How to Coupon

What Not to Buy at the Black Friday Sales

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Decorative cosmetics and perfume.There are plenty of people who get really excited about the Black Friday sales. The combination of great deals and the rush to grab an item before the store runs out of them is thrilling for some. Keep in mind that there are some things that you shouldn’t buy at the Black Friday sales. Resist the urge to buy things simply because you can.

Pre-packaged Gift Sets
That pretty box that contains four different kinds of perfume, or a bunch of makeup, might sound like a great gift for someone you love. Be honest, though. Would you really consider those items to be a good gift if you saw it at any other time of year? Sometimes, the items in a pre-packaged gift set aren’t of the highest quality.

Before you buy a pre-packaged gift set, take a close look at it. Would your loved one really like this gift? Or, would she be happier with one bottle of her favorite perfume? Apply these types of questions before you grab a gift set off the shelf. Sometimes, the gift sets aren’t even on sale!

Valentine’s Day isn’t the only holiday associated with chocolate! There are tons of Christmas chocolates, and other candies, to be found. You may see large displays of chocolate Santas, mint candies, and specialized “fancy” chocolates during the Black Friday sales.

Resist the urge to buy them. Yes, that box of chocolate might be a great gift for someone in your family. However, Christmas is still a month away! It’s too early to by chocolates as gifts now. Pick some up closer to Christmas. (They could be on sale then, too).

Gift Cards
Everyone knows that gift cards are the “go-to” gift. When in doubt, get that hard to shop for person a gift card. That doesn’t mean every gift card is going to be a good deal.

There is a good chance that a worker is going to go down the line at the register and ask everyone how many gift cards they need. Realize that this is a loaded question. The assumption is that you are in need of gift cards. If you weren’t planning on buying any, don’t fall for this trick.

Calenders start to go on sale the day after Christmas. Wait a bit longer, and the price will drop even lower. If your plan is to buy a calender for yourself, and you aren’t super picky about the style, you will get a better deal if you wait and buy it later. The only good reason to buy a calendar before Christmas is if you are giving it as a gift.

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Start Planning Ahead for Christmas

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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piggy bank, woman saving moneyIt’s not too early to start thinking about Christmas. The sooner you start planning out what you need to buy as gifts, the better chance you have of finding a way to save money on it. Whether you are in need of big ticket items, stocking stuffers or holiday decorations, now is the time to buy them.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday
This year, a lot of stores started their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals the day after Halloween. If you aren’t looking for the newest, hottest, item, you might be able to get it at a discount without having to brave the crowds on Thanksgiving Day. Many stores have special deals on shipping if you buy things from their website (instead of walking into the store).

Start by picking out a few stores that carry the item you want. Compare the prices. Don’t forget to consider the discount each store offers. Store loyalty cards can give you some “extra” savings. Pay close attention to when the sale ends. It can be incredibly disappointing to miss the sale on what you wanted to buy.

Christmas Decorations
Every year, Michael’s has a fantastic sale on Christmas trees. Do you need a new one this year? The same store also has great sales on Christmas ornaments, decorations, and gift items. Visit their website for Daily Deals (which could be just about anything) and print out some of their coupons while you are there.

Target also has sales on Christmas trees and indoor Christmas décor. Be sure to visit their website and check for coupons on holiday items before you shop. You might be able to get a bigger savings if you add the Christmas items you want to buy to their Cartwheel app. Try using your Red Card to save even more.

Stocking Stuffers
Gift cards are the “go-to” item for gift giving. You can put the amount you want on the gift card and let a friend or family member pick out something nice for themselves. Check out to see if they have any gift cards you are interested in. It is a website (with a new iOS app) where you can buy discounted gift cards.

Another option is to find out if a particular store has a gift card deal. For example, they might give you a free gift card if you spend a certain amount of money (on specific types of items). This can work out well if you were planning to buy those kinds of items anyway. If all else fails, use the free gift card as a “stocking stuffer”.

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Ways to Save Money on Your Heating Bill

Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Winter Piggy BankIt’s that time of year, again! The weather has turned cold and you need to heat your home in order to keep your family comfortable. Unfortunately, turning on the heat can result in an expensive heating bill. One way to stay warm, and within your budget, is to use some of these tips that will help you save money on your heating bill.

Insulate the Windows
It has been recommended that homeowners close the “gaps” that allow heat to leak out of your home. Use weather stripping to seal the leaks around windows. There are decorative items that are designed to block the gaps under the doors that lead to outside.

Another way to prevent heat from leaking out of your home is by using insulating curtains. Choose the type that has acrylic or high-density foam insulation and reflective film that directs heat into the room.

Popular Mechanics suggests that you cover windows and patio doors with plastic film. You can purchase transparent film from a hardware store. It is simple to put on and won’t damage your trim. When spring comes, the plastic film can be easily removed.

Use a Programable Thermostat
Many families have several hours a day when no one is at home. The kids are at school and the parents are at work. You can use a programable thermostat to automatically lower and raise the temperature in your home in an efficient, cost effective, way. Program it once, and it is good to go.

Set the programable thermostat to a lower temperature during the day when no one is home. (This may not be an ideal solution for families who have pets). Set the temperature low when everyone is sleeping. The programable thermostat can be set to make your house nice and warm as your family is waking up and when people are about to return home.

The U.S. Department of Energy says that you can knock 10% off your yearly heating and cooling expenses if you turn the thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day. Lower the heat when no one is home.

Wear a Sweater
Feeling a little cold even when the heat is on? Before you turn up the heat try putting on a sweater. It doesn’t cost you any money to put on a sweater, sweatshirt, hoodie, or Snuggie that you already have at home. You might find that the additional clothing keeps you warm and comfortable.

A sweater can help lower your heating bill. You get to stay warm without having to turn up the heat. Sometimes, the simplest solution to a problem turns out to be the most cost effective one.

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Thanksgiving Art that Kids Can Make

Posted on Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Thanksgiving Kids CraftsHolidays are the perfect opportunity to let your kids make some artwork. It entirely possible for kids to make art that isn’t incredibly messy or time consuming. Channel some of your children’s excitement about Thanksgiving into fun, colorful, pieces of art. Here are a few ideas to start with.

Handprint Turkey
What could be more traditional than the iconic “handprint turkey”? Many kids first learn how to make one when they are in preschool or kindergarten. Older kids might decide to draw one just for fun. It is very easy to do. Parents can provide a little help if a child has difficulty with it. You will need:

* White paper (computer paper will do)
* Pencil
* Markers or crayons in fall colors (red, orange, brown, yellow)

Step One: A child needs to place his or her hand on the paper, palm down. Next, spread out the fingers as wide as possible (or comfortable).

Step Two: The child can trace around his or her hand using a pencil. Most find it easiest to trace their non-dominant hand. Parents can help with this part by doing the tracing or by letting the child trace the parent’s hand.

Step Three: When the tracing is done, it is time for the child to take his or her hand off the paper. The “thumb” becomes the turkey’s head. The fingers become feathers in the turkey’s tail. Kids can draw the turkey’s face, feet, and wings. They can color the feathers however they would like to.

Thanksgiving Coloring Sheets
Do your kids prefer to color (instead of draw)? They can still participate in Thanksgiving Day artwork with some free, printable, coloring sheets. Parents can cover the finished coloring with clear contact paper (both front and back) and use the artwork as placemats at Thanksgiving dinner. has a “Happy Turkey Day” coloring sheet. It shows a goofy looking turkey who is holding a pumpkin pie and a small pumpkin. (This coloring sheet can be colored online).

Disney has a “Mickey & Friends Thanksgiving Coloring Page” that shows Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy at the table for Thanksgiving dinner. They are wearing pilgrim outfits.

Nick Jr. has an entire “Dora’s Thanksgiving Coloring Book”. It has five pages that can be printed out. Dora is wearing a pilgrim hat and there are fall leaves and pumpkins on some of the pages. Parents can choose to print out just one page or all five pages of this coloring book.

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Use Coupons to Save on Thanksgiving Dinner

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Clipping CouponsYou probably use coupons when you do your grocery shopping. We all know that using coupons is one way to save money. Every little bit of savings helps! For some reason, people forget to use coupons when they go shopping for the foods they will serve at Thanksgiving dinner. Here are a few tips to help you remember to use your coupons.

Use the Loyalty Card
Shop for the foods you need for Thanksgiving dinner at the grocery store where you have a loyalty card. That card gives you access to lower prices. You can get some great deals even if you completely forgot to bring your coupons to the store.

The savings get even better if you took the time to add digital coupons to the loyalty card before you headed out the door. Digital coupons automatically ring up when you are at the cash register. What if you forgot your loyalty card? Most stores will let you access the savings it offers if you enter your phone number into the kiosk.

Use a Coupon Holder
Put the coupons that you printed out, or clipped from weekly ads, into a designated coupon holder. Some stores sell little pouches that are separated into many sections, that you can use to hold and organize your coupons. It doesn’t have to be fancy, though. You can use a regular old envelope to hold coupons.

Put your coupon holder next to your keys. Seeing the coupon holder might remind you to pick it up. Or, place it inside one of the reusable bags that you need to take with you to the grocery store. Either strategy will make it harder for you to forget your coupons.

Do a Price Check
Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes a turkey. Grocery stores are going to be competing against each other in an effort to attract shoppers. They know that Thanksgiving dinner can easily double the amount of money a person spends on groceries that week.

Pay attention to the price of turkey. Buy it from the store that is selling it for the lowest price. Don’t forget to consider the discount you will get if you have the loyalty card for particular store. You don’t necessarily have to do all of your Thanksgiving dinner shopping at that store. It is acceptable to just go in and buy a turkey.

Start Shopping Early
Don’t wait until the last minute to buy what you need for Thanksgiving dinner. Doing so will very likely cause you to miss out on the best deals. People will purchase the brands that are the least expensive, or that are on sale, first. Wait too long, and you could be stuck with the products that are being sold for full price.

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What to Buy in November

Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Collection of wedding dresses in the shopNovember brings us a mixed bag of annual sales. Some are on leftover Halloween items. Others relate to Thanksgiving. The Black Friday sales are typically associated with Christmas gift buying. There are also some annual sales in November that you might not be aware of. Here is a quick list of the best things to buy in November.

Wedding Dresses
Getting married in 2015? The best time to buy a wedding dress is in November. It is the month when the best sales on wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses, and mother of the bride dresses happen. It might be a way for the stores to reduce their stock of the current year’s styles and make room for the new line. Pick out your wedding dress now and you will save money on it.

Halloween Sales
That ugly, yet appealing, Halloween decoration seemed too expensive a few weeks ago. Now, it will be offered at a greatly reduced price. (Assuming, of course, the store still has some “leftovers” in stock). Now is a great time to pick out Halloween greeting cards to send out next year. Halloween candy will be at a very low price.

Thanksgiving is in November. The typical Thanksgiving dinner includes turkey as the main course. Those who don’t celebrate this holiday, but do enjoy eating turkey, can take advantage of the sales, too. Every grocery store is competing with the rest to get you to choose their store. They know many shoppers need to buy an extra amount of food this month for Thanksgiving. Pick the store with the best price on turkey, and use coupons for everything else.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales
Last year, Black Friday started on Thanksgiving Day (a Thursday). This year, some of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have already begun. It seems like the stores are especially anxious this year to attract customers before people spend all of their holiday budget. Visit websites and check out weekly sales papers to find the best deals. Many people find that starting their Christmas shopping now, a little at a time, helps spread out the cost.

Sign up for Loyalty Programs
November is a great month to sign up for the loyalty program at the stores that you like to shop at. You might get sent “sneak peaks” about what items will be in the store’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. Some stores are also offering special discounts on hot items to the customers that are part of the loyalty program. These little “extras” could help you save money on things you were already intending to purchase.

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Free Kids Events in November

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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art suppliesThe weather in November can be cold and miserable. When your kids get bored of playing inside the house they are going to need something else to do. Take them to a free kids crafting or building event. There are plenty to choose from. The best part is that many of these events teach kids how to make a toy. That should give them something to do when they get home!

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow offers free kids building events on Saturdays. Registration is required. Kids that participate will get a free apron, goggles, a special patch, and can take home the project they build.

November 8, 2014: Build a Science Lab – This science lab is a wooden project that includes plastic cups and beakers. It also has some experiment cards that kids can try after they get home.

Home Depot Kids Workshops
Home Depot also has free kids building events on Saturdays. Registration is required. Kids who participate get a free Workshop apron, a certificate of achievement, and a commemorative pin. The events are for kids ages 5 – 12.

November 1, 2014: How to Build a Pallet Coaster – Kids will put together a wooden coaster that looks just like the pallets that stock sits on in stores.

November 29, 2014: How to Build a Give and Save Bank – Kids will put together a wooden bank that looks a bit like a cartoon Home Depot.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free kids craft events every Saturday from 11:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. The events are for children ages 3 and up. No registration is required.

November 1, 2014: Scarecrow Puppet – Kids will put together, and decorate, a cute scarecrow puppet.

November 8, 2014: Harvest Headdress – Kids will put together a paper band that goes around their heads. They will decorate it with fall colored faux flowers. It even has “boppers” made of pipe cleaners and a leaf design.

November 15, 2014: Family Picture Tree – Kids will color and put together a tree that will stand up. There are holes in it that can hold photos of family members.

November 22, 2014: Giving Thanks Centerpiece – Kids will put together a stand-up centerpiece that looks like a turkey. It comes with “googly-eyes”.

November 29, 2014: Cool Catch Penguin – Kids will put together a “ball and cup” game that looks like the face and beak of a penguin. They also get to color it and add “googly-eyes”.

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Last Minute Halloween Costumes for Kids

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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HalloweenYour child declared that he or she did not want to wear a Halloween costume this year. Today, the same child insists upon having a Halloween costume to wear. What can you do now? Here are some ideas for last minute Halloween costumes for children.

Hit the Sales
The closer you get to Halloween, the bigger the discount on the Halloween stuff. This includes costumes. Take your child to a department store, grocery store, or pharmacy that is having a sale on Halloween items. There might be some costumes still there that will fit your child. There is no way to know what kinds of costumes will be “leftover”. Be prepared to emphasize the positive in whatever choices remain.

Last Year’s Costume
Your child might be able to use the same costume that he or she wore last year. To find it, a parent is likely going to have to go through some boxes of stored away Halloween stuff. What if your child outgrew that costume? Consider borrowing the costume that an older sibling wore last year. This option will, at the very least, make your child presentable for trick-or-treating (or a school Halloween party).

Sports Fan
Does your child have a football jersey or a hockey jersey? In a pinch, this can become an instant costume. Your child is now a “sports fan” for Halloween. Add a knit hat with the team’s logo on it, and have your child carry one of those giant foam fingers. If you have time, pick up some Halloween makeup in the team’s colors and paint your child’s face.

Cowboy or Cowgirl
This is an incredibly easy costume to put together at the last minute. All your child needs is a cowboy hat, a western shirt, jeans, and a pair of boots. A plaid, button-down, shirt will work if you don’t have a western one. Cowgirls can swap out the jeans for a long denim skirt. If you want to make the costume that much more obvious, put a small toy horse into the pocket of the shirt. Or, have your child carry a small “stuffy” horse.

Minimal Costumes
Sometimes, you just have to go with what you have and make it work. Does your child have a hoodie that has skeleton bones drawn on it? That, plus some Halloween face makeup, could turn your child into a skeleton for Halloween. If all else fails, have your child wear one of those t-shirts that says “This is my costume”.

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Alternatives to the Plastic Pumpkin

Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Halloween Candy PumpkinTrick-or-treaters typically carry a bright orange plastic pumpkin that they use as a treat bag. There are plenty of alternatives to the plastic pumpkin treat bag for those who don’t have one, don’t like it, or who feel it doesn’t match their Halloween costume. Almost anything that can hold candy will do. It doesn’t have to be a pumpkin.

Reusable Shopping Bags
Do you live in a place that has a single-use plastic bag ban? If so, then you more than likely have some reusable, canvas, shopping bags at home. They can hold much more than groceries! Each of your kids can take one of the bags with him or her as they go trick-or-treating.

Reusable shopping bags will hold a lot more candy than a small plastic pumpkin bucket will. If the bags are not identical, it also has another advantage. It makes it easy to tell, at a glance, which bag of candy belongs to which child.

This is a “go-to” last minute idea that will work. Forgot to buy the plastic pumpkin this year? Can’t find the ones you thought you stored away last year? If the stores sold out of the plastic pumpkin buckets you are going to have to find another option.

Everybody has some pillowcases at home. They will hold a lot of candy. They are also relatively sturdy. If your child drops the pillowcase and gets it dirty, it is no big deal. You were going to wash it anyway, right?

Paper Shopping Bags
The Peanuts Gang in the popular “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” animated movie used paper shopping bags when they went trick-or-treating. Kids have been using paper shopping bags for that purpose for a very long time.

The best part about using a paper shopping bag, instead of a plastic pumpkin, is that it can turn into an art activity. Kids can use crayons or markers to draw on the paper shopping bag. They can write their name, draw a Halloween scene, or decorate it in a way that matches with their costume.

Costume Specific Bags
Use a little creativity, and you could send your child out to trick-or-treat with a bag that goes along with their costume. Princesses can use a large, glitzy, purse that came from a thrift store. Draw a skull and crossbones on the front of an empty, white, plastic ice cream bucket for a pirate to carry. Kids dressed as cartoon characters can use a pillowcase that features the character.

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DIY Halloween Gravestones for your Yard

Posted on Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Halloween decorationsHalloween is one of the few holidays in which people set up decorations in their yards. Often, this includes carved pumpkins, fake spider webs, and things like that. Would you like to set up your own Halloween graveyard this year? There are so many ways to make your own Halloween gravestones.

Paper Bag Tombstones
Martha Stewart has a really easy way to make authentic looking Halloween gravestones. Her instructions will show you how to make them out of paper shopping bags. She suggests that you use gray shopping bags so that they will end up looking like stone.

Basically, what you need to do is cut the top of the bag into a shape that resembles a gravestone. You also need to add an epitaph onto the front of it. Not feeling very crafty? Martha Stewart has a template you can use for both of those things. Eventually, you will need to open the bags and stake them to the ground. Put a lit tea light in them for spooky effects.

Cardboard Box Gravestone
Dave Lowe Designs has an excellent tutorial, complete with photos, that will walk you through how to make awesome looking Halloween gravestones for your yard. Start with a free overnight shipping box from Fed-Ex (or any other shipping company).

He shows you how to use a template to make the name on your gravestone. There is a certain way to fold the cardboard in order to make a base (and help the gravestone stand up). He also used two or three coats of exterior house paint to give the cardboard box gravestone a realistic look. This project takes a bit more skill than the one from Martha Stewart (but isn’t too difficult).

Tissue Box Gravestones has a super simple DIY Halloween gravestone craft for children to do. First, you will need to collect up some empty tissue boxes (that were headed to the recycle bin). Follow the directions on the Crayola website.

In short, a child can take a piece of paper, cut it into a gravestone shape, and color it to make it resemble stone. An epitaph can be added to the front if desired (or just put R.I.P.). Glue the finished gravestone to the front of the empty tissue box. They will make a nice window display for Halloween trick-or-treaters to enjoy.

You could place these mini Halloween gravestones outside if you place them on a covered porch (so they don’t get rained on). It might be a good idea to stick rocks inside the empty box to weigh it down.

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