Monday, November 29, 2010

My "niece" and "nephews"

I became an "aunt" again in August.  My "nephew"   L was born then.  I have dear friends whose children call me "Aunt", so I have to be the fantastic Aunt to them.  I give them gifts and spoil them rotten when I can.  That's an auntie's job.

Well, they currently live four hours away by car.  (Which is better than last year.  Last year at this time I traveled 20 hours by plane to visit them!)

I was happy they were in visiting for Thanksgiving, and I was able to spend the morning with them.  And someone stole my heart!

While  "L" was smiling, "I" and "K" were enjoying hot chocolate.  :) 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Black Friday

I saw a great blog post the other day about the TRUTH about Black Friday.  Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part the stuff that is on sale is not as good of quality, that these are not "once a year" prices, but you can likely find the same items at just as low prices elsewhere during the year.  Again, there are exceptions to that, but I certainly didn't find anything that would warrent me going out at 4 in the morning to get!  (In fact, I was busy talking to an old friend.  He called at 2 in the morning and we talked for five hours, so I certainly was up to go out if I wanted to, but I didn't see any reason to.)  And I certainly didn't see anything worth cussing cashiers about as one woman on someone else's facebook page claimed to do.  (Wow, let's really celebrate Jesus' birth by using the F word because something we wanted was sold out!)

The one cannot be missed item for me I ordered online Thanksgiving Day.  It was a Christmas tree, and ours got ruined.  It was on sale for $38, and I have a $15 mail in refund.  I also had a $10 off anything at Lowe's coupon, but the website wouldn't accept it.  I decided to order it without the coupon so I wouldn't have to go and hope to get the tree before it sold out.  (I've not yet gotten my e-mail saying my tree is ready to be picked up, but I'll call tomorrow if I haven't gotten one.)

After a couple hours of sleep, I got up, and then yesterday afternoon I hit the stores I planned on hitting.  I wanted to go to Walgreens and CVS.

I did order a few things online.  I ordered 4 years subscription to Reader's Digest for Mom for $14.  (Usually it's about that much for a year.)  I also ordered a photo collage from Walgreens.  It was free after coupon.  I picked it up yesterday.

My first stop was at Walgreens.  Here's what I bought:

8x10 collage photo print (a gift for Christmas)
Gilette Scrub Clenser
Colgate Enamel toothpaste
Planter's mixed nuts
TWO cases of 24 count bottled water
one two-liter of 7up (I'm planning a party next weekend)
Olay body was
Oral B toothbursh
Robitussin to go
Crest whitening toothpast
Thermacare wrap for neck/wrist/arm
4 count Advil PM
Gum Flossers
Old Spice Body Spray
Just for Men Shampoo/condition
Nivea Shave Jell
Secret body spray
Scunchi non-slip pony tail holders

My total after coupons was $37.39.   I had coupons for the olay body wash, the Gum flosswers, Crest, and Colgate.  I also had Register Rewards from my last trip to Walgreens.  I saved a total of $41.17.  I received back in "Jingle Cash"  (what register rewards are called this holiday season (was $40.50.)   So for $37.39 I got all this plus MORE than what I paid that I can spend next time I go to Walgreens.  Nice haul.  Plus I have a $3.50 mail in refund on the Planters nuts.

I do have to say kudos to Walgreens in preperation of their Black Friday sale.  Instead of having to search the store for things that I don't buy unless they are free, I was able to go right to an end-cap and they had everything displayed, so it was easy to add everything to my cart.  I also took a paper and a marker and checked off each item as I added it!  Made shopping very simple. 

Then I went to CVS.   They had a deal online where if you bought a $25 CVS gift card, you would get a $5 promotional gift card, so I ordered one and got $30 of gift cards for $25.  So, I already had a $5 savings.

At CVS I got:

1 Colgate sensitive toothpaste
1 L A Looks styling gel
1 bottle of laundry detergent
1 Listerine Pocket Packs
5 M&M King sized candy bars
5 Reese's candy bars
1 Carmex lip balm
1 Snuggie, desinger print
4 bottles of Sobe
2 Gillette deoderant
1 Phillips ear bud headphones

My total was $12.03 after coupons and gift certificates.  Add the $25 I paid for the $30 of gift certificates and it was a total of $27.03 paid at CVS.  I received back $34.85 in Extra Care Bucks.

My trip to Lowe's (went anyway even if the tree wasn't available)

2 bricks of rat poison (not pictured)
1 box of 8 containers of rat poison  (We live in an old house and this is the time of year we'll often have unwelcomed intruders)
2 small poinsettias

I had a $10 off coupon so I paid just over $6 there.

So my Black Friday summary:

Spent in total  $136
total of "stuff" bought:  $418
mail in rebates will net me  $18.50
Extra Care Bucks:  $34.85
W card savings:  0.40
Register Rewards 40.50
cash back from my credit card:  $1.36

So if you take what I spent and subtract all the above (which of course the ECBs and Register Rewards aren't exactly like cash, but let's go ahead and do it for this example) then I spent a total of $40.39 for $418 of stuff, or a savings of 90%. 

The Christmas tree and magazine subscription is not pictured:

Holiday Cards, part two

Recently Shutterfly offered bloggers 50 free Shutterfly cards if we'd write a post about some of their products.  I did, and my cards have arrived.

In fact, before that offer I had attended a House Party and we got codes for free photo books.  I made a photo book for my cousin of the snows we had last winter.  I was able to personalize it and even put some photos in the book of his house and business during our blizzards last winter.   I'm really dreading winter because all I can think about is last winter.  But winter will come even if I don't want it to, and I might as well use some of the photos to make a book about the winter we'll talk about for years to come!

 I had a code for five free cards, and I have a handful of Jewish friends and don't feel like I should send them a card that says Merry Christmas.  For a number of years I went with a more generic "Happy Holidays" but decided last year to revert back to "Merry Christmas".  The year I had visited Israel, I sent along photos of me at Bethlehem with my Christmas letter and me at the Western Wall with my Hanukkah letter, so I try to do something very similar for both greetings when I don't do a "holiday" card.

These are my Hanukkah cards this year (which I must get out soon as Hanukkah starts at sundown on December 1!)  There are 8 snow photos on the front of the card, and the bottom corner says "Snow Kidding"  The inside has another snow photo and says "May your winter be warm with the thoughts of family and friends!  Happy Hanukkah!"

Because I got free Christmas cards last year and never mailed them out, nor did I mail my Christmas letter from last year, I decided that because the cards I got last year are a little dated (me in front of the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg Russia) and I can't exactly use them another year, I'm going to mail both cards this year.  For that reason I chose a flat card from Shutterfly as my Christmas card.  Part of the reason is I hope to keep TWO Christmas cards and TWO letters under one ounce.  As verbose as my Christmas letters tend to be, this may prove to be difficult!

I chose one where I could add seven photos.  It says "Wishing you a Merry Christmas  From  (us)  Just don't dream of a white Christmas!" 

Let  me point out here that the photo to the right of Merry Christmas is our next door neighbor's van.  I took that out of an upstairs bedroom window last year.  The day before the van had been driven, but we had a "snow hurricane" in the night, and we had tons of snow dumped on us.

As always, I'm highly pleased with the quality of the items offered by Shutterfly.  As a bargain hunter, paying full price for their items is not something I would likely do, however, they often have sales, free card offers, etc. and as always, I very much enjoy ordering from Shutterfly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Debt the Halls

While watching TV tonight I saw the average family will spend almost $700 on Christmas this year. Personally I can't imagine. Of course, I save prizes from sweepstakes and contests through the year. I also keep an eye open at garage sales for items that would make great gifts. Sometimes you can find things that are brand new, or other times you can find things that are no longer sold that would fit in great in a collection. (My aunt is getting a few garage sale items including hand-forged alumimum, which she collects, as well as a signed, numbered, framed print of a local landmark. She will love all of these.)

When I was growing up my grandmother used to give "Care Packages" to Mom and my aunt. She'd get two boxes and put in her spare bedroom. When there was something buy one get one free, she'd buy it, and one item would go into each box. My mom and my aunt used to roll their eyes at these gifts, but after Grandma went into the nursing home, they each said how much they missed them.

So I've found that "Care Packages" are often welcome Christmas gifts, especially to people who are struggling financially. I've given a number over the years, and because I can get groceries very cheap sometimes, I can give much more value wise than if I were to go and buy something retail for my family. Not everyone appriciates these, so they aren't a gift I would give just anyone. College kids really love these. Teenagers in high school? Not so much -- with the exception of teen girls and a huge basket of make-up.

One year I watched sales, and I was able to get almost $1000 of gifts for about $50 - $100. These were good gifts, too. Things like photo books with family photos, etc.

I try to buy gifts as cheap as possible, but only if it's something that the recipient would like. I don't want to be like the lady I once saw on TV that when she went to a dinner party instead of a bottle of wine, she would take Pine-Sol becase she got it free. Even when working with not a lot of money, gifts need to be something that will be appriciated!

But I don't understand why people go into debt at the holidays. I was reading entries at a contest recently and a number said they couldn't afford for their children to "have a Christmas". Since when is money a requirement of "having Christmas"? Yes, I realize people want to give stuff to their children and people they love, but I do hate the phrases as "We can't give them Christmas" or "They won't have a Christmas." Christmas is a date on the calendar, and it's going to happen to everyone gifts or not. It's like that old joke, "Do other countries have a 4th of July?" and you expect the other person to say, "Of course not, silly, that's an American holiday," and then you reply, "Oh, so does their calendar go from July 3rd to July 5th?"

It seems that Christmas has lost not only its original focus but also it's secondary focus of family and friends and love and has become an all out buying session seeing who can get the most gifts. Some of my favorite memories include friends and gag gift exchanges at the holidays. Or how my best friend and I used to make mix tapes in the 1980s as our Christmas gifts. Very little money invested. Or the time that my best friend and I decided to make Christmas cookies. We decided to get creative and still laugh about the batch we made with Cocoa Wheats. (Don't try it!) or how we loved our peanutbutter and jelly cookies. Memories with family and friends. That's the most valuable part of Christmas.

I don't remember a thing I got one Christmas when I was little, but I remember staying up late when I was about eight years old putting together a puzzle with my dad that he got for Christmas. We were watching "Miracle on 34th Street", and what I would give to have another few minutes with my Dad. That is actually one of my favorite memories of Dad, and certainly not something that could be bought. Sure the puzzle was a Christmas gift, but it was the putting it together with him that made it special.

Personally, this year, I'm hoping for little STUFF. I'm decluttering and I can't tell you how many 30 gallon trash bags of stuff I've gotten out of the house. Not to mention the stuff we've given away or have set back for a garage sale. We don't have the room for stuff. I want junk out of the house. We don't have room for knick-knacks, etc.

My mother asked me today what I want for Christmas.

Sure I'd like a laptop and and iPod. (My current mp3 player is about 6 years old and I can no longer add anything to it because the software is no longer supported.) Other than that, I can't think of anything "stuff" wise I'd like.   Of course, those aren't in the budget, if I ever get new ones, I'll have to win them.  Well, I do need a new pair of shoes, but because of my big feet, I have to buy those myself. The pair I'm currently wearing I won in 2006 and since I don't have winter boots (not a good thing when we got about 10 feet of snow in February!), they are what I wear year-round.

I read once that people who desire experiences over things are happier people. Most of what I want is experiences. I want to return to Israel. I want to see a weekend show of a friend who's a professional magician. I want to go to Ohio and visit some friends whom I haven't seen in years. We became friends at church camp when we were in high school. I want to go on a weekend retreat with my church.

Of course, these things can't be gift wrapped and placed under the tree. Instead, I'm hoping for things that will help out with regular household expenses and allow me to put a little money back (if possible) to these things.

Obviously, with the problem with the bathroom, there's little extra money, so whatever I might receive will likely go towards paying off what we had to put on credit cards because of the bathroom.

I am still in the voting contest at and I'm asking for everyone to vote. If I win that, that will help a lot with paying off expenses. It will allow me to get my mother a recliner for Christmas (and she needs one for medical reasons). If I win, it would be a huge blessing. So if you could vote daily through Tuesday, it would be much appriciated. (My photo is the one of the guinea pigs with the fire truck.) Thank you.
Please don't go into debt for Christmas. You don't know what is around the corner. We had no idea that we'd have $1400 of bathroom expenses a couple weeks ago. What if you were to put $800 of Christmas gifts on your credit cards and find out you needed $1400 of work on your bathroom the next day? Please spend wisely, as generously as possible, but not going into debt.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

First time, disappointed with something free.

I'm a firm believer in NOT COMPLAINING about free stuff.  If a company is generous enough to give it away then I believe a person should be happy with it.  I've received some odd freebies over the years.  Like the Arm and Hammer Shaker.  What did you do with that?  I've received weird t-shirts, weird mouse pads, etc.  But they are free, and I don't complain. . . at least when there are no strings attached.

With House Party you are expected to host a party with the supplies given.  I've had some great parties.  When I saw the American Ninja Warrior party, I applied to host, knowing that the box wasn't as good as some in the past.

What did I receive?

Well, first off, I'm still clueless as to how we're going to be watching the American Ninja Warrior show because there was no DVD included.  House Party has yet to fill the hosts in on how this will be accomplished.  I did receive an e-mail saying we'd get details at a later point.

In my box was the following.  (Keep in mind we had to invite 14 people, so 15 items each in the box is usually standard.)

1 t-shirt for the host (not my size, but that's okay, often t-shirts aren't my size.)
2 Ninja Warrior magnets
15 Ninja Warrior temporary tattoos
15 Ninja Warrior buttons
and this is the one that is upsetting to me
FIVE Ninja Warrior headbands

A number of my friends have asked if they can dress as Ninjas to my party.  I said that was cool.  I may have more Ninjas than I do headbands.  Now, if I end up with six Ninjas, I won't be able to pass out a headband to each.  I'm definately disappointed that the box only allows for 1 in 3 party attenders to receive a headband.

I'll come up with a solution, I'm sure, but I'm not happy about 10 guests not receiving headbands.  And it's not like something I can buy since these were made specifically for the party.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A man giving $1 Million to charity. . .

I saw this article the other day where a man is attempting to buy Thanksgiving dinner for six for under one dollar.  My first thought was "Why is this even news?"  I mean, how many of us who coupon and refund could do this?  I figure a number of us could.  Of course, often my mother and I have gotten a turkey TV dinner for Thanksgiving since it's just the two of us.  So, a dinner for six could feed the two of us for DAYS.

Especially with the refunds in my state for alcohol purchases this could be super easy.  (My state forbids the purchase of alcohol for an alcohol refund, so beer companies will often do things like "Buy $10 of frozen pizza and get $10 back after mail in refund".

This week I had a $10 off a $50 gift certificate purchase, $10 off $25 of Thanksgiving items, $6 off $10 of baking supplies, and $6 off $10 or more turkey.

So buy the gift card first before you buy the rest of your items.  (That's what I did.)  Then because I had the turkey refund I used the "Thanksgiving items" as vegetables, stuffing, etc.  Of course, I'm not even thinking of using coupons yet. 

A feat like this would be easier if you live in a city, esp. near a store that adds up your total spent before coupons are deducted.  Some places have deals like "Spend $250 and get a free turkey."  Okay, for instance, with my cereal deal I got $90 of cereal free.  That would be a huge step towards a free turkey.

But for me, I live in the middle of no where.  My town doesn't have a high school.  It's 20 minutes to the closest McDonalds.  There are three stop lights in my entire county (I think.)  We don't even have a "normal" grocery store in my town.  My choices of grocery stores in the next town are Foodland and Wal-Mart. 

I do a lot of my shopping an hour away.  That's where pretty much anything is for us except for Wal-Mart.    There I have choices of Kroger and Giant Eagle. 

But I believe given the time and want-to I could do Thanksgiving dinner for one dollar.  It's too late to plan to do so for this year, but I truly believe it's possible.

BUT. . .  I loved in the story where he said that he wants to eventually give one million dollars of items to food banks.  I never thought of it before, but I think that's a fantastic goal, and I think I will see if I can give one million away in my lifetime.  (I think all couponers should take on this challenge!)  Of course, I won't limit it to just stuff I got with coupons, but also with sweepstakes wins, etc. And not just to charity, but also to people having a rough time.  I know sometimes people are too proud to go to a food bank, but if you tell them you got the stuff free with coupons, they don't mind taking it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's 10pm. Do you know where your toilet is?

I know "It's 10 pm.  Do you know where your toilet is?" sounds like a silly blog post title, but recently my toilet was in my bathtub!

This actually begins a few years ago.  My bathroom needed some work done, and we hired a handyman.  First he never did get hot water to my sink.  (I have it now.)  Then he put vinyl flooring in -- UPSIDE DOWN.  Well, the perfectionist that I am didn't like upside down vinyl, so he put in other, this time right side up, but never fastened it down.  I started curling at the edges of the floor -- and in the middle where he chopped it up to put it down. 

After a couple toilet overflows we had our current handyman (different guy) take a look at it.  What he found really didn't surprise me.  The toilet had rusted off the cast iron pipes.  It was just sitting there on top of pipes.  But it had leaked enough the floor was rotted.  (That didn't surprise me, I knew the floor was wet because of the gaps in the vinyl from the previous handyman.)  Our current handyman told us that it was lucky that I hadn't landed in the laundry room the floor was so bad rotted.

Well, thus started our week of bathroom renovations to fix the necessitites.  First a new floor had to be put in.  I'm glad the joists were still good!  The first picture reminds me of Asain toilets!

Then of course we had to put new flooring on top of the floor because even though it was money we didn't really have, you can't have a bathroom floor of plywood! 

Then the basics started returning.

I'm thilled at a bathroom floor that I won't fall through, and I also really like flooring that isn't chopped up in places and curling away from the floor.   I'm still doing some basics in the bathroom and trying to decorate and get a little better organized on less than a shoestring budget.

In all the cost of the bathroom was around $1400.  Money that we don't really have to spare.

So, I know I've been begging for votes, but with a chance to win $2500, I really need the votes.   Just go to and you can vote daily.  My picture is the guinea pigs with the fire truck.  I really appriciate the votes, and just by voting you might win a $50 Fandango gift certificate!

So, I know where my toilet is now.  And I like it no longer being stored in the tub!  :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's "UP" at Rite Aid.

I did well at Rite Aid today.  I returned the previously mentioned $5.29 toothbrush, then did my shopping.

Today's trip included:

package of Huggies diapers (in my "newphew's" size.  I figure he's still too young to know that Christmas gifts should be "fun".  lol!)
4 Right Guard deoderant
2 Colgate 360 toothbrushes
1 Colgate Total toothpaste
5 cans Green Giant Vegetables
1 can chicken broth
3 cream of chicken soup
1 cream of mushroom soup

I spent a total of $9.93.  I received $9 back in UP rewards.

My receipt said I saved $43.38 today.  They were out of a few other things, but I'm still happy with this haul.  I'm beginning to see my Rite Aid is likely going to be out of a lot of the items that are on sale with UP rewards, but obviously I can still do well.  :)

Also, please don't forget to vote for my photo at  My photo is the one of the guinea pigs with the fire truck!  Thanks so much!  You can vote daily, and every vote helps.  (And you might win a $50 Fandango gift card from DumDums just for voting!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My $3 tool kit

This past weekend Lowe's Facebook Fan page was doing a deal where if you were one of the first so many people to submit your address, you'd get a 90% off coupon for that item.  They had a $1500 hot water heater, a Kitchenaid mixer (which one of my friends got for $20!), screwdriver sets, air filters, stick vacs, light fixtures, and even a Dyson Vacuum.

I got a coupon for a tool kit.  First 2,000 people did.  So for $3.30 I got this tool kit filled with basics like a hammer, 4 in 1 screwdriver, utility tape, pliers, etc.

I think my aunt is hoping we give this to her for Christmas.  Since she found out we got it, she's been dropping lots of hints!  :) 

Very nice item for $3.30.  I picked it up in store to save on shipping costs. 

Also, just a reminder to vote at for my photo of the guinea pigs with the fire truck.  You could win just by voting, and you can vote daily through 11/23.  Thanks so much!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Walgreens Wrap-Up

I did some bargain shopping today.

First was a trip to CVS.

First I bought (full price) 5 photos of the photo I have in the contest.  It's the one of the guinea pigs, and you can vote daily, and 14 people who vote will win $50 Fandango, so please vote daily through 11/23

I also bought 6 Sobes.  I had 3 coupons from the Sobe game that were for totally free Sobe, and so since they were B1G1 this week, I was able to get 6 free.

I also got 2 Renuzit.  A heads up on this.  The signs on the shelves said 99 cents, but that was if you bought 3.  (I didn't see that)  So when you didn't buy 3, they were $1.57 each.  It would have been as cheap to get three, but I didn't see this until I got out the door.

After coupons, I paid $3.16

I then went to the grocery store.  I live in a state with strict alcohol laws which makes it nice for mail in refunds on alcohol because our state forbids the requirement of alcohol purchase.  I have a beer refund form where all you have to buy is $8 of beef and get $4 back in a mail in refund.  So for $4.40 and a stamp this is the ground beef and cubed steak I bought.  (The ground beef looks much better, it looks rather anemic in this photo due to flash!)

Finally, I went to Walgreens.  This is the loot from TWO Walgreens trips:

1 local weekly newspaper
1 bottle children's cough syrup
2 bottles contact lens solution
4 bags Halls cough drops
3 Reach Toothbrushes
1 Cottonelle Fresh Wipes
3 Reach dental floss

I paid a total of  $3.30.  (I saved $39.25).   I received back $8 in register rewards, and will receive a $6 mail in rebate.

Not a bad week at Walgreens and CVS!  :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas / Holiday Cards! It's that time!

I love Christmas cards! I remember as a child wanting to open all the cards that came in to our family. We had a business, and it was the 1970s and people still sent plenty of cards. It didn't matter I didn't know who the people were who sent the card, I wanted to see what neat cards everyone was sending that year. Then I'd watch as Mom taped them to the bookshelves to show off our plethora of cards. That was 30 years ago. It doesn't seem that people send as many cards these days, but I still love cards, and especially personalized ones! I love seeing how children have grown or some special adventure on everyone's cards.

Last year I made Christmas cards with me in front of “The Church of the Saviour on The Spilled Blood” in St. Petersburg, Russia. One year I sent Christmas cards with a photo of me with school representatives when we got a $5,000 grant from a video I made. Of course, the check was in the photo, and I must say I look good with big checks going to the school! LOL!

This year, I'm planning on sending Shuttefly Christmas cards. I thought of adding a photo of myself with Wolfgang Puck to the card.  I even started making it with the Shutterfly design of "Family Frame", but decided to do something a bit different. I went to a Shutterfly House Party last week and already have decided on our Christmas cards.

In February, we had a snow hurricane. We couldn't have our driveway plowed, we had to hire a back-hoe. Then the next day there was another eight feet of snow in our driveway. It was insane. The post office closed, Wal-Mart closed. If you were on the roads, and it wasn't an emergency, you would get a ticket. There was snow everywhere. We got snowed in to the point we couldn't open ANY door to our home. We were literally trapped.

So, I decided to make cards using the Sweet Cinnamon Collage Christmas design  from Shutterfly. I can add seven of the photos from our big snowstorm. I'm putting our names on it, and underneath it I'm writing, “Don't you DARE dream of a White Christmas.” I think it will give everyone a laugh, and since I live in a small town, I expect that people will be talking about the creative card I am sending this year.
Another nice thing about Shutterfly is that I have a few Jewish friends, and I can make a few Hanukkah cards as needed.  This card isn't religious, but is in Hanukkah colors, perfect for sending to my Jewish friends. Classic Border Navy Holiday Card.  Shutterfly has a lot of great cards from Christmas Cards, Holiday Cards, and even New Year's Cards.
Another card I paticularly like is this one:  Top Ten Moments Christmas Card.  Of course, I usually write a newsletter, but this would be great if you don't.
And here's an added bonus if you blog!  If you are willing to do a write up about Shutterfly cards, you can get 50 Free Shutterfly cards for Bloggers!  I've been a Shutterfly customer for years, and trust me, you won't be disappointed in these cards.
Once my cards arrive, I'll be sure and do a follow up post with a picture of my cards!

Pound Wise, Penny Foolish

It seems it's that time of year again where my pet peeve is really being peeved.  Yes, I can save a ton of money by combining deals at the store, or entering sweepstakes and contests CONSISTANTLY (like 400 or more  a day)  all year long.  (To put that in perspective, that 400 equals 146,000 giveaways entered each year.)  Yes, I won a Wii a few years ago, but that doesn't mean that 4 weeks before Christmas you can tell me you want to win a Wii before Christmas to give to someone.  (I've won one since they came out.  Yes, I still enter for them because I have someone I had wanted to give one to.)

Just because I refuse to pay more than 25 cents for a tube of toothpaste doesn't mean I can get you your dream vacation free.  Although, my mother and I did a get away in March and spent a total of $20 for an overnight trip.  I had a gas card I had won to pay for the gas used.  Then we used gift cards to eat out, hotel reward points we earned from a credit card for the motel.  In March 2009 we went to Williamsburg for a few days and got a hotel room for $60 for four nights -- or $15 a night.  Notice this is the off season for Williamsburg.  (It was miserable, too, by the way.  Cold and rainy!)

I called this post "Pound Wise, Penny Foolish".  The saying "Penny Wise, Pound Foolish" basically means you pinch pennies in small things, but don't care in the big picture.  For instance, say you decide to "save" money by deciding to cut out buying toothbrushes and toothpaste.  That might save a little now (if you don't shop like I do and get these free anyway) but in the long run you'll be spending MUCH more on dental bills.  (Not to mention having bad breath all the time!)

But think about how you shop.  For instance, let's say you regularly buy toothbrushes that, say,cost $5.29 each.  (See yesterday's post.)  Toothbrushes can often be "bought" free with no combining of coupons, just watching for deals where you receive dollars back at the register good at that store.  If you change your toothbrush when recommened (every 3 months), and if you have a family of four, that's almost $85 a year saved on toothbrushes.  It doesn't seem like a toothbrush can add up to almost $100 a year, but you can see where it can, and that's one reason I do shop like I do. 

We haven't bought coffee since 2008.  Granted, we're not huge coffee drinkers, but I've gotten a lot free over the years, and we almost never buy coffee out.  A $5 cup of coffeee will cost you $100 a month if you stop 20 times (every weekday) to buy one.  That's $1200 a year, and if you have done this since Jan 1, 2008, you have spent almost $3600 on coffee.

One big splurge I had last year was a trip to Russia.  I have friends who work with a church there, and as soon as they got the assignment to Russia, I planned on visiting them.  I had 4 years to save for this trip, and it took me all four years to save $1300.  (See, I don't have extra expenses that I can easily cut out like a $5 daily cup of coffee.)  Even at needing to save $325 a year for this trip, it was hard for me to save that much because I am "penny wise".  In the end, it was worth it.  I spent 2 weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia.  I stayed with my friends, and we ate at home as well as occassionally eatting out.  I had to very much plan ahead for this trip, and it wasn't something I could start thinking about a few months before I wanted to leave.

Bottom line is, save on the small things.  If you've been spending money on the small things, try to put it away for the 'big ticket' items.  Don't think you should look for bargains ONLY on cars, vacations, electronics, etc.  Savings begins with the small things, even if it's turning out lights when you leave a room.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

4 for the win. . .and a little Rite Aid

I decided it was time I learned Rite Aid.  After asking a friend a bunch of questions last night, I then started figuring out the Video Values.  (Basically if you watch videos online you can earn coupons.)

So this morning I went to Rite Aid.  Had to ask for help finding the Sundown vitamins.  They didn't sell the Nivea Men's body wash at my store, and were down to 1 box of Cheez-its.  Then I picked up a wrong tooth brush (which I am going to return.  I can't imagine paying $5.29 for a manual toothbrush, but that's what it rang up as.)  I knew something was off but couldn't figure it out until I was out of town.  I wanted one that was $2.99 and got UP rewards back. 

So, the rest of my shopping trip went okay.  I got four bottles of Sundown vitamins and a tube of toothpaste.  Subtracting the $5.29 toothbrush since I plan on returning it, my total bill came to $6.33.  (Or 4 bottles of vitamins and a tube of toothpaste is only $1 more than a toothbrush!  LOL)  I got $6.99 back in Up rewards.

After an appointment, I went to a CVS I usually don't go to.  I was told they don't take coupons.  *sigh*.  I know the cashiers were complaining to each other when I left without buying anything since they "don't take coupons".  I try to keep copies of stores' coupon policies in my purse, and wouldn't you know, I didn't have CVS' policy with me.  I'll go to my regular one either tomorrow or later this week.

When I got home, I had four sweepstakes prizes waiting on me.

A coupon for a free SoBe
an Ashtray
a blog prize from General Mills' monster cereals.  A box each of Boo-Berry, Franken Berry, and Count Chocula, a trick-or-treat bag, and a $10 Target card.  (for those who are counting, I'm up to 103 boxes of cereal in the last week!)

Monday, November 8, 2010

CVS. Today. Okay.

This wasn't a fantastic week for CVS.  Of course I don't really have coupon inserts to help along the savings, a lot of what I do is with printable coupons and just items that are free with the rewards dollars from different stores.

It's a pet peeve of mine that places don't keep enough caffiene free diet pop in stock.  Today was no exception.  My mother can't have caffiene and she can't have sugar.  So, it's hard to find what she can drink in stock.

At CVS I got:

3 Caffiene Free Diet Coke
1 Diet Coke with Lime
1 Noxema
1 can cashews

The is a local school saving Coke reward points.  You can read about that right here.

The total I paid after $18.98 in Extra Care bucks was $2.59.  I received $6 back in Extra Care Bucks.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thanks GIVING!

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm participating in the 30 day giving challenge. 

Over the years I've heard people say things like "I don't have the money to give anything to anyone."  Money isn't always needed.  I get tons of stuff free at stores.  You have talents.  I'm sure there's a couple who would love for you to watch their child for a couple hours.  You can pray for someone.  There's lots of ways to give that don't cost anything.  A hug to a friend going through a tough time.  Listening when someone needs a friend.  Saving Boxtops for Education for a local school.  Saving Coke reward points for a local school.  (If you don't have a school you are giving these to, let me know and I can give you the address of a school who could really use them.)

One of the ways I love to give is by getting free stuff either through sweepstakes or using coupons and being able to give them away.  I know some people won't ask for help when they can use it, so I try to give directly as well as many times through organizations who provide Christmas gifts and such to children.  A few years ago I was able to buy $1700 of games for $65.  They went to a few different organziations for raffle items to help them raise money ("Family Fun Night" baskets).  I gave some to a friend who didn't have the money to buy much for her children for Christmas.  (Se nearly cried as she left with about $200 of stuff.  My cost was about $5.)  When I see a good deal, I jump on it.  Did I need all those games?  No.  But someone could use them.  That I knew. Same with the cereal deal I did last week.  I was amazed at the number of people who asked me what I was going to do with all that!

Food banks are really hurting right now.  In fact, to encourage giving, the West Virginia lottery is doing a "Give and Win" food drive.  They do this nearly every year.  November 10, 2010 if you take a non-perishable food item into certain lottery retailers you'll receive a free instant scratch-off lottery ticket.  You can see the list of places HERE.   It think it's a cool idea to raise awareness of food banks!

The only thing I often get free I can't figure a place to donate is over the counter medicines.  I can give them to people I know, but other places won't accept them.

A few ideas for giving stuff you've gotten free:

  • Toilet paper:  churches, schools, Christian camps, homeless shelters, food banks, etc.
  • School supplies:  schools, churches
  • Food:  food banks, churches often help people who need assistance
  • Toys:  save for Christmas and give at Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, churches, schools can often use toys as prizes/rewards
  • Pet Food:  animal shelters, food banks (people often have pets even if they need assistance from a food bank)
Let's see how you can GIVE this week!  Like I said, it doesn't need to be something that costs money!


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cereal Savings

This week I'm drowning in Cereal Savings!  I went into Giant Eagle and found Monster Cereals on clearance at 75% off after Halloween.  Now they don't expire until August, so plenty of time to eat them.  I often donate extras or give them to people who can use them so I try to stock up on good deals.

Then I had 12 coupons for free Honey Nut Cheerios I won from an instant win game.  They were on sale at Giant Eagle 2/$10 AND you got a free box when you bought 2.  So I was able to get 18 boxes of cereal for free.

In total I ended up with exactly 100 boxes of cereal.   $328 retail value for the Monster Cereals, and at sale price for the Honey Nut Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch was $90.  So that's $418 of cereal.  My cost?  $82.  And with bonus boxtops for education on there, it's over $13 of Boxtops, which I save for a school where over most of the kids live below the poverty line.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Psychic Cash Register

I just returned from Walgreens.  I need to make sure I am not charged twice for the things I bought today.  I was expecting my bill to come to about $1.50 and it was over $6.  Upon investigation, the pretzel M&Ms rang in at $3.49 instead of $2.49.  Also, I didn't get the Register Rewards for buying 4.  (Buy 4 bags of 9.9 oz. M&Ms and get $5 back in Register Rewards.)

I pointed this out to the cashier,who by the way is my FAVORITE cashier there, she never complains about coupons and is so good about them and actually enjoys seeing how much I can save.  She then turned this problem over to the front end manager who insisted the cash register knew in advance I was going to use a $1 coupon and since I "can't use a coupon on a sale item" the cash register added the coupon to the price of the item.  I pointed out the cash register had no way of knowing this, and that yes, I could use a coupon on a sale item.  She said I wouldn't get a Register Reward back if I used one.  I said that yes, I could receive one even though I used one as long as they were issued by different companies.  She shrugged her shoulders and refused to do anything else for me.  I asked to call corporate (I left my cell phone at home.)  She asked if I would like to talk to the general manager.  Same song and dance about the register adding the coupons onto the price and the same Register Reward story.  I KNEW I was right.  (My grandpa used to love a poem that said "He who knows and knows he knows is wise, follow him."  In this instance I knew what I was doing and knew I knew.)  The manger finally said he did think it was ringing up at $3.49 instead of $2.49 because the holiday packaging was not included in the sale.

So we go to the shelves, get four non-holiday packages of M&Ms.  He still said I couldn't use coupons and a Register Reward, the register wouldn't let me. I was trying to explain I could.

So, I finally said, "Would you please try it just to humor me."  I could tell he didn't want to.  I added, "And if it doesn't work, I'll believe you."  So it was a showdown as to who was right.

Needless to say, I won.  Four  9.9 bags of M&Ms.  One package of Ramen noodles.  Four  $1 off coupons.  One $5 Register Reward applied to order.  Total came to $1.95.  It often takes about 10 seconds for Register Rewards to start printing.  I could tell he was feeling smug in that it wasn't going to print, but after a moment, I was able to say, "There it is!"  :) 

So, for my Walgreens wrap-up of the week:

Four bags of 9.9 oz. Pretzel M&Ms
Three packages of Ramen Noodles
One bag Ghiradelli chocolate squares
Fives boxes of Sinex
Five boxes of Nyquil
Two bottles cough syrup
One weekly local newspaper

Total I paid after coupons and Register Rewards:   $25.61 (includes tax)   Total I have in Register Rewards to spend next week:  $31  My receipts said with sales and coupons alone I saved $55.93.  So that's over $80 of stuff I got for $25, plus $31 back in Register Rewards.

I have been sick lately so the Nyquil is a welcome addition to the house!  In fact the other day I said to the cashier, "I've been going through this stuff like crazy lately."   He asked if I meant the Nyquil or Ramen!

Photo of my stuff:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

75% off Halloween

I don't celebrate Halloween, but that doesn't mean I won't shop bargains once Halloween is over.  :)

I was at the store today and saw a man with a cart full of candy, so I went poking around.  I first saw bags of mini Clark bars (one of Mom's favorite candies -- I actually paid $1.59 for a full sized Clark bar on Sunday night.)  Bags of the mini ones were 60 cents a bag.  Jackpot.  A little further on, I saw a lot more clearanced candies, and I thought of the "Christmas store" that my church does where everything is free.  I figured some candy in non-Halloween wrappings would be a welcomed donation for people to get to add to stockings, so I got a number of bags of candy.  The candy ranged in price from 24 cents for a bag of caramel apple candy corn (which I wanted to try) to $2 for a huge bag of Wonka candies.  Everything was 75% off.

I found mini-boxes of Russell Stovers candy for 32 cents.  Someone had unwrapped one of the "spider" wrappings from it, and underneath the outer Halloween wrapping was a normal mini-box of Russell Stover candy that would usually sell for about $1.29.  I got a few of these thinking they would make nice basket stuffers at Christmas.

And then I looked to a bottom shelf.  My gold mine!  I absolutely love General Mills' Count Chocula.  There was a huge display of it, and it, too, was 75% off.  Not only that but there were some cereal bars with bats on them for Halloween also at 75% off.

In all I spent a whopping $59!  (Originally $236!)  That's a lot just for candy and cereal.  But the cereal has a best if used by date in September of 2011 and I know we will use it up.

Also, on two bags of candy I found peelie coupons that if you bought three bags of candy you got $1 off!  I looked for more of those coupons but couldn't find any more.  The coupons didn't expire until Nov 15, so that fun to spot!

In all I bought:

28 boxes of cereal  (26 Count Chocula, 1 Boo Berry, 1 Franken Berry)
3 boxes of cereal bars (wanted more but couldn't reach them)
32 bags of candy
4 mini-boxes of Russell Stovers Candy
3 Chocolate Peeps

I went to a few other stores for regular shopping, and everywhere but this one grocery store had their Halloween stuff at 25% to 50% off depending on what it was.  I almost never stop at this store, but decided to today!

Looks like we won't be buying any cereal for a year or so!

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Day Giving Challenge

I saw about this on a fellow blogger's website today.  I was looking at The Things We Hope For and she is participating in this challenge.

It's simple.  It's easy, and you don't need to be a blogger.  So what if I'm blogging late at night and you missed day one?  Start on Nov 2.

The 30 Day Giving Challenge has this as it's theme:

The goal is every day for the month of November is to do something for someone.  It doesn't need to be publicized, it doesn't need to be big.  Just something.

Maybe take some stuff you've gotten free or cheap after coupons and give them to a family in need.  Or buy some pencils and take them to  a school.  Save boxtops for education and give them to a school.  It doesn't need to be expensive, it doesn't need to cost money.  Just give of yourself.

I don't want to say what I did for day one, but I will say the recipient was quite grateful.

So, just give of yourself!