Tag Archives: coupons

Unexpected Savings And Deals

I am sort of “in the middle” when it comes to saving my latte money (i.e. couponing/frugality/small savings ). When I read money-saving blogs, I’m equally amazed and a bit confused about the lengths that people go to for free/cheap drugstore goods — multiple transactions, rolling over rewards, coupon tricks, stockpiling etc…  At the same time, I do periodically try to snag deals at drugstores using a combination of manufacturer and store coupons AND sometimes it does take a lot of time/effort.

While I do think that saving big is more important in your overall financial health — learn to negotiate, improve job skills, get a better paying job, invest wisely, don’t buy more house than you can afford, etc.. — sometimes I do have the time and energy to work in small savings.  I still make beginner “mistakes” and forget prices but I thought I write down some recent small savings and see if it makes any difference.

$20 gift card – Olay Rebate with $50 purchase of products, all of which I got on sale at pretty good prices.

$10 gift card – for signing up for online bill payment

$50 cash – for signing up for a savings account. While I don’t recommend opening and closing multiple accounts, this one did not have many restrictions.

$4 in Rite Aid register rewards – I used $2 rewards plus a $1 manufacturer coupon to get a “free” bottle of shampoo.

$6 cash – free meal at Panda Express for buying a $25 gift card.   Panda Express never satisfies my craving for real Chinese food but I know I’ll end up using the gift card.

$20 in Target gift cards – for spending $50 at Target.  I got this deal twice.  In the first transaction, I had to buy a couple of kid toys and spent $61.  In the second transaction (another visit), I bought a large bag of dog food and 2 other items, spending $55 total.   I try to get good deals and stick to my shopping list rather than buy enough just to make the $50 requirement for the gift card.

$15 Ebates check – If you shop online, it’s worth signing up for Ebates or similar service. I don’t know how Ebates makes money but if you go to the ebates website first, then click through to an online retailer, they give you cash back quarterly just for making your usual purchases.

$7 cash – for signing up with the Fresh & Easy Friends loyalty card. I haven’t redeemed it yet but it should be pretty straightforward

$10 gift card – for watching a health care video.

$142 Total. 

Plus, “Bonus” unexpected savings that didn’t give me cash but helped the bottom line:

$25 savings – Found an obscure code on some tech forum that worked and got 1-year of McAfee at an amazingly low price; Previous year I got the entire year free with a little-advertised Bank of America customer promotion.

$12 (value) – one year free subscription to Whole Living magazine for Harry & David purchase.

$17 free haircut – at Supercuts.  You have to get 10 cuts to get 1 free.

$4 in free food  – Many businesses have survey information printed on the end of their receipts. It’s quick to fill out and you get small perks or a chance to win major money.  Plus, it’s your chance to give valuable feedback that actually does get taken into consideration for a store location’s employees.

Lesson learned: Little savings do add up.  However, I find the drugstore game tactics to be more of a headache than even rebates!

All of the above “little savings” is probably my subconscious way to avoid calling my phone company. I need to do that pronto and re-negotiate my rate (again).

Finally, as a reminder to everyone who hates to negotiate, all those little savings also do not compare at all to my recent negotiations at work that resulted in a nice bonus. 

How far do you go to save money?

June 15: Simple Living Guide to Drugstore Deals

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

If you truly value your time, couponing and playing the drugstore game is not for you.  Some people say it only takes a few minutes to clip coupons and scour drugstore ads for the best deals but it can really add up.  To effectively save, you need to scour the weekly ads, try to take advantage of the best sales and keep track of your drugstore rewards (CVS Extra Bucks, Rite Aid UP Rewards, etc..).  I’ll start with my best “simple living” tips for those who really don’t want to spend time clipping coupons but want/need to save money:

  1. Go generic. Unless you have very good coupons, generics are generally cheaper.  From my experience, there is a wide range of good, generic products out there.  While I tend to be more brand-loyal on foods and toothpaste,  I’ve gotten generic paper towels, diapers, hand sanitizers, OTC medications, hand soap, etc..  Among generics there are variations in quality.  I like Target generics for household goods and I found a few good generic food items from Vons and Fresh & Easy. 
  2. Try Amazon.com / Subscribe & Save.  Amazon has a great program called Amazon Mom that offers great deals plus free shipping on diapers, wipes and other baby products.  Membership costs $79/year but is free for the first three months and then up to one year if you make qualifying purchases, not difficult to do if kids are going through diapers and wipes.  Even if you don’t have kids, check out their “Subscribe & Save” items.  Deals are not always the best but I’ve a bundle on imported coffee, Brita water filters and assorted household items. UPDATE: Amazon Mom changed their program in late 2011/2012 and now the deals are not so great.
  3. Buy household goods, cleaning supplies, lotions and cosmetics at Walmart, Target or Costco.  Unless there is a sale plus coupons, you’ll generally get better prices at these stores than at supermarkets or the drug stores.

Now if you are determined to get free toothpaste and want to use your time for couponing, here are some tips. I’m not the best at couponing because I don’t roll over my rewards over and over and I don’t want to hoard items but I have learned a thing or two over the years:

  1. Go to couponing websites like Couponmom.com instead of looking through individual store’s weekly ads. It’s easier to check out deals this way and you can search for a specific item.
  2. Use online coupons. There are a lot of reputable sites  for downloading and printing coupons even if you don’t get the Sunday papers. Plus on Couponmom.com, they list print-able coupons next to the sale items, making things even easier.
  3. Stick to one drugstore for rewards.  For a time, I tried going to CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid but now I generally stick to Rite Aid because it’s conveniently located near my house and work.  It’s easier to accumulate reward points at one store and not have to track deals.
  4. Bring ads to Walmart; They match prices.  Rather than run to a drugstore for an advertised sale item that is often out of stock, bring that ad to Walmart.  They will match the sale price and you don’t have to waste time/gas driving.

Plus, a last word on drugstore “etiquette”: Try not to clear the shelves of advertised sale items.  There’s nothing illegal about it but it’s really unfair to other shoppers. Even if you give it away to friends & family, it’s not fair to those who do take the time to seek out deals.   

Is couponing and the “drugstore game” the antithesis of simple living?  If you do play the drugstore game and have additional tips, please share! 

Simple Joys Are Not Enough

I have been cataloguing simple joys that make me happy, or at least happier, like daily yoga, eating well at home, early mornings, a husband’s gift and a nicer backyard.  However, all those little things are just not enough when you go through life’s inevitable crisis.  At least they don’t seem enough at this moment.  I wish I could be one of those people who truly only need the simpler things in life.  Right now, I want anything by Missoni, a Foley + Corinna handbag, a J. Crew cashmere sweater, plane tickets to Barcelona and lots of STUFF.  STUFF that show others (and myself) that all my hard work is worth it, that I have extra money to spend on frivolous things and don’t have to worry about bills and cut coupons.

Update: I went shopping but ended up buying nothing.  I didn’t want to buy just for the sake of buying.  Even the J. Crew online sale did not entice me.  After some thought, I guess I realized again that shopping isn’t a solution.