Thursday, November 15, 2012

Awesome deal on CoverGirl Cosmetics at Kroger!

There's an amazing event happening at Kroger this week - save $4 instantly at the register when you buy any four participating P&G products.  You can claim up to five rewards in one transaction, plus you can layer them with coupons!

There are many high-value CoverGirl coupons out there right now - here are just a few:
$3/2 CoverGirl Lash Blast 24-Hour Mascara (Digital Coupon)
$1 off CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume Mascara (Digital Coupon)
$1 off any CoverGirl product (P&G 10/28)
Buy One, Get One Free CoverGirl Lip Perfection (P&G 10/28)
$3/2 CoverGirl products (P&G 10/28)

At my Kroger, the CoverGirl single Eye Enhancers were on sale for $2.55 each.  I ended up scoring all of this for just $2.05! That's six eyeshadows, a mascara and TWO eyeliner pencils!  Since I bought eight P&G items, I received $8 off instantly, plus I used over $18 in coupons.  Yay!

Get a free $2 credit at Kroger when you load coupons and email your friends!

Get $2 off your next shopping trip at Kroger when you load four P&G digital coupons to your Kroger store card, and then share the offer via email with four friends.

Find your Kroger store here and sign in, then email four friends (the screen will appear once you've loaded four P&G coupons).  A $2 credit will automatically be loaded to your loyalty card for your next visit!

Thank you, MoneySavingMom!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

GymPact - Earn Money by Working Out!

I stumbled across an iPhone app recently that seemed too good to be true - GymPact.

One of the expenses I haven't been willing to cut yet is my gym membership.  It's $27 per month, which seems relatively inexpensive as far as gym fees go, but I haven't made very good use of it in the last several months.  There's no real excuse for my lack of commitment, but as I read about GymPact, I made a promise to myself to either use my membership three times per week or cancel it.  I know that there are many ways to exercise without a gym, but personally I have never succeeded in working out on my own at home.

The basic premise of the program: it's free to join, and you set a weekly commitment of a number of times that you'd like to work out per week (as low as just once!).  You then set a "wager" of what you'll have to pay per missed visit if you don't meet your weekly goal (a minimum of $5).  If you don't meet your weekly goal, your credit card will be charged.

If you do meet your goal, you'll actually earn money!  Not a lot, but something.  Usually $1-3 per week, depending on how many times you commit to working out.  And it's motivation to stick with your workouts, if money is on the line.

How does the app know you're at the gym?
By GPS!  All major gyms and workout facilities count, and you simply check in while you're there for at least thirty minutes.

How is it that you can be paid?
Your monetary reward comes from all the collected fees from members who were charged for missing their weekly workouts - less the percentage that goes to the corporation, of course.

The cool part is that you can cancel or suspend your membership at any time, if you're going on vacation, for instance.

I'm in no way an official endorser of this app, but I've been using it this week and can't wait to see what my weekly earnings will be.  Even just $5 toward my monthly gym membership is better than nothing for something that I should be doing anyway!

Have you had success with GymPact?

Ways to Save - Groceries and Personal Care

Happy Wednesday!  A collection of some of my favorite tips and ideas on saving money on groceries and personal care.

Groceries and Dining

1. Buy produce and meat according to weekly store sales.

2. Plan a weekly menu and start your menu plan by "shopping" your refrigerator and pantry to find ingredients you already have.

3.  Learn to enjoy drinking water - it's free, and better for you!  If it's too boring, add lemon or lime.

4. Avoid buying individually wrapped portions, buy larger packages and divide the contents up yourself.

5. Commit to eating a few vegetarian meals a week utilizing beans and other great sources of protein. Or, reduce the amount of meat you eat at each meal.  The average American eats too large a portion of meet per sitting anyway.

6. Head to the grocery store with a fully belly and a list of what you need - you'll be much less tempted to buy things just because they look tasty.

7. Avoid convenience foods when you can - microwave meals and fast food are expensive options because they're easy.

8. Pack your lunch for work the night before - many a time I've resorted to eating out because I was running late in the morning.

9. Cook in bulk and freeze leftover portions for that busy night when take-out sounds good.

10. Look for other breakfast options besides cold cereal.  It's expensive and often loaded with sugar. Oatmeal, smoothies and eggs can be great alternatives.

11. Use The Grocery Game to match coupons to weekly sales ads.

12. Recycle leftovers.  A chicken breast can become filling for shredded chicken tacos.  Spice things up and utilize leftovers in such a way that it doesn't feel as though you're having the same meal.

13. Keep leftover veggies and make your own vegetable soup with chicken stock.

14. Don't buy bottled water. If you're like me and have a very sensitive pallet for water that tastes funny, make an investment in a small Brita filter so that you're not tempted to buy water.

15. Try store brands on basic items.  You might not even notice a difference, or find out that you actually prefer the cheaper store brand.

16. Keep a price log, or keep in the back of your mind the prices of items you buy often.  That way, you'll know when the store is offering a great deal and you can stock up.

17. Buy frozen vegetables when you can - they're often just as nutritious as fresh vegetables and much cheaper.

18. Eat simple meals. Simple receipes can be healthy and cheaper, since you aren't purchasing that cream of tartar power that you'll likely forget about after one use.  If you love to cook, allow yourself to try a new and fancy receipe once a week.

19. Take your lunch to work.  If co-workers are constantly tempting you to dine out, set a weekly or monthly lunch date and stick to it as a reward for bringing food from home.

20. Coffee addict?  Make it yourself each morning and invest in resuable and portable cups. Save the $4 Starbucks for special occassions, or let it be your Friday morning treat.

21. Keep easy staples in your pantry - pasta, soup, etc. - for quick meals. When you're tempted to go out to eat because you "don't have anything to make" you can whip something up in minutes.

22. Purchase in-season produce.

23. Give yourself an estimated budget for each shopping trip and stick to it.  Round prices up so the mental math is easier as you're putting things in the cart. Or bring only cash to the store so you're forced to stick with it!

24. Split a Costco or Sam's Club membership with friends and divide up bulk packages or items you'd normally purchase.

25. Split portions when dining out, or divide half your place and save it for leftovers.  Have a snack before leaving the house, or drink a hefty amount of water before hitting the restaurant, to feel more full and eat less.

Beauty and Personal Care

26. Shampoo your hair every other day.  Your scalp will eventually adjust.

27. Color your own hair.  Really!  All over hair color is easy.  If it really makes you nervous, ask your hair colorist for your formula and head on over to Sally Beauty and match the numbers in a permanent shade.

28. Add a few drops of makeup remover to a tube of mascara to get some exta life out of it.

29. Use Vaseline for chapped lips instead of pricey balms.

30. Give yourself manicures instead of hitting the salon - investing in a few good tools is worth it!

31. Choose a low-maintenance hairstyle. Shorter, piecer styles require more frequent trims to maintain. Stay away from extreme hair colors or highlights.

32. Find a Goodwill in the ritziest area of town and shop on 50% off days.  I've found pieces from Banana Republic, The Limited, even a designer Dior skirt!

33. Buy clothes in simple cuts and styles and colors that you can mix and match.  Dress outfits up with fun accessories.

34. Shoe repair stores still exist.  When you run the rubber heel of your favorite pair of pumps, have it repaired instead of buying a new pair.

35. Take vitamins and wash your hands frequently.  Being sick is expensive.

36. Use cheap conditioner (like VO5) to shave your legs rather than shave gel, it works just as well.

37. Ask your doctor to switch you to a generic brand of birth control.

Cincinnati Kroger Deals - Week of November 12, 2012

There are some great free and cheap products available at Kroger this week!  Here are some of the best Kroger sale and coupon matchups.  Deals may vary by region.

Carefree Liners 20 ct
Use .50 coupon from Smart Source 10/28

Secret Deodorant 2.5 oz
Use 1.00 Digital Coupon or 1.00 P&G Insert 10/28
Buy any 4 P&G products
$.27 each!

Healthy Life Soft Style 100% Whole Grain Wheat Bread
Use .35 coupon from Red Plum 9/30
$.30 each!

Airwick Candle 3 oz
Use 4.00/2 Digital Coupon
Buy two, $.49 each!

Betty Crocker Boxed Potatoes 6.1 oz
Use .50/2 coupon from General Mills Insert 10/7
Buy two, $.50 each!

Oral B Cavity Defense Toothbrush 1 ct
Use .50/2 coupon from P&G Insert 10/28
Buy two, $.50 each!

Have others to add?  Leave a comment!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Free Airborne 4-pack Sample

Beat winter cold season with a free sample of Airborne Immune Support (4-pack) through Wal-Mart!

Free AVEENO Nourish+ Sample

Get a free AVEENO shampoo and conditioner sample by filling out the brief survey here!

Free Seattle's Best Coffee Sample

The first 100,000 people to like Seattle's Best Coffee on Facebook can score a free coffee sample!  Head on over to the company's Facebook page to redeem.

Plus, grab a free cup at any Seattle's Best location on November 23, as well as a printable $2 coupon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cincinnati Kroger Coupon Matchups - Week of October 29, 2012

Here are some of the best Kroger sale and coupon matchups that I've found this week.  These deals are valid for the week of October 29-November 4, 2012.  I shop in the Greater Cincinnati regions - your store's deals may vary.  Be sure to read the Kroger Coupon Policy thoroughly (thanks to The Savings Lifestyle).  Some of the sale prices below are valid only if you purchase any ten participating items through the Mega Event (saving you $5.00 instantly at the register).

Coupon codes = PG (Procter & Gamble circular), RP (Red Plum), SS (Smart Source)

Crest Toothpast 4.2-4.6 oz
.50 PG 9/30 (expires 10/31)

Maruchan Yakisoba Noodle Meal 4 oz
.50 SS 8/26 (expires 10/31)

Carnation Evaporated Milk 12 oz
.50/2 RP 9/30
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.19

Minute Rice 2-count
.50 RP 10/21
Final price $.28

Success Rice 14 oz
.50 RP 9/16
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.44

Green Giant Canned Vegetables 14.75 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.49

Marie Callender's Mini Cream Dessert 7.5 oz
.75 SS 9/23
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.49

Progresso Receipe Starters Cooking Sauce 18 oz
.50 SS 9/9
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.49

Swanson Broth 14.5 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.49

Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup 10.75 oz
.40/4 SS 9/16
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.49 each

Suave Deodorant 1.4 oz
.25 RP 10/14
Final price $.50

Betty Crocker Boxed Potatoes 6.1 oz
.50/2 SS 9/9
Final price $.50 each

Oral B Cavity Defense Toothbrush
.50/2 PG 10/28
Final price $.50 each

Yoplait Greek Yogurt Cups 5.3 oz
.50/2 SS 9/9
Final price $.50 each

Kraft Mac & Cheese 5.5 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.61

Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese 8 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.69

Creamette Pasta 16 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.69

Ronzoni Pasta 12 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.69

Pringles Super Stack 5.7 oz
1.00/4 RP 9/30
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.74 each

Uncle Ben's Ready to Serve Rice 8 oz
1.00/4 RP 9/9
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.74 ea

Del Monte Canned Tomatoes 14.5 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.79

Brillo Pads 10 ct
.55 RP 9/30
Final price $.99

Marie Callender's Soup 15 oz
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.99

Stayfree Pads 14-24 ct
.50 SS 10/28
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.99

Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate 8-count
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $.99

Kahn's Franks or Bologna 16 oz
1.00/2 10/28
Final price $1.35 each

Blue Diamond Almond Milk 64 oz
.75/2 SS 10/21
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $1.49 each

Snuggle Dryer Sheets 70-count
.50 RP 10/14
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $1.99

Gilette Male Disposable Razors 10-count
3.00 RP 9/16
Buy Ten Mega Event Item
Final price $2.99 (usually $8.19!)

Do you have any other hot Kroger tips?  Let me know!

This Week's Grocery Trip - 10/29/12

To me grocery shopping is one of the easiest and most instant places to start saving in your personal budget.  One of the main tools that I've started to use to lower my bill is couponing, and I wanted to share the results of one of my more recent shopping trips.

My regional grocer, Kroger, has one of the more favorable coupon policies, doubling coupons up to $.50 or $1.00 depending on the face value.  You can also combine these coupons with sales through the store's loyalty card, so that's where I choose to shop.

I took advantage of Kroger's periodic Mega Event, giving you $5.00 off your total bill instantly for every ten items you purchase that are a part of the promotion.  When layering with coupons, a sale like this means you can score items for pennies on the dollar or even free!

Some of the great items that I scored at no cost to me include toothaste and two liters of Dr. Pepper soda.  I also picked up some Uncle Ben's Ready Rice packets for just $.27 each and some usually expense High Liners Sea Cuisine fish fillets for just $2.99 each (they normally retail for $7.49!).

I won't go down the list of each item, but above is my total haul.  The retail value of my purchase was $88.30, but I paid only $33.28.  Not bad!  I did have to pick up some more expensive staples that I wouldn't normally purchase on every shopping trip, so that was a little higher than I normally aim for.  But my percentage of savings encourages me to keep lowering that bill!

What are some of your couponing tricks?  What resources do you use to plan your shopping trip?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saving Money on Groceries - Couponing

I'm sure you've seen or heard about TLC's "Extreme Couponing."  Families from across the U.S. spend  twenty or thirty hours a week pouring over coupon inserts and sales circulars to score hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for pennies on the dollar.  Mothers give tours of their impressive stockpiles which could supply a small community for months on end.

Kudos to those who have amassed hoardes of thousands of dollars worth of products.  But what about us single, young professionals who don't have a small army to feed?

In studying my monthly budget, I decided that the first area to save was my grocery and dining budget. I spent an incredibly high portion of my income on food and restaurant meals simply out of inconvenience (and cooking for one can be a challenge).  I never seemed to be able to purchase the right amount of fruits and vegetables that I could use before everything spoiled.  I never used coupons and tended to buy things last minutes as I needed them, especially personal care and beauty products.

After being thorough amazed by an episode of "Extreme Couponing" I hit the Internet to learn more about the growing trend.  I stumbled upon a site called The Grocery Game - a site that takes the hours of manpower out of matching coupons with store sales.  Every week (usually Monday afternoon), sales lists are posted which compare the valid coupons out there with sales from your preferred store.  You can pull lists for Kroger, Meier, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and a host of other stores.  The list tell you the sale price of the item and which coupon to use to get an even lower deal.

The Grocery Game is a paid service ($10.00 for eight weeks) but over the last few months, I've saved hundreds and have even scored some free items!  Only you can decide if it's a worthwhile investment, but I've found that the savings far outweigh my membership fee.  Plus it allows me to plan a weekly menu around some of the items that are on sale.

If you follow coupons long enough, you'll start to spot trends in sales and promotions.  Most items tend to go through a sale cycle of about sixteen weeks.  There are some things that I'm finding I'll never have to purchase again, like toothpaste and bar soap, simply because every two months or so, the items go on sale and can be matched with a coupon to make it free.

The site has also allowed me to pick and choose my deals without having to religiously slave over sale circulars or commit half my house to an enourmous stockpile.

How do you coupon?  Do you have any tips for single shoppers?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is the Frugal Girl Challenge?

Five years ago, I began my college career with high hopes that graduation would bring financial freedom, a fancy apartment, a Fashion Week-worthy wardrobe and stability.  Well, most of those things came to fruition on some level, but not quite in the grandiose, stereotypical way I had envisioned.

Through an internship, I fell in love with a job at a non-profits arts organization.  A job that played on my strengths and kept me involved in a discipline that I love dearly.  A job that demanded 60-hour work weeks at times and paid a fraction of what some of my former fellow students earn in the corporate world.  When I graduated and was hired on full-time, I was thrilled.  My bank account and credit cards, not so much.

The truth is that my life is not lavish.  I'm not a big spender, I don't often throw money away on impulsive and indulgent purchases - and yet, I still feel that I struggle monthly to get ahead financially.  Since graduation, my major accomplishment has been that I've paid my bills.  I haven't built any substantial emergency fund, I haven't contributed to the charities that I support, and I haven't put a dime into any kind of investment or retirment account.

And I'm not alone.  I'm part of a generation of millenials that have graduated college to find a very different world waiting compared to the economic and social landscape of our parents' era.  The workforce is changing and morphing to provide opportunities that come in all shapes and sizes - it's not always enough to land a traditional corporate job.  I love the career path that I've chosen, but I've realized that no matter how much you love what you do, when you can't change the amount you earn, you have to change how much you spend.  

Since I can't control my income at this particular moment in time, over the next six months I'm embarking on a journey to change my mindset on spending, to live more frugally, to build better financial habits, and to embrace a lifestyle that somewhat rejects the consumerist culture of America.

Many experts have begun their own journeys in the same place and have paved the way in the field of frugality, money management and simple living.  This project is just my story, but I hope that I can encourage at least one person along the way as I learn to change my mindset on finances and consumption.

I hope you enjoy my path to living well simply while loving what I do.