Saturday, November 29, 2008

Celebrate All Month Long - Part 1

In our house, the children have been looking forward to Christmas since Halloween was over. I think they were truly Thankful on Thursday...because they knew once Turkey Day came and went, they would be that much closer to Christmas!! When I asked my 6-year-old what his favorite things about Christmas are, his responses were; #1 - seeing all the lights and blowups, #2 - decorating our Christmas tree, and #3 - putting out our decorations. Only when prompted from me, did presents come in at #4. I know how much he loves decorations, crafts and Christmas music but it was such a nice feeling to know that presents were not #1 on the list. So, to make it really special this year, I'm trying to be organized and come up with a loose schedule of holiday fun (one thing a day) for the entire month. Often we get caught up in the stress of holiday shopping, cooking, planning, and budgets, sometimes forgetting to enjoy the simple things. So I'm beginning a frugal list of Holiday Entertainment (places to go, people to see, things to do) from the Capital Region to the North Country.

Today I'm featuring some Places to Go. Now is a good time to mark your calendar with the events that look doable for you and your family. It's always fun to get some friends together and make it a group outing. After that, we can begin filling in the rest of the calendar for the month with simple crafts and other Holiday Fun that we can enjoy. Stay tuned for more fun ideas to keep you in the holiday spirit!

Places to Go

Quick Response Restoration ~ Saturday, December 6th and Saturday, December 13th. Live reindeer, photos with Santa and his sleigh, an assortment of favorite winter characters, and free refreshments. Not to mention, the huge light displays! There is a snow day cancellation date of Sunday, December 14th. All dates are from 5:30pm - 9pm. For more info: Clifton Park, off exit 10 of the Northway. FREE. This is an awesome light display that you can drive by any night from Now through the New Year!

Holiday Lights in the Park ~ November 28 – January 3. 12th Annual Capital Holiday Lights in the Park – This year’s theme: An Olde-Fashioned Holiday. Sun-Thurs 6pm-9pm; Fri & Sat 6pm-10pm. $15 per car, $25 per limousine or passenger van, and $75 per bus. Proceeds benefit Albany PAL. Washington Park, Albany. For more info: 435.0392. We did this last year and the whole family really enjoyed it!

Albany Winter Festival 2008 – December 27th. Free family event includes a myriad of outdoor and indoor activities focusing on a family audience. Fabulous Fireworks will light up the skies! 11:30am-6pm. Downtown Albany. For more info: 434.2032. I did this a couple of years ago with a friend and our kids. We bundled up and it was well worth it - we saw a cirque du soleil type show at the Palace theater, wandering magicians & jugglers, and there were indoor crafts for the children. (FREE)

SEFCU Holiday Tree Lighting and Fireworks Festival ~Arts and crafts, storytelling, holiday marketplace, visit from Santa, Toys for Tots, holiday music, dramatic fireworks display. 1pm-6pm. Free. Empire State Plaza, Albany. December 7th. For more info: 877.659.4ESP; (FREE)

26th Annual Troy Victorian Stroll – December 7th. Live music, dancing, storytelling, theatre, costumed performers. The stroll ends at 5pm with “A Celebration of Lights” at Monument Square. 11am-5pm. Free. For more info: 274.7020; (Free)

December 14 Moments in Time Ice Show – Figure skating. Celebrate Glens Falls Centennial. Bring canned good/non-perishable food items to be donated to local charity. Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls. For more info: 747.6571.

This is just a sampling of things to do but you get the idea - there are lots of free (or very inexpensive) events close to home. We usually try to go to events after lunch or we pack a "picnic" to eat in the car. We always bring our own beverages and snacks, too!

For more events, visit and click on holiday cheer.
Now, do you have any can't miss light displays or holiday shows to share with us? Please leave a comment!
posted by Heather

Friday, November 28, 2008

Online Communities Part 2

Pssst Network

I cannot say enough about Pssst! There is minimal effort involved for some great rewards. Pssst is a General Mills Member Community, which gives great coupons to you that are high in value or for free items. Every so often I receive an email to share printable coupons with my friends, when I send the email to my friends I receive an email from Pssst with additional coupons for me. Most recently I received an email coupon for $1.10 off of one can of Progresso Soup. These were on sale for $1.25 at Walgreens a few weeks back, so I was able to buy 4 cans of soup for 60 cents!!!

Additionally I receive coupons in the mail for free items, and high value coupons to share with my friends. Recently I received a coupon for free Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, with 6 coupons for $1.25 off one package to share with friends. In my local Price Chopper these sell for about $3.50 a package. I like to combine these with Price Chopper’s double coupons that come out once in a while, or with a sale to get them quite inexpensively. These are going to create some great additions to my Holiday Entertaining!

If there is one online community that is really worth your time, this is it!!!

Join Pssst

Don’t forget to sign up for a separate free email account and use this when you sign up for these communities!

Online Communities – Part 1

Let’s get started! I hope you are excited to save money and make money. There are many tools we use other than shopping for the best deals to save money. This is not your Grandmother’s couponing method! We belong to a series of online communities that offer us deals and a forum to tell manufacturer’s what we really need in our lives. The first step I recommend is to set up a free email account like yahoo or g-mail to receive mail from these groups. Some of these create spam, most do not. It depends on your preference. I highly recommend setting up a separate account.

Let’s get started!

The first group that we love is VocalPoint. What is VocalPoint? It is a forum for members full of activities that gives you free products, and high value coupons. Most times it takes less than five minutes for me to complete an activity. For example a few months back I completed a 6 question survey about breakfast cereal and received five $1 off coupons and one $2 dollar off coupon for Kashi cereal in the mail. We’ll show you how to use those coupons to get free/really cheap cereal by combining them with store deals throughout the blog.

In the past 60 days I have received a free Venus Embrace Razor, and coupons for Tuna. Only days after I received that razor mine broke, and since there were no spectacular deals, I had myself a free razor! That saved me at least $9.99.!

Sign up for VocalPoint

Thursday, November 27, 2008

CVS Free Black Friday Items

Even if you are starting with zero ECB's, you can get some great deals with the following list of free after ECB's. First, I'm going to post the list of items from the flier with their limits, and below them you can see where to find the coupons to make these deals even better. Then I'm going to post some simple transactions where you can get lots of stuff for very little cash.

FREE after ECB Deals ~

Colgate Total Advanced, Clean, Advanced Fresh or Whitening $2.99 (Limit 2)
$1.50 off any Colgate Total Toothpaste Printable
Colgate Total Advanced Whitening, Advanced Clean or Advanced Fresh, any 4 oz.+ $1 (12-6-08) SS 11/16/08 $1 off Colgate Total or Max Fresh Toothpaste(excludes Trial) CRT

Aussie $2.99 (Limit 2)
Aussie Product, any except trial size $1 (11-30-08) P & G

Johnson's Soft Lotion $5.69 (Limit 1)
$1/1 Printable HERE $1/1 from the 11/2 RP $1/1 Home Mailers
Hand or Body Lotion or Body Wash, Any $1 CRT

Gatorade G2 20oz $1.49 (Limit 3)
Gatorade G2 from Beauty Book $1 off 2 12/31/08

Hershey's King Size Bars $1.00 (Limit 1)
Hersheys Bar, 1.45 oz - 1.55 oz
B1G1F up to .79 (11-30-08) SS 9/28/08Hersheys Milk Chocolate Bar, w/ Almonds, or Special Dark B1G1F up to .79 (2-28-09) SS 11/9/08

Bic Soliel $5.99 (Limit 2)

Bic Soleil System Razor, any $3 (12-14-08) SS 11/2/08 $2 on any Razor Purchase of $10 or more CRT

Garnier Nutritioniste cleansing towelettes(25 ct.) $5.99 (Limit 1)
Garnier Nutritioniste Cleanser or Moisturizer, any $1 (11-30-08) V 8/24/08
Garnier Nutritioniste Cleanser or Moisturizer, any $1 (12-31-08) V 9/14/08
Garnier Nutritoniste Cleanser or Moisturizer, any $1 (2-28-09) V 11/9/08

Maybelline Foundation $8.99 (Limit 2) - Recycled from 11/23 ad
$3 Maybelline Foundation RP 10/26, Exp 1/26/09
$2 off Maybelline FOUNDATION off any ONE , RP 9/21/08, EXP 12/31

5 hr Energy 2pk $3.99 (Limit 1)

Magnovox Remote or Phillilps Headphones $6.99 (Limit 2)

L'Oreal lipgloss $6.99 (Limit 2)
L'Oreal Lipcolour, any $1 (1-25-09) V 11/2/08
$1/1 Printable HERE (Register and go through a survey to get the coupon)

Sally Hansen Max Growth $3.79 (Limit 1)
Sally Hansen nail color, any $0.50 (11-17-08) SS 8/17/08 *expired* Sally Hansen or La Cross product, any $2 tearpad CVS coupon Sally Hansen Nail Color or Nail Treatment, $3 on 2, Beauty book 12/31/08

Covergirl Smoothers Foundation $7.99 (Limit 1)
Cover Girl Product, any $1 (11-30-08) P & G 10/12/08
Cover Girl Product, any $1 (11-30-08) P & G 11/2/08

Covergirl Smoothers Powder $5.99 (Limit 1)
Cover Girl Product, any $1 (11-30-08) P & G 10/12/08
Cover Girl Product, any $1 (11-30-08) P & G 11/2/08

Other ECB Deals

Schick Quattro Razor or Trimmer $7.99 Earn 6 ECBs Limit 1
$2/1 Printable HERE
$4/1 in the December All You Mag FREE + overage after either coupon!

Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons $3.99 Earn 3 ECBs Limit 1 $1/1 from the 10/5 FREE + .01 overage after coupon and ECBs!
(Thanks Denise at for compiling this list).

Okay, now what to do with all of this information? Sort it into transactions that maximize your purchase and keep your out-of-pocket $$ low....So here's a scenario that the typical CVS "newbie" could try out between Thanksgiving Day and Saturday (yes this is a 3-day sale). So What's the, So what's the scenario yo ( a little 90's music humor for
Okay, the "Grand Plan" (thanks to Southern Savers at has been created for you to start with no ECB's and still end up with a great deal. You'll need about $5 to cover your costs and you'll get $120 worth of product and several ECB's back. If you do have $15 ECB’s remaining from last weeks Duracell deal, you can add transaction #2 and #3 together (remove the .50 cent filler item) and pay with the $15 ECB from last week.

Buy:(2) Colgate Total Advanced
Use:-$1 off CVS coupon(1) -$1.50 off printable (technically states one per household)(1) -$1 off SS 11/16
Total Due: $2.48 cash
Get Back: $5.98 ECB

Buy:(1) Johnson’s Soft Lotion $5.69, (1) Aussie Product, (1) .50 cent filler item.
Use:-$1 off Johnsons-$1 off Aussie
Total Due: $6.18, pay with $5.98 from #1 and .20 cents.
Get Back: $8.68 ECB ($5.69, $2.99)

Buy:(2) Bic Soliel Razors
(3) Gatorade G2
(2) Hershey’s
Use (1) -$2 off $10 in razors CVS coupon(1) B1G1 Hershey’s(2) -$3 off Bic Soliel
Total Due: $9.45, pay with $8.68 ECB from #2 and .77 cents
Get Back: $17.45 ECB ($4.47, $11.98, $1)

Buy(1) Garnier Towelettes(2) Maybelline Foundations (if you did not buy them earlier in the week)
(1) Cover Girl Powder
Use:-$4 off $20 in Cosmetics CVS coupon-$1 off Garnier(2) - $3 off Maybelline-$1 off Covergirl
Total Due: $17.96, pay with $17.45 from #3 and .51 cents
Get Back: $29.96 ECB ($5.99, $17.98, $5.99)

Buy(1) Energy 2pk
(2) Magnovox or Phillips items
(2) L’Oreal Lip Gloss
Use:(2) -$1 off Lip Gloss
Total Due: $29.95,
Use $26.96 ECB from #4 (ask to downgrade by one penny)
Get Back: $31.95 ECB ($3.99, $13.98, $13.98)

Buy(1) Sally Hansen Max Growth
(1) Cover Girl Foundation
(1) Schick Quattro
(1) Playtex
(1) -$1 filler item (at least.71¢)
Use:-.50/1 Sally Hansen-$1 off Cover Girl-$4 off Schick-$1 off Playtex
Total Due: $18.26 pay with $3.99 and $13.98 ECB from #5 and .29 cents
Get Back: $20.78 ECB ($3.79, $7.99, $6, $3)

You still have one Aussie Product left that you can buy.

Total value of products: $120.28
Total spent out of pocket: $4.25
Extra Care Bucks Remaining: $34.

If you don't have all of the exact Q's, don't wig. You can still do very well with these transactions. Some of us put everything in our cart at once and ask the cashier if we can multiple transactions (if there's lots people waiting it's always nice to do a transaction, then go to the end of the line while you get your next one ready). Once you start rolling your ecb's into bigger ecb's, you'll be able to go to CVS making only 1 or 2 transactions. And don't worry, most everyone who works at CVS has been through this before so they know the routine. Just try being polite and friendly with them and don't let the grouchy ones get you down! Please post your comments if you try this over the next 3 days and share your success story! Include your out-of-pocket, how much stuff you got and how many ecb's you came away with. We'll be including ours as well. All those who participate in our very first challenge will be entered into our very 1st giveaway to be anounced in December. Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to our Blog! We started following the money-saving experts and their blogs about 6 months ago and have been so excited that we decided to start a blog of our own. We'll research the best of the best and scout out local (upstate New York/Capital Region) deals, too. Then we'll sum them up for you here. We are really new to this blogging thing so please bear with us as we get the site constructed. We are just so excited to get started that we're going to start posting NOW! Follow along as we save money, set budgets and pay down debt.

A little about us...

Heather - I am a wife and a stay-at-home mom to 2 kids, ages 3 & 6. I've also been working as a consultant for a party-plan company for the last 10 years. (I can't mention the business specifically on the site but I like to call myself your photo guru - helping with anything I can with photos - from organizing to scrapbooking to digital photobooks.). Anyway, I love staying home with my kids (most of the time!) and having time to volunteer at school or other local organizations and I'd like to keep it that way! Using all the money saving tips I've been learning over the last several months has helped me keep our family from adding debt with the rising gas prices (gotta love the latest price drops, though) and grocery prices of the last year. I have always loved scoring a deal and it gives me a little high every time I get something for free or practically free! I love helping people save money and I hope I can help you reach your money-saving goals, too!

Stephanie - I work full time outside my home, I am Mom to one adorable puppy named Gizmo, and wife to Shawn. I started this money saving journey to keep debt down, tithe to my church, and maintain my lifestyle in these difficult economic times. When I am not shopping without money I am at the gym, or volunteering for a local not for profit corporation and my local Church. I hope that you will follow me on my journey to lose weight, seek deals, and serve people. My goal for this blog is to give you inspiration and courage instead of fear in these difficult financial times.

Getting Started at CVS

We're going to start with CVS because there are lots of free after ECB items Thanksgiving through Saturday! So these are the basic skills of playing the CVS game!
First, get your CVS ExtraCare card. Ask a cashier, or sign up online. If you're excited to get started, ask for it at the store. Otherwise you'll have to wait for it to arrive in the mail. You'll need to have the card scanned for each of your purchases. If you have a card but do not have an email account, go to and register yourself. This is your key to getting email coupons.
Next, earn ECB (Extrabucks). ECB are earned through promotions, such as “Buy XX, receive $YY in ECB.” You will see these promotions in the monthly and weekly ads. The ecb print at the end of your receipt - clip them and keep them as carefully as you would cash. The required amount to receive the ECB is calculated before coupons. You do not have to buy all the products for that particular promotion in the same transaction or at the same store. ECB coupons can be used to purchase nearly anything in the store (excluding prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, and Gift Cards). You cannot get change back when you spend your ecb's. They can be entered as less than their face value (if your cashier knows how). For example if your total comes to $1.97 and you have an ecb for $1.99 that you would like to use, and you don't mind losing 2 cents, you can use your ECB to pay your total. ECB coupons expire 4 weeks from the date they are printed.
Couponing @ CVS ~ CVS accepts manufacturer's coupons, including IP (internet printable) coupons. CVS also issues their own store-specific coupons. You can get these by mail, email or printed out at the end of your receipt (these are referred to as CRT's - cash register tape). Both ECB and CRT coupons are linked to your CVS account, which means you cannot use them without the same CVS card that earned them. It used to be that we could share email coupons, but recently that has been changing a bit. It seems most of the item coupons (like $4 off skin effects) can still be used with any extracare card. However the $$/$$ coupons (like $3 off $15 or more purchase) will beep and the cashier will receive a message that the coupon was not issued to your card. The CVS coupon policy allows for the use of one manufacturer and one CVS coupon on the same item (called stacking). Often a very good deal can be had when you combine a CVS item coupon and/or a manufacturer's coupon on an item that gives back ecb's.
Handing over the goods ~ There is an order to handing over your CVS coupons.
First, have the cashier scan your card. Next hand over your $/$$ coupon. Then hand over your CVS coupons and Manufacturer coupons.
So here is a sample CVS trip (using this week's flier):
Transaction 1:
Buy 1 Maybelline Mineral Foundation at $8.99, get 8.99 ECB (limit 2)
Buy 1 Maybelline Mineral Foundation at $8.99.
Use $3/Maybelline Foundation coupon in last week's paper.
Total out-of-pocket cost: $5.99 + tax, earn $8.99 ECB.
Transaction 2:
Buy 1 Maybelline Mineral Foundation at $8.99.
Use another $3 off coupon from the paper.
Purchase a $3 item like milk.
Total OOP: approximately $8.99
Use your $8.99 ecb from transaction 1.
Total oop : $0
Earn $8.99 in ECB.
Then we keep rolling our $8.99 ECB's to get more items for free!