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saving money

Getting the Best Black Friday Prices with #LessStress

by Tara Kuczykowski on November 21, 2014 · 1 comment

We've seen a number of store release their Black Friday ads this week... Have you started planning your Black Friday shopping trip, yet?

I actually have a very short list of items that we're considering braving the crowds for this year, but I'll be honest, it's been many years since we've done the whole shop-till-you-drop Black Friday thing. I've witnessed some crazy behavior, including a couple of grown women fighting over some Fisher-Price toys that, in my opinion, weren't even that spectacular of a deal...

To be fair, I've also seen incredible kindness from perfect strangers. But the thing is, the retail landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years, and I'm not convinced that hitting the stores on Black Friday is necessarily going to net you the biggest discount in all cases.

So what's changed that can help us all save money while avoiding some of the craziness???

Stores are offering Black Friday prices earlier.

Many stores are choosing to start offering Black Friday-esque pricing well before the day after Thanksgiving -- and many are continuing the deals on through Cyber Monday. For instance, Staples is offering two full weeks of Black Friday deals this year, starting on November 16th. You'll also find many stores are opening the evening of Thanksgiving Day to give shoppers an early start on their shopping.

Create your own pre-Black Friday deals with these just-released Staples coupons:

  • 20% off everything you can fit in the bag, in-store only. Exclusions apply. Valid Nov. 23- Nov. 25.
  • 25% one full priced item, in-store only. Valid only on Nov. 26.

Stores are offering Black Friday pricing online.

If you can’t find the time to get out, you can always shop online! If you're using this strategy, be sure to search for free shipping codes and discount promo codes on Google! And if you're a member of any cashback sites, check them as well to see if you can earn an extra discount. Another little known tip -- some stores allow you to purchase online and pick the item up in stores, allowing you to skip those long checkout lines!

Shop these hot Staples deals both in-stores and online:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security (1 user) $0.01 after Easy Rebate (reg. $59.99, customer pays $45.01, Easy Rebate for $45)
  • $79 APPLE TV (reg. $99.99)
  • $39.99 Android 7-inch tablet from JLab, 8GB (save $30)
  • $99.99 Samsung Galaxy Tablet Lite (save $40)
  • $25 Visa Prepaid Card by mail with purchase of wearable tech (including Fitbit and Jawbone)

Stores are extending Black Friday pricing through the weekend.

I know many of you prefer to be able to actually see and feel products in person, so shopping online might not be for you. Or maybe you just really want to be able to talk with a knowledgeable associate to assist you in making an informed decision. Many stores will be extending Black Friday pricing or introducing new sales all weekend long, and you might have better luck in being able to get some personal assistance if you skip the big day and head into stores then!

I'm not sharing any of this to discourage you from shopping on Black Friday -- there are definitely some big savings on the agenda. But if you're looking for a less stressful approach to Black Friday shopping, consider some of these alternative strategies that will help you stretch your holiday budget while saving your sanity!

I'm so pleased to be partnering with Staples again this holiday season as part of the Staples Holiday Council! Their ultimate goal this holiday season is to "make less stress, more savings happen." Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less!

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

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This holiday season you can pick up FREE holiday cards while you're shopping Staples' amazing Black Friday deals! All part of Staples' Make Less Stress, More Savings Happen commitment, they're definitely taking Black Friday to a new level this year...

Staples FREE Holiday Cards w/ Purchase

Make any in-store purchase on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday, and you'll receive a voucher for 25 FREE 5x7 matte holiday photo cards! You'll receive a voucher for your free cards at checkout, which can be redeemed through December 13th.

Need more than 25 cards? Of course, you can count on Staples to have you covered! Customers will also receive an additional 30 percent off any orders over 25 cards, and you'll receive your photo card order the same day when you order in stores.

If you haven't had a chance to take a peek at Staples' new holiday card designs, you should do so now. They have a seriously impressive and beautiful selection of cards just waiting to be customized.

Staples Black Friday Deals

Staples is launching an unprecedented two weeks of Black Friday deals! The first-ever Black Friday Week for Business starts on November 16 with amazing deals in store and online. Deals for the week of November 16 (while supplies last) include:

  • $499.99 after easy rebate HP 14” touch screen laptop with i3 Intel Processor (save $150), Staples.com and in-store.
  • $399.99 Dell Inspiron Windows 7 Desktop with i3 Intel Processor (save $150), Staples.com and in-store.
  • $89.99 2 TB Toshiba Hard Drive (save $20), Staples.com and in-store.
  • $21.99 after easy rebate case of Hammermill Copy Paper (save $32), in-store only.

For those of you who are really just here for the Staples Black Friday deals, I won't make you wait any longer... Check out these hot deals that will be available November 27-28 in stores and/or on Staples.com, while supplies last:

  • Kaspersky Internet Security (1 user) $0.01 after Easy Rebate (reg. $59.99, customer pays $45.01, Easy Rebate for $45), Staples.com and in-store
  • $79 APPLE TV (reg. $99.99), Staples.com and in-store
  • $99.99 Asus laptop with Intel Inside Processor (save $150), in-store only
  • Free Kindle e-reader after easy rebate (reg. $79) with any laptop purchase over $399, in-store only
  • $39.99 Android 7-inch tablet from JLab, 8GB (save $30), Staples.com and in-store
  • $99.99 Samsung Galaxy Tablet Lite (save $40), Staples.com and in-store
  • $25 Visa Prepaid Card by mail with purchase of wearable tech (including Fitbit and Jawbone), Staples.com and in-store

Check out the Staples Black Friday ad for dozens more incredible deals on laptops, tablets and more!

Not sure what time you need to be in line to snag these awesome savings? Visit Staples.com for local store listings and hours.

Staples Beyond Black Friday

Even after Black Friday is in the books, Staples will be helping you make less stress happen every day with:

  • Extended holiday hours in most locations. Visit www.staples.com for listings and hours.
  • Price Match Guarantee both in-store and online.
  • Risk Free Purchase with an extended holiday return policy.
  • New Staples Mobile App is faster with redesigned Weekly Ad page to showcase the best in-store deals and ability to view deals by category.
  • Daily Deals on the Staples.com online storefront.
  • Free Shipping from Staples.com for Staples Rewards members plus up to 5 percent back in Staples Rewards on everything including technology.
  • Ship 7 Days a Week with package drop off and associate assistance.
  • Shop from Staples.com kiosk for items not found in store.

So which deal is going to have you lining up bright and early to shop at Staples this year?

I'm so pleased to be partnering with Staples again this holiday season as part of the Staples Holiday Council! Their ultimate goal this holiday season is to "make less stress, more savings happen." Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less!

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

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While my kids are counting down the days to Christmas (47 to be exact), I'm sticking my fingers in my ears and singing, "Fa-la-la-la-la," while willing the days to strrrreeeetttccchhhh out somehow. I'm woefully behind on my holiday shopping, but the good news is there's still quite a bit of time and I have a plan.

Well, maybe that's not exactly true... Let's just say that I know what I need to do to get back on track -- because having a plan in place makes less stress, and that's when more savings happen! It looks a little something like this:

5 Strategies For Saving On Holiday Gifts

These tips for saving on holiday shopping may just be a refresher for some of you, while for others some or all may be something they haven't tried previously. Either way, I find that, for me personally, it helps to have a plan laid out in black and white, so I don't have to try and mentally check items off and worry that I'm forgetting something. So let's just start with step one and go from there...

1Start with a written budget.
Yes, I do mean a written budget... I know my faults -- I'm easily tempted and somewhat impulsive, so I know that it's all too easy to slip up and overspend without a well-thought out budget in place.

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 projected expenditures.

2Make a combination gift/shopping list.
Talk about a way to minimize stress... Having a list that includes everyone that you intend to buy for, along with a few gift ideas for each, makes shopping a much simpler task.

Be sure to leave extra space to allow your gift list to double as your shopping list! Just write down any deals you plan to take advantage of next to the recipient. I know I often come across unadvertised sales that are perfect for someone else on my list, and having a combination gift/shopping list allows me to quickly and easily see if I've already made a purchase for that recipient.

At the end of the season, if you still find that you missed a person or two on your list, don't throw this year's list away! Save it for next year to give you a head start on seeing who you need to buy for.

3Carry the sale ads with you when shopping.
I know, I know... hauling the sales ads around with you is a giant pain in the you know what, but they can be a huge help in a pinch. Say you're planning to buy a new iPad Mini 3 at a specific store, but it's sold out when you arrive. With a hard copy sales ad, many stores will honor a competitor's sale pricing!

Or you might come across a deal that wasn't listed in a particular store's ad and want to compare the price to the sale prices at other stores to make sure it's a good deal. Having the sales ads with you will save you both time and money, creating less stress overall. I like to make sure my savings are worth the time I've invested in obtaining them!

Smart phone users can also access the weekly ads for most stores 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? I keep the apps for the stores I shop at most frequently in a folder on my iPhone -- a total stress minimizer!

4Research current prices.
Prices fluctuate throughout the season, so research pricing beyond the current weekly flyer to be sure you're getting the very best price. Also, be aware 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. 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.

Be sure to follow the daily deals for your favorite retailers. Many merchants, like Staples, feature online daily deals, hot gift items at a deeper than usual discount, sometimes in limited quantities.

5Know the price matching and receipt adjustment policies.
It's so incredibly disappointing to leave a store thinking you got a fabulous deal only to see your item 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.

I keep an envelope with all of my holiday gift purchase receipts in my purse, so I can easily ask for an adjustment if I spot a better price while I'm out and about. Another stress saver, because I definitely do not want to be making multiple trips back and forth.

Even better, some stores, like Staples, will price match Amazon and other competitors' websites up front this holiday season -- allowing you to score rock bottom online prices in stores, minus the shipping fees!

Have you started making your holiday shopping list and checking it twice, yet? What's your favorite money-saving tip for the holidays?

I'm so pleased to be partnering with Staples again this holiday season as part of the Staples Holiday Council! Their ultimate goal this holiday season is to "make less stress, more savings happen." Staples will be offering great deals (including exclusive offers!) throughout the holiday season, helping you get more for less!

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

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5 Tips For Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 29, 2014 · 0 comments

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I mean, what’s not to love? A special day filled with day with friends and family and, of course, lots of delicious food… I can't think of a better way to spend a day.

On the flip side, Thanksgiving dinner can also put a serious dent in your budget if you're not careful. But never fear, I've got some great tips for how you can have a fabulous and delicious Thanksgiving meal -- without breaking the bank!

5 Tips For Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

Though my family has never had to forgo Thanksgiving dinner completely, there were definitely years when a scaled down dinner was a necessity due to budget constraints. But truthfully, I doubt that our guests even noticed, because I was a careful shopper and pulled items from all around the house to save on setting an inviting table. And you can do the same with these five simple tips:

1Set a budget. It's important to set your limit before you start shopping! Once you hit the store, it's all too easy to get caught up in tossing those little extras in your cart. I mean, there's a reason all of those cute holiday decor items are on every end cap. Having a firm spending limit in place, will prevent you from emptying your wallet. Still worried about blowing your budget? Leave the credit and debit cards at home and shop with cash -- you can't spend more than you have with you!

2Stick to the classics. Planning a traditional Thanksgiving dinner means that, not only will you be able to find all of your ingredients easily, but these are also the items that grocery stores most heavily discount this time of year. Plus you really can't go wrong with the basics, like a turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry salad, crescent rolls, and of course, pumpkin pie. These are simple, no-fail recipes that all of your guests are sure to love.

3Clip coupons and watch the sales. As I mentioned, the ingredients for classic Thanksgiving recipes are heavily promoted and discounted this time of year, starting as early as November 1st. Manufacturers often offer coupons for these same items that will allow you to save even more, so be sure to search the coupon database for printable coupons for your favorite brands before you shop. Pair them with a good sale and you've got a quick and easy way to save a little extra cash! Plus when you start picking up nonperishable items early in the month, it helps you spread your budget out so you're not spending a ton all at once.

4Don't forget about those turkey promotions. The turkey will likely eat up about 40% of your budget, so the free turkey promotions that many grocery stores offer can really pay off! If a store in your area is offering this deal, you should definitely consider doing all of your grocery and Thanksgiving meal shopping there to meet the minimum requirement. Another alternative for saving on the turkey is to buy just a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. This option works particularly well for small gatherings and/or guests that prefer the white meat only.

5Shop the dollar store, craft stores, and/or discount stores for decor. Decor doesn't have to be a budget breaker -- or even an afterthought these days. With so many wonderful and inexpensive ideas on Pinterest, you can create a beautiful table setting on a dime. Discounted table runners, centerpieces, and garlands abound at these stores, and when they're packed carefully away after your gathering, they can be reused for many years. Another great way to add ambience (when there aren't a lot of little ones running around) is with lots and lots of simple white candles in all shapes and sizes.

While my family has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I know that there are 49 million Americans that struggle to put a meal on their table on a daily basis, let alone on Thanksgiving. So I’m thrilled to support the J.M. Smucker Company in their efforts to provide up to six million meals to Feeding America in support of local member food banks. Food banks rely heavily on donations like these to serve the community, so this is an amazing blessing that J.M. Smucker Company is providing.

How can you help needy families this Thanksgiving?

Look for special coupons for savings on Crisco and Pillsbury products in national newspapers on November 2nd that will help you share the goodness this season and make every meal matter! For every Crisco and Pillsbury coupon redeemed, The J.M. Smucker Company will donate the equivalent of three meals to Feeding America, with a minimum donation of 4.5 million meals (a $450,000 donation) and up to six million meals ($600,000 donation). And you get to save some cash on your holiday dinner, a win for everyone!

This post is brought to you by The J.M. Smucker Company and Feeding America. All opinions are 100% mine.

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The ultra-low prices, the oversize carts, the free samples... Warehouse clubs are innately designed to get you to part with your hard-earned money. Can you really save money by buying in bulk at your local Sam's Club, Costco or BJ's???

The truth is, yes, shopping warehouse clubs can be a great way to save money, BUT you're going to have to do some smart shopping and have some serious willpower. So before you ever step foot in your local Costco, et al, learn these rules for shopping and take them to heart.

7 Rules for Shopping at Warehouse Clubs

Start with a list.
Wandering aimlessly through a warehouse club is a surefire way to empty your wallet. Even if your list isn't super specific (I know at first you may not be familiar with exactly what products they carry), at least having a general plan of attack will help you keep more cash in your wallet. At the very least, you should have a firm spending limit in mind before you walk through the door.

Know your limits.
Sure, those huge bulk packages can save you a lot of money, but if you can't use the quantity before the items spoils, you're probably wasting more money than you saved. If you're doing a large freezer cooking session, sure, you can probably use up that massive bag of onions. If not, well, you should probably skip that purchase -- or consider going in with a friend to split the bounty while still saving.

Compare prices.
Price out your grocery bulk buys per item and compare the unit price to your local grocery store to ensure that you're really saving. The larger packaging can make the unit price very deceiving, so keeping a calculator handy is a must. If you keep a price book, you already have a head start on this, but if not, grab a small memo pad and just jot down the items you buy most frequently along with the prices every so often to verify that you're really getting the most for your money. The same goes for big ticket items -- always do a price check for the exact make and model to ensure that you're really getting a stellar price.

Avoid the middle of the store.
While I usually avoid the middle of the store at grocery stores because I'm trying to steer clear of processed foods, I also avoid them at warehouse stores -- but for a different reason. Warehouse clubs typically stock the middle of the store with their biggest impulse buys, so if you're lacking in willpower, just avoid that section all together.

Don't forget your coupons.
While only BJ's accepts manufacturer's coupons, both Sam's Club and Costco offer store coupons. If you're not using them, you're missing out on additional savings that could turn a so-so price into a stellar deal!

Understand the pricing.
Merchandise moves fast at warehouse clubs, and it's a roll of the dice as to whether a particular item will be available on your next visit. Luckily, these insider tips can help you make an educated guess. At Costco, prices that end in a 7 indicate a clearance item. Also, an asterisk on a sign means that the item is limited to the stock in the store and won't be reordered (a good indicator whether or not that tempting buy will be available on your next trip). Sam's Club's clearance prices end in a penny (ex. $7.91) and/or the signs are marked with a "C". Sales prices at BJ's are clearly marked.

Gift cards are the hidden gems. Though the brands turn over frequently, you can frequent purchase top-tier gift cards for less than face value at warehouse clubs. The catch is you often have to spend upwards of $50 to get the savings, but with the savings often being close to 20%, you can save a bundle if they're establishments visit often.

I realize that many of these strategies are comparable to those that we use in our everyday grocery shopping, but they can also help you shop wisely at warehouse clubs!

Do you have a warehouse club membership, and if so, what are favorite items to purchase there? Share in the comments and you could win a Huggies prize package valued at $50!

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Be sure to check out the Pick Up The Values website for more valuable printable coupons, including savings on Huggies products!

This post is brought to you by Kimberly-Clark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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