Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Employee Benefits

Don't forget to check with your employer to find out about all of their benefit plans. In addition to the standard medical, dental, flex spending accounts and so forth, they may have programs to get you discounts on stuff you already use. For example, my husband's employer offers a lot of discount programs. By going through them I was able to get 50% the purchase of my cell phone, 3% off my monthly cell phone bill, a great discount on our homeowners insurance, and a 0.25% discount on our mortgage. They also have discounts setup with various major retailers.

Not everyone is lucky enough to work for a company with benefits like this. My job offers only the basic medical, dental, life and 401k. But it is worth checking with you HR department to see if your company offers anything similar. If you do have it, make sure to take advantage of it whenever you can.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Aquarium Visit For Free

We have a large aquarium in our basement and our daughter loves to watch the fish swim around. So we thought it would be nice to take her to the Aquarium. I just don't want to pay their admission fee because she's so young that I doubt she will remember the trip. Fortunately, my husband's employer has passes that he can get for free. So we will be able to visit the Aquarium for free. Ok, not exactly free since we'll have to pay for parking, but it will certainly be cheap. The soonest we could get the passes is in October so we have to wait, but I'm willing to wait for free. The Aquarium certainly isn't going anywhere.

Don't forget to check with your employer to see if they offer any free passes to local attractions. You may have to sign up for them in advance so be sure to check before you need them.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Family Opinions

My family likes to tease me about my couponing. My husband will tease me, but he enjoys seeing how much I save. He loves being able to tell people about all the stuff I get super cheap (thanks CVS). I really do think that he's proud of me for saving us an much as I do. He's been telling his one co-worker so much about me that she wants me to give her lessons in saving.

My mother likes to remind me about how my brother and I used to pick on her for using coupons and buying things on sale when we were kids. We did, but I can understand the need to save a lot better now that I have my own house and child. Stuff is expensive and you need to save any way you can. She also passes coupons on to me for stuff that she knows I use.

My brother seems to get the biggest kick out of it. He refers to my shopping as pillaging and tells me that I should wear a Viking hat and carry a sword. He was with me on one of my CVS trips where I picked up diapers, shower gel and candy for a dollar and change. When we left the store he actually asked me if I felt guilty. My answer was an immediate no. Why should I feel guilty? I'm playing their game by their rules. I dedicate several hours a week to seeking out the deals, clipping and organizing my coupons and planning my shopping trips. It takes work to save that kind of money.

On Sunday my brother was with me during some of my shopping. When we were at Target I checked out first. I wound up getting three bags of household stuff for $8.46. He wound up buying 2 items for $6 and change. So I got to tease him about how I got so much more for only $2 more. Our next stop was at Walmart. There I was able to purchase a box of cereal and three bottles of Power Aid for $0.53 and he purchased a box of 8 cookies for $2.88. Once again I got to tease him. It was a fun trip for us. I think he enjoys seeing how much I can get for my money. Plus he knows if he shops with me I'll give him coupons for items he's buying if I have them.

My daughter is still way too young to be able to voice her opinion on my shopping methods, but it will be interesting to see how she reacts to it as she grows. Since she is with me on a lot of my shopping trips I keep telling my husband that I'm showing her the right way to shop. We'll have to see if those lessons sink in though.

So how does your family react to the way you shop and spend your money? Do they support you in frugal ways or do they give you a hard time about it? I guess I'm very lucky that despite all the teasing, my family does support me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Baby Food Savings

I prefer to make my baby's food, but there is something to be said for the convenience of jar baby food. So my daughter gets a combination of both. This week I was very happy to be able to combine a sale and coupon to stock up on food for my daughter. I wound up getting 61 jars of food, 3 small bottles of juice and 5 boxes of cereal for $13.02. The great part is that I still have more coupons and the sale is on at Weis through Wednesday.

We did pretty well with our general grocery shopping today too. It cost us $68.27 after I saved $47.58 in coupons and $29.72 in "club savings." It was enough of a savings that they had to come over with a key to finish my order. I love it when that happens. I definitely feel that it's worth it to stock up when items are on sale. The only things we got at the grocery store that weren't on sale were the milk and Yo Baby yogurt.

Right now my pantry, cabinets and storage closet are pretty much all stuffed full. There are a few things we are low on, but I should be able to get them at a good price soon. Do you think it's worth it to stock up on your family's regularly used items?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bath & Body Works Semi-Annual Sale

Bath & Body Works is currently having their semi-annual sale. I stopped by one of their stores yesterday to see what they had. I wound up spending $9 which is a lot to me anymore, but I did get two lotions, a body scrub and a rubber duckie.

I love their True Blue Spa Lay It On Thick lotion. It's the only lotion that helps my dry skin in the winter. So I always try to stock up on it when it's on sale. They run slightly different specials each week, so check back and see if you can find something you love there.

Are there any stores you frequent that have semi-annual or annual sales? Do you use that opportunity to stock up on the products you love?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shopping the Deals

I am really starting to love CVS. Today I hit three different CVS stores and picked up most of the items in this picture. Three of the items were picked up at Walmart yesterday. I purchased everything in this picture for a grand total of $2.64.

I am having so much fun with putting together deals. I love to take at least one night a week and put together my shopping list and pull my coupons for shopping. I think it's just so worth it when you take the time to plan out your shopping. You do have to be flexible though because you never know when they're going to be out of something that is on your list or you'll see something that is also a good deal.

I had been debating using the Walgreens $5 off of $20 coupon that's good tomorrow (Friday, June 13th). So I decided to sit down and write up my shopping list to see if it would be worth making a stop. My gift card from the May rebate came in today so I have some free money begging to be spent. I finally came up with two alternative lists to maximize my savings with the coupon. Now I just have to hope that they have everything that I want when I get there tomorrow. At least I have two scenarios to choose from.

Do you take the time to plan out your shopping trips and pull your coupons? If you do, do you find that this works well for you?

To get your Walgreens coupon, click here

Register Receipt Surveys

More and more stores are advertising surveys on their register receipts. When you complete these surveys, you are usually entered to win a gift card to their store or something similar. I'm curious about how many people usually complete these surveys. I'll admit that I always complete them for my favorite stores because I would love to win the gift card they offer. Of course I've never won, but I still keep trying. Do you complete these surveys regularly? Do you even know of anyone who has won the gift cards or other items they promote?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rita's Cool Card

For those of you that are familiar with Rita's Italian Ice, you will know that there is nothing better on a hot day then one of their ice's. If you regularly go to Rita's then you should ask about their Cool Card. You get this card stamped every time you buy a frozen treat and after purchasing ten frozen treats, you get one regular sized one free. The really cool thing about this is that it doesn't matter which frozen treats you buy when you're filling the card. So you could get ten child sized ice's and then your free one could be a regular sized gelati. Next time you're at Rita's ask for a Cool Card. They're completely free so it's worth trying even if you aren't sure you'll fill it up.

Rita's also has a Birthday Club you can join to get special discounts on your birthday and special offers emailed to you year round. For more information on that, click here.

What stores have "frequent flier" programs that you take advantage of?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Extra Cash

I'm always looking for ways to bring in a little extra cash without having to dedicate a lot of time to the effort. One thing that works well for me right now is selling my books on I love books and buy them fairly regularly. So when I finish a book I always look it up on Amazon to see what it's bringing used. If it's selling for a decent price I will add mine to the listing. I love their service because:
1 - It doesn't cost you to list you items. They just take a fee if the item sells.
2 - You don't have to write a listing. You just input the ISBN number in their search box, when the item comes up you click the box to sell yours and complete their form to create your listing.
3 - They collect the money and notify you when the item is sold. My account is setup to automatically transfer the earnings to my bank account every two weeks. You could also use your earnings to purchase items from
4 - They tell you what the fees are if the item sells when you create your listing so there aren't any surprises down the road.

I don't make much money doing this. It's usually a few bucks a month, but it gets the books out of my house and makes me a little extra money without a lot of effort. For me, this is a win win situation.

Do you have any methods for making a little extra money?

Free Picture for Fathers Day

You can get a free 8x10 or 10x13 picture from Picture People for Fathers Day. This offer is only good through Friday, so you will need to hurry to take advantage of this offer. Click here to get your coupon. Thanks Free 2 Be Frugal for the notice on this one. It looks like part of Hubby's gift this year will be a picture of me and our daughter. Hmm, my father might like one of those too. Looks like we'll also be able to take advantage of the 15% off the rest of your order deal too. Then we can add some frames and we're good to go.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Today I received my first rebate check in the mail. This one was a $5.00 rebate for purchasing three packages of Huggies at one time. If you're interested in that rebate, click here. You have to purchase them before June 15th though, so don't waste any time.

I had always considered rebates to not really be worth the time, but now I'm finding that they're a nice way to bring a little bit of your money back home. I'm surprised at how many rebates I'm finding out about on products that I need to purchase anyway. For example, with the Huggies rebate above I had already purchased the diapers when I found out about the rebate. So the $5 back was a nice bonus.

Here are some other rebates you might be interested in:
Orajel $1.50 Rebate
Fresh Sacks Rebate
HP Ink $10 Starbucks gift card rebate
BGE Energy Star Appliance Rebate for those of you in the Baltimore area
Rite Aid monthly single check rebates
Walgreens monthly rebates

You should also watch the coupon inserts of the Sunday paper, store shelves and product packaging for more rebates.

So what do you think of rebates? Are they worth the time it takes to send them in?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Earn Free Gift Cards

For quite a few years now I have been a member of MyPoints. They have a service where you can earn points in various ways and redeem them for gift cards. They have a very wide selection of gift cards. I just ordered my $10 Starbucks card today. I have been trying to limit my Starbucks visits so this card will be a special treat for me. In the past I have gotten gift cards from Barnes and Noble this way since I am also a major book lover. I treat these gift cards as a reward for myself.

You can earn points by completing surveys on their site, responding to offers, shopping through links on their site, and responding through emails. I get most of my points simply by responding to the emails. You are able to opt out of their emails, but that makes it easy to miss offers and points. They also recently added printable coupons on their site. So now you can earn points by printing coupons and redeeming them. Earning points and saving money, now that's a combination I love.

If you want to check them out, click here to go to their website.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Watch Those Medical Bills

We have a rule in our house that no medical bills get paid until they are compared to explanation of benefits from our insurance company. With having a baby last year, I received a lot of medical bills. Out of the dozen or so bills we received from the hospital, only two of them were correct the first time. They also sent us a few bills for things we had already paid. So when we'd get a bill I would have to call up the hospital and have them correct it. It got to the point that I had to keep a spreadsheet of the bills, how much they should be and when they were paid.

Also, if the bill is significant (over $100 in my opinion), don't be afraid to call and ask for an interest free payment plan. We did this with several bills to avoid depleting our savings all at once. By spreading the payments out over several months we were able to avoid completely depleting our emergency fund.

You should also be aware of your insurance schedule of benefits. In the last year I've had two instances where our insurance company underpaid our benefits. Our insurance company has been great every time I've had to call them and both of these situations were corrected right away. They were also both slightly unusual situations so I understood why they didn't pay correctly the first time. Our total savings from just from the insurance corrections was $150.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lysol $5 Reward

Lysol is currently offering a $5 reward promotion if you purchase two products and take your child to the doctor for a check-up between 1/1/08 and 3/31/09. I was happy to stumble across this one because I just recently purchased some Lysol products and my daughter has had a few well baby checkups this year. Now I just need to get all the paperwork together and mail it off. Click here to get the details from the Lysol website.

The Reluctant Coupon User

Lately my brother has been grumbling about the cost of things and money being tight. So I offered him a few suggestions for saving money. My biggest suggestion was to clip coupons and use them, but if he didn't do that, to at least look through the sale paper and plan out your shopping trip before you go. He still hasn't really done either one, but I did get him to use a few coupons.

On Sunday we had a family breakfast at our parent's house and he was grumbling again about money. Well, I already had my list drawn up for Target and my mother offered to watch my daughter so my husband, brother and I headed to Target. Before we went I told him about a few coupons in the paper he might want to use so he cut them out of my mother's paper. Once we were there I pointed out a few deals to him and even gave him a couple of my coupons to save money. In the end he wound up saving about a third off of his bill. Not too bad considering he didn't really put much effort into it.

Knowing my brother he still won't clip coupons on his own, but he is willing to use them when I point out the deals to him. I guess that's something. I do try to notify friends and family members when I see a product I know they use on sale. Do you have anyone that you help find bargins on a regular basis?

Free Samples

I love signing up for free samples. It actually makes getting the mail fun because you never know what you're going to get. In the mail yesterday I got free samples of:

Kotex (Click on Free Sample on the left. This link is for a new sample, not the one I received)
Kashi granola
Shell stickers
Dove lotion (This link is for the Dove free samples page)

With the samples I even got coupons for the Kotex and Dove. I love it when you get free stuff and coupons.

All You Magazine

A great resource for coupons is All You magazine. I just discovered this wonderful magazine last month and have been loving it. Last month I used several coupons from their magazine to get items free or extremely cheap. This morning I just picked up the current issue. You can pick one up at Walmart or you can order a subscription online at their website here.

This month they have coupons totaling $24.00. You can see a list of the coupons in their current issue on page 144. I will try to edit this post later to add a list of the coupons here.

EDIT to add coupon list:
Apple & Eve Fizz Ed Sparkling Juice $1.00
Ban Anti-perspirant Deodorant $1.00
BRUT Fragrances & Deodorants $1.00
BUNdinos Frozen Snacks $0.50
Colgate Total Advanced Whitening Toothpaste $1.50
Glade Air Infusions $0.50
Glade Carpet and Room Odor Eliminator $0.50
Greased Lightening $1.50
Jane Cosmetics Mascara $2.00
Jerky Treats Dog Snacks $1.00
Kotex Individually Wrapped Liners $1.00
Luxurious Color Glaze $1.00
Northland Cranberry Blends and Pom Plus 100% Juice $1.00
Right Guard Anti-perspirant Deodorant $1.00
Sea Breeze $1.00
Snausages, Snawsomes or Scooby Snacks $1.00
Soft & Dri Anti-Perspirant Deodorant $1.00
Stouffers Easy Express Entrees $1.00
Tava Sparkling Beverage $1.00
TrueNorth Nut Snacks $1.00
Weather Works by Frizz Ease $1.00
Wisk 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent $1.50
Ziplock Brand Bags $1.00 on two

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

One Man's Trash

I told my husband awhile ago that I was thinking about getting our daughter a play kitchen either for her birthday or Christmas. So we've been checking them out in the stores, comparing prices and so forth. They are a bit pricey so we hadn't purchased one yet. Well, the other day I was very surprised when he came home with one. He said he saw it out in the trash when he was driving by so he stopped to check it out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, we just need to clean it up. I have seen kitchens in worse shape at yard sales. It just completely amazes me that someone would throw away a perfectly good kitchen play set. Haven't these people heard of craigslist or even Salvation Army?

Have you ever gotten something you wanted this way? I had heard stories from people before about situations like this, but this is the first time I've experienced it. Do you ever throw away something that is in perfectly good shape just because you don't want it anymore?

I hate the idea of throwing away something that is in perfectly good condition. So we always try to pass it on to someone who can use it, list it on craigslist or donate it. How do you get rid of the items you no longer need or want?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monday Shopping

Rite Aid had some pretty good deals for shampoo that's free after rebates this week. One of the items is only on rebate through tomorrow so I decided to head over there tonight. Here what I got:

Transaction 1:
Natural Instincts Hair Color $5.99
Head & Shoulders Shampoo $8.00 (2 * $4.00)
Aqua Fresh Advanced Toothpaste $2.49
Secret Flawless Deodorant $3.99
Samy iStyle Mousse $4.49

Hair Color ($4.00)
Head & Shoulders ($4.00) buy 1 get 1 free
Secret ($1.00)

Total OOP $16.98

Natural Instincts $1.99
Head & Shoulders $4.00
Aqua Fresh $2.49
Secret $2.00
Samy iStyle $4.49
Total Rebates Pending: $14.98

So once I get my rebate back, all of this will have only cost me $2.00

Transaction #2 at Rite Aid
Pantene Beautiful Lengths shampoo & conditioner $6.00
Coupon ($1.50)
Total OOP $4.86
Rebate pending $1.50
Net cost will be $3.36
This one would have been a much better transaction if I had only gotten the shampoo, but I wound up getting both because the clerk was nice enough to go in the back and get these for me. She said the truck had just dropped them off so none of them were out yet. I didn't want to upset her after she was nice enough to help me. I may be able to use her help again in the future.

Trash Bags $3.50
Baby Food $1.69
M&Ms $1.49
WAG Calcium Chewies $5.99
Gillette Shave Gel $2.00
WAG Coupon for Shave Gel ($1.00)
Manuf. coupon for Shave Gel ($1.00)
Redeemed Register Rewards ($5.00)
Total OOP: $8.09
Rebate Pending: $6.59 (for the WAG chewies)

This transaction would have been much better if my husband hadn't added the m&ms while I was checking out. Also, we added the baby food because we weren't heading right back home and I didn't have a jar of baby food in my bag like I thought. My daughter was hungry and I had to feed her. So this one was just bad planning on my part. At least I did get some free shave gel.

Planning Shopping Trips

I find that I do much better with saving money when I take the time to plan out my shopping trips. In the area where I live, the grocery ads are delivered on Thursday evening and all the other ads and coupon inserts are in the Sunday paper.

For all of my general, non grocery shopping trips, I like to plan them on Saturday night. On Saturday I go out and get the early edition of the Sunday paper. After I get my daughter to bed Saturday night I go through the paper and pull out all the coupon inserts and ads that I'm interested in. I like to go through the coupon inserts first and cut out all the coupons I'm interested in. While I'm cutting the coupons I sort them into one pile for me and one pile for the ones I'm giving away. My reasoning for looking at the coupons first is so that I know what coupons I have when I'm looking at the ads and will know if it's a good deal or not. When I look at the ads first I find myself having to flip back and try to find which ad had that good price when I find a good coupon to go with it.

Once all of my coupons are clipped, I start going through the sales papers. I like to look at the drug store ads first since they seem to give the better deals. Only then to I look at the Target ad. While I'm looking at the ad I write up a list of everything that I might want from that store and note if I also have a coupon. Once I have my lists for all the stores I go back and edit them figuring out which one has the best deal for which product.

When my final list is ready I pull the coupons that correspond with that sale and create one envelope for each store. Then I write my list on the envelope. I find that it's so much easier to have my list and coupons together like that to reference while I'm walking around the store.The envelopes are also convenient to keep in your purse.

Of course I also carry my whole coupon file with me. Sometimes it stays in the car and sometimes I take it in with me. It all depends on if I have the time to look around for clearance or other non-advertised bargains on that trip. I plan to go into more detail on my coupon files and how I use them in a future post.

For the grocery ads, I like to look through them either Thursday night or Friday night, depending on how late they are delivered on Thursday. I always start with the ad for the store where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. While I'm going through the ad I try to write my list and plan my menus for the week. Once that's done, I flip through the other grocery ads to see if they have any specials worth stopping there for. These lists may get revised once I get my coupons Saturday night, but not always.

My explanation probably makes my system seem more complicated then it really is. Do you have a system that works for you? I'm curious how many people have a system and how many people just wing it.

Sunday Shopping

Before the trip to the mall I mentioned in my previous post, I also did quick shopping trips to Target and CVS. Here's what I got:

2 Butt Paste trial size $1.98
1 Oral B Floss trial size $0.97
1 Gillette Clinical Deodorant on clearance $6.78
2 Fusion Razors $15.98
1 Pepsi $1.29

2 * $4.00 off Fusion razor ($8.00)
2 * $1.00 off any Butt Paste ($2.00)
1 * $1.00 off any Oral B Floss ($1.00)
1 * $2.00 off Gillette Clinical Deodorant ($2.00)

Total Out of Pocket $14.91 (includes sales tax)

I also got a $10.00 gift card for purchasing the two Fusion razors.
The trial size butt paste will be great for my daughter's diaper bag, especially since it was free. The floss was also free. I have another of the floss coupons so I will be using that when I go back to redeem my gift card. It also printed out a Target coupon for $0.75 off Charmin bath tissue with my receipt.

CVS Trip:
2 Chex Mix $2.00
4 Dawn Dish Soap $4.00 ($1.00 ECB when you buy 2)
2 Listerine Kids Rinse $6.98 (free after ECB this month)

2 * $1.00 off Chex Mix ($2.00)
4 * $0.20 off Dawn dish soap ($0.80)
2 * $1.00 off Listerine rinse ($2.00)

ECB used $4.99
Total Out of Pocket $3.19
ECB Earned $8.98

I love it when I am able to use a coupon on an item that is already free after ECB.

FYI, the Chex Mix coupons came from and I think the Listerine and Butt Paste coupons did too. The Dawn, Oral B floss and Fusion razor coupons were in today's P&G Super Saver. I've had the Gillette coupon for awhile so I don't remember where I got it, but there was one for $1.00 in today's P&G Super Saver insert.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Cheap Trip to the Mall

In the mail Friday I got one of Penny's $10 off a $10 or more purchase coupons. It was valid starting today so we headed over there to use it. I absolutely love these coupons. This time we got a shirt and a onesie for my daughter. The onesie was on clearance and the shirt was 50% off. I refuse to pay full price for baby clothes even when I have a coupon. My total out of pocket for these items was $1.05. Not too bad. I love shopping at Penny's because they have some great clearance items and sales, even without these coupons.

Our second stop at the mall was Macy's where I used my coupon to pick up some free panties. That was all we got there today. Click here for your coupon. It's only good through Friday so don't wait.

The only other things we picked up while we were at the mall was a shirt for my daughter and a stuffed shark for my dog from Dollar Tree. I have never bought baby clothes there before so we'll see how this holds up.

Total spent at the mall today was $3.17 for five items.