Solid Ground

My MI mug, handmade by my mother (and obviously inspired by Pinterest.)

My MI mug, handmade by my mother (and obviously inspired by Pinterest.)

We made it to MI and we’re in love. So far Mt. Pleasant has everything we want/need and MI has proven itself lovely. We’re living in our third time zone together and loving the long summer days on the border of EST.  We’ve taken Ette on many walks along the Chippewa River (using the town’s extensive trail system,) but have yet to go on a float trip. It poses a bit of a problem for Clint because of his insulin pump, but we’re trying to invest in a canoe for a safer alternative. People float down the river through town with beers in hand, so I guess the rules for open containers are relaxed on water? That part is unclear. The water, however, is not. The river bottom is muddy, but the water looks quite clean.

I had expected much less enthusiasm about locally-sourced produce, but instead find myself surrounded by “MI-made!” banners and stickers on everything from leather handbags to potato chips.

Turns out, these are just burned chips!

Turns out, this is just a $4 bag of burned chips!

When we finally made it to the Farmer’s Market, we picked up corn, blueberries, peaches, MI maple syrup, and MI sweet cherries. I thought I had left the land of cherries behind me when Rainiers were no longer sold streetside, but MI sweet cherries are more candy than fruit. I would dare say that I prefer them to Rainiers (shocking, I know.) We had a decadent breakfast this morning of blueberry pancakes drizzled in our local maple syrup. Too wonderful.

The fancy dinners we had in WA are a thing of the past. There aren’t too many nice restaurants around, and we’ve been sticking to eating at home or picking up fast food. We’re both broke at the moment (or in my case, forever) and can’t afford many luxuries.

Camera 360

But we can afford this. Dog Central has $5 dog, fries, and drink combos on Tuesdays. Also, they have red cream soda!

 

Furnishing our house after moving across the country was not easy on our wallets. As of last week, we have everything we need, and the house looks wonderful. We now have seating, shelves, a washer/dryer, microwave, dressers, and every box unpacked. Now we get to sit in this furnished house and twiddle our thumbs until school starts.

Camera 360

Or in this case, we can play Forbidden Island.

I had imagined MI to be boring and somehow visibly economically depressed, but that’s primarily the Mitten’s thumb gusset. The rest of the state is happily getting by. People are Missouri levels of friendly, but with a remarkable pride for their state. Unlike WA or CA natives who are proud of their states because they have it all (mountains, forests, the ocean, farmlands,) Michiganders are proud to make due with what seems to outsiders like very little. They know their reputation is ordinarily attached to their abysmal winters, Detroit and Flint’s crime rates, and the failing American auto industry, but they’re eager to show you what else the state has to offer. They’ll point to their booming craft beer scene, the gorgeous coastal scenery, and the 10 cent bottle and can deposit. They might even bring up Hemingway’s affinity for the state, well into his expatriate days. As its motto suggests, “si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice,” or “if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”

A print I purchased from an Ann Arbor artist to commemorate our move.

A print I purchased from an Ann Arbor artist to commemorate our move.

 

On the Road Again

MtPleasantMI

Mappin’

This blog is so inactive that I feel comfortable only documenting big life moves (and couponing tips?) on it.

Two weeks from now we’ll be on the road on our way to Michigan. I’ve never really considered MI to be a state I’d like to live in, but Clint was accepted to a wonderful master’s program in Mount Pleasant, MI, so move there we shall!  I’m so excited for him to get his M.S. in a program where it seems he’ll be valued and respected.

I’m desperately applying to jobs in the area (23 job applications submitted and counting) and preparing myself for the financial uncertainty that comes with a life dedicated to the humanities. The town we’re moving to seems pretty happenin’ for it’s size, and I think we’ll enjoy being back in the Midwest. Driving instead of flying home for holidays will be a delight!

is81-1346438508-10785

Downtown Mount Pleasant

 

Mount Pleasant, MI

Population:

26,111

Major Employers:

Central Michigan University

Soaring Eagle Resort and Casino

Claims to fame:

Home to one of MI’s lowest unemployment rates!

One of the state’s most walkable and safest towns!

Corporate highlights: 

Target – This will be my first time living in the same town as a Target!

TJ Maxx – I’m gonna look so good!

Aldi’s –  I really missed all the questionable but outrageously cheap food at Aldi’s.

Dunkin’ Donuts – I love DD too much. This might become a problem.

Meijer – A MI-based everything store. Think semi-local Wal-Mart?

Local highlights:

GreenTree Co-Op – Part of the same group of co-ops as Moscow, ID’s co-op!

Farmer’s Market – Just down the street from our apt.!

Flour Uprising – A tongue-in-cheek communist bakery? YES PLEASE.

Max and Emily’s – Sandwiches a-plenty. Hosts a local concert series.

the Brass Cafe – Portobello and Gouda Flatbread!?

Mountain Town Station Brewery – Say hi to Jim!

Mt. Pleasant Brewing Co. – Excited to try the Tranwreck Ale: an amber ale brewed with maple syrup and honey.

Natural features: 

The Chippewa River runs through the town (and very close to our new apartment) and is ideal for fishing, canoeing, and tubing.

 

cfiles24845

Mt. Pleasant’s median resident age is 22 years old! Yowza! That’s a young town. Many of the local businesses seem to cater to this younger population. Many restaurants are transparently designed to entice drunk crowds and are open late. One restaurant in particular called “Menna’s Joint” serves a variety of marijuana-themed sub dub sandwiches. This really sounds more like something you would find in WA, right?

Here’s some data about their weather:

lhaq12253

I compared this to Pullman, and it’s pretty similar. It definitely gets colder in Mt. Pleasant, but just by about 10 degrees. Here’s the real kicker:

snwq12253

In March, Mt. Pleasant is still getting 10″ of snow! Also:

cldq12253

That’s a fair amount of cloud cover. I’m definitely going to invest in a SAD lamp. And maybe this shirt:

Picture 259

 

I’ll post soon with info about our new apt., our travel route, etc. Keep in touch, Midwestern friends!

Couponing for Good, Not Evil

This will be the final installment of my foray into coupon tutorials. I’ll leave the rest to the experts. This, however, might be the most important lesson I can offer and it’s not something you’ll read about in most couponing guides.

Be a good person.

You should probably be a good person whether or not you use coupons, but when you get knee-deep in the crazy scissor-wielding paper-cut ridden realm of extreme couponing, sometimes you lose sight of why you’re clipping up newspapers and carrying a notebook full of tiny slips of paper in the first place: to save you and your family money. This is not a sport, so do not try to “win” by scoring the best deal possible if the items you purchase are not things that you truly need and will use. You’re not saving money if you’re buying dumb crap that will go to waste in your home. In fact, you’re being a bad person if that’s what you’re doing.

This post is not about the crazy people who elbow other couponers in the face to snatch a good buy. Those people need more than just my advice. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I think couponing should be done in a socially responsible manner and honestly, I’m still figuring out how to master and delineate such a code. I’m not sure that I believe in karma, but saving >50% seems like something you need to pay forward.

This is my rough sketch:

1. Take only what you need.

That free Just For Men gel might be a fabulous deal but if neither you nor anyone you know is going gray, you should probably walk away from the offer. Why take a product that someone else might actually need? Just for the rush of getting a deal? At what cost? A house full of products that you’ll never use and your very own episode of Hoarders?

The only exception to this rule: money makers. Those items I mentioned before that offer overages ($$ taken off of your total at the register) are some people’s income. I understand that. But for those of us who work and have other means of survival, be cautious and considerate. Take only one or two of these money makers, and only if you can use or donate the item.

2. Donate what you don’t use/get for free.

If you’re a skilled coupon wizard whose savings abound, why not share that good fortune with people who really need it? Many grocery stores have carts/bins at their entrances with lists of needed products at local food banks. See if you can score some deals for the needy! This is an especially good option for small families and couples who end up with a closet full of B1G1 goods when the one really would have sufficed.

Looks like more than two people’s shower goods, right?

If you get off on the rush of couponing but find yourself overwhelmed with product at the end of a good haul, consider boxing up your extras and passing it on to someone who cannot afford to coupon. It will free up some cabinet space, make someone’s day (or week), and make you feel a little better about your over-buying.

Prime example: Walgreen’s is currently running a semi-secret $2 Register Reward when you buy 2 Suave shampoo or conditioner products. This means that when you buy two 99 cent shampoo/conditioners you get both FREE. Why not buy a few of these and let your savvy enrich the lives of others, at no cost to you?

3. Be vigilant about your recycling.

Coupon-clipping makes for a sea of unused paper. I was shocked at the amount of paper I had accumulated after just one week of couponing! I kept it all together in a reusuable bag and at the end of the week, I drove it to the local recycling center. Unfortunately recycling is not an easy option in the tiny town I live in, so I have to drive two towns over to Moscow, ID in order to properly recycle my paper scraps. The nice thing about getting into this routine, is that it keeps me more aware of other recycling (paper, cardboard, glass) that I often tend to neglect. When being environmentally aware is inconvenient or expensive, it becomes extremely hard to keep it a priority.  When I’m using so much more paper than the average person in order to save money (by printing coupons, picking up flyers, buying and discarding multiple newspapers every week), I feel like I can’t afford not to recycle.

In case you needed a visual representation of paper in a bag.

4. Try to continue buying local/organic/[insert thing you care about here] when you can.

Not all coupons are for big name companies. Most of the good ones are for larger corporations, but some smaller companies put out coupons too. These are rarely as high-dollar, but they will help you more affordably adhere to your values. One source for such coupons is Common Kindness, a website dedicated to providing coupons for more environmentally/socially aware products, and for making couponing benefit charitable organizations. According to their FAQs, this is how it works:

 1.Sign-up / Sign-in and select your favorite Non-Profit
 2.  Print and redeem grocery coupons
 3.  CommonKindness provides funds to your favorite Non-Profit

Companies pay an advertising fee to CommonKindness and we share 20% of funds received with the non-profits you select.

I’ve found some excellent coupons for things I’ve only found at the Moscow Food Co-Op, making shopping there a little more manageable on my budget. This way I can put my money back into the community without totally breaking the bank. In a perfect world, I would only buy local high quality foods from independent co-ops like ours in Moscow. In the real world I barely make enough money to fuel my commute and make rent, which is the reason I started couponing altogether.

Personal Story Time: 

I’m a bit embarrassed by my newfound coupon hobby. It’s another factor contributing to my feeling old and irrelevant. It’s extremely time consuming for sometimes little savings. And it stresses to everyone around me that I’m poor. I don’t like any of these things. What I do like, however, is feeling like I can make purchases that will better prepare me for financial uncertainty, without cutting into savings or dipping too deep into my recent paycheck. Another thing I like is leaving the store knowing that I made do with what I had instead of pandering to the credit card companies to spend what I haven’t earned. If I try to follow these rules more carefully, I think I can make it fulfilling on another level as well.

I wish it were easy to reconcile my need to stay on a strict budget and my desire to invest in my community. Unfortunately, social interests come at a price. This flimsy set of guidelines is my best effort at keeping the two categories within reach. Do you have any suggestions or perhaps your own code of couponing? I would love to hear thoughts and ideas from others.

So You Want to Start Couponing Pt. 3: Some Store Secrets

For this segment I would like to let you in on the stores where you can score some of the sweetest deals. I was surprised to find that the stores that offered the lowest prices everyday were not necessarily the best places to take your fat stack of coupons. Instead, it’s the moderately priced stores who desperately want you to pick them over Wal-Mart, and most of all, pharmacies in competition with one another that offer the best deals. I’m going to go over a few that I frequent, but I won’t speak for the stores I have not personally shopped. There are many more places to use your coupons (Target, for example, has a fantastic coupon policy and great store coupons) and you can read about those tips on bigger blogs. Some stores I do not have available to me include: Target, CVS, Dollar General, Family Dollar, CostCo, Sam’s Club, and others.

My Favorite Couponing Spots:

Walgreen’s

If I could only get deals in one place, it would probably be Walgreen’s. For some reason I just think shopping their weekly deals is a blast!

This is probably why.

Not ordinarily associated with savings, nearly every week Walgreen’s has items for FREE. They manage to give customers “free” items by printing “Register Rewards” after purchase that match the amount paid for the item. So you do have to pay for these items, but you immediately receive that money back in the form of a little Catalina-style print out good on your next purchase at Walgreen’s. The smart way to do this is with multiple transactions. Also, keep in mind that at Walgreen’s the number of coupons must not exceed the number of items.

Example:

Transaction 1

Buy  1 Lansoprazole $6 Receive $6 RR = FREE

Transaction 2

Buy 1 Goody’s Headband $2 Receive $2 RR = FREE

Buy Starbucks Refreshers x 2 at $1.99 each, use $1/2 Walgreen’s Store Coupon + $1/1 Manufacturer Coupon x 2 = $.98 for 2

Buy Blue Diamond Nuts $3.79 x 2 B1G1 use $.60 coupon = $3.19 for 2

(This works because I have 4 items and 4 coupons. If I had one fewer item I would need a filler item to meet their policy requirement.)

I usually spend very little at Walgreen’s and get big big savings (up to 90%). Most of the time this is due to B1G1 (buy one get one free) promotions and Register Rewards. I try to steer clear of B1G1/2 offers because they rarely save enough money to price match bigger grocery chains. One important consideration: Walgreen’s prices are not the best in town. Be sure that you’re only getting the best deals here and saving most of your coupons for the stores with already low prices, doublers, and comparable B1G1 offers.

Rite Aid

Another favorite of mine, Rite Aid competes with Walgreen’s offers and sometimes beats them. Look for the B1G1 +UP rewards offers for the BEST deals. +UP rewards are like Register Rewards, but they’re associated with your free Wellness+ card (more on that later) and are a little easier to get. One downside: many +UP rewards require that you purchase a large quantity of a particular item before you start saving. Only consider these deals if you’re prepared to stockpile, and a B1G1 offer is also in effect. For example, Clint and I took advantage of a B1G1 Arm & Hammer deal where if you bought $30 of participating products you rec’d $10 +UP rewards! This meant that we got toothpaste, kitty litter, deodorant, baking soda, etc. for the next year for just $20! Great deal, huh?

Another Rite Aid perk is their Video Value coupons, where you can simply watch videos and receive valuable coupons in exchange.  Don’t be fooled by the Rite Aid logo on these coupons . . . they are manufacturer coupons and can be used wherever you find the best deal.

Here is my most recent Rite Aid success:

I paid a whopping $3.28 after tax for all of this!

Here’s how this went down:

Duracell Ultra AAA 8 pk on sale for $2.94 use $.50 Duracell coupon = $2.44

Energizer Headlamp on sale for $3.99

Kleenex Purse Packs on sale for $.44

Toothbrush on sale for $2.99 use $.25 coupon = $2.74

NYC Nail Polish x 2 for $1.99 each use $1.50/2 = $2.48 total

Wet N Wild Nail Polish $.99

TOTAL : $13.08

APPLY $11 +UP rewards from last transaction

TOTAL: $2.08 + tax = $3.28

SAVINGS: $38.25

Albertson’s

I have only shopped at Albertson’s twice, but when they publish “Twice the Value” (doublers) in the Sunday paper, they can be the best place to shop in the area. Unfortunately with my 1 hour commute from Lewiston to Colfax I rarely get the chance to stock up on their great meat/dairy/frozen deals. I try to remember to bring a cooler with me on those days, but I’m pretty forgetful. One of my favorite things about Albertson’s is their Preferred Card and the option to load paperless coupons on it for easy clip-free couponing!

I know that they are region-specific, but you might check your smaller stores for similar promotions!

Safeway

I’m also new to Safeway, but so far I’ve been pretty please with their deals. They just started a Just For U coupon service where they select coupons for you based on what you purchase using your Safeway card (also free to sign up.) This means extra store and manufacturer savings! Weekly ads feature impressive meat sales, great B1G1 deals, and sizable discounts offered to club members only. I don’t have specific deals to brag about, but I will continue updating this post as I learn more about the regional stores.

K-Mart

Now K-Mart isn’t the best at working with couponers (see the hour I spent trying to clarify my coupons with customer service) but they’re trying, and I appreciate that. K-Mart jumped on the Rewards Card bandwagon with their Shop Your Rewards program (attached to their affiliate store Sears) and is currently running a double coupon deal EVERY DAY. This deal comes with some stipulations, however. I happen to know them by heart due to frequent complications:

  • Doubles apply for up to 5 coupons per customer per day.
  • Only cosmetic and grocery coupons can be doubled.
  • Coupons can be up to $1 in value (making the doubled value $2 max.)
  • The transaction must reach $25 total (in cosmetic/grocery items) BEFORE coupons are applied.
  • Customer must show the cashier their Rewards card and scan it before any items are scanned.

K-Mart tends to be somewhere between the pharmacies and Wal-Mart in their prices, so you’re often better off using doubled coupons at K-Mart (on top of advertised B1G1 deals and K-Mart specials) than you would be at the pharmacies or even Wal-Mart for face value. I also find K-Mart to be a nice change of pace.

Wal-Mart

Recently Wal-Mart has updated their coupon policies in an effort to attract couponers. They now pay overages (none of the above stores do that), price match ads, and at some select Wal-Marts, even price match doubles! That means if you live near a K-Mart, your Wal-Mart may offer the same promotion, making their deal considerably better. Overall, I would rather not shop at Wal-Mart at all, but they simply offer the best deals and most freebies. If they’re paying me to coupon, I don’t feel too bad about shopping there.

Here is a deal I snatched last night:

Pay me to coupon? Yes, please.

Now this would have been a SUPERB deal, but Clint had to get his fancy OJ, so it’s a little bit skewed. The scenario:

Renuzit Fresh Accents $1.76 x 2 use B1G1 coupon = $1.76 for 2

U by Kotex 16 ct. liners $1.24 use $2.00 coupon = FREE + $.76 overage

Trial Aquafresh $.97 use $1.00 FREE + $.03 overage

[Total for my goods: $.97!]

Fancy Simply OJ w/Pineapple $3.48

Total $4.45  +tax = $4.90

Take out Clint’s OJ and that’s a hell of a deal.

I try to only shop at Wal-Mart for their freebies and EXTREME savings, and put the rest of my money elsewhere. Look for an upcoming post detailing the social responsibility of couponing and how to use all that money you’re saving!

So You Want to Start Couponing Pt. 2: Organization

Now that you have a pile of coupons sitting in front of you, you’re probably wondering how to take those to a store and effectively use them. It will become obvious to you after just one couponing trip without a system of organization that you need one NOW. I tried using one of the small accordion files intended for coupons and found that it was hard to sort things, impossible to find anything, and stressful in the aisles. There are TONS of ways to organize your coupons (other dedicated coupon sites go over these, and a quick google search will yield interesting results) but I can only attest to what works for me.

My trusty binder and coupon scissors!

Things you’ll need:

1. A fancy but sturdy binder with some sort of closure. You should make sure that you can stomach looking at this thing all the time, so pick a binder you like with sturdy construction. I chose this matte-leathery Marth Stewart for Avery binder and the featured band closure to keep everything secure. I wouldn’t ordinarily splurge on something like this, but her line of office supplies at Staples is divine . . . plus I had a coupon!

2. Specialized coupon protector sheets. I use business card sheets because they’re cheap, readily available at office supply stores (so I don’t have to order them online) and able to fit tons of coupons on one page. The downside to these is that I ALWAYS have to fold my coupons to make them fit. This isn’t a problem for me because I used to fold things for a living (funeral home memorial card folding trains you for life, not death) but it might be annoying for those not desensitized to mindless uniform paper folding. Other options include currency sheets, baseball card sheets, etc.

Coupons from my local Food Co-Op!

3. Normal Page Protectors. You’ll want these for maintaining weekly circulars, your coupon policy print-outs, etc.

4. Coupon Policies. It’s nice to have the coupon policies for your frequented stores readily available in your binder so that if you come into a dispute (more on that later) you can defend yourself with the company’s own regulations. Be smart about couponing by reading these guidelines BEFORE you start shopping, not after you’ve yelled at a cashier.

I keep my Walgreen’s coupon policy logically right next to my Walgreen’s store coupons.

5. Folder(s). It’s nice to have a space to keep extra fliers, coupons that still need to be clipped, etc.

This is where I keep my fliers and promotions.

6. A Ziploc or Zippered Bag (optional). I use mine to hold all of my rewards cards so they don’t weigh down my wallet, to keep coupons that I’ve clipped but haven’t organized, and receipts that I need to file or look over.

My handy zippered bag from Martha’s line for Avery keeps everything locked down, but takes up no more space than its contents.

7. LOTS of dividers. The front of my binder features all of my store-specific coupons organized by store, and the back features manufacturer coupons organized by category or aisle.

My store tabs.

I have my store dividers on the top and category on the side so I can easily see all of my tabs at once.

My category tabs.

8. A Notepad for Lists. This is a necessity to make sure you buy everything you need, no more and no less. It’s easy to go overboard and buy everything on sale, but when you have your match-ups (that’s a bit of jargon referring to the sales of the week matched up to the coupons in your binder) listed and easily accessible in your binder, you can stay on track and be responsible. I make a list for each of the stores I love and make sure to stop at each during the week.

My shopping list.

9. Coupon Scissors (optional). Not everyone is crazy about scissors, but most crafters know that you can’t have just one universal pair of scissors in your arsenal. You need fabric scissors, pinking shears, paper scissors, thread scissors, precision scissors, travel scissors, cardboard scissors, kitchen scissors, ETC. As a crazy scissor person, I have coupon scissors on me at all times, just in case of a coupon emergency.

10. Paper Cutter (optional). Especially helpful if you plan to print lots of coupons. You’ll find that a fat stack of your coupons will all be perfectly aligned and if you have a paper cutter, you can chop several pages at a time up with ease. This saves me a ton of time and makes clipping coupons less of a chore. I bought the  Fiskars SureCut Paper Trimmer from Michael’s with a 50% off coupon, so I just paid $10 for this little piece of convenience. I highly recommend it.

11. Expired Coupon Envelope. When your prized coupons expire, you don’t have to throw them away recycle them. You can donate them! Ask your friends with military family members if they could use coupons on their base (military bases tend to accept coupons long past expiration date) or send them here!

That’s all I have at the moment. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section. There’s more to this series, so stay tuned!

So You Want to Start Couponing Pt. 1: Collecting Coupons

You may have heard that I’m all about couponing as of late. It’s true. I’m old and miserly. Whatever. I’m also eating well and not broke so SHUT UP.

Gettin’ all fired up.

Several people have asked me what it takes to start your own couponing system and I’m here to offer some helpful tips.

I plan on explaining most jargon as I go, but before we get started, a bit of lingo:

Manufacturer Coupon – These are coupons you regularly find in the paper inserts or print. These are easily differentiated from store coupons by a note at the top. Don’t be fooled by coupons with Wal-Mart or Target’s name on the front. If they say Manufacturer on them, they can be used anywhere.

These manufacturer’s coupons were peelies at my local RiteAid. Even though I found them at RiteAid, they say “manufacturer” at the top, so I can use them wherever I find the best deal!

Store Coupon – These coupons are meant only for the store where they were distributed. These will be clearly marked to identify which store they came from and cannot be used elsewhere (unless that other store accepts competitor’s coupons.)

See how this coupon does not say “manufacturer”? That makes it a store coupon.

Stacking- Combining a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon to get the largest discount possible. Add this to an already reduced price item and you’ve got a deal!

Doublers- Some stores (Albertson’s, K-Mart, Safeway) allow you to double your coupons either by pairing your coupon with their doubles coupon, or simply by having a rewards card with the store. Ordinarily you can only double coupons up to $1.00 in value and cannot double more than 3 or 5 coupons per transaction.

Moneymakers- Also called overages. Coupon/Sale combinations that exceed the price of the item so that the store pays you to take their items! Keep in mind that only certain big box stores will let you make money off of their sales (Wal-Mart is among them!) so always check the store’s coupon policy before trying this.

Part 1: Collecting Coupons

Before you go on a crazy extreme couponing trip, you need to build up a collection of coupons. Where can you find coupons, you ask?

1. Check Your Local Paper – The more urban the better. If you live in a suburb or small rural town outside of a metro area, try to pick up the bigger paper. It will generally have more coupons. Where I live, the Lewiston Tribune and Spokesman (out of Spokane, WA) are the two papers that carry coupon inserts. The Moscow-Pullman paper does not. Coupons generally only come in Sunday papers, so don’t bother digging through daily papers. Wednesday papers often feature inserts with new sales events, but rarely do they include any major coupons. Buying all of the local papers (or multiples of each if you’re WAY extreme) can get costly, so here’s my secret to getting these coupons without even the minimal cost of the paper:

A. Be super trashy and hit up businesses late Sunday night when they’re discarding their daily papers.

B. Go to a local cafe or business that buys the paper (I prefer going to McDonald’s because they buy multiple papers and who cares about McD’s?) and steal the inserts. Come in with your binder and other inserts and no one will notice.

C. Dumpster dive for additional papers. If it’s worth it to you, you can get tons of coupons this way. It’s worth a try!

D. Just steal them. I’ve done this before at places I hate, like WalMart.

If you want to make sure that all of this criminal activity is worth a few coupons, use the Sunday Coupon Preview to find out what you might find!

2. Use Online Coupon Sites to Print Coupons – This is likely the easiest way to get coupons, but it comes at a price as well and depending on your printer, it might be quite high. A few things you need to do this:

A. A couponing email address where you can direct all of the spam and advertisements you’ll receive after signing up for these sites. Don’t try to sign your friends up as a prank, because many require an email verification.

B. A printer. This is a necessity for any serious couponer. I purchased a printer from WalMart for $39 that included ink cartridges. It was cheaper to buy a new printer than it was to replace the cartridges in my old one, so I went for it. This HP1000 also has some of the cheapest ink on the market so it’s a good option if you want to start printing coupons but don’t want to invest in a nicer printer.

A printed coupon from Coupons.com.

C. A Fake Facebook Account. Use that coupon email address to sign up for a dummy FB account. This will help you get all of those high dollar coupons offered on Facebook without having to be embarrassed by publicly liking Preparation H.

D. These pages bookmarked:

If you can only choose one of these to check daily, I would recommend Coupons.com. They have the largest selection, however, they do not feature the highest value coupons. I try to keep up on these sites and print the few new coupons that appear each day (around 6 on average) so I don’t find myself overwhelmed with all of the coupons that crop up in a given week (or more). This also ensures that I don’t miss out on a deal!

Common Kindness is a must-see for socially responsible couponers. This site allows you to pick a local charity or organization and counts your acquired coupons toward a donation to this group. There are opportunities to donate $50 or more to these organizations through your frugality! You don’t spend a penny! This site also offers coupons for many organic, gluten-free, and vegan foods that you won’t find on the other coupon sites.

3. Pick up Coupons at Your Grocery Store or Pharmacy - You can often find coupons right where you shop. These in-store coupons come in several different forms. Here are a few:

A. Blinkies are coupons dispensed from little machines next to the product they apply to.

B. Peelies are sticker coupons on the package of their corresponding product (but be careful, sometimes peelies are advertising $1.00 off of a different product with purchase.)

C. Peel-pad coupons are similar to blinkies, featured next to the product they advertise. Some stores are better about distributing these peel-pad coupons than others. Keep in mind that these are manufacturer coupons and do not need to be used in the store where you found them.

D. In-Ad coupons are featured in your stores weekly circular. Some stores have great store coupons that can be combined with manufacturer coupons. This is called stacking and it’s how you get the best deals. To tell the difference, look at the top of your coupon for details. More on this later!

E. Coupon books are common at some stores like Walgreen’s and are a great way to save big bucks by combining coupons. Every month Walgreen’s puts out a new book of impressive coupons. These coupons are yours for the taking. You can pick up as many books as you think you’ll use!

F. Catalinas are the high dollar coupons that print out at the register after you make a purchase. These are awesome and valuable little slips of paper, so be sure to save them!

A Walgreen’s Catalina. I purchased tweezers for $1.00 using this $2.00 coupon and received ANOTHER coupon in return!

4. Load Coupons onto Your Rewards Card – Many places offer opportunities to save on paper and put coupons directly on your rewards card. This method is a little difficult for me, because I tend to forget what I put on which card. And don’t forget SavingStar, where certain purchases made with your rewards cards add up to gift cards (or cold hard cash!) This site’s discounts are connected to your rewards cards and can be combined with any other coupon. Check it out!

My collection of rewards cards.

And last but not least . . .

5. All You Magazine – sold exclusively at Wal-Mart, All You is exactly what you might expect from a Wal-Mart affiliated publication. Its pages are filled with images of boring women looking frumpy and supportive of their husbands. Nothing flashy. Nothing of high quality. Just standard females modelling clothes they would probably wear anyway. Its only winning feature in my book is its dedication to showcasing only affordable fashion. All of the outfits in the magazine are easily purchasable by their readers — a feat never before accomplished by a print magazine (to my knowledge)! If you’re interested in being shocked by this magazine’s dedication to offending NO ONE, then by all means, read it, but if you want tons of coupons, buy it for $3.00 each month and clip the shit out of this mostly terrible publication.

Whew! That should be enough information to get you started on collecting coupons. Next up, Part 2: Coupon Organization!

If you want more info from the pros, check out these awesome websites:

We made it.

So everyone knows, we’re in Colfax and nearly settled.

The drive was beautiful and far less stressful than I had anticipated. Montana in particular was breathtaking and I would love to return or even live there. My dad enjoyed the drive because it reminded him of his days hopping freight trains along the same route and he told us many unsavory stories. Having my dad there really helped me feel confident about the whole thing and everything went pretty well on the whole.

Getting things unpacked and filling in the gaps has been a long and expensive journey. I’m in credit card debt for the first time in my life with no foreseeable way to pay it off, but I guess that’s what happens when you move halfway across the country. Clint has set up the living room to be a music room with both of our music posters, and records. We got a cute click-clack couch to optimize listening comfort and I can’t wait to entertain there. It looks fantastic.

Our bedroom is the most bare-bones set-up in the apartment, with my clothes, two dressers, both of my shoe racks, and jewelry taking up most of the space. I bought a $600 Enso memory foam mattress and LOVE IT sitting atop our simple Ikea Malm bed frame.

The kitchen is darling and Clint put my record player and speakers in there so we could listen to records while we cooked. I was apprehensive, but the set-up looks nice and makes cooking more enjoyable.

My office is the last thing to get settled and still has both of our odds and ends in it. Currently I have two bookshelves, a craft shelf, and a new red Ikea desk as well as Regina’s litterbox and food, because we couldn’t find a better place. I look forward to this room being more livable since I assume I’ll be spending lots of time in it when school starts.

Speaking of which, I start classes a week from tomorrow. I’m pretty nervous. I have three orientation days this week, so hopefully I’ll feel more prepared after that. In addition to orientations I have to complete my residency requirements this week. This sounds simple, but has been a horrible pain so far. I spent all of Friday in and out of the Department of Licensing office where they never did get my license. That costs $45 and I don’t even want to think about how much my vehicle licensing will cost. The consequences for not completing these tasks is paying out-of-state tuition for the next year, something I positively cannot afford.

I miss everyone, but have been busy and having difficulty adjusting to the time difference so I always want to call people when it’s 3AM CST. I’m sure most of you are still awake then, but I’d hate to wake someone up just to say “Missin’ you, girrrrrrrrrrrrrl!” So please, call me. If I don’t answer I’m probably doing something stupid and I’ll definitely call you back.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures yet. When everything is in its place I promise I’ll get some posted.

Washington Post

UPDATE!

Clint and I flew out to Washington recently to find a place to live. We were there Wed-Sat. which seemed like plenty of time to see apartments and sign a lease. I set up an itinerary, scheduled meetings with the few landlords with pet-friendly apartments/houses, and expected us to find lots of great places and quickly make a decision. This was naturally not the case.

The first place we saw in Pullman was extremely small, sketchy, and $475/month. The next day we saw a dreamy place with wood floors, a lovely yard and lots of room, but it was $1000/month, hardly feasible for my stipend budget. Next we went on a cruise with a crazy agent who convinced us we would love a shit hole in Albion (10 minutes from Pullman), then showed us a similar shit hole in town with an impossibly steep driveway. She said things like “That woman needs to know that the world does not evolve around her” in reference to her boss and “The coast runs from here down to California, and then Mexico, and even to the tip of South America” because kids from the midwest clearly do not understand the geographical phenomenon of water meeting land (bitch, we got cricks like you wouldn’t believe! That’s the same thing!)

These were the only places available and pet-friendly in our price range. We tried to get the $1000/month place for $850 but got the runaround from the owner. Finally, Clint convinced me to give a gorgeous place in Colfax a look. I was extremely hesitant as Colfax is 20 minutes from Pullman and I didn’t want to commute, but this place is well worth the drive.

Our new home!

This apartment is the upper floor of a house with a private entrance and shared washer/dryer with the lower units. It has hardwood floors, a breakfast nook, vaulted ceilings that don’t minimize space (unlike mine), and lovely new paint.

YELLOW FRIDGE.

There are more visible plug-ins in this image than are in my entire kitchen.

In addition, it has a lovely kitchen with spacious granite counter tops with plenty of plug-ins for appliances like my new stand mixer! The best part of this well-lit kitchen is the included breakfast nook.

So quaint!

There are two decently large bedrooms each with their own closet and a living room with a coat closet. The bathroom has a huge storage area also, and the hallway has coat hooks on every wall. Also, one of the bedrooms is red!

Sexy!

Did I mention there's a window seat!?

Oh, and behind the house and up some stone stairs we have our very own deck and some land to call our own! Ette will love romping around back there and we can sit there and drink (white) wine and watch the sunset every night (not).

The town itself is quite lovely as well. It only has a population of 2,844, but it has everything we need. We’re even walking distance from a grocery store, a Taco Time, a bar, and a coffee place as well as a pretty nifty-looking public library. When we move in I’ll post more pictures, but until then I’ll be daydreaming about this place.

The lease signing process took over a week, 7 failed faxes, and lots of phone tag, but it’s finally ours. We move in August. Come visit us sometime!

It’s Real Now.

Estranged blog friends, at long last I know what I’m doing next year.

After many rejections and unfunded acceptances (4 rejects and 4 acceptances to be exact) I decided to go to Washington State University for their Master’s in English Literature program. I was offered a 2 year TAship, a $12,850 stipend, tuition waiver (except for $940/semester in fees) and a one time $500 book stipend. I couldn’t be more pleased. Since this and Truman’s GTRA offer were my only funded choices and WSU’s offer far exceeded Truman’s I took it immediately.

My communication with the head of the department there has been wonderful. He was quick to answer questions, incredibly helpful, and personally let me know about my offer before my letter arrived to make sure I would consider it. I was pretty shocked considering it’s a Literature program and I’m a theoryhead who only ever utilizes queer and feminist critiques. My guess is that they wanted a token feminist? I’ll gladly be someone’s token for that kind of money and opportunity.

Ain't no thang.

WSU is located in Pullman, WA, a town of about 25,000 on the Idaho border. Moscow, ID, home of University of Idaho, is 7 minutes away and connected by a bike trail. The two towns share an airport, shopping, and act as sister cities. Pullman is 73 miles from Spokane and about 6 hours from Seattle, nestled in the heart of Washington farm country, the Palouse region, and gorgeous lentils.

Did I mention Pullman hosts the National Lentil Festival?!

I know, right?!

I understand that this festival hosts the world’s largest bowl of lentil chili served to you by a person dressed as a lentil, a beer garden, and Little Lentil King and Queen (check out the video. That little girl knows her lentils.) I’ll obviously be attending this fantastic event.

Some random person made this “comprehensive” guide to Pullman. It’s pretty outdated, but they have a great housing guide that I’ve made use of in my hunt for lodging next year. There are a handful of coffee shops (I’m sure I’ll work at one of them), two Thai places, and a European eatery of some sort. They have a Shop-Ko for their one-stop shopping needs. There are a number of bars, some of which are on campus (!) and look pretty standard. They also have an upscale restaurant with valet parking in the university.

Look at this map. Makes Truman look like a babby school (only in size!)

It's the size of a small town!

I’m looking at reasonably priced housing for Clint and I and have a list of realtors that we’ll be visiting the week after graduation when we fly out to find a place. I’m not willing to rent a house without seeing it first so it’s worth the money to scope it out. Plus, I’ll spend the whole summer dreaming about this place and seeing it will make the whole thing (even more) real.

I got a letter yesterday detailing my responsibilities as a TA and telling me about the course offerings for the following semester. I register on May 1st and get to choose from courses such as: Modernism in Film, Writing for Publication, and Sequential Art (a class all about graphic novels.)

I’m outrageously excited, but I know I’ll miss Kirksville. It’s a 28 hour drive so I won’t feasibly be able to drive down, and that’s a scary thought, but I suppose growth rarely comes comfortably.

Some things I want

I feel like my last few posts have been full of complaints and/or dreams, but here are some things that I want desperately and if I saved hard enough, I could purchase with monies. I’ll be posting these in waves. Let’s start big!

Fun Furniture and Home Decor

Mushroom Table! via whorange

This mushroom table by Thomas Wold is quirky and functional and I could see it fitting in perfectly with the aesthetic of my future apartment. Okay, I’m still dreaming and it’s $985. Shhh.

OMG. Lounging, reading, and design made love and this was their babby.

Another unrealistic dream of mine is owning or building a chair like this. via Yanko Designs.

This beaut is a mere $699!

A little more realistic, but I don’t see me having $700 layin’ around any time in the near future. Later in my life I’ll probably line my cabinets with Franklins, though. via Pottery Barn Teen.

Thanks Etsy seller likekittysville! You know how to treat my pussy right.

This is just $79 and it’ll make Regina happy. And when kitty’s happy, mama’s happy too. via likekittysville

Puckman? That's all you got? I'll forgive you. It's cute.

Ginepro Design has nice geeky furniture including ipod coffee tables, this “puckman” bookshelf, and ghosty lamps.

I'd like to think that Cat and Girl creator Dorothy makes beautiful graphics like this for my enjoyment.

This poster available for a completely realistic $12 at TopatoCo. A little affordable for my tastes, though.