Usually I host family get-togethers at my house.  It is easier on Ben (the Autism just doesn’t make it easy to travel to other houses).  I always make a TON of food and anyone who wants to take home leftovers is more than welcome to take some home.  This brings up the issue of what to put it in.

A few years ago I noticed that whenever I was getting ready for family dinners, since I was making so much food, I would have several plastic bowls with lids that would normally go into the garbage (sour cream bowls, cottage cheese bowls, cool whip bowls, etc).  While I don’t like to keep these for storage here at my house (I tend to use more heavy duty storage containers), I realized that it would be great to have them on hand for whenever someone wants to take home leftovers from my house!  No need to worry about returning the bowl, they can either keep it for themselves or throw it away!  Plus, at least they get used at least one more time before going into the trash :-)
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Yep. You have probably heard this a million times before (especially if you are a Mom) but usually when people say that  it’s okay to say no, they are talking about over extending yourself.  I am talking about something  a little different.  Let me explain.

Last week my son came home with a permission slip for a field trip.  This wasn’t any old field trip.  This field trip was to the Science Center and it costs $25 for him to go!  Now let me say that I am not opposed to field trips.  They are great!  Kids get to experience new things with their classmates and they usually have a good time.  Here are the reasons that I chose to say “no” to this field trip:

  • Cost:  okay, ummmm $25?  Really?  I thought that these places were supposed to give schools some kind of discounted student rate? On the actual Science Center website, the price for a student is $20 (literally – I just went to their website and checked).  Why is it MORE for him to go with his class than with me?  What the heck is that about?!?!?!?!?!?
  • They only gave ten days to get the permission slip back with the money.  I could have scrounged for it somewhere in my budget and come up with it, but it just seems like they would have given a little more notice than that. Many people only get paid every two weeks and would not be able to come up with the $25 in time.
  • We live here.  We have lived here all of Ben’s life.  We have had a family membership to the Science Center for several years.  He doesn’t need to go again.  Really, he doesn’t.
  • For $25 I can take both of my kiddos to the local second run movie theater and get them all the snacks they want and catch two or three movies (and probably still have a  dollar or two left over)

I explained all of this to Ben, and he is okay with not going.  I told him he could hang out with me for the day and even pick out a Redbox movie or two.  That pretty much sealed the deal.

In short, field trips have their place.  They are educational. I get it.  But right now is not the time for a $25 field trip to a place that my son has been to many times before.  I can think of other things to do with that money that my kids would enjoy more.
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How many times a week do you run to the grocery store for “just one thing”?  Then realize as you are walking out of the store that you spent $25 instead of the $5 you planned to spend?  You just spent twenty extra dollars!

Here is a simple trick I learned years ago that might not be so obvious.  If you need one thing that is usually carried at a convenience store (like milk or bread or even a bag of chips) it is a better plan to just get it at the convenience store instead of going to a grocery store.

If you go to the convenience store to get milk, and the price of the milk is $5 for a gallon, chances are really good you are only going to buy the milk then go home since things there are overpriced.  So, total spent is $5.

If you go to the grocery store to get milk, and the price of milk is $3.50, chances are good you will also buy other things while you are in there.  If you end up spending even just $10 instead of the original planned $3.50, you have spent more than you would have spent at the convenience store where milk is more expensive!

Sometimes even if it appears to be more expensive, it is better to go for convenience instead of “savings” which are not realized.

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Today Ben had a dentist appointment for his regular checkup.  Since we lost our insurance recently, I called ahead to find out how much this visit would be.  $135.  Okay.  Budgeted that in for the month, but since this is also back to school month and a month where we have three family birthdays, things were going to be really tight!  So, when we got there, I asked the hygenist if we could please not do xrays this time (even though they were due) and just do them next time.  She looked at his chart and since his teeth are always in great condition she said that would be fine.  Money saved for asking this one simple question ……….. $30!

After his dental appointment, I had the rare chance to do all of my grocery shopping at 4 different stores, in one straight shot.  Literally, all four stores I wanted to go to were within the same 5 miles on the same road!  So, since opportunity presented itself I took advantage of it.  Here is how things turned out:

We went to Publix, CVS, Winn Dixie and Dollar General Market (not the regular Dollar General, but something more like a “superstore” version of Dollar General). 

Grand Total (before coupons, sales and discounts):  $93.54

Total after coupons, sales and discounts:  $42.45

Total savings:  $51.09

Here is what we got:

4 boxes of Fruity Pebbles (that have $4 in coupons in each box)

2 bottles of Sunny D

1 gallon of T G Lee Milk

3 dozen eggs (2, 18 count packs)

1 loaf of Natures Own bread

1 package of hot dog buns

2 pounds of ground chuck

2 jars of Classico alfredo sauce

1 can diced tomatoes

4 jars of Skippy peanut butter

1 jar parmesean cheese

1 bottle pancake syrup

4 packages of Yakisoba japanese noodles

2 boxes of  Betty Crocker cake mix

2 boxes Kraft mac & cheese

1 package cream cheese

9 pounds of chicken legs

3 pounds of chicken tenders (boneless skinless)

Most of the chicken will be used for a birthday party I am hosting on the 14th.  When I get deals like these, it really is a combo of sales & coupons & reward card discounts.  I am a HUGE fan of clipping my coupons.  I know a lot of couponing sites out there tell you to just file your booklets of coupons and you just clip them as you need them. If you do that, you are relying on other people to know what coupons you have.  If you clip and file all your coupons, you ALWAYS know which coupons you have on hand and you can take advantage of all the opportunities available to you.

I love sharing that it is possible to get GREAT grocery deals, even here in Florida where we don’t have double coupons (BOOOOOOOO!).  At the same time, I don’t want to bore anyone with too many details.  If any readers out there want me to post detailed ways I get these deals, just let me know by commenting on this post and I will do that for you!  Also, if you want me to post all the shopping trips I do (one grocery trip and one drugstore trip each week, usually) then let me know that too!

Some people might think that this takes a lot of time.  I do spend time each week (usually Sunday and Wednesday) going over the flyers, clipping and filing my coupons and pulling the old ones out.  Most of the time I watch shows I have recorded or movies on the Netflix streaming.  I usually spend a few hours (maybe 5 or so????? at the most).  I usually do two shopping trips per week (CVS and Walgreens on Sunday then the grocery stores on Thursday or Friday) but they take one hour for each trip.  I don’t spend 40 hours clipping and then 6 hours in the stores or anything like that!  I look at it this way, if I save $100 per week (not hard to do between the drug store sales and the grocery sales) and I spend a total of 7 hours (5 clipping/filing  plus the 2 shopping) then I made almost $15 per hour TAX FREE for my efforts ($100 saved divided by 7 hours).  That is money I don’t have to spend and I get all the things my family needs!  That is a pretty good deal to me!

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I have been a member of Vocal point for a few months now and it is definitely worth the effort to sign up.  It is FREE!  In the past month I have gotten free trash bags (the Hefty ones with Frebreeze scents), a free bag of the new marshmallows made specifically for S’mores, a free coupon to try the new Bounce dryer bar, free coupon for Fresh Express Salads and a few other goodies!

I HIGHLY suggest you register today because the rumor mill is saying there will be a GREAT NEW offering on Tuesday!

You can register here:

 www.vocalpoint.com/registration/screener.aspx

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Pretty lazy Friday around here - it is just too hot to do too much these days!  So after cleaning up around the house, the kiddos and I ventured out to run errands. First stop was Blockbuster so they could swap out their movies (for free!) from our Club Wannawatchamovie memberships.  If you missed my post on that, you can read it here:  http://occupiedlife.com/2011/07/18/summer-school/

Then we stopped at Winn Dixie where I scored 4 boxes of Snackwell cereal bars (2 boxes of Peanut Butter and two boxes of Chocolate) and two boxes of family sized Pillsbury brownie mix.  Before coupons & deals the total was :  $17.94!  After deals, coupons, etc.  my total spent is 0.99!  YEAH!  Ninety nine cents!  How did that happen….. here is what I did (I used two transactions for this):

Transaction #1    

bought two boxes brownie mix (on sale bogo and had a .40 cents off coupon)

bought two boxes Snackwell bars (on sale for $2 each and also had a .75 cents off coupon for each one)

total before coupons and sale prices: 11.36 * after coupons and sale prices I paid $4.49 out of pocket AND I got a $3 catalina coupon back for my next shopping trip

Transaction #2

bought two more boxes Snackwell bars (on sale for $2 each and also had a .75 cents off coupon for each one)

total before coupons and sale prices:  $6.58 * total after coupons and sale prices I paid $2.50 AND I got another $3 catalina coupon

Total out of pocket for both orders was $6.99 AND I got the $6 in catalinas for the next time I am at Winn Dixie.  I did not try to use the catalina coupons today because sometimes if you use a like coupon for your order and those items are in the order, you will NOT get another coupon.  Not sure if I explained that clearly or not but basically you usually cannot “roll” catalina coupons because they won’t print other ones for you.

Winn Dixie also has the new Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch cereal on sale for $2 each box and a few weeks ago there were .75 cents off one box coupons that came out in the newspaper.  I got four boxes a few days ago for $1.25 each but just thought I’d put that in here so you can snag that deal too if you venture over there.

After that excitement :-D   we headed over to Cold Stone Creamery to use a $20 gift certificate that I got a few months ago over on LivingSocial.com   I paid $10 for the $20 gift certificate and so all four of us got HUGE portions of ice cream with one mix in each!  Total there was -0.04 cents!  LOL!  Not kidding, the total was NEGATIVE 4 cents!  I just let them keep the four cents.

Then we headed home to settle down in ice cream bliss while some homemade pizza dough is getting ready in the bread machine for dinner and movie night later today.  Since I had all the ingredients on hand (flour, yeast, etc) and I use leftover spaghetti sauce for pizza sauce, the only real cost to me for making a pizza is the cheese which I try to get on sale for $1.50 or less per 8 oz bag. Even cheaper than the $5 pizza deals at the chain pizza places!

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Lately a strange thing is happening at some nation-wide store chains….. it’s happened a few times and it is driving me crazy!

I go over the store sales ad (yes, it is the right one for my area).  I make a list. I pull my coupons.  I organize my trip.  I go to the store, list, coupons and store card in hand.  I get my cart.  I go in the store.  Guess what?  The items that are IN the flyer, ON sale, have NO chance of being in the store.  I am not talking about a store running out of an item.  I am talking about them NEVER having the item! 

Case in point:  went to CVS to buy the Schick deal they have going (spend $20 on certain Schick items and get $10 extra care bucks).  I am going to buy two Hydro Razors (in the ad, on sale, included in the deal) and two Skintimate shaving creams (also in the ad, on sale, included in the deal).  I tell the manager that I would like to get two of the razors (they are locked up on the rack).  She says “We don’t have any and we aren’t getting any in.  There are no more for distribution.”  WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?

WHY would a national drug store advertise a product that NONE of the stores will be able to get or have in stock for the sale?  This is happening more and more often.  Several times in the past few months in different stores.  I understand there are rainchecks, but this was a whole deal with extra care bucks and coupons involved.  A raincheck is just not feasable.  Won’t work. 

All I am asking is for stores not to advertise items on sale that they won’t have.  Is that really too much to ask?

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Recently I have been talking to a lot of people about the amount of money spent on groceries and household items.  This topic is really interesting to me because I am an avid couponer. 

For our household of four, I budget $50 per week for groceries and other household stuff (paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc).  To me that is a reasonable amount.  Easily do-able.  Sure more money would be nice, but right now that’s what my budget allows.

When we are at the store and my kiddos ask for something that is not on the list or not in the budget, I explain to them that we spend less per month at the store than some people spend in a week.  Shelby gets a real kick out of seeing the before and after coupon totals.  I really enjoy that part too!  Usually they are so excited about whatever snack items were on sale that week that they don’t miss what we did not buy!

 

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I have been buying and selling items online since 1999.  Unfortunately for me (and my budget) I am a confessed bibliophile.  I LOVE books!  Going into the bookstore is a very, very bad idea for me.  It is difficult to go in there and leave without spending at least $100.    My FAVORITE online shopping site is:

www.half.com

Years ago, when half had just started, they only sold books and they had to be priced less than half of the retail price (yeah, that’s how they came up with the name).  Prices went SO low on some books that they were a penny.  Eventually Ebay bought half.com and instituted a minimum price of 75 cents and items can be priced at any price above that.  Half.com now sells books, music, video games, dvd’s, vhs tapes , game systems, game controllers, all sorts of stuff. 

The neat thing about half.com is that it is a hybrid between an auction site and a store.  The items are offered at fixed prices, by individual sellers, but half.com acts as a middle man of sorts.  They process all the payments and the seller ships the items to the buyer.  Half pays out to the sellers twice a month and they include a shipping allowance for the seller as well.

I purchase all of my items thru half.com now.  It is really very rare that I need to go to a bookstore to buy an  item.  I know I will probably be able to find it for under a dollar (plus shipping) on half.com.  I buy things for myself and also as gifts there.  I make sure to select “Like New” items from sellers with good feedback so that I make sure to give a nice gift. 

I also sell my items on half too.  My kids know when they are tired of a video game, we can sell it on half and they can make some money back to get a new game.  They make more money per game online than they could ever make trading it in at the game stores.

If you have an Ebay account, that is the same login info for half.com.  Hop over and try it out!  See what you could be saving on your entertainment purchases!

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When school ended this year, Shelby went to her “Fifth Grade Graduation”.  The theme was “Hollywood: Black & White”.  It was a very red carpet affair, complete with “swag bags” full of goodies from local merchants.  Shelby came home very excited!  She was showing me all the stuff she got in her bag and then pulled out a PILE of coupons for free stuff!  I asked her “Where did all those come from?”  She replied “My friends didn’t want them and were throwing them away so I brought them home for us to use!”  She had coupons for free Italian Ice, pizza, Chick Fil A, bowling, Wendy’s, etc.  I would say she brought home about $100 worth of coupons! 

A few weeks ago, Ben still had $20 of birthday money that was burning a hole thru his pocket.  We were near a GameStop store and he wanted to go in. I happened to have a “buy two used games and get one free” coupon on me, so I said okay.  He could pick out two games $10 or less each and then he agreed to let Shelby pick a game too (the free one).  So, we spread out all the used Wii games that were under $10 on the floor.  Ben picked two and Shelby picked out one.  The total was $24 and change. Ben paid with his $20 and I paid with the coupon and the balance of $4 and change.

A few days later, Ben comes to me and says “Mom can we go get more games from GameStop?”  I explained to him that he used all his birthday money and we had no more money for games.  He said to me, “Oh yeah.  You gotta have dollars or COUPONS to get the games, right Mom?”  OMG!  I fell over laughing!

The moral of the story is if you don’t believe that your children are watching and paying attention to everything you do, then YOU aren’t paying attention:-D

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