Monday, September 30, 2013

Chloe's Sweet 16

This past Saturday was my cousin Chloe's Sweet 16!  I just can't believe that she's already 16 because I remember being super excited when she was born because we had another baby girl on my mom's side of the family!  Her party was at Elaine's Asian Bistro & Grill in Great Neck, so it was a bit of a drive for us.  Howard and I doubled the actual amount of time that it would require to get there and gave ourselves an hour and a half even though it should've taken 45 minutes.  Thankfully, we arrived there right on time despite traffic everywhere!  Phew!

There were a lot of the high schoolers and college kids from church and a bunch of Chloe's friends from school.  Howard and I sat down before the party officially started with my cousin and his fiance, and my uncle came over and said that we're still considered the same generation as Chloe and everyone that was there even though we're technically adults!   

Once my aunt welcomed and thanked everyone for coming, she told us that we could help ourselves to some appetizers.  We grabbed plates of food and sat down with my cousins and their significant others.  It was fun because I don't get to see and talk to them very often anymore.  It was hilarious that we were so strangely seated around the table because we weren't all necessarily next to our guys, haha.

The centerpieces were these mason jar mugs filled with candy.  We divided up the yummy candy at the end of the party, and then Howard actually "won" one of the mugs (post-it under his seat) and no one else wanted the other one, so we got both of them!  Yay for new mugs!  Haha, he actually tried seeing if anyone would trade because he saw pink and green ones, but we still ended up with the two orange ones from our table.  

Each person also got to take home 2 of the cupcakes made by my aunt.  She makes cupcakes from scratch with more unique flavors.  Since we were 4 couples, we each got to take home one of EACH flavor!  Edible favors and centerpieces are clearly the BEST.

The food was really good.  I had eaten a small breakfast, so I was very eager to eat!  The appetizers included buffalo chicken eggrolls, fried shrimp, and scallion pancakes.  After I had eaten my plate, I smiled at Howard, and he knew to get me some more, hehe.  He was sitting on the outside so it was easier for him to get up and get food to feed his ravenous wife.

Then everyone got salad with the regular ginger dressing that you get from sushi places, but this was better than other salads because there were slices of avocado on the top!  Yum!  That definitely kicked it up a notch, and now when I have a salad like this, I'll wonder where the avocado is.

The main part of the meal was done buffet style just like the appetizers.  I took a little bit of everything, and I thought it was very good.  I was surprised that I liked the beef as I'm not always that big on cow, and the chicken was really tender.  The noodles were also really good too!  And I'm never one to say no to some spicy rolls!

Here's another picture of my table.

After the food, the lights were turned down and the fancy lights were turned on along with the dance music!  We're not that big on dancing (at least not in public cuz we dance a lot in our kitchen!); we didn't even dance that much at our own wedding!  But we had fun spending some time together and watching everyone else with all their energy!  I, on the other hand, was ready for a nice nap due to all the yummy food I had just eaten.

Before Chloe cut into her cake, groups were called up for pictures.  This is the group of girls from church.

This was the cousins and aunts/uncles picture.

And then we had to make some room for cake!  Doesn't funfetti look like Fruity Pebbles melted in the cake batter?

Lastly, one of the girls from church grabbed Chloe's camera and went around snapping photos and got this funky one of us, haha.

It was a fun day to celebrate with family and friends!  We got home safely after some more traffic, and we slept soundly that night because we are old, and partying does that to us!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Favorites

If you've been following my blog over the more recent weeks, you clearly know that couponing has become one of my favorite hobbies.  It's amazing how much you can save just by doing some research and learning how to stack coupons and watch for sales.  If I sat down and actually calculated the amount of money we spent during our first few months or even first full year of marriage versus what we spend now on groceries and necessities, I'd be hoping for an opportunity to go back in time and give myself a slap or two as a wake up call!

However, despite the incessant posts about couponing, it's not the only thing I'm enjoying right now as hard as it may be to believe.  There are a few other things that I think would fall under my "favorites" that I'd like to share with you!  I know other bloggers write about favorite things on Fridays or have segments depending on the day of the week, but I don't know how good I'll be about that so I'm not going to promise anything other than my continued random outbursts!

Favorite #1: Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Dark Chocolate

I've never been a fan of eating waffles with syrup mainly because of its stickiness and the sweetness.  On occasion, I'd drizzle a little bit on a waffle to have an extra sugary jolt in the morning especially being hypoglycemic, but what I typically enjoyed was peanut butter on my freshly toasted Eggo.

Unfortunately, over the past year or two, peanut butter has been giving me heartburn and discomfort especially in the morning, so I've been avoiding one of my favorite quick protein and carb breakfast.  That all changed when I heard about Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Dark Chocolate.  We picked it up at Pathmark when there was a $1.99 sale on Skippy with a coupon.  Love the doubling of coupons at Pathmark and Stop & Shop!  Oh wait, I shouldn't be writing about coupons here ...

I tried this chocolate-y spread on a waffle many times, and it's been so delicious!  It hasn't really given me stomach issues, so that's why I'm a fan of it.  I especially wanted to see how it compares to Nutella, and I actually like it more than I like Nutella.  That could be because I feel as if I need to be in a certain mood to enjoy the taste of hazelnut.  Plus, it helps that Skippy is much cheaper than Hazelnut!

Favorite #2: Kitchen Nightmares

Before I got married and left my parents' house, we often watched Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine.  It was entertaining for us to see how he would help the owners of a restaurant do things the right way.  We couldn't believe just how many establishments on the series have frozen food and use microwaves to cook!  I wanted to watch more episodes at our apartment, but we don't have a TV, so I had to search online for some.  There are only a few on YouTube, so I started watching Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix.  And now I just discovered that more seasons are available on Hulu, yay!

First of all, I have to point out that I truly dislike how Gordon Ramsay spews out so many profanities.  He has a completely different approach than Robert Irvine.  But the basis of the show itself in terms of seeing a restaurant get back on the right path is what intrigues me.  Yes, I'm fully aware that this is still a reality show and things are contrived, but I still think it's entertaining.

Oh, except for the ones that have cockroaches and mold everywhere.  Blech!

Favorite #3: Oriental Trading Double Sided Tape Rolls

After a few years of crafting, I read a lot about Scor-Tape and other redline tape by companies like Ranger.  I wanted to try it because I know it's supposed to work really well with putting together 3-D paper items.  In the past, I've always used my Scotch ATG gun, but over time, some of the things would start to fall apart.  I decided to buy some redline tape from Oriental Trading.  I don't now just how well it'll last in the long run as I only just began using it, but so far, I can see that it's better than using an ATG gun.  If this doesn't have long staying power, I will invest in more expensive redline tape, but I know now that it's easy to work with and sometimes easier than using a tape runner.

Of course, let's not forget the best of all Friday favorites ... I get to spend the weekend with Howard!  Yay!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free CVS-ing

If all my CVS posts haven't already convinced you to get a CVS card, this post should do it!  I mentioned in the past that CVS likes to email random ExtraBucks for absolutely no reason other than the fact that you're a member.  A few days ago, Howard and I both got an extra $3 emailed to us, so after spending some time with my parents yesterday, we stopped by the one closest to our apartment on the way home.

This part of our trip wasn't free, but I'm always happy to get inexpensive dish detergent for our apartment.  Palmolive is on sale this week for $0.88, and I had mentioned to my mom that people were stocking up with coupons.  She told me that she had 2 of the $0.50 that she wasn't going to use as she's not that big of a fan of Palmolive, so I was able to use them!  Yay for $0.38 dish detergent!  For big messed, I do very much prefer Dawn as it really does cut through the grease, but since we wash all of our dishes by hand, Palmolive is usually less expensive and does a good job for what we need.  I haven't tried this particular kind with Oxy in it though, so we'll see how that compares to Dawn (we keep both Palmolive and Dawn on our sink counter depending on what we're washing).

With the money that they sent us, we were able to get free things!  I went through the circular and discovered that Honey Bunches of Oats was $2.99 with a $1 ECB offer.  We don't ever buy cereal for that much, but it was free!  I initially picked up the almond one, which is our normal choice, but Howard saw that the Greek yogurt one was also included in the offer.  I was excited to try a new one especially considering I'm kind of not as big of a fan of Honey Bunches of Oats at this moment.  Right now I'm going through a Cheerios and Life phase.  When I scanned it at the self-checkout, it kept saying I couldn't use the coupon because it exceeded the purchase amount.  The employee tried it too and said that it couldn't be used, but I politely asked if he could just manually input $2.99 into the machine.  He did, and so there was absolutely nothing coming out of my pocket for this cereal!  And I still got the $1 for next time!  Yay!  

On Howard's card, we didn't see anything that we wanted even though we could have done the cereal deal on his as well.  But we decided to "splurge" and use the $3 kind of frivolously and get some AriZona.  Even though it was $0.66 each and Walgreen has them on sale this week for 2/$1, this is still "cheaper" in the sense that we didn't have to pay for it!  We picked up 5 of the Half & Half Iced Tea Lemonade and only had to pay $0.30 in coins, of course.  What a great deal!  We'll once in a while decide to treat ourselves to a fun drink as we'll split one with our dinner because normally we just drink water or I'll have tea afterwards.  This may not have been the best way to roll ECB, but we're not complaining about the free goods!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Husband, the Crafter

Last year when we had the blackout due to Hurricane Sandy, Howard and I crafted by candlelight to kill the time.  It's so strange that we were initially at a loss for what to do because so much of it is dependent on Netflix and our computers.  It was so loud out with the wind that sleeping wasn't really a possibility either especially with my anxiety that the windows would blow in, which is right where our bed is located.  So that meant crafting in the dark!  It ended up being one of my favorite memories of our first year of marriage (minus the devastating storm aspect of it).

This is one of the cards that Howard made.  It's definitely so him!  He started by searching for a sentiment that he wanted to work with and found the "I love you s'more" in Pink by Design's set "Woodland Critters."  He chose colors from my cardstock and then made some squares using a punch.  Then he played around with the geometric design to figure out proper spacing to make it obvious that it was a s'more while still being his style.  I really love how it came out!  He should have entered it in a CASual Fridays challenge or something!

Clearly, you can see that his style is different than mine because my s'mores would've had a smiley face on it or something, haha.  I think that the two of us should craft together more!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paying with Coins

If you've noticed, I've been having updates scheduled to post at 5am in the morning, but I didn't have one prepared last night.  It's okay though because here's the update!  I always have writing ideas on my mind, and blogging (which I consider more simplistic writing compared to what I would like to write) helps me get back into the habit of communicating through the written word.  Though it might not be the most interesting read if you're not interested in couponing, I know that it's good "exercise" for me.  I did add a little bit of non-couponing stuff in this post including a food picture!  Scroll down if that's all you're interested in seeing, haha.

My cousin's Sweet 16 is coming up, so I had to stop by the mall yesterday to pick up a gift card.  Since I was out and about, it obviously meant that I was going to stop by CVS, haha.  I know I had said that I wasn't going to return for a while because the sales weren't going to be good for the next two weeks, but this doesn't count, right?  It's the same sale week!  Haha.  I checked my CVS account two nights ago and saw what coupons would print out from the redbox for me, and it included GREAT savings.  There was no way I could pass up on it considering I knew my subtotal could be negative.

The CVS by my parents' house wasn't going to work for my plans because not everything was available.  I tried to see if I could rearrange my plan as I stood there in an aisle on my phone, but I didn't want to pay more out of pocket than planned.  So I scrapped that idea and just picked up more of those free toothbrushes using Howard's card.  He had $4 ECB to roll, so I got 2 toothbrushes for free with 2 coupons and got $4 ECB back.  I think even for those of you who don't want to take on major couponing, these deals would work out well just to slowly get free things for your family.  Of course, you need to always make sure you get your coupons at the redbox though!  And sometimes that means having to ask an employee for help when the machine says it has no paper to print.  This is the second time I've seen the machine opened (the first time, my coupons got stuck inside as they printed so they had to be redirected out of the little slot on the side).  I got super excited and snapped this picture even though another lady was also waiting for coupons too, haha.  As you can see, this is one of the older machines.  The new ones seem to be better as you can input your telephone number in case you don't have your ExtraCare card.  I also believe that the new ones have more space to scan a card or an item, so scanning your phone (if you use CardStar or another app like that) might be able to work.  I'll have to test that out at a newer machine.

The small total for my purchase at the first store was paid with coins!  I decided that from now on if it's possible, all CVS transactions will be paid with the spare change in my wallet and from the little plastic container we have at home since it's money that we have that technically just sits there!  Since I do self-checkout, I don't have to feel silly handing over $1 or $2+ in coins including lots of nickels and dimes.  I just slowly feed the machine whatever I have in my wallet and it deducts as it lets me know how much I owe.  I do plenty of math with my planning, so it makes my life easier knowing the machine will do the math for me there!

Afterwards, I drove to the mall to pick up the gift card and popped into the CVS there, but it's never one that I enjoy frequenting.  It's cramped and not as clean and organized, and for some reason, their products weren't scanning at the correct price.  I didn't want to bother dealing with it there, so I just left.  

Since I was at the mall though, it made sense to pop by the Disney Store and trade Vinylmation!  There was one from the series called Mickey's Wild West in the visible portion of the box, but I wasn't sure if I should trade for one in the mystery portion since last time we snagged Eric from The Little Mermaid series.  I asked if I could trade, and then I said to the guy, "Hmm, you have mystery ones too, right?" and he proceeded to pull all of them out for me to see!  There wasn't anything in there, so I snagged "Dewey" from Wild West.  I was happy about that!  What was funny is that I traded a Vampire Goofy even though in the trade box, there was a Goofy Vampire in there already along with a Werewolf Pluto!  Haha, clearly those were from us since we cleaned them out of those as traders ($2.99 for the set) twice!  But it was the best investment ever to build up our Vinylmation collection on the cheap.

Yes, it's kind of strange that I'm talking about paying for my CVS hauls with change and then mentioning Vinylmation.  Haha, we did buy those Vinylmation way before I got into couponing.  Plus, now that I coupon, it will allow us to get a few fun treats every once in a while.  Howard's interest has now turned into one of mine!  Trading pins and Vinylmation have become part of the memories we make at Disney World as we make great trades and interact with other guests and cast members.  It's just exciting that we get to have some Disney magic at home too.

I left the mall and drove home, which meant passing by the CVS close to my apartment (yes, the 3rd CVS in one day).  So we may have spent $2.99 on a set of 2 Vinylmation, but I spent way less than that on all of the things below!   

The night before, I checked out past receipts and figured out what would get taxed and what wouldn't.  Then I checked to see what coupons would reduce my taxable amount.  Basically, anything that scans as a "CVS Coupon" should be deducted from your subtotal before figuring the tax.  That includes any of the $ off $$ coupons, the % off coupons, randomly emailed ExtraBucks, earned Beauty Bucks, and emailed birthday ExtraBucks.  It was nice being able to figure it out because then I could be more exact about anything OOP and keep it to the barest minimum.  So how did I get all of the above products for only $2.19 in change?  Just a bit of homework!

The Nivea deal is the same as all my past updates.  It's the LAST week for it.  When I left CVS last time, I saw at the bottom of my receipt that I only needed $6 more to get another ECB deal.  That meant that it carried over from my FIRST week of Nivea purchases.  I also got a coupon from the redbox for $2 off 2 body lotions so I picked up another bottle along with another body wash to complete the final Nivea deal.  Basically that breakdown was as follows:

2 Nivea lotion = $12 sale price - $4 in manufacturer's coupons - $2 in CVS coupon = $6 OOP
1 Nivea body wash = $4 sale price - $2 in manufacturer's coupon = $2 OOP

That meant putting in $8 OOP and getting $6 back so it was a pretty great opportunity to roll ECB.  

The candy deal was to spend $10 and get $3 ECB.  I got a $4 off $10 coupon from the redbox including Halloween candy, so it was a fabulous opportunity to get some bags ONLY if I could find proper coupons, and I did!  Here's that breakdown:

2 Hershey's ($0.99 sale) = $1.98 - $1.00 manufacturer's coupon = $0.98 OOP
3 Twix ($3 sale) = $9 - $1.50 manufacturer's coupon - $4 CVS coupon = $3.50 OOP

That meant putting in $4.50 OOP and getting $3 back, so that too was a pretty good way to roll ECB.  It amazes me because last year, I waited until after Halloween to get some of my favorites on sale.  That meant getting one bag for about $2.00!  I spent so much less for a ton of it!  I'm looking forward to sharing chocolate with friends.

Lastly, I did the Got2B deal again because of a $1.50 off $5 styling products coupon from the redbox, but I didn't get any ECB from it.  The website said limit of 5 per card, but the circular actually says limit of $5 per card, so that meant no ECB.  I will be returning them during my next trip.

As you can see, my subtotal was exactly as I calculated it to be at negative $0.68.  I miscalculated the tax because I thought the candy wouldn't be taxed.  Silly me.  I paid the $2.19 in coins again and did my best to get rid of my nickels and pennies, haha.  The first 3 coupons that you see on the receipt are coupons from the redbox, the next 3 are my ECB, and the remaining 4 are manufacturer's coupons.  I read that that's the way to do it to allow the overage to dip into your tax, but I've had negative subtotals before without doing it that way, so I'm not sure if it's necessary.  I'll definitely still do it that way though just in case.  I left with $9 ECB, which is less than what I put in, but I also got an email for $3 ECB for being a member, and I will be getting $5 in Beauty Bucks, so it'll bring my ECB total back up again.  Phew.

Back home, I saw that it was a good snail mail day too as I got a free sample.  I love free samples!  When I lived at my parents' house, I used to keep free samples until I might have needed them for vacation.  I just used whatever was there.  Nowadays, I actually truly appreciate free samples because I can try something out to see if it's worth purchasing.  Being in charge of our household means that we have to be careful about what we spend our money on, and I would be upset if we bought a product that we ended up not liking.  Getting free samples is how I tried the Tums freshers and decided to buy a bunch of them instead of only having regular Tums!  We've also tried Centrum Flavor Burst Chews and know that those are pretty awesome as well!  I personally thought that the vitamin C VitaMelts were kind of gross although Howard didn't mind them as much.  Seriously, such a perfect system these companies have for consumers to try products!  Now we can try Herbal Essences body wash.  I associate Herbal Essences with shampoo, so it's a great opportunity to test something new.

The last picture of the night is what we had for dinner.  When I make chili, it's a LOT for just the two of us.  Thankfully, the hubby is absolutely fine with eating leftovers, so when it's made, we usually have it two nights in a row for dinner or for lunch leftovers.  Even so, there's still some leftover, so I froze a batch of it.  We had it for leftovers last night over some cottage fries.  I think it worked out really nicely because having a part of the dinner that's freshly made with a part that was frozen makes the meal extra appetizing.  To think we used to have chili out of a can is disturbing when it's so easy to make from scratch.

The cottage fries are also really easy to make.  I just washed and peeled the potatoes to prepare them, and then Howard sliced them and mixed it with a little bit of olive oil and whatever spices depending on the meal. They're baked for about 40 minutes, flipping them after each 15 minutes.  It makes me wonder why we used to buy Ore-Ida products in the beginning of our marriage as "backup" side dishes.  We would have a $2 bag that would be split for 2 meals.  Nowadays we buy a bag of 5 lbs of potatoes for about the same amount and can make so many side dishes from it.  Plus, it's much healthier, of course.  Too bad having too many carbohydrates isn't recommended because I love 'em!

Saving money and having more food made from scratch ... you'd think we were mature adults if we weren't also trading figurines, hehe.

Monday, September 23, 2013

This Is Why I Prefer Self-Checkout!

Here's hoping that this week of CVS-ing (yes, it should totally be considered a verb at this point, don't you think?) will satisfy me for a while because I've already gone through the ads for the following two weeks, and there's nothing in which I can roll my ExtraBucks!  Don't worry though; I think I'll be able to get free or close to free chocolate, but I'm not sure how that will work just yet!  Let me explain today's trip (or document it for myself if no one is actually reading, haha) where I got all this stuff for only $5.35 out of pocket!  I walked into the store with $18 ExtraBucks and walked out with $19, so I'm a very happy camper.  My favorite purchases are still those Nivea products, which cost me $7 combined with the sale price and coupons.  Paying less than that for ALL of this means I've done my homework!  

Howard was pretty tired after church today, so I ended up going by myself.  I was extra excited because I had a $5 off $15 coupon from the bottom of a previous receipt and I got the email for 25% off all non-sale items!  To make it easier to plan it out, I actually split the purchases into 2 transactions.  The first transaction had all the products that were on sale while the other didn't, so I used my 25% off coupon on the latter.  Now I admit I actually got a little nervous because I was waiting for a self-checkout to open up when an employee said he'd help me at the counter.  I very rarely go to a CVS with cashiers behind the counters nowadays.  Out of the 4 that I've visited in the past few months, only one has no self-checkout option.  I prefer being able to scan the products myself so that I can see that the prices match my plan.  I do the same thing at the supermarket when Howard is with me.  I want to make sure all the sales are correct and that all my coupons are deducted.  But I figured I couldn't say no because he seemed so eager to help, so I pushed my cart over.

As you can see, I did the Nivea deal AGAIN.  To break it down really quickly since I have mentioned it before, the body wash is on sale for $4 this week as it was this entire month.  I used a $1 coupon making it only $3.  The lotion is on sale for $6, and I used a $2 coupon making it $4.  But because the products were originally $10, I got the $3 ECB.  

The other ECB deal was for the Colgate toothbrushes.  The sale was on the Colgate 360ยบ or Optic White toothbrushes.  They were on sale for $2.99 with $2 back in ECB.  Using a $1 coupon from the CVS site, I eliminated paying the $0.99, so I was really just rolling $2 into the purchase to get a free toothbrush and get $2 back.  The limit is on 2, so I picked up both.  My store was actually completely out of the Optic White toothbrushes, so I asked the manager if the coupon I had would still work on the other option.  She said that because it was still Colgate, it would be fine.  That's good to know!

The last part of the first transaction was 3 Renuzit air fresheners.  They're on sale this week 3 for $3, but the redbox is spitting out a $1.50 coupon for everyone making all 3 only $1.50.  I had a $0.50 coupon, but it didn't scan so that was an extra $0.50 on top of my total that I wasn't anticipating.  But I was okay with that because I have been seeing Renuzit everywhere lately and have wanted to try it.  I chose Raspberry, After the Rain, and Simply Lavender.  The After the Rain scent is actually in our bathroom right now, and I'm quite pleased with it!  I only opened it the tiniest bit so it's not overbearing at all.  It might not even be that noticeable since it's higher up on a shelf too!  I might open the container a tiny bit more.

What was strange was that throughout both transactions, there were a lot of things that kept beeping including my ExtraBucks, which clearly should not have had any issues.  The cashier, as nice as he was, didn't seem to know as much about couponing as the manager who has helped me at the self-checkout many times. But I had all my math figured out so I tried to keep my cool.  I was able to use my $5 off $15 CVS coupon, $1 off toothbrush, $1 off toothbrush, $1 off body wash, $2 off lotion, $1.50 off air fresheners, and $6 in ExtraBucks.  What a great way to chip away at your out of pocket cost, isn't it?  This first transaction's subtotal was $1.48 (he should have scanned my $6 ECB first, but he didn't so I then had to replace it with a $3 one at the end messing up my subtotal), so with tax, my total was $2.72.  Plus, I got a total of $7 in ECB that I was going to roll in the next transaction.  

The cashier was pretty amazed and said that he had never met someone who did all that couponing to bring down the price before.  He said that I should update my Facebook status with "I'm the coupon boss!" to let everyone know, haha.  I think anyone following me on Facebook or Instagram already knows that it's been quite an addiction lately!  As I said in a previous post, why pay more?      

The next transaction had everything that I was going to get that wasn't on sale so that I could use my 25% off coupon.  What you need to keep in mind is that the best way to use that coupon is to choose items that will product ExtraBucks even though they're not on sale that week.  The 25% off from CVS along with manufacturer's coupons will bring your cost low.  This was the first time I didn't send my 25% to my ExtraCare card.  I printed it out instead so that there would be no accidental purchases where it'd be used to save just a few pennies!  

The Listerine deal was to spend $10 on ANY Listerine products and get $5 back in ExtraBucks (limit 2).  It's a pretty good deal on its own if you really needed mouthwash that week, but it's even better with coupons!  I called my store a few days earlier to ask how much a one liter bottle cost because had coupons for $2 off one liter bottles only.  The girl on the phone told me $7.49, but the CVS website had bottles as low as $5.79.  I was hoping that being in NYC wasn't going to affect the price THAT much compared to the website.  Thankfully, the Cool Mint version along with the original funky-looking tan-colored one was $5.79!  I bought 4 bottles making my total $23.16.  However, the 25% is used BEFORE manufacturer's coupons, thus saving me $5.79!  That's pretty much buying 3 bottles and getting 1 free!  But that's not good enough, of course.  I had 4 of the $2 coupons saving me another $8, which meant that my total out of pocket cost for all 4 bottles was $9.37.  Pretty awesome considering I'd roll about $10 into this deal and still get $10 back!  FREE LISTERINE!  And technically a "money-maker" too.

The Sally Hansen deal required spending $10 to get back $4 in ExtraBucks.  Considering I had the 25% coupon and 2 coupons for $1 each, I figured it would be worth it to roll my other ExtraBucks to push back the expiration date a little more.  In the CVS stores in NYC, each bottle of the Xtreme Wear line is $3.49, which is more than what you would find elsewhere.  It doesn't make sense to buy it on its own because other drugstores have it for less, but in the long run, purchasing Sally Hansen when there are deals makes it cheaper.  Okay, so I purchased 3 bottles at $3.49 each, which meant my total was $10.47.  If you're interested, I choose Pink Satin, Mint Sorbet, and Red Carpet.  The 25% off saved me $2.62 and then another $2 from my coupons (agh, I wish I had one more coupon!).  My total out of pocket expense was $5.85 while still getting back $4 in ExtraBucks, so I did have to roll an extra $1.85, but for 3 bottles of Sally Hansen, it's a steal!

The last part of this transaction isn't something that Howard or I need or use!  I saw on Instagram that these small Got2B products would be a moneymaker if rolling ECB because I'd get $5 for purchasing two products.  Of course, NYC prices are a little bit more, BUT because I had the 25% off coupon, I was able to keep it a moneymaker.  Each tube of Got2b Spiking Glue was $2.67 so both cost $5.34.  The 25% brought my cost down to $4, so it was a $1 moneymaker!  Don't worry; I didn't just buy a random product for no reason.  I already emailed a cousin to see if he would use it, and if not, I'll offer it to any guys I know that need their hair to be spiked!  

Okay, this is where I got nervous and started shaking a bit.  The final out of pocket cost that the cashier told me was MUCH too high even with manufacturer's coupons.  I looked at the little credit card scanner thing and saw that there was no amount next to the 25% coupon.  I asked if it was accepted, and he said it was, but I said that there's no amount deducted for it.  I knew from my self-checkout experiences that you don't see the savings from that coupon until you hit "Finish and Pay."  Guess he didn't do that, so I paid what he originally quoted with my credit card.  When I swiped it, suddenly $9.75 came off!  Um, that's a HUGE deal!  If I'm not paying next to nothing, there's no need to be buying 4 bottles of Listerine!  My out of pocket was still too high based on what I had calculated as my subtotal was $2.22 and the total was $4.81 with tax.  With my calculations, I was expecting to pay about $2+ for mainly taxes, but I was already at the counter for quite some time already so I took my purchases and brought them to the car.

I didn't want to leave the parking lot yet until I had checked everything out carefully.  My first receipt seemed fine.  After checking my second receipt against my little organized shopping list with prices and coupon amounts, I saw that there was only 3 rows of $2 off coupons!  That meant he didn't scan one of my Listerine coupons!  I was so happy that I stayed and checked it out before leaving because it'd be difficult to do anything about it another day.  When I returned to the store, the manager was staring at me probably wondering why I was entering again and walking towards her.  Haha, at this point, I think she recognizes me.  I showed her my receipt and explained my situation.  She went to the register and punched it in as "cash for coupon," so I got $2 back in cash.  That meant my actual out of pocket cost for my second transaction was $2.81.  

My calculations were pretty accurate!  Throwing in the Got2B products made my plans a little bit different as I had to actually use my last chunk of ECB that I thought I was going to have to hold on to, but as I stated above, it was a moneymaker AND I pushed back the expiration dates of ALL my previous ECB.  Phew.  Now I have $19 waiting for a future transaction!  I also learned that next time when someone says that he/she can help me at the counter, I will say, "No, thank you!  I prefer the self-checkout to watch all of my prices!"

Want to know the best thing about getting all this stuff at CVS today?  While I was out saving moolah, Howard did all the dishes.  Woohoo!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Baby Boy or Baby Girl

Before I start talking about this card, let me just preface it by saying that just because I'm posting a "Hello Baby" card, it doesn't mean I'm going to be saying hello to a baby of my own in 9 months!  Haha, just felt that I needed to get that out there.

I made a card similar to this last year or so because I had used the same duck from the Sandy Lion stamp set and fussy cut it after coloring them 3 different colors.  The card itself seemed kind of bland, so this time I chose to stamp the ducks on different colored paper with the same pattern.  I think it worked out so much better.  I kept it gender neutral by using yellow, blue, and pink 

By using a black layer on kraft cardstock, the colors really get to pop and the patterned ducks are the clear focal point of the card.  I used Pink by Design's set "Big Thoughts" for the sentiment that was actually two separate words.  I really love how easily PBD's sentiments stamp and pick up the ink to transfer.

Time and time again, this Sandy Lion stamp set is still one of my favorites along with the "boy" version of it too.  I just love that I found them in the Michaels clearance section a few year ago and snatched them up really quickly!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy [Business] Birthday!

One of the cards that I've been dying to recreate is based on this card I saw on Faith Abigail Designs and pinned on Pinterest.  I thought that the cake on the cake stand from the Sweet Treats cartridge looked so perfect on a 4''x9'' card, which basically mean it fits inside a business envelope.  I am so intrigued by the idea of cards in business envelopes because that means if you send it in the mail, the recipient doesn't expect it to be a birthday card!

I only made the slightest variations to the card because I really LOVED the card she made.  I think there's a lot going on with this card in terms of the bright colors, but its cheery look is just perfect for a birthday celebration.

The measurements can be found on her blog post, so I'm not going to get into that here, but the sentiment I used is from Pink by Design's set called "Birthday, Birthday."  This card can be found in my Facebook store if you're interested!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Learning How to Roll ExtraBucks at CVS

Yesterday was the first time I rolled my ExtraBucks in one trip by doing 3 separate transactions.  I was a little nervous about doing it, so I had each step planned out and typed up so that I wouldn't make any mistakes.  I figured it'd be easy to post this on my blog so that you could see how rolling ECB right away makes it so that you don't pay much out of pocket in one trip.  Typically, I do one big transaction and just save all the ECB for the next trip during the following week.  This might be more enticing to some of you.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that there are many people who have multiple CVS cards so that they can stock up on offers since there are sometimes limits on how much you can buy per card.  I only have my card, but Howard recently signed up for a card of his own too.  That worked out really well this week because he already had $3 ECB from a previous purchase and CVS randomly emailed him that $3 ECB to spend too!  That meant I had $6 total going to the store today, and I was also crossing my fingers for a $2 off $10 oral care coupon, which would mean I'd only have to do 2 transactions.  I knew he would probably get the $1 off $5 though based on his online account.

Transaction #1: Spend $0.55 OOP, get $6 ExtraBucks

On Howard's card, I purchased the 2 travel-friendly 4-packs of Colgate toothpaste.  The regular price would have been $7.18, but I used the $1 coupon that came from the redbox on oral care along with the $6 ExtraBucks.  That meant the subtotal was only $0.18!  With tax, I had to pay $0.55, which I paid for using coins.  I love these situations where I pay with coins because I consider it not really spending money at all since I don't even know what change I have in my wallet.  Although it was rare, I would sometimes have to grab a snack from the vending machine before leaving work for $0.50 to have enough energy to drive home (that's why I buy snacks in bulk to carry with me).  To think that this toothpaste cost just a little bit over a bag of chips is why I really dislike buying ANYTHING from vending machines and wonder how my former students could just spend so much money on snacks each day!  But I know that that's just something that comes with the age.  I used to buy snacks all the time from the vending machine in high school because I often had to stay after school for activities like when I was on the layout committee for the yearbook during my senior year.  Nowadays, I would rather buy toothpaste!  Plus, I used pennies for the five cents, so less change to lug around!

Transaction #2: Spend $1.89 OOP, get $3 ExtraBucks

Since transaction #1 gave me $6 in ECB, I was able to use it for the second one.  I did the Nivea one again because it really is such a deal!  I used the lotion I got yesterday on my legs after my shower, and it was so soothing.  With the cooler weather, the skin on my hands and my legs have been drying out and actually a little bit painful at times.  This really helps a lot more than when I've tried to use Lubriderm, which isn't as rich.  Today I decided to pick up the "Essentially Enriched" one, which is the richest of their options (you can see near the bottom of the bottle that they have a scale of Light to Rich to indicate where it falls) since the frigid cold winter months are ahead of us.  I also picked up the body wash that smells girly because I really like the scent (yes, I sniffed each bottle to see which ones I liked) but didn't buy it earlier since I don't think my husband wants to smell like that.  Haha, but since I was getting another bottle, I wanted to get the pink one!  The prices were, of course, the same as yesterday, so the lotion was $6, and I used a $2 coupon, and the body wash was $4, and I used a $1 coupon (I needed to print them from Howard's computer).  Instead of paying full price, I used the $6 ECB from the Colgate deal, paid $1.89 out of pocket, and got $3 back in ECB.

Transaction #3: Spend $4.57 OOP, get $4 ExtraBucks

The last transaction (I purposely waited for other people to pay and leave so that I wasn't hogging up a self-checkout for too long) was on the mouthwash again and Listerine PocketPaks.  The mouthwash was on sale 2 for $5.98, and I used two of the $1.10 coupons.  The Listerine was on sale for $2.99 with $1 back in ExtraBucks instead of the regular $4.49 price.  With the coupons and the $3 ECB from the Nivea deal, I paid $4.57 out of pocket and got $4 back.

That means all I spent for everything I brought home today was $7.01 out of pocket and still have $4 for next time.  If you do what I said yesterday and look at deals that people post on Instagram using #CVS, you'll see that many of them deduct the amount of ECB from their total and claim that it's really only spending $3.01.  I don't do it that way because you actually deduct it from your OOP total in your next trip, so it's as if you're convincing yourself that you saved more than you really did.  I still had to pay $7 regardless of what money I may have for the next trip, so that's another thing I'd suggest you keep in mind because there is a difference!  But I was COMPLETELY fine with the $7 spent today for all that I got since it's less than one full price bottle of lotion!  Couponing is awesome!

I took my goodies back to the car and checked the date on when my free $3 ECB was going to expire, and the little paper said 9/19/03, which I realized was this Friday!  It would've been such a waste to drive there to use it on another day, so I went back to the store!  I was thinking that the lady by the self-scan checkout place would think I was crazy since she already had to help me so much by okaying coupons with her little card.  Thankfully, once I walked into the store, I saw there was a new employee working that area!  Yay!  I just went in to grab another Listerine PocketPaks so that I wouldn't spend any money out of pocket yet still get to take something home and get another $1 ECB back.  The coupon corrected itself to $2.99 so that my subtotal was $0.00 so I didn't have to reach for my wallet all!  Thanks, CVS!  

As you can see, it's possible to just continuously roll your ECB during the same sales week instead of saving them.  This method might be helpful for you if you don't want to hold on to too much CVS currency at once in case you're afraid you'll forget to use them (I've heard about some CVS stores taking expired ECB, but I don't really want to risk it) or if you just want to take advantage of one sales week and not worry about not being able to use it during future weeks.  Either way, you still end up saving a LOT of money by rolling and getting a lot of products that you and your family will need!

Anyway, couponing does require a good amount of work, but it's really nice to know that there are so many people out there who do the heavy lifting for you so it's not all on your shoulders!  I do a lot more planning for myself though so that I won't make any mistakes.  Take a look at how I planned this trip using Howard's card based on what potential coupon I would get from the redbox (I had to go with the second plan of three transactions).  This is obviously all done without tax, but my time spent paid off here because all the subtotals match my receipts exactly!

By the way, I don't actually know how to use Excel other than using it as a chart, but hey, I can still save money!  Wahoo!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crafter Turned Couponer

I haven't been spending that much time putting cards together although I have cut out a bunch of Cricut images to glue together for some therapeutic productivity considering my current job situation (or lack thereof).  I won't get into that right now, but let's just say that from midnight to about 2:00am on Sunday, I couldn't sleep because I was thinking that I never thought I'd be turning 29 and being where I am at the moment.  But of course, there are many things that come as a surprise including the fact that I never thought I'd be a couponer, but I think that's what I am nowadays!

When I was a kid, I remember seeing my mom look through the circulars every Sunday night when we got the newspaper and watching her clip coupons.  I didn't quite understand why it was worth the time considering some coupons had such low values.  Was it really worth the effort to save $0.50?  The only times I used coupons was when Michaels or AC Moore had a 50% off that I could use on a craft product!  With sales and coupons at craft stores, I could really save dollars on just one item.  I considered supermarkets to be completely different though.  Before I got married, I said to my mom that I would definitely shop sales for groceries, but I claimed that couponing wouldn't be worth it.  Boy, have I had to eat my words as of late!

Earlier in the year, I really got into buying nail polish after purchasing two different colors for my brother's wedding and Howard's sister's wedding.  It was fun to "accessorize" my fingernails and toenails considering I don't really wear jewelry or accessories other than my engagement ring, wedding ring, and watch.  Having only a handful of colors wasn't enough, so I started scouring the pages of drugstore ads to see when they were having sales on nail polish that I could buy to have more variety.  My first nail polish haul was at CVS when they had a sale on Sally Hansen polishes AND a deal to get ExtraBucks (EB or, as most people refer to it online and on social media, ECB).  That trip is what ignited the flame for my passion for saving money!

If you don't know what ExtraBucks are, it's actually pretty easy to understand.  Most drugstores have a loyalty program with rewards to get customers to return to the store time and time again.  For example, Walgreens has Register Rewards and Balance Rewards while RiteAid has +UP Rewards.  I've found that the CVS rewards are the easiest ones for me to understand (plus, the stores I frequent are much nicer because of their employees and the fact that they actually have stock available!).  In the ad, you will see that if you buy a certain product or a certain amount of a particular brand, you will get ExtraBucks Rewards in return.  They print at the bottom of your receipt, and you can use them right away or up to a month after that initial transaction.  That meant that after buying some nail polish, I could use the money I got back to buy even more nail polish!

After having ExtraBucks for some time, however, I learned online that the best thing to do with them was to "roll" them.  That means that if I received $3 ECB from buying toothpaste, the following week, I'd look for another deal where I could use the previously earned ECB to buy something else that would give me some ECB back.  It was the best way to buy nail polish and other makeup items especially since those are considered luxury items.  It's even BETTER when you can reduce your out of pocket (OOP) expense by using CVS coupons and manufacturer's coupons!  And then it just made sense that I should be using my energy to coupon to buy necessities!  Clearly, my "I'm-never-going-to-use-coupons" statement to my mom was made before my husband and I had rent and bills of our own to pay!

It took me about a year to come to my senses that there is absolutely no need not to save money on necessities especially since Howard and I are going to constantly need the same basics over and over again.  You'll see that some couponers caption or tag their pictures with #whypaymore because seriously, WHY PAY MORE?!?  There really is so much more to get into when it comes to couponing, but there are many people online who have spent tons of time compiling how to guides for newbie couponers.  I read a bunch of them, which is what really got me interested to save as much money as possible.  I might end up writing more couponing posts in the future, but for right now, here are the tips that I read on blogs that I follow and some others that I feel are important when it comes to shopping specifically at CVS:
  1. Get an ExtraCare card and scan it at the redbox every single time that you can to have coupons printed out for you.  I envy those who work right by a CVS and scan their cards almost on a daily basis even if they don't go to the store to make any purchases!  Also, be sure to keep scanning until the redbox says there are no more coupons to be printed.  Sometimes I have coupons print even after the third scan!  Also, don't forget to sign up for an online account and link your ExtraCare card.  You won't regret it!  CVS often emails coupons for $5 off $15 or $6 off $30 in beauty products.  You also get Beauty Bucks, which is $5 for every $50 you spend on what they put in the beauty category (cosmetics, hair care, skin care).  Lastly, they randomly send out FREE MONEY.  Yesterday I got $3 just because it was my birthday, but then today I along with many others got $3 just because!  It's funny because I was explaining to Howard that I can get more excited about getting one of those emails inviting me to buy something at CVS as opposed to someone just handing me $3 in cash.  It's basically "forcing" me to spend it in the same way a gift card can sometimes be more fun than just getting cash! 
  2. Stack coupons!  On one item, you are allowed to use a manufacturer's coupon AND a CVS coupon.  If I want to buy lotion, I can use a $2 off lotion coupon that came from the redbox or from the bottom of my receipt along with a $1 manufacturer's coupon.  This really helps bring your out of pocket cost really low, which means that it's possible to get "free" products from the store with coupons and ECB deals.
  3. At this point, it hasn't been worth it for us to buy the Sunday newspaper for coupons though I did get a stack, I think, from my sister-in-law when I posted on Facebook asking for coupon inserts if people weren't using them.  There are actually websites that post what coupons will be in those inserts, so a quick skim can let you know if it's worth picking up a paper.  However, I've had success just printing coupons online.  I look through what's available on and a few other sites, and in other situations, I just Google "[product name] coupon" and see what comes up.  There are people who go to stores and grab tons of coupons from tearpads and blinkies and steal peelies from products (yes, I consider it stealing when you take coupons off a product when you don't actually buy it), but there's nothing really available in my area.  Just take note that most of the time, there's a limit to how many coupons you can print from your computer (usually 2).  Thankfully, I can just send the link to Howard to print from his computer if I need more than that.
  4. One of the tips that works the BEST for me is checking out Instagram!  Since I'm focusing on CVS, I'll do a search for #CVS and see what other people have purchased and what coupons they used to save.  This seems to work a lot better for me than following the tens and thousands of blogs out there that post the deals.  I know that Instagram is up to date, so I don't have to worry about weeding through old blog posts on websites for deals that have long since passed.  It was through Instagram that I realized I could use my $1 off GoldEmblem juice coupons from the redbox on carbonated drinks and get them for free!  It was also from Instagram that I found out that I should save my $1 CVS cotton product coupons to use the following week on cotton balls because they were on sale for $1!  I wouldn't have known those things if I wasn't always checking the hashtag.
  5. Only buy what you need and will use.  I admit it's pretty easy to look at other people's hauls and want to do the same especially when they only spend pennies.  However, many of them aren't really possible because they use multiple ExtraCare cards (I have mine, and very rarely Howard will use his) and have stacks of coupons from friends, purchasing multiple newspapers, or dumpster diving.  They end up having stockpiles similar to what can be seen on TLC's show Extreme Couponing.  I am happy to have some reserves on hand, but my goal isn't to have a ton of stuff  because we don't have the storage space for it and because there's only two of us and we don't go through as much product as a family of four would.  I do have a few extras so that in case of an emergency (ex. like when people needed things after Hurricane Sandy last October) or if there's a collection for donated items at my old school, we have some toothpaste and toothbrushes to give.  I'm also going to be rolling ECBs to get "free" products so that my family members can have them as well.  But other than that, I think that doing this and storing tons of stuff can be close to hoarding.  I can see how it can be addicting.
Of course, considering all this talk about coupons, I just have to share my latest shopping trip because it was the first time where all I had to pay was the tax!  In fact, you can see that I had some overage from my coupons, so my subtotal was actually a negative value.  Take a look!

Here you can see what I actually purchased for my $2.74.  It's really so much fun to coupon because the Maybelline nail polish that I've been eyeing for some time was $4.29, and I paid less for so much more!

This was an "easy" trip in that I did have $25 ECB from my last trip to spend along with some extra CVS deals including (a) $6 off $30 beauty, (b) $3.00 ECB for my birthday, and (c) $5 Beauty Bucks.  I don't typically break down my purchases the way people on Instagram do it, but I figured for this one, it will be worth it since it's the beginning of the week and there's time for others to score some of these deals too.

7UP soda
This is an easy deal because you can see it in the ad itself.  The soda (7UP, A&W, Canada Dry, Sunkist) is on sale for $0.99, but when you scan your card at the redbox, you get another $0.30 coupon making it only $0.69 (not including deposit depending on your state).  Considering we've purchased these bottles for $1, getting it for less made it a good deal.  The only soda we typically have in the apartment is cans of ginger ale for the times I might feel nauseous, but other than that, we only splurge on drinking it if we happen to have pizza.  You can't have pizza without a fizzy drink!

DAWN dishwashing detergent
The sale in the ad is also really simple to understand.  Just buy 3 bottles of Dawn dishwashing liquid for $3 and get $1 back in ECB.  We've been using Palmolive lately because it's usually cheaper, but Dawn is still the best for cutting through any grease or buildup on pots and pans.  At my store, they had the regular blue one along with the green one and Olay pink one that I purchased.

COLGATE travel-friendly toothpaste and mouthwash
There are two separate ECB deals for Colgate this week.  The first one is one that I've done before.  Those little tubes of travel-friendly toothpaste come in a 4-pack for $3.59.  This week, if you buy any Colgate Multi-Pack toothpaste or toothbrush, you get $3.00 back in ECB and the travel-friendly multi-pack is included!  That's one of the things I would not have known had I not checked Instagram a few weeks ago.  It's kind of like paying only $0.59 for it.  The limit is 2, so since I had plenty of ECB to spend, I bought both meaning I was able to earn $6 in ECB.

The other Colgate deal was on Colgate Total or Total Advanced toothpaste (4-4.2 oz), Total rinse (250 ml, which means the 8 oz bottles), and the 360 Floss-Tip toothbrush.  You can buy any 2 for $5.98 and get $3 in ECB.  I know there were $2 coupons on this recently, but I didn't have them, so I printed out two coupons online for $1.10 off the mouthwash.  This brought my total down to $3.78, but I still got $3 back in ECB.  If you had the $2 coupons, the OOP expense would have only been $1.98, making this a "money maker."

This deal worked out beautifully for me though because when I scanned my card at the redbox upon entering the store, I got a $2 off $10 oral care coupon, so I was able to use that CVS coupon for these purchases!  Hooray!

NIVEA body wash and body lotion
Howard and I have been using body wash lately because we tend to go through bars of soap really quickly.  The Nivea body wash is on sale this week (and next week too!) for $4.  That alone is a good deal since the normal price here is $6.49.  Online you can find a coupon for $1 off Nivea body wash (even though the coupon says "Redeemable at Walmart," it's actually a manufacturer's coupon and it prints with the phrase "Redeemable at your local supercenter").  I also had a CVS coupon for $2 off $8 for body wash or bar soap, so I picked up another bottle.

This week there's also an ECB deal with Nivea.  When you spend $10, you get $3 back, so I picked up a bottle of lotion because we're almost out of the one bottle of Lubriderm I have!  The lotion is on sale for $6 when it's normally $8.49.  Online there's a coupon for $2 off body lotion, so score there as well!  After all the coupons, it cost $8 out of pocket with $3 back in ECB to take home what would have cost $21.47 if I decided to go to the store and buy those things full price.

CVS eye makeup remover
Though there weren't any ECB deals with this, there was a sale for buy one get one 50% off.  I'm down to half a bottle of my RiteAid makeup remover, and then I'm done, so I knew I needed to get some more soon.  Each bottle was $5.99, which meant it cost about $9 for both bottles.  The reason why this was an especially good deal was because I had the $6 off $30 coupon off of beauty products.  The $14 from Nivea and the $9 from this meant that I had $23 spent on beauty products.  I would have purchased two more bottles, but they were out of stock, and I also went to ask the manager if they had any more.  I still needed $7 more to use the coupon, which was basically like paying $1 more for stuff I was going to buy anyway and choosing $6 of stuff for free!

MAYBELLINE eyeliner and nail polish
The $6 off $30 coupon is why I bought these two items.  I chose Maybelline because there's an ECB to get $3 back when you spend $10.  This was already my contingency plan (Howard thought it was funny that I said I had a contingency plan for a trip to CVS!) because I've been wanting the polka dots nail polish in "Clearly Spotted" since I first saw it!  But spending $4.29 was much too much especially since I have plenty of polish now.  This was the perfect opportunity to get it for free with that coupon!  But I still didn't have enough so I needed to choose another product.  I happened to have a CVS coupon for $2 off any eyeliner, eye shadow, or mascara, so I looked at their options and picked up the least expensive eyeliner that was available, which was $6.49.

With the sales and coupons used, I was able to make my subtotal negative, so it helped chip away at some of the tax.  That's also why I love CVS because they allow overages!  I did use up all my previously earned ExtraBucks, but I also got $16 back.  With the random $3 they emailed to me today, I now have $19 for my next trip to do it all over again!  This is definitely something that is worth learning and mastering.  I've been posting some of my purchases on Instagram and getting some others interested, so I'm hoping this LONG blog post provided some clarification.

Mom, I take it back.  I love couponing!