Money $aving Tips

Who doesn't want to save money in these troubled financial times?  Savings are out there; you just have to be willing to put in a little time and effort to find it. However, beware! Without some checks and balances, you can be so consumed by these money savings measures, it can take on another life of its own.

My Philosophy of Spending....

Here's my philosophy of spending.  I won't buy something if it is...
a.) not on sale;
b.) cannot be bought with an incentive program credit card (sky miles, cash back);
c.) does not get me cashback (Ebates, etc.). 

The best is when all three happen.

Here's another philosophical tidbit -- I shop from my own cupboards.

This means that I buy things when it's a super great deal -- whether I need it right then or not -- and then store them. This requires a bit of extra money on hand and a determination not to go crazy and buy unecessary items, just because it's cheap.  Remember, it's stuff that we use/need.  Also, I'm talking maybe one or two items. Not a closet-full of soap or a medicine cabinet of Robitussin.  So, when they have the awesome annual toy deals at Amazon around Christmas time or the post-Christmas sale at my local Target, I buy items with the knowledge that I have at least 5 birthdays coming in the next 3 months. I have three spaces devoted to this:
  • Two Banker Boxes in my sons' closet for gifts (some are earmarked for a specific person and some were great deals that I know I'll use somehow.)
  • Two shelves in my Hallway closet for toiletries like tissue, medicine, razors, toothpaste, etc.
  • A metal shelving out in the garage where I store extras of Ramen, cereal, tuna, etc.
This dovetails with my other philosophy of time:  It's precious, so shop smart.

If I can buy two of something at the beginning of the month and avoid a hair-pulling trip to Target for an "emergency" item with my 4 kids, I'm so down with that!

So, where do I find my deals?  One place I look at every morning (and sometimes several times a day) is Slick Deals. People post the best deals here. You can do a specific search or just browse through and see what's out there. You can also sign up for an alert so that if your specific items is posted as a hot deal, you'll receive an email.

My Favorite Ways to Save Money...

1.) Become a "Coupon Queen" by buying a recipe/coupon holder from your local Target (I love Target!) that comes with label stickers for the tabs on the dividers. Make labels as appropriate. Mine are: Household, Cleaning, Kids, Dairy, Meats, Canned, Frozen, Baking, Snacks, and Restaurants. Carry it with you at all times (there's been many times I've found something on sale that I know I have a coupon for...and alas, I forgot my coupon holder!)

2.) Subscribe to your local paper just for the Sunday paper (or pick it up every week if you are able to remember to do so) for a few bucks a month (and less than picking it up at a kiosk).  There are a ton of coupons in there from RedPlum, Smart Source, and in general. Also, a lot of places use the Sunday paper to post their sales, giveaways, etc.  Cut the ones out that you plan to use and then file them into the coupon holder.

3.) Go online and print out coupons that you specify from various sources. Here's a few of my favorites that reset on a regular basis:
You can also sign up for mobile coupons through Target, and if you have an iPhone, they can scan the coupon right off of your phone. Another great coupon site is Cellfire, where you can choose which coupons to download to your local store's savings card.
 4.) Sign up for retailer's "loyalty cards/programs." Most have a loyalty card that lets you either earn "bucks" or discounts. Some just have you sign up via email and they will send you coupons, sales and deals. Fresh n' Easy sends out emails that often have $5+ off your purchase.  My favorite is at , and I go into further detail below when I talk about finding bargains at specific stores. Again, you can use Cellfire to directly put coupons on those loyalty cards.

There are also for reward programs such as Coke's My Rewards, Disney Movie Rewards, Huggies Enjoy the Ride Club. I know some people get freaked out about giving out your email address to so many retailers. However, you can sign up for a subaccount (or another free account) and give out that email address and forward it to the one you check all the time.

5.) Use cashback program. Bing's program was my favorite, but now it's gone. So, I started using Ebates instead. It's easy. When I want to purchase something online, I just log on to Ebates and search for my items through their site. I get the same item at the same price, but the difference is that I earn a cashback percentage on what I spend.

6.) Sign up for daily emails from other bloggers/sites about places/ways to save money. My favorite right now is For the Mommas. Shannon has some great tips. Every day I get one email from her listing all of them and more often than not, I benefit from every single one. Another good one that is similiar is The Frugal Girls. Still another one for freebies is FreeFreebies.

7.) Be observant. I have been known to take a photo of a magazine page that I stumbled across in a waiting room that has a special mail-in offer and email it to myself so that I can print out the necessary info or take necessary action to get the deal.  I also hold on to every coupon I think I might possibly need until it expires, because you truly never know. For example, I have a coupon that expires tomorrow that will give me a $25 gift card to a local drug store for a new or transferred prescription. I took my son to the doctor and guess what I got today: a prescription. Guess where I'm going before tomorrow?  That $25 is mine!

*Update. I just got back and after spending $5 for the prescription, I received the $25 gift card. I had a sheaf of coupons from the drug store, my own coupon holder and a save $5 off your total purchase of $20 or more. Here's what I bought for a grand total of $4.39 (actually, to be fair, I should add in the $5 prescription since it got me the gift $9.39...although I did get $2 in ExtraCare bucks for my next $7.39?).  

These are all items we use on a regular basis and everything I bought was either on sale, clearance or had a coupon with it.  I also now have $2 coupon towards my next purchase, as well as several Box Tops for Education for my daughter's school.

8.) Don't be afraid to respectfully voice your displeasure with a product or service. For example, I had a horrible experience recently at my favorite retailer. I took the time to send a comment in on their website detailing the problem. I received an email back from someone who got more info and guess what I got in the mail?  A $15 gift card as a "loyalty" gift. I'm not saying I complain to get stuff. But more often than not, when you're calm and respectful, retailers want to make it right and keep you a happy, paying customer.

I'm also a big letter writer in these situations. You'd be surprised what taking the time to write a letter or appeal will do. I've had insurance decisions reversed and money paid out that was denied, free items mailed, refunds given.  It never hurts to ask -- if you ask nice (and this is key).

9.) Buy quality when you can afford it. I won't ever buy another serious backpack other than Jansport. This is because like some other companies (RayBan, Faberware Can Openers, Totes Umbrellas, Cutco Knives), they have a Lifetime Guarantee.  We once sent in a backpack that we called "Franken-Backpack" because it was held together by a set of safety pins.  We got a new back pack mailed back to us within two weeks.

10.) Always, always, always save your receipts!  I have a pencil box full of receipts in date order that I keep. This has saved me countless $$ and tears when something I've bought breaks, molds, doesn't fit. Many retailers have strict policies that can leave you either unable to return the item, with an unwanted store credit, or a significant reduction of your purchase price.  I have taken back items that I've had for 3 months, and guess what, the store will still take it back.

11.) Keep your eye out for rebates and in-store "instant coupons." FortheMommas lists most of them. Recently SC Johnson, Swiffer, Proctor & Gamble, have all had rebates going. SC Johnson was as easy as writing down a UPC code and then mailing in a receipt -- and then bam, $5!  The "instant coupons" usually have a sticker on the back or a tag hanging from the spray nozzle. I find these a lot on cleaning products and toiletry items. I usually peel them off and put them with my other coupons. Otherwise, I end up coming home and forgetting to take it off. Although, this is not horrible since many retailers, in particular - Target, will apply a coupon to your receipt if you bring it back in to customer service. I'm there at least once a week anyway, and I've been known to do this.

(Sidenote: beware of the instant coupons stealers -- people who literally take every single one off the Scrubbing Bubbles (you know who you are!) and leave the sticky backing film as proof of their bad behavior!)

12.) Buy items in bulk when you can and separate items out in useable quantities. This is helpful food items: bread, cheese, milk, can freeze almost anything. However, it's also helpful in making your own green cleaning products by using white distilled vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda.

13.) Make sure you sign up with Groupon. You can find some amazing deals there. I especially love Groupon. I've bought several items from them...such as water park tickets at 50% off, $10 worth of bread for $5 at a local bakery, and more. They are in most major cities...and don't forget to check them for other cities out if you are planning travel. Groupon is great too because they reward you with "credit" when someone whom you referred a deal to makes their first purchase.

14.) Sign up for Rewards Cards: We use the United Mileage Plus Visa card. We love to travel, but we don't have a lot of money to do it. However, we can charge our regular purchases, pay them off and still accrue miles to redeem for airline tickets. We ended up accruing enough points recently to get two free roundtrip tickets to Maui for our 10-year anniversary. (And if you don't live near a major airport, being able to choose your small hometown airport is another bonus!)  You can also accrue miles if someone you refer opens a credit card. So, if this post inspires you to open one maybe you'd consider giving me the referral by emailing me and letting me give you my mileage plus number? Oh...and one other bonus is that it's a Signature Visa card which means we get some nice BOGOs to and other places.

14.) Sign up for freebies when you find them....only if it's something you would use or could give to someone else to use. There are little a ton of freebies out there. However, if it's not a product that you see yourself using, then you're just cluttering up your house. is a place where you can subscribe and choose which you want. You can also find them on FB.

15.) Make your credit cards work for you. These days there are enough rewards cards out there to ensure you can choose the card that's right for you. For example, are you a member of Costco?  Their AmEx membership offers cashback on your purchases, with a higher percentage for gasoline purchases. I hesitated to get this card, but with their sign-up bonuses and coupons and then realizing I received $175 cashback my first year, well I was sold. 

16.) Make those internet searches count. Earn Stuff with SwagBucks. I've seen various blogs talk about SwagBucks but I've held off on joining because it seemed more than I wanted to dive into and I really wondered how legit it really was. I finally dove in because SwagBucks offered an additional 50 pts today (regulary you get 30 pts). How it works is that you download their search bar and do your normal web browsing and searching through SwagBucks. They randomly pick people (searches) to give pts to...I just got 7 for searching for "donuts." Plus they frequently put codes in their toolbar or on other places (today it was a the FB page of a upcoming movie) that you can get and enter. Additionally, you can earn points when people (like you) sign up because of your referral and search away. Frugalistas swear by it. So, I'll be waiting to see how long it takes to accrue points...the $10 Starbucks card is 1300 pts. I'm up to 70 pts. I'll keep you posted.

17.) Make sure that in your intention to "save money," you don't end up spending money you don't have.  What's the use of buying 10 soaps if you can only afford one?  And, sure, Macy's might be offering 20% cashback and free shipping, but if you can't afford those new dinner plates, you shouldn't buy them.  Also, with so many rebate deals from various companies (Buy $20 worth of product, get a $10 rebate, etc.) it can be tempting to buy the $20 worth of items, knowing that you are really only spending $10. However, if you don't use that product, then....yada, know the drill!


Tips for Bargain Shopping at Specific Stores

1.) TARGET: I know the most about Target -- since I practically live there. Let me break down all the ways I love Tar-zhay!

- Loyalty Program: As I mentioned, Target offers some pretty great deals in terms of their loyalty programs. They have two ways to earn a 10% discount on your entire purchase. Sign up for either their Target Visa card or Pharmacy Rewards program -- or both. You will get a 10% discount card for signing up for each. Then, every time you charge a certain amount of money (I think it's $500) on the Target credit card, they will mail you the 10% card. It can be used on anything for an entire day. You can use it as many times as you want. This is awesome when you are buying for Christmas, or at the beginning of the month. I will often buy groceries, household items, gifts, any clothing or toiletries I need at this time. That 10% is awesome then...and especially for bigger purchases. The Pharmacy Rewards works the same way. If you charge 10 prescriptions on your Target card, you'll get the 10% discount card. It doesn't matter if they are new or just reoccuring. They all count. In the interest of not racking up credit card debt, I usually only use my Target Visa at Target. I try to pay it off after each purchase. That way, it's a win-win. Another bonus is that you can choose a local school in your area to receive a % of the money you charge. While I shop and save money, my daughters' school benefits!

- End Caps: If you don't know about Target's "end caps," then you're missing out. Along the end of every aisle, there is a display of products. At Target, the "backside" end caps often hold a treasure trove of sale and clearance items. These are the ones that do not point outward towards the main traffic of the store. I've been known to snap up a Black & Decker Tool set for $29...regularly $129. I regularly cruise the end caps just to see what I see. There are bargains galore here.

- Coupon Policy: Target is also an great place to use your coupons because they accept 1 manufacturer's coupon AND 1 Target coupon per item.

- Post-Holiday Clearance: The other awesome thing about Target is their post-holiday clearances. For example, I picked up a fuzzy baskeball Easter egg basket for $.97 that was marked 90% off. They usually start at 50% clearance after the holiday has passed, and then mark it down further every couple of days.

Seasonal Sales
**Shoe sale - I always pay attention around July of every year. This is usually when Target starts clearancing out their summer sandals, tennis shoes, etc to make room for their Back to School, rainboots, etc.  I will often go to Target every couple of days and have been able to get shoes as low as $3.24. I will often go to mulitple Targets and buy shoes to store for my kids for later.

**Sports Gear & Apparel - I pay attention about halfway through T-Ball and Soccer Season. Target will usually start clearancing out their cleats, pants/shorts, socks, etc. around this time. I have been able to get cleats for $6. Shin guards for $4...and buy stuff for the next season.

 **Kids' Clothing - In September/October and March/April, Target will clearance out their summer and winter clothing to make way for the new season. I've been able to get nice short and long-sleeved cotton T-shirts for $1.98.

2.) FRESH n' EASY: Fresh n' Easy has great stuff and great prices. They frequently put things on sale (good sales) and they offer some great coupons if you sign up for their mailing/email list.
- Their Coupons Rock: Their weekly email usually has a place where you can go and print off a $5+ off coupon.  You'll also receive a mailer with coupons and other offers. I have yet to go there without a coupon in hand since they opened here in January.  The downside is that they don't take manufacturer's coupons. However, if you are using their $5 and $10 off coupons, I would guess it would work out to be about the same amount of savings.

- Discounting Fresh Items:  As my friend Camie shared, "they mark down their almost-expired products every morning at 50% off the original price (this is usually done at around 10 a.m. every day). So, go shopping around that time to get first dibs on the discounts. Also, they mark down these same items again at the end of the day (an additional 50% off of the already reduced 50% off). This is usually done at around 9 p.m. every night. So, put the kids to bed and tell your hubby you have a quick errand to run." (You know it, Camie!)

3.) - Kohl's is another place where you can save big if you do it right.

- Kohl's Cash: During select times of the year, they will offer $10 in Kohl's cash for every $50 you spend. It's used like a coupon, rather than cash, but it's still "free money."

- Cardholder Deals: I'm not a big advocate of applying for every department store's credit cards, but this is one of the ones I endorse! They offer so many special sales, deals and coupons that it's worth it. When you combine the extra savings with their online and in-store savings (and Kohl's cash), you can end up with a great combo. I bought a Keurig online before Christmas. The regular price was $129.99. It was on sale, I used a card member discount, got Bing Cashback and some Kohl's cash and got free shipping. Once the dust settled, I paid $83.

4.)  Amazon has some amazing deals, you just have to monitor their website. If you don't have time to check it out every day, you can sign up for their email alerts. They will individualize products they think you'll like based on previous purchases with them.  I once bought two Blu-Ray DVDs on sale for $10 each. Once I received them, I realized that both had offers inside to get a $10 rebate by submitting the receipt. I ended up getting the movies for free. Amazon is great because you don't even have to leave your house. If you spend $25 or more, you can qualify for free shipping as well. I will often buy toys and store them for a few months until my kids' birthdays. The deals are just too good to pass up

 - Deal of the Day - Amazon always has a deal of the day. I am signed up for their daily email so I know what it is -- or I'll usually meander over and check it out. I have been able to score several deals on items that have been on my wish list. I will frequently buy "the perfect gift for the perfect price" for someone and then tuck it away until their birthday or Christmas.

- Music Deals - Amazon is trying to capture some of iTunes music sales and is offering great deals on album downloads for $5. During Christmas, they had 25 Days of Free Music and everyday, they had a free download. They will frequently put up free MP3s or discounted music.

- Toy Deals - Amazon has amazing toy deals after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. I've snapped up

- Amazon Prime - Prime membership allows you to buy whatever you want and pay $0 shipping...without having to spend the $25 minimum. A couple of times a year, they offer a free 30-day trial (usually around Christmas) and I always sign up. The other bonus is that you get expedited shipping. Forgot to get someone a gift?  Need to ship a gift, but it's not $25? Found an awesome deal that you can't pass up?  Amazon Prime is your friend. Just don't forget to make a note to cancel before the trial is up. Otherwise, your account is charged $59!

 - Subscribe & Save - Amazon has great prices on some grocery items as well. You just sign up to have them deliver items either once a month (etc) and they give an additional 15% off...and sometimes more!

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