Penny Experiment 2: $204 for $23

I visited my mother in New Jersey this weekend to check out her new TV, get bangs cut to hide my healing scar, increase her freezer space by 1 filet mignon steak, and indulge in coupon insanity on behalf of The Penny Experiment. Saving are based on full shelf price v. net cost after sale price, coupons and other deals ($Shelf/$Sale).

Transaction 1 – $78.94 for $8.91

$15.54/$11.94  –  6 boxes of Quaker Chewy Granola bars
$ 4.00 /$ 4.00  –  2 bottles of G2 Gatorade
$ 3.30 /$ 2.40  –  6 cans of Contadina tomato sauce
$ 4.38 /$ 3.58  –  2 tubs of Betty Crocker icing
$10.74/$5.28  –  6 Hamburger Helper
$ 9.57 /$5.00  –  3 boxes of Maypo oatmeal
$ 3.69 / $2.47  –  Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin Bread

– $2 Quaker granola bars (2 x $1/2)
– $2 Gatorade G2 (2 x .50/1 doubled)
– $2.20  Contadina (2 x .75/3 partially doubled…weird)
– $2 Betty Crocker icng (2 x .50/1 doubled)
– $3 Hamburger Helper (2 x .75/3 doubled)
– $3.30 Maypo oatmeal (3 x .55/1 doubled)
– $1.10 Pepperidge Farm bread (.55/1 doubled)
Full shelf price: $60.22 
Sale price: $34.67
After coupons:  $19.07
Register rebate:  $10 off your next order (Quaker/Gatorade deal)
Net cost:  $9.07
Savings:  85%

$ 9.96 / $ 4.96  –  4 Right Guard deodorant
$ 3.78 / $ 1.92  –  2 Halls cough drops
$ 4.98 / $ 1.96  –  2 Aquafresh toothpaste
$18.72 / $8.84
– $4 Right Guard (2 x $2/2)
– $2 Halls (2 x .50/1 doubled)
– $3 Aquafresh (2 x .75/1 doubled

Full shelf price: $18.72
Sale price: $8.84
Coupons:  $9
Savings:  100%


Transaction 2:  $32.09 for $3.39

$17.34 / $8.00  –  6 jars Ragu sauce
$  4.79 / $2.99  –  1 Hellmann’s mayonnaise
$  9.96 / $5.00  –  4 bottles of Pompeian vinegar & cooking wine

– $3.60 Ragu (3 x .60/2 doubled)
– $1.00 Hellmann’s
Full price:  $32.09
Sale price:  $15.99
After coupons:  $11.39
Register rebates:  $5 off next order (Pompeian) & $3 off next order (Unilever)
Net cost:  $3.39
Saved:  89.5%


Transaction 3:  $22.32 for $2.16

$9.16 / $8.00  –  4 Skippy Peanut Butter
$13.16 / $7.96  –  4 Wishbone salad dressing

– $4.80 Skippy PB (4 x .60/1 doubled)
– $6.00 Wishbone (4 x .75/1 doubled)
Full price: $22.32
Sale price:  $15.96
After coupons:  $5.16
Register rebates:  $3 off your next order
Net cost:  $2.16
Saved:  91.4%


Transaction 4:  $21.33 for $3.66

$ 3.99 / $ 2.49  –  Lipton 100ct tea bags
$17.34 / $8.00 – 6 jars of Ragu

– $1.20 Lipton (.60/1 doubled)
– $3.60 Ragu (.60/2 doubled)
Full price: $21.33
Sale price: $10.46
After coupons: $6.66
Register rebate: $3
Net cost:  $3.66
Saved:  83%


Transactions 5 & 6 combined: $20.03 for $1.62

$ 5.18 / $3.00  –  2 Krusteaz pancake mix
$ 4.98 / $2.48  –  2 pints of Coffee-Mate creamer
$ 9.87 / $5.64  –  3 x 1-lb packs Butterball 93% lean ground turkey

– $2 Krusteaz (2 x .50/1 doubled)
– $3 Coffee-Mate (2 x .75/1 doubled)
– $4.50  Butterball ground turkey (3 x .75/1)
Full price:  $20.03
Sale price:  $11.12
After coupons:  $1.62
Saved:  92%


Transaction 7 (Target):  $29.90 for $3.30

$29.90 / $15.30  –  10 x $1.53 Keebler cookies
– $2.00 ($1/3 x 2, Target website)
Full price:  $29.90
Sale price after coupons:  $13.30
Rewards earned:  $10 Target gift cards
Net cost:  $3.30
Saved:  89%

GRAND TOTAL:  $204.57 for $23.04

Frugality Blogging => Enriched Day-to-Day Life

I didn’t start blogging for any reason other than to sort through my feelings and habits regarding all things financial – but wow, have I ever gotten so much more out of it than I could have possibly predicted!

1) Coupons! Shocker, right? But seriously, think about all the money you shell out on a regular basis for toothpaste, cold & cough meds, hair care, soap, deodorant, razors, aspirin/ibu/tylenol, body wash/lotion, skincare, fem hygiene, laundry & dish detergents, cleaning products, cosmetics, vitamins, cereal, snack foods. Now imagine getting all those products for no more than sales tax. Buy all that stuff on various store loyalty programs, and you can also manage to get things like coffee, milk, eggs, juice, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, peanut butter, ice cream and candy for free too. As a result, I am using better quality personal care products than before I started couponing, and I’m preparing more meals at home because my cupboards are full of tasty ingredients. And my food budget has been halved 🙂

2)  Freebies! Getting my mail is now fun because odd little “gifts”that I requested online arrive every now and then. Last week I received a Uniball pen, a coupon for a free bottle of Excedrin (my #1 headache cure of choice), an insulated shopping tote (much-needed!), and my first issue of a free subscription to Health magazine.

3)  A social outlet! Totally wasn’t expecting that. The PF blogger community is fairly small, smart, and packed with very entertaining writers. They inspired me to start Twittering, which is thankfully not the time-suck that other social media outlets are (took one look each at Facebook and MySpace and ran the other way). Anyway, for someone who works from home and lives alone, Twitterland and Blogosphere help keep me sane on quiet days.

4) Alleviating my misanthropy! First off, I’ve met a few blogotweeple – they’re so normal! And then someone sent me a sweet, sweet care package 2 weeks ago when I was dealing with a tiny spot of skin cancer. Those of you who helped with Christmas for that enormous family – wow. And then there’s a bunch more who’ve thoughtfully stepped up to supply coupons. Sorry, I haven’t linked to all of you, but I’d never finish this post if I kept at it! But I am very appreciative for the daily reminders that there are bright, big-hearted people all over the place…so easy to lose track of that when you’re in a city and a profession where everyone is trying to bleed more out of you than originally bargained for.

5)  Significant $avings!  I cut my only utility bill by over 50%. I became more consistent at looking for online discount codes and reminding my mother to do the same (easily $200+ saved there!). I signed up for eBates and Swagbucks to make the most of my online purchases. Oh — a special shout-out to all of you who signed up through my referral links – I used some of the rewards to do things like buy socks and Christmas presents for Mom-of-10’s kids.

6) Giving!  I may have had my worst financial year since becoming self-employed, but I have been able to give so much because I’ve learned so much about “freetailing” (get it? Free + Retail … got that one from Debbie). Heck, given how much cereal and oatmeal I got for free or nearly free last year, I supplied indigent New Yorkers (working poor, unemployed, welfare families, youth shelters) with 1000 breakfasts!

Who’d have thought becoming a better penny-pincher would be so enriching?

Printable Coupons for my Robin-Hooding

Believe it or not, I’ve actually been doing minimal shopping-for-free in the past few weeks. I’ve had band-aids all over my face since late January, and now I’ve got a livid scar surrounded by adhesive-irritated flakiness. Attractive, I know. Anyway, I’ve been doing just enough couponing to keep my drug store credits (ECBs, RRs) from expiring and that’s about it.

I’m itching to get back in the game though, and these coupons will help me make a lot of people happy (and in the case of the Excedrin, it’s my annual personal stock-up in a way that allows me to “make money” at Walgreens to keep up the good work). Remember, most of these can be printed twice, usually by going back a few pages with the back button:

Betty Crocker – cake mix, brownie mix, cookie mix + frosting (very popular, makes for free birthday treats!)

Colgate – MaxWhite, Total Sensitive, Enamel Strength, & Softsoap bodywash – $2/2 Right Guard, .50/1 Betty Crocker frosting – $2/2 Right Guard, $1/1 Orbit gum, $2/1 Excedrin (very important for next week!), $1.50/2 Kelloggs Corn Pops/Apple Jacks/Froot Loops, $1/1 Kellogg’s Smart Start, .60/1 Cheerios mix – $1.50/2 Kelloggs, .50/1 Newman’s Own

$1 Betty Crocker Potatoes
$1/1 & $1/2 Honey Nut Cheerios (automatically prints both)
$1/1 General Mills cereal
$1/1 Cheerios
.75/1 CoffeeMate
.75/1 Nestle Tollhouse Morsels
$1 Degree deodorant
.55/1 International Delight
$1/1 Oreo Cakesters
.75/1 Shake-n-Bake
$1/1 Stayfree
.60/3 Yoplait Whipps
$2/1 Fiber One
(scroll down)
$1/1 & $1.50/2 Kelloggs – unlike all the others, this only gives one print
$2/1 Excedrin – answer Excedrin, print $2 coupon twice; answer other and get a Free Excedrin coupon by mail. No reason you can’t do both – the website doesn’t prevent it.

So if you want to help me by printing these off and mailing them, leave me a comment so I can privately send you my contact info.

Poll: Should I lie to an inconsiderate Broke Folk?

Last summer, I gave a huge load of feminine products to a woman with a fibroid problem. She just contacted me to restock, and yes, I have plenty she could have. However, she screwed up twice in a way I can’t tolerate.

I work from home, in a business where my clients very reasonably expect a peaceful environment with no interruptions. The first time she came, she was late and I had left bags of goodies for her with the doorman. He told me later that she got a little pushy about getting him to buzz me so we could meet – even though I told her I would be with a client and informed her about the doorman arrangement. She definitely knew this. The doorman knew not to interrupt me and the problem was averted. Then she decided a couple of months later just to stop by and say hi on a Saturday afternoon. We had not been in touch, I thought the doorman had rung the wrong apartment – but no, it was her. I am sooo clear with people about my work/home situation and was pretty pissed.

So now I want to get rid of her. Do I take the cowardly way out and say that I’ve stopped doing those deals? Or do I tell her the truth – that twice she didn’t care about the potential damage to my livelihood and that was two times too many? Because I have (rarely) been interrupted before by stupid things like a neighbor who got off the elevator on the wrong floor and tried to put his key in the lock, or the doorman rings the wrong apartment with a take-out delivery. Those clients NEVER come back, even if I make up for it by adding time to their massage as an apology.

UPDATE:  Decision Made
I decided to go with the lie, but for a different reason than my commenters gave (the woman is weird but not scary). Saying that I don’t do those bargains any longer has no comeback, whereas telling someone you don’t want to deal with them opens the door for the “reasonable” argument for a second chance.

Penny Experiment: $262 Toiletries for $7 + tax

Hope y’all don’t mind, but in order to participate in The Penny Experiment, I need to post pictures and details of the deals that I do. I’ve pretty much avoided this because I don’t want to be lumped in with some of those bloggers who empty whole shelves of Crest Pro-Health just because they can.

This photo isn’t complete – it’s just what I got at CVS, not Rite Aid because I gave all that stuff away already. As soon as I found out Single Mom-of-1 was on her way, I ran out and did my Rite Aid deals because she was desperate for hair conditioner (both mom and teenage daughter have dry, frizzy hair) as well as the food I’d already accumulated. I didn’t put together that donation pic because, again, I was in a time crunch.

At CVS, I bought (full shelf/sale price):
$32.94 / $32.94  6 x Dove Men+Care body wash
$23.98 / $20.00  2 x jumbo packs Huggies diapers
$31.96 / $23.96  4 x Pantene (large size)
$  6.38 / $ 5.98  2 x Colgate Max Fresh
$  8.38 / $ 7.98  Oust Air & Surface Sanitizer
$  4.08 / $ 2.60  2 x 2L Coke (inc .05 deposit)
Shelf price total:  $107.72
Sale price total:  $93.46 + tax

– $10 (2 x $5/$30 purchase coupons)
– $6 Pantene (2 x $3/2 mfr)
– $1.50 Huggies mfr
– $1 Huggies mfr
– $7.25  Dove Men+Care mfr
– $3.99  Oust BOGO mfr
-$.50  Coke store coupon
-$1.50 Colgate mfr (IP)
Total owed: $61.70 + $5.84 tax
Paid with $60 ECBs + $7.54 cash

ECBs earned:
$32.94 Dove Men+Care (more than 1 card…long story)
$4 Colgate
$6 Oust
$5 Huggies
$10 Pantene/Coke
$57.94 ECBs earned – almost a wash!

Then at Rite Aid – sorry, no photo – I picked up (shelf price/sale price):
$9.98 / $7.00  Pantene (2 bottles)
$5.99 / $3.99  Nyquil
$4.99 / $1.75  Post GrapeNuts cereal
$5.99 / $2.99  Nivea body wash
$4.49 / $1.99  Carefree Ultra liners
$17.96 / $7.96  Stayfree pads
Shelf total:  $49.40
Sale total:  $25.69

– $5/$25 purchase
– $2/2 Pantene
– $2 Nyquil
– $2 Post cereal
– $2 Nivea body wash
– $2 Carefree Ultra (RA video values)
– $2 ($1 x 2) Stayfree
– $3.98 (2 x BOGO) Stayfree
Total:  $4.70 + $1.33 tax = $6.03
SCRs due:  $3 ($2 Pantene, $1 Nyquil)
Net out-of-pocket cost after rebates:  $3.03

And yesterday, I dashed out to Walgreens to pull of this deal after Mom-of-10 said she bought a bottle of shampoo because they were out. I “yelled” at her for buying something I could get much higher quality for nearly-free. This total is actually 3 orders, with one done on last week’s sale:

$10.99 / $10.00  Zicam cold sore swabs, 10ct
$  1.99 / $ .79  Ajax dishwashing liquid
$33.96 / $20.00  4 x 12oz bonus bottles NyQuil/DayQuil
Full price total:  $46.94
Sale price total:  $30.79

– $8.00 (4 x $2) Vicks NyQuil/DayQuil mfr
= $22.79
Paid with $23 in Register Rewards (had to throw in a candy bar for myself to make this work, not included)
Earned back $20 in Register Rewards

$23.98 / $17.98  2 Huggies jumbo packs
$23.94 / $20.00  6 bottles of Garnier Fructis shampoo & conditioner
$ 7.58 / $ 6.00  2 x 22ct Kotex pads
$ 2.29 / $ .99  Aquafresh, 8.2oz bonus tube
Full shelf price: $57.79
Sale price:  $44.97

– $2 Huggies store coupon (2 x $1)
– $4 Huggies mfr IPs (2 x $2)
– $6 Garnier Fructis mfr (6 x $1)
– $2/2 Kotex mfr
– $.75 Aquafresh mfr
$30.22 + 2.40 sales tax
Paid with $27 RRs and $5.62

Got back $6 Huggies (2 x $3), $3 Kotex, $10 Garnier Fructis


BOUGHT:  $261.85 worth of personal care, baby care, OTC meds and other non-food necessities
PAID:  $16.19 out-of-pocket ($6.62 + 9.57 sales tax)


Single Mom of Teen Daughter and her friend, Single Mom with Tween Daughter, got 6 bottles of Pantene, 1 Oust, 2L bottle of Coke, NyQuil, 4 Stayfree, 1 Carefree, Nivea body wash, 2 Colgate, Post GrapeNuts (plus a few boxes of the free Kelloggs from my previous Penny Experiment purchase) on Sunday. She got tons of other stuff too (2 frozen turkeys, 3 cans of tuna, Ragu, Ronzoni, SoyJoy, Chex Mix, Stove Top, cranberry sauce, gravy, Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol, Dawn, All), but that pre-dates my participation. Interesting twist: the turkeys and trimming came from Bronx Mom-of-10 – they’re not fans of Thanksgiving foods, so I just redistributed what the church and a very nice local supermarket owner gave her over the holidays.

Semi-Official Shelter Lady, Joanne, will get the 6 bottles of Dove Men+Care body wash with her next delivery.

Bronx Mom-of-10 got 4 packs of Huggies, 6 bottles of Garnier Fructis, Aquafresh, Kotex, 4 bottles of NyQuil and DayQuil, Zicam swabs (one of her kids gets cold sores), Ajax dishwashing liquid, and the other things pictured below:

Teeny tiny health scare (the C word)

This won’t be news to those of you who follow me on Twitter, but last week I got the results from some mole/mark biopsies and one of them came back as Basal Cell Carcinoma. Yeah, carcinoma, as in “cancer”. It’s benign, not the kind of cancer that kills you…I could have ignored it for the next 20 years and the only thing that would have happened is that it would have become bigger and uglier. My dad had it, assorted aunts and uncles have had it, and heck, there’s even some malignant melanoma in the family too (grandma, aunt, cousin). Is it genetic? I guess, but really I’d classify it as ethnic – damn celtic complexion.

I knew I wouldn’t be in any frame of mind to deal with insurance stuff if the diagnosis on the “pimple that wouldn’t go away for 6 months” turned out as it did, so I picked my dermatologist because the practice he’s with has a Mohs surgeon (minimal scarring) and I could be set up with that directly. My co-pay for specialist visits is $40, so I was trying to keep all that to a minimum. Sure enough, despite being totally prepared for the biopsy result, I barely remember the conversation with the doctor and the scheduler because I started to space out. I kept asking them to repeat things so that I wouldn’t forget – thankfully it was easy,  just no aspirin or ibuprofen, and show up at 1:30pm. That I could manage. I hung up the phone and cried for an hour solid, and then sporadically for the next hour or so. Um, I’m not really much of a cryer, so it gave me a terrible headache and, poetically, I couldn’t take anything for it.

Mohs involves local anesthetic and the removal of skin layer by layer until the microscope tells them there’s no more cancer. The assisting nurse said that most patients just need one layer, and I caught mine so freaking early that that’s what I’d prepared for. Well, they needed to take two. And so I type this post with 10 vertical black stitches under a ridiculously big band-aid on my forehead. Yes, I got the band-aids and Neosporin for free at Walgreens. Hey, c’mon, this a personal finance/frugality blog, I had to mention that!

I would like to take this opportunity to bitch about one thing that really shouldn’t be difficult with our healthcare system: why can’t you get a ballpark figure for office procedures? I’m with a major insurance carrier, shouldn’t they be able to look up the code and say “it’ll be $__ for the first layer and $__ for each additional layer removed if all goes the way it normally does.” How are we supposed to be financially responsible if we don’t know whether to expect a $500 bill or a $5000 bill?

And here’s a real kick in the head – this practice (and I understand this is becoming quite common) will not do anything beyond a co-pay consultation unless you have a credit card on file. If you don’t pay your bill within 30 days, they charge your card. I was planning to unofficially finance it @ $200/month until it was all paid off, but now that’s not an option. I can only hope it takes ages to process the bill while I save up. Normally I could take a $1000 hit without touching my savings account, but that hasn’t been the case for a year now.

I’ve joined a “Couponing for Food Banks” Club

Thanks once again to Dani-the-Coupon-Expert, I’ve found a virtual “club” of sorts for my Robin Hood activities. Jeffrey, who posts regularly on SavingAdvice, has started the Penny Experiment. He is attempting to turn a penny found about 10 weeks ago into $1 million worth of food donated to food banks (full story behind it can be found here).

Participating coupon crazies do their super-bargain shopping thing, post pictures of the shopping haul and receipt on their blog, donate it to a food bank, and get reimbursed by the Penny Experiment funds for the money they laid out for their super-bargains. I contacted Jeffrey, explaining that food banks in NYC are so massive that they don’t really want donations of goods from individuals – which is fine with me since I’d have to take a subway and then a bus to a warehouse in the South Bronx toting it all (I’ve been there). I described what I’ve been doing, and he’s fine with it since I’m just basically cutting out the middle man in the donation process.

So, here’s my first shopping trip towards the Penny Experiment. I’m hoping it counts even though I am unable to post the required items because, in a fit of efficiency, I mailed off the receipt for a rebate immediately and gave away the cereal in under 24 hours. I really think it should count though, because there is no out-of-pocket expense to be reimbursed!

Date:  Saturday, January 30th
Store:  CVS
Product:  Kelloggs cereal
Quantity:  10 boxes
Full price:  $4.59 x 10 = $45.90
Sale price:  $2.00 x 10 = $20.00
Coupons used: $5/$30 purchase (full price), 10x $1/1 MFR coupons, $5 ECB
Total OOP (out-of-pocket expense):  $0
Qualified for $10 debit card rebate from Kelloggs!

I’m not sure this transaction will qualify for The Penny Experiment because, in an uncharacteristic burst of efficiency, I mailed the receipt immediately for a $10 rebate on 10 Kelloggs/Keebler items and gave the cereal away 12 hours later, before I could find my digital camera. But since there was no money laid out and therefore none to be reimbursed, I’m hoping it can be included towards the $1 million total anyway.

The donation story:  All 10 boxes, plus another 10 from a previous purchase, were given to Maribel and her 10 kids. It might even be enough to keep them in breakfasts until her food stamps are reinstated – her case has been resolved, and that should happen in a couple of weeks. I also gave her a bag of 5 used towels in good condition to replace the ones she had to throw out from cleaning up the vomit of a bunch of sick kids, and a bag of 12 pairs of new socks from my mom. Well, World War 3 broke out because (a) the kids are used to white towels and these are colored – the novelty was apparently exciting, and (b) some of the socks were incredibly soft, and this made them all doubly crazy. Funny, I thought they’d be all over the big bags of Wise chips I’d gotten for .49, or the Pepsi I’d gotten for free.