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Question of the Week: When was the last time you had a yard sale?  How often do you have yard sales?

The last and first time I ever had a garage sale was this past Saturday. It was 41F in Tampa and only the brave dared get up and out that early. Check back when I tell you all about it.

How to Write a Helpful Product Review

Usually when I'm shopping for a specific item there is a process I go through before purchasing. These steps help me understand what's available out there and how it's working out for others who have purchased the same item. For this reason, as a courtesy to future shoppers and to the vendor of course, I like to write product reviews. I'm not talking about blog reviews and giveaways, since they are compensated with free product, and incentives. I generally do not follow review and giveaway blogs, nor do I participate because I don't really believe they are accurate representations of the users thoughts on the product.
My preference is to read and consider reviews where no compensation is provided to the writer. Like the kind on Amazon, or Trip Advisor or merchant websites. I also like to give reviews whenever I purchase a product. Reading uncompensated user reviews is one of my first steps to a purchase. Then I research specifications and make sure the item will work in my situation, and then I search around with google, forums and deals sites to find the best vendor to buy it from - considering my experiences, the vendor reputation, shipping cost and speed, returns and availability. I also prefer to shop Amazon first because they excel in all categories, plus my Swagbucks can be exchanged for gift cards there.
Anyway, when writing a review with the objective of informing other consumers (not impressing the product manufacturer) it is important to state some main points:
- Why you were looking for this item
- What other choices did you consider
- What is the specific application for the item
- What difficulties did you encounter in your first use of the item, or upon setup - and how were they resolved. Also point out if you think it would affect other consumers too, and what you think is the cause of these problems.
- If you did not have any problems, explain why this item is so great, what is new and improved over your old one, etc
- Lead the reader to other sources of information about this item, for example install videos on another site, or a forum where users have experience with the item
- Its also helpful to note how much you paid, if it was a seasonal sale or discount, or if there is a rebate or other deal you used too.
- Make your statements specific and accurate, don't generalize and write plain unhelpful comments without backing them up with details.
So the next time you buy something online, take a few minutes and provide some feedback in the form of a helpful product review. It really helps others.

Garage Sale Jitters

The week is winding down and I'm still rummaging through closets and storage areas finding stuff for my very first upcoming yard sale on Saturday, that I first mentioned HERE. It seems like the more you look, the more junk is revealed. I am seriously wanting to minimize and get rid of almost everything. There are some great blogs out there about being minimalist (like http://www.everydayminimalist.com/) and it sure seems like life would be easier to just get rid of crap you don't use.
 
So, that's my hope. To get rid of crap. In case you're interested in seeing the type of crap I'm trying to sell, check out my Picasa photos HERE. I posted a bunch of them for sale in the local craigslist encouraging people to stop by the sale to get this stuff. I have two trucks full of stuff and product. My big fear is that no one will want to get out on a chilly Saturday morning and find our little corner of the world to buy this stuff. And I'll have to take it home and find another place for it. I don't want to bring it home, so some great bargaining will be had.

New Coupons To Print

Coupons.com has some great new coupons this week! I've included several of them below

- Glade Automatic Spray Starter Kit - $4.00 off 1
- Huggies Little Snugglers - $2.00 off 1
- Danon Activia - $0.75 off 1
- Wisk Laundry Detergent - $1.00 off 1
- Pillsbury Savorings - $1.00 off 1
- Garnier Fructis Anti-Dandruff Shampoo - $1.00 off 1
- Minute Rice - $0.50 off 1
- Huggies Pure & Natural - $2.50 off 1
- Pillsbury No Fuss Frosting - $1.00 off 1
- Aleve - $2.00 off One 80 count
- Monistat - $3.00 off 1
- Florastor Probiotic - $7.00 off 1

Publix Sneak Peek 11/4-11/10

BOGO
Progresso Soup, Assorted Varieties, 18-19 ounce can, BOGO $2.29


Green Giant Canned Vegetables, Assorted Varieties, 11-15.25 ounce can (Excluding Specialty Corn Varieties, Three Bean Salad and Asparagus, BOGO $1.29

3M Scotch Packaging Tape, Clear or Brown, High Performance, BOGO $3.49

Jennie-O So Easy Turkey Entrées, Turkey with Gravy, Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce or Salisbury, Fully Cooked, 14 ounce package, BOGO $3.99

Barber Foods Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Assorted Varieties, 8 or 10 ounce package, BOGO $4.99

Welch's Essentials Juice Cocktail Blend, Concord Grape, Concord Grape Cranberry, White Grape or Peach Mango, 64 ounce bottle, BOGO $3.25

Nature's Own Bread, Whole Grain White 20 ounce Bag or 100% Whole Wheat Made With Real Honey, 16 ounce bag, BOGO $2.89

Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Assorted Varieties, In Deli, Excludes Chocolate and White Chocolate) BOGO $3.19

Kraft or Seven Seas Dressing, Assorted Varieties, 14 or 16 ounce bottle, BOGO $3.19

Peter Pan Peanut Butter, Assorted Varieties, 13 or 16.3 ounce jar, BOGO $2.47

Kraft Barbecue Sauce, Assorted Varieties, 16.25 or 18 ounce bottle, BOGO $1.48

Duke's Mayonnaise, or Whipped Salad Dressing, Assorted Varieties, 32 ounce jar, BOGO $3.65

Gia Russa Select Pasta Sauce, Tomato & Basil, Hot Sicilian, Alla Vodka, Marinara or Cherry Tomato 24 ounce jar or Alfredo Sauce, 15 ounce jar, BOGO $5.79

Barilla Pasta, Selected Varieties, 13.25 to 16 oz box (Excluding Barilla Plus & Lasagna) BOGO $1.27

Post Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal, Assorted Varieties, 13 or 14.5 ounce box or Vanilla Clusters 18 ounce box or Just Bunches!, 17 ounce box (Excluding Family Size) BOGO $3.99

Kellogg's Cereal, Raisin Bran, Raisin Bran Crunch or Corn Flakes, 18-20 ounce box, or FiberPlus Cereal, 11.5-15.3 ounce box BOGO $4.19

Krusteaz Cookie Mix, Bakery Style: Chocolate Chunk, Sugar, Peanut Butter or Snickerdoodle, 15.5 or 17.5 ounce box, BOGO $2.19

V8 Splash Beverage, or Diet V8 Splash, Assorted Varieties, Antioxidant Plus, 64 ounce bottle, BOGO $2.85

College Inn Broth, Assorted Varieties, 32 ounce carton, BOGO $2.49

Ocean Spray Craisins, Assorted Varieties, Dried Cranberries or Trail Mix, 6 ounce bag, BOGO $2.25

Emerald Old Fashioned Honey Roasted Peanuts, or Dry Roasted, Regular or Lightly Salted with Sea Salt, 16 ounce jar, BOGO $3.19

Rold Gold Pretzels, Assorted Varieties, 10-16 ounce bag, BOGO $2.99

Wise Potato Chips, Assorted Varieties, 9.75 or 10 ounce bag, BOGO $3.79

Quaker Quakes Rice Snacks, Assorted Varieties, 6.06-7.04 ounce bag, BOGO $2.99

Hershey's Bliss Chocolate, Assorted Varieties, 8.6 or 9.6 ounce bag, BOGO $4.29

Nabisco Honey Maid Grahams or Original Grahams, Assorted Varieties, 14.1 or 14.4 ounce box, BOGO $3.99

Yoplait Fiber One Yogurt, Assorted Varieties, Creamy, Nonfat. 4 pack, 4 ounce cup, BOGO $2.50

Hood Simply Smart Milk, 1% Lowfat or Fat Free, Regular or Chocolate, half gallon Carton, BOGO $3.99

Kozy Shack Pudding, Assorted Varieties, 22 ounce tub or 4-6 pack, 4 ounce cup, BOGO $2.99

Shedd's Spread Country Crock, regular or Churn Style, 15 ounce tub or twin pack, 2 pack, 7.5 ounce tub, BOGO $1.89

Mayfield Ice Cream, Assorted Varieties, 48 ounce carton, BOGO $5.49

Pillsbury Toaster Strudel Pastries or Toaster Scrambles, Assorted Varieties, 6 count, 10 or 11.5 ounce box, BOGO $2.45

Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers Vegetables, Assorted Varieties, 11 or 12 ounce bag, BOGO $2.39

Delizza Mini Bagel Éclairs or Cream puffs, Assorted Varieties, 10.5 to 14.8 ounce tub, BOGO $5.59

Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks or Fillets, Clams or Haddock, Assorted Varieties, 8-11.4 ounce package, BOGO $4.49

Honest Kids Thirst Quenchers, Assorted Varieties, USDA Organic, Low Sugar, 8 count, 6.75 ounce pouch. BOGO Surprisingly Low Price

Pup-Peroni Dog Snacks Original Beef, Oven Roasted Chicken, or Lean Beef Recipe, 10 ounce package, BOGO $4.99

Glass Plus Glass & Multi Surface Cleaner, 32 ounce bottle, BOGO $2.49

Finish Automatic Dishwasher Detergent, Assorted Varieties, 20-32 count box, BOGO $6.99

Schick Quattro or Intuition Razor, Assorted Varieties, 1 Count Each, BOGO $8.99

Publix Omeprazole Acid Reducer, Delayed Release Tablets, 20 mg, 14 count box, BOGO $8.99

Love To Shop Here. Love To Save Here. (aka The Essentials)
Tombstone Pizza, Assorted Varieties, 18.1 to 29.5 ounce package, excluding stuffed crust and brick oven varieties, Limit Four. $2.99
Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup or Tomato Soup, 4 pack, 10.75 ounce can, $1.99
General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal, 12.8 ounce box, Limit four. $1.99
6 Pack Publix Deli Tea, Select six varieties or Publix deli pint teas, $2.99
Nabisco Premium Saltine Crackers, Assorted Varieties, 11-16.5 ounce box, $1.99
Wisk, 2X Liquid Laundry Detergent, Assorted Varieties, 50 ounce bottle, $4.49
Apple or Cherry Turnovers, 4-Count, In Bakery, 14 ounce package, $4.29
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner or Supreme, Assorted Varieties, 5.5 to 7.3 ounce box, Limit four. .59
Colgate Toothpaste, Assorted Varieties, 4 ounce or 4.6 ounce or 6 ounce tube. Limit four. $1.99

BuyTheirs, Get Ours Free!
From now through November 30, 2010 when you buy one box of any national brand lancets, you get a box of Publix brand brand lancets FREE! (Limit 1 deal per customer. Excludes SoftClix, MultiClix and Delica. Customer responsible for all applicable taxes)

thanks slickdeals Publix Thread (check back for matchups)

Happy Halloween

Wishing you a spooky, eerie, blood curdling fun and safe Halloween. I hope you all have fun costumes and buckets full of candy at the end of the night!

The Dark Side of Couponing

One of the hardest things about couponing is the scorn we endure in the stores. The people behind us in lines sighing loudly, the cashiers as they sift through our pile of coupons and try to remember if we bought that item, and of course the store managers that treat us like we are criminals. I work really hard at couponing - getting rss feeds from tons of coupon shopper blogs with matchups, gathering inserts, filing and clipping, making a shopping list and getting the matchups, and then the easiest part of all - the shop. Except the shop is not turning out to be very fun anymore. It used to be exhilarating walking the aisles - finding a new booklet, grabbing a peelie or blinkie, finding the shelves stocked with the items on our list, and a fresh snack as the lady makes a nice meal at the Apron Station. The climax of the trip was checking out and watching as the totals drop, and then just paying a couple dollars for a cart full of product.
 
But it seems like those days are far and few in between now. There is stress involved in grocery shopping. How stupid is that? My store used to have a wonderful coupon friendly group of store managers and assistant store managers, but then things changed. We've all seen it, the shuffling of coupons by the cashier as they set some aside. Reading the small print and deciding today after years of no problems, they are going to enforce the "one coupon per purchase per customer" on the PQ. I can deal with it and offer alternatives, like my DH with me is a customer too, so we can use 2, right? It usually ends up being less than pleasurable to shop. I know from the vibes on the internet and coupon forums that everyone is having more difficulty successfully shopping with coupons. Especially the people who are really good and consistently save above 80%. We are treated like criminals because we have mastered the coupon game, and the stores don't like it.
 
Last night was one of those nights at Publix. Here's my shopping list. Nothing too out of line, except maybe getting 10 egg beaters, but there were plenty on the shelf and my coupons expire on Sunday so I had to do it. But I broke one of my rules by not getting fillers so that my item count exceeded the coupon count. I've been slack in not worrying about manager overrides or "getting numbers" as they call it to complete my transaction with too many coupons.  But holy crap, I got the new young asst store manager male who thinks that couponers are thieves.
 
28-Oct 21   49.05 7.39 36.20 tax 5.46 23 -88.87%
Product qty price subtl -B1G1 -Q   total Q# Q details
mushrooms 1 1.50 1.50   1.00   0.50 1 $1/1 TQ print
iceburg lettuce 1 1.69 1.69   1.00   0.69 1 $1/1 TQ print
tomato 1 0.92 0.92       0.92    
banana 2 0.35 0.70   0.70   0.00 1 $1/1 TQ print
Egg Beaters 10 1.67 16.70   7.50   9.20 10 $0.75/1 print
Gortons Tilapia BOGO 2 7.39 14.78 7.39 3.00   4.39 3 1/1MQ+1/2PQ
vivarin sominex 4 3.19 12.76   18.00   -5.24 6 $5/2PQ+ (2) $2/1MQ
$/$$ coupon   0.00 0.00   5.00   -5.00 1 $5/$25 competitor
 
My order rang up and my DH didn't split up the bananas to count as two items - but that wouldn't have helped anyway. I had 3 extra coupons requiring an override. First off he starts scrolling through the screen making sure I bought produce for the $1 off TQ for produce. He would only give me 0.70 off and said I didn't buy at least a $1 of produce. I asked what he was talking about, I had plenty of produce. I told him I had to guess on the weight since they don't have prices on bananas and tomatoes, my goof I guess - the tomatoes were only 0.92 instead of 1.00. I let it go. What really irked me was him trying to give me back my $5 PQ for the sominex and telling me they weren't going to pay me to shop. This store has always been cool about overage, but this guy is obviously not. DH started getting angry and told Eric the ASM, that he was insulted and this was not a pleasurable shopping trip. I told the ASM we were paying over $5 for the order, how could he say he was paying us? Anyway, this is our home store and we always try to fly low under the radar. We don't want to alienate the staff even though they are not the most friendly. We just wanted to get out of there by now. Then Eric starts trying to be nice and offers to get our names so the store manager can call us. Yeah right. He says this as he's printing a duplicate receipt and has all my Q's in hand on his way upstairs to the office. He was going to go try to figure out what happened. It was all legit, just like it always is. They just don't like it.
 
So, the dark side of couponing is that it is not for the weak at heart. You need to be confident and sure of your rights and responsibilities. Don't let ignorant staff tell you they can't let you use that coupon. A coupon is legal payment. It seems like the better at couponing you get, the more scrutiny you will have to endure. It does not get easier the better you are.
 
The important thing to remember for me anyway at Publix, is to pick the right cashier, make sure you have fillers to bring your item count greater than your coupon count (and if you don't - leave out the overage items that shop) to avoid having manager override required. I broke my rule and paid the price - an extremely ugly encounter at the store that just doesn't sit right with me. I don't feel like it would help to talk to the store manager or corporate either because they don't want the really good couponers around. I can't even say I spend thousands of dollars a year on groceries anymore because I don't, but I used to. I still get thousands of dollars of food and products, but they're not getting the cash.
 
So, I'm staying out of Publix for a while. I need to work through my stockpile anyway. And work through my anger and dismay at how a good thing makes me feel bad.

Publix Yellow Advantage Buy 10/30-11/19

Manufacturer's coupons expiring 11/19/2010:
Free McCormick taco, low sodium taco or fajita seasoning mix WYB 2
Free Renuzit Adjustables 7.5 oz. WYB 3

Publix coupons expiring 11/19/2010:
Free Publix 24 oz. pancake syrup WYB 2 any Krusteaz pancake mix 24-32 oz. or belgian waffle mix 28 oz.
Free gallon of milk WYB any 3 Kellogg's Mini-Wheats 15.8-24 oz.
Free Wanchai Ferry frozen meal or Macaroni Grill frozen meal 24 oz. WYB 1
$1.00 any 2 Sierra Mist Natural 2 liter
$1.00 Gatorade Prime 4 pk./4 oz. or Gatorade Recover 16.9 oz.
$1.00 Garden Lites All-Natural Souffle 7 oz.
$1.00 any Orville Redenbracher's Poppycock
$1.50 any Pepsi 2 liter WYB any 2 Orville Redenbacher's gourmet popping corn
Free Orville Redenbacher's gourmet popping corn oil WYB any 2 Orville Redenbacher's jars
Free Sparkle 2 giant roll paper towels WYB Quilted Northern soft & strong or Quilted Northern ultra plush bath tissue 18 double rolls
Free Air Wick single base scented oil warmer WYB 2 single Air Wick scented oils or 1 twin pack
Free Publix GreenWise Market chlorine free liquid bleach 96 oz. WYB Green Works natural laundry detergent 45 oz.
$1.00 Ziploc container 2-4 ct.
 
Thanks Slickdeals

General Mills & Kraft Price Increases Soon

Better stock up on cereals now even if you don't need to quite yet, as these price increases may make the days of free or $0.25 cereal over.
 
 
NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- General Mills Inc. (GIS) is raising prices on some cereals and baking products, the clearest signal yet that food makers will pass some price pressure from higher commodity costs on to retailers and consumers.
General Mills is instituting "low-single-digit" percentage price increases on select cereal brands and slightly higher increases on some baking products, such as flour and baking mixes, spokeswoman Kirstie Foster said.
Separately, Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) is also starting to raise some prices, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday, though the scope of Kraft's increases wasn't immediately clear. A Kraft spokesman declined comment Wednesday, but the company recently said it would selectively raise prices on some brands to offset commodity costs.
New price increases would come at a time of still-widespread caution among consumers, who are still jittery about the pace of the economic recovery. It could also put some retailers in a bind. Supermarket operators, who have expressed caution about consumer confidence, will have to decide whether to raise shelf prices or sacrifice profits.
General Mills will raise prices on select cereal brands starting Nov. 15, the spokeswoman said, affecting about a quarter of its cereal business in the U.S. Specific brands weren't disclosed, though the spokeswoman said it would be the first price increase on many of the cereal brands in more than three years. General Mills' brands include Cheerios and Lucky Charms cereals and Betty Crocker baking mixes. Price increases on the baking brands will go into effect Jan. 3.
Kroger Co. (KR) and Safeway Inc. (SWY) executives have said in recent weeks that they expect to be able to pass along such increases, although other supermarket chains such as Supervalu Inc. (SVU) are engaged in another round of price cuts in stores to keep shoppers coming in.
Supervalu on Tuesday said it was going to run another round of price cuts, a direct response to declining sales and market share. The new strategy comes as a major supplier in the past week told Supervalu that it will raise prices "across the board," Supervalu Chief Executive Craig Herkert told analysts Tuesday. A Supervalu spokesman declined comment on which supplier warned the company of higher prices. (This company owns Save-a-lot and CUB foods)
 
By Anjali Cordeiro and Paul Ziobro

So I've Got This Garage Sale Coming Up...

and I'm not really sure how to proceed. You see, I've never had a garage sale and I've probably only gone to about 3 in my whole life. My parents never had garage sales, but I did observe my sister in law having a garage sale once maybe. I'm a total noob.
 
I know garage sales are supposed to be the thing that frugal people embrace, but I've always had to work 8 to 4 weekdays and never had the opportunity to attend sales on the first day. And Saturdays are for sleeping in late, not getting up like a school day and driving around strange neighborhoods in the dark. Even when I ride my bike around on the weekends and see a sale, I just glance over and keep going. Plus they seem like a lot of work. In my opinion its easier to just post a picture on craigslist. I've sold thousands of dollars of stuff on craigslist in the past but the stuff I need to sell just doesn't seem worth it.
 
So a friend of mine lives in a community that is having a neighborhood yard sale on the first weekend of November. She invited me to bring over anything I want to sell, since she's done this a bunch. I thought it would be a good way to get rid of those golf clubs I lugged down to FL and haven't used in fifteen years, and the old vacuum cleaners and of course some stockpile stuff like scrubbing bubbles, swiffer starter kits and BBQ sauce. I don't have the big draw items like kids toys or clothes, or tools. So, I'm not really sure what will go and what won't. I also don't know how to price the stuff so that it goes, but not giveaway.
 
Here's what I'm thinking I need to get set -
 
1. Tables - I do know that I need to get some tables, which I can borrow. I can get a couple Card tables, and a plastic round outdoor table. Plus I can use some extra plywood from remodeling to make more tables with horseshoes. I have a small 5x8 trailer I can put all this stuff on, or borrow my neighbors pickup truck.
 
2. Items to sell - I can box up razors, toothpaste, BBQ sauce, swiffers, scrubbing bubbles, candles and air fresheners and all the other stockpile stuff I'm not using as quickly as I want. I also have sporting goods like roller blades, scuba equipment, nerf footballs, golf clubs. I have a box of Tshirts I culled out from the dressing room to donate, so I'll try to sell them too. Also a chainsaw and an electric leaf blower, and a couple vacuum cleaners.
 
3. Advertising - I'm wondering if it would be good to take pics and place the items on craigslist a week early to see if there is any interest at a higher price. Then I can direct the buyer to the yard sale. Do you think this would work? I could also place an ad in the garage sale section with a map to direct people to this sale.
 
4. Pricing - Is it better to put price tags on stuff or just tag the table like $1 Table. Or should I just put color stickers on everything and then I know if the red sticker is $0.25 and the blue sticker is $1, etc. Do you think people will switch stickers? I would also have a price list of everything so I can see what sold for what (being the analyst I am) and to verify the prices.
 
5. Troublemakers - what about the people who will annoy me and just try to basically steal my stuff? Granted I don't have a use for most of it, but I would rather give it away to the Salvation army for free than sell it to a cheapskate for ten cents. What about the people who will try to steal stuff, do I need to watch for that? I have an ipod Nano I want to sell since I have several, and I want people to see it but not steal it. Should I wear it with my arm strap with a for sale note on it?
 
6. Signs - I'll make a couple directional signs, plus some price signs for my tables.
 
7. Freebies - I'll have leftover Halloween candy to give away to buyers, plus I can sell SOBE water or something to thirsty people.
 
Any tips you have from your experiences would be great. I'll keep you posted on my progress. I'm going to start gathering stuff and packing it up this weekend.