Archive for March, 2010

Triple Coupon Madness at Harris Teeter – The Results

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I meticulously organized my coupons and chose THE 20 that I would use at Harris Teeter’s triple coupon day.  I tried to find items that we actually used, or might use, and I tried to use the most expensive coupon under $1.  For example, I pulled a $0.75 coupon over a $0.25 one. I waited until the baby had a nice long nap and then we trundled off to the store.

Wow.  It was crazy.  There were money-saving moms everywhere with recipe boxes overstuffed with coupons, envelopes, file folders, and even a 3-ring binder which used baseball card inserts to separate each coupon by product!  I was such an amateur.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Get the VIC card and subscribe to their emails.

They alert you as to when the triple coupon sales are.

2) Shop the first few days of the sale, NOT the last day.

Most of the items that had coupons in Sunday’s paper were all sold out.  Most of the BOGOs were sold out too.  (BOGO – Buy One Get One free/half-off, etc)

3) Don’t just bring 20 coupons!

Of course, I seemed to be the only newbie with my handful of coupons so this probably wouldn’t apply to most of you.  Luckily, I had stuffed all my other coupons in the diaper bag.  Of the 20 I wanted, 5 were sold out and 2 didn’t bring the price down to a satisfactorily level.  I scrounged to find replacement coupons to take advantage of the triple savings.

4) Harris Teeter is expensive.

Just because you can triple a coupon does NOT mean it is a good deal.  I couldn’t believe how expensive the food was at Harris Teeter in general.  I could get some items cheaper at other stores without even using a coupon.  It helps if you know your prices in general before you are suckered into a “deal”.

5) Don’t shop with a 9-month old baby on triple coupon day.

The incessant hunting and pecking through the aisles for that ONE item didn’t thrill my child.  By the 16th coupon he was done and let me and the general population know it.  That literally explains my last 4 items purchased – 2 Pillsbury cinnamon bun dough packs and 2 Pillsbury pizza crust dough packs.  My husband was like, “what the hell?”.  I’M SORRY, I PANICKED!

6) Be nice to the cashiers.

I talked with 2 of them.  After a week of triple coupon mania, they have had a rough day.  Please have your coupons in order.  No expired ones.  Buy what you are supposed to.  They will be more willing to help you out when the coupon doesn’t scan for some reason or another.  It is the difference between, “this won’t scan” and shoving it back at you versus “this won’t scan because you didn’t get the right size” and letting you run down the aisle to get the right one.

With all that trauma behind me how did I do???

I ended up paying $42.16 and had coupons worth $47.65.  I still felt bad for paying the $42.16, because I bought several items that I never would have in the first place had I not been consumed with trying to triple a $0.75 coupon.  $2.25 off of $5.00 is still $2.75 I never would have spent in the first place.

On the whole, I would definitely do this again. I would be smarter about my shopping and leave the baby at home with the hubby.

Tutorial: Making Foaming Hand Soap

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I always thought foaming hand soap was too fru-fru for me.  I had tried a few of my friends nice smelling foaming hand soap and thought I would give it a try.  Well, I didn’t like my hands smelling like flowery cucumbers, so it sat in my bathroom forever.

Having a baby changed my mind real quick on foaming soap.  It is a million times easier to use to wash his hands than bar soap or plain old liquid soap with a pump.  When my fru-fru foaming soap ran out this week I was dreading paying another $3.50 for SOAP.  I researched online and came up with a foaming hand soap recipe!

Ingredients:

1 Empty foaming handsoap dispenser
Water
Clear liquid handsoap

For this experiment I cleaned out the foaming dispenser until clear water ran through the pump.

I used a ratio of 1/5 liquid soap to 4/5 water.  This dispenser was 8.5 oz.  I guessed that the pump took up an 1/2 an ounce of space.  I divided 8 by 5 to get 1.6 ounces of soap.  Subtracting 1.6 from 8 I needed roughly 6.4 ounces of water.

Remove the pump and add the water to the empty bottle first.  Next pour in the liquid soap.  By adding the water first bubbles will be minimized.  Twist on the pump and shake gently to mix the soap into the water.  (NOTE: The pump was about 1/2 an ounce larger than I expected, ergo the excess spilled all over the counter.)

I used the same method to fill an ordinary liquid soap dispenser as a control.

The ordinary pump produced no foam, just watered down soap.

The foaming pump actually produced soapy foam!

The results side by side.

I washed my hands with the foaming soap and it worked like a charm.

Provided that you have an empty foaming soap dispenser, the cost of this recipe was rougly $0.30.  That’s a steal!

Things to remember:

1) Do not use moisturizing liquid soap.  It can clog up the pump.
2) The ratio of water and soap may vary depending on the pump style.  Use more or less until you find something that works.
3) If the pump gets clogged after a bit, pumping vinegar through the dispenser should clear it up.

I will report back in a month to see how the soap and dispenser held up.

Frugal tip of the day: Need I say it?  Make your own refills for pennies instead of buying a new bottle.

UPDATE:  I emptied out a little of the soap mix and added more liquid soap to the bottle.  The ratio is now probably 2/5 liquid soap and 3/5 water.  Upping the soap made a thicker foam and has not clogged up the pump yet.  I’ll report back in a while to see if this penny pinching idea is worth it!

Housecleaning 0, Baby Chasing 5

Monday, March 29th, 2010

My first day as an official SAHM and I got zero done that I thought I would.  On the other hand, I spent an entire day with the baby and that was very good.  The little dude wore me out!


On the plus side, today was the first day my blog was live.  I’m giving a special shout out to Rebecca for leaving my first comment.  I had read that the first comment is a momentous occasion and I must admit to feeling giddy!  :-) And thanks to all my Facebook friends who gave me some great tips on where and how to search for bargains.  I think I’m going to put an email form at the top of this blog for readers to submit their tips and ideas.

I am going to clip the coupons from yesterday’s paper and go to bed.  I have to head out to Harris Teeter first thing in the morning to get the triple coupon deals!

p.s. Yesterday we did not go to a gas station to get the paper and did not blow money on lotto tickets.  We went to Wal-Mart instead and blew it on 2 pints of ice cream – a much better investment!

Triple Coupon Alert!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

This just in!  A friend has emailed me and told me that a local Harris Teeter has triple coupons through tomorrow!

Oh be still my beating heart.  I think I’m going to pass out from the excitement.  I am finally going to put my coupons to good use.  Nickel yogurt here I come…

I almost want to wake the baby up and go now, now, NOW!

Cloth Diapers – To Use or Not to Use?

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

My baby weighs 21 pounds and is 30 inches tall.  He generates about the same amount of pee and poo on a daily basis.  I think his esophagus connects his mouth to his butt.  We go through 8 – 10 diapers on a daily basis.  Now that I am at home, I’ve been contemplating using cloth diapers. 

Here’s my logic:

1) Disposable diapers are expensive.  We buy size 4 diapers from Costco.  We get 186 diapers for little more than $39 a box.  That’s about $0.21 a diaper.  One box lasts us about 21 days.  If we have to keep buying diapers for another 12 months we will have to spend roughly $678.  This is a low estimate.  The cost of diapers goes up when he hits the next size. 

2) Disposable diapers are not biodegradable.  These suckers will be around in the landfill until the end of time with petrified poo stuck in them.  Ick.

3) Poo should go down the drain to the waste water treatment facility and not unleashed by the bucket loads into the nearest landfill. 

Here’s the problem:

I am more clueless about cloth diapers than I am about coupons!  Have you ever tried to research cloth diapers nowadays?  There are prefolds, inserts, all in ones, waterproof covers, inner doublers, paper liners.  There are pins, snaps, velcro strips.  There are organic material, bamboo cloth, cotton, and fleece.  Oy vay.

The solution:

While rummaging through bins of cloth diapers at the local consignment sale, I chatted up a cloth diaper veteran and asked her which diapers were the best.  Her answer?  “It depends…we like X for this and Y for that…and then there’s Z for the other.”  The gem that she did give me – a wonderous company called “Jillians Drawers“.

Jillians Drawers offers a 21 day cloth diaper trial program.  For a deposit of $151.09 they will send you 7 entirely different styles and brands of diapers, 3 different styles of inserts and Snappis to hold certain diapers together.  These diapers are BRAND NEW.  You try them for 21 days and if you don’t like them, return them all and get a refund of $141.09.  You will basically get 3 weeks worth of diapers for $10. 

According to the website, they will send full care instructions and even include a roll of paper liners for free.  The liners can be flushed in the toilet and makes for easier cleanup of the poo.  If you want to keep any of the diapers, you can return the rest and they will refund you the difference.  They also sell gently used diapers on their website if you want to purchase more of a brand you like.

We are going to give it a try starting next week.  I’ll keep you posted on how things go and what we learn.

Let the diaper drama begin!

Frugal tip of the day:  If you want to experiment with cloth diapers, try picking up a few gently used ones online, at garage sales, or consignment sales.  Cloth diapers are not inexpensive.  I’ve read that the initial investment can cost $250-$300 if you buy all new.  This still is far better that paying $600 – $1,000 per year for disposables, but can still pinch your budget.

Last Day of Being Gainfully Employed

Friday, March 26th, 2010

This.Is.It. Wow, I am both excited and terrified today.  I finally get to be a stay at home mom and to raise my son the way we want him to be raised, yet I have so much still to do at work that I can’t imagine leaving.  I haven’t really ever left a perfectly good job before.  I have either been burnt out, had a better job elsewhere, or moved.  It feels sort of gutsy to walk away.  Go me!

There are more important things out there than money.  I could list 2 dozen off the top of my head.  It comes down to food, shelter, personal hygiene, and the bare necessities.  We are shifting our values from material and self-gratification to spiritual and emotional well-being.  Instead of thinking of everything we will do without, we are thinking of everything we will gain – peace of mind about the baby, less stress, more sleep, more family time and more time to have a cleaner house and better meals.

Frugal tip of the day:  Decide to live frugally and then do it!  Stop moaning and groaning.  It’s just like daylight savings time or flying across time zones, the longer you wait to change your watch the more confused and bitchy you will be.  Embrace your penny-pinching ways and it will soon hurt less to have less.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Tomorrow is my last day of work.  Today some colleagues took me out to a nice lunch and surprised me with thoughtful going away gifts.  The first thought that went through my head – “Awwww…how sweet!  You guys are too much.”  The second thought – “Awesome!  Free stuff!” 

Frugal lesson #1 – To get free stuff, work with incredible people, make good friends, and then quit your job.

JUST KIDDING!  Well sort of.  The real lesson here is a life lesson – be kind, generous, thoughtful, caring, and genuine to the people in your life and you will receive the same in return.  This especially works when you are trying to get deals and discounts to sustain your frugal life.

Here are real world examples of this in my life:

CVS – I was confused at trying to figure out the secrets behind saving money at CVS.  I started chatting up a very tired and cranky looking employee.  Within a few minutes she not only told me how to get the best savings, but also personally led me to the bargain items I was trying to buy AND told me to call for her if I needed help!

Lowes – I am a regular fixture at my local Lowes Home Improvement store and have developed relationships with some of the employees over time.  They know my skill level, appreciate my enthusiasm, and have always given me GREAT advice on how to do my projects better, easier, and usually less expensively.  When we replaced our carpet last year, I was told by someone that I could only take the little 3″ X 3″ samples home.  Who on earth can decide which carpet you want for your entire house from a 3″ x 3″ sample?  I came back when the manager, who I am friendly with, worked and he cut a 12″ wide swath down the entire length of the carpet ROLL for each carpet I wanted.

S2 Metrobus – When I first moved to Washington, DC I had NO CLUE how to use the Metrobuses.  I was told by a local that I wanted the S2 bus to get back to my apartment.  When my bus pulled up, I sort of stood there looking at the driver and finally asked if he was going to 16th and V.  I sat at the very front of the bus and chatted with him.  I learned all about the bus system that night, how long he’d been driving, how the drivers rotate routes, and how many kids he had.  In turn, I got great advice, some free bus rides on his routes and a honk and a wave when I saw his bus go by on 16th street.

Frugal tip of the day:  Instead of trying to wheel and deal a few extra cents savings from someone, try being nice.  In the long run, you will probably come out ahead.

Coupon Countdown For The Sunday Paper

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Fresh off my CVS victory and still riding a penny pincher’s high I found myself anxiously waiting to get the paper this Sunday.  Someone won the big Powerball jackpot last week and the prize drops to $40,000,000.  We only buy $5 worth of lotto tickets this time. 

So far clipping coupons has cost me $19.50.

Ever the efficient one, I brought out my guillotine style paper cutter to make short work of the coupon clipping today.  This did not turn out so good.  The paper cutter makes perfectly straight cuts, but doesn’t account for the variations in the sizes or the placement of the coupons on the backside of the page.  I turn to plan B: a rotary blade with a self-healing mat.  Voila!  I am in coupon cutting heaven! Via free hand control, I can glide around the edges of the coupons I want.  It takes me 1/4 of the time that the scissors did and no blisters.

This Sunday’s haul netted me 118 coupons worth $140.30.  Add that to last week and I have roughly 215 coupons worth $268.  As for the spread, the two papers generally had different coupons.  For some reason, I now have 10 coupons for yogurt.  I’m feeling intense pressure to go out and buy yogurt.

I’ve systematically sorted the coupons more or less per grocery store aisle (Lowe’s Food).  I recycled my junk mail envelopes to hold the coupons.  I’m waiting for next weekend for our big shopping trip to Kroger’s and double-coupon world.

Frugal tip of the day:  Reuse the envelopes that your bills and junk mail come in.  Use a letter opener or sacrifice a sharp knife and make a clean cut to open your mail.  The backsides of the envelopes are usually blank and are perfect to write on.  If you are serious about becoming a couponista you can always purchase those fancy coupon organizers later.

Tutorial: Making Homemade Powder Laundry Soap

Friday, March 19th, 2010

With a baby in the house, we wash a ton of clothes.  I’d say we wash at least 8 loads a week.  After buying another container of Gain for $11, I thought I would give homemade laundry soap a try.

I am choosing the dry method for this tutorial.  I purchased all the ingredients for this at my local Kroger in the laundry supply aisle.  I used Fels-Naptha for the bar soap.  Some people have used Ivory, Dove, etc… Do not substitute baking soda for washing soda.  They are not the same thing.

Ingredients:  Makes approximately 2.5 cups = 40 tablespoons = 40 loads.

1 bar soap
1 C. Washing Soda
1/2 C. Borax

1) Grate the soap into fine pieces.

I used 3 methods to grate the soap to see which one was the most efficient and worked the best.

A) The medium-fine side of a box grater.

It took about 10 seconds to do this little corner.  That’s a lot of grating to do!

B) A Black and Decker mini-chopper.

 I used a bread knife to cut the soap.  It cut easily with downward pressure.

I then chopped up the cut block a little bit.  It had the consistency of a firm cheese.
 

I pulsed the chopper about 4 or 5 times and it crumbled the bits.  I held the button down for a steady 5 seconds and the pieces did not get any smaller.

C) A Cuisinart processor.

I put the same sized soap crumbles into the Cuisinart and did a couple pulses of grind and a couple pulses on chop.  Within 10 seconds, the soap had been finely ground.

The results:

The Cuisinart was the winner.  It took 20 seconds to shred the soap.  The particles were uniform and fine.  The second best was the box grater.  It took 20 seconds to grate 1/8 of the bar, but also had uniform and fine particles.  Lastly, the Black and Decker just couldn’t cut it.

 2) Dump the grated soap in a container and mix in the washing soda and Borax.

 3) Store detergent in a sealed container. 

Use 1 tablespoon for a full load up to 2 tablespoons if it is really dirty.  We use one baby formula scoop per wash, which is about 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Is it worth it?

The total cost of the ingredients were roughly:  $9.10
The total cost of the ingredients in the recipe:  $1.88
Cost per load (1 Tablespoon): $0.04

Gain Detergent – Powder, 63 oz, 40 loads: $7.25 = $0.18 per load

Using homemade detergent over Gain saves $0.14 per load.  At 416 loads per year that’s a savings of $58.24. 

From start to finish, minus the trial and error, I would guess it takes about 20 minutes max to make a batch of soap.  I would say it is worth it.

But does it work?  Tune in next week to find out.  I will be doing a dirt test between Gain and my homemade soap.

2 Pennies Hearts CVS

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Frugal shopping at its finest. 

For my first trip, I wanted to keep it simple and figure out how these Extra Bucks worked.

1) Got the CVS flyer out and matched up any manufacturer’s coupons that I had with any products that I could earn Extra Bucks.

  

2) Dug up an old receipt that had a $4 off $20 coupon.

3) Went to CVS, gathered my items together, had my CVS Extra Care Card scanned, gave them my $4 off coupon, then my manufacturer’s coupons. 

Here is what I bought:

Pamper’s Cruisers – Earn 3 Extra Bucks: $11.99 without Extra Care Card.  $8.97 with Extra Care Card.

4 L’Oreal Products totaling $20 to earn 4 Extra Bucks.

* 2 Hair Color kits:  $8.79 without Extra Care Card.  $5.99 with Extra Care Card. 

* 2 L’Oreal Shampoo and Conditioner products:  $6.99 without Extra Care Card.  $5.99 with Extra Care Card.

Zyrtec – Earn 7 Extra Bucks:  $22.99 without Extra Care Card.  $18.99 with Extra Care Card.

Nail polish remover – No EBs, No sale, No coupon: $1.99

————————————————–
Total cost without Extra Care Card:             $68.53
Total cost with Extra Care Card:                   $53.91
Total after using $4 off $20 coupon:             $49.91
Total after manufacturer’s $12 coupons:       $37.91

—————————————————
Total Extra Bucks earned for next visit:        $15.00
Additional $4 off $20 coupon earned:             $4.00
Total Savings to be used for next visit:         $19.00

Wow.  19 bucks!  I have until April 4th to use the $4 off $20 and April 20th for the EBs.  I have since created an account online with CVS and registered my Extra Care Card.  All my coupons and Extra Bucks show up online now in case I lose my receipt. 

Ideally, I will use these 19 EBs towards other purchases that will earn EBs.  I’ll report in a month to see if I was able to keep rolling my savings into each purchase.

Frugal tip of the day:  Start small.  Look at the CVS flyer and go purchase an item that you want that also will earn you Extra Bucks.  The next time, use your Extra Bucks towards another purchase to get your savings back.

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