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.

About nine months ago, my daughter was hospitalized for an unexplained weight loss.  She had been a chubby nursling.  She ate some solids at 6 months.  Between the ages of 7 months and 8 months, she had a dramatic weight loss.  In that time, she had an insatiable hunger for solids and breastmilk.  At 8 months, she was nursing about 8 times daily, plus eating a bowl of organic baby cereal, 4 jars of plant-based food, and (based on a suggestion from a friend who remedied a similar problem) half an avocado pureed with a banana.  Between her nursing and solids, she consumed enough calories for 2 infants, yet still lost weight.

She was hospitalized…which means MDs.  In my experience (and I hope that my sample set is just small instead of this being an accurate statement of the medical community), I have found more MDs who think of themselves as Dr. House but have little more medical analytical skill than Dr Seuss.  I begged her pediatrician not to send us to the hospital.  I predicted that they would hold her hostage, run a bunch of useless tests, and press their “easy button” of formula mandate.  Then, having believed themselves to have divinely intervened, won’t be able to figure out why the baby is still sick.  Then the baby will have a void of natural immunities as well as not being healed.  I think that her pediatrician is great (when he speaks, he sounds like thoughts are actively moving through his brain), but he only made one incorrect statement which was, “No, they wouldn’t do THAT.”  Yes, they did.

They couldn’t find the problem, so they ran a bunch of useless tests to convince me that they had exhausted their options so that I would agree with them when they said, “She must not be consuming enough calories.  Let’s just formula feed.”  Then, there was this favorite: “You must not be producing enough milk.  She needs formula.”  So I called her ped to say that my prediction was accurate.  He suggested weighing her (diaper on), feeding her, then weighing her again (diaper still on).  I remarked that he had a brilliant idea.  Surely, that could show them how much she’s CONSUMING.

AND NOW THE POINT OF OUR STORY…

We did that.  She gained 170 grams in one feeding! Alas, they refused to log that she had gained 170 grams when nursing was the only thing that changed.  You see, that would blow the whole theory that she’s needs formula if she’s getting 170 grams in a feeding.  So, they started on a new line of garbage.  “We wouldn’t know how to log it in as ounces, so were not going to log it in.”  Really?  Unit conversion is in the Math for Healthcare Professionals course.  At this point, I had already witnessed 3 days of unnecessary torture on my baby, so please keep the image of me as the mama bear who witnessed the mistreatment of her whelp before judging my sardonic response.  I said, “Since your medical software obviously does not have conversion capabilities, and you also must not have the same internet access that I have to google ‘unit conversion grams to oz,’ we must do it by hand.  Don’t worry.  I’m a math professor.  I can TEACH you how to do it.”  I got out my TI 83 that I carry on my person.  “You see, start by taking end weight minus beginning weight.  Enter.  Then, convert to ounces by dividing by 28.35…” and yes, I happened to know the conversion to two decimal places, but I also knew that they were merely pretending to be attentive.  “…and the result is approximately 5.99 ounces.  Wow! She gained 6 ounces in ONE feeding!  Let’s put that in the log.”  TELL ME WHY SOMEONE EDUCATED ENOUGH TO BE EMPLOYED BY A HOSPITAL CAN’T FIGURE OUT A SIMPLE CONVERSION!  I was even polite enough to refrain from the units of mass versus units of weight discussion.

So, because I wasn’t stupid enough to buy the first excuse, they used a new one.  “Her diaper was on, so we can’t put that weight in the log.”  I said, “Yes, per the suggestion of her pediatrician, her diaper was on.  In fact it was an ingenious suggestion to isolate a variable.  If you were trying to measure her weight, we would need her diaper off.  However, we want to measure just the amount of milk that she consumes.  If you measure with a diaper change in the middle, you are measuring the amount she consumes minus the amount that she inevitably deposits in the diaper.  That’s two variables…which leads to an inaccurate reading.”  Blank stares.  I refer to math that I KNOW they had to take to get the job.  “It’s like looking at just the linear RATE of intake.  You know, like observing slopes without changing y-intercepts?”  Blank stares.  OH, COME ON!  That didn’t even require any real arithmetic, just a basic concept!  Then, I heard many of my former nursing students in my head saying, “I’m never going to have a conversation about slopes ever again!   As soon as that test is over, I’ll flush it out of my brain.”  Uh, huh.  That’s probably why I’m getting blank stares.

People say all the time, “Who needs math?  I’m never going to use it.”  Really?  Can all of those people all wear a sign or maybe some sort of conspicuous hat that will let me know that when I, the mama bear, am emotionally drained from an incessant attack on one of my whelps, I can identify and avoid them?  That would be helpful.

Just to round out the happy ending, I gave up and fed the god complex of the MDs.  My mother asked good questions before my release that acknowledged the lack of logic in their conclusions.  They deflected but never answered the question.  Then there was more feeding of the god complex which resulted in her release papers.  Two days later, my best friend (a med student) called me to say, “I learned about your baby in a lecture today.”  She exhibited all the signs of a baby with Vitamin K deficiency.  I now have a healthy toddler! Thank God for MDs and pre-MDs who use gray matter!

We were at a memorial service for my husband’s uncle at a local Catholic church.  While I usually would try not to bring my children to a somber occasion, it was a necessity that day.  My 4 yr old understands choosing appropriate behavior, but my 17 month old daughter sees the world as her oyster.  She lasted about 7 minutes.  We went to the back of the church.  She spilled milk.  She insisted on having a wipe to clean up her own mess.  I obliged.  She wiped up her mess and toddled around a corner.

I was not in the least bit concerned about her toddling around the corner.  I must interrupt myself to say that, being a devout Baptist, I am very unfamiliar with many Catholic practices.  I allowed my daughter to walk around a corner unsupervised because I had already inventoried that corner.  It had a doorknob that she couldn’t reach, a water fountain (also out of reach), and what I ignorantly thought was a pretty little column holding a seemingly empty bowl.  Everything was bolted down.  No problem.

I shortly heard a peculiar splish-splashing.  My investigation brought me to my daughter who was quite happily using her wipe to “clean” the floor with HOLY WATER!  Apparently the bowl atop the pretty column was not entirely empty.  I know she gets to claim childhood innocence, but do I get to plead ignorance?  Pardon us both.

My husband told me that I needed a blog.  Maybe that was his nice way of saying that I talk too much.  :) He euphemistically described me as a whirlwind of thought where every notion is a journey.  Fortunately for me, my husband thinks too highly of me.

Frankly, I don’t think that I’m all that interesting.  I’m gestating a third spawn.  I’m an adjunct at three different colleges.  I get an immense joy from stackable coupons (using store coupons and manufacturer coupons for the same item–bonus points if you can get the store to pay you to take the product).  Seriously though, someone whose to-do list includes cleaning out the closet, working on the “Math for Birth Professionals” text for the Fall09 semester, playing with/feeding the children, assembling the next package for the mission, feeding/spending time with my family, and keeping the small children from leaving messes (wish me luck) should not have anything of interest to say to the world as a whole.  Each day includes my husband, my children, my house, something collegiate, and my church.  I’m not that interesting.

I realized how much my world was “shrinking” when I was holding a special study session with my students the night before the final exam.  I picked up make-up tests, grabbed a deli sandwich, and met with my students all on the same street corner.  When construction is completed on the joint library (our county and the college have joined forces to build a gigantic county/college library on the campus) ,  I will have little reason to drive farther than that one intersection.  My work, primary grocery store (Target–stackable coupons and hormone-free milk), two Starbucks, Chick-fil-A (kids can eat and play while I grade papers),and story time at the library will ALL be on one intersection.  My husband usually drives when we go to church or anything else.  Wow!  My world has become very small.

I’m not complaining.  I promised my family the vast majority of my attention after I finished grad school.  My oldest said that he was flattered that I picked him over talking about math all the time (my description of what I do “at work”).  That was enough to make the shrinking world completely worth it.  Though my world is shrinking, my supremely articulate children, collegiate encounters, obsession with saving money, transformation into homemaker, and my world view should provide enough substance for a blog…so says my husband.

A few minutes ago, I informed my husband that I took his advice and started a blog.  He said, “That’s great.”  He looked at the title.  “Shrinking World, huh?”  He gestured at my pregnant middle.  “Looks like it a growing world to me.”   Smart aleck.

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