Friday, August 26, 2011

May God give them strength to endure!

Please remember to keep our East Coast Brothers and Sisters in your thoughts. With Hurricane Irene headed their way, they can use all the prayers they can get!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coupon Queens (Or Kings)!

By now, most people have seen at least one episode of Extreme Couponing, and if you haven't, you should. Some of these ladies do amazing things with their coupons! $400 baskets full of groceries, and after all their coupons, most get money in return.... or their bill is something ridiculous, like $13.56. Watch an episode, by the end, you'll be hooked!

My mother has always been frugal, so growing up, coupons were not a choice, they were a necessity. If I wanted something, it needed to be on sale, and we had to have a coupon. No questions about it. Needless to say, this apple didn't fall very far from the tree. I spend a good two hours, at the very least, clipping coupons once a week, usually a bit longer. And  even more time is spent combing through the Sunday paper/grocery fliers/online coupon sites to find the big deals. I plan ahead, its the only way to be able to do it. It can be overwhelming, but if you start small, get the hang of it, you'll be saving in no time!

So, if you don't already "Coupon", here are some pointers that can help you begin. (Ive never had a huge purchase (My largest has been a $90 total reduced to $12, and a free $25 total), such as the ones portrayed on Extreme Couponing, but I have had some very good savings.)

Let's start Saving! 

Items Needed: Binder, Clear Baseball Pages, Dividers, Scissors
  1. Binder - I use a Five Star zippered binder, it has an accordion folder attached on the inside to hold my ads, plus a small zippered pouch (Good for holding loose coupons), along with a pen/marker/scissor holder. Very nifty! 
  2. Baseball card pages - I use clear baseball card pages, but you could also use photograph pages that come in various sizes. I like to keep it simple, baseball pages work great, and are usually less expensive than the other clear organizational pages.  It's a good idea to keep an extra pack of baseball pages at the back of your binder, your coupons will fluctuate, and you'll probably need more sooner rather than later.
  3. Dividers -I tried using clear dividers, but didn't enjoy the hectic look of the coupons, so I switched to your basic yellow dividers. This way, each category had it's own, separated area. 
  4. Scissors - I like to keep my coupon scissors inside my folder, they dont get lost being used for other purposes, and I always have them handy when needed. 
How to Set Up My Coupon Binder:
  1. Get organized - Try to have all your coupons in the groups they're going to be in once inside the binder. For example, my binder has non-food item coupons at the front, Food coupons at the back. So when I organize my coupons, I put all Food items together when cutting, and all non-food together. Some people have their coupons alphabetized by category (Air fresheners, Baby, Batteries, Bread)'s your binder, you have to find what works for you. 
  •  Here is how my binder is sorted:
  • Non-Food Items
    • Cleaning Products
    • Laundry
    • Paper Goods (Toilet paper, napkins, tissue, etc;)
    • Deodorizers (Air fresheners, candles, plug ins, etc;)
    • Plastics (Bags, containers, throw-away plates/cups, etc;)
    • Health Items
    • Cosmetics
    • Dental Hygiene
    • Women's Hygiene
    • Men's Hygiene
    • Shaving Products
    • Soap/Bodywashes
    • Hair Products
    • Noah (Child products)
    • Batteries
  •  Food
    • Meat, Fish, Chicken
    • Ready-Made Meals (nuggets, Pizza, skillets, Diet meals, etc;)
    • Breakfast Items
    • Dairy
    • Fruits/Nuts/Veggies
    • Spreads/Dressings
    • Soups
    • Bread/Rice/Pasta
    • Beverages
    • Snacks

Where can I find coupons?
  1. Sunday Paper - Be sure to buy your Sunday paper, I like to get at least two sets of them, especially if they have coupons on products my family favors. 
  2. Coupon Swap - Get your friends/family involved. If you know people who coupon, or that want to start, get them involved as well. Trade coupons that you dont want/need, for those you do. Having friends to coupon with is a good way to save, and to spend designated time with friends!
  3. Visit store sites - One of my favorite stores is TARGET, and I love TARGET even more for their store issued coupons. (Not only does TARGET issue their own coupons, they accept their coupons, IN ADDITION to the manufacturer coupons as well. For example: Lets say you're price matching toilet paper at TARGET. GregGrocery is offering it 1.00 cheaper. BUT, TARGET has a print coupon on their site for .75 off. You also have a manufacturer coupon for .50 off. TARGET will allow you to price match, and use both coupons. That's a savings of $2.25, AWESOME!) Many stores issue out coupons on their websites, let your fingers do the walking, and the snipping, so you can do the saving!
  4. Online coupon printing - Sites such as CouponMom, or Coupons are also great sites to load up on savings. 
How do I save BIG money?

  1.  Price-match -  All those grocery circulars you receive in your mail are very important. Those little fliers contain all the sale prices of your grocer's competitor. Most stores allow price-matching (Ya havta' love Wal-Mart), and will honor the prices listed. So you get the lowest price, plus your coupons, homerun!
  2. Triple your coupons - If there is a grocery store near you that "Triples" coupons, this is the place to be!  (Our local KROGER no longer allows this, it was quickly phased out after Extreme Couponing...Hmm...)
  3. Use your sales wisely - KROGER offers an occasional 10-for-5 sale. Buy ten items, save $5. THIS IS A GREAT PROMOTION! For example, on the 10-for-5 sale, toothbrushes came out to $1.50 after any ten items on the list were purchased. I had coupons for said toothbrushes. 4 - $1.00 off a single toothbrush, and 3 - buy two save $2.00. Total after coupons, free!
  4. Learn from others - Use the internet to it's fullest advantage. I highly advise becoming familiar with FreeStuffTimes. They offer printable coupons, Forums in which fellow Coupon Queens/Kings share their deals, Free samples, etc; Its a great site, visit it today!
I hope my post helps, and if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Now get to saving!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    "One man's junk, another man's treasure"

    Those who know me well, can tell you I am a BIG nerd.....(and, really, who am I kidding? Even those who DON'T know me well can probably tell you this). That's fine by me though, I wear my nerd badge with honor!

    As an official self-proclaimed nerd, I LOVE to read books. Not only do I love to read, I actually love books themselves. New books, old books, soft cloth books, shiny hardbacks...but mostly, I love a good, inexpensive book. Thus the reason for this post: If you have not been to your local thrift store, you must do so, right away! (Seriously, go...but finish reading my Blog first, then go!)

    I visit a lot of different thrift stores, and prices range, as does the selection. (Items are donated, so you wont ALWAYS find a stack of amazingly inexpensive finds, maybe sometimes just one or two.) I find stacks upon stacks of abandoned books, just begging to be bought and taken home to be loved. My two favorite spots sell their children's books for .33 and .50, respectively. Adult books are sold for a $1.00 at both locations. What a steal!
    $1.80 for Noah's new books, "winning"!

    I just had to share, so many people are missing out on a great deal! So what are you waiting for, visit your local thrift store today, there are treasures to be found!

    I love to SWEEP (And I dont mean with a broom!)

    A few years back, I (randomly) entered a contest through Several weeks later, surprise! I had  received a $25 Burger King gift card in the mail. It was like winning the lottery. I jumped up and down (very silly), yelled, whooped, and called nearly everyone in my phone book. My family had Burger King for dinner (Gotta love those dollar menus), and lunch the next day.

    Pre-Sweep Win
    Fast forward 3-4 years, and you will see my son (Noah) throwing up all over his Grandparents couches. It was disgusting. There was no way those couches would ever be the same, they had to be thrown out. I now, in turn, needed to supply my parents with new furniture....the only problem was, I COULD NOT afford it. So I turned to sweepstakes. I jumped on the computer and started my search: "Win Furniture", "Furniture giftcard", "Free furniture", etc, etc;  Finally, bingo, I hit the jackpot with Gallery Furniture, a local furniture store here in Houston, Texas. It was really simple, upload a picture of your old furniture (Pictured above), have friends/family/strangers "Like" the page on Facebook, and have the most "Likes". After badgering/spamming the heck out of EVERYONE I know, I won!!!! I took my mother to Gallery Furniture the very next day, and picked out a new set of couches. And thus began a Sweeping (Sweepstakes) addiction!

    How to start Sweeping:
    If you're a Newbie, I highly suggest heading over to OLS and creating an account. Access is free, but they do have the option of being a payed member. For the moment, I am listed as a "Junior Sweeper". (I'm new to the site, and have not paid for a membership, yet.) From various posts in the forums, I hear joining is well worth the money. As for the free membership, OLS lists sweeps in Categories such as "Single Entries", "Daily Entries", "Unlimited Entries", etc; OLS also offers forums that contain a wealth of knowledge. Great site to be a member of, paid or unpaid.

    FREESTUFFTIMES   should be on your Favorites toolbar. Free stuff, plus contests.... No other comments, just go do it.

    Also, your next step should be to download RoboForm. RoboForm saves your Logins, Stores your passwords, and fills out forms with a single click! What more could a sweeper want?

    Can't remember exactly which sweepstakes to return to on a daily basis? No problemo! Be sure to set up an account with Delicious. It's a very user-friendly site that allows you to save a link, categorize it, and pull it up from any location. So basically, it's a portable Bookmark menu bar. Going out of town and want to be sure you sweep? Delicious makes it possible.

    Helpful hints towards Sweeping?
    1. Read the rules - I cannot stress this enough, READ THE OFFICIAL RULES. There are so many entries you could miss out on, or worse, you could be disqualifying yourself b/c of a simple mistake. For example,  I was entering a contest that I THOUGHT was a once a day entry. After several days of entering, I went to read the OR's, and discovered that I could actually enter 5x's per day. 5x's!!!!! I had been missing out on 4 extra entries every day!!! (What a rookie.)
    2. Enter - You must enter to win, after all.
    3. Verify your information - RoboForm is an awesome "Sweeping" tool, but it is a Robot after all...mistakes can be made. A simple mistake, such as an incorrect/incomplete phone number/email address can cost you a big win!
    4. Check your email - Check your email, daily at the very least.
    5. Double check Junk Folder - Sweepstakes sometimes get jumbled into your junk folder. If you fail to see a winning notification in time, or worse, accidentally delete it, you just flushed a win down the toilet. :(
    6. Persistence is key - Single entries are great, because you only have to worry about entering once, but many contests are classified as "Daily Entries". Some people get lucky, and can win off of just one entry, but the odds will be stacked against you. So if you enter contests that allow you more than one entry, take advantage, this Momma sure will!
    7. Local contests are your friends - Big national, worldwide contests are great, but thousands, if not millions, of people will be entering. Listen in to your radio stations,  browse through your local papers, log onto city websites. These are little goldmines!
     I'm new to Sweeping (definitely not a "pro"), but I'm pretty excited, and wanted to share what I've learned to anyone who cares to listen. I've already won some great prizes (gift cards, furniture, tickets to events, clothing, school supplies, etc;), and I'm hoping to win more. I hope it's your lucky day too. Happy Sweeping!