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July 2012

Alabama's First Annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday

Jul 5, 2012 2:25 PM
Heather McIngvale

This weekend, beginning Friday, July 6, 2012 at 12:01 a.m. and ending Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 12 midnight, Alabama will have its first annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. The holiday is designed to give shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain severe weather preparedness items free of state sales tax. After the events of April 27, 2011, Alabamians, more than ever know the effects of severe weather and we want to be prepared. I for one will never forget having no power for five days, feeding a newborn and a 3 year old. I wish I had been more prepared.

Here are some things you will need to know about the Sales Tax Holiday:

  • In subsequent years the Weather Preparedness Holiday will be the last full weekend in February, so it will come up again in Feb 2013.
  • Because Alabama is one of a handful of states in the U.S. that have locality sales tax as well as state sales/use tax, you may or may not be required to pay county and/or city sales tax on the exempt items. Because of this you will need to look at the list of participating localities to see if your city and county are participating.
  • Covered items are exempt only if the individual item is priced at or below the established threshold for the exemption, and certain coupons, rebates, rain checks, and other discounts may or may not be used to affect the sales price of an exempt item. Click HERE to see the full set of rules straight from the AL DOR.

Here is the full list of state sales tax exempt items:

COVERED ITEMS – $60 or Less, per ITEM

Batteries: AAA-cell batteries, AA-cell batteries, C-cell batteries, D-cell batteries, 6-volt batteries, 9-volt batteries

Cellular phone battery, Cellular phone charger

Portable self-powered or battery-powered radio, two-way radio, weather-band radio or NOAA weather radio

Portable self-powered light source, including battery powered flashlights, lanterns,or emergency glow sticks

Tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and other flexible, waterproof sheeting

Ground anchor system, such as bungee cords or rope, or tie down kit

Duct tape

Plywood, window film or other materials specifically designed to protect window coverings

Non-electric food storage cooler or water storage container

Non-electric can opener

Artificial ice, Blue Ice, ice packs, reusable ice

Self-contained first aid kit

Fire extinguisher

Smoke detector

Carbon monoxide detector

Gas or diesel fuel tank or container

A single purchase with a sales price of $1000 or Less

Any portable generator and power cords – used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage.

Looking for more information about what to do with these items now that they are tax exempt? Make sure your family has a severe weather emergency PLAN. Whether it be for severe weather like tornadoes, hurricanes, snow, or flood, there are some great plans online at weather.com. Weather.com also has some great emergency weather preparedness kit lists.

Other Tips:

  1. Don’t just think about emergency preparedness. Think about stocking up on batteries or ice packs for the holidays or back to school. Speaking of back to school the tax free weekend for back to school items is scheduled for August 3-5, 2012
  2. Are you looking to do any home upgrades? Take advantage of the plywood and plastic sheeting.
  3. Get an extra first aid kit for your car, RV, or camper while they are tax free!
  4. Now would be a fantastic time to do a fire safety overhaul on the family and vacation home while the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are tax free.
  5. Been wanting to get an additional battery for your smart phone? Now is the time because those things never go on sale.
  6. Some stores MAY take advantage and up the prices on some of these items making you think you are getting a good deal because it’s tax free. Do your research online before shopping to know your best price for each item.

I hope all of this information, resources, and tips will help your family be severe weather prepared. Bottom line, it doesn’t have to be a bad result to have been worth your time and effort, be prepared!

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November 2011


Food for Thought on Freezing

Nov 22, 2011 12:01 AM
Heather McIngvale

When thinking of the holidays, the last thing you think about is saving money, and saving money on groceries is even farther down the list of those thoughts, but did you know that many produce, meat, and dairy items go on sale the week before a major holiday? Sometimes these prices or items cannot be found any other time of year. If you are living the frugal lifestyle it is important to know how to make these sale items last as long as possible in your stockpile. The best way to do that is canning or freezing. Canning is not my forte, but I have frozen just about everything you can think of to freeze and some of my favorite freezable items are meat, dairy, and produce.

Meat

Is it cooked or uncooked? This will determine how you need to package it and how long you plan on it being in the freezer. Unless it is vacuum packed, remove it from its original packaging. If you know you will be using it soon, like within the week, butcher paper and tape should work just fine. If the meat is on the bone, double wrap or wrap then bag for prolonged storage. Ground meat like hamburger you can store in zip lock type freezer bags laid flat to freeze and then standing for more storage space.

Safety is also a major concern when storing meat. Make sure you use proper thawing techniques; some parasites can revive after lying dormant during freezing. Washing meat before freezing is not required but it is most certainly required before cooking whether fresh or frozen.

The amount of time a meat is frozen is also important. I follow the time chart as well as all the tips given by the USDA on storing meat.

Dairy

This is one of my favorite food groups to freeze. When the children’s yogurt tubes go on sale with coupons I buy them in bulk and freeze them. My children love them frozen almost as well as they do in their natural state. I also freeze butter, cream cheese, and hard cheeses of all kinds. Did you know that if you bake or cook a lot you can freeze milk and eggs too? They need extra preparation for freezing and I wouldn’t recommend drinking or eating them by themselves when thawed but for baking it works great and you cannot tell the difference. I use the dairy freezer guide over at NDSU for helpful tips and hints on freezing dairy products.

Produce

As with dairy, freezing produce takes a little preparatory work, but for the money you save over the year it can certainly be worth your time. You will need to use the freshest produce you can find, and freeze it as soon as you can. Make sure to wash and dry everything thoroughly and cut into uniform sized pieces. If the item is fruit you can freeze them as is, in water, or in simple syrup. With veggies, it depends on the vegetable and how you intend to use it, some do better cooked, others raw. I use the freezing vegetable guide over at Garden Guides as to what each vegetable may need.

General freezing tips and hints:

? Make your wrapping/plastic bags/containers as airtight as possible.

? If freezing anything in liquid form make sure you give it at least 20% head room to expand.

? Clearly label and mark all containers including a date.

? Just like rotating any other stockpile items, move new things to back or bottom of freezer and older items to the front or top.

? Check the maintenance schedule and capacity limits of your freezer. This will help ensure the best environment for your food.

Remember freezing as we look towards holiday food sales as a way to use those sales to our advantage for many months to come.

For more frugal living tips, see Heather's Hints.

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September 2011


My Favorite Grocery Store

Sep 5, 2011 5:30 PM
Heather McIngvale

Yes, I know the title is elementary. I feel like I am writing a 4th grade essay, but it is simple, to the point, and says exactly what I need it to say. I have a favorite grocery store, and it is Publix. Not just any Publix, even though they are all great, but the Publix at the Piedmont shopping center on Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville AL. This is my Huntsville favorite.

Sure there are a ton of great things to do in Huntsville, but why pick a grocery store? Well this smart shopper knows how important it is to have a grocery store that understands couponing. Between their weekly Buy One Get One Free deals, store coupons, competitor acceptance policies, and themed sales, I am in savings heaven! While you can get this at any Publix, I like “my Publix” because no matter how many coupons I come in with and no matter what I buy they are always happy that I am shopping at their store. No funny looks, no rolling eyes, no limits, just great customer service. This alone has me going back week after week.

Speaking of great customer service, how many grocery stores do you go to these days that will help you unload your cart, bag your groceries, and take them to your car for you? Not many. I often find it fun to have a small conversation with the person who is helping me out with my groceries. It is usually a young person and I often find myself smiling by the end of it.

Another reason I love Publix is the cleanliness (now my OCD is showing). I like how everything is always neat, tidy, organized, and clean. Remember as a kid when you would run into the grocery store on a hot summer day with your mom, barefoot and hair in pig tails? You would come out of the store, feet all nasty and black from walking in the store with no shoes (also known as grocery store feet by my sister). Well, I have a feeling Publix would be mortified if their floors got your feet dirty. I like that.

Finally, I love my Publix because of their store products and departments. I like my store’s layout because I can walk the edges from the bakery all the way around to produce and be in a freshness daydream. Whether bear claws or crab claws I know what I am buying is fresh and that is important to me because I am serving these products to my family.

I could actually go on and on here about all the great things I love about Publix but let’s just sum it up here and say that between the savings, customer service, and fresh produce they are incomparable. So, the next time you are at Publix and some crazy lady runs into you because she got distracted by produce, it was just me. Sorry!

Couponing, Shopping   3 Comments
  

July 2011


Mix Up, Match Up!

Jul 10, 2011 10:28 PM
Heather McIngvale

Whether a coupon pro or a beginner, it can sometimes be difficult, if not down right confusing, reading a coupon match up; hopefully this post will help guide you through reading a match up.

A match up is basically a list of the current sale items for a store, a majority of which come from weekly circulars, matched up with a list of available coupons for each item or deal. For example, let’s say your local grocery store has canned soup on sale this week for $.79 a can. Your match up for that item might look like this:

Momma’s Canned Soup, $.79
- $.25 off Momma’s Canned Soup, RP 5/13/11
- $.25 off Momma’s Canned Soup, RP 5/27/11
- $.50 off any (2) Momma’s Canned soup, store mailer
- $1/5 store coupon, circular
- $.25 off Momma’s Canned Soup, printable
- $.50 off Momma’s Canned Soup, RX Drugstore coupon, flyer


The list of coupons underneath the sale item is all coupons available for that item at that point in time. The first two coupons listed are manufacturer coupons from the Redplum coupon insert and the date they were released. The third coupon listed is a manufacturer coupon for 50 cents off two cans that was mailed by a store to customers. The fourth coupon is a store coupon from the stores circular for $1 off five cans of soup. The fifth coupon listed is a manufacturer coupon that you can print and the word printable is highlighted and linked to the location in which you can print the coupon. The last coupon listed is a coupon from the RX Drugstore that you can get from the drugstore’s in-store flyer if your grocery store accepts them as a competitor.

All coupons are listed that are currently available; it does not mean you can use all these coupons for one item. Depending on your stores coupon policy you may be able to stack one or more of these coupons with the item for deeply discounted soup. For example if my store allowed competitor coupons from the drug store and one manufacturer coupon per item I could get the soup for $.04 each by stacking the first and last coupons listed.

Some match ups come with deal scenarios, especially those stores that have reward cards, tickets, or coupons. These scenarios help you get the maximum amount of goods for the cheapest price and may include multiple transactions, called rolling, to get the best deals. Here is an example of a rolling scenario:

Transaction One
- Buy 1 razor at $9.99
- Use $4 off coupon from 7/2 SS
- Use $3 off store circular coupon
Pay $2.99 OOP (out of pocket) get $5 back in reward coupons

Transaction Two
- Buy 1 jar of face cream at $7
- Use $2 off coupon from 6/22 PG
- Use $5 reward coupon from razor deal
Pay nothing get $1 in reward coupons

Transaction Three
- Buy 4 bottles of flavored water at $1 each
- Use (4) $.75 off coupons from 6/15 RP
- Use $1 reward coupon from face cream deal
Pay nothing and get all items from all three transactions for only $2.99 OOP

In this rolling deal scenario you see the author is showing the reader exactly what to use and buy for maximum savings and very little out of pocket expense.

I hope this explanation helps you the next time you find yourself mixed up in a match up!

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May 2011


Hey Honey! What's for dinner and how much did it cost?

May 10, 2011 8:00 PM
Heather McIngvale

Recently as I have started to share more and more of my couponing adventures with my husband, he has become fascinated by how cheaply we are feeding our little family of four. Tonight as I prepared the meal I began to REALLY think about it myself. It was so mind boggling to me to think about what we use to spend on food before coupons and kids (and with two incomes) that I thought to myself, even if we did have more money to spend I don't think I COULD do it. Knowing all I know now I could never go back to paying full price for groceries when I know I can get them for next to nothing. I also knew I had to share this moment with you, my fans and readers.

So, what did I have for dinner? Here it goes!

  • Perdue boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets, $2.49 after BOGO at Kroger this week.
  • I seasoned the chicken with a little McCormick chicken seasoning (Rotisserie flavor) from Wal-Mart $1.72, used $1 manufacturer coupon, final price .72 cents.
  • One box of chicken flavored Stove Top Stuffing .88 cents at CVS, used a .50 manufacturer coupon, final price .33 cents.
  • One can of del monte green beans from Publix .63 cents after BOGO, used manufacturer coupon $1 off three cans, final price .30 cents.
  • One box of Duncan Hines Brownie mix from Publix $1.35 after BOGO, used a .50 manufacturer coupon that doubled, final price .35 cents
  • Total meal cost $4.19! AND I have some chicken and stuffing left over for lunch tomorrow, brownies for a few days, and an entire bottle of seasoning to use another time.

This, my friends, is living the coupon lifestyle! It takes just a little bit of extra work, but man is it worth it.

For more information on couponing and frugal living, please visit my website at www.heathershints.com

Couponing, Stockpiling   1 Comment
  

April 2011


New Parent Resources for Saving

Apr 15, 2011 1:13 PM
Heather McIngvale

If you are a new or expecting parent the thought of paying for all those diapers, wipes, baby food, and possibly formula can be an overwhelming experience. Don’t worry! There are literally dozens of grocery store clubs, websites, and deals out there to cut your baby care budget in half. If you prepare and start signing up for deals while expecting the deals and savings can start from day one. If you are a little behind the curve, that’s alright too, you can still catch up and get these great savings. To get all the links and places to go, please feel free to check out the following page on my website to get started!

http://heathershints.com/couponing/new-baby-click-here/

Good luck and congrats on the new bundle of joy!

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Playing By the Rules

Apr 8, 2011 3:19 PM
Heather McIngvale

When learning any new game or sport, one of the first things you learn is the rules. Couponing is no different; there are many rules to couponing, some even depend on what store you are shopping in that day. The important thing to know is that when the players ignore the rules, there are penalties, and sometimes those penalties affect others. This is true for players on both sides of the field, so let’s all play fair.

Enough with the sports metaphors! Here is what you need to know to play by the rules when couponing:

1. Know before you go. Most major stores have their coupon policies posted on their website. Print and carry those policies with you. If there isn’t a policy on their website, call and ask the manager/customer service rep before you plan your trip. Be courteous when dealing with cashiers/managers since they may not be knowledgeable about their own corporate policies. Be careful though, most corporate policies have a caveat that the local store managers may limit quantities or otherwise restrict your usage of coupons at their discretion. For more information about store polices, please see my website at www.heathershints.com

2. Read the coupon carefully. If the coupon requires you to do something, please do it. For example, “$1 off when you buy 2” means that you must buy two.

3. All manufacturer coupons are marked with a barcode. The barcode number is unique to that coupon and cannot be copied; this is especially a concern for printable coupons. Store coupons, barcode or not, usually have restrictions, please read and follow them carefully.

4. If you are concerned that a coupon may be fraudulent, do not present it.

5. Please don’t clear the shelves. If you really need a large quantity of a product or item for your stockpile, call the store in advance and ask if they can order extra for you.

6. There is some controversy over whether buying coupons from online insert and clipping services follows the letter and/or the spirit of the coupon laws. Most companies get around the “no selling” rules by saying they are selling their time and services to gather and mail the coupons. Whether you choose to buy coupons or not is up to you, but almost everyone who is serious about couponing does or has done it at one point or another.

When everyone plays by the same rules the rules tend to stay fair and lenient, so please, play nice.   Now get out there and play ball!  Sorry, I couldn't resist.

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Stockpile Savvy

Apr 1, 2011 12:23 PM
Heather McIngvale

My son loves breakfast cereal bars. He eats one with his yogurt every morning for breakfast. I bought 14 boxes about a month ago when Publix had them BOGO plus there were active coupons for them as well. A box that would normally cost me over three dollars was suddenly under a dollar. I knew that I would not see a good sale on these bars again for at least another four months so I stocked up. Stockpiling savvy is doing this for every item your family uses.

When stockpiling you need to know three things: your family’s consumption rate of each product, your stockpile price, and what you have on hand. Your consumption rate is how much you are going to use in a 16 week period. You use a 16 week time frame because research shows us that manufacturers and grocery stores tend to run sales and release coupons for items on a rotating basis of 12-16 weeks. Your stockpile price is the best possible price you can get for the item. Keeping track of that price is the key. If a store has 2 liter colas on sale for $1 but my stockpile price is .88 cents, I know to hold off, knowing they will be .88 cents again soon enough. But what if the store has them for .65 cents? Well, how many do you have on hand? If you have 20 of them and that amount will last another 12 weeks, hold off. Buying just for the deal is wasteful spending. What if the item is free? If you have the space, go for it, free is free. However, if you have an 8x10 room filled with toilet paper, that’s getting a little extreme, even into the realm of hoarding.

Questions:
The question I get asked most often is where do you keep all this stuff? In my pantry, linen closet, under beds, in the basement; wherever I can find a place that keeps the items dry, cool, and out of the way. I do not recommend keeping food items of any kind in your garage (unless they're in a freezer or refrigerator).
Is it worth it? You bet it is! If I know I am going to be buying these items anyway, why not buy them at the best possible price?
Isn’t that spending more money up front? Unfortunately, yes. When I first began my stockpile, my grocery bill did not drop that much even though I was using coupons. However, once my stockpile was built up (it took me about 8 weeks), I noticed a dramatic drop in my weekly grocery bill. Now I just maintain the stockpile. I do weekly shopping of my perishables and stockpile maintenance and that is it. I love going into my pantry, grabbing a box of pasta, and knowing that there are 10 more up there just like it that only cost me a nickel apiece.
How do I keep up with all this? A notebook, spreadsheets, whatever you like and find easiest for you to manage. I keep my receipts in a file for reference.
Can I stockpile perishables? Some of them, yes. I have a deep freeze in my garage for freezing vegetables, fruits, meats, and even some dairy items. You can freeze butter, cheese, some yogurts, skim milk, meat, nuts, breads and lots more. Check out http://busycooks.about.com/library/lessons/blfreezer.htm for more information.

Tips:
• X Date - Check expiration dates when buying for your stockpile. Ten bottles of salad dressing at a good deal does you no good if they will expire before you can use them all.
• FIFO – First In First Out. Keep your stockpile rotated. Put the items that are about to expire in the front and use those items first.
• Think Outside the Box - Products come with tons of packaging. Get rid of the bulk and store products that are individually wrapped in hanging bags, plastic storage containers, etc.

I hope you find this information useful as you begin your couponing and stockpiling lifestyle. For more information, and daily deals, please check out my website at www.heathershints.com.

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March 2011


A Busy Moms Guide to Couponing

Mar 25, 2011 11:03 AM
Heather McIngvale

A Busy Moms Guide to Couponing

Yes! You can be a working mom, take your kids to t-ball practice, piano lessons, and still have time to coupon and save tons of money on your grocery bill. Look at it this way: What is your monthly grocery budget? Divide that amount by two. If someone paid you that amount for an hour of work would you do it? I would! At Heather’s Hints, I tell all of my moms, stay at home or working, that if you spend more than one to one and a half hours a week planning your meals, making your list(s), and clipping your coupons, something is wrong. It should not take a lot of time; you just have to be organized, focused, and know how to use the internet.

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I start by planning our weekly meals. I am not rigid about it, if we don’t have spaghetti and meatballs on Tuesday my husband might be sad but he will live. But I do have an idea of what my family of four will eat for the week, and this is where I start. I then look in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. Do I have enough of what I need to feed my family? At this point I start my lists. That’s right - I said lists, more than one. I make a list of items I need to go with my meal planning that I don’t have on hand. This is my need list.

Then I make a stockpile list. My stockpile list consists of items that are on sale that week that also have a coupon available (this is called matching). Stockpile items are items I can get dirt cheap and sometimes FREE. I hold these items in my pantry and use them over the next 16 weeks until the next big sale on that item.

Do I spend hours matching? No ma’am! This is where the internet comes in. There are several of us couponing deal finders out there who do that for you. We know what is on sale, at what store, for what price, and what coupon is out there to match it. So you can then take your lists and use the internet sites to get your best deals on those items.

Planning is your best and most important tool to successful savings and easy couponing.

Once you have your lists and matches, what's next? Clip, print, and organize. Whether you have been doing this for years and you are a binder girl or you are the new kid on the block who uses the envelope your cable bill came in, you must organize your coupons in some way. (You can see the pros and cons of the different coupon organizing methods on www.heathershints.com .) You must be able to put your hands on the coupons you need, when you need them.

Got your lists? Got your coupons? Ready to shop and save? Go girl! You can do it! Use the money you saved at the grocery store this week and pay down debt or have a pedicure. Either way, relax, it’s easy!

By Heather McIngvale at www.heathershints.com

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Coming soon!

Mar 24, 2011 4:16 PM
Heather McIngvale

Heather has some tips to help us save money every day!! You won't want to miss these entries!

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