Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Couponing for Charity: Black Friday's freebies & money makers

It's been a little over a year since I began working the deals at Walgreen's and CVS; so I am by no means a pro. Before, I had no idea you could get so much for free and even "make money" on some deals with coupons. Since I began my Couponing for Chairty mission in March, I have been posting weekly about how to score the best freebies, many of which I donate to a variety of local charities. To see my donating totals for the past two months alone, click here.

Though I don't usually get Black Friday fever, I will be shopping at CVS and Walgreen's this Friday to get 45 free items--many which are money makers! Woo hoo! This is like the Super Bowl of Couponing! The best part is that you have more time to get these deals, as they are good Thursday through Saturday (11/25-27). But don't wait too long because the shelves could be empty. If you're new to shopping these stores, first check out Coupon Mommie's tips for Walgreen's and CVS.

If you're going to pick just one store, I'd suggest CVS. You can get 25 items for free and make $7.30 in overage! CVS rewards are good for a month and you don't have to worry about coupon to product ratio. I then compare the match-ups of three bloggers. Sometimes they're different since coupons, prices, and deals can vary by region.

Southern Savers (extensive list)
Coupon Katie (local & paired down)


The idea is to spend as little OOP (out of pocket) as possible without irritating the clerk with a ton of transactions. Go to the back of the line if necessary. I'll be starting with $8 ECB from a previous trip. I've rounded most of these up for simplicity. I'm getting the max number of products allowed. If I'm under for any reason, I'll throw in an extra Reese's to each transaction. Here's my plan for CVS:

Transaction #1:
  • 1 Gillette Odor Shield Deodorant ($4, get $4ECB, use $2 MC =$2MM)
  • 2 Colgate Sensitive Toothpastes ($4, get $4, use 2 $1 MC=$2MM)
  • Use $8ECB from previous trips
Total Due: just tax
ECBs earned: $12

Transaction #2:
  • 1 Eucerin lotion ($7, get $7ECB, use $1 MC=$1MM)
  • 2 Herbal Essences shampoo ($4, get $4ECB, use $1/2 MC=$1MM)
  • Use $12 ECB from transaction #1
Total Due: $1 plus tax
ECBs earned: $15

Transaction #3:
  • 2 Listerine pocketpaks ($3, get $3ECB, use $1/2 MC = $1MM)
  • 1 Carmex lip balm ($1, get $1ECB, use $.30 MC = $.30MM)
  • 1 Philips in-ear headphones ($7, get $7ECB=FREE)
  • 1 Advil PM 4ct ($1, get $1ECB=FREE)
  • 1 Excedrin 8ct ($1, get $1ECB=FREE)
  • 1 Reese's Singles 1.4-2oz ($.79, get $.79)
  • Use $15 ECBs from transaction #2
Total Due: $.50 plus tax
ECBs earned: $16.79

Transaction #4:
  • 1 L.A. Looks Styling Gel ($3, get $3ECB=FREE)
  • 2 Renpure shampoos ($5, get $5ECB=FREE)
  • 4 Reese's singles ($.79, get $.79=FREE)
  • 5 Mars king size assorted ($1.60, get $1.60=FREE)
  • 1 Bioluxe trial size shampoo ($1.99; free with coupon you must register for by 11/24)
  • 1 Minute Clinic hand sanitizer wipes (free at the Minute Clinic with coupon found here)
  • Use $16.79 from transaction #3
Total Due: $7.37 plus tax
ECBs for next time: $24.16

I'll probably pick and choose my goods at Walgreen's more carefully because their rewards are good for only two weeks and it's more of a puzzle getting the coupon to product ratio correct. I'll have to go through my coupons to make sure I have what I need to make each item truly free or a money maker and make sure they are goods charities really want. Their good deals on Kleenex and Huggies will make it worth my while. The list of freebies includes:

  • Soft drinks
  • Advil
  • Oral B toothbrush
  • Gum eez Flossers
  • Colgate toothpaste
  • Crest toothpaste
  • Scunci hair bands
  • Secret body splash
  • Old Spice body spray
  • Dial for Men body wash
  • Nivea for Men shave gel
  • Olay body wash
  • Bic razors
  • Centrum Silver vitamins
  • Thermacare heat wraps
  • Robitussin to go
  • Fiber One fruit tablets
  • Planters nuts
  • Gillette skin care
  • Just for Men shampoo & conditioner

I'll post the specific deals I got later on. Nothing ever goes truly as planned. Let me know if you go and how your experience was. It can be a lot of fun and highly addictive!

Thank you to the group of Knoxville Money Saving Momma Bloggers that have teamed up to bring you lots of great posts this holiday season: Coupon Katie, Coupon Mommie, Couponing in Critical Times,Coupons Are Money, Frugalissa Finds, Frugally Farming Family,Knoxmoms.com, Knoxville Mamabelle,Knoxville on a Dime, Sharing Savings with You.

Free Holiday Events and Activities for Kids in Knoxville

As I've previously mentioned, a group of local Knoxville bloggers have teamed up this holiday season to bring you all sorts of ways to save effort, time, and money. Today's post comes from Ali at Knoxmoms. It's a very extensive list of activities--most of which are FREE.

We'll be doing the Festival of Lights at the Cove and Santa at the library; we'll see about the others. One parade she did not mention is the Karns Christmas parade on Saturday, December 4 at 10am along Oak Ridge Highway. Anyone can participate; you just show up at the Ingles parking lot by 9am. Our son will be in it with the Chung-Do Black Belt Academy.

If you missed some of the other holiday posts, here are links:
And look for posts from these bloggers in the near future:

Are you deep frying a turkey?

I myself have never deep fried a turkey for Thanksgiving, but I hear really good praise on the taste front. There is an environmental conundrum, however, (beyond the threat of setting your neighborhood on fire). What to do with all that used vegetable oil?!

PLEASE, DO NOT JUST PUT IT IN THE TRASH! Instead, turn it into biofuel! How?

Between Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, you can drop off your used oil in any non-glass container at a number of locations:

Halls Convenience Center:
3608 Neal Road
Dutchtown Convenience Center:
10618 Dutchtown Road
John Sevier Convenience Center:
1810 John Sevier Hwy
Knoxville Household Hazardous Waste:
1033 Elm St
Earth Fare (Bearden):
140 N Forest Park Blvd
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Office:
3804 Middlebrook Pike

Clean Energy Biofuels will in turn recycle it into biodiesel. How cool is that?!

Let me know if you plan to contribute.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bobby's First Belt Test

A few weeks ago, Bobby began Taekwondo at the Chung-Do Black Belt Academy in Karns. This morning was his first test to earn a black stripe on his belt. Focus and control have been challenges for Bobby his entire life, but I'm happy to say that these classes have helped him with both considerably. He did great and is so proud of this first accomplishment. Here is a short video to show him in action. I'm a proud momma! ;-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Online Holiday Shopping Tips

As I mentioned Monday, several of the Knoxville money saving momma bloggers have teamed up to bring you a slew of great ideas this holiday season to save you time, money, and head-aches. Today's tip comes from Kathryn at Knoxville on a Dime.

She has some great tips for getting the best deals online, including how to best comparison shop, avoid shipping costs, find discount codes, shop group buying sites, and score good Cyber Monday deals. Probably my favorite tip is about discount codes. I too am a fan of Retail Me Not. Never buy before checking the codes

If you're still making your plan for Black Friday, Frugalissa Finds had this great post. And check back Monday for great things to do around town for the holidays from Knoxmoms.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Melissa & Doug: Where are the lowest prices?

Note: I have no affiliation with Melissa and Doug or Smart Toys & Books; I'm just a consumer looking for the best deals.

If you're a mom of a child who loves puzzles, you'll agree the quality of the puzzle makes a huge difference. Don't waste your money on dollar puzzles; save it to spend on a Melissa and Doug puzzle. That's money well spent.

So today I was on a quest for the best price on Melissa and Doug puzzles. If I could get one under $10, I was planning to give that as my "under $10 secret santa gift" for our playgroup. I compared prices for a standard 24 piece puzzle. Here's what I found.

A.C. Moore normally sells them for $12.49, but this week they're on sale for $9.99. Good news: they're on sale; bad news is I couldn't use my 50% off one regular price item coupon in the Sunday paper. You can use the 10% off coupon in the school coupon books, bringing it to $9.

Toys R Us has the same puzzle for $9.99. I don't see any coupons or discounts for them.

Amazon has it for $9.04 and qualified for free shipping if my total was $25 or more. Note: If you decide to buy online and if you have a Upromise account, make sure you click on the Melissa and Doug icon through the Upromise website to earn 5% of your purchase for college savings.

Smart Toys & Books normally sells the same puzzle for $10.99. Now through 11/22, you an use their coupon in the school coupon book for 15% off, making it $9.34. Note: This coupon becomes 10% after 11/22, but you may be able to get even better coupons by signing up for their weekly e-mails. Plus, you get FREE gift wrapping!

They're competitively priced, they're a local business, and I get free gift wrap! Done!

Where is your favorite place to buy Melissa and Doug puzzles?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Friday Tips

A group of Local Knoxville Bloggers including Coupon Katie, Coupon Mommie, Couponing in Critical Times,Coupons Are Money, Frugalissa Finds, Frugally Farming Family, Knoxmoms.com, Knoxville Mamabelle, Knoxville on a Dime, Sharing Savings with You, and I are doing a series on different Holiday tips from now through December to save you BIG BUCKS and make the holidays more manageable and enjoyable.

Our first post comes from Frugalissa Finds about shopping Black Friday. Personally, I don't plan to do much if any shopping that day (as it's my birthday and I'll be traveling), but you should never try shopping Black Friday without a PLAN. Good luck!

More great posts to come....

My First Article in the Knoxville News Sentinel!

I've been freelance writing for several years now, but today marks the first time one of my articles has made it into the Knoxville News Sentinel. Yeah! The title is: "East Tennessee money-saving momma bloggers share tips." It was my opportunity to highlight the talents and contributions of several of the talented bloggers in our area. Unfortunately, I couldn't include them all, but so is the reality of print media.

Click here to read the article. I do want to clarify that I had asked them their "unique monthly visitor" numbers and what was published was their "monthly traffic" numbers. The numbers should be much higher for everyone (in the thousands to tens of thousands).

It includes profiles on: Living on More for Less (note: she recently changed her website and this is the correct link), Coupon Katie, Frugally Farming Family, Couponing in Critical Times, Knoxville Mamabelle, Frugalissa Finds, Knoxville on a Dime, Adventures in Momville, and Coupons are Money. Though not featured in this article, you should also check out Coupon Mommie, Sharing Savings with You, and Dollar out of a Dime. What impresses me most about all these women is the spirit of collaboration. Some might consider us competitors, but there is truly a sense of camaraderie among us.

I also hope you enjoy my video featuring a few of them below. Feedback appreciated.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Budget totals for Sept. & Oct.

I haven't been posting regularly about my budgeting, but I have been keeping track. For those of you new to my budget posts, this is the first year I've truly kept track of my spending. It's been a struggle, but I'm trying to keep on track.

My monthly budget of $800 includes all groceries, farmer's markets, u-pick farms, clothing, craft stores, dollar stores, office supplies, dining out, pharmacies, and big box stores. I aim for $500 of that to be in groceries and $300 for everything else. At the end of August, I was only over $11.13 and had almost made up for two months of excessive spending.

September was a tough month for me because we had several dinners out with our anniversary and birthdays. Just when I got out of a hole, I dug another one.

Here are my September totals:
  • Grocery: $551.00 (saved $319.35)
  • Pharmacies: $103.29 (saved $237.37)
  • Dining out: $156.19 (saved $33)
  • Other: $232.40 (saved $112.36)
Total Spent: $1042.88
Total Saved: $702.08 (40%)
Rebates received: +$13.66
Debt from August: -$11.13
TOTAL: $1040.35

So did I do any better in October? Here are my October totals:
  • Grocery: $622.83 (saved $351.61)
  • Pharmacies: $58.71 (saved $245.77--81%!)
  • Clothing: $53.00 (son's uniforms on consignment)
  • Other: $94.20 (saved $71.67)
Total Spent: $828.74
Total Saved: $669.05 (45%)
Rebates received: +$57.81 (including consignment sale profits)
TOTAL: $770.93
Debt from September: $240.35

Though I'm doing better for November so far, I'm not sure I will be able to pull myself out of the hole with the holiday spending on the horizon. I think it's fair to give myself some extra for presents, but I haven't yet set my Christmas budget. I'm totally procrastinating. If you need some tips for setting and staying on budget for Christmas spending, be sure to check out Coupon Katie's posts.

Couponing for Charity 11/14-20 & Update #27

Hi y'all,

I've done a quick scan of the deals online, and I suggest if you're picking only one store, make it CVS. Nothing at Walgreen's thrilled me and I have no RRs to use up.

UPDATE 11/15: Having just come from Kroger and CVS, if there's one week to sit out on getting the freebies, this is it. Only go if you have RRs or ECBS expiring.

For Southern Savers match-ups, click here.
For Coupon Katie's picks, click here.
For Coupon Mommie's picks, click here.

Sometimes, it's good to check all three because they can differ at times. I do have a few ECBs expiring; so here is my plan.
  • 1 Blistex ointment: $1.59, get $1.50 ECB, use $.55 MC from 11/14 paper=$.46MM (Note: This was priced $2.49 at my store, thus costing $.99, and I didn't see the coupon; so I skipped it).
  • 1 box Fiber One bars: $3.99, get $3ECB, use $.50 MC printable=$.49
  • 1 box Puffs: $.99, use $.25 MC=$.74
  • 1 Align: $29, get $5ECB, use $5 MC=$19 (certainly not a freebie, but I'm going to try it)
  • I'll also use ECBs from previous trips: $7.49, $1.00, $2.00, $3.00=$13.49 total.
Total OOP: $15.78 plus tax
ECBs for next time: $9.50

Hopefully the kiosk will have even more deals for me; you never know! I'll keep all the deals but the Blistex. No good coupons printed. I'll be donating nothing this week. :-(

As for Kroger, I don't see any freebies this week, and I don't plan to head to Target either. Since I haven't updated my totals in a couple weeks, here's where I stand:

  • 1 Olay body wash (normally $8.29, on sale for $7, get $3ECB, used $5 MC when you buy Olay and Secret),
  • 1 travel Secret deodorant ($1.00; with coupons and ECBs, both were FREE),
  • 4 boxes Ronzoni pasta (normally $1.99 each, on sale for $.79, used $1 coupons on each = $.84MM on 4),
  • 3 Campbells cream of mushroom soup (normally $1 each, on sale for $.49 each, used $1.50 esaver = $.03MM),
  • 2 Campbell's chunky soups (normally $1.59, on sale for $.99 each, used 2 $1 coupons = $.02MM),
  • 2 Colgate toothbrushes (normally $2.29 each, on sale for $1, used 2 $1 coupons=FREE)
  • 3 Johnson & Johnson travel first aid kits ($.97 each, used $3/3 coupon=FREE; exact amount keyed in)

TOTAL PRODUCTS TO DONATE TO DATE: 1 lotion, 8 toothpaste, 2 toothbrushes, 2 heat wraps, 7 lip balms, 3 body wash, 1 shaving gel, 2 razors, 1 lipstick, 1 multi-purpose solution, 1 candle, 9 first aid kits, 3 deodorants, 2 travel wash detergent packs, 1 cough drops, 2 pantyhose, 1 gum, 8 soups, 2 hand soaps, 2 tuna, 4 boxes pasta, 1 cold & flu medicine
TOTAL SPENT: -$7.79 (that's negative nearly 8 bucks)

What great deals am I missing?

Our Voyage on the Titanic

Last night my family and I were graciously invited as mommy blogging guests to enjoy the kick-off of Titanic's Christmas Winter Wonderland in Pigeon Forge. Every Friday and Saturday at 7pm through January 1, they will have real snow outside the Titanic. And my son Bobby, who ran after the snowflakes, can attest it is real snow that melts on your tongue.

Having never toured the new museum, I was very excited about the opportunity. Unfortunately, traffic was much heavier than expected, and our time to tour the ship was limited. I would recommend allowing 1.5 hours to go through the exhibit to really immerse yourself in the experience. I was impressed by the staff dressed in period costume and playing their parts as captain, stewards, and hostesses very well.

My favorite part was the grand staircase. It's a gorgeous replica with intricate woodwork. I've seen the movie several times and have fantasized about descending those stairs myself. Even though I had to take the elevator with the stroller, I did do a quick Kate Winslet descent on my own.

The kids loved touching the sheet of ice representing the iceberg and feeling the 28 degree water. "Cold!" Devin exclaimed. "Imagine trying to swim in that!" "No way!" he declared. Definitely the kid favorite was the "Tot-Tanic" display where they could experience the different inclines as the ship sank, sit in a life-size row-boat replica, and try to steer the ship away from the iceberg. Bobby spun and spun the wheel but still grazed it. Devin swears he missed it and was very proud of himself for doing so. I was running after Brooke at the time and couldn't confirm his conquest over big brother, but he can't stop talking about it. This is also where you can take a green screen picture that puts you on the grand staircase. I wish we'd had time to view it, but the big show was starting.

Out in the parking lot, the grand festivities began with choral singers, majestic camels and kings, snow from a snow machine, and fireworks. Brooke was starting to lose it since it was nearly her bed-time, but we rallied.

I would highly recommend checking out the museum when the traffic isn't at its peak or allowing extra time. Kids might do better during the day for the tour but then you could come back later for the snow if you're in the area. It's suggested you buy your tickets in advance since they do sell out quickly.

Oh, and thanks, Gabe, for the picture. Still can't find my camera....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Parade: our experience

I'll admit I wasn't downtown today for the veteran's parade. I actually had a shoot in Market Square that I was trying to get done before it began. I even saw Cindi there with her kiddos; good to put a face with the name.

As I was heading back to the car with my youngest (not quite two), I stopped, turned around, and decided to check out the parade. She's not really at an age where she can appreciate this, but she took it all in with wide eyes and a furrowed brow. At times she was startled by the loud sirens wailing, motorcycles rumbling, guns saluting, drums pounding, and helicopter whirring but she didn't let out a peep. One of the nice qualities of kids at this age is that they often do just watch and absorb their world. My older two are so busy running around that they miss a lot. She's a virtual sponge.

I'll admit I did get choked up a few times, between the giant flag, the national anthem and taps. Probably what touched me most was seeing all those in uniform (active and retired) marching past. We talk about "the troops" but often the individuals serving our country are lost. Kudos to all the men and women who have made sacrifices for our freedom. And if we need a parade to remind us that they're all sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers, then that's money well spent.

Did you go today? What did you think? Sorry there are no pictures; still looking for our camera!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Couponing for Charity 11/7-13

My apologies for the delay. I'll keep it brief.

If you haven't made it to Kroger's mega sale (the same deals last week carried over to this week), go now. I'm skipping this week because I got the deals I wanted last week. I saved 51% and got lots of soup and pasta for free. I'll update my totals soon.

I'm also skipping CVS this week; nothing inspired me. I did make it to Walgreen's with all three kids in tow today because I had $12 in RR expiring today. Go here for all the match-ups. I'm thrilled with my deals.

  • 2 Huggies Pull-ups (normally $10.49, on sale for $7.99, used 2 $2/1 printable coupons=$5.99 each; not the best deal, but we were totally out!)
  • 2 Nestle semi-sweet morsels (normally $3.29, $1.79 with WC, $1/2 printable=$1.29 each)
  • 1 Betty Crocker cake mix, 1 Betty Crocker brownie mix, 2 Betty Crocker icings ($.89 and $1.50 with WC, used $1/2 and $.75/2 coupons=$3.03 total; normally $10.36 total)
  • 1 Similasin cough syrup ($5.99, get $5.99 rebate, used $1/1 coupons=$1MM)
  • 4 Encore spices (normally $.99, $.50 with WC)
  • Was also able to use 4 RRs worth $24 total from previous weeks.

Total spent including tax: $3.41
Total saved: $49.29
Plus I earned a $6 rebate.

Sorry, none of these are going to charity. Every once in awhile, I need to focus on the deals I need. What were your favorite deals at Wags this week?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Couponing for Charity 10/31-11/6

It's shaping up to be a decent week for deals. Once again Jenny at Southern Savers and Coupon Katie came through with detailing the best freebies for yourself or to donate. Here's my plan.

For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here.

Transaction #1:
  • 1 Zarbees children's cough syrup ($6, get $6RR, $3 printable=$3MM)
  • 2 cans Hunts 8oz tomato sauce ($.34 each with in-ad coupon)
  • $3.50RR from last week
Total: $.18 plus tax
Leave with $6RR

Transaction #2: SAME

For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here.

My Transaction:
  • 1 Oral B stages battery toothbrush ($5, get $2ECB, $3MC=FREE)
  • 1 Olay body wash ($7, get $3ECB)
  • 1 Secret deodorant (travel--$.99; use $5 off body wash when you buy Secret MC=both FREE)
  • 1 Ocean Spray cranberry sauce ($.77)
  • Use $5ECB from previous trip.
Total: $.74 plus tax
ECBs for next time: $2, $3

For Southern Saver's match-ups, go here. For Coupon Katie's picks, go here.

I plan to pick up free or nearly free Honest Tea, Colgate toothbrushes, Campbells cream, chunky and select harvest soups, Ronzoni pasta, and Quaker instant oatmeal. Not sure how much of it I will donate yet.

So what's your plan for freebies?