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Winning the cat litter battle, cheaply

Some people are born with a money-saving gene, or maybe they're just so good at keeping their dollars safe, it seems like second nature. If an emergency pops up, the natural savers have their priorities in order and a money-smart plan already in place.

That was certainly the case for the August winner of the Frugal $ense contest, Shaunna Privratsky of Fargo, N.D., who pinches pennies so successfully that she has even written an e-book about it. After entering the contest for the past six months and watching her tips repeatedly make it to the top 30, Shaunna finally struck gold with a very helpful tip for cat owners. She is this month's $100 winner. Congratulations, Shaunna!

August's Frugal $ense winner: Shaunna Privratsky
Shaunna Privratsky of Fargo, N.D., won $100 for submitting the following tip:

Odor-free cat litter
I buy the least expensive, scoopable cat litter. Then I add a small box of baking soda and mix it in. This little orange box runs about 37 cents, and completely eliminates odors for a fraction of the cost of the name brand litters. My mother-in-law noticed the difference immediately!
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  Shaunna Privratsky

Recently, Bankrate's Sheyna Steiner interviewed Shaunna about her frugal lifestyle.

Bankrate: Why did you enter the Frugal $ense contest?

Shaunna: My daughter's birthday is coming up and she wants to have a pool party at the Ramada Inn and it's really expensive. So, I said, well ... if I win.

Bankrate: How did you come up with your winning tip?

Shaunna: I was watching a commercial for a brand of cat litter and it said, "Brand new! Baking soda added to the litter." So I went to the store to price it and it was $14 for 20 pounds. That's way too expensive. I went to Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest cat litter for about $5.50 and a little box of baking soda. I usually add a box about once a month. The cats haven't changed their habits at all. It seems to work well.

Bankrate: Have you always been frugal or was there something that got you started?

Shaunna: I would have to say yes, I've always saved -- mostly from necessity. But, three years ago my husband suffered brain damage and became permanently disabled. Up until that time he had completely handled all our finances. I had to jump right in and take over, which was scary!

But, so far things are working out. We managed to pay off over $4,000 in credit card debt in 18 months and our credit score went up 60 points after working on getting everything paid off. Taking over the family finances was probably the turning point. Before I saved, but just because I could. But then, I had to save in order to keep our family going.
Bankrate: What is your all-time biggest money saver?

Shaunna: My best tip is to pay your bills the day they arrive. That's worked for me the past three years. I've had the companies comment on it and say "we wish we had more customers like you." I estimate what the bill is going to be and then when it arrives I say, "Yay! The bill's here, I can pay it," because I have the money put aside in the bank.

Bankrate: How has your frugality paid off?

Shaunna: We managed to get a new van financed last year. The bank was offering a high interest rate. When the financing office at the dealership saw our credit score, they knocked 3 points off the bank's offer. So that was great, we got a way better interest rate because of our credit score.'s corrections policy
-- Posted: Sept. 7, 2006
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