Paper, Paper, Everywhere

The thought of couponing can be overwhelming. First of all, you have to figure out how to get your hands on the newspaper every Sunday. Do you want to subscribe for home delivery, or will you buy it every week? Or do you have friends who will pass their inserts on to you later in the week? When you get the paper, you have to clip out all those little squares, figure out how to keep up with them, and do something with the rest of the paper. And then, once you get into printable coupons, there's the issue of printer ink, keeping the printer stocked with paper, and all the leftover scraps that come once you cut them out. That's a lot to deal with! But I've found a couple of ways to make these aspects of couponing manageable.

  • I was fortunate to find a Groupon for a Thursday-Sunday subscription to the paper that gets it delivered to my door at a fraction of the regular cost. And conveniently, right as I was trying to figure out whether it was worthwhile to renew or not, the Groupon resurfaced and I was able to extend for another 6 months!
  • I got a cute coupon organizer as an anniversary gift, and I've posted before about how I use technology to keep track of all my coupons. I try to revisit the physical organizer and the online list at least once a week.
  • I save most (but not all) of the newspaper bags, and they come in handy occasionally.
  • We recycle all the newspaper (and in fact, we really barely read it), but it also comes in handy around the house. Just this past weekend, I pulled some sections out of the recycling bin to lay over the carpet as we brought in all of our grimy camping gear! I'm sure if I were intentional about it I could come up with even more great ways to use newspaper. Do you have any favorite tricks?

I actually got into printable coupons before I started clipping from the paper, which I think is backwards from how most people do it. I saw many coupon blogs talking about the merits of laser printers, and that's one way to keep costs down. Andy and I found a great deal on a black and white all-in-one Brother printer, and I think we've only had to change the toner cartridge once in the year or so we've had it. Plus, when we do need a new one, there are almost always sales or coupon codes if you order online. Laser printers have a reputation of being expensive, but the black and white versions are more reasonable and make up for the upfront investment through ink savings.

When it comes to paper, believe it or not you can often get FREE paper from office supply stores like Staples. If you keep an eye out, they regularly run promotions where a certain type or brand of paper is on sale, with an offer to send in an easy rebate worth the whole amount. So, you only end up paying tax! Yesterday, I submitted my rebate online for their most recent promotion. Hammermill Copy and Print paper was on sale for $6.99, with a $2.00 off coupon available from Staples.com. I shelled out $5.39 at the register and will get back $4.99 in a few weeks. $0.40 definitely makes printing coupons worth it!

I save all the partial sheets of paper that result from coupons that don't take up a whole page and keep them on a clipboard. I use these as my go-to paper for to-do lists, weekly meal planning, and other things that need to be written down around the apartment. This way, I don't feel like I'm wasting much paper at all! For me, all of these tactics help using coupons make sense.


Loyal readers, as we head into this weekend, prepare yourself for an exciting survey and giveaway coming on Monday! I'm heading to a frugal living conference in September, hosted by several big-name-to-me bloggers, and I want to do some thinking about the purpose of this blog. I'll be asking for your feedback in a few areas, and I hope you'll click through on Monday to take my polls! One lucky reader will be randomly selected to receive a copy of Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.

 

Tea Tasting for Two

Today's post is about an experience that was both fun and frugal!

I don't remember exactly when daily deal sites came on the scene, but I do know I fell for them hard and fast. I had a lot of fun with Living Social trying to get 3 people to purchase the voucher from my link so I could earn it free, and I was excited to subscribe to Groupon in Atlanta as soon as we knew we were moving! The trip Andy and I took for our one-year anniversary was actually with a voucher purchased from one of the sites. I think the concept is great.

But lately I've been getting disillusioned with all the emails. I've unsubscribed from all but the major players, and even then I feel like I rarely buy anything anymore. But one thing I do always keep an eye out for are discounts on experiences rather than on products or restaurants. And I've had good luck with that of late, with purchases including admission for 4 to the Atlanta Museum of Design, a brewery tour, a walking tour for 2 of Historic Oakland Cemetery, and one that I used this past weekend for a tea tasting for 2!

The tasting was at Zen Tea in Chamblee. Chamblee is a bit farther than I usually like to drive to do things, but for $10, I thought it would be a fun experience. Plus, I was able to share it with my good friend Kimmie, who was in town for the weekend. I would definitely try Zen Tea again. A leisurely tasting there, perhaps with lunch involved, and a visit to the consignment shop next door would be a delightful girls' afternoon out. The $10 voucher I had included 3 small pots of tea and a dessert for each of us, but the 3-pot tasting is normally only $10.50 (not including dessert), which is definitely not unreasonable.

Kimmie had a giant carrot cake muffin-esque thing, and I had a delicious slice of red velvet cake that didn't last long on my plate.

The 3 teas that we chose from the extensive list were Cafe Spiced Chai, White Christmas (Heaven) (how could we resist it with a name like that???), and Spearmint.

I honestly wasn't wowed by any of the teas, but it quite possibly could have been because my taste buds were too overwhelmed by the red velvet and cream cheese deliciousness. Oops. The mint was the best, and I bought some of that to take home, as well as some chai. I also am never sure what's the best protocol for sweetening tea. I know how I like it, but I don't know if the level of sweetness I enjoy is necessarily the best for bringing out flavors. So since I was tasting, I tried to sweeten less than I normally would, which may have also affected my enjoyment of the flavors.

All in all, though, it was a fun experience at a pleasant little shop that I'm glad to now know about. Chalk up another success for Living Social amongst the plethora of liposuction, facial, and car detailing vouchers that flood my inbox daily!

Shopping from Home

Conventional wisdom says that, in order to save money on groceries, you should plan your meal around your store's ad based on what ingredients are on sale that week. Though I definitely seek to save money, I've found a different method that works for me. Instead of starting from the ad, I start with what I know I have on hand in my fridge, freezer, or pantry.

Here's an example: when I sat down to make my meal plan for this week, I knew I had some ground turkey, fish, and pork chops in the freezer, a partial package of P.F. Change's frozen dumplings, half a package of firm tofu, a few eggs, and the ingredients for a crockpot barbecue sauce (Italian dressing and barbecue sauce). SO, I planned to make turkey meatballs and spaghetti, pan-fried pork chops, fried rice with baked tofu and dumplings, fish tacos with chipotle lime slaw, and crockpot barbecue chicken. I rounded out the week's meals with a crockpot butternut squash chili, which just sounded good to me. Since I already had the main ingredient for each meal, I only had to buy a few supplementary items, which still allows me to keep costs down.

My shopping list for those meals consisted of:

  • split chicken breasts for the barbecue, on sale for $1.19/lb
  • 1 can of black beans, 1 can of white beans, an onion, and a butternut squash for the chili
  • 3 limes, chipotle pepper in adobo, and cabbage for the tacos (I have tortillas and yogurt for the sauce already)

I use coupons for any of these items as I can, or buy the store-brand or sale option to keep costs down. I definitely peruse the ad for good sale-to-coupon matchups as well, and I picked up a few staples for these recipes that will get used for other things, like a new jar of mayonnaise, a bag of white rice, and some tortilla chips to have with salsa, but that's all pretty trivial once you have the main meat portion taken care of. In addition, I buy other things that are on sale or have a good coupon (like this week I bought All laundry detergent and Chi Chi's products that were at a great price). But by "shopping" from my stockpile to plan my week's meals, I'm able to save a lot of money and a lot of thinking!

What's your meal planning and grocery shopping tactic?

Lot for Sale

This lot has been for sale in our neighborhood for quite some time.

Andy and I just bought a tent recently

(which, yes, is set up in our living room here), so we figured the neighbors wouldn't mind if we bought the lot and just set up camp for awhile. With the money we'd be saving on utilities and rent, I'm sure we'd be able to build a house in, oh, you know, a few years. And we could acquire a set of these to make life a little more comfortable:

(camp shower)

(obvious, right?)

The lot has all the perks that real estate lingo talks up: desirable neighborhood, walk to MARTA, shops, and restaurants, access to walking path, good school district. All it's lacking is a house, and we've clearly got that pesky part taken care of! So the next time you come visit me, if all I can offer you for dinner is some Ramen noodles made with hot water from our Jet Boil, please bear with me. We're being frugal.

it’s the little things

I drink a lot of water, which is a good thing. But for some reason the other day I got to thinking about how much it might cost if every single drop of water I drank came from a plastic bottle!

Andy and I have one of these guys in our fridge:

 

It's a bit of a pain to keep it filled, but it's so handy to be able to fill my 32 ounce Nalgene bottle and drink out of it all day. (In fact, I actually drink 2 Nalgene bottles full every day, along with extra glasses of water.)

I started wondering how much money we saved by not buying bottled water. My decision to not drink bottled water every day is more about the eco-element of not using so much plastic, but I bet we save some money, too. I know a lot of people don't like the taste or the chemicals that can be found in tap water, but the filter takes care of those for us.

We replace the filter about once every 3 months, and we buy them in multi-packs, usually from Amazon, for around $20.00.

A 24-pack of bottled water was on sale at Kroger this week for $3.69 (and I have no idea how much the normal price is, or how that price compares to other brands). Given the amount of water I drink, I would go through at least 4 of those bottles EVERY DAY, meaning the 24-pack would last 6 days. And that's not including the fact that Andy also drinks water! In the 3 months that our filter lasts, we would have to buy about 15 24-packs of water, costing us at least $55.35. SO, by using our fridge filter and refilling bottles, we save about $45.00+ over er 3 months, or $15.00+ a month (and again, this is assuming that only I am drinking the water). I know we spend some on the water from our tap, but I'm pretty sure that it's not $15.00 of our water bill.

It might not sound like that much, but it's the little things that add up. I know I could likely use coupons and get the water for cheaper, but the bottles would still incur a global cost of recycling the plastic that is not exactly measurable.

So the next time I'm ticked off that the filter pitcher is empty just as I want a glass of water, I'm going to remember that $45.00 (though I wouldn't mind eventually replacing it with a faucet-mount filter so I could have instant gratification...)

Do you have any money-saving or eco-friendly tips? What kind of water do you drink?