31 Ways to Save in 2011: Four ways to save on eating out!


The cost of eating out can add up quickly and is a big “budget buster” for a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to be! 

Here are some tips to save on eating out:

1.  Use coupons!  We frequently receive coupons for both fast food restaurants and casual dining restaurants in the mail.  I always go through and pull these out and put them in my coupon organizer so that I always have them with me.  Make sure you sign up for e-mails from your favorite restaurants to get valuable couponsFor example, Chili’s will send you a coupon for free chips and queso when you sign up for their e-mail list here.

The Entertainment Book is an excellent resource if you’re looking for coupons for fine dining, casual dining, and fast food dining in your area.  Many restaurants have “Buy One meal, get one free” offers.  The book usually retails for $25, but there are often “deals” where you can get it for a lot less, and it quickly pays for itself. When you register your book online, you have access to additional printable coupons.

2.  Use gift cards!  Usually when we eat out, we use gift cards that I have earned from various survey sites (Epoll, MyPoints, and MySurvey all have opportunities for earning restaurant gift cards).

Restaurant.com is another great resource for getting restaurant gift certificates at heavily discounted ratesThey often offer codes for 70-80% off and you can get cash back from sites like Ebates or Shop at Home ,too! (these sites typically list any codes that are available)  Between the discount codes and the cash back, you can often get $25 gift certificates for as low as $1.50!!  If you do take advantage of these offers, be sure that you read the fine print as there may be some exclusions (minimum purchase requirements or limitations on when the coupons may be used).

If you use a debit or credit card with rewards, don’t forget to check to see if they offer restaurant gift cards!

3. Timing is everything!  The time of day that you choose to dine can help to greatly reduce expenses. For example, most restaurants offer a “lunch menu” and you can typically order from that menu until 4 p.m. If you go to eat just a little bit earlier, you can beat the crowds and still take advantage of less expensive dining options. On that same note, some restaurants offer “happy hour” specials (these are typically served between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.). Happy hour specials often include half price menu items.

Many restaurants also offer “kids eat free” nights. Typically, “kids eat free” nights are on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and choosing to take advantage of this offer can save you $4 to $6 per child. If you plan to dine out as a family, find out what restaurants in your area offer free meals for children and plan to dine out accordingly. 

4.  Skip the extras and watch what you eat! Consider ordering a larger meal portion and then splitting it with someone else. You can ask for an extra plate and you can typically add extra side items such as vegetables or a salad a la carte. If you order water instead of beverages you can also typically save an additional $2 per person. Skip dessert at the restaurant and grab ice cream on the way home instead. If you do opt to have dessert there, share it with someone else.

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.

31 Ways to Save in 2011: Cutting cable costs!


The easiest way to cut cable costs is to cut out cable completely. If you’re not ready to do that yet, make sure that you contact your cable provider once every six months to see what promotional packaging may be available (they will usually offer you promotional rates if you threaten to cancel your service).Also consider bundling services you use (phone, internet, and cable) to see if you can get a better rate.

If you’re considering Dish or DirecTV service, make sure you read the “fine print.” These companies often offer hot promotional rates (sometimes as low as $20 per month), but what isn’t usually clearly spelled out is that you will need a receiver for each room where you want to have TV service (which is usually $5 each and adds up quickly when you’re paying for this month after month) and that your promotional rate will only be good for 6-12 months and then your rate will double or triple! Plus, their contracts are usually two years long and you end up paying high penalties if you decide to cancel.

If you’re looking for alternatives to cable, here are a few options:

Netflix – One of the things we love most about Netflix is their “Netflix Streaming”  Basically, with Netflix Streaming, you can instantly watch TV episodes and movies on your TV via Netflix ready devices like game consoles (currently Wii, XBox 360 and Playstation 3) and Blu Ray players.  Our service is only $8.99 per month (it’s $2 extra if you want Blu Rays instead of regular DVDs) which includes unlimited instant streaming and one DVD at a time (unlimited “rentals” per month).  Even if you’re not ready to cut your cable yet, if you rent at least two DVDs a month, this plan would pay for itself.  It’s been really great for us because I always have a hard time remembering to return DVDs on time, so even though I usually use a free code or coupon to rent DVDs, I end up paying late fees which is not a bargain!

Here are some more details about the plan if you’re not familiar with it:
*There are no due dates or late fees
*There are no per-movie rental fees
*Membership fees cover your shipping and handling
*You may cancel at any time!

To sweeten the deal, there are several places where you can earn incentives for signing up with Netflix!

*Ebates is currently offering $8 cash back
*Swagbucks is currently offering 400 Swagbucks (this is on the “Special Offers” wall under “Trialpay”)

*Hulu – Hulu allows you to watch episodes of various TV shows for free online.  If you subscribe to Hulu Plus (currently $7.99/month), you can “stream” these episodes to various devices included your Smartphone (iPhone or Android), your iPad, your Roku, or your Playstation 3 (you can see the full list of devices here)

*Antenna – You can also get an antenna and access HD channels for free.  Check out Antennaweb.org to find out what the best antenna for you would be.  If your TV is analog, you will also need a converter box.

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.

31 Ways to Save in 2011: Saving on electricity!


Living in Texas, electricity is a major part of our monthly budget, especially during the summer months, so I am always looking for different ways to save on electricity.  If you’re living in Texas, you should definitely check out Power To Choose.  It allows you to compare plans and pricing between different providers.  I discovered Power To Choose this summer and by choosing a different provider with lower rates, I was able to cut our average electric bill by 30%!  When choosing a different provider, make sure you consider the terms of the contract (is there a penalty for cancelling the contract early?, it a “fixed rate” or a “variable rate” and do the prices reflected include all additional fees?).

Here are a few other tips for cutting your electricity expenses:

*Change your air filter – you should change your air filter every 30 days to maximize efficiency!

*Use CFL bulbs (compact florescent lighting) rather than traditional bulbs

*Program your thermostat – raise the programmed temperature by a few degrees in the summer, especially during hours when you are not at home, or lower the programmed temperature by a few degrees in the winter. 

*Use cold water to wash your clothes whenever possible

*Unplug gadgets and appliances when you’re not using them

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.

31 Ways to Save in 2011: Turning plastic into cash!


Do you have gift cards just sitting around unused? Maybe you don’t have that store in your area or you just don’t like to shop there. If you do, look into turning that useless plastic into cash!

Plastic Jungle is a reputable company that specializes in buying and selling gift cards.  You can get up to 92% of the value of your gift card via Paypal, an Amazon gift card, or a check!

This is the basics on how this works:

1.  Click here to search for the merchant and to enter your gift card balance (you must have a minimum of $25 to sell your card)

2.  Click on the “see offers” button and you will see how much they are willing to offer you in Amazon gift cards, Paypal, or check (from my experience, Amazon gift cards are the highest payout amount)

3.  If you select the offer, you will need to register or log in if you already have an account.  You will be asked to enter your gift card number and PIN if avaialble.

4.  Once you have completed your transaction, you will receive a prepaid USPS mailing label (they pay for the shipping!) and all you have to do is attach it to an envelope and send it in!

5.  Once they receive your gift card, they will verify the balance and you will receive payment within two business days!

On a side note, you can also buy discounted gift cards.  If you buy a gift card, it will be shipped to you for free and they also have a Buyer Guarantee (see the details here)

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.  Please note, I have not been compensated by Plastic Jungle in any way for writing this post.  I just think it’s a great resource for people who have unused gift cards and need some extra cash!

31 Ways to Save in 2011: Save using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program!


Have you checked out Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program yet? If you don’t feel like paying for a membership to BJs, Costco, or Sam’s, you don’t have time to play the “drug store game” or you’re looking for affordable prices on household goods, you should definitely check out subscribe & save! Even though I still shop at CVS and Walgreens, I have found some deals on items such as batteries, toilet paper, and laundry detergent over the past few months using Subscribe & Save that were better than what I could get using coupons and ECBs or RRs.

Yesterday I talked about ways that you can earn Amazon gift cards in this post here.  It’s so awesome to be able to get items that you need for FREE!  Plus, with Subscribe & Save, you can get anywhere from 15-30% off!

Here’s how it works:

1.  Select an eligible item from participating products here.

2.  Choose a quantity and a delivery schedule from the box on the right hand side of your screen (you change this information or cancel at any time by clicking on “Your Account” and then “Manage Subscribe & save”)

3.  Enter payment information and click on “Sign me up”

NOTE:  I always choose six months as my delivery schedule and then I usually go in and cancel after I receive my shipment so that I can watch for deals the next time I need the item.

TIP:  Always check out the coupon center here to see if there are coupons you can “clip” to apply discounts at check-out.  I have noticed that Amazon has begun including the links to the coupons in the product listings as well, so make sure you scroll down in the listing to see if any coupons are available (they are usually listed under the pricing information).  These coupons are one time use.

Here are some products that are worth checking out:

Charmin Ultra Strong, Mega Rolls, 352 2-ply sheets per roll – $19.36 with the subscribe & save discount and clipless couponOne Mega Roll is the equivalent of four traditional rolls, so it’s like you’re getting 72 traditional rolls. This breaks down to $1.07 per mega roll ($.27 per traditional roll) or $.03 per sheet, which is a pretty good deal, especially for 2 ply toilet paper!  My “stock up” price for the “good stuff” 2-ply is $.30 per roll.

Gillette Fusion Proglide Manual Cartridge, 8 ct – $19.80 with the subscribe & save discountThese are $26.99-$29.99 at most retail stores and they rarely have coupons or deals for them!

Philips Sonicare ProResults Brush Heads – $16.46 with the Subscribe & Save discountthese are $29.99 on average at most retail stores and there are rarely coupons or deals for them!

Prevacid 24 Hr Capsules – 42 ct – $10.19 with the Subscribe & Save discountThese are $24.99-$29.99 on average at most retail stores and even with coupons, they are more expensive than Amazon!

Zyrtec Allergy, 24 Hour 10 mg tablets (45 count) – $14.42 with the Subscribe & Save discountThese retail between $26.99-$29.99, and even with coupons and/or ECB/RR deals, you can’t beat this price! (Make sure you click on the “Buy Directly From Amazon” link)

One of my FAVORITE Subscribe & Save deals is the diaper deals and the Amazon Mom program

If you haven’t joined Amazon Mom yet, it’s definitely worth it.  Your subscription is completely free and in addition to getting great savings on diapers, you also get other great coupons via e-mail.  They are currently offering 30% off select diapers and wipes when you choose the subscribe & save optionYou can sign up for Amazon Mom or learn more about the program by clicking hereAmazon Mom will also give you a free three month subscription to Amazon Prime, which entitles you to free two day shipping, no minimum purchase required.  You can cancel your subscribe & save at ANY time (make sure you receive your order first!)

You can use the 20% January’s American Baby Magazine  in addition to the 30% Amazon Mom discount!  You can only use one coupon per order and the 20% will only come off one item.  They usually have these magazines for free at Babies’ R Us!

Here are some examples of the hot diaper deals you can get right now by combining these two promotions (the full listing of participating subscribe & save diapers is here):

Huggies Snug & Dry Diapers size 3 – 156 count – $22.34 after the Amazon Mom discount ($15.96 if you have a 20% off coupon – that’s $.10 per diaper!)

Huggies Little Movers Diapers size 3 – 124 count – $22.93 after the Amazon Mom discount ($16.38 if you have a 20% off coupon – that’s $.13 per diaper!)

Pampers Cruisers Diapers size 4 – 140 count – $27.06 after the Amazon Mom discount and the $1.50 clippable coupon which appears below the pricing information ($18.90 if you have a 20% off coupon – that’s 13.5 cents per diaper!)

Luvs Size 4 180 count – $24.50 after the Amazon Mom discount ($17.50 if you have a 20% off coupon – that’s $.09 per diaper!)

Seventh Generation Chlorine Free diapers – size 4 – 120 count – $27.99 after the Amazon Mom discount ($19.99 if you have the 20% off coupon – that’s $.16 per diaper!)

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.