How to Save - Part 101
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How to Save

Organizing Bonus Cards

Posted on Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 6:28 am
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Bonus, reward or store loyalty cards can be great. They allow you to get discounts and sale prices at your favorite store and they allow you to get rebates and register rewards. They only problem is that every darn store seems to have a bonus, reward or loyalty card.

Why is this a problem? Well, I for one was having a lot of trouble keeping track of all of these cards. First I tried loading up my wallet with every card I got until it looked like some overfed and groaning animal, stretching the leather of my wallet and making it impossible to close. Then I tried to convenient key chain cards, but they too were crowding things. Plus, I couldn’t remember if a card was in my wallet or on my keychain.

Another problem was keeping track of who had the keychain with the bonus cards on it. For example, if I ran to the pharmacy but left that particular set of keys with my husband, well then I was out of luck and out of bonus cards.

But ah-ha! Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I have a solution that seems to work well for me. I simply made sure that all of our bonus cards came in the keychain form. Then I purchased a new, virgin, keychain just for the bonus cards. To make finding them easier, I placed a small bead in between the cards on the keychain and even color coded the beads: green for groceries, red for the pharmacy, etc.

All of the bonus cards are in one place. I usually keep them in my purse, but you can also keep them with your reusable shopping bags, or anywhere that is convenient.

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Affording Disney Store Clothing

Posted on Thursday, November 26th, 2009 at 8:21 am
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I have to say that I love Disney Store products. That is, stuff that is sold at the Disney Store. There are plenty of licensed Disney products that are sold elsewhere, in places such as Target, Walmart, Sears and even the local grocery store, but these can vary in quality.

I especially like the clothing that is available at the Disney Store, because it really stands the test of time. I have sweatshirts that were purchased in 200o and have been washed and worn many times. They are just starting to fray at bit at the cuffs, now, but in the last nine years, they haven’t noticeably faded or lost their shape.

Disney Store clothes for my kids have held up equally well. They get through two or three kids and still look good enough to pass down to others. And while I wouldn’t personally pass along my kid’s underwear, I can’t beat it for the fit and the sturdy elastic. The socks also seem to hold up long after other brands develop holes. And then there are the Halloween costumes that are warm and of good quality.

Christmas presents this year will include several Disney clothing items, plus a couple of beach blankets and throws.

Okay, before I start sounding like a Disney Store commercial, let me move on to how we can afford to partake of all of these wonderful bounty of Disney clothing. There are several strategies I employ.

The first is to shop at the outlet. Fortunately, we have a Disney Store outlet about 45 minutes away from us. There I can stock up on t-shirts that are $3 or less, dresses for under $10, sneakers for $3 or less and more. The special occasion clothing and those Halloween costumes are real deals. If you don’t happen to be near a Disney Store outlet, you can always check out the online outlet store. It might not have the same selection, but the items are more geared to the current season. The online outlet is divided by category.

Here is the link to the Baby Outlet for example. There are some adorable onsies there right now.

If you do shop online, use the code SHIP89 to get free shipping when you spend $89. It expires on 12/17.

Speaking of seasons, I try to shop just after a season or a holiday as often as possible, when I shop the regular non-outlet Disney Store. Merchandise gets marked down pretty quickly, so I can get some good deals. In the case of my kids, I stock up on next year’s sizes.

Another way to save at the Disney Store is to look for the T-shirt sales. In the summer, T-shirts will get marked way down for a limited time. With these sales, it is important to arrive early, or you may be left with nothing but XXL Grumpy T-shirts or XXS in whatever last year’s character was.

Happy Shopping!

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Black Friday Shopping Tips

Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2009 at 6:11 am
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Ready for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year? So is everyone else. If you don’t want to miss out on that hot deal but still want to stay safe, you’ll need some strategy and tips in your shopping arsenal. Here is my best advice.

Know the deals

Know exactly what the deals are as well as any restrictions. Some deals may have limited quantities in the store, some deals may allow you to only purchase one of an item and some deals may only be available at certain hours of the day. You want to understand the details of the deal in order to be best prepared to get it.

One way to keep up with the Black Friday deals is to check the FreeCoupons blog. I’ll be posting the hottest store deals as they become available.

Do your research

Just because that coffee maker is only $3 or than HDTV is only $200 doesn’t mean that it is the best deal for you. You want to make sure to do your research on the products behind the deal. Something that breaks within a few months isn’t a deal. Neither is something that doesn’t have all of the features that you need. Check product reviews and Consumer Reports magazine to make sure that the products are worth your time and your money.

Bring supplies

Some of the deals are tough to get and may require getting up at the crack of dawn to stand in line hours before the store opens. You’ll keep your stamina if you are prepared with a few supplies. First of all, bring a buddy. A friend can hold the line if you need a bathroom break and can provide support. Plus, the two of you can divide and conquer in the store, such as picking up two each of the hottest items, so you both can score as many deals as possible.

Make sure you also have water and some snacks to keep you going throughout the day.

Shop online

Finally, consider shopping online. Online stores also offer door busters and other hot deals, but without the hassle of standing in line. Instead, you’ll need to gather your coupon codes and be aware for limited time offers.

Happy shopping!

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Pay Attention at the Check Out Counter

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 5:07 pm
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Are you carefully clipping those coupons and matching them to the sales but then forgetting to follow up at the check out counter? You could be losing money. Here is why.

Many stores utilize a bonus card or club card for their store. You can’t get the sale or discounted price unless you have this card. The problem is that sometimes the cashiers are so busy that they forget to scan the card during your order. This means that you won’t get the sales price and instead, you will have to pay the full regular price. Always make sure your cashier scans your card. You can even assign this job to a child or another member of your family, so you can get busy loading the belt or getting your coupons out.

If cashiers forget to scan cards, they also forget to scan coupons. Sometimes they forget to scan all of your coupons, and sometimes they only forget to scan a few. Either way, you are out some cash. Since it is easy for the cashier to get distracted, I usually tell them I have coupons and then hand the coupons over after all of my items have been scanned. This way, the cashier has the coupons in hand when he or she is ready to scan them. And, I can watch the screen as the money comes off for each coupon.

Finally, here is an error that isn’t the cashier’s fault. Just because an item is on sale, doesn’t mean that the scanner will record the sale price. Many items scan in at full price, even if they are advertised on sale. When this happens, you are often entitled to a cash bonus in addition to having the price corrected. Usually the bonus is to simply get the item for free, or it can be up to an additional $5 back. This all depends on the store policy and the state law.

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Entertaining on a Budget

Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 4:52 pm
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Okay, now that we are into November, I am starting to panic. There will be a whole host of gatherings at my house starting with the big one on Thanksgiving. I don’t even know how to brine a turkey, but I guess I’ll just have to learn. One thing I do know, though, is how to save money. You bet that I am going to apply that knowledge this year to save as much as I can with entertaining.

Here is what I plan on doing.

I think food will be my biggest expense. To save money on groceries, I’ve been gathering the coupons for some of the special foods that we will need for the holidays. Our local grocery store offers a free turkey with points, and with a family of five, I should be making enough purchases there to qualify. Anything that is non perishable can be picked up as soon as a good sale comes along.

I’ll also be combining coupons and sales, and then stacking the coupons when I can.
This strategy also applies to cleaning products. I will definitely be stepping up the cleaning for company. Generic cleaners and home made cleaners (such as vinegar and water to wash windows) will save a bunch of money.

For some affairs, I can get away with hosting a pot luck. This will cut down on the food costs, and we will all get the benefit of everyone’s favorite dishes!
When I provide all of the food myself, it is often cheaper to make it all from scratch or at least assemble it myself. For example, instead of buying a cut fruit platter, I will buy the fruit whole and cut it.

For music, I already have a bunch of holiday music on my iPod, but I’ll still be looking out for more. Amazon often offers free music downloads. Napster is offering a free trial of downloads, too. There are also a number of online sources for streaming holiday music, such as

Did you know that you can often save on wine and alcohol when you go almost to the source. Large distributors often sell to the public. Local shops may also have some great recommendations on less pricey but excellent wine and other beverages.

Do you have any other tips for saving money when you entertain?

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Big Savings Strategies for Electronics & Appliances

Posted on Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 at 11:55 am
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I’ve been thinking a lot about electronics and appliances lately. Maybe because I’ve been spotting some great deals, or maybe it is simply because our family computer is slower than molasses and our electric range/oven was originally installed in our home in 1962.
If you are thinking the same thing I am, then you might be able to take advantage of some of the following big saving strategies for electronics and appliances.

First of all, do you remember the day that I did all of that running around and got some great clearance deals on Halloween and fall items? Well, while we were in the mall, we had to pass through Sears on our way. I went right past the appliances and stopped to ask a saleswoman about upcoming sales. She informed me that this Sunday, October 4th is the friends and family event. Shop on Sunday, and you’ll get great deals, such as 30 percent off appliances.

Another plus for Sears are their scratch and dent stores. Have you heard of these. They don’t have them everywhere, but you can usually find one in your state or the next state over. These are appliances sold at deep, deep discounts because of the occasional ding or scratch that accidentally happens when the appliances is being shipped or moved. Heck, my kids will do this anyway, so why not save a few hundred dollars on a little ding?

Related to the scratch and dent store are online ways to save for a similar reason. Electronics Expo has some great deals on Open Box merchandise and both Apple, Dell and HP frequently refurbish returns and sells them for deep discounts. You still get the same warranties, so there is no risk there. The laptop I am typing this post on was a refurbished item from Apple. In four years it has never needed a repair other than a new cord when someone in my house tripped on it.

Check both the Electronics category and the For the Home Category on the left for current deals. I’ll also pull a few of these out for you.

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Get Your Frozen Food and Baking Coupons Ready

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009 at 11:37 am
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October is the month when the grocery stores have frozen food and baking items on sale. This is because everyone is gearing up for the upcoming holidays, when both types of food are in demand.

Baking goods being on sale before the holidays make sense. After all, there is all of those pies and cookies to be made. Many people save their baking for holidays times only, but even if you don’t you’ll want to start stockpiling things such as flour, sugar, pie fillings, refrigerated pie crusts, refrigerated breadsticks, etc.

Frozen foods will also be in demand for two or maybe three reasons. Frozen foods can often make cooking those big elaborate family meals much easier than cooking everything from fresh or from scratch. People also like to keep frozen foods on hand during the busy holiday season, so they can have something quick to prepare for dinner before heading out for parties and shopping. And the third reason is that having frozen food on hand means that you won’t have to run out to the store in the middle of that blizzard or cold weather.

With these things in mind, you should take the next couple of weeks to really organize and gather your coupons for baking supplies and frozen foods. Sign up for coupon booklets and newsletters (such as the Betty Crocker newsletter) and get your printable coupons ready. Make sure to buy your Sunday paper for the inserts (or get them in other ways, such as asking your neighbors).

With your coupons in hand, you can match them against the grocery store sales to get the best deals!

Also, pay attention to restaurant deals and online grocery deals. had an unprecedented 90 percent off recently. I don’t know if this will come around again, but if it does, be sure to grab it. Here are some current coupons and deals for online groceries that I have posted.

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Yard Sale Your Stockpile!

Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 11:31 am
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Not only can coupons and freebies save you money, but they can also make you money. First by bringing you extra overage after coupons and second by selling your extra items at a yard sale! Here are some tips on just how to do this.

The first time I came across a stockpile yard sale was when I was new to using coupons. One of our neighbor’s clued us in to a great sale that one particular family held twice a year. He called it a grocery sale and said that we could get regular grocery items for half off.

Well, of course I had to check this out. I recognized so many of the items as products from recent coupon and sales combo deals. There was the cereal brand that I had gotten for only 50 cents. There was the toothpaste I cleaned up at the store for free. But each time I did the deal, I only snagged enough to provide for my family or to pass on in donation. This family turned getting the deals into a little side business and was actually making money on their stockpile!

If you want to do the same, whether it is a full stockpile sale or a traditional yard sale that also offers stockpile items, try the following strategies to get the most money from your great deals.

Zero in on hot high priced items that look expensive. The recent deal on the automatic shower cleaner is a good example. While it cost you only $.99 to get the shower cleaning kit, it retails in the store for $14.99, meaning that you could sell it new in the box for $7-10.

Speaking of cleaners. Some of the fastest selling items at this stockpile sale were cleaning items, health and beauty products (especially toothpaste), laundry detergent and cereal.

If you have a lot of samples, bundle them together in a bag. You could either sell multiples of the same sample per bag or put together little travel kits. The travel kits get snatched up pretty quickly.

Try to time your sale so you don’t have items that are expired or near their expiration date. if you do wind up with a few, place them on a bargain table and reduce the cost, making note that they are near expiration. This way, the customers have a choice and don’t feel cheated. Happy customers will tell their friends.

Be sure to have a notebook available. You can take down the names and numbers of people who are looking for specific items. This way, if you find a good deal, you can let them know.

Consider donating any items left over from your sale if they will be expiring before your next sale date.

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Five Tips for Buying Groceries Online

Posted on Thursday, August 13th, 2009 at 3:38 pm
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shopping keyThere are many good reasons to buy your groceries online. Saving time and money are two of the biggest reasons. And did you know that many online grocery stores actually wave the delivery fee and tips? This can reduce the cost of your groceries even more than you might expect!

The convenience of shopping online for your groceries is often worth it. Think about this. It is late at night you are at home with the flu. You are out of milk, need some cough medicine, and have nothing in the house for dinner the next night. Do you drag yourself out to the store or do without? Of course the third option is to order your groceries online. Likewise when you are stuck in meetings at work or shuttling the kids around all week and don’t have time to grocery shop. We’ve all been there, right?

Buying groceries online needs a different set of strategies than buying groceries in an actual, physical supermarket. Follow these tips to make sure that you save money and get exactly what you need.

1. Take advantage of new customer deals and coupons. Acme offers free delivery on your first order, PeaPod offers $10 off your order with coupon code CJN10, Safeway offers free delivery with this link, and Genuardis also offers free delivery when you spend $50 and use this link. You can “store hop” to get all of the first time shopper discounts.

2. Save on delivery charges by picking up your order. Many stores will assemble your order for you and even bring it out to the car.

3. Make sure that you understand the rules about substituting products. Most of the time the store will substitute a comparable product in your order if the one you want is out of stock. You can choose to allow a full substitution (turkey bacon instead of pork bacon), allow a brand substitution, or allow no substitution of the product.

4. By the non-perishable items in bulk. You will often get a much better deal online with products such as bulk diapers and health and beauty products. and are two great places to save on bulk for all sorts of items. Right now, has a $10 off code AFF10. is offering freebies with a purchase.

5. Check the store special and non-clipped coupons. Often, stores will offer the same coupon discounts off of products, especially store brand products, that you might have gotten with traditional paper coupons.

Happy shopping!

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A Trip to the Warehouse Store and Free Mr. Clean

Posted on Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 11:03 am
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My family and I did a huge shopping trip at our local BJs warehouse store. Our stockpile was pretty low, because of cooking from the pantry in the last few weeks and a flour moth invasion from some Basmati rice we purchased (hint from our exterminator: never buy rice in those natural cloth bags).

I knew the bill was going to be large, but of course I did everything I can to bring it down by using coupons. BJs accepts manufacturer coupons, and they also have a number of store coupons.

The BJs store coupons can be found in a few different places. They will mail coupons and coupon booklets to you just by being a member. You can also pick up additional coupon sheets near the customer service desk. I always stop there when we arrive, or at least at the end of the trip before checkout just in case there are any coupons that I can additionally apply to my purchases.

While we were there yesterday, I spotted an extra coupon. You can get a free bulk size container of Mr. Clean All Purpose Cleaner when you buy Tide Total Care. Well, I wanted to combine my high value Tide Total Care coupon with the free Mr. Clean coupon for double savings. This was a great deal. The problem was that the store was out of the free product.

Unfortunately for me, and my relationship with BJs, they will not give out rain checks, they will not substitute a comparable product and they will not offer you a discount off of your bill for the cost of the free product. I asked all of these things of course.

After talking with the supervisor, I was offered some light at the end of the tunnel. I could bring back my receipt and get the free product with my coupon if I did it before the coupon expired (in three days), or I could call back and get additional months added to my membership.

Something is better than nothing, so it pays to voice a complaint. I also plan on contacting the corporate offices about their coupon policy and not stocking the free product (there was plenty of the Tide available in several different places throughout the store).

Have you had a recent run in with a store about its coupon policy?

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