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Non-Extreme Couponing, Free Samples, and Other Obsessions

scissors with grocery coupons

Couponing, great in theory, hard work in reality.  Watching even one minute of Extreme Couponing makes my head spin. I get the thrill of the “game” but when you have closets full of paper products, detergent and pasta sauce, it’s time to go to rehab!  I’m not greedy and I don’t need free, I just want to save my family a little money each week on the things we buy all the time.  Lofty goal?  It shouldn’t be, but it is.  Notwithstanding the great coupon deals on paper products and deodorants, when it comes to food, coupons mostly cover the interior of the store, not that health conscious perimeter we all should aspire to.  But is a life without Oreos really worth living?  I think not.  We need some of the interior items just to keep our sanity.  Plus, the wine and beer aisle are closer to the perimeter than the interior, and chips and soda are oftentimes dead center.   Ever think about  that?

To get those great “food” deals takes tenacity, a veritable survival of the fittest in the grocery store world.  However, with various printable coupon websites such as Coupons.com and the Target cartwheel app, saving has never been easier. Or harder. Because here is the truth, drum roll please, couponing is addicting. You can’t just say I’m going to do a “little couponing”  no siree Bob, it doesn’t work like that.   Once you score a great deal, you keep looking for your next big hit. You scour for coupons, sign up for loyalty programs, buy multiple Sunday papers because you know you can “save” more. Truth be told, there are worse “time sucks” our there than couponing (read Candy Crush) because at least couponing saves you money and Candy Crush might actually cost you if you give in and buy some boosters to complete a level or buy your way into the next section (not that I would know anything about that).

In my adopted state of North Carolina, couponing at Harris Teeter is an art form. From Facebook groups to spreadsheets to ad previews, these ladies spend as much time on couponing each week as I did studying to get my law degree (and I’m only half kidding).  Their dedication is astounding and I take my hat off and bow to them.   It’s a Facebook community filled with love and support.  Fellow couponers post to brag about their “score” and share their knowledge.  The exchange of information is rapid and fever pitched. If you want to get started couponing, at Harris Teeter or otherwise, a great resource for finding coupons is Moolasavingmom.com.  You can also join closed Facebook groups for fellow couponers at your brand store.  The best one for Harris Teeter is Couponing at Harris Teeter.  You will learn all the ways of the force and a s**t ton of useless jargon/three letter acronyms unique to the couponing world.

In the couponing world the word “free” is the end all be all.  The holy grail of couponing, though that’s not technically correct, the holy grail are the “money makers,” the coupons (and stacking of coupons and deals) where the store pays you money.  For example, Walmart policy states “If coupon value exceeds the price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase.”  Money makers are few and far between for us average run-of-the-mill couponers.  Though scoring one (and not to overdo my drug analogy) must be like taking a big hit (of something, how should I know???).  Kind of like getting someone to pay you to sample their full-sized product.

sample grunge retro red isolated ribbon stamp

Which brings me to samples, another of my obsessions. Who doesn’t love free samples?  I wish I could tell you about a great way to get free samples.  I too have seen those advertisements that show up on my Facebook news feed, but haven’t yet clicked on any of them yet. Once I do unlock the secrets, you’ll be the first to know!

Right now my “free” sampling fix is limited to the Saturday afternoon of food I get on my weekly run to Costco.  But that does not abate my need for samples.  Samples, samples, samples.  I’m talking about my borderline unhealthy obsession/interest in beauty product samples. There must be others of my kind similarly beckoned by the mother ship also known as the subscription beauty box.  I’ve limited my subscriptions to two:  Birchbox and Ipsy.  I’m relatively new to Ipsy (Christmas gift to myself!) so can’t really comment on it yet but have been a long time Birchbox subscriber.  If you haven’t heard of Birchbox, wipe those cavewebs out of your hair and come into the light.  Birchbox is beauty product sample heaven (cue the Alleluias).

For the bargain basement price of $10 a month, who could possibly resist.  To rationalize, I make a few less trips to Starbucks and my financial universe remains in alignment.  My nine year old daughter is green with envy (or should I say pink) when the pretty pink box appears in our mailbox each month.  From anti-aging creams, to face masks, to hair spray, makeup; every month is a delight.  I’m rarely disappointed with my haul and have in fact purchased full-size products as a result of this “sampling.”  Try it out for yourself and use this link so they know who sent you. Birchbox Link.

 

 

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Helicopter Parenting, Free Range Parenting and Other Useless Labels

Empty playground swing with children playing in the background concept for child protection, abduction or loneliness

I’m ready to get back to blogging and have been stewing over a piece of news I read several months ago.  Although I’m weighing in a bit late, parenting style is once again in the media hot seat. What a shocker. Because we all know that the media knows best when it comes to weighing in on parenting choices.

This time it is a Maryland couple, Danielle and Rafi Meitiv who have allowed their appropriately dressed and seemingly well cared for 10 year old and 6 year old to walk in the neighborhood….ALONE without parental supervision.  Yes, that’s right, it seems to be a matter of debate whether children should be permitted to walk to the playground without an adult in the great State of Maryland or whether by allowing them to do so the parents are guilty of “neglect.”

The Meitivs were questioned repeatedly with multiple interviews by Child Protective Services who released a finding of “unsubstantiated” neglect.  The family is now appealing.  “Unsubstantiated” neglect, are you kidding me?  That sounds like some Orwellian double speak to me.  I don’t think that CPS has to travel far in Maryland (read Baltimore) to find substantiated neglect.

The original “incident” of unsupervised walking and play was several months ago, then just two weeks ago the family was in the news again when the police picked up the children on their way to the park after receiving a call from a “concerned citizen.” The police held the children for hours without notifying the parents.  The police claim they were complying with CPS protocol but one wonders what protocol could prevent the police calling the parents to at least inform them of where their children are (a simple phone call people!).   It was only after the mother called 911 that CPS had the decency to call and tell them.

There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. First, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  Really, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Let me say some states, including Maryland, have Unattended Minor laws on the books, including my own state of North Carolina.  These provisions, for the most part, relate to children being left unattended in dwellings or motor vehicles.  The North Carolina provision can be found in the Fire Code stating that a child under the age of 8 should not left unattended in a dwelling because of the dangers associated with fire.  In light of a recent tragic case in Louisiana of the two beautiful little souls (aged 4 and 3) that died in a house fire while their mother was getting her hair done, these provisions make some sense.  The North Carolina provision allows for parental judgment regarding the child’s maturity, etc.

Fire is a real and identifiable risk, especially if small children are involved.  On the other hand, there is nothing inherently risky with walking our city streets to get to a local playground. Especially if these children have been taught (as they appear to have been) the route so they don’t get lost, how to cross the road safely, etc.

Someone has labeled these parents “Free Range” parents and the media has picked up on it.  Free Range parenting means parents who allow their children to roam unattended lumping this in with those free range chickens or eggs that we purchase in the store.  This terminology is disturbing on so many levels.  What do they have Don Draper coming up with copy now?

I don’t know about most of you but at a fairly young age, certainly younger than 10, I was allowed to walk/ride my bike to our neighborhood park.  I was allowed to wrap my ice skates around my neck by the laces and trudge to the pond to go ice skating with my friends.  No judgments, no problems.  I took my bike to the town swimming pool where I had a season pass.  I learned to be a confident young woman with a can do spirit that served me well when I traveled alone to foreign countries in my twenties.  I learned to trust myself, trust my instincts through experiences.  I learned to speak up for myself, to ask questions of adults because I had to, and no one was there to help me.  If I had my parents hovering over me, locking me inside because of all the “dangers” outside, would I be the person I am today?  I doubt it.  I can hear the naysayers now–“But that was a different time, there are so many predators out there waiting to scoop up our children off the streets.”

Children are more likely to be injured in a car accident with a parent at the wheel, than they are likely to be a victim of stranger violence.  Motor vehicle fatalities are the number one cause of death of children aged 2 to 14, yet we still get into our cars every day with little or no fear.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we give want to live in a society where we are governed by our fears and hysteria over unsubstantiated stranger danger or do we want to live in a society and raise our children with freedom, faith, hope and trust.

 

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