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Category Archives: Other savings tips

Post-Christmas shopping success!

I love after-holiday sales, even for holidays I don’t celebrate. I have gotten good at finding great deals after Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.! The key is to not think about whether you celebrate that holiday or not, but to think about things that might be on sale that you could use. There are many seasonal products that anyone can use regardless of religious or holiday observances. For example, read here to find out what you can get at Easter time: Shop those Easter sales today!

Here is my wrap-up from the post-Christmas sales I hit yesterday.

My regular post-holiday trips are to Target, Michaels, CVS and Walgreens. I also look for any deals at Aldi and Schnucks on any seasonal food items, but those are normally my husband’s errands. This year the Michaels’ holiday items were already on sale when I was there Christmas Eve. I like to look for holiday craft kits that I can hang onto for the following year for my students. Here is what I got this year:

Picture 270

At Michaels I found:

  • foam stickers of several types
  • an ornament craft kit for the kids’ photos (I used a wreath one this year and the kids loved it.)
  • some foam gingerbread men
  • some pencil-top holiday erasers I will give with my holiday gifts to my students next year.

Walgreens did not have anything I needed this year, but in the past I have gotten holiday cards, decorated holiday cups for my students, chocolate, stickers, and a cake decorating kit. See my post from last year: After-Christmas sales are great for everyone!

This year, CVS also did not have anything I wanted, although I could have gotten some chocolate, but passed this time! We did, however, find something my son had been wanting on his holiday wish list. He even had some holiday money to spend. He got a radio-controlled car for $6.50 (half off $12.99). They had lots of them and we even went back today to get one for the gift drawer!

Picture 272

We were tremendously successful at Target. I guess I can add it to my list of Why I love Target! I found items not only in the Christmas section, but in the Home section and household aisles. Food items were 30% off and Home items were 50% off. Here is what we found:

Picture 281

The food section is always full of holiday deals: (they were only 30% off now, but still a great deal)

  • holiday flavors of m&m’s (peppermint white chocolate and mint dark chocolate, two of my favorites),
  • icing (Who cares if my Shabbos dessert has peppermint icing or tree sprinkles?)
  • mint chocolate chip cookie mix
  • seasonal soft cookies (For $1.74 this makes a nice little treat for my boys.)
  • small packaged seasonal cookies (A treat is a treat no matter what shape; we can eat reindeer, too.)

Picture 282

We found the following in the Home section and Stocking Stuffer aisle:

  • a Deluxe Board Game set (regularly $20, got for $10; includes 7 games)
  • a surround-sound speaker (regularly $10, got for $5; great for our iPods)
  • two bath puffs (We always need to replace these and these may hold up a bit better than the dollar store ones. For items you should get at the dollar store, see my post Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?)

Picture 283

As for holiday items you might think are only for Christmas, I found:

  • an outdoor extension cord (We needed one for lawn care and Sukkos.)
  • mini lights (great for the Sukkah)
  • a winter scene craft kit (Last year I found a Superhero scene craft kit during their summer sales and my boys loved it. It made for a great family activity one night.)

This is also the time to look for light and plug timers and any type of extension cords for around the house (good for a variety of purposes). They were all 50% off!

Picture 284

They also had tons of these seasonally-labeled storage bins, expecting that people will need them to store their holiday decorations and supplies. We use them for kids’ clothing and other supplies in our basement. At $6, this normally $7.99 tub was a great deal. I did not get the green and red ones, though!

I was very pleased with all my purchases and may go back next week to see if any other items are marked down even further!

Share your holiday finds in the Comments section. This will help other people think of great ideas for what to do with holiday items!

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Follow up on ditching cable – we love our Roku!

Roku

Several months ago I wrote about our ever-ending quest to find larger items to save money on. We finally “bit the bullet” and got rid of our cable. Even after reading about others who had done it, I thought we could never live without it. It was our one splurge – not eating out much, not spending much on clothing, makeup, recreation, etc. As my friend Mara (of Kosher on a Budget) calls it – there are no sacred cows. So we did it – but after some careful research! Here is my original post: Save big on your phone and cable!

The hookup of our Roku device was very easy – however, we first bought the wrong one. We didn’t realize that our TV would not work with the hookup of the newest Roku model. It said it worked with most HD TVs, so we just assumed it would be fine with ours. Wrong! Be sure to check what kind of hookup your TV requires and be sure that model of Roku has that connection! And be aware that the Roku devices do not always come with the cable you may need. Read reviews for this, too, so you know all the parts you may need to get.

So we returned the newer one and got the previous model (which did save us $50, by the way) and thanks to Amazon Prime, it came in just two days. The hookup was then quite fast and we were able to watch in a few minutes.

The hard part was figuring out the multitude of channels. I still do not know what they all are for and many have charges that are not specifically stated on those first home screens. We have stuck with using HuluPlus ($7.99/month), Netflix ($7.99/month), and Amazon Prime ($79/year or $39 if you are a student). My boys also like PBS Kids, which is free.

Here were my original worries about giving up our AT & T:

  • we wouldn’t be able to keep track of our favorite shows and when new episodes were available
  • we would get behind on our favorite shows
  • our favorite shows would not be available

So far 2 out of 3 of our worries were unfounded. HuluPlus lets you add shows to your Favorites list and then new episodes appear on your Queue as they are available. You can also manually select any episodes or shows to your Queue. The font size is a bit hard to read on HuluPlus on our smallish TV, but no biggie!

The last, that some of our favorite shows would not be available, was true. Neither HuluPlus, Netflix or Amazon Prime seem to have current episodes of Disney, ABC Family, Lifetime, USA or CBS shows – without an added fee. You can often buy one episode of a show for $1.99, but I am not about to pay that for one show!

So for now, we are watching older seasons on Netflix when we can find them (Disney, some ABC Family, and CBS are available). And we are waiting and hoping all of the above mentioned stations will work out some deal with these streaming providers soon! The other option is to watch them online, but that is not as convenient for us with my laptop which often overheats. A friend has mentioned hooking up our laptop to the TV screen, but that is for another day!

The boys love it and really have so much to watch. They are loving catching up on older episodes of their favorite shows, finding every superhero show imaginable, and the watching the PBS Kids channel, which has a large selection of great shows (Arthur, Magic School Bus, Wild Kratts, Dinosaur Train, Word Girl, and more).

Have you made the switch? Share your feedback below in the Comments section!

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The best $10 a month I spend – Dropbox!

A few years ago, right around report card time, my laptop got one of those horrible trojan worm viruses. It hid all of my files and I couldn’t access anything even though I could see the files were somewhat still there. It took me hours to do research and figure out how to bring them back. Shout out to Bleeping Computer for helping me solve this awful problem!

But back to my story… After this I went out and bought an external hard drive, for fear of losing my files again. I had eight years of digital photos and all of my teaching and personal files on that computer! The hard drive worked great, right up until a month or two after the warranty and then for some reason it stopped turning! We took it to Best Buy and they said it could not be fixed for any reasonable amount of money. It would be a couple thousand dollars to recover the data! That’s was the last straw! I also had lost about a 100 ebooks from Scholastic (that luckily they reloaded for me on their website, but now I have to take the time again to download them!). I would not be relying on an external hard drive or any device again!

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

I had heard of Dropbox, but had never tried it. I decided it was worth looking into. With Dropbox, a cloud storage solution, you can get up to 2 GB of space for free. You can then earn more free space by referring others and sharing Dropbox via social networking sites and completing other activities. However, even with that extra space, it was not enough to store all of our files and photos.

So for $9.99 a month, I get 100 GB, which is more than enough. However, there are higher plans that can accommodate 200 and 500 GB. They also have business plans for multiple users.

Why should you try it?

  • Gives you the peace of mind that all of your files are protected and backed up.
  • You have the ability to share files and folders with others. This has been great for accessing my husband’s files. He doesn’t need to keep sending me certain files I need when he updates them; I just click on the link on the first email he sent me with that file.
  • It is easy to set up.
  • It works without you doing much. You just put everything you want to be backed up in your “Dropbox” folder on your computer. It backs up files any time you create new ones, make changes, delete files, etc.
  • You don’t have to remember to back up your computer on a certain schedule. It does it every time your computer is on.

Definitely worth that $9.99 a month! Give it a try and let me know what you think! FYI – I am using a PC; I hear from friends with Macs that backing up your information is done differently.

Note: I am not working for Dropbox and receive no benefits from posting this information!

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Other savings tips, Reviews

 

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Save big on your phone and cable!

Money

During my quest to save money, it has been much easier to find small ways to save. And those small ways can add up over the course of a year. Finding those big-ticket items can be more problematic. However, in the last two days I have found two new things that will together save us more than $1600 a year!

Phone service:

The first came from my friend, Mara, who writes the blog “Kosher on a Budget,” which I often refer to and link to. She did a post on an internet-based phone service. The Ooma system hooks up through your internet connection and you pay as little as $120 for the unit (yesterday’s price on Amazon). Then you pay less than $4 per month for fees (this may vary based on your area). Our current phone bill is up to $64 a month!

THE BOTTOM LINE:

ooma deviceFor one year that means we will pay $120 + $48 = $168 for Ooma. The unit would be paid off after three months compared to what we paid before.

In contrast, a year of AT & T is $64 x 12 = $768!

That is a savings of $600! Now, I do have to add one more expense to this. I bought the Ooma wireless adapter to make sure the unit would work with my wireless internet, because I wasn’t sure we had all the parts to do it using cords. That was an additional $40. However, even adding that in we save $560 the first year! After that we save $720 a year! That is quite a savings. I can’t wait to get the unit and try it out (and tell AT & T goodbye!).

I have heard of other internet-based options out there, but none as cheap as this. The Straight Talk unit from Wal-Mart costs $100 for the unit and $15 a month for service, which adds up to $280 a year.

Cable:

After the excitement of yesterday’s find, I started looking into other ways we might cut some of our biggest expenses, one of which is cable. We got suckered into getting AT & T U-verse a few years back when they first came to our neighborhood. They offered to upgrade our internet service to fiber-optic cabling and we could try out U-verse for a month for free. The cost for the Internet was not much higher than what we were paying them for DSL and I was glad to have a faster connection.

Then I got hooked on the DVR. We had previously used our VCR or DVD player to tape our favorite shows to watch after the kids went to bed. However, there were many times we would forget to program something, the time would change, or the tape or disc was full. The DVR offered a way to not have to deal with all of that. Plus, we were enjoying getting to watch the Disney Channel and a few other cable networks.

Our financial situation has changed for the worse again and this seems like a luxury that we should adjust. I also hate that I am paying so much to the cable company when we really only watch a few channels. So I think we are going to make the leap one of the new streaming device offerings.

Roku unitI did some research today and there seems to be a lot of evidence out there that the Roku device is best. It hooks up to your TV via the internet and allows you to watch tons of free programming and have access to a variety of streaming channels, the most popular being Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. Through some research I have found that Netflix offers many Disney shows and Hulu Plus allows you to be fairly current with the regular timely offerings on TV.

I am no expert on any of this and have been reading many articles on the different channels, their programming, and the pros and cons. But for me, the bottom line is that I can still watch my favorite shows and my kids can still see the Disney Channel. We will be able to use our Netflix account or Amazon Prime right on the TV (currently my husband used Netflix on his iPod and our Amazon Prime was mainly for the free two-day shipping).

The unit costs about $100 across the board at various retailers. However, Amazon has it right now for $99. I had thought Target might be a good place to get it with my 5% Red Card discount, but the tax eats that discount up and you end up paying more than $100. Netflix and Hulu Plus are about $7.99 each per month.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Even if we add Netflix and Hulu Plus on top of the cost of the unit, our yearly cost for this first year using Roku will be $100 + $192 = $292.

Our U-verse cost (taking out our Internet fee which we will still to pay) = $90 + $10 (bundle discount we will lose) per month. That means $1200 a year!

That is a savings of $908 a year.

In two days, I have figured out how to save us $1628! I would say not bad for a few days work!

Please let me know your experience with phone systems and cable so that we can all learn from each other. I will be excited to share our results with you after we install both. However, from what I have read of reviews online, both seem like great options to save a bundle and take advantage of some great new technological options.

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Some other ways we save significantly:

 

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Summer savings guide

Summer Fun

With our current predicament of job uncertainty for both my husband and I, spending as little money as possible this summer has become even more important. This is the first summer since my little boys were small that we have all been home, too. That means more expenses than usual – food, excursions, utilities, etc. Here are the tips I have discovered so far for doing summer on the cheap:

Ahead of time:

Prepare for summer the summer before. Buy towels, hats, etc. at the end of the season so you have them for the coming year. When all the kids are in camp, we needed a lot of swimsuits and towels to avoid doing laundry every day! It helped to shop ahead.

Get some of your essentials at the dollar store. Sunglasses and water bottles are best to get at the dollar store because my boys lose them often. I don’t have to feel bad when this happens if I have only paid a $1! See my post on “Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?”

Watch throughout the spring and summer for sales on swimwear. Last year I got rash guards and swim trunks for a great price at the end of the season for my boys for this year. They actually still fit into their size from last year, but I am ready when they need a size up! Good online stores to check include The Children’s Place, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean.

Stock up on sunscreen before summer is here. Last year with all four of my boys in camp every day, we went through a ton of sunscreen. On top of that they broke out from many brands, even Aveeno, which you would expect not to be a problem. They have excema, which can make their skin break out more than usual. Luckily I found out about The Honest Company. I love their products! Their sunscreen is a great consistency, has no bad or perfume smell, and my boys don’t break out or scream in pain from it.

You can try a free sample pack (you pay only shipping). Then you can sign up to receive a bundle every month. The Essentials bundle includes five of their products. (They also have a Diaper & Wipes bundle and Health & Wellness bundle, too, with other choices of products.) I can’t afford to order a bundle every month, but get them a few times a year. You can choose how often you want them delivered. Every time I order, I get a sunscreen, so I am ready for summer!

Be on the watch for great deals on memberships to local attractions. These deals usually don’t occur during the summer. For the St. Louis Science Center’s 50th anniversary of their planetarium, they had a sale on memberships – $50 off! It has been our best purchase ever! See my post “Become a member!”

Early summer or (late spring):

Plan ahead for where you would like to go. The first week of summer that I was home, we had no official plans or schedule. We were making it up on the fly. This really made the days long and me stressed! Putting together my Summer Bucket List really helped because now I have done the research ahead of time and can either choose activities for the whole week or the night before. See my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

Take advantage of the many free or cheap excursions in town. These include:

Watch for sales on crocs and sandals! We were fortunate to get new crocs (fake brand) a few weeks ago at “Five Below,” of all places!

Throughout:

Pack food wherever you go. Even if you won’t be there for long, pack at least a snack and water. This helps with cranky kids and avoiding high cost emergency food purchases.

Take advantage of your local library. We have been going to their great events all summer and check out books and movies each week while we are there. It is so nice to have the time to do this and with the summer reading programs, we all earn prizes for reading! We are enrolled in the county’s program and the local Jewish library’s. I have not updated my Summer Reading programs post, but see last year’s here.

Look out for ice cream coupons. We have found ice cream coupons in our coupon mailer that comes in our mailbox every week. Check local calendars, too. Here in St. Louis, we have a calendar called the Town Planner. It is mailed to families every year and has coupons tailored for your area. They also have coupons on their website. Another source for ice cream coupons is your local Valpak. These come in the mail in some areas and they also have a website, too. You might not always find coupons for the location you want, but sometimes the drive can be worth the savings! You might also earn ice cream coupons from your Summer Reading programs.

Forget about your thermostat timer. Keep your thermostat set as if you are not home and then adjust as you feel it is too hot in the house! See my post Saving money and energy on Shabbos.”

Use your birthday freebies. If your birthday falls in the summer, or if your kids’ do, be sure to sign up for those birthday freebies! See my posts:

Enjoy your summer and share your summer tips in the Comments section!

 

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Summer 2013 Dollar (or Free) Movies

5 Movie Tickets for 1 Day

I am sorry to post this so late, but this summer I have all my kids home, which means less time to blog and do my own things! However, there are so many great things to do in the summer, many of which are cheap. Summer movies are great to avoid the heat and perhaps see some movies on the big screen that you missed the first time around.

I have updated last years’ list of theaters that offer free or cheap movies. These are typically only offered during the summer. But check your local theater’s website, because they may offer other promotions like senior discounts, mom and baby viewings, concession discounts, etc., year-round.

I have culled sources from across the Internet to provide you a comprehensive list. If you find a theater offering a program that I missed, please let me know! Participating theater state locations are provided for each listing so you don’t have to click on all of them one to see if the program is being offered near you!

CarmikeSummer Kids Series. This theater chain offers $4 movie combo, which includes movie, popcorn drink, and snack. Some theaters start June 3 while others start June 10; days vary by theater. Participating locations vary each year. Be sure to look at both sections below the general information to see if there is a participating theater near you. Some locations even have showings more than once a week. They have participating theaters in 33 states: AL, AR, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO (Warrensburg), MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WV.

Cinemark TheatresSummer Movie Clubhouse. $1 per show or $5 for 10 shows if purchased in advance. They have participating theaters in 37 states: AL, AK, AR, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MS, MN, MO (Kansas City), MT, NC, NM, NV, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV and WS. Click on your local theater for details.

CinemaworldSummer KidFest. June 7 – Aug. 1, seven days a week. FREE for kids, adults $2 or donation of non-perishable pet-food item. Schedule may vary by location. Locations in FL and RI.

Classic Cinemas Wednesday Morning Movie Series. $1 per ticket. Runs June 12 – Aug. 7. Multiple theaters in IL.

Clearview CinemasClearview Cinemas Kid’s Club. July 10 and 11 – August 22, 2013. Wednesdays and Thursday, Tickets FREE. Schedule of movies varies by theater. Participating locations in NJ and NY.

Cobb Theatres - Free Summer Kids Shows. Their website does not have details for this program except to check your local theater for a schedule. Locations in AL, CO, FL, GA, and VA.

Dickinson TheatresSummer Vacation Movie Series. Prices vary between FREE and $2 per ticket. Select the theatre near you and then click on the box with SVMS. This will then lead you to the flier for that theater. Locations in AR, AZ, KS, MO (Lee’s Summit and Kansas City), NE, OK, and TX.

Georgia Theatre Company Summer Movie Series. This series is offered for $1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays in June and July. Participating locations are in FL, GA, SC, and VA.They are showing the entire Harry Potter series of movies, as well as other favorite animated kids’ selections.

Goodrich Quality TheatersKids Summer Movies. Begins June 10, Monday through Friday. Tickets $1. Participating locations in IN, IL, MI, and MO (Jefferson City and Columbia).

Harkins TheatresSummer Movie Fun. Less than $1 per ticket. Locations in AZ, CA, CO, OK, and TX. Click on your preferred theater for their schedule and movies listings. Shows start as early as May 27.

Malco Theatres Kids Summer Film Fest. Runs June 4 – July 31, 2013, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. $2 per ticket. Locations in AR, KY, MS, and TN.

Marcus TheatresKids Dream Summer Film Series. Runs June 18 – Aug. 15, 2013, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. $2 per ticket. Locations in IA, IL, MN, ND, NE, OH, and WI.

Marquee CinemasKid’s Summer Movie Program – June through August, start dates vary by location; Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tickets FREE. Participating locations in CT, FL, KY, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA,and  WV.

Muvico TheatersFREE Summer Film Fest. June 11 – Aug. 15, 2013, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays. Locations are in CA, FL, and IL.

Regal CinemasSummer Movie Express. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, $1 per ticket. Start dates vary by location. Participating locations are in AK, AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MO (Fenton, Hazelwood, and Springfield), MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WV. Great Escape Theaters are now owned by Regal Cinemas.

Wehrenberg TheatresFamily Summer Series. June 5 – Aug. 15, 2013, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets FREE. Locations in IL, IA, MO (Chesterfield, St. Charles, O’Fallon, South County, Des Peres, Arnold, and St. Peters), and MN.

* For more summer family activities, click on the links here or on the “Family ideas” category on the right menu and/or click on the “Family Fun Outside the Home” page on the top menu bar.

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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Family ideas, Other savings tips

 

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Free Bowling and Skating – Summer 2013

The year has gone by so quickly and it is time to start making summer plans with the kids. This will be the first summer I have had in a while home with my children. They are excited about “Camp Mommy.” I hope they won’t be disappointed!

Below are FREE bowling and roller skating opportunities to take advantage of this summer.

Kids Bowl Free:

Kids can receive two free bowling games a day for the entire summer thanks to generous bowling alleys across the nation (they also have locations in Canada). Shoe rental cost is not included. Check out their website for information on getting your school involved, locations, and frequently asked questions. The age limit is determined by each bowling alley. Dates also vary by alley, but some go from April until October!

There is also an option to sign up for a family pass (for the adults), but it is not necessary to receive your child’s free games. This may be a good deal if you go multiple times over the summer with your kids. You will have to figure it out based on how many times you think you will go, and the cost per game and for shoe rental at your participating bowling alley.

AMF Summer Unplugged:

AMF offers their own summer bowling program for kids. Kids 15 and under get two free games every day of the summer (from May 13 – Sept. 2). Again shoe rental is not included and a family pass is available for purchase. AMF has locations in ALL BUT 14 states in the United States. This year there is no need to print coupons or vouchers; they will give you a membership card on your first visit. And if you forget your card, they can look you up!

Brunswick Bowling:

Brunswick also has a summer bowling program for kids. Students 18 and younger can receive one free game of bowling in June, July, and August. For children 12 and younger, you just add them to your Bonus Zone profile (a rewards program and email newsletter). Children 13 -18 should create their own Bonus Zone account. Brunswick has locations in 18 states and Ontario – Canada.

KidsSkateFree logo

Kids Skate Free:

According to their website, skating is:

  • A fun way to increase muscular strength and cardiorespiratory endurance.
  • A way to burn anywhere from 330 to 600 calories per hour!
  • Great for improving balance and flexibility.
  • A fantastic source of aerobic exercise.
  • A key to weight control.
  • Easy to learn.
  • A great tension reliever and enthusiasm builder.
  • An excellent way to help maintain good health.

The website features a tool for finding a location near you, frequently asked questions, and other information. Times and days vary by location.

For more ideas of fun things to do with your children, check out the:

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Family ideas, Other savings tips

 

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