Sunday, April 27, 2014

School Supplies for Free

Our church is going to collect school supplies for our four local elementary schools so I thought I would share a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about getting school supplies for free (or at least very cheap! Now is a great time to start buying supplies to donate once school starts!

School Supplies for Free
Yes, I said free. You can get school supplies for free (or very cheap!) just by shopping at the right time, at the right stores and being smart about it!

A little over a year ago I started couponing (not extreme, just normal) and I’m amazed at the amount of money that I can save when I shop smart. I’m not a fanatic about it. I only shop a couple of stores and if I don’t have time I just don’t worry about it. But when I do have time I save quite a bit.
Anyway, back to the school supplies. Staples and Office Depot (local chain office supply stores) both offer rewards programs and rebates that often allow you to get stuff for free or very cheap! I’m completely stocked up on pens, printer paper, printer toner, photo paper, and other miscellaneous items! (I really don’t think I’ll run out of paper for at least another year!)

First, let me give credit to the website where I get my shopping info, Southern Savers. She reviews the ads each week and basically makes your list for you. You just go through and check off the things you want to purchase and go to the store and do the shopping. She makes it VERY EASY. (No paid endorsement. I just love the site!)

Sign up the for the rewards program…
You’ll need to sign up for the store’s rewards program. Staples is called Staples Rewards and Office Depot is called Work Life Rewards. You’ll get a membership # but the stores can look it up by your phone number. You can also store it in your iPhone using the KeyRing app. When you check out you’ll need to give them your membership # or phone number. That way your purchase counts toward your reward.
How the rewards work…

You will see items in the ad and on Southern Savers marked “100% rewards back.” That means you’ll get 100% of the purchase price back as a reward. The reward will come to you in the form of an in-store credit that you can use to purchase other items at the store later. Every two to three months you’ll receive an email informing you of earned rewards. You go on the website, print your reward certificate and take it to the store and spend it on items you need and would have purchased anyway like printer ink, toner, computer accessories, etc.

Important thing to remember…
At both Staples and Office Depot you WILL NOT earn rewards for items that you also use rewards to purchase. So if you use your reward certificate to purchase something that says “100% rewards back” you won’t get a reward for that item.

Most of you have probably submitted a rebate for something before so you probably already know how it works. You pay for the item in the store* and mail in your receipt and proof of purchase and receive a check for some or all of the purchase price. It works the same way at Office Depot and Staples. And they make it very easy for you by printing out extra “Rebate Receipts” to mail back in. Staples makes it even easier by allowing you to submit your rebates online at Staples Rebates. My rule is to try to submit rebates (online and in the mail) as soon as I get home from making my purchases. That way I don’t forget and miss the deadline! I usually receive my rebate check(s) 4-6 weeks after submitting them.

*You can use rewards to purchase rebate items. It should not affect your rebate and is an easy way to turn your reward(s) back into cash!

You do have to spend some money out of pocket to get these items but you eventually get it back in the form of an in-store credit or rebate check.

What if the “free” items aren’t things I need?
Could your child’s teacher use them? If it’s something totally silly, don’t buy it because it’s free. I always tell people I don’t buy cat litter when I can get it for free because I don’t have a cat! Be smart. But also think about places you can donate the items like a church, school, shelter, etc.

I’m an example person so I’ll give you a quick overview of what might be on sale. Southern Savers does most of the work for me and helps me make my list. I check my local ad to see if our prices are the same. They usually are.

Bic Round Stic Pens $.01 with a $5 min purchase
Scotch Super Glue Gel FREE with $1.30 instant savings and $2.99 rebate
Staples Multipurpose Paper $.25 with a $6.49 rebate
HP Photo Paper $.50 with $.50 instant savings and $8.99 rebate
Bic Great Erase Dry erase markers $.50
Sharpie Markers $1
2014 Desktop Calendar FREE with $4.99 rebate

Office Depot
(All items are 100% Back in Rewards)
Avery Index Clear Label Dividers
Post It Super Sticky Pop Up Notes
Post It Pop Up Notes Dispenser
Mr. Sketch Markers
Uniball Gel Pens 12 pack
Sharpie Markers 12 pack
Clean Seal Security Envelopes

Questions? Leave them in a comment and I’ll try to answer! And be sure to check out Southern Savers for great deals. (Again this isn’t a paid endorsement. I just love the site!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tips and Tricks for the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale

Let me preface this post with a few facts:
  •  2013 was my first year to attend the sale. I attended with several veterans.
  •  I love Vera!
  •  Vera Bradley isn't paying me to write this. But I’d certainly welcome it if they saw fit!

I’m headed to the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale (VBOS14) this coming Saturday, April 12th. I live in Northern Kentucky, right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, and we will drive up Saturday morning and come home Saturday night.  I’m attending with several friends and family members. Last year I attended my first VBOS. My friends and family had been going for several years so I was with people who knew the ropes.

For those reading who don’t even know what I’m talking about, let me explain. Vera Bradley, a handbag, luggage, accessory, etc. company based in Fort Wayne, Indiana hosts an annual outlet sale where they sell inventory at reduced prices. Vera Bradley’s lines consist of colorful, quilted patterns in a wide array of sizes, styles and uses. They have everything from eyeglass cases to paperclips and every type of handbag and luggage you could possibly ever need! Their products are popular with all ages! Their annual sale typically consists of current and retired patterns and styles at very reduced prices. Some styles may only be available in one or two colors. So you can’t go expecting to come away with a matching set of luggage, handbags and accessories.

I love Vera and have for about 15 years. Their bags and accessories are great and last for years. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown one away and I’m pretty hard on my purses. Most can be laundered in a washing machine.

Now for my tips and tricks for those attending the sale:
  1.  I’ve never attended the part of the sale for which you purchase a ticket. And I still feel like there was plenty to pick from and plenty of good deals. I’m not telling anyone not to buy a ticket. But I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to get good deals.
  2. Don’t forget to register. You must register online before the sale. Don’t forget to print your registration and take it with you. If you do, there are kiosks available to guests to print out registrations.
  3. Take a photo ID. You have to have this to check out! If you have a Mini Hipster, there’s a special little pocket for it! The Mini Hipster is my favorite bag to carry to events like this! More on that in #4!
  4. Don’t take a big purse! All you need is money, keys, ID and your phone! A big purse will just get in the way.
  5. Don’t take little kids or strollers. No offense to those with little ones but this is just not the place for them. I saw a lost child last year and it broke my heart. There are just too many people there. And trying to navigate a stroller through there is just about impossible. Find a sitter, leave them with Dad. Just don’t take them to VBOS14.
  6. On a similar note, don’t take a wheelchair. There’s just not room to navigate it. Ladies, if you are in a wheelchair, send your friends and tell them what you want.
  7. Wear comfortable shoes. I don’t think I really need to explain this.
  8. Have a buddy. Last year my best friend and I stayed together at the sale. It helped because we could both look for a certain size or color of something. She’s also taller than me so she could see the price signs better because she could see over everyone! I’m short so I could crawl under the table and look in the boxes! We’re a good pair! 

  9. If you go with a big group, don’t try to stay together. You are all looking for different things and move at a different pace. Pick one person and stay with them. Don’t try to keep a group of 10 together. You’ll all be frustrated.
  10. Be prepared to be there for four or five hours. I think it took us about three to four hours to get through the actual sale. And we waited about 15 minutes to get in to the sale and another 15 minutes to check out. Sometimes the wait to get and to check out takes longer.
  11. Some people advise you to bring snacks. I’m not a fan of this because you’ll need to carry a bigger purse. Eat a snack before you go in and then plan to eat a meal when you leave. There are plenty of restaurants near the venue.
  12. As you go through the sale, pick up anything you think you might want. You can always put it back later. If you don’t get it the first time you see it, it might not be there when you go back. Last year they had price scanners throughout the venue so you could check a price. This helps when making final decisions about your purchases.
  13. Have fun!! Enjoy the day with your friends and get cute stuff at great prices.
If you’ve never been to the VBOS it’s hard to imagine just how big it is. Memorial Coliseum, where the sale takes place, posted this brief video on Instagram to give you an idea of the size of the sale. It’s rows and rows of cute stuff!

I hope you have fun at VBOS14!!


The ride there!

The loot!

We're done!