Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let the Donating Begin!

Note: My computer is doing funky things; sorry for the weird formatting: If you've been following my Couponing for Charity weekly posts, you know I've been gathering FREE deals (mainly hygiene products) to donate to deserving organizations. Our MOMS Club chapter has chosen four local organizations over the course of a year to be recipients of our crafty couponing skills. Every three months, a different one will benefit. I've felt a bit like a squirrel--hunting, gathering, and storing my precious finds--but it was finally time to relinquish my gems to our first deserving group: a non-profit, interfaith agency serving the poor and homeless of Knoxville called the Volunteer Ministry Center.

This from their website: "The Volunteer Ministry Center helps people find their way out of homelessness by offering “tough love” programs that work. It’s not enough to meet the basic needs of food and shelter. Real progress means that people face their problems and overcome them. It means that they set goals and achieve them – and in a timely manner. It means that they are held accountable. The work of The Volunteer Ministry Center has one purpose – to help our clients achieve housing and a higher level of self-sufficiency so that they are no longer homeless."

I actually got involved with the VMC through my church, The Church of the Good Samarita, an Episcopal church in the Cedar Bluff region.There's a group of 10-15 female parishioners who attend a monthly "ladies night in" at the VMC. It's a chance to share some life skills, but more importantly, an opportunity to build relationships with women struggling to overcome homelessness. They seek to give them a comfortable bridge to the community.

So when I began my Couponing for Charity mission, this group was the first to come to mind. I was excited that not only was this a chance to "give them fish" but to "teach them to fish." Over the weekend, I began pouring out some of the knowledge I'd gained the past nine months and tips for how to get the great deals at Walgreen's and CVS in a hand-out. I quickly filled 4 1/2 pages. Would they be overwhelmed? Will they be able to stockpile? Would they call me Crazy Coupon Lady when I walked out the door?

When I put all the goods I had in a box, along with several donations from another member of MOMS Club, I could barely carry the box. In total, we had at least $250 of products and we broke even with paying tax. Here's what we gave:

9 tubes toothpaste, 7 toothbrushes, 2 dental floss,
14 body wash, 7 shampoo, 2 conditioner,
1 hand soap, 2 dish soap,
9 deodorants,
9 feminine care,
1 sinus spray, 1 multi-purpose eye solution, 1 heat wrap, 2 lip balm, 1 barrette, 1 box of tissues, 1 box of vitamins, 2 boxes of cereal, 1 box of crackers

Seeing it all on a table was very gratifying. When I said I got it all for free, some women looked astonished and a bit wary, as if I were about to pull a rabbit out of hat. Surely it isn't possible to get all that for FREE in three months! What's the catch? was reading on some of their faces.

Unfortunately only 2 of the 11 expected VMC clients showed up. Periodically KARM (where many of them live temporarily) has a lock-down and they will not let you come back in after 6:30pm if you leave. So I think most of them were trapped. However, there were about 10 women from our church, and they were all eager to figure this out for themselves. Though some of them were new to using coupons and many had never shopped at drugstores with this strategy, they soaked in the knowledge. I think I inspired several of them to give it a try and begin bringing to the VMC each month some of the deals they pick up.

Probably the most important person I educated tonight was Lisa Wells, a caseworker who plans to work with their clients one-on-one to help them get these deals themselves. Since you can't use food stamps on hygiene or cleaning products, this is a huge way to stretch their dollars. The VMC also have three computers clients can use to print coupons and access the weekly blogs detailing the deals like Southern Savers, Coupon Katie, and Coupon Mommie. Finally I have to give a big thanks to the one who educated and inspired me to start this couponing mission for others: Gabrielle at Couponing in Critical Times.
Though I didn't get to see the excited expressions of the recipients, Lisa was thrilled to now have items that she can put in "welcome home baskets." Four of their clients signed leases this week, and she's giving them each a basket full of goodies to get them started. She expects any extra products will be quickly snatched up.

As I walked out the door and glanced back at the stockpile, it was a little hard to leave it behind. After all my hard work, I now start with a clean slate for the next organization. Will I be just as successful? What will the next box look like? One thing I do know: it sure feels good to give.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Couponing for Charity 6/27-7/3 & Update #15

Ok, savvy shoppers, here's this week's Couponing for Charity. I've been doing this for 3 1/2 months, and I've gathered over $200 of products while just about "making" enough to cover the tax. Another friend has given me at least $100 of similar goods to donate as well. I'll be taking my first batch of goods to the VMC in Knoxville. I'm going to speak to a group of ladies there about how they can do this themselves on Tuesday. I'll report back afterwards. Since I'm taking next week off from couponing, you're on your own. I'll catch you again the second week of July.

For a few freebies, head to Walgreen's. If you need cleaning supplies, go to CVS. I went to Walgreen's today because my printer was out of ink--tragic for a printing couponer like myself. Having no ink is paralyzing! I managed to use $16 in register rewards I had previously earned and $8 more I earned today while spending only $3.10 of my own money.

For all the Walgreen's match-ups, go here. Take note: Walgreen's is having a problem with the free socks deal. Since the RR is not printing at any locations, I opted to return them instead of sending in the rebate form. If you're new to couponing, skip the socks!

For simplicity's sake, I took out the socks purchase and return from my totals.

Transaction #1:
1 News Sentinel
1 Flexitol Blistop (on sale for $5; get $5RR)--I'm keeping this because my son keeps getting blisters
1 Blistex smoothie 3-pack (on sale for $3; get $3RR)
2 Raison Brans (on sale for $1.99 each)
1 Caramel (filler item: $.33)
--Used $1/2 Kellogg's printable
--Used $16RR from previous visits (2 $5RR, 3 $2RR)
Total Spent: $1.66
Total Saved: $27.98
RR for next time: $8

Transaction #2:
3 Raison Brans
1 Inkjet refill (normally $13)
4 Reach toothbrushes ($.99 with in-ad coupon)
1 Caramel
--Used $1.50/3 Kellogg's paper coupon
--Used 50% off ink jet refill coupon from the box of my last refill (making it $6.50; you could use the in-ad coupon that will take off $3 but this was the better deal for me.)
--Used 2 $2/2 Reach toothbrush printables
--Used in ad Reach coupon (1 coupon takes off $3.20 for 4)
--Used $8RR from previous transaction
Total Spent: $1.44
Total Saved: $30.99

A quick note about printer refills. This is new to me. I've always bought them new. The first one I got for just $1 on Earthday worked fine; so I decided to refill again. Not only is this MUCH cheaper ($13 regular compared to $40), but coupons will usually save you an additional $3 - $6.50 per cartridge. Make sure you bring an XL (which holds three times the ink) because the cost is the same.

For all the CVS match-ups go here. I didn't make it to CVS today, but I'll get there some time this week. Other than the picture movie DVD (which I can do myself), I didn't see any freebies. I also did not receive the $5 coupon she describes. You can get Little Swimmers for $4.49 and Kellogg's cereal for $1.50.

But probably the best deal is on cleaning supplies. You can get all sorts of cleaning supplies by S.C. Johnson for $2.50 each. When you buy 4 (ie: spend $10), you get $5ECB. Since I have 4 $1/1 coupons, that makes each one $.25 each. When I submit for the $5 rebate (must be purchased by 6/30 and postmarked by 7/15), that will be a $4 money maker. I haven't yet decided what if anything I'll be donating from there; so here are my totals thus far.

Total products to donate this week: Blistex 3 pack, 4 toothbrushes
Total value of these products: $11.15 (Non-sale prices were $3.99 for Blistex and $1.79 each for toothbrushes)
Total spent for these products: $0

Total products to donate to date: 6 tubes toothpaste, 6 toothbrushes, 5 deodorants, 2 bars of soap, 1 hand soap, 2 dish soap, 14 body wash, 5 shampoo, 2 conditioner, 1 razor, 1 heat wrap, 5 feminine care, 1 box of tampons, 2 lip balm, 1 barrette, 1 box of tissues, 1 box of vitamins, 2 boxes of cereal, 1 box of crackers
Total value of products to date: $207.08
Total spent to date: -$16.70

What deals did you find this week?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Movies on the Cheap

We finally got to one of the Regal free family movies this week, and it inspired me to blog about saving money at the movies. "What's there to save if the movie is free?" you may ask. One word: concessions.

First let me thank Regal for these opportunities during the summer to take my children to experience the movies for free. Though we try to catch a few each summer, we don't tend to take the kids to the movies often. Devin leaned over to me and whispered, "Their screen is MUCH bigger than our TV at home!" Yes, experiencing a movie on the big screen is a thrill like no other.

More importantly, getting to take young children to movies without the fear of paying a fortune only to encounter a meltdown or total restlessness takes the pressure off. I saw my friend Michelle outside the theater on Tuesday cajoling her two-year-old into overcoming her fear of the dark. If she had to walk out, so be it. Years ago my friend Tina had a two-year-old and an infant at Madagascar. Literally a minute into the movie, the lion jumps out, fills the entire screen, and yells, "Surprise!" That was enough to send him into hysterical tears. With that, she picked up the kids and walked out. It happens, and when it happens when you've paid nothing, that's even better.

First some advice for those with kids under four: bypass the concessions completely and they'll never miss it. Pack a few goldfish and sippy cups and milk this as long as you can. The time will come when they'll succumb to the luring smell of popcorn, and that time for me is now. My 6 and 3 year olds look forward to the popcorn as much as the movie, and even my 1 year old dug in. They don't care how much it cost: $6 for small, $7 for medium, or $8 for the large! Yikes! I don't even look at the sodas because I still smuggle in water bottles since I refuse to give them soda anyway.

Between the four of us, we polished off a medium, but next time I have a plan. Since the large comes with unlimited refills and they give you little trays to divvy it up, I'm going to bring a friend and split it. I can live with spending $1 each for popcorn.

Another set of movies to consider is the Summer Kids Series at Carmike Cinemas. There are two in West Knoxville and one in east. Every Tuesday they have a select movie for $1 admission, $1 popcorn, and $1 drink. I don't know if you have to buy drinks. If not, we'd still be shelling out $8 for our family for the movie and popcorn. So I think I'll stick with Regal.

If you just want a free movie to watch for family movie night on the couch, there are plenty of free codes out there for Redbox and the Blockbuster kiosks. Here's one at Blockbuster on Monday, June 28. I tried to use the free code at Redbox widely publicized on June 21, but my closest Redbox was broken. It wasn't worth it for me to hunt for another one.

Of course another great resource for free kids' movies is the library. You have only a week with each one, but you can renew them twice online and keep them for three weeks. They are finally getting a good selection of DVDs. If you haven't yet signed up for the summer reading program, do so soon. I'm looking forward to seeing what coupons they have for us this summer. And don't forget to check their calendar for all the great kids programs they sponsor, especially during the summer.

So back to movies, how do you save money for movies? Have you ever had to walk out of the movie with kids?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Couponing for Charity 6/20-26 & Update #14

Sorry for the delay in this post. Just the typical duties of caring for three children full-time and making family life a priority. I did make it to CVS and Walgreen's on Sunday, and here's what I found.

For the best freebies, head to Walgreen's, but if you need diapers, go to CVS. Click here for Southern Saver's Walgreen's match-ups. Click here for Coupon Katie's picks. And here are a few of my lessons learned that might save you some time and effort in the future.

Lesson #1: Since it was Father's Day and I didn't want to leave hubby with the kids to shop, I asked if I could just "run in." When you're trying to work the deals, there's no such thing as "just running in." I returned to a harumphed husband and antsy kids and decided not to do that again.

Lesson #2: Don't rely on hang tags to give you all the deals. My Walgreen's rarely has the tags on the weekly register rewards deals. That can be good because the deals are still there; it's bad because you're second guessing yourself, making sure you got the product that qualifies. Make sure you grab a weekly ad when you walk in to check the product.

Lesson #3: If the deal seems phenomenal, you probably won't get it. Sorry. I was excited to read about the Neutragena deal that could be a $7.78 money maker. Maybe other stores have them, but I searched several places with no luck.

Lesson #4: Have a system for handling your coupons and stick with it. I usually have my stack of coupons that I'll probably use in my hand. As I add an item to the cart, I put the coupon in my pocket. I did that with two of my coupons and then got rushed, sensing anxiety in the car outside. When I got to the register, I couldn't find two coupons. Not thinking clearly, I put the products aside and realized my mistake when I got home. Ugh!

Lesson #5: Only do multiple transactions if necessary. I had planned two transactions so that I could use a RR from one for the other but then couldn't find my coupons. So I ended up taking twice as long with two customers behind me tapping their feet all for nothing. Ugh!

Lesson #6: Check your stockpile beforehand to make sure you don't buy something you don't need. I bought crackers for $1 with one of my $1RR, only to realize I had four full boxes in the pantry.

After all that, did I accomplish anything or get anything right?! Well, yes. I managed to spend the register rewards that were expiring that day on small items like crackers and dental floss. I picked up my free photo collage for Father's Day, our Sunday paper and these two freebies:

1 Bausch and Lomb Renu multi-purpose solution (on sale for $7.50; get $7.50RR)--I've read enough bloggers saying how good it is to have this on hand that I'll be keeping this one.
1 Herbal Essences shampoo ($2.99; get $2RR)
Used $2 Renu printable (made it a $2 money maker)
Used $1/1 Herbal Essences (made it free)
Used $11RR from previous trips

Total spent: $3.77
Total saved: $20.99
RR for next time: $9.50

UPDATE 6/25: I did manage to sneak in another trip to Walgreen's this week to pick up the following:

Transaction #1:
1 Rephresh tampons ($5.99; get $5RR)
2 Gillette body wash ($4.49; get $4.50RR)
1 Herbal Essences shampoo ($2.99; get $2RR)
--Used $1/1 Rephresh coupon (making it free)
--Used a B1G1 Gillette coupon (making both free)
--Used $1/1 Herbal Essences coupon (making that free)
--Used $7.50RR from last trip
Total Spent: $5.63
RR for next time: $11.50

Transaction #2:
1 Rephresh tampons ($5.99; get $5RR)
1 Herbal Essences conditioner ($2.99; get $2RR)
1 caramel for filler ($.34)
--Used $1/1 Rephresh coupon (making it free)
--Used $1/1 Herbal Essences coupon (making that free)
--Used $4.50RR from first transaction
Total Spent: $3.68
RR for next time: $7

For Southern's Saver's CVS match-ups, click here. For Coupon's Katie's picks, click here. CVS was much faster (I did that one first) because I got 4 items:

1 large box of Huggies diapers ($20; get $10ECB) (tip: Coupon Katie advises you ask for a raincheck if they're out)
1 Colgate Total ($2.99; get $2ECB)
2 Powerbars ($1; get $1ECB each)
--Used $3 Huggies printable (tip: Southern Savers said there were further discounts printing on some CVS receipts, but I haven't seen that.)
--Used $1/1 Colgate (making it free)
--Used $12ECB from previous trips

Total spent: $11.24
Total saved: $20.90
Total ECBs for next time: $14

Since I don't donate every good deal I get, here's what is going to charity:

Total products to donate this week: 2 shampoo, 1 conditioner, 1 box of tampons, 2 body wash, 1 toothpaste, 1 box of crackers
Total value of these products: $28.90 ($9 for shampoo, $6 for tampons, $9 for body wash, $3.90 for toothpaste, $1 for crackers--not sure of non sale prices for most goods)
Total spent for these products: $1 (everything but the crackers were free with coupons; even though I used a $1RR for the crackers, that savings was calculated in a previous purchase)

Total products to donate to date: 6 tubes toothpaste, 5 deodorants, 2 bars of soap, 1 hand soap, 2 dish soap, 14 body wash, 5 shampoo, 2 conditioner, 1 razor, 1 heat wrap, 5 feminine care, 1 box of tampons, 1 lip balm, 2 toothbrushes, 1 barrette, 1 box of tissues, 1 box of vitamins, 2 boxes of cereal, 1 box of crackers
Total value of products to date: $195.93
Total spent to date: -$16.70

What deals did you find this week?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Target Gift Card Winner Announced

Congratulations to Julie B., winner of the $250 Target Gift Card from Seize the Deal. With all the clearance deals being shared by Coupon Katie and KnoxMamabelle, she could make that card last a long time!

Seize the Deal is a group buying website coming to Knoxville soon. If you sign up here, you'll get daily emails with ways to save 50-90% off local services. Can't wait to see what deals they'll have for us!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Donating Blood: Denied!

I just returned from an attempt to do a good deed, and instead of feeling fulfilled, I feel rejected: today I learned I'm not eligible to donate blood and that may not change for the rest of my life. I'm the perfect candidate, I thought. How could they turn ME away? The reason was one I would have never considered.

This all started when I heard of the blood shortage in Knoxville last week. My husband asked, "Aren't you O negative, the universal donor?" "That's what I was told the last time I donated blood," I replied. This is a big deal since only 6.6% of the population is O negative, and anyone can receive that blood type.

However, I haven't tried to donate blood for 15 years. The last time I tried, my blood clotted too quickly and they were not able to get enough to fill a bag. Result: they had to throw 2/3 of a bag of blood--MY BLOOD--into the trash. It was devastating at the time. Since I had successfully donated in high school, I didn't know if this was a rare occurrence or a condition that could happen again.

I've since been testing for a clotting disorder, and it was negative. Since the last seven years I've either been pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or recovering from pregnancies and miscarriages, donating blood has not been a priority. That changed two days ago when I heard the news that the 3-year-old son of a friend of mine was just diagnosed with leukemia. He's Devin's age, and the news hit me like a bomb. They are optimistic, but he'll be getting treatment for the next 3 years! How would I handle the news if this happened to one of my children? I wept and prayed for their family.

Through Care Pages set up by East Tennessee Children's Hospital, friends and family have been able to get the latest on his treatment and prognosis. We were advised that we could donate blood as a "replacement donation" at the Medic Regional Blood Center. My blood wouldn't go directly to him, but by giving his name and the hospital where he's being seen, my donation would help offset the screening costs of the units he would require. I had been nudged twice in one week to donate blood. Now was the time to overcome my fears.

Before driving downtown, I did scan the list for donor eligibility. I've never done drugs, been paid for sex, or had any major illnesses. I'm good, I thought. The screening nurse was practically giddy with excitement when I mentioned I was O negative. Her smiles got broader as she found my blood pressure was low and my iron levels were exceptional. Then she began the list of questions.

After a series of "no" responses, she asked, "Since 1980, have you ever lived in or traveled to Europe?" "Yes." "Did you live more than three months in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1996?" "Yes." Her eyes stopped dancing and she responded, "Really?" I did a study abroad in London in 1993 for 5 1/2 months, and for that, I was ineligible to donate blood. Of course, I had to inquire why that was a problem and her answer was something about mad cow disease. Seriously?! If I'd been exposed to tainted beef in 1993, don't you think I'd have SOME sign of it affecting me by now? Could that REALLY cause problems for someone receiving my blood today? Can't they just test it?

Thinking, wow, the requirements for donors must really be tight, I continued reading down the list. If you've had malaria in the past 1-3 years, you can't donate because the parasite can lay dormant, but after 3 years, they'll accept your blood. You can still donate blood if you have herpes, the papilloma virus, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or high blood pressure. You can even have a pacemaker and still donate blood. You only have to wait one day since having the flu, one month for mono, six months after a major surgery, one year since a stroke, and ten years after breast cancer. Even if you used an unsterile technique for a tattoo or body piercing, you only have to wait one year to donate blood. All these are ok and my time spent in one of the most developed countries in the world for 5 1/2 months 17 years ago disqualifies me for life?! That seems crazy to me!

The nurse encouraged me not to give up hope. "They're going to reconsider the list of questions in a year. They recently dropped some of the questions about Africa. They might take the UK off the list. Please check back with us in the future." Sure; I'll make a note of it on my I-cal. Yes, I'm disappointed, and yes, I'm a little mad. I want the blood collected to be of the highest caliber, but can someone please explain to me why we are still concerned about "mad cow" decades later when not a single person in the US has ever been infected?

My frustrations aside, I still encourage YOU to consider donating blood NOW. Even if you don't have a loved one requiring blood, you never know when you will. Just a few minutes of your time could save someone's life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Great Knoxmoms Contests

The great contests from Knoxmoms.com just seem to keep on coming. If you haven't signed up for the weekly e-newsletter, I'd highly recommend it. You get the scoop on all the latest deals, events, and contests around town. Here are a few of my favorites this week.

You have til 9:30am on Wednesday, June 16 to upload a video of your kids dancing--preferably doing the twist. Click here to follow instructions. This is to promote the Secret City Festival this Friday and Saturday in Oak Ridge. We've gone several years and have always enjoyed it. Check it out! To see my video submission, scroll to the bottom of this post. Brooke was not in the mood to dance! By entering you could win:

1 x Grand Prize Pack Includes:
• Secret City Festival Chubby Checker (6/19) or Daryl Stuermer – Genesis Rewired (6/18) Concert Double Pass (your choice)
• American Museum of Science and Energy Family Membership and Goody Bag.
• Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge Family Pass
• Secret City Scenic Excursion Train Family Pass

2 x Second Place Prize: One of two double passes to a Secret City Festival concert.

You could win a family four pack of passes to Splash Country and Dollywood--valued at $332.60! Just follow the instructions here through your Facebook to enter. I think I did everything right. Fingers crossed; not sure when contest ends.

And of course I couldn't resist entering this contest where you get to share a picture of your hubby and your child/ren. It's not the most flattering for either, but I couldn't resist posting the one above from Halloween. When I told him we were going to a party in costume, he grabbed our son's hat from Dr. Seuss Day. Click here to follow the instructions to enter. A winner of four tickets to the Knoxville Zoo and a $25 Target gift card will be announced on Monday, June 28.

Good luck, and if you win anything, leave a comment!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Couponing for Charity 6/13-19 & Update #13

It's time again to grab those deals for charity, and this week there are some decent deals and even a surprise. I'm donating $26 worth of products and I made $5. If you're picking one place, head to CVS.

I actually started at Walgreen's for the paper. For all the Walgreen's match-ups, click here. Here's what I bought:

1 News Sentinel
1 Nivea for men body wash ($6; get $6RR)
1 Allways 18 count pack ($3.99)--I'm keeping this
--Used $2RR from last week
--Used $1/1 Nivea body wash coupon (I don't think we got the $3 coupon noted by Southern Savers)
--Used Free Allways catalina that printed a few weeks ago
Total Spent: $5.91
RR to use next time: $6

After clipping the $5 off Hydro razor in today's paper, I headed to CVS. They had emailed me a $4 off $20 purchase that expired today. That's $10 of ECBs they've given me in the past week for no purchase! If you haven't signed up for their emails, I would highly recommend it. For all the CVS match-ups, click here.

Update 6/15: If you would like to see Coupon Katie's CVS picks, click here. For the great rebate on the Shick razor, click here. I bought mine one day early; so I'm out of luck. You might also get a few deals I missed like free or $.25 Speed Stick deodorant and Colgate toothpaste.

Thanks to a tip from Coupon Katie, I bought a $50 gift card for Sears; it earns you $10ECB. If you buy $50 in mens apparel at Sears this week, you can submit for a rebate for $50 to use in the future. It's like $100 of clothing for $40! Since the hubby doesn't like to wait for sales and shops more like, "I need a pair of jeans, these fit, so I'll buy them," this is a way to make sure he saves money!

Transaction #1:
$50 Sears gift card
Total spent: $50
ECB printed: $10

Transaction #2:
2 Old Spice body wash (on sale for $4 each; get $4ECB. The ad noted you only got one $4ECB, but it actually gave me $8ECB. I thought I was getting both for free but it was actually a $4 money maker--SURPRISE!)
1 Hydro razor (on sale for $8.97; get $4ECB; using coupon makes it free)
1 bottle of vitamins ($10; not on sale but I was running low and they're not much cheaper at Kroger)
--Used $4 off $20ECB
--Used $10ECB from previous purchase
--Used $1ECB from green tag
--Used B1G1 Old Spice body wash
--Used $5/1 Hydro razor

Total Spent: $4.99
Total ECBs for future: $12

Total products to donate this week: 3 body wash for men, 1 razor
Total value of these products: $26 ($6 for Nivea, $5 each for Old Spice, $10 for razor--non-sale prices)
Total spent for these products: -$5 ($1 MM for Nivea and $4 MM for Old Spice)

Total products to donate to date: 5 tubes toothpaste, 5 deodorants, 2 bars of soap, 1 hand soap, 2 dish soap, 12 body wash, 3 shampoo, 1 conditioner, 1 razor, 1 heat wrap, 5 feminine care, 1 lip balm, 2 toothbrushes, 1 barrette, 1 box of tissues, 1 box of vitamins, 2 boxes of cereal
Total value of products to date: $167.03
Total spent to date: -$17.70

What deals did you find this week?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Seize the Deal: Target Promotion only til 6/15

Hey all you bargain hunters. You have just three more days to sign up for Seize the Deal to qualify for the $250 Target gift card. Through June 15, when you sign up for their FREE daily emails offering deals for 50-90% off local services, you'll be entered to win a $250 Target gift card. To sign up now, click here.

Though Seize the Deal is not active in Knoxville yet, they're hoping to be up and running within a few weeks. Here's how it will work. Every day (starting at midnight and ending at midnight), they will feature only ONE hot deal for local restaurants, salons, spas, entertainment, adventures, or other services. On Fridays, the deal runs through the weekend. By leveraging "the power of the group," each deal is 50-90% off retail!

The only catch is there is a minimum amount of people that are needed for the daily deal to be "seized." If that number isn't met, nobody is out any money, but no one gets the deal. So if it's something you really want, you should share the details with your friends fast so that you can all reap the benefits.

Remember it's FREE to sign up, you can unsubscribe at any time, and you could win $250 from Target!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Best Pool & Swim Lessons

At the beginning of every summer, we enroll the kids in two weeks of swim lessons every day. It's an intensive approach that gives them skills and confidence for the rest of the summer. I feel very strongly that every child should learn to swim and hopefully to love the water.

When deciding on a venue, I start with proximity. I'm not willing to drive more than 30 minutes each way when the classes are only 30 minutes. I'll consider anything from Oak Ridge to Farragut to downtown Knoxville.

Secondly, I'd have to consider if I'd already invested in a gym membership that would give discounts on lessons at their pool. I have several friends who have enjoyed the lessons at Court South and YMCA, but I've never been a fan of exercising indoors or their monthly fees.

Third is the price. I like to stay in the $50 - $75 range per kid for 8 classes. I did look into Mr. Ed's but I found him pricey, and I didn't want to commit more than two weeks. Last year we took lessons on the UT campus because they were the cheapest. The lessons are in the outdoor pool but if it's bad weather, they can use the indoor pool. They also let me keep my 3 month old in her car seat at the edge of the pool during my lesson with Devin. I would have gone back this year, but they didn't have classes the boys could take at the same time due to their different skill levels. Parking was also a hassle if you didn't get there early, and it was pretty far for us travel.

So given proximity, price, and convenient schedules, this summer I returned to a swim program that has been wonderful to us over the years: the Oak Ridge pools. When we began with Bobby at age two, lessons were in the indoor facility at the recreation center. They have great walking trails there and a playground suitable for a wide range of ages. We lucked out and no one else signed up for the class: private lessons for the price of group. Six months pregnant, I enjoyed the time in the water too.

When he was three, I still had to be with Bobby but didn't know what to do with my infant Devin. They let me wear him in a waterproof carrier by Body Glove during the class (similar to a Baby Bjorn). It was like getting lessons for both for the price of one.

When he was four, Bobby was on his own with an instructor but I still had Devin in the mommy & me class. Since the times for the classes were one after the other, they let Bobby sit by the pool with a coloring book while Devin and I had our class. They've always been so accommodating to our special needs!

Last year I opted for UT, but this year we're back. I wasn't thrilled with being in the outdoor pool in the heat of the day with three little ones now, but I'm armed with my favorite sunscreen. They have several time slots, including those for working parents. We chose 11:45am because the pool opens at noon. Bobby and Devin head off to their own classes, and I get dressed with Brooke. They didn't offer mommy & me classes in June; so we just make our own. For just $4.50, we can all stay as long as we want after the lessons. Adults cost $3, under 18 are $1.50, and 3 and under are free--very reasonable!

If you've never been to the outdoor Oak Ridge pool, you're in for a treat. It's huge! It has several areas of the pool for every type of swimmer: lap swim, high dive, low dive, a "zero entry" side that slopes into the pool with tiny fountains, and a baby pool with a huge mushroom fountain. I also like the grassy slope to put your towel and stuff; no need to bring chairs for the hot concrete. It's a little cool because it's spring-fed, but we've had a great time this week. Oak Ridge may seem far, but it's right off the turnpike and takes about 20 minutes from Karns, 25 minutes from Farragut, and 30 minutes from most of West Knoxville.

I believe there are three more sets of swim classes this summer. The cost is $55 for 8 thirty minute classes; add $10 per student if you're not an Oak Ridge resident. For more information call 425-3450 or email: jgibson@cortn.org. I suggest you give it a try!