Cheapskate Musings


I have become a little obsessed with couponing.  My husband appreciates this obsession.  Not only does he have his hard earned dollars stretched to the max, but the extreme nature entertains him.  He found this to be highly entertaining.  Spent $.55, saved $30.17.  I win!Publix receipt Feb10_4

This is after I got these wipes for only $4.75 earlier in the week…

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…and this two-year supply of detergent for $29 last week…

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…to mingle with the ridiculous stockpile of detergent that I was paid $4.11 to take over the summer.

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My stockpile space is full.

Over Christmas vacation, we went to a popular vacation spot in the Smoky Mountains. One night, we were pursuing the town on foot when I told my husband that I wished that we had more money to take the kids to some of the attractions. During the walk, several vendors were sitting outside in the freezing temperatures trying to call us over to sign up for a presentation (sales pitch). The compensation for listening to the presentation was cash and tickets to the attractions. We told two of them that we were not interested. The third one (different companies) offered us $75 and attraction tickets for listening. Okay. We’re their target audience (married with children and an income that meets their requirements).

At the beginning of the presentation, the salesman asked us questions. Where did we meet? Church. What a coincidence! The salesperson was not only religious, but he was even the same denomination for a short time! What was our first date? Water skiing. Really? He LOVES skiing. Surely, another coincidence! We then told him that we had no intention of buying anything because we knew that it wouldn’t fit into our budget. Let’s just be clear.

He began a lecture on ethics. Apparently, we were so unethical for accepting the offer that we were hounded to take because we didn’t want to buy what he was selling. We could be costing a salesperson (not him, of course) a job because we aren’t willing to buy. We went though the whole presentation. During the tour, I asked him how much a unit cost. No direct answer.

One more quick mini-lecture about how unethical we were. They see a hundred families a day. The gift incentives are about $200 per family. So, they are spending $20,000 per day on getting people in the door. How unethical of us to cost them that money. My husband asked, “What percentage of people buy?” 30% of people are apparently much too wealthy or dumb enough to take part in this program.

Finally, we see the price sheet. $60,000 per unit!!!!! (Cartoon sound effect: ah-OOO-ga!) That’s for ONE week per YEAR! That doesn’t include the maintenance fees or the fees to use the thing! But wait, there’s more! They offer financing…at 18% interest (how thoughtful!) spreading the payments out for 10 years making the payments…$250 less than my mortgage (but I get to live in my house the whole year)! Their company gets $34,000 of the profits directly.

Time for a little arithmetic. Thirty of the 100 families they see daily buy into it and provide them with a profit of $34,000 a pop. They get $1,020,000 per day! Subtract the $20,000 that they spend in getting people in the door and they are still profiting a million dollars a day (that’s in the slow economy too). Furthermore, if they sell them for $60000 for one of the fifty-two weeks a year, they’re selling them for $3,120,000 PER UNIT!!! They’re doing this by preying on the families who don’t really have the money in their budget.

Yet, I’m unethical for saying yes to the third person who offered me free tickets to let my kids do fun stuff. “Hello, kettle? This is the pot. You’re black.”

I therefore amend the adage.

As Chief Nurturer of this household, I have taken on the task of baking many of our bread products.  I must say that the time it takes is not worth the time spent on a loaf by loaf basis.  However, the savings have appeared in a different fashion.

When I started dating my husband (drawing nigh on a decade ago), I was surprised at the frequency that his family ate out.  They didn’t discuss what was for dinner, but where dinner was.  When we married, we disagreed.  He said that eating out was a necessary fellowshipping part of building a relationship.  I told him that I would fellowship with him at home over a plant and protein based meal that I made and then walk with him for free.  This was not acceptable.  He assured me that it was not the food that was unacceptable, but the lack of the event of going “out.”   He longed for a time when our finances would allow us to spend money on eating out.  I was still not baking.  I didn’t care to eat much bread.  I don’t even like pizza…one of his favorites.

Eight years into this marriage, I decided to start baking fresh bread.  I found a good pizza dough recipe.  He loved it.  No more longing for ordering a pizza (talk about a markup over price of production!).  That was a start.

I made dinner rolls at Thanksgiving.  He loved them.  Really?  That’s all it took?  So, I made another batch with larger rolls to use for sandwiches.  Rave reviews.

My great vindication came last night.  Our son asked if we could get fast food on our way home (I don’t know why he bothers to ask.).  My husband would usually  recite, “No.  Eating out is too expensive.”  Instead, he said, “No, your mom made bread so I’d rather go home and have a sandwich.”

“Rather.”  Let’s be clear that he said “rather.”  Yes, my friends.  I have an announcement.  My bread trumps the event of going out!

I recently had the pleasure of seeing my sister who lives a great distance away.  As we were discussing my current addiction to coupons, she said her family eats healthfully and therefore would not benefit from the use of coupons.  Much of the food they eat is organic.  Ah, but even people who eat organic will eventually need toilet paper.  There’s a coupon for that.

So today for her birthday (I’ll get her a real gift too), I have a two part rebuttal.  Hence, I have deemed myself the birthday coupon fairy (whose end result resembles the tooth fairy but without the traditional tutu).

Rebuttal part 1:

Think of all the things you buy that are not food.  Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, feminine products, deodorant, tissues, makeup, beauty tools, and toothpaste are all things that regularly have coupons.  These are all “grocery” kinds of things that are not food.  Most of these things can be free with coupons.  I refuse to “buy” soap these days.  I only get soap if the store is willing to pay me to take it.  I get stores to pay me to take it so often that I have more than enough for my family, extended family and the rescue mission.  You can still reduce the bill if you buy healthier versions of these products.  For example, someone reported recently that alice.com had an exceptionally good deal on Tom’s toothpaste and another person used amazon.com to get on seventh generation diapers for less than $6 a pack.

Rebuttal part 2:

Many things that are considered organic or health foods have coupons.  Very few are listed on mass coupons sites (but I did get a coupon for Barbara’s cereal on a mass coupon site and Kashi almost always has a good coupon out), but there are a lot of coupons available if you sign up for the mailing list.  This website has an extensive list of links to coupons for organic products.  Organic Valley, Stoneyfield, War Eagle Mill, Recharge, Santa Cruz, and Laura’s have coupons that I print regularly.  Create an email account to collect this stuff (one that will pop-up to tell you that there’s something in your inbox) and sign up for all of these coupon lists.

Everybody can use coupons to reduce the cost of something.  It’s not time consuming when done correctly.  I recently heard a lady rebut someone who said, “I don’t have time for this” with “you haven’t been broke enough yet.”

A few to print as often as they are available…

Wet ones – The $1 off coupon can be used to buy the 97₵ small packs by the cash register.  They are handy for a purse.  The coupon maybe adjusted down to match the price.

TGLee – two prints per computer every two months

All – travel size has them for $1

Johnson and Johnson – can be used to get Johnson Buddies soap for free.  I usually try to combine them with a store coupon though

Kashi

Renu – Use the $2 off to get it free from the travel section

A few to clip as often as you see them

Johnson and Johnson First Aid – $1 off can be used to get the travel size for free at Target or CVS

Crystal Light – $1 off one and $2 off two can be used for the to go packs by the register

Tide – the $1 off can be used to get the single use packs (travel section) for free

Target 2009-08-12

I’ve heard the expression “stealing with permission” when referring to extensive coupon use to get free stuff. Today is most certainly no exception. I went to CVS and got $65 worth of merchandise for $13. I like 80% savings (armed with coupons galore including TGLee and Wisk).

The bigger experience was at Target though.  A while ago, I got a raincheck on Electrasol (aka Finish) tabs. The sale was a box of 32 for $3.49.  Since then, they added another 25%, making them 40 tabs per box.  I still had 9 of the $2.50/1 Electrasol coupons from newspaper clippings (I bought a bunch of extra ones on eBay).  Recently, they put out a store coupon for $1 off one.  So, after my raincheck for $3.49, manufacturer coupon for $2.50 off, and store coupon for $1 off, I was getting them for free.  I had 9 of these!  So, that’s 9 FREE boxes of Electrasol.

I also had coupons for free batteries, cheap bananas and more than $2.50 off meat.  My final bill was just shy of $5 and the bottom of the receipt said that I saved just shy of $64!  Good stuff!

For those of you who are still learning, remember that eBay is a good place to get things that you KNOW you will buy.  Technically, they can’t sell the coupons on eBay, so they all have a disclaimer saying that you’re buying the seller’s time to clip and assemble.  If you know that something is a good deal and you will use the item over time, search that item’s name and the word “coupon” on eBay.    If there’s a really good coupon in the Sunday paper and you wish you had more, check eBay.  If there is a product that you will buy every week, check eBay.

I’m a pain.  Between a somewhat eccentric personality and my poverty that makes being a crazy coupon lady a necessity, I’m a really big pain to cashiers and innocent bystanders who have the misfortune of being in a checkout line behind me.

In a really good trip to CVS (I’ll post that one later), one cashier was especially patient with me (as many are at the CVS close to me) and a manager stood next to the register to make sure all of the deals printed correctly in my favor.  Suddenly, about three people were in line behind me who just wanted to pick up something quickly and leave.  They opened a new line (and were nice about it) knowing that I would take a long time.

I know that I take up so much of their time that my visits do not warrant such patience, but they grant it anyway.  I told them thank you several times.  The moral of the story is be appreciative to cashiers who are kind and patient.  Make sure to acknowledge their patience.

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.

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