Reader Question: Someone Stole My Inserts!

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how to be sure you get your coupons

Every Sunday I get similar questions to this one, “I am so Mad!  I picked up four newspapers this morning and got home only to find that someone had stolen my coupons!  The store I bought them from wouldn’t take them back and now I am out that money!  Is there anything I can do? “

My answer is always the same, “I’m sorry there isn’t anything you can really do.”

There are a few reasons why your newspaper might be missing coupons:

  1. It was never there to start with.  Newspapers are given inserts based on the amount of home delivery subscribers they have.  If a newspaper has 100,000 home delivery subscribers Smart Source and Red Plum may provide them 115,000 insert packets.  So after home delivery papers are stuffed with the inserts there are 15,000 left.  The newspaper might print 30,000 additional papers to put in stores and vending boxes.  So right away there are 15,000 newspapers that are put out that have no coupons in them.One of my local papers only gets enough Red Plum to put into the newspapers for those in the city.  The rest of us outside the city only get Smart Source…so I stopped buying that paper!
  2. There was a mechanical error. Have you ever gotten a newspaper that had 1 page of an insert and then nothing else? Many newspapers are now put together by machines.  If it gets off rhythm then several papers may have different pieces of inserts.
  3. Someone stole them.  We know the value of coupons and sadly so do some unethical people.  They will open boxes and take the inserts (if there were any to start with) either to use themselves or to sell.

So how do we ensure that we get the coupons that we are expecting?

[Read more...]

Thrifty Tip: Best Moving Boxes

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My family is currently packing up our house here in the Triad of NC and heading to a new home in the Triangle (outside Raleigh)- sniff sniff. Where are my tissues??  This is NOT something I am looking forward to – 5 years worth of “stuff”, packing for 8….but I’ll get through it.

*Nothing here on MSM will change- I’m so blessed to have a team that is local here in the Triad (also known as my sisters & mom!) so you’ll still get the local Triad scoop PLUS now our Raleigh area friends will get local heads up to deals & steals there too.  

I thought I’d share some of the things I learned about where to get the best boxes for moving!

  • The boxes you can buy in the stores (Lowes Home Improvement, etc) can be as high as $9 each for wardrobe boxes!  OUCH.   The smallest ones I could find at Lowes Home Improvement was $1.74.
  • There are some boxes that are better than others at the grocery store.  I thought for sure I wanted toilet paper and paper towel boxes- they should be big enough to stuff it full of lots of things right?  However they are the worst boxes to get from the grocery store.  They are perforated to make it easy to tear them open and reusing them is risky because those perforations can rip open and drop your belongings everywhere!   Turns out that Detergent and Cat Litter, pasta sauce boxes are often the sturdiest and therefore the best for moving!  Also ask if you can have the boxes that heavy fruit comes in such as apples and bananas.
  • Restaurants are also a great place to ask for boxes but steer clear of any that had meat in them you don’t want to move your favorite towels in a box full of chicken “juices”.
  • Think of places with HEAVY items- book stores are also a great place to ask for boxes.  Books are HEAVY and so those boxes are built well!
  • Look in your office- all that paper!  Those paper boxes are perfect for moving.  The lids slide on – no tape!!
  • Check Craigslist.  The last thing you want to do after moving is have to break down and recycle all those boxes!  A quick search of Craigslist showed about 20 listings in my area.  Keep in mind that they’ve already been used and may not be in the best condition.
  • Ask your movers!  We contracted with a moving company to load and unload our belongings – they offered FREE boxes from houses that had the full service packing and unpacking.  SCORE!  They even had wardrobe boxes and glasses boxes!

What tips do you have for getting GOOD boxes for free or cheap?

What To Buy {And What to Avoid} at the Dollar Stores

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What to Buy and What to Avoid at the Dollar Store!

 

I LOVE the Dollar Store.  There are somethings to ALWAYS buy there and somethings to avoid always!

Things to Buy:


Helium Balloons: These same balloons run $3.50-$4.50 at the grocery stores and floral shops!


Sunglasses: Some (not all) will have UltraViolet protection so you will need to check them all but I lose my glasses at least once a month- hence I have 4 pairs in rotation.  Between me leaving them in a doctor’s office and the kids stepping on them I go through 6+ pairs a year.  I’d rather lose $6 than $360 ($60 x 6) each year. While these aren’t as a great of a quality as RayBan glasses – for those of us that lose their glasses all the time – it’s a great deal.


Calendars & Day Planners: This is one of my favorite things to buy at the Dollar Stores!  I use separate calendar’s for work, home, kids and mileage (I keep one in my car to track my business miles!) At the beginning of the year there is usually a big selection but by March- there are very few, if any, left.

[Read more...]

Cooking for Couponers

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cooking for couponers I recently had a question about how my family eats real meals since my shopping trips are pretty irregular.  One week I may buy a lot of cheese and the next week might be a lot of rice.  It doesn’t seem that what is a good deal can be pulled together to make an actual family meal. That’s because we are loading our pantries (and freezers) every week with the best deals.  Then we make meals out of what we already have.  In fact, most of what I buy this week- won’t be used at all this week! Here are a few examples of meals my family had recently: Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken: $1.89/lb Zaycon Foods (using about 2 lbs)

Tortillas – in freezer…think they were .80/bag

Enchilada sauce from pantry – would have been under $1 for me to buy

Cheese- $1.13/bag from B2G3 deal at Harris Teeter

Onion- from freezer Seasonings- from pantry

Served with refried beans (.25/can)
Rice- FREE Mahatma Rice
Final cost to feed 7: $6.96 or .99 per person!
Grilled Italian Chicken w/ butter pasta
Zaycon Chicken (2 lbs) $1.89/lb
Italian dressing to marinade : .50/bottle used 1/2 bottle from pantry
Bow Tie Pasta: FREE from pantry
Butter: $2.97/box used 1 stick 74¢
Parmesean Cheese from B2G3 sale at Harris Teeter (used 1/2 bag) $1.13/bag
Red Pepper Flakes, Salt, Pepper from pantry
Canned Pineapple: .75 from pantry
Served with french bread left over & frozen from another meal.
Total Cost: $6.10 or 87¢ per person!

Sales Cycles: Every 6 weeks- is it a Myth?

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The truth behind the mysterious 6 week sales cycle

One thing I’ve seen in lots of “How to Coupon Guides” is to stock up for 6 weeks because that’s the sales cycle.  “Every sale comes back around every 6 weeks- so only buy enough to last you that long.” is common advice but I’ve never felt that it was 100% accurate so I decided to do some tracking.

We picked 22 commonly purchased items and tracked their prices (and we continue to track them) for the last 9 weeks at 2 stores: Harris Teeter & Lowes Foods. We only tracked the SALE prices because adding in coupons would have made it really complicated.

Let’s start with Shredded Cheese at Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter Cheese Price Tracker

In the past 9 weeks the prices followed this pattern for the 8 oz bag of Harris Teeter cheese:

$ 3.25 $ 1.30 $ 3.25 $ 3.25 $ 3.25 $ 3.25 $ 2.50 $ 3.25 $ 3.25

So you can see that the lowest it has been in the last 9 weeks was $1.30.  If we bought enough to last 6 weeks – on week 7 we’d be paying $3.25.  However on week 10- the price will be dropping to Buy 2 Get 3 Free making each bag $1.30 again. So that’s 9 weeks in between- not 6. [Read more...]

Thrifty Tip: SubTotal

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Thrifty Tip

Here’s a quick Thrifty Tip for you!

When you are running an instant savings promotion – have the cashier ring those items up first and subtotal the transaction.   Be sure that the instant savings is deducted before proceeding with the rest of your order.  This allows the issue to be quickly spotted and resolved.

If we wait until the entire order is rung up and totaled before trying to find a single line item and ensuring that a promo came off.

This works well especially with promos we know there are issues with (like the current Harris Teeter ConAgra promotion)

 

See more Thrifty Tips

Savings Tip: Look Around

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This weekend I went to Harris Teeter and on my kids’ request list was apples – so I grabbed a 5 pound bag of apples for $5.99 (not on sale which broke my heart but I can’t turn down a request for healthy foods!).  Then I turned around- and saw the same apples (Red Delicious) loose for sale for 99¢ a pound.

Does that bag really cost $1.04?  That’s the difference in price between buying 5 lbs of loose apples and buying the pre-bagged version.  Considering that Harris Teeter (and most grocery stores) offer free produce bags in the store to lug the items home- it was no question that I was going to save that $1.04!

Always look at the alternatives.  Sometimes loose produce is less expensive and sometimes the pre-packaged ones are.  It just depends on the sales and the season!

Another tip is that the Boneless Skinless Chicken breast at Harris Teeter is $1.99/lb everyday in the fresh meat case with the butchers.  The same chicken is $5.99/lb regular price in the packaged meats!  The same chicken varies in price by $4.00 a pound!

What alternatives have you found in store that saved you money?

5 Traits of A Successful Couponer

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5 Traits of a Successful Couponer

Very few people are born with all 5 of the traits that make a Successful Couponer- but all of these traits are something we can learn to be.  These are the 5 traits that most successful couponers that I know all have in common!

Confident.  This is definitely a trait that is learned over time- many of us are not born truly confident.  There is something intimidating about walking up to a cashier with scraps of colored paper instead of the green bills all the other people pay with- but only until you see that total drop as your coupons are accepted in place of money.  You need to be confident in your planning so that you know what the total was supposed to be, confident to address an issue with a coupon or a total and confident in asking that a store follow their policies.  Were you one of the ones (like me!) not born confident?  Practice makes perfect.  The more coupon trips you make- the more confident you will get!

Honest.  The most successful couponers don’t need to try and game the system in order to get free items= they don’t need to.  They follow the rules of the coupon and the stores they shop.  Their stores learn that they are honest and not trying to trick them.  The cashier learn that if they say something, it’s true and customer service learns that if they say their bags were missing an item- they were.  Dishonest couponers are known by their stores. The see them coming and get on alert.  Saving an extra 50 cents isn’t worth another person’s job security to a successful couponer.  They foster relationships with their stores- they don’t risk those friendships for 50 cents off a box of Cheerios.    [Read more...]

Thrifty Tip: Missing Sales Tags

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Thrifty Tip

Several times I have been in stores and noticed that shoppers were looking at what was a good deal but bypassing it because there was no sales tag on the item. The item was advertised in the flyer or I posted about a great deal here on MSM but no one was taking the item to the register. Or asking me why their store didn’t have the Finish B1G1 at Harris Teeter or the Carnation Instant Breakfast wasn’t $3.99 (in fairness I did have to add a note to the Dunkin Donuts- originally I missed that only the holiday flavors were on sale- sorry about that!)

The reason was because they didn’t see a sales tag so they just left it on the shelf and moved on- assuming it was not on sale.

Sales tags don’t determine what the price will be at the register.  Sales tags get missed every week due to the the high number that are changed in every store each week.  Some misguided shoppers take the sales tags in order to get a raincheck (or a super excited 18 month old waddling down the aisle).  Once they are taken down most stores are unable to reproduce the tag to replace it and shoppers for the rest of the week mistakenly think that the item isn’t on sale.

If you think that an item should be on sale for whatever reason- take it to the register.  Ask the cashier (or at customer service) to “price check” the item.  They can scan the item and see what the sale price is.   If it doesn’t ring up for what you expected then they can take the item off your order and if it does ring up on sale- SCORE!

 

Tuesday Totals 1/6

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tuesday

I write this post each week to keep myself accountable to my $75 a week budget.  I had $123.13  left over from previous weeks’ budgets and a $24 SNAP rebate check showed up so I have a total of $222.13 in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.

Weekly total:
Value:$202.70
OOP: $77.57
Savings: 62%

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Harris Teeter:
2 dozen eggs (use RC and $1/2 coupon -wine hangtag)
2 gals milk (used RC and $1/2 coupon- wine hangtag)
2 Crisco oil (RC and $1/1 coupons)
4 Pop Tarts – buy 4 get $4 off
3 Pks of beef steaks (marked down + $2/1 pk of meat wine hang tag)
2 Nabisco Crackers $2.50 used .50/1 Coupons NLA
2 Rice Thins (just b/c I love them) 2.50 used .75/2 coupons
2 Spreadable butter 2.79 used $1/1 wine tags
10 Smithfield Bacon B2G3 used 5 $1/2
2 pk Bakery bread $1.99 used (2) $1/1 bakery wine tags
2 Bagel Thins B1G1 used $1/2
1 loaf HT bread .97 reg price
used $10 off $50

Value : $147.95
OOP: $51.92
Savings: 65%

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Harris Teeter:

6 lbs Baking Potatoes
5 Smithfield Bacon
1 lb Ham $4.99

Value: $54.75
OOP: $25.65
Savings: 53%

*I still had oranges and apples left over from last week’s trips – and had a hectic week