Great rechargeable battery deal at Walgreens

I just found this great deal at my local Walgreens and wanted to share.

Walgreens sells Energizer rechargeable batteries, size AAA, in packs of 4, normally $12.99. At my store (through 3/28/09), they are on sale for $7.99 per pack.

In this month’s EasySaver catalog, customers can get a rebate of $10 for buying two packs of Energizer batteries (or $15 for three packs). That rebate is increased by 10% (to $11 or $16.50) if you choose to have your rebate added directly to a gift card instead of sent by check. To claim a rebate via gift card, you can submit rebates online anytime during March. The balance can be added to your existing gift card automatically.

If I claim my rebate for these packages, I’ll ultimately get them for $3.13 a pack including tax. This is perfect as we are seeking to convert all our batteries to rechargeables.

I’m not sure if the sale is at all retail outlets — if you find out, let us know! But it’s sure worth checking. I don’t need any more AAA batteries, but I do need AAs, so I will be checking back before the sale ends just in case I can claim that 3-pack rebate.

As always with deals, YMMV.

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Save on photo books this weekend

If you have a virtual stack of digital photos waiting to be put in albums, scratch that project off your list this weekend with some good offers on photo books from Shutterfly and MyPublisher.

  • At Shutterfly, you can get one 8×8 photobook FREE ($29.99 value) and receive 20% off additional photobooks. Use code PHOTOBOOKS. This offer ends Tuesday, March 10, 2009.
  • MyPublisher is offering special deals to Costco members through Monday, March 9, 2009. Get 45% off on orders over $100 (perfect if you have a few years of photos piled up), 25% off orders over $50, and 20% off orders under $50. Savings will be automatically applied at checkout. Enter their site here or through Costco.com.

I haven’t used Shutterfly’s service, but I did have good luck with MyPublisher around the holidays.

Wrap-up: Save money with DIY, organic coupons

Some good ideas around the Web this week for saving money and living naturally:

Real Simple’s money-saving March

Wise Bread wrote about some of the ideas in this month’s issue of Real Simple for saving money. Some of them don’t seem very frugal to me (there’s absolutely no way I would consider meat that costs $5.99 a pound a “bargain,” especially if it’s not even natural/organic), but others are worth a look.

Cheaper oil change

If you’re interested in the tip from the article above about changing your own oil, Mother Jones has the lowdown on exactly how to do it. Note the caveats on cost and waste disposal.

I’ve never changed my own oil (honestly? I just reaaallly don’t want to), and I do believe in changing the oil every three months or 3,000 miles, approximately. (The vehicles I’ve owned and always followed the scheduled maintenance have been virtually failsafe.) I use coupons from the e-book or similar coupon books to cut costs. But most often I go online to mySubaru.com (my car manufacturer’s site), where for the price of free registration, we regularly get coupons for money off or discounted services. Often, we can find a coupon for a $15 oil change. Recently, I got a coupon for 15% off any service — which saved me $200 on a major maintenance-and-upkeep session in December.

Organic Grocery Deals site

I recently came across this site, Organic Grocery Deals, which offers searches and a forum for finding good deals on organic groceries. I haven’t used it yet, but it looks like it might be worth exploring.

Less lumpy laundry

If you’re trying to convert to more natural ways of doing laundry, but still using the dryer, the issues of static cling and fabric softening are sure to come up — whether in your own concerns or in conversations with your mother, neighbor or grandma.

We’ve long gone without fabric softener in our household — family members have some skin allergies that don’t get along with it. I really don’t notice any difference in terms of softness.

Ways to eliminate static cling and soften your clothes in the dryer include:

  • Traditional dryer sheets. Don’t use them! My stepmother uses them to repel mice from her trailer — a sure sign that they could be a little bit toxic. Wise Geek explains it well:

There is some concern among certain groups over the use of dryer sheets, as the chemicals they contain are known carcinogens. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved their use in dryer sheets based on the assumption that chemicals passed from clothes to the skin would not and do not penetrate the skin. Many believe this to be an outmoded notion, pointing to treatment “patches” such as the nicotine patch, which relies on chemicals passing through the skin to be effective.

  • Fabric softener in the wash. No no no. Same exact issues as dryer sheets — except you are pouring the chemicals into your wet laundry to be absorbed before being heated and set in the dryer.
  • Reusable anti-static sheets and/or baking soda and/or vinegar in the wash — These are natural alternatives to the chemical sheets and liquid, for freshening and odor resistance. It’s not clear to me what is in those reusable sheets. As for the baking soda and vinegar, I felt that vinegar left a bit of an odor on clothes … and really, the soap and water seem to get our laundry “fresh” enough. (Ask yourself, really: How “fresh” do you need to be?)
  • A ball of aluminum foil. This is the option I use. Aluminum foil is resource-intensive to produce. However, I use a sheet of foil every once in a while, and reuse it whenever possible. It’s also highly recyclable. I took a good-size chunk of foil, balled it up, and threw it in the dryer. It does seem to dramatically reduce static cling. I have used the ball over and over for at least a year — although I do hang out laundry sometimes. If it needs refreshing, I can recycle the old one.
  • Wool dryer balls. Some people swear by these to soften laundry in the dryer, although I’m not so sure about their static-fighting aspects. If you’d like to make your own, find a tutorial here. You can also find them made by individuals and for sale on Etsy.com or other online sites. They can be reused again and again, and theoretically could be composted at the end of their life.

Easy upcycled contemporary photo frames …

made from jars. Hoorah, a use for those random jars that might, just speaking purely hypothetically, fill up an entire milk crate in the laundry room of some people’s houses. (Not mine. I only keep useful items. Ahem.)

They look cute, and they’re easy to change. I can imagine a color copy of a photo in a jar being a great way to personalize a gift of some homemade bean soup mix or similar, too. In a big jar, you could squeeze in a pair of knitted gloves or a scarf, with a photo card showing through.

Friday wrap: Frugal fitness, buying a home, V-Day

Happy Friday everyone! Here are a few articles that might interest you.

Frugal fitness

I’ve been thinking about writing about this very topic, when hey presto! it appeared on Wise Bread. They have tons of good ideas to help get in shape. A few other suggestions:

  • Get a dog … or if you have one, actually walk it. Studies have found that dog-walkers (20 minutes a day) lose an average of 14 pounds in a year. And if you watch pet training shows or read about it, everyonen argues that your dog will be happier and better behaved, too. (If my dogs are calmer as a result … well … we’d better keep walking.)
  • Check your gym membership. Mr. Cheap and I joined a gym together. Then he quit going, but we were still paying $67 for the two of us. I finally canceled his membership, and it turned out I was the “auxiliary” member on our membership — so I kept paying the lower “additional member” payment even without him. Now I pay about $25 a month, which is worth it to me for the yoga classes and the opportunity to work out indoors in bad weather.
  • Check out fitness videos from the library. Our library has tons of them, filed in the nonfiction DVD section.

Buying a home

If you don’t yet own a home but are ready to take the leap, the timing is perfect in many ways. Prices are low, demand is low, supply is booming. Five Cent Nickel wrote about the tax and mortgage aspects of home buying in this post.

And it’s Valentine’s Day

Every year, I am surprised by Valentine’s Day being such a huge commercial event. I remember hating it when I was a teenager, dreading it when I was single, and now every year I think in befuddlement, “Am I supposed to DO something?”

We get our daughter some Valentine’s candy each year, and we usually give each other a card. This year I have a token gift I found at the thrift store, and I’m thinking about making some truffles for my sweeties. We never do flowers, but if we did, the eco-friendly roses from Costco would be an excellent choice.

If you’re looking for something last-minute, eco-friendly and easy, this post has a few ideas and links to some other resources, too.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all, and especially any single folks who need an extra hug … or someone to get crabby with.

How to use coupons (and get the most from your grocery bill)

Saving on groceries. It’s a trend, it’s a necessity, it’s addictive. I know, because I’m one of those people who comes home and crows about those little numbers on my grocery receipt. (Today, I saved 38 percent. Last week, it was 41 percent. I think my all-time high was a very special 52 percent.)

How do you do it?

Well, every week, your newspaper carries hundreds of dollars worth of coupons. More might come to your home in a Valpak or similar mailer. Online, you’ll find zillions more coupons. Combine those with other deals and you’re off and running.

So just how do you find them and use them? J Pruitt asked this question on an older deals post. I’ll provide a few suggestions here. I’m sure you all know many more, so please chime in in the comments. And don’t forget to check last month’s article with 21 ways to save on groceries.

Use a price book

If you have a great memory, you can do the basics in your head. Otherwise, make a price book (Google it or check here for details):

  1. Know the prices of the things you buy so you can tell if they’re really on sale.
  2. Compare brand names to store-brand names. Compare the price with the coupon to the available price on the store brand. Check by ounce or by container size — one can might be 18 ounces and one 15 ounces.

Find coupons

Coupons are like free money — as long as they don’t motivate you to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need or that is still expensive with coupons. Here’s where to find coupons:

  1. Check your Sunday newspaper.
  2. Ask friends or relatives who don’t bother with coupons to save their circulars for you. You can use multiple copies of the same coupon to buy multiple items that are on sale — stock up!
  3. Check your Wednesday newspaper (or whenever the food section and extra ads might appear during the week). Our paper sometimes has extra copies of the coupon circular in the Wednesday paper.
  4. Sign up for the shopper card. Give your correct contact information. You will get money off at the register, and some retailers will mail you valuable coupons. (I often get coupons for $2 off a produce purchase, or $10 off a purchase of $100 or more, as well as money off specific products that I purchase regularly.)
  5. Go online. Two of the biggest coupon sites are SmartSource.com and CoolSavings.com. (I did this in preparing this post — in just a few minutes I found 7 coupons with a value of $5 before doubling, or $7 doubled.)
  6. Take the register coupons that print out when you check out. If you don’t need them, recycle them or leave them for someone else.
  7. Check other stores, like Walgreens. Walgreens has an EasySaver coupon circular online or inside the store. Each month, several items are free with a rebate. If you apply the rebate to a gift card, you receive an additional 10 percent off.

Find sales

The surest way to get the very best deal is to combine a coupon with a sale price. Check your store circular, or find it online. Visit your grocery store Web site or try MyGroceryDeals.com — you sign in and find sales and coupons for your zip code. (This site was mentioned in the comments on my 21 ways to save post.)

Double your coupons

Many grocery stores double coupons up to $1. This means they double any coupon with a face value of less than a dollar, for a total value of no more than a dollar. A coupon worth $0.25 is doubled and redeemed for $0.50. A coupon worth $0.55 has $0.45 added to the value for a total redemption of $1. Any other coupon up to $1 is worth $1, and any coupon of $1 or more is redeemed at its face value.

About.com has a list of stores that double coupons, by state. To be sure, call your local store and ask.

Get organized

Use your coupons in whatever way works best for you. Some people take the whole circular shopping with them and look for coupons when they get to something they want to buy.

I use a coupon organizer that I found at Goodwill for 99 cents. I added additional dividers for categories I use. Every Sunday, I cut out coupons for the items I need. At some point during the week, I take the coupons off the counter and put them in the organizer. When I am going to do a big grocery shopping trip, I make a list as follows:

  1. I check for things we’ve run out of and need immediately and add those to the list.
  2. I look through the sale flier and add the super deals to the list. (For instance, this week cream cheese is 79 cents. I will probably buy about 5 blocks, depending when the expiration dates are.)
  3. I sort through my coupons. I discard coupons that are expired … except the ones that just expired. Sometimes those are worth a try!
  4. I pull out coupons that match sales — those are the best deals.
  5. I pull out coupons that will expire in the next couple of weeks — if there’s a good price, I might use them before they expire.
  6. I keep the new coupons out — sometimes those are for an item that is on sale because it’s new and hot.
  7. I sort the coupons in approximately the order in which the store is organized.

I write the coupon items on my list, or just put the list on top of the coupons and head for the store. As I shop, I compare coupons and prices. If it works, I put the item in the cart (of course!) and tuck the coupon behind my list. If not, I stick the coupon back in the front of my organizer and deal with it later.

Scan as you shop

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the shelves. I’ve found many things on sale that weren’t listed in the flier. Especially for your regular purchases — for me, canned beans, cream cheese, milk, produce and my weakness in packaged goods, Betty Crocker cookie mixes — always take a look in case they are on sale. Another reason, too, for going through the coupons is that you’ll have an idea while shopping that you have a coupon for a certain item so you can save more.

Buy low, live high on the hog

When an item is on sale for the cheapest you’ve ever seen it, don’t just buy one — buy as many as you’ll possibly use before the expiration date. Then don’t buy it again until it goes on sale again for a great price. If you must buy while it’s high, buy one and wait until you buy more. Truly, this is the key to great prices. I have many boxes of crackers in my storage room, because they are regularly priced low at Costco — and I had a coupon to save $2.50 more per box.

Store well

Learn how to store things. Milk can be frozen — so if you find a great sale, be sure there’s some headroom in the carton so it doesn’t explode, and pop it in the freezer. If I find onions are $1 a pound at King Soopers and $0.39 a pound at Costco, I buy the enormous bag and store it in my chilly laundry room for weeks. Check out these tips on storing food and this article on modern root cellars.

Learn from the experts

If you’re intimidated, sign up for a service like The Grocery Game that guides you along. I did this when I was starting to really save money. If you haven’t been doing it, you’ll more than make up the membership costs. And once you gain confidence, feel free to cancel your membership if it isn’t convenient for you. This site gets you looking at your grocery receipt, and you’ll never want to turn back.

Don’t buy what you don’t need

Did I say this at the beginning? That’s because it’s really important. If you get a great deal on a pantry full of yogurt-covered chocolate raisin pasta clusters or hair dye, well, that’s $10 you shouldn’t have spent.

On the other hand, if you get really good and can obtain a lot of free tampons that you don’t need because you use a Diva Cup, you can donate those to a women’s shelter and feel great (and perhaps take a tax break).

(This post doesn’t yet touch on warehouse stores, which are their own saving wonderland if you use them well.)

What other ways have you found to cut down the grocery bill?

Wrap-up: Washing bags, hybrid 7-seaters, stockpiling and salad dressing

The Internet has been bursting with economic and environmental news, good and gloomy. Who needs gloom? Not us. Here are some interesting stories to carry you around the Web this week: