Author Archives: Josh

Christmas Gifts …. only a month late

Did you all have a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year?  Ours was wonderful.  We had a house full of family….like so many people my brother-in-law literally had to sleep in the garage. Isn’t that what the holidays are about?! Family, food, and more family? With that many people, you can imagine what it looked like under the tree Christmas morning!  My wife and I have four kids and they all love writing big, long lists of everything their adorable little hearts desire…and we love giving them presents.  However, the past few years we’ve come to realize that we have too much stuff.  When you can find stuff on such great deals, it’s hard to not buy it, right?!?  (I just have to remind myself that if I don’t buy it, I’m saving even more money and if I don’t really need it, that might just be the smarter way to go.)  So this year we decided that even though the kids wanted some really fun things (like a hover board!  I totally want one of those things so badly!), we would much rather spend our money on making wonderful memories as a family.  So while cousins and aunts and uncles were all opening present after present, our kids patiently (and so graciously…way to go kids!) opened socks and underwear and then waited. Then we surprised them with tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood.  Let’s be honest, no one does theme parks like Disney, but our kids are getting big enough that we thought they would really enjoy some of the older things they have there.  Especially The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Oh.My.Heck.  We are total Potterhead at this house.  A few months ago, we finished listening to all the books on cd (we just put it on every time we were in the car) and we love Harry Potter.  So you can imagine that they were pretty ecstatic for this trip.

One of the biggest reasons we chose Universal Studios for Christmas was because it was such a fantastic deal. Seriously.  Go check it out.  We got a season’s pass for only $110 each. (And general admission for one day is $105….so you go more than once and you’ve paid for it!) (***Note, I just looked it up and passes are now $129 per person, but it’s still a great deal overall.)  Granted, there are lots of black out dates, and a season is only 9 months long, and they don’t do fast passes….you have to wait in really long lines or buy front of the line tickets that are a fortune. But we still loved the idea!  We decided to go for two days the first week of January.  Again, paying for itself…without the higher cost of traveling over the holiday.  And we learned a few tips for the next time we go to Universal. (Like the single rider line is the way to go!! It saves tons of time.) There are lots of little ways to save money when vacationing.

  • When booking a hotel, look for freebies like parking and breakfast.  (I also always read reviews. I’m out for a deal, but I don’t want to stay in a dive.)
  • I like Hotels.com because I can earn free hotel stays.  After this trip, we actually earned a free night next time we travel!

Hotels icon

  • We actually found an awesome little house in Burbank (only 10-15 minutes from Universal) that was in a nice neighborhood and had it’s own kitchen.  So, you guessed it, we took our own food.  We made our own breakfast, packed lunches, and then ate out in the park for dinner (gotta enjoy that park food too…The Three Broomsticks was delicious).
  • Taking your own water and snacks (and sandwiches!) is smart.  We even stopped at parks on our drive down to run around and get some energy out and eat lunches we brought in the cooler.
  • They have lots of gear for sale at the park…maybe it’s important to you to buy that stuff.  (Our kids each had a little spending money they got for Christmas too, and were able to find a few things they had to have.) But maybe if you want to wear their gear, you could take your own from home.  It’s way cheaper.

Those are a few of the things I do.  What about you??? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And tell me, what kinds of deals did you find for Christmas?

Black Friday, Cyber Monday…what treasures did you find?

The big question today is, “Did you brave the crowds and shop during the madness”

black-friday-gif

I’m going to admit something that I probably shouldn’t on this blog, but here goes: I stayed home this year!

Don’t judge! The past two years I’ve just seen the dark seedy side of humanity when a bargain is involved and I just couldn’t stomach it this year. So instead I stayed home and shopped online (see? I was still bargain hunting. Now, don’t you feel silly for judging me?!)

I found some Amazon…I mean amazing deals. I’ve wanted a drone for awhile so I splurged and got myself one. Normally $150, marked down to $75 thank you very  much!

The not-so-big question of the day is this:

What bargains did you find? Leave a comment below!

FiveStars

5stars

So you know how everywhere you go these days everyone has some sort of “loyalty program“? You know what I’m talking about right? When you spend a dollar at their store you get 1 point, or 10 points, or something like that. Then you can use your points for coupons, or cash, or gas discounts. Ring a bell?

Well, here’s my beef with all of these loyalty programs:

I’m cheap. Ergo, I want to be a part of all these programs. Ergo, I collect the little cards they give you. Ergo, my keys weigh a ton. Ergo, I’m going to destroy my ignition. (I swear I won’t say “ergo” again. It’s starting to annoy me too.)

But never fear my friends. I’ve found an app to save all the hastle. FiveStars. It’s a great little app. You can “store” all your cards for these programs in one convenient location and the app will keep track of your rewards for you.

Here’s what I love:

  • It’s convenient. Everything stored in one place.
  • It’s easy to use. Very user friendly.
  • It’s secure. I’ve researched it and they seem to use the top security measures possible.

There’s really only one thing I don’t love:

  • You can’t store ALL of your loyalty programs. Only the ones from stores who are FiveStar partners.

But even though it isn’t as far reaching as some other apps, I’ve really liked the selection and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how many retailers/shops/stores utilize FiveStar. Check it out!

Okay…so this is more of a rant…sorry.

So, I live in a state where the people seem overly…well, cheap. I won’t mention the state because I actually like living here, but let’s just say, it is the Jello capital of the US, was founded by pioneers, has all sorts of religious rumors surrounding it, starts with a “U” and ends with a “tah”.

Okay, this is a bargain blog, but I think sometimes the people in my blessed state take it to an extreme!

I went to a garage sale this last weekend and was blown away by the stinginess of the people running the sale. I saw a stylus for sale. A nice stylus as a matter of fact. Here’s a picture of it:

stylus

I’ve been looking for a stylus just like this! I want something fine point. But I digress…

I took it up to the lady in charge and she said, $50. I blinked then said, “How much?” She repeated, “$50”. I’ve done my research, and you can buy this exact same stylus from Walmart for $35. I told her that and she said, “Then go to Walmart.” She turned away from me and went to organize all the clothes she had spread out on the lawn.

Wow. Just…wow!

I’m all for making a quick buck, but come on lady! If you’re reading this, maybe you ought to consider the definition of a bargain.

Anyway, thanks for putting up with my rant.

What is the most ridiculous “bargain” you’ve run across? Comment below! Maybe I’ll buy the winner an overpriced stylus.

Coupons, coupons, coupons

coupons

I remember when I was first married and my wife would cut coupons. And I mean a lot of coupons! I know for some they get a thrill. Heck, there have been entire reality shows devoted to it. But for us it wasn’t about having fun (and if it was, I would think we would need to look into other hobbies as newlyweds), it was about saving money. I was a part-time secretary at the time so money wasn’t exactly rolling in.

Anyway, the point of that little back-story is this: coupons can be a major way to save money and find some great bargains. The thing we subscribed to receive 4 or 5 copies of the Sunday newspaper because that is the one with all the coupons in it. Then, after we cut the coupons, we would organize them in plastic baseball card holders according to the aisle in Walmart, or Albertsons. For instance, frozen foods was one section in our binder, diapers and baby needs another, etc. It worked great and saved us tons. I remember several times when we would walk away from a grocery store visit having only paid $0.11. Those were great!

So, my questions are these:

What methods have you found helpful as you clip coupons?

Any resources you would recommend?

What’s the best deal you ever got using coupons?

Close5

close5

So this nifty little app is useful when you are looking for a local bargain. You can buy and sell stuff in your neighborhood or nearby.

Here’s how it works:

  • Free to sign up
  • It’s easy! If you’re buying, it’s a lot like ebay, or craigslist. You simply scroll through and see what’s for sale locally. If you’re selling, simply take a picture of what you are selling and the price then post it.
  • Other locals who have the app will get a message that you’ve posted and then they can check it out. Then you text each other within the app and set up a meeting place and time.

In essence, it’s kind of like an electronic garage sale.

I love that you can just find things locally without having to scan through lots and lots of people’s stuff.

I don’t love that a lot of what’s for sale in my local area is kind of junky. Like I said, it’s like a garage sale. And sorry to say, but people in Utah wear out their stuff then try to sell it. I mean, hey, I guess it’s good that we are using our stuff to its fullest, but come on! Don’t sell your junk man!

Deep breath…okay, I’m good now.

All in all, I’d say you ought to check out Close5. I’ve sold about $300 worth of stuff so far and have really liked using this app in conjunction with Craigslist.

Wish

wishlogo

Okay, so this post is more of a cautionary tale:

I recently heard about a cool app called “Wish”. They tote themselves as being a completely new and fun way to shop. Here’s the basic idea: you tell the app (or website) what your preferences are and then it supplies you with deals on those types of products or services. Then as you shop, the application’s algorithms pick up on what you like and offer you more stuff based on your buying preferences.

But here’s the bottom line as far as I’m concerned:

  • At the time of this review, Wish.com had an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau
  • The customer reviews are overwhelmingly negative on each and every website I checked out.
  • Complaints ranged from extremely slow shipping times, false advertising – the product shown was entirely different than what they received, and unauthorized transactions just to name a few
  • The products are cheap. Many customers compared the products to cheap “made-in-China” type trinkets.

I’m giving the app the benefit of doubt. Here’s what I mean: I signed up and got a “free” gift. I chose a nice looking tie. I guess we’ll see what I get in a couple days…or weeks.

For now, be wary my bargain-hunting friends.

Ebates

ebates

So this app is very similar to the iBotta and Checkout 51 (click on either for my small post about each app), but what sets this app apart is that you get rebates when you shop online stores. It works pretty much the same as the other apps I mentioned so I won’t go into a ton of details. But I will tell you what I love and don’t love about this app.

What I love:

  • Variety. There are over 2,000 stores to chose from. And the cool thing is that you probably already shop many of them anyway (JCPenny, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Overstock.com, Walmart, Groupon, etc).
  • Hastle free. No forms to fill out or points to redeem. All you do is shop through the app and earn cash back. Just browse through all the deals and when you click “Shop” you immediately activate the cash back rebate.
  • An instant $10 bonus when you complete your first purchase using Ebates.
  • It’s free to sign up and download the app.
  • You can earn up to 40% off of deals
  • If you invite 2 friends and they join, you get rewarded with $50.

What I don’t love:

  • You do end up giving away a lot of personal information (shopping behavior, credit info, location, etc) to the company. But I guess they collect a lot of that info through our phones already, right Uncle Sam?
  • The cash back rewards aren’t as high as I expected.

All in all, I say this app is worth a try. Especially if you are an online shopper or use your phone to shop often.

Checkout 51

checkout-51

Checkout 51 is an app that allows you to receive rebates when you buy certain items from a variety of stores. So this nifty little app is a lot like the iBotta app (Click here to see my post about iBotta), so I won’t duplicate a lot content here, but I will say that I really like using the two apps in conjunction because quite often when what I’m shopping for isn’t on the iBotta app, I can find a refund on Checkout 51, or vice versa.

What I love:

  • You can sign up and use Checkout 51 on a computer or you can use the app on a mobile device. I mostly use the mobile app because it’s so much more convenient, but it’s nice to have the computer option.
  • They refresh the app and give you new offers each week.
  • A lot of the offers are things I’m already buying, so that’s awesome!
  • Notifications!!!! – This might drive some of you mad, but you can turn on notifications and the app will tell you when you can get $2 back on granola bars, or $0.75 back on bananas, etc.
  • Unlike iBotta, you can buy your items at pretty much any store and get the rebate. With iBotta you are limited by where you can purchase your goods.

What I don’t love:

  • I’m not always a “name-brand” kind of guy so it kinda bothers me that a lot of what this app offers discounts/rebates on are name brand products.
  • No shopping list feature. I’m not a fan of having to scroll through the whole list of offers to find what I want.

All in all, you should definitely try out Checkout 51!

Retale

retale

This is another great app you should download if you are a serious coupon guru.

What it is:

Retale is a great way to find local deals. It allows you to select the stores you love to shop at then will update each week with deals and coupons from those stores. You know how you get those ad flyers in the mail? Well, Retale is a way to organize them all into one place without having to find a place to keep all the paper.

What I love:

  • It is very user friendly and intuitive.
  • I only have to see the ads I care about. No more sifting through the newspaper to find the ad from Michael’s (yeah, I’m kinda crafty).
  • I can save the coupons I really want in a “Coupons” section of the app.
  • The ability to create a shopping list from inside the app and have the app do all the work of finding me a coupon! I can’t say enough good things about that. I love this feature!

What I don’t love:

  • Lets see…um…there’s got to be something…Nope. I love this app.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are a compulsive coupon-aholic, this app may not be robust enough for you, but for the day to day purchases you’re going to be making, I think this app deserves 5 stars.

Check out Retale in the Apple app store or Android market place.

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