Saving Money on Travel Part 6 - Create a Travel Kit

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I love to travel. but it seems like on every trip my family makes an emergency dash to the drugstore for some type of medicine from Aspirin or motion sickness medicine to cold medicine. Let us face it travel can be stressful and stress can make us more prone to illness.

During a previous trip, my husband ran to the local store to buy a variety of medicine and even the generic brands can really add up and cut into your travel budget. Since I had stockpiled a closet full of various medication at home, I decided that for future trips I would put together a travel kit with a few items from various medications and first aid items. I used a retired cosmetic bag to store my kit. Each kit that you design will look a little differently, but here are a few examples of what I included:
  • Cold Medicine
  • Cough drops
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Portable Pepto
  • Allergy medication
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Band aids
  • Neosporin
  • Lip Balm
  • Zantac
  • Benadryl (for a food allergy discovered on a previous trip)
I will continue adding items to my kit and rotate any expired medication, but I will keep my kit assembled and ready to throw in my suitcase for my next trip.

Be sure to share any of your ideas for saving money on travel by leaving a comment.

Catch up on my Saving Money on Travel series.


Saving Money on Travel Part 5 - Food

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Once you leave your home to travel to your destination, you are faced with another travel expense - food and snacks. If you travel by airplane or car, you can make or break your travel budget with how you handle food and snack purchases. Here are some tips to stretch your food budget while you travel.

  • If you travel by car, be sure to leave enough room for a cooler to include snack items and drinks, including water. Each water bottle at a convenience store usually costs $1-$2 while you can usually purchase a 24 pack before your trip for $3-$4.
  • If you travel by airplane, you can not take bottled water or pop through security. You can take snacks like fruit, granola bars, crackers and other snack items to enjoy during the flight. This can help you avoid expensive airport food and give the kids something to distract them during the flight.  
  • If you prefer the "green" alternative to bottles water, many stores now sell reusable water bottles with filters that you can be refilled anywhere.
  • If you plan to visit any attractions or amusement parks during your trip, be sure to pack a soft cooler or backpack in your luggage or car. Many parks including DisneyLandDisneyWorld, Sea World, San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park and many others, allow you to bring bottled water, pop and light snacks into the park. Individual park policy does vary so be sure you check with your park before your trip to be sure that coolers and backpacks are still allowed. This is a great way to save a lot of money on your trip.
Tip: If you have a freezer at your hotel, I like to freeze a couple of the bottles of water to provide ice for the cooler or backpack, plus later in the day you can enjoy a cool beverage.

  • Choose hotels that include a free continental breakfast when possible. This will save a family of 4 around $20 per day.
  • If you have a refrigerator at your hotel, stop at a local grocery store and pick up water, soda pop, snacks and breakfast items. This can usually save the average family $30 or more per day.
  • Most restaurants offer huge meals that can be easily split between several people. This is especially nice when traveling since you often do not have a way to store left overs.
  • Avoid expensive drinks when possible. Many restaurants now charge $3 per soda pop which can add up to any extra $12 for a family of 4. Ask for a glass of water which will also keep you hydrated.
If you love soda pop like I do, I will often take these beverages with me to the park to enjoy at less than 50 cents or less per bottle or can.
  • I always order an Entertainment Book before I travel to a destination. Entertainment books offer buy one get one free meals and other discounts that can save you money on food. You can save money on Entertainment books by looking for specials or signing up through Ebates or ShopatHome which both offer special pricing and cash back on your purchases plus a $5 sign up bonus for new members. Once you sign up you can log in to Ebates or ShopatHome and purchase your Entertainment Book.
  • I also buy Restaurant.com certificates for my destination city. For example if I was traveling to Las Vegas and staying on the strip, I would go to Restaurant.com and search for restaurants on or near the strip (Las Vegas Blvd). I usually wait for a sale on these certificates so I can buy a $25 certificate for $2 or $3. These certificates will require a minimum purchase like $35 then they will deduct the $25 certificate plus add tip. Be sure to check my site for the most current discount code!
Are you new to restaurant.com, then learn more about how the program works HERE. These certificates save me money plus help me try new restaurants in an area.

  • Look through the handy restaurant guides provided at many hotels. We found the restaurant in my photo during a recent trip to San Diego and enjoyed great food and a fun photo opportunity in this restaurant where a scene from Top Gun was filmed.
  • If you plan to spend multiple days at a Disney Park, look for packages that include a discounted meal plan. A basic burger in Disneyland can cost $8 so over the course of your trip, food can eat up a large part of your budget. You can also pack luncghes or eat many of your meals at restaurants outside the park.
These are just a few of my favorite ways to spend money on food when we travel. If you any tips, share them with us by leaving a comment!

Saving Money on Travel Part 4 - Attraction Tickets

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If your family is planning a vacation to a tourist area with amusement parks, waterparks, zoos or other attractions, ticket prices can comprise a large portion of your travel budget. These experiences can create lasting memories, so what are the best ways to save money on attraction tickets?

  • Buy City Passes - If you are visiting multiple attractions during your vacation, you can often invest in a City Pass. City Passes are available for many different destinations and can save you 10% to 40% off admission prices. City passes can usually be purchased at attraction websites, Costco or AAA.
  • Find Discount Tickets Before You Go. As mentioned above, Costco can provide some great deals on admission tickets. Our local Costco offered both a City pass which included a three day Disneyland Park Hopper Pass, a ticket to Universal Studios, a ticket to San Diego Zoo or Wild Animal Park, and a ticket to Sea World. You typically save 20-40% off the gate price when you buy one of these packages.
  • Buy Through Your Travel Clubs to Save Money. If you are a AAA member, you can also buy admission tickets for discounted prices at their website http://www.aaa.com/ or in their offices. You can often show your AAA card at the gate to save 10% off the admission price at the gate. Do not forget to request your FREE Tour Books for your destination city and maps. The Tour Books are a great resource to tell you about local history and local attractions including which attractions offer discounts to AAA members.
  • Buy Tickets On-line. If you are not a AAA or Costco member, you can often just buy discounted tickets at the attraction websites. Most attractions have special offers and discounts for on-line purchases.
  • If you have a local zoo membership, you can often receive FREE or discounted admission to other zoos across the country. Check with your local zoo to get a list of participating zoos.
  • Invest in an Entertainment Book. Entertainment Books are offered for many cities across the US . In addition to buy one get one free food offers, they also include attraction discounts and offers.
  • Look for Chamber of Commerce websites or other on-line discount sites for your destination city. When I traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the first time, I requested multiple coupons books, maps and brochures.
  • You can get special attraction deals through travel agents or vacation packages. If you are booking hotels rooms plus attractions tickets or dining plans (with Disney packages), you can often receive special deals if you purchase a vacation package.
  • Sign up for travel newsletters like Travel Zoo or Hotwire and they will e-mail you the top travel deals every month. These deals often include special offers for attractions tickets.
  • If you are active or retired military (or spouse), many attractions offer military discounts. Disney World is currently offering an amazing deal on a 4 Day Park Hopper tickets for only $169 for active or retire purchased at  Shades of Green HERE.
If you love to save money on travel, read the rest of my series on Saving Money on Travel.



Saving Money on Travel Part 3 - Hotels/Condos

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Where will you stay when you reach your destination? Many families will stay in hotels or rent a house or a condo during their stay. There are several sites that will save you money when searching for the best deals on hotels.

When I have a scheduled date for my vacation, I use Hotels.comOrbitz.comExpedia.comTravelocity.com or Priceline to search for a great price on a hotel. Here are a few advantages of each site.

  • Hotel.com has a a great rewards program called Welcome Rewards where you can earn a FREE room after 10 nights, not 10 stays. They also have a many different options for finding the perfect location in your price range. You can read reviews from other travelers to determine if the hotel is a good fit for your family.
  • Expedia.com offers great combination deals with airfare, hotels and/or rental cars. I like to search several of the sites to get a feeling for the price range for vacation packages and then find the best offer. You can read reviews from other travelers to determine if the hotel is a good fit for your family.
  • Orbitz.com offer great combination deals with airfare, hotels and/or rental cars. Orbitz also offers a price assurance so if the price of hotel or flight drops, Orbitz will automatically send you a check for the difference. You can also read reviews from other travelers to determine if the hotel is a good fit for your family.
  • Travelocity.com offers great combination deals with airfare, hotels and/or rental cars. If your travel dates are several months or more in the future, then my favorite feature of Travelocity.com, Price Watch, can save you money. Price Watch allows you to set specific destinations that you want to travel to and from, then they will notify you by email when tickets go on sale, prices drop or increase, or when price reach a certain price point. You also can read reviews from other travelers to determine if the hotel is a good fit for your family.
  • Priceline.com is a great place to buy rooms or rental cars when you know a general location and which category of hotel (2 star, 3 star or 4 star) or rental car (compact, mid-sized, full-sized) that you want to book. After you have researched hotels in specific area and you have a good idea what the prices in the category and area you like should be (example 3 star in Anaheim runs $90 per night), then you can go to Priceline and make an offer like $60. Keep in mind that not every offer is accepted and after you make an offer you can not make another offer on the same category of hotel. Any additional offers would be on different categories of hotels so you often have to experiment to find the best deals. You may also have additional taxes or resort fees so be sure to consider this when making an offer. Naming our own price has saved us a lot of money over time on some amazing 3 and 4 star hotels.
  • Travelzoo is another great site that sends out weekly email newsletters for their top 20 or top 100 travel deals every week. This is a great site if you are flexible on your departure date and location. They offer great hotel deals, cruise deals, airfare deals and package deals worldwide.
  • Another option for saving money on your trips is to rent a house or condo for a week. This works well with larger groups. You can usually find great options by searching on Ebay or searching for house or condo rentals by the city you want to visit.

    Save More:
    Sign up for Ebates or ShopatHome and log in through your account before you book your travel for Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com Expedia.com, Priceline.com and many other travel sites to receive a cash back bonus on every purchase. You will also receive a $5 bonus just for signing up with either siteAlso be sure to book your travel with your reward credit or debit cards to "double dip" on rebates and rewards when you travel.

Saving Money on Travel Part 2 - Airfare

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From a young age, my family always valued travel. It was a great opportunity to see beautiful places and experience the world. During my childhood our family of five always had a very tight budget, so we had to get creative when we traveled to find the perfect balance between value and creating our dream vacation. As an adult, I love travel even more than I did as a child, so I have found creative ways to travel on a budget.

Today's economy has definitely provided some great opportunities for discount travel, but it has also forced many of us to look closely at our budgets to determine how much we can afford to spend on a vacation. The first step to planning any successful trip is to determine how much money you can afford to spend.

Here are some of my tips for saving money on travel.

  • Determine your budget. Once you have determined your budget, you can determine if your dream location can be reached within your budget.
  • Will you drive to your destination or will you fly? If you have a larger family, airfare can be a major expense. Most airlines charge full price for anyone over 2 years old. They now have also added additional fees like baggage fees, fees for snacks and fees for headphones.
If you decide to fly to your destination, here are a few tips to save you money on airfare.
  • Watch for Deals - If you know where you want to travel to in advance, go to Travelocity.com and set up a Farewatch between your home airport and your destination city. Check today’s price on tickets, then Travelocity will email you when the price drops under a certain price or drops by $25. You can set the criteria and just wait for the best deals.
  • Check your airline mileage balances. You may find that you have enough points accrued for a free airline ticket.
  • Sign up for an e-mail newsletter for your favorite airlines. They often send out newsletters with current sales. Every time I travel a different airline I check if the points will transfer to my favorite mileage program. I also always sign up for the mileage plan if they do not partner with my main mileage program. I love the Southwest Airlines newsletter and the AlaskaAir newsletter, but most of your favorite airlines will offer an email newsletter with their best deals.
  • Stack deals when booking travel. If you have a rewards debit or credit card, use it to book your flight. They not only will these cards provide reward points or cash back, but they often provide additional travel insurance free. Check with your credit card company to determine what additional travel insurance they provide. Certain rewards cards also offer promotional deals like extra miles to book through their site. AlaskaAir offers an extra 1,000 miles if you purchase with your AlaskaAir Visa card.
  • Book travel through cash back rebate programs. Book your travel through a site like Ebates and ShopatHome. Both programs offers cash back on most on-line purchases, including many travel companies. Once you have found the best deal, log in to your Ebates or Shoptathome account and place the order through their site to earn cash back on all your travel.
  • Always book your flights at least 21 days before your departure date. This will give you the best pricing. When you purchase your ticket less than 21 days before your departure date, prices will usually increase.
  • Search for your airline tickets mid-week. Airlines will often start their sales on Monday nights.
  • Pack light. This will save money on fees which can range from $35-$75 per check bag.

Catch up on my travel series, Saving Money on Travel.

Do you have any great tips for saving on airfare? Be sure that you leave a comment with your favorite tip.

Saving Money on Travel Part 1 - Staycation

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As winter fades into spring, many people are starting to plan their spring and summer vacations. I have created a multi-part series on ways to save money on travel. 




One of my favorite ways to spend my free time is to travel. With the recent challenges in the economy many people are cutting back on travel or giving up travel completely. Since July 2009, I have been sharing ways to save money on groceries, drugstore items, clothes and toys through this blog, but I also want to share my favorite ways to save on travel and vacations. This is the first part to a multi-part series offering tips for saving money on travel.

One of the biggest questions for many families this year is can I afford to vacation at all. One of the popular alternatives to the traditional vacation is a "Staycation." If you are one of the many families who have given up travel completely this year here are some tips to create a wonderful vacation experience right in your own back yard.

  • Free Events - One of the best ways to explore your area is to seek out FREE events including festivals, free museums and other events in your area. Most newspapers have a section that lists free events.
  • Invest in Memberships - Make use of memberships that you already own or invest in a membership to a zoo, museums or club that your family can use year round. Each year my family invests in a zoo membership. Our zoo membership gives us unlimited access to our local zoo plus also allows FREE entrance to other zoos across the country when we are able to travel.
  • Use the memberships you already have. If you have a membership at a gym with a pool, they often offer family swim days. Check with your gym for the family swim schedule, then pack some pool toys and head out for a great day of family fun. 
  • Enjoy your local parks. My husband, daughter and I love heading to the park for a day of family fun. You can pack a picnic lunch and bring an inexpensive kite for a fun experience. You can also find a different park in your area than where you usually go to enjoy something new.
  • Use discounts for entertainment. You can often search through your gift certificates to find lost treasures like any movie certificates, restaurant certificates or other items you can use to add a fun family activity. Each year we purchase an Entertainment Book for our area. The Entertainment books offer buy one get one free deals to activities and restaurants. They often include discounts for bowling alleys, games centers and movie theaters plus other arcades or amusements parks both locally and nationally.
  • Explore your area through day trips. Within a few hours of our area, there are great lakes, hiking areas, ski areas, ghost towns, dunes, and other activities like the Birds of Prey. Each area is unique and offers inexpensive opportunities for a day trip or vacation closer to home.
  • Dine out at a restaurant that you have been wanting to try in your area. You can save money by using coupons from the Entertainment Book or go to Restaurant.com to find great deals on local dining.
  • Check out other FREE events like the National Park WeekGo HERE to see the dates in 2011when you can receive FREE admission to US National Parks.
These are just a few tips to help you enjoy your vacation if you decide to stay closer to home this year. Please feel free to share your favorite money saving trips for travel by leaving a comment below.

Catch up on my travel series, Saving Money on Travel.

Saving Money on Travel - Getting Started

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I love to travel with my family and I love to save money, so I combined these two passions to travel more on less money! I have created a series of articles with tips to save money on many different aspects of travel. 

If you are planning a spring break trip or summer getaway, don't get soaked by the high cost of travel. Catch up on my travel series, Saving Money on Travel. Each article highlights different ways to save money on travel.

Free Entrance Fee Days for National Parks for 2014

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Enjoy free entrance fees to one or more of our National parks when they offer free park admission during President's Day Weekend - February 15th-February 17th, 2014Enjoy our national treasures and save money on travel by enjoying one of the fee free days for 2014.

To find a participating park near you, go HERE.

Fee Free Days for 2014


  • January 20
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 15-17
    Presidents Day weekend
  • April 19-20
    opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25
    National Park Service Birthday
  • September 27
    National Public Lands Day
  • November 11
    Veterans Day


If you are active military, you can receive a free annual pass. Here are the details:


Free Annual Pass for U.S. Military
  • Available to U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard and also, Reserve and National Guard members.
  • Must be obtained in person at a Federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).\
Go HERE to learn more.

Panda Express Deal - Free Fire Cracker Chicken on Jan. 31st, 2014

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Enjoy Panda Express' New Chinese New Year Celebration with free firecracker chicken on January 31st. 

Print your coupon from HERE and use it on January 31st, 2014. 

Receive a single serving with no purchase necessary. Offer limited to one coupon per day per person, while supplies last.

Resolve to Save Money

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If saving money this year is one of your resolutions, then explore these great ways to save money to reach your goals of paying off debt, building a travel fund or creating a Christmas fund for 2014. 

I love to travel so my passions for saving money helps fund my passion for travel! What is your savings goal for 2014? Here are some ways that you can save money to help you to reach your goal!

Set a goal 
  • You need to decide if you want to pay off your debt, save for your family vacation, build a Christmas fund or build an emergency fund. I find that it is a lot easier to save money when I define a goal and I can watch the savings grow or watch my debt shrink!
Open a separate bank account 
  • It is easier to reach your savings goals when you can watch it grow. It is also less tempting to borrow from your nest egg when you have your funds separated. Be sure that you shop around to find a FREE account so that you can hold on to all of your savings. It is even better is you can find an account that pays interest on your money!
Learn to save money through coupons  
  • How much can you really save? According to an article from the Wall Street Journal from March 2010, you can make $86.40 per hour clipping coupons. $86.40 is a great wage for part-time work! You can read the full article HERE.
  • Extreme couponing can save you 90% or more on your monthly grocery bill, but if you are not ready to rush out and build an addition on to your home to store all your spoils, you can still save money with every coupon you use. Recently one of my favorite stores had a sale on Tillamook Cheese for $3.99 (2.00 off regular price), then I stacked it with a$1 off any cheese coupon to save even more. On this one transaction I saved 1/2 price on one of our family's food staples. Imagine how this saving snowballs as you use more coupons each week! Saving just $25 per week adds up $1200 per year!
  • Combine sales with store coupons. I clip coupons from the Sunday paper inserts or print them from Coupons.com and other on-line sites. I then watch for a great sale to find items I need at 50% to 90% off retail. I try to only purchase items that I know I will use in a 3-6 month period which is the typical sale cycle for most products.
  • Take advantage of double coupons to find free or heavily discounted items. Combine high value coupons to find items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, pasta, personal care items, cake mixes, diced tomatoes, cereal, cocoa mix and even pizzas for free.
  • Find catalina offers to save even more money. Catalinas are coupons that print at checkout that can be used toward your next purchase. They usually have a value like $5 off toward any future purchase. Stores like Albertsons and Fred Meyer often combine catalina offers with sales.  Walgreens has catalinas called register rewards while RiteAid calls their catalina system UP rewards. You can usually apply coupons to these purchases and still receive these catalinas, adding up to huge savings.
  • Where can you find coupons - Sunday papers usually include coupons inserts. You can buy multiple Sunday papers to have extra inserts. My favorite free way to get extra inserts is to have friends and family save their coupons for me. You can also often find great coupons on-line so you can print only what you need from sites like Coupons.com, PillsburyBox Tops and product web sites like Huggies. For big promotions, you can order multiple coupons at Ebay.com.
  •  Apply the amount your saved using coupon toward your debt or deposit it in your travel or Christmas fund to watch it grow!
  • To learn more about saving money using these techniques check out my Couponing 101 series.


Save Money Through Rebates
  • Many stores like RiteAid, Staples and ShopKo offer monthly rebate programs that offer free or discounted products after rebate. You can usually apply coupons to your purchase to reduce your out of pocket expense. You can receive rebates on everything from electronics, personal care items and toys to wine. Last year I earned over $300 in rebates!


 Save Money Shopping On-line
  • If you shop on-line, you can also save and earn extra money toward your goals. Sites like Ebates and ShopatHome allow you to earn cash back at thousands of on-line stores including Staples, Old Navy, the Gap, Home Depot, Macy 's and many others. You also earn a $5 bonus just from signing up and using either rebate site for at least one purchase. I joined both sites and use the one with the highest rebate for each on-line store. I earned over $100 last year in rebates through these sites. The key to earning money with either of these sites is to remember to log in to your Ebates or ShopatHome account before each on-line purchase so that you receive credit for every purchase.
Earn Money Through Surveys
  • If you have a little free time and a desire to have your opinions heard, you can earn money taking surveys. There are many different survey companies to choose from. Last year I completed surveys for Mindfield, Mysurvey, Opinion Outpost and Toluna. I earned an average of $50 per month spending 4-5 hour per month completing surveys.  
Earn Money Through Your Web Searches
  • Swagbucks awards you points for using their search engine. Instead of searching through MSN or Yahoo, you would use Swagbucks for your Internet searches. You can also earn extra points through swag hunts, referrals, special offers and shopping through their site. I earned $120 in Amazon gift cards last year just by searching a couple of time per day using Swagbucks. I traded my swagbucks for gift cards and saved the Amazon gift cards to help me fund Christmas last year! Sign up HERE to see how much you can earn with Swagbucks.

If your New Year's resolution includes finding ways to save money, learning to save and earn money is as easy as clipping a few coupons, watching sales and checking back at isitreallyadeal.com to find some of my favorite deals. 

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/isitreallyadeal or"Like" me on Facebook so you never miss a deal!

What is your favorite tips for reaching your savings goals this year? Please leave a comment with your favorite savings tips or tell us what you are saving for in 2014.


Save Money with Coupons - Where to Begin

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I have always loved to save money, but a couple of years ago I discovered how much money I could save by clipping coupons. In the beginning, everything seemed overwhelming from the coupon lingo and terms, to where to find coupons. It was hard to believe that it was possible to save 50%-90% off my grocery bill each month, but I decided to start learning how save with coupons and have since saved around $400-$500 per month.

Here are my suggestions for beginners.

Start Small

We had been subscribing to the Sunday paper for a while, but I had always just thrown out the Inserts without even flipping through them. This is how I learned to save money with coupons.

  • My first step was to pull out these inserts from the Sunday paper and to review them. I would purchase extra papers during weeks where there were a lot of coupons that I would use.
  • I clipped the coupons for the brands that I already used.
  • I bought a wallet sized accordion folder and separated the clipped coupons into categories.
  • I looked through the grocery and drugstore ads to find ways to combine sale and coupon savings.
  • You can also follow a couple of your favorite deal sites!
Learn the lingo

There are different types of promotions that you can combine to save money at grocery stores and drug stores.
  • Catalina - A Catalina is a coupon that prints at checkout after you buy certain items. In the past you might receive a $10 Catalina which is a coupon toward your next purchase when you buy $20 worth of ice cream. Often these Catalinas roll which means that you can apply your $10 off catalina to your next purchase of ice cream and save even more, then the Catalina would print again.
     
Here is how it works:

         Buy $20 worth of participating ice cream
         Use $5 worth of coupons (clipped from inserts)
         Pay $15 for $20 worth of ice cream plus get a $10 catalina.
  
         2nd Transaction

         Buy $20 worth of participating ice cream
         Use $5 worth of coupons (clipped from inserts)
         Use $10 Catalina from the last transaction
         Pay $5 for $20 worth of ice cream plus get a $10 catalina.

Different stores call their checkout coupons by different names. Rite Aid calls their catalinas UP+ Rewards and Walgreens calls their catalinas Register Rewards.
  • Double or Twice Value Coupons - My favorite way to save money is with Twice Value coupons. Twice Value coupons are offered at one of my favorite grocery stores and double the value of my coupons (up to $1) making many items free or very inexpensive to buy. Unfortunately our local Albertsons no longer offers Twice the Value coupons, but stores like Kmart offer limited double coupon promotions. 
       
If an item was on sale for $1 each then
       use your $.50 coupon for that item and

       use your Twice the Value coupon.
       Item Price = Free

  • Inserts - Inserts are the coupon fliers that are included in the Sunday paper. They include coupons from companies like General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, Red Plum and Smart Source.
  • Out of Pocket - Out of Pocket refers to the actual cash you will need to purchase items after all the sale prices and coupons have been applied.
  • Stock Pile or Stock up - When anyone refers to the term stock up or stock pile, then they are indicating that this is a rock bottom price for an item. Most sales run in a 3 month cycles so you would want to purchase and stock up on enough of that item to last until the next sale. Some items, including non-perishable items, can be purchased and stored much longer, if you have the space. 
  • Stacking Coupons - Stacking coupons is a technique where you use a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon and apply them toward a sales price to maximize your savings.

Finding Coupons
  • You can find coupon inserts in the Sunday paper and in store ads.
  • Find printable coupons on-line at sites like Coupons.comSmart Source and Red Plum.
  • You can also get coupons at Facebook pages and product websites.
Get Organized
  • Find a way to clip and store coupons that makes it easiest for you to use them. After all if you do not use them, you will not save money.
  • I have used both the small accordion wallet to keep in my purse and have now migrated to a binder system. There are many different ways to organize your coupons, so you will want to experiment to see which system works best for you.
Coupon Ethics
  • Do not photocopy coupons.
  • You should only use the coupon only for the product and size listed on the coupon.
  • Be courteous to other shoppers by placing orders with your store for large orders and avoiding clearing the shelves.
Have Fun
  • You can save money with every coupon you redeem, so experiment and find out which system works best for you.
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes. I have realized too late that a coupon for a deal has just expired or that the sales item is a different size than the coupon states. Even meticulously planned trips can encounter problems, so be flexible.
  • Your cashiers can be a huge part of your experience so be sure to always be friendly. If you notice a mistake or error, just ask them nicely to check into it for you.
How much can you really save? According to an article from the Wall Street Journal from March 2010, you can make $86.40 per hour clipping coupons. $86.40 is a great wage for part-time work! 


To keep up on my favorite deals, you can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/isitreallyadeal or "Like" me on Facebook.

Tips to Survive Black Friday

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I value my sleep so much that I rarely set my alarm and rush to the store for just any doorbusters, but Black Friday is definitely the exception to my rule. I am not sure if it is the thrill of the hunt for amazing deals ingrained in us from our ancestor's hunt and gather instincts or just the opportunity to stretch our money in tough economics times, but I never miss Black Friday sales.

Each year I develop more savvy techniques to maximize my savings and find ways to enjoy the chaos on one of the craziest shopping days of the year. 

Here are some of my strategies to survive Black Friday:
  • Set a budget - It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays and Black Friday that you spend more than you had budgeted. Set up a Christmas Fund or separate account for holiday expenses. If you wants some ideas to build a Christmas Fund go HERE. Some people set their holiday budget and loaded it on a prepaid visa card or gift cards.
  • Don't Compensate for Savings - If you planned to spend $25 on your niece and you find a $25 gift on sale for $15, lock in the deal and move on to the next person on your list! Use your savings toward unexpected holiday expenses.
  • Make a list and check it twice - In previous years, I remember grabbing several items that were not on my list just because they were an amazing deal. I bought a couple items that just collected dust in my gift closet. Eventually I will find the perfect recipient, but toys and electronics become obsolete quickly so it is better to only buy what you plan to use within the next 6 months to a year.  
  • Map out your stops - I like to look through the sales fliers, highlight the items I want to buy, then I determine the value of savings. Is it really worth waiting all night in a line to save $10 on a child's coat? There are amazing deals to find, so check when your favorite stores open, determine the best value for your time (like finding multiple items at one stop or buying high-value items like electronics), and then determine which of the top stores on your list are within a close distance of each other. Also many stores also offer sales that last all day, even if the best deals are offered early.
  • Plan for long lines - In past years, I waited in the check-out lines stores for over an hour. Make sure that you allow time in your schedule for making your purchase and getting to the next stop. 
  • Doorbusters are limited - If you want to get the  freebies, plan on being near the front of the line. In past years, I waited for nearly 2 hours and was near the front of the line, but they ran out of the free game a few people in front of me. Also many deeply discounted items like electronics are limited to only a handful per store. If you want the most popular items, plan to camp out early.
  • Expect surprises - Last year my Walmart had the doorbuster toys in the food section, electronics in the toy section and other items spread randomly throughout the store. It was pure chaos, but I was able to grab a few of the items on my list. I rarely include a store in my Black Friday stops unless they have several items I would like to purchase so you more likely to find some of the items on your list!
  • Shop with a friend or relative - My husband and I usually have a standing date to shop together on Black Friday. It is so much easier and enjoyable to have someone shop with you. They can hold your place in line when you have to run to the restroom or can grab you coffee while you wait in line.
  • Prepare for the weather - There are always long lines at some of my favorite Black Friday stops. It is always cold in my area, so I have learned to dress in layers to stay warm as I wait outside and then I can shed layers as needed when I shop inside the stores. Even in decent weather, lining up outside along the sidewalk can be miserable if you are not prepared. Remember that there are no restrooms or coffee stands outside most stores, although those items would make Black Friday more enjoyable. 
  • Know your store's policies - Many stores accept coupons for additional savings, while other stores will price match ads from their competitors. This can be a great way to save extra money and time, but remember that sometimes Black Friday offers, doorbusters or limited time offers are excluded, so check with your favorite store before you shop on a busy day like Black Friday to avoid frustration at the cash register.
  • Stack coupons - Many stores let you use coupons, even on Black Friday deals. As an example you can usually stack a "survey" coupon with the $10 off $50 coupons. You can often use store coupons to save even more on your Black Friday deals.
  • Embrace the holiday spirit - I have had the most amazing experiences with shoppers here in Boise. While the long lines to check out and the crowded stores can seem frustrating at times, part of the experience of Black Friday is the thrill of the hunt. You may not get every item on your list but a little kindness makes the experience better for everyone.
Do you have a favorite tip for surviving Black Friday? Be sure to share your tip as a comment!

To see tips for planning a stress free holiday go HERE.

Save $2 on Lindt Chocolate

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You can print a $2 off Lindt Chocolate coupon from Lindt's Facebook page HERE. Click on the link and watch a short video, then print your $2 off coupon. Use your coupon with a sale to receive free or very inexpensive chocolate!

P.F. Chang's $10 off $40 Coupon Offer

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You can "like" P.F. Chang's Facebook page HERE and choose the "Print the Special Offer" under the Goodness of Fall contest page option to receive your coupon worth $10 off your $40 purchase at P.F. Chang's. Limit one offer per table. See coupon for additional restrictions.

40% Green Toys and More at rosieMADE for Columbus Day

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Today only (10/14) take 40% off all Green Toys products from rosieMADE plus receive a free bath brittle worth $10 with any $40 order. All the toys are made from recycled milk cartons, made-in the USA and built to last. They are environmentally friendly and durable. Check out rosieMADE for more of their Columbus Day sale items!


These items include fire truck (10" x 6") for only $15 after discount