Friday, September 4, 2009

Get up to 30 Swagbucks using the new toolbar!

Hey, friends,

You know I love Swagbucks. You've seen the swag I've gotten from them, just for doing my usual searches. Maybe you've even signed up through me.

But did you know they are giving away a Swagbuck a day for the rest of the month if you download their new toolbar??

Seriously, that's up to 30 Swagbucks in addition to the ones you get for regular searching this month!! Come on, sign up (by clicking HERE) and then get the new toolbar. By the end of the month, you'll have enough to get a $5 Amazon gift card and be well on your way to another one.

Happy Swagbucks to all!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Free stuff and cheap drinks

Another boatload of free school supplies this week at CVS! I didn't get every single item, though, since I only had to reach a total of $30 to use my $5/$30 CVS coupon. (It came by email this week, how fortuitous!)
Here's how I used the freebies to get really cheap drinks:
  • 4 12-packs of Pepsi products, $12, get $4 ECB with purchase of 4
  • 1 pack of CVS pens, $0.99, get $0.99 ECB
  • 1 pack of CVS pencils, $0.99, get $0.99 ECB
  • 2 CVS compasses, $1.50 each, get $1.50 ECB each
  • 2 CVS notebooks, $0.99 each, get $0.99 ECB each
  • 1 pair of CVS scissors, $2.99, get $2.99 ECB
  • 1 pack of CVS glue sticks, $0.99, get $0.99 ECB
  • 1 Blink Tears eye drops, $7.99, get $7.99 ECB

Coupons used:

  • $5 off $30 purchase
  • $1.50 off Blink Tears (internet printable mfr. coupon)

Total = $30.93. After coupons, I paid with $17.83 ECBs (my entire stash), paid the remaining $6.60 plus $2.08 tax, then I got back $22.93 in ECBs. So essentially I paid $3.58 for all this. That comes to 7 cents per soda can!

Now I call that a sweet deal. : )

Oh, and don't forget to check the bottom of your receipt for your free item coupon. The item this month is batteries, hooray! Perhaps they'll do a free item each month through the fall like they did last year. I hope so!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Swag from Swagbucks

What you see above was free.


All because I signed up with Swagbucks and do my daily web searching through them instead of Google. I've only been an active member for about 4 months, and I've already gotten $45 worth of Amazon gift certificates, which I used to get these kitchen items (with free shipping because I spent over $25).

I also use my Amazon credits to get MP3s for $0.99 each. There's just SO MUCH you can get for free, all for simply searching the web!

Sign up now (using this link: and get 3 Swagbucks to start your own pile. Do some searching in the morning and in the evening and watch that pile grow. Refer some friends and your pile will grow even faster!

Happy searching!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Joined Swagbucks yet?

Warning: The following is a SHAMELESS plug!

You may have heard about it: Swagbucks. It's where all the cool kids search.

Seriously, though, it's a search engine just like Google. In fact, it utilizes Google and for its searches. Do a comparison search using Google and Swagbucks, and you'll see that all the same entries come up, just in a different order. (The order depends on how much money Google can squeeze out of each "advertiser"...The more money you cough up, the higher your website will be in the list.)

I love Swagbucks, because every day I earn at least 2 or 3 Swagbucks for doing the searches I would do anyway! Over the last few months, I earned enough Swagbucks to get eight $5 Amazon gift certificates, which I just used to order some kitchen stuff with FREE shipping. Just for doing my normal, everyday searches, I get a free cookie scoop, cooling rack, and mini loaf pans! LOVE IT!

Here's where it gets good: For every friend you refer (who signs up using your special link), you earn Swagbucks every time THEY do, up to 100! This is Swagbucks' way of getting the word out and challenging the monopoly of Google. Hey, I'm cool with that.

So are you ready to sign up now? Use this link: so that I get a bit of credit for being so convincing. : )

Once you sign up, be sure to install the search bar, so that you'll remember to use it instead of Google. Then start referring your friends, and rack up those bucks!

Happy Swagbucks to all!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Week #2 of free school supplies at CVS

And the free school supplies keep a-comin'...

Unfortunately, my CVS didn't stock up on the scissors and pens, so by the time I got there at 11:30 this morning they were almost all gone! Since mine is a 24-hour store, some women came in at midnight last night to get the deals, according to the cashier. Unbelievable! I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.

*Disclaimer: Although I don't have children and thus don't need school supplies, I get them to donate in the fall when my church has a collection for the inner city school children. *

Okay, here's how I did today:
  • 4 12-packs of Pepsi products, $12, get $2 ECB
  • newspaper, $1
  • 3 packs of pens, $0.99 each, get $0.99 ECB each
  • 2 notebooks, $0.99 each, get $0.99 ECB each
  • 2 glue, $0.99 each, get $0.99 ECB each
  • 2 rulers, $0.99 each, get $0.99 ECB each
  • scissors, $2.99, get $2.99 ECB
  • Gillette Fusion razor, $7.99, get $4 ECB

Total came to $32.89. I used a $5 off $30 CVS coupon, a $2 off $10 in CVS brand products coupon, and a $4 Fusion Mfr. coupon to bring the total down to $21.89. I paid with $21.89 in ECBs (all I had!) and then put the remaining $0.33 tax on a gift card. I got back $17.90 in ECBs. That made my total loss for this trip only $4.32, which a FANTASTIC deal considering I stocked up on sodas for Lance!

Next week there will be even more free-after-ECB school supplies, so be on the lookout for some $/$$ CVS brand coupons at the scanner machine!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finally some deals worth sharing!

The CVS "deals" have been terrible lately. It's been a month since I even felt like going in there! But this week's ad has some good stuff. Apparently they're jumping into school supplies already. Odd!

The tape and pencils are free-after-ECB on Sunday and Monday only, with a limit of three items each. The pantiliners are free-after-ECB all week, limit one. The Dawn regular dish liquid is on sale 2 for $2, and you get back $1 ECB, so by using two $0.50 Mfr. coupons, you get them both free. And last but not least, select Post cereals are on sale 3 for $10, and get back $5 ECB with the purchase of 3. I had three $2 Mfr. coupons for Trail Mix Crunch (click here and print several by using your back button), so I paid $4 and got back the $5 ECB. Money-maker!

The cherry on the savings sundae was a $4 off $20 purchase coupon I got by email a few days ago. I threw in some Dentek flossers, which were $1.99 a pack after the instant $1 "clip-free" coupon, and I used $1 Mfr. coupon off each pack to make them only $0.99. (That's a great deal for flossers!) Total came to $24.31 before tax. I used the $4/$20 coupon, $9 in Mfr. coupons, and $10.99 in ECBs to get the total down to $0.32 plus tax. I put the $1.13 balance on a gift card, and then walked out with $14.43 in new ECBs. That's a profit of $2.31!

I just noticed that the ECB I got for the pantiliners is $0.99, even though I only PAID $0.89 for them. Gee, I love when they make mistakes like that. : )

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Velveeta deal at Kroger

While cruising through Kroger the other day, I noticed a new "catalina" deal on Velveeta Shells & Cheese.

A little white tag under the item said "Buy 2, get $1 off your next order". The Kraft Deluxe macaroni and cheese said the same thing. I was happy to see that, by buying two at $1.62 each and using a $1.50/2 Mfr. coupon, I would pay $1.74 out of pocket and then get back $1 (in the form of a coupon), essentially making each box only $0.37!

This deal lasts through the first week of July, so print some coupons here, go buy the macaroni two boxes at a time, and keep rolling the deal! (Remember: you can print two copies of the coupon per computer by hitting your browser's back button.)

Monday, June 1, 2009


It's fun to go outside and just pick what you need for a meal!

The carrots are still at "baby" size, even though they've been in the ground for a good 70 days, but I decided to eat a few anyway. The three snap peas were the only ones not pecked by the birds (grrr). And the zucchini is my very first one of the season!

I ate most of this raw, but then decided to saute the last bit of the zucchini. It tastes SO much better cooked!

Even though it's late in the season, I decided to try some new things from seed. Today I planted some Minnesota midget melons (cantaloupe), New Zealand spinach, broccoli, soy beans, and swiss chard. I also planted another set of carrots. I want to keep those going all summer long if I can, just 8 at a time.

That's it for me. Hope everyone has a good week!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Chocolate Friday!

Click HERE to sign up for a free Mars chocolate bar today and every Friday morning until the end of the promotion! Each household can get up to four candy bars (over four weeks), so go back every Friday morning to sign up for another coupon. But hurry...They go FAST!

Mmm...Chocolate tastes better when it's free...

Monday, May 25, 2009

What's a girl to do with so much time?

Why, make granola, of course!

When perusing a financial blog last week, I ran across a link to a granola recipe that was posted on The New York Times' website. I decided to give it a try today. Here's the recipe for those interested:
-6 cups rolled oats (not quick-cook or instant)
-2 cups mixed nuts of choice
-1 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
-1 tsp cinnamon
-dash of salt
-1/2 to 1 cup honey or maple syrup to taste
-1 cup raisins or other dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350. Stir together all ingredients but raisins. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. When browned, remove from pan and add raisins. Store in refrigerator, will keep for weeks.

Boy, did this stuff smells good when baking! After serving up the granola on some vanilla yogurt for our breakfast, I decided to try making homemade granola bars for our breakfasts this week. Here's the recipe (which I tweaked):

-3 cups granola
-1/4 cup honey
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup butter

Combine butter, honey, and brown sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour over granola while stirring. When combined, press into a 8x8 pan lined with wax paper. Cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, then cut into 8 bars. Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

CVS freebies for today

Three weeks later, and there are finally some CVS deals worth blogging about! Thank goodness my CVS takes expired ECBs...Otherwise, I would have been in a tough spot with deals being so scarce.

Here's how things went today:

  • Playtex Gentle Glide, $3.99, get $3 ECB
  • 2 x Band-aids, $2.99, get $2 ECB (limit 2)
  • Colgate Total Advanced, $2.99, get $2 ECB
  • Revlon nail color, $3.99, get $3 ECB
  • Clearasil daily cleanser, $3.99, get $3.99 ECB (FREE!)

Subtotal = $20.94

Coupons used:

  • $4 off $20 purchase CVS Q (from scanner machine)
  • $1 Playtex Mfr. Q (came with a sample in the mail)
  • 2 x $1 Band-aid Mfr. Q (from inserts)
  • $1 Colgate Mfr. Q (from insert)
  • $1 Revlon Mfr. Q (from insert)
  • $1 Clearasil Mfr. Q (from insert)

Total after coupons = $0.46. Tax was $0.60. I put the total of $1.06 on a CVS gift card, and then got back $15.99 in ECBs. That's a profit of $4.45 for today!

For those who may not know, it's easy to find which Sunday insert a particular coupon came in by searching the database here: Looking for the Colgate coupon? Search for "Colgate Total" and see what comes up. Even printable coupons are added to the database regularly, so always check for coupons before making your CVS or Kroger trips!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Back in the game!

I haven't posted much about CVS over the past few weeks due the lack of truly good deals. I made a trip here and there, but nothing worth mentioning. Until today, that is!

Here's today's swag:


  • 3 boxes of Kellogg's cereal, 3/$10, get $5 ECB
  • 2 Adidas deodorants, $3.99 each, get $3 ECB each
  • 1 Colgate Max Fresh, $2.99, get $2 ECB
  • 1 Zantrex energy drink, $4.99, get $4.99 ECB

Subtotal = $25.96

Coupons used:

  • $5 off $25 purchase CVS coupon (from email)
  • 3 x $1 Kellogg's Mfr. coupons (click here and here to print your own)
  • 2 x $1 Adidas Mfr. coupons (from 4/05/09 Red Plum insert)
  • $1 Colgate Max Mrf. coupon (from 4/26/09 SmartSource insert)

Subtotal after coupons = $14.96. I paid with $15 worth of ECBs (adjusted down to $14.96) and put the remaining $0.77 of tax on a CVS gift card. I got back a total of $17.99 in ECBs, which makes today's transaction a decent money-maker!

Wow, I love getting paid to take my favorite cereal. : )

And if that wasn't great enough, I was pleasantly surprised to get a $4/$20 CVS coupon at the scanner today...on BOTH our cards! This might be a universal thing, so all you ExtraCare customers out there should run to the nearest scanner machine! Because after all, great deals begin with a great $/$$ CVS coupon.

Now I'm off to do some planting. In the rain. : )

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Garden update

Wow. I've been absent for longer than I thought! But here's an update on the garden:

Green bean on the left, 3 snap peas on the right, second crop of carrots in front of peas
Spinach in top square, Kale in bottom

As you can see, we divided the bed into square feet with string. That helps me with spacing the plants out. The zucchini will get really big, so it gets its own 3'x2' section.
I have some more pictures of baby lettuce and such, but I can only upload so many at a time.

More updates to follow!

Happy Friday!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Frugal vs. Cheap

Today I was reading a post on, and liked what Trent had to say about the difference between being frugal and being just plain cheap:

"A cheapskate always chases the bottom line, regardless of quality of the experience. A spendthrift just takes the first offer that comes along and insists that this is the best way of doing things. On the other hand, a frugal person doesn’t just accept the first offer that comes along. They try to find ways to get that same experience and quality and value for a lower price - or find the best bang for the buck in their lives."

When I think of a cheapskate, the face of one particular person comes to mind. Lance and I laugh about the behavior of this guy, because he can be such a MISER! He is the only person we know who has ever had an electric bill in the single digits. And, boy, was he proud of that...He went without heat all winter (choosing to sleep with hot water bottles instead) just to prove he could.

Sure, I search for ways of "trimming the fat" in my own life, but I won't completely sacrifice the comfort and quality of my life to save a few bucks. Personally, I like heat in the winter. To save money, we simply installed a programmable thermostat, which only heats the house when we're there and turns it down when we're asleep. I actually consider this a luxury item (because I never have to adjust it), but it also saves us a lot of money.

My goals as the homemaker of our little family are to provide an inviting home, good food, and good company to my husband. I find that I can accomplish all of these goals on a much smaller budget than most of our friends, while our quality of life doesn't seem all that different from theirs. This is extremely satisfying to me. And while I may never have an electric bill in the single digits, I use my God-given talents to help us live on less while still having a life of relative abundance. We have everything we need to be happy and fulfilled. That's just enough.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Update: Getting our Finances in Line in 2009

Now that we're through the first quarter of 2009, it's time for a little update:

We finally closed on the mortgage refinance (after a number of irritating set-backs on the part of the two banks involved), so that will help our budget in a big way from here on. That extra $200 of interest we DON'T have to pay now goes into savings!

We are sticking to a stricter monthly budget without really noticing much difference in our standard of living. It has been a nice surprise! Lance has been going out to lunch less and less, but he doesn't complain, which makes things easier on me. That was my biggest concern when we talked about cutting unnecessary expenditures like lunches out...I wasn't sure he'd be on board. But he has been, and that's such a relief!

We paid off Lance's school loan a few months back, and now that monthly payment has been rolled into other debts (my school loan and the home equity line, specifically). We're still on track to have everything but the mortgage paid off by December. And we're still prepaying the mortgage, which should be paid off in 2024.

We're stashing extra funds in our HSBC online savings account, and by the end of the year we should have about six months' worth of living expenses saved up! Having that big emergency fund will take a LOAD off my mind, since by that point we may be expecting. (Who knows?) Best to be prepared!

We added a new goal to the list: Start a Roth IRA by the end of the year. This goal is intentionally loose, since we aren't sure how much we'll have available to invest. I'm hoping to have $5000, but that depends on various factors (like whether Lance will have to take another pay cut, whether we both still even HAVE jobs, etc.). Regardless, we want to diversify our investments and have been flirting with the idea of a Roth IRA for a while. Time to take the plunge!

Our progress towards our financial goals is made even more gratifying because of how well we've done in spite of our recent circumstances. Lance had to take a 10% decrease in pay about a month ago. His company is very small, and business has been suffering. It's just a fact of life these days. But we're blessed that we both still have jobs and make very decent wages. The 10% decrease hasn't hurt us much. We're just that much more determined to stick to a budget and do what we can with what we've been given.

They say you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. But I say you don't appreciate what you have until what you DON'T NEED is gone. Because of our stricter budget, I've forced myself to make more of our meals at home, and I've been *gasp* enjoying it! I never realized how much joy I could find in my own kitchen. Sometimes I spend hours in there just baking away. And to think I might have never realized my own potential as a cook had it not been for our change in circumstances. We're still living the good life and eating good food (maybe even better?), so it seems that what we no longer have wasn't really needed anyway.

God is good.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Garden update

It’s exciting to see my baby transplants doing SO WELL in the raised bed! So far I’ve transplanted kale, spinach, and snap peas. I direct-sowed some chives and carrots, which are starting to come up. I have a few more plants in containers that are ready to go into the dirt just as soon as we’re past the threat of frost (around April 15th).

And speaking of…We’re in for some freezing temperatures this coming week (down to 30!), so I’ll have to bring in the tiny tomatoes, cilantro, and pepper containers for a few nights. They are all warm-weather plants, so it’s risky to leave them out when it’s so cold. I’m probably being overly protective (which defeats the point of winter-sowing), but I just can’t risk losing my little babies!

Here's a little glimpse of some of them:

Snap peas:



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FREE seeds!

Want some free tomato seeds? Click HERE to go to Campbell's website, and then click on "Get Yours Now" on the right hand side of the page. Enter the code information from a can of Campbell's soup, and the seeds are yours!

When you're done with that, click HERE to get more information from MoneySavingMom about how to get a free multi-pack of basil seeds.

I bet those summer tomatoes and homemade pesto taste a lot sweeter when you know you grew them for free.

: )

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Look at my itty bitty babies!
From the top there's spinach, shasta daisy, and hollyhocks. The other seeds are germinating, they just aren't tall enough to take pictures of yet. I can't wait to transplant in a few weeks!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Crescent rolls

I got on a baking kick this past week.

First it was banana nut bread made from an old Alabama cookbook. Scrumptious!

Then I decided to make some garlic bread sticks to go with our spaghetti dinner. I've never made these before and didn't have a recipe in mind, so I used the one in the West Bend bread maker pamphlet.

Here's their basic "dinner roll" recipe:
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tb milk
  • 3 1/2 Tb sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp bread maker yeast (from jar)

I put the stuff in and set it to dough cycle. When the dough was ready, I split it in halves, one for the garlic bread sticks and the other for some kind of dinner rolls.

The sticks I made first, rolling them into little snakes and setting them on a cookie sheet to rise. When they had risen for about an hour, I brushed them with a mix of olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. I baked them at 350 for about 12 minutes. They turned out wonderful, and tasted almost like Olive Garden bread sticks!

While the sticks were rising, I got to work on the rest of the dough. Since we were having company the next night and I was going to serve roast and vegetables, I decided to try making some crescent rolls to go with them.

I split the dough into two balls, then rolled each flat with my handy marble rolling pin (LOVE IT!). Once they were about 1/8 inch thick, I cut each circle into 6 pie-shaped wedges. Then I rolled each wedge like a typical crescent roll, and wet the point to make it lie down.

Here's a picture of the baby crescents ready to go:

I put them in the fridge immediately, and pulled them out the next day after work to rise. After an hour, I put them on the pizza stone, brushed them with melted butter, and popped them in the oven to bake at 350 for about 17 minutes. They plumped up so nicely! When they came out, I brushed them with more melted butter.

That night, we four ate the WHOLE DOZEN of them! I guess they were a hit. Too bad I didn't have one left to take a picture of, though. : )

I'll definitely be using this recipe again. I like that it didn't require a lot of butter, which made the rolls a lot less fatty than their Pillsbury counterparts. Now, I won't say these rolls are HEALTHFUL by any stretch, but they are a good alternative and cost less to boot.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My latest obsession

I like dirt. I like growing stuff in dirt. I like eating stuff that I've grown. So my latest obsession has been the raised vegetable bed. Look it has dirt in it finally!
I'm using a method called "winter-sowing" to plant seeds pre-season. (You can read about it by clicking here...) Typically, Nashville weather doesn't allow for direct sowing until mid-April, due to frequent late frosts. But with winter-sowing, it doesn't even matter what the weather is like. Once the seeds sprout, get a few sets of leaves, and harden off, I'll transplant them into the bed.
I hope this method works, since seeds are SO cheap!

I ran out of take-out containers with lids, so I had to start using old planters. The only issue with this is how to secure the plastic wrap on top. I didn't have any rubber bands big enough around. But I got a great idea, and it worked like a charm.
Do you notice anything odd about these planters?
Perhaps they feel PRETTIER than the other planters? HA HA!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hello, again

Sorry to have been absent for so long! I've been CVSing as usual for the past few weeks, only I've been trying to spend ECBs, so I haven't had anything to brag about. Today I spent some more, but I thought I'd post about it anyway, just for kicks.

Here's what I got today:

  • 2 boxes of Garnier Nutrisse hair color, on sale for $5 each, get $5 ECB when you spend $10
  • Secret Flawless deodorant, $3.99, get $1 ECB
  • Crest ProHealth, $2.99, get $2 ECB
  • Vaseline Men's lotion, $3.69, get $2 ECB
  • 3 General Mills products, 3/$10, get $5 ECB on 3

Subtotal came to $30.69. I used a $5/$30 CVS coupon (from the scanner), and manufacturer coupons on every product. The total came down to $16.19, and I paid with $15.97 ECBs. I paid the remaining $0.22 plus $0.78 tax in cash. I got back $15 in ECBs. That means I paid less than $2 total for all this! (Spent $15.97 ECBs and $1 cash, got back $15 ECBs) Well worth it for the hair color alone.

It's humbling to actually admit to everyone that I color my hair. But I'll have you know I AM a natural blonde, it's just not a "pretty blonde." Some call it dish-water blonde, yuck!

I'm looking forward to trying the caramel flavor Fiber One bars. Lance and I really like the peanut butter bars, and often have them for breakfast. They're rather filling, and they taste like a dessert. I'm hoping we'll like the caramel ones just as much.

Hope everyone has a good week!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Finally used up some ECBs!

I know it sounds crazy, but I'm so happy I finally made a dent in my ECB stash! I actually used up $19 worth of them, can you believe it?? And really, $19 for all THIS is a great deal in my book.
The Gamer razor, CVS antacids, and energy drink were all free. The Stayfree were money-makers ($3.99 each, used BOGO free MQ, $1 MQ, and $2 CVS Q, then got back $4 ECBs). The Post Trail Mix cereals were on sale BOGO free, and I used a $2 MQ for each, making them about $0.40 each. The 12-packs were $2.25 each after ECBs. (Since I got the last two 7ups they had, the manager kindly offered to substitute another brand to get the deal!) The Ziplocs were $1.75 each after sale and MQ. And I got the pistachios and ClearCare just because we like them and they were on sale.

Oops, I just realized the best part got left out of the picture...Another huge box of Valentine's chocolates! I was just $2 shy of being able to use a high-dollar ECB, so Lance ran to the candy clearance and got the perfect "filler." : )

I was still about $0.22 short, but I decided to have the cashier just adjust the ECB down. Turns out, he didn't have to! Apparently the register will take up to a 22 cent deficit without beeping! That 22 cents went towards tax. Sweeeeeeet.

I know it's crazy, seeing as how I try so hard to MAKE money on my CVS trips, but I am truly glad to have whittled down the stash for now. It's so hard to keep rolling all those ECBs every month. I'm happy with spending them on things we use for a really good price. And really, when all is said and done, only $1.18 in cash was spent on all this stuff. Pretty good.

America's binge/purge

I will admit that I rarely watch the news. Lately it's been too depressing. But one thing I noticed as I listened to the news for about ten minutes tonight is that this "economic crisis" is bringing about some much-needed introspection.

Our country saw much prosperity over the last decade or two. We were living high on the hog and spending more than we had. Our deficit was growing exponentially, but no one seemed to care...We had it all!

And then that first domino fell.

What started out as a rumor of recession has finally hit America. Hard. So many people are affected, and it's heart-breaking to hear their stories. A few bad choices by some are causing strife for many.

But there's a silver lining, albeit tiny: People are starting to take a good hard look at the way money is spent in our country. State governments are looking for creative ways to cut overhead costs in order to save jobs. (Turning off the light bulbs in vending machines in state buildings could save $1 million over the year!) Companies are getting creative as well. The Tennessean newspaper is asking each employee to take one week of unpaid leave this year, which will save the jobs of several people.

It's rough. For all of us. But I feel some hope that because of all this our country will reevaluate its spending and come out on the other side much stronger, healthier, and wiser. We've been gorging ourselves for long enough. It's finally time to start that diet we've been talking about.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I can't stay away. Not when there's discount candy to be had.

"My" CVS only had their Valentine's Day candy for half off. Hmph. Well, I guess I can't complain...I still got it free.

Here's how today's transaction went:
  • Two $2.99 Colgate Total, get $2.99 ECB each
  • Two $3.50 clearanced Mylanta, get $3 ECB each
  • Two $4.99 J&J First aid 5-ct boxes, get $3 ECB each
  • $2.49 (!!!!) box of small envelopes
  • $4.99 box of chocolates
  • $0.88 Pixie Stix filler

Sub-total = $31.32. Used these coupons:

  • $5 off $30 purchase (thank you, machine!)
  • Two $1 Colgate MQ
  • Two $2 Mylanta MQ (printed from Mylanta website)
  • Two $2 J&J MQ (peelies)

Sub-total = $16.32. Paid with a $6 ECB, a $9.98 ECB, and put $1.30 on my gift card. Got back $17.98 in ECBs, making a profit of $0.70. ($17.98 ECBs earned - $15.98 ECBs spent - $1.30 cash spent) Not bad!

Lance had requested the envelopes. Can you believe they were $2.49?? Crazy! But, hey...It's something we needed. And I have to spend my ECBs on something eventually. It's still rough to pay so much for simple envelopes.

Hope everyone had a good Monday!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Finally some decent profit at CVS!

(I say that with such entitlement, ha.)

But in all seriousness, I had been a bit discouraged as of late. The deals were few and the stock sparse these past few weeks. And the Gamer Fusion razor? Fugetaboutit. Nary a one to be found.

But I managed to still make a good run today, ending up with a profit of $8.34 when all was said and done. Per usual, I relied on my trusty $10/$50 purchase coupon and my diabetes monitor filler.

Here's the rundown:
  • $0.73 worth of Valentine candy, 90% off (most to give away)
  • Two $2.99 Colgate Total Advanced, get $2.99 ECB each
  • Two $2.99 Herbal Essences, get $2 ECB
  • $4.99 Gillette shampoo (for Daddy, since Lance obviously can't use it!)
  • $7.99 Earinse, get $7.99 ECB
  • Two $3.99 Stayfree pads, get $2 ECB each
  • $19.99 One Touch Mini (for donation to missions)

Sub-total came to $53.64. Used these coupons:

  • $10 off $50 purchase
  • $19.99 off One Touch Mini
  • Two $1 off Colgate Total Advance from recent insert
  • $3 off 2 Herbal Essences from recent PG insert
  • $2 off Gillette Shampoo from recent PG insert
  • BOGO free Stayfree coupon from recent insert
  • $1 off Stayfree printable Mfr. coupon

That brought the sub-total down to $11.66, and I paid with a $7.58 ECB and a $3.99 ECB. Sub-total = $0.09! Of course, tax was outrageous ($2.97, ouch). I paid the remaining $3.06 using a CVS gift card. I walked out with $22.97 more in ECBs, thus I made a profit of $8.34 ($22.97 ECBs earned minus $11.57 ECBs spent minus $3.06 cash spent).

CVS, I heart you. : )

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nothing says love... sitting patiently in the car while your wife makes a "quick stop" at Walgreens. : )

My husband is very sweet. And patient. Because, as we all know, a "quick stop" is rarely quick.

Here's what I snagged though:

After I get back the EasySaver rebates on the Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, contact solution, and vent freshener, I will have only spent a few cents out of pocket, all of which is tax.

I read on a forum that the vent freshener is a raincheck EasySaver item from last month. I will get a full Wags EasySaver rebate on it ($4.99) and then send it off for a full manufacturer's rebate. When that comes in, I will have made almost $5 on this transaction!

So far I've been happy with the EasySaver program. I mostly just get the free items each month and keep rolling the amount on my gift card. It has been growing, too, due to the coupons used on free items. Eventually I'll spend it on something, but until then I'm happy to collect the freebies and save the overage for a rainy day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The last squirt

There is something extremely satisfying about squeezing that last bit of toothpaste from a completely spent tube.

Perhaps it's the sweet memory of having gotten the tube for free at CVS. I have to admit that that makes me smile.

But I think it's more the thought that I have gone the extra mile and squeezed every last molecule of toothpaste out of that tube, whereas anyone else would have thrown it away days ago. This may seem extreme to others, almost militant.

Why make that extra effort? Because I am the product of a family with strong memories of the Great Depression and the Irish potato famine. Frugality runs deep. Our motto has always been: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Today's society is obsessed with excess and disposability. But I stand grounded in my thrifty upbringing. I will continue to squeeze on flat toothpaste tubes to the day I die. And I will be happy. : )

Monday, February 9, 2009

The best granite cleaner

Before beginning our kitchen renovations last summer, I had made up my mind to get new countertops made of composite quartz. I had done my research, picked out my color, and was ready to go.

That is, until I was told that the color I had fallen in love with was not going to be available for a long time. Ack! Not a fun surprise when you're knee-deep in construction dust.

Our countertop guy asked if I had ever considered granite. I admitted to him that I was turned off by the upkeep I'd heard about, but he shared with me his own experiences with granite and assured me that the once-a-year sealing process was a piece of cake.

Well, all it took was one trip to the slab warehouse, and I was SOLD! All that beautiful, glittering granite just mesmorized me. I picked out two slabs of my very own that day. Gorgeous chocolate brown, flecked with charcoal, pink, and iridescent pearl. So lovely!

When it was installed, I was in heaven. I caressed the smooth, shiny surfaces and whispered sweet promises of loving care. Then I realized I didn't KNOW anything about daily granite care! Yikes!

Google to the rescue. I researched the dos and don'ts of cleaning granite. I learned that the pH of the cleaner is very important for maintaining the seal, thus ammonia- and vinegar-based was not an option. (Alas, poor Windex had to be banished from the kitchen!)

The solution? Rubbing alcohol! Something I had never considered before. I grabbed an old empty Windex bottle, rinsed it out well, and added to it 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol, then filled it almost to the top with tap water. I added about five drops of dishwashing liquid, then capped it and swirled it together. Behold, a cheap and nontoxic granite cleaner!

I have used this cleaner on a daily basis for about nine months. I liberally squirt the counters and the glass top of the stove, and wipe down with a microfiber cloth. The alcohol sterilized the counter, the dishwashing liquid helps break down any stubborn food particles, and the microfiber cloth buffs the counter to a beautiful sheen. It's wonderful! I save a lot of money this way, and my countertops are happy as can be.

Happy Monday to everyone!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

If only a picture could capture an aroma...

I guess you'll have to use your imagination.

I had a huge bag of mini carrots to use up, so I decided to try my hand at apple carrot muffins. (You can see the original recipe by clicking here.)

As most cooks do, I tweaked the recipe to my tastes. I used only 1/3 cup of white sugar and used 1/3 cup of honey. I separated the eggs and whipped the whites to make the batter fluffier. (Because I've seen many of these muffin recipes come out too dense.) And lastly I added raisins.

The recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but even after filling the cups all the way I still had enough for probably two more! So I put the remaining batter into a cute pink heart-shaped ramekin to bake separately. I thought it would make a nice breakfast for My Valentine. : )

Well, as you can see, the muffins rose beautifully. And boy did they make the house smell amazing! I could hardly wait to bite into one. The taste was just sweet enough, but not too sweet. Just perfect for a breakfast treat.

What a great way to start the morning!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tonight's haul

Making money at CVS is fun. : )

Tonight I got some good stuff that we need, want, and can use eventually. And I made $4.35, hooray!

Since I'm feeling under-the-weather, I'm not going to write everything out, but here's the jist: I got $50.39 worth of stuff, used a $10/$50 coupon along with a combination of other CVS and Mfr. coupons, paid with $20 in ECBs, paid cash for the remaining $2.61, and walked out with another $26.96.

I made money on the Maalox/Benefiber because of the deal they ran this week: Buy $20 or more of Maalox/Benefiber/Gas-X, get $10 ECBs back. I had a $2 Mfr. coupon for each of the three bottles, PLUS I was lucky enough to get a couple of good CVS coupons at the scanner: $3 off any Benefiber product, and $5 off any 2 Maalox products. My lucky week! And we just happen to be on our last bottle of Maalox. (We've been eating a lot of chili lately.) *urp*

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had FINALLY restocked the NutraTrim gum. I don't know if it works or not, but I don't mind the taste of it, so it replaces my usual afternoon gum. If it works, that's a bonus. : )

You may notice the Pixie Sticks. I am not ashamed of my love for these tasty delights. I even took the time - in front of about six amused strangers - to go through the bags and try to get the ones with the most blues. It's just my thing.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A CVS tip

We CVSers have a common dilemma: how to best utilize our ECBs when paying for purchases. Since they come in all different values, depending on what we've bought in the past, it can be a challenge to figure out which combination of ECBs to pay with. We don't want to end up with a large balance to pay, but we also don't want to lose anything to manual reduction.

For example: I may have in my hand several ECBs in the amounts of $3, $5, and $10. After my purchase is rung up and my coupons deducted, my pre-tax total might come to, say, $9.05. My choices are to a) use the $3 and $5, and pay the remaining $1.05 plus tax (too much!); or b) use the $10 and have the cashier reduce it to $9.05 (a loss of $0.95, ouch!). Neither is a great option.

Some people add on another cheap item to get the total closer to the higher ECB amount. I've done this many times. (After all, the candy bars are right there at the register, ha ha!) In fact, it has become a crutch for me, so that over time I completely forgot that I didn't HAVE to add a filler at all. I've been known to have a total of $9.95 and scramble for a filler item!

Well, last night my total came to $2.99. Instead of grabbing a filler, I remembered that I could pay with a $3 ECB and forfeit that penny. Come to find out, when the cashier scanned the ECB, it didn't require a manual reduction at all, and allowed a negative balance of one penny! Now I'm curious about exactly how negative the register will allow the total to be...Inquiring minds want to know...

Maybe others already know this. But me, I just learned something new. Hooray!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Because one can never have too many Dews or diabetes monitors

Crazy? Probably. But if I've learned ANYTHING while playing The Drugstore Game, it's to use those diabetes monitor coupons to my advantage.

You see, the 1/4/09 RedPlum insert had a coupon for up to $30 off an UltraSmart monitor. This week those monitors are on sale for $29.99, so the coupon makes them completely free. But here's where I get excited: if I buy another $20.01 worth of merchandise (which is easy), I can use one of my gazillion CVS coupons for $10 off a $50 purchase! Woohoo!!

I won't give all the details for these two transactions I did tonight, since most of these items have been highlighted on other blogs. And besides that, it's not all that interesting that I bought onion powder and bottled water.

Suffice it to say that I got all of this for free in the end. I should have made $4, but the cashier messed up one of my $2 coupons and instead CHARGED me the $2. I didn't catch it until later. This is the second time this very thing has happened to me, so you'd think I'd pay closer attention. Oh, well. I still made out like a bandit.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Bear update

Bear has had yet another extensive surgery. He is currently recovering and seems to be in good spirits.

He does miss his arm, though.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A good day

Today was one of those days that, at the end, you look back and say, "You know, this has been a really nice day."

I got up at a decent time, made us some cinnamon toast for breakfast, and had mine with some good coffee as I watched Grey's Anatomy. After showering, I tried french-braiding my hair and it actually turned out okay for once! I was so proud that I had to run downstairs and show Lance, who (God love him) gave the appropriate amount of praise and appreciation.

I then got to work cutting coupons and making my list for Kroger. I headed out to Kroger and got almost everything on my list in under an hour, surprisingly. Got a LOT of great deals, too, which alway makes me happy. I came home and made us some spicy tuna salad for lunch, and we ate together while chatting and laughing.

After lunch, we went down to my favorite thrift store to find some deals. Lance didn't find anything, but I got four nice button-up shirts for work (just what I needed!) and a denim jacket. I even found a really simple but elegant wreath made of straw and pine cones for just $2.00! That will be perfect on our back door next Christmas.

We decided mid-afternoon to go down to Cool Springs to run a long-overdue errand (having our rings polished and dipped at Jared) and to go see a movie while there. We wanted to see Benjamin Button, but it was sold out, so we saw Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It was actually a pretty good movie, though not one I would have normally seen in the theater. I'm glad we ended up going to see it, because we need to support good, clean movies like that.

We had planned on eating at Chili's afterward with a gift card (I like frugal dates!), but it was such a long wait that we decided to just get some Whoppers instead. Fine with me! And you know what my wonderfully sweet hubbin stopped to get me as a final treat to end the night?...A Frosty! He didn't even mind the extra stop. Now that's true love.

When I go back to work Monday and get the usual small-talk question of "Did you have a good weekend?" I won't even have to hesitate. You bet I did!

Hooray for the Mega Sale!

Well, the weather warmed up yesterday (to 60 degrees!), and that's just what my poor soul needed. Apparently I've got the winter blues. And you know what helps the blues?...Getting stellar deals!

I LOVE when Kroger runs their Mega Sale, because I can combine paper coupons (often doubled) with some virtual coupons (via Shortcuts and now Cellfire) and really rack up the savings. Today's run was so great that I just have to share!

Below is a list of what I got, the sale price, the Mega Sale discount (which is $0.50 off each item since the deal is buy ten specified items, get $5 off your total), and the coupons I used. I decided to list everything together, in case anyone wants to see the final price paid so that they can decide whether to run out and get some. It's all about the bottom line, you know. :)

  • Sierra Mist 12-pack $3.00 - $0.50 = $2.50
  • 3 boxes of Fiber One bars $2.69 each - $0.50 each - $0.50 Cellfire Q off one - $0.75 Shortcuts Q off one - $0.50 (doubled to $1) MQ off each box = $2.32 for all three boxes, or $0.77 per box (these are great for breakfasts!)
  • Orville Red. Naturals popcorn $2.19 - $0.50 - $1 MQ = $0.69 (yummy work snack!)
  • Krafts Singles $1.99 - $0.50 = $1.50 (we love our grilled cheese)
  • 3 Snapples $1 each - $0.50 each - $0.75 MQ off each = profit of $0.75 for all three!
  • 2 Hormel Chili $1 each - $0.50 each - $0.55/2 MQ = $0.45 for two cans or $0.22 each
  • French's Mustard $1.79 - $0.50 - $0.50 (doubled to $1) MQ = $0.29
  • 2 Pace Salsa $1.99 each - $0.50 each - $0.40/2 MQ (doubled to $0.80) = $2.18 for two or $1.09 each
  • Rotel $0.87 - $0.50 - $0.30 MQ (doubled to $0.60) = profit of $0.23!
  • 2 Chex mix $2.19 each - $0.50 each - $0.60 Cellfire Q off one - $0.60 Shortcuts Q off the other -$0.50 MQ each (doubled to $1) = $0.18 or $0.09 each (cheap snack!)
  • 2 Green Giant Steamers $1.59 each - $0.50 each -$0.50 Shortcuts Q off each - $0.50 (doubled to $1) MQ off each = profit of $0.82 for two bags!
  • 2 bags of Lays $2.38 each - $0.50 each = $1.88 per bag
  • 3 Beefaroni $1 each - $0.35/3 (doubled to $0.70) = $0.77 a can (cheap lunch)
  • Fritos $2.75 (to get the Pepsi/Frito Lay deal when combined with my CVS purchases)
  • 2 lbs of mini carrots $2.50
  • bananas $0.40
  • apples $1.05
  • 3 lbs of ground beef $5.45

All this for $27.01 before tax! I was giddy! If I had had some more Rotel coupons, I would have gotten more, since I like to put it in my chili and spaghetti sometimes. And I wish I had had more Snapple coupons. Oh, well. I can't complain, because I got some great deals!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Deep freeze

I feel so restless these days.

I don't know what to expect of the future, which can be scary, but I also don't know what I WANT for my future, which is just plain frustrating. I'm the girl with The Plan, so why am I suddenly drawing a blank?

This lack of vision is disrupting my sleep patterns. I have Restless Brain Syndrome.

And the worst part is the numbness down deep. Like my soul is holding its breath, waiting for something.

I need spring...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mama's little helper

Baxter helps his mama with the staging by holding down the backdrop...

How does this keep happening?

I mean, seriously...How am I unable to burn any ECBs? This is madness, I tell you!

I fully expected to blow some ECBs on sodas at today's after-church CVS run. But I didn't anticipate the fact that they actually had four boxes of throat coolers in stock, and that changed my whole transaction.

Somehow I ended up MAKING money AGAIN! (But what a wonderful problem to have, huh?)

<----Check this out! (And yes, I am a big fan of symmetry.)

Here's what I ended up with, after 2 transactions:
  • 7 12-packs of Pepsi products, $3 each, buy $20 worth, get $10 ECBs
  • 8 Reese's whips, 2/$1 (DOES NOT COUNT TOWARDS CANDY DEAL!)
  • 1 KitKat, $0.50
  • 4 Children's Throat Coolers, $4.99 each, get $4.99 ECBs each
  • 1 Excedrin Migraine 24-ct, $1.99
  • 1 Excedrin Express Gels 20-ct, $1.99
  • 3 American Greetings cards, $0.99 each, buy 3, get $3 ECBs
  • 2 CVS allergy medicine, $3.79 each, get $3.79 ECBs each
  • 1 CVS hand soap, $1.99
  • 1 newspaper, $1.75

I used these coupons:

  • $10/$50
  • 4 Reese's whips Mfr. coupons for $1 off two (from last week's inserts)
  • 2 Throat Coolers BOGOF Mfr. coupons printed from the website
  • 1 Excedrin Migraine coupon for $2 off
  • 1 Excedrin Express gels coupon for $2 off
  • 1 CVS coupon for $3 off any CVS brand

I used $31.86 ECBs, and paid the remaining $2.52 with my gift card. (I messed up a bit, but that's okay.) I got back a total of $40.54 in ECBs, thus making a profit of $6.16!

Again, I failed miserably at burning ECBs. My stash has grown...again. How on EARTH am I going to roll $122 worth?? I will eventually have to actually buy something, I do realize that. And then I'll start all over again, building up my stash.

What fun!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Debt: Good or bad?

Our Wednesday night class has been discussing money over the past few weeks. Lately we've been talking about debt, and debating whether or not debt is a good thing or a bad thing.

We all know what Dave Ramsey would say. And a lot of people agree with him. One such person blogs regularly about all things financial, and has stated that she and her family are going to save up enough money to pay cash for their first house.

That's a lofty goal, and I have to admit that it is awe-inspiring, especially since she is on track to accomplish it. But when I really started to think about the logistics of the plan and crunched some numbers, I found that it may not be as beneficial as most would think. Trying to avoid debt may COST more.

As long as you're renting property, you aren't getting ANYTHING back for the money you spend in rent each month. No equity at all. And the money you're setting aside for that house purchase?...Unless it's in a CD or savings account that is earning a fantastic rate (which is rare right now), it's either barely keeping up with inflation or it's depreciating.

With mortgage rates so low right now, it's a great time to purchase a home, even with no money down! The key is the extra principle payments. Let's say someone were to buy a $200,000 home with no money down and an interest rate of 5.0% (assuming a 30-year term). That's a monthly payment of about $1074. And let's say they put an extra $2000 per month towards principle. They would pay off the house in 6.5 years! The total paid (including interest over the life of the loan) would be about $234,000.

If that same person were to pay about $800 a month in rent and lay aside $2274 a month to save for the house, they would have enough to buy the $200,000 house in about 7.5 years. The total they will have paid by that time (including rent) would be $272,000. More money, more time spent in a rental.

Is it really worth it to wait, just so you won't have any debt? Wouldn't taking on a large debt like a mortgage be a good thing, since you would pay less over the long-run?

The same goes for college loans. I was able to get several good scholarships for school, but I certainly didn't have the money to pay for the remainder. Would it have been worth it for me to work for a few years to save that money and then go to school?

Well, it would have taken a while to save up enough, since I wanted to attend a private university. I would have gotten a late start on my career, since I would be several years behind my peers. Being an older graduate might have subjected me to age discrimination when applying for starting positions.

But since I took out a loan, I was able to graduate on schedule and get a better-paying job right out of school. I was better equipped to pay for my education AFTER getting the degree than beforehand. I feel I made the right decision.

I guess it comes down to a personal feeling about debt. To me, debt is a tool. It can be risky, but if I use it correctly and wisely, it can be a great help and actually SAVE money over the long run. So I guess I would say debt is a good thing.

Sorry, Dave. : )

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I get a lot of questions when it comes up that I spend a lot of time at CVS. I figured I'd share my answers here, for anyone wondering the same things...

Q: Why buy things at CVS if you can get a good deal at Wal-Mart or Costco?

A: Because Wal-Mart and Costco won't give me those things for FREE. Sure, you can always get a good deal at a Big Box store, but my definition of a "good deal" has changed somewhat over the past few months. To me, paying for something is not a good deal. Getting something for free but paying TAX is just BARELY a good deal. A truly good deal is getting something for less than free, and I'm only able to do that consistently at CVS because of their great ExtraCare rewards program.

Q: What are these "ECBs" you prattle on about?

A: Hey, I don't prattle! Okay, maybe a bit. : ) ECB stands for ExtraCare Buck. CVS's rewards program hinges on these ExtraCare Bucks (also called Extra Bucks). When you buy an item that is free-after-ECBs, that mean that you pay cash for the item and then at the bottom of your receipt prints a certificate for exactly that amount (minus tax). You're able to turn around and spend that certificate (ECB) like cash. It's like being able to spend your money TWICE! And a great thing about an ECB is that it reduces your taxable total, unlike Walgreens' Register Rewards.

Q: Why do you buy things at CVS that you don't really need? Isn't that wasteful?

A: I buy things that I don't need only if I can give them away to someone AND if they will help me with my transactions in one of the following ways:
  • the item is free-after-ECBs, and I have a coupon for it, which turns it into a "money-maker"
  • the item is free-after-ECBs, and I need some items to get my total up high enough to use a coupon for $ off a $$ purchase
  • my ECBs are going to expire and I need to buy something to "roll them" (meaning, I now have another month to find something I want to spend them on)

Sometimes I can accomplish all three in one transaction! But I will never simply throw away a product that I get for free. If I can't use it, I will find it a loving home. : )

Q: Doesn't it cost you a lot of time and effort to plan and clip coupons?

A: Absolutely. It's a time commitment, to be sure. But the difference for me is that it is more a HOBBY than a tedious commitment. Lance can attest that I am the happiest when I'm deep in "deal-planning mode." If it ever becomes too tedious, I will scale back my efforts, but for now this is FUN! And besides that, I haven't had to step foot in Wal-Mart in MONTHS! So worth it.

Q: What happens when you've stocked up on everything you need?

A: I don't know yet, but I'm getting very close to that point! I have a feeling I'll continue to "do the deals" and give away the extras I don't need. After all, I don't want to let my huge stash of ECBs expire...

Q: What if I don't WANT the items I can get for free at CVS? I'm picky about my toothpaste...

A: You can't be a brand snob and play the Drugstore Game very efficiently. Now, there's nothing wrong with knowing exactly which brands you like (in fact, that can be a money- and time-saver in itself!), but to fully take advantage of the ExtraCare program, you have to be willing to try new products. Lots of new products. Some may be duds (vanilla toothpaste? BUST!), but one might be your next "favorite," who knows? I'm lucky that Lance is open to trying new toothpastes, bar soaps, laundry detergents, etc. That's why I can pull this off. We may be switching toothpaste flavors every other month, but we'll never have to pay for it!

You may try what my friend Denise does: Utilize the program when it fits YOUR needs, and don't buy products you know you won't like. She doesn't rack up quite the stash of ECBs that I do, but she buys what she knows she will use, gets a great price, and she's content. And she doesn't have to find a place to store all the diabetes monitors. Ha ha!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Even during a slow week...

...I can manage to find some deals at CVS!

This week is about as slow as it gets. Not even ONE free-after-ECBs item! But thankfully my store had a few of the monthly freebies in stock to help me round out my transaction today.

And I'm thankful for the fact that my store also takes expired CVS coupons, meaning I could use an old $5/$25 coupon that came in an email around the beginning of the year. I had printed it but never used it.

I essentially went in to "blow" some of my huge stash of soon-to-expire ECBs on some things we could use, like milk and Cheez-Its. Somehow I ended up using enough coupons to get everything free! (So much for blowing ECBs, huh?)

Here's how it went:
  • Cheez-Its twin pack, $6.00, get $3.00 ECBs
  • Purity milk, $3.19
  • NasoGel, $7.99, get $7.99 ECBs
  • Nutra Trim gum, $3.99, get $3.99 ECBs
  • 3 J&J First Aid kits, $0.99 each
  • CVS body wash, $2.99

Coupons used:

  • $5 off $25 purchase
  • $2 off NasoGel (printed from website)
  • $3 off J&J First Aid products (adjusted to $2.97)
  • $3 off any CVS brand product

I paid with $13.98 ECBs and put the remaining $0.18 plus $0.71 tax on my gift card. I walked out with another $14.98 in ECBs, making my total for today a profit of 11 cents!

And I plan on submitting the NasoGel for a $3 Manufacturer's rebate (which came in the packaging), so that's $3 back in my pocket.

What a great way to start out the week!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A little CVS pick-me-up

Thursday was a rough day at work. I needed a little something to cheer me up. So I thought I'd stop in at my favorite CVS and get some coupons from the scanner machine, which always excites me. (You never know what you're gonna get!)

While there, I thought I might as well see if any of the hot items were in stock. I figured the shelves would be empty by this late in the week, but would you believe that they had all but ONE of the products I needed for my scenario? Amazing!

Here's what I ended up with:
  • 4 packs of Stayfree maxi pads, on sale for $4.50 each, part of Johnson & Johnson deal
  • 1 box of Band-aids, $3, brought my J&J total over $20 to get $10 ECBs back
  • 3 boxes of Bayer, on sale for $5 each, buy $15 worth, get $5 ECBs back
  • Garnier Fructis shampoo, $2.99, get $2 ECBs back
  • NutraTrim, $3.99, get $3.99 ECBs back (monthly freebie)
  • Jack Link's jerky twin pack, $9.99, get $2 ECBs back
  • CVS brand mixed nuts, $4.59

Coupons used:

  • Yet another $10/$50 CVS Q
  • Two $2/2 Stayfree Mfr. Qs
  • Two $2/1 Stayfree CVS Qs
  • Two BOGO free Stayfree Mfr. Qs
  • Three $1/1 Bayer Mfr. Qs
  • $1 Garnier Mfr. Q
  • $3 off any CVS brand Q

I paid with $22.48 of my ECBs, plus used the $1 ECB that printed at the scanner for my "Fall Spending" reward. That brought my total down to a whopping $0.08! I put that plus the $1.36 in tax (GRRRR!!) on my gift card. I got back $22.99 in ECBs. So essentially I walked out having paid nothing (thanks to the gift card!) and with $0.51 more in ECBs than I came with. Not bad!

To make things even sweeter, I will submit the receipt for a Bayer rebate (half back, not full price), and get back $6!

I was happy to be able to give Lance more jerky (since he has already polished off almost all of the jerky I bought Sunday) and get my mom a can of nuts as a thank you for always sharing her coupon inserts. The Bayer will be donated to church, the Dora Band-aids will go to my 3 year old niece, and the Stayfree will have me stocked up for at least four years, ha ha!

So my Thursday ended up being pretty good after all. All's well that ends well, right? : )

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Goals for getting our "Finances in Line in 2009"

MoneySavingMom is hosting a discussion about financial goals for this year (click here to view), and I couldn't help but want to join in!

As my family members know, I've always been the type to budget. My budget is my financial blueprint. It's my boundaries and goals wrapped up in a simple spreadsheet.

I'm a firm believer in boundaries, especially when it comes to money. If I had no boundaries, I would spend with abandon and get nowhere fast! My financial boundaries are not stringent by any means, but at least they give me an idea of how much I'm able to spend and how much to lay aside.

I bought my little starter home (on my own) in 2003. Using a budget and careful planning, I was able to buy a new refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, love seat, and privacy fence without paying a cent of interest. I utilized store credit with 12-months-no-interest programs. I was able to buy a new desktop computer and digital camera in the same way. All this on a very limited salary!

Then I got married. ; )

I've heard that finances are one of the biggest sources of contention in marriages today, and I BELIEVE IT! Lance and I have struggled to reconcile our differences for the last 4 years. It has not been easy. But we're finally working together, and we're excited about the financial freedom in our future!

Our main goal for 2009 is to completely pay off all our debts, with the exception of our mortgage. This covers: my school loan, Lance's school loan, the home equity line (on which we put the majority of our renovation costs from last summer), our Best Buy credit card balance (new stove bought last summer), and Lance's business debt.

Our secondary goal is to put as much into savings as possible. With our focus being on paying off debts, it doesn't make sense to be socking away a large amount into savings while paying interest on remaining balances. But if we pay off the debts earlier than expected, we'll direct the "snowball" of payments towards savings.

We've already taken a major step towards realizing our goals by starting the process of refinancing our mortgage. When the rate hit 4.75%, which is almost 2 whole points lower than our current APR, I jumped at the opportunity! We'll be able to save about $200 a month in interest while still paying extra towards principle every month in order to reach our long-term goal of paying off the mortgage by 2023!

It's also helpful that I started a new job last month with a 12% jump in salary. During this time of economic distress, it's such a blessing to not only have a job, but to have been offered a new job with a higher salary. I'm thanking God for His goodness! And I'm asking for His guidance in being a good steward this year with what He's given us. That's what it all comes down to...being a good steward and GIVING of what we've been given.

2009 should be a very good year.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday CVS Swag

Here's my Sunday CVS rundown for this week:
  • Fructis Shampoo, $2.99, get $2 ECB
  • Ziplock twin packs, $5.99 each, get $2 ECB for each
  • Nasogel, $7.99, get $7.99 ECB
  • Jack Link's Jerky twin pack, $9.99, get $2 ECB
  • EPT 2-pack, $15, get $10 ECB with purchase of $20 in Johnson products
  • Tylenol Sinus, $6 (to finish out the Johnson's purchase total)

Coupons used:

  • $1 off Fructis
  • $1 off two Ziploc products
  • $2 off Nasogel (printed from website)
  • $4 off EPT
  • $1 off Tylenol Sinus
  • $10 off a $50 purchase (CVS coupon)

I paid with $34.46 ECBs, and the total came down to just $0.49! Tax was $0.77, because they have to charge the full amount of tax on food products by law. The total of $1.26 went on my CVS gift card (Thanks, Mom!), and I got back $25.99 in ECBs, plus a bonus $0.50 for my "Fall Spending" (2% back). That just goes to show how LITTLE I paid out of pocket during the fall, ha ha!

So, my bottom line for today: I PAID $9.23. That's a bit unusual for me to not EARN money with my purchases, but I had promised Lance some Jack Link's jerky, and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to boost my total up to $50, so I could use yet another $10/$50 coupon. I think I've used about ten of these so far, and they just keep coming!

If I had skipped the jerky and Ziploc bags, I could have ended up making about a dollar on the rest. And if I had had one of the BOGO free Ziploc coupons (they didn't print them in the Nashville inserts), I would have spent much less. Oh, well. Sometimes you just gotta spend money to get stuff you want, huh?

Just FYI: The EPT tests are for the FUTURE! Just getting my ducks in a row...

; )

Friday, January 2, 2009

The bottomless toilet paper stash (pardon the pun)

Apparently, my garage has magic powers of regeneration.

Remember that huge stash of Cottonelle I got for really cheap back in September? (Okay, I know you don't, so go here if you want a refresher, ha ha!) Well, as I was searching for room in the upstairs closet to stuff yet another free 4-pack from Kroger, I got curious about how much of that stash in the garage we've actually used to date.


I could have SWORN that I opened at least ONE of those huge packs of double rolls over the last 3 months! Apparently not. Either that, or I have discovered the secret portal to the Land of Endless Toilet Paper.

I wonder how long this will continue. I previously thought we had enough TP to last us a year, but seeing as how we've gone over three months without using any of those rolls, perhaps we're looking at TWO years! As long as Cottonelle keeps putting $0.50 coupons in the papers and Kroger keeps selling 4-packs for $0.99, we'll be set for life!

How did I ever live without coupons?