Thursday, June 26, 2008

Drug deal

Couponing is a serious game, folks. The more you do it, the more you get into it.

Everyone knows how to use coupons to get a few cents off groceries, but there are alot more ways to save, and I am searching them all out. I stumbled upon a pretty good one recently.

Unfortunately for me, I have to take medication. Lots of it. Up until very recently, my monthly drug bill was $200+ (and that is AFTER insurance covers their part.)

God bless Walmart for starting the $4 generic program. I don't get my meds there, but lots of OTHER places honor their prices now. After converting several of my meds to generic, I cut my monthly outlay to less than $100 (some of my stuff is still name brand).

But it gets sweeter.

There's a war going on around here for customer retention. All of the drug stores that DON'T have the $4 program in place are sending out coupons that give you $20 and $30 gift cards for every prescription that you transfer to their store.

The BIG secret is . . . every store honors every OTHER store's coupon.

What does that mean for me? Well . . . it means that I had my dr send my prescriptions to my grocery store (Kroger). Kroger has the $4 plan in place. I happen to have 5 Rite Aid coupons that give me $30 store credit for every transferred prescription. Kroger honors these, so when I pick up my prescriptions this month, I'll get $150 worth of groceries free.

And NEXT month, I'll go to Rite Aid with my empty Kroger prescription bottles, transfer my meds there, use 5 MORE Rite Aid coupons at Rite Aid and get $150 worth of Rite Aid stuff free, AND I'll make them price match the $4 drug program.

Of course, I'll use the gift cards I get to buy items that I have coupons for . . . so that's even MORE free money.

Don't hate the player . . . hate the game.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ahh . . . the ol' "Brown Box" treatment, ay?

Well, this past weekend found me hip-deep in my precious daughter's room, wading through immeasurable and unimaginable junk, crap, clothes, toys, dolls, MORE crap, and various and sundry flotsam and jetsam.

In other words, it was Spring Cleaning time.

Along with the challenges my daughter already faces with her (slight, but ability-affecting) brain injury, my daughter has also inherited my penchant for hoarding. She struggles mightily with throwing things away . . . ANYTHING at all. To her, everything has value, even things that are obviously trash to anyone else (things like boxes that toys or dolls or shoes are packaged in, or pretty tissue paper, or school papers that have been long-ago graded and returned to her.)

Her love of Hello Kitty is legend. At any given time, her room appears to be the aftermath of a bomb that has gone off right in the middle of the Sanrio factory. She has an equal love for Cabbage Patch dolls, Build-A-Bear animals, American Girl dolls (even the knockoffs), and Webkins. I admit that I have played a hand in this . . . no one enjoys a trip to Build-A-Bear more than I.

I saw tears of worry begin to well up in her eyes the minute I announced to her that we were going to clean her room. She equates "clean" with "give her dolls away", and she usually dissolves into a complete meltdown.

I had to clean it, but I hate (HATE) upsetting her. She is such a sweet child, and so attached to her things. But . . . drastic times call for drastic measures.

Rather than do what I usually do (bitch, shovel, argue with her over each thing that I think is expendable), I switched things up a bit. Taking a cue from "Clean Sweep", I entered her room with several large, brown packing boxes and with NO discretion at all, I swept up armfuls of crap and dumped the offending stuff into these boxes, with absolutely no rhyme or reason. I continued in this fashion until there was nothing left in her room except the furniture and curtains. Every surface was clean, and I could see her purple carpet for the first time in months. We ended up with better than 9 boxes full out in the hall.

I decided that one of the biggest challenges in her room was storage space, so I ordered 2 large white bookshelves, each about 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide, giving the room an additional 60 feet of shelving space. Who knew what a transformation and miracle this would bring about . . .

Once the new shelves were in place, and the bed was nicely made and the floor was vacuumed, I had my daughter begin the arduous process of visiting the boxes out in the hall and bringing items in that she absolutely wanted to keep. Of course, this ended up being mostly her dolls, which were arranged by kind on the new shelves. Even I was flabbergasted to see just how many she had. She had no idea that her collection was as vast as it is.

When she was done, every inch of the 60 feet of shelving was full. Every . . . single . . . . inch. There were also lots of leftover junk in the hall that she didn't bother to rescue, filling 2 large black garbage bags and 2 big brown boxes. The good part was that it seemed absolutely painless to her to leave all of that behind. Choosing what to keep turned out to be much easier for her than choosing what to give up.

We cycled her clothing through the laundry and sorted the clean items into her drawers, and paired her shoes in her now-clean closet. I bought her some lavender scented room freshener, and fluffed her curtains and pillows.

The transformation was amazing.

With all of the clutter gone, my girl's eyes and attention seem to be able to focus on the things that she really loves. She has spent more time in her room in the last few days than she has spent in the last several months. She can now recline in her purple butterfly chair, talk on her Hello Kitty phone, line up her Cabbage Patches on her bed for new ponytails, and dress and redress her American Girl dolls in endless outfits (we made a doll closet too).

Even the boy finds his way in there, although he says he doesn't like all the "girly" stuff in there, he does admire the cleanliness and organization.

His room is next. I've already ordered a new dresser and nightstand for him.

I'll post some pictures soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Coupons


Since the last post, I have been trying to get back into the swing of couponing. I used to be a master at couponing, but I sort of fell out of the habit.

Time to fall back in.

My hero, Yard Sale Queen, inspires me quite a bit. I love reading about her finds and her deals.

My huge grocery bills also inspire me. Since the kids are home this summer, they and their little friends attack my kitchen daily like a band of locusts, so keeping the cabinets and fridge stocked is an ongoing challenge.

This past week, I did something I haven't done in awhile. I visited The CouponClippers site and ordered some coupons based on the sale papers this past week (I prefer to do that than buy a local Sunday paper for $2.00 that I don't read and only get a coupon or two that I need.) My coupons came in the mail on Thursday, and today I trekked out to the three stores that I based the coupon choices on (CVS, Kroger and Publix are near each other, all within 2 miles of the house, so they were the logical choices, considering that gas is ALSO sky high.)
Here's the tally:

Store 1: CVS
This week, CVS was running good sales on Neutrogena (Buy 1, get one 1/2 off) and Nexcare Bandages ($2.99 sale/reg $4.29). My kids go through bandaids to the tune of a box a week in the summer, and I go through Neutrogena lipgloss, lotion and blush to the tune of a tube of each every couple weeks (usually run $7 - $10 per product).

Since I had ordered coupons from The CouponClippers that took $6 off the 4 Neutrogena products, and coupons that took $2 off the 2 packs of Nexcare bandages:
Total: $44.93
Total spent $25.44
Total saved $19.49 (approx 45% savings)



Store 2: Kroger
Note: I took my kid with me this time, and I guess he helped ward off the creepies, because I was NOT accosted at all.

Kroger had some awesome 10 fo $10 deals this week, and other random sales (Chef Boyardee, Fruit Gushers, Cheerios, deli ham, etc.) I had coupons for all the sales, and some were doubled. The total is kind of misleading, because some of the things I bought in the bakery were reduced to 99 cents, and the savings doesn't appear on the register receipt.
Total spent: $54.91
Total saved: $29.59 (40% savings)

Store 3: Publix
Publix kind of screwed me. Unlike CVS and Kroger, who start their new sales every Sunday, Publix has a midweek sale switchup, so the coupons I ordered based on their ad in last Sunday's paper were no longer in effect, but I was still able to use a few and get some deals. Plus, they had a few cartsful of cereal marked to $2 a box, and it was the kind the kids eat, so that was cool.

Total: 70.66
Total spent: 41.83
Savings: 27.93 (right at 40% savings again)



Not bad. Some of the products also have little rebates that go into the kids' UPromise account (anywhere from 5% - 10% is deposited into the account to be used for college money). And Kroger gives me 10 cents off each gallon of gas with my Kroger card, so that's a little more saved there, too.
So . . . screw you, high gas and grocery prices!
Oh, and I paid $4.47 cents for the coupons I ordered, but I have some left, so I may be able to recoup some of that.

So . . . looks like I have to work harder next week to break the 40% savings threshold. I want to be one of those women that walk out with a cartful of crap and a register receipt as long as my arm and hand over $5.

I'll get there.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Belt Tightening/Freak Magnet

A twofer for you:

After a shocking trip to the Kroger this past week, I now realize that its time to start couponing again. Damn near everything has gone up (this is probably not news to any of you, but I'm just commenting here for posterity). When oranges are 70 cents each, things are rough.

What's strange, though, is that restaurants aren't getting any more expensive. If groceries keep going up, it will be just as cheap to go out as it is to stay in.

So, during my grocery excursion last week, I was perusing the cereal aisle, when I noticed an older couple coming my way. I excused myself as I pushed my cart to one side of the aisle, and they were all smiles and cheerily kept exclaiming "Oh, you aren't in the way! You are just fine!" etc etc, which was nice, I guess, but a bit of overkill. I was taken aback for a minute, then resumed my cereal search.

On the next aisle, the same couple approached me again, but this time, the husband approached me directly and began talking to me (my pet peeve - this shit happens to me ALOT in the grocery store.)

In an overly happy voice, he exclaimed "My, you look pretty today!" He went on to compliment my sundress, and my hair . . . which, again, was nice, I guess, but a bit of overkill. He appeared to be in his late 50s/early 60s, and other than saying these things to me, he was utterly unremarkable, otherwise. He could have been any random near-retirement middle management guy in any white collar company. His wife appeared to be the same age. She was quite small, and could have easily been either a kindergerten teacher or maybe a librarian.

I thanked him and pondered this, as he continued talking . . .

"My wife and I moved here just this past year. We've been trying to meet someone like you (like me, wtf? Fat? Redheaded? ) Where we used to live, we had a close circle of friends that we would invite over for private parties." At this point, he seemed to have a little glint in his eye, and the wife was staring at me, a fixed smile on her face, clutching the handle of her empty grocery cart. He didn't do the whole "nudge, nudge, wink wink" thing, but it was implied, right there next to the Hamburger Helper and Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat.

It dawned on me . . . slowly. In equally slow motion, I think I wished them luck, I'm not sure, but I quickly got myself to another aisle.

Once I was home and safe, the first thing I thought was that no one would believe this story, because I often have creepy encounters at the grocery store. The second thing I thought was what I might have stamped on my forehead that attracted the creepy encounters. Still pondering that one. The third thing was . . . maybe they had a gimp in their basement that had died, and I was the right size for the zipper suit.

It did dawn on me that maybe they were into Amway, but that's just wishful thinking. I'm pretty sure I met myself some real-life swingers. Some saggy, elderly, real-life swingers.

That's what happens when they start airing shows about swinging on the basic networks. Assholes.
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