Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shopping 'til I'm Dropping

Since my last post, I've been doing quite a bit of reading about coupons, bargain shopping, store policies, and so on.  I've also subscribed to several coupon sites and blogs.  I've printed off coupons.  I've clipped coupons from papers and magazines.  I'm loaded electronic coupons to my shopping card.  I've collected weekly ads for comparisons and businesses that honor competitors' prices. 

But I'm still SO FAR from having the hang of it. 

Last night when I couldn't sleep, I compiled my list of stores I at which I planned to shop, along with lists of weekly sales, coupons, etc.  Today I organized everything and headed out to get some bargains.  This wasn't a grocery shopping trip since I bought groceries the other day.  Instead, I wanted to test out my new skills and see what I could get for super cheap or free.  I went to seven (yes, seven) stores, which I had mapped out in a circle:  K-Mart, Freds, Dollar General, Food Giant, Target, Kroger and Walgreens.  With my list in hand, off I went.  Everything on my list was something I either currently needed or would need in the near future.  Everything I bought was from my list with the exception of a couple of deals I couldn't have anticipated.   I didn't pay full price for anything, though there were a couple things I had to have and couldn't wait for a better bargain.  As I'm typing this, I'm not sure how much I spent total.  Instead I'm going to list everything with notes and then total up my receipts.  Hopefully I'll have a number of which I can be proud. 

THE LIST (in no certain order)

2 boxes of Hungry Jack pancake mix (1.75 each--not sure if that's saving much but I do know it's less than I normally spend. 

Box of unsalted butter sticks

Febreze Set & Refresh ($1 coupon--This is the only "smelly" I'll use in Amelia's room since it doesn't plug in, have to be lit, or overpower the room with scent)

Two 1 liter Dasanis (.79 for both with BOGO coupon--John buys these at work for 1.70 each!)

Similac Concentrate (8.99 minus $5 w/ voucher)

36 large rolls Charmin Ultra Soft - $15.92 (The only TP my husband likes)

16 double rolls Charmin Ultra Soft - $8.99 (I wouldn't have bought this if I'd known there wasn't a limit on the other size.  At least these are double rolls)

Honey Nut Cheerios (large)- $2.79 (it was actually .20 cheaper than the smaller box)

1 jar baby food (Amelia got hungry--ha ha)

18-gallon tote with lid ($4.49--could have probably shopped around for a better deal, but I needed it tonight)

Jeans size 3T (won't need them for a long time but they were $1.99!)

Domino sugar, 4 lb ($2 minus .40 coupon)

Tresemme styling mousse (on sale for 3.29 minus $1 coupon)

75-count Clorox wipes ($4 at Dollar General but I had a $1 coupon for Target.  Took my DG ad and got them for $3--.69 cents cheaper than the generic brand)

Comet, jumbo can ($1 minus .25 coupon)

Garnier hair conditioner (wasn't on my list but I walked past some on clearance marked from $3.99 to $3 and I had a $1 coupon.  I had recently stocked up when I got it on closeout for 1.99, but it's not like it will expire)

2 bottles Suave body wash (if I had saved my $1 coupon for Target instead of using it at DG, I would have saved six cents.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I still got two bottles for $3.)

Similac Simple Pack Formula and 132-count Pampers sensitive wipes (The formula was 21.00 and the wipes were 5.99, but if I spent $25 on certain baby items, I got $5 off.  Plus I had a $5 Similac voucher.  So I ended up paying $16.99 for all of it)

Ivory soap, 3 pack (.85)

Jiff PB ($2 on sale)

Palmolive dish wash, 32 ounce ($2 on sale)

OB Tampons, 40-count (6.99--not a great deal but I rarely seem them much cheaper)

Frozen vegetables, 3 bags (for baby food, $1 each, .12 more than Wal-Mart but bigger bags)

Squash, fresh (for baby food, .97/lb)

1 dozen eggs (on sale for $1.65 minus a $1.50 coupon = 15 cent eggs!

Bunch of bananas (just needed these)

Sunny D (.99)

Two Wishbone Italian dressings ($1.50/2 @ 1.59 per bottle, so I basically got one for 9 cents.  I use this on chicken dishes all the time)

3 cans Hunts spaghetti sauce and 1 package of spaghetti noodles (Coupon for buy 3 sauces get one pack of pasta.  Sauce was $1 each and pasta was $1.69 on sale, so I paid $3 for all of it.  I save these big cans of spaghetti sauce for when I need to feed a lot of people cheap!)

3 boxes SOS pads ($5 total--I go through these like CRAZY.  Found them at two other stores for $3 each box!)

32-load Era detergent (Not my preferred brand.  I wanted the $3.98 All Free and Clear but it had been cleaned out.  I'm kicking myself for not just taking the ad with me to Target where they would honor it.  The Era is perfume and dye free, though, and was on sale for only $2.98, so it's worth a shot. 

Okay, hang with me while I total up these receipts. Here's a pretty picture for you to look at while you wait. 

And my grand total is 122.72.  Is that good?  I mean, I got formula (super expensive) and a crap load of high-end toilet paper, assorted groceries, personal care items, cleaning supplies--even a pair of toddler blue jeans!   I feel like I got good deals, but I look at the totals of other "couponers" and feel I still have such a long way to go.

I won't be discouraged, though.

Besides the fact that I shopped at seven different stores and it took three hours, I really didn't run into any problems except at Kroger.  I've learned that when you load coupons to your Kroger card, don't trust them when they say, "Oh, it's automatically on there."  I had $3.38 of coupons that had not made it from my card to the register.  Luckily, I'd printed off my shopping card contents and could show it to them.  The woman looked at it and said, "These are all expired."  I almost cried and told her I didn't understand how since I just got them.  She handed my paper back and began taking off the items I didn't want.  I looked at the list and realized that the expiration was MAY 5th, not APRIL 5th.  She apologized, re-rang my items and added my coupons manually.   I was so flustered that I forgot to give her my $5 Similac voucher, but I was able to take it to Customer Service and exchange it for a $5 bill. 

Throughout my adventures, I also got a couple of coupons at the register for things I will buy in the future, as well as a $3 "register rewards" at K-Mart to be used on my next shopping trip. 

I'm definitely going to stick with it and keep researching, clipping and keeping track of prices at different stores.  I even got a subscription to the Wednesday and Sunday paper since they contain most of the circulars and coupons. 

I'll keep you all posted.  Thanks SO much for all the advice you've given me here and especially on Facebook.  Keep it coming!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thrifty is Nifty

I'm always running across a magazine article or talk show segment about a woman who buys $400 worth of groceries for a $1.37. I think these people must be practicing some (practical) form of witchcraft and tell myself, There's no way I could do that. I am trying to save more, though, and am clipping coupons more regularly. I've also subscribed to a couple of websites who send out emails about bargains. To pinch a few more pennies, I'm shopping at different stores for different items in an effort to get a good deal. I honestly don't know how these women save so much. I run my ass all over town toting around 20 pounds of cuteness on my hip, and I still can't seem to save enough to make me say, "Wow! I need to share this with someone!"

I shopped tonight and came away with what I think is a pretty good haul for what I paid. Since it was cold and rainy (and Ameila and I were grumpy from our stormy day), I decided to only hit two stores: Kroger and Walgreens. I have been trying to shop less at Kroger since I can save more at the dread Wal-Mart, but I refuse to go to Jackson's Wal-Mart and didn't feel like driving the 20 minutes or so to Milan. Plus, I always end up having to swing by Kroger anyway because their meat department is better.

 In no particular order, here's my rundown and some pictures. See what you think.
  • 2 lbs lean, ground turkey
  • Large bottle of baby wash/shampoo ($1 off coupon)
  • 18 packs/jars of baby food (I make most of my own food but if I have a coupon that makes the premade cheaper than what I can make, I use it--especially for fruit since it's a good snack to throw in her bag and I don't have to thaw it)
  • 2 boxes of baby oatmeal (on sale and part of a "Spend $25, get $5 off" promotion on baby stuff)
  • 5 bananas
  • Can of Italian tomato paste
  • Two 1 1/2 pound (3 lbs total) boxes of Similac (I had coupons PLUS two five-dollar checks from the company)
  • 1 "squeeze butter"
  • 1 box Special K protein bars (on sale for 4.99)
  • Package of 192 wipes (.02 for each wipe after $1 coupon)
  • Pack of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 bag frozen "steamer" corn
  • Three 1/2 gallons of milk (cost less than one single gallon)
  • Pack of taco cheese
  • 1 jar peanut butter
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 pack of spaghetti
  • Taco seasoning
  • 1 package Lipton Spanish rice
  • 1 package low-carb soft tortillas
  • 24-ounce moisturizing body wash
  • 2 cans Schick hydroshave gel for sensitive skin (BOGO - Total of 3.79)
  • 1 loaf Sara Lee sliced bread
  • 1 fat-free Italian dressing (for chicken)
  • 1 BBQ sauce (for chicken)
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 24-count family size decaf teabags
  • 32-ounce liquid dishwashing soap
  • 1 jar Bertoli reduced fat pasta sauce
  • 1 large can Hunts spaghetti sauce
  • 2 boxes Uncle Ben's wild rice ($1 off 2 coupon)
  • Large box of Cheerios
  • 3 lb bag of frozen boneless/skinless chicken tenders

After adding in my register rewards at Walgreens and a few other random coupons,  I spent 126.14. That's quite a bit of money, but for what I had to buy, I think I did well (and I only bought what we needed--any extras are due to BOGO free).   I do know that I spent less than usual, so regardless of whether or not I "could have done better," I did save us some money. I mean, the formula alone costs $40-45 normally! 

I'm sure some of you frugal shoppers are shaking your head and adding up all of the money I could have saved by buying more generic.  But pretty much everything namebrand was CHEAPER than the generic either due to a weekly sale or coupons.  And there are just some things I insist on buying brand name, e.g. Cheerios or any other cereal. 

I can get quite a few meals out of this if I use some of the random ingredients I have at home (you know--the ones you end up with that just don't seem to work with any of the other stuff you have?) I'm sure some of you are horrified at some of the food we eat, but at least we aren't eating frozen dinners each night or eating out like we used to all the time.  That would be SO much easier.  Plus, you'll notice that there's not junk food--no cookies, chips, Little Debbies, etc. 

I want to start putting more time into clipping coupons and browsing the store circulars for the best prices.  I need to learn the policies of each store (who doubles, honors other stores' prices, etc) so that I can make the most of the coupons I do have.  And I want to figure out how in the hell someone can walk in a store and end up being OWED money by the time she leaves. 

I just don't want to have to compromise my soul to do it. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

What I Learned from My Very First April Fool’s Day Prank

I’ve never pulled an April Fool’s prank until today. Most years, I don’t even realize it’s April 1st until my students have erupted in uncontrollable laughter after freaking me out. Remember the story of me going all exorcist/stripper when the spider crawled across my face? I almost repeated that performance in my classroom when a student (in HORROR!) told me there was a spider on my shirt. No, I’ve always been the prankee, never the pranker.

Until today.

After seeing at least a half dozen fake pregnancy attempts from my Facebook friends, I decided to pull one of my own. I pulled up an old ultrasound of Amelia (one that I hadn’t previously published to Facebook). I doctored it so that it didn’t have a year and the month was “2” instead of “12.” Then I posted it to Facebook with the following message:

John and I decided to wait until April Fool's Day to post our "new picture" since everyone else posts FAKE pregnancy news. Been hard sitting on it for a month, but it worked out well since I didn't want to announce it to the world until I got to my 2nd trimester. Amelia will have a buddy to trick-or-treat with this year. We are currently accepting donations of diapers, formula, etc.

I let the grandparents in on the secret because I knew they would kill me, but I decided to see how many people would actually fall for it, especially this late in the day on April 1st.

Within a half hour, I had over two dozen comments, six likes, seven messages in my inbox and my phone wouldn’t stop beeping with text messages. As I soaked my bum shoulder/back in the tub, I couldn’t stop giggling at first. My first time out the gate and it had (mostly) worked. After I shut my phone off and grabbed a magazine, though, I started feeling guilty. All of these people who care about me are so excited and it’s all a big lie. The longer I soaked, the worse I felt. I started thinking about the people I know who want nothing more than to be pregnant, those who have struggled with infertility.  Finally, I got out of the tub, quickly dried off and headed to the computer.

Now I’m sitting here typing this after taking the post down. SURELY by now people have caught on. Then again, a lot of people don’t read others’ comments. So consider this blog to be an apology plus damage control.

So here’s a summary of what I learned from my very first (and possibly last) April Fool’s Day prank:

  • I have a guilt complex like you wouldn’t believe. I couldn’t even enjoy the prank for long because I was so worried about someone’s feelings getting hurt (a family member not in on the gag) or someone being upset that I pranked them about something so serious. I worried I would hurt those who hope and pray daily that they can share this news (for real!!!) with family members and friends.  Though I don’t tend to care what anyone thinks about ME, I do worry a great deal about the feelings of others. This time it was to the point that I dragged myself with one arm out of a hot tub.
  • People REALLY want me to have another baby. I didn’t realize my plans for procreation were so important to the masses. One message read: “I was so worried when you said you weren’t having any more children. I’m so glad you changed your mind. You won’t regret it.”
  • I’m either a really good liar or my tendency to be open about pretty much everything has totally destroyed people’s BS radars. Maybe both. Or perhaps people just want to believe. Even after one commenter pointed out that just YESTERDAY I said I was on phentermine, someone else argued that maybe I was just trying to cover up my pregnancy. That was probably my favorite part of this whole thing. I didn’t even HAVE to try to cover my trail.  People did it for me.
  • Some people pay more attention to grammar/punctuation than even I do. One message called shenanigans, pointing out that the label on the picture said “WOMANS” clinic and that it should be “WOMEN’S” or at least “WOMAN’S.” Actually, that’s the way it’s written on the ultrasound.
  • Finally, I’ve learned I really don’t enjoy playing pranks on people. It’s hilarious when other people do it to each other, but I just feel guilty and sneaky. I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t try to pull anything like this again (at least not about something so life changing!), so I hope people don’t read my statuses from now on and think, “Whatever, you damned, dirty liar. “
So here it is now, an hour and a half later, and I’m already spilling the beans. Can’t figure out if I’m a really good prankster for pulling it off or the worst prankster ever for telling on myself so quickly.

My sincerest apologies to everyone, especially to anyone who was hurt by my totsensitivitysensitivity.  Trust me, I will pay for this little joke.  I assume half of Henderson knows now.

Oh well, at least I got a blog out of the whole thing.