Money-Saving Monday: Shopping Around

I am not a money-saving expert by any means but I have tried in the last year or two to follow frugal blogs, clip coupons, and watch for deals.

However, I think I could do a lot better when it comes to groceries. Typically,  I grocery shop at one store (Wal-Mart) and use the coupons I have for the things I need (or can stock up on). I save $10 or $15 doing this. Lately, however, I've realized I can save a great deal more on our food budget.

Yesterday, we were having dinner guests so I ran to a nearby grocery store (City Market, a Kroger store) to pick up some last-minute items. While there, I noticed that there was a very good sale that included items we reguarly use: pasta, pasta sauce, and salad dressing. I ended up with 16 extra items, but the sale meant I saved about $30 on those items. I also noticed that that the price on Betty Crocker cake mix (for which I have a coupon) was cut to $1, and that Pantene shampoo, for which I have a $2 coupon, was $2.97. I will be headed back there, coupons in hand.

This inspired me to read fliers and visit other stores at least once in a while, instead of just assuming Wal-Mart has the lowest prices (it obviously doesn't). While it's a bit of a hassle, the savings might well be worth it!

Do you shop at various grocery stores or just one? What has worked best for you?


Ten terrific months!

Sometimes when I look at little Jack I am a little excited and a little saddened to see that my baby is growing into a little boy. We have many adventures ahead of us, I am sure!

At month 10, he has eight teeth and no doubt more will pop up soon since he's been teething of late. He crawls everywhere, loves to explore, and has a nifty little talent of high-powered crawling when he is headed for some mischief. He still delights us with his happy noises and precious little giggles; he's added some new and creative sounds to his repertoire of late. And he loves music; he often bops or sways to tunes, enjoys clapping, and occasionally we hear him with singing along to a CD we have playing (with his own words, of course).

He's making progress toward walking (he walks behind his walker toy and around furniture) but can't seem to see the point when crawling works so splendidly.

Hard to believe we are heading so soon toward birthday number one!


A teddy bear to love

This teddy bear is adorable; I found it as a link from one of my friend's blogs, who is a talented teddy bear designer (I'm sure that's not her official title).

The good news is that this particular beautiful hand-crafted bear is being given away by the its creator, Ginger, on her Bearbits blog. The contest is open until March 31.


Money-Saving Monday: Baby Bargains

It's actually Tuesday, but since Money-Saving Tuesday doesn't have the same nifty alliteration, I'll stick with the title even though I'm a day late.

Since I have had my baby boy (and several months prior), I have been engrossed in the world of strollers, diapers, and toys. This has challenged me to make my little one's world sparkle, saving money all the while.

My husband and I had fun doing our inexpensive nursery. We found bargains and reused some things from other parts of our home. But not so long after the nursery was complete, our little Jack came along, which meant reasons to find even more bargains. Here are some great ways I've found to save money:

  • Read Baby Bargains. I am forever grateful to the person who recommended this book to me. It's especially helpful for major purchases when you're preparing for baby. It includes reviews and ratings based on cost and quality for many different baby products, including car seats, strollers, diapers, cribs, toys, and more. As a first-time parent, I was overwhelmed with all the brands and choices and safety claims and gadgets. I wondered if I didn't have this or that if I would be a terrible mother or perhaps my baby would implode. This book is really helpful in that department plus it identifies as the best deals (for price and quality). Then you can watch for sales on the best-deal products you select.  
  • Watch for diaper deals. Frugal bloggers (see right side) are a wonderful find in this area. They are constantly posting deals or coupons. Friend Pampers and Huggies on Facebook for more deals. Subscribe to the Babies R Us (which, outside of wearhouse clubs, have the best prices on large boxes of diapers in my area—even better than Walmart) flier and wait for sales. They often offer gift cards or discounts. Some people would rather use no-name diapers to save; this can work, too, but if you are willing to spend time clipping coupons, major brands can be the same price or cheaper (and perhaps better quality, depending on your opinion).
  • Join diaper clubs. This is mostly just for fun, but both Pampers and Huggies have reward programs. They are free to join; members enter codes found on diapers and wipes (and on frugal blogs) and collect points to win prizes. Just the other day, I got my first reward—a free toy—from the Huggies Enjoy the Ride rewards program. It was about a $10 retail value and provided some extra entertainment for Jack. 
  • Buy consignment or use friends' gently used equipment and clothing. I am pretty picky about used clothing that I purchase, but I have found some quality (and even new) clothing at yard sales. And friends who have given us clothes are wonderful (thank you!). I still have fun buying my little guy cute new clothes, but we sure have to buy a lot less. Since most babies are in and out of sizes in a flash, it seems crazy to spend gobs on little clothes. One caution in this area: Beware of purchasing/getting used car seats (could be damaged if they have been in an accident) and other major equipment, such as cribs, that are older and may not be up to current safety standards.
  • Save on toys. Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Amazon, Target, and other stores often have toys on clearance. Combined with coupons, toys can be nearly free. If you are looking to get a few more toys for your little one, watch for these types of sales and take advantage of them. For example, Babies R Us had a sale recently: buy one Fisher Price toy, get one free. I had a gift card that I received from a diaper deal, plus 2 $5 coupons. We walked away with four new toys that would normally have totaled $110 for about $35.
  • Get free stuff. See my previous post for ideas, but I have received free diapers, a board book (one of my son's favorite books), a sippy cup, and more baby-related items.
Please share your ideas for saving on baby stuff, too!


Money-Saving Monday: Free Stuff

Recently I asked my Facebook friends about their best money-saving strategies. A couple of them said the obvious: Don't spend it. That's a pretty good idea.

While there are lots of ways to avoid spending money, one of the most fun is getting free products. We haven't, for example, paid for toothpaste in at least a year, and we have seven free tubes sitting in the cupboard, so we're not going to run out any time soon. Here are some easy ways to get free stuff:

  • Follow frugal and freebie blogs. There are dozens and dozens of these types of blogs; a few are listed on the right side. Find the ones you like and check them regularly,  follow them on Facebook, or sign up to get daily emails that highlight their posts. This is a fabulous way to find giveaways from companies. Some give small samples; others mail you coupons for free products or send you a full-size version of the product itself. Thanks to these amazing bloggers, I've received free diapers, a sippy cup, a ABC board book, baby food, coffee, and many other products.
  • Combine coupons and sales at drugstores, grocery stores, and discount stores. Again, the frugal blogs are an excellent help. The bloggers take the time to figure out the best deals based on fliers and current coupons. Print or clip coupons (again, look to the right for some sources) that come along if you might possibly use the product. Unless you need the product right away, wait for a sale to come along (often highlighted by a blogger). You'll often be able to get things for free—and even make money on the deal. For example, this week at Walgreen's Colgate Total toothpaste, priced at $3.99, comes with a $4 Register Rewards coupon that you can use on a future purchase. Combine it with a $1 off coupon, and you'll make $1.01 off the purchase. 
  • Join online money-making programs. Two I've joined are Swagbucks and Ebates. Swagbucks is a program that gives you points for doing various simple tasks, such as searching the Internet using its search engine and shopping at various online stores. It's simple and fun. You can redeem the points for prizes, such as Amazon.com and Target.com gift cards. Ebates is a program that gives you certain percentages of cash back for shopping through its site at various Internet stores that you'd shop at anyway. Every once in a while, a check arrives in the mail—free money.
I'd love to hear your tips for getting free stuff. Happy saving!


Money-Saving Monday

Don't worry—it's still Friday. But since Monday is right around the corner, here's a small preview.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom is most rewarding, but it's also reason to be a bit more careful with the family budget. I've been extremely inspired by reading frugal blogs and other resources and discovered that I love getting free and cheap stuff! It's fabulous to not have to spend money on things like toothpaste and cereal and be able to free up room in the budget for vacations or toys for my little guy or giving or paying down the mortgage or any number of other things.

To keep me disciplined and perhaps help others (and maybe make your Mondays a tad less foreboding), I thought I would weekly share some of the dollar-stretching tips I've learned from excellent frugal blogs, books, friends, and experience.

In the meantime, be inspired by this super coupon queen. Watch this ABC newscast about a woman who is so determined that she literally feeds her family for $4 a week.
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