Archive for July, 2009

About a month spans the time between my 27th birthday and my son’s 5th.  My currently 4 yr old son was going to run an errand with me when my husband pointed out that the two people going in had exponential ages.  My son’s age is 2^2 and my age is 3^3.  I said , “that’s true of all of us, running errands or not.  You’re 32, which is 2^5.  I’m 27, which is 3^3.  Our son is 4, which is 2^2.  Our daughter is 1, which is 1^any power.”

Is it more nerdy my husband noticed the exponential trend to begin with or that I extended it?  Maybe the nerdiest of all is that we integrated it into normal conversation with our 4 yr old!

One of my COLLEGE students protested that his calculator was broken because when he typed sqrt of negative 225, it said, “Syntax Error: non-real answer.”  This was in the middle of a test.  He hadn’t come across this issue before?  The fact that the lesson was entitled “Imaginary Numbers” wasn’t a tip off that the answers would be “Non-real” which is a synonym of imaginary??  I changed the mode from “Real” to “a + bi” and told him, “I fixed it.  It’s magic.”

I found this to be slightly amusing and irritating (irritating because he obviously had not been doing practice problems or he would have encountered the syntax error before).  It became surprising and irritating when, assuming that others may have the same issue, I announced, “If any of you are having problems because your calculator is giving you a syntax error when you want to evaluate the square root of a negative, be advised that the calculator is correct.  Remember that the lesson was called ‘Imaginary Numbers’ so, of course, it’s non-real. Change the mode from real to complex.”  THERE WAS A CHORAL “OH!”  Really?  In two lectures (including group practice problems) and a review, that many people chose not to practice a single one in the calculator?  Hmm.  Interesting.

I think that calculators should have an error message that says, “Syntax Error:  the dork holding the calculator didn’t bother to read the lesson title.”  Maybe the TI and Casio people could work on that.  :)

CCF07272009_00004-1My husband thinks this is hilarious.  I merely wanted to get some ice cream for guests.  Might as well pick up a deal, right?  Why not make a $13.99 bill go down to $.99?  What makes this even more hysterical to him is that I went to customer service right before this and left $4 in my favor.  Then, after our guests left, I went to CVS for a couple of things I needed that happened to be good deals.  After coupons, the $15 bill went down to $3.36 plus some ECBs to boot!  Then, I used the other $3 that I got back from Target earlier.  So, including all of my excursions, I had a net out of pocket expense of 35 cents!  I’m glad he’s entertained.  :)   All in a day’s work!

It started on a Saturday night and spilled over into a Sunday afternoon.

I’ve not been one to have “pregnancy cravings,” but the only thing that sounded good to me on Saturday night was a cup of coffee and hot soup in a bread bowl.  I was 35 weeks pregnant.  I’m entitled to do stuff that doesn’t make sense.  That’s particularly odd because it’s been in the 90s all week.  I had a few coupons that were expiring at Target.  Ah, blessed Target…that was brewing a lovely blend this week in the Starbucks (for 54 cents if I bring my own mug) and a selection of 4 soups in a bread bowl in the snack shop.  Perfect, right?

They were out of brewed coffee.  I repeat, the Starbucks did not have any brewed coffee!  Seriously.  No, I didn’t want them to make me “something else” because I brought my mug and therefore planned to spend 54 cents on my brewed coffee.  “Something else” would have easily been $4.  I am pregnant and have two small children and still managed to remember the mug!  That’s a small feat.  Reward me with inexpensive coffee!!!!

With my head hanging low, I visited the snack shop expecting to get soup…in a bread bowl.  “We’re out of bread bowls.”  OF COURSE you are out!  Because I made the trek…children in tow, you would be out.

My defeat provided for a slightly humorous checkout experience.  When we play the game where the cashier looks at me in disbelief noting that I could not have possibly used that many coupons and legitimately reduced my bill THAT much (I’m very familiar with the game), I just said without an ounce of expression to the cashier, “You really DO want to hit the button and run it through.  You just do.”  She did.

The next day after church, my husband informed me that we had one hour to make a trek across town, nourish ourselves and fill the gas tank.  I brilliantly suggested that we take a route that takes us by the children’s favorite inexpensive pick, a competitively priced gas station, and a beloved Target.  Surely, I could get my coffee and soup in a bowl at a different Target.  My genius husband had even brought my mug for cheapo coffee!

I gingerly ordered my soup in a bread bowl.  “We don’t have those today.  We have hot dogs, popcorn and pizza.”  I have two issues with that.  1) The sign says you serve what I want.  Change your sign if you’re not going to serve it (the people in line behind me apparently felt the same way).  2) DO NOT tell a pregnant woman that you will not serve something nourishing, but that you are willing to serve nutritional garbage.  It will not only be amazingly irritating to her, but probably nauseating as well.  Sigh.  Defeated again.

So, I walked over to the Starbucks (mug in hand).  Surely, I will be able to get coffee.  The girl taking orders was taking her sweet time, but that’s okay, right?  I don’t need to be waited on hand and foot.  I can be patient.  The other worker told her to take my order.  I told her that it was fine with me if she finished her task first.  Alas, they were only brewing a coffee that I dislike.  No coffee again.  But, I had noticed the person in line ahead of me received a stamp on her receipt that entitled her to a free coffee drink later.  It’s a coupon.  I LOVE coupons!  So, in order to get the stamp (that I would have used on my way home after the evening services), I ordered a tea.  I started to walk away.  The worker had already moved to the line that had formed behind me while she had busied herself otherwise.  I noticed that I had not received the aforementioned stamp.  I waited patiently and asked for a stamp.  She said, “Oh sure.  I forgot.”  The other worker interjected, “It’s after one now.  We don’t stamp after one.”

So I had missed out on a bread bowl twice!!  Now, sans stamp, I’m going to miss out on coffee thrice!!!!!!  This was in less than 18 hours at two Targets.  I sadly crumpled up my receipt, threw it away, and wished them a good day.   After I walked to the other side of the store to be picked up, I noticed that my cell phone displayed 1:02.

With a frustration that had been build over a few hours, I marched back to Starbucks, was overcome with the spirit of George Costanza, reached into the trashcan to pull out my receipt.  It was stamped 1:00 exactly!  Technically, it wasn’t AFTER one when she rang it up.  It most certainly was before one when she took her sweet time not taking an order.  Reward me for being patient with you!!!!!  That’s kind of a small miracle for me these days!  But I was envisioning myself as a short, bald man ranting and raving in a variety of venues.

Now, there was a long line.  This was not the fault of the people in line.  They shouldn’t have to deal with me.  They were probably getting the same treatment as me.  I wanted to make a scene, but calmed down my inner George.  After all, a survey printed out at the end of this receipt.  So, I merely took names.  Lerine and New Team Member, I have a bone to pick!  New Team Member???? I can’t even complain by name!  Grr.

Returning to my personal version of a Seinfeld episode, I walked back through the store imagining the Soup Nazi walking behind me saying, “NO SOUP FOR YOU…again.  No bread bowl!  NO COFFEE FOR YOU EITHER, not even coffee for you later.”

This is most certainly tarnish on the silver lining of stackable coupons.  Pardon me as I fill out a survey.

CVS has a deal (I think only in FL) for really cheap TG Lee Milk this week (finally, after they give FL, MI and CA the rotten sales as test groups for so long, they finally have a good deal for us).

Here’s the deal:

1) Buy a gallon of TG Lee Milk on sale for $2.79.

2) Use a coupon that you print from here which makes it $1.79.

3) Then, you get an Extra Care Buck at the end of your receipt.  So, it’s as if you paid $.79 for a gallon of milk!

You can also get Men’s Speedstick for free with overage.  On coupons.com, the zip code 33709 (another FL thing) has a coupon for $1.50 off speedstick.  It’s on sale for $2.99.  Use the $1.50 off coupon and pay $1.49.  It gives you $2 in ECB.  So you can get back MORE in ECB than you paid.

If you think that you may reach a pre-tax/pre-coupon total of at least $20, use this coupon to get another $4 off.

In the post about HOW to do the CVS thing, I failed to mention the goal (and by goal, I mean “the fun part”).

The goal is to have a combined total of coupons and Extra Care Bucks (ECB) that is equal to or greater than the item’s total.

Here is an example of a trip on July 19, 2009.

Having checked the ad and a favorite blog, I went (before the kids got up and before other people had a chance to buy MY deals off the shelves) to the closest CVS.  The deals had an obvious Back-to-School theme.  I went equipped with two SpeedStick coupons from coupons.com (widget on the right) and a $3 off $15 coupon from the coupon links at IHeartCVS.

Item Price Coupon ECB
Ruler

$0.99

$0.99

Subtotal (before tax)

$16.81

Ruler

$0.99

$0.99

$3 off a subtotal of $15 fromIHeartcvs.com

-$3.00

Paper

$2.00

$2.00

Coupons

-$3.00

Paper

$2.00

$2.00

ECB from a Previous Transaction

-$7.99

Liners

$0.89

$0.89

Tax

$0.42

10ct Pens

$0.99

$0.99

10ct Pens

$0.99

$0.99

Out of Pocket

$3.24

Speedstick

$2.99

$1.50

$2.00

Speedstick

$2.99

$1.50

$2.00

ECB printed for next time’s trip

$14.83

Memo Pad

$0.99

$0.99

Memo Pad

$0.99

$0.99

I paid for all this stuff with 3 singles and a quarter!  Notice a couple of things.  The Speedstick (which is going to the rescue mission, by the way) had a coupon + ECB total of $3.50, which was more than the $2.99 total.  So, CVS paid me a buck to take two deodorants out of the store!  Also, my ECB from last week plus my out of pocket total ($7.99 +$3.24 = $11.23) was less than my ECB total to take off my next bill ($14.83 – $11.23 = $3.60).  It’s as if I made $3.60.

I must preface this by saying that I assume that most people feel that they must have the world’s most active children, but I can’t imagine that everyone has children who are this active (which can thought of as a euphamism for accident prone).  My husband and I were both descibed as “crazy active” children, so we had no chance of spawning calm children.

My daughter (and my son too when he was a toddler) seem to take a “head first” approach to the world.  She is constantly bruising her precious little head.  Therefore, we are avid believers in a homeopathic gel called arnica.  For those who are not familiar with the realm of homeopathics, arnica, in the form of a gel, helps the prevention of stagnant fluids when applied topically.  So, athletes use it to prevent lactic acid buildup and moms with busy children use it to help the formation of bruises (by not allowing blood to pool).  It also acts as mild pain relief.

Yesterday, I was caulking in the bathrooms.  My daughter was watching me and couldn’t figure out why I was not rubbing the contents of strange tube on her head.  The practice of squeezing a substance from a tube MUST be to apply the contents on her head.  “Mama!  (points to her head) I’m over here!”

This is an email I sent to a friend a few weeks ago about shopping at Target.  I don’t have a grocery store around here that doubles coupons, so I have to go to one that stacks coupons.  Because this is a few weeks old, the deals mentioned are no longer valid, but the modus operandi is the same.

Some of the vocab I use is local stuff like ORM is the Orlando Rescue Mission and WG is Winter Garden, the city where she lives.

I also talk about “stackable coupons” meaning that Target has a store coupons and the Manufacturer released a coupon for the same item.  Use both at the same time for a single item.

Here goes…

It looks long, but I made it a 4 step process (with a lot of blah, blah, blah it the middle).

1) Before making a grocery list, go to a blog (for example, http://www.stretchingabuckblog.com/search/label/Target%20Deals)

2) I copy and paste the list into a word document then delete what I don’t want.

Check through the stuff that’s free or nearly free after coupons. It may be good Orl Rescue Mission stuff. For example, Degree deodorant was 2.47 at the WG Target. I had a $1.50/1 Target coupon and a $1/1 manufacturer coupon. I used both and they paid me 3 cents to take it (Target often doesn’t give the extra; they adjust the coupon down to make it a free item.).

This week,
Kraft BBQ Sauce – $1.00/ea
Use $1/1 here
Final Price = FREE – for the pantry

Aquafresh Toothpaste – $1.99/ea
Use $1/1 Target coupon
PLUS
Use $1/1 here
Final Price = FREE – It had a trial size that I needed for the mission trip. The free full size goes to ORM. So I got free stuff that I needed and stuff to donate. If there’s a printable manufacturer coupon, they put a link for it.

Degree for Men Deodorant (Artic Edge or Intense Sport) – $2.49/ea
Use $1.50/1 Target coupon here
PLUS
Use $0.75/1 or $1/1 in 5/17 Red Plum insert
Final Price = $0.24/ea or FREE – for ORM

Edge Shaving Gel – $2.24/ea
Use $1/1 Target coupon
PLUS
Use $0.75/1 or $1/1 in 5/17 Smart Source insert
Final Price = $0.24-$0.49/ea – for the pantry

Strawberries – $2-3/ea
Use $1/1 Target coupon
Final Price = $1-2/ea- for the family this week, they were actually 2.49 or one lb

Del Monte Fruit Chillers – $2.00/ea
Use $1/1 here
Final Price = $1.00/ea- for the pantry (stocking up for hot summer days…and Target has some on clearance for less than $2, so you pay less than $1)

A-1 Steak Sauce – $2.09/ea
Use $2/1 in 5/10 Smart Source insert or $1/1 here
Final Price = $0.09-1.09/ea – for the pantry

Banana Boat Sunscreen (trial size) – $0.99/ea
Use $1/1 in 5/3 Smart Source insert
Final Price = FREE – for the mission trip.

3) Print out coupons from the links (the manufacturer coupons come from three main sites, coupons.com, smartsource.com, and redplum.com, but try to print from the links THROUGH the website because some bloggers get a kickback…so it’s just polite for letting them do the hard work) and the store coupons (organicgrocerydeals.com is my favorite because you don’t have to register and you tell it how many of each coupon you want.).

4) Then add the things to the list (word document) that you need THIS week. Check the database on CouponMom.com (you have to register, but it’s free) to see if there happens to be a coupon out for those items. About a third of the time, I can find one.

At this point, all you’ve done is printed. I often paperclip all that stuff and save the clipping for later (in the car if John’s driving, watching TV, lunch break, “Mommy needs a time-out” break, etc.) After you clip and organize, you are free to get a cup of Starbucks and easily get what’s on your list (If I’m saving my family $25 in coupons, I can get a $3 cup of coffee). You don’t even have too look at your coupons until checkout.

Tips
*It’s also great to organize at home because children seem to have meltdowns/diaper needs/potty NOW needs/I-need-a-nap needs while you fumble with coupons if you wait to do it in the store.

*You don’t have to get the Sunday paper because so many coupons are online, but many aren’t. If you start getting the Sunday paper, (for your sanity) save the ads in a big file, write the dates on them, and SAVE them for when there’s a sale posted on a blog. DO NOT CLIP unless you know that you will use it that week. You might lose your mind in that giant file folder that you inevitably have to get to organize them. The blogs will tell you which one and which date to clip it from at the appropriate time. You don’t have to waste any brain cells on it.

*Look at end caps, but don’t buy until you come back with a coupon. For example, I saw Tazo Tea (in the only herbal tea flavor that John will drink) on clearance at an end cap. I also saw packs of Kleenex (I don’t think that specifically Kleenex is a necessity, but John insists that we use Kleenex. So I need to stock up when it’s a good deal.) on clearance. Coupons.com had a printable coupon for each. I printed them out and came back. It’s a risk to assume that it will still be there, but I got Kleenex for about 80 cents a box and Tazo tea for 1.28 a box.

*Target puts out new store coupons every other Sunday.

These are a few of the principles I have used to save on essentials at CVS. It’s a lot to absorb. I’ve decided to use an outline, but it’s still a lot! Read through a few times first.

Vocabulary

ECBs – Extra Care Bucks, vouchers for $$ off your next trip

Overage – the value of ECBs is more than amount paid out of pocket

Websites Discussed

www.MoneySavingMom.com

IheartCVS.com

CouponMom.com

1) Do NOT buy things that are not on sale.

a. A former student who is a CVS employee told me that CVS loses $4-5K weekly because of all their deals. They compensate by overpricing the rest of the items.

b. CVS cannot be a “convenience store.” If you say, “Since I’m here, I might as well pick up__…” it will eat up your savings. Almost everything is cheaper elsewhere when there is no deal. Chances are that you will be going somewhere else anyway, since CVS will not carry all the things you need.

2) Check your websites before you go.

a. I was introduced to www.moneysavingmom.com and I have stayed loyal. (from her home page, click on the “Categories” tab to get to the CVS post.) There are many blogs that will have this information. A Google search will lead to more.

b. If there is a printable coupon link, print as much as you can from the blogger’s page. They often get a kickback from the coupon sites. So, it’s just polite to give her as much kickback as possible because she already did the hard work of hunting out the deals.

3) Look ahead.

a. IheartCVS.com has link to future ads at CVS. They usually stay a few weeks ahead of the game providing pdf, html, or Google doc files of the ads.

b. CVS will sometimes go a couple of weeks without truly good deals. If you don’t want to use up your ECBs on a not-so-great deal, you may want to forgo the trip this week and get the good deals that will be out the next week.

c. Don’t forget to check the expiration date of the ECBs. They’re usually good for a little over 3 weeks.

d. Check the coupon link for printable CVS coupons for “$$ off a purchase of $$ or more.” These are usually about 17-20% off your before tax subtotal. For example

i. $3 off a $15 purchase (20% off)

ii.$4 off a $20 purchase (20% off)

iii. $5 off a $25 purchase (20% off)

iv. $5 off a $30 purchase (17% off)

These are links that a emailed to customers and they are kind enough to post the link. They come out approx every other Thursday and expire on Sunday. So, if there are good deals one week but no $ off $$ coupon out, wait until Thurs, Fri or Sat to visit CVS. Then make sure to snag your next week’s deals on SUNDAY because the coupon will expire after that.

4) Get a couple of Sunday papers

a. Subscriptions are cheaper than buying them on Sunday.

b. Taking a page out of CouponMom’s book (Google CouponMom. It’s worth it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TF8BKYtBX8Y ), don’t clip the coupons until you need them!! I have become a little obsessed with the removal of unnecessary clutter as of late. I felt so disorganized when I clipped more coupons that I needed—just in case there might be a deal on the item, just to realize that I had thrown away coupons that would have made items free or with overage (overage is when the store’s deals are more value than the item’s price, making money for you). Then I had to spend a lot of time sifting through old expired coupons to throw out. I’d also have an enormous, yet unnecessary, bulge in my purse that with the pile of coupons—and I need that space in my purse for diapers and day-planners! So, here is the plan to conquer the coupon clutter:

i. Don’t clip until you find a deal that uses that coupon. Bloggers will list the date it came out in the paper and the insert where the coupon resides on the blog. If you have them all clipped out, it’s harder to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

ii. Write the date that the insert came in the paper on the outside of the insert.

iii. File the insert away until you find a deal. I personally chose to make a hanging file for each month. I still write the dates on the outside to differentiate the weeks.

c. This system also works for your non-CVS shopping. Before you go to your regular grocery store, if you have things on your list that you must buy that week, go to CouponMom’s database (free registration on couponmom.com), type in what you’re going to buy and if there is an unexpired coupon in the stack of inserts or a printable coupon, the database will tell you where it is!

d. Try to bum reject coupon inserts off of people who love you. My mom is a coupon clipper, but only for things that are already on her grocery list. That leaves a lot of reject coupons in her inserts. I have asked her to clip out everything she would use and give me the stack of leftovers unclipped in the inserts. I squeeze a few extra dollars out of that each week. A friend of mine makes rounds after church asking her mother-in-law, aunts, grandmothers (a bunch of generations all in the same church) for their leftover inserts each week. She also has a few people in her neighborhood who volunteered to give her inserts every week!

5) If you have an Rx to fill, fill it at your CVS.

a. The former student/current CVS employee explained that the reason they are willing to take the aforementioned $4-5K loss weekly is because it gives them enough traffic that the pharmacy makes an extra $20K weekly.

b. If you have an HMO or the like that has a fixed co-pay, you might as well fill an Rx at CVS to keep them willing to give us stuff for free.

c. I personally have not had an HMO in my adult life (other than in college…but only my undergrad). I have had only 3 Rx filled in the last 5 years. So, they aren’t making any money off of me in that respect. However, before the days of Supercouponing (I think that it deserves a cape like Superman), my chiropractor sent me to CVS because they had a better selection of homeopathic remedies on the shelves. They were sometimes the only place that carried some homeopathics that wasn’t an overpriced health food store or special order.

6) Immediately scan your member card when you get there.

a. The little scanner that checks an item’s price (close to the front of the store) will print CVS coupons if you scan your member card.

b. If you scan the card as many times as it spits out coupons. I’ve had it give me 4 rounds of coupons before.

c. You don’t have to use those coupons right away…esp if you have already mapped out your trip.

7) Don’t be discouraged by your first trip.

a. The first time you go, it feels like you’ve been had. This happens because all of your ECBs are good for the NEXT trip. So, you end up paying out of pocket for the first trip or two.

b. If they don’t have what you came in to get, ask for a raincheck with ECB offer.

8) Remember your local rescue missions, food pantries, and church ministries.

a. I have given bags and bags of deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap and baby cereal to the rescue mission this year. I make sure I bring my 4 yr old with me. I want to provide him with the awareness that God may not have chosen us to have the income write a check, but we still have a responsibility to give to charity by whatever means we can.

b. A lot of these items, we may not have bought for ourselves, but I can get them for free and sometimes free with overage. I may be trying to meet a price threshold to use a $ off $$ coupon to discount things I need…like diapers.

I was in France recently with a volunteer project.  I was told numerous times that I was so “brave” and “such a trooper” for crossing the big drink whilst 32 weeks pregnant.  Quite frankly, I didn’t do a scrap of housework and was responsible for wiping no one else’s nose but my own.  So, I don’t deserve any “trooper points.”

I was very surprised at the kindness and hospitality of the French, particularly towards pregnant women.  For example, I was in line to buy food, a french woman said to me, “You don’t need to be on your feet!  Come to the front of this line.”  I declined.  She insisted.  I politely accepted.  I was given seats on crowded buses…which I graciously accepted because I tend to tip over like a bowling pin these days whenever the driver would tap the brakes.  Even people in seemingly bad moods would change tones before talking to me.  They were exceptionally polite.   I didn’t understand the persistence with which I had been told to learn and use the phrase “Je suis enceinte” until after I experienced the culture.

Fast forward two weeks.  We flew back.  We had just landed on American soil.  I was waiting in the aisle of the plane to deboard–luggage in hand.  When the line started moving and I began to step forward, a very large man did a bob-and-weave to get around me, consequently knocking me back into my seat with my carry-on smacking into my belly.  No apology or even an “excuse me.”  Another woman jumped in front of him and stopped–blocking me in my seat with one knee still hanging over the armrest from the fall.  That’s a fine welcome back to my home continent!

Now, I’m still a proud American (let’s not confuse the intent of the post), but the French have a better handle on a few things: espresso, food without preservatives, and treatment of pregnant women.  So, to those who call the French “snooty” or “impolite,” I must strongly disagree.