Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Tech

I was asked how technology has helped me prepare for the holidays this year. OMG. What in the world would I do without technology? This year in particular has been great. I've been following blogs and printing coupons and catching deals all year long. It's only December 8th, and I've had most of my Christmas shopping done for several weeks now!!! And on top of that, I have a nice little program on my iphone that helps me keep track of the presents that I've bought so I don't forget that I have things stowed away.

On top of that, I use my computer to store all of my cookie recipes. I use facebook to keep in contact with all of my family and friends. I research all of the activities going on in the area to determine if we want to add anything new to the family traditions. And most importantly, what in the world would I do without technology to entertain me and the kids while hubby is watching yet another (eye roll) NCIS marathon? It's crazy how much I depend on technology.

After the holidays are over and everything is calming down, I like to get on my computer and upload all the photos and videos that I've compiled throughout the holiday parties we've attended. Then I order pictures and posters and photo collages and photo mugs to remember the happy times we all shared.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Learning Process

I've been continuing to do a gazillion mystery shops. I have so many scheduled right now that it's getting a bit difficult to keep track of. It's very important to have a good way to know what you're supposed to be doing and when. If you're just going to casually do one here and there, no biggie. But if you're trying to create a regular source of extra income like I am, it can get complicated. Dozens of companies with different jobs in different areas. Am I supposed to be at the restaurant on this side of town today? Or the other one I signed up for over on the other side of town? Very important to keep track. I use a spreadsheet.

Another thing that you want to focus on as you start to do mystery shops, if you're new to it and kind of excited, you're probably applying for everything under the sun. That's fine to start with. There's a lot to learn. The important thing is to figure out what kind of mystery shops you enjoy doing. Personally, I'm a bit uncomfortable having to make returns. So as a general rule, I don't accept a shop that requires it. There are exceptions. If the pay is right, I'll suck it up and do the return. The other big thing is to be sure to check the out of pocket expense. Yeah, it's nice to do a restaurant shop and get a free meal. But you have to pay for it up front. Then it takes sixty days to get your money back. It isn't always in my budget. I would love to do some of these big upscale restaurant shops. The ones that reimburse your meal for you and a guest up to $130. But I don't want to part with my $130 for sixty days.

Then on the other hand, some of the ones with reimbursements are worth it. For example, it's time to get the oil changed in my car anyway. So rather than just taking it in and getting it done, I'll schedule the mystery shop to do it. Yeah, I still have to put out the $20 to get it done. But it's something I would be paying for anyway. So I might as well get reimbursed for it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mystery Shopping Information

So you want to be a mystery shopper. It sounds like fun, but isn't all a scam? Absolutely not! Mystery shopping is an excellent way to make some extra money. It can even be a full time job if you want it to be. I've been doing it off and on for about a year, and I'm starting to try to find enough shops for it to actually be a source of income for me.

There are some tricks to being successful with mystery shopping that I'm learning. Of course there are all the skill sets you need to actually perform the mystery shops. The important one being attention to detail. When I shop, I used to rush in and out and not pay attention to anything but what I was doing. Now I've learned to slow down my brain and notice things around me. You gotta be in the moment to be able to answer the questions later. Another biggie, you gotta be able to write. Some reports are just multiple choice. Others are just narrative. Most are some of both. But they want you to have good writing skills with good grammer and no spelling mistakes.

So how does it work? Start signing up with different mystery shop companies. You can't do just one. Certain companies have certain shops available based on company or location or industry. If you sign up with just one company you may NEVER find a shop in your area. I'm currently signed up with 29 different companies. And out of those there are 2 that consistantly have open shops in my area, and the other 4 sometimes have stuff in my area. The other 22 rarely have anything in my area. And 1 that I don't like to use because I've had bad experiences with them.

Each company you sign up with, you will have to fill out an application and be accepted as a shopper. The application is for all of your personal information, and usually has a small writing assignment. Something like describing a recent shopping trip. When you complete your essay, be sure to point out details like cleanliness of the store and how you were treated by workers. Also include descriptions of the workers, how long you waited, stuff like that. You want to talk about your personal experience, but try to stick to the facts. Very rarely do they care about your opinion. They only want to know what happened.

Another important point . . . you WILL have to give each company your social security number. The money you earn on mystery shopping is taxable income.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Amazing Medco Offer

I don't know how long this will last, so act fast if you're interested. I originally got the info at Please follow that blog for up to the minute deal info.

Go to Add $10 or more worth of merchandise to your cart. They have toiletries, OTC medications, baby items, etc. You're sure to find items that you need. Then use the coupon code MHS10 at checkout to take $10 off of your order. And shipping is only 99 cents! My total amounted to 9.98, so I only had to pay 99 cents for the shipping for the entire order!

Even better . . . you can place a second order and use coupon code tenoff and do the same thing all over. I got a ton of stuff that I needed that doesn't usually come on sale with normal coupons and deals. Lots of baby stuff in my case. But look around at the site, find what you need, and get it for next to nothing!

Hello Everyone!

Well, I had intended to write a goodbye post. I don't have time to be on top of this blog the way I should be if I'm going to do it the right way. I had my second little one. Daelyn Olivia was born on 4/28/10 and weighed 7 lbs, 4 ozs. With Dawson and Daelyn and running Light My Fire Candles, that's about all I can handle. And then some! So I'm not really maintaining this blog anymore.

However . . .

I do still want to post amazing deals that I come across. So if you have an interest in deal shopping or couponing at all, then please enter your email address in the box on the right side to follow me. On the rare occassion that I do write a post about a spectacular deal, you'll get the info in your email. I still do a fair amount of research to save money for my family, and if I'm excited enough about it to come here and post, then trust me, you want to know about it! Although I'm not planning to pretty it up with pictures or anything.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Using Rebates

Do rebates really work? I know when I send in rebates it seems to take for-ev-er to get anything back. I practically forget that I'm even waiting for them. Then it seems like such a small amount to have even been worth the effort to begin with. So is it even worth messing with it? I say yes. Here's a few things I do to manage my rebates without going crazy.

1. Make a list. If I send a rebate, I add it to the list, along with the date that I mailed it. Ideally I also add a phone number to call if the time goes by and I still haven't received it. Once I receive the check in the mail, I check it off on my list.

2. Read the fine print. How many times have you bought a product, then got home to fill out the rebate form and find out you didn't buy the right thing, or the right quantity? Take a few minutes to read the fine print before you waste your time and money.

3. Get everything together to mail out IMMEDIATELY. If you let the receipt sit in your purse, then you'll forget about it. Most rebates are time sensitive. If it sits, you might miss out on the cash back. A good rule of thumb is to fill out the form and envelope, and get your UPC off of the product as soon as you get home while it's still fresh in your mind. Or if you intend to purchase a product that you have a form for, go ahead and prepare the form and envelope. Then it just takes a couple seconds to get everything else together.

4. Combine rebates. One of my favorite rebate deals to take advantage of is the awesome offers on beer in the summer months. Often you can find rebates for $20 on groceries when you buy a 12 pack of beer. This is great! Buy the beer, then for the groceries, buy other things that have rebates. Last year there was a rebate for a 6 pack of Snapple. And a pack of Pediasure. So I got those products within the same order, made sure the cashier printed me multiple receipts of the same order, then I got a ton of money back on the transaction. It takes planning, but it's so worth it. Transactions like this can usually end up profitable, with a higher cash back than what you spent!

If you track your rebates over the course of a year, you'll see how much money you're saving. It helps if it's on products you need or really want to try. But because of couponing, sometimes I have trouble getting to the total order amount. That's when it really helps to combine rebates, even if I don't really need the product. Last year I probably got over $200 back on different groceries by using rebates. Is it worth the trouble? Absolutely!

Check out this link for a listing of rebate offers that are currently available:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pet Savings

One of the regular expenses in my household that I've had a hard time finding much savings on is pet stuff. With big dogs, we have to use special big dog food. And we can't really change brands because that can be dangerous (ie messy and gross.) Luckily my cats aren't as high maintenance. Here are a few things that I'm working on in order to save money in this category:

1. Food. With the Purina ONE big dog food, I never pay more than $1/pound. I try to have a coupon or find a deal to get it cheaper. And note to self, getting the wet food, even as a treat, is a bad idea that results in big dog gas. Cat food I can usually get about 3 pounds for a dollar. I don't have to stick to one brand, and it comes in smaller bags. Small bag plus a high value coupon equals cheap food.

2. Flea treatments. I haven't done this yet, but I will be just as soon as it comes in the mail. (I use and go through Mr. Rebates to get 10% back.) Instead of buying doses for each animal, I'm getting it in the largest dose available. I will be pouring the medication into a bottle and measuring it out for each animal. Normally this would cost $175 to cover all four animals for 3 months. By buying larger doses and measuring myself, it ends up being about $100 for all for animals. Then after my 10% rebate, only about $90. (I am using the dog medication on the cats too. The dog version seems to be slightly weaker, but my cats stay indoors so I'm not worried about it. If you decide to try this, do so at your own risk.)

3. Dog licenses. Be sure to purchase your license as soon as possible each year. The price doubles after January if you forget!

4. Shots. I'm still researching this aspect. I'm shopping around at local vets and clinics to find a reasonable price. I've also read that it's possible to purchase the medicine and give the shot myself for a cost savings. I used to have a cat with diabetes who I had to give insulin shots twice a day, so I would be comfortable enough doing it myself so long as it all works the same way.

MIA - Preterm Labor Scare

Sorry I've been away for a bit. I had a preterm labor scare about a week and a half ago. At the time I was only 31 weeks along, so I've been taking it easy from that. They were able to stop it with medicine, so everything is good. But the medicine makes me soooo tired. So I'm just lucky to be out of bed for a couple hours everyday. At my last dr appointment, the medicine was reduced some, and that helps me feel better. We're 32 weeks along now, and I've not had any more problems, so I'm not stressing as badly about it anymore. Just trying to hold out until April. My son was born at 35 weeks, and we'll be at that point on April 2nd, so if I can get that far again, I'm happy enough! Each day that goes by makes me feel better.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coupon Sunday 2/28/10

There will be 1 insert in the paper this Sunday. Check out the list at the Taylortown link on my right sidebar. There is a good $3 off of Purina One brand pet food that I will use. That coupon by itself makes it worth buying extra papers for me. However, I will probably look into purchasing these individually through ebay instead of buying the extra papers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Outlet Malls

I was out shopping at the outlet malls this past weekend, and wanted to point out a couple tidbits that I came across. I'm used to buying most if not all of my clothes at Walmart or Target. I'm just not that into things like that to spend money on name brand things. If I'm going to put a couple hundred of dollars into a single item, it's going to be an ipod or a steam cleaner, or something that I'll get more use out of. New York and Company is about as high end as I go. And that's only because they have good coupons and sales!

At the outlet mall this weekend, I came across a few really good deals that I want to share. Don't expect to just walk into a designer store and to find anything and everything at good prices. Yeah, good prices if you shop in season, and are up on the latest styles. I don't care about that stuff. I care about getting items I love for good prices. I look for things that are going to last more than one season. I follow the same guidelines I do at regular stores. Head straight to the discount section. Theoretically, the whole stores are discount sections. Not really.

Coach. Super expensive purses and wallets. They often have coupons for 20% off circulating online. Follow Hip 2 Save in my sidebar, you'll be aware when the coupons are available. However, everytime I've gone to the store (not often, but still) they've handed me a coupon when I walked in the door whether the online one was available or not. But here's the trick. Everything in the store is marked down. But in the back corner, they have an extra percentage off the already marked down price. I like the 50% off section. This can take a $500 bag down to $150. Still pretty pricey if you're used to Walmart shopping. But my opinion is, why am I putting all of the time and effort into the deal shopping and couponing if I can't splurge once in a while. Even better . . . after sales and coupons, you can get a nice wallet for about $30. Last time I was in Kohl's looking for a wallet, it was going to be $30. Heck no! I'll get real designer for that price!

Ecco. I wasn't very familiar with Ecco shoes before. They're nice, but kinda boring. I like slutty shoes. But being 7 months pregnant and balance being an issue when the ground is kinda slick, I thought some sensible shoes would be a good plan. Almost every pair is like $130. And I have ginormous size 11 shoes. I never get deals on shoes. Never. But I was pleasantly surprised to come across a pair that I liked, then found out they were marked down to only $30. !!!!! Happy day for me! Again, same price I would pay for a halfway decent pair at Walmart or Target.

Also, found an awesome deal on Diesel cologne for men. I've had my eye on getting my husband a bottle of this stuff for a long time. But it's usually $65 for a bottle. In a store window I came across a gift set marked down to $35. It was a steal that included the cologne, after shave, and some shower gel. All for a cheaper price than a single bottle of cologne would have been.

So when you hit the outlet malls, don't expect to get something for nothing. Everything is still pricey. Especially if you're looking for something very specific. A little research, and an eye for a deal will help you out though. Keep in mind that it's only a deal if you would have bought your normal brand for a comparable price. If a shirt is half price, but still $30, that doesn't help me since I normally get shirts for $20 or less. (Unless it's a specific or special need.) So just because it used to be $60, it's not going to be a good deal for me unless it's less than $20.