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  • Tips for Shopping with Kids

    A week ago, when it was still winter vacation from school, I took my oldest son shopping with me and he was so good about it. We picked up a lot of bargains at multiple stores, including cheap cereal at Vons and $0.49 packs of batteries at Ralphs.* In retrospect, I realized I had done quite a few things to induce his cooperation and good behavior – things that I ought to keep in mind for future shopping trips:

    1. Mental preparation – I told my son the day before that we would be going shopping the next day, and that the plan was to drop his brother off at preschool and then head to some stores. That mentally prepared him for the next morning, so that things got off to a smooth start.
    2. Pick a “good” day and be flexible – My son woke up in a good mood (he usually does), but if he had been cranky, I probably wouldn’t have started our marathon shopping session right after dropping his brother off. Maybe we would have stopped for breakfast first, or some other activity he enjoys, to get him in a better mood. If he had been in a particularly bad mood, I would have aborted my shopping plans entirely for the sake of my own sanity.
    3. Plan a fun stop – I didn’t actually plan this ahead of time, but when I saw Starbucks near Whole Foods, I realized it was time for a snack. My son gets very moody when his blood sugar drops, so we popped into Starbucks, where he enjoyed a cake pop (his drink was water that was in the car). Next time, when I’m (hopefully) better prepared, I will try to plan for a stop at a park so he can run around too.
    4. Explain what you’re doing – I always explain to my kids that I shop the way I do to save money so that we have money for other things, like their toys, or to put into savings for the future. My first-grader is beginning to grasp the value of a dollar, and even my younger son understands that money is not an unlimited commodity.
    5. Offer lots of praise and thanks – I told my son repeatedly while we were out that he was behaving well, and I really appreciated his cooperation. If I recall correctly, we went to seven different stores in about three hours, and he was a real trooper.

    *Side note: I’ve been able to get free AA and AAA batteries at the drugstores, Staples, and Target. But I take advantage of sales like the current one at Ralphs to get other sizes, which I’ve never been able to find for free.

    Working on my home instead of shopping

    These last few weeks, I’ve been feeling reluctant about going shopping, even when the deals are good. I finally realized that I didn’t like the idea of bringing more stuff into the house, even when it’s stuff that I know we will use, when I feel like there’s too much stuff in the house already.

    So I’ve been concentrating on getting my house in order and I feel better for it. In the last week, I’ve filed three months and shredded three bags worth of papers. I’ve thrown out stuff we don’t use. I’ve scrubbed my foyer floor and gotten it cleaner than it’s been in years.

    I keep looking around for more stuff to get rid of, but a lot of what I see is stuff that needs to be used up. So that’s part of what’s keeping me from wanting to shop too – we already have so much, and even a rock bottom price isn’t enough to lure me into a store. Pretty much all the shopping that I’ve been doing has been for perishables, or to replace things that we’ve used up.

    I don’t know if this is a cyclical thing or if I’m going to feel this way long term now. Either way, though, I’m okay with it, even if it does end up costing us a little more money in the long run. I’ll always have some extra stuff around, and maybe once I’ve gotten rid of stuff, I’ll find that I have a greater storage capacity.

    The important thing, though, is that I want my home to be a peaceful haven. And if that means not stocking a lot of extra stuff, then I’ll keep my shopping to a minimum.

    The Benefits of Having A Stockpile

    Stockpile: a reserve supply of something essential accumulated within a country for use during a shortage – Merriam-Webster

    When couponers refer to stockpiling, they generally mean a big enough supply of something to last at least until the next sale, bought at a low price. There are significant benefits to building up a stockpile:

    Saving money – Because you buy stockpile items when prices are low (usually combining a sale and coupon), you have them on hand when you need them and don’t have to pay a higher price. Stockpile enough items this way and you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

    Less stress – Because you have items on hand when you need them, you don’t have to rush out when you’re short on time and cash.

    Emergency preparation – Living in earthquake country, we always have an emergency kit ready, but I also like knowing that I have lots of things on hand that would be handy in an emergency, like breakfast cereal, crackers and batteries.

    Real life example: A couple of years ago, my oldest son was hospitalized and I didn’t shop for a while. But I was able to draw on my stockpile for portable snacks to take to the hospital, and I didn’t have to worry about running out of basics like toilet paper and tissue when we got home. That meant I could focus all of my energy on taking care of my son and family.

    *Updated* It’s Not Illegal to Sell Expired Food

    Update: It turns out I was reading the date code on the Nestle Pure Life wrong, so I apologize to Rite Aid for stating they were selling expired water since it wasn’t expired. However, the point of this post stands – it’s not illegal to sell expired food in California, and there’s little incentive for businesses to remove expired food from shelves and write off the loss.

    I stopped by a Rite Aid store today to pick up two 24-packs of Nestle Pure Life water. They’re on sale for $3.50, and you get a $1 +UP reward when you buy 2. I’ve been looking for a good deal on bottles this size to add to our stash of emergency supplies, so I was excited about this deal.

    But when I got to Rite Aid and checked the expiration code on the package, it said July 31, 2011.

    I don’t like that particular store much and am not friendly with the staff, plus I was in a bit of a rush so I just left without buying anything. But when I got home, I decided to find out what agency such violations are reported to. And so I discovered that there’s no violation at all. Apparently there’s no law in California that prohibits the sale of expired food items.

    If you play The Drugstore Game, you might recall that CVS agreed to pay $2 for every expired product found on its shelves, but the legal theory was not that they had violated a law against selling expired food but that they had violated state law regarding false advertising and unfair business practices since consumers expect products on store shelves to be within the expiration date.

    I am considering a complaint to the state Attorney General’s Office to ask them investigate Rite Aid’s practices in the same way they investigated CVS’s practices. But the real bottom line is that consumers must watch out for themselves and check expiration dates. It’s a good habit to get into anyway.

    Staples Programs: Easy Rebates & Staples Rewards

    April 2013: Read about the updated Staples Rewards program here.

    In the coming weeks, Staples should have some amazing deals for back to school, but some of them will require you to pay upfront and then get your money back via Easy Rebate or Staples Rewards. Both programs are explained in detail below:


    Staples Easy Rebates are pretty much what they sound like. When you buy a qualifying item, the rebate information prints after your receipt, and you can submit your rebate online for processing. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for your rebate to arrive.

    Rebates are usually in form of checks or Paypal deposits. I’ve never gotten a Paypal deposit, but it looks like your Staples email address and your Paypal address do not need to match.

    Some rebates are in the form of a Staples gift card or Visa prepaid card. In some cases, you’ll be given the option to select a Staples gift card that has an increased reward amount that is greater than the Visa prepaid card or check.


    Unlike the Easy Rebates, Staples Rewards is a loyalty program that you must enroll in. Each quarter, you get back 10% of all ink, toner, case and ream paper, and copy and print purchases. Staples Rewards are issued in the form of a coupon that can only be redeemed at Staples.

    Staples also offers special Staples Rewards deals throughout the year – for example, the last two holiday shopping seasons, they offered 100% back on select Duracell battery purchases. Similar deals will probably be offered during the back to school shopping season – I seem to recall some kind of Staples Rewards deal on binders last year. As long as you spend your rewards coupon wisely, these special offers can be spectacular. (I recommend using rewards to buy ink or toner for your printer – you know you’ll need it for all of your coupons!)

    Note: If you’re a teacher, you may want to join Staples Rewards for Teachers, which also gives you 10% back in Staples Rewards on all teaching and art supplies purchases, and increases the limit per customer on hot deals (like the back to school penny deals) to 25.

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