Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Catalina and Store Rewards Programs

This week we're going to talk about Catalina coupons and store rewards programs. Make sure to check out my other posts on Super Couponing - Couponing MamaThe Super-Duper Couponing 'Secret' and Couponing Beyond the Sunday Papers.

Catalina Coupons

Catalina coupons are the coupons that you receive from the printer at the store register. They are automatically triggered when you purchase certain products (or a combo of products). They are often a flat dollar amount off of your next order, which is fabulous to apply to produce and meat which very rarely have coupons. To find out what products will trigger these high value coupons visit:

*Please note: you do not have to print these coupons! The coupon, which is good on your next order (ONYO) prints at the register.

Store Reward Systems

Nearly every store these days has some sort of rewards program. Most come with those pesky cards that clutter up your wallet or fill your key chain. In my humble opinion, a good rewards program is a simple one. The more confusing they are, the more I tend to shop elsewhere. That being said, you really can save a lot of money using a good rewards program. Here are a few of my favorites. 


Target doesn't use the traditional rewards platform but instead offers discounts when you use their credit or debit card (5% off plus free shipping on online purchases) The (Target Red) debit card is linked directly to your checking account. There are no fees, no interest, and no points to count - just simple savings.

CVS Extracare Rewards

CVS has several different ways to earn their Extracare Bucks, such as a beauty club, a diabetes care club, pharmacy club, and bucks from their weekly ad. I personally only have experience with the rewards from their weekly ad which is a quite simple program: Extracare Bucks are issued when you purchase a qualifying product. Your rewards print on your register receipt once the qualifying purchase has been made. Beware though, they do have an expiration date. My CVS
will still take them up to one month past their expiration date. For more info see their website: CVS .

Kohl's Cash

Another simple program (I don't believe it runs all of the time though). For every $50 you spend, you get a $10 off coupon to use on your (in store or online) next purchase. Check it out here
Kohl's Cash

Rainbow Foods (Formerly Fuel Perks)

I absolutley love my Rainbow Foods! They are the only grocery store near me that offers Double Coupon / Double double coupon days - which is where I really can save a LOT of money! Their new program is named Fresh Perks and so far, seems like it could be a money saver! They offer: cash back promotions (select times throughout the year), select manufacturer coupons can be loaded directly to your club card (cannot be doubled), extra Double Daze coupon events. Surprisingly, I couldn't find a page with any real detail on Rainbow's page but thanks to my favorite couponing site, Pocket Your Dollars, I found this brief youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DnTRdFjKxNU
Walgreens Balance Rewards (Formerly Register Rewards)

Walgreen's program used to be one of the best in my area. It was very similar to CVS's Extra Bucks but because they were considered to be manufacturer coupons, you could also use them elsewhere. Well, Walgreen's pretty much put the cabash on that when they switched over to their current points system, known as Balance Rewards (Note: I loathe point systems).

I, like many people, have since stopped couponing there. Maybe that was their goal. In any event, to check out their new program go here

That's about it for the rewards programs that I find to be worth any trouble. Do you use rewards programs? I'd love to hear about them - leave me comments below!

Tune in next week for my final post in my couponing series - Valuable links and extra ways to save your hard earned dollars!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year

I haven't been much for the Christmas season since my mom passed away in 1999. When she left, she took a piece of my heart and spirit with her and it has been a very long and treacherous road getting back to happiness. The arrival of my son has really changed who I am at my core and with that change came a renewed appreciation for the holidays.

We had a great but fairly low key Christmas. My family is pretty disconnected from one another and my hubby's mom is a Snowbird (heads south for the winter), so there isn't a whole lot to do. After we open presents here, we usually go to my brother in law's house, have a big buffet style dinner, play the dice game and drink some beers.

New Years eve used to be one of my favorite holidays, even after my mom's passing. I love going out, being with friends, drinking, and dancing. This was the third New Years in a row that we stayed in and did nothing. It was actually a little depressing this year. 
I looked up at the clock above the TV, saw that it was 12:01, so I went over and kissed my husband. I wished him a happy New Year, to which he said "Oh, I forgot it was New Years." I immediately thought, this is exactly how it starts - This is how people get lost in parenthood, never to be seen or heard from again. I just flat out refuse to be that person. I really think I would lose my ever-loving mind. 

Last summer, in an effort to keep my sanity, I joined a mom's club. We do lots of fun activities with our kids but also without them, which I think is really important. Also, for the last 6 months, I have a girls night out every 2 weeks or so. These things have really made me feel like an individual person again instead of "just" mom/wife. I highly recommend doing something similar if you are a stay at home mom. Does your town have a MOMS Club? Find out here.

With the New Year, of course, we all get to hear about everyone's resolutions. I personally don't make resolutions anymore (mostly because I don't stick to them anyway) but I do review my goals and make new ones as needed (not much difference between a resolution but it seems to work better for me if I call it a goal).

My new goals for 2014: Surround myself with positive people and steer clear of drama (Soooo tired of drama), stick to my cleaning and cooking schedules (it really does make my life so much easier), journal/write/blog more, and work on improving my patience.

Did you make any resolutions? Goals? Do you usually stick to them or do you had a hard time, like me? 

Until next time,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Couponing Beyond the Sunday Papers

Printable Coupons 
There are many coupon printing websites out there but I personally, am not a huge fan. Ink, at least for my printer, is incredibly expensive! So, one has to figure out how much of their coupon savings are going right back out the door to pay for the ink and paper. I will still peek around the printable coupon sites and if there is a great deal, I’ll absolutely use it. Realistically, those deals are far and few between and most times, if it’s that great of a deal, I’d rather use a clipping service (more on that shortly) and be able to buy more than one or two. If you do decide to use printables, below are some links to get you started.
*Note: Please be careful about printable coupon sites. Most of them require you to install printing software in order to use their site. This is all fine and dandy but I have found that some of them also install spyware/adware onto your hard drive. I have tried to weed out those sites from my recommended link list below, but I still recommend running a free program such as Spybot Search and Destroy after installing any type of software.

Clipping Services
I love, love, love clipping services! If you want to save a lot on a particular product when it hits its rock bottom price before coupons, clipping services cannot be beat. If I spot a great deal coming up, say $1 baby wipes, I can hop onto one of the clipping websites and simply order however many of the coupons (Most sites have a limit to how many of one coupon you can order in a week) that I need and a couple of days later, there they are in my mailbox, clipped and ready to go! How cool is that?! In addition, some sites allow you to order entire inserts! This is a fabulous and fairly inexpensive way to build up a stockpile of coupons if you are just getting started. Keep in mind, time is of the essence in these types of situations, so order your coupons from a nearby vendor so delivery is fairly quick. Also, make sure you start your planning early in the week so you have time to wait for them to arrive.
*Coupons cannot be sold/bought. You are paying for the time and effort of the person who is cutting them out and mailing them to you!
Please visit: Hot Coupon World for a great list of available clipping services or just head on over to Google (Google knows all)!
Stockpiling 101
Although stockpiling is basically the heart of couponing, it can also be a touchy subject amongst couponers. I am of the mindset that it is fine to stock up on items – within reason. I have two big, 5 tiered shelves in my laundry room where most of my stockpile resides. I do not, however, understand why any one family really needs 200 boxes of cereal. Cereal goes bad, right? How will you consume those 200 boxes of cereal before they are stale?! I just don’t get it. But, alas, we are all free to do what we want, so if you are one of those couponers who really want to take this to the extreme, you go for it! Otherwise, please consider donating your excess items to a local food shelf/shelter. There are lots of people out there who can benefit from your time and generosity.
The first step in stockpiling is knowing what items you should stock up on. You can buy 100 shampoos because they won’t go bad but you have to consider consumption rates vs. expiration dates. Because every household varies in what they use, I won’t bore you with the details of my stockpile list - instead I’ll just give you a printable that you can customize: Here http://frugalliving.about.com/library/pdfs/StockpileListbw.pdf.
Just as important as knowing what to buy, is knowing when to buy. Overtime, you will learn what is a bad price, fair price, a good price, an excellent price, and a rock bottom price. Of course, you always want to buy when the product is at its rock bottom price but excellent or good prices are okay buy times too, if you need or want that product.
Many people create what is called a Price book. A price book is just what the title implies – a book (physical / on computer) in which you record price trends for products you use. I personally started one of these and quickly discovered how much work they were and decided to abandon it. I usually have a great memory, so I just tend to remember prices, plus the website I use each week when creating my shopping lists, will note if something has reached its rock bottom price. If you want to try your hand at making a price book here are a couple links to get you started:

Pricing Strategies
Pricing strategies are highly dependent on where you live. What is a great price for toilet paper in California would be a horrible price here in Minnesota. Ultimately, you have to figure it out for yourself but, as always, the web is a wondrous place, so I found this printable http://fabulesslyfrugal.com/2010/03/when-to-stock-up.html when I first started couponing and it did help me quite bit.
That’s it for this week! Tune in next Tuesday when we will talk about Catalina coupons and store reward systems.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Super-Duper Couponing 'Secret'

We see it all over the TV - people waltzing into their local grocery store and, in an adrenaline filled frenzy, they fill their carts with multitudes of canned goods, boxed dinners and shiny packages and - best of all - they pay little to nothing for it all. It seems like a dream scenerio or , more likely, a scripted TV show on The Learning Channel.

While it is completely possible to cut your shopping bill by half or better using coupons and other frugal living techniques, it is very unlikely that you will (or should) have your own grocery store in your spare room for pennies on the dollar.

The secret to couponing is pairing store sales with available manufacturer’s coupons. Each Sunday, you can study your favorite stores circulars and, using an online coupon database, pair the sales with available coupons. Instead of spending hours looking through circulars, however, I let other people do the leg work for me! There are a million websites out there that list all of the great deals (sorted by store), tell you exactly what coupons to use, and even have searchable databases that list every available coupon (expired and not expired)!
Hop on to Google and start searching! A good keyword search to start with is “coupon database + your zip code” or “couponing + your zip code”. There are so many choices available, have fun exploring before choosing your favorite. An example of a great couponing site is: www.pocketyourdollars.com. It has a searchable coupon database, a searchable online coupon database, and store specific shopping lists (soooo useful). Try to find one that is similar! Another resource that I just stumbled upon is "The Frugal Map" - What an awesome idea!
I get 2 Sunday papers delivered to my house (I got crazy deals on the subscriptions) and I also have friends and family that give me their inserts. If I know that there are going to be a lot of inserts, or specific coupons that I love, I will go to the gas station and buy more papers or use a clipping service (More on clipping services later).

To Clip or Not to Clip
 I save a ton of time and effort by not clipping each and every coupon, like I know many couponers do. I see these women with binders that are litterally,  5 + inches think and must weigh 10 pounds. Instead, I have a storage tub that is designed to hold file folders. Each month has its own folder and every Sunday, I write that days date on the front of each (whole) coupon insert. I then file them in sequential order - this helps when using couponing websites, as they tell you which coupons to clip by the date that they were issued.
Every Sunday I go to my favorite website, search each store, and copy and paste the items I want to buy into my computers Notepad (each store has its own saved Notepad document). Next, I simply clip only the coupons I need, and finally, I put all of the coupons and an individualized list into a separate envelop for each store.
 *I do also have a coupon binder for coupons that I clip but don't end up using or for stray coupons.

Databases  and Forums (Let’s you know what deals are coming, also great places to ask questions): 
www.hotcouponworld.com/forums/store-deals/ (Find specific stores forums)

Tune in next Tuesday when we will talk about: Printable coupons, Clipping services, and Stockpiling!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Things I Wish I had Known Before I had my Baby

1.     Your child will never wear all of those adorable clothes that you got at your shower. All we needed was Sleep and Play’s (pajama type things with feet)  and one or two cute “going out” outfits, for the early stages of growth. My son LIVES in Sleep and Play’s. It’s colder than a witches tit here in Minnesota, so we rarely take him anywhere – and let’s just be honest here- there is no point in dressing a little baby in a Onesie, pants, socks, shoes, and a sweatshirt. All this does is A) Make it harder to change that diaper that already feels like you're changing every ten minutes B) Produces a lot more laundry that you have absolutely no time to wash, let alone fold and put away in some sort of organized manner and C) Makes you feel horrible that you have two drawers full of clothes that your baby has never worn and now, because he grows like a weed, never will wear. My suggestion is to keep the tags on all but about two changes per day of whatever type of clothes you choose to dress your little one in. If/when they outgrow the rest, you can exchange them.

2.     People will feel the need to bring your child something every time they come over. It’s not that we don’t appreciate their well intended gifts but we’ve got nowhere to put all of this stuff! We by no means have a small house but we don’t live in a palatial estate either. Our basement, which is supposed to be being turned into a playroom, is FULL of stuff that has no home.

3.     You really do forget the pain of childbirth. It’s just a vague memory now and I had six hours of back labor, so that’s really saying something! I can remember sounds, sights, smells, and emotions from the moment when I held Wee-man for the first time and yet, like my expensive wedding, labor and delivery is just a blur.

4.     If you’re not careful, in no time flat, you will become one of those blathering parents who never shuts their pie holes about how amazing their baby is. Your baby simply must be a prodigy. Tread carefully friend – no one wants to hear about your kid 24/7.

5.     The saying, “Time flies” is a saying for a reason. When you are operating on two hours of fitful sleep, it may seem like the day is never going to end but I promise, it will. And as that beautiful baby grows (so fast it makes you dizzy), you will wish that you could pause time.

6.     When you have a tear or have abrasions, it is possible for you to develop a condition called Labial Adhesion. In all of the reading and research I had done while pregnant, I had never, not once, read anything about this. Yet, the doctor’s all say, “It’s not uncommon”. Well, Einstein, if it’s not uncommon, why the hell wasn’t I warned about it?! After six weeks of recovering from childbirth, I then had to have a minor surgery on my labia. This. Sucked. Ass.

While the anxiety leading up to the surgery was overwhelming for me, the actual procedure was quick and the recovery was relatively painless. The worst part was the Lidocain injections. Yes, I said injections. In. Your. Hoo-ha.

This whole thing could have been avoided if I had been informed. My advice is, right after giving birth, ask the doctor if you have labial abrasions. If you do, every day, while you are taking a bath/shower, manipulate ALL external parts of your genital area (Labia majora, labia minora, and clitoris). After you dry everything very thoroughly, apply a small amount of KY Jelly to the labia majora and labia minora. This will help prevent the various parts from adhering to one another. Spread the word, sisters.

7.     “Sleep while the baby sleeps” – utter nonsense. You will always find that there is something that absolutely must be done while your little one sleeps because there is no other time to get it done. Those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves!

8.     Breast feeding is a beautiful bonding experience. It is also true that it is very good for your little bundle of joy. It can also be, however, very difficult and very, very painful.
Don’t get me wrong – I am in full support of breast feeding and I think, barring some medical condition, every mother should at least try it, for the well-being of the child.

I just wish that someone had prepared me. The exhaustion was already present from the birth and the constant interrupted sleep but it was absolutely amplified by breast feeding.
The exhaustion was followed by pain. My Wee-man repeatedly latched on and pulled away – over and over and over. This led to very painful feedings for mama. It also led to double mastitis - Also, extremely painful – in my opinion, more painful then childbirth. After I had recovered from the double mastitis, I then had the joy of a yeast infection of the milk ducts. Yay.

After the second round of infection, I just couldn’t do it anymore. The guilt I felt over my decision to stop breast feeding was horrendous and quite overwhelming. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I felt so selfish.

After a lot of soul searching, speaking with my doctor, and also a lot of reading on the net, I started to feel like a decent human being again. I realized that I was being entirely too hard on myself. The pain of breast feeding was robbing me of the joy and bonding that should happen with feeding time. I also firmly believe that my frustration and pain was being transferred to my son. As I was crying silently from the pain, he would scream and thrash when I tried to feed him. As soon as we moved to the bottle, his whole demeanor changed. He eagerly accepted the bottle, he was eating for much longer periods of time, he seemed to be satiated, and the screaming and thrashing immediately stopped. I finally felt the joy and the overwhelming feeling of love and closeness with my son during feeding time. I literally wept. It was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made thus far. That being said, I would absolutely do it all over again because I know that six weeks of breast milk can make an enormous impact.

9.     You know how when you’re pregnant, every one forgets that you still have a right to personal boundaries (physical and otherwise)? Yeah, that doesn’t stop once the baby is on the outside. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has advice, and many people will openly question your parenting choices. You must learn to both respond politely (or at least without tearing their face off) and let people and their judgments roll off your back. Someone once asked me, “You’re not going to go down the stairs with him are you?!” Really? Yes, I have actually become quite adept at these strange things we call stairs. Holy shit.

10.  People can tell you and tell you about how awesome the parenting experience is but the fact is, there is absolutely no way you will ever truly understand that until your little person is here. The first time he smiled directly at me, the first time he really laughed, the first time he rolled over – all of these things were, individually, ten times more exhilarating then zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest or repelling down a twenty story building in a military obstacle course.

Every single day I am dumbfounded at the tremendous amount of love, pride, joy, and pure fun that Wee-man has brought us. I will do anything to get him to smile and laugh in that belly-busting way that he has just recently started doing. I will do anything to keep him safe. I will do everything in my power to make sure he has the best life I can possibly give him. He is the best thing we have ever done.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Couponing Mama

I have all sorts of hobbies – I love cooking (including Freezer Cooking) , Candle making, I trade and collect postcards from around the world, I’ve sold Avon for 11 years and in October of this year, I began selling Jamberry Nails as well. I am also an avid “Super” couponer - I am sure, by now, that most of you out there in Bloggy Land have seen or at least heard of Extreme Couponing.

The majority of the people that have appeared on that show are, in my opinion, nothing but selfish, glorified hoarders. There is no reason for any logical person to have 500 bottles of ketchup or 200 boxes of cereal (that will never get eaten before they go stale). Imagine all of the hungry people that they could help but instead, they choose to keep all of this stuff, just for the self-satisfaction. Blech!

There are many of us sane people out there that still want to take advantage of the same secrets that the Extreme Hoarders do, just on a much smaller, more reasonable scale. I do just that, week after week, and now, via a short and easy to follow weekly series, I’m going to teach you! Yay!

So, grab a notebook and pen, find room in your house for some extra shelving, and find some extra room in your wallet for all of the money you’re going to save!

Mrs. Mama's Super Couponing series starts on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 and will continue every Tuesday thereafter. Don’t miss out!

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I have recently decided that, this house needs to be better organized! This sounds fairly straightforward, right? Not so fast! Prior to me moving into the Hubmeister’s abode, said Hubmeister had lived happily as a semi-hoarder. Every available cabinet/shelf/closet/room was full of stuff – stuff that he had barely/never used but nonetheless “needed”.  
For a long time, all I could get him to do was to move stuff from one place to another (kind of like that puzzle game from childhood, where you have to move one piece at a time until the picture is complete). So, slowly (painfully slowly) I have bent Hubmeister to my will school of thought and we have finally purged a great deal from his dark days of hoarding.
With all of this new found real estate, I have finally gotten the Hubmeister to give me 4 huge shelves in what used to be the garbage/recycling closet and is now officially a pantry (Gasp!). He also built a lovely two sectioned cabinet in the kitchen to house the garbage/recycling and pots, pans, and Tupperware. With the introduction of the pantry, this freed up an entire 3 shelf cabinet that is now mainly storage for baby bottles and other baby food paraphernalia. PROGRESS!
My next goal is to go through all of the remaining kitchen cabinets and purge/organize them. Two whole (3 shelf) cabinets are used almost solely for storing the cooking appliances that I barely use. A lot of these items are not cheap but still, I barely use them. I guess it is going to come down to purge or vow to start using them. Another 3 shelf cabinet is used exclusively for liquor and cocktail glasses and let me assure you, dear reader, that bad boy is going nowhere! ;)
Another goal that I have had in mind for a very long time is a household notebook. You know, kind of like the master manual for the house. So, when something goes wrong with the new fridge, instead of freaking out, trying to remember where the hell we put the warranty info, we will know exactly where it is.
The sections I think I would include, in no particular order, would be:
·         Daily Tab (Each day’s to-do list transferred from main to-do list, days goals etc…)
·         Emergency info
·         House Management and Maintenance (cleaning schedule and chore checklists, home inventory and other insurance info, car maintenance schedules, warranty information, vehicle records)
·         Home Improvement Projects (Ideas, estimates, business cards etc…)
·         Family Goals (and steps to achieving those goals, formatted as checklists)
·         Phone numbers
·         Health Records (Human and Pet)
·         Planning (to-do lists, calendars, etc…)
·         Money (budget/spending, bills, credit card list, utilities/services directory)
·         Menu planning (including freezer cooking plans, regular menu plans, special occasion menus, freezer inventory, shopping lists, take out menus etc…)
·         School (school information, school schedules, special events, and holiday lists, carpool schedules, lunch menus etc…)
·         Travel and Activities
·         Misc.
There are so many versions on the web, I’m not sure which way I’m going to go quite yet.
Have you made a Home Management binder or something similar? What sections do you use and what’s inside of those sections? Do you use printables you found on the net or did you design your own? Tell me about it!

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