Saturday, November 20, 2010

Secrets from a Black Friday Master





I must admit that Black Friday is my all time favorite holiday. Nothin says "holiday spirit" better than hundreds of strangers camped in a line that wraps around the back of Walmart in the cold at 3 am waiting for the best deals on a Kitchenaid Mixer. The doors finally open and the stampede swarms in and fills the store within 3.7 seconds. Then the true chaos starts with hundreds of people running as fast as they can towards the $200 52" flat screen TV, sometimes trampling the poor employees. Everyone is yelling, shoving people out of their way, and sometimes just flat out grabbing something out of a strangers shopping cart when they turn their back (true shoppers know not to use a cart anyway!) Nothing beats the feeling of running out to the car with the item you actually came there for in your arms at 70% off! It truly is a rush! Not that I've done any of those selfish and rude things... Ok maybe some.







Black Friday has become a tradition in my family. It's something that we look forward to starting as soon as when last year's Black Friday ended. My husband and I are very frugal. We have always lived on a tight budget. We're the type who shop with coupons, currently have no credit card debt, bought a house at 23 years old, rarely go out to eat, and try to never pay full price for anything. We're not cheap, we're just wise with our money. This is one reason we love Black Friday- it's the one day each year that we get to have fun and go on a crazy shopping spree. We usually will put off any big purchases for ourselves until then and get most of our Christmas shopping done that day. I'm pretty much a pro by now so I'm going to teach you everything I've learned over the years.



What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. It is the biggest shopping day of the year because it officially marks the first day of Christmas shopping. All the stores compete for your business by having their steepest discounts. And people (like me) usually go crazy for them! The whole weekend is full of great deals, but the best ones are the "Early Bird Specials" and "Doorbusters" on Friday morning. 

Rule #1: Make a Plan

The biggest mistake you can make is to expect to casually walk in and be able to take your time shopping and comparing items like you would any other day. The key is to move through the store as quickly as possible in order to get to the next store so you don't miss out on any deals. The best way to move quickly is if you know what exactly you want from each store. I start by making a list of all the products we want. Think Christmas presents, items for your home, large purchases that you have been saving up for, clothing, birthday gifts for the future, holiday decorations, and anything else. Then start looking through all the ads. The official ads are in the newspaper usually on thanksgiving but that only gives you one day notice. I usually start checking websites the month before (my favorite is www.blackfriday2010.com). Most stores put out their BF ads online early. Now is when the planning begins. Look through every single store ad for stores that are on your area. Even look at ads for stores you don't usually shop at. You may be surprised that you can suddenly afford to shop at Macy's. Make note of which items you plan on purchasing. And compare prices for the same items at different stores. 

Get a Head Start

Go to each store you plan at shopping a few days before. This will give you the opportunity to leisurely find the location of each item in the store and try on clothes, look at details on the product's boxes, etc at your own pace. Keep in mind that they may move some popular items to a large display in the store's aisles or endcaps, but at least you will have a general idea of where each department is in the store. 

Timing is Everything

The "Early Bird Specials" and "Doorbusters" will have the best deals. The stores will change the prices of the items throughout the day. For example, Kohl's may have a luggage set at 70% off at 4am, 60% off at 9am, and only 50% off the rest of the weekend. While 50% off is great, why not work a little harder and get the same item at 70% off? So decide if you want to even bother going to sleep the night before. The big Thanksgiving meal makes most people pretty tired. If you must sleep, make sure to wake up on time! This is one day that you absolutely cannot sleep in. Now, because you will be a BF pro, and you have made your shopping list early, you will need to plan out in what order you plan on going to each store. It's really simple. Just start in the order of which stores open earliest. If you're going to camp out in front of a store, plan on getting there a minimum of 2 hours early. Then move as quickly through the store as possible to move on to the next store. 


Your Black Friday Survival Kit 
  • Plan on bringing your significant other or a friend with you. It's important that you work as a team to get what you want.
  • Bring only the basics with you. Don't carry a purse. You will need your arms free to carry everything through the store since you won't be using a shopping cart. So make sure your pants have good pockets for your debit card, ID, cell phone, shopping list, any coupons, and folded up store ad. (Notice I say debit card- NOT credit card. BF shopping has amazing deals, but only if you can afford it)
  • Bring food in the car to snack on as you drive from store to store. ( A leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is a great snack!) Don't waste time stopping to go out to eat. Also bring whatever drink wakes you up- coffee or an energy drink. Just don't drink too much, because only amateurs take bathroom breaks! 
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable. Dress in layers. You'll be freezing when you're camped outside of Best Buy at 4am, but you'll soon be sweating as you run around a few stores. And this is not the day to show off your beautiful 4" heels. You're going to be on your feet for hours- possibly getting your feet stepped on. So wear comfortable walking shoes.

The Shopping Strategy

My husband and I have a great system we've been using. The second the stampede swarms into the store, we split up. One of us immediately gets in line to hold a spot at the checkout while the other person runs around the store grabbing all the items we plan on buying. Don't bother using a shopping cart. There are so many people in the store that you will just get caught in a shopping cart traffic jam. And people try to steal things out of other carts anyway. If you are not completely decided on purchasing an item, now is not the time to sit and think about it. Just go ahead and buy it. But save your receipt in case you want to return it. If you don't buy it now, you will end up paying more for it down the road. It is almost a guarantee that the Black Friday price is the best all year.

At checkout, make sure to use any coupons from the ads or that you printed online. Make sure they ring everything up at the correct price. As long as you have the store ad in your pocket, you can correct any mistakes. 


Why do we put ourselves through this madness?


Because we love it! It really has become a holiday tradition in our home. We save our money all year and we get one day to go on a shopping spree. We have so much fun running around each of the stores finding things like a treasure hunt. And we take our fun very seriously.  :) I hope you got some good tips to help you save some money this year!

Homemade Snack Mixes

Check out some yummy Snack Mix Recipes I found:


Homemade Cornucopia Snack Mix



 Bugles brand chips (2 bags is plenty) - They look like cornucopias
• classic knot mini pretzels
• candy corn or corn nuts (i used both)
• dried fruit like craisins
• sunflower seeds


Smore's Mix



 Golden Grahams Cereal
• Mini Marshmellows
• Chocolate Chips
• Optional: add something salty like pretzels for that yummy sweet & salty taste

Friday, November 19, 2010

Free Cookie Dough!

Ok, so those of you that know me, know that I love a good deal and I love cookie dough. That is why I am so excited about the deal I just came across. 



You can get free Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough at Target right now! Here’s how:
Transaction #1:
Buy 1 package of Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough at $1.96



Spend $0.96 plus tax out of pocket, Get back a Target coupon good for $1 off your next purchase of cookie dough that prints out at the register on a catalina

Transaction #2:
Buy 1 Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough at $1.96 

Stack with $1/1 Target catalina coupon received on your previous order
Spend $0.00 out of pocket, Get another $1/1 Target Nestle Cookie Dough coupon

Repeat until you’ve stocked up ;)
This deal is good through December 27, 2010.
Even if you don’t have any more $1/1 coupons, $1 for a package of cookie dough is a pretty good deal in my opinion. It’s hard to buy the ingredients that inexpensively and it’s nice to buy these to keep in the freezer for when you need a quick dessert! So go print a ton of coupons and head over to Target!
By the way, have you tried the new Filled Cookies? They now sell cookie dough filled with caramel and all sorts of other yummy stuff... OMG... TO DIE FOR! Good luck waiting for it to bake. If you're like me, all the dough will be gone before it even gets in the oven ;)
Thanks Money Saving Mom for this tip!


I find lots of great deals, so I'm gonna start sharing them with you!

The Most Beautiful Baby in the Whole World!

Ok, so I know it's a total mom thing to think you have the most beautiful baby in the world... but seriously! I HAVE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BABY IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD! Look at that smile! :D




It's pretty awesome being married to a photographer. Kurt did a whole photo session with him this week. There are a TON of awesome pics, but this one is my favorite. I'm gonna go through and edit them then I'll post a bunch more as soon as I can... Gosh he's beautiful!

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 19- Welcome to Loserville


Ok, so I've been pretty distracted lately. Turns out remembering to do my challenge and remembering to write about what I did is harder to do than I thought. I can't seem to get myself to write a daily post and then I can't seem to remember to what I wanted to say the next day when I try to get caught up. So, as lame as this is, I think I'm just gonna give up on this for now and try again next November. Life with a newborn baby can get pretty hectic, not to mention helping a family member get through a difficult time for a couple weeks. So, I think I'm just gonna give it a rest, and just keep going with my blog and post whatever I want when I have time. I'm very glad I did this challenge, because I definitely learned a lot about my self- including he fact that I can't expect myself to post something daily!

Monday, November 15, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 14

Day 14 Thanks: I'm so thankful that I got to spend time with lots of family and friends today.
Day 14 Giving: We took family portraits for some friends.(Ok, well Kurt took the pictures... I'll be doing all the photoshop.) Pics will be posted soon

Saturday, November 13, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Days 11-13



Day 13 Thanks: I went to a friend's wedding today, and it reminded me of one of the most important things to be thankful for. I'm thankful for marriage. I'm thankful that there is a bind that is so powerful, so intimate, and so eternal that unites two people. The vows that are spoken are not just said for the entertainment of the guests. They are words to live by. They are the lifelong promises that are made to your soulmate. Marriage is the most perfect example of love in it's truest form. And I'm most thankful for the man that I share that marriage with. Love you Kurt.

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So I realized I skipped a couple days... Finding things to be thankful for each day has been easy for me. It's not that hard to look at my own life and see how much I have been blessed. It's been fun trying to find something each day to write about being thankful for. 

But I gotta tell ya... this whole "giving to others" thing is harder than I thought it would be. Since I stay at home now, I'm not out and about having as many opportunities to interact with others as I used to. I'm trying to look back on the last couple days, and I feel like I haven't really gone out of my way to do anything for anyone else. 

Today, I went to a friend's wedding (as a guest! not working at the wedding!) The officiant said the same 1st Corinthians 13 that you hear at every wedding - including my own. It was such a good reminder to me about the true meaning of Love. 
Then I started thinking about my "lack of giving to others" the past few days. And then I realized something. We typically think of giving physical things or money or even volunteering our time to help others. But the greatest thing we can give another person is our love. And Love is defined by 1st Corinthians 13. So maybe I haven't given things or money or whatever to others. But everyone has opportunities everyday to give to others patience, kindness, protection, trust, hope and perseverance. We make decisions every day and can choose not to be envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or be easily angered. 

{ Love Never Fails }

And that is why Love is the the ultimate gift. These words were spoken at my wedding, and I need to continue to remind myself every day that these are words to live by. These were the things I promised to my hubby on our first day of marriage. I will continue to LOVE (in every aspect of the word) my hubby for the rest of our lives.

I love you Kurt... more than you will ever know.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

8 Week Old Cutie-Patootie!

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 10






Day 10 Thanks: I am so thankful for having enough food to feed my family, even when times are tough. I'm glad I've mastered using coupons and sales to stretch my dollars even further. 


Day 10 Giving: I cleaned out my pantry and found food to donate to those who need it. I've been stockpiling whenever I find good deals, so my pantry has been pretty full lately. Does anyone know a local place in Simi to donate food?



---{   T  h  e     G  r  o  c  e  r  y     G  a  m  e   }---

I try to save money on the things I need to save up for the things I really want. So I have learned ways to save money on my groceries through a website called The Grocery Game. It is basically an interactive website that tells you what the best deals are every week at each grocery store and drug store that you shop at. It gives a list of items that are on sale and combines them with coupons to get the absolute lowest prices. There are even items that are free when combining sales with coupons. The great thing is they do all the research for you to save you time.

Since I started using this website, we have been saving over 50% on our groceries every time we shop. I once paid only $17 for $86 worth of groceries! This website has been such a blessing to our family. 

You get a 1 month free trial. So check it out just for fun for a month. If you sign up, it will ask if anyone referred you. I would greatly appreciate it if you give them my email- theuniqueone@mac.com so I get credit. I hope you give it a try. You'll save a ton of money on your groceries. Feel free to ask any questions. I'd be happy to help your family save money on groceries like I do.




Tuesday, November 9, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 9





Day 9 Thanks: I am so thankful for my wonderful father in law Denis. Happy Birthday! We're so thankful for all you do for us- and all you're amazing hard work on our house!

Day 9 Giving: I made Denis a yummy cake for his birthday! I mixed in chopped up Kit-Kats. And sprinkled crunched Kit-kats and Butterfingers on top.. yummy! (And yes, that's a votive candle in the middle- I was out of birthday candles!!)





Click Here to learn more about my 30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge.

Monday, November 8, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 8



Day 8 Thanks: I am thankful that I live somewhere that makes me feel safe, happy, and blessed.

Day 8 Giving: I bought a CD by my friend Shannon Sergey that she is selling to raise money for a charity she created to stop Human Trafficking. www.foreverfound.org





Forever Found is a nonprofit Christian organization founded in 2010 by Taylor and Shannon Sergey. They aid in the full rescue of children victimized by child prostitution and trafficking by supporting aftercare homes around the world that are effectively rescuing and restoring these victims.

Forever Found raises this support through the development and promotion of the works of musicians, artists, and writers who are willing to donate all or a portion of their proceeds to help these children.


We cannot ignore the reality of the evil going on around us. Open your ears to the cries of these children and take a stand. It is estimated that today 2 CHILDREN PER MINUTE are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This is happening all over the world, including America. 200,000 American youths have been forced into the sex trafficking industry in the United States alone. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 BILLION (U.N.), with about $28 BILLION of this generated from commercial sexual exploitation (International Labor Organization).  Which shows  why this horrific  evil continues to flourish. (verse- hearts of men) 

In fact, After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the SECOND LARGEST CRIMINAL INDUSTRY in the world today, and it is the fastest growing (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

This is EVERYONE’S PROBLEM. 



Immeasurably More, by artist Shannon Sergey, is an album produced with the sole purpose of supporting the rescue and restoration of children victimized by child trafficking and prostitution.

The goal of this particular project is to raise awareness and monetary support (minimum of $100,000) for 3 Christian aftercare homes who are effectively restoring these victims; 100% of album proceeds will be donated to these aftercare facilities rescuing these children.

Shannon is an old friend on mine and her voice is absolutely incredible. You can hear samples of the music on their myspace page.


Click Here to Learn more about my 30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 7



Day 7 Thanks: I'm so thankful that I got to spend time with my family today that I haven't seen in a while. 


Day 7 Giving: We helped my brother move some things out of storage today.








Click Here to Learn more about my 30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Days 5 & 6






"If someone is too tired to give you a smile, leave one of your own, because no one needs a smile as much as those who have none to give." ~ Samson Raphael Hirsch



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I forgot to write a post for yesterday! 


Day 5 Thanks: I'm thankful that I joined a "Mama Group" and met them all today. Yay for new friends for me and Brady!


Day 5 Giving: I started saving the Box Tops for Education to donate to local schools.











Each Box Top you save donates $0.10 to your school. That can add up very quickly!

Here is a list of products that have the Box Tops on them. There's tons! I checked my pantry and I have soooo many products with Box Tops on them. This is money for local schools that would have ended up in my trash can. I'm making it a goal to check each box or package before I throw it away. Click here to learn more about Box Tops for Education.





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Day 6 Thanks: I'm thankful for my amazing momma!
Day 6 Giving: I brought Brady over to visit my mom to cheer her up. Also tried to help her with some meal planning.


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Click Here to Learn more about my 30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 4



Day 4 Thanks: Today, I'm thankful for my amazing hubby and how hard he works to support our family.

Day 4 Giving: Kurt is filming a wedding Saturday. The bride called today and said that her venue cancelled on her 3 days before the wedding. I called her to offer any help in finding a new venue for her. Luckily, she was able to find a new one. 


Click here to read more about my 30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 3


Day 3 Thanks: Today, I'm thankful for living in America and all the freedom we have.
Day 3 Giving: I found out about an organization that collects people's expired grocery coupons and donates them to military families overseas. The grocery stores or commissaries on these military bases accept coupons up to 6 months after their expiration date. So today I started saving mine to send to them. Hopefully we'll help out military families to save some money!



If you have expired coupons you want to donate, I'm going to start collecting them and sending them out every couple months. Click here to learn more about the Overseas Coupon Program.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge: Day 2





Day 2 Thanks: Today, I'm thankful for our most basic necessity- clean water
Day 2 Giving: I'm starting a campaign as my way of giving clean water to other people around the world. I started by donating $20 and setting up a website for other people to donate. I am trying to promote this to other people to donate as well. Please help me get the word out.



































almost 1 billion people don't have access to safe clean drinking water. that's 1 in 8 of us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of Thanks and Giving Challenge


Last year during the month of November, I participated in writing on Facebook one thing I'm thankful for every day. It was a really great way to force me to think about the things I am thankful for and count my every day blessings. This year, I'm stepping it up a notch. I am giving myself a "Thanks AND Giving Challenge". Each day, I will write one thing I am thankful for. In addition to that, I will do one thing each day that involves giving to others. Now, we are on a major budget- so I can't afford to do a lot of financial giving. But giving to others can be in the form of giving money, time, food, clothing, help, and love to others. Thanksgiving shouldn't be limited to one day a year. This is going to be tough on me since I've got a 6 week old baby. He pretty much runs my life these days, and I don't get out of the house much. So I may need to get creative with how I am going to make this happen. 


30-Day Giving Challenge
I was inspired to create this challenge by this website- The 30 Day Giving Challenge. There are people all other the world participating in this challenge. I changed mine up a little to incorporate Thanks AND Giving. Who wants to join me in this challenge? 

After all, it is more of a blessing to give than to receive!

Click here to follow the 30 Day Giving Challenge on Facebook.
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Day 1 Thanks: I am thankful for all the joy my son Brady brings me.

Day 1 Giving: I am going to use today to make a plan and come up with ideas for how I can give to others. I am going to promote this challenge to everyone I know. I want to get lots of people involved. The more people are involved with giving, the more other people will be blessed. Will you get involved with me? 

Leave a comment to let me know who is participating with me. And while you're at it, why don't you mention your Thanks and Giving for today.