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5 Tips to Save this Holiday Season

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 8, 2013 · 2 comments

The countdown to Christmas is on! As of today, there are only 46 days until Christmas -- that means only 45 days to shop for everyone on your list...

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I have a few small gifts put away and a few larger ones on preorder, but I still have a long way to go before my list is complete. Luckily that's still enough time to score some great deals, especially if you use some of the tips I'm sharing with you today.

1. Start with a written budget.

It's easy to overspend on impulse over the holidays, so having a written budget puts everything right there in front of you in black and white, helping to curb those tendencies. I love that this Christmas budget worksheet divides your budget into areas beyond just gifts, including food, decor, charity, and more, for a more complete view of your overall budget.

2. Make a gift list.

List everyone that you intend to buy for, along with some gift ideas for each. Leave room to allow this list to double as your shopping list! Just write down the deals that you intend to purchase next to the recipient. This way if you come across other fantastic deals, you can easily see if they might be a good fit for someone else on your list.

3. Research prices.

Do research beyond the weekly flyer. Many retailers, like Staples, will feature online daily deals, so that hot gift item you have your eye on may not be in the weekly flyer but may be a fantastic price for one day only.

Also, it's important to remember that not all advertised deals are as great as they seem. Sometimes retailers over inflate the suggested retail price of a product to make the sale price seem more impressive, so spend some time researching the low prices of any items you're hoping to score so that you know what's really a deal and what's not.

4. Carry the sale ads with you when shopping.

Carrying the sale ads sounds like a pain, but they can be a huge help in a pinch. Say you're planning to buy a Keurig at a specific store, but it's sold out when you arrive, you'll be able to check to see what the sale prices are at the other stores on your list. Or you might come across a deal that you hadn't noticed in the ad and want to compare the price to the other sales to make sure it's a good deal.

Smart phone users can just access the weekly ads directly from their phones while shopping. How convenient is it to just pull up, for example, the Staples weekly ad to cross check prices and compare features while you're out and about?

5. Know the price match and adjustment policies.

There's nothing more disappointing than scoring a great deal only to see it at an even lower price mere days later. Many stores offer price adjustments when you bring your receipt back in along with proof of the lower price.

Even better, stores like Staples are price matching Amazon up front this holiday season -- allowing you to score rock bottom online prices in stores, minus the shipping fees!

Have you started preparing for Christmas yet? What's your best money-saving tip for the holidays?

I'm thrilled to be on the Staples Holiday Council this holiday season, bringing you fantastic deals to assist you in finding the perfect gift for every person on your list. Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less! For more holiday tips be sure to check out the Staples Holiday Center.

This post is brought to you by Staples. All opinions are 100% mine.


FREE Printable Shopping Lists Updated

by Tara Kuczykowski on March 11, 2011 · 0 comments


Two years ago, Mandi from Life...Your Way shared her tips for organizing your shopping list along with a FREE printable shopping list template here at Deal Seeking Mom. Yesterday, she released updated shopping list templates that are easier on the eyes and can be filled out on your computer and then printed.

Click here to get your FREE shopping lists today!


Spring Cleaning Your Finances

by Tara Kuczykowski on May 11, 2010 · 0 comments

I have the pleasure of guest posting on the ING Direct We The Savers blog today about spring cleaning your finances.

Springtime is traditionally a time of out with the old and in with the new, a time to clean and purge and start afresh. Just as the beautiful weather inspires us to throw open the windows and clean out the house, it’s also the perfect time to take a good hard look at our finances and give them a thorough once over for a more prosperous year.

Perhaps this sounds like a daunting task, but if you take a week and devote a small amount of time each day to one of the seven tasks below, you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of 2010 in an organized fashion.

Read more at We The Savers...


Hidden Savings at the Dollar Store

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 28, 2010 · 17 comments

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The following is a guest post from Lina of Grocery Alerts Canada:

Most people spend the bulk of their grocery budget at major supermarkets and small chains. However, we recently started shopping at local dollar stores for great deals on certain items as well. One of the tricks with shopping at dollar stores is that you cannot be brand loyal. Instead, look for the store's private label products. While dollar stores do not typically accept coupons, the cost savings without coupons can still add up.

Here are some of our favorite deals:


At the grocery store, spices can be very expensive, as much as $4 or more for a small spice shaker. On the other hand, dollar stores have spices for a dollar or less. You won't find expensive spices like saffron or Herbes de Provence, but picking up spices like cinnamon and black pepper for less than a buck is a great deal.

Cleaning Supplies

We love to live in a clean house, but cleaning products are not cheap at the grocery store. We have found great deals on rubber gloves, dish soap, plungers, window cleaner, and bleach at our local dollar stores.

Greeting Cards

It is a nice feeling to receive a well written card for your birthday or anniversary, on a holiday or just because. In our family, there are many young children that love receiving cards in the mail. At specialty card stores and grocery stores, greeting cards can cost over $3. At dollar stores, the quality of the cards and paper is not as high quality, but you can often get more than one for a dollar, and the importance of the card is the message inside of it anyway.

Beauty Supplies

It is amazing how much some beauty aids cost at drugstores and grocery stores. We find that the dollar store has great prices on products like nail polish remover and epsom salts.

Cooking Supplies

Tinfoil, baking soda and baking powder are all on my shopping list at the dollar store. On a price per unit basis, these often are great deals. For many products on this list, the best deals are often on the "no-name" products. You must be comfortable purchasing outside your typical brand to save money.

Calculate the Price per Unit

To be sure the products you're purchasing are really a great deal, calculate the price per unit basis of the product:

For example, if a 250g container of baking powder is $1 at the dollar store, the price per gram of baking powder is $0.004. If the grocery store carries a different brand of baking powder at $3.50 for 1 kg, the price per gram would be $0.0035, an even better price. Use a pocket calculator or your mobile phone to calculate what is a better deal.

Keep in mind to consider the expiration dates on anything you buy in larger quantities (especially with baking powder!).

What other great deals have you found at the dollar store?

Lina Zussino is the co-founder of Grocery Alerts Canada, home of canadian grocery deals and printable grocery coupons. She enjoys teaching group fitness and saving money in beautiful Victoria, BC with her husband Steven.


Growing Your Own Produce: Does It Really Save Money?

by Tara Kuczykowski on April 21, 2010 · 16 comments

This following guest post is an excerpt from Your Money: The Missing Manual by J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly:

Your Money: The Missing ManualOver the past few years, I've tried a variety of cost-cutting measures in order to save money. At first, these forays into frugality were a way to help me dig out of debt. After I actually managed to get out of debt, I opted to stay frugal because I saw that doing so would allow me to build wealth — something I never thought I'd be able to do.

Some frugality measures — clipping coupons, buying store brands, using the public library — are clear winners. My wife and I know we save money by doing these things.

But sometimes, it's not clear if our choices make sense over the long term.

For example, we pool money with friends every year to buy a side of beef. This gets us great quality meat, but there's no real cost savings. (It's sort of a break-even proposition.)

We've been growing a vegetable garden for nearly 20 years, but my wife and I had always wondered: Do we save money by growing our own food? And if so, how much?

How much does a garden really save?

Many prominent penny pinchers are proud to proclaim that gardening is a great way to save money. Michelle Obama is growing vegetables at the White House. The Burpee seed company boasts that $50 in seeds and fertilizer will yield $1250 in produce. Burpee CEO George Ball told the Wall Street Journal that $1 in seeds will produce $75 worth of beans.

But how much does a garden really save?

My wife and I set out to answer that question during 2008. For twelve months, we tracked the cost of seeds, fertilizer, water, and electricity. We carefully weighed every fruit and vegetable we harvested from our garden, comparing costs with local supermarkets and produce stands. We also logged the time we spent in the garden. At the end of the year, we tallied the results.

We'd spent 60 hours working on our crops and $318.43 on seeds and supplies. We harvested $606.97 worth of food, including:

  • $225.74 in berries
  • $294.59 in vegetables
  • $66.63 in fruit
  • $20.10 in herbs

Drawing on what we'd learned, we repeated the experiment in 2009. This time, we spent $351.37 (and 63.5 hours) while harvesting $809.74 worth of food. Can $50 worth of seeds and fertilizer really give you $1250 in food? Well, not in our yard. Still, we were able to double our investment in just a year. T's a better return than I get with my mutual funds — and it's tastier, too.

An Actual Weekend Harvest from August 2006

An Actual Weekend Harvest from August 2006

Greens from the garden

Growing your own food is a fun and rewarding way to save money. Food fresh from your yard is convenient and generally tastes better than anything you can find in the supermarket. If you're able to put in the time and effort, you'll be rewarded with a bounty of fruit, berries, and vegetables. Here are some quick tips for starting your own garden plot:

  • Plan in advance. Decide what you'd like to grow. How much space can you devote to the project? How much time are you willing to spend? For those with small spaces (or small ambitions), a container garden is an excellent choice. Others might consider building raised beds to use for square-foot gardening. Square-foot gardening allows you to maximize food production in a minimum of space.
  • Start small. When planning your garden, it's better to start too small than to start too large. In order to enjoy your garden, you have to be able to control it. Don't be too ambitious. If you want to test the waters, try herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and they're cost-effective.
  • Choose productive plants. It's frustrating to plant a bunch of seeds that don't produce. If you want a rewarding, productive garden, do some research to find out what grows well in your area. One excellent resource is your state's extension office, but also ask your friends and neighbors.
  • Share with others. When you buy a packet of seeds, you'll generally receive more than you need. It can be fun and frugal to split the costs with others. It's also useful to share equipment. You may own a roto-tiller while your neighbor has a trailer for hauling manure. Sharing saves money.
  • Buy quality tools. When you buy tools, it pays to purchase quality. Thrift and frugality are about obtaining value for your dollar – not just paying the lowest price. Garden tools take years of abuse. You want equipment that will last and that will also be a pleasure to use.
  • Have fun. Don't make gardening more work than it needs to be. Your garden doesn't need to be perfect. Pick a favorite fruit or vegetable, plant a few seeds, and have fun watching them grow to maturity. Make it a family thing. If you're a beginning gardener, start small. It's easy to dive in headfirst and be overwhelmed. Research the plants you want to grow and the conditions they require, build a manageable raised bed if you're starting from scratch, and use local resources to gain knowledge and cut costs. Build on your successes.

Herbs Grown in an Indoor Container

Herbs Grown in an Indoor Container

Your public library will have many great gardening books, some tailored to your location. Two excellent books for new gardeners are Square-Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and The Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey. You might also want to check out You Grow Girl, a blog about gardening. With a little bit of effort, your yard can be producing food that tastes great and saves you money!

Have you started working on your garden yet?

J.D. Roth writes about sensible personal finance at Get Rich Slowly. J.D.'s first book, Your Money: The Missing Manual, is now in stores and contains tons of tips for saving (and making) money. To learn more about gardening, check out the Get Rich Slowly articles about starting seeds indoors and how to start your own vegetable garden.