Monday, December 19, 2011

The Missed Opportunity of the Missed Coupon

I absolutely hate a missed coupon. I recently missed out on using a $15 coupon & a $3 store credit on some last minute Christmas presents.  After fretting about the missed money I went back to the store with my receipt & was able to use the coupon & store credit instead & got cash credited back to our checking account. 

Even the most well versed couponer will occasionally forget a coupon at home or have a cashier accidentally miss scanning a coupon.  If you find yourself in that situation, you can still get your money & save some cash. 
 Here's how to fix a missed coupon:

If the cashier forgets to scan a coupon--

  • Head on over to the customer service with your receipt.  Simply state the product & the value of the coupon & your money will be refunded immediately.   

  • If you are home & realize the cashier forgot to scan a coupon, call the store & have your receipt handy.  Frequently the store will be able to tell which cashier you had from the receipt, track down said coupon, & keep a record of your credit at the customer service counter.  Write the name of the person you spoke with, the time & date, & bring your receipt with you for your next shopping trip.
If you forget your coupons at home--

  • Bring your receipt & the matched coupons back to the store as quickly as possible.  I've been told at Walmart that price adjustments need to be completed within 7 days, so always try to redeem your missed coupons as quickly as possible.  

Additionally, if you forget to use a store credit or gift card on a purchase frequently customer service will be willing to redeem your gift card & refund your cash after the fact.  When in doubt, I just tell the customer service rep something like, 'Oh my husband did the shopping & forgot all of our coupons/store credit' & that usually does the trick.  

Here's to no more missed coupons, or at least no more missed opportunities to save.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eating Out of the Pantry & Taking a Stab at Menu Planning

I'm not a great cook.  Sufficient yes, but I'm definitely not whipping up any gourmet dishes.  Over the course of our married life I have to admit that I haven't put much effort into making supper & have often found it easier to grab take out than sit down and think about deconstructing recipes.  I am such a model homemaker.

 Before our holiday travels we planned on eating from our pantry.  I bought $50 worth of produce & perishable items, but beyond that I planned on eating from the pantry.  In order to make this work, I actually did menu planning.  Long touted as the frugal grocery shopper's best friend, I have avoided planning a menu like the plague.  I still didn't do it properly--I didn't plan it around sales, I didn't really stick to it (I mainly used it as a guideline) & I only did it one week at a time, but I found it totally helpful.

By planning menus around what we had in the pantry & what perishables needed to be eaten I was able to tackle dinner every night without so much as a batted eye lash.  As of today I have successfully made two weeks worth of home cooked meals as well as enough chili to take to a church carry-in & to freeze for after Little Baby.  I know some people can do this easily, but for me, this was a huge milestone.

In addition to the deliciousness, by planning menus no food spoiled & we were able to eat on a very small amount of money.  I hope to add more recipes to our rotation shortly, but for the meantime I've been able to come up with a month's worth of meals with minimal effort.  I definitely think that I'm going to be using menu planning in the new year.  Hopefully it will be a way we can lower our grocery bill & get dinner on the table!    

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

25 Clever Ideas to Make Life Easier

I love a good list & my friend Julie shared an amazing list of clever household tricks with me today.  It's absolutely brilliant & I plan to employ many of the suggested techniques in my own home.  I've already dug my egg carton from the recycling to hold our Christmas ornaments.  Now if only my flat sheets looked that fabulous!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ways to Save on Christmas Wrapping

One of the more obnoxious expenses of holiday season are the costs of wrapping the presents.   The wrappings are thrown away & it seems wasteful to harm any trees & create more trash just to wrap presents.  I try not to spend anything on wrapping paper, gift bags, boxes, etc. & have tried to cut down on the waste of traditional gift giving.  Here are some ways to cut down your expenses & your impact.

Go Reusable--Most stores are offer really cute reusable bags.  The bag on the left my Mom bought to wrap my birthday gifts.  It was $0.99 & holds a ton.  The red gift bag was gift wrapping from a present & we've used it multiple times.  Instead of a bunch of small gift bags, consider buying one large reusable bag. 

Save & Reuse the Bags/Bows/Tissue You Receive-- I  save every gift wrapping that I receive.  After several wedding & baby showers we've acquired quite the stockpile.  This is a great way to cut down on your environmental impact & your holiday expenses.

Ask for Boxes--Many stores offer free gift boxes at the holidays.  Simply ask if they have any available. 

 Make Your Own Gift Tags--One great way to reuse the deluge of annual Christmas cards is to cut them into gift tags.  It's cheap, looks cute, & gives a second life to Christmas cards. 

 Hit Up The Dollar Store--If you don't have a stockpile & want traditional wrappings the dollar store is a great place to purchase gift wraps, etc. inexpensively. 

Buy After Christmas Clearance--Wait until gift wrappings go on clearance. Items are a fraction of the price & I've was able to get all of the cute wrapping items to the right for pennies of the original price buy buying after Christmas (& many were sustainably harvested!). 

Think Creatively--Wrapping paper can be made from salvaged brown bags, newspapers, old maps, & other such items.  Look around to see what you have on hand before you rush to the store. 

Hopefully you don't have to spend money on your holiday wrappings & hopefully such wrappings have a minimal impact on the environment.  Season's Greetings!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You Know You're Cheap When--Salvaging a Ripped Diaper

We only use disposable diapers at night & when we travel & I have to say I sort of hate them.  They're expensive & can occasionally rip into shreds.  While traveling home from San Fransisco I had a diaper tab become totally detached from the diaper.  Grr.  Even though I try to pay $0.10-$0.15 per diaper (after coupons & sales of course), I just couldn't see throwing away $0.15.

 I used packaging tape (scotch tape hasn't held in the past for me) to tape down the interior & exterior of the ripped tab.

Though it's unlikely that the taped seam will touch Bug's skin, I taped a piece of toilet paper down over the seam, just in case.  After about 1 minute worth of work the diaper was as good as new.  It might put me into the cheapskate hall of fame, but I think it's a totally worthwhile effort. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade Christmas--Buggy Blanket

Bug & her beloved Purple
Our little Doodlebug LOVES her blanket.  I'm not a fabulous knitter, but I knitted her two while I was first pregnant.  One sort of fell apart, and the other, which is more the size of a shawl than a proper blanket, is Emerson's absolute favorite.  She calls it purple & cannot stand to be away from it.  I unfortunately learned this the hard way when we forgot to bring it to the Museum of Sciences in San Fransisco & she had a total melt down hissy fit.  Seriously.  Rolling on the floor screaming.  We were those parents unable to control their child.  You're welcome, society. 

In the hopes of creating another blanket for Bug to love I decided to knit her a brand new blanket for Christmas. I tried to do this as frugally as possible, so I deconstructed the first blanket I made her.  I then used a Michael's giftcard from my FIL & paired that with weekly 40% off coupons to gather materials as cheaply as possible.  And today, after what seems like forever, I finally completed the project. 

Bug's blanket folded in half
I also decided to use up the remaining scrap yarn & I made it into a little baby doll blanket.  I'm hoping she'll be satisfied carrying the little doll blanket so we won't have to lug around old purple or new purple when we go to museums, but we shall see.   

Either way, I'm proud of myself.  It took a lot of time & it's not perfect, but I'm so happy to be able to give Emerson something that I made with my own hands this Christmas.  Now I just need to start knitting a blanket for Little Baby as well...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maternity Wardrobe on a Budget

One of the many expenses associated with having a baby is a maternity wardrobe.  Maternity clothes are EXPENSIVE!  When I first became pregnant with Emerson I made the conscious decision to minimize the expense of a preggo wardrobe.  Here are a few techniques I've used with E & Little Baby. 

Regular Old Navy top, cardigan, & regular jeans w. use of Belly Band
Wear Your Regular Clothes--While this probably isn't possible with pants, many tops, sweaters, & skirts can be worn the majority of pregnancy.  Fortunately current fashion trends lend themselves to longer shirts, which can totally accommodate a baby bump & cardigans can be worn for 9 months. Additionally if you wear a belly band you will be able wear your pants for much, much longer. 

Sears Clearance Maternity Shirt
Shop the Clearance Racks--In my experience it's hard to get a good deal at maternity stores & often the pickings can be slim at discount retailers.  However, if you check often, it is possible to get inexpensive maternity items at places like Kohl's, Target, & even Sears.  Target also frequently puts out a coupon for Liz Lange maternity, which combined with clearance prices can equal a great deal.

Borrow--If you're really lucky you might be able to borrow a friend's maternity wardrobe. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow maternity clothes (thanks Kathy!) & I also borrowed bigger clothes from my mom.  

Used Old Navy Maternity Shirt &  Old Navy Jeans

 Buy used--Because maternity clothes are only worn for a handful of months, they only have minimal wear & tear.  Look to Ebay, resale shops, Once Upon a Child, & even garage sales for great deals on maternity items.  My mom got me 2 huge garbage bags full of clothes from Ebay for something like $40, & when I shopped at Motherhood Maternity 1 pair of pants was $40. 

Banana Republic necklace & Old Navy shirt

Size Up--Anything labeled maternity tends to come with a HUGE price tag, but buying regular clothes a few sizes up is a much cheaper alternative.  When shopping for tops look for a longer shirt & with skirts & pants, drawstrings & elastic are your friend.

Wrap dresses & skirts--For dress clothes I wore wrap dresses well into my 7th month & found them extremely comfortable.  Most of my stretchier skirts could be worn under my belly the entirety of my pregnancy.  I also bought some hippy straw skirts & wrap skirts that I could wear my whole pregnancy.   

Accessorize--If you don't have a ton of money to purchase a huge wardrobe things like scarves, jewelry, & belts can totally transform an outfit.  Plus accessories always fit, no matter how big your belly swells!

Whatever methods you choose, it is possible to have a maternity wardrobe without spending a ton of money.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Panic Mode Update

Several months ago I wrote about feeling like I was in panic mode when it came to unexpected expenses.  The health care costs of having our second child are significantly more than they were with Little E & I wanted to find a way to pay our monthly $174 doctor bill WITHOUT dipping into our savings.  So far we've done a pretty good job of making it work & I've found sharing this challenge with all of you makes me more motivated.

Here's what I've done so far: 
  • I sold broken/unused jewelry to a gold dealer & made $100.
  • I returned diapers that I bought when we first found out we were pregnant with Little Baby & used the $54  toward a payment. (They weren't a good deal either, & I know better, but I guess I was just excited to purchase tiny diapers again!)
  • I returned a fancy dress I bought for E & bought her a booster seat with the store credit.
  • I emptied out a checking account we never use, which netted us $151 toward a payment.
  • I've been using the $25/week I earn for picking up my friend's son from school toward the payments, instead of using it as blow money.  
  • I used credit card rewards to purchase a $25 Christmas gift card which saved us $25 in cash. 
  • I've sent away for reimbursement through our flex spending account; that will put over $400 back in our pockets. 
Future Goals:
    • I still need to apply for the rebate on JC's contacts ASAP.
    • JC's applying for a rebate through his health insurance/wellness program.  If he gets it that would be $500 we could use toward Little Baby's expenses (or a big girl bed for Emerson)!  
    • We're planning on primarily eating out of the pantry for the month of December.  We'll be traveling for a large portion of the month anyway, but this could save the additional expense of groceries. 
    • I've been trying to be more vigilant about turning off power strips while not in use & hopefully that will continue to lower our energy bills.  
    We only have 2 doctor payments left (thank God!), so now we just need to plan ahead for the hospital portion for Little Baby.  We also need to figure out how much a big girl bed/mattress will cost & come up with a plan for those purchases without dipping into savings.

    I have to say, I've been thinking more creatively about bringing in money & spending & it has really gotten me excited about our spending habits.  Nothing like being a total & complete frugal living nerd!

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Super Friday Shopping @ The Dollar Tree

    I kept hearing Crystal @ mention she got Nature's Own bread at her Dollar Tree.  So today, while nearby, I decided to stop in & check it out myself.

    Boy, am I glad I did!  They ended up having 100% whole wheat Nature's Own bread for a dollar!  The cheapest I've seen it at Walmart or Aldi is around a $ I went a little nuts & bought 8 loves.  I know it's excessive, but I have plenty of freezer space & JC goes through 3 pieces a day.  Additionally they had Kix!  For a dollar!  I haven't had Kix in ages, but it's a good alternative to Cheerios & way cheaper than even generic so I figured I'd stock up. 

    I also got the tiny blue trash can on the left for recycling items.  I figured after seeing how San Fransisco did things I should have a recycling bin next to every one of our trash cans as well.  At minimum, it will cut down on trips to our recycle bin in the kitchen.

    I also got the basics at Aldi & stocked up on containers of cream cheese for $0.89.  I rarely see cream cheese go under a dollar, so I'm hoping that (frozen) stockpile will last us for a very, very long while.  It was a pretty good week to stock up!

    Happy weekend!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Waste Management Inspiration in San Fran

    We went to San Fransisco for Thanksgiving to visit family.  While we had a wonderful time, I couldn't help but be impressed by the many options for waste management I saw around the city.

    At the Academy of Sciences they had these receptacles with recycle, compost, & landfill options.  Additionally the white labels have little pictures of what is appropriate to throw in each bin.  I also find the use of the word landfill far more effective than trash; it's a good reminder that everything thrown in that container will actually wind up in a landfill.   

    The bins at the San Fransisco airport were less thorough. but they still offered the options of composting & recycling at EVERY container, in addition to trash.

    If the city of San Fransisco is offering these options I certainly hope more cities will follow suit.  It also got me thinking about everything that I throw away, recycle, or could potentially compost & where it might actually end up.  Well done San Fran, well done.