The rare and wonderful wine tag

30 01 2009

Today I hit the wine tag jackpot.

Hanging from the necks of  wine bottles much like a necklace, the tags are designed to pull the shopper over to take a look at the wine. But for me, the tag is the real gem.

To a couponer, wine tags are truly a treasure because they typically offer money off on meats, seafoods, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables — all items for which there are rarely any coupons. And if you are trying to eat healthy, as our family is, it’s hard to keep your grocery budget in check because so many coupons are on packaged foods.

Next to beer rebates, wine tags are probably my favorite type of coupon so you can imagine how thrilled I was today when, while picking up a bag of dog food at Food Lion, I happened upon wine tags for $3 off meat, compliments of Blue’s Corner wine . Any meat. No minimum purchase. Better yet, here in North Carolina, there is no requirement to buy the wine to use the coupon.

I then went over to my favorite Harris Teeter to scout out any meats dated today that were being marked down. Score. I ended up paying 22 cents for a pound of Angus stew meat that regularly would have cost $4.51. I paid 44 cents for 1 1/4 pounds of ground beef regularly priced at $4.91. I’m envisioning beef stroganoff with the stew meat and sloppy joes with the ground beef.

That’s 66 cents for nearly $10 worth of meat, a 93 percent savings!

Gotta love those wine tags.


Packing some savings

29 01 2009

img_1456When my 10-year-old daughter tracked back in to school this week after the looooooooooooong winter break, she packed her lunch as usual but one thing was missing: the zip-seal plastic bags. In their place are reusable Wrap-N-Mats that I bought for her at

Leading up to Christmas, I took advantage of’s free shipping offer and bought a set of three mats for $18.95 and gave them to my daughter as part of her Christmas. You’re probably thinking that gift was about as welcome as a package of new underwear, but she shares my enthusiasm for doing our part to preserve the planet. So she was eager to give them a try on her pb&j sandwiches and rice cakes.

The mats are lined with a plastic that is easily wiped off so you don’t have to worry about messes. And they easily fold and secure with Velcro.

img_1457I have to admit, at first sight, I thought these little contraptions were a tad on the pricey side. So I searched all over the Internet trying to find them at a better price to no avail. So, with the free shipping offer and a previous positive experience with the company, I decided to make the investment in future frugality.

Here’s how it breaks down for my wallet: At Harris Teeter, a 100-count box of Ziploc sandwich bags is $4.29 minus my 40-cent coupon (doubled) would be $3.49.  Of course, I could get them cheaper by waiting for a sale or a triple-coupon promotion, but, in general, I will have recouped my initial investment in the time it would take us to use just 5 1/2 boxes. Savings to the planet? That would have to be priceless, to paraphrase the commercial.

If you have never been to the site, I would give it a look. It gives a second-by-second tabulation of the number of those ubiquitous plastic img_1458grocery bags we are using. It is shocking. The site also has links to ways you can become active in the environmental movement, how you can reduce your consumption of plastic bags and other throwaway items as well as a full line of reusable products for sale, from grocery bags to water bottles. To top it off, the company donates 1 percent of its sales to organizations devoted to the preservation and restoration of our natural environment.

Forgive me for sounding like a PR flack for I just happen to think it’s a terrific company.

Swearing off spending for February

28 01 2009

We won’t be spending any money in February. You read that right. No spending. Nada. Zilch. El zippo.*

My husband initially thought I was crazy when I brought up the idea. Then he shrugged his shoulders and reluctantly agreed. He reminded me that it would really be most difficult for me because as the stay-at-home parent, family organizer and social planner, I am the one who does all the spending. Aside from filling up his tank every 10 days or so, he almost never spends any money. So go for it, he said, shrugging again.

*I do want to disclose some fine print on this. We will pay our mortgage, electric, gas, cable and phone bills as well as make our monthly contributions to our investments and our church. We will put gasoline in my husband’s car so he can get to work. If someone gets sick, we will go to the doctor. And I will make use of my gift cards, all received as gifts or earned through coupons or rebates. (You might consider this cheating, but it’s my experiment so I’m allowing it.)

We will not, however, spend actual money on groceries, clothes, entertainment, lunches out, gifts or any other discretionary item. We will not spend money to make ourselves feel good. We will not spend money just because it’s “a good deal.”  Ugh. This might be harder than I thought, especially since I just got word today that Harris Teeter, my favorite grocery store, is going to offer triple coupons during February.

I first got the idea for a no-spend month after reading fellow blogger Katy’s account of her family’s two-week experiment with making do. Click here to read the first of two weeks’ worth of installments, which chronicle their struggles and triumphs as they ate their way through their pantry, agonized over their purchase of gasoline and lamented their last drops of olive oil. 

I thought, we can do this. And I bet we can go a month. OK, I did pick the shortest month of the year, but we are committed to seeing this through four full weeks.

Who knows what I’ll have to say come Feb. 28, but at the outset I’d like to see how much money we can save by cutting our expenses to the absolute essentials. (Now I realize cable TV is not essential, but we can’t really cancel our cable for my month-long social experiment. Not to mention, I highly value my marriage so the cable stays!) In today’s uncertain economy with thousands of layoffs being announced daily, I think it’s important for us to know how low we can go on expenses if the unthinkable happened.  

Second, I’m interested in seeing how our life changes. Will our routines change?  Will we view life with STUFF differently than life without STUFF. Will we feel deprived? Thanks to coupons and an already frugal way of life, I know for a fact we won’t go hungry. Our pantry, fridge and freezer are full and I still have one last grocery run to make in January. (In case you’re wondering, I won’t be spending any more than usual. When I total my January spending, I still expect to come in well under the $50 a month I budget for all our food, cleaning supplies, toiletries and dog food.

I am hoping for a simpler, slower-paced lifestyle. Theoretically, since I won’t be spending, I won’t be shopping, which means I’ll be at home more. Being home more means I’ll have the time to do things that always seem to get pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. Things like reading, scrapbooking, organizing my closets, exercising more, baking bread, playing more with my daughter, talking more to my husband, filing our paperwork, selling things on craigslist, giving things away on freecycle, working on a sewing project, enjoying the company of friends.

Mmmm. We’ll see.

In the interests of transparency, I will report in weekly, if not more frequently, to let you know how things are going. I will admit to any spending violations. And I welcome your comments.

Free Dr. Pepper……..I’ll drink to that

27 01 2009

Dr. Pepper is giving away a free bottle of DP, a 20 oz. bottle or a 2-liter. Your choice. It’s apparently the company’s way of apologizing for last year’s freebie that went bust when so many freebie seekers crashed its site. Click here to get on this deal. Cheers!

Should we ditch the landline?

26 01 2009

For months, we have kicked around the idea of canceling our landline telephone service. We know plenty of twenty- and thirty-somethings who have never had a landline. But at the ripe old ages of 49 and 51, we have been clinging to our home phone as if tethered by the seemingly endless coils on the glorious slimline of days gone by. Ah, those marvelous 1970s when, in search of a private moment with your sweetie, you stretched the cord around the corner, down the hall and into a closet, if necessary, to escape the din of the TV and the curiosity of parents or siblings.

But I digress.

The time has come, I think?, to cut the cord. My husband and I each have a cell phone. Our two college-age sons have cell phones. My mom, who lives nearby, has a cell phone with the same company. Consequently we have unlimited free calls to the people we call the most. The only one in the family without a cell is our 10-year-old daughter.

The pros of cutting the cord are numerous. First, we will save $30 a month. That’s $360 a year. A close second, no more telemarketers. Third, simplicity. One less bill to pay, one less phone to chase after, one less electronic device to repair or replace, one less place to check messages.

What are the cons? Folks on the internet who have contemplated ditching their landlines have pointed out a few drawbacks.

During a prolonged blackout, your cell will eventually need to be recharged. True, but since we keep no old-fashioned corded phone in the house, we already run that risk. It’s never happened.

Do you really want everyone and their cousin calling your cell phone? Do you have the minutes to deal with that? Good point. Many have solved this issue by keeping a “household” cell at home and using this number as the receiver of all household-related calls. Mmmmm. Maybe. Of course, this would cut our savings by $10 a month.

What about when your 10-year-old turns 11 or 12 and you start leaving her at home? Another good question, especially since I am dead set against children and young teens having cell phones. The “household” cell would also solve this problem.

Help me out here!! What do you think? Do you still have your landline or have you cut the cord?

A $1 DVD rental is good……But FREE is better

26 01 2009

Every time I go to Harris Teeter to do my grocery shopping, I have to push through a line of people waiting to rent DVDs for $1 from redbox. Before I tried it out for myself, I couldn’t believe the traffic this was creating at the supermarket entrance. Now I know what all the commotion is about.

If you aren’t familiar with redbox, it is basically a high-tech vending machine that dispenses DVD rentals with the swipe of a credit or debit card.

Rentals are $1, as long as you return them by 9 p.m. the next day. By requiring you to swipe your credit card, the folks behind redbox keep you honest. If you miss the 9 p.m. deadline, your card is charged another $1. There are no late fees.  If you fail to return a movie after 25 days, it’s yours to keep and the $1 per day charge ceases. (Redbox, btw, is owned by Coinstar and McDonald’s.)

I can’t believe it took someone this long to think up such a simple, yet ingenious, idea. Pick up a flick while running in for milk. Get a movie for the kids while picking up Happy Meals. This is bound to be the final nail in the coffin of Blockbuster, which has had such a long and storied history of bad customer service, outrageous prices and unfair late fees. 

But as good as a $1 DVD rental is………if you’re like me, why pay $1 when you can get a movie rental for FREE?

Check out to get codes for free rentals, news on the latest titles to be added to Redbox and the occasional weird news story involving redbox. You can also follow on twitter.

If you are a redbox newbie, you can rent free using the code DVD4ME. This code is good any day of the week. Then, every Monday,  updates with a new free code good on Mondays only, presumably because that is the slowest rental day of the week. But hey, free is free. 

Today’s Monday code is:


There are also codes offered that are good only at certain redbox locations. A code for a redbox at Walmart, for instance, will not work at a redbox inside a Harris Teeter or McDonald’s.

Another source of a free redbox rental is the official redbox site, Send it your email address and redbox will send you a free code. Plug in your zip code, and the site will give you a list of all the redbox machines in your area.

You can also reserve a movie title on the site to make sure you’re not disappointed when you get to a machine only to have all the latest flicks gone, which, incidentally, is the one drawback to redbox. Be ready to be flexible when picking your movie because selection is limited — unless you have reserved in advance.

Reserving a title doesn’t cost you anything extra but it does mean you can’t use a free code. But, hey, that’s a cheap price to pay for guaranteeing your selection. One final cool feature of redbox: you can rent from one redbox machine and return it to any other. And according to, there are more than 12,000 machines nationwide. Pretty convenient.

With movie theater tickets at $9.50 and up, Blockbuster store rentals in the $4 to $7 range depending on where you live, and Netflix at $9.99 a month for unlimted rentals, redbox gets my frugal thumbs up for entertainment.

Keeping track of our grocery spending and savings

22 01 2009

Thanks to a coupon-cutting mother, it didn’t take me long as an adult to pick up my scissors and start clipping.

But in the last couple years I have evolved from casual couponing to what I jokingly call robo couponing. I  buy extra Sunday newspapers for the coupons, print computer coupons and even swap coupons with friends and neighbors. I carry a two-inch thick three-ring binder filled with coupons, which are filed and categorized.

Call me obsessed, but this year I want to document exactly how much money we save by clipping coupons. I know it’s a lot because our weekly spending on groceries, health and beauty items and cleaning supplies rarely, if ever, tops $50. 

But for 2009, I am tracking our spending and savings at the grocery and drug stores on a computer spreadsheet. Last night, I entered the totals of all my January receipts to see how the first month of 2009 is shaping up.

Here are the results:

In 12 trips to the grocery and three trips to CVS, I have purchased $552.50 worth of food, dog food, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies and extra Sunday newspapers. That’s full price.

I paid $105 out of pocket for a savings of 81 percent. I saved $177 by shopping store sales and I saved an additional $237 by using coupons. Another $33.50 in savings came from using gift cards that I earned through various promotions. That’s a total savings of $447.50 so far this year.

My coupon savings so far are pretty high, thanks to a triple coupon promotion at Harris Teeter the first few days of the new year. And we are lucky to live in an area where three of the four major grocery chains double coupons every day. Two of those stores, Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods, double coupons valued up to 99 cents every day of the week. Kroger doubles coupons up to 50 cents.

Stay tuned: I plan on posting an update at the end of each month this year to see the savings mount.