even if it's not practical in the least!)

    How about you? Do you try to buy souvenirs that also fit other wants/needs? How do you approach souvenirs? I must say, on most smaller trips I stick to postcards and other cheap or free souvenirs, but this one was a special vacation for me and I am quite glad to have something nicer as a memento.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    Carnival of Ethics, Values, and Personal Finance

    Hi everyone! Here's the latest Carnival of Ethics, Values, and Personal Finance:

    That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the Sept 20 edition of ethics, values & personal finance using our carnival submission form. And please contact me if you're interested in hosting!

    Technorati tags: , .

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    I am back!

    I've returned from my vacation. It was a fantastic trip, and I had a wonderful time. And it's inspired a number of posts I'm hoping to write in the next days and weeks.

    But not tonight. Right now the clock is telling me that it is 9:30 PM but my body is telling me it is 2:30 AM and I'm just about ready to collapse.

    So I will try to have some good new posts up for you soon. But in the meantime, if you missed it, please do check out the edition of the Carnival of Ethics, Values and Personal Finance that was up at Millionaire Mommy Next Door on August 23rd.