Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Christmas Is Coming...

I had a realization yesterday that we are only 6 months away from Christmas. And with that thought in mind I started to get anxious about how I could start buying now to save money!! So over the next couple of months I will try and share some great gift ideas that I find...for cheap!!

The first one is a Veggie Tales DVD for ONLY $2.99. BigIdea.com is running a special wherein you sign up for the newsletter and you get your choice of one DVD for only $2.99 (you're paying for shipping). Even if you're kids are no longer watching Veggie Tales, I am sure there is someone on your "list" that would enjoy it!!!

~ If you find any good deals, please share it with the rest of us. Let's see how much we can save this year just by being thrifty!!! ~

As a side note, please remind me to NOT talk about gifts whenever Lilly is in earshot!! I got off the phone with Emmy (after telling her about this deal) and Lilly comes up to me saying, "I know what I am getting for Christmas! A Veggie Tales DVD." I asked her how she knew that and she said, "I heard you on the phone." Yikes!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Free or Cheap Apple & Eve Juice Boxes at Publix

Just saw a post on The Thrifty Mama about a great deal on Apple & Eve juice boxes at Publix. You can go here to learn more about it.

Update: Katie went to the store today and our Publix has them for $2.99. The two coupons I found would only total $1.50. So in my opinion, it's not that great of a deal. Sorry!

Update: Don't get too excited, girls. Seems we don't have the coupon in our SS 4/5 insert. Checked on both coupon database sites and there are no other coupons other than the Greenwise and Smart Summertime Savings. Sorry.

Cheap Strawberries at Publix

Katie found a great deal at Publix by using a Target coupon! Here's the deal.

Driscoll Strawberries are 2/$4
Use: 1/$1 Target coupon
= 2/$2

I have also found the HotCouponWorld has a great Coupon Database. Shows everything from Sunday coupon inserts to internet coupons and others. I have found it to be very helpful and easier to get to than couponmom.com (which requires signing in and takes you to several different pages).

Does anyone know if strawberries freeze well if you cut them up and then freeze them??

Extreme Couponing: Organization

This post comes from Jenny at Southern Savers which happens to by my favorite Money Saving Blog!! Here she shares some great tips and ideas on organizing your coupons. Don't be alarmed if one method doesn't work for you. Be flexible and try different ways until you find the right fit for your lifestyle and time frame!

On a side note, I personally practice method #1 one, however, I keep mine in individual folders with dates and keep them in my filing cabinet. Since I get several inserts, I only keep 2 copies in the folder and then store the others in my office (in various locations...all over the place!!!). I also keep a ziploc baggy in my purse with coupons that I know I'll use no matter what.

Extreme Couponing: Organization

There are 4 levels of organization I would recommend. They go up in order of time involved to organize but they also each make the time spent finding the coupon faster. So you decide the system best for you and the time trade off.

The pictures below go in order of system type.

“Not Cutting” Keeping your Inserts Whole

When you get your weekly inserts write the date bigger on the front page of the insert. Then get a large 13 pocket accordion file system and put all the inserts from this week together in one pocket. Next week put those inserts in the next pocket of the folder. As the weeks go on you have all the inserts from each week together organized back by the date that they came out. If you buy more than one paper, just put all the inserts no matter how many into the same pocket. Now when you come to Southern Savers you will use the SS dates that are next to coupons on the weekly deal posts to find each coupon and cut it out before going to the store.

This is where I live. There are not any more hours in my day and this is a compromise with my husband. I do not recommend this system to anyone that hates to miss a clearance or closeout deal in the store. You can take your large file with you but you will spend way to long finding the coupon you need (if you even can find it). The upside to this system is that the only time spent on it, is the time you spend getting ready for your trip. Usually takes me about 15 minutes to cut any coupons needed for a trip.

You will also need to have #2 to keep any coupons that you cut and don’t use or any printable coupons in.

Canceled Check File

This is one small step towards organization. Get a small accordion file with 13 pockets these are $1 at Target normally. Leave the front pocket empty and as you plan your trip you put the coupons there that you will use that trip, then in the remaining pockets label the tabs on them according to the areas that you use the most. I use: Baby, Canned/Boxed Goods, Cereals, Desserts/Baking, Snacks/Drinks, Other food, Toiletries, Drugs, Paper goods, Cleaning products, Refrigerated, and lastly Frozen foods.

I DO NOT recommend organizing by alphabetical or expiration date. If you choose alphabetical then you are the only person in the world that knows where that coupon is. B for Betty C for Crocker or P for Potatoes. If you try expiration date then you are helpless if you need to find the coupon. (It is okay to let a coupon expire by the way, you will probably get another very soon and it really means that they item never came on a great sale).

This system is fast on the time it takes to organize them, you cut put them in twelve stacks and shove them in. It is slow on the time it takes you in the store. Your stacks will be large. If you need to find a coupon for canned chicken you might have 30-40 coupons to look through. Another problem with this system arises if you get more than one copy of the paper. Your stacks of coupons are now really large and time in the store slows even further.

Make Your Own Box

Yet another step closer to mastering organization. For this system find any box you like. I recommend something that can fit easily in the top part of the grocery cart. Then buy or make your own dividers. You can go to town with dividers and make categories for anything you like. You will increase the amount of time it takes to organize your cut coupons, but in the store you will have smaller stacks to sort through to find a particular coupon. I made my own box and used a 3×5 index card file box, they sell dividers for it and it had a lid! For my categories when I finally moved out of the box I had over 40 dividers with everything from Baby to Personal Care Supplies I don’t use (just in case it was free).

The only downside with this system is that no matter what size box you pick, a box is a box and it will not expand. If you get a lot of inserts you will not be able to get every coupon inside at some point.

Three Ring Binder

This system is for the truly serious and devoted. You need a 1.5 inch or larger 3 ring binder, baseball card organizing pages, and section divider tabs. Label the dividers again by location in the store and then start to put coupons into the baseball card pockets. Place your coupons individually (put multiples behind it) in the slots so that you are able to see every coupon. I put a coupon facing the front and a different coupon facing the back to maximize space. For the dividers, you are not limited by 12 sections so you can go crazy with tabs if you like. You can even get a little zipper bag (sold to hold pencils) to put in the front to hold your coupons for that trip and a pair of scissors.

This system takes the most time to get everything organized. It is coupon origami getting some of the large coupons in the slots. However, in the store if you were racing against anyone in a lower system you would win hands down. If you need to know if you have a particular coupon it will take you about 5 seconds! You will also be ready to make a run to the store for a quick deal rather then feeling like you have to sit down and prepare.

A Few tips for this system:

  • If you have more than one coupon for the same item, put the ones that expire first towards the front in the pocket
  • Buy a folder that zips up!! If you hold a binder upside down the coupons will fall out the top.
  • Look for a binder that has a 6 pocket accordion system too. Now if you cut and don’t have time to file the coupons you can still have them with you.

My Favorite Binder I found at Office Depot, they don’t have one of their site so here is a similar one if you are interested in cost and features.

An idea of groupings that gets more organized than the above 12:

Baby, Drugs, Breads, Cereals, Snacks, Meat, Canned/Boxed goods, Condiments/Seasoning, Desserts/Baking goods, Other Food, Frozen, Refrigerated, Cooking Helpers (Ziploc bags, aluminum foil etc.), Paper Goods, Cleaning Goods, Other Household (bug spray etc.), Store Specific (Store coupons, CVS ECB’s etc.), Body Care (soap, razors, deodorant etc.), Tooth care, Hair Care, Facial/Makeup

Sunday, June 21, 2009

5 Mistakes I Made as a Newbie Couponer

I read this today on Common Sense With Money and thought it was so helpful and true! I was also hoping that it would help some of the newbies from the Couponing 101 Class!


Five Mistakes I Made as a Newbie Couponer

When I first realized I could be saving a lot of money by matching coupons up with store sales and promotions, I got excited. I mean REALLY excited. I sent countless emails to friends with my finds. I “scouted out” the local Kmart a couple weeks before the rumored double coupon event to strategize. I’d fall asleep piecing together Walgreens scenarios in my head. I began seeing barcodes everywhere I looked.

In all the excitement of finding the good deals, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. If you’re new to couponing (or even if you aren’t), please learn from my mistakes…and don’t repeat them! After doing some soul-searching, I’ve come up with a list of five mistakes I could have avoided. So here goes:

1. Trying to do EVERY deal. When my eyes were open to the world of couponing, I couldn’t believe ALL the deals I was finding…diapers, oatmeal, ground beef, canned vegetables, razors, soap, shampoo…and for some reason I felt the need to get every last one. It could be that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, or my mom would likely argue that it’s because I’m a firstborn, but whatever the reason, this shopping approach is completely unnecessary. Don’t kill yourself trying to make 18 shopping trips in a week. Deals come, deals go, other deals come. If you miss a deal, there will be others. Focus on a few that make sense for your family that week. Let the others go.

2. Feeling the need to use high value coupons – even if there is no sale. Remember, the key is to manage your out-of-pocket expenses on items your family needs and uses. When I first started clipping coupons, my heart would skip a beat when I’d find a $4 off coupon for some new-fangled room air freshener product. I MUST have that! Then I’d begin the desperate search of trying to find a sale to match it with. Sometimes I’d be successful. Other times, not so much. Bottom line: a $4 off coupon is still not a good deal if the item is $17.99 and you have no intention of using it. I’ve since learned to relax and let coupons expire if I can’t find a sale. Even good $4 off coupons.

3. Not paying attention to deadlines. So in April – the final month of the Walgreens’ Easy Saver Rebate Program, I decided to wait until the last minute to enter a rebate receipt. Guess what? I missed the deadline! And I had $10 worth of rebates. What’s more, because I didn’t submit it, the system automatically processed my rebates and sent me a check – instead of letting me select the Gift Card option which would have yielded me an additional 10%. Watch out for deadlines, keep your receipts and coupons organized. You don’t want to lose out. I still shudder to think how far $10 at Walgreens could’ve gotten me this month….!

4. Not paying attention to expiration dates. Guess what? Non-perishables are actually perishable! So when you purchase enough cans of tomato soup to last you two years, you better make sure those cans of soup will actually be good two years from now. I now check the expiration dates on everything from milk to cough drops to cans of soda. Especially pay attention if there is a REALLY good sale going on a certain item. I can think of a recent instance where a store (which shall remain nameless) was offering extremely high value coupons for a certain type of candy. When I visited the store, almost every last package had expired by more than a month! Yikes.

5. Buying stuff your family won’t use. Sure, it’s great to pick up some stuff for donations to the church pantry or homeless shelter, but remember the main purpose of couponing (at least for most of us) is to save money on your family’s grocery bill each month. So make an effort at coming home with items your family will actually eat, use, and enjoy. I can recall some of my first shopping trips where I’d come home with say, 5 boxes of allergy medicine, 2 bottles of children’s cough syrup, and 3 packages of Tucks Medicated Pads. This is great expect for the fact our family uses none of these items. Again, picking these things up is nice if they are free after coupons and you have a place in mind to donate them to, but it’s even better to focus your energy on things your family needs right now.

Learning how to shop and save wisely will take some trial and error. What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make more mistakes when I fail to see the bigger picture. Don’t get hung up over a coupon or a deal – focus instead on your monthly saving and spending goals or rounding out your pantry. And if you do make a mistake, don’t let it go to waste. Learn from it!

Angela Russell is the author of The Coupon Project, a blog chronicling her real life couponing adventures. Her goal is to encourage and educate other newbie couponers how to enjoy amazing money-saving success through easy-to-follow posts.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Suave Promotions

Be the first to try out Suave's new Wild Cherry Blossom Body Wash. Follow this link
to complete some information and Suave will send you a $.50 cent coupon (only a 25% savings, but they promise more savings in the future!).

Sounds like a nice smelling body wash and I bet there will be some sales for it, so save that coupon!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CVS Advisor Panel

My friend Katie just alerted me to this great opporunity. CVS has just created an Advisor Panel and are asking CVS customers to sign up. They will contact you periodically throughout the year to complete surveys and in return will credit your CVS card with Extra Care Bucks ($5, $10, or even $15). I just signed up and there were a series of questions but it went quickly. I'll let you all know when I get my first survey (and my first Extra Care Bucks payment!!!).

To learn more, go HERE.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CVS Deal & Cheap Chicken

I can't tell you how exciting and motivating it is to hear about everyone's deals!!! I walked into Church tonight to learn of a deal that I hadn't seen yet (although I was on the computer ALL afternoon). It's a great money maker at CVS. Learn more HERE. The great news is that it's Missy and Marcy did it tonight so it's working in good 'ol Lake Placid!!! Remember that you can use multiple cards and get the deal over and over again, but if you do, please leave some for me!!!

UPDATE: Unfortunately CVS has now pulled this promotion. Seems there was a gliche in the system. Congrats to those who were able to get it!! Unfortunately that was not me:(

The other good news is the Sweetbay has their boneless, skinless chicken marked down to $1.79. This is my rock bottom price and of course I will be stocking up...although my freezer is still quite full from the last sale!!! Now, I have always found Sweetbay to have enough in stock, BUT if you don't have enough room in your freezer, you might want to wait until Tuesday and go and see if they are out. If they are, get a raincheck (and ask for LARGE amount, you can always break it up over a couple of months) and then buy when you have the room!! Again, they are usually well stocked, but it's always worth a try!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Walgreens Woes

Went to Walgreens today to buy several items one of which was the St. Ive's body wash. Since it was a $1.50 money maker I planned on buying 4. However, the store only had 3. So I march up to the counter with my items. I tell the cashier (Billie) that I will be doing several transactions and she says "Fine, a lady was just here and did 15." I was surprised to hear that and was making small talk when I plopped down my three bottles, handed over my coupons and waited for the big $9 Register Rewards to print. Well, to my surprise only $3.00 printed and that's when Billie said, "Oooooh no. You have to do individual transactions to get all of the RR." I was thinking to myself, "thanks for explaining that...."

So after returning ALL the items and starting over, I did get my $9.00, but wanted to pass along this new policy information!!!

I also learned (while reading the comment on Southern Savers...learned that there is always valuable information there!!) a new trick for cheap fillers!! If you use a Walgreen's coupon on an item then that item can be used as a filler. So, today I bought 3 boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese and used the Walgreen's coupon and was still able to use 3 RR because the Mac and Cheese acted as my 3 fillers.

The moral of this story is that I much prefer CVS. Their policy seems to be much easier than Walgreens and I don't feel as stupid there as I do at Walgreens!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kraft First Taste

Months ago I signed up for regular Kraft First Taste updates. This particular site updates you on new products and often lets you test them for FREE!! Today I received an offer for two FREE Velveeta Shells & Cheese Cups. If you're a member you can simply sign up online for the coupon and they'll send it to you! And if not, why not join and get the coupons?!?!

Go HERE to sign up!!

You never know what coupons a company will offer, so be sure to sign up for eNewsletters from your favorite brands!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lots Of Extra Care Bucks

Well I am the proud owner of $55 in Extra Care Bucks (used $5 on another purchase) thanks to the great Pampers deal at CVS. Since it will be hard to spend ALL that money, I remembered a great tip that Jerri shared with me. Use the ECB to buy Gift Cards that won't expire!!!

I haven't personally tried this...yet!!! I plan to go back in one day soon and buy some. It will put my mind to ease about using all those ECB before they expire!!

Hope you all were able to get the great deal too:)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stocking Up!

I read this post and thought it was so good that I had to share! Since starting this coupon game in October, I have learned the value of stockpiling. When there is a good deal at a good price, I but as many items as I have coupons for. Sure, I have to create space in my cabinets, but it's so rewarding when you want to make a meal and all the ingredients are in your pantry!!! It's one thing to get a good deal, but it's another to stock up enough so that you can wait till the next good deal on that item to buy more!! That's my plan at least!!

One of my favorite blogs is Money Saving Mom. It was the first one I learned about when I first started learning about coupons. She has been so helpful and I love her advice!! Be sure to subscribe to her blog!!

The Buy Ahead Principle: One of my biggest grocery saving secrets
Posted: 03 Jun 2009 01:43 PM PDT
Allison left the following comment on my picture of this week's $30 shopping trip:
I've enjoyed reading this blog the past month or so since I've discovered it, and you've really helped me snag some good deals. And I think it's neat when you come home from the store with a pile of groceries for only a few dollars. But every time I see the picture of your groceries, I wonder something like, "What is she going to cook for dinner with easy mac, salad dressing, and jello?" Is this all the grocery shopping you do? Do you have a garden? Or raise your own beef? How do you round out your bargain purchases to get a meal on the table?

One of my biggest secrets for grocery saving success is that I practice the Buy Ahead Principle. What's that, you ask? Well, basically, other than dairy products and produce, I aim to never pay full price for anything. Instead, I stock up when an item is on sale to tide me over until the next sale.

For instance, in this shopping trip picture, you'll see that I mainly stocked up on cereal. In fact, I bought 16 boxes of cereal--enough to last us for at least 6 weeks, likely longer. Did we only eat cereal that week? No way! We ate a few boxes of cereal that week and the rest of what we ate mostly came from items I'd stocked up on during previous sales.

You see, because I stock up on items when they are on sale at my target price (providing I can afford it in our budget), my grocery shopping trips will usually look quite strange and will certainly not be the basis for a balanced menu. But you can check out some of our menus here to see that we do eat a fairly balanced diet. Well, at least we're certainly not subsisting on Easy Mac and Jell-O every meal!

How is it that we can eat a fairly balanced diet when I buy such an odd assortment of groceries each week? It's because the bulk of our meals are based upon what we already have in our refrigerator, pantry, and freezer.

To give you an idea of how this works, here's a rundown of our menu this week:
Breakfasts: Cereal or Kashi waffles and fruit (The cereal was from our big stock-up mentioned above, the waffles were purchased two weeks ago at Target for $0.29/box, and the fruit is from what we purchased this week and leftovers from last week.)
Lunches: Sandwiches or leftovers and carrots or fruit (I had lots of bread in the freezer I'd gotten for $0.50/loaf from Aldi last month and the peanut butter was from our pantry. My mom also gave us some extra lunch meat she had leftover from a lunch they served so we've used that, too. The carrots and fruit were purchased this week or leftover from last week's purchases.)
Dinners: We're eating meals from our After-The-Baby Freezer Stash paired with homemade bread from the freezer and frozen veggies from the freezer. All of the items in our After-The-Baby Freezer Stash were purchased within our usual grocery budget over the course of a few weeks' time as I had a little extra wiggle room in the budget or items were on sale.
Snacks: Fruit, cheese, crackers, granola bars, yogurt (The fruit, cheese, crackers, and yogurt were all purchased this week. The granola bars were from the pantry.)
When I plan the menu for the week, I first check out what we already have on hand. This gives me the inspiration for the majority of the menu. I then consult the sales fliers and my coupon box to decide what items are on sale and in-budget that I want (or need) to stock up on. I also add in any specific ingredients I need to round out a recipe or meal I've planned from the freezer and pantry ingredients.

For many people who are used to buying only what groceries you'll use in the next week, the concept of buying ahead can be mind-boggling. However, I highly recommend you at least give it a try as it can save you a great deal of money. In fact, I would estimate that we routinely save at least $30-$50 each week by doing so. If this is a new concept for you, don't go out and spend $500 tomorrow trying to build up a stockpile. Instead, just designate a small percentage of your grocery budget each week to buying extra of those heavily-discounted items which you know you will use sometime in the next few months. Slowly start to build up a stockpile of items you regularly use as you find them discounted by 50% or more with a sale and coupon. Over time, your stockpile will grow until you come to a point where you can begin to pretty much only buy items which are at rock-bottom prices, in addition to produce and perishable items.

Just by adopting the Buy Ahead Principle, you will see a significant savings in your grocery bill. And you'll likely be shopping less and eating better than ever before!

Monthly Totals

Hey everyone. I wanted to share my monthly totals and ask you all to do the same. It's so encouraging to see everyone's great savings! So either post about it on your blog and leave a link or just post a comment!!

May 2009
Spent: $481.06
Weekly: $120.26
Saved: $387.88
80% savings:)

My total is a little high because of Gage's birthday party. I'm really going to get my weekly average down this month!!

Okay, on to my brag moment. I know I've told most of you about my amazing shopping trip this week, but I just had to show pictures!! Never fully understood why the other blogs took the time to do this, but now I do!! You can't fully appreciate all I got until you see it!!!
6 bags of dog food, but gave two to Jackie!
12 bags of dog treats
4 bottles of mustard
1 24 oz. ketchup (FREE from mailer coupon)
1 8 0z. Casade dishwasher rinse (FREE from mailer coupon)
2 bottles of Fantastic
This is my stash I've been gathering for the past couple of weeks!

Also included in the purchase: 9 cases of Capri Suns!!!
(I had to remove these from the Hotwater heater...Carl said they'd catch fire!)