It pays to go green at CVS

13 05 2009

IMG_1736I’m not much for entering contests and I’ve never even played North Carolina’s lottery. But I have  been known to enter a drawing now and then when I thought my chances were good. Click here to read a post about my thoughts on contest strategy. But in a nutshell, if the prizes are plentiful and/or the entries few, I will enter  a contest.

And that’s exactly how I won the Earth Day contest at CVS.

I picked up my winnings today and couldn’t believe how generous the prize package was. This is what I got: an eight-pack of two-ply paper towels, a 12-pack of one-ply toilet paper, a package of 250 napkins, a package of 12 lawn and leaf bags, a package of  12 tall kitchen bags, a package of 20 bowls, a package of 15 paper plates and two reusable shopping bags.

The paper towels, toilet tissue and napkins are made of 100 percent recycled material. The plates and bowls are made from sugarcane and are biodegradable. And the trash bags are also biodegradable and made from recycled plastic.

What a (cheap) thrill. OK, now you know exactly how much of a frugal geek I am.

I had almost forgotten about the contest when I got the good news yesterday via telephone.

In honor of Earth Day, each CVS store offered customers a chance to win a selection of its Earth Essentials and Go Green recycled products. For each entry, you had to purchase one of the drug store’s reusable bags.  The day I entered, I peered into the reusable bag holding the entries and there were only two slips of paper.  Opportunity was definitely knocking.

I bought a few bags at 99 cents each, and the cashier asked me if I’d like to use the 50-cent coupon attached to each bag. Until he told me, I didn’t even know there was a coupon on the bag! So for 49 cents each, I entered the contest and got a great reusable bag. I could feel the good karma percolating.

I’m not exactly sure how much the items I won are worth but I’d estimate the value of the paper goods at more than $30. Not a bad return on my investment.

As I said: a cheap thrill.


Halfway through our month of no spending

15 02 2009

Valentine’s Day marked the halfway point in our month of no spending so it’s time for an update on our cashless existence.

We continued to eat pretty well this week, following the menu I posted last week. Click here if you missed that post. To treat ourselves to a little something in honor of Valentine’s Day, my husband and I went to Panera Bread, using a gift card I earned from participating in MyPoints. After 27 years of marriage, we laughed at ourselves as we pulled into the empty parking lot. I guess we didn’t select the hot spot for romance. Oh well, we didn’t care. We marveled at sitting down in a restaurant and waiting for someone else to prepare our food. It was a nice little break — without breaking our no-spend rules. We ordered water with his sandwich and my soup so we still have quite a bit left on the $25 card.

Overall, I continue to be amazed at the steady march of cartons, cans and bags out of the pantry and freezer. It is getting empty in there. When you are shopping every week, you just don’t notice how much food you consume. This is a great reminder to me that we, my family specifically and our country in general, live in a land of plenty. It has also been great to actually see some of the things in the back of the pantry and the bottom of the freezer. We aim to use it all before replenishing — a great thing to do periodically to keep your stockpiles fresh.

Some of you may be wondering about the status of my gas tank. On Thursday, when I made a quick run to the nearest CVS to buy milk and a container of chili powder (with a gift card, of course), I was smiling to myself about still having more than a half tank of gasoline.

It was not by accident that I still had that much gas. So far during February, I have truly lived up to my title as a “stay-at-home” parent. Other than my weekly milk run, some carpooling to Girl Scouts and twice-weekly trips to a town park to walk around the lake, I have rarely left the house. At the start, I thought I might get cabin fever or suffer retail withdrawal, but I’ve actually enjoyed the time at home. It has given me time to accomplish some things that I have long put off. But more on that in a later post.

Back to my gas tank, any smugness I may have felt quickly evaporated on Saturday. I had previously volunteered my husband and our minivan to pick up Girl Scout cookies for our little girl’s troop. Not one to back out of a commitment, off hubby went in the van and down went the gasoline gauge. I will be lucky to make it the month on one tank.

So, how much have we spent so far? In addition to the previous $1 we spent on parking, I wrote a check on Feb. 11 for $15 to my daughter’s Girl Scout troop so that she can attend a camping trip in April. And on the 15th, I wrote a check for $17.50, again to my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, for Girl Scout cookies we ordered back in January. I didn’t want to be in arrears to the Scouts so I figured I better pay up — no-spend challenge or not.

January spending scorecard

3 02 2009

As promised, I am reporting in on how much money we spent — and how much we saved — at the grocery store and pharmacy during January. Click here to read the original post. 

Over the last few years, I’ve tried to stay within a $50 per week budget so I’ve always known — within a few bucks — how much I was spending.

 But I’ve always had to guess how much I was saving. From the volume of coupons I clip and the weight of the coupon binder I tote with me on every shopping excursion, I knew I saved A LOT. But now I have my first month’s worth of solid evidence:

I brought home $908.79 worth of groceries, cleaning supplies and health and beauty products. That’s full price, which, of course, I would never dream of paying.

I saved $284.35 by shopping sales and using my loyalty cards. I saved another $346.25 using coupons for a total of $652.92 in savings.

I paid $56.23 using various gift cards, which I received as gifts or earned through various promotions, leaving $199.63 that I paid out of pocket. Crunching the numbers, that means I saved 78 percent on grocery and drug store items for January.

For those of you following my no-spending-in-February challenge, I was happy to see that when I tallied the final receipts I didn’t go over my standard $50 per week budget. I wanted to go into the challenge with the same amount of food and household supplies that I normally do to keep the experiment honest. (Click here and here to read the first two posts on the no-spend challenge.)

 My only real shock — and I have to admit, disappointment — was in the number of shopping trips it took to obtain this level of savings. After tallying my receipts, I discovered I made 28 trips to seven different stores. I shopped at Harris Teeter 11 times, CVS seven, Kroger four, Food Lion three and Lowe’s Foods, Super Target and Super Walmart once each. If I were working outside the home, I seriously doubt I would make that many trips. But since I am at home, trying to get the most out of one salary and save substantial amounts for retirement and college, I see it as part of the job. And thankfully, all of these stores are within a mile or two of my home, with the exception of the Super Walmart, so I’m not burning up too much gas to go after my bargains.

But still, I never realized I was shopping that frequently. With the help of a large freezer bag, I do try to group some of my shopping trips together to save time and gasoline. Even so, I think I could do a better job of consolidating. I’m hoping maybe January is an aberration. I guess we’ll see as the year wears on.

One final note:  My $50 per week budget covers a full-time family of three (two adults and one 10-year-old) plus two college boys who come home about every two weeks to do their laundry and raid the pantry.

How much do you spend per week on your groceries and household supplies? Do you keep track of your savings? Do you go to several stores per week to chase the deals or do you stick to one store to save time? I would love to compare notes.

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.