Diary of a Discount Shopper: Why I’ll Never Use a Dishwasher Again…

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Six months ago, as I was standing in the middle of the house we had a contract on, I adamantly declared to my husband “This house has no space for a dishwasher.  You will cut out cabinets BEFORE we move in.”  Under no circumstances was I going to live in a home without a dishwasher. 

Due to structural damage, we did not continue with the purchase of that home.  As we were looking at our current home, my husband said to me, “There’s no room for a dishwasher”  So?  I loved the house.  When I walked in, it didn’t scream ‘THERE’S NO DISHWASHER’ at me like the other house did (and the other one had a bigger kitchen).

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine with a portable one.  We’ll worry about that later.” I told him. Well, later has come.  Someone approached me with a portable one they had for sale last week.  I politely told them I wasn’t interested.  You should have seen the look I received.  I thought for a second that I had grown tentacles.

Not having a dishwasher has saved me more time than money than having one ever could have.  Here’s why:

It takes less time to wash them.  I do the dishes more frequently, but they can be done in about a minute.  Every dishwasher we ever had required some type of pre-rinse.  I spent many a night handwashing them only to put them in the dishwasher.

It takes less time to put them away.  I can empty the drainer in 2 minutes.  No more getting distracted and forgetting to finish unloading it.

My kitchen is much cleaner.  Because I have to stay on top of things, I don’t have the dishwasher mindset.  You know what I’m talking about- not doing them until you have a full load.  We use a lot of paper plates (much cheaper than the soap to wash them) and we typically only drink water, so it’s an easy cleanup.

I cook healthier meals.  Because I don’t want to dirty up a ton of dishes, I don’t cook as many fattening meals. 

Because I’m cooking healthier, we are buying less ingredients.  A typical dinner at our house used to include homemade bread, mashed potatoes, gravy, fried pork chops, a veggie, and dessert.  Now we might have baked potatoes and pork chops. 

I’m spending less time cooking, more time enjoying my family.  It is so much easier to throw some pork chops and potatoes in the oven than to dredge everything, control grease splatters, drain, chop, mash, etc.  Because we changed our eating habits when we moved, it’s not been a drastic alteration. 

We eat out less. I’ve convinced my family to eat meals that I prepare quickly and simply.  I don’t feel that I have to cook a 5 course meal at 8:00 p.m. after a ballgame.  It’s OKAY to have oatmeal, tuna mac, or spaghetti for dinner.  No more stopping for Steak & Shake or Mazzio’s after every game.

I use only Corelle dishes, which makes clean up a snap.  This is my set: Corelle Livingware 16-Piece Dinnerware Set, Service for 4, Classic Cafe Black

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What do you think?  Could you go without a dishwasher? 

Diary of a Discount Shopper | Clearance Pants Lead to Expensive Assets

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I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the past few weeks, getting ready for various classes and the Working Women’s Survival Show.  All of that preparation and I completely forgot something extremely important.  Clothes.  My dress socks were full of holes and even my underwear could use an update.  I was down to one pair of pants, which were black.  Black pants clash horribly with my closet full of black v-necked tops.

That one pair of pants wasn’t going to work over the course of three days, two newscasts, and 6 workshops.  I had to go shopping, but when the  nearest town with any selection is 50+ miles away, I didn’t have time to devote to an all-day shopping trip.  There is a new Factory Connection store in a nearby town, so I swung in there determined to find something that would work.  I must stop right now and tell you how much I hate clothes shopping.  I used to love it, but something changed inside of me after that fateful March day when I went to sleep a size 4 and woke up a 14.  Now clothes shopping is only pleasurable when I kick start it with a week of plain yogurt and a case of wine, and buy only flannel pants and hoodies.

When I pulled in, I was thrilled to see a Buy 2, Get 1 Free sign on the window.  This was valid on all clearance, which was pretty much everything in the store.  The very first thing I noticed along the back wall was a pair of gray pants- the perfect shade of gray.  These would match ALL of my black tops!  I’ve always wanted a pair of good gray pants, because nothing else could ever match black tops aside from jeans.  Yeah, they make Khaki and white ones, but let me tell you.  NO ONE looks good in them.  They don’t make a cut that flatters even a 115 pound personal trainer. 

This coveted pair of gray pants was ONLY available in my size.  Is this a sign?  I sure hope so.  I glance at the price tag.  $8 for this name brand pair of pants- retail was $59.99.  That was BEFORE the B2G1.  I headed to the dressing room and slid right into the pants.  They fit!  Then I slowly turned around and looked into the mirror.  I was met with what could only be compared to the 50-lb sacks of potatoes that Summer Fresh has on ‘sale’ this week.  There were lumps sticking out in places that I thought were areas that I didn’t yet need to worry about.  Although the pants fit, the fabric left something to be desired.

BUT THEY WERE ONLY $8!!!

So I headed off to the clearance sweater dress rack to find tops long enough to cover my knee-caps.  And boy, did I find some cute ones! 

I ended up leaving Factory Connection with 9 items for less than $30!  But I still had this uneasy feeling about my butt in those pants.  I’ve found that those wearing the clothes are often oblivious to the way they look, so if I knew it, how much worse would they look to strangers?

I decided I’d head to Target and pick up a pair of Spanx.  Surely those would help, right?  I needed some jeans anyways, as those lumps mentioned above had finally blown out the inner thighs of my American Eagle jeans.  ALL OF THEM.  I’ve heard some good things lately about Target jeans- I decided to try them out.

I picked up a couple of pairs of jeans in my size and headed to the dreading dressing room.  I cringed as I pulled them on, just knowing that they would be tight.  Then something phenomenal happened.  They were loose.  I checked to see that the hanger matched the tags.  It did!  What?  A smaller size?  Yes, MA’AM!  I tried on the next smaller size.  They fell off.  I started frantically looking around, just sure that the guy from Dateline was watching.  He never showed up.  Now I’m shaking.  I grab yet a smaller size.  They fit! 

No, I’ve not lost any weight- even after the yogurt and wine diet. Their pants just run bigger.  Do I care?  NOPE!

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I’m glad I bought the pants first (which are still a little big, by the way).  I felt a little better about buying those postage stamp sized bike shorts, known to Target shoppers as ‘Assets’.  Seriously, that’s their name.  When I made my way over there, I could see the big red clearance signs.  What?  Another clearance?  Perfect!  In a size L?  More perfect!  Wait.. that’s a 1, not an L.  I flip the package over and draw my index finger across the weight recommendations for this size 1.  95-110 lbs.  I don’t care who you are- unless you are 17 inches tall, you do not need a pair of Assets if you weigh 95 lbs.  Even if you are wearing white jeans. 

So I put them back and had to pay regular price for my Assets.  These suckers were $25!  But I guess $25 is a small price to pay if they make my butt look like the picture.  I head for the checkout, looking for a similarly sized woman that just might sympathize with my situation.  Of course, every cashier was male, and all but one were under the age of 27.  Crap.  I just pulled up my ‘big girl Assets’ and headed for the one that looked the most oblivious. 

He did a great job making me feel normal.  Apparently, Target even thought there was a chance I might blow a hole in the side of these suckers, as a coupon for 15% off of my next pair printed at checkout.  Woohoo- that’s like discounted insurance.  Think Progressive would let me take out a policy to cover my Assets in case of damage?

While at Target, I spent $76 on jeans and gut suckers.  All because I was too cheap to pay more than $8 for a pair of pants that actually fit.  I’ll bet I could have found great pants for less than $33.  Some say Assets are an investment.  I sure hope so- I ended up not even wearing them. My sweater dresses worked well enough and call me crazy, but I like to breathe. 

On the bright side: If I weren’t so cheap, I would be constantly pulling up my size 10 jeans as we speak! 

Like this post?  Check out the rest of our Diary of a Discount Shopper Series!

P.S.  Only buy the even numbered size pants at Target for an ego boost.  The odd numbered are the exact opposite. 

Diary of a Discount Shopper: Something Every Shopper Needs in her Purse

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Dear Diary,

Today I took a much needed shopping break.  The weather was beautiful, so I put the top down, cranked the hairband music up, and took off to the lake.  There’s nothing like making that drive with the wind blowing through my hair to relieve stress.

So you’re probably asking, “Why are you stressed, Alicia?’  Well, I can’t tell you everything, but the shortened story is that in the past month, we’ve bought a house, got robbed, and wrecked two of the three vehicles- not to mention that we’ve had a couple of holidays mixed in there somewhere.  The vehicles are smaller damages.  The funny thing is that we’ve never had an insurance claim in our lives.. now potentially three in a week?

I *might* be a little busy (and grouchy).  And I sure as heck don’t need to get sick.  Because I am a very healthy person, I should not be forced to stay home because all of the sick people feel compelled to go shopping.  Or drag their sick kids to the mall.

Facebook Status Update

Anonymous User:  I think we’re all dying.  We’ve had this stomach virus for over 3 weeks.  We’re to the point that to walk across the room, we have to stuff the bathroom towels in the seat of our pants. 10:15 a.m., Sunday.

SAME Anonymous User:  Well, just got back from church.  Thank goodness my prayer worked- no bodily noises were made during the prayer AND we didn’t stain the pews.  However, I did get sick twice.  I think we’re dying.  So glad we made it to church, though.  12:20 p.m., Sunday.

STILL The Same Anonymous User:  WALMART is P-A-C-K-E-D!  Can you believe that I just stopped in to buy some new blouses and eat the free samples and I’ve been in line for an hour?  It’s a good thing they keep those toys next to the register for the kids to play with.  Jimmy looks so cute slobbering all over that Disney Princess Pen!  4:25 p.m., Sunday.

Yup- Same Anonymous User:  Prayers needed for Linda, Bobby, Sally, Jim, Eric, Matthew, Emily, Jill, John, Melissa, and all of the other members of our church, along with my favorite Walmart employees. They have all contracted some sort of severe stomach virus.  Can you believe they were at church yesterday?  What will we do if we get it on top of the one we already have!  8:16 a.m. Monday

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that sick people sometimes have to get out.  For mandatory things like WORK, CHICKEN BROTH, and MEDICATION.  Not for shopping, a visit to a nursing home, or out to eat. 

ENTER BOOGER LADY.  If you were shopping at the Target in Osage Beach today and dripping snot on the floor, please stop reading or prepare to be offended. 

I was standing in the checkout with my four clearance items, staring off into space, when I hear it.  ‘Sniff, Sniff’.  Drugs are a pretty big problem around here, but not so much at Osage Beach, so I look up.  I see a well dressed, middle-aged woman reaching around me to grab a pack of Kleenex.  She accidentally brushed my arm, and politely said ‘Excuse Me’.  “I’d  better grab Kleenex, this cold just won’t go away!  I think I’ve got strep, but I’m too busy to go to the doctor.”  She then rubs the underside of her nose with her index finger- repeatedly.  When the cashier was done ringing her up, she picked up the stylus for the credit card machine to finish her transaction.  She alternated which hand she held the stylus with so that her index finger could continue plugging her nose. Once she finished, her teenage son piped up and said, “While we’re at the mall, can we swing by Aeropostale?”  SERIOUSLY?

Then it was my turn.  “Hi honey, did you find everything okay?”  “Yes, I did.”  “Your total is $4.86.”   I swiped my card, trying to figure out how to enter my PIN without touching the screen.  If only I had a spare stylus in my purse.  Who carries a spare stylus?  I normally have on of Katie’s DS ones in there, but I honestly had never thought of using it in this situation.  I never carry wipes- I really should.  One would have been perfect.  I gingerly touched the pad as if I were sticking my finger in a mousetrap.  Once I finished, I grabbed my bag and flew into the bathroom and vowed to come home and buy a set of emergency stylus.  I found these on Amazon: 3 Pack of Universal Touch Screen Stylus Pen (Red + Black + Silver)  for only 86¢ with FREE SHIPPING. 

The moral of this ridiculous story?  Stay home when you’re sick.  Have you watched Contagion?  I’ve not, but I can only imagine that this is how a plague that wipes out the entire population is spread.  You have the power to stop the spread of disease.  DO IT!

Like this story?  Check out the rest of the Diary of a Discount Shopper Series (The rest are better than this one- promise.)

Diary of a Discount Shopper: New House, Car Wreck, and Cart Wreck

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If you know me very well at all, you know that I AM Murphy.  Over the years I’ve learned that I should never get too excited about anything, because all of the ups and downs were completely wearing me out. I’m more of a ‘roll with the flow’ kinda gal (although my husband may tell you otherwise).

We finally closed on our house this week.  It’s been 13 years of looking (sometimes off and on, sometimes non-stop). It’s really hard to find something for sale in our district, and there’s not a neighboring district we are willing to transfer to or a central location that would work for our commutes.  We’ve been close to closing a handful of times, but something always happens.  Two were completely destroyed by a tornado while under contract.  Not kidding.

We love the place because of it’s charm and character.  The original portion of the1882 home is built into the 2003 home- so we’ve got a taste of old and new!

I’m not one to get nervous, but I was absolutely sick on closing day.  We’ve always paid full cash for everything, as was our intention on a home.  We weren’t quite able to do this with this one, we had hoped for another year to save.  I’m not sure if I was more worried about closing not going through or having to deal with a payment.  I don’t like to be tied down!

Closing went off with out a hitch, (well, we had a few on Monday night- very stressful, but self correcting) so we’re now homeowners (well, sorta dual homeowners now) That was Tuesday afternoon.  The plan was for me to go over first thing on Wednesday and start cleaning so we can get everything moved over the weekend- and no, I’m not packed yet.

Yesterday morning, I made the mistake of checking my email before I left.  I’ve been waiting all season on deals on two things- Loving Family Dollhouse gear and Polly Pockets.  Both were on sale at Toys R Us, online and in-store from 7:00 a.m. to midnight.  I am not a fan of TRU.com, so I decided to head to the store (only 60 miles away).  I threw the kids in the car to drop them off at school on the way.

It was pretty cold, the back glass was iced over.  My window was frozen up.  No biggie- I’ve navigated this stupid driveway for 13 years.  I knew I felt ‘off’ as I backed up, but didn’t bother to try to correct it.  You know, that nagging voice in your head that you refuse to listen to?  Mine told me to look- I told it to shut up and kept backing up.

Then I hear a BAM quickly followed by a string of obscenities from my mouth.  I jump out the door to see what I’ve hit- and lo and behold, it’s a freaking tree.  The same tree I’ve successfully backed around for 13 years.  Stuck in the bumper of my beautiful car.  My new to me ‘dream’ car that I bought in March now has a hole in the bumper. 

I’m a little peeved, but I’ve got places to go and things to do.  I was expecting much worse to happen, so this wasn’t too bad.  That’s the joy of being pessimistic.  I’m never let down- just constantly pleasantly surprised.

So I headed to Toys R Us to greet the holiday shopping crowd.  (Have you seen the biggest mistake I’ve made yet?)

There wasn’t a soul there when I got there- nor was there a selection of Loving Family stuff.  The very kind employee told me that they only get two rooms at a time, and they are always the same two.  I was able to get a TON of outdoor furniture and playsets for $60 that would have cost over $500 on Amazon.

After I got through with my in-depth analysis of Loving Family items, I decided to walk through the store.  I must have been tucked in that corner for too long.  As I stepped back out into the aisle, I was greeted with an onslaught of shoppers that could only be compared to a mosh pit at the Shrine Mosque (remember the old Dare to Care concerts? wink, wink)  It was alright, I’m okay with crowds.  The SHE cut me off.  We’ll call her “Short lady with black North Face that never quite figured out to hold her cell phone and walk”.

I like to think of shopping cart maneuvering as driving.  Those coming to an intersection should stop, you should stay on the right side of the aisle, etc.  Well, “Short lady with black North Face that never quite figured out to hold her cell phone and walk” didn’t get the memo. 

As I walked down the main aisles, she repeatedly came out of a side aisle and cut me off.  She never even paused as I came to a screetching halt.  I honestly don’t think she knew that she should look both ways before crossing traffic.  Being the laid back person I am, I let it go and loudly said ‘excuse me’.. 19 times.  Nope- not kidding, I counted.  Kind of like an OCD road rage preparation.  My ‘excuse me’ was met with an offhand glance- like she had no idea why I said that.

I finally finished my shopping and rounded the last corner before the checkout came into view- and here she comes for #20.  I was ready for her.  I sped up just kept on walking and prepared for impact.  I locked my knees and got a good grip on my cart.  Ironically, I heard the same BAM  and quiet string of obscenities that I had heard an hour before when my car hung on the tree.  I was expecting a small jolt, but this might have given me whiplash.  She flew backwards and landed on her rear due to the impact.  Amazingly, she never missed a second of her conversation, popped back up like a Terminator and kept going.

It was definitely not my fault, as I was merely a stationary object that had the right of way.

The moral of today’s (extremely long, rambling) story?  Don’t cut me off! 

Diary of a Discount Shopper | It’s an Olive Bar, Not an All You Can Eat Buffet

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The following is a true story, based upon real life events and REAL people pigs.

I’m not a fan of the word cheap (and I might have told you that a time or two).  When I think of ‘cheap’, my mind is filled with images of someone who bends every rule, takes advantage of every gray area, and sometimes out and out steals to save money. 

I prefer sensible, smart, savvy, etc- which implies that a shopper makes conscious decisions on the best way to spend his/her money.

Enter the olive bar.  An olive bar is sort of like a salad bar, but with antipasto items.  You pay by the weight (around $10/lb) for an assortment of these items.

At our new HyVee store, the olive bar is adjacent to the deli.  While standing in line for Black Forest ham yesterday, I witnessed something revolting.

I looked over and saw a lady sticking her dirty toothpick in the olives and going to town like she had just finished a 30 day fast.  She was chowing down so fast, olive juice was running down her chin.

I quickly glanced away.  Then I thought to myself “Why should I look away? She’s the idiot stealing olives.”  After doing a quick mental sweep of the area, I saw no toothpicks- so it definitely was not a sample area.  I had no choice now- I had to do what any person with a conscience would do.  That’s right- I gave her the stink-eye.  HARD.  I’m talking eat a hole through your olive stuffed body and melt the artisan cheese behind you stink-eye.  I followed up the stink eye with a “you’re pathetic” look for good measure.

She dropped the toothpick and ran over to her shopping companions.  I could hear her telling them that some crazy lady was giving her the stink-eye because she was sampling the olives.  My back started to burn, because of the glares sent directly at my backside.  For a  split second, I was worried about confrontation.  Then I realized that there would be no confrontation as they were definitely in the wrong.  I looked up to see them fleeing for the exits.  I’m assuming at $10 per lb and the amount of olives this chick put away, this could be a capital offense. 

By this time, my deli order was finished and I went to walk away.. just as another lady slinked up with a dirty toothpick… well crud, here we go again. 

I was planning on buying some- but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Who knows whose dirty hands and toothpicks have been in there..  I can drool for free- I don’t want to pay $10/lb for someone else’s.

The moral of this story:

Eating items in store not labeled ‘sample’ is stealing- and contamination.  If in doubt, ask yourself: “Would I carry this outside and eat it in the car?”  If the answer is no, put it down.

I didn’t see these shoppers swiping a piece of pizza or sticking a straw in the vat of Egg Drop soup. 

The Smart Shopper’s way to sample the olives?  Save on the rest of your purchases so you can afford them!

What do you think?  Should items be free for the taking as long as you eat them in-store?  Does it all go back to the ‘grape sampling’ issue that Marge Simpson once encountered?

Check out the other posts in the Diary of a Discount Shopper Series

Diary of a Discount Shopper | The Husband Did It All By Himself

“CRASH , KABOOM” 

“Mom, is it an earthquake?” 

“No honey, it’s just the washer”

“The walls are shaking!”

Our washer is eight years old.  I thought it was five.  We bought it at a ‘Divorce Sale’ just before Katie was born, so it’s pretty easy to figure out how old it is, but it just doesn’t seem like that long!

It’s been clanking for a while, but I attributed it to heavy loads and off-balance.  It never occurred to me that the drum could be out of place.. until it was too late.

Saturday, E noticed water in the laundry room floor.  Brad went back, tinkered for a minute and announced it’s full repair.  Monday, I went to do laundry and water went all over the floor.

Being the resourceful gal I am, I tore into it.  The first thing I noticed was that the shut-off was leaking, along with the intake valve.  We got that fixed, started a load, and gush, went the water all over the floor.  So, I took the back off, found a sizeable hole in the inside drain hose, and patched ‘er up with some duct tape and scooted ‘er back in place.

Due to my adult onset ADD- which I blame on slow internet connections, somehow I got sidetracked between that and running the first load.  Then I hear a pop.  From across the house.  I went back to the laundry room to find that my washer looked like an elephant used it as a stepping stool.  I’m sure “What the $%@$?” could be heard for miles.

Luckily, there was no need to remove the back again, as it had popped off in the squish.  I looked in there to see that the metal square frame that holds the washer into place had snapped in half.  Seriously.  Instead of looking like this: –  my frame now looked like this: –  _

Well, crud.  I tried to scoot it out of the way, then the front leg snapped off.  Then I realized that I could move the casing all day long, but the ‘guts’ stayed in the same spot. 

All of the expensive parts inside the washer are still good- but no amount of duct tape will hold this together.  I tried and tried to convince Brad to let me ratchet strap it back together, but he put his foot down.  Can you believe that?

We were planning on purchasing a new one soon- if we buy a house- because the sewer bill is based of off water consumption.  A HE washer would pay for itself. 

I didn’t really want a front loader, but the no-agitator ones start at $800!  Brad had went to Lowe’s to price them a few weeks ago and found a scratch and dent ‘no-agitator’ one for $350.  He went back in last  night and it was still there!  And only $329.  Now, when Lowe’s has something on clearance, that’s not the final price.  You can negotiate with them.  I’ve heard a rumor that the magic number is 17%.  Because this particular store marks items down on Thursdays, it was set to come down 10% today.  He got them to take an additional 10% off, meaning that he got this:

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for just $266!!!  $33.99 cheaper than the cheapest washer on the floor.

I think he did a great job- what do you think?

Now we’ve just got to move half the furniture out of the way to get it in there and test it out!

Like this post?  Check out the entire Diary of a Discount Shopper Series

Diary of a Discount Shopper: The ‘I Blew It’ Edition

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To be honest, I don’t have a budget.  I want a budget, but a certain, unnamed party doesn’t think we need one.  I’ve been working on changing that for 8 years, to no avail.  Stop it, I can hear you gasping.  What?  SHE doesn’t have a budget?  Just remember that I’m REALLY good with money, but there are times when I think that a more conservative lifestyle would do us some good. 

Today I’m glad I don’t have a grocery budget, because I blew that sucker plum out of the water yesterday.

Sometimes not having a budget is a good thing- especially when those great deals come along.  This week has been a killer.  First off, the Zaycon Foods truck is bringing me $130 worth of chicken.  It’s well worth it, and it will save me a fortune in the long run!

Secondly, our local store had whole hams on sale for 99¢/lb.  We are spending a fortune on sandwich meat because it’s been too darn hot to cook, so I snagged a few of these.

Yesterday, I got into an all out brawl with myself over whether I wanted to run into HyVee or not.   I’d already made a couple of trips to the store and farmers market this week and had spent way over our usual grocery amount, and I had NO room in the fridge.  As we walked through the door, there was a huge display with their Wild Wednesday sale item: ALL deli meats were $2.99/lb.  So I bought some, as it can run up to $9/lb.

I ran through the produce, where bananas were 30¢/lb.  This was an omen after I paid nearly $1/lb the day before and came home to NO BANANAS! Trust me, half of these are probably gonna rot, because we have more bananas than the entire state of Hawaii.

When I reached the meat department, I saw an ENTIRE fridge full of 3lb rolls of ground chuck with a huge sign that said $3.00.  I’m thinking it’s $3/lb, but a lady walked up to me and said, “Honey, I just went and checked and it’s right!”  That’s $1/lb. for ground chuck!  I’m normally not all about meat in rolls, but this WAS HyVee and it WAS $1/lb.  The catch?  The date was 7/29.  I bought 50lbs.  I wish I’d gotten more, but I was still trying to figure out how to fit 80lbs of chicken in my freezer.

On my way home, I had to stop at Gerbes (just like Dillons) to take advantage of the $1.38 GM cereal deal.  I didn’t have any coupons, but they had Chex for $1.38 a box, so I grabbed them up.  The cashier said, ‘Umm.. you just spent $20 on cereal’.  ‘Umm… so?”  I replied.  I LOVE Chex and it’s normally pretty hard to get it for under $2 a box.  I’ve lucked into $1 before, but I really don’t have time this month to deal with the back to school sales.  This is good until next spring and will be great for puppy chow and chex mix for the holidays!

So how much did I spend this week?  Over $200 on groceries alone!!  On the bright side- I won’t be buying meat until next summer, other than an occasional steak. 

Like this post?  Check out the rest of our Diary of a Discount Shopper Series!

Diary of a Discount Shopper | A Day in the Life of an Internet Entrepreneur without High Speed Internet

7:00 a.m.  Awake and ambitious

7:15 a.m.  Turn on computer

7:30 a.m. Wait for home internet to connect

7:45 a.m.  $@%!@^ @$^@@

7:46 a.m.  Connect internet to phone

8:00 a.m.  !@^%!@  Cook breakfast while waiting

8:30 a.m.  Woohoo!  It’s connected!  Check Facebook and quickly hit send/receive button on email.

8:32 a.m.  ^!#^!&  It’s timed out. 

8:40 a.m. –10:00 a.m.  %^$##^* Still struggling to get connection

10:00 a.m.  @#&@  @$#^# Forget it- ambition is gone.  Another day is lost.  Big thanks to Verizon and WildBlue for their lack of dependable and quick service and an even bigger thanks to CenturyLink for leaving me on the waitlist for DSL for over 10 years, all the while extending it to my neighbors on each side of my house. 

11:00 a.m.  Enjoying the day with the kids but feeling guilty for not working as much as I should have. 

I think I might have spent more time actually muttering expletives than being connected!

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Diary of a Discount Shopper | Are You Really Saving?

If you’re a couponer, you probably know all too well what the photo is above.  Even if you’ve never heard of diabetes, you’ve probably got a closet full of these.  Why?  Because they’re cheap, that’s why! 

If I had a nickel for every time I heard “I just saved $1,000 at Walgreens!’”.  Impressed, I ask, “Really?  What did you buy?”  To which I’m met with, “Blood Sugar Monitors.” Umm.. okay.. what do I say now?  I really want to ask how many are actually needed and if they have noticed that test strips aren’t included.  (Walgreens may have these regularly priced at $100, sale price of $10, and there is a $10 off coupon available)

It’s delusional thinking, why are you wasting your time on something that you don’t need?  Do you intend to donate them?  NEWS FLASH: No one else wants them, either! Many charities have been inundated with blood sugar monitors.  Doctor’s offices give them for free to diabetic patients.  Patients can also call the makers directly and get a free one shipped to them. 

What’s even worse is when someone says, “I’m going to sell them on Ebay so that I can retire!’”  BAD IDEA  At the time I wrote this post, they were selling for… get this… $0.00  That’s right, they weren’t selling!  Why?  Because too many couponers had this dream.  If only it were that easy.

The million dollar question is:  Are you really saving? In my eyes, you’re not saving unless it’s something you were purchasing anyways.  If you didn’t have 10 blood sugar monitors on your grocery list this week, you aren’t saving a dime.  What are you doing?  You’re making a trip to the store to pick up free blood sugar monitors.  You didn’t save squat.  You picked up free stuff.

I can ramble all I want in a workshop, but one of the most important things we go over is how to assess your spending.  Pick the top items you purchase the most and expensive items you buy regularly.  If you buy a box of brownie mix a year, it’s probably not worth the time searching for a coupon and waiting for the perfect sale to stock up to save an extra $1 a year.  But what if you buy two boxes of that a week?  That’s $104 a year!  Just think, if you have 10 items you can do that with, you can take that much awaited vacation, fill your propane tank, put a down payment on a car, or whatever else you’d like.

When you write this list, pick at least 20 items.  Figure out how often you buy them and what they cost.  What they cost?  You probably have no idea- you don’t want to know.  You’re buying it anyways.  In this case, ignorance is bliss.  Dig your receipts out of your purse or go back to your regular store and check the prices.  While you’re out, stop by a couple of other stores.  Forget the big box stores, check grocers and pharmacies, too.  Did you know that toilet paper is usually half the price at a grocery than it is at an ‘Always low prices’ one-stop store? 

Once you’ve done this, I want you to figure out how much you spend on each item a year.  Your top items probably cost you between $2,500 and $4,500 per year.  BLASPHEMY!  What?  You don’t think so?  Then do the exercise.  Your $2,500 can be hit on 4 items alone.  Do you buy 3 boxes of cereal a week?  That’s $624.  What about 3 gallons of milk?  $624.  A 24 pack of soda?  $624.  Any item that costs you $12 a week is $625 per year.  ($625 x 4 = $2,500)  You know you’re going to buy this stuff anyways, so when you find a lower price on it, buy ahead.  Once you’re ahead, you won’t be forced to buy it at full price, you’ll have the flexibility to wait for a sale- or even better, a coupon to match with that sale. 

I know brownie mixes are unhealthy, for the processed food haters out there, but they were the first thing that popped into my head.  I don’t use them, if I want brownies, I make them from scratch.  Stocking up on brownie mixes is a waste of time and money for me.

But what about the milk, produce, and meats you have on your list?  Don’t worry about them right now.  There are plenty of ways to save on them, but let’s take baby steps.  As with anything, shop around for the best prices.  There are plenty of ways to save on them, but for now, let’s focus on everything else. 

So what are you going to do?  Stop pricking your finger and get to working on that list!  Figure out where you need to save the most and stop buying junk you don’t need just because it’s cheap! 

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Diary of a Discount Shopper | When to Speak Up

Have you ever purchased an item that didn’t quite live up to expectations?  What about ordering something and receiving an entirely different product than requested?  Are you all to familiar with bad service?  Do you often get charged incorrectly?

If you’re paying full price for these items, you’re going to speak up.. well, most of us would.  But what if you’re paying with a coupon, gift card, or using a special promotion?

Let’s say an item is on sale for $1.50 and you’ve got a $1 off coupon, leaving the final price at 50¢.  That’s a great deal, right?  What if that item rings up incorrectly at $2.50, would you catch it?  If you did, would you say anything?  All too many shoppers would feel a tinge of embarrassment at asking a cashier to double-check a price of an item that they are already obtaining at a discount, even if they technically aren’t.  That sale price is the same as using the coupon against full price, so why on earth would you bother?

I had a meltdown last Saturday morning.   Not a mental breakdown or anything, but I wasn’t too happy.  Last Friday night, I ordered some pizzas from Domino’s with my Groupons that were about to expire.  These Groupons were $8 and allowed you to purchase any pizza (including specialty).  I purchased the gift cards with free credits I’ve received over time, so I essentially paid nothing for these pizzas.

I ordered one specialty Hawaiian and one Philly Cheesesteak pizza, which are regularly priced at $17 each.   My total after using my Groupons was $1.15 for two pizzas.  Great deal!  Brad stopped to pick them up on his way home and by the time he got here, I’d already left for a workshop. 

When I spoke to him on my way home, he mentioned that he’d had to rearrange the fridge to put all of the pizza in it.  I assumed that it was just those two boxes and the box we had leftover from Pizza Hut a couple of nights before. 

When I got home, I didn’t even check the fridge.  I woke up the next morning, just CRAVING the Hawaiian (as their Hawaiian is delish).  I open up the fridge, pull out the top box, and it’s cheese.  CHEESE.  CHEESE.  Nothing but cheese.  I was slightly perturbed because I didn’t use my Groupon that was valid for a specialty pizza on a $5 pizza.  I was really perturbed that I had psyched myself up for a breakfast of Hawaiian pizza. 

I pull out the next box.  Philly Cheesesteak- exactly as ordered.  Now I’m even madder because they got Brad’s pizza right.  

Then I glance towards the bottom of the fridge, where there are TWO more Domino’s boxes.  What the heck?  I’m completely puzzled.  I pull them out.  One’s pepperoni, one’s ham and pineapple- which is NOT the same as the Hawaiian.  I asked Brad why he ordered two extra pizzas.  He denied it.  We then notice that there are stickers with someone else’s name on the side of the box. 

He had no idea how many I’d ordered.  He walked in, gave my name, and was charged the $1.15 I told him to expect. 

I picked up the phone to call and tell them that I’d received a cheese pizza instead of my specialty.  Brad’s too busy laughing at me over my outrage to provide any input- then he stops.  “You seriously aren’t calling them, are you?  I paid $1.15 for 4 large pizzas.” 

“But they gave us someone else’s pizzas and gave me a CHEESE pizza for my specialty one! I HATE cheese pizza!”  I calmly reply (you believe me, right?).

“Honey, you are overreacting.  It’s a 25¢ pizza.  I’m sure they already figured out that they gave me too many pizzas and corrected it for the other family.  You got 4 pizzas for the price of two- be happy.”

“But I didn’t order the other three!  That is their fault.  All I want is what I ordered.”

I think I’m going to pause this story right here…

What would you do?  Would you call them?  Would you just write it off?  What if you were paying cash for these pizzas instead of using Groupons?  I’m anxious to hear from you!  Please leave a comment with your advice below.  I’ll finish this one in the comments section after I hear your perspective!

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Diary of a Discount Shopper | Extreme Couponing

The season premier of Extreme Couponing begins tonight on TLC at 8:00 CST.  I’m often asked what I think of the show.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret- I don’t watch it!  For starters, we don’t have dish.  Furthermore, I spend my evenings teaching people how to coupon rationally.

You see, anything is good in moderation, but very few things remain as good when taken to the point of extremism.   There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. 

At a recent Ultimate Couponing workshop, I overheard a comment that I had not yet heard before.  I’ve taught over 6,000 people to coupon, so I thought I’d heard everything.  While browsing through the receipts I use to demonstrate the possible savings, I heard someone say ‘this isn’t couponing- where are the real receipts’.  I am used to the opposite reaction of gasps and amazement.  You see, my receipts all detail a minimum of 80% savings, and most start at $200-$400 before coupons.  This person wanted  more than that.  She didn’t think it was couponing unless you got $6,000 worth of stuff (yup, she was a fan of the show).

It turns out that she thought that when leaving the workshop, she’d automatically be able to waltz into a store and leave with $6,000 worth of stuff all the while putting forth no additional effort.  If those savings weren’t achieved, it simply wasn’t worth it.

I tell everyone up front that in my workshops, you’ll leave with all of the information you need to save a few cents or thousands.  It’s all in how much effort and time you put into it.  We even discuss the three levels of couponing:

1) Stocking Up (when you have to start stocking up on everything)

2) Maintaining  (when all you have to buy is items that you are low on when a great sale hits)

3) Crazy Psycho-Obsessive (those that take couponing to the extremes)

Couponing shouldn’t be about taking all of the free items you can, it should be about taking what you need with the resources available. 

My thoughts on Extreme Couponing?  It is a reality show, and we all know that the whole point of a reality show is to make normal people look like nut jobs for the entertainment of other people who become personally vested in watching someone else look crazy.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the featured couponers, and guess what?  They aren’t all crazy!  Most of them donate their products, but why on earth would a reality show from the station that brought you Hoarders show you that?

I have noticed quite the interest in couponing that has formed around the show.  However, I’m most concerned that manufacturers will take note of the ‘abuse’ of the system and the couponing trend will steadily decline. 

What do you think?  Are you planning on watching the show tonight?  Leave a comment below telling me about it!

Wanna learn how to coupon?  Check out our workshops!  Can’t make it to a workshop?  Download a copy of Ultimate Couponing | Your Guide to Slashing Your Grocery Bill now!

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Diary of a Discount Shopper: Have I become an Elitist?

Things are getting CRAZY around here.  Spring workshops are in full swing, I think I have one day off in the next 40 days- and that’s just a day without a workshop, not a day with no work at all. 

Last night I had to remind myself (again) that it’s okay to buy some things without a coupon.  Because I’m going to be out of town all week, I needed some instant foods that my hubs could fix for the kids (we’re still saving money because we’re not supporting Pizza Hut).  It was pretty late, so I made the decision to stop by the dreaded ‘low price’ discount super store (not mentioning names here, but it rhymes with Call Fart). 

I’ve been in the habit of supporting actual grocers (you know, those places where you can’t buy a bicycle, ammunition, and smiley face underwear) where I’m treated like an individual. 

As I walked through the store, I noticed couples arguing- EVERYWHERE!  Almost every man had a scowl on his face and the corresponding woman was in a high pitched voice while wagging her fingers.  Those that weren’t fighting looked sad.. like funeral sad.  Well, I’m in this new ‘be nice’ mood, trying to become the perky woman that my husband so desires, instead submitting to my muddle through, gothic without the hair dye attitude.  (Side note:  I think it’s helping me to feel better while I’m fully awake, but I tire much more quickly.  It takes way too much energy to be perky.)

Why was everyone mad or sad?  I’m not sure, but I’m going to attribute it partly to the group of parents that thinks it’s okay to scream at their children in public, thus causing said children to screech uncontrollably, which reverberates off of the walls of a metal building, causing an increase in ibuprofen sales (another marketing technique?).  I’m also going to attribute the other part to the subconscious sense of impending bankruptcy, because we all know that the risk increases when you hit that checkout lane. 

At most grocery stores I’ve been in, when you can’t locate an item, you can locate an employee to help you find it.  I spent 20 minutes scouring for someone, only to come up empty handed.  I did eventually find a meat guy, but he was too busy griping to another customer about a new policy that requires him to wear a white coat, so I couldn’t get a word in (or pick up the product I so desperately needed that was behind him).

After a good 45 minutes, I headed to the checkout line.  How they have developed a model that actually sucks time and money, I’ll never know.  I was only the 3rd person in line (of which they had 2 of 15 open).  I spent another 30 minutes there.  When I finally got up to the register, I watched the prices like a hawk.  The package of hamburger patties (my husbands favorite- ICK), rang up at a much lower price.  This should cause one to jump for joy.. if you didn’t WANT a more expensive package.  See, the package was only $1 cheaper, but consisted of Ground Beef instead of Ground Chuck.  You save a fortune by buying Ground Chuck (like my unnecessary capitalizing?) because you don’t lose half of it when cooking.  However, it was in the wrong spot- which I didn’t catch.  I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want the couple behind me to wait any longer.  Since I wasn’t eating it, it wasn’t as big of a deal.

The cashier never spoke, didn’t even acknowledge that I was there- but remember, I’m trying to be perky, so I was super gracious to her.  My phone did ring once, I answered it and quickly explained that I was in the checkout line and would return the call when I left the store.  During that 2 seconds, the cashier started huffing because I was falling behind on putting my OWN bags in the cart (another pet peeve- how am I supposed to watch prices if I’m doing their job?  Sounds like another marketing ploy to suck some more cash out of my pocket).  

After I swiped my card and completed the transaction, I loudly told her to have a great evening and thanked her for her service.  To which I received a reply of…. a blank stare.  No sound, no smile, no smirk, no nothing.  Did I mention that another pet peeve is speaking without acknowledgement?  If I were to walk up to any person in the store and say hello, chances are I would be met with a response.  How are paid employees any different?

Not to worry… all was fine when the door greeter wished me a wonderful evening as I exited the store- NOT!  This irked me even more, because they feel the need to hire a ‘greeter’ at a very low wage to offset the rudeness of the rest of their employees?  I guess it’s a lot cheaper than finding a way to make the rest of your employees happy.. by, oh, I don’t know… maybe benefits, higher wages, consistent schedules, and creating happier customers, thus causing a waterfall effect?

I left the store feeling like crap.. and it wasn’t because I paid full price.  It was because I unwittingly handed over money to support a company who so obviously does not support their customers.  I think I’ll stick with the friendlier stores, regardless of the cost or location. 

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Diary of a Discount Shopper: Dealing with Hateful People

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Last Tuesday, I took the winner of our Facebook ‘Go Shopping with Alicia’ contest to Dillons.  I’m so glad I did, because she took this very flattering photo of me at checkout. 

What her photo so artfully blocks out is the ‘not so nice’ girl that was behind us in line.  I have rarely had problems with other customers when couponing, or at least in recent years.  I’ll admit that when I first started (way before it was cool and people understood it), I was occasionally met with minor distaste.  I’ve found that nowadays, people are more curious than snotty, and actually like to see someone spending so little on their purchases.

Tuesday was definitely an exception to that.  For starters, the store only had one lane open.  Instead of opening another line, the other cashier (who is a coupon HATER) just hung out behind our cashier watching everything.  At one time, there were at least 5 people behind us in line.  Before Steph, my shopping partner, even whipped out her coupons, the girl behind me was acting very weird.  She was huffing and stomping around like a child.  She was probably 25 years old and had two very well behaved children with her. 

As Steph whipped out her coupons, the huffing got louder.  Our cashier took his time and was very thorough.  By the time he got to my items, she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Then I whipped out my coupons…

Instead of moving to another lane, this girl chose to stay behind me.  She actually banged her head on the counter and bent over her stopping cart, burying her head beneath her item.  At one point, she actually shouted, ‘Why don’t you pay for your items like the rest of us?’.   I would have been offended until I realized that she was holding a food stamp card in her hand.  So many people are going through hard times right now, there is absolutely no shame in receiving assistance in paying for your groceries.. HOWEVER, some of us do not qualify for those programs and are doing everything possible to stretch our income and should not be publicly faulted for doing so. 

Instead of letting my mouth get the best of me, I just kept my head down and pretended she didn’t exist.  It’s probably a good thing that I have absolutely no peripheral vision, as there were probably some not-so-nice mutterings and hand gestures coming from her mouth.  I did chuckle to myself when the computer froze up and required a manager’s key to override it.  That took a few extra minutes.  Then I laughed out loud when the register didn’t have enough tape to print my receipt.  I laughed even harder when I *mistakenly* entered the wrong PIN number with my debit card, not once, not twice, but THREE times!  Her huffing sure didn’t make me move any faster.

I’ll admit that I was glad we had the whole buddy system thing going, because I was slightly afraid she was going to follow us to the parking lot. 

Something kept nagging at me afterwards.. something that I couldn’t put my finger on.  Then it hit me.  She could have easily moved to self-checkout and another lane (when they finally opened one).  If she was in such a hurry, why didn’t she?  Oh yeah!  It was because she was interested in seeing exactly what those coupons did for my total.  My official receipt says that I saved $237 and spent $97.  Not my lowest out of pocket trip, by far, but definitely a money saving one!

I’m not sure I handled it as well as I should have.  Maybe I should have politely tried to introduce her to couponing.  Maybe I should have referred her to the pharmacy for a Xanax. 

What would you have done?  Have you ever had a hateful customer behind you in line?  How did you handle the situation?  Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

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Diary of a Discount Shopper | Lack of Planning Disaster

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I’m not an organized person in most aspects, but when it comes to spending and the holidays, you’ve got to be on top of things.  If my gifts and plans are not set, I panic.  I don’t really care if the decorations are up, cookies are baked, or new jammies are purchased.  I care that my gifts are under the tree, wrapped perfectly, and my time away from home is efficiently planned.

I’m not sure where this year got out of control, but I’m blaming mis-matched wrapping paper (and my mother in-law, but we’ll save that story for later).   You see, am trying to waste very little and become somewhat of a minimalist.  OK- my minimalism is probably a normal person’s maximumism (nope, not a word, don’t bother to look it up).  I have several wrapping paper odds and ends that I wanted to use up.  I doubt you’ll find any other thing in my life that I’m anal retentive about. 

This year’s gifts do not coordinate and do not have bows (gasp!).  I’ve not found the time to do the bows yet, and it’s hard to get motivated to do so when the packages don’t match.  When the packages don’t match, it causes disarray. 

I wrap my gifts as I purchase them, not because I’m cool like that, but because they are safe from snooping eyes when they are safely covered and under the tree. 

I normally keep a strict inventory sheet to keep from overspending, but this year I’ve even slacked off on that.  When I don’t have the dollar figures in front of me, it makes it easy to overspend.  My other big problem this year has been sharing so many deals with my readers.  When you post them constantly, it becomes harder and harder to restrain yourself.  If I wasn’t sharing, I’d quit looking! 

We’ve spent quite a bit this year, but I’m still at 80% below retail.  I’ve used several hundreds of dollars in Swagbucks gift cards (how’s that for a free Christmas to those with restraint?).  We’ve also put off some necessary purchases to wrap and put under the tree.  The boy is in need of a new gun, so when I found a decent deal on something we were looking for, I grabbed it.  He’s also been playing guitar songs that only require 5 strings all month because his has a major issue.  The hubby has been begging for a hunting blind, so I grabbed one at 30% off.  I figure my lack of great savings on this one will pay off shortly.  He is planning on moving tree stands around- which isn’t good on a guy that’s had numerous back surgeries in the past couple of months. 

I’ve also spent more money on accessories for purchases than I have the items themselves. Guitars need cases, picks, stands, amps, cords, and extra strings.  Guns need bullets, cases, recoil pads, and a sling.  Everything takes batteries, and if you don’t have a new Littlest Pet Shop case, you’re just going to lose them all. 

I’m working super hard today to get everything re-sorted and rearranged.  Since the in-laws Christmas that was supposed to be held tonight (scheduled just a couple of days ago) has been postponed indefinitely (with 24 hours notice), I’ve got to go back through and reorganize the gifts.  They have to be under the tree in the order of the gathering or things get lost. 

I honestly think that if I’d been able to follow my normal Christmas gift wrapping traditions, I’d be in a much better state of mind right now!

I’m not having buyers remorse-yet- because most of my purchases were made with free gift cards.  However, when I finally get all of my gifts tracked and total costs added up, I might develop a *slight* case. 

How are you feeling about your Christmas purchases?  Are you in budget? Over budget?  Ready to unwrap and start returning impulse purchases? 

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