Thursday, May 28, 2009

Awesome Printables

Go to the Hip 2 Save link in my sidebar. There are details on printing some really great coupons. $10 off of a $50 purchase at Office Depot. If you don't need anything else, then stock up on ink and paper. I'm planning to take advantage of some of the free after rebate offers they have. If you need business supplies, it's a good time to stock up on those too. Don't forget that no matter where you buy your ink, be sure to take your empties to Staples to get $3 per cartridge back.

There is also a coupon for $10 off of a $25 purchase at JC Penny. (Prom dresses are probably on clearance by now. These are great for formal nights if you like to go on cruises. Cruises are my favorite low budget vacations.)

Mystery Shopping Again

Well, I've been going crazy with the mystery shopping. I have four of them scheduled for Monday. I've already talked about how much fun I think it is. And I'm saying it again. It's fun!!!! But another reason I really like it is because it gives my days a little bit of structure. Since I no longer have a normal job, it can be easy for me to get off track with my daily goals. Having a mystery shop scheduled forces me to get out of bed, and get up and moving. And I drop my little boy off at my mom's so he can play with nanny and I can get my errands done. I'm lucky to have my mom's help. One thing with mystery shopping is that you can't take kids on a lot of them. On dinners you usually can.

Market Force is currently my favorite mystery shop company. They pay pretty well. I have several restaurant shops scheduled where they pay for my meal AND pay me $5. Getting paid to eat out is even better than getting almost free groceries. (Except for the waistline.) A few things to note if you're thinking about mystery shopping . . . some restaurant shops are very specific with what you can order. Pay attention to make sure that you are ok with what you're allowed to eat. A rule that usually comes up is only one drink per person is allowed. I'm ok with that rule, but my hubby usually complains. I have a couple mystery shops coming up for fast food restaurants, and I'm bummed that I can't order a shake. I've also found some that will give me a tiny bit of gasoline for free. Only a dollar's worth, but hey, with the way things are, I'll take that dollar.

I wish I could tell you more specifics. But they call it mystery shopping for a reason.

In all honesty, other than getting to eat for free, it doesn't make much money. Between the time it takes to prepare, the time it takes to actually do the shop, then the time it takes to input your evaluation and scan and upload receipt copies and/or photos, it's a whole lot of time with little pay. But like I said before, I do it for other reasons. And I could probably get away with writing much less in my reports, but I like to put in as much as possible to keep my scores high. Each shop you do gets a rating. Some of the better shops require that you be at a certain level to do them. So if a high paying job happens to come up, then I've got the scores to be able to apply. I've seen some upscale restaurant shops reimbursing up to $250. There would be no other way that I would ever end up at a restaurant like that. LOL. Unfortunately you have to put out the money to start with then get reimbursed two months later.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Small Business - Finding customers

One of the ways I promote my business and sell my products is by setting up a craft booth at summer festivals.  The candles don't fare too well in the heat, but my fragrance oils sell pretty well.  If you are in Ohio, I highly recommend the Englewood festival, the pork festival and the sauerkraut festival.  I also like the Spring Valley potato festival.  I've done quite a few others, but these were my favorite last year.  It's a lot of work to take all of your things somewhere, set up a booth, hang out all day in the heat, then take everything down and get it back home.  But if you're just getting started, it's a nice way to bring in some money.  And it also gives you some experience working with customers and observing how they react to your items.  You can tweak your products or presentation a little bit over time and see what works best.  This is especially important if you would eventually like to rent a space in a shopping center or something.

Personally, I plan to eventually open a shop.  I would prefer to buy a second house in a commercial zone to use.  There are a lot of rules in shopping centers and there can be a lot of extra charges.  If you do decide to rent, be sure to look at your lease very carefully.  In particular you will want to look for something called common area charges, or CAM.  These are your share of expenses for the landlord to maintain the parking lot, sidewalks, landscaping, etc.  When I worked for a commercial real estate company, I worked very closely with CAM charges.  They can amount to a very high amount of extra expenses that you may not have been prepared for.  I will write a post about CAM charges, and about items that you may want to negotiate into your lease to make it affordable.  If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to email me.  Trust me, it's better to know.  I know that a lot of the big corporate landlords can sneak in language that makes things confusing, or that the leasing agent may gloss over or misrepresent.  So it's very important to read your lease and look for extra charges.  I've seen small tenants end the year owing tens of thousands of dollars in addition to their normal monthly rent.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Meijer Highlight

For a complete list, check out The Grocery Game, or Mommy Snacks.  Links are in my side bar.

Super Pretzels are on sale for 1.20.  Use you Red Plum coupon from 5/10 to get these for 20 cents!

Chi Chi's salsa on sale for $1.  Use your Smart Source coupon from 5/17 to get these for free!

Light My Fire Candles - Now Open!

I haven't been posting for a couple weeks because I've been busy trying to get my candle shop up and running.  It's far from perfect, but I am now willing to say that I'm open for business!  Come and see me at 6395 Walden Ponds Circle, Fairfield, OH  45011.  Fragrance oils are priced at 5 bottles for $10.  Smaller quantities can be bought, but this is the best value.  All of my oils are very strong, and good quality that can be used for just about any purpose.  I have over 160 different scents.  

My hours are:
Tuesday 12pm to 9pm
Saturday 10am to 2pm
and whenever the garage door is open

Stop by and check it out!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Candle Shop Grand Opening 5/23

I haven't been posting much recently because I've been working hard on getting my candle shop up and running in my garage.  If the garage door is open, then the shop is open!  Even if you notice the garage door open before May 23rd, feel free to stop by for a preview.  If the door is open then I'm close by.  For now, ring my doorbell.  Hopefully I'll have something a bit more proactive in place soon.  We'll see.

I've been making candles and incense and incense bottles all week.  My neck is so stiff from working so hard on the incense bottles.  Those take some muscle.  The decorating part is fun, but first I have to drill them so the air flow is right.  Whew.  If you see me and I'm all hunched over, you'll know why!

Also, there haven't really been any good deals worth posting recently.  It's been kind of dry.  The KFC thing sucked.  There was another deal that was canceled that had been reported on Hip 2 Save.  CVS and Walgreens both have been out of stock on all of their good sales items.  So hopefully we'll get some good stuff soon.  Between the crappy sales and gas prices rising again it all kind of sucks.  Oh, and Redbox has stopped doing their free rental Mondays.  I think they're just planning to do it the first Monday of every month now.  

On the plus side, Southern Living at Home has a super deal this month.  Contact me if you want to order.  But any order over $30 gets a free item.  The three items that you get to choose from for free are valued around $45.  So that's pretty cool.  And next month's deals are pretty good too.  Let me know if you want to do a party.  It's a good way to get some freebies.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blog Contests

I won the free glasses from the previous post!!!! Yay me. So now I've gotten a free eye exam by mystery shopping, and now free prescription eyeglasses. I'll probably have to break down and actually pay for my contacts. (The glasses are backup.) So first of all, this is an example of how you can use internet resources to save money by getting things you need anyway for free.

The other important point, many times the odds of winning a prize on a blog contest are much better than other contests simply because there aren't as many people entering. In this particular contest there were only 18 entries. Four of them were mine. There are usually multiple ways to get entries, and I really wanted to win, so I did all four. Also, I'm not sure how strict the blogger is at that site, but it appeared to me that several entries did not follow the rules and would have been deleted before the drawing. So pay attention to those rules, and have fun entering contests. It's a good way for bloggers to draw traffic to their site, and you'll see a lot of neat prizes that come from small businesses trying to promote their products. It's a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Win glasses!

Free Sample Freak has a contest to win a free pair of glasses at Eye Buy Direct.

http://www.freesamplefreak.com/2009/04/free-eyeglasses-giveaway-1-winner.html

Sunday, May 10, 2009

KFC Update

I'm sure most of you have heard about the KFC coupon problems. We can thank Oprah for making the deal so popular that we have to miss out on it. Supposedly if you take your coupon in to KFC, they'll give you a free drink, and a rain check to get your free chicken dinner at a later date. I'm not sure exactly how it works. I just know that it bites. But that's the way it works sometimes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free KFC!!! HURRY

See www.hip2save.blogspot.com for free meals from KFC. The coupon is only available today and tomorrow, and expires on 5/19. You can print two coupons per computer.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Red Box Code for 5/4

BT73H9

Be sure to get your free movie rental today!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mystery Shopping Again

Since I've started doing mystery shops, I want to give everyone a bit more information based on my three experiences so far.  The big thing being, it's very important to read the rules completely.  And view it as a real "job."  They are very particular in the things they need to know about, and it's serious work.  You can't skip jobs once you sign up.  The only big downside is that you don't get paid for like two months.  So if you're signing up for the ones that reimburse you for eating out, or testing services or whatever, you have to pay for your dinner, or movie, or whatever merchandise up front.  Then it takes a couple months to get your money back.  

If you try it out, and decide that you really enjoy the mystery shopping, or that it's a good way for you to save and/or make money, then you will need to sign up with a lot of mystery shopping companies in order to get enough shops to keep you busy.  

It's also important to keep very good records.  Of course you have to pay close enough attention to be able to do the actual shop.  But you will also need to keep track of the funds that you should be expecting to get paid.  Since it takes so long, you will need to stay on top of the money you are owed and follow up if you don't get paid.  

In addition to that, note that any company you sign up with, you are an independent contractor.  You have to give them your social security number because they have to report your earnings to the IRS.  However, never fear!  There are tax deductions that you can take to offset your earnings.  For a lot of the mystery shops, you aren't actually getting paid.  You're just getting reimbursed for what you bought.  Dinner, movie, oil change, glasses, etc.  It's still benefiting you by getting the free dinner, movie, oil change, or whatever.  But it won't count as income.  Also print out a map quest for each shop that you do.  You can deduct mileage at the IRS rate for travel to and from the shop.  It is considered a business expense.  

If you know someone that is younger, have them look into mystery shopping too.  There are a lot of cigarette and alcohol compliance shops where the only thing to be done is to see if you are carded and/or allowed to buy the item.  I'm too old, but the emails I've gotten say that you can plan a route.  Schedule a dozen or so shops for the same day, and just run around trying to buy cigarettes.  Easy.

The next time I go on vacation, I'm going to attempt to schedule mystery shops all along the way, and some in the place that I'm vacationing.  That will allow me to deduct the mileage for my vacation, and also get me free meals and hopefully some activities too, that I will get reimbursed for later.  I will post some details about my mystery shop vacation later in the summer when I actually do it!

Cell phone down

I just want to let everyone know that my cell phone is currently dead, so my regular number is not working.  Please email me if you have questions or want to talk.