Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wow...It's Been A LONG Time

I can't believe I haven't blogged at all in over a week!!! I have been working like crazy on "flood stuff" and I think I can say most of the hard stuff is behind me now. I will try to post something practical and useful later on today, but I just wanted you to know why I've been AWOL! Hope you've been finding lots of great bargains lately and saving tons of money!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Saving Money Part 2: How To Make Money Doing What You Already Do!

I love being able to make a little extra money...especially if it doesn't require much effort on my part! I have found 3 ways of making extra money that I absolutely love! I know I've posted about these before, but since I love them so much, I'll probably continue to post about them til everyone I know is making a little extra money!

1. Mr. Rebates

Mr. Rebates
I love Mr. Rebates! Mr. Rebates is a site that gives you cash back for purchases you make through their site! They have over a thousand stores listed. You can get cash back on travel purchases through Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, and even my favorite travel site, Hotwire! Plus, when you sign up for Mr. Rebates, they'll start your account with $5.00. During this past month, I have made $4.56 and my hubby has made over $13...and that is just for purchases we would make anyway! My husband now books all his travel through Mr. Rebates site! To sign up for Mr. Rebates and start getting money back for your purchases, click here!

2. Swagbucks
Search & Win

Another favorite of mine is Swagbucks! In the past 2 months, I have earned Amazon and Starbucks gift cards! You can also redeem your Swagbucks for gift cards to Target, iTunes, and lot of other great stores! All you have to do is use the Swagbucks site (or toolbar) to do your regular online searches and you can win Swag Bucks. Swag Bucks are redeemable for great gift cards and other prizes. Here's how it works!

1. Search
Search the web using www.swagbucks.com and receive results from Google and Ask.com.

2. Earn
Swag Bucks are periodically awarded as you search the web.

3. Redeem
Redeem your Swag Bucks for exclusive swagbucks.com products and more in the Swag Store.

It's easy to do and it's quite fun! If you sign up using my link, I'll get some extra swagbucks too! (So show me a little love by signing up here!!)

3. Open a new bank account!
I opened an ING Direct Orange Savings account a few months ago and made $25. You need to be referred by a current ING Direct customer, but once you receive a referral email, you can set up your account in just a few minutes! If you open your account with $250, you will be credited $25. That's 10% without any effort! If you don't know anyone with an ING Direct account, send me an email (saving money living better at gmail dot com Take out the spaces and use symbols for at and dot) with your name and email address and I'll send a referral email to you. I have found this to be a great place to save without worrying about accidentally spending it as part of our checking account money! You can also make $25 by opening a Money Market Account, just follow the same procedure above!

The above ideas may not seem like much, but they could easily help you make an extra $150-$300 every year and maybe even more than that!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's another week of simple food at our house, but that works well for us!
Monday- Pizza and Salad
Tuesday- Crescent Roll Spaghetti Casserole
Wednesday- Sloppy Joes, Corn, and Salad
Thursday- Teriyaki Chicken and Brown Rice
Friday- Hot Dogs and Mac and Cheese
Saturday- Leftovers
Sunday- FFY

For More Menu Plans, head on over to orgjunkie.com!

Still dealing with the flood! UGH!

Sorry I haven't posted much lately. We are still dealing with repercussions from the flooded basement we had 2 weeks ago. We have fans going 24/7 in our basement and our sump pump hasn't stopped running yet! My hubby spent the entire weekend in the basement working on sump related issues and some pipe issues that our city recommended we change. I also endured a week without my husband (and he'll be gone this week too) which was not so fun in the aftermath of everything going on.

I'll be honest with you! I haven't dealt well with the stress! This has been a tiring and expensive ordeal! Hopefully within the next few weeks things will settle down and I'll get back to posting (and shopping and looking for deals)! Thanks for being patient!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do You Have Adequate Insurance?

These are pictures that were taken last week during the flooding in our neighborhood. The first picture was taken from my house and shows the street and the neighbor across the street. At one point during the afternoon, the water in the street was waist deep! The second picture was taken of my house from across the street...again, you'd never know that we were on the corner of 2 fairly busy streets (at least busy for a small town like ours!). The third picture was taken out my back door and shows the house behind ours...and no, it is not a houseboat!

We are very thankful that we had the right insurance! If we did not have sewer and sump pump backup insurance, our insurance company would not have replaced our hot water heater, our furnace, or our freezer. In addition, if you do not specifically have a personal property clause on your sewer and sump pump insurance, personal property is not covered! Believe me...we never thought we would have to worry about this where we live, but we did and we are so glad we had insurance! I highly recommend that you call your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate insurance in the event of water damage to your basement! This is my Public Service Announcement of the day! :-)

Why Yes...I Do Use Coupons!!!

I seriously think I may have killed a tree with the amount of receipt tape needed for today's purchase! This is only a portion of the non perishables purchased today. I also had 25-30 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast, some salad, Sargentos Salad Finishers and Potato Finishers, Country Crock Shedd Spread, some Freschetta pizzas, and a few other odds and ends! I ended up with over $400 of groceries for $120. It would have been less, but they didn't end up using all my coupons or giving me $5 from the Mega promotion and I didn't notice til I got home!

On another note, Kroger told me today that they won't triple more than 2 identical coupons. I asked for a written copy of this policy and was told that they didn't have one yet. After the cashier refused to triple my coupons, I told him to take everything I had over the 2 coupon limit and return it. He then told me that he could probably get his manager to override it. She ended up overriding it and allowing him to triple my coupons, but in the mayhem, the cashier mixed up my coupons and ended up not scanning all of them. Oh well...I still saved a ton... I'm glad that I was able to replenish quite a few of the items in my freezer. I'm hoping I will get an insurance check in the next few days to pay me back for replacing my freezer and for the food that was lost in the flood! I'll try to stock up on more freezer stuff next week. I'm also going to call around to the Krogers in the area to find out what the scoop is and if they are all going to this new policy, I may have to write some letters to the managers. This could really change the amount I can save!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hip Hip Hooray!!! I got a new freezer!

Just wanted to let you know I got a new freezer tonight! I am so excited!!! I was so sad when our freezer was a victim of the flood last weekend. It was totally full too! The good news is that I will get full replacement value for the food which will help to offset the cost of our deductible.

Today...March 17th only!!! Free Smileage Plus Liptint from Origins!

I love Origins! Although there are many things I skimp on, my face isn't one of them! I have horribly dry skin and after trying a variety of different moisturizers, I have finally found one that actually works for me. It's Never Say Dry by Origins and it costs $35. Although that is quite pricey, it sure beats looking like a reptile with my dry scaly skin! I also love their eye shadow and their Liquid Lip Color!

Today only, March 17th, Origins is offering a Free Smileage Plus Lip Tint (this regularly costs $11) with any purchase, plus they are offering free shipping. Check out their Cover Your Mouth Lip Protector with SPF 8 ($8.50) or their Peace of Mind On-The-Spot Relief ($10). You could snag a great product, lip tint, and shipping for $10! Also, if you go through Mr. Rebates, you'll get 6% cash back!!! For more info on Mr. Rebates, click here.

***Additional Info**** I just was over at Hip2Save and she has a code posted for a free sleep balm at checkout!!! Just type in SLEEPDM for this free sample! Thanks Hip2Save!!!

Happy shopping!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

All of my meal planning for the month went out the window with the flooded basement. Living in the hotel made it next to impossible to eat home cooked meals and the meals I had planned relied heavily on the food in the freezer in the basement! Both the freezer and the food inside did NOT survive the flood, so this week's meal planning will be a little different than what I originally planned, but I figure something is better than nothing!

Monday- Freschetta Pizza
Tuesday-Sloppy Joes and Salad
Wednesday- Chicken Soft Tacos
Thursday- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Garlic bread
Friday- Hot Dogs and Mac and Cheese
Saturday- Mom is out of town...everyone else FFY! (Fend for yourself!)
Sunday- Leftovers

For more Menu Plan Monday, head on over to orgjunkie.com.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Under Water and Under the Weather!

We're still dealing with the water in our basement...although it is mostly dry now! I have been working this weekend on itemizing and taking pictures of everything in our basement. We were so thankful to have friends who came over today to help us...we even had people help who didn't know us! What a blessing! I will be working on gathering replacement costs this week and hopefully will be able to get some of this stuff taken care of quickly. In the meantime, I am still fighting the same cold/allergy/sinus issue that I've been fighting for the last two weeks and have decided it might be time to visit the doctor. Hopefully, he'll be able to get me fixed up and back to full speed in no time. All of this rambling is to say...who knows when I'll be back to blogging...hopefully in the next few days! Thanks for all your warm wishes and prayers! They are very appreciated!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm swamped...literally!

I'll probably be missing from the blogworld for the next few days. Yesterday, we moved into a hotel after our basement flooded. We have no heat or running water at our house and everything in our basement has been destroyed...including our freezer which was packed to the brim with the rest of our food for the month! The good news is that my family is all safe and that all we've lost is stuff. Some of it was stuff I liked very much...and some of it was irreplaceable. One of my daughter's "All About Me" book that she made last year which included tons of photos and essays was destroyed and my other daughter's clothes and stuff animals didn't make it, but both daughters are healthy and well. My husband's first Bible which his grandpa gave him in the early 70s was destroyed, but my husband is still around. In the end, it's sad...and the backed up sewer left some nasty stuff in our basement, but it's all just stuff...and people are more important than stuff!

Monday, March 9, 2009

FREE Resume Printing: One Day Only March 10, 2009

FedEx online (formerly known as FedEx Kinko's) is doing its part to help jobseekers! The company will host “FedEx Office Free Resume Printing Day” on March 10, 2009, offering to print up to 25 copies of each customer’s resume for Free. Click here for more details!

Menu Plan Monday

I'm not sure why I'm just getting around to posting this now since I've had my menu planned for the entire month of March and even posted on the fridge since last week. This week is a lot of quick and easy dinners since we have a busy week and it works out well since we have tons of lean ground turkey in the freezer!

Monday- Frozen Pizza (I stocked up on the Freschetta pizzas that the family loves and these are becoming a staple on Monday since I end up working late nearly every Monday!)
Tuesday- Sloppy Joes and Corn
Wednesday- Soft Tacos and Homemade salsa
Thursday- Spaghetti with Garlic bread and salad
Friday- Hot Dogs and Mac N Cheese
Saturday - Leftovers

More Great Freebies!

Training Socks from Lucy
Click here to print a coupon for 2 free pairs of training socks from Lucy! Thanks Freebie Blogger!

$10 off any Patricia Wexler purchase at Bath and Body Works
Click here to print a coupon for $10 off any Patricia Wexler purchase at Bath and Body Works (I saw a few cleansers on their website that are $10, so you could score some free cleanser!)- Thanks Deal Seeking Mom!

Free Christian Audiobook!!!
I highly recommend this book on the Spiritual Disciplines! Click here to download Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S Whitney! (Each month ChristianAudio.com gives away a free Christian audiobook, so check back each month!) Thanks Freebie Blogger!

Free Soccer Keyring
FreeFootball.com is offering a keychain with light. Choose from Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Click here to pick your keychain!

Also, if you're heading out, be sure to print your coupon for a Free Caramel Mocha from Bob Evans. This is only good til March 11th! Don't miss out!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Where to find the deals: Blogs I LOVE!

If you're looking for great deals on the web or money saving ideas, check out these blogs!!! There are more that I love, but I don't want to overwhelm you!

I Heart Wags! A great blog for those looking for the Walgreens Deals!

I Heart CVS! A great blog for those looking for the CVS Deals!

Mommy Snacks Andrea over at Mommy Snacks has tons of great info (which she calls calorie free "snacks" She also does coupon matchups!

Nickels' N Dimes Becky has a great website (which she recently updated and has been super kind to me!)

Deal Chaser Lots of great deals and freebies posted!

Kiki's Corner Kiki has lots of great giveaways, frugal tips, and freebies and is one of the most incredible Christian women I know! Definitely check out her blog!

Frugal Mommy of 2 Girls: Lots of giveaways!!!

Keeping the Kingdom First! Frugal finds coupons and home of the weekly CVS $5 Challenge

There are lots more great sites out there, but I thought I'd highlight a few since I never get around to posting weekly ad matchups!

Couponing: It's like driving a new car or getting a raise!

My total grocery bill for the month of March is $114.07. (Our budget is $130/month and we have more than enough food to get us through this month and probably most of next month, so I'll quit while I'm ahead unless some great deals come up!). This includes all groceries, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for our household as well as a large number of items that I stockpiled. The total of all of these items before coupons and sales was $569.59. This amount of savings is fairly typical for me. I saved $455.52! If I leave the grocery store and I've only saved 50%, I'm disappointed! :-) Typically I save somewhere between 65% and 95% per trip...sometimes even more!

Putting it in perspective:

A Car Payment!The average American car payment ranges between $380 and $460 per month. Although my husband and I do not have car payments, I have managed to save the equivalent of one car payment this month by using coupons!

A Raise in Your Yearly Salary! The national median income is $46,000/household which breaks down to $3833/month. If you counted the coupons savings in your monthly income, it would be like seeing your yearly income increase to $51,462.24. That's quite a big jump!

Hourly Wage Increase! Sure couponing takes a little extra time. I probably spend 4-6 hours a month organizing coupons and planning grocery trips. If I took my savings and divided by hours spent, it would be like making $75-$100 hour for each hour of time spent planning!

Free Haircolor!!!

I haven't posted much these last few days because life has been busy and we're still all trying to get over the cold/flu that's been plaguing us. I did make it to Walgreens the other day and scored a bunch of free haircolor! They had various colors of their Perfect 10 Haircolor clearanced out for under $5. I used the $5 off Perfect 10 Haircolor from last week's P&G insert. I had a bunch of these coupons so I scored multiple boxes of haircolor. They also had other Clairol products on clearance that I was able to use the $2 off coupon to receive more free hair color! It's defintely worth checking out!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

March Movie Madness

I know this is kind of late in the day, but during the month of March, Redbox will be posting a code for a free movie rental every Wednesday on their blog...Redblog. Today's code is 75EA16. Redbox also offers a free movie code every Monday! For more details, check out their blog!

Saving Money Part 1: How to slash your grocery bill

My current monthly grocery bill is $130. This includes food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a family of 4 as well as all toiletries. I also use some of this money to stockpile good deals. For those of you who think this is quite low and that we must eat out all the time, we don't. Our eating out budget is $100/month. When I look back over our bank statements before we got on a spending plan, we typically spent around $1300 at WalMart and Kroger. Since we don't buy clothes at these stores, I'm left to guess that this money was spent on groceries and toiletries. Since we've set a plan, I've been surprised at how much money we saved and in the long run, it takes less time than my previous method of shopping.

My previous method of shopping was go out, buy what you need (or think you need), take it home, cook it for dinner, and repeat the next day! We went to the store almost every day for something! I know you're waiting for me to tell you how to save money, so here it comes!!!

1. Use coupons! (Someday soon, I'll do a post on how I sort and organize my coupons.)

Sunday Paper
-I've found that you get more coupons when you subscribe to the Sunday paper then when you buy the paper at the store. With that being said, if you can't find a good deal on a subscription to the Sunday paper and you live close to Dollar Tree, don't waste your money on the subscription. Buy your paper at the Dollar store instead!

-Another great source for coupons is eBay. I know it seems counter productive to buy coupons, but it has saved us a TON of money. Most coupons are sold in lots of 10, 15, of 20. You are not paying for the coupons, but the time it took for the person to sort, clip, and ship the coupons to you. I recently spent $2.00 for 20 CapNCrunch coupons. These coupons saved me $35.00. It was totally worth the cost of the coupon and my kids LOVE this cereal. I also purchased 30 Pepperidge Farm Garlic bread coupons for $2.00. These coupons allowed me to get 30 Garlic breads for 30-50 cents each depending on whether we got the kind with cheese on top! By combining these coupons with sale prices (or even every day prices), you can take a huge chunk off your grocery bill! Also, if you go to ebay through the Mr. Rebates site, you can earn 1% cash back. For more info on Mr. Rebates, click here!

Internet Printables
- These days more and more companies are providing coupons that you can print online. Most of these coupons have a print limit of 2 per computer. Not all stores accept internet printables, so check your local store for their coupon policy.

Important Rules of Couponing!!!

A. Know your stores coupon policy. Some stores double coupons, some triple them, and some take them at face value. My Kroger store triples coupons up to 50 cents and all coupons 51 cents are higher are honored at face value. Many Kroger stores double coupons up to 50 cents and all coupons up to $1.00 are redeemed at $1.00.

B. Don't be brand loyal. While you may have a favorite shampoo or toothpaste, be willing to try something new. By combining coupons with great deals, I haven't paid for toothpaste, shampoo, or conditioner this year and I probably have enough to last me for at least 6 more months!

C. Don't buy something you won't use just because you have a coupon! If you buy something you don't like and won't use just because you have a coupon, you are wasting money! The only exception to this rule is items you can get for free. If you can get items for FREE, take them to a shelter or foodbank. During times of economic turmoil, foodbanks and shelters are seriously lacking donations. Do your part!!!

2. Plan ahead! Going to a store without a written list is a recipe for disaster! I usually read through the weekly sale ad to see what the great deals are. Sometimes things that are on sale are not great deals. As you pay more attention to your grocery shopping and spending, you will become familiar with what the regular prices are, the sale prices, and the rock-bottom sale prices! Begin by making a list of things you will need or things that are a great deal. Check to see if you have any coupons for the items you will be purchasing. (Everybody organizes their coupons differently...I use a binder and this works for me!) Lastly, plan meals based on your grocery list and the food currently available at home. By making a meal plan before you shop, you can pick up anything you'd need to complete the meal (i.e. garlic bread for spaghetti, etc)

3. Post a menu!!! I just finished my March menu and posted it on the fridge today. Posting it on the fridge makes me accountable! My hubby and kids know what to expect for dinner and I know that if for some reason I don't get home from work on time, someone else can get started on dinner because we have all the ingredients we need.

4. Stockpile! By buying groceries and toiletries at rock bottom prices and storing them, you can save a ton of money! Just make sure to use what you buy! I buy boneless skinless chicken breasts whenever that are sale for less than $1.90. I typically buy as much as I can afford and eat in a 3 month period. When I get home from the store, I immediately repackage them in family sized ziploc bags, mark the date on them, and throw them in the freezer. I also recently bought Fiber One bars (which I love) and Quaker Instant Oatmeal (which I also love) for $.50/box. I used the extra money in my budget to buy 10 boxes of each. That may seem like a lot, but we go through a lot of these items at our house! If I can find cereal (that we love) for under $1.20/box, I will buy a ton of it! Make sure the items in your stockpile are things you will use and that you bought them at a great price. For my family, it's not worth stockpiling cereal on sale for $2.50/box...even it is normally closer to $4. For some of you, you may feel differently and you need to do what's best for your family!

5. Don't beat yourself up! There will be days when you go to the grocery store and you don't save over 70%. I have that I typically save somewhere between 50% and 90% per trip between sales and coupons, but that doesn't always happen. Sometimes one of your kids get sick and they crave something you don't have a coupon for that's not on sale. My family is more important than money! Sometimes I splurge and buy things for my hubby or kids as a special treat...usually these are on sale, but sometimes I just do it because I want to! Sometimes, I even splurge on myself (GASP!!!). The important thing is to set a goal, track your spending, and move forward!!!

Hopefully this has been somewhat helpful! If you'd like more in depth info, let me know. Also, if what I've said doesn't make sense, I'd be happy to clarify!

Happy Saving!!!

Saving Money Series

I've decided to do a weekly series on Saving Money. People regularly ask me how I get such great deals and other things about my budget and I've decided I'm going to start a regular "Saving Money" series to answer these questions. If you have something you've wondered about saving money, cutting back on your grocery bill, how to eat out for less, or any other saving money topic, please leave a comment! If I don't know the answer (and chances are good that I won't :-) I'll find someone who knows more about the subject and I'll ask them to do a guest post!) I'm going to start with how to save money on grocery shopping because chances are, everyone could use some help in this area. Also, if you have something you'd like to contribute, please leave a comment or send me an email at saving money living better at gmail dot com (In order to keep spammers away, I have to post my email address like this! Take out the spaces and replace the "at" and "dot" with the appropriate characters.)

I'm sick...but I'm trying to be productive anyway!

I hate being sick...and today is no exception! I have NO voice (something for which my husband is probably rejoicing) and I feel like I've swallowed razor blades! Although I feel like laying in my bed and watching movies today, that's not an option. I knew I'd feel that way, so the moment I got out of bed, I put our sheets in the wash. We have a little stackable washer/dryer combo and it will take forever for the sheets to dry, so I probably won't be back in bed before tonight! Here is a list of what I've accomplished today so far:

**Made grocery list for today and did coupon matchups (I know I'm a week behind on this, but the sale ends today!)
**Went grocery shopping
**Made menu for the month of March (wow...that's a lot of alliteration)
**Took inventory of our freezer
**Looked at grocery ad for upcoming week and started doing my coupon matchups for that as well!

Now, I'm going to go clean my bathroom! Sorry I don't have anything more exciting to post!

Free Caramel Mocha at Bob Evans

This looks sooo yummy! Click here to get a coupon for a FREE Caramel Mocha from Bob Evans. This is valid for dine-in or carryout. So next time your out and about, swing by Bob Evans for your Free Caramel Mocha! Coupon is valid til March 11, 2009.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free Spaghetti!!!

Fazoli's is celebrating their 20th anniversary and to celebrate, they've launched Free Spaghetti! If you haven't jumped on the Free Spaghetti website yet, you need to do that! Each week they post new Fazoli's coupons! These coupons are typically valid for two weeks. We've enjoyed things like free small spaghetti with the purchase of a drink and buy one, get one free entrees! We've used these coupons to feed our family of four dinner for under $7. Check it out here! You can also sign up to win free spaghetti for a year!

Happy Anniversary Fazoli's! Keep the deals coming!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Free tank top from Aeropostale!

I totally enjoyed my weekend of mall freebies! I got lotion, lip gloss, and a tote bag from Victoria's Secret and my daughters got free panties from Express! Here's another freebie that's worth heading to the mall for! I just saw this post on Thrifty Mama and couldn't wait to pass it on to you!

FREE Aéropostale Tank Top In-Store beginning March 3rd.
Starting March 3, 2009, bring a copy of the April 2009 issue of Seventeen and show the page with the featured Aéropostale tank, or a printout of the www.seventeen.com homepage, to a participating Aéropostale store to receive 1 (one) tank top from Aéropostale.
One tank top per person. While supplies last. There are 30,000 tank tops available nationwide. Promotion ends April 6, 2009. A notice will be posted on seventeen.com when Sponsor has given away all 30,000 tank tops. Thanks Thrifty Mama!

I'm guessing these are going to quickly, so don't delay!! Also, just the thought of a tank top gives me hope that spring is coming! While you're in Aeropostale, check out their clearance! I have found tons of great deals here and my girls and I all like their clothes!

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