Friday, August 31, 2012

I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But..." Part 4: Ask a store employee

I will confess. Even though I'm a woman, I fall more into the male stereotype when it comes to asking for directions, or in this case, asking for help in a store. My husband on the other hand, is fantastic about asking for clear directions, or finding an employee to ask a question to save time & energy. Many "adventures" (or catastrophes would probably better describe it) have been averted because of his wisdom. I have been known to wander around the aisles looking for an item, determined I will find it, before having to ask a store employee.

Now, though, having a toddler & baby with me on most shopping trips, I don't have limitless amount of time to go solo while trying to find things. If I can't find an item that was advertised on sale or matches my coupon, I have two choices: skip that deal entirely, or ask for help. I'm getting braver (and swallowing my pride) and asking for help. Silly to some of you, I know, but that's a little glimpse of me.

This week though, it paid off. Last night some friends watched our kids, and my husband and I tackled our "energy drainer" errands... things that have been on our minds for weeks or months, but we haven't gotten to accomplish. Even though it wasn't a romantic date in that sense, we were both encouraged getting to take some things off our mental shoulders, and felt refreshed once it was done.

I had tried for THREE DAYS to take advantage of the online 2 for $20 Toys 'R' Us diaper deal, but every time I put the two boxes of diapers in my online shopping cart and tried to check out, it gave me an error (invalid quantity). So I decided to swing by my Toys 'R' Us to see if the deal was possibly in store, or ask them to troubleshoot it for me (we had an errand just a few stores down, so it took very little extra time). Like I had suspected, the boxes were on sale for $15 each, but the 2 for $20 promotion was online only. When a store employee came up and asked if he could help, *gulp*, I explained my dilemma to him. So he grabbed a box of diapers and told us he would be back.

After waiting for probably 10 minutes (we got to browse lots of toys in the diaper area), he came back and verified it wasn't in store, it was only online, BUT he had tried to also do the purchase online and it was giving him the same issue. Since it was advertised free in-store pick up, he honored the online deal for us. Better than that, since the limit was two per customer, they let me purchase two, and my husband purchase two!

That 10 minutes and being brave enough to ask a store employee for help saved us a lot of money. So I will keep on being brave and asking for help! And if you're like me, I encourage you to ask for help at a store sooner rather than later!

Why I Say "No": So I Can Say "Yes" Later!!!

This is just a stand alone post, but I was given an opportunity to see experience why I say "no" so later I can say "yes".

One thing I've discovered the last few years is there are a lots of good deals out there. Whether it's with coupons, hanging on a clearance rack, or tucked at the back of a box at a garage sale. I want to live well, save more, and have money to give to others, but it's the little decisions on regular everyday shopping trips that can deter me sometimes... I'll think, "It's only $3" or "but I'll use it for ... (an event three months down the road)". Stocking up on items while they are at a great price, or buying for the future, are both great things to do, and I do them. But for me, if I don't ask myself more questions before making a purchase on a "great deal", I'll overspend in that budget category, or I will fill my home with things I "like" but don't "love". So I have been trying to make a habit of asking myself questions like:

- "Will I wear this more than twice?"
- "Do I already have an item similar to this at home?"
- "Have I used up most of what I have already?" (like pretty candles, hand soaps, etc...)
- "If I purchase this toy, what toy can I put in the garage sale box instead?"
- "Do I LOVE this? Will I regret NOT purchasing it a week from now?"

A lot of the time, I have to say "no" to something. I put that cute shirt back on the rack, set the toy truck back on the table at the garage sale, or decide I'm going to use up what I have first.

But then, when I hit a garage sale like I did this week, I finally can say "YES!!!" and love it! A certain 2 yr. old boy in my house is a very happy little man. At a garage sale this week, I "previewed" a friend's garage sale the night before, and scored a Fisher Price Little People construction set and fire station set, along with some Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles. He found them before I could stash them away for potty training rewards & Christmas and had to take them to bed with him, lining them up properly...
They have since been put back away for later, because.... (drumroll please)... When I went back the next day to say hi to my friend and see how the garage sale was going, she had added this train table about to her sale... I made a quick call to the hubby and we both were able to say YES!!!
I couldn't wait to get it set up at home and show it to my Levi. Every time I thought about the table, all I could think about was "That's why it's so worth it to say no. Because today I got to say yes!" And I know I will remember this for a long time to come. It will motivate me to keep on saying "no". Because I love getting to say "yes".

Yoplait Yogurt Coupons (print before they're gone!)

It's the end of the month, which means online coupons are about to reset... If your family likes yogurt, make sure to print the following coupons to match with a sale to get a great price on yogurt:

- $.40/1 Simplait Yogurt cup
- $.60/2 Yoplait Greek Yogurt cups
- $.85/2 Yoplait Gogurt, Splitz, Kids, or Trix

Toys 'R' Us: $10 Boxes of Diapers!!! (and NO coupons!)

If you have a little one still in diapers (or two in my case), here's a great deal on disposable diapers: Toys 'R' Us has included their boxes of Baby Blue Diapers in the 2 for $20 promotion... The boxes are normally $19.99, currently on sale for $15 each. If you add two to your cart (limit of two per customer), the price drops to $20 for BOTH!!! Choose "ship to store" to pick them and not have to pay shipping fees. So here's the price breakdown for the various sizes:

Size 3, 96 ct.: $.10 each
Size 4, 82 ct.: $.12 each
Size 5, 70 ct.: $.14 each
Size 6, 60 ct.: $.17 each

With all the changes to Amazon Mom over the last year, I haven't seen prices that low on diapers without coupons in a LONG time!

If you are having issues with the Toys 'R' Us website letting you complete your order, you can read my post here about how the store honored the deal in-store... So feel free to call your local store to ask if they would (still limit of 2 boxes per customer)

Shop through Ebates to get 2% cashback on your purchase at Toys 'R' Us. Sign-up or Sign-in here* (free to join).

* The above link does contain my Ebates referral link.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

$1/1 Wheat Thins Coupon (Facebook Offer)

Head over to the Wheat Thins Facebook page to get a $1/1 Wheat Thins Bold Flavor crackers. Then, if you "share" the coupon with a friend on Facebook, you can print a coupon for $1/2 Wheat Thins Original crackers (9-16oz).

Thanks, Passionate Penny Pincher!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But...": Part 3, Match Coupons w/ Sales

This might be the shortest blog post in my "I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But..." series. But I had to make sure to include it because probably this one lesson I've learned has saved me the most money in the two years I've been couponing. Here it is:

Match coupons with sales.

That's it. I know, rocket-science... This might seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but when I started realizing how much could be saved by matching coupons with sales, it was like suddenly a light went on for me. I started pouring over the weekly ads that came in my Sunday newspaper or by mail.

I discovered that stores really do mark items down a considerable amount (10%-30%) during their weekly sales. So as I followed various blogs to learn the ropes about using coupons, I realized products I bought on a regularly went on sale on a regular basis (usually a 1-2 month cycle).

Here's an example: 
I like coffee. And over the last couple of years, I like good coffee. I brew my own at home, and have transitioned to preferring brands like Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Gevalia, etc... But these bags run $7-$8 a bag. When I find a coupon for $1.50-$2 off a bag, I stash it away because I KNOW they will go on sale somewhere for around $6 during the lifetime of that coupon. So I patiently wait. 

And it pays off. Without fail, it goes on sale, I use my coupons, and I get my yummy coffee for around $4 a bag (that has become my "target" price to stock up on). So I get my delicious coffee for the same price I would buy generic ground coffee for.

So watch your weekly ads*. Save those coupons. And it WILL pay off!

*If you live near a Walmart, have you tried price-matching products yet? Did you know you can price-match an item AND then use a coupon on it? Yep. You sure can!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But...": Part 2, Coupons Can Be Like Cash

So if you've been wondering if you can really get into couponing as a way to help save some money, the answer is "Yep". This week I'm sharing some of what I've learned over the last few years, and the things that encourage me to stick with couponing (as I get back into it after taking a six month break!).

Yesterday I shared that the first thing is to START SMALL. Look at your own budget, your personal values, and start small by setting a goal or two (like trying to save 15% or $5 on your weekly grocery shopping trips). I know I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing myself to others and the deals they find or the money they are saving... So don't compare yourself to others, make choices for you (and your family)! Whatever you decide WILL make a difference in your financial life!

The second thing you can do is to think of coupons like cash. Imagine walking into your local grocery store and standing there at the entrance was an employee handing out $20 bills to every customer that walked inside. Would you take it? Absolutely.

When you start using coupons, you will be walking out of the store with more cash in your pocket (or in your bank account if you use a debit card or credit card) than you did previously. Because you handed the cashier coupons instead of your own personal money. I LOVE the feeling of seeing my total before coupons, then watching it drop dollar by dollar. Ahhh. Satisfaction. 

Here are a few ways that I "use coupons like cash":
   - I clip coupons for things I buy on a regular basis (like yogurt and cereal).
   - I print coupons at home on my printer from sites like
   - If I have something on my shopping list I don't have a coupon for, I can look that item up on a coupon database (like at Frugal Girls or Money Saving Mom) to see if there is one
   - I don't buy something just because I have a coupon for it... Then I'm still spending money, not saving it!

If you want to see an example of buying everyday grocery & household items with coupons, check out my recent shopping trip here.

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow...

FREE (or cheap!) Gerber Fruit Pouches

Right now you can print $.75/1 coupons for Gerber Graduates Grabbers or Gerber Organic Pouches (yes, I already printed mine, so when I snipped a picture to post here, that's why it says "print limit reached"). You can print a total of FOUR coupons per computer... one of each from here and here (for some reason you can only print one of each instead of the normal two from each site). If your grocery store doubles coupons, you can pick up some FREE or CHEAP fruit pouches!

The Giant Eagle near my house has the "Grabbers" regularly priced at $1.69 each, so only $.19 after the coupon is doubled, and the Organic pouches are regularly $1.50, so FREE after the coupon!

Don't forget, if you go through Swagbucks to print your coupons, you earn 10 Swagbucks for every coupon you print & redeem! Use 45 coupons, and you'll already have the 450 Swagbucks needed to redeem for a $5 Amazon gift card!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"I Should Do The Coupon Thing, But...": Pt. 1, Start Small

Almost every time I use coupons at a store, the cashier or someone in line says, "I should do the coupon thing, but..." TV Shows like "Extreme Couponing" or knowing someone who is a coupon queen, can overwhelm "regular" people. So this week I'm going to share some of the things I've learned along the way about starting the couponing adventure.

Just like my little girl (10 months old now!) little-by-little is learning important life skills like crawling, walking, feeding herself... the best way to start your own personal coupon adventure (or get back on the bandwagon) is to START SMALL.

Here are some "baby steps" you can take to Start Small...

1. Set a "goal" for yourself, either a percentage (like 15% of your weekly grocery/household budget) or dollar amount ("I'm going to try and use $5 or more in coupons every week). While that might not sound like a lot at first, it quickly adds up. For example, if you have a grocery budget of $200 a month, you could free up $20-$30 a month to be used somewhere else in your budget. Sometimes you'll go over the goal, sometimes under, but it gives you something to aim at!

2. Learn from the "coupon pros"... follow a couple of coupon veterans by email, blog, or Facebook. Pick 2 or 3 to follow (more than that and you can get overwhelmed, or spend too much time watching deals!). Some of my favorites are Money Saving Mom, Frugal Girls, and Passionate Penny Pincher. They let you know what coupons are available and set up "scenarios" of step-by-step how to use your coupons to get the best deal at different stores. They help take the guesswork out of things!

That's it for now... Start Small by setting a goal for yourself, and learn from the pros! 

And for those of you coupon veterans who might be reading this, what is something that helped you when you started your couponing adventure?

I Named This Blog "Saving With A Smile" Because...

This summer marked two years since I started this blog. Most of you who follow this blog might not have been there at the very beginning. So I wanted to briefly share with you why I named it "Saving With A Smile"...

My husband and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage this November (whoo-hoo!). One of the things we were advised to do early on in our marriage was take a financial class together (Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University"-- we highly recommend it for couples, singles, college students, etc...) to get on the same page about budgeting and how we saved/spent our money. My husband worked full-time, and I worked part-time until we had our kids. 

As we started figuring out a budget (and we still have to tweak it every few months as life changes), we established some family values that helped us make money decisions:

- We wanted to be debt free (other than a mortgage payment when we decide to buy a home)
- We want to save for future expenses (emergencies, house & auto repairs, traveling, clothing, etc...)
- We want to enjoy everyday life (budget for dates, "fun" things, personal hobbies, etc...)
- We want to be able to give to others (local families in need, our church, missionaries overseas, and sponsoring a child in other country)

Things have continually changed in the last few years, the biggest (financially) being moving from a two-income family to a one-income, and me personally transitioning from working outside the home to being a stay-at-home mom of two. But those four values haven't changed. We have re-worked our budget numerous times, but those have kept us focusing on our life, not just our money.

But having those values is why I named this blog "Saving With A Smile". I don't try to live as frugally as possible just to save money (I don't want to live life like Scrooge!). We live frugally and live on a budget so we can live well and enjoy life.

Do I wonder (aka "freak out") sometimes where money is going to come from for something? Yep.

Do I sometimes wish we had a little more wiggle room in the budget to allow for "------"? Yep.

Do I ever "blow" the budget in one area? Yeah, it happens.

We are by no means perfect in our financial decision, but we're working at it and learning as we go. Trying to stick to a budget has given us freedom in so many areas. All the "saving" we do enables us to "smile" a lot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

And I'm Back... Giant Eagle Couponing Trip

If you could see me behind the camera, you would see me smiling. This month, I CONQUERED. I have now completed at least four grocery shopping trips with BOTH kids and I used COUPONS! (yes, I have been weekly grocery shopping, I didn't give it up or anything... we still aren't eating out much, but I haven't been brave enough to regularly coupon since I'm still learning how to balance young kids and shopping)

If you've ever used coupons at a store, you know one of three things always happens: either the item you want is out of stock, there are more items to choose from than you anticipated, or a coupon isn't ringing up at the register. Or all three happen in the same trip...

Add in two squirming kids in the shopping cart, and it quickly becomes a full-blown adventure (ha-ha-ha). Let's just say I have had the jitters about trying to attempt grocery shopping with both kids and trying to coupon at the same time. And this summer I have finally worked up my nerve. Hence my smile... after all, I started this blog to share with others that you can save money, live on a budget, and live well.

So here's a glimpse at HUGE success (for me!)... I'm not saving 90%, but my goal has been to try and slim these kind of trips by 30% if I can...


(3) Dawn Dish Soap- $1 (rain check from previous week's sale)
   - used (3) $.50/1 Dawn soap coupon (P&G 7/29)
Final Cost: FREE

(3) Crest Toothpaste- 2/$3
   - used (3) $.75/1 crest toothpaste coupon (P&G 7/29)
Final Cost: FREE

(2) International Delight Creamers- 3/$5
   - used (2) $.55/1 coupons from here
Final Cost: $.56 each

(4) Yoplait Kids Packs- $2.29
   - used (2) $.75/2 coupons from here
Final Cost: $1.54 each

(10) Yoplait Yogurt cups- (20/$10)
   - used (2) $.40/1 Yoplait Simplait coupons from here
   - used (1) $.60/8 Yoplait yogurt coupon from here
Final Cost: $.23 each (the $.40/1 coupons fully doubled to give $.60 overage)

(2) Yoplait Greek Yogurts cups- $1
   - used (1) $.60/2 coupons from here
Final Cost: $.40 each

(2) Gerber Organic Pouches- 2/$3
   - used (2) $.75/1 Gerber Organic pouches from here
Final Cost: FREE

(2) Gerber Pouches- $1.69
   - used (2) $.75/1 Gerber fruit pouches from here
Final Cost: $.19 each

Baby Goldfish- $2
   - used NO coupons :-)
Final Cost: $2

BBQ Sauce- $2.50
   - again, no coupon... but needed it for a recipe tonight
Final Cost: $2.50 each

Oscar Meyer lunch meat- $5.19
   - used (1) Free Oscar Meyer Selects coupon from Facebook promotional (no longer valid)
Final Cost: FREE

Total Before Coupons: $43.07 +tax
Total AFTER Coupons: $14.98 +tax 
Percent Saved: 65% (went WAY over my aim of 30% this trip!)

And yes, they were out of a few items I was looking for (that I had rain checks for) and the lunch meat coupon wasn't scanning so I had to wait for a manager to manually enter the discount. But both my kids got chocolate chip cookies at the bakery (part of Giant Eagle's cookie program) and we took the time to watch the live lobster's, so they did well this trip.

Monday, August 6, 2012

B1G1 FREE Crayola Products @ Toys 'R' Us!!!

I wanted to give y'all the heads up that through this Saturday (Aug. 11th) ALL Crayola products (crayons, markers, Color Wonder, dry erase, etc...) are B1G1 FREE... I love the Crayola summer sales at Toys 'R' Us because when it comes to coloring & art supplies, other brands just don't have the same quality (unless you mean name brand art supplies, but I mean crayons & markers for kids...). Here are some of my Crayola fav's I have bought in the past and recommend (and I included prices for my local store in Ohio, just to give you an idea of what the sale would look like--prices may differ at your store!):

- "Color Wonder" markers/coloring books, which only color on Color Wonder paper/coloring books. A set is usually $8.99 at my store, so only $4.50 each with the sale.. also you can look for the travel kits that are $9.99, which come with a hard case, book, and markers... makes them only $5 each with sale!
- washable "Pipsqueak" markers... short and stubby, perfect for little hands! $4.99 at my store, so only $2.50 each with sale (and I've discovered washable markers are worth every penny than the less expensive markers!)
- dry erase crayons, double-sided dry erase boards, preschool workbooks, etc... the crayons are usually $4.99 a pack, and the workbooks range from $4-$6 regular price. The dry erase board sets range from $10-$12. So with sale, items will be anywhere from $2.50-$6.50 each  (My two-year old loves dry erase because he gets to make the picture "clean" again--he loves cleaning!)

This is a great time to grab some inexpensive & fun gifts for little toddlers for birthdays this fall and even Christmas! Nothing like walking out of the store having already checked birthday and Christmas gifts off your list months beforehand! Last summer I stocked up on crayons, markers, scissors, tape, typing paper, etc... during the back to school sales, then put together "craft baskets" for my creative nieces who love to make masterpieces! Stocking up during sales helped me fill overflowing baskets (that I got at the dollar store!) with fun craft supplies for only about $5 a basket!

* Neither Toys 'R' Us nor Crayola endorsed anything in this blog post... I received nothing for this post, I just wanted to share with fellow deal-seekers some great sales on craft supplies! I will confess, I am addicted to good markers & crayons. Sigh. ;-p

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book Review: "Simply Jesus" by Joe Stowell

Simply Jesus (LifeChange Books)
"Simply Jesus" by Joe Stowell was an incredible book to read that really challenged and encouraged by heart all at the same time. Stowell kept the book simple, gave short stories/examples with each chapter, and really just wrote in a way that made me feel like I was sitting in his living room, drinking coffee and listening to truths he has learned (and continues to learn) in life.

The short description of the book captures the heart of it well:
"Simply Jesus. What would it mean to fix our attention fully on the Person of Christ? To approach Him apart from systems, formulas, religion, and well-meaning Christian culture? To see Jesus Himself? And how would that change us? Moody Bible College President Joseph Stowell ponders these probing questions -- showing through dramatic stories and surprising insights how believers can experience significant life-change as they encounter Christ -- our model of understanding, love, and courage, today. Simply Jesus identifies experiences that can awaken the realization of our basic need to focus on Him ... like temptation, trouble, and surrender. A book intended for both spiritual seekers and Christians who are ready for a fresh, personal encounter with the Savior their heart searches for. Clear, stylish typeset, with user-friendly links to referenced Scripture."

While the description of the book sounded great, and I have enjoyed hearing Joe Stowell speak in the past, I also had reservations about how simple the book would actually stay... As a busy mom with a toddler & baby, I crave to read a book that continues to challenge me in life, but in reality I don't have time to read really long books right now (oh how I miss those days!). "Simply Jesus" was a perfect match for me in my season of life because the author truly kept it simple, keeps directing the reader to Jesus, included Scripture verses in the book so I didn't have to go look up the passage mentioned, and kept the ten chapters short & sweet. I could read a chapter in a few minutes, then ponder what I had read all day long. Several of the chapters gave me enough food for thought that I asked my husband to read them so we could discuss it.

I would definitely say this was a time when the description of the book was spot on. Through interacting with what I was reading, my heart was encouraged in new ways to focus on Jesus in the midst of whatever my day might hold (and as the mom of two small kids, I NEVER know what's coming next! :-p) 

If you're looking for a simple, refreshing book that encouraged your heart as it longs for God, I highly recommend "Simply Jesus". You won't regret it, and most likely will find yourself turning back to re-read a chapter. I already have.

Don't forget, if you rank my review in the little box below, you will be entered in a drawing to win your own copy of "Simply Jesus". So take a moment and click some stars!

* I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review, as part of their Blogging for Books program. All views expressed are strictly my own.