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Archive for April, 2006

Are you Paying for those Unpaid Surveys?

April 30th, 2006 at 09:19 pm



I was shopping with my husband today, carefully going down the list of sales teamed with coupons, when it happened. I saw a hair care product I just HAD to have!

My husband looked at me, and, being unfortunately well-trained by me at the bargain hunters’ game said:

“That’s not on the list.”

“I know” , I responded.

“Is it on sale? It’s not marked. I didn’t see a coupon.” Totally deadpan, serious.

“No, BUT I HAVE TO HAVE IT”.

“Why?”

Clearly he had no concept of the importance of full-thick-shiny-volume-without-frizzy tresses.

“It will make my hair look better”.

“Your hair looks fine.”

“No, it doesn’t. It lacks volume and shine. My hair is getting thinner. My color is dull. I’m getting old.”

He stares. 24 years of marriage; nothing on earth could get him to cross into that discussion.

“You don’t need it, and it costs too much.”

He obviously has no appreciation for my plight.

I threatened not to buy HIS favorite shampoo. Oops….

We left the store without any hair care products. Or words. Lots of feelings, though.

And then I just started laughing. Why?

I had fallen victim to the unpaid survey!

Many of us sign up for consumer panels and surveys believing that we will influence manufacturers’ product development. And influence we do, but not always in ways we anticipate. Unpaid surveys provide a unique opportunity for marketing professionals to evaluate consumer impressions. Surveys can persuade local retailers of the market for the product, and also predict sales rates, and resulting shipment and warehousing requirements.

Surveys provide an equal opportunity to make an impression on consumers. The 20 minute survey introduces potential customers to new products and promotions. The same product advertisement, photo, description, and price are viewed and revisited repeatedly, while the consumer is quizzed on the product:

• How well does the ad convey that this product has ingredients xxxx?
• Why is xxx good for you?
• Are people who use this product a) confident, b) successful, or c) joyful?
• Does this product make you feel like a better spouse, parent, team player?
• Does the price outweigh the potential benefits to your baby/family/pet’s health?


The products themselves may not be captivating, but the survey process may hold you captive. If you cancel out of the survey, you won’t receive rewards, points, or possible prizes. If you fail to respond appropriately to the questions, you will be unceremoniously booted out of the survey, and lose any possible rewards. You may also be denied opportunities to take future paid surveys. And, there is always the chance that at the end of a survey, if you have answered all the questions just right, you’ll have won the lottery: a follow-up survey or panel position with significant rewards. It’s a bit like kissing many frogs before you find a prince.

These surveys go beyond even a 20 minute commercial, with a focus designed to help you realize how desperately you need this product. It can’t make it to the store soon enough! The price is incredibly reasonable for such an innovative product.

Sound like brain washing? If you sign up for it yourself, it’s just good marketing!

Rebates and my $20 Challenge!

April 29th, 2006 at 08:08 pm

DH has been handling the mail while I've been online this last week...today we dropped by the bank to make a deposit, and we had received $119.23 in rebates.

Even one DH submitted for more PAINT!

Groceries were $100 saved in two weeks ($50 spent).

So, the new totals:

2006 $20 challenge: $4002
2006 grocery savings: $5781

Savings of the Day -- dumping eRewards!

April 29th, 2006 at 08:02 pm

I really thought eRewards might work out, lots of surveys and rewards. Cashing in that FTD reward was a challenge...but I thought if I started earlier I could use my remaining rewards to send flowers for Mothers Day.

No such luck. ONE reward of each category PER YEAR!!!

They don't have many rewards.

Most of their rewards require you to SPEND MONEY, i.e., they are discounts on purchases.

So, I took $50 of eRewards and got the free Omaha Steaks package (with $35 purchase), bought $39 in steaks on sale, and I'M DONE WITH eRewards. I've never tried Omaha steaks, they sound outrageously expensive. But, again, only one redemption PER YEAR.

If THEY are going to take 30 minutes of my time AND my business information (no cute product surveys here), for a $2 "eReward", over and over again...so that I can receive a coupon which requires me to SPEND more money? I don't think so.

But, once I have "rewards" in an account, I dont' want them to go wasted, unused, or expire...so I removed the temptation. CANCELED.

That's my savings of the day!

What I love (and hate) about coupon trains!

April 29th, 2006 at 07:49 pm

Okay, so I complain a bit when I'm trying to keep track multiple trains. The coupon trains are still one of the most enjoyable things I do!

Why?

Well, for one, the people are GREAT. Some of us know each other through our blogs, some are new but so warm, friendly, and excited to participate. And when they tell me how much they are saving on their groceries each month, it is completely worthwhile.

I love knowing that all those coupons I receive and can't use are going to others who can. The range of "hot coupons" varies so much by individuals. Organic, quick meals, baby products and teenager appetites. Some people love one laundry brand, while others are allergic to it.

Keeping track of all those wish lists in my head while I'm sorting through coupons, well, okay, so I need to set up a database. But it's not bad. The hardest part seems to be remembering who uses Pampers and who uses Huggies, who prefers Beechnut to Gerber. But, that only takes an email to sort out.

One benefit I didn't expect when I started on a coupon train was how much it would influence ME in terms of savings. I'm more selective now, having a greater range of coupons to team up with my purchases. I stop and think a bit more frequently about whether or not that's a great deal. Another coupon may be on it's way!

Those "great" coupons that used to call out to me, "please buy me it's a great deal!" don't any more. If it's not a product I would normally use, I send them out the door immediately to someone who has them on their wish list, or just into the pile. They just might be a great find for someone else!

And...I get those offers that other's don't want. I don't think I've had to purchase puppy food since Max arrived, and he's six months! FREE offers from all the non-dog owners. And enough to share with other dog owners. Dog chews, now, those coupons more than make up for the cost of postage. Did I mention that the Corgi EATS EVERYTHING?

I find I'm much more aware of the offers that are out there. I think someone else posted that the coupons just start jumping out at you. They do! Even my DH is noticing those blinking lights on the coupon boxes, and pulled a few off of a tear pad today that were above my eye level!

I would love to hear more on how much others are saving using coupons and what they get out of the trains.

The postage, well, I've learned to stop and ask the postal clerk how much it costs to ship first class versus Priority. Almost equivalent time frame, but first class is usually only $1-2. For a really big train, if it goes over the $4.05 priority Flat Rate, (yes, I just mailed one that would have been $6 first class and was $4 priority, but that's not the norm) I will choose the Flat Rate.

The postal service also provides a flat rate BAG envelope, not just the cardboard one designed for letters. It can hold a very large dictionary, at the flat rate of $4.05. I've never shipped that many coupons, but if I did, it would be at Priority Flat Rate!

The only thing I hate about the train...sometimes I get so involved in putting coupons IN for everyone else that I forget to take coupons OUT for myself!

Coupons in Stores today (4/29)

April 29th, 2006 at 07:25 pm

I haven't done "end of month coupon" shopping in 15 years, but two trains arrived here yesterday, and I wanted to catch a few coupons before they expired. Especially the pup items. Who knew a Corgi would gut every single toy he had in less than a day. Even Bamboo brand, and they are guaranteed to hold up! (DH is LOL and can't wait to contact them!)

So of course, end of month means out with the old coupons and in with the new! Here's what I found today (one store only)

$1 Any Huggies littler swimmers - exp. 7/31
$1 Any Huggies diaper package - exp. 5/28
55 cent any Lysol - exp. 6/19
$1 Cottonelle YP (total of 12 roll, any combo) - exp. 8/13
50 cent Scot TP - exp. 8/13
$1/3 Healthy Choice meals - exp. 5/27
$1 Neutra-Air - exp. 6/19
75 cents any Freschetta pizza - exp. 8/14
50 cents/3 Bumble Bee salmon pouch - exp 9/30
$1/3 ANY General Mills cereals (about time!) - exp. 6/19
50 cents New York Texas toast etc., - exp. 8/15
50 cents one Heinz ketchup (this was in the frozen aisle) - exp 5/28

Also, loose in the store...

$4.50 rebate Bayer products
$1 off one any Morning Star Farms product -- exp. 7/31
$1 off Two packages any Eggo product - exp. 7/31
$1 off one Stoned Wheat Thins and One Athenos Feta Cheese (okay to double) - exp. 5/31

There are "journals" of coupons from 2424milk.com free with any milk purchase...the coupons are only $10 off $40 H2Oplus products, and one free week at curves. No grocery coupons.

For those of you who have signed up for freebies, don't forget to check those included brochures. The "free Greenie" for dogs comes with a $25 coupon booklet on pet products...they are doublable (? meaning NOT marked DND), and range from $1 on greenies to manufacturer coupons for free products.


Get the free Earth's Best baby food sample? Unfold the brochures to find 6 coupons on Earth's Best products.

I am going to do a post on how and where to find coupons, but for now, just start looking around!

Sunday's newspaper inserts!

April 29th, 2006 at 07:09 pm

If you have been looking for Method coupons, the SmartSource add has 4 $1 ones this Sunday. It's the same insert that has $13 in Purina coupons.

I rarely do this, but I actually spent an extra $1 to pick up a second paper.

Progress on the Challenge and other days news

April 26th, 2006 at 10:48 pm

It has been a busy day.

Pulled weeds, helped DH get started on the mulching. My thumb doesn't want to work right now!

Received 7 coupons from Barbara's Bakery! Only two days after I asked if they had any available. Very nice.

Received a $2 coupon on Post-a-notes, came with the free sample, and some others.

The big break came on survey payments, I received a total of $110 today from 3 different sources. YEAH.

That brings my totals to...

Current savings:
2006 $20 challenge: $3883
2006 grocery savings: $5681 (plus NOT spending?)

Other totally bizarre news...

I received an offer from Insider Pages to be a local rep, but they wanted 50 reviews written in 2 weeks. Who has that kind of time?

Another email from Club Mom to become a regular author for finance, but I just don't have the desire.

A request to become a shopping insider and scan grocery bar codes...not quite sure about that, wouldn't they throw you out of the store? How would I get all those coupons then?

Tracking down a few coupon trains. Hopefully the guidelines for trains will be up soon, so everyone understands WHY they need to be responsible and responsive when the trains come around. Enough said.

We've been eating split pea and ham soups, and a few frozen dinners lately. Still working the stockpile. Tonight, Hamburger Helper (not a favorite), with ground turkey, tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, garlic, some parmesan. Fresh broccoli, and some garlic bread.

I did throw out the remaining acorn squash/apple dish. So, two pounds tossed. Total of three so far. Not too bad...but summer is coming!

dreaming about coupons?

April 26th, 2006 at 02:24 pm

Went to bed last night thinking about that Mr. Mom movie, Michael Keaton playing poker with coupons for chips. DH came to bed around 3 am, the tv was still on...and Celebrity Poker Showdown (?) was on. I woke up just enough to hear the show and drowsily tell DH the celebrities were playing poker with coupons!

Good day to do some GARDENING, I think!

go organic for earth day!

April 25th, 2006 at 10:38 pm

It's earth day...and to celebrate,

http://wwww.organicearthday.org/

is providing a free organic product coupon booklet.

For more information about the campaign, or to get your FREE copy of the Go Organic! for Earth Day Coupon Book, contact the organizatio at:
PHONE: 612-377-1142 or 1-866-I-GO-ORGANIC (1-866-446-6742)

EMAIL: info@organicearthday.org

For more info about the coupon booklet, go to their home page, click on about us, then click on the coupon booklet link at the left.

Happy Earth Day!

Spending on RX

April 25th, 2006 at 09:59 pm

Went to Costco today...we picked up peanuts for our squirrel population, and I'm sure a few other things...I have no idea what the final bill came to for groceries, because I was too busy staring at our annual to date Rx costs!

$840. Ack. Ick. Mortified. Kept going through the receipts, double checking...

then I realized it's the end of APRIL, and this is YTD costs.

Came home, ran the totals for these same meds last year. 2005 YTD would have been $5500. OUCH. No wonder the savings account seemed to be slipping away. It was!

If I add in the cost of insurance, which I did not have Rx on last year, it is only at extra $45 a month, or $180 for YTD. So basically I've gone from $5500 to $1000. STILL too high IMHO, but at least I feel a bit better about it.

I still plan to blog on the changes I've made; I just quite hadn't appreciated what a change it has been. A year ago, I thought that the only real way to reduce my out of pocket Rx expenses was to stop taking the meds.

Still working on Mom's issues with Medicare. She's doing better, enough to say her doctor was putting her through H*LL (and she never talks like that!).

another day, another coupon

April 25th, 2006 at 09:49 pm

Received my Mambo sprouts spring coupon book. Lots of yummy organic products.

I also heard back from Pure and Basic (soaps) that Whole Food stores have the coupon booklets available in the store. If only there was one nearby!!!

Added a few more organic sites to the list. Amy's and Barbara's are sending me coupons just for asking if they had coupons. Lovely people to deal with.

Arizona beverage coupons

April 24th, 2006 at 05:48 pm

I just purchased Arizona iced tea in the big plastic bottles. But when I went to open it, I realized it looked a bit cloudy.

I emailed Arizona Beverages, and received an email back:

Thank you for your email. We are sorry that you had a problem with one of our products and would like to speak to you about it in more detail. Please contact our customer service department at 1-800-707-5862 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4: p.m. EST. Please keep the package as there is a code number we need in order to tell where it was packaged. Again, we do apologize for the problem.

I Hate Phone Calls...

But I did. The woman was extremely nice. She is sending packaging so I can return the product and receive a refund.

She also mentioned that MOST people call to complain that they can't get the large plastic bottles opened (they are sealed extra tight because tea is sensitive to contamination)...

and they have $1 coupons to compensate for the irritation! They also have $1 for the bottles. They reward for compliments, too!

So for those of you who ask HOW DO YOU GET THOSE COUPONS?

this is how. Big Grin

Trial Memberships, for Better or Worse

April 24th, 2006 at 04:30 pm

It doesn’t have to be “’Til Death do we Part”

I’ve received quite a few questions about the trial memberships and offers that are adding into my $20 challenge. I’ve only taken the plunge to sign up for these offers, but here are a few things I’ve learned:


There is a strong trend in the market right now to offer $1 trial memberships for “advantage”, or “service” programs. Many offers include $20-40 sign-on bonus incentives, encouraging you to sign up for the trials. This is a great way to be paid for evaluating the programs.

Sound too good to be true? It can be. You need to be fairly well organized, and take several precautions as you go along.

1) Be alert for scams.

I will put in a HUGE disclaimer here: NEVER EVER EVER click on an unknown link in an email. DON’T OPEN EMAIL IF YOU ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE SENDER. Instead, if the sender references a known site, such as info@nameof theprogram.com, visit the site directly, or type the name of the program into your search engine and see if a legitimate site comes up.

Be extremely careful on any offer that requires a download, particularly if it’s software. Software that claims it will evaluate and fix your computer generally evaluates and at a minimum says it’s can’t be fixed without full purchase of the software. Worst case, you don’t buy the software and it has damaged your computer.

2) Use an incentive site link to increase your rewards

If you really want to receive offers and reap all the benefits of trial memberships or special deals, sign up with a website, and let them email the offers to you. One example is MyPoints, another is Inboxdollars.com. I’m sure there are many more, but these are the ones I’m trying.

One benefit of going through these incentive sites is that the offers are generally prescreened, and legitimate. That doesn’t make them fool-proof, but they aren’t going to send you to offers that will be hazardous to your computer.

A another key benefit to using the “reward” sites is that they give a minimal compensation, be it points, prizes, or even cash incentives, just for going to the offer website through their link. The reward sites will also offer additional incentives if you sign up for the offer. Some sites, such as MyPoints insider-club, will actually reimburse you for any S&H costs involved in signing up (exclusions may and do apply!).


3) Evaluate the Trial Membership Before Signing up.

While you may want to get straight to the incentives, it’s important to know the rules before you sign-on. Never give your credit card info until you have read the fine print. It may take a few click-thrus to get to the actual membership being offered, but that shouldn’t be a problem. And, NOT signing up immediately can actually reap more benefits (more on that below).

If you only want the free gift cards, skip to section 4 or 5

Let’s look at an example:


Try XXXXXXX® for 1 month for $1 with no obligation to continue and enjoy special discounts and rewards from the brands you know, plus get a $20 Lowe’s® Gift Card when you respond to the online form we’ll send you!

Click on the link to find out more, and a new page will open with more information on what the program is offering you:

When you try XXXXXXX® for 1 month for $1, you’ll enjoy greater home improvement ease thanks to informative How-To Guides, valuable discounts and rewards, and variety of resources to help you save on everything from moving to decorating. Plus, just by responding to the online form we’ll send you, you’ll receive a $20 Gift Card to Lowes®!

While the FREE GIFT CARD offer will likely be prominent on the screen, look at what the program is actually about. Home improvements? Moving expenses? Discounts?

At this point, most sites won’t give you access to MORE information, or the internals of their site, until you sign on. If you are just signing up for the free incentive, you may not care.

If you are serious about USING the free trial, be warned. The trial period will give you “access” to the offers and benefits, but you probably won’t be able to receive and use very many member benefits until after the trial period. Membership has it’s privileges, but information, coupons, and vouchers generally needed to use these features will probably lag past the trial membership period. The FREE GIFT CARD incentive is SEPARATE from the membership benefits

Think the offers through. Some “benefits” of membership, like 15% off at American Blinds, can be found in many other places online. Some like moving van lines or storage may be something you can really use if you are planning a move.


4) Membership Fees.

Read the terms! The trial membership is usually for 30 days. If you sign up on Friday or the weekend, your term typically does not start until the following Monday.

Now, lest you be scared off at this point, really LOOK at the terms. For example:

Simple & Secure Enrollment with Continuous Benefits, Easy Billing, and a Money-Back Guarantee. Try the service with the first month, for $1. Your membership will be extended automatically for an additional eleven months at the $119.99 annual membership fee, and automatically renewed annually at the then-current fee, billed to the credit card you provide unless you call toll free during your 1 month trial to cancel. You can call any time to cancel and get the unused portion of your then-current annual fee returned. The Lowe's® Gift Card is yours to keep.

This is important to note. The post-trial membership is $10 a month, and if you don’t cancel, you will be billed the entire yearly fee. If you cancel later, they will prorate your unused membership term. This is the “no risk” clause.

My tip…if you call to cancel at the end of your $1 trial period, they will push you to continue your trial. You will usually be offered a SECOND month trial for free (an extension), and at this point, they will offer, or you can press, to receive ALL the benefits of the membership.

If you want to reap the benefits of the membership time your trial against your needs. Home improvement project? Moving? Taking a vacation? TWO months for $1, plus two months for $10 each, balanced by receiving $20 in gift cards, equates to using the service free for FOUR months.


5) Reaping the Rewards

Again, look carefully at what is being offered.

The sign-on incentives CAN be misleading, so read them carefully. Do they offer gift cards, sent immediately through an email link, gift cards sent after you return a post card, or vouchers good quarterly while your membership remains active? Example…

Just try Great Fun! Your first month is only $1 with no obligation to continue. Plus, when you accept this trial offer and respond to the online form we’ll send you, you’ll get a $20 ExxonMobil Cash Card!

Note from the offer language, you will receive an email link where you will input your membership ID, and the gift card be mailed directly to you. No forms, no post card to receive and send back while your membership trial period expires. In my experience, I’ve received the membership ID within a few minutes, the link to provide mailing address for the gift card (which is sent by a separate company), within two days, and the actual gift cards within ten days of sign-up.

Not every offer comes with this benefit, so look carefully at the terms….

In contrast, AutoAdvantage promotes an offer for $40 free gas…click on the link, and the offer language is:

[i[Simple & Secure Enrollment with Continuous Savings, Easy Billing, and a Money-Back Guarantee. Try the service with the first month for $1. Your membership will be extended automatically for an additional eleven months at the $119.99 annual membership fee, and automatically renewed annually at the then-current fee, billed to the credit card you provide unless you call toll free during your 1-month trial to cancel. You can call any time to cancel and get the unused portion of your then-current annual fee [/u[returned. The $40.00 [u]in Gas is yours to keep.[/i]

Note, this is not a GIFT CARD offer. In this case, you will receive 4 vouchers by mail for $10 rebates that must be returned with a receipt. Each voucher is good QUARTERLY, and only valid if your membership is valid and currently active!


Something to consider, though, is that you will still receive a $10 bonus for the $1 membership, and the $10 comes as a cash check, not a gift card. Whether the benefits outweigh the trouble, well, that’s up to you.

I will note that in this case I received and returned the voucher before the end of my trial period, I canceled my trial membership, and still received the rebate check after my membership was terminated.


6) Maximizing your Returns.

There are many takes on the ethics of maximizing the rewards you receive. The following are simply facts on how the system works; use your own best judgment on what you feel is right.

Using the Reward Sites

If you go through MyPoints, (or other incentive sites) you will see a slightly different message for the offer, highlighting the benefits of signing up through their link:

You’ll receive your $20.00 Lowe's® Gift Card and a one-month trial of xxxxxx all for just $1 with no obligation to continue. Plus, 200 Points! Just reply to the online form we'll send you to get your Gift Card.

The 200 points goes into your MyPoints account, and as offers and points accrue, they themselves can add up to a nice reward.

Using Multiple Reward Sites or Accounts

Does your SO have a separate email account? Do you have multiple email accounts? EACH email address can sign up for the same reward site, and receive the points, and an additional gift card/trial offer reward for accepting offers when going through the site link with that email account.

Join multiple sites, My Points, InBoxDollars, you can sign up for the offers through BOTH reward sites and receive the gift cards for each account.

Using Multiple Credit Cards

You can repeat the trial offer and receive the gift card or other reward multiple times. The name, address, email account can be identical, the only thing required is a unique credit card number.

I will note here that this is well known and acceptable to some offerers. I have actually called Trilegiant to cancel my husband’s membership, and they promptly pulled up three open accounts, as well as my past membership. This is not true of ALL offers, but Trilegiant does allow this.


7) Other types of Trial Offers

Membership for services and purchasing are not the only game in town. Especially if you go through a reward site, you will find many “try me free” offers, with incentives for visiting the site and signing up (typically 200 points).

Common examples are dieting/health/vitamin samples. Get a month free, receive 200 points, and other benefits.

A few points to note:

Shipping and Handling Costs. Many of us have rushed to sign up for a “freebie”, only to find that the S&H charges more than made up for the price of the product. But there are ways to get around these things.

a) The pop-up offer. Let’s take an example.

Trimlife offers a range of dietary products.

https://www.trimlife.com/landing/acombo/orderFree.asp

A 7-day trial and $56 package…for only $5.95 shipping charges

ACK

Now close the window with pop-ups allowed…

https://www.trimlife.com/landing/exit/comboShipDisc/order.asp?offer=JB678

https://www.trimlife.com/landing/exit/comboShipDisc/default.asp?offer=JB678

Now you have…60% off S&H -- $1.99 total

This just about balances against the 200 points or cash back from the reward site (MyPoints, Inboxdollars…)

This can be true of the gift card offers, as well. Frequently an offer will come to you as a $10 g/c, or even a “prize”. Decline, and you will often receive a pop-up for a $20 g/c, a better prize, or even an email with a separate deal.

b) The S&H rebates. MyPoints Insiders-Club has their own membership, and trial membership ($1 for the first month). Once you sign up, any offers or purchases made through their site qualify for reimbursement of S&H charges. You simply go to the insiders-club site, fill in the information on the purchase, and mail in the proof of S&H when you receive it. MyPoints issues a rebate check, which arrives within 4 weeks.

There is also a $10 rebate for signing up with Insiders-Club. I used it to purchase the 2006 Entertainment book at half price, received a $25 restaurant certificate from Entertainment.com, and had the S&H rebated by the Insiders-Club. It worked, with all cash rebates received in my mailbox within the month.[/i]


8) Cancellation Terms, Phone Numbers, and Addresses

I’ve listed this last, because it’s the most important. Look at the terms!!!

Before you sign up for anything, look for the link to Terms & Conditions. It’s usually at the bottom of the page or offer. Scroll through the info and read the fine print. Look for:

5. MEMBERSHIP FEE - The then-current annual fee will be billed to your designated credit card account under the terms described.

6. RENEWALS - Unless you notify Trilegiant Corporation that you do not wish to renew your membership, Trilegiant Corporation will automatically renew your membership at the end of each term and bill the then-current membership fee to the designated credit card.

7. RIGHT TO CANCEL MEMBERSHIP - You have the right to terminate this Agreement at any time. You may cancel this Agreement by calling 1-877-488-9480 or writing to Great Fun at P.O. Box 1029, Trumbull, CT 06611. If you cancel this Agreement during your trial period, you will not owe any membership fee. If you discontinue your membership at any time after the trial period, you can receive a refund of the unused portion of your then-current annual membership fee, upon request. You will remain liable for any other fees or charges to be paid pursuant to this Agreement.


Copy and paste this information into a file, print it, but ALWAYS keep a list of the numbers and addresses to cancel your membership.

My own tip. Once you are a member of the site, sign in and LOOK AT THE TERMS for the standard trial membership. Chances are it’s two months, can be canceled via mail (even if your original offer did not state this), and there may be other incentives. This info is power! If you want to extend your trial, call them and note the difference. Don’t be afraid to tell them you will cancel if you don’t receive the standard offer. They WANT you to keep your membership, and they will almost always honor the terms listed on the site.

Keep your cancellation confirmation number. This applies to any phone contact, even if you don’t cancel. Get a call number, and keep a record.

You don’t have to cancel by phone! The cancel by phone term benefits the company, because they want to keep you on board! However, you can ALWAYS cancel IN WRITING, and the cancellation is effective the date of the postmark. Just make sure you provide your membership number/ID. Personally, I always cut and paste their exact clause for cancellation into my letter.

9) Just In Time Cancellation

This is usually the main concern!

With gift card rewards, they usually arrive even before your membership materials! With voucher systems, it’s a bit more complicated. However, as long as your return (postmark) your voucher/claim/postcard with a membership ID that is valid at the time of mailing, they are REQUIRED to send your reward.

Ready to cancel? It’s fairly easy to set a reminder service on your computer, PDA, cell phone, whatever you use. I use the email reminder service on my browser, which I set up to email me DAILY starting TWO WEEKS after my sign-up date. You can even include the phone number, membership number, or other information. Me, I cut and paste the info into a Word document, so it’s all gathered together. I also keep a letter template ready to go, so I can just drop the address and membership number in. You can even type these up ahead of time and have them ready to go.

Want to keep the trial a bit longer? Call and say you haven’t had time to evaluate it, and may need to just cancel. Usually they will extend your evaluation period, for free

A few current offers to consider (AND I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH THESE!)

GIFT CARDS, non-voucher:


$20 Exxon gas cards, Great Fun
http://www.greatfunsite.com

$20 Lowe’s g/c, complete home
http://www.completehome.com/

$20 Barnes and Noble g/c, Netmarket
https://www.netmarket.com/global/scripts/secure/PromoTemplat...

$20 circuit city, Buyers Advantage
http://www.buyersadvantage.com/

$20 Bed, Bath and Beyond, Everyday values
https://www.everydayvaluesclub.com/global/scripts/secure/Pro...


Voucher/Cash Back Rebates
$25 cash back, Shoppers Advantage
http://www.shoppersadvantage.com/default.asp

$20 circuit city, PC Safety Plus (requires post card be received and returned)
https://www.pcsafetyplus.com/global/scripts/secure/Promo.asp...

$20 cash back, Bargain Network
http://www.bargain.com/fe/mkt/campaigns/combo/CB-v1.aspx

Receive 4 $10 rebate certificates, Auto Advantage
http://www.autoadvantage.com/

Receive 4 $10 rebate certificates, Health Saver
http://www.healthsaver.com/


Other

free MP3 player, Netmarket
https://www.netmarket.com/global/scripts/secure/PromoTemplat...

Barber chicken COUPONS!!!

April 24th, 2006 at 01:36 pm

Someone asked for more info on getting Barber coupons. There are more available than I first realized!

There was a recent promotion from a Sunday insert to receive a "rebate" in the form of $10 in coupons. Good coupons.

A nice start...

In addition, I visited their website. They have a link for coupons, but it redirects you to SmartSource printables, which didn't work for me.

I emailed Barber (link is on www.grocerycouponguide.com), and they responded with 10 coupons by mail, and an invitation to request coupons every two months.

There are currently two sales running here for Barber chicken, BOGO or 1/2 price. Used the coupons, and received...

SPECIALLY MARKED BOXES, the outside says to look inside for up to $10 in savings.

I did. You have to take the box apart, the offers are printed in light gray on the inside of the box. It was worth it! There is another rebate form to receive $10 in coupons....

And a $1 coupon inside EACH BOX!

The rebate for coupons expires 10/31; the coupon expires 12/31/


I'm not one for chopped up reformed stuffed chicken breasts. But, these are GREAT. There is a lowfat variety. Doctor up a white sauce with a bit of cheese, put a tablespoon or so of sauce on top before you bake, and they can pass off as homemade stuffed breasts for company.

Hope that helps! It did it for me!

Today's coupons, inserts and in store!

April 23rd, 2006 at 06:50 pm

Well, I *wasn't* going to go shopping. I'm still working on the stockpile. But I noticed that my paper had two inserts today with coupons from everyone's wish lists. Just one or two from each...

All small and mighty
Malt-o-meal
Pedigree
Northern TP
Cottonelle TP
and on and on...

Not much from my own list, Cottonelle, but I decided I'd run down to the newsstand and see if anyone had tossed their inserts.

This happens quite frequently on Sundays, that lazy cup of coffee at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, quick breakfast at McDonalds. Restaurant lobbies. People waiting for tables, relaxing over the Sunday paper, and tossing their inserts aside.

I didn't have much time, and only got one extra insert. Not enough of my own coupon needs to justify purchasing a second paper.

But...DH mentioned we were low on frozen foods, not ingredients, but things HE can cook. So, a quick run through the store, and another PILE of coupons and offers.

Here's what was out today:

up to $4.50 rebate from Bayer (purchase 1 - 3 products), exp. 5/31 (loose pile at the pharmacy window)

$1 on Pepcid exp. 1/31/07 - (stack, maybe 4" x 11" info and coupon sheet)

$1 Senokot Laxative (pile in the pharmacy)

$1 on 64 oz. Ocean Spray 100% Juice (collar around the bottle) exp. 5/31/06

Lysol BOGO rebate by mail - exp 5/31 (tear pad in the cleaning product aisle)

Lysol B2GO any product rebate by mail - exp. 5/31

(and a note -- Lysol has 5 different rebate offers out right now, and the forms all look identical, blue with a giant red FREE, smaller print above tells you which products you need to purchase)


Also, at the doctor's office this week, large (7 x 11") stand up tear pads:

$1 off Advil -- exp. 6/30

$1 off Caltrate - exp. 3/31/07

One trick I'll write about more later...

Go to the pharmacy aisle off hours, Sundays or evenings, when you can skim through and review the brochures and products without feeling self-conscious.

Often the coupons at the pharmacy have expired, simply because no one looks at them or picks them up. If you find one, take it home, email the manufacturer the exact description, along with your mailing address, and tell them you are disappointed. Receive replacement coupons, and often coupon booklets, from the manufacturer. Bayer sent me coupons for 5 free bottles because one coupon expired and was still on the shelf!

coupon questions and answers

April 22nd, 2006 at 07:16 pm

I'm working at answering all the questions and ideas I've been given, so thanks! I'm enjoying trying to help.

I'd still love to hear more ideas, so ask and Jeffrey will post my answers on the site

www.grocerycouponguide.com

Any feedback on the article of why coupons expire? I'll admit, the statistics surprised me. DH and I walked through a grocery store this week, and noticed how many items are buried away because they can't compete for shelf space. The start-up companies, especially natural and organic, don't really have a chance!

I'm working on an article explaining the reasons some coupons are printed as DO NOT DOUBLE. Another eye opener.

I've put together a list of the links to get organic and natural product coupons, and that should be posted soon.

So, while I'm busy writing, be thinking about what else you might like to know...

$100 in Home Depot g/c's!

April 22nd, 2006 at 07:03 pm

Today's mail had my two MyPoints rewards gift cards, $50 each for Home Depot.

I'm actually surprised, I received them in less than a week after requesting them. More surprising, I accumulated all those points!

Almost everything I did was a sign up or trial offer. I mentioned before, I hadn't bought new makeup for years and sister had pink eye while she was here. So, rather than driving all the way to Nordstroms for MAC or some other expensive products, I did the "try" Lancome (3000 points), Avon, a few others. Mostly I purchased the packages of trial size items and super sales so I could try lots of things, test the smells (allergies), and generally see what I liked. I found some things I really liked, some not so well, but cheaper than what I used to buy, the benefit of trying lots on less, and the gift cards.

Quite a few bath gels, too, for a bit of pampering, which I seriously need after the events of the last few months. I'm not one to treat myself, but several BOGO with special prices of $1 or so.

Finally something IN to the challenge!

April 21st, 2006 at 09:16 pm

DH said nothing came in the mail today...but I just checked and YEAH!

two FREE PRODUCT coupons for Imagine organic soups (coupon train - anyone need?)

$10 rebate from MyPoints

my Free back of Dale and Thomas popcorn. I had just given up on that one. I actually opened up eBates to check on BUYING some (11% cash back!), but it is expensive!

So $10 in to the $20 challenge!

2006 $20 challenge: $3673
2006 grocery savings: $5681

Taxes -- I forgot!

April 21st, 2006 at 08:55 pm

I completely forgot it was tax day this week. No harm no foul, though.

DH evaluates our tax withholding once every three months, and make adjustments accordingly. April 15th, we never pay, never owe. Even though we've retired, he still reviews interest, capital gains, medical costs, and keeps things balanced out.

I used to feel cheated at this. Before we married, I loved getting that "end of year bonus": the tax refund. After we married, as grad students, we always received a renters credit and other refunds for a welcome albeit tiny check. There was something marvelous about this "found money" that we suddenly had to spend. One year, an aquarium, one year a couch...

And, certainly we had things to spend it on. Living on family reject furniture, formerly loved couches and whatever came with the apartment from the previous renter...ICK.

Tax Day was like a special holiday!

As we took our first jobs, it seemed like an even better deal. We were both SO busy, and spending was easy. Getting that check felt like someone had saved for us, so we didn't have to think about it. Of course we immediately turned it into SPENDING. Still, it felt like we had tucked money away. I probably would have INCREASED my withholding if I could, just to get a bigger refund!

The truth, simply, is we had no savings, no down payment, no emergency fund, and we needed new cars. Having the government "save" our money for us, while it was EASY (Thanks Baselle!), was not SMART. The government got the interest, and failed to gain the discipline we needed to achieve financial security.

Eventually we learned to save the money ourselves, each month, and to see the growing investment as the reward, not the penalty. Recognizing that we needed to take control of our spending, saving, and financial security, that was the real reward.

I still miss that annual "bonus". The Tax Refund. But I don't miss the lack of security, the missing credit score, or wondering if DH checked the bank balance before he withdrew $20 from the ATM.

so much for the yard sale

April 21st, 2006 at 08:24 pm

It's been raining, and it's supposed to pour this weekend. Actually a GOOD trhing for me, because I never had time to get things together and contact the coordinator to sell my things. AND, double blessing, they are closing the ONLY road that accesses our area tomorrow. So, I will have another chance to get my act together!

Been running through my reward, rebate, survey sites looking for $$ to cash in.

Still wondering a fair way to count grocery savings for not spending anything as opposed to just tracking sales and coupon savings off of regular prices...but I don't want to admit what I spent per week last year on groceries, before we got back to practical shopping.

Summer, well, yes it is my grocery shopping weakness. Fresh produce. Last year I did great keeping things flowing in and using them before they needed to be tossed out. But it's so easy to decide NOT to fix something at the end of a long day gardening (two years ago DH and I cut and removed 1000 pounds -- his calculation -- of sod for two garden beds). Or working out, or shopping, or just being out in the heat.

My solution last year was to prepare everything in the morning. Individual giant salads, with all the veggies and trimmings added. Get meat ready to cook, casseroles ready to bake, even just bread ready to broil. At the end of the day, we just pulled salad meals out of the frig, or everything was ready to cook, no mess, no fuss, no clean up.

We'll see.

The Corgi pup has just discovered french fries (a weak moment for take out lunch), and I think is wondering why we give him such horrible kibble when such wonderful grease kibble exists.

slow mail day!

April 19th, 2006 at 10:06 pm

Received $5 from Pinecone survey, and that's it for today's challenge income! Yikes!

DH and I spent the afternoon on the garden. It's been dry, and two acres designed for regular rain do not enjoy a dry spring.

We are on a well; super hard water, and we have a large softener/filter system. When we water the garden, though, we turn off the valve and let straight water run. It's better for the plants, and we don't run through as much salt and other chemicals.

Other tip for the day:

If you need to use a weed killer, buy the concentrate. It's expensive, and it doesn't work as well if you dilute it. So don't...pour some into a small eyedropper bottle (I use an old Schulz container), and put one drop smack in the the middle of the weed you want to kill. You won't hit the other plants, and it gets right to the root. The other alternative DH likes is to put the concentrate in a bottle and use a brush - we use an old rubber cement bottle, well cleaned out, and brush it on onion weeds or others that are difficult to kill and impossible to spray or dig up.

Back to cooking...

April 19th, 2006 at 10:01 pm

Dinner tonight, leftover ham chunked, with two packages of Hamburger Helper mix, couple of cans of mushrooms, leftover peas and some frozen ones. I'll add in some sour cream, parmesan, etc. to up the flavor to a more creamy sauce.

DH bought a loaf of bread last week, NOT in a plastic bag...I told him to use plastic wrap but he didn't. So I sliced what I could tonight, dipped in a mix of olive oil and olive oil balsamic vinegrette, and am letting it soak through before I broil it.

Continuing to chip away!

Oops!

April 19th, 2006 at 02:04 pm

DH and I traveled to the local garden store yesterday to pick up a few annuals for the garden.

In general, I don't "waste" money on annuals. Perrenials keep their "investment" better by coming back big and better year after year.

The exception is the large extended planter on the deck. It's a great place for big color immediately, especially with vibrant wave petunias that expand and fill and tumble over the edges all summer.

They didn't have my color of wave petunias, though, just some light pink ones DH dislikes. Not right for the space.

So, we decided to pick up something else.

We wandered around for 30 minutes, uncertain, just putting things into the cart to think about later.

We bought them all.

At home, well, the planter is now overplanted. Pretty now, but in a few months I'll be fighting bees and wasps to transplant the overgrowth, and still won't have the look we love.

Indecision always takes a bite out of our budget. In the grocery store, if there isn't a sale or at least a coupon, we have to think about our purchases. There are too many choices, and too many decisions to make.

Which leads to the "just put in the cart and we'll decide later". My biggest budget buster! No matter what it is, 90% of the time if it goes in the cart, it makes it home with us. Only then do we realize it is an item we can't use, produce that won't last, or an expense that shouldn't have been.

The warehouse stores are the worst for this! No coupons, no sales...and so many things to look at. DVDs, CDs, and books so easily sneak into the cart as one of us debates the want/need/wisdom of something we don't really NEED and isn't WISE. Those little items end up in the cart to be pondered while we shop for what we came for. Time becomes an issue. And at checkout, the added expenses go right through the scanner and into our purchases.

My new rule for keeping the budget is going to be the boundary of the cart. No more "think about it", DH and I both need to realize that once it's in the cart, it's a done deal. So...

The CART IS MY BUDGET BOUNDARY! I have to recognize that if it goes into the cart, the decision HAS been made to buy it.

Implementing this, ah, that's going to be a learning process.

e-rewards didn't reward!

April 18th, 2006 at 11:52 pm

I wanted to send something unique to Mom. Dad can't carry anything with his walker, and no one is sure when she will leave the hospital. She's allergic to all plants, and she's diabetic so most foods are out.

I had $87 accumulated at e-rewards, and FTD.com is one of their partners. They had a $25 g/c available online. Nothing bigger was available, but I just wanted a little something.

I cashed in and received my email with a g/c code for $25 at FTD.com. and the url to use. ONLINE.

Went to the site, found a small teddy bear that she would like. $17. Went to check out. SHIPPING charges were another $17!!!! $35 for this TINY bear! But, okay, want to send something for tomorrow when she is more awake, have a g/c...

Put in the hospital address...and a notice popped up that shipping to a hospital is 3-5 days with OVERNIGHT charges. No faster, and no cheaper. Probably receive it Friday.

Hmmm...it's Tuesday, Medicare may have moved her to the rehab hospital by Friday...but worth a try...

Code not accepted. MUST CALL BY PHONE.

DH came in, he tried. Again. And Again.

DH finally got through on the phone number, had the "online purchase" put through and confirmed, $10 (really, people pay $35 for this???), and DH was told it was shipping to Barbara for Friday...

Mom's name isn't Barbara...

DH told FTD that he was sure Barbara would appreciate the bear, but he needed one to go to Marie...

DH finally cleared it up. I am *SO* glad for the times we balance each other. I was frustrated enough to bail out and just buy the $100 flowers she would dump and complain about.

But seriously, I'm pretty disappointed in both FTD, which I haven't used, and e-Rewards, which I think I will opt out of. They don't have many rewards, and the endurance challenges of their survey's are less than the endurance challenge of cashing in the rewards!

IMHO

Technically, saved $25.

Experience wasn't priceless.

The trouble with Tribbles

April 18th, 2006 at 10:08 pm

I have a shrew in my pantry.

Seriously.

If you haven't experienced a shrew, they look like tribbles (Star Trek original series). Furry little sweet things, fast as fury, and true terrors when they fight.

Ours is named speedy. Mainly because he kept zipping by last summer, and DH and I kept asking each other if we "saw that"? Seeing things...but no, just a shrew.

Would have called him zippy, but Zippy and Twitchy are two of our squirrels. Figi is the deer begging for Fugi apples and white grapes (Chardonnay only for the lady, it would seem), and Skippy is the chipmunk that skips on and off of the deck.

So, a new challenge to get the stockpile down, before the shrew does!

on a lighter note...

April 18th, 2006 at 10:02 pm

If you want to know me, know my Mom:

She is recovering from surgery, clipping coupons to send, and negotiating for better everything (especially food and room!).

I HATE MEDICARE, and other news

April 18th, 2006 at 09:59 pm

Maybe it's not Medicare's fault. But Mom broke her hip Sunday 11 am PDT, and they were still waiting to do surgery Monday at 5 pm PDT. No food, still NPO waiting for "the doctor they want to do it", i.e., who takes Medicare, to arrive to do the surgery. She's a diabetic, and they weren't even running a line.

Surgeon finally got there, and she was out around midnight. Unbelieveable. Who ever heard of surgery at midnight?

Excuses, waiting for an EKG, no, didn't need it, no waiting for more x-rays, no, but always came back to WAITING FOR THE RIGHT SURGEON.

Sigh.

My father found a ride to the hospital, but they couldn't stay FOREVER, so he finally went home in the evening, and waited for them to call.

I am LOL, though, Dad said she had NO TROUBLE telling them how she was feeling and how she felt! This is a woman even I wouldn't go up against on a bad day. So, I'm sure karma had it's revenge!

I do have many friends and the church looking out for Dad.

My ex-SIL, whom I treasure, is dropping by every night to check on Dad. An extra hour driving for her, but she really is that nice a person.

DH says we are ABSOLUTELY not going out right now.

1. He hasn't recovered from the last trip
2. We are on standby, so to speak, for when my Dad takes a turn for the worse.
3. The stress from the last trip has aggravated his radiation areas, and if he doesn't care for the ulcers, they will turn into cancer again (been through that once before).
4. He is still pretty angry at my entire family.

Me, I love them. I'm not responsible for their actions, only mine. And I choose to be loving, kind, and hopefully someone *I* can respect at the end of the day.

So, we keep the faith and hold down the fort here.

And save for the next trip! We have said we will be out there in June, so lots to do.



$20 rebate from MyPoints

April 17th, 2006 at 10:35 pm

Received another rebate from MyPoints, $20 for two S&H. Happy happy joy joy!

Under my retainer I need to be here this week, and I'll get paid well ($50 for an hour of time), for some consulting. But, family is more important. Bills are important, too. Always looking for the balance.

A question for all couponers!

April 17th, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Savings Advice has a sister site,

www.grocerycouponguide.com

I've offered to contribute to the site.

My question -- what do you all want from another coupon site? Advice? Information? News on coupons that AREN'T online and on every other site?

Inquiring minds (mainly mine!) want to know!

Thanks!

The parable of weed-killers

April 17th, 2006 at 10:22 pm

Okay, I have to have some humor!

Today I returned from meeting and needed to DO something. So I put down weed killer. Yep, not kosher, don't care, it's the only time of year where the plants are still down and out of the way and the weeds are freely accessible. When you have two acres, MASS weeding can be required.

Besides, DH was digging grass out of the ground cover. ICK.

Gardening is a great time for reflection, and I remembered back to the early days in my career. After the professorship, but before the VP. I was called in to do some consulting for a major company developing a chemical that was a fertilizer/herbacide (if we can't kill ya you'll mutate and grow!).

One of my coworkers asked me to help with her garden. Living in CA, everything is supposed to be green. Her garden was, well, DIRT. After looking around, I asked her what happened to her plants?

She responded that she accidentally gotten weed killer on them.

I inquired as to what she had done to save the plants.

She responded, well, nothing, I figured they would know it was a mistake and grow back.

Seriously.

If she had washed the stuff off immediately, it would have been no harm, no foul. Instead, DIRT and ashes.

The moral of the story?

Too many times we make mistakes, and assume a miracle will occur and things will right themselves.

Reality is, hope for a miracle, but take responsibility to fix your mistakes as soon as possible. Maybe you've spent too much, maybe you've taken on a debt you can't manage. Take action.

My father once told me, if miracles were routine, they wouldn't be miracles. And if God gave us each 3 miracles to last our life times, half of us would use them up immediately, and the other half would never use them waiting for the right timing.

Believe in miracles. Just don't assume they will happen. Otherwise they wouldn't be miralces Big Grin


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