Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Month End Money Recap

How did your budgeting go this month? Make any changes? One big change I wish I could make would be giving up diapers times three! But right now that is balanced out by the fact that my girls eat so little it's like feeding one (except when it comes to snacks - then they can pack it in!).

We didn't make many changes this month but we did stick to our budget in most areas. We're still working on the eating out portion :)

One thing I plan to change in April is to try and stick with one store a week rather then 2. While it is fun to go to different stores for the best deals I do wonder if I'm spending more going twice then if I just go once and am done for the week. I do think one small BJ's run with the coupons they provide does help me round out what I buy on sale at Harris Teeter.

I am curious - do you just shop one store all the time or bounce from store to store for the best deal? From what I've read every store cycles and while chicken may be cheaper this week at one store it will be cheaper at a different store the following week.

So much experimenting only so many days in the week :)

Happy April and I hope you don't get fooled on April Fool's Day... Here's to another month with no credit cards and living within my budget. Not as horrible as it once sounded.

photo by emdot

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Went Back (Twice...)

The 2nd time was more an accident. I dropped some coupons and didn't realize I didn't have them until I went to buy what I knew I had coupons for. Aagh! Second trip - even the cashier recognized me - darn :) But who can pass up triple coupons? I mean I got so much groceries I should be able to spend less in April - I'm pretty stocked up!

First trip:

Spent: $32.30 ($9.99 on paper towels)
Saved: $30.88 (only $1.00 off the paper towels)

Second trip:

Spent: $12.53
Saved: $18.62

So for all 3 trips I spent: $113.95 (under budget but not quite $100)
And I saved: $185.03
Total would've been: $298.98 - cut my groceries by 62% - I certainly wish there was triple coupons every week :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

5th Sunday Saved By Triple Coupons!

I must admit that I was worried about this being a 5th Sunday. While I have been budgeting $125 a week on groceries I was trying to translate that to $500 a month. Without the 5th Sunday I was right on target - $502 for the month. Wow, not bad! But here it is the 5th Sunday and we need groceries so I have to go. This is where the budgeting thing breaks down for me a bit.

So, essentially Harris Teeter's Triple Coupon week saved my life! Literally :)

(Not pictured - 4 gallons of milk)

See that table of groceries? It cost me $69.12. Not too bad.

Even better when you know I saved $135.53!! I'm not kidding. Kirk keeps asking me if this is legal :) I assure you it is!

I will probably go back tomorrow and use more coupons. The daily limit is 20 and I certainly spent the limit. I have more I didn't use. Using triple coupons got me a number of items free and free is always in my budget!

The Grocery Game is going around - I was in line checking out and the girl in front of me was doing the same thing - got over $100 off her bill too! That's serious savings. A friend of mine recently signed up and her first week she got $155 off her bill. It works - worth every penny!

And I might add the most thorough list out there. While the coupon mom is free her list didn't even have a fraction of what I got from the Grocery Game. For HT I printed out maybe a page and a half from the Coupon Mom (how I knew about the Totino's Pizza rolls) - with the Grocery Game I printed off 9 pages of sale items today. Another thing I noticed is that the Coupon Mom listed just one coupon for each item. I found 5 other Totino's coupons when I was sorting through old coupons. When I printed out the Grocery Game list she had every single place I could find unexpired Totino's coupons which is VERY helpful.

I'm guessing the reason is because the Grocery Game re-lists coupons - she puts a plus sign next to them if they have been listed before which is so helpful because sometimes I find duplicates of the same coupon later or I didn't use it the last time she listed it. So useful.

Hope you all got some good deals this week! Please share when you do...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Triple Coupon Week!

It's triple coupon (manuf. coupons up to $0.99 face value) week again at Harris Teeter but this time it's for the entire week! It began this past Wednesday (3/25) all the way to next Tuesday (3/31). And let me tell you, you can save a bundle!

I went tonight and spent $1.33 and saved $20.67!!

The Totino's were Buy one Get one Free and I had 7 coupons for $0.35 off a box.
Original price: $2.19 each
Sale price: $1.10 each
Final price with coupon: $0.05 each!

The Suave was from my free coupon - remember that? It came and I cashed it in tonight.

The only thing I actually paid for was some shampoo for the kids and since I had a $0.75 off coupon it tripled and I got $2.25 off a $3.99 bottle of shampoo.

So, get out there and start saving! HT limits coupon redemption to 20 a day so you may have to go more then once (I know I am!)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thursday

If menu planning is the cornerstone in saving money on groceries then being thankful is the cornerstone for staying on budget. After all being thankful for what I already have means I'm more focused on enjoying my life as it is and less on what I could "get" with money.

So today I am thankful for:

1. I have a home! Even though it is smaller then I would ultimately like (it fit a family of 4 just fine but then we became a family of 7 and yikes it got small fast) it is my house. I have a roof over my head every day of the year and I don't have to worry about it. I feel blessed to have my own house that has enough rooms for us all to at least sleep seperately - except the babies who have to share but they think it's fun right now.

2. I have 2 cars that work and one of them is completely paid for. Of course I will be even more thankful when I can say they both are but right now I'll take what I can get.

3. I have access to lots of grocery stores so all the prices are competitive and as a shopper I win! Yea. But I am also thankful that I have a grocery store to go to just about any time of day to get the food I need. A lot of people can't say that.

4. Coupons! Enough said.

5. My family of 7 has food on the table every day and clothes on their backs all the time (except when they don't want to but I'm working on the triplets...).

6. I can pay my bills.

7. My husband has a job (three of them actually - crazy guy that he is) - I am also thankful that 2 of them can be done from home otherwise I would probably be less thankful about those other 2 jobs...

When I think about all I have it is easy to be thankful and less desirous of new things. Also takes my focus from things to gifts that I have been given that can't be bought. Wanting less thigs means spending less money - it's a win-win.

What are you thankful for? Want to participate in Thankful Thursday? Head on over to Nicole's blog and join in:


(Isn't Nicole's button cool? At some point I'll get around to making one for me...)

Photo by roland

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Menu Planning

At the cornerstone of saving money with your groceries is planning your meals ahead of time. Nothing kills a budget like going to the store unprepared. This week I felt rushed to get my things together so my menu planning was lacking which made me feel lost in the store. Frustrating.

Fortunately I know what we like and was able to grab stuff that I knew would make a meal at some point. But in general I do NOT like to do it that way. I want to have a plan going in, I want to know what I need to get me through the week and that's what I want to get.

So, I'd love to know how you menu plan? Do you have a set menu that you always use or is there a cookbook you love?

I'm a variety kind of person. My ideal week is when I can find 4 or 5 recipes that I'm really excited about making - whether it's all from 1 cookbook or from recipes friends recommend. I've already mentioned my love for Kraft Food & Family. I also enjoy Pampered Chef cookbooks when they don't involve too much Pillsbury biscuits.

But I am open to suggestions! If you love a cookbook or site please pass it on.

Photo by daveynin

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Harris Teeter vs. Super Target

I will preface this post by saying we do not have a Super Wal-Mart anywhere near me (literally - no where) so it is impossible for me to shop there. However, when I'm in Florida with my parents I do shop at Wal-Mart and do find some good deals.

That being said I do have a Super Target nearby and have been asked how shopping with the Grocery Game at Harris Teeter compares to shopping at Super Target.

This week I had the chance to compare. I tried I really did - I swear!

To be fair I did have to get Bibsters at Target and toothbrushes because they are cheaper at full price items then HT. And yes, I do agree that Target's generic items are cheaper at Target then HT but I honestly don't want to buy generic if I can get brand-name for the same price or less! Just my personal opinion.

The verdict...

Target -

I spent $48.95 and saved about $7. Eeek!! Fortunately that's not the end of it. Because I bought 5 Quaker products I got a $5 gift card to Target. Ultimately my Quaker purchases were quite cheap - in fact my rice cake snacks were free. I did turn around and use my $5 to buy 6 toothbrushes for $2.72 (I had 3 buy one get one free coupons).

I came home with maybe 4 bags full of groceries including cat food and Bibsters which was about $10 of my purchase and a few other things like cereal and wheat thins. Meat is expensive at Target! Wow! I did buy 2 pounds because there was a $3 off coupon on the meat otherwise it would have stayed at Target.

Harris Teeter -

(Not pictured - 4 gallons of milk, 12 pack Pepsi, 2 1/2 dozen eggs)

Spent - $62.91
Saved - $71.47

My big savings was Lysol wipes - they were buy one get one free (normally $3.19 ea) and I had $1.00 off each so I got 2 for $1.19 or $0.60 each - wow!

HT was also running a special that if you bought 3 boxes of Kellogg's cereal or 3 Danimals yogurt then you got $2.00 off your milk. I was buying milk anyway but wasn't planning on buying yogurt or cereal but since Danimals drinkable yogurt was on sale for 3/$6.00 I figured it was worth it since it took $2.00 off my order it was more like getting 3/$4.00 - not bad!

So, in my opinion it makes more sense to shop your local grocery store that doubles coupons (Target does not - ouch!) and use those coupons when the good stuff is on sale. I definitely think this is the best way to save money and the Grocery Game is the best way to do it all for you so you don't have to do the work.

If you're wondering I did get my Target sale information from The Coupon Mom.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cheap Meals

This week we've had some really good new meals that we've never had before and they were all very good - some quite surprising in the taste department :) All of our meals were under $10 - one was just $2.50!!

I figured I'd share the recipes so you can see for yourself:

Orange-Chicken Rice Bowl

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips ($1.68)
1/4 cup Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing ($0.50)
1/4 cup orange juice ($0.50)
3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables ($2.00)
3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice ($0.50)
1/4 cup chopped Planters Cocktail Peanuts (optional - I didn't use these)

Total Cost: $5.18

- Heat large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken, stir-fry 5 to 7 min. or until done
- Stir in dressing and juice. Bring to boil. Add vegetables; cook 5 to 7 min. or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
- Serve over rice. Sprinkle with nuts.

Weeknight Lasagna Toss (sorry no picture)

1 lb lean ground beef ($1.98)
2 green peppers, chopped (I felt this was too much and used half of one) ($0.50)
3 cloves garlic (again less is fine - use one - I didn't use any)
1 jar (26 oz) spaghetti sauce ($1.50)
1 2/3 cup water
1/4 cup Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing (I didn't use it)
12 oven-ready lasagna noodles, broken into quarters ($1.50)
1 cup Kraft shredded mozzarella cheese ($1.00)

Total Cost: $6.48 (I added Ricotta: $2.29 = $8.77)

- Brown meat in large saucepan; drain.
- Stir in peppers, garlic, spaghetti sauce, water and dressing; bring to boil. Add noodles; stir. Cover.
- Cook on medium-love heat 10 to 15 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with cheese; cover. Let stand 5 min. or until cheese is melted.

Special Extras: Stir in 1/2 cup ricotta cheese into noodle mixture before sprinkling with mozzarella.

Substitute: Substitute 12 regular lasagna noodles, broken into small pieces, for the oven-ready noodles. Increase water to 2 cups and cook 30 min., stirring occasionally.

Mac Chicken Cacciatore

(this was surprisingly good)

1 pkg. Macaroni & Cheese Dinner ($0.45)
1/2 to 1 lb cooked chicken breast, diced ($1.26)
1 can (14 1/2 oz) Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained ($0.69)
1/2 cup chopped green peppers ($0.50)

Total Cost: $2.90 (wow! so cheap and the kids loved it!!)

- Prepare dinner in large saucepan as directed on package.
- Stir in remaining ingredients; cook on low heat 5 min. or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Freebies 4 Mom

Thanks to the Ebay Selling Coach I've come across this really cool website: Freebies for Mom - she's got tons of contest and free stuff and coupons - it's a great site so head over and check it out!

Also on Ebay Selling Coach she has some Ebay-How-To-Articles like how to get free diapers.

Want more Freebies? Ebay Selling Coach is having a Wal-Mart gift card giveaway so head there and sign up for that too!

Enjoy the Freebies!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review

Lately I've been reading all the books I can on saving money, getting out of debt but mostly about grocery shopping for less. So, when I saw this book I just had to have it! After some waiting and budget um, fixing I found a way to buy the book and I found the information quite fascinating.

Of course a lot of it was how to save money at the grocery store by using coupons. Since the Grocery Game does this for me I don't have to figure out another method but he certainly lays out why to use coupons and how to use them to get the best deal. He explains the easiest method to file the coupons and what all the different sales and terms mean.

But the better part of the book and the real reason I wanted it is because the author used to be an advertising executive and he gives you all the reasoning behind coupons. So interesting. By the time I reach the check out I am just excited to see what I save but some little tiny part of me feels bad for using all those coupons (it's a very small part) - I mean I sometimes wonder how they make money. The author explains that coupons are the best means of advertising new products - you try them, you like them, you keep buying the item. Makes sense. Also keeps the companies competing with each other.

He also shared a tip that I thought were too good not to pass on:

- when getting an item for free hold that item till last so that the checker doesn't have to scroll back through an entire list to find the price - maybe I'm the only one who didn't think of this but it just helps the cashier and they like you better :) I asked this week before he scanned my free gum and he agreed that it would be helpful. I also held out the rainchecks for the same reason and made him aware of it before he rung it up - just keeping in the good graces while he's scanning my mound of copuons!

Read more about the authors book at his website: www.grocerydiscounts.us or check out Amazon to order.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Plan, Plan and Plan Again

I have certainly found that I am no longer spontaneous when I go to the grocery store! Not that I didn't have a list before but now I don't even look at other sales. If it's not on my list I don't even look for it - I've done all my couponing and planning in advance so I consistenly spend less.

It's also amazing how my idea of a good deal has seriously changed! For the past 2 weeks Mac N Cheese crackers have been on sale 5/$5.00 and I have had a coupon for $1.00 off 2 making the boxes $0.50 each! Wow! Serious deal :) Well, it would be if they had the crackers in stock :( I already have a rain check - I'd like my crackers!

Because they didn't have exactly what I wanted I looked for something else and found other crackers that also qualify for the same $1.00 off coupon but of course these crackers are only on sale 2/$5.00 meaning my coupon made my crackers 2/$4.00 - at a previous time - say last year - I would've thought the 2/$5.00 was a deal! Now I know I could get more off and it's harder to spend the money. But I did and it's still a pretty good deal.

Even still I did pretty good though I only saved 50% today! Aagh :) No, it was fine - I had to pay full price for Velveeta - that hurts! But still I spent: $68.18 and saved just over $67.

Here's what I got:

Another thing that has changed is that I'm buying some different items. Today I bought cereal I probably wouldn't have considered otherwise - Banana Nut Cheerios - sounds weird but it was on sale :) Maybe it'll be good! That and Cinnamon Chex. Hmm, I'll go with it - I'll let you know.

I also spent $40 at Safeway because they had chicken breast on sale and at HT I used a raincheck to buy ground beef on sale so I'm still under budget (though I have another $15 to spend on milk and juice at Wegman's) but I bought enough meat to last me for the next two weeks so overall it was a good week.

The second part of planning is your meals. I look for new ideas everywhere because I get tired of the same thing. Some weeks I am excited and have lots of new stuff and other weeks I pull out old favorites and figure it out. This week I found a lot of new stuff and I'm excited! A big thanks to Kraft Food & Family who's magazine constantly brings me new recipes and inspiration (if you don't subscribe already I highly recommend you check it out):

Monday: Orange-Chicken Rice Bowl
Tuesday: Weeknight Lasagna Toss
Wednesday: Mac Chicken Cacciatore
Thursday: Tex-Mex Taco Dinner
Friday: Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Bake
Saturday: Date night

Friday, March 13, 2009

Finding Freedom Friday

This week on Finding Freedom Friday at Cents to Get Debt Free she's talking about budgeting :) Seems to be the topic of the week.

As usual she has some specific questions - some I answered yesterday but I'll answer some more today (I answered them backwards because that flowed better for me):

What are your tips for making a budget and sticking with it?

- my tips all come from using what other people have already done. I find no need at all to re-invent the wheel. Thus, I subscribe to the Grocery Game and have begun using the software program You Need A Budget. With 5 kids I don't have time to come up with any of these ideas on my own :) So, for me the best way to make a budget and stick with it is to use what has been already done.

Since you have been on a budget have you seen any positive changes? Negative?

- the biggest positive is that when I got my tax refund deposited into my account I didn't feel stressed or overwhelmed - I have this peace that the money will be spent how I plan for it to be spent rather then just flying out the window with no idea where it went!
- negative changes? We go out to eat less :) There are certainly days when I wish I could drop it all and just go "relax" - after all, the money's in the bank - it's not on a credit card, but then I think about the future - if I've given that money a task in my budget then it needs to stay in the bank till I'm supposed use it - I can either go out to eat 12 times this month and not at all until December or I can be patient and spread it out over the whole year. It's that whole being patient that I am NOT good at.

Do you feel more in control now?

- yes! For the most part. Like I said I now know where my tax return is going rather then wondering where it went and that is a wonderful feeling :) My brain is still adjusting to the whole idea of the budget so that is taking some time for me to be in control of my money and not the other way around but I'm getting there.

Have you been able to cut any categories or shave off in certain areas? Why have you been able to do this?

- I answered this the most yesterday - I have cut out our cell phone and transferred to a pay-as-you-go plan
- I have made a weekly grocery budget to keep from overspending on groceries and cut out eating out
- We have adjusted areas but not made them so restrictive that we can't breathe so that sticking to the budget has been more pleasant and as the months go on should become easier and more natural as we increase and decrease areas as necessary (I like flexibility which is why I haven't enjoyed budgets in the past!)
- Something I didn't add yesterday is that I'm going to cut out one meal a week - not that we won't eat but we will either eat leftovers or eat what is here - this should free up some weekly grocery money to not have to cover a full 6 meals (Sunday's are always crazy so we already eat whatever at home) - now we'll be down to 5 but generally at least one of my meals are quite large and provide plenty of food to eat again!

Still keeping your bottom line at zero have you been able to "find" any money?

- not really - I'm working to fit into my budget so right now, no I haven't "found" any money but I am finding creative ways to spend different areas without overspending :)

How have you been doing on your cash flow plan?

- pretty good - still working out the kinks which is why I keep blogging - helps to keep me on track!

What about you? How's your budgeting going? Leave a comment here or head over to Cents to Get Debt-Free and let her know :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The No-Spend Experiment

Seeing as it is March I have completely missed the No Spend Experiment over at MomAdvice that took place in February. The idea was to spend the entire month not spending money on anything other then necessities like food and gas.

To be honest I don't think I could do it. I have even come across a blog of a family attempting to live on $1200 a year for food and extras. I don't believe they had any kids in diapers but either way I just don't think I could deprive myself quite that much without extreme necessity!

But it did get me to thinking how I could really save money. I mean in reality - a reality that doesn't include giving up everything I like and enjoy.

And in my thinking I've come up with a few things to help myself save money - maybe they'll help you too!

1. Cut out one big ticket item - we cut out our cell phone because it was something we could easily live without - for you it may be your cable or drycleaning. Just pick one and it will help your monthly budget - for us we saved $85 a month! That's a significant chunk. But to cut out every single "extra" just doesn't seem reasonable and would make it 1000 times more likely that you won't stick with your budget. Remember trying to diet and depriving yourself of just about every food? You're dying and you want to eat!! Budgeting is no different - when I cut out what is easy for me to live without I save money and feel no deprivation - it's a win-win. But for me to cut out my cable - well, that would be like never being allowed to eat pasta or drink coke again!!

2. Pick a no-spending day once a week or once a month or more if you can. Even plan to buy groceries at other times so that one day you spend nothing! Just making a conscious effort to spend absolutely nothing on a day will make you pay attention to your budget and it feels really good not to spend money!! I'm not sure I could build up to a month but maybe someday :)

3. BUDGET. I know this has been done to death. We all know it and we never do it. I'm terrible at it but this year I have made it a huge priority and let me tell you how every purchase I make I think about what budget category it goes in. It is constricting but ultimately I believe it will be freeing. Check out You Need a Budget for budgeting software but also a chance to sign up to receive e-mails for 10 days on budgeting - it's good stuff.

4. Use the Grocery Game or some other method of coupon matching to save money on your grocery budget. Speaking of which - MAKE a grocery budget - even good deals add up :)

5. Use coupons wherever you can. Restaurants, clothes, books - whatever you buy check to see if coupons are available before you make your purchases.

6. Use what you have to pay for what you need. Whether that's swapping or selling items at a yard sale or consignment sale. It's extra money you didn't already have and you get rid of the stuff!

7. Plan ahead! This is a big one for us. Now instead of getting caught off guard and having to run out to eat and spend money we plan ahead to what we'll need. Next Monday night is a PTF meeting at school - a night we would normally do drive-thru but instead I will plan on a simple and quick meal here at home and save ourselves $25 - a little bit of planning goes a very long way. That's pretty much what budgeting is just on a more practical level.

8. Focus on your money. Read blogs about saving money; let your friends know you're trying to save money (this can get you out of expensive and awkward situations that before you would've spent money on); read books about saving money. The more I focus on it, the more interested I get, the less I spend, the easier it is, the more on track I am.

These are just my thoughts - I'd love to hear yours! I'm not an expert and I don't claim to be - I'm just a mom trying to raise 5 kids in an ever-increasing down economy and I'd like to come out of it okay but I also don't want to live through it miserable :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Teri Gault On The Grocery Game

It's been an exhausting week with two sales back to back. I hate when they come this way! The rest of the year will be better :) But I made $175 at my multiples sale and am using that money to spend tomorrow at my consignment sale so it's all cash. Yea, the best way! And no money is taken out of my budget.

I figure I'll post some videos of Teri Gault explaining the Grocery Game - I bet she does it better then me!!

What is the Grocery Game?

The Grocery Game Quickstart - Getting Started

Sunday, March 8, 2009

God Bless Harris Teeter

I seriously hope that you have a grocery store you like. I mean not just for the deals but for the customer service. That the people who work there actually give a darn that you're there.

Well, Harris Teeter is like that for me. If I need something they jump to do it. I have had them run get me milk because I forgot it. Well, today they went above and beyond what a grocery store would do. This isn't the blog for my kid's stories - I have another one for that :) But this one I just had to share.

Kirk was out tonight at a men's Bible study so it was me with the kids. I have tagging to do tonight (after I finish blogging) so I figured I could cut my coupons and shop at HT with the kids. Yep, all 5. Things were going as well as could be expected with 3 two-year olds who can't ride in a cart for more then ten minutes and who can consume the free cookie in way less time then that.

But all that I can handle. They hang on the cart, they push and pull the cart, they touch things on the shelves but basically they stay with me. Then Julianna poops. Again, not the end of the world but of course she's telling me about it which means it can't be good. When I check her I find out she has leaked everywhere and I have left the diaper bag in the car.

I head to customer service but no one is there so I ask the cashier who I see all the time and have to come to know as well as you can know your friendly cashier :) I just ask if she can watch the cart while I run to the car with the kids to get the diaper bag. Instead she offers to watch the kids (if I didn't "know" her then I wouldn't but we talk every week) so I run to the van and give Kaitlyn strict orders not to leave where she is. I got the bag, ran back and left 4 kids with the cashier while I ran to the bathroom while I cleaned up a HUGE mess. Fortunately I had help there too - another shopper had some extra wipes and offered to help. I guess friendly people shop at HT :) But they all sure made my day!!

Guess what?

Even after all that I still managed to get my groceries for just $48.23 with a savings of just over $67!! So, I was hoping for $40 but I had to buy kitty litter and that alone was $6.99 so I guess I can't complain too much.

Here's what I got:

So I guess it means even among the greatest chaos by following the Grocery Game and planning in advance you can still save money! I didn't buy anything extra - just stuck to what I had and checked my coupons with the sales on the aisles.

My best deals this week:

Steamfresh Veggies were buy 2 get 3 free and I had a $1 off 3 coupon so instead of paying $2.69 a bag I paid $.98 each! And now I have broccoli for every meal for quite a while :) You already know we like broccoli.

Dannon Drinkable yogurt normally $2.69 for 6 was on sale for $1.99 and I had a coupon for $1.00 off - I had 3 coupons so I got 18 drinkable yogurts for $3 - the kids are thrilled.

They were, however, out of 2 other items I had hoped to buy but since they give rainchecks it's not a big deal.

Mac N Cheese crackers were on sale for 5/$5.00 and I have a $1.00 off 2 coupon which makes each box $0.50 which is down from $3.49 a box - not sure if they're good or not but for $0.50 I'm willing to give it a try.

Actual mac n cheese is also on sale - buy 2 get 3 free but they were sold out of that too.

But even with that it will cost me just $5 to finish out my weekly grocery shopping. I did also shop at Giant and spent $35 but since I will be volunteering all week at my consignment sale we'll be eating simple stuff like spaghetti, homemade mac n cheese and chicken nuggets - it's one way to cut down on our grocery bill this month!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Selling Kids Clothes

I apologize for being MIA for a few days but this weekend was my local moms of multiples yard sale and of course I volunteered to be "in charge" as my son would say.

Since I finished the other day with buying at sales I thought I'd share a few things I've learned about selling at yard sales. And, Amy at Financially Domestic wrote an article on this too. Go figure :)


This by far is the most asked question I get. What should I price ______ item at? I am very hesitant to give a specific price - if I price your item too high it may not sell; too low and you don't get your money's worth. So, my answer is always in the form of a question: how badly do you want to get rid of it? If you don't care if you take an item home to sell another way - say Craigslist or Ebay then go higher and see what happens. If you just want it gone price it low.

That being said you don't want to make something otherwise what is the point? To get a fair idea for your item you can:

a. Check the current retail price and price your item at least 1/2 off though I would go for more like 2/3 off current retail price (exceptions are items that really don't get use and are in very, very good condition).

b. Check Ebay - is the item selling there? You can also check Craigslist for the same reason - you can find out what other people are asking.

c. Ask yourself what you would pay for it if you were in the market for buying the item used.

Preparing your items to sell.

I am often a slacker in this department but you really do need to make the effort to have your clothes and toys look presentable in order for them to sell. Get out the Clorox wipes and wipe it down :) Wash and iron (to an extent - for $2.00 someone else can do the washing and ironing - that is why they're buying cheap after all!)

Don't use wire hangars if at all possible - it doesn't look good. Find the right hangars for the job especially when it comes to pants hangars - stretching them out over a wire hangar isn't good for the clothes. Be sure to check the sales guidelines here too - some of them want all the hangars facing the same way.

Use a tagging gun if you can - if not, use safety pins but do NOT pin through the clothes - you'll only leave holes - go through a seam or the garment's tag.

Check your items carefully for stains, tears or holes. If there are any, state them on the tag but check the seller policy carefully - some allow it if you are clear about the defect but other sales do not and will reject your item for even the smallest stain.

Make sure your electronic items work whether that's putting new batteries in yourself or just testing them with new batteries to make sure all parts are working. I have brought home some things I thought were great only to find out they don't work or something is wrong. Sure, I only paid a small price but still I paid something and I expect something good in return. You should too and you should be a seller who offers the best.

Make up uniform tags if the sale doesn't offer them then print them on cardstock to make sure your tags are sturdy and attach easily. Consider using a specific color which makes it easier to find your items when you go back for pick-up.

How much will you make?

Of course this depends on what sells but check around to see who is having sales and how much you will make. For example, my larger thrice-annual consignment sale gives first time consignors 50%. To me this isn't a great deal but they do get more exposure so a higher chance to sell your items. (At this particular sale I make 60% back as a return consignor and a volunteer so check your local sales policies)

My moms of multiples sale gives sellers 80% for members and 75% for non-members - a great deal if you have multiples or know someone who does and can hook-up with a multiples yard sale! The only downside is it generally just runs for one day but that one day can still generate a large amount of money with enough sellers and advertisements!

Around here I can also sell with my local MOPS group and make 70%. So check around - there are options in most places. Because not only does the item price matter your return matters.

Once you've finished with your items and drop them off at the appropriate time considering volunteering - sales can always use more help and remember you may get to get in earlier or even make more back on your items.

Be sure to check the policies of any sale you participate in. As a worker there's nothing more frustrating then having a seller who doesn't follow the rules.

Ultimately there's no easier money then selling stuff you already own! No new investment and you can even clean your house out. It's a win-win.


photo by slapjack

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Children's Consignment Sales

I've talked a lot about selling clothes on Ebay but have you thought about where to get them? Other then the store I mean? Thrift stores are a great option but who has enough time to scour them even weekly? I wish I did! But reality is that there's no way.

So, what's a girl to do?

Consignment sales! I mean look at all the great bargains that can be found:

These photos are from the consignment sale that I normally frequent. Three times a year this particular consignment sale is held at our fairgrounds. It's a HUGE sale - over 1200 consignors with over 40,000 items. Now that's a deal!

Couple things to know before you go (this list comes from personal experience as well as from Amy, a contributor at Financial Bliss):

1. Make a list before you go - have an idea of what you're looking for; what sizes your children are wearing and what clothes they actually need. List what toys/gadgets your kids have been wanting or that you might want for them - you never know what you may find or what you could miss if you aren't looking carefully.

2. Make a budget before you go - it is easier then you think to get sucked into buying something just because it's a "good bargain" - make sure you know before you buy if it is a good bargain and whether or not you need it.

3. If you see something you like, grab it - put it aside, put it in a pile, put it in a basket, don't think and walk away it may be gone when you come back! If you don't like it later then just put it back where you found it or better yet, find a worker and ask them to return it for you - they would be happy to do so and means that things won't get disorganized for them. Trust me, as a worker I'd rather put the item back myself then have the item end up in the wrong place and that not get sold because of it.

4. Bring a basket or a box or other kind of tote to store your items - there may be a place to set your items down and put them on hold but you're still going to want some place to put your stuff as you shop or your arms will get very heavy :) Amy suggests attaching a rope to your bin to make it easier to bring along with you.

5. Try, as best you can, not to bring kids with you when you shop - because a consignment sale has so many items you will need to pay attention and having kids with you is a huge distraction (even if you don't have 3 the same age!!)

6. Inspect the items before you buy - they should be checked but no one is perfect (as a checker I can assure you I'm not perfect and I've missed plenty). There's generally a no return policy so check before you buy but remember the clothes/toys are used (unless they have tags obviously).

7. Check for brand names - this is a great way to find items to sell on Ebay and possibly even make a profit but be sure to know your lines because older Gymboree is no different from newer Target - it won't re-sell on Ebay. I've made quite a bit of money buying something cheap at the sale and re-selling it on Ebay just by knowing in advance what will sell and what won't.

8. Know the rules of the sale - at my sale you are not allowed to have a stroller with a basket; you need to wait in one line to have the tags removed from your item and then you will be directed to the cashier - know where the line starts. Know when you can shop - when is the sale open to the public? To volunteers? To consignors? These are all important!

And the most important:

9. VOLUNTEER!! - this is a biggy for me - want to get the best bargains? Want to get the best selection? Then volunteer! A few hours of your time means you get the pick of the best of the best. If you can't volunteer at least consider consigning and shopping with other consignors. I will post about preparing your items for selling and how to price in another post.

But if you go to a sale - enjoy your bargains and the feeling you get from paying way less then brand new!!

A few sites that Amy shared to find a consignment sale near you - this is a great way to find a sale near you. Don't have one? Consider starting one - seriously. What a great way for mom to bring in some extra cash!!

Kids Consignment Sales

Just Between Friends

Kids Consignment Guide

Monday, March 2, 2009

Grocery Game Q & A

I've been asked a few questions lately about the Grocery Game so I thought I'd take a minute to answer some of the most common I've received along with a little background about me and the Grocery Game :)

1. How did you hear about the Grocery Game? A friend of mine in Florida introduced me to the Grocery Game about a year ago. It happened to be right about the time I was thinking I should start using coupons. Since I was in Florida I was away from home but had this thought that when I got home I would start cutting them out of my paper. I had no idea how I was going to use them just thought that I should. Then my friend told me about the Grocery Game. I thought, "hey, it's a game it must be fun!" And if it saved me money all the better. I signed up right away.

2. Why use the Grocery Game? It not only saves lots of money it saves lots of time. Besides blogs that have some unclear listings of sales I know of only one other site that offers the same information (The Coupon Mom) but I feel that the Grocery Game gives a clearer picture of how to stockpile by telling you when the item is at its cheapest and alleviates the need for me to keep track of the items I buy - no need for lists of sales or store prices - its all done for me!

3. Should I stock up on coupons before starting the Grocery Game? It's not a bad idea. The more weeks you have the more likely you are to have the right coupons for the sales. The downside? The longer you wait to start using coupons the less you'll save oversall. Thus the trial period - you can begin saving money and coupons right away.

4. Is there a cost for the Grocery Game? Yes, it's $1 for the 4 week trial. After that you pay $10 for 8 weeks for the first store and $5 for each additional store. The small fee is quite worth the savings.

5. Do you get anything for referring others to the Grocery Game? Yes and no. If 3 people sign up using my name as a referral then I get 12 weeks free. So, I do get something but certainly not enough to lie to you about it! It's just $10 after all! The good news is that if you refer your friends then you too can earn weeks free.

6. Where do you get all your coupons? The Sunday paper obviously is the first place but I actually subscribe to 2 papers and check every free paper I receive. I find getting a variety rather then straight duplicates from 2 papers is the best way to go - you'll be amazed how different the "same" inserts are. Like this week I had 3 copies of SmartSource but only 1 of them had the coupons I was looking for though every other page was identical - how weird is that? Variety is the key. You can also check Ebay for coupons but I find it easier to collect them myself - of course, if you don't get the paper then Ebay is probably a great way to go.

7. What days do you shop? I shop just about every Sunday night because the Grocery Game updates every Sunday and Harris Teeter sales change every Tuesday so I like to get there as soon as I can - if she updated on Wednesday then I would shop on Wednesday :) If I shop another store I try to shop as quickly as I can after I get the sale ads but for HT I wait till Sunday to be sure I'm getting the best deals.

8. Do you ever pay full price? I do actually - I base my meals around the sales as best I can - we don't eat fish so even if that's free I don't buy it so I have to go with what else is out there. And if I'm in the mood for a meal then I do buy the ingredients and make the meals I'm in the mood for that week. May not be the best approach and I may have to change that in the future but right now it fits in my budget.

9. What's your biggest money-saving tip? I follow the Grocery Game and her idea is perfect: stockpile what's on sale! I try to have as many coupons as I can for the sale items and stock up. I'm amazed at how well it works and how rarely I have to pay full price for so many items and how I almost never pay more then $1 for a box of cereal!

10. Should I shop once a week or once a month? Since sales cycle weekly at stores I shop once a week and highly recommend it. It's much easier not to run to the store if I know I'll go again on Sunday then if I'm not going again for a month. Besides, you'll have to run for produce anyway so if you're spending the same money you might as well go once a week.

I'd love to hear your thoughts especially if you feel shopping once a month saves you more. And if you have any more questions please feel free to e-mail me: dorindanelson@comcast.net or to comment here (I know a few have had trouble so e-mail if you can't comment). The reason I choose to blog about the Grocery Game is because I feel like it's something anyone can do anywhere without complicated strategies and it's not me vaguely telling you "shop sales with coupons" because if you're anything like me you need something more concrete like the "how" to do it!

Edited to add:

11. How long does it take to cut coupons and shop? Some weeks are faster then others but generally it takes me about an hour to clip coupons and an hour to shop but for what I save the extra hour of preperation before I go is well worth it! Just wanted to add this so you knew it didn't take all day to do.

photo by Plutor

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Some Weeks Are Lighter

I have certainly learned that some weeks are deal heavy and some are not. This week seemed a bit light on the deals so it was a good thing that I don't need to cook much this week. This is also a great reason to stock up weekly because on light weeks I don't need as much and can eat what I already have in my pantry.

But still, following my budget and the grocery game I have stayed in budget this week spending $58.59 and saving about $64 - I seem to save around 50% which I think is pretty good! I did spend $50 at Safeway a few days ago so I have come under budget for the week and getting closer to my $100/week goal.

I should note that the photo doesn't include 5 gallons of milk and my budget for the week included diapers and wipes for a baby shower gift as well as some cat food.

Still did manage a few good deals:

Glade carpet deodorizer on sale for $0.94 - had a coupon for $1.00 off = free!

Ziploc bags regular price $2.39 each - on sale for buy one get one free - coupon for $0.55 which doubled to $1.10 - total cost = $0.10!!

Also note that sometimes the Grocery Game won't be 100% accurate. For instance her price for Ziploc bags was listed as higher then mine so I originally expected to pay $0.65 for them but instead only paid $0.10 - difference in my favor. Sometimes it isn't. She may list a coupon that doubles because it's for $0.75 off 1 whereas I have a coupon for $1.00 off 2. Just be aware and double check your deals.

Meal Plan for the week:

Monday: Frozen pizza (on sale for $4.00) - we have a PTF meeting at school unless it snows
Tuesday: Roast (purchased for $7.00 at Safeway)
Wednesday: Pork Loin (rain check from last week for buy one get one free - bought 2 to make a meal for someone else)
Thursday: Moms of multiples club meeting - I eat out!
Friday: Moms of multiples yard sale - we have to do take out - some night there's no getting around it
Saturday: Not sure yet but I have chicken in the freezer and will eat out of the pantry/freezer - looking forward to the challenge