Free Stuff


A few years ago, I went to a Pampered Chef party that a neighbor was having. I have been to so many Pampered Chef parties and have plenty of gadgets that I use once and never take out again. However, it was a ladies night out, there was wine and I needed a break. If it cost me another gadget, I was willing to do it. I went and politely listened to their sales spiel and flipped through the catalog. Although they never mentioned the item that night, I found something that I would actually use. It was an eight quart bowl that collapses down to fit in the cabinet.

We use it several times a week for salad because you can mix it without half of the salad ending up on the counter. The bowl comes with a lid that is great for storage or to bring the bowl to a party. When you collapse it down, it can be used as a chip bowl and it fits nicely in the cabinet. We definitely got our $25 worth.

A year ago my husband was being thoughtful and cleaned up from dinner. He put the lid in the dishwasher (it is dishwasher safe) but it slipped down and burned on the heating coil in the bottom of the dishwasher. After that, it never fit the same. We kept broken lid if only to help drain the water from washing the lettuce. I found it very annoying that the lid didn’t fit, but my husband continued to use it. This winter, during a party, my husband put the salad on the deck with the lid covering, but not closing tightly. The bowl did not fit in the fridge due to the several sides already dished up. Not knowing he put the bowl outside, I let the dogs out. Can you guess what happened to our salad? They did not eat it, but instead tasted each piece, wondering why it did not taste like the smell coming from the grill.

Recently, I went to unload the dishwasher that my husband loaded the night before. He put the lid in the dishwasher again. The poor lid had now permanently curled up to look like a hard shell taco. It has seen its last day. What would we do with an eight quart bowl without a lid?

I looked online at the Pampered chef website hoping to find a replacement lid. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell them separately. I decided to call the customer service number and spoke to someone about my dilemma. I gave him my name and verified my address and he found the exact date I bought the bowl. Turns out it was under warranty and they would replace it for FREE! I quickly boxed it up and took it to the post office. Less than 10 days later, I had a new lid.

Thank you, Pampered Chef, for keeping such great records and guaranteeing your products will survive the wrath of the dishwasher!

I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. Sometimes, like this week, I take the time to sit down, read coupon blogs and make a shopping list with matching coupons. I save a ton of money and feel really good about myself. Other times, I am just too busy to coupon shop. Yes, it sounds lazy. No, it doesn’t make sense. If I am saving tons of money, why don’t I make the time to coupon? I really don’t have an answer other than, as a working mom with three kids, I only have so many hours in my day.

This week I was finishing up some Christmas shopping and did so online. The first place I went to was the Personalization Mall. During the checkout process, it asked me for a coupon code. I didn’t have one, but I decided to look for one. It took me 15 seconds to Google it and copy and paste it. I saved $12.00, which was the shipping cost. I decided to try it again with Sports Authority. I found a 15% off coupon, saving me $17.00. I went on to find coupon codes for Target, Macy’s and Best Buy, but they were not for items I needed.

I always find myself at Walgreens during the week – usually we are out of milk – so I read the coupon blogs to find the sales. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked out of there with free stuff and this week was no exception. Not only did I get free dish washing soap and free aspirin, the cold medicine I bought was less than $2.00. For the items below, I spent $11.73 and they gave me $10.00 back in Walgreens Register Rewards. This is Walgreens cash that you can spend in the store on other purchases. Thanks. I am sure I will use it next week.

I did well at the grocery store, too. I saved $109.00 in coupons and store deals. I carried in $32.00 worth of coupons that I cut out of the paper. Now, I am not one of those people that walk out of the store with a full cart for $1.87. I still spent $112.00, but I saved almost half the cost! Here is just a sample of what I got:
Betty Crocker Brownie Mix – free after coupon
Betty Crocker Cake Mix – free after coupon
Betty Crocker Frosting – free after coupon
Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate packages – free after coupon
Sierra Mist (2 liter bottles) – free after coupon
Scope (33oz bottle) – 50 cents after coupon
Kleenix – 28 cents per box after coupon
Peter Pan Peanut Butter – 50 cents after coupon
Eagle Condensed Milk – 94 cents after coupon
Pam Spray – 99 cents after coupon
Quaker Granola bars – $1.49 (no coupons, but this is half price!)
Arm and Hammer Cat Litter 14lbs – $2.00 after coupon

I, of course, bought as many of these as I had coupons for. A lot these products will be donated. With the help of coupons, I can donate a lot more food/necessities.

I also bought 10 Kelloggs products for $25.00. I used $2.00 worth of coupons. I will send the receipt in for a $10 rebate, plus I got a coupon that printed out for 2 free movie tickets and a $10 voucher for the concessions. Not a bad deal!

So how long did it take me to gather all this information before I went shopping? I did it over a couple of days while drinking my coffee or eating lunch. It was probably 2 hours total. So see what I mean? I don’t always have 2 extra hours in addition to shopping time. When I am not busy, I justify those two hours by saying, I saved over $120.00 in two hours. Do I make $60.00 an hour at my day job? I wish! To cut down on time, I try not to go to several stores. Walgreens and Jewel are usually it for me. However, I read about all the local deals because you never know.

If you are a local, here are the coupon sites I read:
Super Couponing
Mashup Mom
Common Sense with Money
Saving Addiction
I also read Hip2save which is based out of North Carolina.
Many of these sites list more than grocery deals. I found an Amazon deal for a yearly magazine subscription for $5.00. Who could pass that up?

I was talking about my coupon success at a party last summer when one of the guys started to make fun of it and got everyone laughing. This is the same man whose wife told me that the restaurant we picked for dinner was too expensive. I told him that if they used coupons, they could afford to eat out at a nice place once in awhile. The laughter quickly stopped. If we are all buying the same things, why laugh at someone who is getting a better deal? I should be laughing at them for paying full price!

So that’s my plug for coupons. Give it a try.

While doing research for an article about legitimate work from home jobs, I came across Swagbucks. Have you ever heard of Swagbucks? I read about it in a few couponing blogs and I decided it try it out.

Swagbucks is a search engine that pays you points for using it. With these free points, you can buy things, such as gift certificates to places like Amazon.com. You can also earn points by shopping at online stores through Swagbucks. They have many online stores available – Target, Apple, Macy’s, etc. You earn 2 Swagbucks for every dollar you spend. If you buy a lot online, this can add up quickly. Referrals can also earn you points. You can also follow the Swag Guy to find codes to get you points, which I haven’t done.

Now let me clarify. You do not get points every time you search. It is like gambling. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to it, at least that I can see. I got 5 points yesterday for copying a sentence from this post and searching for it. I didn’t get any points for “softball cheers” or “bp oil spill” which were actual researches.

Is this really worth doing or is it a waste of time? I signed up a few months ago. I have 436 Swagbucks. With 450, I can buy a $5.00 Amazon gift card. With 700 points I can get $5.00 in Paypal cash. Now I don’t use it nearly as much as I could. If I sat at a computer all day, I could check random words and phases to get about 30 point per day. Yesterday I had more time on my hands than usual and I earned 44 points. I just happened to be on and off the computer checking my email, Facebook, Amazon, WordPress and a couple of other blogs I follow. Each time I went on yesterday, I checked out my Swagbucks because I planned to write about it in my blog. There is a toolbar you can download to make searching easier. (Sometimes you get one Swagbuck just for having the toolbar.)

Honestly, I like Goggle better as a search engine. Swagbucks (Proedge) is a meta search engine. What that means is that it doesn’t create its own index like Google does. It uses many different indexes from Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. and displays the results according to their source giving you the “best of the best”. It operates on the premise that using more than one index gives you a more complete search. However, I don’t find that to be true. I guess it is a matter of personal preference.

If you like this sort of thing, there are other search and win sites. I haven’t tried them out but you might want to – iRazoo and Blingo are just a few names. Blingo is owned by Publishers Clearing House – what does that tell you?

Will I keep doing this? Maybe. Some people play the lottery every week and get nothing back. This takes less time (only a few seconds) and I don’t pay anyone for a chance a win. Eventually, I will win a prize. You don’t have that guarantee in the lottery.

I used to coupon the way most people do. On Sunday morning, I read the paper and went through the coupons. I cut what I needed and threw the rest in the recycling bin. I even went a step further and put them in envelopes. I brought the envelopes with me to the grocery store and pulled them out as I shopped. I shopped as I needed things and didn’t really stock up on sales. I usually used a coupon as soon as they came out and many of them went out of date before they were used. (Little did I know until I started super couponing, Dominick’s accepts coupons up to one year past its date.)

I went to this free class at my church. It was a DVD of a local woman named Jill Cataldo who showed us how to super coupon. She was recently on Nightline in a challenge with another couponer from Kentucky. They had to show us what they could buy with $50.00. You can watch it here.

So I went to Walgreens today. I looked through the ad this week on my own and just found some aluminum foil on sale. It was 59 cents for 20 ft. I planned to by three of them. However, before I went, I checked out some of the couponing sites I visit and found even more deals and more coupons online. Here is what I bought:

4 Kraft Velveeta Cups – on sale for $1.00, I had 2 Buy one Get one coupons and then got $1.50 back in a register reward from Kraft (13 cents ea!)

1 Dentek Dental Floss – on sale for $2.00, got $2.00 back in register rewards (Free!)

3 Walgreens brand Aluminum Foil 20 ft. rolls – on sale for 59 cents – normally $1.19 (50% off!)

2 Betty Crocker Brownie Warm Delights – on sale for $1.00 and I had a 50 cent and 75 cent coupon (75 cents for 2)

1 Walgreens brand 100 tablet women’s vitamins – on sale for $3.00, got $3.00 back in register rewards (Free!)

2 Airwick iMotion scented oil – on sale for $3.99, I had two $4.00 coupons (They paid me 2 cents to buy!)

2 Airwick Fresh Matic scented oil – on sale for $3.00, I had two $4.00 coupons (They paid me 2 cents to buy!)

Sure I saved a lot, but will I use those things? I normally buy store brand vitamins and my kids love those shell and cheese cups. I needed the foil and it was 1/2 price. I get to try the Warm Delights, the 4 Airwicks (normally I buy ones from Bath and Body Works) and the dental floss for next to nothing.  I wouldn’t have saved the coupons or known about the deals if I didn’t super coupon.

I spent $10.07 ($1.59 of that was tax). I got $6.50 back in register rewards that I can use at Walgreens, Jewel or Dominicks. I spent about 30 minutes reading the couponing blogs and printing/clipping the coupons. How much is my time worth? According to my receipt, I saved $45.31. I WISH I made $90.00 an hour. Definitely worth it!

So I was looking around for deals again last night – who is surprised? I was visiting one of my favorite sites, Money Saving Mom and she had this post about House Party. House Party is a website that gets hosts (like you) and brand name sponsors offering their newest foods, drinks, products, CDs, etc. The idea of House Party is that the party, say for Red Baron pizza, is hosted on the same day (which is assigned) by 1,000 hosts all over the country. Red Baron would send you a box containing their newest pizza flavor asking you to try it out at your party. House Party gets the hosts and the sponsors together, then offers invitations, party ideas,  and a chance to communicate with the other hosts of the party by blogging or sharing pictures. It’s a good marketing idea. You get a free party, your guests get to share/taste/try out whatever product you are hosting the product for and the company gets the word out. Try before you buy. Sign up is easy and free. Check out the current parties here!

I also added a button on my blog from Money Saving Mom. It is her series called “31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget”. Click on it to check it out!