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Archive for the ‘money saving tips’ tag

November 17th, 2014 at 10:24 am

Online Shopping Tips


Online shopping has become a popular way to handle the purchase of holiday gifts. It’s an easier and quicker way for busy people to shop. If you are new to online shopping, here are some tips to help you become a savvy online shopper!

  • Companies often offer sales online that they don’t offer in store. Coupled with coupons you might be able to use, you can not only save time, but money as well, by shopping on their website.
  • Create an account on sites you shop the most. This makes purchasing easier because your information (shipping, billing, order history, etc.) will be securely stored in the account. Additionally, you’ll be able to check your order/shipping status, facilitate returns, and sometimes even contact customer service through live chat or a direct account function.
  • Sign up to get emails from companies you frequently purchase from. They will send you exclusive emails with sales and coupons to use for future purchases. It can make a big difference when you have a significant percentage off your total!
  • Don’t throw away packaging and receipts once your item arrives. Most companies allow you to send the item back in it’s original packaging for a full refund with free postage. Sometimes you decide the item isn’t exactly what you wanted, sometimes there’s an issue with the item itself, or sometimes it doesn’t fit or work the way you need it to. Don’t get stuck keeping an item you don’t want or need.
  • Early Black Friday sales are already being posted, and even more appear on Black Friday itself. The best day to shop online is Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. It is a good day to find significant sales of up to 40% or 50% off!

Also, you can earn cash back from your online holiday purchases (and any other time of year as well) by signing up with Ebates is paid by a number of popular online retailers to drive sales on their online platforms. Each retailer offers a different percentage of cash back, some on certain items or type of purchases, some on your total purchase of any items. Walmart is one of the major participants, so you can earn cash back from buying Garanimals!

Some great sites to monitor for online sale information are:

Brad’s Deals

Penny Pinching Mom

Saving with Shellie

Passion for Savings

I plan on getting A LOT of shopping done this way for Christmas! How about you?




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March 7th, 2014 at 7:41 am

25 Easy Ways to Save Money

Image-1We all love saving money, but sometimes it feels like it is so much harder than it really is. Here are 25 quick and easy ways to save money that will really show a difference over an extended amount of time!

  1. Set a budget
  2. Never be afraid to ask if you can get a better price
  3. Write a list before you go to the store
  4. Shop for presents all year long
  5. Cut back on convenience foods and plan ahead for meals
  6. Sign up for customer rewards programs, especially at places you frequent
  7. Shop for school supplies all year long
  8. Make your own cleaning supplies
  9. Buy holiday decorations a year early when they are discounted
  10. Make coffee at home instead of picking it up at the coffee shop
  11. Change the temperature on your thermostat a degree or two
  12. Have dinner at home instead of eating out by freezing meals ahead of time
  13. Prepare for travel by using deals online
  14. Visit the library instead of the book store
  15. Buy clothes at thrift stores or yard sales
  16. Make homemade gifts
  17. Instead of going to the movies wait till it is out on DVD and rent it
  18. Plan a weekly menu
  19. Get organized and cut clutter
  20. Swap items with friends – toys, movies, books
  21. Look over your insurance policies
  22. Price match at stores
  23. Shop Online
  24. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
  25. Use Coupons

Have you read my Beginners Guide to Couponing Series?

Where to Find your Coupons

Organizing Your Coupons

Maximizing your Coupon Use

Surviving the Checkout Lane

Creating and Maintaining your Stockpile

And there you have it, some quick and easy ideas that you can save money!

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


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October 8th, 2013 at 10:19 am

Never Pay Full Price Again With Smart Shopping Apps

I just did a Google search on the keywords “coupon shopping” and it returned 163 million results. That’s a lot of information. The couponing industry has come a long way from clipping money savers from the Sunday paper.

Now you can find an app that does the work for you. Have your eye on a particular jacket? You may love it, but not enough to pay full price. No problem, just download the Hukkster button to your browser and click it when you find something you like online. You’ll get notified when the item goes on sale. Wow – that’s easy.

Then there’s RedLaser. It’s a phone app with a variety of features that lets you save money and time on shopping. Looking for a favorite toy? Check out who is selling it locally and for how much. Then if you want you can order it through the app and have it waiting for you at the store. Or, if you are in the store and want to comparison shop, just scan the barcode and the app will quote competing retailer prices. You’ll never pay more than you should again.

A bonus feature of RedLaser lets you scan a food item barcode and discover if there are any allergens in the ingredients. Having nut allergies myself, this is really helpful.

There are many ways to shop and lots of apps out there that let you to search, collect, compare, check in, scan, get alerts, share, review, and of course, buy. It makes clipping coupons the old fashioned way seem so quaint. On the other hand, sitting down with the circulars and a pair of scissors sounds absolutely relaxing.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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December 6th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Low Cost Holiday Activities


December is an expensive month. Between traveling, buying food for big family meals and making sure the kids get everything they asked for from Santa, your wallet can seriously hurt by month’s end. And it doesn’t help that promotions for holiday shopping are happening earlier and earlier every year.  (I’m pretty sure I saw my first Christmas commercial this year in October.)  Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the holiday season with your family without breaking the bank.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Check out the lights.  You can walk around your own neighborhood or even drive to different neighborhoods and try to find the houses with the most lights and decorations.  Or go online and find out if there are any holiday light shows nearby to walk or drive through. Some of these public shows also offer things like meet-and-greets with Santa and cups of hot chocolate!
  • Hit the ice!  Ice skating is a fun way to burn off some of that holiday energy and a typical session allows for about two hours of skating. Admission is cheaper than the cost of a movie ticket and is even less costly for a child. If you don’t own a pair of skates, you will also have to pay for rentals.  Check to see if your local rink offers a session just for children so your little ones will be safer on the ice.
  • Give back a little. If you have a roof over your head, food to eat and a family to love, you are more fortunate than a lot of people, so why not volunteer some of your time this season to enrich the lives of the less fortunate?  Organizations all over the country are having toy drives this month and soup kitchens are always looking for help.  And many allow for kid volunteers, so don’t hesitate to call up and ask!  Signing up to perform random acts of kindness is rewarding and you will certainly get back even more than you give.

Do you have any other ideas for low-cost holiday fun?  Please share them in the comments.

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October 18th, 2012 at 5:00 am

A Halloween Costume Your Little Boy can Wear All Season


Halloween surely tests the limits of the monthly budget. We have been wracking our brains trying to think of ways to save money and still have a great halloween costume. Kim wrote about how her mom used to make her costumes, and that is one way. But sometimes the cost of crafting supplies is more than the cost of a store bought costume.

Last week we wrote about girl’s costumes you can make from Garanimals outfits and then wear all season. This week we are featuring an option for your little guys.

The football player is a classic costume. How many little quarterbacks do you see wandering around on the Halloween? It is an easy costume for moms and the boys love it. There is something about a little guy putting on a helmet that makes him so happy. Garanimals shirts can be paired with any of the athletic pants to make a multitude of sports uniforms. Add in a little face paint and a helmet that you have from a sibling or you can pick one up that you can reuse when your son is ready to play.

And the best part? You have a great outfit for the rest of the season. 

Any other outfits that you can see as costumes?

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February 28th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Control Your Energy Drain With Belkin Conserve

Ever wonder how much electricity your appliances and devices really use? We see the bill every month and when it changes, we’re not always sure why. We expect air conditioning in the summer to cause a spike, but not all changes are obvious.

We also hear alot of tips on energy use and what things to do, or not to do, to save a few watts. For instance:

  • Don’t leave your phone charger plugged in when not charging your phone. A trickle of energy is used even when the device is not there.
  • Turn your cable box off as well as your tv when you shut down. Leaving it on drains a significant amount of power.

To help avoid some of this needless energy use, Belkin has introduced a line of products in its Conserve line that help you get control.

First is the Conserve Insight product. This is a device that sits between the wall outlet and your device. There is an energy use monitor attached that displays watts, CO2 output and cost per month or year.

I ran an experiment with my laptop just to see how much energy the various states of power required. The results showed that power consumption ranged from 1.8 watts when shut down to 37 watts while I was writing this blog.  Sleep mode brought it down to 8 watts and Hibernate brought it down to 2 watts.  Almost as low as when shut down entirely. I always knew it saved energy, but now I know how much.

Then I plugged my smartphone into it and found that without the phone plugged in it’s just a trickle, not measurable by the device. Actual charging drew about 6 watts.

Lastly, I plugged in my cable box and with the TV on it drew a whopping 113 watts. With the TV off, it went down to 18 watts. But when I turned off the cable box, it only dropped another watt, to 17. Not much of a difference here. Interesting.

So based on my data collection, neither of these energy saving tips amount to significant savings. That’s not to say you should leave things on or plugged in when not in use, but at least it’s not a reckless waste.

There are more energy conservation products in this line. Two of interest are the Conserve Socket and the Conserve Smart AV power strip.

The Conserve Socket is a single outlet device that will automatically shut down all power after a selected time of 30 minutes (for small appliances like curling irons or coffeemakers), 3 hours (for phone chargers, ipods, cameras), or 6 hours (for larger charged appliances like vacuums and drills). I’ve got one of these for my smartphone, so after 3 hours, it no longer draws those 6 watts, or the trickle when I unplug my phone.

The Conserve Smart AV is an auto-off surge protector for your TV/home theater system. It has different outlets, one for the master device like the TV, several for the items, like your cable box, that need 24-hour power, and two for devices that don’t need full time power, like your dvd.

The benefit of this is that when you turn off the master device, the ones that need power will be able to get it, but the components that don’t will be completely shut down, with no residual drain.

We’re all tightening our belts. I like these products because they give me a little bit more control over needless energy use. See the entire line of Belkin Conserve products at their website.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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June 13th, 2011 at 5:00 am

Beginners Guide to Couponing – Creating and Maintaining your Stockpile

Creating your Stockpile

If you have watched Extreme Couponing a stockpile seems so overwhelming and ridiculous. This show demonstrates the extreme part of stockpiling. Realistically, having a stockpile means you have extra on hand of stuff. This helps you not have to run to the store every time you run out, plus, if you get that item for a terrific price its cheaper on your pocketbook.

It will take a while to create your stockpile because you always want to buy things when you get a good price. Sales typically cycle about every 12 weeks (some less, some more) and as you get a feel for couponing you will get a feel for the length of a typical items cycle. To maximize the benefit you want to shop for the items at the sale time and then buy enough to last you through to the next sale.

This doesn’t just work for frozen and canned items, but also perishable items. When red and yellow peppers are on sale at my local grocery store I buy tons of them. I then chop them up and freeze them to use in a variety of recipes.  I also have stockpiles of cheese, bread, buns, and yogurt in my freezer. I also stock up on holiday candy and freeze it. For instance, at Christmas I buy M&M’s© and separate out the red and green. I then use the red ones in Valentine’s cookies and the green in St. Patrick Day cookies.

Maintaining and Controlling your Stockpile

A key part of having a stockpile is maintaining and controlling it. Otherwise you will be throwing out a lot of expired products. Find an area in your home to store your items. This may be in several spots. I use my basement for my chest freezer and shelves for extra food and my bathroom closet houses my extra bathroom and toiletry items.

As you are creating your stockpile, always ask yourself how many of that item your family will use within 6 months and don’t buy anymore of that item after what you need. I often pick up some extras though to donate at various times through the year. Also be sure to put the newer items in the back and older up front so you don’t have any items expire on you. I have collected some general time frames for items I use. The amount of time it can be kept might surprise you!

Check out this list:

Brown sugar
Indefinite shelf life, stored in a moistureproof container in a cool, dry place.

Coffee, canned ground
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1 month refrigerated

Coffee, gourmet
Beans: 3 weeks in paper bag, longer in vacuum-seal bag (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)
Ground: 1 week in sealed container

Coffee, instant
Unopened: Up to 2 years
Opened: Up to 1 month

Diet soda (and soft drinks in plastic bottles)
Unopened: 3 months from “best by” date.
Opened: Doesn’t spoil, but taste is affected.

Dried pasta
12 months

Frozen dinners
Unopened: 12 to 18 months

Frozen vegetables
Unopened: 18 to 24 months
Opened: 1 month

Indefinite shelf life

Juice, bottled (apple or cranberry)
Unopened: 8 months from production date
Opened: 7 to 10 days

Unopened: 1 year (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)
Opened or used: 4 to 6 months (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)

Maple syrup, real or imitation
1 year

Maraschino cherries
Unopened: 3 to 4 years
Opened: 2 weeks at room temperature; 6 months refrigerated

Unopened: 40 weeks
Opened: 3 months

Unopened: Indefinitely
Opened: 2 to 3 months from “purchase by” date (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)

2 years (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)

Olives, jarred (green with pimento)
Unopened: 3 years
Opened: 3 months

Olive oil
2 years from manufacture date (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)

Unopened: 1 to 2 years unless frozen or refrigerated
Opened: 1 to 2 weeks in airtight container

Peanut butter, natural
9 months

Peanut butter, processed (Jif)
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 6 months; refrigerate after 3 months

Unopened: 18 months
Opened: No conclusive data. Discard if slippery or excessively soft.

Protein bars (PowerBars)
Unopened: 10 to 12 months. Check “best by” date on the package.

Rice, white
2 years from date on box or date of purchase

Salad dressing, bottled
Unopened: 12 months after “best by” date
Opened: 9 months refrigerated

Soda, regular
Unopened: In cans or glass bottles, 9 months from “best by” date
Opened: Doesn’t spoil, but taste is affected

Steak sauce
33 months (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)

5 years, stored in a cool, dry place

Tea bags (Lipton)
Use within 2 years of opening the package

Tuna, canned
Unopened: 1 year from purchase date
Opened: 3 to 4 days, not stored in can

Soy sauce, bottled
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 3 months (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)

42 months

Worcestershire sauce
Unopened: 5 to 10 years (after this time, color or flavor may be affected, but product is still generally safe to consume)
Opened: 2 years

So, start stockpiling a little at a time!  I hope you have had fun learning about Couponing! Feel free to post any coupons in the comments.

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


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May 30th, 2011 at 5:00 am

Beginners Guide to Couponing – Maximizing your Coupon Use

So, you have spent the entire Memorial Day weekend collecting and organizing your coupons, right?  Just the task all of us had at the top of our list for the start of the summer season. I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend, but now we can put all the hard work of couponing to use. This is the fun part; where we start to see our money stay in our accounts instead of going to the store! In the end it is all about dollars and cents, right?

Did you know that the number one complaint is that items with coupons are more expensive than the items you would normally buy. This can be true when you are using a coupon with an item at regular price. The first rule is that you don’t just use a coupon because you have it or because it is about to expire!

Make a Plan!

  • Weekly Ads: Read the Store Ads to compare what items are on sale and what stores may have the best prices on items. If you don’t have access to the actual store ads, most of the time you can find them on the store’s website.
  • Coupon Matches: Match your coupons to any sale items to get an even better deal. One of my favorite sites to do this is Money Saving Mom. There you can subscribe to your local stores and the match-ups will be mailed to you. Coupons Trackers also do this automatically for you for a fee. One of my favorites of these is The Grocery Game. If you can’t find your stores match-ups, just Google it!
  • Price Matching: Some stores will price match items that are on sale at other stores. You just need to take the ad to the store and tell the cashier that you would like to price match the item. Walmart is a well known store that price matches.
  • Have a list made: You can bring anything from a hand-written list to a spreadsheet. Lists are a must because they keep you on task and keep you from buying anything extra. This could effect whether your overall total is GREAT or just good.
  • Rainchecks: Did you know that if your store is out of a item that is on sale you can get a raincheck. Customer Service or the cashier can get you one so that you can come back when the item is back in stock you can buy the item at the sale price.

Here are some tips to help you while making your plan:

  • If your store has a double coupon day you want to make sure you shop on that day.
  • Know your stores coupon policy and check often. Sometimes stores change the coupon policies.
  • Try to use as many coupons by stacking them. This means using manufacturer and store coupons together with any rebates while the items are on sale to maximize your savings.
  • Some stores place limits on items, so watch what items have these.
  • If there is a 10 for $10 promotion you do not have to buy 10 items to get the $1 price per item. Always double check this though, because there may be a restriction that makes you buy 10 items to get the $1 price.
  • Read the words on the coupon and ignore the pictures. You do not need to buy the item that is in the picture. Typically, the item in the picture is usually the most costly item covered by the coupon.
  • Shop with as few distractions as possible.
  • Bigger does not always mean better. More often than not, a trial size item will bring in the best deal.

Once you have your plan in place you are all ready to go to the store! Although, you might want to wait until next week when I talk about how to survive the checkout lane!

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


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May 23rd, 2011 at 5:00 am

Beginners Guide to Couponing – Organizing your Coupon

Now that you have your coupons collected you need to decide how you want to organize them. I’m going to explain a couple of different methods, but remember that you need to find what fit is right for you. It may be one of the methods I am going to explain, or a mixture of several of the methods. 

  • Envelopes or store bought Coupon Divider. You can start by clipping coupons individually and filing them in a box filled with envelopes or a coupon binder you can pick up at the store.  Each envelope should be labeled with a category.
  • Insert Method. With this method you just file your inserts by date in a file folder or box . This doesn’t require much work on the front end but you might miss out on unadvertised deals by not having your coupons with you all the time.
  • Coupon Binder. With this method you can clip all of your coupons and file them in a 3-ring binder with baseball card, photo organizer or business card holders. This way you can carry all your coupons to the store. You may want to go with a zippered binder that will offer you a “coupon center.” The binder can be setup to hold not just coupons, but also anything you may need when shopping or just when clipping the coupons.

I use a combined method of the Insert method and Coupon Binder method. I usually get more than one insert. My first set of inserts I go through and cut out all the coupons that may be my favorites. Any remaining set of inserts go into my insert file box. I write the date on the front page with a marker. If you forget to write the date you can find it printed along the spine of the insert.

Once you figure out what method works for you then you can organize all your coupons. You can organize by expiration date, alphabetically, or by product category. The main categories I use are:

  • Baby
  • Baking
  • Beverages
  • Bread
  • Breakfast
  • Canned Goods
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Condiments
  • Dairy/Refrigerated
  • Fresh Foods
  • Frozen Foods
  • Health and Beauty
  • Laundry
  • Medicine/First Aid
  • Misc. Groceries
  • Paper Products
  • Pets
  • Snacks

Once you decide WHICH method benefits your money saving, style, and time management style best the rest of Couponing is Easy!

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


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May 16th, 2011 at 8:30 am

Beginners Guide to Couponing – Where to Find your Coupons

Couponing is all the rage, but many people feel very overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin. For several Mondays I am going to help you to be a skilled couponer. Today I am going to show you how to find coupons. Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I will be sure to answer them!

Where should you look for coupons?

  • The Newspaper is a great place to find coupons. You may want to buy more than one paper. I live in a smaller town that has a local paper and another paper from a major metro area. Papers with large circulations have the best coupons so I usually buy a local paper and the major metro one. I also have family members and friends that do not use coupons (gasp) save there circulars for me.
  • The Internet is an endless source of coupons. I have a great list of internet coupon links on my personal blog. Also, companies are increasingly posting coupons on their Facebook pages.
  • Check your stores. Stores offer coupons via tearpads, peelies, and in store brochures.
  • Look inside and outside your packages before throwing them in the garbage or recycling bin. Sometimes some of a products best coupons can be found this way.
  • Magazines are a hidden coupon treasure. All You is a great source. It is only available on newstands at Walmart, but every month you can find over $50 worth of coupons inside. Other magazines also will contain coupons.
  • Use a clipping service. There are clipping services like The Coupon Clippers that you can order coupons from. This is especially nice to use when you need multiples of a great coupon.
  • Contact the Manufacturer Directly. Don’t hesitate to contact your favorite companies to tell them you really enjoy their product and ask to be put on a coupon mailing list. Companies love to thank their most loyal customers.

This list is a list of the easiest ways to find coupons. Another great way to share coupons is with friends. Find a group of friends that coupon, and trade coupons that you may not use.

Next week I am going to talk about different ways to organize your coupons, so be sure to stop back next Monday!

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.


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