Sunday, July 26, 2009

Frugal Family Fun

We had a great weekend last weekend. The kids were not feeling great and we needed some entertainment that was free or close to it. It just so happened to be Spongebob's 10th birthday so we had a blast watching a marathon of old episodes as well as 10 whole new ones!

That is when I decided to make a fun dinner using stuff I had on hand. It was definitely not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but the kids loved it! So we had squidward (hot dog with legs cut and then boiled them), fleas on a log, "nemetoids" in yogurt, and some slimy worms. It just took a little bit of creativity and time to make a memory and fun weekend and not much money, What creative ways have you come up with to not spend money but make great memories?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kmart Finds

Total Spent: $13.11

Not gonna lie....I was a little bummed at my Kmart finds (double coupon days at Kmart this week; see link below). Don't get me wrong. I found a lot of free stuff, but I also paid more than I had planned. I still did not spend much but I am a bit of a snob now when it comes to spending money for things! :) I would just rather not spend it on boring stuff like mouthwash, etc...

Some of my store's prices were different than what was listed on the link I gave in my last blog. This was not a huge deal and was only off by $0.50 to $1, but it tends to add up when it happens on more than 5 items. If you go, make sure you keep a running tally so you will not be surprised at checkout.

My other disappointment was the selection. So many items were already wiped out. I was pretty excited when I found a Pantene hidden behind some other shampoos after having given up on finding any. It was free! And when I went to check out, this lady waiting in line was totally looking at it and coveting it. So funny!

Here are some of the highlights of my trip:

Dove Ultimate Deodorant on sale for $3.99 (x2)
I used an IP (Internet Printable) that I got from a link on Money Saving Mom for $2 off 1 making it free (I just printed off two coupons and was able to use both coupons)
*for those of you new to double coupons, let me explain. The coupon was for $2 off so doubled makes it $4 that gets taken off. Since the item was $3.99, I got it for free (I actually would have made a penny if they would allow money to be given back).

Oust Deodorizer on sale for 2 for $6
I used $2 off 1 from the 5/10/09 Smart Source insert making it free

Starbucks Frappuchino on sale for 2 for $4
I used $1 off 1 coupon from 6/21/09 Smart Source insert making it free

St. Ives Scrub for $3.69 (this price was higher than the price listed on link below)
I used $1.50 off 1 coupon from 5/10/09 Smart Source insert making it $0.69

Acts Mouthrinse for $4.59 (this price was higher than the price listed on the link below) (x2)
I used $2 off 1 from the 5/31/09 Smart Source insert making it $0.59 for each

Pantene (full and thick) on sale 3 for $10 ($3.33)
I used $2 off 1 coupon from the 7/05/09 Smart Source insert making it free

Dawn Dishwashing Soap not on sale but I really needed it - $1.99
I already had a manufacturer coupon for $o.25 off (I cannot remember which insert) and then found a tearpad next to soap for a Kmart coupon for $0.50 off 1(remember you can use both coupons since one is store and one is manufacturer); with doubling, I got the soap for $0.50!
*this one is a perfect example of paying attention and matching your needs with sales and coupons; I knew I needed it to make my homemade stain remover and I was able to get it for very little.

There were more but these were my highlights. For more deals and additional links go here. Overall, it was a success. I was just reminded yet again to plan well and to pay attention.

I did get some additional coupons at checkout that I had not planned on. I may not end up using them (they are great coupons; I am just out of budget for another Kmart trip before the coupons expire) so let me know if you plan to go and I will give them to you!
*I had read that you could only use 10 coupons per transaction after I went. Oops! So I went back and counted and I had used 13 and they doubled all.

Grab your coupons and run!

Kmart is doubling their coupons this week which means you can get a ton of free stuff. I mean a ton! The only thing that I would caution you on is to go quickly as things run out fast. Not all Kmarts do it so double check yours before you go and definitely familiarize yourself with their coupon policy in case you need to refer to it with a cashier. For now go here to get ideas. Once again Money Saving Mom is amazing and has listed all you need. I plan to go in the next hourish so I will post my own bargains once I go. Please leave comments if you go so we can all brag together! I can't wait to see what people score!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hunting and Gathering (coupons that is!)

Okay, I have been promising to give you tips on gathering and organizing your coupons so here it is. The best place to start couponing is with the coupons! There are four main ways to accumulate coupons although there are even more than that. Let's start with these first.

1) Let's say you are new to couponing and are REALLY excited and ready to begin now. The easiest way is to get coupons online known as internet printables (IPs). I will be working on daily posts letting you know of ones that are available to pair with current sales, but for now, your best bets are to do a search engine or once again, Another good source is (she does ask that you donate some of your finds to charity in exchange for using her website). A few pieces of advice:
  • Learn your stores' policies on IPs. Some take them without issue while others either do not or have many stipulations due to coupon fraud. Familiarize yourself with them before printing off a bunch and wasting your time, ink and paper.

  • You can often print off two on the same printer by hitting the refresh button after your coupon is printing. You can also sometimes print off more if you have access to different computers. Almost all IPs have print limits (with the exception of many of the Target store ones which let you print as many as you want!) but each one can be different. Some websites are login monitored as far as reaching your print limit. So once you have printed it under your login, you cannot print another one. Others monitor it by the printer which means you can print multiple ones if you have access to multiple printers.

2) Another effective method for gathering coupons is through the Sunday paper inserts (usually Smartsource, Red Plum and P & G). You can get these numerous ways such as through subscription to your local paper, buying at your corner mart, buying at the dollar store (for cheaper than anywhere else), buying off ebay or other websites, begging off family and friends from their papers, digging through the trash can at places like Denny's or recycling bins (not that I have done this!! :) ), collecting from papers left behind at your local Starbucks, and many more creative ideas. I have even heard of people getting store managers agree to let them have any unsold papers at the end of the night. There are some tips to keep in mind for how many you should get and when you should get them:

  • You can look at for what coupons will be in the inserts which can be a huge help for knowing how many papers to buy. Just click on the week you want to know about. Very user friendly.

  • The first two Sundays of every month have the most inserts. This would be a good time to buy more than one paper.

  • The Sunday paper before a holiday, especially Mondays, do not typically have coupons. Check taylortownpreview before you go out and buy papers.

  • At CVS and Walgreens, Saturday evenings can be a great time to shop as the previous week sales are still in effect and the upcoming week's sales have begun so you can "double dip". But what if there is a coupon you really need in the Sunday paper? Well, you can often buy a weekend edition that will have the coupons in it on Saturday. LA Times does this for sure. Just be advised that the sports page will not be current in case your husband has to have that so you will still need to buy the Sunday paper the next day too!
3) Magazines are a great source of coupons especially one that you can only get from Walmart or through a subscription called ALL YOU. This magazine has so many great coupons...usually each monthly issue has over $100 worth of coupons. It is more cost effective to do the subscription. A great way to get multiple ones of ALL YOU and other magazines is through your doctor or dentist offices. They often recycle, or worse just throw away, the magazines when done so you can ask if they can hold them for you. Just remember to go get them promptly so they are not inconvenienced. Also sign up at for a free magazine full of coupons and recipes that is sent out quarterly.

4) Signing up for freebies and samples can be an amazing source of coupons. Plus you get free stuff! You can check and again regularly for samples (as well as this blog starting next week; check multiple places though to make sure you get it all!). It is a great way to try new products, get more of ones you love, or just accumulate mroe coupons and items you would use. A word of advice would be when signing up for the offers, use an email such as yahoo that you do not mind having flooded with ads and offers. Not all of the sample websites do this, but enough do that you do not want to give a work email or other limited space email to.

And, of course, there are always more places to get coupons. Buy your local entertainment coupon books or other fundraising type coupon cards/booklets such as the one. I have heard you can check in the wine section of grocery stores where there are often coupons on bottles of wine which you can take even if not buying the wine. Check the little red machines with blinking lights in the grocery aisles which typically offer coupons for items that will go on sale in the following two weeks. Scan your CVS card at the price scanner for printed coupons, and look for tear pads in stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target. Look at the bottom of your receipts as well as the backs. And if you have some time on your hands, send letters or emails or even make calls to companies to tell them what you think of their product whether it is how much you love it or maybe a frustration. They will often send you coupons in response.

So get out there and start gathering those coupons! Check back here and let me know if there are any ways that I missed or as you discover more ways. Next we will talk about how to organize them all.

I have to tell you, I feel a little hypocritical offering advice on organizing coupons as I have fallen behind in that. On the flip side though, it means I really can tell you that it is far more frugal and life is much more simplified when you do have your coupons organized. Trust me as I have been learning this the hard way lately!

I am still trying to find the best system. Some people like to just keep them all intact as they come in the paper since most blogs tell you which inserts to get the coupon you need from. For example, they will say, for the Pace Salsa on sale at Target this month, use the $2 off 1 coupon located in the 4/26 Smartsource. You can then go through your inserts, pull that one, and cut out the coupon you need. I think this probably works well if you only go shopping with lists from blogs. This method does not work for me for finding spur of the moment deals. It also just does not work well with how my brain works.

I find it much more frugal for me to go through and cut them all out and then organize them into holders. It is similar to when you take notes in a class and then go back and type them. It helps you get the coupons in your head so you know what you have on hand. And if you cannot remember them all, you can simply go to the section you need to see if you have a coupon. I also like to have them all cut since when they expire, you can mail them to military bases overseas where commisaries will allow our military families to use expired coupons for up to 6 months.

For my system, I have two legal envelope size accordian files that I got in the dollar bins at Target a few years ago although they have them every few months (For my love of all things Target, see here). I have one for all my food items and one for non-food items. Tomorrow, I will go through more specifically my sections in each one. I also have a notebook with clear baseball card holders that I keep all my specific Target coupons in. Since there are so many of those, this method allows me to clearly see them. I keep these in my car almost all the time because I never know when I will need them. This system is working for now but can be cumbersome when trying to balance those and the 4 children I usually have with my reusable bags and purse and well, you see what I mean.

I have see other ideas that look like they could work too so check those out. The important thing to remember is to start with a system and go from there. You can always tweek it or change it as you go. And ask around too for ideas. Do you have other ideas not mentioned here? I would love to hear them!

Target, how I love you!

I LOVE Target. I mean really love it. Like "I may need to join a group soon for this addiction" love it. I love the clearance racks and the dollar bins that snag me as I walk in the door. I love that they offer me coupons every few months for a $10 gift card just for filling a perscription there (which I always do anywway because I find the pharmacists to be so helpful there) . They actually reward me for stuff I already do.

So imagine my delight a few months ago when several blogs, especially, enlightened me to the fact that Target offers their own really good coupons that you can use along with manufacturer coupons. In the last few months I have gotten many free to almost free things from Target. Several times I have been able to save more than I have actually spent which is huge. Target has also been doing a lot of gift cards for buying certain items that are typically on sale and have coupons out which is great since you can roll it over into your next trip.

There are numerous deals there right now. I have not yet gone, but I probably will very soon since my new budget has started and I will tell you all about it then. For now though, check out this post for some great deals.

A side note for you local frugal freaks: I find the Target on Hidden Valley and the 15 always has amazing clearance. I usually roam the clearance stuff on the ends (esp make-up and toiletry items) and see what matches my coupons for a ton of scores! I can often find lots at the Arlington one as well, but the Hidden Valley one is so much bigger and better. Also, if anyone is going in the next few days, feel free to hit me up for some of my extra coupons if you need to.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Getting the most out of your CVS card

This is not a profound tip on how to be frugal but it sure helps. I have noticed that people often get their new CVS Extra Care card at the checkout so the cashier hands back the form and customers often don't fill it all out and completely register the card. This can be a big mistake as sends out frequent coupons by email. By not registering your card with an email, you will miss out on some great coupons. So make sure you register your card immediately if you have not already. Simply go to to register your card. Along with that, make sure you regularly check your email to get those coupons so you can use them in time.

Another way to get the most out of your card is to look for the price scanning machine located in many CVS stores. Not all of the stores have them, and those that do seem to have them in different spots in each store. But if you find one, you can score some great coupons! Simply scan your Extra Care card and coupons will print out the side. I have found that a majority of the time, the coupons coincide with sales already going on. And for those of you new to CVSing, this is a big bonus because you can pair CVS coupons with manufacturer coupons for additional savings often making the item free!

For more frugal tips every Friday, go to

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Need Some Proof?

Total Paid for all this stuff? $15.98!!!! (the diapers alone are worth more than that)
Total I would have paid without coupons and sales? $53.94
Total Saved? $37.96!!!!!!!
I was all set to do a blog on how to gather and organize your coupons, but then I went to CVS and decided to get everyone excited about all that can be saved before I dive into the specifics. So let me take you through my recent trip to CVS.

I really needed diapers and I also had a coupon about to expire for $5 off a purchase of $15. So I checked out my favorite blog for any deals she could tell me about. She had quite a few although not all worked for me due to price differences and lack of stock but I did score some good stuff. Here is how I rang it all up.

For my first transaction, I got three bottles of tylenol, 4 SOBE vitamin waters, and 1 thermacare heat wrap product. The complete total without sales and coupons would have been $27.89.

The tylenols are usually $5.99 each, but they are on sale this week for $3.99. Then I had 2 coupons for the tylenol; one was for $2 off 1 bottle and then a $3 off 2 bottles. This brought my cost for each tylenol bottle down even more. With sales and coupons the original total of $17.97 minus tax (3 x $5.99) for the tylenol became $6.97. Still a great price especially because I needed tylenol, but wait, it gets better! I got something on the end of my receipt called extra care bucks (ECBs) for purchasing the tylenol. Basically, extra care bucks are CVS money to use for future purchases. This month you can get $2 ECBs per bottle of tylenol you purchase up to 3 bottles. So I paid the $6.97 for the tylenol but got back $6 ECBs on the end of my receipt for my next transaction (I will cover that in a minute)which means I basically paid $0.97 for 3 bottles of tylenol.

Next I got the SOBE waters. I have wanted to try those anyway but not at $1.49 per bottle when I can drink water for free. 4 SOBEs at normal price would have been $5.96. But this week they are on sale for buy one get one free (B1G1) which is already tempting, but wait! I had two coupons printed from the internet (known as IPs) that were also B1G1 thus making my bottles free. Make sense? Let me walk through two of the bottles: With CVS sale, I would pay $1.49 for the two bottles since one was free. Then I gave a coupon also for B1G1 which made the second one free as well. Then I did it again for the next two which gave me all four for free.

The Thermacare heatwrap did not ring up as it should have but was still a good deal. It was on sale for $2.49 and I had a coupon for $1 off. I was supposed to then get $2.49 ECBs back but it did not print for some reason so I need to go back and have the store fix it. Had it printed, I basically would have made money on the whole thing since it was free with ECBs plus $1 was taken off my total due to my coupon. As it was I only paid $1.49 which is still a good price.

So I rang those all up and got my receipt back with my $6 ECBs on the end of my receipt. I tore those off and stuck with my coupons for my next transaction.

For the next transaction, I had the two packs of diapers and a package of cookies rung up. The total without sales and coupons would have been $25.37 minus tax. But the diapers were on sale for $8.99 which is good for Huggies. They were cheaper even than CVS brand which I often get. On top of that, I had two coupons for $1.50 off 1.

But before I gave those coupons, I gave a coupon that printed off one of my previous receipts (from the week before) for $5 off $15. I gave this first so that there would be no question about my total being high enough. Once that coupon was applied, I gave the two diaper coupons. Then I gave my ECBs from the first transaction bringing my grand total to $6.05. It would have been even less had my ECBs from the Thermacare printed off.

Hope that explains it all. . .or at least begins to. The crazy thing is there are so many more deals and free things there this week if I was more organized and they restocked stuff that other couponers like me had already wiped out. I plan to go back to mine or visit another nearby CVS before the sales go off to get more stuff but we will see how the budget is looking. I will post those deals if I do go.

Let me know your questions as you think of them. This can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but I promise you can soon do it in your sleep like me. Just ask my husband who has to hear about my CVS trips all the time!