Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tracking Prices: The Sales Cycle Game

Every deal spinner knows that the key to saving money at the grocery store is by stocking up on staples when prices are the lowest. But how do you know when a price is truly the lowest? How can you tell whether the “price shocker” sale price really is a good deal?

The answer is two-fold. It involves a little homework, but is well worth your time.

  1. Sales Cycles – Most grocery stores rotate their sale items as they rotate their inventory. On average, this is about a 5 week cycle. Don’t believe it? Try saving the weekly ads from your favorite grocery store for the next month or two and see if a pattern emerges. In general, high sales volume items like cereal, soda, canned goods, and meat go through a monthly cycle. At my favorite store, the small boxes of Cheerios go on sale 5 for $10 every 5 weeks or so. I save up my General Mills coupons and stock up on Cheerios during this sale. I don’t pay more than $1.50 a box, and if I happen to have $1/1 coupons, I only pay $1 a box. Using this approach, I never need to worry about running out of Cheerios and having to pay full price for a box.
  2. Price Book – The second component to knowing when a sale price is a good deal is through keeping a price book. A price book is simply a listing of common items that you buy frequently and the amount you pay for them. Over time you will begin to recognize how much you pay for an item on a regular occasion and how much you pay for it when there is a good sale. It’s also helpful in comparing prices between stores and particularly helpful in comparing prices between a grocery store and a warehouse club. If you record the ounces for an item, you can easily calculate the price per ounce, and then compare that to the price per ounce at a warehouse store. The Diva family belongs to Costco, and since the sizes of items are significantly bigger at Costco than at the grocery store, I calculate the price per ounce on items we buy frequently to determine which is the better value. While most items are cheaper per ounce when buying in bulk, it was quite eye-opening to learn that several were not and were better deals buying the normal sizes at the grocery store.

Here are a few great sites for more information on price books.

Organized Home

Get Rich Slowly has links to price book templates.

And finally, here’s a recent article on “8 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill.”

Do you have any tips on saving money at the grocery store? Leave a comment to share your ideas!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Opportunity to Give Back

I started this blog a few months ago with the goal of helping others learn the techniques of saving money. By learning how to spot deals, not only can you save money for your family, but you can also recognize deals on items that can help those in need.

This week there’s an excellent opportunity to give back. The October 26th Red Plum coupon insert in the Sunday paper contains coupons for diabetic supplies. The coupon in particular that I’d like to point out is for a Breeze2 or Contour blood glucose monitor and is good for up to $30 off. This week, Walgreens had these monitors on sale for $9.99. If you buy one and use the coupon, you’ll get the monitor for free (Note #1: You won’t get overage, as the cashier will input the coupon for the actual sale price and will take $9.99 off. Note #2: There is a mail-in rebate in the box. It's up to you if you want to try to submit it to get additional money back, but if you are donating it, you probably want to donate an unopened package.).

Now, what do you do with this?

Donate it!

  • Take a look online for local organizations in your area that accept donations.
  • Check with local doctors offices or local free clinics.
  • Send it in to a non-profit: 1) iPump is an all-volunteer, charitable organization that provides critical assistance to people with diabetes. They collect diabetic supplies donations and distributes them to those in need. Contributions and your shipping charges are tax deductible. 2) Islets of Hope lists other organizations by state that accept diabetes supply donations.

Here’s another great way to give back…

Whenever you are grocery shopping, keep an eye out for deals on non-perishable items to donate to local food shelves. Often grocery stores run “loss leaders” on the front of their Sunday ads. Loss leaders are items that are sold well below the regular price. The strategy is to get you in the door for the item in hopes that you will buy all your groceries while you are there. Look for loss leaders that you can pair with manufacturer’s coupons to get the item free or inexpensive. These make great donations. Not only will you help feed someone in need, but it won’t cost you much to do so.

What are your favorite ways to give back? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Strategic Approach to Bargain Hunting

Have you ever lain awake at night trying to clear the thoughts of deal strategies that are clogging your mind? Have you walked into a store ready to score great deals, only to end up wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles because you can’t quite remember the specifics of certain deals or don’t have the right coupons with you?

As bargain-hunters, we are constantly running across deals every day – in the Sunday paper coupon sections and store ads, in our e-mail inbox, in our mailbox, and on our favorite money-saving blogs and websites. With all the deals and money-saving strategies swirling through our head on a daily basis, what can one do to keep them all straight?

Here’s some advice on how to get organized and maximize your money-saving opportunities:

  1. Coupon Organization – Successful deal organization starts with an effective coupon organization strategy. There are several schools of thought on how best to organize the Sunday insert coupons. Should you clip them all? Should you just clip the ones you know you’ll use? Should you keep the inserts intact?

    My approach is to keep all inserts intact. Unless there is something I will definitely use in the next few days, I do not cut out any of the coupons. I simply paper clip the inserts for each week together, label the week’s set with a sticky note with the date in bold numbers, and stack them in a manila folder. I keep the folder in my car, and have them easily accessible when shopping. I only get one set of inserts each week from our paper, and I rotate out the older inserts as coupons expire, which keeps the size of the folder manageable.

    Whichever method you choose, the bottom line on coupon organization is this…do whatever works best for you so that you can easily locate them and have them available when you need them.
  2. Store Strategy Organization – The next step toward staying on top of current offers is by creating a weekly running list of deals sorted by store – a store “strategy sheet.” Take a sheet of paper (or make a Microsoft Word template) and write down the names of stores as your headers. Leave plenty of space below each store name. As you go through the week, whenever you hear or read about a deal strategy on an item, make note of it on your strategy sheet. Include details to jog your memory while at the store, including size, variety, coupon amount, coupon location, and Catalina details. Also, note any additional items to use at checkout, like Catalinas from previous purchases or “$x off an $xx purchase” coupons.

Here's an example:

The key here is to keep your “strategy sheet” handy at all times.

When I am ready to shop, I simply grab my manila folder and locate the coupons listed on my strategy sheet. I paper clip the coupons to my sheet, and head to the store. This approach not only saves me time and de-clutters my mind, but it also prevents me from missing out on a great deal.

How do you organize your deals? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Free Omaha Steaks Arrived

I found a pleasant surprise awaiting me on my front porch yesterday afternoon. My 18 Omaha steak burgers had arrived...just days after placing my order. Included in the cooler were a set of kitchen knives, a cutting board, and a recipe booklet with coupons for future purchases.

This offer went fast, but luckily I got in on it in time, and hopefully you did, too. The Diva family will be grilling up some tasty burgers...several meals for the total price of $3.98.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My best Walgreens Day EVER!

The deals don’t get much better than this. Today I bought over $125 of merchandise from Walgreens, and paid $0. It’s rebate overlap day at Walgreens again. Today and tomorrow, both the October and November EasySaver rebate books are in effect, and several of the September rebate items carried over to October. (You won’t see these on the form, but if you enter your rebate receipts online, they will show up later.) In addition, Walgreens published a printable coupon on for $5 off a $20 purchase today and tomorrow only.

Here’s what I got for a grand total of $0.10 (yes, that’s right…TEN CENTS) after coupons, rebates and Register Rewards:

  1. Pepsi (bought 3): Reg. $4, Sale 3 for $11, Register Reward (-$2), Paid: 3 for $9.00 ($3.00 saved)
  2. Benefiber 16pk Kiwi Strawberry Sticks (bought 3): Reg. $8.49 ($25.47), Sunday paper coupon -$2 (-$6), EasySaver Coupon -$5 (-$15) Register Reward (-$8), Profit: -$3.53 ($25.47 saved)
  3. Loreal Revitalift 1.0 Concentrate (carryover from Sept.): Reg. $16.49, Sunday paper coupon -$2, October ES rebate -$16.49, ES 10% bonus -$1.65, Profit: -$3.65 ($16.49 saved)
  4. Loreal Reviatlift Eye Cream (free w/puchase of #3 above): Reg. $16.99 each, Sunday paper coupon -$1, Profit: -$1.00 ($16.99 saved)
  5. Loreal Cleanser: Reg. $6.99, October ES rebate -$6.99, ES 10% bonus -$0.70, Profit: $-0.70 ($6.99 saved)
  6. Alka Seltzer Cold 20ct: Reg. $4.99, Register Rewards -$5, Paid: $0 ($4.99 saved)
  7. Lypsyl Lip Balm (carryover from Sept.): Reg. $2.99 each, October ES rebate -$2.99, ES 10% bonus -$0.30, Profit: -$0.30 ($2.99 saved)
  8. Rimmel Foundation: Reg. $7.49 each, Sunday paper coupon -$1.00, Oct ES rebate -$7.49, ES 10% bonus -$0.75, Profit: -$1.75 ($7.49 saved)
  9. Oral B Vitalizer Toothbrush: Reg $5.49, Sale $4.49, Register Rewards -$4.50, Paid: $0 ($5.49 saved)
  10. St. Ives Elements Cleanser: Reg $7.99, Sale $4.99, Beauty Counter coupon -$2.00, Register Rewards -$5, Profit: -$2.01 ($7.99 saved)
  11. Quilted Northern Ultra 6pk: Sale $4.00, Sunday paper coupon -$1.00, ES coupon -$1.00, Paid $2.00 ($2.00 saved)
  12. Walgreens saline nasal spray: Reg. $2.99, W card 10% -$0.30, Paid $2.69 ($0.30 saved)
  13. Nivea Men’s Body Wash (carryover from Sept.): Reg. $5.49, Sunday paper coupon -$1.00, Oct ES rebate -$5.49, ES 10% bonus -$0.55, Profit: -$1.55
The total for all of the above came to roughly $71 with tax after coupons and the $5 off $20. I received a total of $27.50 in Register Rewards for future purchases. (I got an extra $3RR from Bayer – not sure what for. I plan to use the $27.50 in RRs the week of November 2nd to stock up on diapers, as Walgreens will be running their “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” diaper deal again that week.) I will get back $43.40 in October Easysaver rebates from this purchase.

Grand Total for this purchase: $71.00 - $27.50 - $43.40 = $0.10

That’s right. All the items above cost me a grand total of TEN CENTS!

But that’s not all. For most people, that would be a pretty satisfying shopping day…but not for the Deal Diva. Let’s back up a bit and look at how the Deal Diva put her own spin on the deal.

Spin The Deal Strategy

I knew that the purchase above would require a large cash outlay upfront in order to get the money back through Register Rewards and Easysaver rebates to be used later for future purchases. Before making the purchase above, I grabbed a bottle of St. Ives Elements and purchased it along with a $100 Walgreens gift card. Currently, Walgreens gift card purchases are included in the 10% W card bonus. So, I will receive a $10 credit on my W card for buying the gift card. I also knew that the St. Ives deal would only generate one Register Reward per transaction, and I wanted a few, so I bought one off the bat in my first transaction ($4.99 - $2c - $5RR = -$2.01 profit). Total for my first transaction was $103, and I got a $5RR and will get $10 on my W card. The profit from the St. Ives and W card total $12.01.

Grand Total for today’s trip: $0.10 + -$12.01 = -$11.91 Profit

Now that’s spinning the deal!

Stay a few days I'll post tips on how I prepared for this trip and how to make your next trip a success.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Contest for Free Wubbzy DVD

If you have small kids, you probably are familiar with the show "Wow Wow Wubbzy." It's one of the Diva boys favorite shows. In fact, Junior D loves the show so much, he brought a picture of Wubbzy to preschool on yellow day. It certainly stood out on a board full of yellow ducks and other yellow pictures at preschool.

The Sisterly Savings blog is currently holding a contest to win a copy of the new DVD, "A Tale of Tails." Click HERE to visit the Sisterly Savings site where you can enter the drawing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Free Omaha Steaks $25 Gift Card

This is a great deal that's been exploding in the blogosphere over the past 24 hours. Act fast to get in on it! Here's the quick lowdown.

  1. Sign up at Geico Privileges.

  2. Get an email for a free $25 gift certificate to Omaha Steaks.

  3. Log on to Omaha Steaks website (use this LINK) and then click the link you receive in your email to access your $25 off code.

  4. Order 12 of the 4 oz steak burgers. Your total will be $28.98.

  5. Upon checkout, you can enter the $25 gift certificate code, reducing your total to $3.98.

  6. You will also have a box at checkout to select a free gift with purchase: 6 additional free steak burgers, a 6-piece cutlery set, and a cutting board.

If you have a Paypal account, you can even pay with that. Less than $4 for 18 steak burgers (and other freebies to boot!) - a great score for some tasty, virtually free meals!

UPDATE: This deal is now dead. Hope you were one of the lucky ones that got in on it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Free Movie Monday

Rent a free movie from your local Redbox kiosk using code: PK66H8. This code is good for today only. To learn more about Redbox, check out Deal Seeking Mom’s great post, "Redbox 101".

Also, if you are new to renting movies through Redbox, check out, which is a site that lists free Redbox rental codes that can be used anytime.

So, pop up some popcorn and enjoy a movie with the family tonight!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Secret Weapon - Refund Cents

Ok, I’m about to let you in on a little secret…wait, little just doesn’t cut it….it’s a HUGE secret. In fact, when I first found out about it, my savings on everyday items went through the roof. Are you ready? What is it?

It’s Refund Cents – a website/message board dedicated to helping bargain hunters save money…BIG TIME. Membership is only $12 per year for a login and password, and this gives you access to Michele’s Updates – a daily listing of the hottest deals, offers, and coupon codes, as well as access to Centsible Chat – a message board where other bargain hunters post deals they have found and their strategies, along with pages and pages of “How To’s”, store policies, and coupon trading boards. I first joined Refund Cents a few years ago, and I must say, the $12 annual fee is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars I have saved by reading Michele’s Updates and Centsible Chat. You can even search Centsible Chat to look for posts regarding a specific deal or store.

Refund Cents is where I first learned about the Walgreens diaper deals, Sears free gas promotion, as well as many of the “sale+coupon = free” strategies I’ve used to get free items at many stores. Whenever I place an online order at Amazon or Kohls, I first search Centsible Chat to find a free shipping code or an additional percentage off code.

Interested in checking out Refund Cents for free? Once or twice a year, Michele opens up the site for people to check it out. The next open site event will be tomorrow -Thursday, and Friday, Oct 16 & 17. Just click HERE, and get ready to take your deal hunting hobby to the next level.

Mail Call - Today's Freebies

It's always exciting to see what freebies come in the mail each day. Today was a great day. Several weeks ago, I found a link for a free two year subscription to Parents magazine. Today I got the first few issues - October and November. Just a quick look through it, and I'm thrilled with the articles, ideas, and parenting advice - a great score.

Also in today's mail, I received a free Quaker Simple Harvest granola bar and $1.00 off coupon.

Most free samples do come, so when you get the opportunity, go ahead and sign up for them. You never know what may arrive in your mailbox!

What is the best freebie you have received lately?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Discount Dining – The Diva Way

In these tough economic times, one of the first luxuries people tend to cut back on is dining out. Whether you’re going out for a family dinner or a romantic night, add in a few drinks or appetizers, and the bill quickly climbs.

With the exception of an occasional trip to McDonalds (often when we are on a road-trip), the Diva family prefers to eat at home. Mommy Diva loves to cook and to try new recipes, and in addition, cooking at home is very budget-friendly.

There are, however, ways to eat out quite economically if you do a little homework first.

Kids Eat Free: Several chain and family-oriented restaurants offer “kids eat free” nights once a week. Do a little research online to find these restaurants in your area.

Online Dining Deals: In the Twin Cities, there are a few radio stations - FM 107.1
and K102 - that offer half-priced restaurant gift certificates to great local restaurants. Even the Minnesota Twins have partnered with some very popular restaurants, such as Bellanote and The Melting Pot, to offer half-priced dining deals. Act quickly, as these sell out fast.

Newspaper Coupons: If you’re looking for a bargain meal, check out your local newspaper for restaurant ads and coupons. Even if they don’t have coupons, the ad may mention happy hour or other food specials that can save you money.

Happenings/Entertainment Book: The Diva family buys two Entertainment books every year, one to keep in each car, and we use more than enough of the coupons in them to make up for the $35 charge. Most coupons in the book are for “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” entrees at restaurants that range from fast food all the way to formal dining. New books for 2009 are currently on sale with free shipping at, or buy them through a school fundraiser. My favorite way to save money when eating out is This site offers discounted gift certificates to local restaurants throughout the country. $10 value gift certificates are $3…..$25 values for $10….$50 values for $20…$100 values for $40. You don’t even have to wait to have them shipped. Simply order the certificate online and print it out in minutes. Certificates are good for one year. Remember to read the fine print for exclusions. Some restaurants may have a minimum food purchase requirement or may only be good on certain days. Also, remember to tip the waiter on the full value of the meal before discount.

Spin The Deal Strategy: My best money-saving strategy for dining out is to put a spin on the normal offer by using a coupon code to further reduce the cost of the gift certificate. Frequently, distributes codes for 70% off (and sometimes 80% off) the already discounted certificate price. Right now through October 15th, use code EIGHTY upon checkout to get a $25 gift certificate for only $2. That’s 80% off the normal price of $10 for a $25 gift certificate.

$25 of food for $2? Now that’s dining the Diva way.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Look What I Got for Under $4

After a quick glance in the Walgreens ad and a little searching online for deals this week, I made a short stop at Walgreens to pick up a few freebies.

Here's what I got:

  1. Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner - (Reg $25.99, Sale $19.99 - $10 coupon - $10 October Easysaver Rebate - $1 Easysaver 10% Bonus = FREE + $1 profit
  2. Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush Max - (Reg $6.29, Sale $3.99 - $2.00 coupon - $1.50 October Easysaver Rebate - $0.15 Easysaver 10% Bonus = $0.34
  3. Crest Toothpaste - (Reg $2.79, Sale $1.99 - $1.00 coupon - $1.00 Easysaver Booklet coupon = FREE
  4. 4 bags of Halloween candy - (Reg $12.76, Sale $10.00 - $1.00 coupon - $4.00 October Easysaver Rebate - $.040 Easysaver 10% Bonus = $4.60 total for 4 bags
Time spent reviewing ad and finding coupons: 15 minutes
Time in store: 10 minutes
Total Saved: $47.83
Total Spent (before tax, after rebate): $3.94

Spin The Deal Tip: When buying sale items, always look for specially marked packages on the shelf. They cost the same as the other items, but they give you a little extra bang for your buck. For instance, on this trip, all 6.4oz Crest toothpaste was on sale for $1.99, but certain varieties had a free travel sized toothpaste and floss attached to the package, so I opted for one of those. Also, the Automatic Shower Cleaner came with a free Scrubbing Bubbles Flushable Wipes sample pack.

As you can see, saving money doesn't have to be a time consuming process. A few minutes here and there can add up to big savings.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Deal Diva Guest Post on Money Saving Mom

Check out the guest post I wrote for my favorite thrifty blog, Money Saving Mom:

Click here: How to Avoid a Good Deal Gone Bad

Welcome to everyone visiting Spin The Deal from MSM!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Saving Money Hits Home - Oprah Interview

Today, after a long day at work, and the kids tucked into bed, Daddy Diva and I settled down on the couch to catch up on a couple shows we had recorded earlier in the week. I had heard earlier that today's Oprah was about helping families save money, which was right up my alley, so needless to say, I was excited about today's show and managed to convince my hubby to watch it with me.

The main story was about a frugal family from Florida that visited a family from Minnesota to help them cut their expenses and live within their means. It was exciting enough to see that a Minnesota family was featured on Oprah, but imagine my surprise when they showed a clip of the family walking into their local grocery store, when to my utter amazement, I realized "Hey, that's my store!" Yes, the Minnesota family was not only from the same city as us, but they shop at the Cub Foods a few blocks from our house!!! OUR Cub Foods! We had to rewind the clip a few times to believe it ourselves....there they are walking in....there's the townhomes next to the store....there are the shops across the street. Then they showed them standing in the store meat section...sure enough, I know that store layout by heart. Amazing!

Here's the link to the story:

And to think they had to go all the way to Florida to find a thrifty family to help teach this local family how to save money, when all this time we were right down the street from them, saving money like crazy. Well, if they ever need a refresher course, help is just a few blocks away, and if I ever run into them in the store, I'd be glad to share some coupons and some tips with them.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thrifty Thursday: Giveaways, Great Posts, & Favorite Blogs

The chill of fall is upon us here in Minnesota. We started the week in shorts with sunshine and almost 80 degree weather, and now we’re ending the week in long pants and fall jackets. Time to pack away the swim fins and pull out the snow shovels.

Here’s a recap of some great giveaways and posts I found this week in the blogosphere:

Super Coupon Girl is giving away free shampoo and coupons. HERE

Also, don’t miss Super Coupon Girl’s guest post, “How I buy organic, fresh foods for pennies” on Money Saving Mom. She’s whittled her monthly grocery bill down from $600-$800 per month to mere dollars.

Sisterly Savings is giving away a free 3-month membership to ListPlanIt, an online directory of over 350 printable lists and planning resources to help busy moms stay organized.
ListPlanIt also has free samples on their site, including my personal favorite “My 21 Meals” which helps organize favorite family meals to include in your monthly rotation.

Deal Seeking Mom is offering a free Pillsbury prize pack including a variety of Pillsbury mixes, an apron, and a Pillsbury Doughboy doll.

Millionaire Mommy Next Door has had some great content recently regarding what you can do now to protect yourself and your investments in an unstable economic environment.

Nora Dunn has an interesting article on WiseBread on how to avoid tricky traps that can destroy your budget at the supermarket. HERE

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Free Hot Beverage at Holiday

If you have a Holiday Station Store in your area, each month they offer a free item with any purchase. For the month of October, get a free 12 oz. hot beverage with any purchase. Click here.

Put a Diva Spin on this deal by fueling up and using a Holiday discount gas coupon available with grocery purchase at Cub Foods.