Monday, December 26, 2011

Frugal Trip to CVS

After five trips to CVS to try and use three $7 Centrum Probiotics coupon and a $5 CVS coupon, I finally reached success...with some different coupons. LOL! Every CVS location I went to looking for the on-sale Centrum products were either out of stock or not on sale (they were supposed to be $9.99, but one location rung them up for $23 -- yikes!) But I wouldn't give up, I moved on to some other items -- thanks to my friends at

Last week, I was able to get the following:

$9.00 --Triaminic Kids Cough & Cold Strips -- 2 for $12 -- coupon for $3 off 2 Triaminic products
$4.79 -- Excedrin Extra Strength -- coupon for $2 off
$4.79 -- Excedrin Extra Strength -- coupon for $2 off
$4.79 -- Excedrin Back & Body
$6.39 -- Excedrin Tension Headache

Total = $25.76 out of pocket

Received $13 Extra Bucks ($3 for buying 2 Triaminic products; $10 for buying $20 of Excedrin products)

Real cost = $12.76

So my husband tells me that I'm "a marketer's dream" and why on earth do we need four Excedrins? Which got me to thinking -- is this really worth it? But then I thought about it. Why buy items when you're desperate and have to pay full price with no discount or coupon, when you could stock up on something you use and will eventually need at the best price possible? I have $13 to use at CVS on anything I might need. We have two children, so we have plenty of headaches and other aches and pains. ;)

To each his own, but I find saving money fun, like a puzzle. Do you have to explain your couponing to family members? Do you enjoy finding every last bit of savings, or do you view it as more of a chore? I'd love to hear your coupon/money-saving stories.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

The Christmas season is a time for peace, joy and goodwill towards all. Unfortunately, it is also a
time where natural resources are consumed at an alarming rate and extra burdens are piled on an
already overly taxed environment.

Taking a quick look at the environmental toll of Christmas paints us a disturbing picture. Each
year, over 1 million pine trees are cut down just for the holiday season. Additionally, people send
out over 2 billion Christmas cards and over 37,000 miles of gift ribbon is consumed. These items
not only use precious resources, but after the season they often end up taking up space in a

However, Christmas doesn't have to be a burden on the environment. While being greener often only seems to be the concern of environmentalists and academics, you should also strive to enjoy the pleasures of the season without unnecessarily polluting the environment. All it takes to make a difference is to look at the holiday season in a different way and change a few of your habits.

1. Christmas Trees

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 33 million trees are bought
during the Christmas season, and many of them will end up in landfills. However this can be
avoided by buying a planted tree. Planted trees can be purchased for a nominal price and last
considerably longer than trees that have been cut down. Best of all, after the holiday season
you can plant these trees on your property or donate them to a local park. Thus, the decorating
with a pre-planted tree not only prevents trees from being needlessly cut down and being thrown
away in the local landfill after the holidays, but also allows you to contribute something to the

You might also want to consider renting a Christmas trees specifically for the holidays. Many local
nurseries will rent out trees for the holiday season for a nominal fee. If you must cut down your
own tree, make sure to recycle it after the holidays (most states offer tree recycling programs).
While it is not as green as buying a potted tree, it does ease the burden on the environment.

2. Gift Wrapping

Tons of wrapping paper and wrapping accessories make their way into landfills each year. This can
be avoided by simply thinking out of the box. Instead of buying fancy wrapping paper, use the
comic section of old newspapers to wrap your gifts. Similarly, old VHS tape film and the strings
from old mini-blinds make excellent replacements for gift ribbons. If you're shipping packages,
you can use peanut shells and the filling from old pillows as replacements for packaging peanuts
and bubble wrap.

You can also pack your gifts in tins and boxes. Not only is this an attractive way to package your
presents, but these containers can also be reused year after year. In fact, some people make
reusing these tins a part of their holiday tradition. One year a family might receive gift wrapped in
one of these tins and the next year they will use them to give gifts to other families.

Giving gifts that don't require much wrapping at all is an even better idea. Presents such as gift
certificates, concert tickets and sporting event tickets save a considerable amount of packaging.
However if you feel that your gifts absolutely have to be wrapped in festive packaging, then
try to buy Christmas wrapping that contains a minimum of 60 percent post-consumer recycled
paper. This wrapping paper can then be recycled again after the holidays. Visit Earth 911 to find
recycling programs in your area.

3. Christmas Lights

According to the EPA, LED Christmas lights consume 90 percent less energy than conventional
Christmas lights. Aside from saving energy they also offer a few other benefits. First of all, they
don't get hot to the touch and won't start a holiday fire. Secondly, when one light burns out the
entire strand will continue working. You can be even greener (and save money) by placing your
Christmas lights on a timer. This way the lights can be programmed to shut down during daylight
hours and to come on during evening hours.

Following the tips above will ensure that your holiday season will not only be pleasant, but green
as well. A green Christmas is not only a gift to yourself but also a gift to the planet and future
generations – something that everyone can enjoy for many years to come.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Have a Calm, Green Christmas

Take one moment and imagine what it would be like to enjoy a totally stress-free Christmas. What if you could simply enjoy the holiday? 

Instead of rushing around to stores or spending hours bent over the computer ordering, or bent-over period wrapping, cooking and doing the million other tasks that seem to be required for the “perfect day,” you might imagine yourself snuggled comfortably on the sofa, maybe an eggnog (spiked or not) in hand, music playing, a fire crackling, surrounded by friends and loved ones, your face lit my a smile. (Not the pained smile of relief!)
While that vision might appear about as real as Cinderella, it doesn’t have to remain a fairy tale. 

With a little thought and release of habit and perfectionistic tendencies, it’s possible to live the dream.

Here are a few ways to make it come true.

Sit down with your family and talk about past Christmases. 
Was everyone satisfied with how things went? If not, what would you like to change? If mom has felt overwhelmed, how can the rest of the family pitch in to help? This may mean that mom gives up some control, but if she’s willing to do that, she may find some burdens lifted. If dad is tired of putting up the lights, maybe this year you forget his pinning them around the eves and decorate a tree he can reach without a ladder. The idea is to, as much as possible, relieve the pressure on everyone.

Make a sign (on recycled paper of course), that emphasizes meaning over things, whether those things are perfect décor, food or gifts. Place the sign where everyone in the family will see it. 

·        Take a realistic look at the number of gifts you plan to give and the amount you plan to spend. Will Christmas leave you with credit card debt you’ll be paying well into swim season? Is this necessary? Is it wise? How about making gifts from items you have on hand? Or making up songs or poems or choosing to give only gifts of time spent together?

·        As you’re thinking about Christmas, consider the environmental costs of things like wrapping paper. Forget buying it and you not only save money, but help the planet out too. Very little of the wrapping paper purchased is recycled and even doing that takes energy.

·     What kinds of family activities do you find relaxing and fun? Choose to do one or two of those as the holiday approaches. None of them need cost any money

·     Give yourself the gift of calm every day. Ask your mate or a friend for a massage, a cup of tea, time for a bath or a walk. Think about what would help, then request it.

·     Stay away from the frenzy. Avoid any activity you find stressful from malls to tree lighting ceremonies attended by thousands of people.  

·     Surround yourself in peace. Turn the lights down, burn beeswax candles, play soft music during stressful times. For instance, if preparing dinner for the kids is a nightmare, create a quiet atmosphere and ask them to whisper. Make it a game and they will likely play along.

·     Make eye contact. One reason children seem to act out more around the holidays is because they want attention. Simply sitting with them for a few minutes at a time, looking them in the eye (no distractions) and talking, is calming and may help calm you too.

·     Say “No.” Refuse to take on any more than you can comfortably handle. You do not have to bake cookies for your kids’ school just because you’re the only mom available. If they don’t have cookies for their party, it’s not your problem. Seriously, you can’t do everything and the more you say “yes,” the more you’ll be expected to take on. 

·     Approach your holiday meal with the thought that the most important thing is to have everyone gathered together for a fun and meaningful event, not to have so much food that no one can get up from the table without help! What this means is to shop carefully in terms of the amount of food you purchase so that little is wasted. If you find planning a huge meal stressful, how about simplifying it. Try a fondue, desserts only (and guests bring them), or a lunch, when people tend to be happier with less.

Remember that having a green Christmas isn’t about buying and neither is enjoying a calmer one. It’s about realizing the simple joys that come from being together and knowing how easy (and inexpensive), it is to achieve.

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at 

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Green and Frugal: Low-cost Photo Christmas Cards

I love sending and receiving holiday cards. Since most everything is done online, it can be hard to send a thoughtful, personal card. Sending a photo card of the kids and/or the entire family is a great way to send a thoughtful, custom holiday card.

Last year I shelled out over $100 on cards, envelopes and shipping for approximately 100 cards ($1 a card -- eek!!). Not exactly frugal. This year, after complimenting a friend on her card, she mentioned that she used Costco. Costco?! I didn't even know they handled photos, let alone Christmas cards. Best of all, they do it completely online, just like the "other guys" (i.e., Kodak Gallery, Snapfish, Tiny Prints, etc.) I shouldn't say that's the best part...the best part is the price, which was ridiculously cheap!! My 75 cards cost a mere $22 (or $.30 a card)!!! Granted I had to pick up the cards at Costco, but I still think it was well worth it.

With this great frugal discovery, I also realized that Costco does photo calendars! The ones I do each year for my family and both sets of grandparents for no less than $19.99 per calendar. Costco, which again offers the same online service and features of the other guys, charged a mere $9.99 per calendar. I can just see the frugal Gods smiling down on my savings and this incredible discovery! LOL!

Think you can beat that? I would LOVE to hear about your frugal Christmas card ideas. :)

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Website Review:

Have I got a new site for you! It's A little background on how I stumbled across this frugal find...

During this past Thanksgiving, I was picking my future sister-in-law's brain. Leslie, who I've fondly dubbed "the coupon whore" (a huge compliment). She is a borderline extreme couponer (I keep trying to get her to sign up to go on the show, Extreme Couponing). With a ridiculous stockpile (my brother claims he can shave for five years without ever having to buy a razor), she regularly spends only $30-$50 on her "big" food shopping trips. The same ones that usually cost me $150-$200, and I use coupons and try to buy all products on sale. Needless to say, I felt I had much to learn. I asked Leslie how she finds her deals, and she directed me to (LRWC).

I recommend signing up for the site's email, which brings all of the daily deals right to your in-box.

Also be sure to check out the beginner's area to get acclimated with acronyms, how to organize your coupons, where to find coupons and how to save the most money.

One of the reasons that I really like this site is because Cindy (the site's owner) is from NJ. Many of the Extreme Coupon episodes are set in the Midwest, using grocery stores that we don't have in the Northeast.

Plus, the site is easy to follow, breaks the deals down by week, by store and enables you to create a list that you can print or email.

I was so excited that I planned my first outing to CVS today to take advantage of some deals. Here's what I was able to get:


2 Pantene Shampoos @ $3.49 each
1 Tide Laundry Detergent @ $5.94

1 Oral B SpinBrushes @ $4.99 
1 Olay Regenerist Facial Cleanser @ $20.99
1 Dawn Dish Detergent @ $.99

Coupons used

1 $5.00/$20.00 Purchase at CVS (newspaper)
1 $3.00/2 Pantene Products from the 11/27 PG
1 $3.00/1 Oral B SpinBrush from 11/27 PG
1 $3.00/1 Olay Regenerist Cleanser or Moisturizer
1 $1.50/Tide Detergent or Downy Softener

Subtotal: $24.18
Tax: $2.44
Total OOP: $26.62
Received $10.00 Gift card

In my mind essentially, I spent $16.62 since I received a gift card (I chose Barnes & Noble), which I'll use as a teacher gift. While I wish I had less out of pocket, I was pretty pleased with my first outing using LRWC. Plus, my receipt says I saved $31.06, which means my total would have been $57.68 without the coupons (I still would have received the $10 gift card.)

Let me know what you think of the site or if there are other sites you enjoy for learning the ropes of extreme couponing.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Tis the Season for Love Drop

Help give a Love Drop this season!

This Christmas the team's coming together for Diomi and her son Nallee, who are going into the cold Milwaukee winter with very little food, clothes, and other necessities. Diomi has been through so much, including the loss of her father, the loss of her job, and clinical depression. But even through the pain you can see all the love she has for Nallee, who has one of the most beautiful personalities you'll find. :)

We want to make this month special for them! We're working with their pastor to help get things they really need, including school uniforms for Nallee, interview clothes for Diomi as she looks for a job, and food to help them through the winter months.

If you can find it in your hearts to give one extra gift this year, whether it be money or a helpful item they can use, please send it in - our goal is to reach $3,000 worth of necessities.

Want to join us in helping Diomi and Nallee? Here are 3 ways:
  1. Give $1 -- This money will be put towards basic necessities and care, maybe even a Christmas present or two. (They're currently spending it alone, without anything at all.)
  2. Give a gift card -- Gift cards are extremely helpful, especially to places that are national.
  3. Donate personal products -- These two need anything you can thing of in the personal product department: bathroom/kitchen/bedroom stuff, etc.
Thanks guys! You can reach the Love Drop team anytime over at: team (at) love drop (dot) us, or by checking them out at Thanks everyone! We'll let you know how it goes!

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