Monday, February 8, 2010

Bargain Shopping Successes

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As most women, I have a love of shopping.  It truly is a form of therapy for me.  But there is something I love even more than shopping.  That would be BARGAIN shopping.  I love, love, love it.  There is a certain type of rush that I get from finding a fabulous deal.  Being a mommy that is obsessed with her daughter's clothes, being frugal is almost a must.  I have a few resources and tips and tricks that I employ when shopping that help me snag the best deal possible.

Shop a season ahead.  Not earth shattering, I know, and most of you probably do this already.  I've been lucky that Riley has stayed true to her age/size in most brands, so assuming that she'll be wearing 18-month sizes around June when she turns 18-months is a gamble I am more than willing to take.  I have totes - three LARGE totes - full of 18 month clothes awaiting her.  And two more for 2T.  And I even have a 3T one started.  At the end of last summer when stores such as Carters and Old Navy nearly paid their shoppers to take summer inventory off of their hands, I swept in and took advantage. 

Afraid you'll guesstimate sizing wrong?  As long as the tags are still on and you have the receipt, Carters stores will accept returns FOREVER.  You heard that right.  You can return an item years after purchasing it and get all of your money back.  If you looked in Riley's closet, you'd see tags hanging everywhere, many of which with receipts taped to them.  I shop fearlessly at Carters for this very reason.

Kohl's is a great store for shopping a season ahead.  Midway through a season, they'll discount that season's clothes by 60-80%!  They carry reputable lines such as Carters and Ralph Lauren Chaps, too!  In fact, just two days ago I went there to browse their sales and walked out spending $10.63 on a winter coat for Riley for next season.  It was normally $50 - a savings of 80%!  I even had $10 Kohl's cash, but it didn't start until the next day.  I plan to go back today and pick up yet another coat for $10 in 3T for the following season ... and after using my Kohl's cash it will be FREE!  A $50 coat for FREE!

Having all of these clothes stocked away for future sizes doesn't mean I won't go and splurge on that "OHMYGOSHIMUSTHAVEIT" outfit for her ... but it does mean that the large base of her wardrobe was purchased at amazing prices.

Coupons, coupons, coupons.  One of the most dreaded chores on the list left for my brother and I from my mom when we were younger was Sort Coupons.  We hated it.  We grumbled.  We swore when we grew up, we'd never clip and sort coupons.  Au contrere, mon frere. 

I am a coupon junkie now.  Why wouldn't I be?  Gathering them is almost effortless and it is the same as FREE MONEY.  Who doesn't like that?  Better yet, technology has put oodles of coupons at your fingertips.  You can Google a coupon code for almost any online purchase you make.  Heck, you can almost always google "Carters Coupons" for a printable 20% off coupon for Carters stores. Pair that with your deep discount clearance items and I've walked out of a store with nearly 15 items and a receipt proudly stating that I've only spent $40.

My favorite types of coupons are ones that the likes of Old Navy will hand out from time to time for "$5 off your total purchase (when you use your Gap Card)".  Sure - $5 off of a total bill may not seem like much.  But what if I told you that by using one of those coupons, I was able to purchase three pairs of pants, a hat, and a pair of boots (all for Riley) and only had to put $0.79 on my card?  It's true.  Just two weeks ago when our local Old Navy gave an extra 50% off of clearance, I struck gold.  Here is how it broke down:

Jeans (Nomally $19.50; Clearanced for $2.97; Final price $1.49)
Pants (Normally $19.50; Clearanced for  $1.97; Final price $0.99)
Pants (Normally $19.50; Clearanced for $1.97; Final price $0.99)
Hat     (Normally $7.50; Clearanced for $1.97; Final price $0.99)
Boots (Normally $14.50; Clearanced for $1.97; Final price $0.99) 
Full price total: $80.50
My Total: $5.45
Tax: $0.34
($5 coupon)
$0.79 TOTAL
So what should have cost me $85.53 (after tax) really cost me $0.79 ... a savings of $84.74!  Incredible!  Riley can wear all of that one time for all I care - I made a great deal!  In fact, it was so great that upon returning to my car, I realized I had a second coupon, so I headed back into the store and bought another pair of jeans, three shirts, and another pair of boots ... for another $1.21 total.  Walking into the house with an armload of bags couldn't upset my husband this time!  (I must mention this was in the same shopping trip in which I bought a pair of chandelier earrings at Express for $0.50 after a coupon, a pair of knee high Jessica Simpson boots at Dillards for $10 out of pocket (used a gift card and a coupon), and a free Aveda perfume used with a coupon I received for my birthday).  Amazing!

Check out the Clearance Section ... Even if You Need Nothing.  Are you really saving money if you end up buying things that you don't even need or weren't looking for anyhow?  I appreciate the argument, but I fall on the side of YES.  Yes, I am saving money in the long run by buying items I don't even need ... as long as I know that I will eventually need it.  That's the key.

For example.  While at Kohl's the other day (not the same day as the fabuless coat deal), I just happened to swing by their toy section.  I thought I had seen a 60% off clearance sign from afar.  I have a sixth sense radar for such signs.  What I found there were several sets of Fisher Price Little People for 60% off!  Fresh off of Christmas and a First Birthday, Riley isn't exactly suffering from toy deprivation.  However with her birthday and Christmas just three weeks within one another, I want to be able to surprise her with little gifts and toys here and there throughout the year.  This would be difficult to do if I were dealing with full-price items.  Cue the clearance items that I don't need right now.  I snagged a full Little People farm set and two add-on farm animal sets ... for $20 total.  Amazing!

(What you don't see here is the full farm set.  Unfortunately, Riley has an eye for deals, too, and spotted it through the bag right as we came the door.  I couldn't help but let her have it right then and there.)

I am not sure if you have a Marcs store in your area, but it is also a treasure chest for such items.  Everytime I am in Marcs I swear it is my last time ever - but the prices and occassional SUPER buys keep me coming back.  Just yesterday I grabbed these two sets of Little People - $4.99 each.  That's 50% off of the price you'd find them at Target.  And Weeble Wobbles?!  Once I got over the shock that these still exist, I couldn't help but grab them for the $2.99 sticker price. 

So all of my little clearance treasures are tucked away in a closet to be pulled out on a rainy day or when she deserves a reward for being a good girl, etc.  Riley is just now starting to play with Little People, and seeing as how they are rated for ages 1-5, I feel safe stockpiling them - I think she'll get use out of them for quite a while.  Plus, they are gender neutral - even better for re-use with our next baby! 

Network and Use Your Resources!  One little gem that I stumbled upon was the group FabuLESS on Facebook.  It is run by a thrifty mom who shares an eye for amazing deals!  A lot of the savings I've had lately have come from coupons posted on her Fan Page.  It costs you nothing - except maybe 20 seconds to become a fan of the page - to start saving with FabuLESS!   You can also check out Jodi's site

Another group I've just come across is Baby Half Off.  Each day a popular baby item / brand is listed at at least 50% off of retail price.  The deal is good for that day only, though, so you have to be willing to check it daily.  You can become a fan on Facebook or check out their website.  Or both!

Don't Forget About Yourself!
It isn't just baby stuff that you can shop smart for.  Shop smart for yourself as well!  Did you know that at CVS you can pair a store coupon (one in their ad or that prints off at the bottom of your receipt) with a manufacturer coupon?  It's called 'coupon stacking'.  Shampoo, conditioner and dish detergent can become virtually free doing this!  And those items can sit in your linen closet for months and months, so stock up when you can!  Taking advantage of CVS coupons, manufacturer coupons, and timing them up with ExtraBucks offers in store has saved me SO much. 

Plus, CVS will match competitor coupons for prescriptions.  I almost always have a coupon for a $25 gift card when you transfer a prescription to Rite Aid or Kmart or somewhere like that.  But the BIG bonus here?  CVS will accept the coupon everytime I refill my prescription - not just on transfers!  Seeing that I have two medications I take regularly each month, I can count on $50 in free gift cards to CVS every single month.  This is why diapers have never really be an expense to me.  I collect Pampers coupons, wait for diapers to go on sale (they're $8.99/pack this week!), then use the coupons with the free gift cards - diapers at absolutely NO expense to me!

Lastly, this week's "Item of the Week" at Old Navy is women's lace trim v-neck camis.  They are normally $12.50 each, but thru Thursday they are a steal at just $2 each!  You can bet that I was sitting outside of Old Navy 10 minutes prior to store opening last Friday because I assumed these puppies would sell out fast.  I wasn't alone.  I was waiting with about seven other women doing the same thing.  Here's a snapshot of my receipt.  I actually got the camis for $1.80 each because I took the four minutes necessary to fill out a survey online for Old Navy.  I seem to always get a survey invitation at the bottom of my receipt there that allows me to save 10% off my entire next trip.  My wallet is loaded with these coupons, so I use one each time.  So here you go - eight camis for myself and one tee shirt for Riley (her shirt accounted for $4.50 of my total) ... all for $21.04 after tax.  A savings of $87.70!

Now get out there and start saving!!


Monday, February 1, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing

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Captured memories of a wonderful weekend full of nothing but family love ...