Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deal or No Deal?

So we're trying to rein in our spending this summer. Fortunately we decided to so this AFTER I'd already committed to going to a pricey little conference in NYC called BlogHer. Too late to back out now!

I thought I'd share some of what we are doing in case any of these ideas will work for you:

Canceled pool membership: Savings: $450. Verdict: good call. Our next door neighbor has a pool and likes us! Downside: I miss the Chipwiches and Nutty Buddies at the snack bar. Up-Up-Up side: No need to wear a bathing suit in front of numerous town residents. Yay!

Canceled trip to Europe: Savings: 8,000. Verdict: Waaaaaaahhhh.

Putting cheap meals in our weekly rotation: Spaghetti (family of four, $3), Turkey Tacos ($6), Black Beans and Rice ($3). Verdict: Yum. Side dishes? Who needs side dishes?

Couponing: Savings: $20-40 per weekly shopping trip. Verdict: I am glad I'm no longer passing up "free money," but you wouldn't want to be behind me in the checkout line!

I have not yet gotten into the whole stockpiling and "moneymakers" things, but I am learning bit by bit. These websites: madamedeals.com , mrsmoneysaver.com help me plan my shopping each week by showing me what the best deals are and telling me which coupons to use.

They showcase other special offers, too. For instance, my family got 4 free tickets to an amusement park just because we own a Chevy! That saved us $200!

These sites have also alerted me to fun freebies like free Slurpees at 7-11 on 7/11, which have helped get the kids excited about saving money.

Freebies: Taking advantage of local freebies such as free bowling, laser tag and movies. Savings: TBD. Verdict: Good, but I'm finding this harder to squeeze fun activities in with my job this summer, unless you count taking the kids to work with me fun. I wouldn't.

I think our yearly Library Coupon Booklet program, which offers tons of freebies, will be an epic failure this summer because I can't get one of my kids to read a darn book.

Using Coupon Codes: Savings: varies. I have started doing an internet search before I buy anything, just in case there is a discount code. Verdict: Big Thumbs up!

Tropicana Juicy Rewards: Savings: $30. Verdict: I don't see a lot on there that I want, but I think our one-time savings at our (very expensive) petting zoo makes it worth putting my codes in the computer. I think this will handy for eating out, too.

Groupon: Savings: $50 so far. Verdict: fun! We purchased $75 worth of wine for $25 and look forward to getting more local deals through the power of group purchasing. My dear friend and reader, Lisa G., gets all her manicures and pedicures through Groupon.

Mouse Poop: $30. Verdict: Gross but useful. When Molly found an object of dubious origin in her can of refried beans, we complained and received coupons for free Old El Paso and Betty Crocker products. When we sent the poop in for analysis, Old El Paso called and said it was likely a wayward bean. Hmmmm.

Hail Damage? Hail Yeah! Savings: $6-11,000. Verdict: Not finished yet, but a freak hailstorm we had in May will probably result in a brand new roof for us! This is good news because having just bought a new HVAC system, spending big bucks on another practical (read: unsexy) project was at the bottom of our list.

When we saw roofing signs springing up in the neighborhood after the hailstorm we thought it wouldn't hurt to have our insurance come out for a look-see. Turns out we qualified! We'll end up paying our deductible (1,000) and for any upgrades we want, but getting a new roof for a few thousand dollars will be a huge help to us. Not that you can plan on a hail storm, but it's worth being aware of what's going on in your neighborhood.

No thrifting: Savings? About $100. Verdict? Mama wants to shop! Even though I save a ridculous amount of money by buying my clothes at thrift stores, I 've realized I have too many clothes. Soooo, I'm gathering donations together, being honest about what doesn't fit (too much ice cream) and trying to decide what I really need before I let myself go back to the store.

Homemade Birthday Cakes:
Savings? About $35. Verdict? Yum. For Tom's birthday I made a gorgeous ice cream cake (ice cream sandwiches, 3 flavors of ice cream, crushed Oreos), and for Molly's I used a free cake mix and icing tub (thanks, Mouse Poop!) to the tune of big savings.

Covering my roots at home: Savings? TBD. Verdict? Thumbs up. I don't want to start coloring my own hair because I love what my stylist, Donna, does. But as someone who is almost 100% gray, and not a pretty gray mind you, I've started buying Nice 'N Easy Root Touch Up to stretch my appointments from 6 weeks to about 8. Tom applied it for the first time tonight. Doesn't he look excited about saving money in that picture up top?

Beach Trip Off Season: Savings? $1-2,000. Verdict? No longer loving it. For years we have gone to the beach the very last week of the summer, after most kids have gone back to school, to the tune of BIG SAVINGS. This allows us to go in with another family for a beautiful beach house with a pool and a hot tub.

I think this may be the last summer for this strategy because the kids have activities in late August. I also don't like having all of the school supplies purchased before I even get to put my toes in the sand. What worked GREAT when the kids were preschoolers isn't working as well now.

So I'm wondering, do you have any money saving strategies to share?


Kristina P. said...

I haven't colored my own hair in many, many years. Probably 6. I keep considering it again, but the last time was such a disaster, I just don't feel like I can risk it.

I do all my own vajazzling, however.

for a different kind of girl said...

I've turned into something of a rebate/couponing/sales queen. Let's just say that, right now, I have enough shampoo, body wash, facial cleanser, and toothpaste in my house to open a small drug store. I got almost all of it for free or nearly free. I should consider opening a drug store and selling it at a small profit!

I pretty much don't shop without coupons anymore, and I've tried to take advantage of free/reduced price activities. The boys went bowling yesterday with coupons I got off kidsbowlfree.com. It would have been totally free, but my husband decided to bowl, too, so there was $10. Also, I can check out new hardcovers at work, so that cuts down on what I might spend on books, and finally, with my oldest thinking he wants to grow his hair long, well, I'm saving a ton on haircuts!

Shana said...

Dying for the after shot of those roots. Also, you are inspiring me to maybe do a little couponing. I've been reluctant, but, dang, those are some nice savings you're showing.

TNelson said...

Anna: Just joined groupon.com for my local area - Omaha, NE. Looks like a great site! BTW, the link in your post has a comma not a dot in it so it won't take you to the website. You have it listed as www,groupon.com. Thought you might want to fix.


Lisa G said...

Deal! You're doing great and I'm so proud of you!

Rebates are another way to save money. Save your receipts and watch for manufacturer rebates. P&G just released one for digestive aids and I was able to dig up a receipt from May. Result - $10 rebate for the cost of a stamp and 5 minutes of my time.

Also - surveys. If you're lucky enough to be selected to test products and/or complete surveys, you could score free products and/or cash. Last month we were asked to evaluate then compare crackers. They sent us two free full size boxes of crackers and I filled out a survey online and they mailed us a check for $25.

Lastly, I also use 'play money'. This is a little more complicated but once you get the hang of it, you'll get tons of free/nearly free stuff. My favorites are CVS ExtraCare Bucks and Staples Rewards. The trick is to earn the 'play money' then use it to purchase more items that earn 'play money'. If you find yourself with 'play money' about to expire and no deals you want, use it on milk (CVS) or printer ink (Staples).

PS My suggestion for your Europe Trip - start entering sweepstakes. Set up a seperate e-mail account so you don't get a ton of spam on your main account. With a little searching you can find the ones not publicized so much and your chances of winning may be better. I know someone who won a cruise from a grocery store sweeps!

Anonymous said...

Check out www.livingsocial.com for great deals!

This Sweet Journey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber said...

With our planned cruise to Alaska seeming a little financially out of reach, we started donating plasma and have made over $1,000 this summer for the cruise fund.

I can't find my blog said...

I've been doing some penny pinching lately too. Shopping sales, clearance sections, etc.

See you in NYC!

Nichole@40daysof said...

Really impressive! I'm going to check out those websites, and I was really happy to find out that mouse poop was not in fact a couponing website. :)

K A B L O O E Y said...

How many nights are you staying over in NYC for BlogHer? I'm trying to rationalize staying for 2, but it's a hard one to get through my penny-pinching brain. If I wander around not talking to anyone, I'll regret the expense, but maybe it'll work like my gym membership and I'll be more social to justify the dollars spent. So if I cut out Starbucks and start making coffee in the AM...

EatPlayLove said...

Library. I haven't purchased a book in years. Huge savings. We also cancelled our cable and do streaming netflix instead, via our Wii which costs $13 month.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Sadly - no. Savings wouldn't be my forte. Basically - we just don't buy anything OR we throw fist fulls of dollars out the car window on our way to mall. I have never mastered the art of frugality.

I need to check out that groupon thing though since we do drop a lot of money on wine...

Oh - and I want to take a moment to take credit for your commenting relationship with FADKOG. I e-mailed her the link to your Jonas Brothers concert post and said, "you have to read this!" Match maker match maker make me a match....

Anonymous said...

These are fabulous ways of saving money. I would never consider coloring my own hair though... I do go much longer between salon visits though.


Anonymous said...

How do you like your HVAC system?


Deb said...

-->I started coloring my own hair almost two years ago and no one noticed I didn't have highlights so I hope that means they don't notice the grays I'm covering now. I sprint to the store when the brand I like is on sale for $4.99 too.