Sunday, November 22, 2009

Black Friday

What do you think of when you hear Black Friday?

Is it something like this? Tons of people packed in a store just to get a Tickle Me Elmo? Does the thought of Black Friday make you want to sleep in and snuggle up with a blanket and cup of hot cocoa?

Well, there is a better way to do Black Friday, I promise.

It's no secret that the economy is in bad shape this year. This means people are going to be spending less on their Christmas, and will be extremely choosy about how they spend their hard-earned money.  Stores are beginning earlier than ever to start their deals. As I've been scanning the leaked Black Friday ads, I've noticed that there just isn't anything that I'm dying to stand in line for this year.  It's mostly mediocre deals on stuff I'm not really interested in. Plus, I'm 6 months pregnant, I can't stand in a line for hours.

But, you'd be crazy not to cash in on the deals going on online this year. just released on their website that they will be lowering their prices to match many of the Black Friday and pre-Black Friday ads of other retailers. There are a few reasons why this is awesome. Go to the link Deals Week
  • You don't have to stand in a line. Period.
  • has an excellent consumer rating system. So, when you're wondering if that camcorder, TV, or Blu-Ray player is a piece of junk, the ratings from real people will tell you.
  • Free shipping on orders over $25. Also, if you sign up for their free trial of Amazon Prime, you get free 2-day shipping on everything for a month. Sign up for Black Friday, and you get fast free shipping for the entire holiday season.
  • Great return policy.
Follow on Twitter at @amazondeals. They will be tweeting some of their best deals throughout the week. isn't the only store that is having their Black Friday deals online. Here are a few of the others that will be worth checking out.
So, my strategy this year is to stay up late on Thursday evening and spend some quality time on Pinching Your Pennies' Online Deals thread. Many of the deals will go into effect online at midnight EST, which is 9 pm MST where I live.  If there is still something I have left to get after my online shopping, I'll mozy on over to a few stores at about 8-9 am in the morning. The lines will be shorter. Yes, some things will be picked through, and you may not get the HOT deals, but you will be warm and not tired. Trust me, last year I did the 9 am method and it worked out great. I got everything I wanted.

Here's a couple quick pointers about shopping online:
  • It doesn't take much time to comparison shop online, so do it.
  • Always check for additional coupon codes/promotional codes before you check out
  • It's easy to go over budget on online purchases, so make sure you have a clear idea in mind of what you want before you begin.
Happy Black Friday shopping! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask questions in the comments, or email me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

$10 Mall Gift Card

Sometimes signing up for email lists totally pays off. This is the case with the Provo Town Center Mall. I just got an email for a free $10 gift card. No strings attached.

I can send them out to friends as well. If you want one, let me know your email address and I'd be happy to forward the email to you! I mean, who couldn't use a free $10 to use at the mall?!

Monday, November 09, 2009

How to Get Something for Nothing

I love getting free stuff.  When Oprah did the free Kentucky Fried Chicken thing, I waited in line and got my share.

There are a few ways to find out about good free stuff, and a few rules to live by when looking for free stuff. First, the rules.

  • I don't like having to buy something to get something else for free. The only time that's worth it to me is when I am already going to buy the product.
  • "No strings attached" offers are the best. I never sign up for magazines, or have to refer friends to get free stuff.
  • Get a SPAM email address from gmail, yahoo, or hotmail to use instead of your regular email address. Or you'll get tons of crap in your inbox.
Now, where to get the free stuff? My favorite website for all things free is Hey It's Free! They are fantastic about screening all their free stuff so you don't get scammed.  They mostly have free sample offers. But, these usually come with coupons that are better than the Sunday Paper, so they are doubly worth it.

I also frequent the "Less than a Penny" thread at Pinching Your Pennies. Sometimes they get stuff that Hey It's Free misses. 

Some people on Facebook are jumping on the free bandwagon. Every once in awhile I'll see a "first 5000 fans" promotion where you can get some really good stuff. I got some dipped fruit for free from Edible Arrangements awhile back.  I also got a coupon for a free Herbal Essences product that I'm going to use this week. Riteaid has their Herbal Essences for B1G1 (that's buy one get one free). So, using the coupon, I get shampoo and conditioner for free!

I also enter a LOT of contests. I'm not talking the sweepstakes types that millions of people enter. I tried that for about a month and realized that it was a total waste of time. I enter lots of blog contests. Everyone is giving stuff away on their blogs nowadays. And, I win consistently enough for me to take the time to enter.

It's a little tricky to try to find blogs that give away stuff. Some, like Give Away Today are devoted entirely to giving away things. This means there are a lot of entries, but the stuff is usually pretty good.

My best success has been found in getting involved in the blogging communities for stuff I enjoy; namely, reading, cooking and crafting.  I find blogs I like to read on a regular basis, and always enter their contests when they come up. I've won books, gift cards, and other random stuff.

My latest win was a gift pack from Crest & Scope Outlast by The Fashionable Housewife. Sounds weird, but I got a huge bottle of Scope Outlast, Toothpaste, and Floss Picks. All stuff I use all the time.

Now, go forth and score free stuff!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Clearance Time!!

At the beginning of each season, I get all excited about decorating. Then I have to go to the craft store, and then I spend WAY too much on supplies for all the projects I want to do. Then I get in trouble for not following the budget.

So, this year I'm going to try something new. Today I am going to make the rounds of Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Michaels, and Roberts to find their Halloween decorations on clearance. Most of them are marked down at least 50% up to 90%.

When I get back, I'll let you know whether or not it's worth it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Couponing: The Strategy

Once you get interested in couponing, the next thing that happens is an overwhelming feeling of having no clue where to start.  But, once you get a plan in place, things feel much less overwhelming. Here are the basics:

Get a subscription to the Sunday paper
I subscribe to the Daily Herald. They have what they call a "Super Savvy" promotion. I get two Sunday papers for $10.35 a month.  The rule of thumb that I've heard is you get one subscription for every member of your family, including children.  I only get two since I don't stockpile like some people do. We just don't have the room.

Figure out which method of organization works best for you.
I use a binder method for my coupons. It works well for me since I've only got two subscriptions and such. I have my binder organized into categories and subcategories.  Each Sunday my husband clips the coupons and I organize them.  I also take out any that may have expired during the week. I used the following thread at Pinching Your Pennies to organize my categories.

Understand a few basic rules
Coupons can save you a lot of money, but to maximize your savings use your coupons with sales whenever possible.  Otherwise, you're really not saving that much. Don't feel bad if a lot of your coupons expire before you use them. You don't have to use them all. In fact, if you did, you wouldn't be saving any money at all.

You also don't have to stock up on everything. Something may be a good deal, but do you really need 20 of them? Think through how often your family uses things before you get 20 of them. For instance, we rarely use ketchup (I hate it). So, one bottle every 6 months is sufficient. I'd be crazy to buy 20 things of ketchup because it was on sale. It would just sit there on my shelf. But, I LOVE Velveeta Shells and Cheese. So, when I had a chance to get it for 50 cents a box, I jumped on it and got 10 boxes.

Some deals don't come from coupons
Buying meat when it's marked down and then freezing it is a great idea.  Shop for holiday decorations when they are on clearance right after the holiday. Do your christmas shopping all year round. Search yardsales!

Don't reinvent the wheel
I don't scour the ads each week to find out what's on sale. I use the fabulous website Pinching Your Pennies. This website and it's message board is pure gold. Each week, the ad is broken down and each item on it is given a star rating for its price. Then, if there are coupons available for the item it lists them and the insert you can find them in. It's like magic. I read the list each week and pick out the things I want, collect my coupons, and go to the store! So, definitely check it out.

Find other people that use coupons
Most of what I learned, I learned from my mom. She never buys things full price. I'm not nearly as frugal as she is. (I sometimes buy my clothes at full price *gasp*) However, she has mastered the art of getting something for almost nothing. Sometimes I take her along on shopping trips. She always calls me when she finds a good deal. Sometimes I'll call her and ask if something is a good deal or not.

This should be a good start for getting your coupon/savings system going. Feel free to leave comments or ask any questions you may have. I'll answer them as best I can.

Coupon Myths

I've heard a lot of reasons why people don't want to get into coupons. And, frankly, it doesn't bother me that people don't want to do it. More stuff for me. Okay, that sounds selfish, but frankly you can't force people to save money.

But, if you're seriously thinking about it and have some of these doubts, I'd like to ease your mind.

  •  I can get better deals at Costco/Sam's Club. I have a small family (me, my husband, and a foot-long fetus). Buying in bulk just doesn't work for me. First, we don't have room, and second, it would go bad before we can eat it all. But, if you have a big family, I would recommend using coupons and the warehouse stores. And, I get some of my groceries for free. Last I checked, Sam's doesn't do free...
  • I don't have time. I heard this saying from a coupon mom on TV once. "If you don't have time to save money, you haven't been poor enough." I agree. If you do it right, it doesn't take that much time to plan out a shopping trip.  I have tapped into other people's resources and use their knowledge to help me. I don't spend hours pouring over ads and coupons. I use ready-made lists and clip my coupons weekly. And, when I save over $100 on groceries, I know it's worth it.
  • Generic is cheaper/there aren't coupons for the groceries I want. It's true that it's hard to be fiercely brand loyal and use coupons. But, many of the coupons that come in the mail are for name brand things. And, there are healthy food coupons as well. Coupons for cheese, bread, frozen veggies, etc. And not just food! Deodorant, shampoo, soap, cleaning products, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, wipes...
 Those are the myths that I've heard a lot of. Now, let me quickly explain my couponing philosophy.

I have to buy food and other products. I don't particularly like it, but we have to eat. Now, I can spend $200 a month on groceries for our family, or I can cut that number in half and have more money to spend on things I like buying. (Clothes, shoes, electronics, toys, etc.) And who doesn't want to save money on not fun stuff? I promise, using coupons and shopping sales is worth it. And you don't have to be weird to do it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Welcome to Couponing

Using coupons can be overwhelming if you've never done it before. Besides that, there are a lot of myths out there about using coupons. The first few posts on this blog will be dedicated to dispelling the common myths, listing a few best practices, and getting a system set up that works for you.

Some of the deals and coupons I'll be listing here are for the Utah area, since that's where I live. But, most information should pertain nationwide.

Happy Couponing!