August 22, 2010

Inspiring Stories of Debt-Busting and Frugal Living

This post was originally published on September 19, 2009. I hope you find these stories as inspiring as I did (and still do).




We're still busting through our debt here and getting closer to our goal, albeit slowly. But I am always counting our blessings - our family, our health, a home whose value hasn't plummeted, a great job for my hubs, a financial plan for our future that includes investments and life insurance, two vehicles paid off and owned in full, and the frugal living tips and support I've found here in the blogosphere - and reminding myself that while we keep pushing for our future goals, it's important to be fully present in the moment as well.

Living in the moment for me means that some days, I don't open this laptop, I don't make the rounds at the stores for the freebies and cheabies of the week, and I don't write an impossibly long to-do list of tasks that aren't nearly as pressing as they seem once they're written down on paper. Living in the moment for me is all about getting unplugged and spending time in this beautiful real world of mine with my kiddos and hubs and friends.

Learning to enjoy the blessings around you is far more soul-filling than any retail therapy. As I said once (long ago on the first version of this blog), true happiness isn't found at the Dollar Spot at Target.

The motto of this blog - Spend Less :: Do More - isn't just about money, it's about truly living life, not just accumulating all the stuff required for a certain lifestyle.

Living a certain lifestyle (whether you can afford it or not) is what drives so many people deep, deep into debt which is why when I came across these three stories, I wanted to share them with you. They inspired me and I hope that they might inspire one of you as well. It IS possible to pull yourself out of the Lifestyle of the Debt-Cycle and finally own your life.

-->This family paid off $106,000 in unsecured debt in five years. You may have already seen this headline on Yahoo! today; if you haven't read the story yet, I urge you to hop over and read their journey. They perservered and stayed the course even when it seemed overwhelmingly impossible. Go Hildebrandts!!

-->Have you stumbled across Debt Proof Living yet? Not only is this site (and it's blog) a great resource, it's written by someone who pulled herself and her family out of the deep trenches of extreme debt (think $100,000 in 1982); you can read Mary's story here. (Thanks to Erin at $5 Dinners for tuning me into her!)

-->Last, if you've ever wondered about stockpiling food and if it's a wise investment of time, money, and space, you simply must read The Prudent Homemaker's story about how her stockpile has fed her family for nearly two years. It made me think about what more I can do to be ready for lean times if they should happen to us. (Thanks, Jennifer @ Saving and Giving for introducing me to this great site!)

Enjoy, and as always, thanks for reading The New Frugal Mom!

August 21, 2010

8 Tips to Organize Your Coupons Each Month

This post orignally ran on February 1, 2009. Not only is it important to find an overall organizational system for your coupons that works for you, it's important to keep that system itself organized and updated.

Can you believe that January of 2009 is already done and gone? Where does the time go? ;-)

The end of the month is a GREAT opportunity to do a quick clean out of whatever system you use to organize your coupons. I had a few minutes yesterday after dinner to sort through mine and I thought I'd take a picute to give you a quick peek at my organizational system.



I use an expandable file folder with inserts filed by dates + a small box with envelopes files for coupons I've already clipped. Also, in the front pocket of the expandable file folder, I keep a copy of the weekly ads for Kroger, Walgreens, and CVS, as well as the monthly ECB book for CVS and the monthly Easy Saver Catalog for Walgreens.

If you're wondering Does she take all of that to the store every time? the answer is no. I plan my trips based on the the sales and current coupons available. Once I see a great price for an item on sale, I head over to the free coupon database at Hot Coupon World and search for any available coupons on those sale items. I clip (or print) what I need for my list, tuck them into my Kroger shopping envelope, and off I go!

Yesterday, I pulled my oldest inserts - the pile on the far left - and clipped the few coupons that still have current expiration dates which is the mess you see in the middle. Those I'll file in the envelopes in my smaller box. The pile of inserts on the right are older ones where the *majority* of the coupons still have current expiration dates; those I'll move up to the front of my expandable file folder which will make room toward the back for new inserts in the coming weeks.

This is *my* system, the one that works for me. It might work for you or it might not. There is no *wrong* or *right* system; the only thing that matters is that your coupon storage system is organized and updated in a manner which works for you.

Take a few minutes to go through your coupons and get them organized for the new month; when a big sale hits, you'll be glad you did because it will be easy-peasy to locate the coupons you need to save big!

8 Tips to Organize Your Coupons Each Month

1. Clean out your coupon filing system.

2. Clip the coupons that still have current expiration dates.

3. Send expired coupons to US Military overseas (see this guest post at MommySnacks for details on how to do this).

4. Toss the old Monthly ECB Book for CVS and the old Easy Saver Catalog for Walgreens.

5. Check ShortCuts, Cellfire, and P&G eSaver on the first of the month for new ecoupons.

6. Check Coupons.com and Smart Source for new printables.

7. Check Southern Savers and their coupon insert list for 2009 to find out how many inserts to expect each weekend this month.

8. Check Taylortown Preview for a peek at what coupons to expect this Sunday.

What's the ONE thing you do each month to keep your coupons organized? Share your tip and help another reader!

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 20, 2010

Back to Basics | Couponing Terminology

This post was originally published on February 15, 2009. Just like any new skill set, couponing has it's own particular language and acronyms that can be confusing.

Recently, Kari from Hi my name is asked this question in a comment:

I'm new to this blog, what does RP insert mean? I'm thinking the coupons in Sunday's paper?

It's a good question; thanks for asking, Kari. It's easy for those of us who've been couponing for a while to forget how confusing all the terminology and acronyms can be when you're just starting out.

I'm going to do my best to define and explain the terminology in this post; I'll hard link this post to my sidebar section labeled, "Resources for Beginners."

Can I ask you fine readers to help me? If I miss a term or if I don't adequately explain something, would you chime in with a comment at the end and share what I missed? Thanks in advance for your help!

$~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~$

Sunday Inserts: These are the coupon inserts filled with manufacturer coupons found in Sunday newspapers; they each have different names which are abbreviated to their initials in posts/forums/etc. Each newspaper subscribes to and pays for their inserts so you should check the newspapers in your area to see which ones they carry.

RP: Red Plum Sunday insert

SS: Smart Source Sunday insert

PG: Proctor & Gamble Sunday insert (generally only once a month)

GM: General Mills Sunday insert (generally once every two months or near major holidays/food buying seasons)

V: Vlassis

Doubling/Tripling: Some stores double or triple the face value of a coupon up to a certain amount. Check with your local stores to determine what their coupon policy is.

Printable: These are manufacturer coupons you can print from reliable internet sources such as SmartSource.com, Coupons.com (I have a Coupons.com widget in my header you can use), RedPlum.com, CoolSavings.com, etc. You can also find printable coupons available at many manufacturer's websites for their products. Some stores offer printable coupons you can use in-store as well; these can be both manufacturer coupons as well as store coupons. Please note: a reliable printable coupon is not one that has been reproduced in any manner and redistributed as a .jpg (etc.) file or other file format where multiple versions of the same coupon appear on the same page. This is likely fraudulent.

Catalina: These are coupons printed at point-of-sale by a small machine at the cash register. They print separately from your receipt and can include both coupons to use in the future on products or a coupon for a certain $ amount off on your next purchase at that store. Example: a store runs this promotion, buy (5) Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks in one trip, receive a $3.50 coupon to use at your next visit. The $3.50 coupon generated at the point of sale of the (5) BC Fruit Snacks would be a catalina.

Store Coupons: Some stores issue coupons that can ONLY be used at their store, thus they're known as store coupons. These can be sent via US Mail, by email, or might be found on the bottom of your receipt.

eCoupons: These are coupons available from sites like Short Cuts and Cellfireand P&G eSaver that load electronically to your shopper's loyalty card and are redeemed at point of sale when you purchase the item using your loyalty card.

Peelie: Sticker-type coupon found on the front of a product.

Blinkie: Coupon from a little machine found near or above a product in-store.

CRTs: CVS store coupons that print at the bottom of your receipt.

Shopper's Reward Cards: These are the shopper loyalty cards offered by stores like Kroger or CVS (Extra Care Card) that are necessary to get the current sale prices on items. They are also used to collect data about your shopping history so the stores can tailor their store coupon offers to you.

Stacking: Using (2) legitimate coupons - one a store coupon, the other a manufacturer's coupon - for the same product in one transaction. Some stores allow this; some do not. Be knowledgeable of your store's coupon policy.

Coupon Policy: Each store's rules on acceptance of coupons, whether they double and if so, to what amount, and the number of coupons that can be used in one transaction. You can request by email from the corporate site the coupon policy for your local store. Print it and keep it with you in case of confusion.

ECBs: Part of the wonderfulness of CVS! These are rebates on certain weekly and monthly items at CVS that print as coupons at the end of your receipt when you purchase the ECB-generating item and when your CVS Extra Care Bucks card is scanned at the beginning of your transaction. Consider them CVS money to be used in future transactions at CVS. ECBs from one item can be used to purchase the SAME item again (as long as there is a limit of more than one). ECBs do have an expiration date so always check yours to be sure you use them before the exp. date!

Rolling Over ECBs: This is the primary way of saving money at CVS. First, you earn a few ECBs on a low-dollar item. You then use those ECBs (as well as store coupons & manufacturer coupons) to purchase more items that will generate new ECBs. The goal is to pay as little out of pocket while increasing your total amount of ECBs from transaction to transaction.

Easy Saver Rebates: This is the monthly rebate program at Walgreens. Buy certain items that are in the Easy Saver Rebate Catalog (available in store and online), then submit your receipt (by mail or online) and receive a rebate check by mail. Better way to go? Request your rebate amount be added to a Walgreens gift card and receive your rebate amount + 10% more on your gift card.

In-Ad Coupons at Walgreens: Coupons for certain sale items that run each week in the Walgreens ad. These are considered store coupons and can be stacked with manufacturer coupons.

IVC (Instant Value Coupon): These are coupons found in each month's Easy Saver Rebate Catalog; they are considered store coupons.

Register Rewards: These are $ amount coupons good on your next purchase at Walgreens that print at point of sale. They are generated by certain sale items each week that are designated Register Reward deals. Example: buy (3) shampoo @$3.00 ea ($9.00 total) receive $4.00 in Register Rewards at checkout. Unlike ECBs, Register Rewards CANNOT be used to purchase the same item again in your next transaction.

YMMV(Your Mileage May Vary): This simply means what worked for one person at a certain store may not be exactly replicable by another person at a different store location. It might work, it might not, or it might work only partially.

WYB (When You Buy): Commonly used acronym in posts, forums, etc.

OYNO (Off Your Next Order): See Catalina definition above.

MFR: Manufacturer Coupon

Q: Coupon

OOP (Out Of Pocket): The amount of real money spent after all sales, coupons, ECBs, Gift Cards, etc, are taken off your order.

BOGO: Buy one, get one free; used in reference to sales in-store where you can BOGO items and also to coupons for products that state BOGO on a certain item.

Overage: This is hands down my favorite couponing term! Simply put, it means that the value of your coupon (or coupons if you have both a store and a mfr coupon) are worth more than the actual value of your item. Example: a bar of soap is on sale for $0.89 at a store that doubles coupons valued at $0.50-$0.99 to $1.00. You have a mfr coupon for that item with a face value of $0.50 that will double to $1.00. At point of sale, your coupon will get you your item for free and will earn you an additional $0.11 off the rest of your order. Important note: not all stores will allow you overage from coupons. Many will adjust the coupon value down to the price of the item; you'll still get the item for free but you won't get overage.

$~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~$

Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if I missed something or didn't explain if fully enough. If you find something I left out, I'll revise this post with the new information with credit to you.

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 19, 2010

Back to Basics | Couponing {Part 4 of 4}

This is the last part of my four part series on how to begin strategically couponing; it originally ran in January 2009. I hope this has helped some of you newbies out there!

{Every Friday during the month of January, I'll be posting my Back to Basics: Couponing series. Go here to see what the topics will be. I hope this series will help those of you out there who are just starting to use coupons to reduce your household budget. I'd love to hear what works for you! Add your ideas or links in a comment.}
Back to Basics: Couponing {Evaluating}

Congrats! You've made it to Part Four of my Back to Basics: Couponing series. So far, you've learned about collecting and organizing your coupons, planning your shopping trips to maximize your savings, and how to handle a mountain of coupons on real shopping excursion.

I hope that by this point in the series, you've had the chance to actually shop with a fistful of coupons and walk away *thrilled* by just how much you saved. It's a good feeling, isn't it? It's the opposite of the *shopping high* that some shopaholics say they feel when they're maxing out their credit cards.

We couponers don't get a *shopping high* - we get a *savings high*!

This final part of my Back to Basics: Couponing series is all about ways to take that savings thrill and make it work for you and others.

Let's go!

Documenting Your Savings

One of the best ways to keep your momentum as a couponer is to document your savings.

This can be as simple as an envelope system or as complex as a spreadsheet system; no matter what approach you take, it's important to stick with it and update it every time you go shopping.

Why?

Well, some weeks are *stellar* savings weeks during the year. Think of the big sales seasons during a typical calendar year: Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking; back-to-school shopping; Easter cooking {and goodies for the baskets}; New Year's resolutions to eat healthier and lose weight.

There's many more; you can probably name a few I left out. All of those times of year are usually preceded by big sales events at the grocery stores and lots of high quality coupons in the Sunday paper. The deals to be had during these weeks are fantastic and make shopping with coupons so!much!fun!

But there are also many *dead* weeks during the calendar year, weeks where the deals are scarce and the coupons inserts are thin. It can be challenging to find those incredible deals and as a result, you may find yourself getting discouraged.

Documenting your savings week to week will help you in two ways. One, you'll have a record of how much you've spent and how much you've saved so your savings document can serve as a good measuring tool. By that I mean if you start out trying to lower your budget by 10% with couponing, you'll have your savings document to track your spending. Once you hit that goal, you can look back at your past weeks and see how you could challenge yourself in the future to save a little bit more.

The other way it will help you is simply by offering you encouragement for those weeks when deals are scarce. Take a look a back at how well you've done and don't despair! The next great deals are just a week or two away!

I used an envelope system when I started couponing. For each month, I had (4) envelopes: Kroger, Wal-mart, CVS, and Walgreens. I put all my receipts from each store in their respective envelope and noted on the front of the envelope the date, amount spent, and amount saved of each trip. It worked well and was simple enough to keep updated.

This year, I'm using my friend Andrea's Savings Spreadsheet that she's made available to everyone who wants it as a Google Doc right here. If you're blogging on Blogger, you already have a Google account; downloading it will be very easy. If you don't have a Google account, you can set one up for free right here.

Bottom line: choose a method to document your savings from shopping with couponing that works for you and tweak it if you need to. There's no *right* method!

Stockpiling

I've touched on this a little bit in parts two and three of this series; let's look at it a little more in-depth.

Stockpiling can save you a lot of money - and time - if you stockpile those items you and/or your family uses on a regular basis. If you have tiny ones, diapers and wipes are great stockpile items. For those with older children, stocking up favorite foods is always a moneysaver since kids have a way of growing and eating constantly! Everyone needs toilet paper and soap and toothpaste and deodorant. The list really can go on and on.

The best way to know what items would be good stockpile items for you is to just take a pencil and paper and start poking through your cabinets, your freezer, and your bathrooms. See what you have on-hand and ask yourself what you *always* seem to run out of every week. It won't be long before you've got a good feel for what items you should try to stockpile.

When you see a great sale price (a price that can be lowered with current coupons) on items you know would be good for your stockpile, grab 'em! Gather those coupons and load up on those deals.

You'll find that after a few weeks to a month, you may have enough goodies stockpiled that you need to dedicate a certain space in your home for your stockpile. Depending on your family size and needs, this could be as small as a Rubbermaid box in the bottom of your linen closet (like *yours truly*) or as big as an extra set of shelves in your basement or garage. No matter what size your stockpile is, it's a good idea to keep it organized so you can quickly see what you have on hand vs. what you need to replenish.

How this saves you money? Well, easy! Now, when you run out of toilet paper or shampoo or crackers or whatever, you won't need to worry about paying full price for it when you make a last minute trip to the store. All you'll need to do is shop your stockpile. Not only will you save money, you'll lower your stress (who really wants to run out late at night for a must-have item?) and save time by eliminating extra shopping trips. Saving time is saving money!

One last thing: sometimes you'll find that you have TOO much on hand (like toothpaste), which brings me to my final topic here in part four of this series...

Finding Ways to Give Back

One of the best parts of couponing and stockpiling is ending up with *more* than I know I'll use in a reasonable amount of time. Why do I love this? Because it means I can share my extras with others, from family and friends to my local food pantry.

This is one of the reasons why I keep my personal care items stockpile in a small Rubbermaid tote; when it gets too full, I know it's time to clean out a few things and give them away. For the food items I stockpile, I simply fill up my pantry and freezer. Some months I do have extra cans and boxes to donate, but not always since I have (3) growing kiddos who like to eat.

Looking for your local food pantry? Visit Feeding America and enter your zip code to find the food pantry or food bank closest to you. They will be *overjoyed* with anything you can donate, trust me!

If donating items is out of your reach because you're on a limited budget and need every deal you can find, you can still give back by helping others learn how to save money couponing. When someone asks you how you save so much money, show them the ropes.

Or go one step further: start your own blog dedicated to saving money and whatever else is important to you. You'll have a place to add all of your favorite links that help you plan your shopping trips and before long, you might find that your posts are truly helping others.

And that, dear frugal friends, is always a good thing!

Looking for parts 1-3 of this series? Click here for links to each post.

Thank you for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 18, 2010

Back to Basics | Couponing {Part 3 of 4}

This is part three of my four part couponing series that orginally ran in January 2009. Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments section. ;-)

{Every Friday during the month of January, I'll be posting my Back to Basics: Couponing series. Go here to see what the topics will be. I hope this series will help those of you out there who are just starting to use coupons to reduce your household budget. I'd love to hear what works for you! Add your ideas or links in a
comment.}

Back to Basics: Couponing (Implementing)

In part one of this series, I talked about the importance of collecting and saving every coupon that comes your way and methods to keep them all organized.

In part two of this series, I explained how to plan your shopping trips around the store sales and the items on sale that have coupon matchups; I also listed some of the different online resources you can use in planning your shopping trips.

Now that you've got a growing coupon collection and a budget-driven shopping plan, it's time to hit the stores! Let's grab some deals!

When to Shop

As I mentioned here in my post about couponing etiquette, your best bet is to shop your grocery store during off-peak times. You'll avoid the crowds and the long lines when it comes time to check out.

But you should aim to shop not just during off-peak times but during ones when the store will be well-stocked. For example, if you go late Saturday evening you might find the shelves emptied by the shoppers from earlier in the day.

Grocery stores do the bulk of their business on the weekends; if you shop during an off-peak time on a Thursday, you'll likely find the store personnel busily filling the shelves as they get ready for the shoppers to come. Mondays are also a good day to shop (later in the day if possible) because the store is being re-stocked after the busy weekend.

It may take you a few weeks to find the best day that works for you and for your schedule; once you do, try to stick with it because you'll get to know the cashiers who are usually on duty on the day and time you go shopping. It always helps to build positive relationships with them!

Coupon Policies

Despite many grocery stores being part of a larger corporation, there is often differing coupon acceptance and redemption policies from store to store and from region to region.

You have two routes you can pursue to get a clear answer on your local grocery store's coupon policy: you can contact the corporate office via their website or Customer Service 1-800 number and request a copy of the policy for your store be emailed to you (so you can print it and carry it with you) or you could ask your store manager for your store's policy. I recommend contacting the corporate office because having it in writing is invaluable.

If you find yourself in a situation where your coupons aren't accepted as per that store's coupon policy states they should be, you can request the mistake be remedied at the customer service desk. If the error is still not resolved, you can then contact the corporate office and use the coupon policy as a reference. As always, be gracious; it will get you much further than ranting and raving.

Hidden Deals

One of my favorite hidden deals at my grocery store is items on clearance or items that are reduced for quick sale. Items with expiration dates are often reduced in price when they're within a day or two of their expiration date; you can often find bagged salads, store-made procude cups or bakery items, meats, and dairy items at these quick sale prices.

Buying items at reduced prices is really a judgement call; my rule is if it looks fresh and fine and I know I'll use it within a day or can freeze it, then I'll buy it. I also shop at Kroger where the standards for freshness - even on reduced items - are very high.

Some of these perishable products have coupons available in your Sunday inserts or from other sources which, when applied to the reduced price, can make the item pennies or free.

If you're looking for the best day to shop for finding reduced for quick sale items, try Thursday (stores want to have their best presentation for the busy weekend) or the day before the new sale week begins.

Stacking Coupons

Stacking coupons happens when your store offers their own store coupons off a product and you have a manufacturer's coupon for the same item. You can *usually* use both of these together (depending upon your store's coupon policy) for greater savings.

Some grocery chains send their customers store coupons via USMail; some offer them within a magazine or other store publication. Look through the magazine racks that are usually found near the grocery carts for these.

It's important to note that you cannot stack manufacturer coupons; that's simply double-dipping and will only hurt all couponers in the long run as manufacturers and stores become more restrictive.

Leaving a Positive Impression

Be kind and friendly to your store staff; cultivate positive relationships. My five year old son loves chatting with one of the department managers at our Kroger; when I'm at the store without him, the manager asks how he's doing.

Remember that you're not just a customer in your store, but a guest. Be a good one! Use your good manners. Don't let your kids trash the displays. Try to clean up your mess if you drop something. Smile and say, "Hi!" It won't cost you a thing and it may just make that cashier's day to be treated with kindness.

Join me next Friday (01/30/09) for the final part of this series: Evaluating. We'll talk about tracking your savings, building a stockpile, and finding ways to give back.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment and share! I really do appreciate every comment you leave!

Thank you for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 17, 2010

Back to Basics | Couponing {Part 2 of 4}

This is the second part of my how-to couponing series that originally ran in January of 2009. Enjoy and please leave comments sharing what works for you!

{Every Friday during the month of January, I'll be posting my Back to Basics: Couponing series. Go here to see what the topics will be. I hope this series will help those of you out there who are just starting to use coupons to reduce your household budget. I'd love to hear what works for you! Add your ideas or links in a comment.}

Back to Basics: Couponing (Planning: Assess Your Needs, Store Deals + Coupon Matchups, Online Resources, and a Budget-Driven List)

In part one of this series, I talked about the importance of collecting and saving every coupon that comes your way and methods to keep them all organized.

Now that you've got yourself some coupons, it's time to start using them to save some serious cash. Let's get started!

Assess your needs

First, check your family's schedule for the week. Is every evening busy with activities or does your week look to be slower paced? Do you have school aged children or working adults who need packed lunches? Are you doing any entertaining of any sort?

It's important to align your meal plan with your family's schedule to save time and to save yourself stress. Busy nights are perfect for slow cooker meals and slower paced nights are a great opportunity to cook a doubled recipe of a meal that can be frozen, giving you dinner for that night and dinner for a future (most likely busy) night.

It's also important to note that many of you out there are dealing with food allergies, intolerances, and special diets. Building a meal plan each week that takes those specific situations into account will help you stay sane while keeping your loved ones healthy. I don't have any specific food issues at my house; my hat is off to you Head Chefs who deal with this on a daily basis.

Once you have a good idea of your meal needs for the week, go look in your pantry , refrigerator, and freezer and see what you already have that can be used in your meal planning. Then write in which meals you'll eat each night. Need help coming up with ideas? Go visit Orgjunkie's weekly Menu Plan Monday for hundreds of meal plans with recipe links from smart moms around the blogosphere. Other good resources: Carrie's Cooking, Meals.com and AllRecipes.

Build your grocery list directly from your meal plan and add in the other items that you need every week which is usually the perishable items such as milk, eggs, fresh fruit, and fresh veggies.

For more on meal planning, read my post about it here.

Store Deals + Coupon Matchups and Online Resources

This is where the hard work of fellow bloggers really helps you; you generally don't have to do all legwork of grabbing your store ad and matching up current sale items to current coupons all by yourself. More likely than not, there's a blogger in your area who posts the sales + coupon matchups at your local grocery store(s) every week.

If you're fairly new to couponing, I advise sticking to your primary grocery store in the beginning so you can learn the ropes and begin building a small stockpile of items that you get for rock bottom prices. If you want to step up your couponing game, you're probably ready to try shopping at CVS and Walgreens; see my post explaining how to save money at CVS right here and my post explaining how to save money at Walgreens right here.

Check the Grocery Gathering at BeCentsAble to see if your local grocery store is listed; the Grocery Gathering is a great place to start looking for the best ways to stretch your grocery dollars.

Another great resource is the coupon matchups found each week at the Coupon Mom's huge website. Again, this is free.

Many newbie couponers find that the coupon matchups found at The Grocery Game help them while they're learning the ropes. This is a fee-based service, but they do offer a fairly low price for the first four weeks ($1.00). I did use this myself in the beginning of my couponing journey and then cancelled after the initial trial period. It is useful, but then so is a good Google keyword search. By that I mean simply that if you dig around the blogosphere long enough, you can generally find what's on sale at your local store + coupon matchups.

If you can't, you can do the legwork yourself. Grab your store's weekly ad circular out of the Sunday paper, in-store, or search for it online at your store's website. Look at what's on sale; if you shop that store fairly regularly, you'll know when a sale price is actually a real deal as opposed to just a teaser price. Now grab that menu plan you just wrote - are there items on sale that you can incorporate into your menu plan? You'll save the most money if you build your menu plan around sale items and items that you can get for a rock-bottom price with couponing.

To find those coupon matchups on sale items on your own, sign up for free registration at Hot Coupon World. You'll be able to access the Coupon Database and search for current coupons on products that are already on sale at your store.

Ok, now you've got a menu plan and a pretty good list based on what you need for the week. Let's talk about the last piece of the puzzle...

A Budget-Driven List

The whole point of doing all the steps listed above is to save you money. Your best bet is to set a realistic budget for your weekly shopping. If you've been tracking your spending, you know how much money you've beenspending at the grocery store each week. Using that number as a starting point, challenge yourself to spend less this week. Maybe it's just 10-20% less; maybe it's more. It really is a personal decision and it's one that you need to re-evaluate week-to-week as you build a small stockpile and you become more experienced in using coupons to save money.

Your best bet? Track your spending and saving even after you start couponing. This can be as simple as an envelope to save your grocery receipts. If you (like me) love a good spreadsheet, you can download my friend Andrea's grocery spending and and saving Google Docs spreadsheet; find it here. I love using it!

Next Friday (01/23/09) we'll tackle the stores! Come back and read Implementing
{When to Shop, Coupon Policies, Hidden Deals, Stacking Coupons, and Leaving a Positive Impression}
.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment and share! I really do appreciate every comment you leave!

August 16, 2010

Back to Basics | Couponing {Part 1 of 4}

This is the first of a four part series how-to series I wrote about couponing in January 2009. I'm running each part this week as well as some other important information about the basics of couponing. If you're new to the power of the coupon, I hope this series helps you!

{Every Friday during the month of January, I'll be posting my Back to Basics: Couponing series. Go here to see what the topics will be. I hope this series will help those of you out there who are just starting to use coupons to reduce your household budget. I'd love to hear what works for you! Add your ideas or links in a comment.}

Back to Basics: Couponing

Part One: Where to Get Coupons and How to Organize Them

If you're going to use coupons to lower your budget, you'll need a good supply to get started.

Sunday Newspaper Inserts

The first place to start is your Sunday newspaper. If you already get this delivered, you'll have the coupon inserts that come each week. Depending on which region you reside, you'll see one to three inserts (sometimes more; sometimes none during the big holiday weekends) that might include these inserts:

Smart Source (SS)

Red Plum (RP)

Vlassis (V)

General Mills (GM; for GM products, usually comes in back-to-school season, beginning of the year, and just before the big holiday cooking seasons)

Proctor&Gamble (PG; comes monthly in just about all regions)

If you don't have a newspaper subscription, you can usually get a good deal as a new subscriber. Find your local newspaper's website, then click on their Home Subscription or Subscribe tab or link (often buried at the bottom of the page).

Right now, my local paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, is offering a free $10 gas card or $10 Kroger card with new subscriptions; weekly subscriptions are $16.31/month and Sunday only subscriptions are $10.71/month. Go here if you're in my region to see this offer.

If the cost of a monthly subscription is too high for you, consider calling the subscription office and just asking if they have any better deals. If you happen to be enrolled in school, you might get a student subscription cost.

If chatting up a customer service rep doesn't net you a better offer, consider just buying the Sunday paper at a local drugstore or grocery store. Right now, the Enquirer is sold for $0.99 at Kroger; this is an offer they have every once in a while. The regular price is usually $1.50, so for 4-5 Sundays a month, you'll pay $6.00 - $7.50 normally. If you're out and about on Sundays, this may be the best option for you, value-wise.

Now, the next thing you'll need to do is pull your coupon inserts each week and keep them. ALL OF THEM! I can't stress this enough; many people who use coupons casually flip through the Sunday coupons, clip the ones for products they *might* buy that week, then toss the rest into the recycling bin.

Please, please, please - DON'T TOSS THOSE COUPONS!

The key to successful couponing is to keep all the coupons that you get in the Sunday inserts, along with finding coupons elsewhere. We'll discuss other places to find coupons here in a bit.

So, you're buying the paper, pulling the coupon inserts and saving them. Good job! But you'll do better if you have more than (1) copy of coupon inserts each week.

How do you get more?

~ Ask your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers for their Sunday coupons. My mom and dad give me theirs so I always have (2) sets of inserts for each week.

~ Buy extra copies of the newspaper on weeks where there are lots of inserts. This past Sunday (1/4/09) was the first Sunday of the month and of the year. This is significant because the PG inserts usually come out the FIRST Sunday of the month, giving you (3) inserts total (PG, SS, RP -- my region). Since it was the first of the year (new year = new financial qtr in a new financial year for manufacturers and retailers which means LOTS of coupons for us), there were also (2) extra SS and RP inserts in my paper, along with a GM insert.

How do I know which inserts will be in the Sunday paper and how many? I check the Taylortown Coupon Preview each week where I can see not only how many inserts are coming, but which coupons will be in the inserts.

Southern Savers also has a post up with the 2009 coupon insert schedule for each Sunday in 2009 right here.

~ Start a coupon swapping club. If you and a friend or two or three are all beginning to coupon together, you might be able to help each other out by swapping the coupons you don't need. Maybe your friend has a dog, but her kids are older. You have no dogs, but have a little one in diapers. You could agree to swap your dog food and dog treat q's with your friend for her diaper q's. Everyone wins!

Internet Printables

Several sites offer printable coupons you can use at the grocery store and at drugstores. It's important to note that each store has a different coupon policy for both regular insert coupons and for internet printable coupons; it's a good idea to go to your store's corporate site and search for, then print, their coupon policy. I've never had any problems using coupons at Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Target, or RiteAid, but I know some bloggers have.

Some top internet printable coupon sites:

Coupons.com

Smart Source

Red Plum

Cool Savings

Mambo Sprouts (organic products)

Eat Better America (a General Mill site; healthy food coupons - see link at bottom that says Coupons/Promotions)

Box Tops 4 Education (coupons for products bearing BoxTops -- WOOT!)

HomeMadeSimple (coupons for cleaning products)

http://www.rightathome.com/ (coupons for P&G cleaners/household products)

Printable coupons usually change every 30-60 days; while they're active, you can usually print only (2) per computer (they track if you've printed them by your unique IP address).

You can also find printable coupons just by searching at individual manufacturer's websites; often, they'll have a tab labeled "Promotions/Coupons" for their products.

E-Coupons

These are electronic coupons that you load to your shopper's loyalty card (Kroger Card, CVS Extra Care Bucks Card, etc). You open a free account, link your loyalty card number to your account, then go through the available e-coupons and select which one's you'd like to load to your card.

At the store, the coupons come off automatically once your card is scanned.

I've had great success with these two services:

P&G E-Saver

Short Cuts

You should note that it sometimes takes an hour or so between the time you load the coupons to your card and the time they're actually active on your card. Load them the night before you shop just to be sure.

And you can print out a copy of what you've loaded to your card. This is a good idea so that if you check your receipt and see that the e-coupon did not get taken off your order, you can go over to the customer service desk with your printed e-coupon list and your receipt and ask them to fix it. They usually will!

In Store

The little coupon machines that spit out coupons are called blinkies; my kids love collecting these for me! Grab ones you might use but don't be greedy. There's enough to go around.

There are often coupons on packages of items; these are known as peelies. Please, PLEASE, don't be a greedy gus and take all the peelies off of packages that you're not buying. If it works out that they're on something you're getting, use them or save them.

Stores often send you store coupons in the mail (Kroger does this based on your what your store loyalty card has recorded you purchasing in the previous quarter). If you sign up for email alerts at CVS or Walgreens, you'll get emailed printable coupons in your inbox.

Catalinas are coupons that print at point of sale separately from your receipt. Save those, too!

CRTs are coupons that print on the end of your CVS receipt; these are often for products that will earn ECBs in the future. Save those!

Finally, keep your eyes open while you're in CVS or Walgreens; they often have booklets of store coupons lying around near the pharmacy, cosmetics, photo, or registers. Take one or two and leave the rest for everyone else.

In magazines

All You magazine usually has great coupons. You can subscribe or purchase at Wal-Mart.

Good Housekeeping often has good coupons inside it's pages, too.

Online Couponing Resources I Use

Hot Coupon World
Register for a free account then you'll have access to search the coupon database and locate coupons for virtually anything.

A Full Cup
Hands down, the best printable coupon database. Also has printable Target coupons for Target grocery stores.

SlickDeals
This site is huge and is an enormous resource for all kinds of deals, coupons, and scenarios. Give yourself time to click around.

Organizing Your Coupons

After a few weeks of keeping your Sunday paper coupon inserts, you'll find yourself with quite a collection. Time to get organized, and to decide...

To clip or not to clip?


I personally do NOT clip my coupons until I need them for a planned trip. I know some people who do clip their coupons and swear by that system. I am simply too busy with my three kids, two dogs, carpooling, Girl Scouting, school volunteering, blogging, and occasionally sleeping to clip the coupons.

The key to successful organization of your coupons is to do what works for you. Try out a method and adjust as needed until you figure out what's best for your life and time constraints.

I organize in two ways.

For my inserts, I label them with a Sharpie on the front cover with the date they came out (ie: last Sunday's are labeled 01/04/09), then file each weeks inserts in an expandable file folder with the oldest in the front and the newest in the back.

When I need to locate a coupon by date of insert, I can find it easily. Hot Coupon World's database rocks because it lists coupons by insert and date, making it a quick job to locate and clip the ones I'll need for my shopping.

For internet printables or for coupons I clipped and then didn't use at the store (they were out of stock or I found a better deal), I have a small plastic shoebox with envelopes labeled with categories (ie: baby items, toothpaste, canned goods). I file those unused clipped coupons there until I need them (and try to remember that I've filed them!). I also file my catalinas there in a separate envelope, along with any individual store coupons I received by mail, or email, or found in the store. I file blinkies and peelies in this box, too.

Here's some other ideas from fellow bloggers:

~Coupon Binder
Watch my friend Alyssa's video about how she uses a binder to organize her q's.

~Couponizer
My friend Jennifer discusses how she uses both a Couponizer and a filebox for her system.

~Coupon Box
See how Crystal uses a simple box and envelope system that keeps her organized.

I should also note that I don't take ALL my coupons with me to the stores all the time. I plan my trips very specifically and pull the coupons I'll need. Sometimes, I'll toss in some coupons for things I might luck into on sale (marked down salad or yogurt or bread). I shop with my three year old during the school year and all three of my kids during the summer; a binder or box would be at their mercy if I had it with me.

Bottom line: try a system, change it as needed and do what works for you.

This is a long post with a lot of information; read and come back to it if you need to reference it. Feel free to link it with credit to me (thanks for linking me!).

And if you have any questions or if I missed something (quite possible as I've been working on this off and on all day), leave a comment and share your questions or your knowledge.

Coming up next Friday (01/16/09) is part two of Back to Basics: Couponing {Planning}.

When I have time this week, I'll post a B2B: CVS a B2B: Walgreens with explanations of how to save at these stores. It's critical knowledge to have before planning your shopping scenarios.

Thanks for reading! Love you all!

What tips do YOU have? What works for you?

August 15, 2010

Blessed Am I | Thank YOU!!

This post was originally published on March 13, 2010. It's still as true today as it was a few months ago. ;-)



So...after racing around this morning in the cold March rain, off to sell more Girl Scout cookies for my troop, I finally headed home to warm up (we were under an overhang, but I still got awfully wet). I sat down, opened my computer, and checked on my sites (I'm always fearful that something might be going wonky with my coding!).

And when I opened up this site and scrolled down, I saw this:


Wow

I can't tell you what that means to me, seeing that number and knowing that so many of you out there subscribe to this little corner, my little corner, of the web.

I'm a small blogger; I blog here mostly because the act of blogging about deals, couponing, and frugal money management is one of the best tools I've ever found for keeping me on track with my families financial goals.  There's nothing like a little public accountability to keep you honest, you know?

But I also genuinely believe in sharing what I know about saving money and how I implement these small (but impactful) changes in my own life with anyone out there who might need this help, who might desperately be searching for ways to keep more money in their pocket because they are in a time of need.

It means so much to me that so many of you are spending a few minutes of your precious time with this blog every day.  Today, I just want to personally thank you for subscribing and for all you do on your end as readers to comment here, to email me deals, to share your successes and your moments when you stumble (we all do) in your own frugal journey.

This song, my frugal peeps, is for YOU! 




Thank you ... Thank you ... THANK YOU!

Feeling inspired?  Go grab the button at Signs, Miracles, and Wonders for Then Sings My Soul Saturday and share your good news at your blog.  ;-)

August 14, 2010

Easy and Frugal Gingerbread Houses

This post, which originally ran on December 23, 2009, would have been perfect for a Christmas in July theme! LOL! Yes, it is August, I know, but it's never too early to start thinking about fun activities for the next looooong school break - Christmas Break

Making a gingerbread house is one of our favorite traditions here because it involves LOTS of candy and because it's just plain fun. ;-)

Here are are a couple of our houses from past years:

My two oldest with our 2008 gingerbread house:



And our 2007 gingerbread house:


and from the back:



Those houses above I made from scratch - I made the gingerbread dough, rolled and baked it as sheets, cut the pieces, let them dry, and constructed the buildings.

This year, peeps, I simply did NOT have that kind of time!

But because this is one of our favorite Christmas traditions, I wanted to find a simpler way that would be cost effective.

And I did - look!



We made these from graham crackers and royal icing (confectioner's sugar + egg whites) in about an hour total, with about thirty minutes of drying time between the construction and the decorating of the houses.

Here they are drying:



And here they are under construction:



My oldest son (6).



My younger son (almost 4).



And my daughter (8), hamming it up for the camera!

To make these, you'll need:

-> Confectioner's sugar
-> Egg whites
-> Graham crackers (the rectangles, not the squares)
-> Foil pans or foil-covered cookie sheets
-> Ziplok bag for piping the icing
-> Candy, candy, candy!!

All of these are fairly low cost items, many that you likely have in your pantry or cabinets right now. My total cost to make all three, including the foil pans and candy, was about $8.00.

I followed the directions listed here - this is an excellent guide if you're new to building gingerbread houses. The author explains it very well and has pictures of all the construction steps.

If you've never tried building a gingerbread house, the graham cracker method is an easy way to start *building* your own Christmas tradition with your kiddos!

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 13, 2010

School Supply Deals | Finding Ways to Give Back

This post was originally published on July 24, 2009. As you're dusting off your children's backpacks and stuffing them full of all the awesome deals you found over the past several weeks, think about donating some of your extra school supplies. ;-)




Now that July is nearing an end, the back-to-school deals are in full swing. From now until the end of August, major retailers will be offering stockpile prices on different school supplies in their weekly ads (like the ones at CVS and Walgreens this week).

For those of us who have kids in school, these sales are a wonderful way to get those backpacks loaded with goodies for the start of the new school year without breaking the bank. But if you're a frugalista who doesn't have school-aged children (or maybe you're like me and can't resist the thrill of stocking up on FREE after ECB pencils and paper and end up with more than your kids will use), you can help teachers and students by donating those freebie and cheapie extras.

Give Locally

--> Buy extras of common items (crayons, pencils, glue sticks, paper) for your child's classroom.

--> Not sure what your child's teacher may need? Contact your school's principal or your local school district's central office and ask what kind of supplies they need most and where you can deliver them.

--> Want to reach kids in great need? Donate supplies to your local homeless shelter or women's crisis shelter; these charities are always happy to accept items for children.

Give Nationally

--> Visit I Love Schools and learn about how you can donate your extra school supplies to a teacher in need.

--> Don't have extra supplies to donate but want to donate a few bucks (since you saved so much grabbing those deals)? Visit Donors Choose, Adopt a Classroom, or Kids in Need, charities where you can donate money to classrooms in need.

Looking for more charities that might be interested in your school supply donations (or cash donations)? Visit Charity Navigator, a free site dedicated to evaluating and rating charities; it's always smart to do your research before you donate so you can be sure your money/donations are going exactly where you want them to go.

Giving back a little more has been one nice side effect for me from couponing/living more frugally; I love having a well-stocked pantry but I do remind myself that the next big deal is just a few weeks away. I can part ways with some of those goodies I've gotten for pennies and also help someone in need.

Know of a great charity for extra school supplies or just a great charity in general for extra goodies from couponing? Share what you know in a comment below!

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 12, 2010

Ten Frugal {And Not So Frugal} Things About Me

This post originally ran on February 25, 2009; if you're a newer reader, I thought you might like this little insight into how I blend my frugality with our financial realities.  And if you've been reading this site long enough to remember when this was first posted, God bless you!  All y'all rock!


A while back, Cheryl @ Swap Savers tagged me for this post. I'm happy to share...but I've added a twist (because I don't know if I can come up with 25 *amazing* ways I'm frugal).

First, I'll share 5 ways I'm actively frugal with our resources. Then, I'll share 5 not-so-frugal things about me.

Why?

Well, I'm on a frugal journey just like you; I don't want to proclaim myself an expert. This blog is all about sharing what works and what has worked consistently for me with the hope that it might help one of you.

And, the frugal journey isn't about scrimping and saving without purpose; I truly believe that pursuing frugality should lead to greater opportunities for your financial life as a whole. So some of what you'll see on my not-so-frugal list reflect that reality for me on a personal level.

Oh, and before I get going, go give Swap Savers a looksee. Cheryl has set up a really useful forum for frugalistas to share useful info.

Five Ways I'm Frugal

1. Coupons. I am passionate about couponing, not because I want to stockpile 37 cans of Campbell's Soup but because effective couponing multiplies your buying power.

2. eBay. I have sold much on eBay in the past but haven't sold anything for more than a year. It's a GREAT way to unload those rapidly-outgrown kids clothes, baby gear, and toys. I also buy clothes for my kids on eBay; it saves me time + money, both of which should be used frugally.

3. Haircuts. My hubs Knute cuts our boys hair (and he is good at it!). And for myself and my daughter, I usually just wait until I have a coupon for Great Clips or SuperCuts or we'll go to the local Career Center (vo-tech school) which has a very nice salon (they do everything a high-end salon does for a fraction of the cost). While I do spend the $30 or so once or twice a year to go to a spiffy salon for a really good hair cut, that's about it; I'm lucky to have easy hair that doesn't need any color or treatments.

4. Makeup. Since I discovered the glory that is CVSing and Walgreensing late 2007, I have not paid a dime for makeup; I simply wait for the ECB deals and the Easy Saver or Register Reward deals and stock up. In fact, I have a small arsenal of foundation and nail polish under my sink that I really need to donate to a worthy charity (I'm thinking of the charities that help girls find ways to go to Prom or something -- any ideas???).

5. The Joneses. This is the biggest one: I don't keep up with 'em. I don't even try. This is a mindset, one that can be hard to enact when your friends and family live a larger-spending life than you do. It can feel like you're the Lone Ranger of the Budget when you start playing the comparing game. My best advice to you is to make no assumptions, either positive or negative, about the state of someone else's financial health. The current mortgage crisis is proof that lots of those Joneses have been paddling a leaky rowboat through a sea of debt.

Five Ways I'm Not Frugal

1. Parochial School Tuition. My two oldest attend our Catholic Church's private school; it's a pretty penny. But this is one of the biggest reasons why I'm doggedly frugal elsewhere in our lives; Catholic education is a top priority for us as a family.

2. New Cars. We've bought two cars new off the lot; our 1999 Taurus is still running strong (and has been paid off for many years) and our 2004 Sienna is just a few hundred shy of a title note (*note: we paid our van Claudine off early in May 2009!*).  We've owned "gently" used cars that have cost us an arm and a leg in repairs long before they were paid off. We buy cars new with the idea we'll drive them for a *minimum* of ten years; we're sticklers for maintenance (most of which is covered by warranties for the first several years) and really love our cars by keeping 'em clean inside and out.

3. Dogs. I've got two big dogs (*note: {sniff} we only have one dog now*) and can't imagine not having a dog around. Between food and vet bills, they are a big expense financially. And with their need for walks and playtime, they're also a big time expense. But they're our buddies and they're well worth it...and I've never once worried that we might need a security system!

4. Investments & Life Insurance. I'll never rob our future to pay off our current debt. We've invested since our mid-twenties (before we had kids) and have increased our investments and life insurance as each child arrived and our future planning changed. You can't start young enough in either of these important categories - compound interest is a long-term game and health issues plus increasing age makes life insurance more expensive and more difficult to procure as you get older.

5. Splurges. Sometimes, it's nice to just order pizza for dinner. Or buy the kids a new toy or art set just because they did something superlative. And if I need a jolt of caffeine during an on-the-go day, I'll spend a buck or two and grab some java without guilt. I firmly believe that living frugally isn't living miserly. Like I said above, living frugally should open doors for you, not shut them.

There you have it! More *amazing* truths about me. Our regular programming of deals, freebies, and tips will now resume.

;-)

Just for fun, if you want to take this idea and post your own Frugal 5 x 5 on your blog, go for it! Just link back to this one here, m'kay? And drop me a comment with your link so I can come read yours, too!

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!

August 10, 2010

Last Blast of Summer Blogging Break August 10-22, 2010

Image courtesy of here

It's hard to believe it, but summer is coming to an end for me. Our family is taking a little in-state vacation (our first family vacation ever, so wish me luck!) next week to that picture above - can you guess where we're headed?

As well as packing up for our short trip next week, I've got quite a bit on my plate over the next two weeks - Girl Scout training and planning for the year, back to school meetings and planning for my kiddos, and our parish festival next weekend, Aug 20-22. If you're close to Lebanon, Ohio, you can click here for the scoop on the festival fun.

I've decided to simply take a break from day-to-day blogging here for the next two weeks so I can fully enjoy the last blast of summer with my family.

I've got several older posts I'll be re-running while I'm on break, posts that share some ideas and explanations about how to do this crazy couponing thing, ideas on frugal living, and how to build a better budget. Comments will be open so feel free to share what's worked for you or any questions you might have.

See you soon!

Giveaway Winner | $100 CollegeAdvantage Scholarship



Thanks to all who entered the giveaway for the $100 CollegeAdvantage scholarship.

The lucky winner is....

#2: K

K, please contact me via email or by leaving a comment here in this post with a means of contacting you. Thanks!

Congrats!


August 6, 2010

In This Sunday's Inserts | August 8, 2010 {32 Inserts - SS, RP

It's always useful to know how many coupon inserts to expect each Sunday and even more useful to know which coupons you'll find in those inserts so you can decide as early as possible if it's a good week to order coupons from a clipping service.

This Sunday, 08/8/10, there will be 2 inserts in the Sunday newspapers.

Here's a few coupons that look good to me:

Smart Source

Several AirWick brand coupons

$4/1 Bausch & Lomb Antihistimine Eye Drops

Several Kotex brand coupons

Several Scotch brand coupons

$0.25/1 SunnyD

Several Ziploc brand coupons

Red Plum

Several Garnier brand coupons

Several Kellogg's brand coupons

$1/1 Starbucks Ice Cream pint

To see the full list of coupons available in this week's insert, click here (SS) and here (RP) (thanks, Sunday Coupon Preview).

Enjoy your weekend!

August 4, 2010

HOT DEAL | $10/$10 Coupon Code for JCPenney.com!


Ooohh, I LOVE these $10/$10 online codes from JCPenney.com!

Right now, use the code TEN2YOU to get $10 off your order of $10 or more from JCPenney.com. There are lots of nice deals to be found in the Clearance section. AND, there are reports that you can get FREE shipping on shoes, both regular priced and sale priced, with this code.

I used this code today to get a couple of lightweight sweaters for the fall for myself; if you're still getting your back to school shopping done, this would be a great way to grab an item or two for just the cost of shipping.

Keep an eye on your US mailbox as well; you'll likely be receiving a postcard from JCPenney with a $10/$10 coupon for instore use.

Remember to shop through your Shop at Home account to get 3% cash back on your purchase from JCPenney.com. Don't have a Shop at Home account? Start one here and you'll also get $5 cash back deposited in your account just for signing up!

Enjoy!

HOT DEAL | Walgreens Friends and Family Sale August 2-4, 2010 {15% off Eligible Store Items + 20% off Walgreens Brand Items}


Have you grabbed any deals yet with the Walgreens Friends and Family 15% off coupon yet?  You can still print your coupon right here.

If you're wondering what the best deals are for this coupon, Mercedes at Common Sense with Money has compiled them here (awesome deal on Huggies wipes & Purell), here (makes the Pampers diaper deal better),and here (Hershey & girly products deals).

Don't forget to take a look at the weekly deals at Walgreens here as well to see if there's anything else you need to stock up on. Remember that all the RR items that are FREE after RRs will now be moneymakers when you use the 15% off coupon.

Enjoy!

August 3, 2010

Hip Hip Hurray Giveaway | $100 CollegeAdvantage Scholarship!



It's been a while since I shared a giveaway with all of you and I apologize for that. I've taken some time this summer to step back a bit from my normal pace with blogging and social media (I think my Twitter account has grown cobwebs) and just hang out with my kids. It's been good but I'm looking forward to the start of the school year.

But we've still got lots of summer ahead of us and plenty to do, including a trip to the Ohio State Fair on Saturday. I'm part of a group of Ohio bloggers who were invited to come and ride the ferris wheel, eat fried buckeyes (which sound both terrible, health-wise, and delicious, taste-wise), and learn a bit more about the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority's (OTTA) college savings plan, CollegeAdvantage.


If you're not familiar with CollegeAdvantage, here are some of the highlights of their plan from their website:

•Use your funds at any college in the country
•Control the account yourself
•Contribute as little as $25 at a time.
•Contribute automatically through your bank account or payroll deduction
•Create your own portfolio by choosing your own investments
•Tax-free earnings
•Low fees
You can read more about CollegeAdvantage right here and watch this video featuring fellow Ohio parents and how they're using CollegeAdvantage to save for their child's education.

 I, as well as the other bloggers (like my girl Amy who I'm looking foward to seeing HOLLA!), will be attending the information session with the representatives from OTTA at their booth in the Marketplace at the Ohio State Fair from 2-3pm.  If you have any questions you'd like me to ask, feel free to @ me on Twitter (I promise I'll check!) and use the hashtag #Ohio529

And if you're headed to the Ohio State Fair this week, you can use this map to help you find the OTTA booth. You'll want to find it because they're raffling off a $100 scholarship each day of the fair - all you have to do is fill out an entry form. AND, here's the biggie, they're holding a grand prize raffle on Saturday for a $1,000 scholarship! So drop by and enter if you're there - someone has to win, right? Maybe it will be you!

Onto the giveaway!

I have been graciously given (1) $100 CollegeAdvantage scholarship to give away to (1) lucky reader!

How to enter:

Leave a comment letting me know you'd like to win - yup, that's how easy this giveaway is. I told you I was slacking this summer! And if you already use the College Advantage 529 Savings Plan and want to share your experience with the program with us, please do! I'd love to hear your story!

You can earn an additional (3) chances to win as well.

1. Tweet about this giveaway and use the hashtag #Ohio529, then come back here and leave me a separate comment to let me know you tweeted (add the url from your tweet please).

2.  Like CollegeAdvantage on Facebook, then come back here and leave me a comment letting me know you did. 

3. Subscribe to my RSS feed by reader or email and leave a separate comment to let me know you're a new subscriber; you can also drop me a separate comment to let me know if you're already a subscriber for this extra entry.

Remember, you MUST leave me some way to find you online (by email or by your Twitter handle) if you don't have a blog - and if you do have a blog that is not public, be sure to leave me a means of contacting you. Entries with no contact information or means of contacting you online will be disqualified.

This giveaway will end on SUNDAY, August 8, 2010, at 10:00 pm EST. I will announce the winners (selected by Random.org) on MONDAY, August 9, 2010.

PSST! My girl Amy is giving away a $100 CollegeAdvantage scholarship at Family Friendly Cincinnati, too! Hop on over to her post and enter for a chance to win that one, too!

Good luck!

*DISCLOSURE: I received free passes to the Ohio State Fair for my family as well reimbursment for our travel costs to the fair; for more about my personal disclosure policy, read my disclosure page.

While it's not my *fave* Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, I have a feeling I'll be humming some of these songs on Saturday as we cruise up I-71 to Columbus. I know - I'm the Queen of Corny. 8-)

Let's Go Krogering! Week of August 2, 2010 {P&G $4/4 Sale Event Continues!}


Do love finding deals at your Kroger? This feature is for you! Link your post about what deals you found at your local Kroger or Kroger-affiliated store. Simple rules are here; the 149x149 button is in my sidebar.


Spent: $62.33
Saved: $33.52 (35%)

Apologies for this post going up a bit late; I've had a sick kid here for the past few days and taking care of her has been my top priority.

I did make it to Kroger on Monday to grab some of the P&G deals. The big item I like to stockpile during these P&G sales is Iams dog food but with no new Iams coupons in the P&G insert this weekend, I only bought (1) bag. Since we're a (1) dog family these days, I don't need to stockpile dog food as much as I did in the past when we had (2) dogs {sniff-sniff - I miss my old friends}.

I also (**cough-cough**) broke my little pledge to stay out of Kroger last week during their 10/$10 sale. I am weak, peeps, when faced with the chance to stockpile $1 Kroger Peanut Butter. 8-) My littlest is a peanut butter FIEND (seriously, the kid could eat through a jar in a couple of days if I didn't hide it on the high shelf in the pantry) and Kroger now has this deee-LIGHT-ful Peanut Butter/Honey blend (yellow lid) which is DIVINE on apple slices. Ok, so maybe I have a bit of a peanut butter issue myself!!

Anyhow, I broke down last Friday and made a Kroger run (peanut butter and FREE Crest and cheap Tuna, oh my!) to the tune of about $35. And if my pictures from Kroger look sparse, I have been shopping weekly at Aldi for my staples (milk, eggs, produce, popsicles) all summer. I've not taken my usual pictures because with three kiddos, armloads of groceries, and the immediate hollers of, "Is it lunchtime yet??" when we walk in the door from our shopping, I just want to get everything put away, throw some sandwiches on the table and get another cup of coffee. 8-)

Summer, summer, summertime!  So fun, so busy, so darn exhausting!

Here's the coupons I used this week:

P&G Event Items

Iams Dog Food, $16.99 | $15.99 after sale discount
$1/1, P&G Brandsaver Coupon Booklet (mailer)
Final price: $14.99

Aussie Smooth Hair Gel (love this stuff!), $2.99 | $1.99 after sale discount
BOGO Aussie or Herbal Essence Product, up to $3.23, PG 8/1
Final price: $0.50 ea (the full price of $2.99 was deducted for the BOGO coupon)

Covergirl Eye Shadow, $2.26 | $1.26 after sale discount
$1/1, PG 8/1
Final price: $0.26 ea

Other coupons:

Starkist Tuna Pouch, $1.00 ea
Buy 2, Get FREE Starkist Creations (sale priced $1.79 this week), RP 06/20
Final price: $2.00/3 or $0.66 ea

Chef Boyardee Ravioli, $1.00 ea
$1.50/4 printable here
Final price: $0.63 ea

Kroger Chicken Breast Tenderloins, $5.50 ($2.49/lb)
$1/$5 or more of Fresh Chicken purchase, Kroger My Magazine mailer
Final price: $4.50 ($1.99/lb)

To see the matchups for this week at Kroger, click here (thanks, Mommy Snacks!).

How'd you do at Kroger (or your Kroger-affiliated grocery store) this week? Link *your* Let's Go Krogering! post or your Kroger matchup post all week and help another reader save some $$!



Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!