How to Coupon

Ways to Save on School Lunches

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Sack lunch, peanut butter and jelly, lunch, foodThe start of a new school year means that people need to get back into the habit of packing school lunches. What you choose to include, and how you put it into the lunch box, really makes a difference. Here are a few ideas that will help your family save money on school lunches.

Plan Around What is On Sale
You can save some money if you pay attention to what is on sale at the grocery store. It helps if you aren’t particularly brand loyal. Compare the big package of individual bags of chips from one brand with a similar one from another brand. One is bound to be less expensive than the other.

This plan also works if you intend to include crackers or cookies in your child’s lunch. Pick the brand that is on sale. Or, choose the one that you have a coupon for. Look for the store brand and compare the price to the big name brands.

Stock Up When Items are On Sale
How many pre-packaged snacks do your kids go through in a week’s worth of school lunches? It might cost less in the long run if you stock up on their favorite snacks while they are on sale. These kinds of snacks don’t tend to expire quickly. Spend the money now, while the product is on sale. Use them up before buying more.

Variety is Important
While some kids prefer to have the exact same kind of lunch every single school day, there are other kids who get bored with food that they have eaten too often. When this happens, kids often choose not to eat the food they have grown tired of. They may be throwing it out instead of eating it. That’s a waste of food and money.

To prevent food boredom, parents should change things up. Offer baby carrots one day, then switch them for cut celery sticks or cherry tomatoes. Applesauce might be more appealing than a huge apple. Grapes are bite sized and easy to eat. Make a regular sandwich one day, and substitute the bread for a tortilla the next day.

Prepare Ahead to Save Time
Want to cut down on the before-school-chaos? Prepare snacks for lunches ahead of time. Divide up a package of cookies or crackers into individual portions. Put each portion into a resealable plastic bag.

Cut up some fresh vegetables the night before, and store them in the refrigerator in individual airtight containers. Make everything as “grab and go” as possible. Your kids might be able to quickly choose their own snacks and put it into the lunchbox themselves.

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Money Saving Tips for College Students

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at 7:00 am
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piggy bank, woman saving moneyCollege students are faced with a bunch of expenses that they haven’t had to deal with back when they were in high school. Classes and textbooks are costly. It costs money to buy groceries, pay rent, and do laundry. Here are some tips to help college students to cut their expenses and start saving money.

Live at Home
It might not be the most fun option, but continuing to live at home with your parents has some benefits. You might not be asked to pay rent, or to chip in for groceries.

Meals are probably going to be free. You can do your laundry without having to gather up a bunch of quarters to feed the machines at the laundromat. Living at home with your parents gives you the opportunity to save some money.

Stop Dining Out
A meal from a fast food place doesn’t cost very much. It can be very tempting to buy a coffee while you are studying. Those little costs add up – and can eat away at your savings.

College students can save money by making their own at home versions of the fast food they crave. It’s time to go online and look for simple recipes. Groceries will last much longer, and make more meals, than that one trip to the fast food restaurant.

Get Insurance Coverage
Students who are under the age of 26 can be covered by their parent’s health insurance plan. You might already be covered under that plan. Check to make sure. Accidents and illnesses are much less expensive to treat if you have health insurance coverage than if you end up in an emergency room while uninsured.

Some colleges will require students who are uninsured to purchase a health plan through their school. It might be less expensive than buying a private plan. In November, the health insurance marketplaces open. Make sure to take a look at it to see if there is a better, less expensive, health insurance plan available to you.

Car Pool
Driving back and forth to school can cause you to burn through a lot of gas. One way to cut your costs is to connect with a group of friends and start car pooling. Share the cost by having different people drive on different days. Everyone can chip in for gas money.

Another option is to use public transportation. Many large universities have their own busses that drive all across campus (and sometimes into the nearest town). Students might be able to ride for free, or at a discounted rate. Regular busses may also offer discounts to students. Bring your school ID with you.

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Free Kids Events in September

Posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2015 at 4:35 pm
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Crayola CrayonsThe new school year has either started or will start very soon. Your kids, and your family, will be busy! Eventually, there will be some down time to fill with something fun for your kids to do. There are plenty of free kids events that will be happening in September. Which ones will your kids enjoy the most?

LEGO Stores
LEGO stores offer a free monthly mini model build for kids who are between the ages of 6 and 14. Registration is required.

September 2, 2015: LEGO Diver – Kids will put together a mini model of a diver.

Pottery Barn Kids
Pottery Barn Kids offers two types of free kids events each month. One is a story time, which may or may not include a holiday celebration. The other is a unique special event.

September 1, 2015: Grandparent’s Day Story Time – Kids will hear stories that are about children and their grandparents. Kids who become a book club member receive a special gift after attending five story times.

September 19, 2015: Halloween Fashion Show – Families are invited to view a fashion show that features the most anticipated costume collection for kids. This could inspire your kids to decide what they want to be on Halloween. There will be snacks and drinks. There will also be pumpkin decorating.

Home Depot
Home Depot offers free building workshops for kids who are between the ages of 5 and 12. Kids receive a Workshop Apron, a commemorative pin, and a certificate of achievement. They also get to keep the project they build.

September 5, 2015: Football Toss Game – Kids will put together a small football toss game.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow offers free building events for kids. Each kid will receive a free apron, goggles, and a patch. They also get to keep the wooden project they build.

August 22, 2015: Thor’s Chariot – Kids will put together Thor’s Chariot. This is the last project in their “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” set.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free craft events for kids who are ages 3 and older.

September 5, 2015: My Desk Nameplate Easel – Kids will build an easel out of craft sticks that they can decorate. The easel will hold a nameplate.

September 12, 2015: What a Hoot! Owl – Kids will decorate and create a paper bag puppet owl.

September 19, 2015: Great Catch! Game – Kids will decorate and put together a catch game that involves a cup and a bead on a string.

September 26, 2015:
Welcome Autumn! Crown – Kids will decorate an Autumn inspired headband with flowers and leaves in Fall colors.

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Why Coupons are Going Mobile

Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 at 6:09 pm
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Android Smart PhoneBack in the day, the best source of coupons was the inserts in the Sunday papers. While that resource is still a good one today, there are also plenty of other places to find coupons. You may have noticed that coupons are starting to go mobile. Have you ever wondered why that is?

You can find coupons on apps that are specifically connected to a particular store, cafe, or fast food place. Target has Cartwheel, which gives consumers digital coupons on items sold in their stores. Starbucks has been offering discounts and freebies to consumers who use their app for a very long time.

It is super easy to use the digital coupons that are offered in store specific apps. Show that digital coupon to the cashier, and have him or her scan your phone. It’s easy for consumers to use and also provides some benefits to the companies that offer the digital coupons.

Millennials Use Phones
Those who are part of the Millennial generation use their smartphones more frequently than they do laptops or desktop computers. Companies that want to reach out to Millennial customers need to go mobile in order to interact with them. Offering coupons through smartphone apps could convince a new, young, consumer to go into a particular store. They might decide to shop there again.

Prevents Fraud
Have you ever received an email from a fast food place that included a printable coupon? That coupon is only for you. The fast food place is offering that specific coupon only to people who joined their mailing list.

Technically, you are not supposed to print out that coupon and give it to your sister or best friend to use (without you). There are people who make copies of paper coupons so that they can try and use them more than once, or because they want to sell those copies online. These action are examples of coupon fraud.

It is impossible for a person to copy a digital coupon that is connected to an individual via an app. Companies are moving to mobile coupons, in part, because it decreases the chance that their coupons will be used fraudulently.

Going Green
Many companies are moving toward a “paperless office”. They are making an effort to reduce the amount of paper that is used by their employees every day. Another way to “go green” and reduce paper use is by issuing digital coupons that are sent to consumers on their smartphones.

The company doesn’t have to pay for the cost of printing the coupons. The consumer doesn’t have to use up some paper in order to print the coupon. This system is much greener than clipping coupons from the inserts in the Sunday newspapers.

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Groupon To Go Delivers

Posted on Thursday, August 13th, 2015 at 7:14 pm
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Android Smart PhoneYou’ve probably heard of Groupon. It’s where people go to check on daily deals for things that are local to them. Groupon To Go is going to include a restaurant discount and delivery at the same time.

Groupon To Go offers consumers delivery and takeout and gives them a discount of 10% or more off the price. (They also advise people to check with the restaurant they are interested in about the discount – as some exclusions apply).

Right now, Groupon To Go is being offered as a pilot program in Chicago, Illinois. The company plans to expand the program to other cities in the future. Put your address into the Groupon To Go website to see if it is available where you live.

TNW News suggests that Groupon To Go was created to combat the bad reputation that Groupon may have gotten because it offers daily deals. Some customers who use daily deal type offers at restaurants refuse to leave a tip – or leave a discounted tip. It’s not very fair to servers whose income includes tips.

In addition, not all restaurants who participate in a daily deal are thrilled when customers take advantage of that deal and visit the restaurant. At first, it was believed that people who used a daily deal to check out a restaurant that was new to them would decide to return to the restaurant (and pay full price) in the future.

Instead, what often happens is that people come in to use the daily deal discount and never return. The restaurant gets a bunch of customers from the daily deal, who spend less money than typical on that day, and who disappear after that.

Some people may feel embarrassed to be seen using a coupon at a fast food place or restaurant. Not all frugal people want to let the world know that they are using a discount. Groupon To Go solves this issue as well.

Groupon To Go offers discounts on food orders – for carry out or delivery. It isn’t designed to be used by people who want to come into the restaurant, sit down, and be served. The Groupon To Go app will show consumers deals that are from restaurants and fast food places that are nearby. It shows the deal, how far away the restaurant is, and whether or not there is a delivery fee.

As a result, people who want to avoid “coupon shame” can place an order to go and show the cashier their Groupon To Go app. Those who want to place a delivery can use the daily discount they found on Groupon To Go from the privacy of their own homes.

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CIC Can Help You Spot Fake Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Online CouponIs the awesome coupon that you saw on Facebook too good to be true? Have you ever visited a random website and found a questionable advertisement about coupons? It can be difficult to sort out the valid coupons from the scams. The CIC can help you spot fake coupons.

What is the CIC?
CIC stands for Coupon Information Center. It is a not-for-profit association of consumer product manufacturers who are dedicated to fighting coupon misredemption and fraud. The CIC has worked with Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials on coupon fraud cases since 1986.

Counterfeit Coupons
The CIC informs consumers about the counterfeit coupons that are being circulated. There is a section on their main page that says “Counterfeit Coupon Alert”. It will show two of the most recently reported fraudulent coupons (with links that will give you more information about them). Next time you see a questionable coupon on Facebook, or somewhere else, visit the CIC website and check to see if it has been reported.

The CIC is On Twitter
Do you use Twitter? Follow @CIC_HQ. It is the Twitter account of the Coupon Information Institute. They post tweets with information about the counterfeit coupons as they become aware of them. In addition, they also tweet links to articles about situations where coupon fraud has occurred. The information they post can help you to avoid fake coupons.

Report Coupon Fraud
Are you a victim of coupon counterfeits? The CIC has information about how to file a complaint with the United States Postal Service. The CIC points out what kind of information you need to have in order to report mail crime. Make sure to keep all original documents, including emails, that are related to your complaint.

Considerate Couponing
The CIC has put together a helpful list called “Considerate Couponing”. It lets consumers know what the best practices are for using coupons. It starts with the basics, which can be very helpful for people who are brand new to couponing.

The list points out some practices that are prohibited. It is illegal to buy or sell coupons. It is also against the law to photocopy coupons. People who steal newspapers, in order to get extra coupons, are breaking the law.

What about “dumpster diving”? Some people choose to dig around in dumpsters in the hopes of finding newspaper inserts that contain coupons. This practice is controversial. The CIC points out that if the dumpster is located on private property, a person could be arrested for trespassing.

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Tips to Save Money on School Supplies

Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2015 at 5:59 pm
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Globe, notebook stack and pencils. Schoolchild and student studiThe new school year will start at the end of August or in early September, depending on where you live. Is your budget ready for all the back to school shopping? It can get costly, especially for families that have more than one child. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to save money on school supplies.

Reuse Last Year’s Supplies
Before you start shopping, take a look and see what school supplies you already have at home. Your kids may be able to reuse some of the school supplies that you purchased last year.

Rulers, whether wooden or plastic, will hold up for more than one school year. Plastic pencil holders are durable enough to last multiple school years. Gather up all the pencils and pens that came home with your child at the end of the previous school year.

Your child’s lunch box (or lunch bag) might be in good enough shape to use again. Check your child’s backpack carefully. If you don’t see any fraying at the shoulders, and there are no holes in the bottom, it can be reused.

Buy Two Pairs of Shoes
It might sound counterintuitive to buy an extra pair of gym shoes for your child right at the start of the school year. One pair would cost less than two pairs after all. Keep in mind that your kids are still growing. Many parents find that their child has outgrown his or her gym shoes about halfway through the school year.

Buying two pairs of shoes now, while they are on sale, saves you the expense of having to buy another pair a few months from now at full price. Buy one pair that fits your child’s feet today. Buy one more pair the next size up.

Buy One Get One Free
Your child’s school supply list might say that they need only one package of certain items. Eventually, that package of paper, the pack of pencils, and the glue sticks, will run out. Consider purchasing consumable school supplies from stores that have a “BOGO” on them. Buy one for your kid to take to school. Get a free one for your kid to take to school after that first one runs out.

Shop Year Round for School Supplies
One way to save money on the pile of school supplies your child needs at the start of the school year is to stock up on them year round. Take advantage of sales on pens, pencils, and paper that you see during the school year. Start a stock pile of school supplies that you got on sale. Next year, pull from that stock pile and make your back to school shopping less expensive.

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National School Lunch Program Might Help Your Kids

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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School LunchThe start of a brand new school year comes with a lot of expensive purchases. Families who are low-income might struggle to provide their child with a sack lunch five days a week. The National School Lunch Program might be able to help your kids by providing them with a healthy lunch at school.

The United States Department of Agriculture found that both children and adults were food insecure in 9.9% of households with children (in 2013). That comes to 3.8 million households.

The World Health Organization states that food security is built on three pillars. One is food availability, which means a person is getting a sufficient quantity of food on a consistent basis. Another is food access, which means a person has sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. The third pillar is food use, which has to do using food based on a basic knowledge of nutrition and care as well as adequate access to water and sanitation.

Those who lack even one of those three pillars are food insecure. They are not able to consistently obtain the nutritious food that their body needs. The National School Lunch Program can help prevent food insecurity by providing a nutritious lunch to children who come from low-income families.

Any child can purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program. Children who come from families who have an income of at or below 130% of the national poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children who come from families with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. Students in that group can be charged no more than 40 cents for their meal.

Do you think your family fits into those eligibility requirements? If so, you can apply to have your child be part of the National School Lunch Program. Schools send school meal applications home with students at the beginning of each school year. It is also possible to apply later in the school year.

Parents can ask someone at their child’s school for an application for the National School Lunch Program. Sometimes, schools will offer parents information about the free and reduced lunch program at the time that they sign their child up for school.

If your family is already qualified for other types of public assistance, it is possible that your children may already qualify for the National School Lunch Program. Families that are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits need to be aware that their children already qualify of the National School Lunch Program. Parents who are eligible for unemployment compensation may also find that their children qualify for free or reduced lunches.

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Free Kids Events in August

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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crayonsThe new school year will begin towards the end of August. What are you going to do to keep your kids busy until then? Bring them to a free kids building, crafting, or other fun event. There are plenty of them happening in various chain stores. Find one near you!

LEGO Stores
LEGO offers a free monthly mini model building event for kids ages 6-14. Parents need to register their kids if they would like them to attend the event.

August 4 or 5, 2015: Kangaroo Mini Model Build – Kids will put together a mini model of a kangaroo.

Pottery Barn Kids
Pottery Barn Kids has story time events that take place on Tuesdays from 11:00 to 11:30 in the morning. Kids that become a book club member receive a special gift after they attend five story times.

Pottery Barn Kids is also holding a special event called “First Day Photo Booth”. It has already started and will continue through Thursday, August 20, 2015. Gather your kids and have them take a fun “first day of school” photo, complete with props. Share the photo on Instagram with #adventurebegins, and Pottery Barn Kids will donate $1 for every photo shared to the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

Home Depot
Home Depot has free kids workshops where kids can put together a project that they get to keep. They also get a free certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin. Registration is required.

August 1, 2015: Chalkboard Door Hanger – Kids put together a door hanger that has a functional chalkboard on one side.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow has free kids workshops where kids can build, and keep, a wooden project. Kids also get a free apron, goggles, and a patch. Registration is required.

July 25, 2015: Hawkeye’s Quinjet – Kids will build Hawkeye’s Quinjet. This is part of their “Avengers Assemble” projects.

August 8, 2015:
Hulk’s Tank – Kids will build Hulk’s Tank. This is part of their “Avengers Assemble” projects.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers kids craft events every Saturday for kids ages 3 and up.

August 1, 2015: Friendship Day Keepsake – Kids will decorate two people shapes with tissue paper, yarn, and wiggly eyes.

August 8, 2015: Keeping Cool! Door Hanger – Kids will decorate a paper door hanger that looks like an icy drink. It comes with a sign that says: “Keeping cool in my room.”

August 15, 2015: Summer Breeze Wind Chime – Kids can decorate a wind chime with strings of beads.

August 22, 2015: Animal Antics Paper Pal! – Kids create a paper animal to play with.

August 29, 2015: Bug Buddy – Kids create a bug out of pipe cleaners, puffs, and wiggly eyes.

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Tips for Reducing Coupon Clutter

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 at 3:34 pm
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Fake CouponsCoupons can help you save money on your grocery bill. Collecting coupons can, at times, feel almost addictive. Eventually, you are going to end up with a lot of coupon clutter. You don’t have to let the clutter spread across your home. There are ways to reduce the coupon clutter.

Create a Coupon Binder
Some people, who dabble in couponing, can get by with an envelope of coupons. Those that are edging toward extreme couponing are going to need a coupon binder. You can purchase them from some grocery stores. Or, you can make your own from a three ring binder and several sheets that are designed to hold baseball cards.

After you obtain your coupon binder, the next step is to organize your coupons into it. Remember to periodically check the expiration dates of the coupons and remove the ones that have expired. Take the time to add newly clipped coupons into the binder as soon as possible.

Keep Up With Your Coupons
One thing that helps reduce clutter is routine. Pick a day that you are going to organize your coupons, and set aside a few hours to do it. Get your scissors, and recycle bin, and start clipping the coupons you need. Immediately after that, put those coupons into your coupon binder. Get rid of the coupons that have expired.

This type of routine will reduce coupon clutter because it prevents the papers from piling up. You won’t ever have more than a week’s worth of coupon clutter to sort through, clip, and organize.

Start Using Digital Coupons
The quickest way to reduce coupon clutter is to go digital! Instead of printing out and clipping paper coupons, load them digitally onto your favorite grocery store’s loyalty card. Often, the same coupons are offered in digital and in printable format. In addition, many stores will offer special coupons that are only available digitally.

Some stores have their own apps that help you to save money. These offers can be in the form of coupons or presented as special deals that are only available for people who use the app. Target has one called Cartwheel. Starbucks has one, too. Many grocery stores also have their own app that helps you save money.

Stop Gathering Extra Newspapers
Many extreme couponers get into the habit of collecting extra newspapers. They do this so they can gather more than one copy of a coupon.

Typically, it is the Sunday paper that includes all the coupon inserts. The problem is the newspaper is being delivered daily. All those extra papers can create a lot of clutter. Save money by canceling your extra subscriptions – and reduce coupon clutter at the same time.

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