Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not So Fast...

If you purchased the Living Social deal for, be cautious when using it. Know that most of the prices on the website are considerably more than what you'd find in the store. But because the offer was such a good one ($10 for a $20 voucher) you should be able to watch for sales and end up snagging a good deal.

Also...July is almost here! Crazy, right? That means June is coming to an end, so make sure you print your online coupons before they reset.,, and are all great sites for printable coupons. Then, be sure to check back on those sites at the beginning of July to print the best coupons before they reach their printing limits.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Your Turn!

So, this blogging thing is a little bit one-sided. I get to tell my readers everything that I know, and y'all get to use the information to save money and live better. Well, now it's time for a little role reversal. I want y'all to share your favorite bit of homemaking advice with me!

There are no limits. It can have to do with cooking, cleaning, parenting, saving money, having fun, or anything else you thing me or another reader might not know. Just leave a comment sharing your sage wisdom. If I see something particularly helpful, I might just share it in the blog later!

Ready, go!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Living Social Deal!

I just bought an awesome Living Social deal! For $10, you can purchase a $20 voucher to If that doesn't sound like something you would be interested in, be sure to check out the website. They have so much more than just soap. They offer free shipping on your order over $25. That means you can purchase this voucher, spend an additional $5, and end up with $25 worth of product for only $15, without paying for shipping. Or, you can just choose something less expensive

I'm going to use my voucher to purchase the more expensive Cascade ActionPacs for the dishwasher. I can't bring myself to pay full price for them in the store, but whenever we use them I can tell a big difference in our dishes. You should know that the deal is only good on certain brands, which are listed on the webpage. It seems to be mostly Proctor & Gamble products. The deal is only available through tonight, so don't procrastinate!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Easiest Grilled Potatoes Ever

We are now beginning our second summer without air conditioning. While this isn't too big of a deal in Oregon, it's also the second summer that we swore we would get AC. Because the temperature in our house routinely reaches the high 70s in the late afternoon, I've resorted to cooking on the grill more evenings than not.

Tonight I made grilled potatoes that tasted so good. Even better than that, though, is that they were ridiculously easy. I'd never grilled potatoes directly on the grill before, and they still turned out amazing. I don't know that I would call this a recipe, because it's so easy, but here is what I did:

Easiest Grilled Potatoes Ever
-Any kind of potatoes (I used the smaller ones that came in the five pound bag, but bigger baking potatoes would work best)
-1/4 stick of melted butter
-Paula Deen's house seasoning (1 cup salt, 1/4 cup garlic powder, 1/4 cup pepper)
I didn't need all of the seasoning that her recipe calls for, so I only made a quarter of what she called for: 1/4 cup salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, 1 tablespoon garlic powder. Slice the potatoes into 1/2 - 3/4 inch pieces. Boil them for about five minutes (please ignore my dirty stove).
Spray the grill with nonstick spray (FYI, you should do this before turning the grill on). Put the potato slices on the grill and brush them with butter, then sprinkle with the seasoning blend. Let them get brown on the bottom (this will happen much faster if you close the lid on the grill) and then turn them.
Apply butter and seasoning to the other side. I turned them a couple times and reapplied the seasoning and butter each time, so that the potatoes would get extra crispy. Once both sides are dark and crisp, remove them from the grill and enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Diaper Leaks

Just this past week, G has started sleeping on his stomach. I guess he's finally figured out that it's more comfortable than his back, which is fine with us, because we're more than ready for his flat head to regain a normal shape.

Along with this new stomach-sleeping, though, has come daily diaper leaks. Every morning when he wakes up (he usually sleeps between 8 and 10 hours) the front of his pajamas and the sheet are soaked. I Googled the problem and found a lot of information on the subject, along with recommendations to fix it. However, a lot of it doesn't apply to us.

For instance, the issue isn't that we're using off-brand diapers, nor are his diapers too small. The problem isn't that the diapers are overflowing because they're too full; most mornings the diaper doesn't really have much pee in it at all (duh, because it's all over his bed).

These are the suggestions I plan to try: putting him in diapers the next size up, even though I know his aren't too small. First I have to find size 4 diapers for very cheap, so this one might take a few weeks to implement. I'm also going to try making sure his penis (I've vowed not to refer to his boy parts using euphemisms; I'm afraid the term "wee wee" might stick, and that's never a good thing for a grown man to use) is pointing down, between his legs, when I put him down for the night.

It was also suggested in the reading I did that overnight diapers are a good fix. I really don't want to try this, because a) I don't want to have to buy two kinds of diapers and b) a lot of babies sleep primarily on their stomachs without experiencing leaks- there has to be a better solution than that.

Now that I've rambled on for five paragraphs about our family's diaper leak issues (can you tell we only have one child?) I'm going to ask for help. Have you encountered this problem? How did you fix it? I'm open to any and all suggestions! And, because I know my audience will be waiting with baited breath, I'll be sure to keep everyone updated on how it goes. Thanks in advance for your help!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gifts to Grow

I think I mentioned a few days ago that we're an exclusively Pampers family. Because of this, I'm extra careful in finding great deals on diapers; I can't imagine paying full price for them. By constantly monitoring the prices on diapers and wipes at Amazon Mom, I'm able to purchase diapers for $.10 each and wipes for $.02 each.

But there's also another way that I'm able to justify purchasing brand name diapers. It's called Pampers Gifts to Grow. If you've ever bought a Pampers product, you may have noticed the small stickers with 15 digit codes on the package. You can set up an account with Pampers online, and then enter the codes there. When you accumulate enough points, you can redeem them for different rewards.

Prizes include Melissa & Doug puzzles, gift cards, magazine subscriptions, and more. A couple months ago I redeemed my points for a Venus razor. In the store, that same razor would have easily cost me $7 or $8. I got something for free because of purchases I would have made anyway.

There's more good news! Pampers often offers additional codes, including some worth up to 50 points. Many bloggers will compile a list of codes, like this one. If you get signed up today and enter all the codes found at that link, you'll be starting your account with 335 points. That's nearly halfway to the free razor.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coupon Database

If you aren't using a coupon database, then you aren't saving as much as you could be. Here's how it works: you need to buy peanut butter this week, but you don't think you have a coupon for it. Stop! This doesn't mean you have to pay full price.

Just head to your favorite coupon database. Mine is (of course) the one at Money Saving Mom. Just do a search for the product you need a coupon for, and the results will show you all the coupons issued for that item. This is great for finding printable coupons, but it's also helpful if you organize your coupons using the insert method.

The database allows you to search by product name or by brand, and then narrow results based on the coupon source, the date it was issued, and more. There are people out there making this couponing thing so easy for us!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Safeway Trip

I was excited about this morning's Safeway trip, because I had several great deals on my list. As much as possible, I try to share my entire purchase with y'all, just to be as real as possible. I want everyone to know that sometimes I do pay full price for things. By posting both my successes and my failures, I can stay accountable with my budget and learn to shop smarter. Here is today's trip:

-Baby Mum-Mum rice biscuits: $1.99
-organic apples: $2.77
-wheat bread: $.99 (I usually buy whole grain or 12 grain bread, but it was $2.39 today. My bottom line is at least $1.50. Sometimes it's $1.19 and I try to stock up. Obviously I didn't do a good job of that last time, so I decided to buy a different kind rather than spend so much. I'm hoping that bread will be on sale when the sales cycle starts over on Wednesday.)
-Ronzoni pasta: $.99. I used $.50/1 coupon, making it $.49.
-Dannon Greek yogurt: $1.29. On clearance for $.50.
-2 Wheat Thins: $1.88. I used $1/2 coupon, making them $1.38 each.
-4 Bulls-Eye barbecue sauce: $.99. I used four $.50/1 coupons, plus my Safeway doubler, making them free.
-3 Kool-Aid packets: $.10 each. I used a buy two get one free coupon, so they should have been $.07, but according to my receipt I only paid $.05 total for all three. ( We don't drink Kool-Aid around here, but I use it to make play dough. I'll post about that soon.)
I paid: $9.55

Shopping notes:
-They were out of Sure deodorant that was on sale for $.99. I have two $1/1 coupons, so it would have been free. I got a rain check, though, so I'll hopefully be able to grab them next week. Not familiar with rain checks? It's just a slip of paper that a store will give you if they're out of a certain product. The rain check extends the sale price of the item.

Example: When Safeway's sale cycle starts over on Wednesday, Sure deodorant will probably not be $.99 anymore. But my rain check says I can still buy two sticks of Sure for $.99. Most stores do rain checks for as many items as you request. If I had ten coupoons, I could have requested a rain check for ten sticks of Sure. All you have to do is ask the first associate you see. If they can't do it for you, they can point you to someone who can.. Today I got mine from the cashier, but if there is a line behind you, you can always go to customer service.

-Today my receipt said that I saved 67%. While it's always nice to see that number, keep in mind that that percentage is based on the full price of the item. If I purchase a brick of cream cheese that is usually $3.00 but I pay $1.50, my receipt will tell me that I've saved 50%. But is it really savings if I would never pay that full price of $3.00? Just remember that seeing those big numbers can be thrilling, but it might not always mean that you're saving as much as you appear to be.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Coupon Class...?

I'm just going to throw this out there. Feel free to throw it right back. But I was thinking...

Would anyone in the Sweet Home area be interested in some sort of informal couponing class? I'm certainly no expert, but I know several people have started using coupons after reading my blog, and several more have expressed an interest in getting started, but just can't seem to get going.

I know the idea of getting started can be overwhelming, and even though there are endless resources on the internet, sometimes people learn better in person. And maybe getting together and hearing other people's successes and failures will help you get started. I know that at least three people have said to me "teach me!" in the last week alone.

Because I am by no means an authority on the subject of using coupons, I think a meeting might be especially helpful for everyone, including myself. We might find that bouncing ideas off each other is invaluable. Anyway, I would love feedback on this idea. If you live in the Sweet Home area and have any interest at all in learning more about how to get started using coupons, how to maximize your savings with coupons, where and how to get the best deals, or anything else related to saving money, let me know.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Coupon Myths

Let's dispel some common coupon myths.

1. I save more money by purchasing store brands.
If you don't have a coupon, this is often the case. But with coupons, brand name products can be much cheaper than the store brand. For example: this week, Sure deodorant is on sale for $.99 at Safeway. I have a $1/1 coupon, making the deodorant free. The store brand is a little more than that.

The key to using coupons to purchase brand name items at super low prices is to wait for the item to go on sale. By monitoring sales and using a coupon match-up site, you can be certain that you know where to get the best deals, no matter what region of the country you're in.

2. My store will lose money when I use coupons.
There are two kinds of coupons: store coupons and manufacturer coupons. Store coupons are most often seen in the store's weekly ad. These are just another way for the store to offer sales, the same way they mark down items using tags on the shelves.

Manufacturer coupons are issued by companies. When you use a coupon, the manufacturer actually reimburses the store for the coupon's value, plus a handling fee. Let's say you use a $.75 coupon for Suave at Walmart. Suave will reimburse Walmart for that $.75, plus a handling fee of $.08. In reality, by accepting manufacturer coupons, stores are making money.

3. People at the store will glare at me because I'll hold up the checkout line.
Have you watched Extreme Couponing? I'm constantly amazed when the show's participants spend two or more hours at the register. That's crazy! First, know that using coupons, especially if you split your purchase into multiple transactions, is going to take longer than not using coupons. But by simply being organized before you arrive at the checkout counter, you can make things quick and stress-free for you, the cashier, and the shoppers in line behind you.

4. Coupons won't save me enough money to make it worth my time.
Coupons will help you save in more than one way. First is the obvious savings, the savings you see immediately from the value of each coupon you use. Then there is the secondary savings. This is the savings you see over a longer period of time. In theory, you're using coupons to build a stockpile of items.

So let's say that you purchased deodorant for just $.25 by using a $2.00 coupon when the item was on sale. The first savings is the $2.00 you saved by using the coupon. The deodorant goes in your stockpile, until you use up your current deodorant. When that runs out, you grab the $.25 stick that is waiting in your stockpile.

If you didn't have that deodorant waiting, you would have been forced to purchase the deodorant at it's current price. Let's say that price is $4.00. Aside from your initial $2.00 savings, you've now saved an additional $1.75. Apply that type of savings to everything you purchase, and you can begin to see a 50-70% savings on your grocery bill. I find that kind of savings more than worth it.

5. Using coupons takes too much work.
Again, watching Extreme Couponing can give you the illusion that using coupons is the equivalent of a full time job. The reality is that couponing can take as much or as little time as you want it to. If you want to spend very little time couponing, you probably want to keep your coupons in a simple small accordion folder and only clip coupons from the weekly inserts. If you want to spend a little more time on it, you can follow a few money saving blogs and print the coupons or sign up for the freebies that they post. Maybe you want to dedicate even more time to the task. If so, you'll probably gather inserts from more than just one Sunday paper and you'll contact companies to ask for coupons.

My perspective on couponing is this: when I reduced my hours at work from 40+ to 25 after G was born, I knew I would have to make some changes to help us adjust to the lower income. I look at couponing as another part time job. I allot time for it each week because saving money is a necessity. Using coupons allows me to spend less time at work and more time at home with my family. Whatever your reason for couponing, it only has to consume as much of your time as you give it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to...

Sarah from An Alaskassippi Girl!

As the winner of the La Bella Rosa giveaway, Sarah has won $10 to spend however she chooses at La Bella Rosa! Thanks to everyone who entered; remember La Bella Rosa next time you need an adorable handmade baby shower or birthday gift!

Stay tuned for another giveaway coming in the next few weeks; I'm not sure yet what this one will be. If you know someone who might be interested in sponsoring a giveaway with Mom on a Mission, let me know. Suggestions are welcome!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Extreme Couponing

Let me begin with a disclaimer: this blog post is not about how to become an extreme couponer like the people on the TLC show. Do you watch the show and think "can I put together a stockpile like that?" The truth is no, you probably can't. Not only are the stockpiles you see on the show unnecessary, but at least one contestant has admitted to committing coupon fraud.

Even though the shopping trips you see on the show are most likely unrealistic and unattainable, there are a few positive lessons to be learned from the show's participants.

1. Dumpster Diving
Several episodes feature people fishing through dumpsters and recycling bins to collect coupons. I've done that! No, I don't wade into the dumpster and roll around with the garbage. I just hit up the newspaper recycling boxes when they start to get full. I make sure to bring my own Sunday paper, too. I usually recycle this in our bin at home, but I put it in the public box to take the place of any coupon inserts I take.

2. Overages
One of my biggest frustrations with the show is that it depicts people buying mostly prepackaged, not-very-healthy foods. I often find myself wondering if those moms even feed their children fresh produce. One episode I saw recently was pleasantly surprising, though; the participant used overages from her other purchases to buy produce for very little.

How does this work? An overage happens when you use a coupon that has a higher value than the product you're purchasing. For instance, the Dial Body Wash I wrote about yesterday: the body wash cost $.97, but my coupon was for $2. By using the coupon, I got the body wash for free and I also got $1.03 off my entire purchase.

This is where it's important to know your store's coupon policy. Some stores, like Target, adjust the price of the coupon so that you don't receive an overage. Other stores, like Walmart, will allow overages. Having the coupon policy with you can help avoid any conflict at the register.

3. Be Vigilant
The women (and men) on Extreme Couponing monitor the computer screen at the checkout as if their lives depend on the accuracy of the numbers. While their attention to detail may be slightly over the top, the idea is good. Always watch the register to make sure each product scans for the correct amount, especially if you're purchasing clearance items.

Will you be watching Extreme Couponing tonight? I probably will. Just remember as you watch that much of what you see is exaggerated and, at times, completely twisted for the benefit of the television audience. There are things that can be learned from the participants of the show, but at the end of the day, TLC's goal is still to entertain.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deals Lately

The weekend before last I was out of town, and last weekend we were busy with graduation and the senior all-night party. Because of all that, I haven't been to Walgreens or Rite Aid in three weeks. I did go to Walmart yesterday, where I bought what I'll need to make supper until the end of the month. I won't bore you with the detail of that entire trip, but here are a few highlights:
-Dial Body Wash, trial size- $.97. Used $2/1 coupon, making this free plus $1.03 overage
-Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries- free
-8 packages of Wet Wipes Singles- $.97 each. Used 4 $1/2 coupons, making them $.47 each
-Pert Plus Shampoo, trial size- $.97. Used $1/1 coupon, making it free plus $.03 overage

Today after work I went to Safeway to take advantage of their mix and match offer. The deal is that you buy any eight of the 3000 participating items and receive $.50 off each item. I didn't have a list, but I wandered the aisles until I found eight deals that I was satisfied with. My two best deals of the day, though, weren't even part of the mix and match.
Classico Pasta Sauce, $3.19 each. These were B1G1 free, which took the price down to $1.60 each. Then I had a $1/2 coupon, which Safeway doubled up to $.50, giving me an additional $1.50 off, or $.75 off each jar. I paid $.85 each.
Resolve Stain Remover, $3.89 each. These were also B1G1 free, making them $1.95 each. I used 2 $.50/1 coupons, which Safeway doubled to $1 each. I paid $.95 each.

Are you unfamiliar with the concept of overages and how to make them work for you? If so, you might want to read tomorrow's post! Plus, don't forget to enter the La Bella Rosa Giveaway- it ends tomorrow!

Monday, June 13, 2011

How Low Should You Go

Yesterday, J and I went to the store to pick up a few things. Diet Coke was on our list, because it was on sale. When we got there and began to load the two boxes into our cart, I noticed something. When did cases of Coke products go from containing 24 cans each to having just 20 cans each?

Then I started thinking. Sugar now comes in four pound bags instead of five. And don't even get me started on those boxes of ice cream that used to be a half-pint but are now much, much less. While there isn't much we can do about these new, smaller-size packages, there are a couple ways we can make sure we aren't paying more than we should.

I discussed this subject briefly in an earlier post, but the idea is worthy of expansion. When it comes to saving money, it's vital to know your bottom line. You're bottom line is the maximum price you are willing to pay for a product.

For instance, I don't like to pay more than $.02 each for wipes. Since we're wipe snobs around my house, that means I have to carefully watch the sales and catch Pampers wipes when they're at their lowest. This usually means buying wipes through Amazon. I often purchase wipes when they're at my bottom line price, even if we aren't close to running out. That's called shopping based on price, and I do that because I don't want to wait until our supply is getting low, only to find that there aren't any great sales when I need them.

The idea of knowing your bottom line for every product you purchase probably seems a little overwhelming. Don't worry; there are some great resources out there designed to make the process as painless as possible. Money Saving Mom has a great list available, which includes her own bottom line prices. Just remember that she's been doing this a long time, and her prices are specific to her region. Don't get discouraged if her bottom lines seem unattainable. Just let them serve as great guidelines that you can aim for.

How will a form like this help you avoid being sucked in by smaller packaging? Most of these forms allow you to track your bottom line price by individual units. By knowing that your bottom line is $.02 for wipes, or $.10 for diapers, or $.05 per ounce for flour, you can easily determine whether a product is worth purchasing.

There's no need to stand in the grocery store, struggling to figure out which bottle of laundry detergent to buy. With your bottom line list and the calculator on your cell phone, you can easily determine the best deal. Keep this in mind, though: until you build a stockpile and a healthy supply of coupons, you probably won't be able to achieve these bottom lines. Baby steps; you'll get there!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

FREE product!

With this link, you can win a free Suave Professionals product!

I did it the last time the offer was available, and I've since received the coupon in the mail and redeemed it for a free bottle of volumizing mousse. Now I just did the test again and will be receiving TWO coupons in the mail for free Suave Professionals products.

All you have to do is watch several short videos and decide which model is using Suave Professionals and which one is using the salon brand. It's all 100% guessing, so I just left the videos running while I made my grocery list, then checked the page every couple of minutes to enter my guess. Not bad for a Sunday night!

Don't forget the La Bella Rosa giveaway ends Wednesday night! If you're a follower of this blog, you've already earned an entry. Just leave a comment on the giveaway post telling me that. Entries are really low, which is surprising... what do y'all have against free stuff? Get those entries in!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Great Deal on Movie Tickets!

Living Social, a daily deal site similar to Groupon, is offering a great deal on movie tickets right now. For just $9 you can purchase two movie tickets from Fandango. The voucher you purchase can only be redeemed online, though, so be sure to check here that the theater in your area allows you to purchase tickets online (the Albany, OR theater does). Ticket prices vary by region, but this is a savings of up to 70%.

Added bonus: prepaying for tickets will force you to have that date night/girls' night/mother-daughter day. Since you will have already paid the $9, that's one less excuse not to go!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

I've participated in the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoe box program for several years now. It's a tradition that I'm excited to share with G as he gets older, and with all of our future children. If you're not familiar with the program, here is how it works: you fill a shoe box (or boxes) with candy, small toys, toiletries, clothing, and other items for a child in a specific age group of your choosing. The boxes go to a collection site, and from there they're distributed to children in other countries, with the goal being "to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."

If you've ever assembled one of these boxes, you probably know how quickly the cost can add up. If you shop last minute for items, the cost can easily top $50 per box. Luckily, it's possible to participate in this worthy program without using an entire months' grocery allowance. The key is not waiting until the week before the boxes are due to start purchasing items. Here are a few simple ideas for putting together a shoe box without breaking your budget:

1. Use Trial Size
I've already shown you some of the travel-size items I've purchased for free or nearly nothing. Not only are these great because they're cheap, but they also allow you to include boring toiletry items without using up all the room you need for the fun stuff.

2. Plan Ahead
Do all of your shopping with an age range in mind. For instance, you probably won't want to include girl's sunglasses and men's socks in the same box, or put a brightly-beaded necklace with size large t-shirt. So instead of just purchasing anything that seems like a great deal, make a plan about what age and gender you want the box to be for. 

3. Find a Partner
Samaritan's Purse suggests that you include $7 with each shoe box, to help offset the costs associated with shipping, handling, and distributing the boxes. If you prepare more than one box, this cost can add up- it may even be more than what you pay for the items you put in the box. Consider finding a coworker or family member to help you out. Maybe you know someone who would love to be a part of the Operation Christmas Child project, but simply doesn't have the time to shop for their own items. That person may be more than willing to cover the $7 per box as their contribution. It's a win-win!

4. Start Now
The best way to inexpensively fill your box is to start now. You can keep your eyes open for items you need whenever you go out shopping. By stockpiling items all year long, you can assemble quality boxes without spending a ton of money.

I strongly encourage you to think about participating in the program this year. It's a great way to make a lasting impact on a needy child, while also providing a great chance for your family to discuss helping others. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

La Bella Rosa Giveaway

Allow me to introduce to you: La Bella Rosa!

La Bella Rosa is the adorable creations of Kayla Rosa. Kayla and I go way back, so I'm thrilled to feature her stuff here. She is a mommy of two (soon to be three!). Where she finds the time to make the precious things that she makes, I have no idea. But she does, and she's just as excited to be a part of this giveaway as I am to have her. You can check out what Kayla has to offer by visiting La Bella Rosa on Facebook, but here's a quick preview.

This is a taggie blanket. Sizes range from 8x8 to 10x10. The front is made in the fabric of your choice and the back fabric is minkee. The color choices for the minkee are: white, green, light green, blue, light blue, light pink and brown. The ribbons along the sides are a variety of textures and lengths.

These are clippies! They come in sets of two and can be made in any color or color combination you choose.

This is an example of burp cloths. They are approximately 8-10inches wide and 18-20 inches long. The front can be any choice of fabric, and the back is terry cloth. Color choices for the back are: white, cream, light pink, blue, light green, hot pink, orange,  light purple, brown and black.

Now, of course, you're wondering how you can get your hands on everything pictured above. I have two options for you.

Buy it: you can head over to La Bella Rosa right now and place an order with Kayla. She's generously offered a 15% discount to all of you MOAM readers; just use the coupon code 20Followers. The code is good through the end of this giveaway. Be sure to head over to her Facebook page- everything is super affordable and super cute!

Win it: You can win $10 to spend however you choose at La Bella Rosa. The giveaway will end Wednesday, June 15. Please leave one comment per entry, with your email address in each comment. Good luck!

Mandatory Entry:
(This entry must be done before any of the others will count)
You must publicly follow this blog using Google Friend Connect, located on the right side of the page. If you're already a follower, then you're good. Just leave a comment on this blog letting me know that you've done this.

Additional Entries:
You can complete any or all of these entries. For each one, leave a separate comment.
1. "Like" La Bella Rosa on Facebook.
2. Make a purchase from La Bella Rosa. I'll confirm this with Kayla.
3. Tell me one thing you've learned by reading my blog.
4. Let me know what you'd purchase, and who it would be for, if you won the giveaway.

When the giveaway ends, I will use to select a winner. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by email, and then I will draw a new winner. And just in case I have any international readers...sorry, this is open to U.S. residents only.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mailbox Goodies

I had some great free samples and coupons in the mailbox the other day. It seems like most days we get at least one coupon or sample, but it's especially exciting to get all this great stuff in one day. Check it out:
-A coupon for one free bag of Ore-Ida sweet potato fries.
-Free sample of Downy fabric softener.
-Free Sample of Gold Bond body wash, along with a $1 off coupon.
-Free sample of Folgers coffee.

As I've said before, most free samples come with coupons. While a small sample might not seem like it's worth your time, the high value coupon that might come with it probably is.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Price-Based Shopping

I believe wholeheartedly in using coupons to save money. But maybe, for some reason, you don't. Maybe you're morally opposed to them, or maybe you don't have thumbs and therefore clipping coupons is exceptionally difficult for you. Or, maybe you just don't have the desire to get started. Whatever the reason, I can say that I still hope to convert you to the dark side of coupon use. But in the meantime, the following post will describe how to save money on nearly everything you buy without ever picking up a pair of scissors.

This great savings involves a complete shift in the mindset you use to approach the shopping that you do. I would guess that about 99% of Americans do their shopping based on need. I touched on this briefly in an earlier post, but I'll elaborate here. Need-based shopping is a simple concept; it's likely what you do often. It means making your grocery list based on the items in your fridge and cupboard that are about to run out. It means running to the store several times a week to buy last minute items for dinner. Need-based shopping means paying $2.99 for a loaf of bread because you're almost out at home, even though that same bread is sometimes on sale for $1.19.

Price-based shopping is shifting your mindset 180 degrees in the other direction. It means buying toothpaste because it's on sale for $.99, even though you already have three tubes in the bathroom at home. It means stocking up on pasta when it's on sale so that you can prepare meals with ingredients pulled from your stockpile, rather than from that frantic afternoon shopping trip. Price-based shopping means buying products when they're at their lowest price, and buying enough so that you don't have to buy again until they hit that low again. By changing the way you think about everyday purchases, you can save money without ever opening a newspaper insert (but you still should)!

In the next couple weeks, I'll touch more on what it means to shop based on price, including building a stockpile and looking beyond the grocery store or the drugstore to get great deals.

For those of you keeping track, we made it to 20 followers! This means details regarding the La Bella Rosa giveaway will be coming very soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coupon Organization

I'm sure there are about as many ways to organize coupons as there are people who use them. I'm just going to highlight the pros and cons of what I consider some of the best ways. I apologize in advance if these begin to sound like options for birth control.

The Insert Method
This is also known as the clipless method. Each week you save the Sunday coupon inserts. You write the date on the front of each insert and file them by date or by the name of the insert in file folders or in an accordion file. Then, when it's time to make your grocery list, you clip only the coupons you need for your specific shopping trip, based on whatever coupon match-up site(s) you use.

The Pros: this method saves lots of time that you would otherwise spend clipping each individual coupon, especially if you get multiple copies of each insert.

The Cons: you miss out on any unadvertised sales or clearance items by not having all of your coupons with you at the store.

The Accordion File
This is a method I used for a while. You just purchase a small accordion file, usually with 5-7 pockets. Label the tabs with whatever makes the most sense for you; mine were food, bath, clean, baby, pet, and house. I actually used two of these files. One had the tabs I just listed, and the other had tabs labeled with the stores I most frequently shopped at: Target, Walmart, Safeway, Walgreens, Rite Aid. When I pulled coupons from the first file each week, I'd put them in the second behind the tab for the store I would use them at, then I would take only the second file with me.

The Pros: this system allows you to keep all of your coupons with you when you make your grocery trips, so you don't miss out on any sales. Accordion files are very cheap; I purchased mine for $1 each at Target.

The Cons: I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo, but a few of the sections in my file were way too full. It negates the convenience of having those coupons with you if you have to sort through 150 of them to find the one you want.

The Shoe Box/Recipe Holder Method
This method is probably pretty self-explanatory. Use a shoe box, recipe box, or any sort of similar container. Label note cards with the categories you want, place your coupons behind their corresponding note card, and file it all in your box.

The Pros: this strategy is easy to use and can probably be implemented using supplies you already have at home. If you use a larger box, say a shoe box as opposed to a recipe box, you'll have room for lots of coupons and extra tools.

The Cons: even if the box you use has a lid, you'll probably be living in constant fear that the box will be knocked over, ruining countless hours of work. This method doesn't travel well, either. While the box would probably be the perfect size to fit in the child seat area of a shopping cart, if you had a child with you the box would have to ride in the cart, which might be inconvenient.

The Binder Method
This method involves using a 3-ring binder filled with baseball card holders and dividers. Each divider is labeled with a specific category, and the baseball card holder behind the divider breaks that category down farther into several smaller categories.
The Pros: this method allows you to have every coupon with you at all times, and to know exactly where to to find it. Using a binder gives you the opportunity to carry a pencil pouch, too, that you can stock with a calculator, highlighter, scissors, or anything you might need in the store.

The Cons: the Binder Method is quite an investment. Purchasing the binder, card holders, and dividers can cost more than $10- quite a price when it's all in the name of saving money. I would caution that using a coupon binder is only for those who prefer to be well-organized. It might sound good in theory, but the binder doesn't do you much good if you end up piling inserts in the front because you don't get around to clipping them.

What do I use?
I use a combination of the binder and insert methods. When I receive coupon inserts, I immediately clip all of the coupons that I know I will use or that I am very likely to use. Then I keep the rest of the insert, with any of the unclipped coupons, in a file (or often stuffed in the back of my binder). When I'm making my grocery store lists, if I come across a phenomenal deal using a coupon I haven't already clipped, I pull out the corresponding insert and clip that coupon.

This method allows me to have most of my coupons with me, so I can make spur of the moment purchases if I find unadvertised sales. It also saves me time because I don't clip every single coupon that I receive in the mail. This is the best way I've found for me to maximize my organization and minimize my time spent clipping.

What do I recommend?
I recommend evaluating your own needs and deciding what's best for you, your family, your lifestyle, and your personality. If you're just getting started, I would recommend using either the shoe box method or the accordion file. Both options are inexpensive and easy to implement. A coupon binder is an investment that you might want to save for when couponing becomes part of your lifestyle. If the binder method is something you want to use, consider buying one as a reward for yourself after you've used coupons consistently for a set period of time: say three or six months.

Remember, these are just a few of the endless options you have for organizing your coupons. What works best for you might be one of the strategies I mentioned, it might be a combination of the strategies, or it might be none of them at all. If you adapt any of these for yourself, or if you are already using a different method, I'd love to know!