Couponing: Legal Theft for Organized People

Let me begin by saying that I am NOT an extreme couponer.  I don’t stockpile 200 individual servings of Ramen noodles and 40 boxes of cereal. I don’t have 100 tubes of toothpaste, or even 50. However, as a teacher, I have found that devoting an hour a week to couponing makes the best use of my pay possible. Teachers don’t choose their profession for the money, or haven’t you heard?  Many of the friends have asked me how I do my couponing and get such good deals. This is just an introduction to show you.

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For starters, I don’t coupon very much for food. Several reasons: a) food expires, b) it’s just my husband and I, and 3) a lot of what I eat doesn’t have a coupon. I shop at Kroger and they have a shopper’s card and an App that I use. I can download coupons directly to my card using my App and, as a regular customer, they will send me coupons to use on stuff I buy that are just good for their store. I definitely wouldn’t shop at my local grocery store that starts with “Market” because their food is so high that by the time they put it on ‘sale’ it’s the price of everyone else’s every day. Just a tip…

The main places that I use my coupon ninja skills are Walgreens and CVS. The people at my local Wal-Mart are grouchy and look at me as if I’m trying to pull one over on them if I try to coupon there. Unlike the majority of their clientele, I’m wearing shoes and have had a bath, so I think they should give me the benefit of the doubt.  Anyway, both Walgreens and CVS have free customer rewards card that you can put on your key chain. If you don’t have these, that’s the first step. Get them!

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There is a great website for newbies to go: www.krazycouponlady.com. You can choose the store and she will tell you what coupons to match to what deal, when the coupons came out, websites you can print from, etc. I still use this from time to time, but now that I’ve done my transactions so many times, I can generally look at an ad and see what’s worthwhile.  Check this out on Saturday night while you’re lying in bed.  I don’t bother to print coupons. I know some people do, but my printer is older than Moses and uses a bunch of ink. In what I saved in the coupon, I lost in the ink. I find the ones that come in the paper sufficient, but that’s your call.

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On Sundays, I get both a Beaumont Enterprise AND a Houston Chronicle. Why? Because Houston covers a greater area, the coupons are the same as those from Beaumont, plus additional ones that our paper doesn’t offer. Yes, it’s $3.00 a paper, but you will more than get your money back. I only get 1 of each. Like I said, I’m not all ‘extreme’. Most people will find that if they get a local paper and one from the nearest largest city, they will have a good selection of coupons.  Here’s what I’ve amassed just using two papers a week:

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Sunday morning with breakfast, I spread out my Walgreen’s and CVS ads and see what looks good. Here’s what I’m looking for: 1) on sale, 2) I have a coupon for the item and 3) even better, I get ‘register rewards’ or ‘points’ when I purchase it. Never, never, never buy something with a coupon UNLESS it’s also on sale and/or you get ‘register rewards’ or ‘points’. That’s the best way to get the most out of your money. I make a list that I STICK TO, and attach the coupons, register rewards I previously earned, etc. to the back of the list.  The reason I say ‘stick to your list’ is because you are going there to get deals. If you want to leisure shop another time, have at it. The goal is to see how much you can get for the least amount of money.

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CVS is the easiest to coupon at, in my opinion. When you enter the store, scan your card at the kiosk and that will give you extra store coupons and sales that you won’t find in the paper that are usually good for 2 weeks. When you check out, they will scan your card and after checkout, if you’re owed any ‘register rewards’ they will print at the end of your receipt. You will usually have 3 weeks to use them before they expire, so don’t let that happen (I did that once and lost $12 in bucks. I was not a happy camper).  They also keep track of your purchases and every 3 months, you get a % back of all your purchases. This will print like a ‘register reward’. You can also go online at www.cvs.com and join their ‘Beauty Club’. You get $5 register rewards for every $50 spent cumulatively in the store. These add up quick and will also print on the end of your receipt.  In the CVS ad, they will clearly state how many register rewards can be earned per household for items. Be sure and check this when making your list. They call their register rewards ‘extrabucks’.

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One thing I like about CVS is that you can use coupons on Buy One/Get One deals. For example, an ad says that if you buy 1 bottle of Pantene, you get 1 free, and you have 2 coupons, each for $1 off one bottle, you can use both coupons.  I also like that they give you a % back and they keep up with your spending for more register rewards. They are also pretty clean, nice and will do whatever they can to help you. For more info on their policies, you can look at the Krazy Coupon Lady site and she goes into more detail. On the picture above, there were $3 off 1 eye care coupons in the paper. You purchase 2 papers, so you got 2 of them. If you did this deal for CVS, you would buy 2 eye solutions, pay $20.00 before coupons, $14.00 after coupons and receive a $5 extrabuck printed on your receipt for future use. That would make each bottle $4.50 each.

Walgreens also has good deals, but can be a little confusing. They DO NOT allow coupons on BOGO unless it’s just for 1 item. Same example above on the Pantene, you’d only be able to use 1 of those coupons. They have an App where you can send store coupons directly to your card which keeps you from having to cut them out of the ad. They do not have a kiosk with extra deals, and do not give you a % back. Their register rewards print separate from your receipt so you’ll have to keep up with them. These register rewards usually last 2 weeks before they expire.  The good thing, they give you ‘points’ that stay on your card when you buy certain items listed in the ad. You can accumulate these points as long as you want and they never expire. You can’t earn and ‘spend’ points on the same transaction, so there’s that. You have to pick and choose. If I were a newbie, I’d try CVS first because it’s more user-friendly. Once you get used to the process, Walgreens has excellent deals if you know their system. Krazy Coupon Lady is also good to look at these policies. Walgreens does have EXCELLENT school supply sales beginning in July.

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On the picture above, using the same $3 off 1 coupon on eye solution, you would buy 2 and pay $18.00 prior to coupons, $12.00 after coupons because we had 2 at $3 off each, and receive $2.00 in register rewards credited to your card. This would make the items $5 each. CVS had the better sale….see how that works?

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At first, it will seem that you spend a bit of money. Just remember that if you turn around and use those register rewards, you get your money back and it goes toward another item. Essentially, if you were clever enough, you could use register rewards to get stuff that gave you register rewards to get stuff that gave you register rewards, etc.

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Remember, it’s just a game and a fun way to stretch that dollar. My last advice, don’t buy stuff you don’t need just because it’s ‘free’. Unless you plan on donating it or know someone who could use it, it’s just going to take up storage space and eventually expire or be discarded. Make sure you’re buying what your family will use and that hour a week you spend will be well worth the $.

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School is over a month away, but let’s put out school supplies! – Wal-Mart

With school supplies showing up at my local Wal-Mart (because they must get out the Christmas decoration by October and will need the room), my school nightmares have returned.

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My basic nightmare begins in a classroom of people held against their will where no one will listen to me…you know, almost like a real school day.   The administration has taken away my classroom for my conference period (which isn’t all that of a stretch as they did it last year to use my room for another class) and I have to tromp to the woods by the football stadium to find my used KOA cabin that is now my conference room. I glance into the woods, and the road to my cabin is muddy and full of pot holes. (Symbolism much?) Then, I’m called to the Principal’s office where a parent has reported me for calling them a lint ball. As punishment, I have to pull staples out of the world’s longest bulletin board with a toothpick.

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I wake up in a cold sweat.

Back to school is always a mix of good and bad feelings. You get a new start, with new kids and you look forward to getting to know them and being able to visit with your co-workers again.  On the flip side, you have to get up early, wear actual clothes not made of sweat pant material, and fight off the first month illness that you always get when surrounded by new germs, eh, kids.

Several of my friends are new to teaching this year and have asked me to make them a list of what they will need to stock their desks and classrooms. In response, I have written some of the longest text messages known to mankind…they’re probably still being sent as we speak.  As I waited to hear the ‘sent’ beep, the thought occurred to me that it would have been nice, when I started, to know what I needed to have on hand. Thus, this super fantastic and descriptive blog.

Keep in mind your audience and your age group. Obviously 1st graders don’t need pointed scissors around and 8th graders, although some may disagree, wouldn’t benefit from a sleeping mat (but their teachers might).  Some school districts, if you are one of the lucky few, provide all supplies for teachers and may have a supply closet where you can retrieve extra things. (If you are one of these people, be thankful and let me know if the Unicorn is pretty).  Most will give you a budget of around $100 to buy things from their warehouse.  The bulk of what 1st time teachers, heck, all teachers, need to start a school year, generally falls on them.

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Upside, you can claim about $200 on your taxes. Also, once you teach for a while, you’ll find that you’ll need less and less and are replacing only consumables. The downside, the $200 barely covers tax for what you end up spending sometimes, especially if you try to furnish your own room, except for desks.

Tips: Stores such as Joanne’s Fabrics, Office Depot, Walgreens and CVS have discount/loyalty cards that you can get for free which give you discounts or offer rebates to teachers. You can also create a page on http://www.adoptaclassroom.com and ask people you know if they would be willing to donate a few bucks to help you get started.  Also, start saving Boxtops off General Mills products. Each one is worth 10 cents and once submitted in groups of 50, earn you a check that you can spend on supplies. Two submission dates: October and February. Check with your campus to see if someone is in charge of this and, if not, you can register your school at www.boxtopsforeducation.com .

Okay, to the list. In general, you will need the following to stock your desk and room:

  • Pencils and sharpener (You may want to invest in a good sharpener right off the bat. Many of the ones attached to the wall are more successful at eating pencils than actually sharpening them.

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  • Pens (Red, blue and black)
  • Notebook paper and/or legal pad and/or spiral or composition book (I use a comp book to document discipline and the others for writing down ideas or information at staff meetings [doodling])
  • Binders (If you’d like to keep hard copies of lessons in these)
  • White Out
  • Expo markers and erasers
  • Stapler, staples, staple puller (Usually 2 staplers – 1 for you and 1 for the students)
  • Notecards (Trust me. They come in handy for different things)
  • Rubber bands
  • Clip board
  • Map Colors/Markers/Highlighters/Crayons
  • Glue stick

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  • Ruler/Meter stick
  • Post it notes
  • Band-Aids
  • Scissors (Get a good pair)

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  • Calculator
  • Masking Tape
  • Transparent tape and dispenser
  • Sharpies
  • Sliding E-Z grader (Can be found at most school supply places or online)
  • Eraser Caps/Big Eraser
  • Baskets or boxes for storage

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  • Manila file folders/hanging folders
  • Kleenex
  • Lysol wipes (For all things dirty)
  • Baby wipes (Come in handy for dirty hands that can’t use sanitizer)
  • Pledge and a duster (Kids make dust like Pig Pen from Snoopy)

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  • Paper towels
  • Personal items like deodorant, toothbrush and paste, hair brush etc. because there are some mornings when things are forgotten or not done well.

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  • Comfortable elevated chair (You might work up to this purchase, but it’s well worth it to rest your feet and still be able to see everyone)
  • Ball of yarn (Lost lanyards, name tag holder, etc)
  • Small umbrella (For those days when the sky’s bottom drops out and you parked at the back of the lot)
  • Latex gloves (A few pairs should do…you never know. I wore them when I cleaned desks where kids with lice had sat)
  • Personal decorating (This is where it can get pricy – fabric, curtains, posters, etc.) This is up to you.

 

I think I covered most of it. Again, these are the basics I keep on hand in my room.  Don’t be overwhelmed. A lot of this you probably have hanging around your house, in the garage or in your junk drawer or craft room.  Once you request the kids to bring their items, you can add to yours over the course of the school year and be able to buy less the following year.

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Most school supplies are on sale from July – end of August. After this time, they can double in price. In other words: Get them while the getting’s good! Have fun shopping, go sign up for those discount cards and get your goodies now!

 

 

The ‘Perfect’ Way to Work and Still Maintain Your Home Without Going Nuts

I grew up in a world of self-imposed perfection. If I didn’t dress perfectly, make perfect grades, have perfect friends and act with utter perfection, I believed I was a horrible human being. What I really did was drive myself perfectly nuts trying to be all things to all people at all times. It was all in my perception.

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As I aged, this need for perfection carried over to my household duties and chores until, one day, while on my hands and knees in the corner with a toothbrush and a cotton swab, I suddenly realized that this behavior was going to be the death of me through stress. I worked hard enough during the week and, gosh darn it, my house could be imperfect and the world would keep on revolving. The bed could be unmade, the coffee cup in the sink unwashed, and the front porch not swept and it would be OKAY. No one was coming to take me away to cleaning rehab, or to scoff at my towel hanging in the bathroom to dry.

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When I ask my coworkers now if they have seen a certain movie, or went to a certain event, or were able to go to vacation to a certain place, they all tell me they don’t have time. “How”, they ask, “are you able to do all those things?” Well, I’ll tell you. I created a formula, because I am a Science teacher after all and formulas are some of what I do, and it goes like this:

Pre-planning and forethought + daily dedication = More free time

Below is the formula in action. I have used it and it WORKS. You can adjust as needed to fit your home. I have found that if I spend 30-45 minutes per day doing one room really, really well, I don’t spend my weekend or free time trying to meet /fight/ satisfy / avoid my need for things to be perfect (it’s always a battle with myself). I also have more time in the evenings to rest and get ready for the next day.

I decided to post this, as school begins for me tomorrow, in hopes that it may help someone who feels overwhelmed, and, to help remind me that the larger picture of life isn’t based on whether or not you can eat off my floors [which you can’t]: It’s based on how I’m able to touch lives through education and maintain love and devotion to my family. Have a great week and remember to look for the sunny side!

**Disclaimer: These photos are not of my actual home. They are what I would love to have, but as we all know, teachers don’t choose the profession for the $. My swimming pool is a blow up and my slip and slide is a string of black garbage bags, so don’t be hatin’. 🙂

Every day

1 load of laundry washed, folded, put away

Dishes washed

Sift Cat litter (unless you don’t have a cat, then this would be pointless) 🙂

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Monday: Bathroom

Toilet inside and out

Bathtub

Sink

 baseboard

 Dust

Sweep/Vacuum

Floors by Hand

 Straighten cabinets

 Wash all rugs

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Tuesday: Bedroom

Change linens

Dust

 baseboard

 Sweep/Vacuum

 Floors by hand

Wash all rugs and dog beds

Straighten Closet

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Wednesday: Living Room

Dust

Wash all cushions and dog beds

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Sweep/Vacuum

Floors by Hand

Windowsills cleaned

Clean front door window

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Thursday: Dining Room

Dust

Window sills cleaned

baseboard

Sweep/Vacuum

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Friday: Kitchen

Cabinets wiped

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Empty Refrigerator

Clean Vent-a-hood and oven top

 Sweep/Vacuum

 Floors by hand

Straighten cabinetsmodern-kitchen-decor-vintage-style-1

Saturday: Yard and laundry room

Mow and weed as needed

Clean front porch

Sweep deck

Recycling

Sweep/vacuum

Floors by hand

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Sunday: Pay Bills and Rest

Garbage put out

Checkbook updated

Go to church, relax, spend time with family

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Grime of Students Past

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Many, many thanks for all the great responses I’ve received since starting my blog. I wish I could respond to everyone, so here’s me (ME) giving you (YOU) a big thumbs up!

One of my favorite teachers left to join another District recently, and as I looked at her empty room today, I remember the fun we had making our own cleaning supplies last year.

Why did we do this? For several reasons:

1. We wanted to know what was in it,

2. We’re Science Teachers and we like mixing stuff,

3. It seemed like fun, and

4. To save moolah.

For those who don’t know, moolah has nothing to do with cattle, unless you’re selling the cattle, in which case, you’ll be making moolah from your moos. Maybe you could call it a Cash Cow. 🙂

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Anywho, as I begin to work on my classroom this week, (having finally gotten into the building – who waits until 2 days before Meet the Teacher to wax the floors?!),  I am reminded that I need to make a new batch of laundry detergent.  I am convinced my classroom is holding grime from the ghosts of students past and after today,  I’m wearing most of it.

Side note* Anyone else ever develop sinus problems after returning to work at school? It could be the single paned windows with decorative green slime that’s letting in allergens,  or maybe the collection of dust badgers (bigger than bunnies) on top of my storage cabinet.  Regardless, I mean for at least my clothes to be clean while I’m sniffing and snotting at Meet The Teacher Day.

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Frank, The Little Known Dust Badger

I have played around with different formulas, and I like this one best. You will need:

1 bar Fels Naptha (I never even knew this stuff existed until I looked for it on the laundry aisle)

1 bar Zote (I get mine from Lehmans.com, but Castille bar soap also works. Someone told me that they have it at Target aka The Evil Store where I spend too much moolah).

1 container OxyClean or, in my case, Dirty Jobs brand. (It was $4.99, $2 cheaper than Oxyclean, and I had a $1 coupon for it. I am a Coupon Ninja).

1 box Borax ( You can also use Washing Soda that is located next to the Fels Naptha that you never knew existed)

Optional: 1 container of Downy Pearls, Purex Beads, etc. for smell factor.

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I like things that are easy to make. I take a clean cat litter container (Tidy Cat works pretty well with a snap on lid), grate the bar soaps using a small grater, throw everything else in, FIRMLY put the lid on (I wouldn’t mention it if I hadn’t, cough, not done that once), and shake away.

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It takes only half a scoop, or if you’re really grimy, like on the day I clean gum from under the desks, use a full scoop.

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Pretty Detergent

I’m off to wash some clothes now and I wish each of a happy and stress free first week of In-service, Professional Development, Planning or Cleaning.

Remember, always look for the sunny side: Even if it’s runny, it’s there!