Monday, December 13, 2010

Couponing for Charity 12/12-18

With all the snow, icy roads, and school closures, shopping is frankly not at the top of my priority list. However, I have scoured the ads and have some suggestions if you can get out this week. None of the stores are clear winners for freebies; so pick what YOU need.

For all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For the paired down list, go to Coupon Katie.

If I make it in, I'll pick up the free or nearly free Crest, Complete multi-purpose solution, discounted bandaids, some discounted Hershey chocolates for stockings, and a bag of Dove miniatures. The kids have really liked these for their lunches since they have a message inside. Click here for how to get some free Advil.

For all the match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For the paired down list, go to Coupon Katie.

My goal is to spend $25 in one transaction (before coupons, to pick up an extra $5 in Jingle Cash. The one trick is that it's only good 12/19-23. If I had been able to get out last week to earn Jingle Cash on the wrapping paper, that would have made this so much better, but it didn't happen. I'm buying the M&Ms for baking, the chocolates for hostess or teacher gifts, and the others for us. So, here's my plan:

  • 1 pack Ouchless hairbands ($2, get $2RR)
  • 4 bags M&Ms ($10 total, get $5RR, use 2 $1/2MC=$.75 each)
  • 2 Hershey's Pot of Gold assorted chocolates ($9 total, get $3RR, use 2 $1/1 MC=$2 each)
  • 1 Listerine whitening ($4, get 1RR, use $2/1 MC=$.99 each)
  • 2 Milky Way bars ($.39 each with in ad coupon, use $.50/2 printable=$.14 each)
Total before coupons: $25.77
Total OOP after coupons: $19.28
Jingle Cash for next week: $5, $2, $5, $3, $1=$16

Kroger has some decent deals; nothing wow. And I haven't seen any compelling posts that will draw me to Target this week. Stay warm!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Frugal Fun for your Christmas Day Celebration

The Knoxville area money saving momma bloggers are back with another great post for holiday preparation. This one is from Isha at Knoxville Mamabelle: Frugal Fun for your Christmas Day Celebration.

She describes her family tradition for creating laughter and special memories on Christmas morning. My mom is the only one who can play the piano. Maybe we can talk her into playing a few songs for us and giving each person a part of a song to sing. We'll probably read a portion from the advent book from church as we light all five candles.

I like the idea of doing a craft as well. I saw a great idea in December Family Fun magazine about gathering all the miscellaneous packaging from toys and then making a robot out of it (or whatever creative ideas come to mind). All those annoying twist ties on kid toys will finally have a purpose!

We also like making snowflakes, but hers look seriously intimidating! They are gorgeous though!

What are your favorite Christmas morning traditions?

Thank you to all the women who have contributed posts for this series. I believe we still have two left; so check back again next week: Coupon Katie, Coupon Mommie,Couponing in Critical Times,Coupons Are Money, Frugalissa Finds,Frugally Farming Family,, Knoxville Mamabelle,Knoxville on a Dime, Sharing Savings with You.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ways to Save on Christmas Entertaining

Our group of amazing Knoxville money saving momma bloggers is at it again. This post comes from Gabrielle at Couponing for Critical Times. She shares ideas for frugal get-togethers and ideas to save on decorating your home for Christmas. If she weren't so darn nice and gracious, she would be intimidating with all her great ideas! She is the Martha Stewart of Knoxville (without the likelihood of spending time behind bars ;-)

One of my favorite get-togethers she mentions is a cookie swap. I've never hosted one, but our moms group does one every year. It's an easy thing for moms to do when you have kids with you. You might also suggest a gift card exchange of a designated value and play a game of "dirty Santa"--when you get to steal each other's gifts.

My favorite tip for decorating is to "Go Natural." We're going to cut our own tree at a farm on Saturday and I'll ask for some extra clippings. I've never had the courage to make my own swags, but this year I'll give it a try. I have everything she describes on hand; so it won't cost a thing. We'll see.

If you've missed a few, scroll down my posts in December and November.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Couponing for Charity 12/5-11

Hi savvy shoppers. Sorry if you missed me last week. I was on vacation and had no plans to shop after my huge Black Friday trips to Walgreen's and CVS. I think I had 4 or 5 transactions at both stores! Thank goodness I did not have the kids.

This week is not a thrilling week for bargains but if you need to spend your register rewards from Black Friday (they'll expire 12/10), get back out there. I managed to roll all but one $.99RR into other savings. They paid for an ink cartridge so I can print more coupons! :-)

Note: At Walgreen's, you can earn even more savings (currently called Jingle Cash) now through 12/18. For every $25 you spend (before coupons), you earn a $5RR. That's in addition to any other RR deals advertised, but you can only spend those between 12/12 and 12/18. Hope they have good sales then.

For the complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For the paired down list, go to Coupon Katie.

I'll probably go for the free toothpaste, free nail polish (if I can find that coupon book), and the $.90 peanut butter (highly sought after item at food banks).

For the complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For the paired down list, go to Coupon Katie.

Nothing excites me much this week, but if you can get there tomorrow (12/7), you could get 10 candy canes for $.50 and M&Ms for $1.33 each. If you're going, there are two monthly freebies you might consider: Azo wipes and multi-purpose solution. By signing up for this coupon, you can also get 3 free Zhu Zhu pets when you buy 1. I was going to buy them as toys to donate, but I've read lots of discouraging comments about them. What do you think? I may hang onto my ECBs for another week or two.

For the complete list of match-ups, go to Southern Savers.
For some good tips for saving on cereal and Kellogg's rebates, go to Coupon Katie.

I will be picking up some cereal during their four day sale (12/8-11). They won't be free but many places appreciate cereal, like our next beneficiary: Ronald McDonald House. I'm taking a box of goodies to them on Friday.

Thanks to Katie and Gabrielle for the following tips about good deals at Target this week. It might be worth swinging by to get free Air Wick candles, $.49 Seventh Generation cleaner, free Suave shampoo, $.14 pantyliners, $.19 lotion, and $.24 eye shadow. Awesome deals.

You can also pick up some free to very cheap travel games at Target with Hasbro coupons: Hungry Hungry Hippo and Piktureka. Thanks, Katie.

I'll update my totals soon. There's just not enough time in the day!

Christmas Feast: Local and Organic Style

As I've mentioned in previous posts, a group of local bloggers have teamed up to bring you a variety of holiday posts to save you time, money, and hassle. Even better, today's tips help you plan a delicious Christmas feast with local and organic foods. This post from Hannah from Frugally Farming Family (mother of seven!) makes buying organic a priority and still stays within a budget. She is an inspiration.

This tip may sound like a given, but it saved me lots of money and helped me share organic goods for our Thanksgiving feast:
  • Before you go shopping, check your pantry, freezer, and fall garden for items on your list.
Though I did not host a Thanksgiving meal, I contributed Sister Schubert rolls bought for 75% off with sales and coupons and a squash casserole I had frozen from our vegetable garden's bounty. As a hostess gift, I brought homemade strawberry jam from berries we picked in Maryville, homemade salsa from our garden tomatoes, and a package of organic blueberries we had picked at another farm in Maryville. We enjoyed the berries for breakfast, and they were most impressed. The blueberries still tasted like we'd picked them yesterday.

Make sure you check out her other tips and recipes. Hannah has also done the leg work for the coupon match-ups with sales for December at Earth Fare. Here are the best deals she sees:

  • 8 oz. Gluten Free Deboles Pasta for $1 each with coupons
  • Organic Olive Oil 3 liters $19.98
  • 32 ounce Muir Glen Soup $1 after coupons
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day 16 oz. Lavender Dish Soap $1.99 after coupons!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

For Once: It's All About Me!

Note: This painting is an original by the artist I mention later in the post. My painting is similar but not the same.

I spent many childhood summers at a camp that drilled into me: "The secret to happiness is unselfishness." Though I try to make this mantra central to everything I do, the result can be that my needs get swept under the rug. I'm so busy caring for others that I don't take time for myself. I don't mean to sound like a martyr--far from it. It's my own fault really for not speaking up when I desperately need "me time."

It's this mind-set that almost caused me to pass up a trip with my hubby to Hawaii. Crazy, I know! He had a business trip with most expenses paid, I could get a free frequent flyer ticket, the grandparents were willing to watch the kids, and I was at the tail end of nursing Brooke. Thank goodness I came to my senses and booked our first trip without kids in 8 years!

We ate and drank whatever we wanted, took daily walks along the beach, snorkeled together, fed hammerhead sharks and touched stingrays. I took a yoga and tai chi class overlooking the ocean, danced on-stage at the luau, and got not one but TWO massages. Most importantly, I unplugged completely (no cellphone, email, internet, or TV) and let my mind rest. No to-do lists, no responsibilities.

I'll admit I felt a little guilty when I watched other parents enjoying a vacation with their children. I longed to share the wonderful facilities and opportunities with our own, but then I reminded myself that would have been a very different vacation. My body and mind craved this and I should just enjoy it while it lasted.

Then on the final day, I did something completely spontaneously: I took a watercolor painting class. I was just walking to the market for a sandwich when I noticed the artist, Donald K. Hall, selling his wares. Bob and I have a collection of watercolors from different vacations and I considered buying one. That's when he said, "Why don't you paint it yourself? The class starts in two minutes."

I like to think I'm somewhat creative as a writer and videographer, but an artist I am not. The last painting class I took was in fourth grade, at which point I realized I should pursue other avenues. Now here I am, just having celebrated my 39th birthday, thinking, "If not now, when?!" So I skipped the sandwich and sat down in a gorgeous outdoor setting.

The next four hours, he went over many of the basics that were probably obvious to most but which I'd never really thought about: how to accomplish scale, a mix of colors, how to let the water not the paint do the work. I was clearly not a star student, as I was admonished for my over-worked, detailed technique several times. I needed to relax more. Imagine if I'd tried this at the beginning of my vacation!

In the end, my first watercolor original was pretty good, if I do say so myself. It's definitely the most special memento I brought home. Now that I'm back, I gaze at it throughout the day and smile. No, I will never become a professional artist, but I will be more likely to paint with my kids or maybe, just maybe, on my own. For once, I didn't have to worry about who else needed me. It was all about me: my skills, my needs, my joys.

I write this not to say you need to book a trip to Hawaii (although, given the opportunity--GO), but to encourage you to find ways to be a little selfish at times. Maybe it's five minutes alone to watch the sunset or a one hour pedicure during a season when no one sees your toes. Maybe it's signing up for a class you've secretly wanted to explore. Go ahead. Give yourself permission to relax, learn, and live!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stretching your Christmas Budget, Volunteering Ideas, and Library Programs

Miss me? I've just returned from a mini vacation in Hawaii with my hubby (our first without the kids since we didn't have kids--8 years!). I went completely unplugged: no cellphone, no emails, no blogging, no Facebook, not even an internet search for local restaurants. It was refreshing, but it's not in my DNA to cut technology out of my life completely. I see great value in sharing ideas and building communities through it.

In that spirit, I'm playing a bit of catch-up from my period of being unplugged, and I'd like to highlight three great posts from local mom bloggers to hopefully help you save time / money / hassle or to simply inspire you this holiday season.

The first is from Julie at Sharing Savings with You. As a librarian, she has two posts about all the FREE events at the library in December, Merry Merry at the Library: one for Knox County and one for Blount County. We'll probably try to catch Santa at the Karns Library on 12/8 at 4pm. Bobby may be catching onto the fact that there are "several Santas" but the one who does the library rounds is really great!

Next is from Coupon Katie: Setting & Stretching Your Christmas Budget. Can I confess that I've never actually set a budget for Christmas before? Shock! Gasp! Moan! I still haven't really sat down with a list and made final decisions about what I'm giving to whom. If you're a procrastinator like me, you should really check out her tips.

Finally, Christy at Coupons are Money posted: Ways to Volunteer this Christmas Season. It's a great list to peruse for inspiration for how to involve your kids. If you don't have plans tomorrow, consider helping with the Coats for the Cold event for KARM 12/4. Even if you find quick, simple ways to teach your children the value in giving back, I encourage you to do so. This Sunday is the annual Stuff a Stocking event at our church. Parishioners have brought specific items (I donated a slew of items I've acquired for free the past few months through Couponing for Charity), they're spread out on a table, and then we all go round and round stuffing each stocking with an assortment of goodies. The kids especially like this because it's easy and dynamic and we're finished before they lose interest.