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Are you loyal to certain brands? Think that means you can’t save money with coupons? Think again! This post will show you how you can keep your favorite brands and your great deals too!

Exploring New Favorites:

Coupon shopping has given me the opportunity to try out new products and shop outside my “comfort zone” a little bit, too. If I get a coupon for something I might not buy on a regular basis, I might use it to see if we like it. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t!

For example, I used to always buy Ragu pasta sauce. Why? Well, it’s my mom always bought, so I never really looked at other brands of sauce. Well, when I started coupon shopping, I got a coupons for Prego, Rinaldi, Bertolli, or Newman’s. Often the coupons made their sauce cheaper than Ragu, so I thought, why not try it? For the most part, I now think pasta sauce is pasta sauce. I have at least 4 different brands of pasta sauce in my stockpile right now, and no one at my house seems to notice or care which brand it is.

I also really no longer have brand loyalty for items such as soup, pasta, salsas, tooth brushes, toilet paper, paper towels, sometime tooth paste, razors, and shampoo/conditioner items. It’s all really same to me. You probably have a list of things you’re accumulating that you don’t seem to mind if it’s Charmin or Quilted Northern or Ronzoni or Creamette.

When it is Worth the Money:

There are of course items that I will stay loyal to my brands. It’s just a personal preference to me. I’m sure you have some too. My kids have sensitive skin, and I know that they don’t react to Tide or All laundry soap (as long as I buy the “free and clear” and high efficiency), so even if Wisk or Gain is on sale some place, I pass those coupons along to someone else. I also have a specific brand of deodorant, face wash, yogurts, and cereals that I prefer.

I also used not care what kind of paper products I bought. I bought whatever was the cheapest. Now that I’m a coupon shopper, I prefer to sometimes spend the extra money and buy the Scott or Bounty paper towels. They just work better especially when cleaning up after my kids!

I’ve noticed too that sometimes when you see a new product advertised on television or in a magazine, you often find a coupon for it too. The manufacturers must want us to try out their product, fall in love with it, and then continue to buy it even when we don’t have a coupon. Sometimes this works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t!

Bargain Buys

This week Walgreens has bargains on Lysol Wipes (my Wags was out of them by Monday afternoon!), South Beach Diet Bars, One a Day Vitamins, Bic Lighters, Cover Girl products, and Chapstick. Remember save even more at Walgreens when you roll your Register Rewards from week to week! Look at Target for bargains on Activia yogurt, Bic Pens, select Yoplait yogurt, Hershey Kisses, and Up and Up Disinfecting wipes. Remember too, if you don’t want to run from store to store, shop at Walmart and price match competitor ads. I’ve saved at least $30 in each of the past two weeks by doing this on everything from produce to soup!


companygreedI don’t get it. Who was the greedy, short-sighted marketer who came up with the idea to reward new customers but refuse to pass the same (or better) rewards on to loyal customers?

Cable companies, credit cards, cell phone providers, domain registrars, alarm systems, and more have all forgotten a fundamental rule in business: it’s cheaper to keep a customer than it is to get a new one.

They’re great at offering sweet deals to get us in the door, get us to buy their monthly subscription with free hardware, free installation, and lock us into an introductory rate for a certain period of time. Gotta love it…but what happens when the rate expires?

The situation:

The negotiated rate we had locked into for our cable company expired and our bill jumped $80! I about died when I opened it up, wondering what the mix-up was.

When I called about it, I got the scripted response that my plan had expired. I was able to bring it down slightly but not as low as I had it, after I suggested that I was going to take my business elsewhere. Adding insult to injury, I had to suffer through the numerous attempts to up-sell me on more channels and bigger packages even after I told the customer service rep I had no desire to add services.

Needless to say the experience left me frustrated and feeling used. I was fuming even more-so when I opened up my mail the next day with an even lower offer than I was paying (for new customers only.)

Apparently 10+ years as a loyal customer doesn’t make me worthy of a deal.

How about this for a smarter business model:

Reward customers with better rates the longer they remain loyal! There’s no better advertising than word of mouth from a trusted friend, but companies forget that word of mouth advertising works both to their advantage as well as their disadvantage.

If my cable company had been remarkable and given me a great rate without a lot of hassle, I probably would have shared it with our new neighbors. Instead, we told our new neighbors that we’re looking into online alternatives and planning to drop our cable company all together.

What are your thoughts about companies that offer introductory rates for new customers only? Have you been burned? Raise your voice in the comments below and let us know your thoughts!


valentinesdaydaThe New Year may have just arrived, but the shelves at major retail stores are already stocked with little red, pink, and white hearts—that’s right, Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. But if this holiday makes you a little queasy because you don’t have hundreds of dollars to profess your love to your mate, there are still tons of frugal and romantic things you can do to woo. To get a head start and way your options for inexpensive Valentine’s Day date ideas this, continue reading below.

1. Home Dinner Date:

Making a delicious and romantic dinner for two at home is a great way to make Valentine’s Day special and affordable—not to mention it’s an excellent way to avoid all of the restaurant hustle and bustle. The key however is that you want to share the experience and make the meal together—it’s not fair if one does all the cooking while the other just kicks back and relaxes. So plan on making a meal that is actually fun to cook/assemble and can use an extra set of hands— think homemade pizzas and sushi rolls. If you’d like to make the experience more memorable (and healthier) you can always take a trip to the nearest farmers market together to pick up some fresh ingredients for your meal the morning of. Complete your meal with some candle light and romantic music.

*If cooking isn’t either of your strongest skill, you could always prepare a fondue. Kits for two are relatively cheap—depending if you want a cast iron or ceramic bowl—and all you have to do is buy the dipping sauces some ingredients to put on the skewers: bread, veggies, fruits, pretzels, marshmallows, or meats and voila!

2. Picnic At The Park:

If the weather permits, take your meal to go and have a picnic at the park. Or you can simply pack up a French baguette, some cheese, strawberries and wine and lay out on a blanket and canoodle with your honey for hours. Exchange love notes. Bring a deck of cards. Or bring a movie to watch on your iPad or tablet.

3. Home Spa Night:

Massages can run you $100 an hour at a nice spa, but if you do it at home, close to nothing. All you need to do is purchase some botanical oil, maybe some foot scrub, and take turns giving each other’s back-and-foot rubs. Make the atmosphere really tranquil by finding some nature sounds on YouTube and lighting some candles. You can even draw a bath and enjoy a glass of champagne to make it feel extra luxurious and wipe the oils clean. Buy each other soft robes to make it feel like the real thing too if you wish.

4. Ice Skating/Rolling Skating Rink:

It may sound juvenile, but going to the ice skating rink or roller skating rink can actually be a lot of fun and intimate—especially if one of you isn’t that great, there will a lot of hand holding. And it’s cheap! Don’t spend more than $15 for a pair of skates. If you’re ice skating, top it off with some hot chocolate. If roller skating, maybe a slice of pizza and some soda.

5. Movie Night:

Lastly, you can go to the nearby Redbox and rent some movies for a buck a piece. Try adding some extra special treats like chocolate covered gourmet popcorn or some gourmet hotdogs to make it a home-theater “experience.” Or if you would like to enjoy some “newer” movies go visit your nearest dollar theater and enjoy a double feature. If you can afford to spend a little more you could also consider going to the theater to watch a foreign flick—nothing is better at setting the mood than watching a film in Italian, Spanish or French.


snowdayThe holiday season gets all the good associations with winter weather: caroling in the falling snow, sipping hot cocoa as you watch the drifts form in the back yard wrapped in your favorite fuzzy robe, falling into snow angels with the kids as you catch flakes on your tongue.

But then January rolls around and the real winter sets in. The kids are back in school, icy sleet blocks the road, your commute time is tripled and you’re so sick of Christmas music that even Sweet Silver Bells wouldn’t put a smile on your face.

But there is still something magical about a snowy day (just ask your kids), so the next time one keeps the whole family home try any of these fun-and-free activities that will make you feel so festive it might as well be December 15th.

Snip Some Snowflakes
Nothing celebrates the falling snow like…more snow. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t cut out snowflakes from folded squares of paper, but this year I discovered a new technique of snowflake crafting that reveals these magical, fluttery lace creations I am crazy about. Each design is more beautiful than the last, and there is something truly special seeing a child’s face light up as they ask, “Did I do that?!”
The folding part is the trickiest, so depending on the dexterity of your little one, you’ll probably have to help. I used this tutorial fromThe Hairpin, and have had just as much fun snipping alongside teens as I have asking tots to tell me where to cut and letting them unfold for the big reveal.

Make Your Own Snow Sundaes
Milk, sugar, vanilla and a few scoops of snow make for a tasty winter treat you can concoct simply walking into the backyard. You’ll need:
1/2 cup half & half or whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups of clean snow

Blend everything except the snow until smooth and dissolved. Slowly fold in all four cups of snow until you get the same consistency of ice cream and start gobbling. Note: Having a wide array of toppings like chocolate syrup, whipped cream and candies will take this experience from wildly fun to a snow day miracle.

Help a Hungry Birdy
In freezing weather little birds can have a heck of a time finding yummy treats beneath the snow. You and your kids can help! Pop popcorn and thread it along fishing line, then string it around your porch or from a tree. Or, gob smooth peanut butter on one of those giant pinecones, sprinkle with birdseed and watch all your avian allies (and squirrels too!) come flocking in for a feast.

Have a Winter Weather Fashion Show
Snowy-day clothes are hysterical and ridiculous especially on tiny kids: they look like giant walking marshmallows. Play a game seeing how many layers everyone can put on, and then do a mini-runway show down the hallway. Take lots of pictures. Those prints will be funny for years to come, and with digital cameras, you can see the slideshow right away!

Head for the Hills
It doesn’t take a brand new, wood-paneled toboggan to successfully cruise the slopes. Collapse some big cardboard boxes (grocery and liquor stores will give ’em to you for free) and head for the hills. The best sledding is when there are inches upon inches of fluffy powder to glide through, but sleet and soggy grass are still plenty slippery – just plan on getting a lot dirtier than with fresh snow!

Celebrate with a Spa Day
There are few times bubble baths will feel as decadently cozy as when it is freezing outside. After a long day outside in the elements, draw a big bubble bath for your sweeties and have them take a soak. When they are all rosy and clean, paint each other’s nails, slather your hands and feet in lotion and sit back with a good movie. Oh yes, boys are more than welcome to join!

Have you ever seen a cat walk in snow?
Or a puppy play fetch? If you have a pet, you’re guaranteed an extra-fun – and extra-entertaining – snow day experience. I would recommend bringing a camcorder along for your usual afternoon doggy walk.


fashionshoppingMarketers have many interesting psychological techniques to get shoppers to purchase their products.

And these marketers aren’t just in-house employees at big brand organizations. There are companies out there dedicated to helping other companies conduct extensive market research just to find out what makes shoppers buy more. There are countless resource portals for these companies to learn from, ranging from strategy for Fortune 500 brands to tutorials on social media for small businesses that can help them influence purchasing decisions.

Sure, money makes the world go round and these businesses are just trying to make a profit. But many people aren’t even aware that they are victims of these marketing techniques. In a down economy and a time when saving is more important than ever, being aware of how fashion businesses influence purchases is essential.

Here are some of the ways that companies implement the knowledge of psychology to reach your sub-conscious and influence your purchasing decisions:

1) Sales Items in the Back of the Store
One popular technique that clothing and accessories stores use is to advertise for a sale and put the items that are discounted towards the back of the store. This way, everyone that comes to the sale will walk by all the full-price clothing in hopes that they will be tempted to buy. This works especially well on impulse buyers, so if that sounds like you, make sure you go straight to the sales section to avoid overspending.

2) The Psychology of Free Shipping
Many sites like eBay and Amazon offer both free and paid shipping on most of their products. They do this to incentivize a buyer that may be on the fence. Especially for those that find something they want but probably shouldn’t buy, discounts like free shipping or coupons can be enough of a psychological push to seal the sale. Also, notice that most “free shipping” deals require a minimum purchase amount. This is another tactic that helps sellers not only influence you to purchase an item, but also to buy more to “reach that minimum.” How many times have you purchased something online and said “I only need $30 to qualify for free shipping?” Beware of free shipping and always ask yourself, if you would still buy the item without all the discounts.

3) Impulse Buying: In store and Online
Both online and offline retailers know how to take advantage of shopper’s tendency to buy on impulse. There are two common ways that this is done with brick and mortar stores: 1) with bundling (i.e. two for one deals) and 2) with less expensive items near the register in “point of purchase,” or POP, displays. Many e-commerce stores will offer “people who bought this item also bought…” prompts (Amazon anyone?).This encourages shoppers both socially and through the power of upselling.

4) Creating a Sense of Security
One psychological trick that many online and offline shops use is to offer add-on warranties to create a sense of security on a new purchase. Many times these warranties can cost up to 40-50% of the item cost. Sometimes the warranties are worth buying, but just make sure that you consider all angles and read the fine print. How careful are you with your possessions? Does the product already come with a free warranty? Can you purchase this add-on warranty at any time?

5) “Deals” That Ensure a Completed Purchase
There are many techniques that companies use to reinforce a buyer when they are having second thoughts. Since it is much easier to walk away from a purchase online than it is in store, online companies often use tactics to ensure shoppers click “complete order.” For example, Roxy offers a full-year return policy on all online purchases to increase the likelihood of a sale. In addition, many online retailers save your shopping cart, so even when you click off the page the items will still be there upon your return.

6) A Push to Get You in the Dressing Room
Many retail stores train sales associates to encourage shoppers to try clothing on. How do they do this? By simply approaching shoppers who have garments in hand and asking them if they “would like to have a room started.” Studies show that shoppers are more likely to make a purchase once they are in the dressing room. That is because once a shopper sees the article of clothing on, it is more difficult to walk away because an emotional connection has already been made. And once you are in the dressing room with your clothes off, expect sales associates to upsell items by saying things like “I have the perfect shirt to go with those pants” or “let me grab you a pair of shoes so you can see where the hem falls.”

7) Setting the Mood
Ever notice how some stores are brighter than others? Or how about the mannequins—how they are perfectly styled? There are people whose sole job is to craft the visual experience that shoppers experience when they enter a store. Everything from lighting to what items go where have been carefully tailored after extensive market research by experts in a corporate office (not even in the store!). Abercrombie & Fitch—a proponent of concepts like “finger spacing” (spacing out hangers so they are evenly spread across a rack)—is a great example of this. They discovered that keeping the lights low and the music loud encourages people to shop.

8) Conversion Rate Optimization
Conversion rate optimization: know it, learn it, love it. “CRO” is a buzzword in the online world. It refers to the practice of websites changing different design and functionality features in a series of tests to see which one(s) return the most sales, or conversions. There are methods such as A/B testing, in which companies create different iterations of the same web page (including the original) and show each to a different subset of visitors. Think of it as the scientific method for the 21st century, where you have control variables that ensure accurate conclusions. Most visitors are not even aware of these differences, but if you notice slight design changes to your favorite sites over time, it might be a result of CRO.


collegecostsGoing back to school as an adult can be a hard decision to make. Job and family commitments can make finding time to study difficult, while the expense of college will be compounded by existing financial obligations. Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce the costs of returning to school.

Money is tight and there may not be much left over to help pay for the investment that is a college education. While earning more money may not be an option, especially for a displaced worker, finding some additional funds from other sources will defray some of the expense.

Fill out the form:

The first step in seeking financial aid is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the federal form used to determine financial need for students. The application can be made online at


Filling out the FAFSA form will help determine if a student is eligible for grants from federal or state governments that provide money toward tuition. Other grants can be found from civic organizations, employers or specialty groups. Checking with the school’s financial aid office can also offer guidance. There are no age restrictions on student grants so older students have just as much of a chance of receiving a federal award as a younger student does. Grants are a good option because they do not need to be repaid.


Low-interest student loans provide additional funds to help pay tuition, but be aware that unlike grants, loans have to eventually be paid back after graduation.

Obtaining financial aid can certainly help with college but it may still be necessary to lower expenses through other means.

Community college:

Consider attending a couple of years at a community college before heading to a university. Courses at community colleges cost far less than similar ones at four-year institutions.

Part-time programs:

These are available to students who are seeking a first degree, but also for those who have a bachelor’s degree but are seeking a change of career. Part-time programs are also less expensive.

Tax breaks:

The Lifetime Learning Credit offers a 20 percent tax credit on education expenses up to $10,000. The maximum tax credit is $2,000. The American Opportunity Credit can provide a $2,500 credit for those returning to school full time for their first degree. There is also a $50 per month credit available for adults who are full-time students and need to pay child care.


While tuition can be very high, purchasing textbooks is also a major expense. Look for used versions, which are less expensive, or look into taking advantage of online sources. E-readers may also offer cheaper options, as well as the advantage of not having to lug several textbooks back and forth.

Going back to school can be costly but with some advanced planning, that expense can be reduced. The investment in a better future is worth the extra time and effort.


Its a start of a new year. This usually means new resolutions. Our top resolutions may be to lose weight, eat healthier, or actually use our gym membership. I know I am trying to get to the gym more often, eat better, & making healthier meals for my family.

Let’s start off with a hearty breakfast. This will help you energize & keep your body “fueled” for the day. Oatmeal is a good source of fiber to help with digestion & packed with many nutrients.

Hearty, Healthy Oatmeal

I tweaked Jessica Seinfeld’s “Deliciously Deceptive” recipe for Oatmeal.

    • 2 cups 100% Whole Grain Oats


    • 2 cups of Skim Milk


    • 1 1/2 cup Boiling Water


    • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar


    • 1/2 cup Applesauce


    • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon


    • 1/4 cup Dried Cranberries


    (Serves 4)

1. Boil Water in a saucepan or a stove-top kettle. We will add ingredients to a microwave-safe bowl. It helps control consistency & thickness of oatmeal.

2. Add Whole Grain Oats to bowl. Pour Water over Oatmeal slowly & stir to desired consistency.

3. Add Skim Milk & Applesauce to desired creaminess. Top off with Cinnamon, Light Brown Sugar, & Dried Cranberries.

Some substitutions/variations are 1/2 can of pureed pumpkin, 1/2 cup pureed sweet potato/yams, 1 cup evaporated milk, sliced bananas, fresh blueberries, 1 tbsp peanut butter, pumpkin pie spice, chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, golden raisins, & pure maple syrup.

Happy Eating!


Beauty on a budget is seemingly impossible. High end products are pushed and promoted, while cheaper products get kicked to the curb. Making frugal moves in your beauty routine will maximize product usage and help you get the most out of both affordable and luxury beauty products. Being beautiful shouldn’t cost a fortune!

Utilize Flash Sales Flash

Flash sales are an opportunity to purchase luxury beauty products at a severely discounted rate. There are dozens of services that provide a minimum of 50% off discounts for companies like Moroccan Oil, Folica, Mario Badescu, Urban Decay, Tarte, Too Faced, and others. Often times these flash sales provide popular products at a reduced price, or vouchers to use on the respective companies website. Instead of spending $100 on your typical products, you can slash that down to $30. Nothing is as satisfying as a deal on the most coveted beauty products.

FatWallet Tip: You can find some amazing beauty coupons and deals here on FatWallet and we frequently see free health and beauty offers in our forums!


Let Products Multi-Task

The more a product can do for you, the better it is for your budget. Cheek creams are excellent for the lips and pairing complementary colors on cheeks and lips is flattering. When a product can serve multiple purposes, then you are already saving money. You can pink or skin toned eye shadows on cheeks as well. To stretch your make up budget even further, you can use many pigments on eyes, cheeks, lips, and nails! Pigments are multi-purpose as long as they are labeled as lip safe. BB Creams are a new trend hitting stateside because it’s a foundation like cream, moisturizer, and skin protector in one. Products like this are multi-tasking, affordable, and do a great job.

Don’t Skimp On Hair Products

Women make the mistake of using 3-in-1 shower products that claim to be a bubble bath, shampoo, and body wash. It sounds great in theory but the execution of using one product for three tasks falls a bit flat. Invest in your hair. Less expensive hair products are usually priced so low because of fillers like sulfates. They strip dye and leave your hair ravaged. Using products for your hair type and hair needs exclusively will keep your style, cut, and color, lasting longer than if you used cheaper and less efficient products.

Make Products Last Longer

On one hand you want your products to last a little longer. On the other you don’t want them to expire. Learn how often you use certain products and then work with your numbers. If you won’t finish a mascara before it expires in three months, purchase a small size or a cheaper brand. Shampoo your hair less, or use a smaller amount of product. Shampoo bars last longer than a typical liquid formula, if you want to make an environmentally friendly change. Apply moisture to your face before using creams, which spreads the product further so you use less.

If you follow these tips your wallet will thank you. Being frugal doesn’t mean sacrificing important products or looking great. You can deal hunt and save quite a bit on some of the most popular brands, if you can save on a splurge, then do it!


couponing1-11-1So by now, you’ve probably collected a lot of items for your stockpile, and you’ve got them organized on your shelves, right? Well, lesson learned last week as I was cleaning up after Christmas, my family needs to eat more cereal!! I was so proud of myself last spring when I came home with box after box of really cheap cereal. Almost 9 months later, I still have plenty of cereal, but now some of the boxes are approaching their expiration date. So for the next few weeks, we will be eating cereal every morning for breakfast to use up what I have before it expires.

Here are a few random ideas when checking and maintaining your stockpile:
Organize each product by date. For example, put the box of cereal that expires first at the front of your shelf (that way you use it first!)
Periodically check your stockpile to see if items are expiring soon and use them up (if you know you won’t use them by their expiration, give them away to friends and family. Or better yet, give to your local food pantry)
Periodically check to see what items you are running low on, and watch for them to go on sale.
Don’t buy more than what you will use before they expire!

Bargain Buys
First of all, I have been price matching and using coupons a lot at Walmart lately. I thought I had saved a lot with my approximately $30 in savings yesterday. Well, my friend Sam just called and saved almost $120 on her trip there this afternoon! Way to go, Sam!!

This week you may find bargains at Target such as: gift card promotions on Smart Ones Frozen entrees, All, Wisk, and Snuggle laundry items, and Huggies diapers. Also, look for bargains on Flintstone vitamins, Maybelline mascara, & Market Pantry pasta and pasta sauce. Bargain at Walgreens this week include specials on milk, “free” Reach toothbrushes and floss, Colgate toothbrushes and toothpaste, Tylenol Precise, Axe shower gel, Neutrogena skin care, and Prevacid.


There’s been too many times when I’ve returned from a trip with travel withdrawal.

What’s travel withdrawal? Also known as travel hangover, it’s the phenomenon that occurs after a trip when you’re desperate to start traveling again, as soon as you return from a trip.

Needless to say, it makes doing any kind of work incredibly difficult. Sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen only perpetuates the feeling. Travel is calling. But you’re stuck at a desk.

Fortunately, there’s a way to combat travel withdrawal. And it’s in your wallet.

Credit cards are one of several key methods of defeating travel withdrawal. How? You can track your credit card rewards program to find out exactly when your next trip will be. Flying is one of the most expensive parts of traveling: your credit card rewards program will give you points to pay for a ticket.

First, however, you have to have a credit card that gets you the points you need. Here are the things to look for in a rewards program, and some of the best cards you can choose. You’ll be traveling again in no time.

Always look for the lowest interest rate for a credit card. Expect to pay anywhere from 9 to 25 percent.

Many credit card companies offer insurance for cardholding travelers. Protect yourself while traveling and find out if your credit card company will help you rebook a cancelled flight or help recover lost baggage.

Especially if you are using the card to get miles with a rewards program, understand how many miles you are getting for every dollar you spend. You want a card that gets you the most miles per dollar spent.

The cards:

Miles (Discover Card): The deals with this card start with double miles on $3,000 spent per year on travel and restaurant purchases. On all other purchases, cardholders earn 1 point for every dollar spent. This card has no annual fee, but make sure you pay your bills on time. The penalty interest for this card is 21 percent.

Venture (Capital One): This card has the crème de la crème of rewards programs. You earn 2 points for every dollar spent on all purchases. However, with an annual fee of $59 and a 29.4 percent penalty interest, this card is for disciplined with their charges.

Alaska Airlines Business (Bank of America): Cardholders earn 1 mile for every dollar spent. However, with any Alaska Airlines purchases of flights or vacation packages, cardholders earn 3 miles for every dollar spent. Couple this great mileage card with Alaska Airline’s Frequent Flyer Program and you’ll be traveling again in no time!