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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Drugstore Game This Week: Starter Walgreens Transactions 2/28 - 3/6/10

If you're new to playing The Drugstore Game, these transactions should help you get started. If you don't understand the transactions, read my Drugstore Game Primer, Common Sense with Money's FAQ, and my explanation of How to Play The Drugstore Game at Walgreens.

You'll find a list of this week's Walgreens deals here.

Transaction #1:
Speedstick or Lady Speedstick deodorant $1.99

Pay: $1.99 cents + tax
Receive: $1 RR

Transaction #2
1 Colgate Total Toothpaste $2.99
1 small filler (I found Valentine's candy bracelets on clearance for 8 cents)

- $1/1 Colgate Total Toothpaste from Jan. All You
- $1 RR

Pay: $1.07 + tax
Receive: $2 RR


Transaction #3:
6 boxes of Kleenex Tissue B1G1, prices start at $1.99 (they were $2.19 at my store)
1 small filler (I found Valentine's candy bracelets on clearance for 8 cents)

- 2 x 50 cents/3 Kleenex Facial Tissue from 2/28 SS (I found 50 cents/3 blinkies at Pavilions too)
- $2 RR

Pay: $3.05 + tax
Receive: $3 RR


Transaction #4:
Schick Intuition or Quattro $8.99
1 small filler (I found Valentine's candy bracelets on clearance for 8 cents)

- $4/1 Schick Quattro for Women or Intuition Razor or Refill from 2/28 SS
- $3 RR

Pay: $2.07
Receive: $3 RR


And, submit for FREE After MIR Schick Quattro Razor or Trimmer from 2/7 SS (up to $11.99 moneymaker after coupon, register reward and mail in rebate). Thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing out that the rebate is for a men's razor.

Note: You can work the free Reach product(s) into whichever deal you want.

Summary: Pay $8.18 out of pocket and have $3 RR for next week, plus all of the items above. If you get the full rebate, that's actually $3.81 profit with the RR!

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The Drugstore Game This Week: Starter CVS Transactions 2/28 - 3/6/10

If you're new to playing The Drugstore Game, these transactions should help you get started. If you don't understand the transactions, read my Drugstore Game Primer, Common Sense with Money's FAQ, and my explanation of How to Play The Drugstore Game at CVS.

You'll find a list of this week's CVS deals here. In these transactions, I assume that you do not have any ECBs to start with.

Transaction #1:
1 Powerbar Energy Gel Blasts $1.50

Pay: $1.50 + tax
Receive: $1.50 ECB


Transaction #2:
2 Colgate Total $2.50 each

- 2 x $1/1 Colgate Max Fresh or Max White Toothpaste, 4.0 oz. or larger from Jan. All You (or $0.75/1 Colgate from 2/21 SS)
- $1.50 ECB from previous transaction

Pay: $1.50 + tax
Receive: $2 ECB


Transaction #3

1 SoftSoap Body Wash $4.99
6 Revlon Beauty Tools B1G1 at $1.99 each (or buy 2 or 4 depending on how many coupons you have)
2 Emerald Nuts $1 (or however many coupons you have)

- $1/1 SoftSoap Body Wash from March All You
- 6 x $1/1 Revlon Beauty Tool from 2/21 SS
- 2 x $1/1 Emerald Nuts Product 5 oz+ 1/31 SS (note: squinting at the ad, it looks like the size on sale for $1 may be smaller than 5 oz, so you may want to skip these)
- $2 ECB from previous transaction

Pay: $1.96 + tax
Receive: $4 ECB


Summary: Pay $4.96 + tax out of pocket, and have a $4 ECB for next week. Plus, you have all that stuff at home now!

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Drugstore Game This Week: Starter Rite Aid Transactions 2/28 - 3/6/10

If you're new to playing The Drugstore Game, these transactions should help you get started. If you don't understand the transactions, read my Drugstore Game Primer, Common Sense with Money's FAQ, and my explanation of How to Play The Drugstore Game at Rite Aid.

You'll find a list of this week's Rite Aid deals here.

Transaction Idea:
1 Listerine Pocket Packs $3.99
1 Albolene Cleanser $7.99
1 Acnomel Acne Treatment or Proantinox $6.99
1 Gillette Satin Care $1.99

- $5/$20 from Rite Aid Video Values
- 50 cents/1 selected Listerine products from 1/3 RP
- 55 cents/1 Satin Care from 2/7 P&G

Pay: $14.91 + tax
Receive: $3 SCR for Listerine, $7 SCR for Albolene, $6 SCR for Acnomel or Proantinox, $1 SCR for Gillette (total SCR = $17)


Note: Some regions received $1/1 Listerine and Satin Care coupons, which would lower your out of pocket expenses a little more.

If you don't have a $5/$20 Video Values coupon, you could print the $3/$15 coupon (pdf) and do the following:

Alternate Transaction Idea:
1 Efferdent tablets $5.99
1 Gillette Satin Care $1.99
1 Albolene Cleanser $7.99

- $3/$15 coupon
- 55 cents/1 Efferdent from 1/31 SS
- 55 cents/1 Satin Care from 2/7 P&G

Pay: $11.87 + tax
Receive: $5 SCR for Efferdent, $1 SCR for Gillette, and $7 SCR for Albolene (total SCR = $13)


Note: Some regions received $1/1 Efferdent and Satin Care coupons, which would lower your out of pocket expenses a little more.

The concept you're hopefully grasping from the above scenarios is that the $/$$ coupons are what allow you to "make" money in these transactions. Just remember not to abuse them or Rite Aid won't make them available anymore!

I wouldn't call this last scenario a starter transaction, but it's what I'm planning to do to get some really cheap cereal and shaving gel:

6 boxes Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon cereal (the boys really liked the sample box they tried last week) B1G1 approx $4.50 each (note: the cereal was $4.99 at my store)
1 Gillette Satin Care $1.99

- $3/$15 coupon
- FREE Kashi Heart to Heart from Vocalpoint
- 3 x $1.50/1 Kashi Heart to Heart from Vocalpoint
- $1.50/1 Kashi Heart to Heart printable coupon
- 55 cents/1 Satin Care from 2/7 P&G

Pay: $1.44 + tax
Receive: $1 SCR for Gillette


Update 2/28/10:
I had some difficulty with the scenario I posted, because the register wouldn't accept any coupons after the $3/$15. I don't know if it's a quirk with that particular coupon, but my coupons scanned fine when I had them void the transaction and just ring up two boxes of cereal and the shaving gel. I used the free Kashi coupon and paid $1.63 including tax, and I'll get a $1 SCR for the Satin Care.

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CVS this week: 2/28 - 3/6/10

It's not the greatest week at CVS but there are still some good deals. You can find a full roundup of this week's deals at Bargain Briana (thanks, Briana!). I've listed the deals that I think are the best for playing The Drugstore Game this week (starter scenarios to come later), as well as the prices that are rock-bottom in my price book.

Revlon Cosmetic or Beauty Tools, B1G1 Free psa $1.99 (Limit 6)
$2/1 Revlon Color Cosmetics 2/21/2010 (exp 3/28/10)
$1/1 Revlon Beauty Tool 2/21/2010 (exp 3/28/10
Final Price: as low as FREE

Softsoap or Irish Springs Body Wash 15-18 oz., $4.49
Earn $4 Extra Bucks (Limit 1)
$1/1 Softsoap Body Wash, any March 2010 All You Magazine (exp 3/31/2010)
Final Price: FREE

HP Inkjet Print Cartridge, $19.99
Earn $10 Extra Bucks wyb 2 (Limit 1)
Final Price after Extra Bucks: as low as $14.99/each

Colgate Total, $2.50
Earn $2 Extra Bucks wyb 2 (Limit 1)
$1/1 Colgate Max Fresh or Max White Toothpaste, 4.0 oz. or larger January 2010 All You Magazine (exp 3/24/2010)
$0.75/1 Colgate – 2/21/10 SS Insert
Final Price: as low as $0.50/each

Arm & Hammer B1G1 Free
2-in-1 Dryer Cloths (40 ct.), $6.99
2x liquid laundry detergent (32 loads), $4.69
$0.50/1 Arm & Hammer 2-in-1 Moist Dryer Cloths 1/31/2010 SS Insert (exp 3/31/2010)
$1/2 Laundry Detergent printable
Final Price: as low as $1.84/each

Rice a Roni, $1
$1/3 Rice-A-Roni or Pasta Roni 1/3/2010 RP #2 Insert (exp 4/30/2010)
Final Price: $0.67/each

Emerald’s Nuts, $1
$1/1 Emerald Nuts Product 5 oz+ 1/31/2010 SS Insert (exp 3/14/2010)
Final Price: FREE

Campbell’s or Swanson Soup, $0.49 (Limit 8)
$0.40/4 Campbells Condensed Tomato or Chicken Noodle Soups 1/3/2010 SS #2 Insert (exp 3/15/2010)
Final Price: as low as $0.39/each

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Rite Aid this week: 2/28 - 3/6/10

There are quite a few free and cheap items this week at Rite Aid. You can find a full roundup of this week's deals at Moms Need to Know (thanks, Mindi!). I've listed the deals that I think are the best for playing The Drugstore Game this week (starter scenarios to come later), as well as the prices that are rock-bottom in my price book.

Listerine Pocket Packs: Get a $3 SCR wyb 1 at $3.99 (limit 1)
$1/1 Select Listerine Products, exp. 1-31-11 (RP #2 1/3/10)*
$0.50/1 Select Listerine Products, exp. 1-31-11 (RP #2 1/3/10)
Final Cost: as low as FREE after coupon and SCR

Suave Shampoo or Conditioner, Professional or Stylers: Get a $1 SCR wyb 1 at $1.99 (limit 1)
$0.50/1 Select Suave Kids Products, exp. 2-28-10 (RP 01/31/10)
Final Cost: $0.49 each after SCR

Efferdent Denture Cleanser tablets: Get a $5 SCR wyb 1 at $5.99 (limit 1)
$0.55/1 Efferdent or Effergrip Product, exp. 3-31-10 (SS 01/31/10)*
$1/1 Efferdent or Effergrip Product, exp. 5-31-10 (SS 06/14/09)
Final Cost: as low as FREE after coupon and SCR

Gillette Series or Satin Care Gel: Get a $1 SCR wyb 1 at $1.99 (limit 1)
$0.55/1 Satin Care Shave Gel, exp. 3-31-10 (P&G 02/07/10)*
$1/1 Satin Care Shave Gel, exp. 3-31-10 (P&G 02/07/10)
Final Cost: as low as FREE after coupon and SCR

Acnomel Acne Treatment: Get a $6 SCR wyb 1 at $6.99 (limit 1)
Final Cost: $0.99 each after SCR

Anti-Monkey Butt Powder: Get a $3 SCR wyb 1 at $3.99 (limit 1)
Final Cost: $0.99 each after SCR

Albolene Cleanser: Get a $7 SCR wyb 1 at $7.99 (limit 1)
Final Cost: $0.99 each after SCR

Proantinox: Get a $6 SCR wyb 1 at $6.99 (limit 1)
Final Cost: $0.99 each after SCR

Ivory 3-pack: $0.99
$1/1 Select Toiletries, Various Brands, exp. 3-31 (Rouge mailer)
Final Cost: FREE after coupon


Carefree Liners, $0.99

$1/1 Carefree Ultra Protection Product printable
$1/2 Carefree or Ultra Protection Product, exp. 3-31 (RP #2 1/3/10)
$1/1 Carefree Product, exp. 3-31-11 (Good Housekeeping Feb '10)
Final Cost: as low as FREE after coupon


Kashi Cereal, BOGO
(should be priced at about $4.50)
FREE Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal or Crackers from VocalPoint
$1.50/1 Kashi Cereal or TLC Snack printable
$1.50/1 Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal printable (IE) or printable (FF)
Final Cost: 2 FREE or $0.75 each wyb 2 and use 2 coupons


*SoCal regional coupon

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Walgreens this week: 2/28 - 3/6/10

I am very excited about the cheap Starbucks Frappucinos at Walgreens this week. You can find a full roundup of this week's deals at Common Sense with Money (thanks, Mercedes!). I've listed the deals that I think are the best for playing The Drugstore Game this week (starter scenarios to come later), as well as the prices that are rock-bottom in my price book.

Starbucks Frappuccino 4/$5
Use $1/1 Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink printable
Pay $0.25 each after coupon

Lindsay olives $0.99 after in ad coupon
Use $1/2 Lindsay Olives printable
Pay $0.98 for two after coupons

Reach toothbrush or Floss $0.99 after in ad coupon
Use $1/1 Reach product printable Coupon
Free after coupons

Colgate Total toothpaste $2.99, Earn a $2 RR when you buy one
Use $1/1 Colgate Total Toothpaste, exp. 2-28-10 (ALL YOU Jan '10)
Free after coupon and RR

Crest dental Care 3/$9, Earn a $3 RR when you buy three
Use $2/1 Crest Rinse, exp. 3-31-10 (P&G 02/07/10)
Get three Free after three coupons and RR

Speedstick or Lady Speedstick deodorant $1.99, Earn a $1 RR when you buy one
Pay $0.99 each after RR

Schick Intuition or Quattro $8.99, Earn a $3 Rr when you buy one
Use $4/1 Schick Quattro for Women Razor or Refill, exp. 4-11 (SS 2/28/10)
Use $4/1 Schick Intuition Plus Razor or Refill, exp. 4-11-10 (SS 02/28/10)
Submit for FREE After MIR Schick Quattro Razor or Trimmer, exp. 3-7 (SS 2/7/10)
Up to $11.99 moneymaker after coupon, register reward and mail in rebate
The rebate is for a men's razor.

Buy two or more participating products $4.99 each and earn a $5 RR
Includes Tylenol Cold and Children’s Liquid, Sudafed PE and Benadryl
Use $2/1 Sudafed, Sudafed PE or Sudafed OM, ETS, exp. 3-31-10 (RP 12/6/09)
Use $2/1 Sudafed Triple Action or PE Triple Action printable
Use $1/1 Benadryl Children’s Walgreens Store Coupon, exp. 3-30-10 (Walgreens Activity Book)
Use $1/1 Benadryl Product printable (IE) or printable (FF)
Use $3/2 Select Children’s Motrin or Tylenol, exp. 3-31 (RP #2 1/3/10)
Use $2/1 Tylenol Cold Product printable
Pay as low as $0.99 for two after coupons and RR

Buy participating Kleenex: Buy 4, Get $1; Buy 5, get $2; Buy 6 or more get $3 in Register Rewards
Use $0.50/3 Kleenex Facial Tissue, exp. 4-25-10 (SS 02/28/10)

Deal Idea
Buy six boxes of Kleenex Tissue (on sale BOGO psa. $1.99)
Use two $0.50/3 Kleenex Facial Tissue, exp. 4-25-10 (SS 02/28/10)
Pay $4.97 plus tax out of pocket and earn a $3 RR back
It’s like paying $0.33 each after coupons and RR

Buy $20 in participating Vicks Products, Earn a $10 RR back
Nyquil 20ct or Dayquil Liquid 10oz
Use $2/1 Vicks Nyquil or Dayquil, exp. 2-28-10 (P&G 01/17/10)
Use $1.50/1 Vicks Nyquil or Dayquil, exp. 3-31-10 (P&G 02/07/10)
Use FREE Puffs wyb Vicks Products, exp. 3-31-10 (P&G 02/07/10)

Deal Idea
Buy 4 Dayquil or Nyquil products $5 each
Buy two boxes of Puffs product
Use four $2/1 Nicks product coupons
Use two free Puffs product coupon
Pay $12 plus tax out of pocket and earn a $10 register reward

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Morning Coffee: New Printable Coupons

Some of the coupons at Coupons.com have reset, so definitely check them out. There's also a 75 cents/1 Goldfish coupon that should make for a cheap snack when paired with a sale. Links via Escalate Media Affiliate Network

Get a sneak peek at tomorrow's Target ad.

Get a sneak peek at the short Walgreens ad for the sale starting tomorrow.

Couponing for 4 has details on a new Jewel promotion. (Via Common Sense with Money.)

Frugal Upstate has a from-scratch recipe for Cream of Chicken Soup.

Sweetnicks has a delicious-sounding recipe for Tuna Cakes, which is perfect for Lent as well as the cheap tuna you may have picked up at CVS this week.

Unclutterer has some suggestions for de-cluttering your cell phone. It was timely for me, because I just found a number and couldn't figure out who the heck it was for - the name didn't ring any kind of a bell.

This post is from last week, but even though the deals may be over, it's a great example of what you can do with coupons: Frugal Dr. Mom bought quite a bit of food for just $1.32 (no, that's not a typo).

I've been reading posts here and there on the frugal living blogs about using baking soda to wash hair instead of shampoo. I could never bring myself to do that (there's no way I'm risking another bout of alopecia areata), but I was curious because all of the posts were positive. But JANE4girls has had a different experience.

My Dollar Plan addresses the issue of whether you should use savings to pay off debt. It's interesting, because personal finance blogs talk so much about both, but I've always found that it's really all about striking a balance that feels right for you.


Banner via Escalate Media Affiliate Network

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer's full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

A Little More About The New Shell/Ralphs Gas Discount Program

As I mentioned yesterday, Shell and Ralphs have teamed up to give discounts on Shell gas using Ralphs Rewards points. Shell seems to have teamed up with all Kroger stores, so if you shop at a different Kroger affiliate, go here for more information.

I haven’t tried this myself, but I’ve read the explanation at the Shell site. The basic idea is that you redeem 100 "Fuel Points" points for a 10 cent discount per gallon of gas, up to 35 gallons. Points earned in the current calendar quarter are available for use through the end of that quarter.

At the moment, I’m confused because the Shell site makes it seem like "Fuel Points" are distinct from Ralphs Rewards points, and that they’ll show up in the same spot on your receipt. You get 100 Fuel Points for every $100 you spend on groceries, for every two qualifying prescriptions you fill at Ralphs Pharmacies, and for every $50 spent on qualifying gift cards (I can’t seem to find more information about what "qualifies"). However, the Ralphs site makes it seem like Fuel Points and Rewards Points are the same. I’m guessing this will become clearer after I shop at Ralphs and see what’s on my receipt.

So stay tuned . . .

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Afternoon Coffee: It's Still Mega Swag Bucks Friday

Search & WinSwag Bucks celebrated its second birthday yesterday with lots of Swag Codes, and I don't think they were fully prepared for all of the traffic they got because the site went down quite a bit yesterday, at least early on. If you had trouble registering yesterday, it should be much easier today - and, the bonus code I posted yesterday is good through March 6. So if you sign up using my referral link, you'll get 60 bonus Swag Bucks to get you started (and I'll get bonus bucks too, so thank you!).

One of the things they didn't mention yesterday was whether Mega Swag Bucks Friday would continue - and it turns out it is! Swag Bucks promises to give out 400,000 Swag Bucks every Friday, up to 1,000 Swag Bucks per search.

Amazon currently has the Motorola DROIDphone for just $49.99 with a Verizon Wireless plan. I've avoided getting a smart phone for a while now because I haven't wanted to spend the money. But now I actually need a new phone because the camera on my current phone is dead and I keep missing opportunities to take cute photos of the boys. The data plan that goes with the DROID starts at $29.99 per month, so now I just have to decide if I'll get my money's worth out of $30 per month. At least the phone will be free with my Swag Bucks if I buy it through Amazon!

I highly recommend this sardine and avocado sandwich recipe at Cheap Healthy Good. I know it sounds odd, but it's a great combination. I made a few modifications, such as using olive oil and an orange champagne vinegar, and serving it on artisan bread, but any version of this would probably be delicious.

Speaking of artisan bread, I've been making small loaves in my toaster oven - partly out of necessity because my oven died, but also because I've been trying to make only what we'll eat that night unless I want leftovers. The funny thing is that the loaves come out in all kinds of funny shapes - I think it's maybe because this week's dough was on the wet side, but I think it's also because of how little dough I'm using.

And speaking of dough, making artisan bread every day has meant I'm using way more flour than I used to and I keep running out. I discovered that 5 pound bags of Gold Medal flour are on sale this week at Vons/Pavilions (Safeway for non-locals) for just $1.69 per bag. That's the lowest price I've seen since the holiday baking season, and of course, I didn't stock up that much then since I hadn't started baking bread every day yet.

Finally, a quick update on the oven situation: I've decided that I'm going to try to make do with my current toaster oven for a while, and see how it goes. Someone had recommended looking for the part we need, but honestly, the oven is so old that even if we could find it, I'd be really skeptical of it. I don't think they've made ovens like this for decades at this point.

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How to Play The Drugstore Game at Walgreens

Updated 5/13/2011

The Drugstore Game is really just the combination of sale prices, store rewards programs, and coupons. Your success in The Drugstore Game will depend on how well you are able to combine these elements to minimize your expenses.

Here’s what you need to know to play The Drugstore Game at Walgreens:

Register Rewards
Register Rewards ("RRs") are coupons that print from a Catalina machine next to the register. (You can see a picture of a Catalina machine here.) They should print at the end of a transaction when you’ve made a qualifying purchase, and can be used to help pay for your next transaction. Generally, RRs expire two weeks from the date they were printed, though this occasionally varies.

RRs are typically part of the following types of deals:

Buy Product X, Receive a $Y RR
Example: Buy Excedrin on sale for $2.50, Get a $2 RR

Buy $X worth of select products, Receive a $Y RR
Example: Buy $20 worth of selected P&G prodcuts, Get a $10 RR

Spend $25, Get a $5 RR
This has happened in December for the last two years.

When purchasing a qualifying item, you can use coupons and still receive the RR. In the first example above, you could use a $2/1 coupon on the Excedrin and get the $2 RR back. In essence, you’ve "made" $1.50 on the purchase. You can do the same in the second example, for instance if you bought $20 worth of Tide, used 2 $1/1 coupons and paid $18 plus tax, you would still get the $10 RR.

Some Register Rewards deals run weekly, and some run monthly. The weekly ones will usually be in the ad, while the monthly ones are frequently advertised only for one week even though they run all month. (A "month" at Walgreens usually starts on the last Sunday of a month and ends on the last Saturday of the next month.)

One thing to keep in mind with RR deals is that you'll only get one RR per deal per transaction. So if the deal is Buy 1 X, get a $Y RR, you'll only receive one RR even if you buy 2 X's in one transactions.

Also, you usually cannot "roll" an RR into the same deal. Thus, you cannot use an RR that you received for buying X to buy another X and still receive an RR. But you can generally buy X, receive an RR, use that RR to buy Y, and receive another RR.

Store Coupons
Walgreens is pretty generous with store coupons. You’ll find coupons in each week’s ad, as well as in the monthly coupon booklet that’s at the front of the store. Sometimes, there are booklets or pamphlets available in the store for free that also have store coupons.

Coupon Policy
Walgreens now has an official coupon policy (yay!).

I’ve never had any problems using printable coupons at Walgreens, unless they didn’t scan. On the rare occasion that that’s happened, some cashiers have pushed it through while others have told me they can’t accept it.

One thing to keep in mind with Walgreens is that you must have as many items as manufacturer coupons, and that RRs count as manufacturer coupons. You do not need to include store coupons in your ratio. For example, say Quaker Oatmeal is $2.50 if you use an in-ad coupon, and you have a 50 cents/1 manufacturer coupon and a $2 RR. That’s 2 manufacturer coupons (the 50 cents off oatmeal and the $2 RR), so you would need to buy a "filler" in order to be able to use the RR. You can use anything you want that doesn’t have a manufacturer coupon attached as a filler; most shoppers will use something cheap like candy or an item that’s cheap after in-ad coupon like novelty pencils.

Another thing to keep in mind is that RRs cannot be used to pay for tax, and cannot be adjusted down. Therefore, your RR must be equal to or less than your pre-tax total after coupons. In the example above, if you had a $1/1 coupon instead of the 50 cents/1 coupon, your pre-tax total would be $1.50, but you’d have a $2 RR. In that case, you’d want your filler to cost at least 50 cents – if it was less, you’d need more than one filler.

Problems with RRs
RRs are a wonderful way to save money at Walgreens, but sometimes you may run into trouble. If your RR doesn’t print, you have a few options:

The first thing you should do is be sure that you bought the right item for the deal, during the promotion period. If you’re sure you should have gotten the RR, then check to see if the RR deal is listed in the ad or tagged on the shelf. This makes it easy for you to say to a store employee, "Excuse me, I bought X and was supposed to get an RR but it didn’t print out." Just show them the ad or shelf tag, and the product you bought, and let them decide how they want to handle it. Some stores issue gift cards for the amount of the RR, some stores try a return/repurchase at a different register, etc.

Some deals aren’t tagged or advertised, which makes it more difficult for your to press your case with an employee. If you are comfortable doing so, go ahead. If you’re not, you can either return the item or go home and call the Catalina company at 1-866-8COUPON. If you provide them the information they need, they should be able to mail your Register Rewards coupon to you. If you used Register Rewards to pay for your item, you should still get a full refund, although it may be placed on a gift card instead of given to you in cash.

As with all coupon issues, please remember to be polite to the store employees, even if they are not polite to you. It helps all coupon users if we all keep a cool head. And, you are likely to return to the store if it’s in your neighborhood and it’s easier to shop when you’re on cordial terms with the staff.

Multiple Transactions
Unless you have many RRs, you will probably minimize your out of pocket expenses by doing multiple transactions. Multiple transactions can feel strange at first, so you’ll have to figure out what you’re comfortable with.

Another reason you will want to do multiple transactions is that you will only get one RR per deal per transaction. For example, if Crest toothpaste is giving an RR, you will only receive one RR even if you buy two toothpastes. However, if you bought Crest and Kotex in one transaction, and both were giving RRs, you would receive both RRs .

Some stores will limit the number of RR-producing items that you can buy. Sometimes the weekly ad states such a limit. Store employees have discretion to ignore or enforce limits, and I’ve never been turned down if I ask if it’s okay to buy something if there’s a good amount of stock out.

I try to limit myself to two transactions per store per trip. I feel that it is not excessive enough to warrant any extra attention from the employees, and I am not getting in other customers’ way. I am also not buying enough to wipe out the shelves. And, I rarely have enough coupons to repeat the same transaction more than twice.

If the stars align, I may do more than two transactions. For me, this usually requires extra coupons, a friendly cashier, and an uncrowded and well-stocked store.

If you can, get to know your store’s employees. If they are friendly toward you and your coupons, it will make your transactions that much smoother. It may also make it easier to do multiple transactions in one visit.

Putting It All Together
Walgreens math can get a little complicated, because you’ve got to consider sale prices, store coupons, manufacturer coupons, RRs, and the coupon-to-item ratio when creating your scenarios to minimize your out of pocket costs. The more you play The Drugstore Game at Walgreens, the easier it will be to understand how all of these elements work together.

I’ll put together "starter transactions" each week to help you get started at Walgreens, so stay tuned!

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Morning Coffee: Not much of a Friday Sale at Amazon

It used to be that I loved checking Amazon's Friday Saleon Friday mornings, but the last few weeks have been really disappointing. Today's sale has quite a few pots and serving dishes in the Kitchen & Dining section,but not much else. The Video Game Deal of the Dayis The Beatles Rock Band at $28.49 for all of the major platforms. Disclosure: I'm an Amazon affiliate, so any purchase you make after entering Amazon through a link on Chief Family Officer supports this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Get a printable coupon for $1.50/1 Kashi Heart to Heart cereal or crackers. My boys loved the Warm Cinnamon cereal sample that arrived from Vocal Point.

Get a printable coupon for $1/1 Yoplait Delights. The Raspberry Chocolate variety is on sale for $1.50 this week at Vons/Pavilions and probably other Safeway stores, so get it for just 50 cents. There may also be an electronic coupon that you can load to your card at Cellfire.com (affiliate link via Escalate Media Network).

Get a printable coupon for $1/1 Reach floss. Use it at Ralphs this week to get free floss. (Via Swag Grabber.)

The Bargain Jargon reports that you might be able to find blinkies for $2 off Honey Bunches of Oats when you buy a gallon milk at Safeway stores. She also reports that the cereal is $2 this week, so free when you buy it with a gallon of milk.

Get printable coupons for 55 cents/1 Cuties 3 lb. bag and $1/1 Cuties 5lb. box (exp 5/31, prints both on same page, form required). (Via Printable Coupons and Deals.)

Moms Need to Know has a moneymaker deal on PowerBar Energy Gel Blasts at CVS. Unfortunately, I don't think we got the PowerBar coupon here in SoCal, so it would be free for us but not a moneymaker.

The Trader Joe's recall on Chocolate Chip Chewy Coated Granola Bars has been expanded to include all bars, regardless of the code on the box. You can return them to the store for a full refund.

Bargain Briana is giving away three $10 Starbucks gift cards. Ends 2/28.

Common Sense with Money has the Piggly Wiggly Midwest deals. (Is that the best market name or what?)

Stretching a Buck has this week's Giant Eagle deals.

Fabulessly Frugal has a great post on couponing ethics.

Growing Up Gabel explains how to poach chicken (and make chicken broth).


Banner via Escalate Media Affiliate Network

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer's full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to Play The Drugstore Game at CVS

The Drugstore Game is really just the combination of sale prices, store rewards programs, and coupons. Your success in The Drugstore Game will depend on how well you are able to combine these elements to minimize your expenses.

Here’s what you need to know to play The Drugstore Game at CVS:

ExtraCare Rewards Program
CVS has a store loyalty program called the ExtraCare Rewards Program. You will need to sign up for the ExtraCare program in order to fully play The Drugstore Game at CVS. You can join online, but I recommend signing up in the store so you get your card immediately. You’ll need to have your card scanned for each transaction in order to receive your rewards (the cashiers are pretty good about asking for your card at the start of each transaction).

ExtraCare Rewards are issued in the form of "Extra Bucks," also known as "ExtraCare Bucks," or "ECBs." I use the "ECB" abbreviation here at CFO, as do most other blogs and forums. ECBs are a store-issued coupon that can be applied toward your purchase. For example, if you have a $5 ECB and you are buying $5 worth of items, you can use the ECB to pay for your purchases.

There are several ways to earn ECBs. The primary way is by purchasing qualifying items, which vary by week or month. For example, a common weekly deal is on toothpaste – it might be on sale for $2.99, and giving $2 ECBs. The store expects you to pay $2.99 + tax, and then you will receive a $2 ECB at the end of your receipt, which you can use to pay for your next purchase.

Another way to earn ECBs is by getting your prescriptions filled at CVS. You’ll earn $1 ECB for every two prescriptions you have filled there. You’ll receive your prescription ECBs on a quarterly basis – they’ll either appear at the end of your receipt of your first transaction after disbursement, or you can print them from the red scanners that most stores have near the front of the store. (More on the scanners below.)

You’ll also earn automatic ECBs each quarter, to the tune of 2% of your total purchases in store and at CVS.com. However, if you play The Drugstore Game correctly, your total purchases will be minimal, and your corresponding quarterly ECB will also be minimal. Like the prescription ECBs, your quarterly ECBs will appear at the end of your receipt of your first transaction after disbursement, or you can print them from the scanners.

Store Coupons
The beauty of store coupons is that they can be "stacked" with manufacturer coupons, so you can use two coupons on one item. CVS is pretty generous with store coupons, at least with some customers. (Not that I feel unloved by CVS or anything . . .)

About those scanners . . . they are red boxes and usually positioned near the front of the store. You can use them to price check items, but the scanner only tells you the price of an item and not whether an item is producing ECBs. (The only way to tell that seems be by completing a purchase.) You can also scan your ExtraCare card at the scanners to obtain coupons, including any pending ECBs you might be due. Some people routinely get great coupons from the scanners, like $3 off a $15 purchase coupon. Others (like me) only get two coupons per day, usually for $1 off specified CVS products. I Heart CVS has a weekly post listing the coupons that are printing from the scanner. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of scanning your card when you walk into the store.

If your store doesn’t have a scanner, it’s out of service, or your forget to scan your card, you may get coupons at the end of your receipt when you check out. These are known in the coupon world as "CRTs," for "cash register tape" coupons.

CVS also sends out printable store coupons via email, so be sure to give them your address when you sign up for your ExtraCare card. Again, some people get more of these than others.

Using Coupons At CVS
CVS does not have an official coupon policy that I am aware of. However, I have never had any problems stacking a CVS coupon with a manufacturer coupon on the same item.

Unlike Walgreens, in most circumstances you need not worry about the item-to-coupon ratio. Thus, you should not need "filler" items to use your ECBs on top of your manufacturer coupons. I have occasionally run into an unclear coupon limit at CVS, when the register simply refuses to accept any more coupons and the cashier insists that she cannot override the register. This has happened only when I’m using a lot of coupons on the same product, so I think it has more to do with quantity than anything else. (For example, most recently, I bought 10 canisters of Clorox wipes, and the register would not accept the last $1/2 coupon.)

Also unlike Walgreens, you can "roll" your ECB into the same deal, until you reach the deal limit. Some items, particularly free items, have a limit of one. So, for example, if Colgate toothpaste is on sale for $2.99 and giving a $2.99 ECB with a limit of one, you cannot use the $2.99 ECB to buy another Colgate and receive another ECB. But you could do it if the limit was two.

Keep in mind that your ECBs are coded for use with your card, so you cannot use someone else’s ECBs and they can’t use yours. Emailed coupons and store-generated coupons are also programmed for use with your card only.

Multiple Transactions
Unless you have many ECBs or an $X off $Y purchase coupon, you will probably minimize your out of pocket expenses by doing multiple transactions. Multiple transactions can feel strange at first, so you’ll have to figure out what you’re comfortable with.

Personally, I try to limit myself to two transactions per store per trip. I feel that it is not excessive enough to warrant any extra attention from the employees, and I am not getting in other customers’ way. I am also not buying enough to wipe out the shelves. And, I rarely have enough coupons to repeat the same transaction more than twice.

If the stars align, I may do more than two transactions. For me, this usually requires extra coupons, a friendly cashier, and an uncrowded and well-stocked store.

If you can, get to know your store’s employees. If they are friendly toward you and your coupons, it will make your transactions that much smoother. It may also make it easier to do multiple transactions in one visit.

Putting It All Together
Playing The Drugstore Game at CVS involves putting all of the elements I just discussed together. Take a sale price on an item that’s giving ECBs, use a coupon or two to make the price even lower, use an ECB to absorb most of the cost, pay a minimal amount out of pocket, and get another ECB back for next time.

I plan to put together "starter transactions" each week to help you get started, so stay tuned!

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Morning Coffee: Free 8x10 at Walgreens today only

Get a free 8x10 today at Walgreens Photo with code FREEPHOTO. Alternatively, you can take this printable coupon to the store.

Speaking of Walgreens, they're doing another "SaturDate" this coming Saturday (2/27) from 10 to 5 to promote "the latest makeup and hair care innovations from L'Oreal Paris." SaturDates usually involve free samples and coupons.

There are new coupons at Cellfire.com. You can add these e-coupons to your Ralphs, Vons, or Pavilions card (Safeway or Kroger stores, for those of you not in California). Banner via Escalate Media Affiliate Network

Get a $2/1 printable coupon for any reed diffuser or 3-wick soy-based candle from The Fragrance Collection by Glade, excluding the 2 oz. and 4.9 oz. soy candles.

Fabulessly Frugal and A Thrifty Mom are both reporting that there's a great General Mills Catalina promo at Albertson's.

And speaking of Albertson's, Tia's Saving Cents has the California match ups.

Christian Clippers has this week's Vons/Pavilions and Stater Bros. match ups.

Swag Grabber is giving away $85 worth of diapers. Ends 2/26.

It looks like the Shell gas discount program is valid with all Ralphs cards and Shell stations, not just those in San Diego. You redeem 100 Ralphs Rewards points to get 10 cents off per gallon, up to 35 gallons, by entering your Ralphs Rewards number at the pump. More about the math of this later.

Cheap Healthy Good has started an interesting experiment: feeding Kris's fiancé for a week for $25 or less.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, Swag Bucks! (Plus a Bonus Code for New Swaggernauts)

Search & WinI've mentioned Swag Bucks many times before, and that's because it's an incredibly easy way to earn free money. If you make Swag Bucks your default search engine, you'll earn some free gift cards with zero extra effort. For more details on how Swag Bucks works, read my last explanation.

Today, Swag Bucks is celebrating its second birthday, but they're giving us the gifts in the form of Swag Codes. A Swag Code is a case sensitive code that you enter (either on the homepage or the My Account page) that gives you extra Swag Bucks. And today, according to The Swag Guy ("TSG"), there will be lots of codes throughout Swag Nation.

That means you'll want to keep an eye on the following:

Swag Bucks Blog (here's their RSS feed, but it doesn't always update in time for codes with a short lifespan)

Swag Bucks Facebook Fan Page

Swag Bucks Twitter Feed (you can also subscribe to their Twitter feed via RSS, but again, it doesn't always update in a timely fashion)

Swag Bucks Toolbar (you have to be logged in on the toolbar to see TSG's messages)

the Swidget (you can find a Swidget right here at CFO in the left sidebar)

Also, you'll want to make sure you're signed up for the Swag Bucks newsletter, because it always contains a code at the end and there's a new one coming out tomorrow. You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking on the sign up link in the left menu on the homepage.

There's some huge news at Swag Bucks too: They've multiplied everything by 10. That means that if you had 100 Swag Bucks before, you now have 1000. The price for prizes has been multiplied by 10, but everything is proportionally the same. (For instance, the $5 Amazon gift card is now 450 Swag Bucks.) You can read more about the change here.

If you're new to Swag Bucks, there's no better time to join: use code CFOSWAG (case sensitive) to get 60 bonus Swag Bucks when you join using my referral link (instead of the usual 30). The bonus code expires at 6 a.m. on March 6 4.

To everyone who's joined through my referral link, thank you! I really appreciate the support :D

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dove Men+Care Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Dove Men+Care giveaway, and to Dove for sponsoring the giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Courtney (courtneyh*****@aol.com)

Courtney, you have 48 hours to email me with your mailing address.

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How to Play The Drugstore Game at Rite Aid

Updated 10/12/10

The Drugstore Game is really just the combination of sale prices, store rewards programs, and coupons. Your success in The Drugstore Game will depend on how well you are able to combine these elements to minimize your expenses.

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to Rite Aid:

Wellness+ Program
Rite Aid has introduced the Wellness+ program, which is really just their store loyalty program. You'll get a card that you should have scanned with each transaction in order to get the most from your shopping. It will give you exclusive sale prices, access to special deals that yield rewards, and tiered discount, culminating in 20% off all non-prescription purchases.

+UP Rewards
With your Wellness+ card, you can get +UP rewards on certain transactions (you'll see them listed in the weekly ad and/or tagged in store). For example, the deal might be Colgate toothpaste on sale for $2.99, but you'll get a +UP reward for $2, making the toothpaste only 99 cents after +UP rewards (less if you use a coupon). The limits on +UP rewards are unfortunately extremely unclear and seem somewhat random.

Single Check Rebates
Rite Aid has a monthly rebate program called Single Check Rebates. Each month, there will be different participating products that have SCRs. For example, Colgate Total toothpaste might be on sale for $2.99 with a $2 SCR. The store expects you to pay $2.99 + tax, and give you back $2 via SCR at the end of the month.

You can find the partipating products online at Single Check Rebates. Your store may also have monthly booklets near the weekly ads, especially at the beginning of the month.

You’ll need to register for the SCR program, and then enter your receipt information online. You’ll know within a few days if your rebate has been approved, because the info will be right there when you log in. You can only request one check per month, so it’s best to wait until the end of the month when you’re sure you won’t do any more eligible shopping before requesting your check.

Video Values
The Rite Aid Video Values program is incredibly easy to use. The basic idea is, you watch videos about products sold at Rite Aid and in exchange, Rite Aid gives you printable coupons for those products. Each video is worth "credits" – most are worth one, but some of the longer ones will give more credits. Each month, you’ll be able to print a $4 off $20 purchase coupon after you’ve earned 20 or more credits.

The Video Values coupons are Rite Aid store coupons, so they can be "stacked" with manufacturer’s coupons, and that can make for some fabulous deals. Additionally, the $20 minimum for the $4 off $20 purchase coupon is before coupons, so you can bring your final total down quite a bit with additional coupons.

The best part about Video Values is how easy it is to use. You don’t have to download anything, the video plays smoothly, and your credits are automatically tallied. Most videos are less than a minute long, so it doesn’t take long to earn the 20 credits for the $4 off $20 coupon. The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to enter a "captcha" code within 30 seconds of the video ending in order to receive your credits.

Using Coupons at Rite Aid
Rite Aid has an official coupon policy that you should be familiar with, and explains how you can combine store coupons and manufacturer coupons, how you can use coupons with certain sales, etc. You may want to print the pdf of the coupon policy and carry it with you when shopping in case there are some questions about whether you can use your coupons.

Putting It All Together
I find that my out of pocket expenses are higher at Rite Aid, compared to CVS and Walgreens, because the SCR program delays the money I get back from the store. At the same time, I find it easier to "make" money at Rite Aid because there are more "free" items thanks to the SCR program, and coupons turn those deals into moneymakers.

Here’s an example of a typical Rite Aid transaction:

1 Crest toothpaste $2.74 with $2 +UP reward
1 Listerine $4 with $2 SCR
2 Kotex pads 2/$6 with $3 +UP reward
2 Dixie plates $1.99 each
1 Children’s Tylenol $4.99 with $2 SCR

Subtotal: $21.71

- $4 off $20 purchase coupon from Video Values
- 75 cents/1 Crest from Sunday paper
- $1/1 Listerine from Sunday paper
- $1.50/2 Kotex from Sunday paper
- $2/2 Dixie from Video Values
- 2 x 55 cents/1 Dixie from Sunday paper
- $1/1 Children’s Tylenol

Pay: $9.36 out of pocket
Receive: $2 +UP reward for Crest, $2 SCR for Listerine, $3 +UP reward for Kotex, $2 SCR for Tylenol (total received: $9)
Total cost after rewards: 36 cents + tax

Also, some of the products might be part of an SCR promotion to Buy $25 or $50 worth of certain products and get a Rite Aid gift card. The SCR web site will keep track of your eligible purchases, so you’ll be able to see how much more you need to buy to get the gift card and decide if the expense is worth it.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer!

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Ralphs: 2/24 - 3/2/10

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. You'll need a Ralphs Rewards card to get most of these deals, so I use the Rewards card price in this post. In addition to the coupons listed, you can also add electronic coupons to your Ralphs Rewards card at these sites: Shortcuts.com, Cellfire.com, Softcoin and Upromise. If you give Ralphs your email address, they may also send you emails with e-coupons that are exclusive to your card.

Update 2/25: I found one more deal: Fage Greek Yogurt $1.50 - use $1/1 Facebook Fan printable coupon or 50 cents/1 printable coupon from their web site (registration required); pay 50 cents

There's a deal for two free gallons of Ralphs milk when you buy any four participating Kellogg's, Keebler or Sunshine products for $10. The products listed in the ad are: Frosted Mini-Wheats, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran, Keebler Club crackers, Keebler Chips Deluxe or Sandies, and Nutri-Grain or Special K bars. There should be more participating products tagged in the store. There's a limit of one offer per household. There was a $1/2 Special K bars in the 1/3 RP, $1/2 Nutri-Grain bars and $1/3 Kellogg's cereal from the 2/7 RP, $1/1 Keebler Club crackers in the 1/31 Parade magazine, and I found $1/2 Chips Deluxe blinkies at Ralphs a few weeks ago. You may also have coupons from other sources since there were printables available recently, and I found Special K product coupons on the boxes of Special K that I bought at Ralphs last month. Note that some of these coupons expire on 2/28.

Coupon Deals
DiGiorno Pizza $3.99 each when you buy 2 - use $1/1 from 1/24 SS (exp 2/28); pay $2.99 each wyb 2

Gorton's Frozen Fish $3.50 - use $1/2 from 1/24 or 2/21 SS; pay $3 each wyb 2

Hillshire Farm Smoke Sausage B1G1 - use $1/2 from 1/31 RP

Silk Soy Milk 64 oz. $2.99 - use 55 cents/1 from 1/17 SS (exp 2/28); pay $1.99

Healthy Choice Frozen Meals $1.88 - use $1/2 from 1/3 SS (exp 2/28); pay $1.38 each wyb 2

All or Wisk Laundry Detergent $3.99 - use $1/1 All from 2/7 RP or $1/1 Wisk from 1/31 RP; pay $2.99

Prego Pasta Sauce $2 - use 50 cents/2 Heart Smart Italian from 2/7 SS if included in sale; pay $1.50 each wyb 2

SoBe Lifewater 99 cents - use B1G1 printable coupon; pay 99 cents + CRV for 2

Pepperidge Farm cookies $2 - use 60 cents/1 from 2/21 SS; pay $1

Kibbles 'n Bits Dog Food 16 lbs. to 17.6 lbs. $10.99 - use $2/1 16 lbs. or greater from 2/21 RP; pay $8.99

Friskies Cat Food 40 cents - use various coupons from 2/7 RP

Softsoap Elements Hand Soap $1 - use 50 cents/1 from March All You or there may be a 35 cents/1 printable coupon (it wouldn't print for me); as low as FREE

Reach Dental Floss $1 - use $1/1 from 10/4 RP, 10/18 RP, or 1/3 RP, or printable coupon; FREE

Colgate Total Whitening or Max White Toothpaste $1.67 - use 75 cents/1 from 2/21 SS; pay 67 cents

Ore-Ida Frozen Potatoes $3.50 - use $1/2 20-oz or larger from February All You; pay $3 each wyb 2

Other Deals
T-Bone Steak $3.77/lb

Boneless Chuck Roast or Steak $2.99/lb

Boneless Pork Sirloin Chips $1.99/lb

Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs $1.19/lb

Fresh Pacific Snapper or Sole Fillet, wild caught $3.99/lb

Jumbo Scallops $6.99/lb

Green Seedless Grapes 79 cents/lb

Broccoli or Cauliflower 99 cents/lb

Green Asparagus $1.99/lb

Roma Tomatoes 99 cents/lb

Hass Avocados 99 cents each

Green Onions or Red Radishes 50 cents each

Brown Onions 50 cents/lb

Private Selection Artisan Breads $2.99 each

Van de Kamp's Hot Dog or Hamburger Buns $1

Ralphs Yogurt Cups 40 cents


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Morning Coffee: Swag Bucks Birthday Celebration Starts Tomorrow

Search & WinSwag Bucks celebrates its second birthday tomorrow, and it looks like they are going to be giving a lot to Swaggernauts, so make sure you check their blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and toolbar often so you don’t miss a thing. I’ll have a special code for new Swaggernauts on Thursday too.

Get a free sample of Member’s Mark Infant Formula from Sam’s Club (membership not required). (Via My Good Cents.)

Fabulessly Frugal has Albertson’s deals that start today.

Common Sense with Money has this week’s PNS/Copps/Rainbow Foods deals.

You may be able to get a free sample of the new Pampers Cruisers beginning at 7 a.m. Pacific time.

Money Saving Methods explains how you can attend a free screening of the new Reese Witherspoon movie, She’s Out Of My League.

Get 5 points at Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards with code PQKXB-RXMDT-BWPGB. (Via Freebies 4 Mom.)

A Thrifty Mom reports that you may be able to get 20% off everything that fits in a bag you bring to Ace Hardware on Saturday. We need a new shelving unit for the garage – I wonder if I can find a bag big enough for that!

My Good Cents reports that Ralphs has a new gas discount program in the San Diego area (details here). I would love for this program to make its way to LA, but it doesn’t seem to be available here right now.

$5 Dinners has a great post on how to save money by shopping at ethnic markets.

Get a printable coupon for $1/1 Quaker True Delights Instant Oatmeal. (Via Printable Coupons and Deals.)

MyPoints
Read my most recent MyPoints review. Banner via MySavings.com

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh no! My oven died . . . in search of a frugal solution

I’ve mentioned my love for my top oven in the past, and how it gets the most use in our house because it’s smaller so it heats up faster, cooks faster, and doesn’t heat up the house as much. What I hadn’t mentioned before is that my stove/oven combo is probably original to the house and over 30 years old. They literally don’t make them like this anymore. (It's a free standing unit with an exhaust fan at the top, a small oven right underneath that, then built-in backsplash with a 4-burner stove, a larger oven underneath the stovetop, and a broiler drawer at the bottom.)

As you can tell from the title of my post, my top oven died over the weekend. We had someone out to look at it today, and he found that the igniter had burned out. If he can find a replacement part – which is apparently a big if – it will cost over $250 to fix the oven. So for the time being, we've written that off as an option - $250 is half the cost of an inexpensive new oven.

However, thinking about it more, a new oven would cost more than the cost of the oven. As I mentioned, our current stove/oven comes with a built-in backsplash and fan. If we take the unit out and replace it with a free-standing range, we’ll have to also pay for a backsplash of some kind and an exhaust fan. Plus, I’m afraid of what we’ll find if we move the unit out – I have no idea what condition the floor and wall are in. But I’m expecting that something would need to be done. And if that something turns out to be painting the walls and redoing the floors . . . well, suddenly we’re looking at a much bigger expenditure than I’m willing to consider at the moment.

I do still have a useable oven – the bottom, big oven, which currently serves as storage for my many cookie sheets, cooling racks, and such. I rarely use the big oven because it takes so much longer to heat up, but I guess it will now become "the" oven.

Unless I can find a countertop toaster oven that’s more powerful than the Cuisinart I currently have. I do all kinds of things in my Cuisinart, but one thing I’ve discovered is that it can’t handle casseroles. I once put in an 8x8 Pyrex filled with baked ziti and it cooked the top but not the interior.

I remembered a review at Lunch in a Box from two years ago about a counter top convection oven, and I’m considering it. I’m also looking at other models to try to find the best one out there. I really don’t like using any oven during the summer, so I don’t mind learning to live with a counter top oven for daily use and the big oven for once-a-week batch cooking.

We’ll see how things play out - any recommendations?

My (Disastrous) Rite Aid trip this week

I mentioned yesterday that my Rite Aid trip didn’t go the way I’d planned. Here’s what I was hoping for:

2 Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo Buy 1 at $4.29, Get 1 for 1 cent
2 Dixie plates $1.99 each
3 Kleenex 89 cents each
1 Lamisil AT $7.99
1 filler approx $2

- $5 off $20 purchase from Rite Aid Video Values
- 2 x $1/1 J&J baby products from 1/3 RP
- $1/1 J&J from RA VV
- $2/2 Dixie plates from RAVV
- 50 cents/3 Kleenex from 1/3 SS
- $1/3 Kleenex from RA VV
- $3/1 Lamisil AT from 12/13 SS

Pay: approx $6.45 + tax
Receive: $6 SCR for Lamisil

I checked the ad from Sunday's paper and saw that there was no Lamisil, but since I was going to be near Rite Aid anyway, I decided to check the store. And sure enough, the shelf was tagged with the sale price and SCR deal, so I decided to carry through with my transaction.

Only . . . the dinner size Dixie plates I got weren’t included in the sale. In fact, the Dixie plates aren’t anywhere in the SoCal ad that I can see. The lunch size plates were tagged at the sale price, but apparently those are the only ones on sale here. And . . . Kleenex wasn’t on sale. And . . . I forgot to print the J&J Video Values coupon.

So instead of having an almost free-after-SCR transaction, I ended up with this mess:

2 Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo Buy 1 at $4.29, Get 1 for 1 cent
2 Dixie plates $3.99 each
1 Lamisil AT $7.99
1 Cottonelle Fresh Wipes $2.49
1 Bounty napkins $2.29

- $5 off $20 purchase from Rite Aid Video Values
- 2 x $1/1 J&J baby products from 1/3 RP
- $2/2 Dixie plates from RAVV
- $3/1 Lamisil AT from 12/13 SS
- 50 cents/1 Cottonelle wipes from 1/17 SS

Paid: $12.55 + tax
Will receive: $6 SCR for Lamisil

Ugh. One thing about using coupons, especially one like a $5 off $20 purchase coupon, is that they complicate returns. Which are a big hassle. And considering what I got, a little over $8 after tax and SCR for all of that stuff isn’t so bad, since we’ll definitely use everything except the Lamisil (which is nice to have on hand, just in case). Plus, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by going over the ad before I went shopping – I mean, I already knew the SoCal ad was different from the preview ad I saw, so I should have realized that there might be other differences as well and asked for a price check on the plates before I paid.

So now you know that even I screw up Drugstore Game deals ;)


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Morning Coffee: No more Amazon Associates in California?

Don’t Mess with Taxes reports that California is trying to mess with Amazon and require that sales be taxed. In the past, Amazon has responded by terminating its Associates program, so that’s something for California bloggers to keep an eye on. It won't stop me from bringing you the best of Amazon's deals (of course!), and I imagine it's actually a much bigger deal for small businesses who rely on Amazon Marketplace as a way of selling their products.

Common Sense with Money reports that you may be able to get free or super cheap baby wipes at CVS.

There are some new coupons at Coupons.com, including a couple of Land O Lakes coupons, some bread coupons, and the $2/2 Right Guard deodorant coupon, which apparently hasn't reached its print limit yet. I was able to get 4 free deodorants at Pavilions over the weekend but it looks like the $1 price ends today so use those coupons up if you still have some left! Links via Escalate Media Affiliate Network.

Get more printable bread coupons, including Sara Lee, at RedPlum.

Today's Ebates Daily Double store is Old Navy, which is giving 8% cash back (instead of the usual 4%). They have a sale going on right now, and offer flat rate shipping for $7. To learn more about Ebates, read my original review. If you sign up through my referral link, we'll both get a bonus when you make your first purchase within 30 days!

Get another free Fresco taco from Taco Bell with this printable coupon.

A Thrifty Mom reuses brown paper bags to make caramel corn - looks and sounds delicious!

Get a free sample of Olay Total Effects body wash from Walmart.

The Consumerist reports that CVS generic AA batteries are the worst, and Sanyo rechargeable Eneloop batteries last the longest.

Here are some coupon match ups for this week's Tops deals.

Bargain Briana has this week's Meijer deals.

Money Saving Mom explains how you can get cheap cheese at Target.

Speaking of Target, Stretching a Buck has this week's deals.

A Thrifty Mom reports that there will be a different photo deal every day at Walgreens this week. Today you can get 50% off 11x14 posters with code POSTERSIZE. Thursday is the freebie - an 8x10 print. I love that if you choose in-store pickup, you pay nothing - not even tax!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer's full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Ways to Make and Save Money #8: Instant Cash Sweepstakes

You can read the rest of the Ways to Make & Save Money series here.

Instant Cash Sweepstakes is a market research site that offers cash payouts for taking surveys. The payouts are tiny - 1 to 4 cents, usually per session (you can take multiple surveys per session; the number per session varies). You can cash out via PayPal when you have at least $2 in your account. And each survey earns you "tickets," which are entries into a daily $50 lottery.

Some of the surveys are true market research. Most of the surveys are kind of silly, and written by other ICS users, who get 100 lottery tickets for each survey. And the rest of the surveys are used to gauge your truthfulness - ICS gives you a "TrustScore," which you'll see displayed at the top right corner. I'm not quite sure how it works, since I started with a 9 and now am down to a 6, even though nothing's changed in how I answer the questions.

It took me a little less than three weeks to reach the $2 payout level, and my money was in my PayPal account within hours. ICS definitely won't make you rich, but it's not a bad way to spend a few minutes a day if you believe, like I do, that every penny adds up.

Plus, by inviting people to join ICS, you'll increase your payout because you'll receive 100% matching of their prizes. So, if they win 4 cents, you win 4 cents. If they win the $50, you'll win the $50. In fact, Kimberly of My Good Cents has won $700 since last April.

If you're new to ICS, I'd love it if you'd sign up using my referral link - your pennies + my pennies will help me reach my savings goal that much faster. Thank you!

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Drugstore Game Padawan Update: Walgreens and CVS

If you're just tuning in, I'm mentoring Hayden in The Drugstore Game. If you've always wanted to play but weren't sure how to get started, follow along with Hayden as he becomes a Drugstore Game Master. You can read all of the posts in this series here, in reverse chronological order. Please read my Drugstore Game Primer and Common Sense with Money's FAQ to get an overview of the Drugstore Game and definitions.

If I recall correctly, Hayden doesn't have any Register Rewards to spend at Walgreens, but there's a nice moneymaker deal that's a low out of pocket this week. There's a 2 for $5 sale on Excedrin in this week's ad. The 20-count Excedrin Menstrual Cycle is included in the sale, and is giving back a $2 Register Reward. There is a $2/1 printable coupon, so the deal looks like this:

1 Excedrin Menstrual Cycle $2.50

- $2/1 printable coupon

Pay: 50 cents + tax
Receive: $2 RR

I found the Excedrin Menstrual Cycle with the rest of the painkillers, in the corner with the menstrual cramps relief products. The shelf wasn't tagged, but it rang up at $2.50 and produced the RR without a problem.

Hayden reported that he has a $3.50 ECB and a $2 ECB to spend at CVS this week. Here's what I wrote to him:
As for CVS:
If you have access to enough computers to print 5 of the $1.00 Colgate 360 ActiFlex manual toothbrush printable coupons, then you can do the following:

5 Colgate 360 ActiFlex toothbrushes $1.99 each
1 Kleenex 88 cents

- 5 x $1/1 Colgate toothbrushes
- $3.50 + $2 ECB

Pay: 33 cents + tax
Receive: $5 ECB for Colgate

There was a 75 cents/1 Colgate 360 toothbrush coupon in today's paper, but that makes the toothbrushes 24 cents instead of free.

Do you eat canned tuna? Here's a follow-up scenario:

5 Bumble Bee tuna 49 cents each
3 Kleenex 88 cents each
1 Colgate MaxFresh toothpaste

- $1/5 Bumble Bee printable coupon
- 50 cents/3 Kleenex from 1/3 SS
- 75 cents/1 MaxFresh from 2/21 SS
- $5 ECB

Pay: 83 cents + tax
Receive: $2 ECB

It's not my favorite scenario because you end up with only $2 ECB, but there aren't any moneymakers to help absorb the cost. If you can get a $/$$ coupon from the scanner or maybe via email, we'd have more to work with. Maybe you'll be luckier than me - I never get those coupons!
Note: If you can't or don't want to do the Colgate 360 toothbrush deal, you can just do the second scenario and pay 33 cents + tax out of pocket, and get back a $2 ECB.

There isn't much at RiteAid this week, but I'll post a scenario later of my transaction that didn't go quite the way I'd planned. Denise has expressed disappointment about the lack of RiteAid posts, and since I'm here to serve, I'll write about how to play The Drugstore Game at RiteAid this week. And I might as well write up similar guides for CVS and Walgreens too, so look for those soon too.


Banner via Escalate Media Affiliate Network

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer's full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

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