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How To Cut Back On Your Grocery Budget… And Still Leave The Store With More!

Lower Your Supermarket Spending

 

Supermarkets sell EVERYTHING these days!

 

Food (for you and your animals), toys, lottery tickets, cleaning products…

 

You name it, they sell it. Groceries are one of the largest expenses for a typical household. Is that because food costs have been increasing… or something else? We believe the latter: It’s easier than ever to cut back on your spending at supermarkets, you just need to know the right strategies. Discover the top 5 ways to cut back on your grocery bill… without having to cross any items off your list.

 

1) The Water Situation

Do you realize how expensive water can be? Bottles of water (when not purchased in bulk) cost around $1 to $2, at least! Now is your chance to save money and the environment at the exact same time.

 

If you can’t switch to tap water, due to a purification issue, think about getting a water filter. They are inexpensive and give the same great taste as bottled water. Did you know: The reason tap water tastes different than bottled water is because of the natural minerals found in the soil of your local area.

 

2) You do have a budget, right?

This is one of the harder strategies to implement… and it’s also one of the most important. Do you currently use (and stick to) a grocery budget? Unfortunately, if you aren’t tracking your spending… you won’t know how to improve the situation.

 

Step 1: Create a budget for your groceries each week… and force yourself to stay within whatever range you choose.

 

Step 2: Collect and organize store receipts over the course of a month or so.

 

Step 3: Analyze your receipts.

 

For the third step, there are a few key areas to focus on. Look for the “you saved X amount today” at the bottom of your receipt (or locate it elsewhere). That’s a great indication of your grocery spending skills. If you see a large number, or see that you saved money on a large variety of products, that means you’ve been buying the right items… the ones on sale.

 

Similarly, try to notice the most expensive areas on your bill. Sometimes the receipts will do the hard work for you and separate items by category. For instance, a quick look at your receipts will reveal if one type of food is taking up a disproportionate amount of your budget.

 

3) Make Executive Shopping Decisions

If you want to cut down on unnecessary supermarket spending… that means no more last-minute impulse purchases. Have you noticed that checkout lines are surrounded by magazines, candy, games, and other low-cost items? Those items are placed by the register for a very specific reason: to facilitate impulse buys.

 

Either build these items into your weekly grocery budget, or cut them out of your spending completely. For the most part, these purchases are the least cost-efficient way to spend your money. (For example, if you want a certain type of gum… purchase it in bulk online. The cost per pack will be massively decreased.)

 

Remember: You are the boss and YOU make the “executive shopping decisions.” If it means you need to leave the kids at home — because they always want to grab a muffin or candy at the store — then so be it. In a very similar way, make sure you never shop hungry… it will only make you overspend in all the wrong places.

 

4) Make Snack Portions

Just like the “impulse buy” example above, oftentimes it’s the little purchases that have big consequences.

 

One example of this is snacks. Snack portions are great because they are individually sized and perfect for grabbing on the go. But they also cost more… a lot more. Snack portions (and smaller portions in general) tend to come at a price. It’s safe to assume that a snack-sized version of any product can be up to 3.5x more expensive. (Source)

 

So how do you combat the threat of ever-increasing prices on snacks? Make them yourself.

 

Just buy the largest (or most cost-effective) portion of the snack you want. Then divide the food into as many individual sandwich bags as you’d like. This way, you can even control the portion size

 

Similarly, don’t EVER go for frozen meals or to-go portions. Normally, individually-sold frozen meals are very expensive compared to normal groceries. If you are seriously trying to cut down on spending, take the time to prepare food yourself. It’s healthier and tastier, because you’re such a good chef!

 

5) Create A Family Menu

A powerful yet uncommon money-saving trick: Make a family dinner menu ahead of time.

 

If you can find the time, decide what you’re going to make for dinner a week in advance. This allows you to plan food choices around what’s on sale, or what you have saved in the freezer. This is a win-win because you don’t have to stress about choosing an original meal every night, and the rest of the family gets to know what’s in store for the entire week. (Now you don’t have to deal with the never-ending, “What’re we having for dinner tonight?” inquiries.)

 

Bonus Quick-Tips

We couldn’t leave you with just 5 strategies.

 

Here are a few more quick-tips and tricks to help you save at the market:

  • Keep a price book – Stay on top of grocery store prices, and know what an item should cost.
  • Know exactly when your food expires & be diligent about freezing left-overs before they go bad
  • Simplify your recipes – Up for a challenge? Try to remix an old recipe to be more cost-efficient and tastier… at the same time!
  • Grow your own spices – Spices are extremely expensive… and it’s really easy to start your own miniature garden.
  • Shop at farmers markets – Great food without the outrageous price tags.
  • Store brand products – Often, store brand products are made with the exact same ingredients as name-brand ones.

As you can see, saving money at the supermarket is easier than it looks… and it definitely does not need to be stressful. What’s your favorite new grocery-store saving strategy? How (and when) are you going to put them into action?

Don’t Make These 7 Extreme Couponing Mistakes!

Couponing Mistakes

 

Are you new to the extreme couponing game?

 

Couponing is an extremely enjoyable and rewarding hobby… but it is also fairly complicated. There are so many different rules and regulations to keep in mind while shopping. You have to know the expiration dates, the exclusions, and so many other pieces of information hidden away in the “fine print.” To make matters worse, sometimes new couponers will have trouble interpreting the “legal speak” and this can lead to missed opportunities (and less savings!).

 

Don’t worry — today you’re going to discover the seven most common extreme couponing mistakes. You’ll learn how to keep yourself from going into coupon overload… and how to make the most of your effort.

 

1. Not Reading (Or Understanding) The Fine Print

Have you seen the back of a coupon recently? Companies pack so much information into the fine print… it can be very overwhelming.

 

This is one of the most common mistakes made by new couponers. They will collect coupons and expect to use them without restriction. This goes on until the unfortunate shopper tries to take advantage of the coupons and problems arise. By not knowing which stores allow coupon stacking, how many items can be purchased with one coupon, and other intricate details, shoppers are at a huge disadvantage. If you don’t have a good grasp on the “fine print,” you will be unable to use your coupons in the most optimal way.

 

To fix this mistake going forward, keep yourself organized and make note of guidelines, expiration dates, exclusions and other important information for any new coupons you collect.

 

2. Missing Out On Better Opportunities

Similar to the first mistake, many new couponers miss out on some of the best deals. Why? Because some of the best deals are not made explicitly known to shoppers.

 

For example, have you heard of coupon stacking? (It means “stacking” together multiple coupons for the same items or store to amass huge savings on one purchase.) Only certain coupons can be used this way, and it tends to depend on the store you are purchasing from as well. The next time you go shopping, look out for opportunities to stack coupons (with other coupons, with on-going sales, and even with limited-time promotions going on in the store).

 

It never hurts to ask: If you aren’t sure whether a specific coupon can be stacked, just ask an employee for clarification.

 

3. Forgetting To Use Coupons During Sales

Another common mistake: Many new extreme couponers will see a bright flashing “SALE” sign and forget all the hard work they put into clipping coupons. Have you ever made a purchase and instantly realized you could have saved more? That’s what we’re talking about here. Make sure you go into stores (and purchases) with a plan. And even more importantly, stick to the plan! If the items you plan on buying are on sale — fantastic — but don’t neglect the coupons you brought beforehand.

 

4. Do The Math

Did you know that buying a smaller amount of a product will — sometimes — lead to more savings?

 

Well, most new couponers are amazed at that simple fact. Don’t get tricked by the stores, just because you have two different size choices doesn’t mean the bigger one is comparatively cheaper. There are a variety of other ways that stores can trick shoppers into making bigger purchases… so it’s your job to be vigilant and do the math! If you’re deciding between two different quantities, or two different sales, take the time to ascertain the real better buy.

 

Talk about getting tricked by stores: This article mentions a 20% off coupon from a sporting goods store that had over 70 different brands listed as exclusions! Can you believe that?

 

5. Going “Overboard” On The Shopping

Like anything else, saving money and couponing can be very addicting. Everyone loves to save more and more money… and sometimes that can lead new couponers astray. On occasion, smart shoppers will see a great sale — like a 70% off deal, or a special limited-time offer — and end up jumping on the deal… only to later realize the purchase was unnecessary.

 

The way you beat this mistake is to know what kind of shopper you are, and to manage your shopping habits accordingly. If you are a huge impulse buyer (and would like to keep that habit in check) think about planing all of your purchases ahead of time. Alternatively, some people have a great amount of success using the “48 hour” rule for shopping. Basically, this is when you choose to always give yourself a day before finalizing a purchase decision, eliminating any potentially bad impulse buys.

 

6. Don’t Neglect Other Savings Areas

While coupons are great, they aren’t the ONLY way to save money. This is a very common mistake made by new extreme couponers, and it marks a huge area for improvement.

 

Don’t miss out on savings: Take advantage of store loyalty cards (and other store-specific incentives) to get the most out of your shopping adventures. These don’t always translate into huge savings — like coupons — but over time they can really add up. Think about it this way, if the store loyalty card is “one free item per X number of purchases” you are essentially getting a significant percentage off each purchase (it just isn’t realized until the final purchase).

 

7. Getting Overwhelmed

This is less of a tactical mistake, and more of a mindset problem. Many new extreme couponers will get extremely excited when they realize the potential savings (of smart shopping) and get overwhelmed. There are so many coupons to choose… so many money saving opportunities to consider… the task can go from simple to mind-boggling very quickly.

 

To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed:

  • Don’t try to do “everything” in one trip to the store, always plan ahead of time.
  • Keep yourself organized, and create a folder or other space dedicated to your coupons.
  • Don’t go to the store without a list, and force yourself to stick to the list.

If you follow these three simple rules, you will massively cut down on disorganization and the craziness that ensues. 

 

Have you made any of these common extreme couponing mistakes? Do you know any others that would fit in with this list? Let us know in the comments below!

15 Lively Cold-Weather Activities For Your Whole Family (That Won’t Break The Budget!)

Family Cold Weather Fun

 

It’s February. It’s winter… and it’s cold.

 

But that doesn’t have to mark the end of family fun. There are a whole variety of cold-weather activities that will thrill just about everyone. Whether you love the cold or would vastly prefer beach weather, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our list and find the perfect cold-weather activity for your family.

 

Do You Embrace The Cold?

If you love the sight of snowflakes in the sky… then this is the section for you. We’ve curated the top outdoor activities for those of us that enjoy every bit of winter.

 

Let’s start with the classics:

 

1) Have a snow ball fight

Although this is an age-old game, it remains one of the most popular winter activities for a very good reason: it’s downright fun!

 

2) Make a spooky snowman

There are so many ways to get creative while making a snowman. What will you use for its nose? Its eyes? Its smile? For added fun, don’t stop at just one snowman… make a whole “snow person” village and come up with a backstory for each character in your scene.

 

3) Make a giant snow fortress

Do you like lounging around in the snow? What better way to prove your “snow-construction” abilities than to make a massive snow fortress? This is also a great way to spice up a snowball fight… now you can divide into teams and have an all-out snowball war.

 

4) Shovel your driveway

We had to include this. It might not be the most enjoyable activity, but it has to get done sometime. Why not turn this chore into a fun all-inclusive family activity. You’ll finish the work much faster than working alone and the time will fly by (because you’ve got the best companions for the job). If you want to take this activity to the next level — and do a good deed — consider offering to help the neighbors out with their driveway.

 

5) Go sledding

The cold wind in your face. The exhilarating journey down the hill. What is there not to like about sledding? It’s a fun all-day activity for all ages. Go with the whole family, practice your skills for a bit, then have a race down to the bottom… you never know who is going to win.

 

6) Go skating

Step 1: Find the nearest (safe) pond for ice-skating.

Step 2: Commence skating with the whole family.

Step 3: Enjoy.

 

It doesn’t feel as authentic, but if you live in a city… an indoor ice rink will work nearly as well and will likely be open year-round.

 

7) Make a snow angel

Have a mini-contest: See who can create the most beautiful snow angel in your family. Then take pictures of everyone’s snow angels to commemorate the event.

 

Now let’s get a little more creative…

8) Start a campfire

In your back yard, put together a small controlled bonfire, and use it to warm up during outdoor activities. At night, you can do a variety of activities based around the fire. One great idea: Roast marshmallows… because everyone loves s’mores, right?

 

9) Play “snow sports”

Playing soccer or football in the snow is harder than you’d think. It also is a great idea for a free outdoor activity that is fun for everyone. It’s a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise during the winter, while most people are sitting indoors waiting for the warmth to come back.

 

10) Plan a night of star gazing

This activity is incredibly underrated: Turn off all the lights on your property and dedicate some time to just appreciating the sky. After a few minutes, you’ll probably notice the beauty of the night sky and wonder why you don’t star gaze more often. Give it a shot and see what happens.

 

11) Go on a local “safari” for free

Make the trek out to a local park or forest. Take some time to study the local wildlife and all of the markings left behind. Have your younger children pretend to be animal investigators: look for footprints in the snow and other markings like bear claw marks on trees.

 

Bundle Up And Stay Inside

But what if you’re not a fan of the cold? What if you’d rather wrap yourself in a snuggie with some hot chocolate by your side… and watch movies?

 

Don’t worry, we thought of you too:

 

12) Board games, card games, any games

Dust off the old boardgames or grab your favorite card deck. It’s time for some old-fashioned indoor fun. Gather up the family and choose a game: it’s time for non-stop board-game action. For added fun, make a blanket and pillow fort for your special hang out zone.

 

13) Movie Marathon!

If you just can’t get enough of the latest block busters… why not plan a whole day around it? Turn it into a party: get creative with your food and decorate the TV room. Invite friends and family over for a back-to-back movie marathon along with some festive treats.

 

14) Get creative with food 

If you’re going to spend time indoors to warm up, why not make it productive? Look up some fun new recipes online and make the most creative dish you discover. Alternatively, you can just get wacky with your food choices. For example, have breakfast for dinner and make everyone’s favorite early-morning dish as a late-night surprise.

 

15) Stay connected with family

With the never-ending evolution of technology… now you can stay in contact with family from around the globe with just a laptop and an internet connection. Consider skyping your out-of-town family members to say hi and have a “virtual hangout” without needing to leave your cozy home. While you’re at it, plan out your future summer vacation plans together… it’s a great way to keep a “warm” topic on your mind while braving the cold winter.

 

Are you still afraid of the cold or did our activity guide help warm you up? Don’t fear the snow: Get out there and make some lasting memories with your family… it’s easier and more affordable than you think!

How To Get Your Friends Involved In The Extreme Couponing Craze

Coupon Swap Party

 

Are you including your friends in the extreme coupon craze?

 

Almost every “couponer” out there has accumulated a long list of personal tricks to achieve maximum savings… but there’s probably one thing missing from your couponing arsenal: friends! Wouldn’t you like to improve your couponing results AND make it into a fun interactive social event? Well, that’s what we’re going to show you today.

 

1) It All Starts With The Friends

Reach out to your acquaintances over the phone, social media, or even email. Find out if they’d be interested in some sort of a coupon swap party. You can host these events in a variety of ways, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Some couponers will host live “parties” where everyone invited meets up once a month at a designated house to share coupons, saving tips, and more… over some appetizers and lively conversation!

 

Alternatively, you could even make a virtual group (something like a Facebook group), and keep the sharing going throughout the week. Coupon parties are a fun way to take something productive and combine it with something social. The end result is more savings, less time required for “busy” work, and way more fun!

 

Brainstorm some ideas: What type of coupon swap party would work with your friend group? Would it be better to have a monthly meeting… or maybe something on the weekends? Where should you host the party?

 

Don’t worry if you haven’t come up with a complete plan yet — you can finalize plans once you find out who is interested. So take the first step and reach out to your friends. You might be surprised at how many are already involved in extreme couponing.  Now is your chance to boost your savings, and save tons of time by working together. This is also a great way to stay connected with friends from out of state.

 

2) Get Organized And Get Started!

Ok, so you’re set on getting your friends involved. Now what?

  • Step 1: Organize – Figure out what product commonalities you share with friends. In other words, what types of products do you purchase? It might be worth the time to create a spreadsheet with your most-wanted products. Make note of any common themes or over-lapping in the results… we’ll come back to it in the next step.
  • Step 2: Assign – Here’s where it gets tricky. Now you need to take the “data” you collected in the first step and put it to good use. Depending on how many friends you have in the couponing group, give out an appropriate number of “assignments.” These are exclusive products, brands, or stores that each couponer will receive.
  • Step 3: Get Going Already! – Each couponer should know exactly what products are included in their assignment. Now it’s their job to research savings tips, coupons, and other valuable shopping information for those specific products.

That’s the rough idea, but feel free to adapt the process to your own needs.

 

Tip: It’s important to stick to a consistent plan if you really want to maximize everyone’s savings. Make sure that everyone knows what brands they are assigned — and make sure that they know where to look for coupons and savings (whether online or offline). Remember, this part of the process is extremely important because it creates all the savings. You are essentially taking a “divide and conquer” approach to extreme couponing by focusing on one specific area and sharing what you find. That’s what makes this so efficient and productive, so be diligent during this step.

 

Here are a few other questions you should consider with your couponing team:

 

How will you separate the couponing duties? Will you arrange them by product, by brand, by store… or something else entirely?

 

How are the coupons to be collected? For example, should online coupons be printed out and stored in a folder?

 

How often and where will you meet for the coupon swap party? Try to leave ample time for everyone to get their assignments done… remember that beyond increasing savings, one of your main priorities for running a coupon swap party is to have fun.

 

3) Now It’s Time To Get Social!

Here’s the best part… now it’s time to party! If you’re up for it: Plan a monthly or weekly get-together around the coupon swap. You can host it at one of the member’s homes, and make the most of your time together by bringing food, games, or anything else that comes to mind. Basically, plan it like any other party… but leave some time in the beginning to do the swapping.

 

At the beginning of the party, take turns sharing what you’ve found throughout the week. Ideally, everyone should be able to take note of any must-see coupons, and savings opportunities. You could facilitate this through quick presentations by the different couponer groups, or let people mingle individually. Leave enough time during the party so that people can sort through the best coupons and write down where they can get access to them… that is the point of the party after all! You might even want to compile a little handout for all of the guests.

 

If you want to take the coupon swap party to the next level, think about offering a “best couponer of month” award. Do you see how many different ways you can get creative with coupon swap parties?

 

Bring It All Together

Take what you’ve learned from this guide and put it to work right away! The task of organizing a coupon swap party can be daunting but it’s easier than it looks. You’ll need to do a bit of phone calling, and some organizing… but the rewards are worth it! Think about it: You get to boost your savings, save time couponing, and connect with your friends in a fun (yet totally productive) way. Try it out… who knows, you might just end up loving coupon swap parties.

 

How much do you enjoy extreme couponing? Do you do it for the savings, the rock-bottom prices, or something else? Tell us in the comments below.

The 7 Keys To Developing Smart Spending Habits

Family spending habits

 

Do you ever get overwhelmed with bills? Do you ever feel out of control when it comes to spending?

 

This is a common area of stress for many families. It’s not easy to create a family budget to help reduce expenses without causing stress in other areas of your life. You need to consider the tough “needs versus wants” dilemma, and sometimes the right decision isn’t the most-popular one. There must be a better way to manage family finances, right?

 

It turns out, one of the most impactful ways to cut expenses is to develop smart spending habits. It sounds obvious, but smart spending goes much deeper than “spend less money than you make.” Smart spending means making the MOST of what you’ve got. It means figuring out creative ways to get the experiences, products, and whatever else you want… without having to make big sacrifices. Check out our 7 creative ways to develop smart spending habits:

 

1) The Weekly “No” Challenge

Do you say “no” enough? We like to call this the weekly “no” challenge: Every single week, make it a priority to turn down one unnecessary spending item. It could be anything from an ice cream cone, to a flat-screen television. The point of this exercise is to make you aware of each and every purchase. The first step to taking any type of positive action is awareness. If possible, treat this as a fun game and keep score of your weekly accomplishments. Remember it’s not about how much you save doing this exercise, but rather about keeping the act of spending (and saving) on your mind.

 

2) Turn Transportation Costs Into Free Exercise

Transportation costs tend to make up a large portion of family spending, and yet they are some of the easiest to cut down on. Do you live in a city with great public transportation?  Alternatively, do you live in an area that has good roads for walking or biking? You can probably see where this is going: Choosing to walk or bike to work (or school) won’t save you big money in the short-term… but over time the savings will compound. This turns into massive savings over the course of a year, and comes with the added benefit of converting your normal transportation time into “gym” time.

 

Most people are unaware of the variety of easy ways to cut down on gas bills (and other costs racked up from owning a motor vehicle). Something as simple as carpooling to work can save you thousands each year, depending on how much you normally drive.

 

3) Pay Yourself First

This is an age-old tactic found in many famous money management books… it’s called “paying yourself first.” Here’s the idea: If you try to save money at the END of every month — you’ll have a hard time — because you already made your purchases (so there’s no money left over to save).

 

One way to beat this problem is to “pay yourself first,” and set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your preferred savings or investment account every month. This way, you set up the automatic transfer one time and you “save” money every single month without needing to take any further action. Payday happens, the savings happen, and you are left with an adequate amount of spending money for the month.

 

4) The No Credit Month

Do you depend too heavily on credit cards? A big reason why people spend too much is due to the false sense of security that comes from a credit or debit card. Just the availability and convenience of these cards often leads to over-spending, because people don’t always track their purchases.

 

That’s why it might be a good idea to go “credit free” for a month. Do you think you could handle only paying for items in cash for an entire month? This exercise does take a lot of effort, and will probably be tough for you to complete — but it has HUGE implications. You’ll be forced to take note of each and every payment, and it’s impossible to overspend.

 

5) Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Do you always shop at the exact same stores? Over time, when we repeat the same habits they turn into routine. The same way you want to develop healthy spending habits… you need to be aware of unhealthy habits and try to cut them out of your monthly routine.

 

Take a minute to think about this: Do you have any daily or weekly expenses that you don’t really need or want, but for some reason you always make them? This is an indication that you’ve engrained the act of shopping into your routine. Don’t fret, the best way to tackle this issue is head on. When you make your monthly budget, decide on acceptable places to spend money and make sure to also include places you don’t want to shop at.

 

6) The Surprising Effect Of Shopping Emotions

Have you ever heard the phrase: “Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.” Well, the idea is that someone who is extremely hungry will be more inclined to over-purchase food products. The same theory can be applied to spending in general. If you’re having a bad day — and you’re in a terrible mood — you should probably NOT use shopping as a way to relieve stress. Even though “retail therapy” can be very tempting… it leads to poor spending habits. Here’s an idea: Use shopping as positive reinforcement for reaching your monthly budget goals. This way is more rewarding and doesn’t come with any of the guilt!

 

7) Tactical Shopping: Plan In Advance

Last but not least, learn how to be a tactical shopper. (Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds.) When you plan on making larger than normal purchases, make sure you always have a 48 hour window to make a final decision. Essentially, giving yourself two full days and nights to “sleep” on the idea of a big purchase guarantees you will make a smart choice. This cuts out any possibility of making an impulse purchase, and also comes with a huge side benefit. While you decide on the purchase, you now have some bonus free time to look for coupons and other deals.

 

Are you ready to become a top-notch shopper? What was your favorite smart spending takeaway from this post? Tell us in the comments below.

Discover The Best Inexpensive Adventures To Explore With Family

Inexpensive family fun

 

The dreaded words: “I’m bored!”

 

Too often it feels like there are no new activities to explore… no new museums to visit… no new parks to walk through. Today we are going to change that: Here is an exhaustive list of family-friendly local adventures, so you never have to worry about running out of activity ideas for spending some quality bonding time with the whole family.

 

Visit The Local Fire Station

Did you know that most Fire Stations (and sometimes Police Stations as well) will hold events to interact with local children and families? Sometimes, you can also call in advance and schedule a full station tour on a quieter day. This is a fun way to teach the kids about local history and introduce them to some upstanding members of the community.

 

Volunteering Can Be An Adventure!

Is there an abundance of charities in your city that could use some extra helping-hands? Volunteering at a food bank, for example, is a great way to aid your community and teach younger children some valuable life-lessons about helping those in need.

 

Learn A New Hobby Together

There are so many interesting hobbies out there… you are bound to find one that resonates with the whole family!

 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Magic – Little kids especially love learning cool card tricks, and other magic. Then they can impress their friends at school with their new magic skills, or show off to family at the next holiday dinner.
  • Cooking – This is arguably one of the most important life skills, and can be turned into a fun and healthy everyday hobby. Try and find out everyone’s favorite type of food to cook, and then have each family member contribute one item to a “royal feast.”
  • Card Games – Maybe it would be fun to learn a family card game. This could be anything from poker to UNO. Don’t forget that depending on the type of card game you choose, they often teach important critical thinking skills through strategy.
  • Photography – Does anyone in your family have an artistic side? Why not take up photography and then explore your local area through a completely new lens. This is a fun way to explore your creative side without being the least bit expensive.

 

Alternatively, you could even try to be more active as a family hobby. For instance, you can turn working out, playing outdoor sports, and eating healthy into an inter-family competition.

 

Local Sporting Events

Local sports games are fun for the whole family! Check with your local information center, and think about planning a day out at the local fields next weekend (weather permitting). Everything from minor-league baseball, soccer, to football games are a great way to experience a sporting event without spending a lot. You can even try to mimic the “big league” experience by tailgating and cooking up a tasty barbecue lunch before the game.

 

The Unofficial “Field Day”

If there aren’t any sporting events going on… create the game yourself! Invite your friends, family, and neighbors to the local park for an unofficial field day. If you get enough people to attend, it’s easy to organize fun outdoor field games like capture the flag, soccer, or touch-football. Don’t feel constrained to normal activities, sometimes the most enjoyable family adventures are free.

 

“Travel” To An Exotic Culture For Dinner

If you’re up for a thrilling adventure, think of a type of food you’ve never experienced and seek out the most authentic representation in your area. So if you’ve never done Thai food before, that means you should find the most authentic Thai food near your city, and go there with the intention of getting the full experience. Ask your waiter for the best choice on the menu, and then give it a try. You won’t love every dish you try, but the important part is that you challenged your comfort zone and tried eating an entirely new type of food.

 

An Amazing View… Conveniently Set In Your Back Yard

Do you have a large back yard (or nearby campsite)? Look up sunset times for the upcoming weeks, and pick out a day when you can set aside time to truly appreciate a beautiful sunset. You can pair this idea with others, like having a family barbecue in the back yard beforehand. You could even create a small treasure map for the family to try and decipher.

 

Similarly, there’s another underrated family adventure that happens in the same place. Can you think of it? Stargazing! Camp out in your back yard — this is a great time to learn some fun skills like how to start a fire, or how to set up a tent — and wait for nighttime. You can even roast some marshmallows to make s’mores, and tell spooky stories like a true camp experience. Then take some time to appreciate the great star constellations that we so often take for granted. Bonus points if you read up on constellations, and can accurately point them out in the sky.

 

Get Your Hands Dirty

Does your family like physical activities? It might be fun to plan out — from start to finish — a cool woodworking project. This includes anything from a treehouse to a doghouse (or an enclosure for other animals). This is a great way to embark on a fun long-term project that has a huge benefit upon completion. You get to build memories and important life skills on a very inexpensive budget.

 

Watch Classic Movies

Wouldn’t it be fun to show the kids some of the most influential movies from your adolescence? It can be really enjoyable — and sometimes surprising for the younger kids — to experience great classic movies. It’s a cool way to teach the kids about how much the culture has changed since your childhood, and other similar life lessons.

 

Did you realize there are so many opportunities for creating your own inexpensive fun adventures? Which one of these ideas are you going to try out for your next family event?

Extreme Couponing: What To Watch Out For

Extreme Couponing 2015

 

Extreme couponing is a blast! You save money, get the best deals, and bring home the same high-quality products — without the high-quality price tag. But it’s not as easy as it seems. If you really want to get the best deals with the least amount of confusion, then you need to have a game plan. And that’s exactly what we’ve got for you today. We compiled the most important extreme couponing tips and tricks for saving money in 2015.

 

Coupon Restrictions… Don’t Be Deceived!

You’ve probably heard the advice “always read the fine print” before, but you might not know just how important this advice is. When it comes to coupons, most people only think about time restrictions like an expiration date. You’d be surprised: There are not just time restrictions but also quantity, type, or brand restrictions... And that means not all coupons are created equal! You should take these restrictions into account when planning out your shopping. Do you really want to use a coupon that requires a certain number of items to count? Sometimes yes, but other times it might be smarter to hold off.

 

Similarly, when you’re thinking about stocking up on an item because it’s at an all-time low, first consider whether or not that’s even an option. You don’t want to go through the process of trying to make a purchase, just to find out that your entire coupon strategy is going to fall apart at checkout.

 

Shop (And Coupon) By Category

When you plan out your shopping, do you think about what store you want to go to or… do you think about what type of product you are looking to buy? It’s almost always a better deal to think about the category of the product you are looking for, and then align it with the right store. For instance, if you are looking for coupons (and products) that fall into the “kids products” area, don’t go straight to “Toys R Us.” Instead head over to the respective coupon section and see what fits your needs. We like to call this reverse shopping. This is a great way to cut down on spending by focusing on the available deals rather than the store.

 

Know The Product Price Points

In one of our past articles, we talked about keeping a pricing notebook for your most-often purchased items. That’s a great way to know the best time to make a purchase (and whether or not you should stock up for the future). When it comes to slightly larger ticket items, you can use a similar strategy to lower your costs — and save bigtime!

 

When you are planning out a larger than normal purchase, keep notice of these two stats: price fluctuations over time and available coupons.

 

For example, price variations can be broken down into these four categories:

  • Bad Price – These are the prices that shockingly are higher than normal. Sometimes this happens by accident if a store makes a mistake… but other times stores may just have above-average pricing. Obviously, you want to stay away from these places.
  • Average Price – This is the normal pricing spot. If you’re following the price fluctuations, then this is the price you’ll see 75% of the time. It’s not a bad time to buy this product… but you could really do better.
  • The “Deal” Price – Now we’re getting to a good spot. This is the deal price, or in other words, this is the price you want to buy the majority of your products at. It’s a better deal than average, and it’s not always available… so now’s the time to decide if you want to stock up for the future.
  • “Once In A Lifetime” Price – You’ll almost never see this price… but when you do: Cha-Ching! This is when a store has a “blowout” sale — for whatever reason — and it’s your time to shine! Stock up because you will probably never see an item at this price ever again.

 

When planning out a purchase, first wait for the product to get into the “deal” pricing area… then start looking for relevant coupons.

 

Don’t Make These Mistakes

Often, when someone is new to extreme couponing they make a few key mistakes. Here’s what to watch out for if you’re new:

 

  • Don’t think you need to get every deal. Focus on saving money where it counts, and grab deals that fit into your desired purchases. That’s how you save money without stocking up on unnecessary purchases.
  • Is brand loyalty going to cost you? If you’re looking to buy peanut butter… is it worth spending an extra $2 to get the brand of your choice? Only you can answer that question, but it’s an important one to ponder if you are going for maximum savings.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed, try to focus on one thing at a time. Extreme couponing is exciting, from seeing the savings rack up to bringing home your favorite products… but don’t let it consume you. Set a specific amount of time each week you are willing to spend on couponing and stick to it. See what works with your schedule and what doesn’t… but make sure not to push it too far or couponing will lose the fun.
  • Is every sale item a good deal? Don’t just purchase because you see a sale… make a purchase because it’s a good sale. Do you see the difference here? Sometimes items that are on sale aren’t really worth buying, so make sure to double check this before you complete a purchase. This is especially important if you are in a rush!

 

Finally, the biggest and most important tip for extreme couponing in 2015: Realize that this is a long-term journey… not a race to the register! Let your savings build up overtime from smart shopping, don’t go all-out and try to rush things. The massive savings will come in due time, if you put these strategies into practice and enjoy the process of being a savvy shopper.

 

Now tell us in the comments: What was your favorite extreme couponing tip from this guide?

Looking Ahead: Our Best Tips And Tricks For Couponing In 2015

Couponing 2015

 

Is there a ‘money’ section on your New Year’s resolutions for 2015? Well we’ve got just the advice to help you reach your goal. Today we decided to compile some of our favorite couponing tips and tricks… you’ll learn how to maximize savings and minimize effort.

 

Price Fluctuations

Did you know that prices often change for even the most popular items? For everything from home cleaning supplies to golf clubs… the prices you see today might be dramatically different from last week or a month from now. That’s why it’s important to do your research before shopping.

 

Some experts recommend creating a “price diary” where you track the monthly changes in your most frequently purchased items. This sort of system allows smart shoppers to know the best time to buy, and can help you save lots of money over the course of a year. The only issue with this method is that it takes time, and can be hard to do for multiple products.

 

If you don’t have the free time, try doing this for just a few similar items (preferably the kind of item that takes up a significant portion of your bill). See what you can learn: You might end up noticing a trend, and you can use that info to help make other purchases at an ideal time.

 

When To Buy In Bulk

Another key part of couponing is knowing when to buy and when to “hold out.” Most people tend to buy in bulk when they see a great deal… but that’s not always the best option. When you are considering a coupon that requires a large purchase, ask yourself: “Do I really need this much? Will I actually be able to use this item fully before it expires?” That will help you get a more clear idea of whether it’s a must-buy or not really worth the money.

 

So when should you buy in bulk? The best time is when you uncover an irresistible offer. Remember how we just recommended taking a serious look at whether or not you need a certain deal? Well, in order for a coupon to really be an irresistible offer, it needs to be a product that you need on a regular basis, in an amount that you would normally use, and for a price that doesn’t fit into the normal price fluctuations. Watch out for sneaky coupons that advertise barely any reduction in price… i.e. if a coupon offers a 10 for $10 offer for a product that typically costs around $1 anyway.

 

It’s always a good idea to buy (and plan) for the future, but only if you know you aren’t buying in excess of your standard needs.

 

Learn The Terms

If you want to win at couponing… you need to know the “ins and outs” of the game. A key piece of being an effective extreme couponer is knowing the terms. When you are in the process of collecting coupons, or if you are just prospecting potential coupons for a future purchase, make sure to read the fine print. Does the coupon have any restrictions?

 

Look out for phrases like:

  • Buy one get one free
  • Minimum or maximum purchase limits
  • Mail-in rebate
  • Expiration date

 

Similarly, if you are set on buying from a specific company — for any reason — it’s worth checking out their coupon policy. The company you are hoping to buy from might have a special coupon policy that could work in your favor. One example of this is a policy for accepting competitors’ coupons (sometimes called price matching), which has become a popular choice for companies in the last year. You wouldn’t believe the potential savings this type of policy unlocks.

 

Other potential policies to watch out for are the rules surrounding expired coupons. There’s a very small chance that the store will accept an expired coupon under certain conditions, so take a minute and read the fine print.

 

Brand Loyalty

Sometimes it pays to have brand loyalty… and other times it can end up costing a lot of money.

 

Here’s an example: Often, companies will have brand loyalty incentives — like a “buy 12 sandwiches and get your 13th free” card — where you are rewarded for being an ongoing customer. In this case, you are working towards a reward every time you buy from the same company. Unfortunately, if you are trying to save money by using an incentivized program, you most likely won’t be able to get the best day-to-day deals.

 

Often, customers are presented with a “fork in the road” without a clear right answer: Do you choose the loyalty card or lower prices by using a competitor’s coupon? This dilemma can cause serious headaches because there’s no perfect solution… sometimes coupons will get you the better deal and other times it will be smarter to stick with one company. Try to be aware of this, and take it into account when you are planing out your spending.

 

Needs Versus Wants Versus ???

Remember how we talked about price fluctuations and buying in bulk earlier in this article? Another key part to effective couponing is making sure you are in control of your purchases. You need to keep a clear head and think about how each of your potential purchases — and coupons — will help you accomplish your savings goals. Every time you are looking at a coupon (and considering a purchase) you should think about this. Do I need to make this purchase, or do I just want the savings? 

 

In most cases, if you are just going to buy a product because of the great value… that might be an indication that you should rethink your purchase. At the very least, you can decide if there’s a better item to purchase with that money. That way you’ll end up buying what you need, and saving some serious money along the way. Then you can put all of that saved money towards something that you really want, instead of getting caught up in the savings game.

 

What was your favorite couponing trick that you learned today? Do you have any secret couponing tips of your own? Tell us in the comments below.

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How To Be Extra-Frugal While Traveling On A Family Vacation

“Frugal”

 

Traveling with family is quite the experience. There’s nothing more enjoyable than exploring an exotic country, and going on an “adventure” with your closest relatives.

 

But there’s also the downside to traveling… it can get pretty expensive. While on a vacation, it can feel like everything has an additional “destination fee” included in the price. That’s why we wanted to make a comprehensive guide to having an awesome (frugal) time on vacation. You’ll be surprised at the various ways you can cut down on unnecessary spending while still soaking in the sun and enjoying the beach.

 

Travel Off-Season

This is one of the biggest price-choppers around… and most people don’t even try to take advantage! If you have the freedom to choose your vacation time, don’t travel during a popular holiday period. Travel prices skyrocket during times like late winter, the beginning of summer, and other events that coincide with school vacations (think: spring break or thanksgiving). So, if you have the flexibility, go on vacation when the rest of the world is at home. Everything from airfare, hotels, to even restaurants have massively reduced prices during these downtimes, because that’s when they are desperate to fill space.

 

Saving On Airfare: 3 Quick Tips

Tip #1: When you are booking your airfare, try testing a few days earlier and a few days later than your desired time. Take a look at the large variance in prices for the exact same flight. Switching just a few days earlier or later can cut your airfare costs by more than 30%, so it really pays to test out a few different dates.

 

Tip #2: Pack light… this is a common travel tip, but you really need to take this to heart. There’s no reason to take 2, 3, or more bags on a short vacation. Extra bags can end up costing you hundreds over the course of the vacation (because you get charged per bag, per flight.)

 

Tip #3: Do you really need those direct flights? Or could you possibly deal with a layover? Just by taking a non-direct flight, it’s possible to cut costs by a significant margin. Similarly, make sure to purchase all of your tickets ahead of time, and try to get round-trip ones. Normally when you bundle purchases this way, it’ll lead to the lowest total cost.

 

Explore The Unknown

Do you know why the most popular vacation spots are so expensive? (Hint: It’s not because they’re magical or so much better than unpopular spots.) The answer is that as a vacation spot becomes popular, local prices increase to compensate for demand. On the other hand, there’s plenty of amazing places to visit that aren’t extremely popular… but they often have the exact same beautiful beaches and exciting local culture to experience.

 

Experience The Location… For Free?

Did you know that many major cities have free tours? These are extremely similar to paid tours, except they are run by non-profit organizations (or the local government) to promote tourism and their local culture. You can get an insider’s look at the local area without having to pay a cent… just ask around when you land.

 

Similarly, if there’s good weather, why not walk to any nearby destinations? For instance, if you’re going out to lunch, or the beach, or a museum… and it’s in walking distance, then go for it. This is a great way to explore the land unfiltered, and you never know who you’ll run into or what you’ll find. This way, you don’t have to pay for taxis and you get to escape the normal confines of being a tourist.

 

Exchanging Currency

This is another huge way to save money. If you’re going to a foreign country where you’ll need to use a different currency… do not wait to exchange your money during the trip! These exchange centers have exorbitant prices and you’ll often lose 10% or more of your money… just to convert it to another currency. Check with your local bank, or any other financial institutions that you use, because they will definitely offer a lower-priced service. Similarly, it’s worth checking with your credit card company to make sure there are no foreign exchange fees.

 

Shop Duty-Free

Here’s a great benefit to shopping in foreign countries: duty-free purchases. These are purchases that are free from any tax, and will often be the lowest-priced goods you can find. Common places you can find these stores are in airports and other transportation-locations like train stations.

 

Find The Best Lodging

For most cases, staying at an international hotel chain will probably be the most expensive option. If you’re set on staying at a hotel, though, it’s worth checking out our hotel coupons and deals. Similarly, if you’re staying at a hotel and want to cut down on food costs… venture out into the local area to find awesome restaurants. You’ll find that local places have cheaper prices and better food — that’s authentic!

 

On the other hand, it might be worth checking out local lodging places like bed and breakfast options, or even regional hotel chains.

 

Learn How To Shop “Smart”

You can also save a bunch just by being a smart shopper. For example, you can save money on travel expenses just by buying early. This goes for transportation and lodging expenses mainly. As you get closer and closer to the vacation date, airfare and hotel fees will increase dramatically, so watch out! Also, make sure to ask if they are any discounts for children/seniors/students etc. These can have a big impact on spending, but they’re not always advertised.

 

Now take our frugal traveling guide and put it to good use. Get out there and explore a foreign land with your family — now that you’re equipped with these powerful money saving tips, there’s never been a better time to go on a fun vacation adventure.

 

What’s your favorite travel-saving tip that you learned today? Do you have any tips that we didn’t include?