Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas is Coming...don't be offended

I have not blogged in awhile because, well, my heart just hasn't been in to it. But today I experienced a bit of a "heart moment" where I just have to let it out...

First of all, this trend that stores are removing "Christmas" from their ads, signage, and greeting makes me a little bit sad. Everyone who celebrates Christmas, whether they be Christian or not, call it CHRISTMAS. I even know a few atheists who still call it Christmas...it's just what it is.

Second, since when did the definition of Christmas become "a tree with a bunch of presents underneath it" ??? This is a disturbing trend...







 



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Women of Faith 2011



Women of Faith 2011: Over the Top
Rating: 3.5 stars

The time has come and gone, and the Women of Faith conference I attended over the weekend in Spokane is over. I would like to graciously thank Booksneeze and Women of Faith for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference and share my experience!

Now...let's get down to business.

The conference ran all day Friday and all day Saturday, with a rather large break on Friday for dinner and whatnot. This year's theme for Spokane was Over the Top and we were graced with the presence of some incredible ladies (and one incredible guy) including Patsy Clairmont, Lisa Whelchel, Marilyn Meberg, Brenda Warner, Mandisa, Andy Andrews, Deborah Joy Winans, Sandy Patti, and Amy Grant. 

The worship team was also phenomenal and really rocked the house; they had people up on their feet, singing along, and people were definitely participating! We were treated to mini-concerts by Mandisa on Friday night and Amy Grant on Saturday, and both were incredibly enthusiastic about the mission of Women of Faith and seemed happy to be a part of it. Deborah Joy did several skits over the weekend that all had a message and pertained to difficulties women and mommies might have; overall I really enjoyed her skits, particularly the last skit which was about an "invisible woman", and no matter how much people do NOT seem to notice us and the things we do, God is always watching and our work is important to Him. 

Wanting to give a full review, I chose to purchase some Women of Faith merchandise. I was disappointed at the prices, as they seemed *extremely* high. However, they did redeem themselves (to a degree) with the packages that were available. These packages were a phenomenal deal, and with the purchase of $100, you got $15 off your total purchase. This worked conveniently well with the $85 package of 2 books, your choice of bag, a gift, and 2 CD's. I chose to purchase an additional $15 book which brought my total to $100, making the book essentially free. I found this to be an incredible value, especially given the prices of individual items! The ONE issue I had with the packages was the limited selection of books available in the packages. Sure, you could purchase a two-pack of other Women of Faith devotionals and whatnot for around $25, but the package I mentioned above only had the option of selecting books from the speakers at the event. I was disappointed; I wanted some other Women of Faith selections! This is my first WOF conference, so I imagine this is typical, but I wish they would give more options for book selection in their packages.

Most of the messages seemed to center around personal experiences in the speakers' lives, and they also surrounded the ideals of community, support, and prayer. 

Here's my issue with the conference...I suppose maybe I was expecting too much, but there were very few moments where I felt God was speaking or that the conference was even God-led. I may be more of a traditionalist and not such a "contemporary" Christian, but as much fun as some of the stories may have been, I found myself wondering "Okay, let's get to the GOD part". This left me disappointed in the entire conference. Yes, the worship team sang songs about God and His love and glory, but I felt that the entire conference was lacking in the God department. There were very few mentions of Scripture, and that really bothered me. There was maybe two or three prayers that were said. Very frustrating for a girl who went to learn about God and how he has worked in the lives of others. As long as I'm being completely honest...I was not the only one who was bothered by the 40-ish minute presentation on World Vision. I (and several others around me) found the World Vision advertisement on Friday night to be a little...awkward. It seemed a little bit like a late-night infomercial, and I would have rather they done a quick introduction to what it is, and then had us refer to our bags or the booths for more information rather than show videos and advertisements for it on Friday AND Saturday. I understand that every conference has to pay homage to their sponsors (here I am ASSUMING that World Vision is a sponsor...), but this was just irritating. I do have to give credit to World Vision and their volunteers at the event, though. For just $35 per month you can sponsor a child, and $.85 of every dollar goes to the child...this is a relatively high amount compared to some other charities that only use sometimes as low as $.07 per dollar to the actual cause! 

Although my "negative" experiences with the conference were relatively few and far between and I generally enjoyed myself, they were a large factor in my rating of only 3.5 out of 5 stars for the conference. I really enjoyed the worship team, the music, and hearing Mandisa and Amy Grant sing, and I really did love hearing all of the fun stories from the contributors, I wish it felt a little more God-centered. I could see the messages in their stories, but I just wish it was better conveyed to the audience...at times I felt the message got lost in the story. 

Would I attend another Women of Faith conference if I had the chance? Absolutely! I would love to compare experiences and I'd like to plan to attend their "Celebrate" themed conference in Spokane August 17-18, 2012. 
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Women of Faith 2011





That's right...*this* girl is going to the Women of Faith conference in Spokane! I am so excited, as this is the first year that I have been able to go. In previous years, my church has offered tickets in lieu of their annual women's retreat, but it was still cost prohibitive. 

I have always wanted to attend a Women of Faith conference, especially after reading through their study guide series and feeling so uplifted. So, on September 16th and 17th, my sister-in-law Angie and I are headed over there for the "Over the Top" conference, with speakers like Lisa Welchel and Patsy Clairmont and the musical talents of Amy Grant! I am so, so excited to go!

If you are interested in attending an event in your area, head over to the Women of Faith website to check for the schedule and purchase your tickets!





Monday, June 27, 2011

Albertsons Trip 6/27

This week (once again) I chose to take advantage of the Albertsons doublers. The lines were super long, so instead of doing three transactions, I decided to only do two and come back tomorrow to see if they had any additional stock of some items I was interested in. I'm really pleased with my shopping this week!

I bought:
Ritz Crackerfulls- $2.79
Pringles (3 packs)- $5.00
Malt-o-Meal cereal (2 packs)- $5.00
Lunchables (4 packs)- $4.00
GM Cereal (4 boxes)- $10.00
Cocoa Pebbles- $1.67

Total Full retail: $28.46

Deals:
Ritz- $1 coupon w/ doubler- $.79
Pringles- $1 coupon w/ doubler- $3
MOM Cereal- $1 coupon w/ doubler- $3
GM Cereal- $1 coupon w/ doubler, $1 coupon w/ doubler, $.75 coupon w/ doubler- $5
Cocoa Pebbles- $.50 coupon - $1.17
Lunchables- $.75 coupon x 4- $1.00

Total out of pocket: $13.96

Savings of $14.50 or 51%


Price per item BEFORE savings: $1.90
Price per item AFTER savings: $.93


Now, initially the savings isn't super hardcore great, and I've given up on the idea that I'm EVER going to actually save over 50% on my groceries...

*HOWEVER*

Not only did I get a catalina for free milk, something in my order triggered a $5 off your next purchase catalina. I have no clue what it was, but it printed off. I thought this was some sort of Albertsons trickery, so I chose not to apply it to my second order and waited until I got in to my car to examine the cat. If I would have applied it to my second order, my savings would have been HUGE. An additional $5 off my second order would have put my total for the evening at $8.96. FOR FIFTEEN ITEMS! I did end up getting other items that weren't mentioned (or on sale) like fruit and bread and all that jazz, but who wants to hear about regular purchases??


HIGHLIGHTS:
  • M-O-M cereal. Because of Justin's gluten issue, MOM cereal's "Fruity Dynobites" has been the only cereal he's eaten for about, oh, going on four years. I've tried fruity pebbles to no avail, so finding this for $1.50 per bag (after savings, of course) for the 21 oz...I was pretty jazzed.
  • The cereal/milk deal. When you bought four boxes of cereal, you get a catalina for free milk. So although the $1.25 per box after savings isn't super appealing, I think I did pretty well considering I get a $2.48 gallon of milk for free ;) I was also excited to see that the Cheerios box offers coupons for Pampers. I need swimmers, so that will come in handy!
  • Ritz crackerfulls. I love these, they're super yummy, and they'll really come in handy for our road trip later this week!
  • The lunchables. Normally I'm not a fan of these pre-packaged meals, but this will ALSO come in handy on our vacation. Not to mention paying $1.00 for four of them. Yes ma'am, I think I will take advantage of that!
  • The mystery $5 off my next order catalina. It's free money that I wasn't expecting. 'Nuff said ;)

Now, as I said earlier, I'm planning on heading back tomorrow to see if they have additional stock of some of the items that they were out of, like the salad that was on sale. I also need to hunt down some additional coupons, so until next time...happy shopping!
 
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: The Skin Map






The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead
2 Stars
Ah...The Skin Map...oh how you disappoint! 

I was so excited to read this book per the previous reviews, and in fact, I was so excited I actually decided to read this in e-book format instead of requesting a regular ol' paper book. I started reading immediately, and I was immediately disappointed.
The Skin Map  tells of the adventures of Kit Livingstone, a 27 year old man who is unhappy with his plain life, plain girlfriend, and plain London flat. Suddenly, he happens upon another dimension where he encounters his great grandfather who then informs him that he has the ability to travel to alternate dimensions/universes...whatever you wish to call them. At its core, this is a novel about time travel/alternate universes. I can't say much more about the book without giving away important details, or "spoilers", so I'll stop there. 

I felt that Kit was a poorly developed character, and I really got sick of all the negativity. I want to sit and enjoy a book, I want to feel something. I want to connect with the characters. There was none of that going on for me. Simply put: I didn't like it. 
Overall, I cannot say that I recommend this book. I'm not known for liking fiction, so I'm giving this two stars because if fiction is your thing, you may enjoy the book. I, however, won't be returning to this book. 

If you're interested in purchasing, Amazon sells this book. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Couponing...again

I've been thinking of revamping my coupon photo books. You're probably thinkin' "What the heck is this crazy lady doing blogging after midnight" but my hubbs is asleep on the couch and I just keep getting wrapped up in searching for coupons. My newspaper company is offering five Sunday newspapers each Sunday, plus regular 7 day delivery, for only $25/month. That's $11 more per month than I'm spending currently and I can guarantee that I'll save more than $11 per month.

So, I think I'll need a new system. 

I love my system. It's discreet and I just whip out my teeny tiny little coupon photo album, all the other couponers looking at me like I'm crazy, while I look at them like they're crazy for toting around this ginormous coupon binder. That takes up valuable cart space, man! Not to mention I would just feel like an idiot carrying around this huge binder...all the looks of disgust (yes, I said DISGUST) from other customers who have come to resent couponers, those aren't a problem with my handy dandy photo book that I just slip in to my cart if I get any nasties shot my way. Sheesh, doesn't EVERYONE carry around a photo album of their kids in their purse (wink, wink)? 

If you can't tell, I'm a little self-conscious about being a couponer. So, I need another discreet system that might be a bit bigger than my photo album. I'm thinking a recipe organizer. The ones that hold index cards. Meh...I'll sleep on it, do some coupon organizing tomorrow, and then let you know.

And yes, I do recycle all my papers, so no worries...the additional papers would either be donated to the schools (when school is in session) OR recycled.
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shopping trip 6/15

I have a joke for you...
When you say "Safeway", take the 'F' out of 'way'. 
Haha...there's no 'F' in 'way', as in "There is no F'in way I'll shop there again!" (The joke is courtesy of my husband...I'm not that clever).


So the ads came out yesterday and I was so excited by all the deals! For the first time ever, Safeway caught my eye with their "buy two packs of coke, get two free, PLUS two free bags of chips". I calculated the costs and figured I would spend $6.99 on two 12 packs and get two free. Additionally, I had a $2 off 2 coupon, so that would make it $4.99 for four 12 packs of soda! I get there...um, no. Try $6.99 PER 12 PACK OF SODA! There was no way I was paying $13.98 for all that soda when another local store was running a promo for 24 packs of Pepsi for $4.88. Nonetheless, I wandered around the store and scored:
 
Crystal Light boxes of the individual packets: $2.99, on sale for 2/$5 (not very good)- paid $3, or $1.50 for each box of singles


Clearance hot chocolate - 2 boxes of 10 for $1.38 TOTAL (orig. $3.39/box)


Full retail: $12.76
Total OOP: $4.38


Total saved: $8.38 or 65%  (go me!!!) 


However, I decided to hit up Walmart and do some last-minute shopping and ad matches because I knew I wasn't going to have time before camping this weekend. I purchased:


Cake mix (2): $1.16 each - $2.32
Chex Mix Traditional flavor (2): $2.16 - $4.32
Mt. Dew (24 pack): $6.89
Pepsi (24 pack): $6.89
12 taco shells (2 packs): $1.00 each- $2.00
Taco seasoning: $.78
Jose-ole Carne Asada: $2.88


Full retail: $26.08


Cake Mix: Ad match $.88 - $1.76
Chex Mix: Ad match $.98 - $1.96
Mt. Dew: Ad match $4.88 w/ $1 off coupon: $3.88
Pepsi: Ad match- $4.88
Taco seasoning- FREE with purchase of 2 Jose-ole products
Carne Asada: $1.10 coupon- $1.78 (I'm aware this was cheaper a few weeks ago)
Taco shells: $1/1 coupon- $1


Total OOP: $15.26 or 41%


Unfortunately, my excitement over some of my deals was short-lived. I found out the cheese that I bought (not listed here because it wasn't a deal) that was SUPPOSED to be marked down I was charged full-price for- a $2 difference. Also, I discovered that the taco shells that I bought actually expired March 6, 2011. Um, thanks Walmart...product on your shelves 3 months past the expiration date? What is THAT?! So, it looks like my attempt to avoid Thursday shopping won't happen; I'll be headed back to Walmart to ask for a price adjustment on the cheese (which I'm HOPING they'll do) and to return the expired taco shells. Boo :( On the plus side, I can look for some more coupons and use them tonight, including the $1/1 cheese product AND the $.75/1 gallon of milk, any brand!


Now, I want to take a minute to tell you how much I resisted the coupon thing, mainly because of one thing: shelf-clearers. I didn't want to be labeled as an "annoying coupon lady" who took 45 minutes to check out and bought every darn box of sale cereal/medicine/soda on the shelves. I had my very first run-in with one of these "shelf clearers" last night, and the experience wasn't great. She seemed to be there for every deal I was there for. She cleared out the shelves of Hawaiian sandwich rolls, coffee, hot dogs, bacon, and some other things I wasn't there for, like the entire stock of Advil. No joke, roughly 100 boxes of Advil. I ran in to her occasionally throughout the store, but it wasn't until she was in front of me in checkout and I saw her massive pile of Advil that I remembered my poor hubby needed allergy medicine. I turn around and head for the allergy section, took about five minutes to figure out what I wanted, and came back to the same checkout line, where the woman was still maybe 1/2 way done with her order. This woman took *forever*, handing over a massive envelope full of coupons. Walmart, given that it was after 10 PM, only had two cashiers open. Lines were backing up, people were getting antsy, and knowing that I might take awhile with my ad-matches I let people go in front of me. Finally, the coupon master was done with her order. Carts full of stuff and her grand total was $22 and some change. 


I really dislike "shelf-clearers" because I think it's just good manners to leave some of the stuff for other people. But I have to admire her wicked couponing skills. I'm still only saving roughly 40% on a consistent basis, but this woman had to have saved over 90% on her bill. I do also have to give her credit for going when the store is less busy, and it is unfortunate that Walmart only had two cashiers working. I was torn between walking up to her and yelling at her for being so inconsiderate or walking up to her, dropping on my knees begging "teach me everything you know!" 


When I approached the register, the cashier was probably mind-stabbing me as soon as I told her I had ad-matches and coupons, given her 1/2 hour experience with the last coupon lady. I was very well organized and despite the large amount of coupons and ad-matches I seemed to have, I got through the line in a little less than 4 minutes from start to finish (I had a lot of groceries...)


Yesterday was just not my day. I still did okay, but if I would have been paying attention to the register instead of putting my groceries in my cart I would have caught the cheese mistake, and if I had paid attention to the taco shells, I would've noticed the expiration date. Then again, as a customer in a store I expect things to NOT be expired and to be priced accordingly. Mistakes happen, and it's a lesson learned.



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Albertsons Trip 6/13

I've taken the past few weeks off of couponing, questioning whether it was really worth all the effort that I put in to it. Nonetheless, I just couldn't stay away, especially after I saw some of the savings I could have this week. I took a trip to Albertson's to take advantage of the doublers. Typically the shelves are BARE for things that are on sale, but I found Albertsons to be well stocked and prepared this time around. Everything I came for was in stock except for a few of the cereals that were on sale such as Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms. They had *plenty* of Cheerios and Mult-grain Cheerios, and since the MG cheerios are usually a little bit more expensive, I used this opportunity to grab a few boxes :) These deals run through *today* so if you happen to read this today, you can see exactly what I paid! I'm writing the initial prices pre-sale and pre-promotion, so for example this week they have a "save $5 when you buy 10 items". I'm listing the items BEFORE that discount, so keep that in mind. Some prices were with the preferred card, so for simplicity's sake, I just listed the preferred card price :)


Original Prices:

Old El-Paso taco seasoning - $.99 x 4 = $3.96
Welch Fruit snacks - $2.50 x 2 = $5.00
Bisquick Shake-n-Pour- $1.25 x 2 = $2.50
Cap'n Crunch cereal (on clearance- the big box) - $2.00
Multi-Grain cheerios/Golden Grahams - $2.38 x 3 = $7.14
Chicken Helper/Hamburger Helper - $1.49 x 3 = $4.47
Fruity/Cocoa Pebbles (gluten free for oldest boy AND on clearance) - $1.67 x 4 =$6.68
Totinos Pizza Rolls- $1.49 x 2 = $2.98
Totinos Pizzas - $1.49 x 4 = $5.96
Yoplait Smoothies - $3.49 x 2 = $6.98
Buddig Lunchmeat- $3.50 x 2 = $7

Total= $54.67

With coupons AND sale:
Welch Fruit snacks= $.55 w/ doubler- $3.90

Cap'n Crunch cereal= $.50 w/ doubler- $1.00

Multi-grain Cheerios & Golden Grahams- $1.00 w/ doubler= $5.64
* With sale: -$1.50 = Final Price: $3.64

Hamburger/Chicken helper= $.75 = $3.72
*With sale: -$1.50= Final Price: $2.22

Totino's Pizza rolls= $.40 = $2.58
*With Sale: -$1.00= Final Price:  $1.58

Totino's Pizzas= $.75 w/ doubler = $4.46
*With Sale: -$2.00= Final Price: $2.46

Yoplait Smoothies= $1 coupon w/doubler & $.75 coupon- $4.23
*With Sale: -$1.00= Final Price: $3.23

Buddig Lunchmeat= (2) $1 coupons w/ one doubler- $4

Shake-n-pour= $2.50
With Sale: -$1.00= Final Price: $1.50

Taco seasoning= $3.96
*With Sale: -$2.00= Final Price: $1.96

Fruity Pebbles= $6.68  **against my better judgment, there was a coupon for this that I chose not to print, so savings could have been better!!

Total with coupons AND sale: $32.17

Savings = $22.50 or 41%

Price per item BEFORE savings= $1.88
Price per item AFTER savings= $1.10 or $.78 off per item :)

Highlights
  • The BIG box of Cap'n Crunch. I've had the coupon in my purse for ages just waiting for it to go on sale. I just happen to notice the green "clearance" tag and there were plenty of boxes. If only I could find some more Cap'n Crunch coupons, I'd buy some more boxes for the stock pile I'd like to start!
  • Yoplait Smoothies. I've been wanting to try these but they're always so expensive. I was so excited to get the $1/1 coupon from their facebook page, PLUS the $.75 off that was in the coupon inserts this week (I think it was this week!!) With the sale, I paid $1.61 per package. Without the sale and coupons, these are normally priced at $3.49 so I think I got a GREAT deal.
  • Buddig Lunchmeat. Lunchmeat is always so expensive, so I was excited about the 2/$7 sale at Albertsons. Then I saw that Safeway has them on sale, B1G1 free :( I DO NOT shop at Safeway, and I'm not telling YOU to not shop there, but I dislike their store/prices/employees. However, I was able to print 2 $1 off coupons and use one of my doublers for a price that was too good to pass up and almost just as good as Safeway's deal. 
  • Shake-n-Pour pancakes. These are fantastic to put in the camper and make a quick, easy breakfast. I'm all OVER this sale and am considering going back and purchasing 10 more for my stockpile. We eat a lot of pancakes when we're camping...so sue me! And I promise, I will NOT clear the shelves. Albertsons had these very well-stocked as well, which I really appreciate.


Couponing can be pretty confusing if you don't know what you're doing, and it's no wonder that I was so put off by it for so long because coupon policies are different at EVERY store (even different locations of a chain store like Walmart) and it gets difficult to follow and remember all of the policies. I also purchased some fruits/veggies and tortilla chips that I didn't take in to account here because I'm illustrating the savings of using coupons/sales together. I was excited that most everything in my purchase had a coupon, and even if it was only cents off, it doesn't matter because money is money! 


I'm also getting more familiar with what things should cost, so shopping at Albertsons can be tricky because there are things that seem like a good deal, but are much cheaper elsewhere. Vitamin water was 4 for $5, but they're on sale right now somewhere else for $1. I'm actually holding out for another buy 10 get $5 off promotion when VitaminWater is included so I can stock up. I hope it's soon!







Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Walmart trip 5/23

In my last Walmart post, I swore off couponing at Walmart because it was a total NIGHTMARE! However, Fred Meyer had some deals happening and I just couldn't justify driving 4 miles all that way when Walmart is literally a block away. My husband convinced me that since it was later at night, I should be fine. So, I braved Walmart, once again, with my coupon book in hand and my ads for price matching. I know you don't need ads to price match, but I'm too lazy to write a list it speeds up the process. Even though there's no one at Walmart at 10 PM,  I thought it would be a courtesy to the cashier. 

My dad is coming to visit, so aside from the Fred Meyer deals, I had some coupons for body wash, toothpaste, and other things that are good to have as a courtesy to overnight guests, so this is everything I came away with:

Gillette men's body wash - $3.47
Gillette men's deodorant - $6.97
Tillamook butter- $3.57 x 2
Ocello Sponges - 2 packages of 2 @ $.96/pack
Bar-S 16 oz hotdogs - $2 for 2 packages


Total: $21.50


Gillette Body Wash- $2 coupon = $1.47
Gillette Deodorant- $4 coupon = $2.97
Tillamook butter- PM 2 for $5
Ocello Sponges- $1 coupon - $.92
Bar-S hotdogs- $1 coupon- $1 


Total out of pocket: $11.36 


Savings of: $10.14 or 47%


Price per item before savings: $2.68
Price per item AFTER savings: $1.42


This only illustrates the items that I purchased using coupons, but to give you an idea of how easy it is (and how cheap it can be) to put together a "hospitality basket" for your guests, I also purchased:


Shampoo- $.84
Dental floss- $.88
Toothpaste- $1.00
Toothbrush- $.74
Q-tips (travel size $.94 w/ $.30 off coupon)- $.64
Loofah (2 pack) - $.97


Included in my dad's basket, I have deodorant, body wash, shampoo, floss, toothbrush, toothpaste, a loofah, and q-tips. I ONLY SPENT $9.51 to provide my dad with all toiletries he might need while he visits. I'm pretty proud of this :) Once again, most couponers could probably do better, but I'm still learning. 

Highlights
  • Toilet paper: Although it's not noted on here, I was able to find Angel Soft TP on clearance for $.95/4 pack. These were single rolls, but the double rolls were priced at $2.54. If one double roll equals 2 single rolls, then I'd need two packages of single roll. Well, that would be $1.90 for 2 packages of single roll, representing a savings of $.64. It's not huge, but money is money. Once again, it's important to know your prices. Even with the $.50 coupon Angel Soft printed off today, I'd still be better off purchasing 2 packages of single roll TP.
  • Hotdogs: Also not noted on here were the $.88 packages of Bar-S 12 oz hotdogs. This is still a great deal, so I stocked up on those as well. 
  • Sponges: It's probably a really little deal, but it's a deal no less. Walmart had these on sale for $.96/2 pack. Four sponges for $1.92 was pretty good, but I had $1 off coupon, making it four sponges for $.92. That's BETTER than B1G1 :)
  • The savings: Yes, the savings in general. When you divide it out to price-per-item, I saved over $1 on each item. So with the savings of just one item, I was able to donate $1 to the Children's Miracle Network. Savings going to a good cause. I like that!
I went in to Walmart expecting to do at least 5 price matches, but their prices were already matched to (or lower than) their competitors. The cashier and I were making small talk when I mentioned I had planned to do so many more ad-matches, but only ended up with one. She told me that cashiers are getting so backed up, that Walmart is being proactive in their pricing and trying to reduce ad-matches by meeting or beating the competitor's prices. She also told me it's best to shop late at night or early in the morning because they re-stock the shelves, so something they're out of (like the salted butter I wanted) will be re-stocked around 10 PM and you should be able to get your hands on it then. At Walmart I learned that ad matches are becoming obsolete (at least at my store), you really have to watch their prices because a competing brand could be cheaper, and you should shop when no one else is there. Got it.

*A note of caution*
Once again, it is very important to be educated on your prices and SHOP AROUND! I saw that the 500 count Q-Tips were on sale for $2.97, but even with my cents off coupon, I wouldn't have been able to beat the generic brand "pretty" qtips for $1.94. Also, I had coupons for cents off certain shampoos. Even after my coupons, I wouldn't have come close to the savings that I realized by just purchasing a bottle of shampoo for $.84. Sometimes coupons don't mean you're getting a better deal. If there is a cheaper alternative, I'll go that route. So, be careful!



Albertsons Trip 5/23

This week, I took advantage of the Albertsons "Twice the Value" coupons. I was able to snag three more from a non-couponing relative so I could expand savings. Albertsons only lets you use three doublers per transaction, so I divided my order in to two transactions so I could maximize savings. I made sure to keep the first order small, and only used that order for 3 of my double coupon items. The other doublers and the rest of my order went on transaction #2. To make things easy, I'm combining everything on here, so this is what I came out with:

Ritz Crackerfulls- $2.99
Newton Thins- $3.49
Land-o-Frost lunchmeat- $3.99
Yoplait Yogurt- 20 for $10
Pringles Big Stack - 3 for $5
Vlastic Pickles - 2 for $5


Full retail: $30.47


Ritz Crackerfulls - $2 coupons = $.99
Newton Thins- $2 coupons = $1.49
Land-o-Frost Lunchmeat- $1.10 coupons = $2.89
Yoplait Yogurt- $2.50 coupons = 20 for $7.50
Pringles Big Stack- $2 coupons = 3 for $3
Vlastic Pickles- $2 coupons = 2 for $3


Out-of-pocket total: $18.87


Total savings: $11.60 or 38%


Price per item before savings: $1.08
Price per item AFTER savings: $.67


Alberstons is a store where you really need to know your prices. They also had B1G1 Ballpark hotdogs on sale, but at $4.59/package, that deal didn't come close to the $1.50/package price at Walmart. So, if you're shopping at Albertsons, be careful!


Highlights
  • Yogurt: I love yogurt, so I had $1.55 in coupons that I decided to use. Had I doubled both coupons my savings would have been greater, but they had $1 off coupon in their coupon book for the pickles, and the pickles were on sale, so I decided to use my doubler for that. Still, I paid $.40 per yogurt which isn't too bad. 
  • Lunchmeat: I much prefer the Land-O-Frost brand, and at $2.89 for 1 lb, I couldn't beat the price. It was $1 more at Walmart, so I got a good deal.
  • Pringles: Normally I don't buy these, but we got a coupon in this week's paper. I saw them on sale at 3 for $5 and figured with my doubler, 3 for $3 was a great deal. This coupon was $1 off an 3 super stacks, which they also make whole-grain if you choose to purchase the Pringles. They're a *bit* healthier and still super yummy. 
I'm still not a "super" couponer, but I think I did pretty well for myself :) I'm consistently saving around 30% and I'm okay with that. Hey, savings is savings!

Fred Meyer trip 5/13

Now that I have a few shopping trips under my belt, I think I can officially say that I do have the hang of this, and I encourage anyone who has the means to at least try couponing. You really can save some money. 
A few weeks ago I had every intention of heading to Walgreens, but I chickened out. Instead, Brandon and I headed to Fred Meyer to take advantage of a deal on cheese and cereal. We're pretty brand loyal to Tillamook cheese, but it's a little on the expensive side. Fred Meyer had this cheese on sale for $4.99 for a 2 lb brick, so we had to go. This is what I came out with:

Kellogg Pop Tarts- 2 boxes @ 2/$4
Rice Krispies- 2 boxes @ $1.98/box
Kelloggs Fiber Bars- 2 boxes @ $1.99/box
Neutrogena Shampoo- $3.99
Neutrogena Conditioner- $3.99
Pepsi- 2 12 packs @ $3.25 per pack
Mt. Dew- 2 12 packs @ $3.25 per pack
Pampers Diapers (31 count)- $8.99
Tillamook Cheese- $4.99
Caress Body Wash- $3.99


Total Retail: $50.89


These are the deals that I played on:


Kelloggs Products- 6 for $10 w/ $2.00 coupon = 6 for $8 ($1.33 per box)
Pepsi Products- 4 for $13 w/ $3.00 off coupon = 4 for $10 ($2.50/12 pack or $.20 per can)
Pampers Diapers- $1.50 coupon = $7.49 ($.24 per diaper)
Tillamook Cheese- $1.00 coupon = $3.99 ($1.99/lb)
Neutrogena- $5 off 2 peelie coupon from in-store = $2.98 for TWO (63% savings)
Caress Bodywash- $3 off coupon = $.99


Total Paid: $33.45


Savings: $17.44 or 34%


Once again, let's take it a step further and go price-per-item:


Full Retail: $3.39 per item
With savings: $2.23 per item


Highlights:
  • Diapers: Typically I purchase the large packs from Amazon Mom; Huggies run me around $.18 to $.20 per diaper, and the Pampers cost me $.24 per diaper. I've been wanting to try Pampers, so it was worth it to me to venture out and purchase a small pack just in case they didn't work. Also, paying $7.49 for a pack of diapers isn't horrible. I probably won't do it again, but at least I didn't pay full retail ($9.99).
  • Soda: This is a luxury item around here because of the increasing prices of soda. To find 4 packs for $10 was a great deal and figured it'd be nice to have a "treat" in the house.
  • Neutrogena Shampoo/Conditioner: I don't think you could find a better deal on this set. This was the expensive $5.99/bottle stuff, on sale for $3.99, and Fred Meyer had a yellow peelie coupon on the rack for $5 off two. I happened to be looking for more Neutrogena shampoo so I was pretty pumped when I saw this deal. I saved 62% on this set.
  • Body Wash: The Caress body wash wasn't on my list because I have some B&BW that I'm trying to use up. BUT...the coupon was expiring the next day and you can't beat $.99 for  your stockpile
As much as I would love to find deals like the Shampoo and Body wash deal that I got at FM, I just haven't been able to work it out yet. I've only been couponing for a few weeks so I'm sure it comes with experience, but I am excited about my savings even if it is only half of what other people save!










Friday, May 13, 2011

Walmart trip 5/6/11

I had every intention of posting this sooner, but the week has gotten away from me. Actually, I wanted to post this last week, but I was so *devastated* from my AWFUL experience at Walmart that I couldn't bring myself to do it. Nonetheless, despite the really negative attitudes and snide remarks from people (customers AND employees) at Walmart, I still got some good deals. 

Since I'm new to couponing, I am only beginning to realize the savings that can be had by just shopping sales with coupons. So, this is what I purchased:

Gillette Deodorant- $3.47
Gillette Bodywash- $3.47
Gillette men's razors (4pk)- $5.87
Gillette men's razors (4pk)- $5.87
Ballpark hotdogs- $4.50 ($1.50/pack x 3 packages)
Doritos- $2.50 x 2 bags
Toothbrush- $1.50
Fruit Loops cereal- $1.99/box x 3 boxes (ad-match with competitor)
Totinos Pizza- $1.25/pizza x 3 boxes
Oreo Cremes- $2.98

TOTAL RETAIL: $42.38
(FYI: We were going camping-hence all the junk food!)

BOGO Gillette Deodorant/Body wash: -$3.47
BOGO Gillette Razors: -$5.87
Ballpark hotdogs: -$1.75 coupons
Doritos: -$2.50 (ad-match with competitor's BOGO Doritos)
Toothbrush: -$.75 coupon
Fruit Loops Cereal: -$3 in coupons
Totinos Pizza: -$.75 coupon
Oreo Cremes: -$1.00 coupon

Total savings:  $19.09 *or*  45% !!!!!!!!


Total paid: $23.29

Since I am an even bigger nerd/number-cruncher, I like to calculate price-per-item:

Total Items: 17
Price-per-item BEFORE savings: $2.49

Price-per-item AFTER savings: $1.37


Some highlights of this particular trip:
  • The razors. With 4 razors in a package and purchasing two packages, I paid $.73 per razor. 
  • The chips. I'm actually surprised Wal-mart ad-matched these, because their policy explicitly states that they'll only ad-match a BOGO deal if the price is on the ad. The competitor's ad said "Save UP TO $3.99". I had no problem with Walmart doing the ad-match. I don't believe that it's normal for them to do that, but they did for me. *EDIT* I wasn't even planning on ad-matching for these, per their policy. However, when the lady asked if I had ad-matches and I said yes, she specifically pointed out the Doritos. I didn't even ask for it, she just did it on her own. Weird.
  • The cereal. With the ad-match and coupons, I paid $.99 per box for the large-ish boxes of Fruit loops.
  • The hotdogs. I went in fully prepared to do an ad-match because a competitor had these on sale for 2/$7. Not a fantastic deal, but I don't regularly pay attention to hotdog prices. Imagine my surprise when Walmart had these guys on sale for $1.50/package :) Add to that my $1.75 in coupons which made these $.92 per package!
Despite all the great deals, I still had a very negative experience at Walmart, so it is unlikely that I will SHOP, let alone COUPON at the particular Walmart that I went to. I'll try a different Walmart next time, and if I still have a negative experience, then I'll likely not coupon/ad-match at Walmart unless it's a very special deal.  By the way, my photo album "coupon holder" worked very well on this shopping trip! I just removed the coupons as I shopped and put them in to an envelope, so all I had to do at checkout was pull the coupons out of my envelope. I've seen people digging for coupons on what they purchased at checkout and it always takes just a little longer-I figured the other customers would appreciate the added organization and it worked very well!


I'm planning on doing some couponing tonight at Walgreens, so hopefully it won't take me a week to write about the shopping trip!

*I wanted to add a note/word of caution to watch the scanner carefully. On the Fruit Loops cereal, she initially only did the ad-match for ONE box of Fruit Loops and charged regular retail for the other two. Sweetly point out the error to the cashier if this type of thing happens, as they WILL NOT catch it on their own. Also, be aware of any limits when doing ad-matches. She thought there was a limit of 1 on the Fruit Loops cereal which is why she didn't do all three at the ad-match price, so I had to SHOW HER the ad to prove that there was no limit on the $1.99 cereal. *








Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Coupons

With all the latest craze over couponing shows, classes, and blogs, it's hard to not realize that couponing is super "hot" right now. Personally, I've always despised coupons and couponers...they go in the store with their little binders and take darn near everything off the shelves. It's disappointing for the rest of us who just want a box of cereal!

Needless to say, I have had some bad experiences with coupons and couponers. I always figured I could get the generic brand stuff for cheaper WITHOUT using a coupon anyway, so what's the point? Besides, I'm not clearing the shelves for my personal stockpile; something that irritates me to the max about some couponers out there.

However, my church put on a couponing seminar for our Women's brunch a few months ago, and since then, I've dabbled with coupons. When I play my cards right, I've discovered that I really can save some money.

Now, most couponers use a binder to organize their coupons. The thought of walking through a store with a giant 5 inch binder full of coupons literally put a pit in my stomach. My thoughts were "Everyone will know what I'm doing, and I'll get treated badly because they'll think I'm trying to buy the store's entire stock of B1G1 hotdogs". The other issue is that when grocery shopping with 4 kids ages 6 and under, the LAST thing I need is to have to juggle a giant binder full of tiny pieces of paper! So...I devised a strategy!

I went to Michaels last night (40% off one item coupon in hand) and I had every intention of purchasing baseball card protector sheets for couponing...I had warmed up to the idea of a binder after spending probably an hour sifting through coupons in my little envelope while at Albertsons :( Something needed to change. Unfortunately, Michaels didn't have any of the baseball card thingies that I was looking for, so I went to the scrapbook section thinking some plastic inserts might be over there. Lo and behold, on sale for $2.99 were some lovely top-loading photo albums. Holding up to 36 photos each (I promise I'm not getting distracted) I figured this would be my solution. Guess what? IT WORKS and it works beautifully. I loaded all of my personal care/laundry/dish product coupons in to my lovely blue photo album:

36 capacity photo album: $2.99

Works beautifully!

Obviously, this would not work for someone who coupons on a larger scale, but since I am just getting started, I can make this work. I can put the coupons in my album, have it handy when I'm going through store ads, and I can just pop them in my purse when I go shopping. I have one for the personal care/cleaning products and one for food items. So far, the system is working great! For those of you who are new to couponing or aren't that serious about it, I highly suggest this as a method for organizing your coupons. You can probably find top-loading photo albums at the dollar store, but the price on these with the 40% off was too good to pass up.

Review: Max on Life



Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions
Rating: 5 Stars
Max Lucado is arguably one of the most popular non-fiction Christian writers of the era, and he hits another home run in this book, Max on Life. Think of this book as a Q & A session with Max Lucado, where people ask a number of questions regarding faith, God, salvation, love, etc. and you are able to sit in and hear all the answers. This is a great book that addresses some very important and very common questions that the modern day Christian might have. 

The book is divided up in to a few main sections: Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, and Hereafter. Inside these main sections are a variety of questions pertaining to that particular subject with a scripture index at the back of the book for handy reference. I devoured all of the 250-ish pages of the book, it was THAT good. I appreciated the questions as most of them are questions that I have had at one time or another, and I appreciated Lucado's answers to these questions, as well as Biblical reference when it was required. 
This book is an easy read, it's a fun read, and it's an informative read. Definitely a keeper, I would recommend this book to everyone I know. I give the book FIVE stars.

If you are interested, you can purchase the book from Amazon




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Couples Who Pray






Rating: 4 stars

I was provided a copy of Couples who pray from booksneeze a few weeks ago. My overall impression of this book is positive, and I cannot actually note any glaring negatives about the book. 

I never imagined that, to date, this would be the most difficult review I would have to write. I believe that every couple will experience this book differently, depending on where they are in their journey, depending on how they pray, etc. The book centers around a 40 day prayer challenge where the reader and their spouse commit to doing 5 minutes of joint prayer each day. There is a supplemental website that has wonderful information on it depending on where you are in the challenge; my husband and I considered this a great resource. Some readers may have never experienced joint prayer with their spouse, and if they have, it was never outside of mealtimes. This book introduces the concept of joint prayer and as such, would be a phenomenal reference for the beginner, from statistics and interviews with real couples who pray, to a general guideline of how one might get started. 

That leads me to my three favorite things about the book: statistics, real couples who pray, and the website. All three items in the book make it very, very helpful and it links it (at least for me) to the "real world" and how this concept has affected people and their marriages.

In short, I recommend this book, I give it four stars. My husband and I have always prayed separately, but this book has gently guided us through the concept of praying together which has added a different level of intimacy to our marriage. Something about bearing your soul to your spouse and God...it's pretty amazing.

If you are interested in purchasing Couples who pray, Amazon has copies for sale.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Thursday, March 10, 2011

My first *ever* experience with Lent...

I never understood Lent. I always knew that the 40 days before Easter were reserved as a period of fasting for those "religious" folks, but never really thought it would be for me. Since my relationship with Christ has become more and more developed over the years, this year we've decided to participate in Lent.
We all have our vices..."fasting" during Lent can be a literal fast (such as that of Jesus and his 40 day fast in the wilderness) or it can be abstaining from something; the ultimate goal is to cultivate a deeper relationship with Christ. We want to come out of Lent just *that* much more Christ-like. 
Granted, certain religions have guidelines for Lent, I actually do not. Lent to me is a period of time where I give something up, add something to replace my vice, and create a "theme" for my Lent.
This year, I'm excited to say that my family and I are giving up an over-use of energy. Read: We're partying it up like it's the 1800's and going by candlelight as much as possible, we're cutting down our use of electric/gas heat, we're driving less, and we're in general trying to consume less energy-so anything and everything that entails! The idea behind this is not to abandon all technology and energy, but to cut down our use. I am a BIG "lights on" person, so this will be a particular challenge for me!
Additionally, Brandon and I started a 40 day prayer challenge that we have officially started as of yesterday. We had no idea yesterday was Ash Wednesday and therefore the beginning of Lent, so how convenient is that? Our 40 day prayer challenge coincides perfectly with Lent!
Our "theme" for lent is simplicity and generosity. We have vowed to give away one item per day during Lent. At the end, we'll take our bounty and drop it off at Goodwill. The idea behind this is to learn that things of this world do not matter, and we are also following God's orders for us to be charitable and "not of this world". Since "giving away" things seems to be against the culture of our nation, we saw this as a perfect opportunity. 

So, Lent 2011 is about more prayer, less consumption, and more generosity and simplicity. 

On Wednesday, I put together a bag of giveaway clothes. Today, I have put together a bag of toys for donation.  
Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts on a newspaper article

I'll admit, this is the first time in a long time I've actually been compelled to write a blog...mainly because what I have to say is far too long to post on my facebook status :) 
I was reading the newspaper this morning and came across an article in my local newspaper about some vandals who broke in to an art consignment gallery and vandalized $16,000 worth of irreplaceable art (Buley, 2011).
Now, this is incredibly unfortunate, and like the gallery owner, I also wonder who would get their kicks from vandalizing art, I had an "ah-ha!" moment when I read something she said.

*Controversial Issue Notice*

In the article, the owner "struggles to understand how someone could enjoy standing in front of another's creation, ruin it" (Buley, 2011, p. C8). Although I realize this has everything to do with art, do we NOT do that with abortion EVERY SINGLE DAY? How many of God's precious creations do we destroy? How many babies (read: irreplaceable works of art) are aborted every year? How many women (read: irreplaceable works of art) are damaged because of their abortion, either physically, mentally, or emotionally?


Somewhere around week 5, the baby's heart begins to beat...could YOU stop a beating heart?

Just some food for thought :) I thought it interesting that people get so outraged over $16,000 worth of vandalized art but don't bat an eye when we hear there are close to a million abortions every year. 





Reference:
Buley, Bill. "Attack on artwork." Coeur d'Alene Press 24 Feb. 2011, sec. Local: C1, C8. Print.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review: The Power Based Life








Recently, I was sent a copy of The Power Based Life by Mike Flynt (aka: the guy who inspired the Friday Night Lights TV show). Upon receipt of the book, I was excited and ready to dive in, ready to learn his strategies to understand what I was born to do. 

I anxiously tore open the package and started reading, and to my utter disappointment, it was strangely similar to Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado :( Although this book is meant to be a tool for you to put his twelve "strategies" in to practice for your own life, it came across as more of a platform to discuss his personal achievements, so much so that I felt the message of the whole book had gotten lost. 

Now, the idea of the book is to present twelve strategies for a "power based" life. These 12 strategies include: 
Power Base: Play to your strengths; 
Basics: Master the Essentials
Mindscapes: Cultivate a Winning Attitude
Visualization: See What Can Be
Belief: Defy the Skeptics
Commitment: Move Forward Relentlessly
Team: Know Who You Play For
Identification: Fly Your Flag
Adversity: Turn Your Difficulties to Your Advantage
Compassion: Practice Radical Mercy
Time: Maximize Your Moments
Body: Sow in Health, Reap a Longer Life

As I said at the beginning of this review, the first chapter is uncannily similar to Cure for the Common Life and that really bothered me; the last thing I wanted to do was read *another* book that it seems I've already read before because the principles are so darn similar. Unfortunately for me, this book never turned around or caught my interest...all I kept thinking about was "I thought this was supposed to be a motivational book, not an autobiography". 

All in all, this was not a good book for me, but I do think my husband is enjoying it, perhaps because he can relate with the football/fitness thing better than I can. As a not-interested-in-sports femal, I give this book 2 stars.

If you would like to purchase this book it is for sale on Amazon




 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”