Getting Back to Frugal

Hello. My name is Ida and I am a frugal fraud. There. I said it.

When our family was going through its tightest financial times, I was a cost cutting, value adding, coupon clipping, laundry detergent making (ok so I still do this!) picture of frugality. I swore that our family would be that way through thick and thin. We were going to keep from falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation once our financial picture got rosier. I was wrong.

I slowed way down on couponing and deal shopping. We stopped giving every dollar a job and let it start to trickle out of our fingers, untracked and unaccounted for. We allowed ourselves to justify unplanned spending $10 here… $20 there. We started allowing excuses for unplanned dining out to creep back into our lives… too hot, too tired, too, busy.

Yesterday, I got the estimated bill for my oldest daughter’s first semester of college. After scholarship and student loan offerings, the gap between what is paid and what I have to cover is pretty huge.

The jolt that came from this made me immediately evaluate every dollar I’ve spent in the last several months and I didn’t like what I saw. So, our family is getting back to living on a budget. I’ll be listening to my CDs of Financial Peace University and going through the workbook again.

It’s time to stop Justifying away our money and start making it work as hard for us as we work for it.

Ready. Set. Take Two!

Walmart’s NEW Coupon Policy [UPDATED]

I have to admit that I’ve been out of the loop with my couponing for a while. Life got busy… schedules were hectic… blah blah blah… I got lazy. I hadn’t realized that so many coupon policies are changing at major retailers!

Wal-Mart, for instance, has never been a store I’ve recommended for shopping with coupons. Their cashiers have always been so negative when it came to trying to redeem coupons, and they were always out of stock on the items I had coupons for. It’s been a while and I was feeling energetic, so yesterday I gave Wal-Mart’s coupon matching list a look on Coupon Mom to see if I could beat the sale prices at the other stores on a couple of things. There was a pretty decent list of Free After Coupon items, and definitely had better prices on the body wash I was looking for.

After printing up my list, gathering my coupons, and bracing myself for impact, I went to the website to print Wal-Mart’s coupon policy to take with me… a MUST for shopping there, because of the pushback that I’ve always gotten over my coupons. I have to say that I was startled to see the comprehensive (and might I say IMPRESSIVE) changes to their policies. Click here to see Wal-Mart’s old coupon policy. I was especially impressed with the fact that they WILLINGLY apply coupon overages to the rest of your purchase OR GIVE YOU CASH BACK!

Here is the current policy (as of 9/06/15):

Walmart Coupon Policy

We gladly accept the following types of coupons*

  • Print-at-home internet coupons
    • Must be legible
    • Must have “Manufacturer Coupon” printed on them
    • Must have a valid remit address for the manufacturer
    • Must have a valid expiration date
    • Must have a scannable bar code
    • Buy one, get one free (BOGO) coupons with a specified price
    • Are acceptable in black and white or color
    • May not be duplicated
  • Manufacturers’ coupons
    • For dollar/cents off
    • We honor the manufacturer limitations
    • For free items (except those printed off the Internet)
    • Buy one, get one free (BOGO) coupons
    • Must have “Manufacturer Coupon” printed on them
    • Must have a valid remit address for the manufacturer
    • Must have a valid expiration date
    • Must have a scannable bar code
    • May not be duplicated
  • Competitors’ coupons
    • A specific item for a specified price, for example, $2.99
    • Buy one get one free (BOGO) coupons for items with a specified price
    • Have a valid expiration date
    • Are acceptable in black & white or color
    • May not be duplicated
  • Soft drink container caps
  • Checkout coupons (“Catalinas”)
    • Printed at our competitors’ registers for dollar/cents off on a specific item
    • Must have “Manufacturer Coupon” with specific item requirements printed on them
    • Must have a valid remit address for the manufacturer
    • Must have a valid expiration date
    • Must have a scannable bar code
    • Are acceptable in black & white or color
    • May not be duplicated

We do not accept the following coupons:

  • Checkout coupons
    • Dollars/cents or percentage off the entire basket purchase
  • Print-at-home Internet coupons that require no purchase
  • Competitors’ coupons
    • Dollars/cents off at a specific retailer
    • Percentage off
    • Buy one, get one free (BOGO) coupons without a specified price
    • Double- or triple-value coupons

*The following are guidelines and limitations:

  • We only accept coupons for merchandise that we sell.
  • Coupons must be presented at the time of purchase.
  • Only one coupon per item.
  • We have the ability to limit the number of identical coupons and the number of coupons for the same item per transaction.
  • Item purchased must be identical to the coupon (size, quantity, brand, flavor, color, etc).
  • Coupons must have an expiration date and be presented within the valid dates.
  • If coupon value exceeds the price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase.
  • In all situations, we reserve the right to limit purchase quantities to typical retail purchase quantities or one-per-customer or household and to exclude dealers.
  • Store Managers have the final decision in taking care of the customer.
  • SNAP items purchased in a SNAP transaction are ineligible for cash back.
  • WIC items purchased in a WIC transaction are applied to the basket purchase and may not be eligible for cash back. Refer to state-specific WIC guidelines.
  • The system will prompt for supervisor verification for:
    • 4 or more like coupons per transaction.
    • A coupon of $5 and over.
    • $50 or more in coupons in one transaction.
    • Coupons totaling a percentage (%) off of the total sale.

Not only has the coupon policy been made more shopper friendly, the entire experience was positive! EVERY item I was looking for was well stocked. The cashier was friendly and engaging. The coupons were accepted with a smile and zero issues. I was thoroughly impressed… and that’s hard to do.

Good Job Wal-Mart! I’ll be back.

Buying Prescriptions at Costco – How Much Can You REALLY Save?

I’ve written a lot about my love affair with Publix. Their stores and sales matched with my coupons make me feel like a conqueror every time I hit the checkout line. Since we’re there at least once a week anyway, when it came to prescriptions we’ve just always gone to Publix.

I mean… I’ve been telling people for years to go to Costco for their prescriptions and reminding them that they don’t have to be a member to use the pharmacy. But actually go there myself? Why would I? I have insurance and the copay is the copay no matter where you go… right? NOPE!

A couple of months ago, I had to figure out how to squeeze another expensive, ongoing prescription copay into the budget (above the $100 in copays we already shell out per month). So, I gathered up everything and did a side-by-side comparison of our current copays to the Costco pharmacy price list. I was stunned at how much less our prescriptions would cost if we just picked them up at Costco when we do our normal monthly milk/eggs/cheese/dog food run. Not only would our out of pocket amount go down for Mark’s prescriptions, but we would now pay $35 LESS for all of the prescriptions (including the new expensive one that we were trying to budget around).

To share with you the prescription price comparisons, I pulled the list of America’s Most Popular Drugs from Forbes and compared the United Healthcare standard copay list with the Costco list price.

Medication – 1 Month

(Standard Dosage)

Prescribed For

UHC Copay

Costco Regular Price

Hydrocodone Apap

Pain Reliever

$ 10.00

$ 13.87


High Cholesterol

$ 10.00

$ 5.90


High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 7.41

Levothyroxine sodium

Thyroid Issues

$ 10.00

$ 9.33



$ 10.00

$ 9.63



$ 10.00

$ 6.30


High Cholesterol

$ 35.00

$ 110.18


High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 50.52



$ 10.00

$ 5.90


High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 5.90


Heart Burn

Not Covered

$ 166.59



$ 10.00

$ 9.43


High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 8.52

Metoprolol tartrate

High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 5.90


High Blood Pressure

$ 10.00

$ 6.50


As you can see, in the chart above, the list price from Costco is almost always less. If you don’t have insurance, you’re going to save a ridiculous amount of money on necessary prescriptions. If you have insurance, you’ll pay whatever the cheapest price is between the standard list price and your copay. At standard pharmacies and grocery store pharmacies, the prices are almost always higher and fluctuate wildly between locations.

Basically, whether you have insurance or not, moving your prescriptions to your local warehouse club is probably going to save you money on prescriptions. In some cases… a LOT of money.


Two Words: Panda Converse

Last week, I told you that I did the unthinkable and patched my daughter’s shoes with cardboard until we could shop for a suitable replacement pair. Sierra and I set out on Saturday morning to do just that. On our way out the door, Mark asked if she was going to get another pair like the old ones. If she doesn’t have eye strain from how hard she rolled her eyes at him, I’ll be shocked. “Why would I do that?” was the response. (Uh, because you were almost crying when they broke?? … obviously parents just don’t get it.)

Luckily, the girls’ favorite place to shop for clothes and shoes is one of the easiest stores for our budget, Plato’s Closet. I love that their prices are reasonable and I don’t have to navigate 10 different stores to get a decent selection. Sierra loves that she can get funky/cute/unique stuff that suits her style… and her sisters can easily suit their own styles as well.

I thought we were going to strike out this time, since all the shoes we saw were dress shoes or too small. But there, shining like a tiny beacon at the back of the store, she spotted these. Sierra: “OMGPandaConverse!!!” Me: “Wahoo, they’re brand new and only $18!!”

That’s right… never been worn, fantastically amazing Panda Converse ($50-$80 shoes) for $18. You can’t even get the Payless plain generic version for that. Once again, Plato’s Closet saved me a million hassles in the shopping department. These shoes nothing like the last pair, yet still completely Sierra.

Sleep well tonight, my friends. Sierra isn’t wearing cardboard reinforced shoes out there in the rain today. She has OMGPANDACONVERSE.

Is it still being cheap if it isn’t about the money?

My husband officially thinks I’ve gone “Too Far” on my quest to save a buck.  And really, if it was to save money, I’d have to agree.  But this time, my skinflint ways are not about money at all.

Two days ago, Sierra (who is now 15) came to me to tell me that her insole came out of her FAVORITE shoes of all time.  When I say favorite shoes, I mean that when she spotted them from three aisles over, she jumped up and down, screamed, ran to them as though they were star crossed lovers sprinting toward one another in a flower filled field, and clutched them to her chest.  They were the only pair in the store, and obviously it was meant to be because they were the right size.

Last night I sent her to the store to pick up some new insoles to stick in them so she’d get a little more wear out of them before we had to toss them out.  When she got home and tried to put them in, she came to me with her shoulders slumped and said “It doesn’t matter… the shoes are falling apart and I didn’t know they were this bad.”  I peeked inside the shoes and, sure enough, she’s worn a few holes in the soles of her shoes.  Like, I could look into the shoe and see Mark on the other side.

All in all, this is nothing new to people who have teenaged children.  They find a couple of CRUCIAL wardrobe pieces and then wear them until they fall off.  That she has worn these shoes into the ground (heh… pun) in a matter of 3 months is also not shocking.  From what I hear, her father had to have a new pair of shoes almost every pay period at this age.  Darned active hyper genes!

No, the shocking part is what I did next.  I grabbed a cardboard box, cut off all the flaps, traced her shoe on each of the pieces of cardboard, and cut out 4 thick layers of cardboard to fit into the bottom of her shoes.  Then I cut down the new insoles and slapped those in there too.  Mark watched me from the other side of the sofa… blinking at me and saying “you know we can afford to get her another pair of shoes, right?”

Yes, these are the shoes…

Of course I know!  But THESE shoes make my baby smile.  THESE shoes are not cheap to replace and THESE colors and HER size are difficult to find.  I hope the cardboard holds out a few days while Sierra and I try to find a suitable replacement.  Wish us luck that we find something she loves just as much.