Monday, September 28, 2009

Free Money for Military Spouses to Get a Portable Career!

If you are a military spouse and are even considering going to school, you have got to check this out!! The Department of Defense is offering up $6,000 for military spouses to go back to school in search of a portable career. The interpretation of "portable" is much wider than I expected so I strongly encourage you to check it out. This is not a scholarship so there is no real application. They rquest some info in order to verify your DEERS eligibility but aside from's all yours for the taking and as with most DoD programs, if we don't get out there and use them, they go away!

The other awesome thing about it is that you can actually spend down the $6K! I recently signed up for a medical billing program which costs about $1500. That means that my account still has $4500 available for me! Not only will the DoD pay for the classes, but they will also pay for the testing. The medical billing certification has a test requirement for certificaton. The test costs approximately $300 but it will be covered by the DoD!

The money will cover almost any type of program including Ba or MA degree, cosmetology, medical careers, etc. I am truly amazed at the spectrum of coverage. If the program or class that you choose includes books and/or materials, they will be covered as well (no laptops or memberships allowed).

The plan is referred to as MyCAA and is being administered by Military OneSource. It does take about 2-4 weeks for your approval to get finalized and you need to have your approval before your class starts but the DoD is also providing you with a voucher to present to the school and the school is getting paid relatively quickly (mine has already received confirmation of forthcoming payment and my class has not even started yet). If you don't see the school that you want advertised, it is relatively easy to add them. (Same for professional organizations). I helped the AAPC get added so that my Professional Coding exam will be covered when I am ready to take it. I have called in quite a few times for various reasons and always got excellent help and support!

So what are you waiting for????

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Trip to Publix!

Today I went to a different Publix...not my usual Whitesburg Drive Publix. My next trip will be back at my usual place because I was very disappointed to find that the one I went to today will not take the Rite Aid $5 off $25 so back to Whitesburg for me! Even without the extra $5 off, it was a very successful trip!

Here is today's take! My out of pocket for all of this was only $30.36 and I saved $64.68. That's a total of over $95 worth of groceries! In order to show you what you can do with coupons, I wanted to highlight one particular deal. Sometimes when we are new at couponing, we are hesitant to really stack our coupons and take full advantage. This is totally legal and took zero scamming on my part.
Publix had the Keebler Flipside Crackers BOGO for $3.99. I had never had these and was a little reluctant because I am not a huge fan of Town House crackers but when I realized the deal that I was about to pass up, I had to try (by the way, these crackers are AWESOME!)...Anyway, back to the deal: There was a peelie on the box for $1 off 2boxes. There was also a Publix coupon for a free reusable shopping bag (reg price 99 cents) with the purchase of 2 Keebler crackers. I then found a tearpad nearby with a coupon for $2 off any deli meat when you purchase 1 box so I grabbed 2 of those coupons and found 2 packages of Publix lunch meat (prepackaged) for 2/$4...Let me break it down for ya
Flipside Crackers (2 boxes) $3.99
Publix Lunch Meat (2 pkgs) $4.00
Reusable Shopping Bag $0.99
TOTAL $8.98
(after sale but before coupons)
Coupon 2 boxes of crackers -$1.00
Coupon reusable tote -$0.99
Coupon lunch meat -$2.00
Coupon lunch meat -$2.00
TOTAL -$5.99
(coupon value)
TOTAL PAID $2.99 for all items!!!
This is exactly how you get so many items for so little money!!!
Here's another example:
Genl Mills Cereal (2 boxes) $3.99 (BOGO)
Tropicana OJ $3.00
Reusable Tote $0.99
TOTAL $7.98
(after sale/before coupons)
Coupon 2 boxes of cereal -$1.00
Coupon reusable tote -$0.99 (wyb 2 General Mills products)
Publix Coupon OJ -$1.00 (wyb General Mills cereal)
TOTAL -$2.99
(coupon value)
TOTAL PAID $4.99 for all items!! Think about the last time you paid regular price for Tropicana OJ and/or a couple of boxes of cereal...I would guess that at regular price you probably paid close to what I paid for all of the items. Now keep in mind, the OJ coupon was for any OJ so I could have picked up a store brand and saved another dollar but I happen to be partial to a couple of brands and Tropicana happens to be my favorite so I will pay a little more for it. They also had a blinkie (you know those little red boxes that beep and spit out coupons) for $1 off of Trop 50 (the low sugar version of Tropicana) so again I could have saved another dollar but my husband hates it so for me it was just not worth the extra savings!
Ok, ok, I'll give ya one more example of stacking
Cascade Action Pk Dishwasher Det $4.99
Cascade Rinse Aid $3.49
Dawn Direct Foam $2.99 (that's the expensive pumpy thing that makes foam)
Bounty Single Roll Towels $1.99
TOTAL $13.46
(after sales/before coupons)
Pubix Coupon Cascade -$1.00
Mfg Coupon Cascade -$0.50
Double coupon -$0.50
Mfg Coupon Free Rinse Agent -$3.49
Publix Coupon Dawn -$0.55
Mfg Coupon Dawn -$0.50
Double Coupon -$0.50
Publix Coupon Free Bounty -$1.99 (wyb any 3 designated items...cascade/dawn incl)
TOTAL -$9.03
(coupon value)
TOTAL PAID $4.43 for all items!!
These happened to be deals that I got a Publix but that is really not important. The only thing that may differ for you is whether or not the coupon is doubled and what store coupons are available. I hope these examples show you better how to make the most of your coupons! As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. Happy couponing!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thursday 10 September 2009 Shopping Trips

On Thursday I attempted to hit the case lot sale at the commissary just to see what they had. After dropping my husband at work at 0825, I headed over, expecting to be able to browse for a bit and see if there was anything worthwhile and be ready when the registers open at 0900 (this is normal commissary policy). The case lot apparently was different. There was a ridiculously long line just to get to see the items. Redstone Arsenal runs their case lot quite differently than Fort Eustis. They had the cases of items set up in aisles and you had to stay in line and if you only wanted one or 2 items you still had to follow the line. I looked at the line ahead which was easily an hour long (with still 30 minutes to wait for them to even open) and then looked at the list of items. Because I knew that many of the items available could be purchased with my coupons for same or lower price, I decided that the wait was just not worthwhile. The only thing that I was interested in was a case of chicken broth so I moved on to the rest of my shopping for the day.

First I hit CVS. Here is what I got for $9.44!! My total savings was $54.23 and I got back $9.00 for my next trip!! CVS does not allow you to have more than 1 manufacturer's coupon per item and they consider Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) as manufacturer coupons. In many cases I will add small filler items as needed (pack of gum or bottle of soda or some great clearance or sale find so that I can use them but other times I decide to hold them for the next week...just keep an eye on the expiration dates because they are usually onlygood for about 2 weeks). This time, I purchased candy corn for 99 cents for which I did not have a coupon as well as 2 boxes of hair color which were $3.99 and on BOGO sale. Those extra 3 items allowed me to use 3 of my ECB's and they were items that I wanted/needed anyway. I had additional ECB's totally $7.50 which I decided to hold for next week's trip! This leaves me with $16.50 in CVS free stuff!

Next I hit Walgreens. The Automatic Shower Cleaner and the Glade itemwere Register Reward items and had limits so I did 2 separate transactions. The first transaction was $18.17 oop (out of pocket) and I saved $79.26. On my second transaction I spent $10.42 oop and saved $24.29. I got back a total of $14.00 in Register Rewards (RR's) for my next trip. So overall I spent less than $30 and got over $130 worth of stuff and will start off the next trip with $14!

My final stop was Kroger. At Kroger I spent $20.26 and saved $38.67. The picture is not great but here is what I got: 5-4 roll packs of Charmin, 1 roll of Bounty towels, 2 half gallons of Turkey Hill iced tea, 3 Soft Soap hand soap pumps, 2 Brut deodorants (yeah, remember Brut, my 80's big hair girls! lol not my favorite scent these days but for 45 cents, my husband can wear it when he is working in the yard or I may use it for a donation when there is a drive for toiletries and the like for deployed will get used in some form!) 4 boxes of Hefty One Zip bags, 3 packages of cocktail weenies (hey, it's football season and my husband loves his snacks while he watches the games), 1 package of smoked sausage (great for throwing on the grill!), 1 box of cake mix, 1 can of frosting and a 3 bar pack of ivory soap (not my choice for body cleaning but definitely a good thing to have on hand for hand washing, etc).
How did you do?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Basic Couponing 10 Tips and Tidbits to Get You Going!!

Hope you are all on your way to getting set up in couponing. I know from experience that getting set up can seem like a daunting task and you want to start saving lots right away. Remember to be patient as it can be a slow start. Try to keep an eye on the percentage that you are saving...that should, on the whole, go up each trip. Also keep in mind that if you do a shopping trip that is loaded with produce and meat, you are generally not going to be saving as much money because those coupons come around much less often. With this in mind, I figured that I would give you a few guidelines and items to keep in mind as well as things that have helped me and others.

1. Get to know the base prices in your stores. This is especially true for military people who have the option of shopping at the commissary. I have found, in many cases, that I do better at the commissary on meat and produce (even compared to the sale price in regular supermarkets). For other items, the fact that the commissary does not have store coupons and does not double coupons, it's a toss so you just have to know. As an example, I had coupons for 60 cents off of 2 Old El Paso items. I went to the commissary and bought 2 packets of taco seasoning for 60 cents each. With my coupon, I paid 60 cents for the 2 packets. While I was at Kroger yesterday, I noticed that they had Old El Paso taco seasoning on sale for $1 each. Clearly I got a better deal at the commissary. (I paid 60 cents for 2 packets vs would have paid $1.40 for the 2). As an example let's assume that the commissary price was still 60 cents but the supermarket price was 75 cents and the coupon was valued at 50 cents instead of 60. At the commissary, with the coupon, the 2 packets would cost 70 cents but at the supermarket, the coupon would double taking the price to 50 cents makin the supermarket a better deal.

2. Stack coupons whenever possible. Store coupons and manufacturer coupons can be stacked to maximize the difference. A coupon that often see in the Walgreens flyer is 10oz bottle of Dawn detergent for 99 cents. Their regular price is usually $1.49 so the store coupon will take off 50 cents and then you can add a manufacturer's coupon from the Sunday paper. If there is an e coupon available, that will also stack with the store and manufacturer's coupon. Sign up at cellfire to get e coupons.

3. Know your store's policies. Every store is different. There are a few basic things that you need to know about the stores that you frequent.

Do they double coupons? If so, what is the limit. For most stores, it is 50 cents (this means that they will double coupons with a face value of up to 50 cents). Some stores will double up to 99 cents. You will also find that stores will have "events" where they will triple coupons for a given amount of time. (Harris Teeter is one that does this relatively regularly). There are variations in how stores handle the cap on doubles. Some double based on the face value which means a 35 cent coupon becomes 70 cents. Others will double based on a designated cap. Some stores that double up to 99 cents. will actually take a 60 cent coupon and make it 99 cents because doubling the 60 cents will go over the cap which is obviously better than the store that simply does not double anything with a face value of over 50 cents.

BOGO (Buy One, Get One) Sales. The biggest question with BOGO is how the register records it or whether or not you must buy 2. For many stores, if something is BOGO, you must buy both in order to get the sale price. On the register tape, the first item will ring up at price and the second item will show 0.00 for price. In this scenario, you can only use 1 coupon because the second item is free. Other stores will ring up both items at regular price and then the free item comes off at the end of the receipt. In that situation, you can usually use 2 coupons. In other stores, they take the BOGO price and divide it in half and actually charge that much. Publix does this. If they have an item that is BOGO for $$3.99, the firs item will ring up at $2 and the second at $1.99. This means that you can buy one item if you choose and still get the sale price. It also means that you can use 2 coupons.

Competitors' sales and coupons. Some stores will match competitors' sale prices but there are usually some type of restrction. Many require you to bring the ad but some just require you to let them know. Stores like Publix will honor competitor coupons. It is important to know who that store considers to be a competitor. This will vary, of course, from store to store and often from area to area. A couple of weeks ago I found out that Publix (for those of you not familiar, Publix is a grocery store) considers Rite Aid and Target a competitor! I would have never suspected that. It also meant that I was able to use my Rite Aid $5 off $50 coupon!!

Are there item limits? This is usually printed on the ad somewhere. If you go above the limit in the transaction, you will be charged a higher price for items over the limit. Sometimes you can simply do 2 transactions but for some stores (CVS is a perfect example because their sale price is usually with card). Once your card scans, it registers that you purchased the item so even if you come back the next day, you will be charged the non-sale price.

Do you have to have a loyalty card? Stores like CVS, Kroger, and others will have some regular sale priced items and some items that say "With card". If you do not have the cashier scan your card, you will not receive the sale price.

What is their coupon policy in regards to overage? Some stores will adjust the coupon down to the item value (If you buy something for 99 cents and then have a coupon for $1 off, they will give you 99 cents off so that the item is free). Others will actually apply the overage to other items that you are purchasing but most will not refund this money so make sure you have enough to cover the overage. For example, I had 2 coupons for $3 off Smithfield bacon. At the commissary, the bacon was $2.10. That left me with $1.80 overage between the 2 coupons. That amount got applied to the fruits and veggies that I also had in my cart

4. Subscribe to the Sunday paper. Be sure to choose the largest paper in your area in order to get a paper with the most number of coupon inserts. It is generally 50 cents less per week to get the paper delivered vs going to the store to buy it (there are often even better deals for new subscribers so keep your eye out!). This also ensures that you get a paper every Sunday. Many people pick up multiple copies of the Sunday paper...up to 4-5 copies per week. This is generally a great idea when you are starting out so that you can get several copies of each coupon. Personally I have never regularly purchased several copies of papers. Normally I get my regular paper and if it happens to be week with FABULOUS coupons, I will go and buy 1 or 2 more copies. On the average week though, I stick with my 1 paper. Many dollar stores also sell the Sunday paper for $1 vs the normal newsstand price of about $1.50.

5. Subscribe to All You magazine. This magazine is available only at Walmart and by subscription. Each one is stocked with coupons and I personally have saved far more than my subscription price within a couple of months. Each issue usually has one pretty high value coupon (! month I got a free Rimmel mascara with a price of approximate $8-10 and 1 month I got a huge bag of chicken jerky worth about $8...not bad for a $2 magazine!) This of course is in addition to th regular coupons that are on approximately every other page. If you go here , you can get 2 free trial issues.

6. Big bulk packages are usually not the best buy! Buy the smallest package you can with the coupon. It is usually much less expensive to buy 2 smaller items with 2 coupons than the one larger one. Also, for freshness sake, 2 smaller packages will usually last longer. Watch the fine print (or lack thereof) on your coupons. If the manufacturer wants you to buy a large package, they will note the coupon with the size requirement. If there is no restriction, sometimes it is worthwhile to check out the trial sizes. The other day I was at CVS and I found Gold Bond powder in trial size for 99 cents. I had 4 coupons for $1 off. I could have purchased a regular size bottle and used one coupon but still have an out of pocket of almost $4. Instead, I got 4 trial size bottles for free! It's not something that we use very often, but sometimes my husband likes to sprinkle a little in his stinky Army boots. The trial size bottles are perfect for that. I keep a basket under my spare bathroom sink where I just toss all of the trial size bottles, jars and tubes. This is perfect for when company comes and forgets a toiletry or when we travel, I have a good assortment of travel size items. Most of these were free!

7. Build a stockpile. I will do a post later on specifially on stockpiling but in essence, your goal is to get to the point where your weekly shopping consists primarily of your fresh fruits and veggies as well as whatever items are on sale and that you have coupons for. You want to get to the point where you are never forced to buy something that you need, which regularly goes on sale, at full price because you need it. When you are building your stockpile, keep your "social" needs in mind. As a military spouse, we are often called upon to make meals for families, baked goods for sale, or contribute to a company barbecue. There are many items that I wouldn't normally buy for myself but I will buy it for those purposes. I keep a good stock of cake and brownie mixes that I have gotten for a very low price and that way if I am called upon for one of these things, I always have something to contribute. Another example is something like macaroni and cheese. Personnally I only like Velveeta Shells and Cheese (normally I make homemade but it is nice to have on hand for the quick throw together). If I find a really good deal on another brand, I may purchase it in the event that I am asked to make a meal for a family in need. The other thing to keep in mind is saving yourself from having to eat out. If you normally cook on most nights, like I do, you will no doubt run into a situation where plans change. I have had times when I just don't feel well or once my husband and I were supposed to go out to eat with friends so I didnt take anything out to cook. The plans fell through and I would have been in a position to be forced to get take out when there really was no need for that. For that reason, I keep frozen entrees in my freezer and packaged meals like Hamburger Helper. You can always pull frozen chop meat and drop it right into a pan to brown and thaw at the same time. Save the eating out for a time that you really want to eat out (and have a coupon!)

8. Bookmark the websites below and pint off the coupons. Whenever printing coupons, set your printer settings to draft/grayscale (you probably want to set this as your default because many of the coupon printers do not give you a chance to adjust your settings and you will waste tons of money on ink). Also, most will allow you to print 2 copies. Once you get the page that says that your coupons have printed, hit the back button, click retry when the dialogue box comes up and refresh the page.

9. Know your cashiers! This may sound crazy but there are some cashiers who get really upset when they see you leave the store with $100 worth of groceries for $20. They do everything they can to try to stand in your way. When I went to CVS the other day, with the coupons for the Gold Bond powder for $1.00 off (the trial size was 99 cents) was thegist of our conversation:

without even scanning she said "You can't use this. Maybe you need to get the regular size!"

Me: "Did you try to adjust down th coupon?"

Cashier: "It doesn't let you do that."

Me: "Did you try?"

Cashier: "You have to buy the regular size one."

Me: "Funny I have done this before. Forget it just take them all off."

I guess now voiding was going to be more of a hassle than scanning my coupons and miraculously they worked! All 4 of them! In addition, she was able to adjust them down. Funny how that works. Other times you get cashiers who are also couponers and love helping fellow couponers. Thse are the best cashiers in my opinion because they will make any coupon go through and if there is a problem they will call the manager and swear under oath on your behalf! There are also cashiers who are thoroughly impressed and will also pretty much go out of their way to help you and may even ask for a tip when you are all done.

10. Present money off the total purchase coupons before the manufacturer or store coupons. Rite Aid and Kmart often put out coupons for $5 off a $25 or $50 purchase. If you present your regular manufacturers coupon first, your purchase will have to be the$25 or $50 after coupons. If you present that $5 off coupon first, it will take the $5 off, then your manufacturers coupons which means even though the coupon states you need a $25 purchase to get the $5 off, you may actually walk out spending $5 or less!! See that! It's all in the presentation!

This should get you started and well on your way! I am definitely looking forward to the big coupon day this weekend! There are supposed to be 5 (YES FIVE) coupon inserts this week! May be a good week to buy an extra paper or 2. Happy Couponing!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Couponing Basics...Setting Up Shop

If you ask different couponers how they organize their coupons, you may get several different answers. The one answer you certainly will not get is one of those small plastic or cardboard divider know the ones that you can get for only a couple of dollars. These are great for someone who just wants to save a couple of cents on each shopping trip but for the serious couponer, i just doesn't come close to being enough. Some people don't bother clipping. Instead, they file the coupon fyers by date in file folders. That works for some but in my opionion, that is not conducive to saving on last minute items that you may run across. I prefer to have them clipped and ready at a moment's notice. The biggest trick with the method that I use is to never get behind. The initial set up can take a bit of time, especially if you have already started stocking up on coupons. If you get far behind, it will be like starting all over and will take hours of your time. Here is what I do:

I use a 3 ring zipper binder. While the zipper binders are more expensive than the regular ones, drop a regular one once and you will wish you had invested in the zipper binder. Also, the zipper binders tend to have a few pockets in the front. I use the pockets for current week coupons that I either need to file or have just pulled for use this week. I also store paper clips, scissors, and "stray" coupons. (Coupons for things like magazines or whatever that are good for a single specific issue, restaurant coupons, etc are, to me, not usually worth filing so I stash them there).

Next, I use a couple of different types of dividers. Dividers are important because this is the heart of your organization. The better divided and sorted your coupons are, the easier it will be to locate specific ones. First, I took larger tab dividers and marked off my major sections: Health and Beauty, Household, Food, Stores & Restaurants. I then found smaller divider tabs to divide out the major sections. For example, under the Health and Beauty tab, I have such sections as: Shaving, Deodorant, Hair Care, Meds/First Aid. I have a total of 10 subsections in Heath and Beauty. The Household tab has such subsections as Paper Products and Cleaning. Under Food, I have 3 subsections of Freezer, Fridge and Canned Goods (Non Perishable). Then within each of those areas I have sections like, Meat, Snacks, etc. The refrigerator section is not broken down too far because in most supermarkets, the refrigerator area is relatively small so to me it is not worth really breaking them down. You may feel different about this. My best advice in terms of dividing is to periodically (at least initially when you are starting out) review your tabs and see if it is working for you based on your stores as well as the coupons you get and keep. Under the Stores tab, I have a tab for each of my most commonly used stores so that I have a place to put all of those register coupons (you know the ones you get that print out at supermarkets at the end of your order...btw, those are usually referred to as Catalinas). I also put any other store coupons that that store may put out in there. When I was in Virginia I used to get Bed Bath and Beyond coupons all the tme...for the most part I didn't shop there on a regular basis but when I did, I sure wanted a coupon available so I would stick them in matter how many I got because they take multiple coupons in one order. They alow you to use one of those 20% off coupons for each item you buy and many of the stores actually take the expired ones so I always kept a good stock of them. Here in Alabama,I don't get many of them...actually haven't received any in the 3 months that I have been here so no need for a tab anymore. Under the Restaurants tab, I stash long term restaurant coupons. You know how when you order a pizza, there is often a sheet of coupons on top that are good like forever...I put it there. If it is a short expiration date, I generally stash it toward the front of my book or in my wallet.

Now that you have your book and it is all divided out, you need something to put your coupons in. I, and many others, use the plastic trading card sleeves. Each sleeve has 9 slots. I put one type of coupon in each slot so that when I open the section, I can see everything that I have without digging too hard. In general I don't want to have to pull everything out of the slots to see if I have a coupon. When I first read about this method, I was like "This is crazy!" After only a short time, I quickly realized that ultimately this was a huge timesaver and prevented me from missing expiration dates. I will stacklike coupons in the same section...even if they have different expiration dates. I am very careful though to stack the closest expiration dates on top. Try to clip your coupons close to the line so that they will fit with the least amount of folding. If you have to fold them, do your best to be sure the product and expiration date show. Do not do front and back with these...simply use these one sided. In the stores and restaurants tabs, you may want to use the sheet protectors instead so that you can stash large coupons like the Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. That totally depends on your preference.

The last thing I want to cover for now is where to get the sleeves. These are regular, baseball or collector card sleeves. You can get them online or at a shop that sells collector cards. I have also seen them at stores like Kmart and Walmart (I have seen them near the front of the stores where they stock the Pokemon cards or whatever the latest card is lol). Initially I thought, oh I only need 20...wrong! If I were you I would buy a pack of 50 or 100. In general, you will get a much better deal buying a larger pack and you will use them! I currently have 85 plastic sleeves in mine and really could use a few more. While you may start out small, as I did, if you continue to coupon religiously, your collection will expand so do yourself a favor and save the money by buying a larger pack if you can.

Check out the pictures of my setup (above) and feel free to comment or ask questions as needed. I'll be more than happy to help! If you have a general or specific question about couponing, send me an email at My plan is to do daily posts providing you with the basics that will save you lots of money but if you would like to see a specific subject addressed, please email me and I will do my best to accomodate! Hope this info helped! :)