Common Misconceptions About Credit Cards

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Common Misconceptions About Credit Cards

Scott Sery is a contributing writer for Card Journalist where he writes about everything dealing with credit cards including how to use them to travel for almost free.

Before the mid 1990’s credit cards were somewhat of a novelty. Many people had them in case of emergencies, but they rarely ever used them. When you went into a store and paid with your card, the cashier (and most people in line behind you) would groan. The cashier had to take out a large clunky device, slide a carbon paper over the card to make a couple of different copies, and then it was submitted for payment. It was a cumbersome process. However, improvements on phone lines and internet have switched the roles of credit cards and checks. Now if you pull out your checkbook people will groan that you’re holding up the line. The point is, credit cards are still a relatively new commodity. And with anything new, there are a lot of misconceptions that go along with the use of credit cards. Here are a few.

 

Carry a Balance to Boost Your Credit Score

 

Shortly after I turned 18 I got my first credit card. I had several friends tell me that to build my credit score faster I should start carrying a small balance (just a few dollars each month). One had even heard it from his mom who works at a local bank. Some quick research showed this myth will do nothing more than waste money on interest.

 

A Lower Limit Boosts Your Credit Score

 

One of the items that FICO looks at when determining your score is how much of your monthly limit you use. For instance: if you have one credit card with a $1,000 limit, and you charge $990 every month, then you are using 99% of your limit. If you have one card with a $10,000 limit and you charge $990 each month, then you are using 9.9% of your limit. The lower the percentage that you use, the less risk of default you pose, thus the higher your credit score.

 

I Just Need to Pay the Minimum

 

Technically this is correct; you only need to pay the minimum. However, this is a foolish decision due to the outrageously high interest charged on credit cards, and it may actually hurt your credit score. Notice the example above; if you max out your card, and then you only pay the minimums, you are keeping your balance near 100% of your limit. A high percentage, especially for an extended period of time, means your score could go down.

 

They Aren’t Safe

 

With news coming in every few months about how certain retailers have been hacked, and credit card information may be compromised, it is easy to believe that credit cards are not safe. However, consider this scenario: you are travelling, and you have $1,000 in cash in your wallet. If your wallet is stolen, there is no way (aside from tackling the thief) to recover your money. If you have no cash and only a credit card, you can cancel the card and you will not be liable for any fraudulent purchases. Would you rather be out $1,000, or out the hour or two to cancel your card and file a fraud claim?

 

Travelling with Your Credit Card

 

Most people know that traveling with a card is a good idea. Not only do you rack up rewards points, but you also get some perks that you wouldn’t otherwise get when you pay with cash. Take these perks into consideration before paying with cash:

-        Free auto insurance. Did you know that when you pay with your credit card, you will likely get the rental agency’s extended coverage for free? If you pay for it, you are paying for something you already get for free.

-        Free travel insurance. Many cards offer free travel insurance. This covers you in case your luggage is lost, and possibly other misadventures.

-        Free hotels. Certain cards offer perks where if you have an overnight layover, they will cover the cost of your hotel.

-        Free Travel Planning. Most cards offer a concierge service that is almost never used. If you have a trip coming up but no time to plan it, just call and have your card company arrange the details.

-        Free Airline Ticket. Many cards that are offered by major airlines offer a companion ticket. Once per year you pay for your ticket (at full price) and a companion can fly for free (just pay taxes). My favorite companion offer is from Southwest Airlines.

-        Free checked bag. If you used your airline card to purchase your tickets, you may be entitled to a free checked bag.

-        Free Airport Lounge. Certain airline cards will allow you access to these exclusive lounges in the airports.

-        Free extended warranty. Traveling or not, many cards will give you a free extended warranty on big purchases. This means if the item is lost, stolen, or broken you can get it replaced for free (even if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired). This goes for cell phones, so don’t waste your money on those insurance plans.

-        Free fraud protection. The biggest perk of any credit card is that you aren’t liable for fraudulent purchases. Most will be wiped from your card the instant you call in, and removed permanently if the investigation determines that you aren’t liable.

Wrapping it Up

 

Credit cards are wrought with myths. For some reason many people are still suspicious about how they work and if they are actually going to help them. Those who embrace the card, and are responsible with their spending, can get a number of free rewards and perks. As usual, check with your card to see which perks are offered.

 

How do you use your credit card? Have you taken advantage of all that it has to offer?

A Baby Costs HOW Much? Create a Budget BEFORE Baby Arrives

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Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Every aspect of your life will be altered, especially how you spend and save money. A recent BabyCenter survey found that 42 percent of parents expect to spend around $10,000 in their first year with baby. Of course, this number is an approximate cost. With some forethought and careful budgeting, you and your family can moderate some of the costs associated with the first year of your baby’s life. While you can’t foresee every cost, being proactive will minimize surprises and increase peace-of-mind and enjoyment when your beautiful new addition arrives.

 

Giving Birth

 

Labor and delivery costs vary wildly. Location is a big factor. Depending on where you are in the country and where you choose to give birth (home, hospital, or birthing center), choosing where to give birth can alter your plans and budget.

According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the average cost of a normal (no C-section or complications) birth in a hospital is around $3,200. Add in the costs of pre and postnatal care, you’re looking at an additional $4,000 (or more) added to your hospital bill, and this is after insurance. If there are any kinds of complications, such as low birth weight or jaundice, you can realistically except to pay more.

When you find out you’re pregnant, contact your insurance company to find out what kind of coverage you have and if you have it, what your HSA or FSA will cover. If you’re insured through work, talk to HR. You will likely be having several conversations in his or her office, especially if you’re going to take maternity leave.

 

Taking Time Off

 

Finding out what kind of family leave your company offers (or doesn’t offer) is going to affect your budget. It may be surprising, but only about one-third of all working women in the United States are offered any sort of maternity leave. If your company offers leave, find out if you get the full amount or only a percentage of your regular paycheck. This may affect how long you take or even if you return to work. If your company doesn’t provide leave, they’re still required to honor 12 weeks, unpaid, under FMLA law. Fully understanding your own benefits will give you a clear idea of how to create a feasible budget for you and your growing family.

 

Budgeting For Baby

 

Once you have a clear idea of how much money will be coming in, you can begin creating a budget for the months leading up to, and after, giving birth. Use a ‘first year’ calculator to figure out what you’ll need to save. The numbers may surprise you so expect to make some adjustments in your spending. Curious about how to start making some cuts? Start by figuring out where your money is going now. Track your expenses in Excel or if you’re more comfortable on your phone or the computer, try using an app/program like Finance Works, You Need A Budget or Mint.

Once you’ve figured out where your money is going, create a budget with savings in mind. More importantly, start that budget before the baby is born and stick to it! If you’re spending more than you’re earning (or saving), start cutting unnecessary expenses like cable or magazine subscriptions. Limit your travel and avoid eating out too often. Packing a lunch, instead of ordering a sandwich, can add up quickly.

 

Buying For Baby

 

Buying furniture and supplies as you prepare your home for your little one is where a lot of families tend to blow their budgets. First-time parents are often unsure about what and how much they will need to care for their newborn. Before you build a registry or go on a shopping spree, have an honest conversation with your partner, yourself and other parents about what’s truly necessary.

Bring a parent on your registry trip – they will give you the lowdown on strategic purchases and can assist your internal debate between that fancy baby Jacuzzi or $10 plastic tub. That doesn’t mean you can’t splurge on something adorable you love. Just call a splurge a splurge, save for it and buy other things more affordably.

Don’t buy anything without seeing what your friends or family members are willing to lend or give you for free. Some babies grow so quickly they never get the chance to wear their newborn outfits or onesies. The same can be said of furniture like gliders or high chairs – parents may discover that their kids prefer their car seats or booster chairs. Buying gently used clothing, furniture and supplies can save you a lot of money over time. Also, consider registering or purchasing gender-neutral clothing and equipment. If you plan on having more children, you won’t feel pressured to buy new things.

Lastly, if you’re planning on using day or homecare, the sooner you can start interviewing centers or home care candidates, the better. Some have an admissions process, waiting lists or deposits so if you have a certain person or location in mind, schedule your visit well before your due date. With this sort of prudence and planning, you’ll feel more confident about bringing your baby home.

 

What happens when you planned to go back to work but have a change of heart after the baby is born? Next week, we’ll discuss making this emotionally charged decision. For more advice on navigating financials or saving up for your growing family, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens. This post was written by Maven Jason Armstrong.

 

How to Email Companies For Coupons!

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Did you know that companies will send coupons to consumers when they provide feedback to companies about their products — be  it positive or negative.  Of course, you won’t just ask for a coupon, however, many times, they will send you a coupon as a thank you or as an apology for a product that didn’t live up to your expectations.  When you are emailing, always keep a couple of things in mind:

1.  Be specific about the product you are emailing  them about.  Don’t just say I love Bar-S Products.  Tell them, I love your Bar-S Beef Franks.

2.  Provide details.  What is that you love about the product?  Is it the packaging?  Is it the reasonable price? Is it a favorite of your child?   The more information you can provide, the better.

3.   If you are complaining, be sure to have your package handy.  Sometimes, they will request the UPC so that they can look into products, in case it needs to be removed from shelves and/or to monitor other complaints to be sure others from the same production line aren’t affected.

4.  Be Polite.  You know that saying “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar”?  Well, that couldn’t be more true.  Even if you disliked something, be considerate in how you worded it.

Not sure how to say what you need to?  Well, here are a couple of examples you can use:

 

COMPLAINT

 

I had purchased some Kraft Sliced Cheese.  When we opened it to feed our children – it smelled horrible and I had to throw it away.  Here is the information I provided to Kraft:

UPC and product information from the packaging (the webiste asked for this to be completed).  And then my comments were:

I recently purchased a package of Kraft American Sliced Cheese.  This is normally the ONLY cheese I purchase for our family because I really trust the Kraft name and know that what I am feeding my children is a product that I feel is good for them.  That is why I was surprised when the last package we purchased was spoiled when we opened it.  It smelled horrible and the taste was bad enough that my children actually refused to eat it.  I know that this has to be an isolated incident as we have never had any problems with your company in the past.  I felt the need to let you know, in case others were experiencing the same issues.

And what did I get in return?  A coupon for a free package of cheese — up to a $7.99 value!  So it really paid off!

 

COMPLIMENT

 

Now – I have also written to praise companies and again, I am honest and polite.  Here is a sample of what I sent to Breyer’s about their Yo Crunch Yogurt.

I just had to take a moment to write you to let you know how much my children LOVE your product!  In our house, yogurt is always called ICE CREAM.  So, my children don’t even realize that they are eating something healthy when they ask me for “ice cream.”  When I bring home your product, my 5 year old daughter’s face just lights up because she loves pouring the little candies into her “ice cream.”  As a mom, it makes me feel good to know that my children are enjoying healthy snacks that they only know as something they love to eat.

And this one — sent me a coupon for a free package plus 3 coupons for $0.75/1.  So that really saved us a lot of money!

It might be worth your time to take a minute and send some emails – you never know what you’ll receive!

Ten Ways To Make Money From Home

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We have had several requests to share this post again.  Here are ten ways to make a little extra money from home.

If your budget is stretched just as far as it can go, you might be looking for additional ways which you can earn money.  Unfortunately, if you do a search on-line, you will more than likely hit upon sites which are less than honest (so I don’t recommend you do that).

The best tip is to look for something you can do to use your skills and interests.  Don’t try to do something simply to make money, or you’ll quit before you even get started.  Below you’ll find TEN ideas for jobs you can do right from home!

Of course, you can always check out Amazon for several free Kindles (and some for which you pay), but below you’ll find TEN popular ideas!!

1. Virtual Assistant. This type of job is for someone who is organized.  Many sites (even mine) hire Virtual Assistants to help them.  A virtual assistant (VA) works for bloggers or websites.  They could do things from check email, to writing articles to even doing accounting.  The hours and pay varies from site to site, but it is a nice way to pick up a few extra hours of work and some extra spending cash.  Visit VirtualAssistants.com to learn more about how to become a VA.

2. Survey/Points Sites.  I’ve recommended these before – because they work.  You may not always get approved for every survey, but if you keep at it, you can definitely earn some money.  In addition, it can take a while to turn those points into cash, but it does happen!  Most of these sites reward you in the form of points and then you in turn redeem the points in exchange for cash or prizes.  Some of them you might look into include:  Inbox Dollars, MyPoints, MySurvey and National Consumer Panel.

3. Open a Day Care.  This is one which is for someone who truly loves kids.  You will need to be able to prepare meals, teach kids and have a set up in your home which would be safe for children.  If this interests you, it is important that you visit your own state’s childcare license office to learn what it will take to become accredited.  Share with friends to help them get the word out that you are open for business!

4. Home Based Business.   I’m sure you’ve heard of many consultant based businesses, such as Thirty-One Gifts, Mary Kay, Party Lite, Pampered Chef, etc.  These are great companies that allow you to set your own hours, get out and meet new people and still bring in a little spending money.  Make sure you do your homework so you fully understand the start up costs and even what you have to do in order to maintain your consultant status.

5. Ebay.  If you love to search out deals, Ebay might be a good deal for you.  If you find a great deal on a toy on clearance, you can probably turn around and sell it on Ebay for more than what you paid for it.  Another great thing to sell on Ebay is children’s clothes.  Right now, the economy is so tough that parents can’t afford new clothes, so they can head to Ebay and purchase them for just a few dollars per item.  Whatever you decide to sell, Ebay has tools to help you from determining your cost to ad layout.  Just do your research and get ready to sell!

6.  Sell Your Photos.  If you are budding photographer, you can make money by selling your images.  There are sites where you then sell your photos.  As with any on-line endeavor, always read the fine print before you sign up so you know what you are getting into.  Here are a couple of sites you might check out:  iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, Fotolia.

7.  Call Center Employee.  When you place a call to a company, the call rarely goes to an office, but is directed to an employee (who is probably working from their home).  You simply set up an area where you can work and follow a script, taking calls from customers.  Pay varies, depending upon the type of company for which you work.  If you are interested in this option, here are some sites you can visit to learn more:  workingsolutions.comliveops.com or alpineaccess.com.

8.  Data Entry.  With the digital age comes the need to transfer all of that content on paper into digital media.  Companies actually pay people, just like you,  to enter this for them.  This is the one where you will find a LOT of scams, so make sure you are very careful before you sign up.    Here are a few sites you can trust:  FlexJobsHEA-Employment and VirtualBee.

9. Content Writer. Love to write?  You might be able to get hired for freelance writing jobs.  The reason is that companies need to hire quality writers to create content for their websites.  This can also be a way to sell your content to bloggers (if you are an expert in a field).   Visit Elance to get started!

10.  Sell your wares.  If you love to create items, you can sell them for cash.  Check out Etsy and sign up!

Of course, before you ever sign up, make sure you protect yourself.  Here are tips to know if the company could potentially scam you:

  • Watch for pyramid schemes.
  • Be leery of a company who makes you pay before they tell you what your job will be.
  • Read the fine print.  Know what to expect before you agree to the terms (that means, don’t just click the accept button).
  • Research the company at the Better Business Bureau to see if they are accredited or if there have been complaints filed.

Whatever you decide to do when you work from home, just make sure you do thorough research.   Make sure it works for you and it is something you enjoy doing.  Not all opportunities are for everyone.  Good Luck!

 

Grocery Store Savings Tips On Meat, Dairy and More!

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Saving  money seems pretty simple when you see a sale and a coupon.  But how do you save on those items you need which never have coupons?  You know the items I am referring to — meats, dairy, produce and breads.   Believe it or not, you really can save on these items, even if you don’t have a coupon!

Below find some easy tips on saving on your dairy, meat, produce and bread/grain items.  Even when you don’t have coupons, it doesn’t mean you can’t still save money!!

 

DAIRY

 

Know Your Dairy Prices.   Many times, stores like Aldi sell milk at a much lower price than your regular store or even larger chains.  I actually see milk priced at $1.99 – $2.49 a gallon compared to $3.49 – $3.89 in the grocery store.  For that savings, it can be worth stopping by your store.

Shop the Store Brands.  Did you know that store brands are big brands with a store label on them?   The store brands are oftentimes priced at a lower price than those with a label on them.  Just avoiding the brand labels can help you to save.

Pay Attention To Dates.   Read the dates on your packages.  If you know you will not consume items past the Best If Use By date, then it could result in wasted food and wasted money.

  • “Sell-By”  — This is the date by which the store can display the item for sale.  If you find an item past this date, it does not mean it is bad, but you might get a discount.   In most cases, you should purchase the item prior to this date to allow time for consumption before quality begins to decline.
  • “Best if Used By” — This date is reflected to let you know the date recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use-By” — This date is the last date that the manufacturer recommends you use the product.  Again, this is not a safety issue, but a quality issue.

Stock up when on sale.  It just makes sense that when you find a great deal on products that you purchase additional items and save them in your freezer.  You can even do this on milk — just pour a bit into a glass and then put the cap back on and it can be frozen!

 

MEATS / SEAFOOD

 

Shop in the early morning.  Many times, the meat items which are nearing the sell by dates will be discounted at this time of the day.  Even if you don’t plan on eating it right away, just take it home and freeze it.

Buy in bulk.  Many times, you can get your meat at a reduced price per pound if you buy a larger quantity at once.  You don’t want it to go to waste, so purchase freezer bags and break it out into smaller sized portions and freeze it.  Make sure you note what it is and the date frozen on it, so you make sure to use it up before it become freezer burned.

Purchase larger sizes.  If you buy a whole chicken and then cut it up yourself, you can often times pay less.  When I an item is cut up for you, you do pay more for that convenience.  Finding these items can save you money.

Check out your butchers.  Sometimes, you can find a lower price at these stores.  It never hurts to look into using them.

Avoid the Deli.  I’ve purchase both packaged and deli meats and to be honest, I can not tell too much difference.  Not only that, packaged items often have coupons whereas deli meats usually do not.

PRODUCE

 

Weigh everything.  When you’re buying product that is a set price for a package, like $1 for a 2lb bag of carrots, take an extra minute and weight 3 or 4 bags.  The suppliers can have a +/- of a certain weight on the package and still be within the guidelines to sell the product.  So if you weight the package you’ll be able to get more product for your money.

Check packaging.  Items are sometimes sold by a flat price in containers.  Check these and find those with more quantity inside (you can weight them as well).  Sometimes, you will get more bang for your buck.

Always buy in season.  When you try to buy an item out of season, you will pay more for it.  Therefore, plan your dining and meals around the items in season.

Forget the store completely.  Why not grow your own?  You can do a raised garden bed or perhaps even find a community garden where you can work with others to reap a great crop.  You can save money plus feel good about growing it yourself.

Check out canned or frozen.  If you are using your item as part of an larger entree, this can be a way to cut down on cost (and time).  Just double check the packaging content.

BREADS / GRAINS

 

Bread outlet stores.  Many brands of bread have outlet or day old stores.  The bread that is left on the truck at the end of the day that stores didn’t need, or that they pulled because it was within a day or two of the sell by date go to these stores and are marked down for quick sale.  You can typically find bread anywhere from 50%-75% off of the store retail price.  Many times, you can find items like specialty whole wheat breads for only $1 when they retail for around $4 at the stores.

Make your own. Bread is actually pretty easy to make. You can find great easy recipes in well known cookbooks like Better Home & Gardens.  Even without using coupons and stocking up on ingredients you can cut your cost by at least 50% on a loaf of bread.  Homemade bread can also be frozen, so you can bake 4-6 loaves in one day and freeze all but one and thaw them as needed.  A bread machine is an investment, but it makes the process of making bread take you about 5-10 mins and almost gaurentees a loaf everytime that comes out right!

Stock up when on sale. It just makes sense that when you find a great deal on products that you purchase additional items and save them in your freezer. Whether you make your own, find a good sale, or make a monthly trip to the outlet store you can freeze.

Stick with the store brand.  Just because it has your store name on it does not mean it is lower quality.  Store brands are in name brands in a different wrapper.  Try them – you just might be surprised that you can not tell the difference.

Make your own croutons.  Bread can dry out before you use it.  You can save that bread and make your own croutons – saving yourself money.  There are many recipes out there — here is one idea.

Rice in bulk.  Rice is one of those staples that you can find in most bulk food stores.  Whether it is a natural food stores, specialty asian food store, or in an Amish community, rice is a reasonably priced grain that you can buy in bulk to get the best price and it stores well for a long time.

Did you learn a few new tips or ideas?  Perhaps there are more you know of which are not listed here.  Please share with us by leaving a comment below!

How an Organized Pantry Can Save You Money

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to get something out of our pantry and ended up finding a couple of items which were expired.  That meant — throwing away food.  I knew better than to let it get that messy.  You see, when your pantry is organized it helps SAVE you money!  Follow my tips below to find out simple things you can do to not only organize your pantry (or even cupboards) so you aren’t throwing money into the trash!

Here’s what my pantry looked like before I got started.  With 3 kids home all summer long, you can see it took it’s toll.

before

We had boxes shoved in sideways, empty bags, empty cardboard and items just lying losely.  This made it difficult to find what we wanted for a snack or even to see what I had on hand for planning my weekly menu and shopping trip.    I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to take some time to just organize it.   It wasn’t difficult, but if you don’t know where to start, it can seem like a daunting task.

Start only when you have a few hours.  If you try to rush this job, it will not end up being done the way you want, which can create more stress.  Allow yourself a couple of hours (at least) so you can do it the right way, which will pay off in the end.

storage containers

Have the proper storage.  The best way I find we save money is when food (like chips and crackers) in containers that we can see through.  Not only does it help my kids find what they want, but it also prevents it from going stale.  There is nothing worse than wanting some crackers and taking a bite, to find that they have gone stale because they were not properly stored.  BLECH!

I spent around $50 and picked up a few new containers.  Granted, I did already have several on hand, so I didn’t have to spend too much.  I know that this investment will pay for itself as I won’t be throwing away food that has gone bad.  These containers will last years and years, and so it was an investment which was important to make.

Take EVERYTHING out of your panty/cupboard.  As you do so, check for items which are stale and/or even expired and throw them away.  You may even find items that you purchased and will not use, which you could donate to your local food pantry.

Scrub the pantry/cupboard.  Before you consider starting to put your items away, make sure it is has been thoroughly swept and cleaned.  I find that it is easy for boxes to fall over and crumbs to empty onto the floor.  I’ve even found drips and other stains on our shelving.  By starting clean, you are also keeping away pests (which costs you money to eliminate and can also result in having to throw food away).

Fill your containers with items which are in boxes.  In our home, we keep all chips, crackers and cereal in containers.  That helps it all stay fresh for so much longer – and makes it easier for my kids to see what we have so they can find what they want for a snack or breakfast quickly (well, relatively speaking at least).

Make a shopping list as you put items away.  You may had to throw away items while cleaning, which means you need to purchase more.  You might also find that you are running low on a staple (i.e. rice).  If you make a shopping list as you put items back, you will help make sure you’ve got those items you need.  There is nothing worse than having to run to the store for one ingredient when trying to make dinner!  I HATE doing that!!!  By taking a few minutes to do this simple step, you will save yourself time!

Place like items together.  When putting things away, keep your cereals together and your chips in one place, etc.  We even put all of our noodles together, as well as our canned items, cereals and even snacks.  This helps us quickly find what we need.  So, if I am making spaghetti for dinner, I know I can look in the “noodles section” and the “canned/jarred” section to find those items I need to make dinner.  This not only helps me, but helps my husband too!  Rather than me having to help him find something, he can (usually) find what he needs because it is organized!  Ahhhh…..simple things that make me smile!

When you are through, you will have accomplished several things all at once:

  1. You are saving time by being able to find the items you need, when you need them.
  2. You are saving money by not allowing items to go stale.
  3. You are saving time by knowing what you already have on hand and can stock up next time you go to the store.
  4. Your family can find the things they want to eat (well, in theory, at least).

 

MAINTAINING YOUR PANTRY

 

There is nothing worse than spending hours to organize this part of your home, to have it trashed two weeks later.  Just like with everything else, you have to maintain it to ensure it doesn’t go back to being a disorganized mess.

What I find is best is to clean/organize each week when planning my menu and shopping trip.  I take a few minutes and organize items, sweep and wipe things down. When doing that, I have my shopping list on hand.  I jot down the items I find I need right then and there.  I can also check to see what I have on hand to fix the meals on our menu plan (or find what I have on hand in order to plan our menu).

This keeps my pantry organized AND helps me plan my shopping trip.   When I get home from the store, I immediately open all bagged items, such as chips, and place them into the containers.  I do this so that it is easier to grab when we need a snack — plus — my family can see it too!  I even do this with my snack crackers.  Everything goes right into containers and the boxes are broken down and placed into our recycling bin.

Little things, like an organized pantry, really can save  you money (and time).

Coupon Stacking Explained — And Which Stores Still Allow It!

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What is Coupon Stacking and Which Stores Allow This | www.pennypinchinmom.com #coupons

 

One thing we talk about quite a bit when putting together deals is coupon stacking.  If you aren’t familiar with this term, let met explain it for you:

Coupon Stacking is using both a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on a single item 

So now that you have the basic understanding of what a coupon stack is, how can you tell if your coupon is a store coupon or a manufacturer’s coupon?  That can be tricky.  Here are some tips which can help.

IDENTIFYING MANUFACTURER’S COUPONS

Most coupons you find will be manufacturer’s coupons.  They are distributed by the manufacturer’s themselves and usually found in your Sunday newspaper or printed from sites like coupons.com.  When you redeem your coupon at the store, that retailer is reimbursed the face value of the coupon PLUS a small handling fee.

Here common manufacturer’s characteristics:

  • Says “Manufacturer’s Coupon” on the coupon (usually at the top).
  • Includes a redemption address in the fine print on the coupon.  This is where the retailer will submit the coupon so that they can be reimbursed.
  • It may say things such as “Redeemable at” or “Available At” on them, but they are still manufacturer’s coupons and should be accepted anywhere.  However, keep in mind that some stores will not accept any coupon with another stores logo on it, even in this instance.

manufacturers coupon | www.pennypinchinmom.com

This coupon shows the manufacturer’s wording at the top. It is usually easily located
near the coupon expiration date, or along the side of the coupon.

redeemable at coupon | www.pennypinchinmom.com

This coupon shows the Walmart store logo and says “Redeemable at Walmart”
on it, however, it is a manufacturer’s coupon and can be redeemed anywhere.

redemption

This coupon clearly lists the address where the retailer can
send the coupon in order to be reimubrsed.

 

 

IDENTIFYING STORE COUPONS

 

Store or Retailer coupons are issued by the store themselves.  They are basically a store sale, just issued in coupon format.  These are completely funded by the store — no manufacturer reimbursement is listed on the coupon.  These are very common at national retailers such as CVS, Walgreens and Target.

These can be found in the weekly ad or even on racks directly inside of the store.  You may also be able to print them from the store’s website (such as Target). Your store may also load them as a digital coupon directly onto your rewards card (Hen House does this automatically each week).  You might even be able to log into your store rewards account and select the coupons you want to use (such as the HyVee Fuel Rewards program).

You can usually identify a store coupon by the following:

  • Includes the store’s logo.
  • Does not include any redemption information on the coupon (the store will not be reimbursed for the coupon, so this information is not needed).
  • Usually says “Store Coupon” — where store is the store name — i.e. Target Coupon.

 

target store coupon 1

This is a Target store coupon as it clearly states “Target Coupon” at the top.

redemption 2

Coupon includes the store logo.  It also does not include any address redemption details.

 

STACKING COUPONS AT YOUR STORE

 

Now that you know how to identify the coupons, you are ready to try your hand at stacking!  While most computer systems are smart enough to correctly credit your purchase in the right order, that may not always be the case.  It is usually best to always hand over the store coupons before you hand over your manufacturer’s coupons.  This usually creates less hassle and having to hear those annoying beeps.

Here is an example of what a coupon stack looks like:

So now that you know how you can stack coupons, let’s share the stores where you can stack! 

NATIONAL CHAINS

 

CVS.  CVS a TRIPLE stack.  You can use a CVS store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon + Extra Care Bucks (earned on prior transactions).

Dollar General.  You can use both a Dollar General store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon.

Kohls.  You can use a value off coupon with a percentage off coupon.  You can not combine 2 percentage off coupons.  You can also use Kohl’s cash with any other additional coupon (but the Kohls cash comes off before any discount is calculated).

Michaels.  You can use multiple coupons, as long as the barcodes are all different.

Rite Aid.  You can stack do a triple stack here as well.  You can use a manufacturer’s coupon + a Rite Aid store coupon + a Rite Aid video values coupon.

Target.  Target allows a triple stack!  You can combine a manufacturer’s coupon + a Target store coupon + a Target Cartwheel offer.

Walgreens.  Walgreens will allow you to stack one of their store coupons, called an Instant Value Coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.    You can also combine Register Rewards (earned on prior purchases), but the total coupons can not exceed the number of purchased products (read more here).

GROCERY STORES

 

Hen House.  You can use a digital coupon or store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon.

HyVee.  You can stack a HyVee store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.

Price Chopper (Kansas City metro area).  You can use a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.

Publix.  When shopping here, you can stack your Publix store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons.

Safeway.  You can use a Safeway store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.

Whole Foods.  They will allow you to use a store coupon + a manufacturer’s coupon.

Three Reasons Why Coupons Have Limited Prints

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Why coupons have limited prints | www.pennypinchinmom.com

I am sure it happens to you.  You print your coupon and go back and try to get another one and it says LIMIT REACHED.  Why are you limited to the number of coupons you can print?  There are actually reasons why you can’t print as many as you’d like.  In fact, here are THREE reasons why:

 

PART 1 – WHY DO COUPONS HAVE LIMITED PRINTS?

 

When a manufacturer wants to release a printable coupon, they have to pay for the prints (just as they do in the weekly newspaper ads).  For this reason, they have to establish a budget.  That budget will allow for “x” number of prints across all sources.   That in turn sets the number of allowable prints allowed by consumers.  As we all print, the number counts down and when the last coupon is printed, the coupon disappears from the list.

PART 2 – WHY AM I PERSONALLY LIMITED TO THE NUMBER OF COUPONS I CAN PRINT?

 

The manufacturers want to make sure that the coupons can reach as many consumers as possible.  Since the budget will allow only a select number of coupons to be printed across all sources, they want to ensure that everyone has a chance to get one.  For this reason, they put a limit of 2 prints per computer or IP address.  This is actually built into the agreements between the coupon source and the manufacturer, to ensure that one person will not be able to print an excessive number of coupons.

PART 3 – WHY CAN’T I PRINT THE SAME COUPON AGAIN?

 

Many times, a coupon will run out of prints only to return again.  Sometimes, these returning coupons fall under the same original agreement — they have simply increased the budget to allow for additional prints for consumers. Since it is still part of the original agreement, the same limits apply per consumer.  For that reason, you may not be able to print it again.  There is no way for anyone to know when it has been reset (meaning everyone can print again as it is a new printing contract) or if it is the same coupon returning for a second chance printing.

So there you have it!  Three reasons coupon prints are limited for all of us.  Hope it answers some of the questions you might have!!!

How To Cut Your Budget — When There Is Nothing Left To Cut Out

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How to Cut your Budget When there is Nothing Left to Cut | www.pennypinchinmom.com

One of the most common questions and even comments left on my site is “What more can I do to cut our budget – we’ve already done all we can!!”  I know this feeling all too well.  I remember when my husband and I were struggling after I quit my job to stay home with our first born.  It was tough and we all know you can’t get blood from a turnip!

Before you look at what you can do to save on your budget, you need to make sure you have one.  I’ve got some very helpful tips, including free forms, to help you do just that.  Read more about How To Create A Budget.

Here are things we ended up doing which helped us when we had problems with our own budget:

1.  Find ways to bring in more money each month.  Of course, you can’t give yourself a raise at your job, but there are other things you can do to bring in more money.  We ended up selling items, I found a part-time, work from home job with my prior employer and eventually, started this site.   You sometimes need to look inside and where your passion lies and you might find the perfect way to increase your income.

I’ve actually got an entire post dedicated to this topic — Ten Ways to Make Money from Home.  While many of them may not work for you, there might be an idea which turns on that light bulb and sends you off on a path you’ve never have thought of otherwise.

2.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Sit back for a minute and look at where you were before you knew about budgeting and stretching your dollar vs. where you are now.  Be proud of what you’ve done and the changes you’ve made.  Sometimes, just knowing that you’ve made positive financial changes.  Just celebrate the small victories.

3.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  This is a tough one.  You may see others who claim that they found a way to shave their budget by hundreds of dollars every month.  While we would all love to be able to do that, it may not be realistic for you.  You may have additional expenses others do not have.  Your income is different than them.  You have your own financial goals.  When you stop comparing yourself to others, the need to keep up and compete will stop and you can feel better about your own budget.

4.  Look at your needs vs. wants.  This is a tough one.  There are probably things you have in your life which are wants rather than needs (and vice versa).  Do you have both a land line and cell phone?  If so, do you need both or do you want both?  Why not drop the land line?

Take a look at your entertainment.  Do you need cable?  Why not try to use another way to knock down your cable bill (or eliminate it completely).  Do you need to eat dinner out once a week – or do you want to dine out?

When we were getting out of debt, we did not eat in a restaurant for more than a year.  I kid you not.  It was tough, but we survived.  The reason was that we determined that it was a want to dine out and not a need.  Instead, we took the money we would have spent having a dinner out and used it towards our debt instead.

5.  Seek assistance.  This may be the time when you need to reach out to get help.  There are times when you just can’t make it on your own and there are programs and services which are here to help.  You can check with your local government to find ways to get help with utility bills, apply for food stamps, locate a food pantry and even get assistance for child care.

Just because you ask for help does not mean you are not financially responsible.  We all have times when we need a hand and these organizations are here to help.  Once you get back on your feet, then that will be your chance to pay it forward to help someone else.

 

 

Keep Up to Date With Penny Pinchin’ Mom’s Deals

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Keeping Up withWith the constant changes in algorithms on social media, it can be difficult to keep up to date with your favorite pages.  That can mean you might miss out on a great deal or money saving tip!!!   In order to help make sure you NEVER miss anything, there are some easy ways to stay up to date with all of your favorite pages!!

 

fb

FACEBOOK

If you still want to stay on Facebook, there are some things you can do to ensure you don’t miss out on a deal.

Set up Notifications.  You can add your favorite pages to your notifcations button.   This is the globe image at the top of your page.  When you have this turned on, you will see an update whenever your favorite pages make a post.  You click on here and receive a drop down letting you see the pages at a glance and can click through to the post to learn more.

notification

Turning this feature on is very simple to do.  Head to Penny Pinchin’ Mom on Facebook and under the header, find the LIKED button.  Once you click on here, you will it says Get Notifications.  Make sure that you have a checkmark next to this button so that you keep up with all of the posts.

Screenshot 2013-11-20 09.54.19

Join the Facebook Group and add it to your Favorites.  We actually have a group set up where the posts will go on Facebook.  You can join for free HERE.  Once you join, you can then add that group to your favorites so that you see it in your sidebar each and every time you log in!

To add it to your favorites, simply click the pencil next to the group name, when you see it under your Groups.  Click to Add to Favorites and you will see it move up under your favorites, directly under your profile picture!

group1

favorites

 

Create an Interest List and Add to your Favorites.  You can add all of your favorite pages to an interest list and then make that list accessible in your favorites.  This keeps all of your favorite pages in one place, so you can catch up with them all at once!

interest1

Click on the wheel button from the Facebook page and then select Add to Interest Lists.  Then, click on New List.

1

On this screen, you will see that the site comes up and is already selected for you.  Just click on the blue NEXT button at the bottom of the page.

Here, type in the name for the list.  You could call it just Penny Pinchin’ Mom, or Money Saving Sites (whatever you would like).  You can then decide if you want anyone to see this or not.  If it is public, anyone can subscribe to the list, so if you want to get the word out about this great list you’ve created, you could select this option.

list2

You can add additional pages to your list and every page you follow will be in one location.  Once you do this, you want to add this to your favorites so that you can find it quickly.   Just find the List under Interests in your sidebar and click the pencil next to the list.  Check Add to Favorites and you are done!

sites

Now, this group will also be at the very top of your profile so you can find it quickly!

pinterestlogo

PINTEREST

There are several great boards set up on Pinterest to help you narrow down the types of deals or savings tips you might need!  We’ve got ALL of our best tips in our Money Saving Tips Board.  If you want to get out of debt, you’ll love all of the articles (which will be added each week this year) in the Getting Out of Debt Board.  Of course, it would be simpler to just follow my Pinterest page so you get all of the pins we share from my site as well as others I’d recommend!  Visit the Penny Pinchin’ Mom Pinterest page so you can follow it!

 

 

g

GOOGLE+

Google+ may seem like a ghost town, but it really isn’t.  In fact, this is the #2 social media site, ahead of Twitter.  The great thing about Google+ is that you can create your own circles to keep certain pages grouped together to check them quickly (as you would using a list or favorites on Facebook).  Even better than that, G+ doesn’t censor the content, you will always see everything on all of the page you are following!

You’ll want to head to the Penny Pinchin’ Mom Google+ page and make sure you +1 it by clicking that image on the main page.

g+1

 

Once you have done that, you will want to create your circles.  This is easy to do.  From your Home button, scroll down and click on the People button.

Screenshot 2013-11-20 10.22.41

Then, click on Your Circles in the menu bar

circle

Next, click the + in the circle.  In here, type in the name of the circle.

new

It could be something like you would use on Facebook, like Money Saving Sites.  Click on the Add a Person Button and start typing Penny Pinchin Mom and you will see that it comes up.  Just click to add it to the list and then click on Create Circle Button to finish.  You’ve just created a circle!

google2

 

Your circles are all visible from your home page, but you can decide WHICH ones have a shortcut on your menu.  Drag your circles to reorder them to put those you will use the most at the top of the list.  You just literally click drag and drop!  The first circles in your order will be the first ones you see in your menu.  Here is how mine looks:

circle2Main Menu

 

circle1Circles Order

So now, when I am on G+, I just click Money Saving Websites from the main menu and the posts are there!

I can tell you that we put all of our posts on Google+ just like other social media, so this is a great alternative to Facebook!

twitter

TWITTER

We are also on Twitter!  This is can be a simple way to keep up with your sites as well.  There are different platforms out there which you can use to create custom streams and lists to personalize it for yourself.  I personally love using Tweet Deck!  You can create custom streams for your favorite hashtags, sites and more!  You’ll find me on Twitter under @PennyPinchinMom.

You can create a List easily on Twitter just like you do the other sites. Just click the Lists button from your profile page and then Create a List.  Add the profiles you want to follow and then you’ll have one easy list at your fingertips!

lists

 

create

 

 

 

email

EMAIL DIGEST

There is also one final way to stay up to date.  You can sign up for the FREE daily email newsletter. We actually have options which allow you to taylor the newsletter to receive just what you want!  You can get all updates, just coupons or even only Target store deals!  Head HERE and sign up — make sure that you confirm your subscription!