Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 12 days of Coupon Deals

Have you ever saved 70% on your purchases in 3 weeks?  Have you ever paid $30 for every $100 worth of items?  I hadn't until this past 3 weeks!!!  To give you the wow factor up front, here's the ultimate breakdown.
Retail Cost of items before discounts, coupons and rebates: $1041.39         Price Paid: $322.09
A-Frickin-Mazin : )

Alright, the couponing has been in full swing within the last 3 weeks.  I had some great luck over Thanksgiving with saving on groceries while family was out.  Of course there are some items you just "have to have" at the holidays, so I wasn't able to totally shop the ads, but I worked it hard!  We saved over $200 that week in groceries.  Granted we spent about $400, but still, $200 is $200!

I've been keeping track of my awesome coupon deals in the last 3 weeks.  When I went back and looked at my list tonight (yes, there is a list - are you really surprised?) I realized there have been 12 stores/vendors that I have saved BIG at in the last 3 weeks.  Time for me to share my awesome deals with you all.  I'm not going to post all the details as to where I got all the coupons and all of that jazz - too much detail might overwhelm you all.  However, if anyone would like the specifics as to how I pulled these deals off, just let me know.  I'd be happy to send you the document with the breakdown : )
Melissa's 12 Days of Coupon Deals
Day 1 - Lane Bryant:
2 Purses and 4 scarves (x-mas presents)
Would have been $180, I paid $90

6 pairs of Underwear: 
Would have been $90, I paid $8 (Who the heck really pays $15 per pair of underwear... not me!)

Day 2 - Target:
Did you know Target has their own store coupons on their website???  They are great to match up with manufacturer’s coupons.  I was able to do this recently, and it paid off! Check out their site here
16 Smart Ones: (Ryan takes these every day for his lunch)
Would have been $32, I paid $16

Day 3 - Rite Aid:
(Rite Aid is running a special right now.  Spend $100 in the store between now and 12/25/10, submit your receipt numbers online and get a $20 rebate check in the mail.  The best part is, they have recently changed their policy to add up the total spent BEFORE coupons.  Based on this, and the deals below – just about anyone could get to $100 before coupons, I did tonight ;)

Colgate Toothpaste
Would have been 3.50, I paid $-1 (yep, I made money!)

Philips Sonicare Rechargeable toothbrush (This was an awesome deal!!!)
Would have been 79.99, I paid 4.99 =)

Sharpies 4 - 8 packs
Would have paid $35.96, I paid $5.49

Hershey’s, Pot of Gold (going to go towards x-mas presents)
Would have been $19.98, I paid $1.98

2 - 4packs of Cottenelle Double Roll Toilet Paper:
Would have been 8.38, I paid 3.19

Gillette pro-fusion glide razor. 
Would have been 10.99, I paid NOTHING!!!

Dayquil 24 ct. caplets and Nyquil 24 ct. caplets. and Puffs Kleenex
Ryan had a cold this week, so this purchase came in handy.
Would have been $16.97, I paid $3

4 Large bags of holiday m+m’s. (Perfect for my father-in-law at x-mas.  He loves these!)
Would have been $15.96, I paid $5.48

Day 4 - Giant:
2 bags of Pedigree Dog Bites 5oz.
Would have been 6.10, I paid $1.50 or 75 cents a bag

Hatfield Pork Loin Fillet (this is the pork I've featured in recipes before)
Would have been $59, I paid $30.25 (Plus an extra .30 cents off per gallon of gas, worth about $4.80)

Day 5 - Turkey Hill Gas Station:
Buy $100 in gift cards, get .40 cents off in gas.  Bought gift cards for stores we still had x-mas shopping to do.  Saved about $6.40 off in a gas fill-up.

Day 6 - Hallmark:
4 rolls of Wrapping paper, 90 sq. ft each
Would have been $19.96 for 4 rolls, I paid $1.96

Day 7 - CVS:
EOS lip balm
Would have been $2.99, I paid nothing = FREE

4 boxes of Gas-X (come on people, it's the holidays - and this stuff never expires!)
Would have been $22.26, I paid $-1.74. Yep – I made money on this one!

4 boxes of Playtex Sport Tampons.
Would have been $21.96, I paid $7.96 or $1.99 a box

Cold Buster cough syrup.
Would have been $8.99, I paid nothing = FREE  

New prescription or transferred prescription at CVS, earn a $25 gift card.
I filled a prescription for a vitamin supplement.  Total cost 1.96, then earned a $25 gift card.
Would have been $1.96, I paid $-23.04.  Yep – I made money on this one!

Day 8 - Kmart:
Kmart every once in awhile has Coupon doubler day!  Double up to 5, $2 off coupons in one day. Must spend $25 before coupons and scan your register rewards card before the transaction starts.

2 boxes of 36ct. Playtex Gentle glide tampons 
Would have been $24.98, I paid $5.98 or 2.99 each

2 bags of Snausages Dog Treats.
Would have been $6.98, I paid $1 or .50 cents a bag.

1 bag of Pedigree Denta Stix dog treats.
Would have been $3.99, I got them FREE!

John Frieda Hair Thickening Cream.
Would have been $5.99, I paid $1.99 (and this stuff works!)

Day 9 - Pet Smart:
5 bags of Nutro Small Breed Adult Dog Food.
Would have been $69.95, I paid $40.85 (This will be enough dog food to last Bentley until June 2011)

Day 10 - Weis:
10 bags of T-bonz dog treats.
Would have been $34.90, I paid $10 or $1 a bag!

Day 11 -
Bought $25 gift certificate to local restaurant, Flavers, for $2.  
Would have been $41.30, we paid $18.30

Day 12 - Groupon:
This is a website where you can buy gift cards/certificates at discounted prices.  It’s based out of Texas, but they will sometimes run discounts for national store chains.  I’ve gotten 2 so far! If you’re interested in any of the deals on this site, let me know.  I will get a $10 referral credit for each person I send an invitation to. : )

Cold Water Creek:
Spend $25 to get a $50 gift certificate.  I used this with a coupon I got in the mail for cold water creek (Spend $150, get $50 off) to get a really nice Christmas present! 
Would have been $150, I paid $75 (for the gift in the end).

Spend $15, get a $30 gift certificate. 
Used this and another $10 off online coupon code I found by doing a Google search to buy another Christmas present.
Would have been 59.95, I paid 34.95

Ready to start couponing yet... check out this big, beautiful binder of savings/deals ; )
Prep Materials for setting up the HUGE Binder.  Ended up with 3" binder, and it's packed full.

38 tabs, organized by aisles in the grocery store that we shop in most.  I added categories after sorting.

Using baseball card holders to keep the coupons organized works well.  I also use 4x6 clear picture holders to hold the bigger, store specific coupons.  This binder weighs just under 12 pounds - it's slightly annoying, but saving 70% isn't!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is a blog and what is my story???

I thought about this question on my way home tonight from a conference I'm attending.  What really is a blog?  I suppose it could serve many purposes.  Some professional (if you want it to go there), some purely personal and some even financial.  Clearly, my blog is no "get rich quick" scheme.  And, as a few of you have commented, it's not professional based on the content of my brief mentioning's of my professional life.  Instead, my blog is purely and utterly self indulgent.  This is the space that I go to when I feel like writing to my hearts content.  Do I have followers... yes! According to the side of my screen, I have 7 followers.  Hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right?  Actually, as much as I appreciate those 7, and yes - I do appreciate (and personally know) each and every one of you, it's just as important that I allow myself the time and space to capture my thoughts.  There are plenty of personal things that happen in my life that are not included in the blog.  And I'm fine with that.  This is not a bitching post, this is not my diary, and this is not my brain dump at the end of every day - this is instead, my story.  Whatever piece of that story I'm wanting to tell myself for the day.  Notice how I said myself?  Let me explain...

Today in a workshop at this conference, we learned about helping our clients and students by letting them author their own story.  This couldn't have been a better topic for me to listen to.  I needed to be surrounded by people today that are not in our business for the red tape, the correct political answer, or the "who has the appropriate title to do this job or meet with this client" mentality.  Today I listened to a very wise, and I hate to say it, but I'm going to - "seasoned", career counselor.  He has an amazing career, with a long and respected history.  He said many wonderful things, all things that I wish my hand was fast enough to capture while scribbling my notes in his 2 and a half hour session.  Two things I did scribble were:

"If everything goes as planned, you have no story". 
"Find your pain, look for the hole in your heart, and it is there that you will find what made you strong enough to be you".

He also asked, what is your cliche message or tag line?  What saying do you find comfort in or buy into?  For me, it's "Everything Happens for a Reason" and/or "Trust the Process".  Now from what I gathered during his very informative talk, these two sayings I gravitate towards because of early issues of control I developed.  I probably find comfort in them because they allow me a quick escape to bring sense, logic and delusional control to whatever situation I am in.  I'm done self-diagnosing those for now, but plan to revisit why those 2 popped up immediately in my head when asked.  In another session we were asked, if you were any box of cereal on the shelf, what would you be and give 3 reasons why.  You're probably asking yourself - what the F do these career counselors do all day... but I promise there was a reason behind it.  That will most likely be the topic of a future post.  I did survey some friends, family and loved ones to get their opinions.  I'll report those to you all when the results are in.  Current front runner... Honey Bunches of Oats.

I'm going to divert for a moment, so just follow me...

The other night, I was asked to speak at our support group for WLS patients.  About 2/3rd's of the room was pre-op people or recent surgery people and the other 1/3rd was veterans.... yes, at 9+ months out we are considered veterans.  Anyway, the overall topic of the night was how to prepare, handle and survive the holidays.  I focused on a few messages.  One was: prepare yourself for the reality of only having control over YOUR expectations, not others.  So much about our WLS process is about controlling and managing our environment.  2 things I love spending my time on (controlling and managing ;).  I'm not sure I have this down yet, but it's worth talking about and helping others become aware of it.  We talked about food choices and judgments that come with that: "Can you REALLY eat that?" or "Do you eat anything "normal" anymore???"  Whatever those opinions, expectations or judgments might be - you can't control them.  All you can control is what your expectations are and how you handle whether or not your expectations are met.  Gone are the days of turning to food for comfort, answers or out of anger.  Welcome to the new world of voicing those concerns, opinions, thoughts and feelings AND knowing that you deserve to have every single one of those!

Another message, one that I feel was my most important was this:
Celebrate, honor and thank yourself.  Every version of yourself.  Because without all those versions, you wouldn't be who or where you are today. (I don't think I was this articulate when talking to the large group - but it was my intention to get this message across).

Starting to see the full circle, Oprah "aha" moment that I had today at the conference???  Either way, keep reading... I appreciate it ;)

So many times, my friends from WLS group or those that I hear speak up say they are working so hard to leave that old person in the past.  To get rid of their bat wings (flabby arms) or rid themselves of the tire (the soft doughy section of flab that will just not leave).  This is hard for me to hear.  I guess we all got to where we are in different ways and each need to come to terms with that in our own way.  I would never want someone to LIVE in the past by dwelling, but what I would hope and want for people is that they RESPECT the past.  And by past, I mean ourselves.

If you're anything like me, you remember your life phases, stages and milestones by the outfits that you were wearing.  For example: 7th grade band concert, long red pleated formal dress with lace collar.  I believe mom bought me the blue one (exact same) just to make sure I had 2 dresses that were extra fabulous - and I did LOVE those dresses.  How about the green silk shirt in my sixth grade picture?,  Oh picture day, a day that we all knew was going to be captured forever and would be a daily reminder of who we were on that day as we had to use our school ID every day for the next year.  Moving onto high school, my size 16 denim shorts and size XL coral button down top that I wore to a bowling alley my senior year from New York and Company.  Memorable because it's one of the last things I remember buying from a "regular" store.  If Carley is reading this, she might remember the coveted pair of Calvin Klein denim overalls from VonMaur.  Oh, those were downright amazing.  I'm sure they'd be like today's ugg boots.  Something where knock-offs are just not the same, but you wear them long past their due date.  In fact, I think mine got chub-rub holes in the thighs. And that my friends, was a sad day... 

I'm at a place in my life where both personally and professionally I need to start authoring my own story.  I need to reflect on the past and put a voice to the future.  I have a goal that this next year will be a year of reflection.  I plan to tackle this by making a list of goals (Because I make LISTS dammit!) and whatever during the upcoming year doesn't relate to or affect those goals - I'm going to let roll.  PS - I'm not ashamed of those lists.  It's how I function, it's part of my "story".  I promise not to go on and on through the blog about my story.  What I can say is, I'll mention it.  I'll mention my goals to help keep me accountable to my cyber friends.  I'll reflect on the process - because as the title of this blog says, it's all about trusting the process.  And finally, I'll be truly and utterly self indulgent (in the blog).  It is only then, that I'll be able to become comfortable with myself and my story - whatever piece of that story I feel like sharing with myself on that day.

So in closing of this "novel" - something I could have continued writing for hours - I leave you with a picture.  A picture that I would like to say THANK YOU to.  This picture represents a version of me that makes me who I am today.  It also represents all of those hard years I spent working towards that version of myself.  And it was hard work.  It's hard work for any of us to be us - we all have a story, and we all deserve to tell ourselves that story - any (self-indulgent and well deserved) day.

Picture Day: June 2, 2009.  I will always have my school ID to look at and say THANK YOU even when the mirror no longer looks like this.