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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ralphs: 9/30 - 10/5

Note: This summary of deals is based on the ad I get in Los Angeles, where Ralphs stores double coupons up to $1 (one like coupon per transaction). I don't list all of the deals, only what I consider to be really good ones. If I missed any, please let us all know in the comments.

The Mega Savings Event is over, and the deals are looking kind of lean. But there are some worth mentioning, and might be worth the trip if you need any of the following:

Coupon Deals
Lean Cuisine $2 - Use $2/3 from Sept. All You or $1/5 from 9/13 RP; pay $4 for 3 ($1.33 each) or $9 for 5 ($1.80 each)
Yoplait 50 cents - Use 40 cents/6 (will double); pay 36.7 cents each
Propel Fitness Water $1 - Look for 50 cents/1 tearpads in store (thanks to CalItalian at Slickdeals)
Arm & Hammer laundry detergent $2.99 - Use $1/2 from 9/13 SS; pay $2.49 each

Other Deals
Asparagus $1.49/lb
Navel Oranges 49 cents/lb
Pork Butt 99 cents/lb (I love this cut, it's fabulous in the slow cooker)
Beef back ribs 99 cents/lb
Filet Mignon $9.99/lb

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Putting a Price Tag on My Dream Vacation

Last week, I shared my revised dream vacation: a Disney Cruise to Alaska. The prices for the cruise (first sailing in 2011) came out yesterday. The rock bottom price is just over $5,300. Add in airfare and other costs for us to get to the departing port of Vancouver and my low-end guesstimate of $6,000 is looking overly optimistic.

One thing I hadn't considered in deciding that 2011 would be too early for us was that if the Alaskan cruise isn't popular enough, Disney might discontinue them before we get a chance to go. That possibility is disheartening, but it's not enough to make me rush into something we're not ready for.

However, I have started researching the types of discounts available to see what I might realistically expect to pay. Right now, there are some "kids sail free" deals, which would take $1800 off the price tag. Obviously, that would be awesome. But I don't expect to see a deal like that for a while, since I'm guessing Disney will want to evaluate the popularity of the Alaska option without offering any major incentives.

During my research, I found a nice summary of how Disney Cruise fares work and suggestions on saving money. The article helped me understand some of the lingo when looking at the Disney booking site. It also made me realize that (1) it really is best to book early; (2) using an experienced travel agent can have significant advantages; and (3) I'll have to plan for cruise insurance.

I think the bottom line here is that unless something changes dramatically in the next couple of years, we won't be taking this vacation until Alex is closer to being 10 rather than 5. The cost is just too high to justify when there are so many other financial priorities – things like paying off the mortgage and sending the kids to private school if we decide that would be best.

But, by saving a nominal amount every month in a specially designated account, we might be able to take our Disney cruise to Alaska in five years or so without suffering any financial pain at all.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Morning Coffee: A couple of recipes worth sharing

A few months ago, I went hunting for a homemade cereal bar recipe, and I came across one from Carrie's Cooking for Almost Nutri-Grain Bars. I've made them several times now and have been quite happy with them. They're pretty delicate, so they're nowhere near as portable as store-bought cereal bars. But I cut them into squares and pack them with the boys' lunches as their "dessert" - they're perfect for that. My trick for getting the top layer to cover as much area as possible is to take some of the dough and flatten it between two layers of plastic wrap. Then I peel off one side of plastic wrap, flip the dough onto the jam layer, and peel off the second sheet of plastic.

The other recipe I want to share is Mario Batali's Rotolo di Frittata con Tonno, or as he translates it, Tuna Omelet Roll. (Or, as Marc bluntly put it, egg with tuna.) I made a double batch, and served it warm for dinner and cold for lunch the next day. I really liked it, although there wasn't enough filling. Next time, I'll use three cans of tuna and an entire two ounce can of anchovies.

There's a money-maker deal on Joint Juice at the Safeway family of stores right now. I read about it at SlickDeals but didn't want to do three transactions at the store I was at due to time constraints and their unpredictable customer service. This example may help clarify the deal. Look for Joint Juice on the same shelf as the Gatorade and Propel. The Frugal Find also explains the deal (via Common Sense with Money).

Bargain Briana's Freebie Friday has a list of free samples, printable coupons and giveaways.

Does anyone shop at bookstores anymore? The selection at the Borders near our house gets worse with each visit. There is that convenience factor though. If you're going to Borders this weekend and are a Borders Rewards member, take along these coupons for $5 off list price of a hardcover fiction book, $5 off list price of a DVD, Blu-ray Disc or CD over $10, plus some others, since you never know what you'll find. The coupons are good through 9/28.

Above the Law has some awesome anecdotes of nightmare job interviews.


Ads via Escalate Media Affiliate Network

Friday, September 25, 2009

Planning (and Paying for) a Dream Vacation

I've mentioned that my dream vacation is an Alaskan cruise, and I was thrilled when Marc said that Disney is going to start offering Alaskan cruises starting in 2011. For us it kills two birds with one stone, because we had also thought about going on a Disney cruise at some point. We've read a lot about them, and people only have good things to report (like this review by Five Cent Nickel at his parenting blog).

I've always thought that both cruises were something we'd do way down the line – the Alaskan cruise in maybe 15 years, and the Disney cruise in maybe 5 years, if it was something we still wanted to do. In fact, I always thought of the Alaskan cruise as something Marc and I would do when the kids had left the nest.

But now that we can combine the two, this is one experience I definitely want us to have. Of course, the most important consideration is cost – no vacation is worth compromising our financial stability for, so we'll have to be able to pay cash for the trip without delving into savings.

Unfortunately, the Alaskan cruise isn't available for booking until September 28, and there doesn't seem to be any pricing information online at the moment. However, based on the prices of their other cruises and what I've seen on the prices of Alaskan cruises, I'm going to guess we'll need at least $6,000 (that includes airfare), and maybe $8,000 to $10,000 if we want to splurge. Yikes, that's a lot of money that could be going toward the mortgage, even assuming I can find a spectacular discount.

In fact, we may decide we're better off not spending the money on a vacation. However, we don't have to make that decision right away. For one thing, I don't want to go in 2011. I want to give Disney a chance to work out the kinks in their new cruise, and I want Tyler to be a little bit older before we leave him in the hands of a mouse with big ears. So we'd go in 2012 at the earliest, which means we couldn't book until a year from now at the earliest.

What I'm going to do in the meantime is start saving money for the trip. I'm confident that we can squeeze some money out of our current monthly budget to put toward the trip. A year or more down the line, we can decide if the best use for the money really is a dream vacation or maybe paying down the mortgage instead.

My preferred method for this kind of designated savings is an ING subaccount. I love that I can name the account according to its use and keep the money segregated so that I don't have to do any fancy accounting – all with the click of a mouse and without the hassle of opening a whole new account. The interest rate at ING isn't the most competitive, but rates aren't good anywhere and keeping my accounts simplified is more important to me than an extra point or two. This vacation account will make the third designated savings account for us at ING.

We'll get to see on Monday if I am anywhere near the mark on the cost of the cruise!

Image credit: Disney Cruise Destinations

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recall: Infant's & Children's Tylenol

The maker of Tylenol is voluntarily recalling select lots of Children's and Infants' Tylenol liquid products "because examination of one of the inactive ingredients did not meet internal testing requirements. However, the packaged product, shipped to retailers by the company, has met all specifications."

So the good news is that products you've purchased are most likely safe. The bad news is, if you have young children, there seems to be a good chance you have liquid Tylenol in your house. I myself have a dozen bottles that I've got to check. Thanks to The Drugstore Game, which allows me to buy Children's Tylenol for free or very cheap, I stash bottles all over the place – at the office, in my emergency bags, upstairs, downstairs, plus my stockpile.

There's a list of all of the products included in the recall at Tylenol.com. You'll need to compare the item(s) you have with the codes listed in the chart. (If the chart is too small to read, hold the control key and turn your scroll wheel to increase the size.)

The web site says that if you "have questions," you can call customer service at 1-800-962-5357 (available Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time). It doesn't say what remedy they're offering, and I just kept getting a busy signal when I called. I've emailed them and I'll update this post if/when I hear back.

The web site also says that if you've given a product included in the recall to your child or infant and have concerns, you should contact your child's health care provider.

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Ralphs: 9/23 - 9/29

Note: This summary of deals is based on the ad I get in Los Angeles, where Ralphs stores double coupons up to $1 (one like coupon per transaction). I don't list all of the deals, only what I consider to be really good ones. If I missed any, please let us all know in the comments.

The Mega Savings Event is still going on and appears to include the same deals as last week. Of course, I can't help but think that Ralphs is going to lose customers to the triple coupon event at Vons this week!

Mega Savings Event deals (Get $5 off when you buy 10 qualifying products):
Lean Cuisine $1.50 after MSE - use $2/3 from Sept. All You & pay 83.3 cents each; or use $2/2 from Ralphs mailer & pay $1 for 2
DiGiorno frozen pizza $3.97 after MSE - use $1 from 6/14, or 8/23 SS; pay $2.97 each (Ultimate Toppings pizzas weren't tagged for this sale at my store so it appears they're not included)
Wheat Thins $1.49 after MSE - use $1 printable; pay 49 cents
Capri Sun or Kool-Aid Jammers 10-pack 99-cents after MSE
Philadelphia cream cheese $1.50 after MSE - use $1/2 from 8/9 RP; pay 99 cents each
Nestle Pure Life Water 24-pack $3 after MSE + CRV - use 50 cents from 8/16 RP; pay $2 after doubles
Juicy Juice $2.49 after MSE - use 75 cents from 8/16 RP; pay $1.49 after doubles
Jell-O gelatin 99 cents after MSE - use 50 cents/2 from 7/26 SS; pay 49 cents each
Ritz Crackers $2.19 after MSE - use Buy Ritz, Get Crackerfuls free from 8/23 SS; Crackerfuls were $3.50 at my store, the coupon max is $3.49, so it's like paying $2.20 for both Ritz and Crackerfuls
Kraft Easy Mac Cups 50 cents after MSE
Nestle Fun Size Bagged Candy $2.49 after MSE

Coupon deals:
General Mills Cereal (selected varieties) $1.77 - Use $1/2 from 8/16 or 8/23 SS or $1/3 from 9/13 GM insert; pay $1.27 or
Pop Tarts 12-count $1.98 - use 55 cents/1 from 9/13 RP; pay 98 cents
Jennie-O Whole Turkey Breast 99 cents/lb - use $1 from 7/26 SS
Keebler Sandwich Crackers, Town House Crackers, Cheez-Its, All-Bran Crackers, Special K Crackers 4 for $5 (must buy 4) - use printable 55 cents off Keebler sandwich crackers, $1/2 Keebler sandwich crackers from 8/2 insert, 75 cents off Whole Grain Cheez-Its (assuming they're included) if you printed it when it was available at Coupons.com or print it now from Snackpicks.com; price varies
Reese's King Size $1 - use B1G1 any Reese's from 8/23 SS; pay $1 for 2

Other great deals:
Ralphs Milk or Orange Juice (64 oz.) $1.25
Yellow Peaches 68 cents/lb
Russet Potatoes 68 cents/lb for 5 lb bag
70% Ground Beef Chub $4.95 for 5 lbs
Bonesless Pork Sirloin Chops 99 cents/lb
London Broil $2.99/lb
Freshly Baked Cookies (18 count) $1.80
Van de Kamp's Western Hearth Bread $1.77
Broccoli or Cauliflower 77 cents/lb
Red or White Potatoes 77 cents/lb
Cantaloupe or Honeydew melons 50 cents/lb
Navel oranges 77 cents/lb

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One recall today: Bunk beds

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Big Lots Stores, Inc. Recalls to Repair Bunk Beds Due to Collapse and Fall Hazards


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Review & Giveaway: Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters Prize Pack

I’ve previously mentioned the new product Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters because there have been some really great sales and coupons available. I finally tried the Roasted Almond variety and found it to be a tasty combination of nuts and granola. They’re formed into little spheres or half-spheres (the clusters), which are a decent size. Seven clusters makes one serving of 140 calories – a decent snack. I actually would have preferred slightly smaller clusters because I found them to be a little rough on the inside of my mouth.

Thanks to MyBlogSpark, I have a really fun prize pack for one lucky CFO reader! It includes all four varieties of the Granola Nut Clusters along with a sling backpack, stainless steel water bottle, flashlight and binoculars.

To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so (include the link to your update).

For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again with the link to your post.

You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, September 30, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Handling the Disappointment of a Financial Setback

I had thought that last month's hospital stay would be pretty much covered by our flexible spending account, so we'd only have to pay a few hundred dollars out of pocket to pay for medical expenses this year.

I was wrong.

After receiving more explanations of benefits for medical appointments we all had earlier this year, I've determined that our flexible spending account is spoken for before I take the hospital expenses into account.

It's making all of the medical bills that much harder to swallow. Mostly because it means a delay in achieving our financial goals. Instead of keeping our hard-earned money in our savings account, the money is going to have to go towards the bills.

There's not much I can do about the setbacks to our goals, however. We needed medical care, and we got it. Now we have to pay for it. It's that simple.

What I can do is handle the situation gracefully. Here's how I'm managing to do just that:

1. Be grateful. The first thing Marc said to me when I told him how frustrated I was about the setbacks was to remember the outcome: No one in our family is seriously ill. The end result of all of this medical care is essentially great!

2. Keep perspective. Setbacks happen. It's unrealistic of me to think that we could achieve our financial goals (especially when they're as monumental as paying off the mortgage in just six years) without some hiccups.

3. Give. Despite this setback, our finances are still stable and we have more than enough for our basic needs. Giving to others is a tangible reminder that we are still extremely blessed and lucky!

Ideal Bite
Ads by MySavings.com

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick Product Reviews: Some new products

Here's my latest round of quick product reviews:

Nabisco Toasted Toasted Chips - These are a bit healthier than Wheat Thins and Trader Joe's cheese sandwich crackers, and they're quite tasty. I give them a big thumbs up.

Nabisco 100 Calorie Pack Oreo Chewy Granola Bar - I didn't like the texture or taste of these at all. Plus, to get it down to 100 calories, they had to make it quite small, so it's altogether not very satisfying.

Edge Hydrate shaving gel - This had a strong medicine-y smell that took some getting used to. But it's not a bad smell, and it didn't linger. So I'll continue to buy it and Marc will continue to use it as long as it's free.

Knorr Pasta Sides Alfredo - I got a free packet to review from All You magazine, as part of their Reality Checkers program. I wasn't crazy about this instant side dish, because it was soupy and didn't have much taste, although the pasta did come out a nice texture. I added peas, shrimp and grated Parmesan to make a complete entree, which made the dish okay. It certainly was a quick and easy meal for a weeknight, but not one that I'll be repeating.

Yoplait FiberOne Yogurt (Vanilla) - This tasted very chemical-ly, to the point where I only ate one of the four cups. The cups are also small, to keep the calorie content to 50. That itself didn't bother, but I really didn't care for the taste. However, if the chemical taste doesn't bother you, then this is certainly an easy way to get 5 grams of fiber very quickly.

Previously: More quick product reviews

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Roundup (Briefly)

I've had a busy week, and spent more time writing than reading. I've quite behind now, but here are a few things that caught my eye:

Adrienne of Baby Toolkit recommended Po Bronson's new book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.I immediately added it to my reading list because she said it helped eliminate the bickering between her kids.

Over at Frugal Upstate, Jenn suggests 10 Simple Ways to Use Chicken. What I love about this post is her recommendation to buy a whole chicken, which is cheaper than boneless skinless breast.

And Unclutterer has some tips on Letting Go of Sentimental Clutter.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My best grocery shopping trip ever: How I got $130 worth of groceries for FREE & how you can do the same

As you might have seen over on Twitter yesterday, I got $130 worth of groceries for FREE at Ralphs. It's the perfect transaction to help illustrate in practical terms what I explained more abstractly in my post on how to start using coupons, so I'm going to break it down in detail. (Sorry there aren't any pictures - I'd put everything away before I realized I should have taken a photo!)

I did my transaction at Ralphs, which has some great deals this week. For non-local readers, Ralphs is the Kroger chain out here in Southern California. Based on what I've read in the coupon forums, we get the same promotions as other Kroger stores, but at higher prices.

If I'd paid full price for everything, my total would have been $129.11. However, almost everything I bought was on sale, and I had a lot of coupons and discounts so in the end, I didn't pay a penny out of pocket. Here's how you can do the same:

1. The very first thing you'll need to do is sign up for a Ralphs Rewards card if you haven't already. Pretty much every major grocery store chain has a store club card that gets you lower prices when it's scanned. They do track your purchases, so if you're particularly protective of your privacy, this method of saving is not for you. However, you don't have to disclose that much information when you get your card - you don't even have to give an address, although that will limit your savings.

In addition to getting sale prices, your Ralphs Rewards card earns points on each purchase - 1 point per dollar spent. Each quarter, you'll get a check based on your points ($1 per 100 points). You have to have a minimum of 500 points to receive a check, and they'll carry over to the next quarter if you don't reach the threshold, but each cycle runs the calendar year (i.e., any points you have left on 12/31 vanish).

2. Make a list. When you're new to couponing, this is the part that takes a lot of time. It's just a skill that you'll develop with practice, and if you're committed to spending less and saving money, then you're just going to have to be patient with yourself. I took the list of deals that I wrote up earlier this week, the weekly ad circular, and my coupons, and made my shopping list based on all of that information.

This week, Ralphs is having their Mega Savings Event, where you get $5 off when you buy any 10 qualifying items. You can do multiples of 10 in a single transaction, i.e., I bought 20 qualifying items and got $10 off. (See below for my MSE transactions.)

I get the majority of my coupons from the newspaper (specifically, the LA Times). My mother-in-law is not a big couponer, so I usually have two copies of every newspaper coupon. Newspaper coupon inserts include Smart Source (SS), Red Plum (RP) and P&G Saver (P&G). Depending on how you organize your coupons, the date can be important. (See my previous post on getting started with coupons.)

Another great source for coupons is All You magazine.Right now it's $19.95 for 12 issues at Amazon. We've seen better prices, but this really is one magazine that pays for itself with the coupons you'll find inside.

And of course, you can print coupons. A great source is Coupons.com. You'll also see links to hot printable coupons on blogs like Chief Family Officer and Common Sense with Money, among many others.

3. Take advantage of any store discounts that might be available to you. Ralphs sends me both paper coupons and electronic coupons. An electronic coupon is a discount that's attached to your store rewards card. It's automatically applied when you scan your rewards card at checkout if you've bought the appropriate items. Ralphs sends me emails with offers that I activate by clicking through from the email. If you're comfortable using and possibly stacking electronic coupons (an issue we've discussed here and here), go to Shortcuts.com, Cellfire.com, P&G eSaver, and Upromise.com and load them up.

Ralphs Pharmacy takes competitor coupons, so before I went to the store, I loaded bonus rewards points onto my card for purchasing a frozen pizza and a half gallon of ice cream (50 bonus points each). I also transferred a prescription to their pharmacy because I had a coupon for it.

4. Know the store's coupon policy. Ralphs is pretty good about taking any coupon that scans. My biggest gripe is that they only double one like coupon per transaction, and only up to $1. You can find Ralphs' official coupon policy in teeny tiny print at the bottom of the last page of the weekly circular.

5. Go shopping with a calculator and bring your own bags. My first stop in the store was at the pharmacy, where I used a coupon for a $25 gift card with a transferred prescription that I got from last week's Rite Aid circular. Instead of giving me a gift card, the pharmacist loaded a $25 credit to my Ralphs Rewards card.

Then I went to pick up all of the items on my list. I had a $5 off $75 purchase coupon that I found in a local mailer called Clipper Magazine. It comes quarterly (I think) and always has this coupon in it. I only use it about twice a year, because I rarely reach the $75 minimum, which is after sale prices but before coupons. The prices at Ralphs, even after sales and coupons, are usually higher than what I'd pay elsewhere. But the lesson here is to always keep your eye out for coupons. You never know where you'll find them.

The 20 qualifying items on my list totaled $33.49 after the Mega Savings Event discounts. There were non-qualifying items that were good deals, and they added another $15.02 to my total. I also picked up some items that I prefer to get at Ralphs, i.e., Boar's Head cold cuts - they're our preferred brand because of taste and quality, and Ralphs is the most convenient place to get them. Those "necessities" added $14.89 to my total.

All of the above items totaled $63.38, so to get to the $75 minimum so I could use the $5 off $75 purchase coupon, I used some free item coupons I had for refrigerated cookie dough, cereal, and ice cream. (Two of the three coupons were sent to me by giveaway sponsors. I received the third coupon as compensation for a product that had defective packaging.) After sale prices and store discounts, my total was $77.85. You can see why I recommend bringing a calculator (I use the calculator function on my cell phone) - there's no way I would have been able to keep track of my total as I shopped without a calculator.

I used $37.28 in paper coupons and $1 in electronic coupons. That brought my total down to $39.57. I paid the remainder using the $25 pharmacy credit and a gift card that I'd gotten from Kroger and MyBlogSpark for promoting last month's Mega Savings Event (which turned out to be not nearly as good as this one). The end result was $130 worth of free groceries. Plus, I got 214 bonus points, which is an extra $2 on my quarterly Ralphs Rewards coupon. 25 of those bonus points were for bringing my own bags. Ralphs give you 5 points per bag, which is the number of points you get if you spend $5. It works out to a 5 cent credit toward your quarterly rewards check.

Here's a list of the deals I got, with the coupons I used, and the end total price that I paid:
Mega Savings Event items (price reflects MSE savings of 50 cents per item):
2 24-packs of Nestle bottled water - $3.50 + $1.20 CRV each; used 2 50-cents off coupons from 8/16 RP, one doubled; paid $3.45 each, which is a great price for a case of water considering $1.20 of that was CRV
4 Kraft Easy Mac bowls - $1 each; paid $2 total after MSE (these are not my favorite things to serve but I have to confess I send them with the boys to preschool for lunch about once a month when I need something incredibly easy)
2 boxes Jello - $1.49 each; used 50 cents/2 coupon from 7/26 SS, doubled; paid 98 cents for 2
2 boxes Ritz crackers - $2.69 each; paid $4.38 (see below for coupon deal)
1 Capri Sun - $1.49; paid 99 cents after MSE
2 Philadelphia cream cheese - $2 each; used $1/2 coupon, not sure where it came from; paid $2 for 2
2 boxes Nabisco Wheat Thins - $1.99 each; used 2 $1 printable coupons; paid 98 cents for 2
3 Lean Cuisine entrees - $2 each; used $2/3 coupon from September All You; paid $2.50 for 3
1 DiGiorno Pizza - $4.47; used $1 coupon (there are some in the 6/14, 8/16, or 8/23 SS); paid $2.97 & got 50 bonus reward points
1 Breyers Half Gallon ice cream - $2.79; paid $2.29 after MSE & got 50 bonus reward points

Other Coupon Deals:
2 loaves Sara Lee bread - $4.19, Buy 1 Get 1 Free; used 2 55-cents coupons from 9/13 RP, one doubled; paid $2.64 for 2
2 boxes Ritz Crackerfuls - $3.50 each; used 2 Buy Ritz Crackers, get Crackerfuls free coupons from 8/23 SS (the max value for the coupon is $3.49, so I paid 1 cent each for these)

For more coupon match ups and non-coupon deals at Ralphs this week, go here.

Are you still confused? Not to worry - I'll be posting a "how to save on groceries" series that starts with the very basics this coming week.

Previously: Contacting customer service for free coupons

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Hallmark Encouragement Cards Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Hallmark Encouragement Cards giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Valena G. (wonders****@att.net)

Valena, I've sent you an email, and you have 48 hours to respond with your address.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

One recall yesterday: Clark's Shoes

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Clarks® Children’s Shoes Recalled by C & J Clark America Due to Choking Hazard - Click through for several additional styles.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

When are coupons not worth the savings?

When are coupons not worth the savings?

I obviously love saving money with coupons, but I found myself asking this question after my last trip to Target.

I had five boxes of Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal, and I had the free coupon and two $1.50 off coupons from VocalPoint, plus two $1.50 off printable coupons. The cashier said he would only take one each of the $1.50 off coupons, which is not according to their policy, so I asked to speak to a manager. The cashier went to get one, returned alone and said a manager would be out, and then we waited. After several minutes and no indication of how much longer we'd have to wait, I told the cashier to cancel my purchase and left.

I came home, emailed Target, and asked that a manager call me to verify that I could use the coupons I had. The response I got simply restated the coupon policy that's on the web site, and said that I should call if I have any questions. Um, yeah, that's not helpful - especially since my email had made it clear that I had read the coupon policy.

I just don't think Target is worth the hassle anymore.

This was the second trip in a row that I had trouble with coupons. The last time, the cashier told me I couldn't use a Target coupon for $1 off "Johnson's baby toiletry" on a bottle of Johnson's baby shampoo because that wasn't what was pictured. I had to go to the customer service desk, where I was allowed to make my purchase.

I understand that they're trying to avoid losing money to coupon fraud. But alienating customers through poor training is going to cost them money too.

Maybe they're counting on the poor economy to keep that from happening. Certainly, if I had more time and less money, I'd be more willing to drive to another store to try to find a more knowledgeable cashier, or spend more time contacting customer service to help them get their employees on the same page when it comes to the coupon policy. But the thought of adding those tasks onto my already loaded plate thoroughly stresses me out.

So I've decided that I will no longer go to Target just for a coupon deal. I'll have to need something else, like clothes or shoes or something that's on sale that doesn't involve a coupon.

My time, and especially my sanity, are worth more than a few dollars.

Previously: This week's Kashi deal at Target

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ralphs: 9/16 - 9/22

Note: This summary of deals is based on the ad I get in Los Angeles, where Ralphs stores double coupons up to $1. I don't list all of the deals, only what I consider to be really good ones. If I missed any, please let us all know in the comments.

It looks like triple coupons are over, but the Mega Savings event is back: Buy 10 qualifying products and get $5 off. You should be able to do this deal multiple times in the same transaction, i.e., if you buy 20 qualifying items, you should get $10 off. Unlike the last Mega Savings event, I'm seeing quite a few things that look like good deals.

Mega Savings Event deals:
Lean Cuisine $1.50 after MSE - use $2/3 from Sept. All You; pay 83.3 cents each
Kraft Shredded or Cracker Cuts Cheese $2 after MSE - use $1/2 from 8/9 RP; pay $1.50 each
DiGiorno frozen pizza $3.97 after MSE - use $1 from 6/14, 8/16, or 8/23 SS; pay $2.97 each
Wheat Thins $1.49 after MSE - use $1 printable; pay 49 cents
Capri Sun or Kool-Aid Jammers 10-pack 99-cents after MSE
Kraft American Singles $1.49 after MSE - use $1/2 from 8/9 RP; pay 99 cents each
Philadelphia cream cheese $1.50 after MSE - use $1/2 from 8/9 RP; pay 99 cents each
Nestle Pure Life Water 24-pack $3 after MSE + CRV - use 50 cents from 8/16 RP; pay $2 after doubles
Juicy Juice $2.49 after MSE - use 75 cents from 8/16 RP; pay $1.49 after doubles
Jell-O gelatin 99 cents after MSE - use 50 cents/2 from 7/26 SS; pay 49 cents each

Coupon deals:
Oscar Mayer Fun Pack Lunchable $1.67 + CRV - use $1 from 8/23 SS; 67 cents + CRV
Sara Lee bread B1G1 free - use 2 55 cents/1 Soft & Smooth from 9/13 RP, one coupon will double to $1
Pop Tarts 12-count $1.98 - use 55 cents/1 from 9/13 RP; pay 98 cents

Other great deals:
Hass Avocados 47 cents each
Broccoli or Cauliflower 47 cents/lb
Pork Shoulder Picnic Roast 99 cents/lb
18 Freshly baked cookies $1.80

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Changing the way I grocery shop AGAIN

A few months ago, I shared how I was changing my grocery shopping habits by shopping at multiple stores. In the months since, I've gradually reduced my grocery spending, even as I continue to buy organic or "almost" organic dairy, produce, and meat. ("Almost" meaning, for example, items that don't have added hormones or are grown without pesticides.)

The biggest key to my success has been my willingness to shop at new stores, and stop at different stores each week. I've discovered that what I thought was a great price is actually not the lowest price I can find on a regular basis. For example, Vons/Pavilions (part of the Safeway family of stores) has cut the club price on their gallons of organic milk to $5.49. The regular price at Trader Joe's is $5.99, and that had been the sale price I'd see at the mainstream markets until just a few weeks ago. (It's worth noting here that a year ago, I'd only been in Vons or Pavilions maybe twice in the last ten years. Now I go nearly every week.)

I keep my sanity by not going to every store every week, and I've even skipped Trader Joe's on occasion. I let some deals pass me by every week, and sometimes I consciously decide to pay a slightly higher price to save myself time, stress and gas money.

I have to admit that menu planning has sort of fallen by the wayside, but I've gotten better at stocking foods that I can easily turn into quick meals. Thus, we've been wasting less food and eating more at home. My system is definitely not perfect, and if there was some sort of financial crisis where every penny suddenly became critical, I know there'd be a lot of room to cut back in our grocery budget.

I plan on reducing our grocery budget even more by incorporating trips to a Farmers Market once or twice a week. In the past, I was always put off by farmers market produce because the listed price weren't any lower than the grocery store's. But I recently discovered that I get more produce at the farmers market for the same amount of money, and it's of noticeably higher quality. I also find that I naturally tend to buy less at farmers markets because I'm not just throwing things into my cart and instead paying for a little here and a little there, so I'm more mindful of what I'm buying. And that's definitely a big key, too!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Started: Saving Money with Coupons

It occurred to me recently that maybe some of you are new (or new-ish) to using coupons and not quite sure how to start. So I thought I'd offer some suggestions about how I'd get started.

1. If you don't have one already, start a price book. I know it's a pain, but even if you never touched a coupon, a price book will save you thousands of dollars in the years to come because you'll know the best price on any item you regularly buy. And after you've been keeping your price book for a while, I think you'll find that you can mentally keep track of most prices in your head. (Read my prior explanation of why a price book is important.)

2. Once you know what your target prices are, start reading the weekly ad circulars for all of the stores in your area that you would be willing to shop at. You want to get used to scanning them for the things you need at the prices you're willing to pay.

3. Subscribe to or buy the Sunday newspaper - it's the single best source of coupons. Whether a subscription is worth the cost seems to depend entirely on the area you live in. Here in LA, I found that I can get a bargain Thursday to Sunday home delivery of the LA Times for $39 per year, minus a $20 Vons gift card, which works out to 36.5 cents per Sunday paper, plus all of the other papers for free. (The in-store price for a weekend edition of the LAT is $1.50 plus tax.)

4. Start making shopping lists. Base your lists on your review of the weekly ads, plus the deals listed on all of the blogs out there. I list Ralphs deals if it's a good week. (They're a Kroger store but the deals are pretty exclusive to Ralphs, i.e., we have higher prices.) There are too many blogs to list that post the weekly deals at the various grocery stores, drug stores and retailers like Target and Walmart, but if you do a search, you should find them pretty easily.

I do want to give a shout out to Gina at Moneywise Moms, who lists the Safeway deals (Vons & Pavilions out here), because it was the way she listed the deals that made me really "get" grocery couponing. I also want to give a shout out to Mercedes at Common Sense with Money, because she helped me to make sense of the Register Rewards system at Walgreens when I first started playing The Drugstore Game.

A word of advice here: be prepared for this part to take a fair amount of time until you get the hang of it. A year and a half ago, when I really started using coupons, I would spend hours each week reading the deal blogs and coupon forums to figure out what I was doing. Now, I spend maybe an hour prepping my deals.

5. Experiment with how you like to organize your coupons. This is something that's also going to take some time, and especially, trial and error. There are quite a few ways to organize coupons. A binder filled with baseball card holders is a favorite. (I don't do this, but Money Dummy created a video showing how she uses her binder.) Filing inserts by date is another favorite method - basically, you only clip coupons as you need them. That's why coupons are listed with the date and insert they came from in the deals posts, so they can be found easily.

I used the insert filing system for a while, but found that I missed having my coupons with me in the store, since I would only take what I was planning to use. At this season in my life, it's hard for me to plan an extra trip back to a store if I found a great deal, so I now clip every coupon and file it in one of three handy coupon wallets that I got at Target for $1 each. It works for me, and I encourage you to try different methods to find what works for you.

6. Learn the coupon rules at the stores you shop at. Each store has different rules, and unfortunately they're not always consistent - not by chain, not by store, and not even by cashier. In fairness, I do think that often, the rules are communicated poorly to the staff so they may not necessarily know them. Some people contact the stores and request an email with the official coupon policy, then carry that with them so they can demand follow the written policy if an employee gives them a hard time. Target and Walmart have their coupon policies online. Safeway has their printable coupon policy online.

Above all, keep this in mind as you start to use coupons: Everyone has their own way that works for them. So the best thing you can for yourself if you're really serious about saving money is to not give up. Be patient, and stay focused on your goal of saving money!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

The Making of a Hero

Is 9/11 our generation's Kennedy assassination? I don't mean my question in a cavalier sense. I mean it in the sense that all day today, people described where they were when they first heard about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center.

I certainly remember where I was – in our apartment, watching the news while getting ready for work, at first thinking it was a horrible accident and only later discovering it was terrorists. I remember watching the towers collapse. And I remember, later, being moved to tears by the heroism of the Flight 93 passengers.

There are heroes everywhere.

When I was growing up, I loved heroes. I loved action adventure stories about people who were brave and courageous and did great deeds. As I got older, I devoured the first ten or fifteen Tom Clancy books, and the Star Trek and Star Wars novels, which were fairly new at the time. My favorite TV show when I graduated from college was JAG. I dreamed of becoming a CIA agent or working for the FBI. I even applied to a summer JAG program during my first year of law school.

I always knew I'd want to be a wife and mom someday, but growing up, I always thought I'd have some exciting, heroic career too. That didn't happen. And now I find myself feeling grateful that I've lived such a blessed life that my courage has never been truly tested, that I've never had to make a life or death decision like whether to go into a burning building to try to save someone or try to take out a terrorist holding a weapon so he can't hurt anyone else.

As a mother, I can't help hoping that my children will be equally safe. I don't want them to ever find themselves in the position of having to make a choice like that.

And so I marvel at the women and men who have made those choices. They have my deepest gratitude and admiration. I am thankful to their parents too, for teaching their children well and letting them go.

I'm off to make a donation to one of my favorite charities, the USO. I really like donating to the Operation Phone Home program – 100% of the funds raised goes toward the purchase of international calling cards so troops can talk to their families. And while I make my contribution, I'll be listening to fellow USO supporter Toby Keith's song, "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Balance Mattress Topper Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Select Comfort In Balance Mattress Topper giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Cindy B. (*****ocindy@earthlink.net)

Cindy, I've sent you an email, and you have 48 hours to respond with your address.

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Ralphs: 9/9 - 9/15

Note: This summary of deals is based on the ad I get in Los Angeles, where Ralphs stores double coupons up to $1. I don't list all of the deals, only what I consider to be really good ones. If I missed any, please let us all know in the comments.

Ralphs is still tripling coupons this week. I haven't been to the store yet to see if any of last week's prices are still in effect, such as the $1 Dial pumps. But there are quite a few good deals:

Coupon deals:
Healthy Choice Steamers $1.77 each when you buy 4 - Use 2 $1/2 from Sept. All You, pay $1.27 each wyb 4
Charmin 4 large roll pack $1.88 - Use 25 cents coupon from 8/30 P&G, tripled; pay $1.13 for the package (I forgot to check to see how big a large roll is, I'll update this post when I do that)
Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt 44 cents/cup - Use 60 cents/6 from 8/16 SS; pay 27.3 cents each
Jenni-O-Frozen turkey breast 99 cents/lb - Use $1 coupon from 8/30 SS
Michelina's Frozen Entrees $1 - Use $1/5 printable coupon; pay 80 cents each
Crystal Geyser 1.25 liter bottles 99 cents - Use 40 cents/2 from 5/17 or 8/23 SS, triples to $1; pay 49 cents each + CRV

Store Brands & Produce Deals:
Ralphs eggs 77 cents/dozen (best price ever?)
Van de Kamp's Sliced Bread $1/loaf
Freshly baked traditional cookies $1.80/18 cookies
Golden bananas 49 cents/lb (best price I've seen in a while)
Gala apples 49 cents/lb

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

One recall yesterday: Animal masks & pendants

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Children’s Animal Masks and Pendants Recalled by Team Work Trading Due to Risk of Lead Exposure - Click through for several photos of additional styles, includes a mask.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Review & Giveaway: Hallmark Encouragement Cards

I was sent some Hallmark encouragement cards to check out, and they're terrific! What a quick and easy way to cheer someone up or just let them know you're thinking of them. Some have sound, some are funny, and some are just plain sweet. Many of the cards are from the Edge of Motherhood line, and are specifically designed for mothers who want to send a pick-me-up to another mom.

One great thing about these cards is that they're really affordable. The every day cards I got are a mere 99-cents each, and the sound cards are just $2.99. Some of the cards have a fabulous little feature on the back: a little headshot of the writer plus a little blurb about them. I've never seen that before, but it's a nice touch. (The web site sizes and prices are different from what's on the back of the cards I received.)

The best part? Hallmark wants to give one lucky CFO reader their own set of encouragement cards. To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so (include the link to your update).

For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again with the link to your post.

You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, September 15, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Morning Coffee: Another giveaway mulligan

When it rains, it pours. First, I made an error in the original In Balance Mattress Topper giveaway. Now, it looks like the Yoplait Whips! giveaway form got corrupted and has become inaccessible. So I've had to create a new form, which I've subbed into the giveaway post. I've also extended the deadline to a week from today, 9/12. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to retrieve the corrupted data. This means that if you've already entered the giveaway, you'll need to do so again. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to retrieve the corrupted data. You don't need to re-do anything (i.e., re-tweet or re-post) but you will need to re-submit your entries. I apologize for that, but I simply have no other way of knowing if you'd already entered the giveaway. Here's the new published form. Thanks for your understanding! (Hint to other bloggers who use Google Docs: Based on this forum, I think the corruption happened because I copied another spreadsheet.)

This is what it's like to live in LA sometimes: At the pediatrician's office yesterday, I walked in to find a very familiar face signing in. I immediately recognized him as an actor, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I'd recently seen him in. A little after we left the office, it hit me: it was the disgraced and fired music teacher from my new favorite show, Glee: Stephen Tobolowsky. He's way taller than I expected him to be in person. This is not a particularly unusual occurrence in LA. (I've seen Alanis Morrisette at the GAP and Holly Robinson Peete at Whole Foods, for example.) But it still always throws me for a bit of a loop.

There won't be any coupon inserts in tomorrow's paper because of the holiday weekend. I believe that with the LA Times, you can stop delivery and credit your account if you initiate the vacation stop by 12:30 p.m. the day before on their web site.

Nicole's Nickels has a list of coupons available in the October issue of Woman's Day. I think she updates the post throughout the month with coupons from other magazines as more issues come out.

And Discount Dallas lists more free-after-coupon items at Ralphs, although I don't know how helpful they'll be. I couldn't find the right sizes for the Marcal Small Steps or Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Creating the Illusion of Scarcity to Accelerate Financial Goals

Writing about how we haven't had any financial stress stemming from our current health crisis reminded me of how sound our finances really are. Generally, I usually feel like money is tight because I create the illusion of scarcity and limit the amount of money we have easy access to. I transfer money to savings and pay extra on the mortgage each month, and once those things are done, there isn't much leftover for what's usually called discretionary purchases.

Thus, I constantly create a sense that we have less money than we actually do. This illusion helps us accomplish our financial goals a lot faster than they would otherwise be reached. Instead of spending money on dining out, I'm paying off the mortgage. And instead of buying another pair of shoes, I'm saving to pay cash on our next new car.

I feel like we have a lot less money than we really do, which helps me to be mindful with the money than I do allow myself discretion over. If I only give myself $100 to spend on "fun" for the month, I'll be a lot more thoughtful about how I spend it than if I had $500.

And the big effect of the illusion of scarcity is that I have money when I really do need it. Like for hospital bills. And that's no illusion.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Giveaway: Yoplait Whips! Prize Pack

Update 9/4/09 7:50 p.m. PDT: The original giveaway form became corrupted, so I created a new form, which you'll find in this post. If you'd already entered the giveaway, please do so again as I have no way of recovering the corrupted data. There's no need to re-tweet or re-post, just re-submit your entries. The deadline has been extended to 9/12. Thank you!

Thanks to MyBlogSpark, I have a very "cool" prize pack for you today (get it? :D): a "Summer Cool Down" gift bag that includes two free coupons for Yoplait Whips!, a cooler tote, popsicle molds and a set of 12 color-changing spoons. (If you don't win, you can print off a coupon for 60 cents off three containers of Yoplait Whips!.)

To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so (include the link to your update).

For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again with the link to your post.

You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Thursday, September 10 Saturday, September 12, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

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Ralphs: 9/2 - 9/8

Note: This summary of deals is based on the ad I get in Los Angeles, where Ralphs stores double coupons up to $1 (one like coupon per transaction). I don't list all of the deals, only what I consider to be really good ones. If I missed any, please let us all know in the comments.

This big news at Ralphs this week is that they have lowered prices on many items and are tripling coupons for a limited time. Don't get too excited though - it's still only up to $1. But it does mean more free items and good deals:

Dial pump hand soap $1 - use 35 cents off from 8/16 SS, free after triples
Brut deodorant $1 - use 55 cents off from August All You, free after doubles
Hefty One Zip bags $1 - use $1 off from 8/30 RP, free after coupon
Purex detergent $2.99 - use 35 cents off from 8/16 SS, $1.99 after triples
Bounty single roll $1 - use 25 cents off from 8/30 P&G, 25 cents after triples
Charmin 4 large rolls $1.88 - use 25 cents off from 8/30 P&G, $1.13 after triples (I'm not sure how big the "large" rolls are; I try to get 20 cents per regular roll, though I've been finding this difficult to do lately)

There's also a coupon in the weekly ad for four 12-packs of selected varieties of Coke for $1.99 each. Selected varieties of Pepsi and Mountain Dew are 5 for $10 (must buy 5).

Other good deals:
Bounty single roll $1 - use 25 cents off from 8/30 P&G, 25 cents after triples
Dannon Activia $1.88 - use $1 off from 7/26, 8/9 or 8/30 SS, 88 cents after coupon (DanActive is also on sale, but the regular price is about $1.74 at Target)

Chicken drumsticks or thighs 99 cents/lb
Green seedless grapes 49 cents/lb
Russet potatoes or Brown onions 50 cents/lb
Baby lemons, limes or key limes 99 cents/1 lb bag

You may also want to check out this LA Times article on the falling cost of groceries at the big chains.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Giveaway: In Balance Mattress Topper Take 2

When conducting giveaways, your privacy as a CFO reader is very important to me, and thus I always promise to use your email address only to contact you if you are the lucky winner. However, as I mentioned earlier this morning, sometimes giveaway sponsors have unique requirements. And I forgot the requirement requested by Select Comfort in giving away an In Balance Mattress Topper in the original giveaway post: that when you enter this giveaway, you consent to let me share your email address with Select Comfort, which will sign you up for Sleep Number deals and tips via email (you can always unsubscribe if the emails don't interest you).

If you've already entered, it would obviously be wrong to share your email address without this disclosure, so I decided the best way to handle the error was to re-start the giveaway from scratch. The same rules still apply, and anything you've done to qualify for the giveaway still stands (i.e., you don't need to re-tweet or re-post the giveaway). But you do need to re-submit all of your entries in the form below. I apologize for the inconvenience and any confusion, and I'll have another giveaway tomorrow to make up for the error!

To reiterate, Select Comfort will give one lucky CFO reader their very own In Balance Mattress Topper. To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form. If you're having trouble filling out the form, try going directly to the published form.) Disclosure: by entering the giveaway, you consent to share your email address with Select Comfort and receive Sleep Number deals and tips via email. You can unsubscribe at any time.

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, follow me on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. Then fill out the form to let me know you've done so (include the link to your update).

For a fourth entry, blog about the giveaway on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again with the link to your post.

You can enter up to four times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, September 9, and is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Big Swag Bucks News + Special Swag Code for New Members

Search & Win

Last July, I wrote about Swag Bucks for the first time, recommending them as a truly free and easy way to make money. Hundreds of dollars in Amazon gift cards later, I can say Swag Bucks is still a free and easy way to make money.

For the uninitiated, Swag Bucks is a "search & win" site. All you have to do is register, sign in, and use their search function. Each search is an opportunity to win random "Swag Bucks" in the amount of $1, $2, $3 or $5. On Mega Swag Bucks Fridays, you can win $10, $20, $50, and $100 Swag Bucks. Swag Bucks can be redeemed for a huge variety of prizes, but I recommend the $5 Amazon gift certificate - at 45 Swag Bucks, it's the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak, as long as you shop at Amazon anyway. (Even if you don't usually, you might consider saving up Amazon gift certificates to buy holiday presents, since Amazon usually has tremendous deals.)

The big Swag Bucks news of the day is that they are unveiling their new toolbar today. The new toolbar will maintain its functionality, but also includes quick links to all aspects of Swag Nation, and add-on's like games and email notifiers. You can log into your Swag account and track your Swag Bucks from the toolbar. To encourage all Swagsters to download the new toolbar, every day in September, there will be a special Swag Code exclusively through the toolbar (through the new messaging function), providing the opportunity to earn 30 free bucks this month. The only way to get these codes is by having the toolbar.

If you're new to Swag Bucks, today is a great day to join! Now through September 10, you can earn 5 free Swag Bucks just for registering - the standard sign-up bonus of three, plus an extra two Swag Bucks when you use my referral link and enter the code CFOswagcode (case sensitive). It took me about a month (without referrals) to earn my first Amazon gift certificate, but I didn't have the benefit of 30 free toolbar Swag Bucks. With the toolbar codes, you should earn that first prize quite quickly.

And as always, if you've used my referral link, thank you - I really appreciate it!

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