Reader Question: Someone Stole My Inserts!

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?

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Tax Day is Coming: Did you Overpay?

I’ve been using online tax services to do my own taxes for years.   Even as our taxes have become more complicated I’ve always felt that I can do it myself with these amazing programs that walk me through it step by step.

Then I saw this report on the television today:

In a governmental accountability study- paid tax preparers made MORE mistakes on returns than people who did them on their own. 

In most states, tax preparers are unregulated.  Only Oregon, Maryland, California and New York actually regulate paid tax preparers.   (Paid Tax Preparers are not always CPA, Accountants, etc..there are different classes but most in the kisoks and seasonal locations are not licensed accountants, etc).  

In this GAO study estimated that 60% of taxes prepared by paid services included mistakes.  50% of Self-prepared returns had errors.

55% of American taxpayers paid someone to do their taxes last year.  You can read the entire report here.

If you still haven’t filed your taxes try one of the online services (I personally have used TurboTax for many years but have used TaxAct too.)

Already filed through a paid tax preparer?  These services are free until you file- why not plug in your numbers and see what happens?  You might find a mistake that cost you money.

They Said My Coupon was FAKE and Destroyed it!

coupon

Charlene sent me a message yesterday.  She went to purchase some 2 liters of Sunkist and use a $1.50/2 coupon that was posted recently.

The cashier told her it was a counterfeit coupon and tore her coupon up!  

I was livid for Charlene.  To me, coupons are cash and for a store employee to destroy my coupon is no different than if they had destroyed my cash!

So I started doing research on this coupon because I know I had printed this coupon myself and I am VERY cautious about where I print coupons from.

I did find a reference to a counterfeit Sunkist coupon.  It is below

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 9.27.31 PM

That coupon is QUITE different than the $1.50/1 printable coupon that is available to print here.

So while not having been a witness to the events that took place but knowing that the $1.50/2 is NOT a fake coupon I’m going on the assumption that the cashier was incorrect and destroyed a perfectly valid coupon in error.

I wanted to share Charlene’s Story so I could share the steps I would take if a store/cashier was telling me my coupon was fake.

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Tuesday Totals 3/18

Tuesday totals

I write this post each week to keep myself accountable to my $55 a week budget.  I had $163.07 left over from previous weeks’ budgets so I am starting with a total of $218.07in my grocery fund. You can find the grocery deals this week here.  We are mostly stockpile living this week but I did pick up some of the best deals I saw this week.

Value: $205.09
OOP: $53.85
Savings; 74%

Left with $2 Catalina and $3 Catalina, $2 Checkout 51 rebate, $10 ecb

No pictures this week (sorry!).  But a few highlights I picked up include the Kelloggs Deal at Harris Teeter, the Pampers Deal at CVS and the Kraft deals at Lowes Foods.

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Ways to Make A Little Cash So You Can Stay Home

family from the dollar banknotes isolated on a white background

I got an email from Myranda, “I am looking for something to do at home because it terrifies me to take my children to daycare or leave them in someone else’s care. Do you know someone who hires at home workers? I have searched the web over and it is either a scam or really difficult to get into. I just want to help my husband with the bills and be able to stay at home with my children!”

I can understand her position- when my oldest was 2 I was working outside the home and my mother had watched her since her birth.  Suddenly I had to place her in a day care.  It lasted 2 days before I pulled her out and quit my job.  It just wasn’t something I was comfortable with- I wanted to be a stay at home mom.  It’s been the toughest job I’ve ever had.  The messiest. The most rewarding.

It took a lot of sacrifice and changes to our lifestyle to go from a 2 income family to a 1 income family- but it was the best decision for our family and I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Here are some ideas to bring a little bit of money into the house while staying at home. Finding a “at home” job leaves many people frustrated- there are so many scams that it can be hard to find a legitimate one.  So I focused my ideas on other things.

Stay at home mom is telling friend her responsibilities

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Thrifty Tip: Missing Sales Tags

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.

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

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.  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.

 

Make Savings EASY with Change

 
pennyWe have two checking accounts in our household.  One for household expenses like the mortgage, powerbill, etc.  And another my husband uses exclusively for his gas since he expenses it every month (a major part of his job is driving).

Our local Credit Union offered to set it up on a Rainy Day Fund- where at the end of the day all the “change” (i.e. everything to the right of the decimal point) is pulled out of the checking account and put into a savings account.

We started this in November and have nearly $30 saved up!  Now that may not seem like a lot but that’s $30 we wouldn’t have saved up otherwise.  Plus it’s in the bank not attached to his debit card so it’s truly just sitting there earning interest. (Maybe not a lot but pennies add up!)

I’d strongly suggest asking your bank if they have a similar program.  Some roundup every charge and put the extra into a savings account, others like mine, transfer the change each day.  Either way you won’t usually feel those pennies daily but check the account at the end of the month and you should have hundreds (thousands?) of pennies waiting there!

If you are wanting to save more money check out a few of these posts:

Painless Ways to Add to your Savings Account

Our family’s debt diet

Buying Coffee out versus Making it at Home

 

Inexpensive Ways to Make Your House Appealing to Buyers

 

For sale" real estate signToday’s guest post is Michael Ryden of  Leonard Ryden Burr Real Estate.

The local real estate market is definitely improving, with both the number of sales and home values increasing each month. If you’re entertaining the idea of selling your home in 2014, but worried about the expense of doing so, take heart: There are inexpensive ways that you can make your home appealing to buyers.

We’ve all seen the TV shows where the Smith family is having a difficult time selling their home. Then, to the rescue, a professional “stager” pulls up to the house with a truck full of brand new furniture (conveniently donated or loaned by large furniture companies to promote their brand) to make all the rooms look fabulous.

Of course, in real life stagers charge $50-$150 an hour, and furniture must be bought or rented, so this may not be a realistic solution for you. Fortunately, there are some low- and even no-cost tips you can borrow from the pros.

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Thrifty Tip: Reuse Store Displays

photo(107)

Many times with super hot deals I buy 10,20, 30 of a product.  One thing that helps get the product into my cart, and then into the car and then the house- is the displays at the store.

When I buy multiple taco seasonings ,for example- I ask the store if I can have the cardboard box they are displayed on the shelf in.   Of course, I only take it if the ones I am buying are the last ones in that container and I aim to never clear a shelf.  But many times there are 2 or more of these on the shelf and often some behind those!

When I stocked up on canned goods during the Food Lion Sale a few weeks ago – I asked the store to bring me ones that were still wrapped in the cardboard boxes.  This way I had the boxes that allowed them to stack nicely.   It also kept them from having to restock the shelf.

I wouldn’t remove items just to take the display or leave items strewn about- but I plan to buy a lot of Powerade next week- so I will be asking them to allow me to buy the ones still wrapped together.  This allows me to transport them easier as well as to store them more orderly!

I’d love to hear your thrifty organizational tips!

How to Save Money on Maternity Clothes

maternity clothes

Having 4 kids I know that maternity clothes are expensive.  And we wear them for such a short period of time so here are some of my favorite tips to spending less on maternity clothes!

  • Look for non-maternity: My favorite outfit during my last pregnancy was a pair of stretchy track pants that were not maternity.  The stretchy material bounced back and I can still wear them now!  Look for t-shirts that can stretch with your baby bump and spring back once that baby is in your arms. In the summer time Maxi dresses and loose tops can see you through your entire pregnancy and beyond.

 

  • Avoid the Hype: Most women will wear maternity clothes for just a few short months.  Spending hundreds of dollars on clothes that you will wear so little isn’t necessary.  Stores like Motherhood Maternity have adorable outfits but do you really want to spend that much?  To me, Pregnancy has been attacked by marketers.  They tell you it’s “Maternity Clothing” and make you think you HAVE to buy clothing that is labeled that way to ensure your baby is born healthy.  Not true.  Buy clothes that will fit WITH you.  Some of the maternity clothes I did have were not as comfortable as my elastic waist pants.

You really don’t need any special underwear or pajamas.   Getting inexpensive ones in a size larger usually works well and is a lot less expensive.

  • Look for Hand-Me-Downs:  Why not take advantage of a deal because someone else fell into the Hype of Maternity clothes.  Many soon-to-be Mom’s will buy lots and lots of maternity clothes, wear them a few times, and then sell them via Cragistlist, Facebook groups or consignment stores.  You can often pick them up for as low as $3-$5 a piece !   I’ve passed all my maternity clothes on to my sisters – we now have a maternity clothes box that will go to whomever is expecting the next baby (NOT ME!).  That person will store it when they are done until the next one needs it. Any stained or too old clothes are removed and any new pieces are added once the baby is born.

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Planning a Disney Trip: Stage 5: What/Where to eat

Disney

I’ve been chronicling my family’s journey as well plan our trip to Disney World:

When to Go
Where to Stay
How to Get there 
Tickets

Today we’re looking at what/where to eat.  We decided to stay off-site so Disney Dining isn’t an option for us.

A few things about Disney & Food:

You can bring outside food into the park! (Details here)
Your cooler, bag, etc cannot be larger than 24″ x 15 x 18″ so a big cooler isn’t an option. Plus the only wheeled items can be a stroller (and lucky us we’ll have a 10 month old so we’ll have a stroller!)

You may not have a stroller and want to bring a small cooler around with you all day so you could rent a locker.  They have then at the entrances for rent.  (Usually about $5 a day)

My Family’s Plan:

My research shows there is a Publix grocery store in the vicinity of our rental house.  We will be making a meal plan (there are now a total of 8 of us going- my family of 6 + my parents) before we leave and will shop there for most of our needs.

Breakfast:  We will eat this in the house we rented via VRBO.com before heading out for the day.  We will most likely have cereals, granola bars, fruits, etc.

Lunch: We will bring lunch with us into the parks. Each person will have a small lunchbox (glad I got a few extras during back to school sales!)  We will pack sandwiches, fruit, chips, granola bars, cookies, etc.

Snacks: We may purchase the occasional ice cream from vendors but we will bring extra fruit and granola bars with us.  

Drinks: Since we have a freezer in the rental house we will be placing water bottles in the freezer and will  allow them to thaw as the day goes on.  Note: Ice Water is free at most counter service vendors in Disney World.

Dinner: We are utilizing a crock pot at the house!  With 4 children (and 4 tired adults) we plan to have a late meal every evening.  Knowing my children they will not be able to be on the go from 9 am until 9 pm every day without some sort of down town.  So we plan to have a late evening meal (well 7 is late for us!) each evening. at the house.  We plan to have meals that we can toss in the crockpot in the morning and come home to in the evening.  We also plan to have dinner with my uncle who lives in Florida one evening as well as eat a few evenings.

Tips to saving money dining out:

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Thrifty Tip: Pre-Ordering

Thrifty Tip

I hate going into a store for a great deal and finding the shelf bare.  Sure I get a rain check (see my tips about rainchecks here) but if I have a large amount of the coupon I wanted to use it worries me that I may clear a shelf myself and disappoint other deal seekers.

The solution: Pre-ordering or Special ordering.

Most stores would much rather know that you are coming to buy 65 6-pks of Pepsi then find the shelf bare and have to deal with 30 other shoppers wanting rainchecks.  Placing a special order doesn’t need to be time consuming or frustrating.

  • Talk to the customer service representatives.  Usually, a cashier will not be able to assist you but a member of management should be able to take your order.
  • Place your order as early in the sales cycle as possible.  This allows time for them to place the order and receive it before the sale ends.
  • Be sure to pick up your order.  If you ask them to order 60 of an item and never pick it up then the store is stuck with that item that may not sell. This could cause them to take a loss (having to trash or return the item) and they won’t be as accommodating the next time you have a request.
  • Be specific.  If you want Vanilla Slim fast be sure to specify that.  Otherwise you might end up with cases of Strawberry.

For example- I placed an order for 20 of the Pure Protein Shakes at Harris Teeter (they were 49¢ each).  The store ordered me 20 vanilla shakes and told me when they expected them to arrive.  When they came they were put aside for me, I arrived in the store and told customer service what I needed and the cart of them was pushed out to me.  No clearing a shelf and I left happy!

Keep in mind that many coupons have daily limitations on them.  Pre-ordering does not override these limitations – so ordering 50 bottles of Tide would not allow you to use 50 Tide Coupons since they have a limit of 4 per day.

Share your pre-ordering tips with us!