Ebates

If you shop online alot, check out Ebates.com

Quick run down is that if you shop through Ebates at almost any online retailer, you earn cash back on every purchase.

A few times a year, as long as your balance is over $5.00, they send you a check.

AND…in December, there are a handful of stores that are doubling their cash back.

I LOVE finding ways to get paid for things I already do!!

TGIFridays – Dinner for 4 under $25

Last night our family went to TGIFridays, ate well, and the total bill came to $21.54 (without tip). Can’t beat that!

TGIF’s is running a promotion that kids eat free Sunday – Thursday off of the kids menu. The only limitation is that it is one free kids menu item per one adult entree ordered.

PLUS, you can find a buy one entree, get one entree free coupon here. The only catch is that the entree has to be a Jack Daniel’s entree, but they include ribs, steak and chicken (and are very very good). The coupon expires April 30th.

Hope you have a chance to enjoy this!

Harris Teeter triples

Harris Teeter is doing triples starting tomorrow (2/5) until Sunday (2/8). You can see lots of great deals here at the savvydollar.org site (as far as I am aware, this is only confirmed for North Carolina for any of you reading out of state). 

Remember…

1. They will only trip 20 coupons at a time – up to $0.99. Some checkers/stores will let you do multiple “shops”, but ask first…don’t assume that they will

2. if the coupon UPC starts with a “5” and says “do not double”, it will still double/triple

3. tripling starts at 7am on Thursday, Harris Teeter usually restocks late Friday night as well, so going late late Friday or early early Saturday can sometimes get you the products that are sold out by mid-morning Thursday

4. Don’t buy packaged food just because you have a coupon for it. If you don’t usually buy packaged food, look for the great deals and freebies in things like dish soap, cleaners, paper products, haircare and oral care

5. Have fun!!!

If you have any questions, youcan definitely post a comment and I’ll try to respond very quickly, but there is some great information and lots of explanation at www.savvydollar.org.

Coupon details

I read this article on couponing at one of my favorite financial sites and wanted to share. The article I wrote on couponing was not near as detailed as this, so if you’re serious about saving some major money with coupons, this post covers most of the details.

How to save money with coupons

I started a poll in the forums asking if any of the readers actually save money by cutting coupons. It turns out that some of them actually save a whole lot. After an interesting discussion started about saving money with coupons, I decided to ask MamaBaker (Leitha2006) to write a guest post showing us how she saves so much money with them. The following post is her guide to cutting coupons…

Tip #1 Get Coupons!

The best way to start is by getting the Sunday paper. If you have multiple papers in your area then look at all of them on a Sunday at the store and see what one has the most coupons. Not all papers have all of the coupon inserts. So maximize your savings and do a little research. If the coupons are really good I buy a few, last week I bought twelve.

Get coupons online! There are a ton of sites to get coupons. I like MyPoints.com because you will get points for the coupons that you print and you can use them to get gift cards after you save up enough. If you are looking for a certain product go to the website of that product many times they have coupons you can print off.

You can also get coupons from websites that sell coupons if you do not want to spend the time to cut them out.

Magazines: One that many people get for really good coupons is All You. You will sometimes find coupons on products, keep a look out for these.

Tip #2 Organize!

If you REALLY want the best deals then you need to take the time to organize your coupons. Your mother’s method of accordion envelope system just will not work. If you cannot see what you have you will not use it.

I have a binder that zips up for all of my coupons. I have it filled with plastic collectors cards sleeves. They are the perfect size to store my coupons. I also have my entire coupon collection sorted by categories that work for me: Bathroom, Cleaning, Meat/Dairy, Condiment, Canned, Pasta/Rice, Beverage, Baking, Breakfast, Paper, Frozen/Bread, Dessert/Snacks, Store Coupons, Rebates, Baby. This way I can take my binder to the store with me and if I find an unexpected mark down I can quickly locate my coupon.

Here is what my coupon binder looks like:

binder1binder1

Tip #3 Plan your shopping

Go shopping with a plan of attack. Going with out one will cost you and you are more likely impulse shop. I have my plan written or typed out when I go to the store and stick to it; I may have to adjust a bit if they are out of what I want.

I actually use spreadsheets to organize my shopping trips so I can fully see what I will spend and if it is worth it.

If a store is out of what you want at the sale price ask for a rain check and use your coupons later.

Tip #4 Know Your Stores

Many stores these days have savings cards that you need to get the sale price. It costs you nothing to sign up for them and is really worth it. Also learn the stores policy on doubling coupons and using printed coupons.

If you shop at CVS make sure you remember to scan your savings card at one of the kiosks before you shop, they will print out coupons for you. They make be valuable to you at that time or save them for a future purchase.

Tip #5 What to look for?

Use your coupons on sale items to get huge discounts, FREE or even make money off of items!

  • If there is a sale for “buy one get one free” you can use a coupon for each item if the coupon is for only one item each.
  • If there is a sale for “buy one get one free” you can use a buy one get one free coupon and you will get both items free.
  • If there is a special sale like buy a product and the store will give you a check or a coupon for the cost of that item toward a future purchase you can use a coupon for that item and end up making money!

Some products have coupons on them! Keep an eye out for this. Look for items that are on clearance you can use coupons on these a save big.

Tip #6 Feed the Cashier

Feed your coupons in order to the cashier to save you the most! If you have a coupon that it say $3 off a $15 purchase; to maximize your savings make sure your total before tax is $15. Hand the cashier your savings card 1st, the cashier will then ring in your items, then hand the casher ONLY the $3 off $15 coupon and they the other coupons. The reason is if the cashier rings in the other coupons before the $3 off a $15 purchase you will no longer be able to use it because your total will be under the required $15.

Tip #7 Multiple Transactions

binder1

Believe it or not but you can save with multiple transactions. Say you are buying so many of a product and at the end you will get a $10 coupon for your next transaction, then just break down all of your products. I will explain how to do this with my last CVS shopping trip.

Transaction #1

  • Kid Throat Coolers $4.99
  • Kid Throat Coolers $4.99

Coupon: Buy 1 get 1 free, found on the product website

This was a special and if you buy a Kid Throat Coolers got $4.99 back, there was a limit of 2 per person.

CVS Extra Care Bucks from last week $3.50

I paid OOP (out of pocket) $1.49

Received $9.98 in Extra Care Bucks

Transaction #2

  • FreeStyle Glucose Monitor $9.99
  • Monogram Napkins Christmas Clearance $0.75
  • Fructis Hairspray $2.99 Special Buy 1 get $2 in Extra Care Bucks
  • NasoGel $7.99 Special buy 1 get $7.99 in Extra Care Bucks
  • Gift Boxes Christmas Clearance $1.25

Coupons:

Fructis $1 off

NasoGel $2 off found on product website

FreeStyle Glucose Monitor $9.99 off

Extra Care Bucks from 1st transaction $9.98

I paid OOP (out of pocket) NOTHING!

Received $9.99 in Extra Care Bucks

Transaction #3

  • Colgate Toothpaste $2.50 Special buy 2 get $2 in Extra Care Bucks
  • Colgate Toothpaste $2.50
  • One Touch Glucose Monitor $29.99
  • SlimFast $6.49 Special buy 1 get $2 in Extra Care Bucks
  • NasoGel $7.99 Special buy 1 get $7.99 in Extra Care Bucks

Coupons:

Colgate $1.50 off found in All You magazine

Colgate $1.50 off found in All You magazine

One Touch Glucose Monitor $29.99 off

SlimFast $1.25 off

NasoGel $2 off found on product website

Extra Care Bucks from transaction #2 $9.99

I paid OOP: $3.24

Received $11.99 in Extra Care Bucks

The first 3 transactions where at all one store I just nicely asked the cashier if he minded if I do 3 transactions, I’ve never had them refuse me.

Transaction #4

the 1st store was out of Palmolive so I had to finish at another CVS

  • One Touch Glucose Monitor $29.99
  • 5 Packages of Tissue paper Christmas Clearance $4.95
  • 6 Palmolive $5.82
  • Freedom Lite Glucose Monitor $9.99
  • Kid Throat Coolers $9.98 Special buy 1 get $4.99 in Extra Care Bucks

Coupons:

One Touch Glucose Monitor $29.99 off

Palmolive buy 2 get $1 off

Palmolive buy 2 get $1 off

Palmolive buy 2 get $1 off

Freedom Lite Glucose Monitor $9.99 off

Kid Throat Coolers buy 1 get 1 free found on product website

Extra Care Bucks from 3rd transaction $11.99

I paid OOP: $0.77

Received $9.98 in Extra Care Bucks

Transaction Summary

So for everything I only paid OOP $5.50!

Are you wondering about those Glucose Monitors? I donate those to charity and in return I get a letter acknowledging my tax-deductible donation that goes towards my taxes at the end of the year.

It really has paid my family for me to do all of this work.

*BONUS*

By shopping like this I am able to stock-pile. Think of it like a squirrel collecting nuts. Right now I don’t have to buy toothpaste, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent and many more items for a while. When you but items as you run out of them you end up paying full price or more than you should. If you look at the transactions from above I got my toothpaste for FREE, honestly I’m not sure when I actually paid for toothpaste.

You can take these tips and put them to work for yourself. You will be able to spend less, save more money and give more to charity.

Homemade Drano

Our bathtub was clogged a couple of days ago and I didn’t have any Drano. And maybe I’m the last person on the planet to discover or enjoy this science project, but after searching the internet for a solution, I found out that if you put baking soda down the drain (you might need a knife or something to make it so liquid can flow through) and then pour an equal amount of white vinegar on the baking soda (I used a cup of each), wait 20 mins and then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain – VOILA, drain unclogged! (note: this is also great entertainment to kids as the baking soda bubbles volcanically when vinegar is added).

…beats paying $6 for a chemical drain unclogger!

In my search, I also came across what I believe will be one of my new favorite search sites here…for those of you looking for organic or eco-friendly cleaning solutions, they have some incredible suggestions…as well as a “how to” for just about anything else you can think of.

How much is it worth to you?

I just read one of the best posts ever with regards to new purchases. I do not necessarily agree with all of her opinions, but I think this one is dead on – read it here before you make another “want” purchase.

This philosophy along with Dave Ramsey’s research with regards to the fact that the most inexpensive vehicle you can own is the one you have now has kept me and Keith from pining over the decision to purchase a new vehicle.

Starbucks gift cards

I was looking for a cool gift for my kids’ teachers and after consulting a few teachers that I know, I found out that homemade cards and coffee mugs although touching, are not ranked in the top winners with regards to teacher gifts. I found out quickly that gift cards are the gifts teachers like the most. Shocker…I know.

So, aside from the fact that not everyone drinks coffee, I decided that $4 coffees get expensive for anyone and landed on getting Starbucks giftcards for my kids’ teachers.

Then, I tried to figure out how much? I mean, what really is a number big enough to let my kids teachers know that I truly appreciate them and all that they pour into my kids, but not break my bank either? And then I saw it…

Costco is selling five (5) twenty-dollar gift cards for $79.99!!! Can you believe it?? A FREE $20 Starbucks giftcard. That’s a 25% rate of return if you ask me.

So, then begs the question – if you think you will spend $80 on Starbucks in the next year, why not get $20 free? Or if you oftentimes give away Starbucks cards to volunteers, co-workers or friends, why not treat yourself as well?

Debt…the state of owing

Webster defines debt as “the state of owing”.

Are you in a state of owing? Do you want to be out but don’t know where to start?

Keith and I have struggled through debt and know it’s not fun. Earlier this year we decided we didn’t want to be in the state of owing anymore, so we changed our financial thinking and got out (except our mortgage). It’s hard to get out of debt…really hard. For us, it required us to change the way we thought about alot of things. Mainly, the definition of “need” and the definition of “want” and to “tell” our money where to go every month instead of waiting for the bills to roll in and seeing where it went.

Financial times are definitely different than they were a year or two ago. The way I look at it is there’s no better time to get my finances in order so that whether or not things get better or worse in our economy, I am not in a “state of owing”.

Again, not a financial expert or advisor. The only expertise I have is that I’ve been in debt, and these are some resources that helped us get out:

Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey – it’s a very easy-to-read guide to getting out. His website is also full of great information.

Blessed Life by Robert Morris – it’s a phenomenal book about the Biblical foundation of guaranteed financial success

– Joseph Sangl’s Next Steps website – he provides a ton of practical and free tools and resources to help you get out of debt. He also does a class called the “Financial Learning Experience” that is designed to teach participants how they can win with money. If you live in NC, Joseph Sangl will be holding an FLE at Lifepoint Church in Wilmington on December 6th from 5-7:30pm that is open to anyone. For more information, go here

– Use www.mint.com to organize your finances (or some other budgeting software…as a disclaimer, we do not use this. We use Quicken, but in a pretty backwards way and I have heard mint.com is much easier). An extensive list of multiple free/cheap online budgeting tools can be found here 

– Johnston Community College holds a series of 3 classes on financial planning for $15 – and you get a free consultation with a Certified Financial Planner. You can see their Small Business Center course offering here. I don’t see one that’s available right now, but you can call and ask when the next one will be (919-209-2015).

Debt is a really hard thing. Being in and getting out of it. Getting out and staying out means sacrifice of things I want now. But the freedom that comes with that sacrifice far outweighs any “thing” I might have purchased.

Coupons – the basics

As I was going through all my coupons on Sunday, Dylan made the comment “Mommy made a big mess, Dad, right in the middle of the floor!” Keith smiled, and in his ever-encouraging way, responded “Yes she did Dylan, but that big mess saves us a bunch of money!” It was comical – Keith loves that I do coupons, but the tediousness of it is sometimes a bit much for both of us.

I’ve had a few peole ask me about “couponing”, so I figured with all the other shopping we’ll be doing over the next few weeks, now might be a good time to share the basics of what I’ve been doing for a little over a year. Let me preface though – I am not an expert. There are websites and forums, classes and blogs dedicated to the many facets of the couponing world (I’ll list a few that I’ve found helpful at the end of this post). But I’ve chosen not to be an expert – which means that I try to spend the least amount of time saving the most amount of money. My type A “detail” side wants to sometimes go overboard and find the very best deal on every single thing I buy – the “other” side of me reminds me that time is money…and if I spend hours on end trying to find ways to save $20, was it worth it? Sometimes yes and sometimes no depending on what I sacrificed doing to save the money I did.

I’ve heard the opinion that couponing is not worth it because you end up buying things that you don’t need just because you have a coupon. I’ve also heard the opinion that most couponing is only relevant to junk/packaged food. And both can absolutely be true. All I can say is try to keep it simple and don’t start buying things you didn’t before using coupons just to “save” money.

Side note: My favorite product to save on is toothpaste – I can’t remember the last time I paid for toothpaste. Other things you can save a ton on that most people don’t think about is dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, ziploc bags and tissues.

Here the top 5 most effective ways our family saves money with coupons:

1. we get a Sunday paper every week and clip coupons. We also get the weekly ads from each of the nearest grocery stores (Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter and Food Lion for us).

2. we most often shop at Lowes Foods or Harris Teeter because they double all coupons up to $0.99 (up to 20 coupons per order) and we can earn greenpoints and save more.

3. I shop based upon my shopping list – not on what coupons I have. I start with the list, then look for the coupons. The only time I don’t do this is during triples (when some stores will triple coupons for a few days) and I stock up on things I use regularly (ex. peanut butter, soups, paper products, shampoo, etc.)

4. if it’s not around the perimeter of the store (where almost all non-packaged products are found) and I don’t have a coupon for it, I probably won’t buy it.

5. I order coupons for things I buy the most of from www.thecouponclippers.com

Again, these are just the basics. I know I tend to lose interest when people write long blogs…and this one’s headed towards lengthy, so I’ll save the rest for later.

Here’s some good sites:

www.couponclippers.com (ordering coupons online)

www.savvydollar.org (all things couponing)

www.smartsource.com (download/print coupons)

projects.newsobserver.com/taking_stock (a money saving blog written by an N&O columnist)

Also, a great book:

The Smart Spending Guide by Faye Prosser (for local folks, she actually lives locally here in Clayton!)

See Black Friday ads now!

I’ve shared my love of the Black Friday experience and now you can get a jumpstart on knowing what sales will be available by checking out the “official” Black Friday 2008

For anyone that may live near an IKEA, check out the fact that they’ll be serving FREE breakfast until 10:30am!!

Black Friday

I’m sitting down to start going through my lists and figuring out what to get who this year for Christmas. I love to shop on Black Friday (less than 3 weeks from today!). I think it’s the drama of getting up early and being amidst the chaos and frantic women (mostly) that think that the best deals lay just beyond the aisle they’re on and the MUST get there now! I love the deals too, obviously. I can remember 2 years ago spending between $300-400 on Black Friday and coming home to see what I had saved based upon the Sunday ads before Thanksgiving (since the Black Friday ads mostly don’t come out until Thanksgiving Day) and calculating an approximate savings of about $400!!! I have a Christmas “allocation” in my budget, so it’s set by the time I get to the Friday after Thanksgiving and I do my absolute best not to go over it….making the Black Friday deals a necessity.

For those of you who haven’t ventured out on a Black Friday – you’ll have to put on some armor and a warm coat…but the savings are definitely worth it….and make sure you have a “buddy” to go with you so that you can take turns standing in line while the other shops (the lines are instantaneously 100 people long the minute the doors open).

My favorite stores to shop on Black Friday are Toys ‘R Us, Kohl’s and Old Navy – probably because they’re all right there in Crossroads in Cary and I can get just about every present in one of those 3 stores. I’ve realized over the years that if I have a list, a buddy and a set budget I tend to fair quite well on the savings….oh, and I have to remind myself to smile (because nobody else is), take a deep breath and relax. I’m not hunting for Disco Elmo this year, so anything I might miss on that day I can certainly find on sale on Christmas Eve 🙂

Do any of you shop on Black Friday? What stores do you go to? Where do you find the best deals?

Pizza buffet for 5 under $10

So, a bit of practical frugalness for those of you who may subscribe to the News & Observer (the North Carolina newspaper)…

They have treated my family of 5 to a dinner at CiCi’s (a pizza buffet) for $9.06!!! If you subscribe to the N&O, be sure to check out the “Rewards Zone” and sign up to take advantage of the coupons they have on there. I’ve printed multiple copies of the Cici’s coupon they have for buy one get one free (aka: BOGO) buffet.  So, we go in and say we want 2 adult buffets and I had them one coupon and then say I want 2 kid’s buffets and hand them the other (Samantha Joy eats free since she’s under 3), we all drink water and we feed all 5 of us an unlimited amount of pizza (the one meal ALL 5 of us agree upon) for under $10 bucks!

…they also have BOGO for Coldstone Creamery “mine” or “ours” take home buckets…heavenly! And while you’re on the N&O website, be sure to stop by Sue Stock’s “Taking Stock” website (see my blogrool for her link) that’s all about coupons – she’s amazing!!!

….I’ll post more about coupons later this week!

“free” money

When Kaitlyn was born, we decided that I’d stay home. And although motherhood has many benefits, none of them pay the bills 🙂 So, part of my quest is to “make” money doing things we already do. Here’s my favorite way to make “free” money…

First let me start with this – if you don’t have credit cards and/or have not been able to pay off your credit cards EVERY month then DON’T get one. It’s better to use cash for everything and never pay a finance charge than to “hope” or “think maybe” you can pay off a credit card at the end of the month just for the cash back advantages.

OR if you are planning to buy/sell a house, car, property, etc. now is not the time to get a credit card because the more open credit you have the worse your report will look to anyone you might be trying to borrow money from (especially in this credit market).

BUT if you treat your credit card like cash, have the money to pay it off EVERY month, track your charges in your check register (or some other form of financial tracking system) and you’re not going anywhere for awhile, here’s some handy information I’ve discovered.

If you have a credit card that does not pay you anything for using it (or charges you an annual fee just to use it), you should consider using one that does. The credit card industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that makes tons of money off of those who do not pay their balance each month. As a result, they are all fighting to get you to use their credit card (and hoping you don’t pay off your balance each month) and are willing to pay you a percentage of the money you “borrow” each month. Because really, if you don’t pay it off…they give you a 3% rebate (average), but charge you 18% interest! Who wins?!! BUT if you pay it off each month, you make 3% and they make nothing (well, nothing from you anyways). So…again, if you don’t track your spending to make sure you have money in the bank each month to cover all of your credit card expenses, DO NOT get a credit card. But if you do, there’s some “free” money out there to be “made”.

My favorite credit card is the BP Visa. The BP Visa gives you 5% back on all BP purchases (inside and outside). They also give 2% on travel and dining purchases and 1% on everything else (rebates are doubled during the first 60 days). Just think….if you’re spending $2.50 at the pump, that’s $0.25/gal you get back! And BP can be found on most corners (even here in good ‘ole Johnston County). Of course if you buy gas at another station and use your BP Visa, you get nothing – fair enough. AND there’s no limit to your annual rebates!! (lots of cards have an annual maximum that you can earn in rebates).

When you’ve earned $25, you just go to your account online and request a check – easy as that. Keith and I recently visited Wilmington and brought $200 cash…from a check that I had cashed from my BP rebate. Can I just tell you how much fun it is to spend “free” money!? I mean I have to buy gas no matter what, right?

There are tons of cards out there – some even give you a “bonus” check after your first purchase and a percentage cash back for every purchase after that. Here are a couple of my favorites:

1. Citicards – you can go to their site, answer a few questions about what you’re looking for and find the card that will pay you the most for what you spend the most on.

2. Chase Freedom – I got $100 when I signed up and it pays me 3% on the things I spend the most on. (Chase also owns the BP Visa that I use).

Got questions? Email me…I love to help others save and “make” money!