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Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Recap

Well it's the end of the month. How did I do? Since I didn't start until the middle of the second week, I guess I did OK. Grocery and Household are combined in my savings tracker. I might just separate them out for February. My savings for both categories combined was 39%, almost made my goal of 40%. I will do better in February!!

However, I did get some screamin' deals this month! Here are just some of them:


I got 43.27 worth of items FREE at Staples. I buy XL 01 ink cartridges for less at Costco, Doug usually can get expense money back on them, and then I recycle them at Staples and earn $3 for each one (limit of 10 per month). I had $18 in rewards checks and took advantage of Staples $1 item coupons. Here's what I got for my $18 in rewards checks:
16 glue sticks, 1 pkg dry erase markers (donated to classroom), 2 boxes (50 ct.) envelopes, and 1 pkg (20 ct.) LighScribe DVDs.


FREE 8 x 10 photo collage
Thermacare moneymaker: bought 1 pkg on sale for $2.49. Used $1 coupon. Receive $2.50 register rewards. Made a dollar on that deal. Then I used the RR and coupons to get $12. 45 in products for $1.05.
I got 2 Sure deodorants for $1 ea., 2 Pert Plus for men .50 ea. and FREE box of 24 Valentines for Sophia's classroom exchange.


2 FREE Crest Whitening toothpaste
Christmas wrap for .25 a roll


Maybelline Full and Soft Mascara for $1.43
Tom's Deodorant (over $5 at most stores..but my preferred) for $1
2 Tom's Sensitive Toothpaste $1.50 ea. Doug currently uses a sensitive toothpaste from the dentist that costs $15 a tube! He's gonna try this one and hopefully it works for him.


Stocked up on Banquet fully cooked turkey breakfast sausage links for $1 a box.
Quaker Instant Oatmeal, lower sugar .88/box. That's under .09/packet!
Sophia eats a lot of oatmeal, and a lot of breakfast sausage and frozen pancakes/waffles. I made a big batch of blueberry pancakes with Bisquick and froze them myself instead of buying packages of pancakes.


I had my most fun with this deal. I got something I usually don't buy often, but what a deal. Vons had Betty Crocker fruit snacks (Rollups, Stickers, Gushers, Shapes, and Stickers) on sale for $1 ea if you buy 4. I had a bunch of $1/2 Qs that I printed online. What made the deal awesome was that if you bought 4 you also got a Catalina for $2.50 off your next visit. So I paid $2 for the first 4 boxes. I got $2.50 back. I returned and bought 4 more boxes, and added a box of Annie's Shells & Cheddar (not usually an affordable mac & cheese, but Sophia's favorite) which was on sale for .99 and I had a .50 Q. So my total was $2.50. I paid with the $2.50 Catalina and got another one! I rolled that deal 4 times, until I ran out of coupons. In total I got 16 boxes of various fruit snacks and 3 boxes of Annies. Each box of fruit snacks had Box Tops for Education, some had 2 bonus Boxtops! So not only does Sophia have treats stashed away for months, but she turned in 3 sheets of Box Tops to the school last week and got to pick a prize from the office!
And all that for only $2.


I signed up online for Big Lots rewards program and got to print a 20% coupon. I needed a new rug for my patio door entrance and found one for $10 ($8 w/coupon). I bought bubble bath, cotton rounds, tealight candles, and various other household items, which are already very cheap there and got 20% off my entire bill.


Kashi Go Lean cereal $2/box.
Weight Watchers Smart Ones meals $1.25 ea


I discovered that some items just can't be found for less than Costco, even with coupons, but others can. Even most produce is less, and is much better quality. I've been known to call Melissa before a trip and see if she'll split a tray of peaches, or tomatoes before. Romaine lettuce is .50 for a large head at Costco but you have to buy a package of 6. No problem for us, as we have a hungry guinea pig, but for others, sharing with a neighbor could be a good plan.

I splurged on a new Griddler from Costco. It was $69.99 after a $20 instant rebate. I am so happy I bought it. The finish on the griddle for my range got ruined, and it's impossible to cook on it without food sticking very badly. I can no longer make pancakes on it. A replacement part is $189! I had a small electric grill (similar to George Foreman) but it was hard to clean. The Griddler has removeable grill plates and griddle plates that are easy to take off and clean, and nothing sticks to them, and I can make twice as many pancakes at once. I used it 5 times this week! I made the stock-up pancakes, I cooked chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks and made a grilled cheese sandwich in about a minute. So even though it put me over my household budget, I think it was a good investment, especially since I have vowed to cook more and eat out much less.

I have quite a bit of food stocked up. I plan to shop Feb. 1 at Vons for some good sale prices on "crock pot" meats like pot roast & country style ribs, and Costco for ground beef, bread and produce. I don't expect to grocery shop for 2 weeks after that, and probably only for produce.

My biggest challenge for February is going to be the pets. The dogs have a grooming appointment (ouch) and they and the guinea pig need food. The guinea pig also needs hay and bedding. I have some PALS coupons, but none can be combined, so I'm going to spread my pet shopping over 4 days. A pain in the butt, but it will save me the most. I am also going to try using paper from my shredder for guinea pig bedding, and hopefully it will work out OK. Oh, and Tuvok has a vet appointment this month, too. I was happy to see that Costco has Advantage for less than Petco.
So the plan is: use the 10% off purchase for the grooming.
Use the 2 $5 Science Diet coupons for dogfood. I'll have to calculate if it's cheaper to buy smaller bags w/coupons.
Use the 2 $5/30 coupons in combination with manufacturer coupons for dog biscuits, guinea pig food (on sale) and hay (on sale) and bedding if the shreds don't work out. The coupons are good until sometime in March, so I can go once per week and be stocked up for a couple of months.

The pets are so expensive. Especially since we have dogs that need grooming, and one is getting older. If you want to help your budget, just say no to pets, unless it's a goldfish!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More on saving money.

I have a few more links for you:
Get a preview of what coupons are coming in the next Sunday paper. I print this out and keep it with my coupon inserts so I can just scan it and know what's inside. You can subscribe to get the lists sent to your email every week.
Print your own coupons!
This is very cool. By entering your state/region, you can see a page that matches up the local ads with coupons. Search by individual stores or list them all. It even provides links to printable coupons. By matching up sales and coupons you can save a lot of cash.

The Chief Family Officer website that I suggested last time had a couple of great links to help you get started with a price book. Now this is a bit of work to set up and takes a bit of discipline to keep up, but it is an invaluable tool if you want to save the most money possible. The only way to know for sure if something is a great deal is by keeping a price book.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'm going to point you here: and here: and here:

Basically, I printed the free downloadable pages, cut them in half and punched holes in them and put them in a small 3 ring binder. I filled in the price info from my receipts from the month. Follow the instructions from the blog I linked above.

I have built up quite a stash of loose coupons, so I needed a better way to organize them. Instead of my small coupon caddy, I now have a 4 x 6 index card box with dividers. I try to keep the coupons in order by when they expire within the categories I set up.

I am using my coupon caddy (13 pocket) for non-grocery coupons, such as restaurants, craft stores, entertainment and recreation, auto services, etc.

I also have a large expanding file that I use to keep my coupon inserts, weekly ads, and rebate forms organized. I print the Sunday Coupon Preview pages for Smartsource, Redplum, and P&G separately, and use them to divide my inserts by date. The pages are essentially a table of contents for the inserts.

And finally, the last tool I want to pass on to you is found here: Every time I shopped this month, I entered a few numbers and this wonderful tool tracks my savings. Click the link and see how easy it is.

I signed up for lots of freebies by mail this month. I've received one so far. It was a sample package of pantyliners with some generous coupons. I'll start posting about what arrives in my mailbox. I also got a nice 8 x 10 photo collage for FREE at Walgreens earlier in the month. It took about 10 minutes to make online, and I picked it up at the store.

Over the weekend I'll post about the best deals I got and how I did overall for January.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

I just love my church. There are many reasons, including the amazing pastors, the incredible musical talent, the many ministries and opportunities to serve, and the children's programs. I felt at home there from my very first visit.

After worshipping in song tonight, Pastor Pam read an email the church received from missionaries we sponsor in Haiti, Jim and Karen Esson. A photo slideshow was on the screen as she read. A few days ago Jim arrived with a team of doctors and skilled workers. They were working on clearing rubble from two orphanages and had treated 400 patients in one day! He mentioned a group of US soldiers that helped them by providing food to be distributed to the people camping on the grounds of a church. He told of a fault line opened up down the middle of a street, pancaked buildings, and the stench of death in the air. So far our church has sent $10,000 and more is on the way. Afterward we prayed for the missionaries, aid workers and victims of the earthquake.

Pastor Harry is a terrific speaker. He is entertaining, yet gets important serious points across. It's like that spoonful of sugar with your are enjoying the stories, the jokes, the anecdotes, and then before you realize it, you learned something! First and foremost with Harry is making sure that everyone knows that God loves them, that they are important to God, and that they can be forgiven.

Harry has touched my nerd-nerve more than once. A few months ago he used an Iron Man reference in his message. Of course the message was about who your hero is, but once he said Iron Man my mind kinda wandered.

When I got home I tweeted Jon Favreau about it...and guess what? Jon Favreau retweeted ME! I gained quite a few followers that day, included one that calls himself GeekRev. Yep, I have a geek pastor following me!

Tonight Harry worked in a Jaws reference. The message, which Pastors Jeannette and Ken helped convey, was about talking back to your storms...basically not being afraid because God is with you and he can calm any storm. He is in control! Remember the story of Jesus sleeping on the boat? When the disciples woke him during a storm he simply told the wind to be still, and it was. But Harry always has a story and a at least one punchline. Tonight it was the scene from Jaws when Roy Scheider is chumming and the huge shark lurches up from the water at him. Remember the quote? "We're gonna need a bigger boat!" I probably shouldn't admit this in the same paragraph as our church sermon, but I just watched an SNL skit last night that referenced that same quote! Anyway, rather than a bigger boat, let Jesus take the wheel.

Now I don't want you to think that I just go to church for the movie references! Besides Harry and his jokes and references, we had two other fine pastors speak on the same subject tonight. It was an unusual service, with three pastors each delivering one of three main points. A tag team approach that I found very interesting.

Pastor Jeanette is also a superb speaker. What I took from her portion of the message was this: Practical Atheism. Jeanette defined practical atheism as living as though God does not exist by acting as if it's all up to you. Wow. Anxiety is essentially NOT trusting in God. It's practical atheism. I'm gonna have to watch out for that in myself! I can be a control freak at times.

Next up was Pastor Ken. Don't spread this around, but Ken is my favorite pastor. He used to teach a Wednesday night Bible study that I would go to while Treklet was in AWANA. I think he's got the gift of teaching. I really liked the way he teaches, and he has answered many of my questions over the years. He once gave a silent sermon that I thought was brilliant. I think I have the powerpoint somewhere, so maybe I'll post it here sometime. He and his wife, Pastor Pam, lead the Couples Ministry.

Ken told us to talk back to the storm. He drove the point home using Mark 4:39-40. He told us that God is with us, and God is good. God is scary...but He is good. Do not pray like a wimp, but pray boldly in Jesus name. That is talking back to the storm.
Well here we are at my first ever blog post. I intend this to be rather ecclectic. If you don't already know, I'm a Star Trek nerd, and a sci-fi fan in general. I've got one daughter in college and another in the 2nd grade. We call her Treklet. That covers the Starfleet and the Mom...I have been married to an Englishman for 19 years. Let's call him The Alien. Sometimes it seems we have nothing in common, but somehow we make it work.

I love to go to conventions, but don't often get the chance. I have my tickets for San Deigo Comic Con, and I'm 98% sure I'll be at the Star Trek Con in Las Vegas in August.

Besides my little obsession with Trek and other genre series and movies, I am a Twitterholic. You can find me there as @starfleetmom, usually discussing TV and movies.

I am a Christian. Get over it. It's almost an oxymoron to say that I'm a Christian who is interested in Sci Fi and Science, but that's what I am. My bestie, TrekJunkie, and I thought about starting a Christian Fan Group, but we haven't gotten around to it.

My New Year Resolution (resoloved a week into the new year) was to try to not pay full price for anything, if I can help it, and save more money this year. College is expensive! I've put lots of time into researching the drugstore and couponing methods. I'm just a beginner, but I've saved almost 40% this month!

So many friends have asked me how to get started with couponing and such. I'm no expert! But I promised a blog to help them. Basically, I'm just going to refer you to some pro bloggers that can teach you all you need to know, and share some of my personal shopping highlights.

I believe that if I stick with it for a couple of months I will not need to spend so much time, since I'll have the bugs out of this new system I'm developing and I'll have built up a nice stash of coupons and other resources.

For now, I'm just going to give you your first assignment: get a new email address. I keep my main email clean by using a separate free email account for all things shopping related. I am using gmail. I use my Outlook for personal emails, business stuff, banking, etc., but for club cards, blog newsletters, manufacturer newsletters and such I go online to gmail. Many companies require an email address before they let you print their coupons, so you may be getting a bunch of email. I would also like to encourage you to use Google Reader. One username and password is all you need for GMail and Reader, and any other Google apps you might like to use, such as Youtube. The reason I suggest you get Reader, is that instead of visiting multiple websites, scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds and emails, you can just subscribe to the RSS feeds of the bloggers and websites you like view them all in one place, without any ads and clutter.

The feeds I've found most useful lately are: has CVS 101 and Walgreens 101 articles, and other useful links under the "start here" section on the right. Subscribe to her feed and read up on her latest posts. The latest post on this page shows the CVS Deals for this week. Very nice that these people do all the research and calculating for us! After browsing this page, don't forget to subscribe to your reader. A great feed to subscribe to if you are a beginner! She is mentoring a "Padawan" (gotta love the scifi reference) at the Drugstore Game. Find CVS, Rite-Aid and other deals.

I don't want to give you too much and overwhelm you. I'll give you some useful tools next time for organizing and tracking. Just read and set up your email and reader accounts for now...and hang on to those Sunday coupon inserts tomorrow!

I'm learning as I go, so extend me some grace. I hope I can share some useful tips, as well as make you smile now and then.