Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
Email us if you see a great deal. Include your name, city you live in and info on the deal you spotted.
Find deals on our Steals + Deals Facebook page and find me on Twitter.

Posts about Charitable donations

One guy's attempt to be greener on Earth Day. No more Drano, Charmin

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: April 24, 2012 - 3:15 PM

On Earth Day  I thought about the ways that I have tried to "leave a lighter footprint" during the past year. Here are four things I changed.


Chemical-free drain cleaner: I quit pouring chemicals down the drain and starting using Bio-Clean. It's a powder made of millions of gunk-eating bacteria that safely eat away at the slime that coats pipes and makes drains run slowly. I've been using it for almost a year and can report smooth sailing with no backups. I have only used this product as a preventative, not as a clog remover.  For best results, read the instructions. For example, if you have a multi-level home, start on the lowest level drains and work up. For more tips, check the comments from users on Amazon.  It is sold locally at plumbing shops but not in retail stores. The lowest prices (about $49 for a 2-lb. jar) are on Amazon and the Bio-Clean site (link above). Cheaper alternative: A plumber once told me the best way to keep drains running freely is to pour a bag of ice over the drain, let it melt and then do a chaser of one to two gallons of boiling water. It worked for me but I found it a hassle.


Eating less red meat: Livestock production is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, said Juliet Schor, chairwoman of the board at the Center for a New American Dream. I haven't given  up meat all together, but I try to have one meatless meal per day and use chicken rather than beef or pork.

Moved closer to work: I now walk or ride a bike to work. But giving up a car isn't on the radar yet.

Toilet paper made from recycled materials: Soft TP is rough on forests, Ninety-eight percent of all toilet rolls in the U.S come from virgin forests, according to a 2009 article in the New York Times. I agree with Consumer Reports that the best overall brand of recycled TP is Seventh Generation. If you're not brand picky, look for unbleached, processed chlorine-free or totally chlorine free products.

So there are four steps forward, but it's a work in progress. What ways have you consciously tried to lighten your environmental load?  




Preview of Herberger's Goodwill sale today with extra discounts

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: September 14, 2011 - 9:36 AM



Herberger's semiannual Goodwill Sale officially starts tomorrow, but early birds can start today. Start by downloading a coupon at Millionactsofgoodwill,  It gives an extra 5 percent discount (25 percent off clothes or jewelry or 20 percent off cosmetics, accessories, shoes, lingerie, maternity, coats, suits, men's tailored. home store and luggage). Toys, furniture, mattresses, area rugs, Tech Trek, small electrics and health and wellness items still get a 10 percent discount (no increase). The coupon is only good on one item, so make it a large one. One suggestion if you like Coach handbags: Use the coupon for 20 percent off at Rosedale or Northtown (the only stores that carry Coach in the Twin Cities). If you can't get there today, print the coupon anyway. You have until Sept. 28 to use it. You can also play to

win one of 100 prizes at the site, including a $1,000 shopping spree.

In addition to your printed coupon from Millionactsofgoodwill, get a 10 to 20 percent off coupon for each item donated, including clothes and bedding. The best use of the coupons is to combine them with an item on sale. The coupon may be used on anything except Incredible Value items, special orders and gift cards. Even cosmetics and fragrances get the discount (15 percent).

The sale lasts until Sept. 28.

Those old jeans you're donating are worth 30¢ or $10. You choose.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: June 14, 2011 - 8:51 AM


In today's column about "Competition for Castoffs," I wrote that charities are working harder for revenue by picking up our donations curbside. It's a great service to have our stuff picked up free. We spend part of a weekend cleaning out the garage or the attic or the closet and then we  can just put the stuff in bags or boxes for the Salvation Army, DAV, Courage Center, Epilepsy or Lupus foundations to cart away.



I suspect that many of us don't spend much time poring over a charity's mission statement to determine which one gets our castoffs. For me it used to be simply a matter of first come first served. They all seem like worthy charities.

But I have to admit that my research for the story made me think twice about leaving my donations out to be picked up instead of hauling them to the charity myself.  Here's the kicker: A charity can make six times more cash for its mission when a donor drops off the goods instead of letting them be picked up, said Laurel Hansen at Arc's Value Village. 

Here's why. Let's say you put out one bag of assorted clothes, including a pair of designer jeans, for the Epilepsy Foundation. The Foundation, like most larger charities with a pickup program, sells the picked-up donations to Savers or Unique Thrift Store by the pound. A bag of clothes might weigh 5 pounds and since most charities only get about 30 to 40 cents a pound, the charity only gets about $2 for the bag of clothes.

Because we all contribute a lot of stuff, this can really add up, but if you took the same bag of clothes and dropped it off at Arc or Salvation Army or Goodwill, the designer jeans alone might be sold for $20.  Even after the retail store overhead is factored in, said Hansen, a single pair of jeans can net the charity $10. In a bag that's sold to Savers, the same pair of jeans nets the charity about 30 cents. (Jeans weigh about  a pound and the charity is paid about 30 cents a pound by Savers.)

Anyone else want to weigh in on how you donate your castoffs?

Rocco Altobelli Salon offers free services with small donation to charity

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 22, 2011 - 8:35 AM


Rocco Altobelli Salon Spa is combining free services with a small donation to charity during its annual fund drive. This year the event takes place at the Galleria salon only (3510 W. 70th St., Edina, 952-920-5006).



For a $25 donation to the Spare Key charity, get a free hair treatment (color, moisturing or volumizing), wash and style, and makeup touchup (lips and eyes). Free chair and hand massages are also available.

Appointments can be made now for the event from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25. Donations must be made in cash or check. Future appointments booked at the event will be eligible for additional discounts of 10 to 30 percent off selected treatments. Appointments will go fast--the salon appointments will probably be fully booked by Wednesday.

Spare Key provides assistance to Minnesota homeowners with critically ill or seriously injured children by making a mortgage payment of the family's behalf, allowing them to spend time with their child.

Half off everything at Cancer Society's garage sale starting today

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: August 13, 2010 - 8:42 AM

Everything is marked down at least 50 percent at the Discovery garage sale today and tomorrow that benefits the American Cancer Society (6731 Boone Av. N., Brooklyn Park, 651-255-8716). Winter clothes can be purchased for $5 per bag and artwork is 75 percent off. Sale hours on Friday, Aug. 13 are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday's hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Discovery occasional sales replaced the American Cancer Society's World's Largest Garage Sale, formerly held in October.  The sales held once a month this summer have not been as successful as organizers hoped.

On the last gasp Aug. 26-30, new back to school items will be added. Remainingt items still get the 50 percent discount but brand new items added for the sale are not discounted. But on the last day of the sale, Aug. 30, everything, including new items, is free from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.



Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters