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Six Money Saving Tips for Back to School Shopping

Here are the six tips I shared with Beth Haynes on WBIR 10 News at Five last night on how to save on your back to school shopping this year! If you have a great tip share it in the comments to help others save even more!

Exercise on a Budget: My Current Solution

Reader Question:

Do you have any ideas on how to get a good workout with out spending a lot of money. We can’t afford to join a gym and all the exercise videos I want seem expensive.  Any ideas?

In my pre-four-kids life THE HUSBAND and I used to hit the gym around 7, workout for an hour or more, then come home and eat a light dinner around 9pm. Smack dab in the middle of life with four young kids that schedule looks ridiculous to me. All I want to do by 7pm is curl up in my bed.

Daily-Burn

Exercise is usually the first thing I am willing to cut out of a busy day, but it really should be the last. A quick trip to the gym does not exist in this girl’s life. So here is my latest solution: Daily Burn. Daily Burn offers a variety of workouts you can watch on your computer, iPad®, iPhone®, Android®, TV, and more.

You can chose the workout you want for the day or follow a customized calendar. You can sort workouts by intensity, difficulty or length. (I love that.) You can also chose your style: cardio, strength, yoga, kickboxing, abs, mobility, core, metabolic conditioning, stretching, etc. They have workouts for beginners and advanced workouts for those who are a little more fit than the rest of us.

I have been using this for about 6 months now.Inferno kicked my behind last month and I am loving Tactical Bodyweight Training this month. It is working muscles I didn’t even know I had. If you want a good ab workout choose one of the dance/zumba workouts and do it with someone like THE HUSBAND. I laughed so hard that day my abs were sore for a week.

Anyway, why do I love Daily Burn? It is $10 a month, which is much less than our previous gym membership. It keeps me from getting bored. I can exercise wherever and whenever I can/want to.  It also offers personalized nutrition plans and recipes.

So, Daily Burn is my current suggestion.

Jogging and walking outside are always free. So grab a friend or two and start walking together. You could trade workout videos with a friend, or look at a use book and DVD store like McKay’s. 

How about you? How do you work exercise into your budget- time and money budget?  Share your ideas and help a fellow reader out!

Use Hot Tea to Clean Your Hardwood Floors

The last cleaner I used on my hardwood floors made them streaky. I have used vinegar and water, but I am out of vinegar. My floors were in need of a cleaning today.  So I did a little looking around and found an article that said you could use boiling water and two teabags to clean hardwood floors.

clean-hardwoods-tea

Here is how you do it:

Let two teabags (I used on family size teabag) steep in the boiling water for a few minutes. Pour the tea into a bucket. Take a soft cloth and wring it out in the tea. The cloth merely needs to be damp, not soaked. This will enable the floor to dry quickly. Wash the floor and be ready to be amazed by the sheen. The tannic acid in tea creates a beautiful shine for hardwood floors.

The verdict-

Tea worked well as a floor cleaner! I had to scrub a little in the dining room, but with four young boys that is really nothing new. It did leave my floors shiny and no streaks! It if going on my list of easy, effective green cleaners. It is also a frugal cleaner if you get your tea on sale!
hardwoods-cleaned-with-tea

Ignore the dings and scratches, and check out my kitchen floor.

Christmas Money Saving Tips

Here are some of the Christmas shopping tips I shared on WBIR News at Five this evening. If you are trying to get the most for your Christmas money this year here are a few tips you should consider:

1.Use Cash– Take cash along on your shopping trips and leave the credit cards at home. You are much less likely to overspend if you pay with cash.

2.Buy Gift Cards at Stores that will reward you. If you are giving gift cards or if you are sure you are going to buy gifts from a particular store, buy gift cards where you will earn rewards. For example through December 9th at you can earn 4 times the fuel points by buying gift cards in-store at Kroger and using them instead of cash at your favorite stores and online retailers. If you buy $100 in gift cards you will get 400 fuel points, translating to $.40 off per gallon on your next fill up at Shell or Kroger stations. Barnes and Noble is offering a free $10 egift card with a $75 purchase, The Children’s Place is offering a free $10 egift card with a $40 purchase. Several restaurants also have bonus gift card deals available.

3.Price Match– Take advantage of price matching for specific items on your list. Find the best advertised deals for the week then price match them at Walmart, Best Buy or Target. This saves you time, money and gas. This year Target and Best Buy are even matching online prices.

4.Use Coupons- Several stores have coupons available online and in your newspaper. For example there is a great Free Bath and Body Works product with $10 purchase available right now that is valid through 12/24. If you are shopping online consider  shopping Ebates or ShopAtHome.com to get cash back for all your purchases.

5.Daily Deal Sites- Look through Daily Deal sites to get local deals. Some deals will be printable vouchers and available immediately and some will require shipping. Good sites to start with: DealChicken.com, Half Off Depot, or Groupon.

6.Set Your Budget Before You Shop– Decide how much  you can comfortably afford for Christmas gift giving. Make a list of each person you will be buying a gift for and assign a budget to each. Read this post if you want more tips on setting a Christmas budget

7.Free Shipping Day-All Procrastinators will be happy to hear Free Shipping Day is set for December 17,2012. On Monday, December 17, 2012 more than 1,000 merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve in the contiguous United States.

Other things to note- Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not the only ways to save before Christmas. December 22nd, the Saturday before Christmas, is Super Saturday. According to ShopperTrak, Super Saturday will be the second busiest shopping day of the season. So look for huge one day markdowns on everything from clothing and jewelry to toys and electronics. Speaking of electronics, lower-end products are typically discounted on Black Friday while you usually see larger discounts on brand-name the closer it gets to Christmas.

Drought Increases Food Prices: Simple Tips to Help Your Grocery Budget

The last two nights I have actually watched the evening news I have seen stories on the current droughts and the predicted rise in food costs. The USDA predicts the drought to increase food prices by 3-4% in 2013.

We are likely to see a larger than normal price increase on milk, butter, beef, pork, chicken, pasta, soy milk, cheese, breakfast cereal, powdered milk, gluten-free products, pet food, vitamins, cooking oil, and frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables.

With that in mind here are a few thoughts on how to protect your  grocery budget. ( I think these are just good tips for frugal grocery shopping any time.  By doing these now you will be able to take the edge off prices increases.)

Make Room in Your Freezer

  • Buy fresh produce now when it goes on sale and freeze or can it so you do not have to buy as much next year.
  • Freeze some cheese. When you find a good deal on cheese and butter (or other dairy products) go ahead and buy some to freeze.
  • Buy beef and chicken now. It has become very expensive for ranchers to feed their herds so, it is likely we will see the price of beef, chicken and pork temporarily decline as ranchers sell off stock.

Use coupons and sales to stock up now.

I know many of you already do this but it would be good to start focusing on items that are most likely to increase in price.

  • Stock up on cereal, pasta and canned fruit and vegetables now. You should be able to find cereal for $1 or less, pasta for no more than $.50 per box and some good deals on canned food.
  • Popcorn is a favorite frugal snack around here- stock up now.
  • Stock up on wheat flour now. (It can be frozen too!)

Buy Local

  • Consider joining a CSA Program– your area may not be as affected by the drought and traditionally organic farms fare a little better in those conditions.
  • Plant your own garden!
  • Learn to can your own veggies! You can check out Canning Across America for tips and recipes, or look for a canning class in your area.

Get Out Your Cookbooks

  • Start cooking one or two vegetarian meals a week.
  •  Start making more of your family’s food from scratch, processed foods (which we all know are not as good for you)  will also increase in price in 2013. (Remember the Maple Pecan Breakfast Cookie Experiment?  Still one of my faves.)
  • Don’t waste food. Start menu planning and considering how to use leftovers.

Make Room in Your Budget

  • Start trying now to add a little more money to your monthly food budget. Either use it to stock up on or save it until you start seeing a rise in your monthly grocery spending. Either way reallocating a small amount to your budget now will help you be prepared.

These tips are basically what I saw my grandma and mom do as I was growing up on a Midwestern farm. I wish now I had paid more attention while they were canning , freezing, baking and preserving. I could not do any of that now.  I am, however, an expert on picking vegetables, shucking corn, snapping beans and coring apples. So if anyone wants to team up…..

What are your best tips for keeping your food budget the same when prices rise?

Publix Coupon Policy, Store Guide and Shopping Tips

Publix is almost here in Knoxville. This is great news for grocery budgets all over the city, whether you coupon or not!  Before they open, take some time to get familiar with their coupon policy so your first shopping trip will go smoothly and you will save.  You can read the Publix Coupon Policy here.  Below are all the details, the wording in black bold text is theirs, anything else is an explanation from me. This is the best information I have gathered so far, if there are any updates, additions or changes I’ll let you know!

Coupons Publix Accepts:

Manufacturer’s coupons (Limit one per item). This is standard and no different from using coupons at any other store.
Publix coupons (originals only-no copies). Look at the end of the post for places to sign up for these.
Valid Internet coupons. Publix accepts printable coupons. In general, Publix does not accept printable coupons for a free item if the value is over $5.
Coupons from nearby competitors identified by each Publix store. (Competitor names are posted at each Publix store.)
We will accept a manufacturer’s coupon and either a Publix or a competitor coupon on the same item.  This is commonly called coupon “stacking”. You can use (1) manufacturer coupon and (1) store coupon (either Publix or competitor) per item.
We will accept coupons from competing pharmacies for prescriptions only.

Coupon Acceptance Limitations/Exceptions:

We will not accept percent-off-items or percent-off-total-order coupons.
We will only accept coupons for identical merchandise we sell.
Dollars-off-total-order coupons will be limited to one Publix and one competitor coupon per order. The order total must be equal to or greater than the total purchase requirements indicated on the coupon(s) presented.
Acceptance is subject to any restrictions on the coupon.
We reserve the right to limit quantities.
Manager approval is needed for individual coupons above $5.00.

Pulbix Shopping Tips & Ways to Save:

1.For a buy-one-get-one free (B1G1) offer, each item is considered a separate sale. (Means you can use a coupon on each item). This also means you don’t have to buy two items to get the B1G1 price, each item will ring up half off.

2. Publix will double coupons that are $.50 or less. Doubling only applies to manufacturer’s coupons, not store or competitor coupons.

3.Publix does not accept expired coupons. The one exception to this is if you have rain check for an item and a coupon that was valid for the date the rain check was issued.

4.Publix will accept a competitor’s coupon for a private label item.

5.Publix sale ads will  come out on Thursdays for Knoxville.

6. Wednesdays are senior citizen 5% discount days for customers 60 and older.

7.Publix has a weekly Mystery Penny Item. The Penny Item is for one day only, and will be the day that the ad starts (this is Thursday  in the Knoxville area). You will get the Publix Penny item with any purchase that is $10 or more before coupons. You will need the penny item coupon found in your Wednesday (or Thursday) paper. (UPDATE-The Knoxville store will not be participating in this.)

8. Sign up for your Publix Magazines to get more Publix and manufacturer’s coupons-

  • Publix GreenWise Market Magazine-Publix GreenWise Market magazine can help you—and your family—make smart, natural choices on everything from food, nutrition, and fitness to remedies and ideas for disease prevention.
  • Publix FamilyStyle Magazine– Publix FamilyStyle® magazine, an upbeat, fresh, and fun magazine for parents. If you live in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, or Tennessee, you can receive four FREE issues per year—in February, May, August, and November. Each issue is packed with the season’s best parenting insights, kid-friendly recipes, time-saving tips, safety news, fitness facts, and more to help your family thrive everywhere life takes you, from the breakfast table to the classroom to the soccer field and back home.

9. Check out the Publix Mobile Website- m.publix.com. You can check out the weekly ad and create a grocery list, then add and update products right from the ad; update quantities, make notes, and flag products with coupons. Then head to your nearest Publix and check off items on your list as you shop.

10.Publix iPhone App-Download the Publix iPhone app so you never miss the deals in our weekly ads. Plus find store hours and locations, along with Google map integration.

Why aren’t My Coupons Scanning? The New GS1 DataBar Coupon Barcode System

I have received several emails and comments recently about coupons not scanning and cashiers thinking the new single barcode coupons are not valid. I printed several coupons from Coupons.com yesterday and they only had the long barcode. These coupons are fine, totally valid and soon to be the much more common type of coupon barcodes you see.

Here is what is going on.

Coupons are switching over to the new new GS1 DataBar coupon format.These new long Databar Coupon Barcodes have been on coupons for several months now along with the old, shorter UPC Codes. You and your cashier are probably used to seeing the transitional bar codes that look like this:

Both barcodes have been on coupons to give stores time to transition over to the new longer Databar Coupon Barcode system. Eventually all coupons will only have the longer DataBar barcode.

Why the switch? The DataBar system can hold extremely large amounts of information, much more than the UPC codes. It is intended to help manufacturers make coupons more specific and coupon terms easier for stores to enforce. It will make it easier to add size, amount and even flavor requirements to the barcode of the coupon!

New DataBar System Changes:

  •  The existing structure only allows companies with a 6-digit prefix the ability to coupon. The new format can accommodate variable length prefixes.
  • Coupon value codes can now be in any amount up to $999.99, and they are not limited to a table of only 100 possibilities.
  • Precise offer descriptions and validation of offers involving specified quantity purchases can now be expressed.
  • Fraud reduction due to complexity of description and save values. Also, the entire barcode encoded data is not presented in human readable format. (so people can not “decode” coupons and use them for products they were not intended for)
  • Automatic expiration date checking for retailers.

What does this mean for you, the coupon user?

It should make using coupons even easier. You will know exactly what product and size the coupons is for and check out should be faster and easier.  There will be no need for cashiers to interrupt the coupon and decide if you have met the purchase requirement, the computer will do it for you!

It will also reduce coupon fraud, which is good for manufacturers, retailers and you. The new barcode ensures the coupon is used as intended and the make it much harder to produce fraudulent coupons.

If your store is having an issue with these coupons it is only because their computer system is not updated. That should be changed soon and in the meantime you can explain what is going on with the new barcodes. (Stores can manually enter the numbers above the barcode if it will not scan.) They may not let you use it but you will sound very official when you use terms like “the new GS1 DataBar Format”. :0)