Upping the Savings Game at Target

Okay, I upped my Target game. I saved 19% which is the best I’ve done since I bought the Juicer and got a $10 rebate on it! Yeah!

Remember, I am not an extreme couponer, so whatever savings I can get I weigh that against effort extended and if I was able to buy brands that I wanted. So this is what I did differently:

1.) I was careful with Cartwheel to get into the store before certain deals expired that I knew I wanted – such as meat, fruit and vegetable savings. These are three areas that are hard to find with coupons.

2.) 3 offers were buy one and get a second 1/2 off and each of one those deals had an additional coupon on it (Paper towels, Fiber One Cereal and Cheerios). Two of these were “accidents” and I could have upped this game a bit by looking through the ad. I am bad though about not reading ads as they bore me and I think a lot of it is hype, not savings.

3.) 6 of the 12 Cartwheel items I had a coupon for. It’s very important to coupon the Cartwheel items because it really ups the percentage to maximize savings.

4.) 78% of the items had coupons as opposed to when we scored poorly (overall items bought 50-60% had coupons). I changed this by doing some online looking for coupons (spent about 30 minutes developing my list and Googling).

I regularly buy the following brands so I signed up through their websites to receive coupons or newsletters (it’s important to use an email just for sign ups – this email will eventually get leaked and spammed so I use a different one for family/friend correspondence):

Hunts tomato sauce related products
Pillsbury – sometimes biscuits/rolls, frozen cookie dough
Betty Crocker – Blueberry Muffin Mix
Campbells – slow cooker sauces, sometimes soups
General Mills – Cheerios and cereals
Ronzoni pasta – veggie type (love it!)
Jif peanut butter – creamy daughters favorite
Pepperidge Farms – Cinnamon bread, Goldfish crackers
Land O Lakes – butter
Bummel and Brown – butter
Gold Medal Flour
Quaker Oats
Annies Mac and Cheese
Silk – Soymilk/Almond Milk
Uncle Bens Rice
Kashi Cereal
Sargento or Kraft Cheese (sliced)
Jennie-O turkey
Horizon Milk and Cheese
Minute Maid Orange Juice – Vitamins added
Pancake syrup – what is on sale/coupon
Disposable razors – what is on sale/coupon
Paper towels – what is on sale/coupon
Toilet paper – what is on sale/coupon
Other Health, Beauty, Medical needs, etc… I will go into another time

5.) Target states we saved $53 which is deceptive remember as they count their own sales (not my coupons or even Cartwheel).

Okay yeah! I feel like I am making sense with this and it saves me money without making me go crazy shopping around town, having my kids eat off brands they don’t like or “extreming” it.

Bargains no more

You probably want to read about some amazing deal I found: like a fantasy $10 dresser I redid and sold for $500. Personally, the reality is that those deals are getting harder and harder to find – if not impossible.

All the popularity of painting furniture on Pinterest, Facebook and in junk/vintage booth stores has made it rare to find “deals” anymore. Even average furniture has gone up in price on Craigslist and so I am not here to tout bargains. I actually am a bit tired of having to buy something only to spend weekends getting it back into some sort of shape for my home – it’s one reason the blog has not been so busy this last year as I’ve had re-decorating burnout…


I did find two matching lamps for the Living Room – they are the Mercury Glass style (I did try the Mercury glass spraypaint featured in many Pinterest pins and the reality is that it was crap and not at all professional in end product).

If I had bought similar ones on sale at Hobby Lobby they would have been about the same price though these are a bit better in quality. I am also no longer spending money at Hobby Lobby due to them breaking the law and trying to shame women working at below a living wage into being baby machines (or maybe breaking the law in New York advertising fake bargains from China – or maybe breaking the law in Oklahoma by holding secret meetings with government officials).

They would have cost me twice as much if bought at Pier One and these are about the same quality as Pier One lamps. But a steal? No.


I also found two matching end tables for the Living Room on Craigslist. Again, no real bargain at $120 for two. However, these are high quality pieces, nothing wrong or damaged with them, with hardware I won’t have to replace. It’s also a huge problem trying to find two matching tables – generally you find an end table with a matching coffee table (not what I wanted as it didn’t work with the room’s configuration).

I will be painting them as soon as I replace the couch and chairs. While the black and white striped curtains, the black chair, wall color and floor will remain the same, the sofa and the chairs will be changed. I may go with a gray couch and patterned upholstered chairs or gray chairs and a colorful couch. Not sure.

The chair here? Craigslist for $80. Why so high? Because it’s real leather not fake vinyl. The springs are excellent and while I might put a wax on the wood, I’m not repainting it. It’s pretty much ready to go.

Nothing wrong with dumpster diving or finding a broken dresser to fix up – but even broken things are Craigslist are going for twice what they did two years ago (I saw a dresser missing two drawers priced at $100! Really? and the ad stated – “redo like on Pinterest”).

On the bright side – it means the economy is improving. The downside is that the days of scooping up treasures next for nothing is pretty much gone.

An update on my Target savings

I’ve kept back my Target receipts. I thought it would be interesting to see what I’m saving.

First, Target is my go-to grocery store. I don’t do Aldi (cheap food crap that tastes like cardboard so no savings for me there if no one will eat it); Wal-mart (is no cheaper than Target – go do a price/product comparison and you will see I’m right about that and the shopping experience gives me a headache); no Costco near me; and while I occasionally do Whole Foods and other organic oriented stores, those are not stores I expect to “save” at. I also want to get back to my Farmers’ Market shopping.

Second, these savings are using in-store sales (chosen to match up with coupons, Cartwheel OR just standard items I regularly buy), Target printed coupons, some manufacturers coupons, and the Cartwheel savings system at Target’s website. I am not going to go extreme on coupons so if that is what you are looking for, not the blog post for you.

Basically, this is a blog post about an average person spending about 30 minutes a week (or less) to see if she can improve her grocery bill.

Thirdly, two things I dislike about Target and this savings system:

1.) the receipt total doesn’t state how much you saved. You have to go line by line on the receipt to see this. When I compared what Target said I saved vs. what I saved the totals did not match. I think Target counts price “drops” which I do not. Not cool Target.

2.) logging into Cartwheel at their website doesn’t save my password and doesn’t remember the password from the main site. This is more time wasted out of my day. A little tweak and it would be far less irritating.

Let’s see how I did:

4/5/14 ~ Total spent $307.21; savings of $26.50. 8.6% savings. 69 items/40 with savings.

4/7/14 ~ Total spent $165.97; savings of $16.71; 10.9% savings. 45 items/29 savings.

4/18/14 ~ Total spent $266.59; savings of $55.46; 22.6% savings (we got a $10 coupon for a purchase which made a big difference). 44 items/38 savings.

5/17/12 ~ Total spent $342.43; savings of $23.60; 7.5% savings. 57 items/29 savings.

What I’ve learned so far:

Target provides the majority of their sales on their store brand. The quality of there store brands is pretty out there. For example, the dishwasher soap was HORRIBLE – I threw it away it was so bad – left a white film on my dishes and made them taste lemony. The Archer Farms frozen green beans, broccoli florets and butternut squash is good and I’m buying those regularly (and they are consistently on sale/Cartwheel) – the other veggies not tasty. The deli Target salads are also regularly on sale and have become a work lunch staple.

It’s worth trying out some of their store brands but the cleaning products I’d take a pass on.

Sales often coincide with the Cartwheel system savings. For example if Green Giant canned vegetables is on sale, Target often adds on a Cartwheel or coupon offer. This can really deep discount the savings and is worth the time. There are specific brands I know I’ll always buy: Horizon Fat Free Milk, Minute Maid Orange Juice with added vitamins, and Annies boxed Mac N Cheese for example. Keep an eye on sales but only as it pertains to brands I’m interested in.

Add on manufacturer’s coupons to sales and Cartwheel really ups the overall percentage of savings. If I know that there is a certain brand I’m buying, for example Kashi cereals, wait for a sale, Cartwheel savings, and manufacturers/Target coupon. Especially if these are items that I stock my pantry for staples that I use for backup (i.e. canned vegetables just get pitched into crockpot recipes).

Plan ahead for big ticket purchase items and wait for a sale. For example, I knew we needed a new blender/food processor. I caught the Ninja on sale with a $10 gift card. The sale discount itself was what I could have gotten at Bed Bath and Beyond with my 20 percent off coupon, but add in the$10 gift card and it was definitely better to buy from Target.

Evaluating the data

1.) Aim for 50 percent or more items need a coupon or Cartwheel savings

2.) Coupons + Cartwheel double the savings (approximately).

3.) Look for higher coupons, especially if they are $1 or more off coupons.

4.) Gift cards, rebates, combine offers and get a shopping card credit really adds up the percentage of savings.

5.) Determine what store brands would be okay with the family and maximize those with Cartwheel and coupons.

6.) Aim at 85 to 90 percent of your cart having a savings coupon of some sort.

Hm so I’ll continue to keep track and see if I can improve my game here. 😀

Store brands vs. “real” brands

I am not big on store brands. Generally, they have failed and been crap. However, in an effort to save money I did buy the UP&UP Target store brand for liquid dishwasher soap.

FAIL. Crap. It films the glasses and leaves a lemony tasty film on the dishes. Thanks but I’ll spend another $1 and go back to Cascade.

Way back in the day when we were trying to do some Penny Pincher stuff, I made her cocoa from scratch recipe. OMG was that stuff like CHALK… pure unadulterated crap. You see it all over Pinterest about making your own this and that, and for the most part, in my trials, made-at-home-products have failed over and over again to produce the results that a commercial product can give me.

This is the problem with these coupon queens who seem to get something for nothing.

1.) they buy what is on sale, regardless if they need it. That doesn’t save me money.

2.) they buy store brands or “cheaper” brands that in my experience (see above) suck. So you save 75 cents and have a brand that simply doesn’t work. Is that a savings? I don’t think so. Another example is Birdseye vs. Green Giant. Birdseye puts more of the stems in the frozen vegetables and heavily pads their mixes with cauliflower, vs. Green Giant produces a better quality product in the frozen vegetables arena.

Yes, I do have some brand loyalty – not because of their advertising but because the product IS better (give me Ghirardelli over Nestle any day – and Godiva over that).

3.) they stockpile. Well I don’t want to tie up my money in a closet full of toilet paper. If you want to “work” your money that way go ahead but money in the hand is always better than money tied up in a purchase.

4.) they shop sales and go to multiple stores. I work now and have a lot of responsibilities outside the home. I don’t have time to go to the Dollar Store, Target, Wal-mart, Big Lots, etc…. so I can save $5. Time IS money and I would rather work with one or two stores that provides me consistent values.

Don’t get fooled by this “get groceries for nothing.” I would rather stick to brands that work – brands that taste good – brands that give me good quality – than stuff that simply is crap.

And I guess making chalk-tasting hot chocolate powder is a savings because no one will drink it!

Shopping and saving at Target

targetebookLike I’ve written before, while I like coupons and “deals” I’m not a super coupon shopper. I don’t see the sense in having my money tied up in stockpiling a closet with floor to ceiling toilet paper that just happened to be on sale.

I don’t see the sense in buying candy or soda just because I have a coupon as I don’t regularly need this stuff or buying a brand (for me it’s Febreeze) that I simply don’t like.

However, the cost of groceries for a family of four has gone up again so I decided to check out his Amazon Target Shopping ebook ($2.99 book at the time of purchase).

Okay for those diehard Walmart shoppers… Target matches about 99.9 percent of their prices because I have compared receipts at both. The idea that Walmart is “cheaper” is really just Walmart coasting on a reputation. For me I like the cleaner store at Target and since I have two Super Targets (offering groceries) within 5 miles of my house, Target is my store of choice.

The book would have been better at 99 cents and did have a few helpful facts:

1.) Friday is the day that all merchandise for that week has been marked down.

2.) You can go online and print off Target coupons.

3.) Target has an additional coupon system called Cartwheel (this was the most helpful tip for me as Target seems to “hide” it online).

4.) Use your own bags and get a nickel off for each bag used.

5.) Use the RedCard and get another 5%. If you don’t want the credit card they have a debit card BUT on the application form they still ask for your Social Security card!! Considering Targets well publicized security breach I really don’t want to provide this info. I will ask at Target next week and see if you can apply without it and if a credit check is done.

What the book really didn’t cover was that merchandise (especially seasonal, which includes summer stuff) has certain time periods it is discounted. That’s how I bought Girl Scout camping stuff back in the troop leader days. If you want to know more about how that works check out this Mom’s blog, Totally Target, All Things Target, or Targets official Facebook page. Pretty much all the info in the ebook you can find at these sites.

Transition time from one house to another

We slowed down a lot of projects these last few months in order to get hubby moved into his own place at his out of state job location. We will be downsizing from a 4 bed, 3 bath to a 3 bed and 2 bath rural house. Since we’ll be maintaining two houses for at least another year, we have time to really sort and go through things which really gives a sense of freedom and letting go.

Craigslist is both a blessing and an irritation. A blessing because I can sell larger items for a higher price then a garage sale would bring, but an irritation dealing with no-shows after going to all the time and trouble of posting photos, measurements and putting time aside to meet someone. It’s also become irritating to post something at a good price (since I shop resale I know exactly what an item can bring) and have someone try to get it for next to nothing!

Because I’ve done a lot of sorting and such beforehand, the move is going smoothly though I have some big pieces that will eventually take a rental truck. The house is upside down, and looks totally disorganized but in reality, I have thrown out, donated or sold a lot of items in the downsize. The garage is full of stuff for a garage sale.

On the project front, the master bathroom has a new toilet and the ceiling got painted (diluted the wall paint Sherwin Williams SW Escape Gray #6185 with white for a complimentary pastel version). All the ceiling hall and closet lights got a spraypaint change from1990’s brass to oil rubbed bronze. We’ll be putting up the crown moulding and new sconces in the next week or so. I do plan on doing a board and batten treatment in the master bedroom on the bed wall so will post directions when we get to it!

Right now work is just proceeding and it is mostly boring drudgery!

Project: savings on light fixtures

The original bathroom lighting was a chrome, 2 bulb fixture that wasn’t going to work in the final remodel (btw this photo shows the old wallpaper and mirror – yuck!):

Which I had planned on replacing with a $169 fixture from LampUSA, but money was tight so I kept looking and found this $25 Craigslist find:

The tulip light matches the theme of the x-ray photograph artwork in the bathroom. After a fresh coat of Krylon spraypaint – Satin Blossom White – (Westlake Hardware) it really looked great!

Money is a BIG consideration with all the house remodeling… and it turns out that it looks great so all worked out in the end even though it was a nightmare trying to get the guy who was selling it to actually SELL IT!

Here’s the story: two weeks ago I saw the light and thought it might work. Ran it by hubby and he liked it so emailed the person with “is it still available? Can pick up anytime.” Got a “yeah, when do you want to see it?” Gave him some different times but mostly I’m open anytime except the night I go to school.

Didn’t hear back for a week. Since I still saw the ad, emailed again. He emailed back that he was out of town and would get back with me when he returned. Never heard back but the ad was posted AGAIN! Had husband email him from a separate email and I got an email saying “he had another buyer and was I serious?” – this after me sending my phone number 3x to this guy and asking for a time to meet or a phone number I could call him! What a moron!

Husband finally got him to commit and when he arrived turns out they live in a la-de-da gated community in a rich house and he was selling this stuff for the in-laws. Bitterly complained to husband that the entire $25 was going to in-laws despite all the inconvenience to him!

This is why Craigslist can be soooo irritating!

Tip: removing wallpaper, disposing of odd paint

We’ve been very busy on the house these last 24 hours…. a lot of work is being done on the bathroom, including removing the wallpaper.

The best directions I found were located here on removing wallpaper. Using the scorer has perforated the drywall but we are going to cover with plaster so it isn’t a big deal. The paper scorer also knicked up the hands so try to use some sort of glove if you can.

Since this recipe uses a mix with anti-freeze make sure that all wallpaper removed cannot be accessed by animals and that the floor is cleaned before animals are allowed to enter.

We lucked out that the builder put up wallpaper with paper underneath so only a very small bit of drywall surface came off when we took off the wallpaper. This leaves bare drywall so to save on the Venetian Plaster, we will be painting the drywall prior to the application of the VP. Drywall that has not been painted or primed will suck up paint or surface material overlay like crazy. By painting an undercoat we hope to use less VP then if we just used it alone.

Speaking of which, when you read about using primer, don’t think it has to be white. And don’t think it has to be something bought special for the job. Using odds and ends as primers is a good way to use up that paint and keep it out of the landfill. As long as the under coat is the same product as the top coat – latex on latex, water-based on water-based etc… you should be okay.

Leftover, Latex paint, any shine, can be mixed together to form one paint hat you can later use for priming drywall or other projects. After combining, take to the paint store and have them shake it with their machine in the paint department. Generally, the color comes out light to medium in shade, and responds like a flat or eggshell. Be sure to mark the can so you don’t forget what is in it!

All the small cans (behind) were mixed either in the keep, primer (right) gallon or the disposal (left) gallon. Empty latex cans will be left to dry and, if steel, some recycling plants will take them.

Some metro recycling organizations will actually take the latex paint, mix it and then use it on city projects because when combined the paint becomes pale in color and a flat shine.

If you want to dispose of it, first combine all of it in an empty latex gallon can. Take a cardboard box, line with a plastic garbage bag and pour in about a two inch layer. Add kitty litter, grass clippings, sawdust shavings etc… to help it dry faster. Once it is dry and hard, and another layer and repeat. There are also commercial products that will do the same thing available at your paint store.

Another way to get rid of unwanted paint, is to advertise it on Craigslist. I listed the sizes, how full the cans were, and a color approximation in my description and within 24 hours someone who did crafts wanted all the paint!

Room: Laundry area ~ finished!

The original planning for the laundry room was in this blog post

What strikes me from looking at the before photos is the original room gave an institutional vibe that translated to “hurry and get the job done — and leave!!”:

  • The shelves and pantry were helpful in storing items, but they gave the room a claustophobic feeling.
  • The off-white color of the cabinetry did not help the room look “clean” or fresh.
  • The room looked like an after-thought; the unframed bulletin board contributed to that feeling.
  • The light from the ceiling fluorescent fixture, though serviceable, gave the feeling you were in a warehouse.

Here are the finished laundry room photos!
Color variations on walls are due to lighting, flash on camera etc…

Walls ~ While the Venetian Plaster was a huge pain in the neck, I LOVE the look as does hubby. I was really surprised at how much dimension it adds an otherwise blah room.

Wall Art ~ I looked at a lot of art for this room. Originally, I was considering some sepia toned, beach prints, but decided to try this photo, pop art of flowers. Boy, I was glad that I did! I brought the orange from the flowers and added it to the bulletin board’s frame with spray paint.

Lighting ~ I love, love, LOVE the new track lighting. Anything less then 6 lights on the system though would have been too few.

Furniture ~ The Baker Rack has worked out even better then I could ever imagine! Because it is located at the hall that opens into the garage, it’s a great place to put schoolbooks, gloves and shoes. Since we don’t have a mud-room this become really helpful during our recent bad weather.

I found this Bakers Rack on Craigslist, and liked the lattice, criss cross, pattern across the back. It was a putty colored – I spraypainted it white; I also changed the finals (top of the unit) to ones from my daughters four-poster bed (it was damaged years ago and I kept the pretty finials).

Appliances ~ LOVE my new front loaders… I found these 3 year old, GE machines on Craigslist for $750. Most likely I’ll be buying pedestals to raise their height, better concealing the plumbing behind.

Molding ~ Clothes rod was boxed in with framing to hide it when entering room. Just that little touch makes the room more elegant.  The molding to conceal the clothes rod and the more expensive shelf made of Aspen, all painted fresh white, as well as the larger base molding, again, gives the room added *zing* and a luxury look. This, again, surprised me as I didn’t think it would have as much impact as it did.

The ultimate proof that the remodel is a success is that I’ve been in there a lot keeping the laundry caught up and the room square away. 😀

Room Specs:

  • Total remodeling costs: $1,250
  • Replaced our older washer and dryer units with front loaders ($750 – 3 years old from Craigslist).
  • Venetian Plaster, Lowes, Marmo color 4 gallons at $38 per gallon.
  • Additional cost for sandpaper and for final, gloss coat material.
  • Molding color is Chef White from Valspar (Lowes) about 1 quart, had on hand.
  • Base Molding is 6″ tall, about 28 linear feet (about $40);
  • Additional costs for finishing nails and caulk.
  • New ceiling light ~ track lighting fixture from Lowes discount ($40);
  • New shelf unit made from Aspen with molding ($45);
  • Wall art over washer/dryer was from Gordmans with discount 20% off coupon ($38);
  • Bulletin board frame from Hobby Lobby’s 50% off sale discount (now painted orange) ($35);
  • Spraypainted Bakers Rack white and replaced knobs with ones on hand. (BR $25 + $16 paint).
  • Note: Repair of missing tile will be done in the future – we still need to find a compliment to what is already there.

Except for the floor tile patch (we still need to find some matching tile), the laundry room is now completed.