Thursday, January 31, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #31 - Kids Eat Free

Kid's Eat Free

If you have little ones like me, buying multiple kid's meals, or even one adult entree to split between multiple children can really make a dinner out become even more costly. That is why we have become very familiar with restaurants near us that have special nights where kid's can eat for free.

Just like any promotion there are different rules at each restaurant. There can be age restrictions, such as kid's under 10 or 12. There can be a limit to how many free meals you can get - some are one per adult entree purchased, some are two per adult entrees, some are a limit to how many you can get per check. Of course the free meal also must come from the kid's menu, but some places don't include a drink when it is kid's dine free night. It is also usually only valid for dining in purchases, and during certain hours.

There is a card that you can purchase for the Richmond area that allows you to get one free kid's meal per card, with the purchase of an adult entree. You can purchase it on-line from We actually won a card from the $10 school supply challenge this past summer and found we used it enough to purchase one when it expired. We only get one free meal at the participating restaurants because of the card, but that can still be a savings.

Being able to enjoy a dinner out as a family for less is always nice, but please remember to tip your server based on what your bill would have been if you had paid for the kid's meals. They still had to do the work to take your order and make sure it was prepared the correct way, and make sure that you had plenty of ketchup and napkins to go along with your free kid's meals.

Do you take advantage of kid's eat free nights? Have you purchased or used the kid's dine free card?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Frugal Living Tip # 30 - Consignment

Consignment is something that I have mixed feelings about. I know that there are a lot of people who have great success in finding clothes and accessories at consignment, second hand, or thrift stores. I am not one of them. I have given them lots of chances and tried stores in different areas, but I have difficulty finding things that work for me. I often will find a cute shirt, but then realize it is a few seasons off from my pants and I now have to be extra aware of being modest whenever I sit down or lean over.
I have had some success with children consignment stores, but primarily with items that don't get a lot of use here in Virginia - like snow boots and ski bibs. I have found that a lot of the items are more expensive than what I can find on the clearance rack when I buy ahead for next year at the end of the season.
We are fortunate that the school that our oldest daughter attends has a used uniform store. The store allows us to buy used uniforms pieces that others have donated at a fraction of the cost. (I have learned to understand the higher cost for Lands End items after I have seen the way she wears the used pieces and how well they have held up.)
I also know there are people who take all of their children's outgrown clothes to these places and get cash or store credit to buy new clothes. I personally have not done that either. I find it easier to just take a box of clothes to families that we know who have a child that can use what we have outgrown. I have heard moms say, well I give away whatever the consignment store doesn't buy from me. That is up to you. It makes me smile when I see a little girl that I know wearing a dress that my girls also wore.
I guess the bottom line is that consignment has the same shopping guidelines that anything else I buy. Is it something that I need? Is it in good condition - free of tears at the seams, not missing any buttons, not stained? Can I buy a similar item new on clearance for the same price or even less?
How about you? Do you regularly check out consignment stores? Do you find items that you need? Please share any tips that you have. I would love to hear about buying or selling to consignment stores.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #29 - Swagbucks


When you go on-line do you normally know the URL you are trying to get to, or do you go to a search engine such as google or yahoo in order to find the web address? If you are using a search engine for a lot of the time that you are on-line you may want to look into Swagbucks.

You can earn Swagbucks just from performing on-line searches. You can also earn them from watching videos, taking surveys, and playing games just to name a few. The easist way to earn Swagbucks is to get friends to sign-up under your referral link. That way you both can earn Swagbucks! (By the way - my referral link is throughout this post, so if you click on it and sign-up -Thanks!)

You can then redeem your Swagbucks towards all kinds of prizes. My favorite are the gift cards - they have Paypal and Amazon ones in addition to lots of other retail stores and restaurants. I have read of people who have saved up all of their Swagbucks towards gift cards that they used to purchase Christmas presents.

Have you ever used Swagbucks? If you have, what are your favorite rewards?


Monday, January 28, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #28 - Pampers Gifts to Grow

Pampers Gifts to Grow Program

Gifts to Grow Tag

You may not have a little one still in diapers, but you can still take advantage of Pampers Gift to Grow. The codes are found inside the packaging on most Pampers products. The points associated with the code have to do with the Pampers product that you buy. You will earn more points for diapers than wipes and the larger the package you buy the greater number of points. Pampers will also release temporary bonus codes. These are shared and posted by numerous blogs and deal sites.

So, if you see these codes what can they get you? First, you will need to set-up an account. Then start adding codes, they will give you points. I have done google searches for additional codes. Feel free to browse the rewards section. You can redeem your points towards all kinds of items - baby toys, coupons for products, photo developing, magazine subscriptions, and gift cards.

Have you taken advantage of the Pampers Gifts to Grow program? My favorite reward has been Starbucks gift cards - how about you?


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #27 - Social Media

Social Media

I am going to assume that if you are computer savvy enough to have stumbled on this blog post, then you have heard of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Even if you don't have accounts with them, you have heard of them.

I first discovered Facebook about 6 years ago. I hate to admit it, but I am in my late 30's now. It was pretty happening for me to be on Facebook and not be a college student or a recent grad at the time. I am not going to go off on a tangent and talk about all of the changes that have happened since then, but companies have really taken to Facebook to promote their products. It is not uncommon for there to be some sort of giveaway, or coupon available if you go and "like" their page.

I recently won a $10 Target gift card from "liking", commenting, and sharing a post from's Facebook page. I have also claimed a lot of free samples or coupons for a free product by "liking" a company on Facebook. I got coupons over the summer for free small McCafe beverages by becoming a follower of Richmond McDonald's on Twitter.

I find some of my best deals by "liking" local businesses on Facebook. I can find discounts if I say a certain phrase at check-out, make my purchase at a certain time, or even wear a certain color.

It can get a little bit more complicated when a company asks for permission to view certain information from your Facebook account. I would encourage you to take the moment to make sure you aren't giving away more info than you would feel comfortable sharing with a company on their site. Do you really want them to have access to all 765 of your closest "friends"?

Do you use Facebook or Twitter on a regular basis? Do you have local businesses or companies that you like on Facebook? Do you sign-up for free samples or coupons using Facebook?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #26 - Contacting Manufacturers

Contacting Manufacturers

Is there a product that you love, but you can't find coupons for it? What do you do? Do you only buy it on special occasions? Do you ration it out and make sure you use e.v.e.r.y single drop? Do you put it on your wish list for Christmas and birthdays? Have you ever thought to contact the manufacturer?

Contacting the manufacturer is really easy thanks to the Internet. You can easily find manufacturers' websites from either their packaging or from doing a quick google search. There is usually a contact us button that allows you to share compliments or complaints about their product. Leaving either will generally result in a response from the company and sometimes coupons or samples of their product.

It is possible that you will get a "thank you for your interest in our product" form letter. But, don't be discouraged. By filling out the general information portion on the contact us form you may go into their database. This may lead to you getting special insider offers, or special coupons, or even something for your birthday. LUNA has sent me this same birthday present for the last 2 years!

My Birthday Present from Luna

Have you ever contacted a manufacturer? What types of responses have you received?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #25 - Finding Your Own Coupons

Finding Your Own Coupons

I have mentioned in a previous post about finding deals through blogs, deal sites, and in another post about subscribing to The Grocery Game. But, what if you need to buy a certain item and you want to see if there is a coupon available? Do you have to look through all of your inserts and hope that you will stumble across a coupon for what you are looking for?

The answer is no, you can search a coupon database. There are lots of sites that have coupon databases available. You will find them on lots of blogs and on deal sites. I personally use the one on Hot Coupon World's site. It is one of the first ones I used and the one I have become most familiar with.

The way the databases work are really easy. You just enter a search term - the more generic sometimes the better - and it will tell you if a coupon is available, where to find it in an insert, magazine, or the link to a printable site, the value of the coupon, and the expiration date.

You can also use the database to find your own match-ups. For example, I do the majority of my weekly shopping at Libbie Market. Because they are a small independent grocery store, there isn't a blogger or deal site covering their deals. I just look at their store flyer on-line and look for any coupons that coincide with what is on sale.

Do you look for coupons in a coupon database? Which sites do you use?


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #24 - Shopping the Kroger Mega Sale

Shopping the Kroger Mega Sale

My Shopping List

I mentioned in my last post that I subscribe to The Grocery Game and get a weekly list for Kroger. The biggest reason why I do that is because of the Mega Sales that Kroger offers throughout the year. It is during the Mega Sales that I can stock-up on a lot of my kitchen staples at a fraction of the shelf price.

There are several factors that play in to being successful with saving money during the Kroger Mega Sales. My biggest tip is organization. If you go in there with just an ad and no game plan it is going to be a frustrating and expensive trip. (This can also be true for any grocery shopping trip!)

Here are some ways that I get organized and stay organized before and during my shopping trip:

  1. I select and print my list of deals from the TGG website.
  2. I also check out a great Kroger blog,, she does a great job of filling you in on another deals like Catalina's that are also going on.
  3. I pull out my coupon inserts, print any coupons necessary, and cut everything out.
  4. I figure out how many items I can buy with the coupons I have available.
  5. I make my list (see the picture) - it is usually hand written and broken down into groups of 10 (or however many items I need to buy to get the discount).
  6. I paper clip my coupons to the list and put them all in an envelope, and hit the store.
  7. When I get to the store I know how many groups of 10 I am planning to buy, so I bring in that many reusable shopping bags.
  8. When I am in the store I fill each bag individually with 10 items. When that bag has 10, I start a new bag. This keeps me from having to constantly count the items in my cart and separates any deals that may not be part of the sale.
  9. I always have a few low cost items that we use written on the list to serve as fillers to get me to 10 items in case something is out of stock or they don't have the full quantity that I want.
  10. I double count each bag, my list, and my coupons before I head to the check-out.

I don't normally pull out my coupons while I am shopping. I normally only refer to my list, and then double check everything before I check-out. I do carry an ad with me so that I can verify items if they aren't clearly marked.

I honestly will spend about 2&1/2 hours between printing off the deals, gathering and clipping coupons, making my list, and shopping. If this is your first time trying this method it may take you longer.

How do you organize yourself for special sales like these? Please feel free to share any tips or tricks that you have when shopping.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #23 - The Grocery Game

The Grocery Game

I am going to start off with my disclaimer- I am in no way being paid or receiving any compensation for this post.

With that said there may be many of you who are familiar The Grocery Game (TGG). I am copying a description of what they provide from their site.

The Grocery Game, launched in 2000, is the oldest and largest grocery savings website in the U.S. We provide members with weekly online, all-in-one lists (called Teri's Lists) of tens of thousands of grocery deals at over 150 local grocery and drug stores, coast to coast.

Teri's Lists track more important information than ANY site out there, matching sales with manufacturers' coupons, online printable coupons, coupons found in newspaper inserts and manufacturer coupons that can be sent to store loyalty cards. We are also the only site to track almost impossible to find unadvertised sales as well as sales trends.

The great thing about TGG is that they already have the deals figured out for you. You can choose how you want to view your list, items can be broken down the percentage of saving, or by the color codes based on items that are free, stock-up prices, or just buy what you need prices. I also like that you can remove items you don't shop for like baby or pet items. It really is a matter of just browsing the list, checking off what I want, and then the list tells me where to find the coupons. It gives me links to printable ones and to ones that I need to add to my store card. I already file my weekly inserts so I just have to grab the file, find the insert, and clip what I need.

When there is a promotion that you need to buy certain items, such as Buy 10 save $5, it tells me that it is part of that sale so that I get the right number. It also keeps me aware of the requirements for the coupon. If the coupon is a save $1 off 2, TGG tells me to buy 2 items.

The one downfall is that the site is not great at posting or sharing other promotions that manufacturers may have, such as Catalina deals when you buy certain products.

There is a fee for subscribing to TGG - it is $10 for the first store and $5 for each additional every 8 weeks. Personally, I tried every store in my area during the free trial period, then decided to only keep Kroger. I figure that it has easily allowed me to save more than an additional $10 every 8 weeks.

I have found that TGG can really help people that are first learning how to coupon because it makes it easy to see what is a good deal and where to find the coupons. If you haven't tried it out before, look into subscribing for a 4 week free trial. (Just make sure to make a note of when it ends so you don't get charged if you don't want to keep it, or all of the stores you signed up for.). If you would like to help me get some "free weeks" leave a comment with you e-mail address and I will give you mine for a referral credit. Don't worry all comments left here go to me to approve before posting, so it won't be made public. :)

Have any of you tried or currently use TGG? How do yo feel it compares to other free sites such as blogs and deal sites?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #22 - Discovering the Deals

Discovering The Deals

So, you may have bought a few Sunday papers by now and glanced at the weekly ads, but you haven't figured out how to get the big savings. Here is the good news - there are lots of people who already do that and you can find the information on-line for free!

There are lots of free resources to find sales. It really just involves you performing a Google search. If you find a site that you like, bookmark it or become a "follower" or "subscriber". Some words that I would suggest for your search are "coupon", "match-up", "sale", the name of the specific store you are planning to shop at, and the time frame of the store's ad. Most ads either run Sunday-Saturday or Wednesday-Tuesday.

I have a few blogs that I like to check out. When I was still shopping at Martin's I would look at For The Mommas, she is in Pennsylvania so she shops at Martin's sister store, Giant. Another great site that you can check out is Money Saving Mom - she has a section that she gets contributors from all over the country to submit their local store deals. Tiffany is a blogger in Richmond who posts match-ups for Martin's and Kroger at Young and Frugal in Virginia!. If you just want a heads up on the best grocery deals in Richmond check out the weekly post that Alison, of Richmond Bargains, post every Wednesday to RVA deals on the RVA news site.

There is also the option of joining (for free) couponing sites such as Hot Coupon World, We Use Coupons, or A Full Cup. They have forums that are broken down by store and people will discuss deals that they found, help you figure out a game plan, and post previews of the weekly store ads.

The great thing about any of these resources is they tell you what is on sale and what coupons to use in order to get the best price. When I first started couponing more seriously a few years ago I appreciated learning from the forums and bloggers what was a good price on an item and the sales cycles.

There is a little bit of lingo that you may want to learn so you can understand what they are talking about. I am leaving you with this link to a page from Hot Coupon World - Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Coupon Terms.

Do you have a favorite blog or deal site that you like to check out? Please feel free to share a link!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #21 - Manager Markdowns

Manager Markdowns

One of my favorite places to find deals on groceries is to look for manager markdowns. They can be a great savings on meats, produce, or bakery items. My mother-in-law was one of the first people to tell me about what she called "thrift aisle" at Ukrop's. I remember her telling me about getting up early to be outside of Ukrop's before they opened on Monday mornings at 7AM to see what was on thrift from the weekend. (For those of you not from Richmond, Ukrop's was a Richmond-based grocery chain that was family run and closed on Sundays.)

These items are generally a day or two away from their sell-by or best before dates. Sometimes the department got a new delivery and needs to get rid of the older product. It could also be that the box got crushed, or the can dented.

I obviously use common sense and my same criteria for buying something on thrift that I use with the rest of my shopping. I look to make sure the product is still usable - not stale, molded, or just looks generally "off". I evaluate if it is something that we will eat, can use in the next day or so, or if I am able to freeze it. I also keep my target prices in mind, just because it is markdown doesn't mean it is the best price.

It is important to keep in mind what your budget is for that trip, or week, or month. If it isn't something that you need, or can use, regardless of the deal don't buy it.

Do you regularly check out the manager markdowns?


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #20 - Rebate Checks

Rebate Checks

My Prepaid Rebate Card

I mentioned prepaid rebate gift cards very briefly in my last post. It was coincidental that as I was getting ready to begin this post, I received a $15 prepaid gift card as a rebate from Proctor & Gamble in the mail.

Rebates are not anything new, but they are another way to increase your savings. They require a little bit of work and you have to make sure that you follow all of the instructions and guidelines on the rebate form and the fine print at the bottom of the form.

This is another case where organization helps. I try to paper clip the receipts to the paperwork in the event I don't have all of the requirements needed or time to fill it out immediately. I also try to clip any UPC's that are required before I put the items away from my shopping trip. I used to make copies of all of my receipts and forms. I generally only do this on higher value rebates like $10 or higher.

Rebates are becoming easier to submit via the Internet. Staples is a great example of easily submitting rebates on-line using codes that print out on your receipt. I was able to do this recently also with a Starbucks coffee purchase. I just had to submit pictures, that we took with a cell phone, of the receipt. It can still take 4-6 weeks for these electronic ones to be processed and to receive your check, but not having to pay postage is another savings!

Do you submit rebates on a regular basis? Do you have any tips for keeping everything together?


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #19 - Gift Card Promotions

Gift Card Promotions

I am sure you have seen the store sales flyer that advertises if you buy a certain number of a select item or group of items you will get a gift card for a certain amount. I have seen these in numerous places, sometimes it means that you still have to fill out a rebate form and mail it in for a prepaid credit card. My favorite ones though are the ones that Target offers.

The Target ones are usually rather straight forward and the great thing is they are available to use immediately after the transaction is complete. I have bought just the select items in one transaction and then loaded the rest of my purchases on the counter to use the gift card and get the savings in my second transaction. I sometimes hold onto them if they are a lower amount like, $5, and will use it to fulfill the promise of a snack on our way out to my kids for being good while we were shopping. I also hold onto them to redeem on a future gift card offer. The great thing about the gift cards is that they don't expire!

I know someone is reading this and shaking their head wondering how on earth is buying stuff to get a gift card frugal? Well, you are right. If you are buying something that you don't need it is not frugal. Target often combines gift cards to buying multiple packs of diapers, toilet paper, or Starbucks coffee beans---Things that I buy on a regular basis and can combine with manufacturer and sometimes store coupons to get a really good deal. When I factor in the additional savings that I am getting back in the form of a gift card it can make the deal even better. Yes, it can be seen as "bait" to get me back into the store. But to be honest, I was going to come back anyway - with or without the gift card.

It is important to check the policy or read the fine print at other stores when they have this type of offer. I remember several years ago having my plan fail when I went Christmas shopping at Toys R Us with a coupon for a gift card if I spent a certain amount. I knew I was going to be buying that much and was excited to get a little bit back, only to realize that the gift card that I was getting was not going to be activated until 6 hours after my purchase - forcing me to come back and use it. I still saw the gift card as a savings, like I said I already knew I was going to be spending that amount. I didn't add extra things to my cart to make me hit the target. I just had to be strategic about when to come back and what to buy the next time.

I have also used $5 Target gift cards that I didn't immediately redeem to give out to homeless people on the street. I figure it allows them to maybe get some small toiletries or if nothing else get some food at the snack bar.

Do you utilize gift card offers? Do you normally hold onto the gift card or do you redeem it right away?

Please feel free to share any tips that you have!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #18 - Understanding Store Policies

Understanding Store Policies

Not knowing the store policies can cost you extra money. It can be things like a limit in how many days following the purchase you have to return an item, their coupon policy, or what items are included in a sale.

One thing I learned as a child shopping with my mom is always ask if an item can be returned. But, even if it can be returned it is important to know if there are any exceptions in when or where an item can be returned. There can be different time frames on different items. Some stores are starting to print on their receipts how long the receipt is valid for returns and that is making it easier for them and us. Purchases that include electronics or video games usually have a short window of opportunity and generally have to be in the original unopened package. I recently saw a sign in a store that clearance items with a certain percentage off or higher had to be returned within 3 days. It is also important to make sure that if you are buying an item from a store with multiple locations that you can return it to a different location.

Not knowing that there is a limit to how many coupons a store accepts, will allow to double, or will combine with other offers can also cause your savings to diminish. It is also a huge time and frustration saver to know whether or not they will accept printable coupons and if their is a limit on the amount of the coupon. I have not found a store in the Richmond area that will accept a coupon printed from my computer that has the word free in it. That means wording such as "buy 1 get 1 free" or just a free item up to a certain dollar amount.

The other thing I have had happen to me is that I have a coupon, or see advertised a sale and select a few things to purchase, only to get to the register and have a higher total than anticipated. It is usually then that I discover the item is not part of the sale or covered by the coupon. It could be because the item is already on sale and the coupon is for regularly priced merchandise only. It could be that the item is one of the gazillion exclusions that I thought I read, but somehow overlooked in the fine print at the bottom of the coupon. It could also just be that it had been put in the wrong place by someone.

My best advice is to actually go to the store website and look for their coupon policy, if possible print it and take it with you. I have discovered that cashiers do not always understand coupons. Having the policy with you can help you out. Remember that if you think you are using the coupons correctly and the cashier refuses to accept it you can always ask to talk with a manager or finish your transaction and then take the items in question over to a customer service desk.

Please feel free to share any tips or personal stories!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #17 - Understanding Types of Coupons

Understanding Types of Coupons

You may have realized that next to the expiration date on most coupons is the phrase "manufacturer coupon". This of course means that the coupon was released by the company that makes that particular product.

The other thing you may notice on manufacturer coupons is the phrase "Do Not Double". This is really only a concern if you shop at a store that doubles manufacturer coupons.

You can load coupons to your store loyalty cards. I know that I have received e-mails from both Kroger and Martin's with special coupons for our household. Make sure you have registred your card with each store to get these offers. These coupons have been for both store brand and brand name items. The Kroger site allows you to add lots of manufacturer coupons to your card. These coupons will not double like some manufacturer ones will in my area. You also cannot use these with a manufacturer coupon unless you are buying more than the electronic coupon covers.

You may have also noticed that there are a few coupons that say "store coupon" and then have the store name and logo on the coupon. Target store coupons say "Target Coupon". In case you are wondering where you can find the store coupons. Target coupons are occasionally in the Sunday paper, but they always have them available on their site. Walgreens has their store coupons at the front of the store in the monthly coupon booklets. CVS has a machine that prints coupons at the front of the store when you scan your CVS card.

What you may not realize is that you can "stack" manufacturer coupons and store coupons. Target, Walgreens, and CVS are the stores that I have been able to do this. This can be a big savings!

Please feel free to add any information I may have missed or contact me with any questions.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #16 - Buy Generic Holiday & Seasonal Items

Buy Generic Holiday and Seasonal Items

My All Occasion Gift Bags

If you read tip #15, you may think I am referring to store brand items again. That is not at all what I mean.

What I mean is buying items that can work for more than one occasion. This can mean buying things like wrapping paper and gift bags in solid colors or patterns that can work for more than just birthdays or showers. Buying decorations that can extend past the holiday and represent the season, like pumpkins and fallen leaves in the fall, and snowmen in the winter as opposed to more specific Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations like black cats, turkeys and Santa Claus.

You can even use this idea for party or shower decorations. Instead of buying everything within a theme, focus on a color that coordinates with it and just get a few of the themed items - or better yet use what you have available. Items like teddy bears, trucks, trains, dolls, books, or blocks for a baby shower or candles and flowers for a bridal shower. Let the food be part of the decorations. Curly lettuce can make a plain serving platter look more colorful and attractive.

You may even want to look for notecards that you can add to a gift instead of buying a specific card. You can also use these for thank you notes, or just a note to let someone know you are thinking about them.

When you have generic items available it can save you money and a trip to the store.

Do you have any ways that you use generic themed items?


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #15 - Buy Generic

Buy Generic -Store Brands

As a pharmacist I am always encouraging my patients to buy the generic equivalent of what they needed. This is true of over the counter medications and prescription drugs. There were always a few exceptions, and I won't go into those, but generally speaking store brand ibuprofen is a huge cost savings compared to brand name Advil.

This is true of lots of items in the grocery store. I haven't found coupons in years for a good deal on canned beans or tomato sauce for taco or chili nights. I have learned to wait until I see a good sale or an in-store deal. The store brands will follow the sales cycles that I mentioned a few post back.

Although I have been satisfied with the majority of my store brand purchases, the big one that I haven't been happy with is paper products, like toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues.

How about you, do you buy store brands? Are there some products that you will only buy the brand name?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #14 - Wait To Buy

Waiting to Buy: Avoiding Impulse Shopping

I have talked about understanding sales cycles and buying this season's clearance for next year. Avoiding impulse shopping falls in the same category.

My husband, Steve, and I are both big research before we buy people when it comes to a high dollar purchase. We always check consumer reports and any reviews along with shopping around for the best price. The jeweler who sold Steve my engagement ring commented every time we stopped in to get it cleaned and inspected, that he had never had a customer who had done as much research as Steve. I like to think that reflects highly on him choosing me. :)

I realized recently that this concept needs to applied more diligently to our everyday lives. I enjoy being able to go through the Starbucks drive-thru for a pick me up when I am out in the afternoon, but spending $3 on a cup of coffee is far from a frugal idea. For the record, I don't do this daily but at least 2-3 times a week, and that can add up significantly. If I can forgo the instant gratification of hitting the drive-thru and wait a few minutes and make my own cup of coffee at home it can be a savings of $6 -$9 a week, which leads to a $24-$36 savings a month, and $288-$432 savings a year!

Starbucks may not be your weakness, but perhaps adding miscellaneous items to your grocery cart that aren't on sale or needed for your weekly menu plan is. Buying an item from the clearance rack may save you some money from the original price, but if it isn't something that you really need or have a definite use for, it is not a savings. I know that I have personally found lots of "deals" that I ended up not using and then placing them in a goodwill or yard sale pile.

The bottom line is if it isn't on your list or something that you have been looking for then buying it - even on sale - isn't a savings. Especially if it ends up being clutter or something that you have to end up giving away.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #13 - Menu Planning

Menu Planning

My very first tip was get organized. Menu planning requires some organization, but is a great way to help you save both money and time.

Menu planning is a great way to take advantage of what you already have on hand in addition to weekly store sales. When you have a plan for what you have on hand, you have less waste and save money.

I was surprised at how much easier my day seemed to go when I didn't have the what is for dinner question in the back of my mind all day long.

Meal planning is not intended to be something that causes you more stress so do what works for you. I generally plan for a leftover night and a dinner out once a week. Having meals or portions of meals already prepped and in my freezer also helps to make menu planning easy to do.

Here is an example of my weekly menu plan: (the dinner leftovers were planned for lunches this week)

  • Sunday- Chicken Tortilla Soup (made extra and froze it for another night)
  • Monday- Cheese Tortellini with peas and bacon crumbles
  • Tuesday- Hawaiian Chicken (a meal from the freezer that cooks in the slow cooker) with noodles and steamed veggies
  • Wednesday- Community Group - I am bringing Mac & Cheese for the kids
  • Thursday- Taco Night
  • Friday- Pancakes, Eggs, & Bacon with applesauce and fruit
  • Saturday- Dinner Out

Do you menu plan? Please feel free to share any tips for how you plan and a favorite meal.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #12 - Freezer Cooking

Freezer Cooking

Meals Ready For The Freezer

I know the name may imply it, but freezer cooking does not mean that you are cooking your dinner in the freezer. What it does mean, if you are not familiar with the idea, is that you spend a little bit of extra time cooking extra and prepping items in advance and then putting them in the freezer for a future meal.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love freezer cooking. It has saved us from take-out or delivery so many times. It has also allowed me to help out others when they are sick, had a new baby, or just to bless them when they have a lot going on. My favorite thing is that I make a big mess all at once and have less to clean-up on the other nights.

There are several different ways to freezer cook. Some people like to take an entire day and make enough meals to last entire month. Personally I like to take advantage of deals when I find them and prep and freeze the items. I always have ground beef and boneless skinless chicken breast frozen in meal sized portions (for us that is about one pound). When I find these items at my stock-up price I buy about 10-15 pounds at one time. I will clean-up the chicken and cut some of it into bite size pieces and strips so that it can easily be added to a soup or stir-fry.

You can make freezer cooking work for you based on what your family eats on a regular basis. I like to put several pounds of chicken in my slow cooker with barbecue sauce then shred it, and place it in several quart sized freezer bags. This allows us to have barbecue chicken sandwiches for a quick meal on a busy night or for a Saturday lunch. You can start off slow by just browning twice as much ground beef one night and freeze half. That is what I love about freezer cooking, it allows me to take advantage of a day when I have extra time and save myself some sanity on a day when I don't have extra time.

Do you utilize freezer cooking? Please feel free to share a favorite recipe or tip.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #10 - Understanding Sales Cycles

Sales Cycles

You may already be familiar with the concept of a sale cycle. It essentially means that there is a week or two out of each quarter for the store that an item is going to be at it's absolute lowest price. There are always exceptions to every rule, and in this case you may see highly competitive items like sodas and cereal hit this rock bottom price more than once a quarter.

If you use coupons this is a way to get great savings and sometimes free items. If you don't use coupons that is ok. This concept can be applied to non-grocery items and also relates to frugal living tip #7. Sales cycles are not only based on quarterly sales in the store, they are also based on seasonal demands. Think about it, fresh produce is always at it's lowest price during the months that it is harvested.

I wrote this post back in November 2010 that breaks down what months things tend to go on sale. I hope it helps you.

Feel free to ask any questions.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #9 - Bring Your Own Bags

Bring Your Own Shopping Bags


Bringing your own shopping bags is not only environmentally friendly, it can also be friendly to your wallet. Several stores will give you a discount if you bring your own shopping bags to the store. It is generally a discount of $0.05 for each bag that you are able to use for your purchases. If you are not interested in the small savings, there are several stores that give you the option to donate your savings to a local charity. CVS has a tag you can attach to your reusable bag and have the cashier scan, after four scans you earn a $1 ExtraBuck.

For those of you that have trouble remembering to bring your bags into the store write it at the top of your shopping list, or place your shopping list in the bag before you leave the house. Those are two things that work for me.

Do you have any tips for remembering to bring your own bags?


Monday, January 7, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #7 - Buy Now For Next Year

Buy Now For Next Year

Costumes for Halloween 2013

This past week has been a great time to look for items like gift tags, ribbons, and wrapping paper to use for next Christmas.

In the next few weeks stores will start bringing out clothes for Spring and Summer. That means they need to start clearing floor space and reducing fall and winter items. I have been able to get some great deals on kids clothes this way. It also helps that my kids aren't growing as fast now.

This concept can work for anything - I buy Valentine's plates and napkins after Valentine's Day and then I have them the next year for school parties. I bought all of my kids Halloween 2013 costumes at Target for 50-75% off after Halloween 2012.

Buying ahead is a great way to save money, but like I mentioned in frugal living tip #1, you have to be organized. If you don't remember that you bought it, or where you stored it, it isn't a savings. I keep items like Valentine's Day plates, napkins, and stickers to make this year's valentines in a tub. I keep the Halloween costumes hanging in a closet in the guest room. I pack any holiday items up with the holiday decorations and they go to the attic.

I want to leave you with this final thought - you aren't saving money if it is something that you don't have a real use for or a place to store it neatly until you can use it. That makes it a waste of valuable space and a future garage sale/donation item.

Do you have any items that you always wait for the end of the season? Do you have a special way of keeping them straight and remembering what you bought?


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #6 - Shop From Bulk Bins

Shop From Bulk Bins

Photo credit Simply Shari's

Have you ever paid attention to the per pound price for items that you purchase? You may be able to save money by shopping from the bulk bins. I have found the bulk bins to be a great place to save money on items like nuts, dried fruit, grains, and spices. It is also great if you only need a small amount of an item or want to try out something new and don't want to buy an entire package.



I first discovered the bulk bin savings about 12 years ago when I was making a a dish of poppy seed chicken for about 50 people. The recipe (when changed from 6 servings to 50 servings) required close to 1 cup of poppy seeds. I was floored when I was in the grocery store and realized how much it was going to cost to buy enough in the little bottles found in the spice aisle. I ended up at Ellwood Thompson and found it in the bulk bins for a fraction of the price. I can't remember how much I ended up paying, but I remember it being a dramatic savings!

Do you normally shop from the bulk bins and if so what do you buy?


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #5 - Don't Buy It - Make Your Own

Don't Buy It - Make Your Own

I know that some of us are better gifted in this area than others. I have tried to make clothes before, but after the time, frustration, and my poor sewing skills I realized that it was better to buy them when I could find a good deal (like on the clearance rack).

I have discovered that for us I can save money by making things like my own chicken broth. It is super easy to make, it uses items that I have on hand, and best of all I know exactly what is in my chicken broth as opposed to reading a list of ingredients on the side of a box. The same goes with baked goods, and nothing beats a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven!

Homemade gifts are also well received. I enjoy sharing the jams, applesauce, and applebutter that we make throughout the year with friends and family. I figured out how to make a nursing cover when my youngest was born. I have used the same pattern and made several to give to friends. I have fun finding the fabric that fits them and their personality, and it is a fraction of the price compared to buying one in a store.

What are some of your favorite homemade items? I would love to hear what some of you are making instead of buying.


Frugal Living Tip #5 - Don't Buy It - Make Your Own

Don't Buy It - Make Your Own

I know that some of us are better gifted in this area than others.  I have tried to make clothes before, but after the time, frustration, and my poor sewing skills I realized that it was better to buy them when I could find a good deal (like on the clearance rack). 

I have discovered that for us I can save money by making things like my own chicken broth.  It is super easy to make, it uses items that I have on hand, and best of all I know exactly what is in my chicken broth as opposed to reading a list of ingredients on the side of a box.  The same goes with baked goods, and nothing beats a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven!

Homemade gifts are also well received.  I enjoy sharing the jams, applesauce, and applebutter that we make throughout the year with friends and family.  I figured out how to make a nursing cover when my youngest was born.  I have used the same pattern and made several to give to friends.  I have fun finding the fabric that fits them and their personality, and it is a fraction of the price compared to buying one in a store.

What are some of your favorite homemade items?  I would love to hear what some of you are making instead of buying.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #4 - Birthday Freebies

Birthday Freebies

We have all been in a restaurant and seen a group of servers circle around a guest and sing "Happy Birthday" and leave behind a free dessert.  It is my birthday this week and I have been overwhelmed with the amount of freebies and discounts in my e-mail.  I have free entrees at Moe's, Qdoba, Noodles, and Mimi's just to name a few.  Free desserts at several restaurants, a $10 discount at Maggiano's, free coffee at Starbucks, a free scoop at Baskin-Robbins, a free doughnut and small coffee at Krispy Kreme, the list goes on and on. I think the ones that surprised me the most were the coupon for $10 off $50 at OfficeMax and $0.50 off Driscoll's berries. 

I have found that it is impossible to redeem so many offers at once, and they vary from good for only two weeks to the entire month of your birthday.   I can only imagine how much weight I would gain if I really did redeem all of those offers!   Because my birthday is so close to the holidays I am done with eating by the time it rolls around.  I have started using other special dates in place of my actual birthday to receive discounts other times of the year.  For example, Steve and I like to go out for a nice dinner around the date that we got engaged.  I have started to use that date as a birthday so that we can pick a nice restaurant and save some money as well.   

Do you have a favorite birthday freebie? 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #3 -Take Exit Surveys

Take exit surveys
I know you have seen them - the survey to call or go on-line at the bottom of your receipt when you make a purchase.  It usually only takes a few minutes to answer the questions about your experience and it can be a great savings.  I know that I have seen these at stores and restaurants.
Some surveys put you in a random drawing for a monthly prize like at Target and JCPenney. I honestly haven't won anything when I take the time to answer the survey, but it does help to give them feedback to improve future shopping experiences.
I personally like the surveys that offer you a savings on your next visit.  It can be a free appetizer at a restaurant or a dollar savings on your next store purchase.  I got a survey on my receipt when I shopped at Bath & Body Works on Black Friday.  When I completed it it gave me a code that was good for $10 off a $30 purchase.  I combined it with their after Christmas sale and got a great assortment for $20 instead of $30 (that would have been ~$80 if I paid the sticker price!).  They will make great items to add to a goodie bag or year-end teacher gift.
Have you gotten any great perks from filling out an exit survey?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #2 - Get A Sunday Paper

Get a Sunday Paper
If you want to save money with coupons you need to consider buying a Sunday paper.  I understand that you may not want to eat highly processed meals or sugary snacks and that is what a lot of people associate with Sunday paper coupons  The Sunday paper is full of coupons for healthy staples items like dairy products, whole grain bread, frozen vegetables, rice, and pasta.  There are also coupons for items like deodorant, shampoo, body wash, feminine products, diapers, wipes, an pet food.  The majority of manufacturer coupons come in the Sunday paper.  Yes, you can get coupons from printable sources such as, but to get a large collection of coupons the Sunday paper is a great source.  It also allows you to get as many coupons as you want without having to change computers to get multiple coupons.  I realize that purchasing multiple Sunday papers may not be in your budget.  Here are some ideas to help you get a paper for less and possibly obtain multiple copies.
  • Get a Sunday only subscription (that way the coupons come to you)
  • Ask a neighbor or family member for their coupon inserts
  • Check the recycling bins in the library
  • Check the bins at the local recycling drop off (I honestly haven't done this, but I know people do)
  • See if you can coupon swap with others (perhaps baby coupons for pet food coupons)
  • Look for stores selling the paper for less than the newsstand price.  In Richmond Walgreens periodically sells the Sunday paper for $1.25 each (it is usually $2!)
  • Redeem rewards you earn at stores towards your paper purchases - such as Walgreens Register Rewards or CVS ExtraBucks
  • If you routinely buy your groceries at a store that offers a discount on fuel (such as Kroger or MARTIN'S) the extra money you spend on newspapers can help you hit the next fuel discount.
These are just some of my ideas. I would love to hear any tips that any of you have on how to get the Sunday paper for a reduced cost.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Frugal Living Tip #1 - Get Organized

Get Organized

It is difficult to save money or time if you are not organized.  We all have our extremes in how organized or unorganized our lives are.  If you are like me you may make wonderful strides in organizing some areas of your life, but fail miserably in other areas.  I have realized over the years that not knowing that I already have something ends up costing me more money (and time and frustration!) when I can't find it or remember that I already bought it.  

If you are determined to make couponing work for you this year getting organized and finding the coupon organization system that works for you is the key to being successful.  If you can't find your coupons then you can't use them and if you have to sort through piles of unorganized inserts you will be less likely to clip the coupon you just read about on a deal blog.  If you would like more info on organizing your coupons here is a link to a post I wrote about a year and a half ago about different methods and how I organize my coupons.

~ Ann

I'm back for 2013

I took a bit of a hiatus the last few months.  It has been a time of refocusing for our family.  We have had several changes.  

The biggest change has probably been that after being actively involved with several different areas in our church we felt God telling us it was time for us to step away.   We listened, although questioning, and have found new friends for all of us and a new body of believers that we enjoy getting to know better and worshipping with on Sunday mornings and during the week.

We have been able to continue to build relationships with other families in our neighborhood.  We have had several get-togethers with other families of preschoolers. On Halloween we set up a Halloween Hangout for all of our neighbors in our driveway.  We had a wheel for the kids to spin for prizes, along with hot dogs, chips, and lots of sweets.  

I have also changed where I am grocery shopping.  I was becoming more and more frustrated when I shopped at MARTIN'S and was going to start shopping at Kroger when a new independent grocery store opened near us - Libbie Market at Ridgefield.  It is owned by former Ukrop's employees and a majority of the staff are former Ukrop's employees.  The prices are also fairly reasonable.

So, I have decided to revive my blog for 2013 with a different concept.  I am going to have a post everyday (or at least try to).  I hope to have a daily post about a frugal living tip.  It may be how to save money, ways to make do with what you have, or new ways to get discounts.  These may not be all new tips to you, but hopefully what seems like an everyday thing to you will really help someone else.

I look forward to sharing these tips with you and having you, my readers, share feedback about the tips and any tips that you have for saving money, time, or just your sanity.