Thursday, October 30, 2008


I'm still reeling from my book signing afternoon at Costco last weekend. I don't see how this coupon clipper never realized that Costco sells quality goods at reasonable prices. I thought it was a warehouse, discount, "buy-in-bulk" store a la Sam's Club and BJ's. It's not. And if the loaded carts streaming from the Mayfield store in Cleveland are any indictation, I may be the last person in Cleveland to get that memo. You'd never know the economy is dicey from the shoppers at this store.

Costco is similar to those other shopping club companies only in that they charge a $50 annual membership fee for the privledge of shopping at one of their 543 stores worldwide. What will you find at Costco? A little of everything...from wines (Costco is the largest wine retailer in the United States) to clothing to organic produce to fine jewelry to prepared foods. They even have a seafood bar on weekends. You'll also find a host of product demonstrations, offering samples of food items, seven days a week. Not satisfied? Costco will return your membership fee at any time.

For us home office folk, they have good prices on electronics as well as office and cleaning supplies. Their book section is limited to recent releases, but their prices beat's by several dollars. They also offer a range of services, from insurance to travel...all at attractive prices. I may just have to give Costco a try. For roughly $1/week, it sounds like a good deal.

(photo © coolcaesar/cc license)

Monday, October 27, 2008

80% Off Gift Certificates is having another 80& off sale, from now through Friday. That means $10 certificates are 60 cents, $25 GCs are $2, and $50 GCs are $4. Simply enter code "TREATS" at check-out. works with thousands of restaurants around the United States. Each offer has its own requirements, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. Still a great deal for employee incentives or an office get-together. Most certificates are valid for a year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Good Buys at Staples this Week - 10/26 - 11/1

It's not quite as good as last week, but Staples is still offering a few good deals for home offices this week. They are also continuing their recycling promotion, offering $30 in Staples Reward points when you buy a new PC, laptop, printer, or monitor after trading in an old component. Staples also offers $5 in Staplse Rewards for each used printer/toner cartridge you recycle with them. (That's the best offer among the office supply stores.)

This week's specials include:
  • $20 back instantly when you buy two multi-pack HP ink packs of the same kind.
  • A free package of Snicker's miniature candy when you buy an HP 3 or 4-pack ink cartridge package.
  • 20 lb. box of Hammersmith copy paper for $24.99 after instant and easy rebates, a $41.99 value. (Limit two)
To read the entire ad, visit the Staples Web site.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Five Tips for Saving an Hour a Day

When I first started my home business, saving an hour or several a day was not really an issue. More important was finding clients and work to keep me busy and earning money during those hours. However, after almost four years, wasting an hour has come to mean wasting money or taking time away from my friends and family.

Cleveland-based, Bright Side, a pioneer in accelerating behavior change, offers these five tips for re-claiming that lost hour (or more). While home business workers aren't generally bothered by meetings in the board room, virtual meetings and conference calls can be just as taxing.

1. The Chosen Few. Above and beyond setting priorities, Donna Rae recommends starting by focusing on accomplishing those tasks to assure your future happens the way you want. "Don't become distracted by the insignificant or get caught in the swirl of busyness doing things that don't add value." She advises distinguishing tasks between the urgent and the important, and ranking them accordingly. "Obviously the urgent and important go to the top of the list," says Donna Rae. "Next, look at the important, but not urgent. These are tasks, while important, can be done bit by bit, little by little." Tasks that are neither important nor urgent go to the bottom of the list.

2. Death by Meeting. A common complaint today is that people are being meeting-ed to death. According to Donna Rae, certain behavioral norms can make the most of people's time. "Brief, regular meetings to update progress, make decisions and commit to next steps are more efficient and effective than grand, comprehensive gatherings," she stated.

"Meetings move faster and are more productive in an environment of transparency," claims Donna Rae. "It's all about removing 'barriers' -- real or perceived."

According to Bonnie Curtis, Manager Global Oral Care at Procter & Gamble and Bright Side client, "We removed the table from our conference room," she said. "It's become a symbol of us creating an atmosphere of authenticity and productivity; our people feel that they are working in a safe and inclusive environment which has resulted in them being open to new ideas."

Donna Rae added, "Unless they are urgent, save topics and decisions for the regular meetings instead of having additional, time-consuming 'side' meetings. Lastly, leave the technology at your desk. This means no cell phones or other technological assistants."

3. Thrice is nice. "Although it can be a wonderful productivity tool, e- mail can become a burdensome nightmare," claims Donna Rae. Ease and low cost have caused an explosion of unnecessary e-mail. One way to free yourself of being tethered to e-mail is to restrict yourself to checking it only three times a day: in the morning, mid-day and near day's end. The time in between can be spent doing what you need to be doing.

4. Chunk it! Establish "chunks" of time where you are cut off and don't respond to others; where you remain totally focused on the task at hand. "This is a great way to complete those urgent and important tasks we discussed earlier," stated Donna Rae.

5. Go off peak. Do ordinary things at "off peak" times. For example, instead of eating lunch between noon and 1:00 p.m., go to lunch at 11:00 a.m. or at 1:30 p.m. First, the lines will be shorter and you'll be served more quickly, and during the relative peace while everyone else is at lunch, you'll be able to focus and get more done.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sneak Peek: Staples Ad for 10/19 - 10/25

The Staples ad for this coming week is posted and there's nothing too extraordinary about the week's offers, unless you're in the market for a new Kodak digital camera and have an old one to trade-in (in which case, Staples will give you $50 towards your new camera). They are also continuing their $5 credit in Staples Rewards for your old ink cartridges (as opposed to $3 in cash from OfficeMax.) If anyone sees a good deal that I've missed, let me know.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Calculate your Gas Usage before you Drive

Are you thinking of driving to see a client or accepting an invitation for a book signing, trade fair, or promotional event, but are afraid of the gasoline cost of making the trip? Check out "Cost to Drive," a new Web site that calculates the driving expense and helps you to make an informed decision.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 Sale

I found out about this deal rather late in the game, but it's too good not to mention. is having an 80% off sale from now until noon Wednesday (CDT). Simply enter code "EIGHTY" at check-out and purchase $25 gift certificates for $2 and $10 certificates for 60 cents. works with thousands of restaurants around the United States. Each offer has its own requirements, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. Still a great deal for employee incentives or an office get-together.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dell Discount Coupons

I have a Dell PC and a Dell laptop and I'm very pleased with both computers. The PC is 2 1/2 years old (time for a replacement?) and the laptop is just under a year old and I haven't had trouble with either machine.

Dell is offering some substantial discounts this month on new laptops and computer equipement. Take a look:

$600 Off Sony Bravia 46'' Slim Design LCD HDTV with coupon code DV3X5W8JCP3640

$225 off Sony Bravia KDL32M4000 with coupon code 1GNV7994MB060C

Both offers expire on October 30.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Frugal Office around the Blogosphere

"The Frugal Office" was featured over the weekend on fellow frugal blog, "Frugal in Virgina." Of course, we talked about our favorite subject, using the principles of frugal living in your home office. Take a look at our guest post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good Buys at Staples - 10/12 - 10/18

After a couple of lack-luster weeks, Staples is offering several good deals this coming week (October 12 - 18, 2008). Among them are a couple of Free after rebates items. You can view the entire upcoming ad here, but these are a few of the highlights:
  • Brother 575 Plain Paper Fax Machine -- $9.99 after rebate
  • HP All-in-One J4580 Printer -- $49.98 after rebate
  • Zentith Phillips universal remote -- Free after rebate
  • Peachtree Sage Pro Accounting 2009 software -- free after rebate
  • Briteliner Highlighters 5 pack -- $99
In addition, this is the last week to earn 50% Staples Rewards on reams of copier and printer paper as well as in-store copy orders. Staples is also offering a $30 tech trade-in bonus (to your Staples rewards account) when you bring in your old tech item and purchase a new one. This offer is good through November 15 (2008).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Health Insurance for the Self-Employed

One of the most difficult--and expensive--aspects of starting a small home business is finding affordable and adequate health insurance. Since a national health plan is at best years away and since you risk your assets and health if you go without, it's important not to put off getting health insurance. Here are a few places to look:

  • Cobra - If you are quitting a corporate job to go into business for yourself, make sure that you take advantage of the government plan--Cobra--that lets you keep your company health insurance if you pay the premium yourself. In most cases, this will be lower than the coverage you can get on your own. Cobra benefits last for 18 months after you leave your job.
  • Local Small Business Associations - Small business associations in major cities often offer health insurance plans that allow multiple companies to take advantage of their group buying power under one group health plan. In Cleveland (where I live), COSE offers health plans for small businesses starting with one-person enterprises. In addition, the membership fee gives you access to a number of marketing and networking resources. Check to see if your city has a similar organization.
  • AARP - If you're at least 50 years old or going to be turning 50 soon, don't throw the mountain of literature that AARP sends out away. It can save you money. For $12.50 annual dues to join AARP, you are eligible for their health program via United Health Care. I joined last year and saved more than $200/month on my health insurance bill.
  • Assurant Health - This company (in business since 1892) offers a number of health insurance products aimed at the self-employed, at attractive prices. It's my experience that they favor young applicants with no medical history. They also offer temporary health insurance for up to six months if you need a policy to cover you during a waiting period.
  • Trade associations - Many trade associations offer group health insurance to their members. Ask people in your industry or visit forums for your type of business. Often these policies are limited to certain states.
Do you know of a good and affordable place to get health insurance for the self-employed? Share your story by leaving a comment.

Free Desk Lamp

Take advantage of this latest business freebie and request a free USB desk lamp. Simply complete this online form. They say your lamb will arrive in 4-6 weeks. There's a limit of one per household.

Read the privacy policy, but it doesn't look like they'll bombard you with sales offers.