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Need last-minute shaloch manos ideas?

I am a bit behind this year with blogging and Purim preparations with juggling my family, teaching, freelance writing, and household tasks. I am sure many of you can relate. Some years I start early and don’t have to wait until the last minute to do everything. At least I still have a week to go!

In case you are behind and want some ideas, I have a few tips for shaloch manos from those we received and made last year. Take a look!

Shaloch manos:

Last year, we made shaloch manos inspired by a teacher appreciation gift I saw somewhere.  I found the instructions by Googling “teacher appreciation water bottle gift.” I unfortunately cannot find the site I used, but if you look on Pinterest there are many similar ideas. They each vary in complexity and difficulty. I chose an easy idea that did not use brads or lots of different layers of paper. It was cute, but the holders did keep sliding off during delivery (even though they were tied on).

I used a variety of scrapbook papers, scrapbooking stickers, small labels (for the message), and my tape runner (to adhere the pocket). We inserted a Crystal Light drink mix packet and attached a granola bar to the back. A bow and tape secured it all together.

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Some other FAVORITE SHALOCH MANOS we received last year are shown below:

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Movie theme – popcorn box, chocolate bar, microwave popcorn, Coca Cola, and hamantashen. (Great idea Larry & Lori!)

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Pizza theme – a whole meal in a pizza box: hamantashen pizzas, peppers, Bissli, chocolate bar, chocolate drink and a few other goodies. (Thank you Michelle and Ephraim!)

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Red, White and Blue theme – Red licorice, white Airheads, Oreos (blue package), and hamantashen. (Thanks Wende and Don!)

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Berry theme – all foods with a berry flavor! (Thanks Shari and Rabbi!)

FAVORITE CONTAINERS:

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Nautical theme – this family always chooses a container and costume themes to match. They include a photo of the family on their shaloch manos container or label. They are amazing! (Thanks Bella and Yosef!)

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Decorative box – I loved this box so much that I use it in my classroom for treats! (Thanks Tammy and Mark!)

For more inspiration, check out my friend Mara’s (from Kosher on a Budget) awesome Shaloch Manos ideas:

Related posts:

 

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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.

Related articles:

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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Printer ink can cost a fortune!

This image shows an opened Canon S520 ink jet ...Our printer recently died and HP told us that it could not be fixed. They offered us an upgrade at a lower price. I checked out Amazon and it was a lower price than they could offer. Our new printer came very fast and I was excited that I can scan, copy, and print from one device. But who knew that the ink would run out so quickly. I have been buying ink every few weeks! Here are my tips for saving as much as you can on printer ink.

1) Print in draft mode as much as possible. This will limit the amount of ink used on each printout. Print your coupons in black ink instead of color to limit your color usage, too.

2) Buy ink online whenever you can and be sure to compare prices with your local stores so you know when you have found a good deal. I often can find my ink for $5 – $10 cheaper than in stores. I mostly purchase through Amazon, so that if I need to return the ink, I have a reputable company to make sure the return goes well.

3) Buy remanufactured ink when you can, but be sure to check the reviews for that company and product. Some remanufactured inks are not as good as others. I have read many reviews of products that did not last long or didn’t even work when they were first opened.

4) Check reviews online for your printer ink. I almost bought a set of three colors and black ink together. By reading the reviews I found out that the four-packs for that ink number are only available as the setup packs that the printer comes with.

5) Buy XL inks when you can. These have more ink for the cost. However, be sure to read the specifications for these. You printer may take that number model of ink, but not the XL version, as mine does not.

6) Get your ink refilled at an office supply store when possible. Many inks can be refilled for a minimal cost instead of being replaced. See what your local store provides.

Related posts:

Other related articles:

 

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Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions 2012When I was in high school and college, making New Year’s Resolutions was a big deal. I used to pore over magazines coming up with plans for how I would lose weight, exercise more, etc. However, now that I have become religious, I tend to make more serious goals around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, thinking about how I will become a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, teacher, and Jew.

With New Year’s approaching, though, I realized it might not be a bad idea to come up with some New Year’s resolutions related to our finances. My husband’s job has not turned out to be what he expected and finances have been really tough. He is looking for new work and I am hoping the new year will provide that. But in the meantime, new job or not, we need a plan to get us in better financial shape.

Here are my goals for the new year. I hope they will inspire you on your own quest to get your family set.

1) Get back to menu planning on a regular basis.

With money being so tight, my husband has become a master at creating meal plans based on whatever is in the house. We haven’t had the money to make full shopping trips and therefore have let our menu planning slide. However, it makes extra stress for him every morning to have to also figure out what to make. I want us to get back to menu planning each week regardless if we can buy two things or a loadful! See my posts on “Menu planning” and “Monthly menu planning.”

2) Keep up with our receipts.

Bill paying and entering receipts into our Quicken program are my least favorite tasks. So of course, I procrastinate. But then we are more likely to bounce or to encounter fees for paying things late. I am going to work harder at entering them every few days instead of waiting until I have several weeks worth! See my post on “Make your checkbook digital!”

3) Get our oil changed on a regular basis.

I always think of car maintenance last. When we don’t have much money, I think we can’t possibly afford to spend money on the car. Well, that thinking got us into big trouble this past year. We have neglected to change the oil on our van, for probably years. As a result, the engine died completely. After several hundred dollars of repairs the auto repair shop thought could fix the problem, we had to get a whole new engine. The repairs were then several thousand. It was the most expensive and embarrassing mistake we have ever made. I guess I should take my own advice. See my post on “Pay now to save later” and “What does an oil change cost?”

4) Really watching our budget.

During my husband’s trial period at his new job (when they were paying him a base), we were doing a bit better financially. I started a new routine that really helped us budget better. I virtually set aside a certain amount for our monthly and irregular expenses each half of the month. Then whenever we spent money in those categories, I would debit it from that amount/transaction. I knew how much we had left to spend in those categories by what amount was left in that transaction. It really helped us stay under our budget for the month on categories that we have more control of.

What are your financial New Year’s resolutions? Please share in the Comments section.

 

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After-Christmas sales are great for everyone!

Since starting this blog, I have really started to think outside the box about ways to save money. Upon reading one of Kosher on a Budget’s posts, “Why I love (the day after) Halloween,” I realized that it is easy to save on regular items you use everyday even during a holiday sale (and one I don’t celebrate for that matter). Previously I would only buy things from an after-holiday sale that I might use for my classroom. Now my eyes have opened to many possibilities. See my post on “Shop those Easter sales today.”

This post-holiday, I did really well at Walgreens and Target, and found a few last-minute items at Dollar General and Schnucks (our local grocery store). Here is what I found (on Thursday for Target and Walgreens and Friday for Dollar General and Schnucks):

WALGREENS:

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∞ Holiday candy: Who cares if the candy is wrapped in red and green? Still tastes as good!

I got two bags of Hershey’s Kisses (regularly $3.49/bag, on sale 50% off, also had a $1.10 coupon off 2 bags) = $1.19/bag. I also got two bags of Nestle candy (regularly $3.49/bag, on sale 50% off, also had a $1 coupon off 2 bags) = $1.24/bag.

∞ Stocking stuffers: Great place to look for small toy items. You’d be surprised – not everything looks Christmasy or has to do with a holiday character.

I found some small figurines by a brand I had never heard of. They may not be Legos, but for $1 each (50% off $2), they are great for our prize box.

∞ Holiday cards: Why buy them for full price? Instead I stock up each year for the next.

I normally do a photo card to friends and family, but I never seem to get them out on time. So it is always nice to have some Christmas and Chanukah cards on hand to put with a gift, food item, or send to someone if I need to. I got two boxes of cards (15 ct) for $.99 a box (50% off $1.99). Can’t beat that!

∞ Decorative items: You never know what you might find that can have another use.

I found plastic cups with snowflakes on them that were 3 for $1. With the 50% discount they came to $.16/cup. I got 25 for my students for next year (no matter what age I end up teaching) for only $4! I can use them to put their holiday treats in! This price beats the four-pack that I have seen sometimes at the dollar store.

∞ Baking items: Last year I found a cookie decorating kit (normally $9.99) for $5! It came in handy for decorating the boys’ cupcakes for their last birthday. See my post “Superhero kids’ party on a budget.”

TARGET:

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Target is my favorite place to shop for after-holiday sales because they always have a pretty good selection after most holidays.

Holiday food items: The same rule applies here as before – color or decor doesn’t matter much to us if it tastes good. This is also a great time of year to find special flavors only available during the winter season. I found:

- Two seasonal Pringles flavors: Cinnamon Sugar and White Chocolate Peppermint (each 50% off $1.52, also had a coupon for $1 off 4 containers; bought one at full price because son wanted BBQ = $.51 for each of the seasonal flavors)

- Holiday cookies: At 50% off $2.99, I got a nice after-dinner treat for $1.49 a package. These cookies were $1 to $2 more at the grocery store, even on sale!

- Limited edition ginger cheesecake sandwich cookies: We had tried these a few weeks ago and almost everyone loved them. Now at $1.68 a box, they are an even better deal!

- Baking items (peppermint icing): We enjoyed this seasonal flavor on cake this past Shabbos. It was a nice change of pace. I really should have bought two because it seems like the parve icings don’t go on sale as much as the dairy ones! The icing was $.94 a can (50% off $1.89)!

- Holiday candy: I love the new mint m&m’s and except for during the winter holidays, they are only available as a small pack or the stand-up pack size. I always get a few when they go on sale at CVS. I didn’t have a coupon, but at $2.09 a bag (normally $2.99), it was still a good deal! (Target’s holiday candy was only 30% off.)

Decorative items:

- Foam shapes: I always love to get the seasonal craft kits and foam shapes when they go on sale. In fact, just a week ago, I bought one set for Chanukah during that post-holiday sale. These are great to hang onto for the coming year for crafting at home and school. This year my students made ornaments with a set I had bought on clearance last year! (They were 50% off $5 = $2.50 each.)

- Shower puffs: Again color is not important, but at $.99 each for a shower puff, I get a nicer puff than I could get at the dollar store! I found these last year as well.

DOLLAR GENERAL and SCHNUCKS:

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I found a few more items when shopping at these two stores. The holiday decorations are to use on my classroom window (50% off $1 = $.50 each) and the jello pudding was a pumpkin spice flavor. Sounded really good, especially for $.80. The Ghirardelli seasonal chocolate was 50% off $5 = $2.49 a package, and also included some interesting seasonal flavors like peppermint and pumpkin spice!

I had hoped to find some cake or cupcake mixes (for last-minute baking) or some holiday candy (for goodie bags for my students) this year, but no such luck. Chocolate was in abundance, but I worried about saving chocolate for a year!

I hope this post gives you some ideas on how you can save next year at the after-Christmas sales and maybe at some other post-holiday sales!

Happy New Year!

 

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Why I love Target!

English: Logo of Target, US-based retail chain

Tonight I had a very successful trip to Target. Some trips, particularly those when I take the kids, I leave exhausted and frustrated. However, there are those like tonight when I find so many good deals that I can’t wait to get home and share them all with my husband. For those of you who haven’t discovered Target’s finer points, or for those who just want to save more there, here are my reasons Target is one of my favorite stores:

1) Coupons:

Target has their own coupons you can print from their website. They can be stacked with manufacturer’s coupons, so you save even more. They have coupons on everything from name brands to their own brands to specific sections of the store. On most trips, I can save at least $20 in coupons! I even get coupons in the mail from Target. I think I get these from having a Target baby registry at one time and for making purchases online from their website.

2) Red Card:

You can get a Target Red Card: either debit or credit card, which gives you 5% back on each purchase. The discount is applied immediately – no waiting for rebates or reward cards. We do not have any credit cards, so I love that I can get these same rewards with the debit card. The money comes right out of my checking account as a regular debit card does. Tonight I saved an extra $10 from using my Red Card!

3) Bag discounts:

When you bring your own bags to use for your purchases, Target will give you $.05 back for each bag. This also comes right off your total purchase cost. Every little bit adds up. For more information on bag discounts, see my post “Reusable shopping bags = savings.”

4) Seasonal sales:

Target is a great place for getting great deals on seasonal items. No matter if you celebrate the holiday or not, the days after can provide some wonderful sales! See my post tomorrow for all the goodies I found during after Christmas sales! Target also has a great variety of items they only have available for different seasons and holidays and some that are only found at their store such as: home decor, organizational items, food, novelties, gift items, dining/cookware, and more. We have gotten several things during some of these seasonal sales that have lasted us years. See my related post on “Shop those Easter sales today!”

5) A fun shopping experience:

I love finding new items every time I go to Target. Maybe it is a new line of dishware. Maybe it is a new line of craft items. Or a new line of toys for that time of year. There is always something new to find and normally at great deals. The dollar aisle has also yielded some great gifts, toys, and teaching items for me and my family!

6) Sales on staple items:

I know that even if I don’t have a coupon, Target is going to have a sale on items I use often at some point. And for many items, even if I do not have a coupon and it is not on sale, their price still beats many competitors. I like not feeling so guilty if I have to make a purchase there without a sale or coupon! This is where my price list really comes in handy. See my post on “Keeping a price list.”

7) Good quality clothing for reasonable prices:

With my busy schedule, I do not get a lot of time to shop. I love that I can find clothing for everyone in the family at Target. I especially like that I can find staple items for good prices, whether or not they go on sale. I depend on Target for pajamas for the family, sweats for the kids and myself, socks and underwear for everyone, etc. Pajamas for my boys can get quite costly. At a department store, you can easily spend $10 or more for one set. At Target, I get the Carter’s First Year brand and spend $12-$13 for two sets together. They sometimes go on sale for a few bucks less, and then there are days like today where I found three sets of the same size for half price! They sell sets year-round tailored for each season and the designs change. They are comfortable and last. My boys love them!

Their clothes last and look good. My little boys wear many items that their older brother wore that I probably paid less than $5-$10 a piece for! I often find such good deals that I even buy sizes for later and then store them in the basement. Today I found hoodie jackets for $2.98. I also found sweatshirts and sweatpants for $2.08 in the boys’ department! I bought three hoodies for each size S – L (I could only find one XL)! They will be set for a few years! See my post “Staying on top of your kids’ clothing.”

8) Black Friday is a breeze!

I am not a diehard Black Friday shopper that will stand in line hours before a store opens or camps out the night before. My Black Friday shopping route in simple: CVS and Target and occasionally one or two other stores. For the past two years, Target has had some great Black Friday deals like cheap pajamas for the family, great toy deals, and cheap hat/glove sets for the kids. I have not had to go right when the store opened. I get there mid-morning, and for the most part all the items I have been looking for were still in stock! They don’t just provide a few each of their good deals, but plenty for many shoppers! I am not shopping high-priced items, but I still come out with some great deals and am quite happy!

9) A clean and usually well-stocked store:

I know I can find good deals, too, at Wal-Mart, but I found the clutter and disorganization to create more stress than success. I like that Target is always clean and orderly and I know where everything is. The order of the store makes sense and it is not so large that I am very exhausted when I finish a trip complete with groceries, too. Occasionally the dollar aisle is a mess, but overall the store is pretty well-kept!

10) Plenty of online deals as well:

Target often has a sale on something I need more than one of, but the store doesn’t have that many or the right size in stock. However, the website does. I recently got tennis shoes for my boys and paid a minimal amount for shipping! Shoe costs can add up, so we were all very excited! And compared to the Wal-Mart shoes I have purchased, these have lasted a lot longer! I have also gotten some great skirts from their daily deals as well as other items. See my post “Online shopping tips” to make the most of your Internet shopping.

11) Clearance sections:

It seems that so many stores have junk in their clearance sections. However, at Target, I find stuff all the time. I particularly love to shop the clothing clearances, as I mentioned before. I always find great deals on clothing for my kids. By putting those purchases and hand-me-downs aside for later, my kids love when they grow out of a size and I bring up boxes of great stuff for the new season. The boxes include new and used, but they don’t care. By thinking ahead, I rarely have to buy much for the new season!

Target also has clearance sections in other departments. The end caps of aisles are always full of surprises and there are always tons of items on clearance in the home department! Today I got two great toys to put aside in my gift drawer and gingerbread cheesecake cookies only available for a limited time and so yummy! See my post on “Preparing for gift-giving = savings.”

NOTE: To find the best deals for Target each week, check out “Kosher on a Budget” and “Totally Target,” two great blogs.

Happy shopping!

Please feel free to share why you love Target in the Comments section!

 

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Making the most of your AAA membership

Most of us belong to Sam’s or Costco for bulk savings and have a AAA membership for emergency auto assistanceBut did you know that these membership programs have more than their advertised benefits? Why not take a look to see if you are really getting your money’s worth and all the extra perks provided.The AAA logo

Here is what I found out about AAA. For Sam’s Club, see my previous post on “Making the most of your Sam’s Club membership.” Costco to come soon!

Of course, the first thing I checked out was the savings discounts you can get with your membership. Did you know about some of these offers?

SAVINGS DISCOUNTS

Approved Auto Repair – Save up to 10% on parts and/or labor at participating Show Your Card & Save Approved Auto Repair facilities. Some restrictions and maximum discounts may apply.

Jiffy Lube – You can save 15% on their signature service at all participating locations in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri. See my post on “What does an oil change cost?” for more Jiffy Lube deals.

Optical services at LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, & Target Optical – Get discounts on complete pairs of eyeglasses without a coupon. This page has details on each store’s deals.

Payless ShoeSource – Members can receive an exclusive 10% discount on all regular price merchandise, excluding gift cards (at stores in the US and Canada). They even have an extra coupon available on this page.

Six Flags – $5 off general front-gate admission or $2 off general front-gate admission at Six Flags Water Parks. You also can get a 10% discount on merchandise purchases of $15 or more at all Six Flags operated locations.

St. Louis Cardinals – Get $10 off a regular ticket priced $20 or higher for any Monday through Thursday home game during the 2012 season. See this link for ticketing information and how to get this deal.

St. Louis Science Center - $5 off St. Louis Science Center Friends & Family membership levels and $1 off OMNIMAX movies. See my post “Become a member!” on why memberships are a good deal. (They have many other amusement/attraction deals that vary based on your area.)

Target.com – Members can save $10 off $100 online. Some exclusions do apply.

This is just a sampling of savings discounts that AAA offers in categories such as Play, Hotels, Travel, Shop, Auto, Dine, Services and Health.

MORE WELL-KNOWN SERVICES

Automobile splash

Travel:

  • Travel discounts and booking as well as TripTik driving directions and maps, online TourBook guides, eTourBook Guides
  • Travel checklists, event calendars, and vacation ideas
  • Information on foreign travel requirements
  • Car rental discounts

Insurance:

  • Auto, home/renter’s, and life insurance
  • Car buying tips
  • Health/Medical insurance – they even offer short-term insurance. I wish I had known about this three months ago while we have been waiting for my husband to be eligible for health insurance at his work!

Financial:

  • AAA Member Rewards Visa card
  • Travel money
  • Free identity theft monitoring (I am going to look into this, especially since this can be a costly thing to sign up privately.)
  • How to videos on money tips

News & Safety:

  • Information on gas costs and pricing
  • Safe driving tips
  • Travel magazine

Automotive:

  • Tips for taking care of your car
  • Links to AAA approved sites and battery service information

* NOTE: The links provided are for my AAA region, which serves Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, E. Kansas, S. Illinois, S. Indiana, and Texarkana, TX. To find information on your local AAA region, your computer should redirect you to your region’s website. However, if it doesn’t, you may need to click on “Other AAA Clubs” at the bottom of the AAA homepage.

Are you taking advantage of all you can with your membership! Check it out now! Tell me about how you saved!

 

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August is the time to buy… (2012 update)

Necklace

There are certain times of the year that are best for purchasing various items, due to various factors. Here are a few to keep in mind for the last month of summer:

Bottled water: With summer picnics and barbecues, stores often drop the price of bottled water. If you prefer bottle water, now is the time to stock up. However, you can save even more money if you buy a filter for your tap or refrigerator and use your own bottles!

Certain fruits: August is a good time to buy blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, honeydew melons, lines, nectarines, peaches, Bartlett pears, plums, raspberries and watermelons.

Certain vegetables: August is a good time to buy corn, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce, and peppers.

Computers: Back-to-school sales often offer the lowest prices of the year. You can sometimes get freebies like printers, too.

Home Décor: It’s wedding season so retailers will offer sales to help shoppers buying gifts.

House paint: More people paint in the summer months, so stores sometimes lower prices and hope you’ll buy other regular-priced things, too.

Jewelry: August (along with January, March, April, July, and September) are non-gift giving months. Retailers are more likely to offer sales during these months to promote business.

MP3 players: Companies sometimes put older models on sale to make way for the newer models they will introduce in the fall. Consumers can try them out and then give them as gifts for the holidays.

School Supplies and dorm furniture: Check out the great deals at various retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples, Walgreens, and CVS. Even if you don’t have children in school, some office supplies (which are also used by students) are also sold at cheap prices during this time. See my post “School Supply Shopping Strategy” for tips on how to get the most for your money.

Swimsuits: Stores want to get rid of their inventory, so the prices go way down. You can also update your look just by buying a  new separate to match one you already own (like for two-piece suits). Think about next year for your kids as well. I already bought rash guards for my boys for next year so we won’t have the same stress of rashes from sunscreen/eczema.

If you plan to shop online, check out my “Online shopping tips.”

Sources:

Related articles:

 

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Now is the time to… (pre-Fall 2012)

Leaves ready to fall from a tree in Islamabad,...

The summer has gone by quickly and school will be starting in just a few weeks! So this is the ideal time to do certain things in your home and for your family:

Clean out your children’s clothing (and your own) to see what you need to purchase for the Fall.

I always shop ahead by buying things on clearance when a season is ending. However, there are always a few things we need at the beginning of a new season. So I pull out my boxes for the new season and take a brief inventory. Then I know what to look for when I am shopping (online or brick and mortar). See my post on “Staying on top of your kids’ clothing” for more tips. For your own clothing, see my post “New season, new(ish) wardrobe” for tips on making the most of your current wardrobe without spending a fortune each new season.

Buy those school supplies!

As I mentioned in my post “School Supply Shopping Strategy,” you don’t have to spend a fortune to get all your kids’ needs if you shop smart.

Shop the summer clearance sales.

Some stores have already cleared out their summer merchandise. For those that haven’t, look for deals on swimwear, summer toys and pools, picnic items, leftover Fourth of July items, and more.

Get all your paperwork done for your children’s schooling or your own.

This might include emergency forms, re-enrollment forms, new tuition agreements, etc. You might also need to register for a child’s high school or college classes. You might even check out your local continuing education classes or look into finishing up your undergraduate or master’s degree. I hope to take another master’s class this Fall, too. I am four classes away from being done!

Start thinking about the High Holidays.

Perhaps you want to make your Sukkah larger, then start putting aside some money to do so. Want some new recipes for the Yom Tov (Jewish holy) days? Start looking for and printing a few. No need to start master planning; just put the holidays on your radar! For tips on organizing your recipes, see my post “Here a recipe, there a recipe.”

 

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