Friday, February 20, 2009

OnStar Service - Money Saving Promotion

Here's a classic example of "It never hurts to ask!"

The Diva family has OnStar in both of our vehicles. We have subscribed to it ever since our initial free year ran out a few years back. For two vehicles, we currently pay $18.95/month each for the OnStar Safe and Sound package. It's one expense we justify, as we believe it's hard to put a price on safety, and we have used the service several times over the past few years - from changing a flat tire, to notifying police in a fender-bender, and even to determine what was wrong through remote diagnostics when the "service engine" light has come on. Although we feel we have received fair value out of what we pay for the service, it still never hurts to see if we can save a few dollars.

A few days ago, I read a comment on Refund Cents that mentioned they called OnStar to cancel and were offered a lower promotional rate of just over $12/month. I did a little research online, and I found that others have recieved the $148 annual promotional renewal rate, too. Currently, we are paying $228 annually per vehicle.

Using the approach I read about in my research, I called OnStar, asked to be transferred to the renewal department, and told them I was interested in renewing both of my vehicle plans if they would offer the $148 annual promotional renewal rate for both vehicles. The renewal sales rep agreed. This lowered my annual OnStar service cost for our two vehicles by $160!

Now I'm off to add an extra $160 in savings to my 2009 Saving Tracker!

Your Turn: Have you ever received a better deal on an existing service just for asking? If so, leave a comment to share your story.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mail Call - Freebies Galore

Today was a great mail day. I received an offer for a free digital thermometer and a chance to win a free Nintendo Wii system/Wii Fit prize from Fairview. Click HERE. Open to Minnesota residents only.

I also received my grand prize from the Kraft "So Good Together" Instant Win Game. See my original post HERE. Included in the prize package where 3 coupons good for a total of $15 in free Kraft/Nabisco products.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Free 3 Year Subscription - Country Life Magazine

Click HERE to sign-up for a free THREE YEAR subscription to "Living the Country Life" magazine. It's a magazine published by the Better Homes & Gardens publishers.

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for the deal alert!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Lowdown on Aldi - Feedback

I’ve received a great deal of feedback on the Aldi series. Please keep sending your feedback via e-mail or leaving a comment to share your thoughts.

In Part 2, I posted a photo of my last Aldi trip.

Here’s the actual breakdown on what $76 bought me at Aldi:

24pack Fruit 2-0
Honey Puffs Cereal
Raisin Bran Cereal
2 Boxes Facial Tissue
Baby Carrots
Cocktail Sauce
4 Jars Spaghetti Sauce
6-Pack Plain Bagels
Dole Bananas
Wheat Bread
Red Baron Pizza
2-Pack French Bread Pizza
Sports Drink – 64oz.
Can of Pineapple
Can of Fruit Salad
Chocolate Syrup
6-Pack Raisins
Breakfast Sausage Patties – 2lbs
Sour Cream
4-Pack Pudding Cups
Paper Plates – 70 pack
Pizza Rolls – 20oz.
Cranberry Juice Cocktail – 64oz.
Doritos (Aldi’s brand)
2 Bags Chex mix (Aldi’s brand)
Instant Oatmeal – 10 pack
Lemonade Drink Mix
Animal Crackers
Navel Oranges
12 Yogurt Cups – 8oz each
Smoked Bone-In Ham – 7lb
Gallon 2% Milk

Wow! That’s a lot of stuff! Read this post HERE to see what we did with the ham.

Up next: I’m working on a series about Costco – one of my other favorite stores. If you happen to know any tricks, tips, or have any favorite items from Costco, please send me an e-mail. I’ve only been a Costco member for the past year, and I’d love to hear feedback from other Costco shoppers to share with everyone.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Lowdown on Aldi - Part 2

Today we begin the second half of “The Lowdown on Aldi” series.

Low Prices

There are several reasons Aldi prices are so low:
-Limited Selection:
Because they only stock a limited assortment, they are able to concentrate their purchasing power from suppliers, which drives down the end cost to the consumer.
-Limited Staff: I often see only 2 employees at the store – one cashier and one manager. Employees are not needed to gather carts from the parking lot, like at regular grocery stores.
-Limited Services: Aldi does not accept credit cards, which saves them the processing fees. They do not provide free grocery bags. They do not publish a store phone number, which saves them the cost of having to hire a person to answer it. Customers bag their own groceries.

These measures help Aldi cut costs and keep prices low.

Downside of Shopping Aldi

There aren’t many negatives of shopping at Aldi, in my opinion, but here are a few things to be aware of.
-Manufacturer’s coupons are not accepted at Aldi. Since the store is mostly their private label brand, there aren’t many items in the store that you would have a manufacturer’s coupon for anyway, and because the prices are so low, it doesn’t matter much that coupons are not accepted.
-Selection: The Aldi website claims that you can do 90% of your weekly shopping at their store. They sell the run-on-the-mill staple items that the majority of households purchase on a regular basis. If you’re looking for regular cow’s milk, you can choose between skim, 2%, whole, or chocolate milk. However, you won’t find lactose-free, goat, or organic milk selections there. Also, if you’re looking for a unique recipe ingredient or spice that you would find at a regular grocery store, you likely won’t find it at Aldi. They do not have a deli like a traditional grocery store, although they do have some pre-packaged deli items - lunch meats, etc. So, you will still need to do some shopping at a regular grocery store.

Why I Love Aldi (i.e. What Works for the Diva Family)

I do a lot of my shopping at Costco and Aldi. Both store concepts have limited selection, but they can save you a great deal of money. I tend to shop Costco and Aldi on a rotating basis for variety and go to a regular grocery store once a month to get the rest.

Buying different sizes of items at different types of stores can make it difficult to determine which is the better value. To make it easier, I keep a price book to track the per ounce cost of our top items. For our family, Aldi is the cheapest the majority of the time. Often Costco is comparable on an ounce-for-ounce basis, but that entails buying a larger quantity, and therefore, is only applicable to items we consume in larger quantities.

In the end, the value I get on a cart-load of quality food is what makes me love Aldi. I can fill a cart with food items to prepare a wide variety of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for well over a week for a family of four for less than $100.
In conclusion – An excerpt from the Aldi website:

Shopping Smarter:
It begins the day you decide to become a smarter shopper. The moment it occurs to you that thumbing through newspapers for sales or clipping coupons or using your preferred shopper card is costing you more in time and trouble than the money you're saving. Then it hits you. Smarter shoppers go to smarter stores.

Smarter shoppers know better than to pay extra at stores where baggers bag groceries and employees chase carts in the parking lot, or the cost of national brand marketing raises prices. They know where to buy private label brands that actually exceed the quality of national brands at a fraction of the cost.

So smarter shoppers shop where select inventory increases buying power and lowers prices, saving them up to 50% over supermarket prices. That's a smart cartful whether you're a growing family, a working single, a senior on a fixed income, or a baby boomer socking it away for retirement.

Smarter shoppers just "get it." And they get it at ALDI.

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment and share your tips about shopping at Aldi. If this series has convinced you to shop at Aldi for the first time, leave a comment sharing your experience on your first trip.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Saved $70 At Walgreens

As you can see from this picture, today was another great day at Walgreens. You may find it hard to believe, but I haven't made a bargain-hunting trip to Walgreens since the end of last year! With the holidays, work, and the kids, there just hasn't been much time for deal spinning. (And that's ok. It never hurts to take a break every now and then.) So, over the past 6-8 weeks, I've been letting my coupon sections from the Sunday paper blissfully pile up without so much as a glance through them. Now that things are beginning to slow down slightly, it's time to get back on track.

Here's what I got today. I made a quick trip to snag the February Easysaver Free After Rebate items, as they often go out of stock if you wait until later in the month. Before my trip, I checked Refund Cents to see what coupons were available for the rebate items, making them not only free, but profitable. Then, I headed to the store with my list and coupons.

Revlon Spa Concealer: $9.99 - $9.99Easysaver Rebate (ESR) - $1(ESR 10% bonus) - $2coupon = $3 profit

Fructis Conditioner: $3.99 - $3.99ESR - $0.40(10%) - $1coupon = $1.40 profit

Revlon Cream Lip Gloss: $9.99 - $9.99ESR - $1(10%) - $2coupon = $3 profit

Zucol Cold Medicine: $7.99 - $7.99ESR - $0.80(10%) - $2coupon = $2.80 profit

Thermacare Heatwraps: $2.49 - $2.49ESR - $0.25(10%) = $0.25 profit (no coupon - gasp)

Fusion Power Razor: $8.99 - $6 Register Reward = $2.99 paid (no coupon again)

Hershey Valentine Kisses: sale price 2 for $5 - $2coupon - $1.22Wags Ad coupon = $0.89 each

Pert 2 in 1 Shampoo: $3.49 - $1coupon - $1.50Wags ESR coupon = $0.99

Loreal Foundation: ($10.99 x 2) $21.98 - 10.99Buy1Get1Free - $3coupon - $2coupon = $2.99 each

Total Before Coupons (after sale prices): $73.91

Total Saved - Sale Prices & Coupons: $32.71

Total To Get Back With Easy Saver Rebate: $37.90

Total Register Rewards to use on next purchase: $6

So, I paid $49.91 with tax. I will get $37.90 back from rebates and $6 off for next time, which bring my net out of pocket this trip to $6.04. That's a total savings of $70.

Gotta love Walgreens!

Stay tuned...tomorrow I'll post "The Lowdown on Aldi - Part 2". If you missed Part 1, click HERE.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Lowdown on Aldi - Part 1

Today we begin a new series called “The Lowdown on Aldi.” Over the next few days, I will share with you the history of Aldi, what to expect when shopping there, how they keep their prices so low, and why I love the store.


We’ll begin with a little background on the store. Aldi is a German grocery chain that’s been around since the early 1900’s in Europe, and has expanded to America in just the past few decades. When I lived in Germany several years ago, it was (and continues to be) the primary grocery store where most families shopped. In fact, Aldi is Germany’s leading grocery store chain.

If you’ve never shopped at Aldi before, it’s likely that you either have never heard of it or you have preconceived notions about the store. Often people who have an Aldi in their neighborhood, and who haven’t shopped there, believe that it is cheap, that the food is second hand, that it’s a place for those who can’t afford to shop elsewhere. Although the food is “cheap” there, in that it’s a great value, the rest is definitely not true.

Aldi focuses on providing a limited selection of grocery items, as compared to a regular grocery store. While a regular store may stock 10,000 items, Aldi only stocks about 1/10 of that. You’ll find all your main items there – milk, eggs, bread, meat, produce, dry goods – just not 12 different brands and varieties of each. The overall brand make-up of the store is roughly 90% Aldi’s store brand items and 10% special purchase name brand items which rotate constantly.

Double Guarantee

Aldi offers a double guarantee on all store brand items. If you are not completed satisfied with the quality or taste of an item, Aldi will REPLACE the product and REFUND your money.

What to Expect

When you arrive at Aldi, you’ll first pick up a cart outside the front door. Carts cost $0.25, which is returned to you once you return the cart. Insert a quarter in the slot on the right hand side of the cart to release the lock.

Once inside the store, you’ll notice the bright lights and quiet atmosphere. There is no background music or intercom system, which saves the store energy and money. All locations are designed alike, and each has about 4 aisles. Dairy and meats are along the back of the store. Produce and bakery items are in the center of the store.

To save money and the environment, Aldi encourages patrons to bring reusable shopping bags. If you forget to bring your own bags, plastic bags are available for a small charge, or boxes are often available in the aisles or near checkouts for free.

With the exception of particularly busy hours, there is usually only one checkout open. The checkout process is very fast and efficient. Payments in cash or PIN-based debit card are the only methods accepted, saving Aldi money and saving the customer time as there’s no wait for checks to be written or credit card approvals. The cashier sits at the far end of the checkout. When it’s your turn to check out, the cashier will scan your groceries and load them directly into an empty cart. When you are finished paying, you take the cart full of your groceries and give the cashier your empty cart, which will be used for the next person in line. Across from the checkouts, there is a long counter for packing up your groceries before heading out to the car.

After you finish loading your car, just return your cart to the front of the store and reconnect the chain to the other carts, and your quarter will pop back out. Frequent shoppers just exchange a cart for a quarter in the parking lot, too, as one shopper finishes loading their groceries and a new shopper heads into the store.

In my next post, I’ll share with you how Aldi keeps their prices low, why I love Aldi, and what shopping strategy works best for the Diva family. In the meantime, here’s a few sample prices from my neighborhood location.

Average Aldi Prices
Strawberries (16oz – in season): $0.99
Bananas: $0.45/lb
Baby Carrots (16oz): $0.69
Milk (gallon): $2.69
Sour Cream (16oz): $0.99
Spaghetti Saurce: $0.99
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (3lb): $5.49
Parmesan Cheese (5oz): $1.99
Yogurt (8 oz): $0.43

Do you shop at Aldi? How often to do shop there, and what’s your favorite Aldi product. Leave a comment with your input.