How to Coupon

Could Kmart’s Layaway Make You Overspend?

Posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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KMART logoIt is only October, but Kmart already has commercials advertising their layaway. The commercials show Santa shopping at Kmart behind a woman in a Kmart shirt who is talking about their layaway program. It can be convenient to put things on layaway, just make sure that you don’t end up overspending.

Kmart layaway is not something new. The store has offered it for a very long time. The key thing to keep in mind with layaway is that it could trick you into spending more than you intended to. If you are paying attention, you can avoid that trap.

The Kmart layaway is easy to use. It allows customers to put items on hold – for a fee. Many people use it to reserve things that they want to buy as gifts for other people, but cannot afford to purchase all at once.

Bring the items you want to the layaway. Pay a $10 down payment. You will have to make a payment on those items every two weeks. You can have the items held for 8 weeks or for 12 weeks.

If you put items on hold for 8 weeks, you will have to pay a service fee of $5. If you choose to cancel your layaway you will be charged a cancellation fee of $10. Or, you can have the items held for 12 weeks. That option comes with a $10 service fee. If you cancel a 12 week layaway, you will be charged a $20 cancellation fee.

In other words, layaway is not free. You will need to spend either a total of $15 (for an 8 week hold) or $20 (for a 12 week hold). An 8 week hold requires you to make 4 payments (one every two weeks). A 12 week hold requires you to make 6 payments (one every two weeks).

It can be easy to lose track of the total amount of money you are spending just to have those items stored in layaway. Make an effort to keep track of what you spend. This will help you determine if layaway is financially worth it to you.

Try and pay your layaway deposit, service fee, and payments in cash. If you use your credit card, and cannot pay off the entire balance on the next bill, you will end up with an interest charge. That makes your layaway more expensive.

Don’t cancel your layaway. You will end up receiving a refund of your payments – minus the service and cancellation fee. You’ve now spent money to put items on hold that you didn’t end up buying. That’s a waste of money!

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4 Frugal Ways to Decorate for Fall

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2015 at 5:30 pm
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Decorating your home for Fall doesn't have to cost a fortune!  Here are some tips to make your fall decorating more frugal.It’s time for the pumpkins, leaves, and fall floral decorations! Ready to decorate your home for Fall? You can do it without spending a lot of money. Frugal decorations can look just as lovely as the expensive versions. No one will be able to guess how much, or how little, you spent!

Start with what you have.
Before you make any purchases of fall decorations, it is a good idea to find out what you already have. Set aside some time to go through the garage, attack the attic, and search the storage shed for boxes of Fall decorations that you put away last year. It is easy to forget what was in those boxes.

Sometimes, decorations that have been stored away do not come out of storage very well. Dust everything off and check to see what is still usable. Throw away (or recycle) decorations that have been damaged beyond the point of use. Make a list of things you need to replace.

Check the dollar stores.
The dollar stores sell many of the same type of Fall decorations as the craft stores do. The difference is that things are frugally priced at the dollar stores, and may be quite expensive at the craft stores.

Dollar stores are great places to find plastic leaves and flowers that are in Fall colors. Will you be making a Fall wreath for your front door? You can’t beat the price of the plastic flowers and leaves that are at the dollar stores.

Search for the sales.
Before you head out to your favorite craft store, visit their website. Find out if they are currently having a sale on Fall decorations. Look for printable coupons that can help you save money on the items that you purchase. Avoid buying decorations that you already have at home.

Compare the prices of the Fall decorations at the craft stores with the prices of the Fall decorations sold at department stores. Target, Kmart, Walmart, and other department stores carry seasonal items. Do a little digging and you can figure out which store has the best price on the decorations you want to buy.

Pick some plastic pumpkins.
There are plastic pumpkins, in a variety of sizes and colors, that look just like the real thing. No one will know that you decorated with plastic ones (unless they pick them up). Buy a few little ones, in different colors, to use as a centerpiece on your table. Put some large plastic pumpkins on your porch. The best thing about plastic pumpkins is that they are reusable. You won’t have to buy new ones next year!

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Tips for Using Online Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 at 8:14 pm
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Want to get the most from online coupons?  Try these simple tips that will save you time and money.Want to get the most out of your online coupons? There are many things that you can do to become more efficient about using digital coupons. Make a habit of using these simple tips, and your couponing will be faster, easier, and more money saving.

Visit store websites
Did you know that many stores have digital coupons that are available on their website? Make sure to check out the store’s website before you go shopping. Target, Walmart, and almost every grocery store offers coupons to customers. Some of these coupons can be printed out, while others will be added to your store loyalty card automatically.

Get the loyalty card
Is there a grocery store that you frequently shop at? Sign up for their loyalty card. They will give you one for free. Once you have the loyalty card, you will automatically get access to lower prices on products all across the store. In addition, you can add coupons to the loyalty card through the store’s website.

Match coupons with sales
The best time to use a coupon is when you can match it with a sale or a store special. You could end up with a bigger discount than you would have gotten without the coupon. Make sure to read the fine print on the coupon before you shop. Find out if the coupon is one that you are allowed to use on sale items.

Consider a credit card
Some clothing stores will mail coupons to people who have the store’s credit card. Victoria’s Secret sends a few coupons every month (that expire by the end of the month). Use those coupons on sale items, and you will save a lot of money. They also send out a special coupon that can be used during the month of the customer’s birthday. This is just one example of a way to get more coupons from a store you frequently shop at.

There is something to keep in mind about using credit cards. Don’t spend more money than you can pay off on your next bill. Keep the balance at zero, and you can avoid paying a finance charge. The coupons you get for having the credit card won’t help if the finance charge is higher than the amount the coupons saved you.

Find a favorite coupon website
Some people spend a lot of time looking at dozens of coupon blogs. You can save time if you pick a favorite coupon blog and just look at that one. Choose one that offers printable coupons directly through their website. Print out the coupons you are planning to use right before you go shopping.



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What to Buy at Fall Festivals

Posted on Thursday, September 10th, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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Not sure what to buy at the fall festivals?  Here are some tips on the best things to purchase.The fall festivals are starting! These community festivals are fun to visit with your family. It is a good idea to watch how much you are spending so you don’t go over your budget. You can save money if you limit your purchases to things that are fall related and that might be more expensive to buy somewhere else.

4 Items to Buy at Fall Festivals

Pumpkins are the most popular item to use as a fall decoration. If your local fall festival sells them, it may be a good idea to buy some. Before you attend the fest, figure out how many pumpkins you actually need.

Buy the pumpkins right before you leave the festival so you won’t have to carry them around with you. Or, select a few small pumpkins and put them in a bag to make them easier to carry.

Not interested in carving pumpkins this year? There might be a vendor at the fall festival that is selling painted pumpkins. All you have to do is select where to put it, and your decorating is done!

Kettle Corn
The sweet and salty kettle corn that you can buy from a festival is always going to be better than the pre-packaged kind. The warm popcorn will smell good and be nice to carry around on a cool autumn day. Kettle corn is typically inexpensive and comes in large bags. Share it with your family!

Fall Decorations
The best time to buy unique, handmade, fall decorations is during the fall festivals. Vendors who create decorative holiday items will be selling them. The price might be a bit higher than the decorations you can find in stores. The extra cost might be worth it because you will be getting a one of a kind item.

What kinds of decorations should you look for? Select ones that can be used again next year. Handmade scarecrows, fall wreaths, and plastic painted pumpkins are good choices. If you aren’t concerned about reusable decorations, buy a carved gourd or pumpkin. Flowers in fall colors can make a nice (yet temporary) decoration.

Food From Non-Profits
Getting hungry? Food that is sold at festivals is generally pricey. There’s no getting around the cost, so you may as well use your money responsibly. Look for a food vendor that is being run by a non-profit organization. Your money can help someone!

Look for vendors that are band students who are raising money for upcoming competitions. Religious organizations are another option. Schools that are raising money to upgrade their computers, or buy new textbooks, or to purchase supplies for students in need are also a great place to give your money to.

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Tricks Stores Use to Make You Spend More

Posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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You went shopping with some coupons, and took advantage of a sale.  How come you ended up spending more than planned?  Stores use tricks to make that happen.You went shopping because you had some coupons, or because the store was having a sale. After you were all finished shopping you realized that you ended up spending much more than you intended to. How does that happen? There are some tricks that stores use that can cause people to spend more money than they planned on spending.

3 Ways Stores Try to Get You to Spend More

Really Large Shopping Carts
For whatever reason, people have a tendency to want to fill up their shopping cart while they are buying groceries. Stores that give shoppers really large shopping carts know that this can make a customer unintentionally spend more money than she planned.

Visually, it looks like the same amount of groceries as when you shopped at a different store that had smaller carts. In reality, you’ve got a lot more products in that cart than you realized. The way to avoid this trick is to use a basket instead of a cart (or to resist the urge to fill up a shopping cart).

Christmas Music
Have you ever wondered why so many stores play Christmas music through their speakers? The reason has to do with nostalgia. The Christmas music makes people happy and reminds them of their childhood. People who enjoy the music they are hearing in a store are likely to stick around for longer than they planned. Naturally, while you are in the store, you just might find more things that you want to buy.

Real Simple notes that some stores include “soundscapes” which have things like sounds of soda fizzing or a steak sizzling hiding in the music. Suddenly, you have the urge to have steak for dinner and a desire for the pack of soda that is on display. One way to avoid this trick is put in your earbuds and listen to music you selected for yourself while you shop.

Free Samples
How could a free sample make someone spend more money? This trick is one that works slowly. You stop for a free sample of sausage, or tea, or whatever is being handed out. Let’s say that you liked it. Your stomach wants more than that little tidbit, and your metabolism might think it is dinner time.

People who are hungry tend to spend more on groceries than people who are full. Everything looks good when you are starving! That free sample influences shoppers to spend more than they planned. It also makes at least some of them buy the food that they got a free sample of – even though they had no intentions of buying it when they walked in.

There are two things you can do to avoid this trick. First, don’t go shopping while you are hungry. Eat lunch, or dinner, first. Second, do not accept the free sample.

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Ways to Save on School Lunches

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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School is back in session and your kids will need a packed lunch.  Here are some ways to save on school lunches.The 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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College is expensive!  Here are a few tips that will help college students save money.College 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.

How to Save Money as a College Student

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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Have you noticed that more and more companies are offering coupons via smartphones?  There are some very good reasons why this change is happening.Back 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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