The Walgreens Drugstore Game by Amanda Grossman – A Review

If one of your resolutions for the new year is to save money, you’ll want to check out Amanda Grossman’s new ebook, The Walgreens Drugstore Game:  Strategies to Turn Pocket Change Into Thousands of Dollars’ Worth of Free Stuff.

Grossman is a penny pincher who blogs at Frugal Confessions.  She and her husband knocked out student loan debt when they married and are now living debt free (except their mortgage).  She also quit her job and is now living the dream of working at home.  A look through her blog shows she knows how to save money and get the best deals.

Now, she wants to share those deals with others.

I’ll confess that a few years ago, I played the CVS drugstore game with a fair amount of success.  However, I never conquered the Walgreens drugstore game.  It was just too complicated for me.  In the years since I stopped playing the drugstore game at all, Walgreens has only gotten more complicated (or so it seemed to me) by adding in a new rewards incentive.

However, after reading Grossman’s book, even I feel like I could tackle Walgreens drugstore game.

If you’re paying full price for toiletries and personal care items, you’re simply paying too much.  Grossman will show you how to pay less than a few dollars to get $20 or more worth of merchandise.

A Primer For Those Who Don’t Use Coupons

If you’re not much of a couponer, don’t worry.  Grossman explains in detail the many different kinds of coupons that are available.  She also explains where to find them, including how to get a steep discount when buying the Sunday paper for the coupons and advertisements.

If you’re an experienced couponer, don’t worry.  Simply skip over this section.

Clear Explanations and Examples

Once you understand the basics about coupons, Grossman delves into how to find the best deals for the Walgreens drugstore game.  What I like most about this book is that Grossman doesn’t just explain how to score the deal, she also provides real life examples from her own shopping trips.

In fact, she makes the process seem so manageable, that even I registered for a Walgreens Balance Rewards Cards and signed up for discounted Sunday papers to be delivered to my house.  I’m tired of paying full price for toiletries, and even if I’m only half as successful as Grossman at the Walgreen’s game, I’ll be saving a lot of money.

Advanced Savings Strategies

If you already save a fair amount with coupons, don’t worry.  At the end of the book, Grossman includes advanced savings strategies.  Frankly, at my current coupon skill, these strategies went over my head, but for others who are used to couponing, they could be very helpful.

At only $4.99, Grossman’s book, The Walgreen’s Drugstore Game, should save you enough money that you’ll recoup the money you spent to buy the book on your first trip to Walgreens using her tips.  Everything you save after that in the weeks to come will be extra money in your pocket, which we all can appreciate.

Achieving Your Goals Takes Time: Remember This As We Head Toward the New Year

I loved to bake.  Muffins, homemade French bread, homemade sandwich bread, cakes, brownies, you name it, I made it.

And then I found out I was gluten and wheat intolerant.  I tried to bake gluten free items, but I didn’t understand how all of the different flours worked, and after making pan after pan of hard, tasteless gluten free baked goods, I gave up.

Just recently I tried again, and this time I hit upon success.  I learned how to make my own gluten free all purpose flour (thanks to the Internet), and I found a recipe for gluten free pumpkin bread.  I used that recipe and altered it to make a delicious, sugar free, GF banana bread.  But my daughter is egg intolerant, so, after I perfected the recipe, I experimented with making it egg free, and again, I came up with a good bread.

My love of baking is returning.

What does this have to do with personal finance?

Actually, quite a bit, especially as we enter the last few weeks of 2013 and head into 2014.

In just a few short weeks you’ll notice blog writers changing their focus from how to save on holiday gifts to setting goals for the new year and steps to achieving your goals, especially financial goals.

Maybe it’s that people drink too much during the holidays, or maybe it’s that people are unbelievably optimistic as they head into the new year, but many of us set ridiculously difficult New Year’s goals.  And then we’re disappointed with and hard on ourselves when we fail.  (And often we fail the first week of the new year.)

Change takes time

Change is a step-by-step processMaking any big change doesn’t happen overnight because the calendar turns to a new year and you’ve made a list of things you want to accomplish.

Change is a step-by-step process, and it can be a long, painful journey.

It took me a year to finally learn how to make a good gluten free bread and enjoy cooking again.

Likewise, my husband and I are 25 long months into our debt repayment journey, and we’re only now reaching the halfway point.

In those 25 months, though, we’ve learned how to wait to purchase things we want rather than rushing right out and buying them, and we’ve learned to stay within our budget.  Would I like to be debt free now?  You bet.  But I also appreciate the valuable lessons I’m learning along the way.  After all, those lessons will help us stay out of debt forever in the years to come.

As you enter this holiday season, go ahead and think about things in your life that you’d like to change.  Maybe you’d like to put more money in an emergency fund or add to your retirement account.  Set your financial goals, but don’t expect changes in your behavior to happen automatically.  Know that any good change in habit takes months, maybe years, to be cemented in as a permanent part of your fabric.  Be patient with yourself and know that each step you make in the right direction is a step that is getting you closer to your goal.

What steps do you take to make sure you are achieving your goals?

A Two-Step Approach to Preparing Kids for a Giving Holiday: Part Two

The holiday season will soon be upon us.  If you find yourself stressed out every holiday season by financial and time demands, now is the time to decide that this year will be different.  Now is the time to decide on a giving holiday. Not only will you benefit, but your kids will as well.

Last time we talked about teaching your kids to give during the holidays, and this time we’ll talk about the second part of creating a giving approach to the holidays–teaching your child to have reasonable expectations for presents.

Years back, the holidays weren’t simply a time to get-get-get.  As a girl, I loved reading Little House on the Prairie, and I was always amazed by how delighted Laura was by the simple presents she received.  One year it was a tin cup and an orange.  Another year it was a corn cob doll.  Now, our kids receive oodles of presents and still demand more and are disappointed when the present opening is over.

Preparing kids for a giving holiday part 2How to Set Reasonable Expectations

If you’re the parent of older children and you previously gave them too many presents, you might sit down with them well before the holidays and let them know that they won’t be getting as much this year.  You can explain that you want to focus more on giving rather than receiving.  Plan on some resistance, but if you hold firm and continue to treat holidays this way, your kids will adapt.

If you’re children are younger, you can start the tradition of a simpler Christmas now.  Your kids may express some resentment as they age and see how much their peers are getting, but if it’s your family tradition, they will likely understand.

How Many Presents to Give

You and your significant other will need to decide what works best for your family.

Some families decide on a dollar limit per child and don’t go over that amount.  This is the way that my mom always handled Christmas for my brother and I, but she carried it a step further and made sure that we each got an equal number of gifts, too.

Other families say that Jesus received 3 gifts from the Wise Men, so they give their kids 3 gifts for Christmas.  Another take on this is to give your child 3 specific presents–something they want, something they need, and something they’ll wear.

In our family, we are blessed with grandparents and godparents that give our children many presents.  So, we buy our children very little for Christmas.  The one time we did buy our kids a lot of Christmas presents, they simply received too much.

Finally, some families take an extreme approach and don’t exchange presents at all.  Instead, they donate all the money they would have spent to charity.

If your children are already used to lavish holiday celebrations, scaling back may be difficult, but it’s not impossible.  First teaching children to be givers and then scaling back may help ease the transition for your child.

How do you determine how many presents to buy your child?  Do you worry about going overboard with gift giving?

Original photo credit: Theresa Thompson, on Flickr