August 30, 2013

Dining out on the cheap...

Eating out is one of my greatest vices, but it’s so expensive and it’s cut way too much into our budget. Recently, while scouring my favorite coupon websites and using my favorite coupon app ‘Coupon Sherpa’, I managed to score some awesome restaurant coupons. Two weeks ago we received a BOGO Breakfast coupon for Bob Evans, last week we stopped by Smokey Bones and used a $10 off $20 coupon that we matched up with a gift certificate from my boss.

This week, we are picking up my husbands little sisters and taking them out to eat. Imagine feeding four people on a tight budget. We asked them what some of their favorite restaurants were and discovered that they like Denny’s. It happened to be that last weekend in the coupon circulars a coupon for a BOGO entrĂ©e was available. Now of course, you can only use 1 coupon per check. So we are splitting up the check and using two coupons, making two meals free.

As you know, I’m determined never to pay retail and am always armed with a coupon wherever I go. It certainly takes a bit of effort, but the payoff is worth the work in order to save money.

What methods do you use to cut back on dining out?

August 28, 2013

The benefits of loyalty...

Earlier this week, I share my story of how I received a $25 Lane Bryant gift card and walked out with $216.75 worth of merchandise.  No, I did not steal it, LOL. I feel very strongly about saving money for every purchase I make, no matter what store I am at. If I frequently shop at a store, I’d like to reap the benefits of sales, coupons and freebies. That’s why I sign up for loyalty programs wherever I go.

Had I not signed up for Lane Bryant after making my purchase last month, I would never have been able to buy the three outfits I did last week without the gift card they sent me. I’ve benefited greatly from signing up for these programs, I mean, who doesn’t want to save 10-35% off their purchase?

I have set up my personal email with a folder devoted to coupons from all of the loyalty programs I’ve signed up for. Since January, when I began tracking my savings, I have saved $2,016.00.  That is an amazing savings! I was been able to use the money I’ve saved on bills and a down payment on my car. I’m not saying that you should sign up for every program out there, but at least to those that you shop at often. There’s no harm in saving your hard earned money.

Sure it may be annoying to receive a bunch of emails that appear to clog your inbox, but I’ll take annoying any day of the week in order to save money.

August 26, 2013

Weekend Shopping Trip 8/25/13

This weekend was one of the best in quite some time for shopping deals. 
We shopped at Kmart for free Sparkle paper towels using our Shop your way rewards card. We shopped at Target for .97 each Sure deodorant after a $1 off 1 coupon. And finally at CVS for the Charmin Double Rolls with Stayfree pads for $5.02.

The total retail value is $64.71, we paid $8.90

Just today we received $12.00 in complimentary ECB's from CVS via email for being a loyal shopper. 
God is so good, we get to share this bounty with our family and others in need.

Paid in full...

I’ve been away from blogging for a month now, and all for good reason. My Husband and I decided to buckle down and work work work. After our cat Zoe became ill in June, we opened a new line of credit called ‘Care Credit’. The promotion was interest free for 6 months if paid in full. We busted our humps and decided that we really wanted to get this bill knocked out because we did not want to go into the holidays with debt.

Our hard work paid off, because just today I sent out the last payment. WOOHOO! It feels so good to have paid the card off. Now we are tackling our credit card that carries a limit of $300. We just made a $100 payment yesterday and are scheduled to make another next week.

We have been working any overtime available to be able to pay off our debt. It has been challenging at times, not being able to spend our weekends together, but we agree it has been worth the effort in order to live debt free. We also ordered our free annual credit reports this month and will be going through them with a fine tooth comb to ensure that there are no errors.

I am so grateful that God has been and continues to be so good to us. I’m also thankful that our Father looks out for us in the little things as much as the big.

An unexpected gift

Last month I decided to spend a little money on myself to freshen up my wardrobe. I stopped by Lane Bryant and picked up a few items and spent $84.00. That was a huge purchase for me, I do not normally buy myself anything, but my husband was nagging me to do something special for myself. I signed up for their loyalty program and have received numerous coupons via email and via the ‘Coupon Sherpa’ app on my smart phone.

Just last week, we stopped by the post office to pick up our mail. Inside there was a letter from Lane Bryant, I figured it was just another coupon and I set it aside until I came across it yesterday. I opened it up and inside I discovered a gift card for $25.00.

It was a gift for first time shoppers that previously made a purchase. I could not believe it. I immediately went to the mall to spend it because it was set to expire. I was able to buy 3 blouses and two pairs of jeans. In total, after my coupon and gift card, I spent $16.00 dollars out of pocket for $216.75 worth of merchandise. I was able to score a great deal on jeans that were 2 for $69.95 (normally they are $69.95 each), and I shopped the clearance rack for the blouses. 

I now have a full wardrobe that I can be proud of, and the best part is that I did it ‘on the cheap’.

Contentment, not a new idea...

I am an avid believer in minding my own business, focusing on my own finances and being content with what I have. I already went through the phase of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in my twenties. That mentality earned me a bunch of debt and heartache.

I’ve kept my older car for 12 years now and it’s still going strong, I recycle the same handbags every year for each season, I treat my clothes carefully so that they last. I’ve had the same cell phone for 3 years. I’m eligible for an upgrade, but I don’t want to get stuck in a 2 year contract. I’m long overdue for a new phone according to the majority of the worlds technological standards. In fact, my smart phone would likely be considered a dinosaur.

But whom do I have to impress? Not myself, I don’t much care.
So why do so many people run themselves into enormous debt for the sake of keeping up appearances? I can not imagine the overwhelming feeling of drowning in debt just so I could be held with regard in someone else’s eyes. The truth may likely be that they too are dealing with debt but are too concerned with the popularity factor of having the latest and greatest cars, homes and electronics.

I remind myself that no one else is going to pay my bills but myself, so why kill myself trying to appease other people’s views of what is in style. There is so much joy to reap with being content, being grateful and not worrying about what other people think.

August 25, 2013

Holiday Spending...

Each year I have been fortunate enough to be able to take the week of Thanksgiving off for my vacation and this year is no exception. Last year, my Husband and I, along with his cousin and her boyfriend met at Boston Market for dinner and went straight to Walmart. We camped out inside the store for 12 hours in different departments. We were armed with our cell phones, comfy clothes and sensible shoes.

In total, I spent $0.00. I had no money to spend L. My husband’s cousin spent $700.00 on various gifts for her son and her boyfriend and other members of her family. I thought to myself, I’d like to be able to get in on the awesome Black Friday deals, but I did not budget my money wisely, so we missed out.

Again, this year I plan on spending $0.00. But the big difference is that I will still be able to snag some of those great deals. How you ask? I will be using my gift cards that I have worked hard on earning since January 2013. Previously, I’ve shared how I use rewards programs such as Plink, Swagbucks and Shopkicks. Thankfully, I have so far earned a combined total of $410.00. The best part is, I have not done anything different. All that changed was that I signed up for Plink and continued to make the same everyday purchases I normally would. I use Swagbucks as my permanent search engine and each time I go shopping I use Shopkicks to scan the items on the list for points.

It was so easy to earn points just by using my debit card as normal, using the same computer daily and using my smart phone for scanning products while I was already in the store. When ever someone asks me how I am able to afford to shop without spending my own money, they’re still a bit skeptical. I truly understand, because I was brought up to believe that you don’t get something for nothing. Truth is, you just have to do your normal tasks, sign up for the programs and earn as you go.

I hope by November I will be able to reach my goal of $550.00, but even if I do not, God has already blessed us with so much.

August 23, 2013

Saving with Shopkicks!

shopkick logo
Shopkick is a rewards program that allows you to simply and easily earn points for shopping at some of your favorite stores. Its free and all reward collection processes are done through the app; by earning points called kicks, you can earn rewards (such as gift cards) for a variety of stores.  What’s great about shopkick is that kicks can be earned without even purchasing a single thing. You will need a smartphone in order to sign up and use Shopkick. First you want want to head over here to get signed up with Shopkick
When you first open the shopkick app, it will give you a wide range of rewards to choose from. Depending on what you choose, a goal will be set for the amount of “kicks” that you need to obtain this reward. Don’t feel like you will be obligated to get the reward you choose when starting out. You can change your reward at any time and have to claim the reward when you have enough kicks for it.
Kicks can be earned in a variety of ways:
  1. Daily kicks: Once per day you will automatically be given a whopping 1 kick when opening the shopkick app. But unless you have the determination and patience to wait over 6 years to get a Target gift card, I would suggest also using the additional methods provided for retrieving more kicks in a much speedier fashion.
  2. Walk-ins: By opening the app in shopkick-affiliated stores, such as Target, you are rewarded a set of kicks (usually 35). You can only do this once a day for each type of store. For example, you could walk into Target and get your walk-in kicks, and then head on over to Macy’s and get you walk-in kicks for that store.  Another great thing is that in many malls, walk-ins can be received just by walking in front of some of the smaller stores, you technically don’t even have to “walk-in”.   This is great because there is not much more awkward than being a guy and walking a couple feet into a store like aerie, looking around you like you’re lost while you wait for your app to give you some kicks, and then walk out a couple seconds later like “oh, i must have walked into the wrong store”.
  3. Look-books: You can press on a store’s page which will then open up a list of look-books for you to choose from. These will contain pages of products and deals which you just have to swipe through and look at to unlock extra kicks at your next walk-in. So while normally you would earn 35 kicks while walking in, you could earn 50 to 100 kicks instead. Note: If you see something that you like in the look-books, you can save it to your favorites to make it easier to find at a later date.
  4. Scans: Some stores will offer kicks for scanning products in the store. When you walk in the store, you can look for the items listed in the Scans page and scan their barcode using your devices camera. You will be rewarded the amount of kicks that are listed with the product. This is one of the best ways to earn kicks.
  5. Linking a credit or debit card: Shopkick allows you to connect your shopkick account with your credit or debit card. When you spend money in certain stores, you will get kicks depending on how much you spent.
  6. Referral:   You can earn more kicks by referring friends.
Redeeming Kicks for Gift Cards and Prizes:
Once you have enough “kicks” you click on the present icon at the top right hand corner of the app.    Choose the gift card or reward you want and click the “I want this” button.   You will be able to find your gift card by clicking the person icon at the top left hand corner of the app and then click on the right hand side where it says “activity on Shopkick”, you will then see your gift card in the Rewards section.   To redeem the gift card click on the gift card and have the cashier scan it.   You will need to let them know you are redeeming a gift card and not a coupon because they are processed differently.
Saving Money at Target with Shopkick:
The Shopkick app also contains Target coupons.  To find the coupons you need to look for the “Big Deal Book”.   Swipe through the book to see all of the coupons.   Once you see a coupon you want to use just click on the blue circle that says “Use This Deal”.   Make sure you are at Target and ready to use the coupon because the offer will expire 12 hours after tapping “Use This Deal.” In conclusion, Shopkick is a great rewards program and I highly recommend it.  Get signed up with Shopkick today so you can earn FREE gift cards and save money at Target and other great stores.   Have a wonderful day and happy Shopkicking!

Story Credit "All Things Target"

End of week totals...

We're doing our best to increase our Plink points and Shopkicks before the holiday season kicks into high gear. I've already noticed Halloween decorations sprouting up around town, before you know it, Christmas will be upon us. Here's what we've managed so far. 

Swagbucks 4,935 points ($45 Gift Card)

Shopkicks 15,710 points ($60 Gift Card)

Plink 18, 035 points ($180 Gift Card)

Inbox $32.25 (Via Paypal)

Panda $41.00 (Via Check)

Coke Rewards 788 points

Amazon Credit $34

Health Savings Account $115