I'm a full-time wife and mom of two adorable boys. When I'm not busy trying to keep up with them I enjoy photography, traveling, planning parties and a little bit of reading.

In February of 2008 I was diagnosed with an incurable terminal lung illness, though God promised me a full and complete healing. While we wait for His timing, we're taking it one day at a time, and standing in awe of how God's using all of this for His glory. The tough road we've traveled has given us a new perspective on the fragility of life. Memories are more important to us than ever before. The goal of this blog is to share some of our family life - the ups and downs, the joys and probably some of the pains as well. It's mostly meant as a personal journal of sorts, but you're welcome to share in it. We'd like to take this opportunity to say ...


Friday, February 26, 2010

#5 - Rewarding Reward Programs

Isn't this an adorable little wallet?  I'd feel so stylish if I pulled that out at Pottery Barn ... I think it'd make me smile even at the Dollar Tree!  ... But, it's just not meant to be.  That is NOT my wallet.

THIS IS MY WALLET.  (My hands look so much like my mothers!)  

Yep - it's official.  I'm barely 30, and have a "mom wallet."  It's the size (and weight) of a small cat.  But it contains EVERYTHING I need to function in the shopping world (in addition to the stack of coupons I keep in my car. (You can read about them HERE.)  In addition to basics (like my driver's license, bank card, and the occasional dollar bill), it also holds all insurance cards, doctor's business cards, some family pictures (though, apparently not any recent ones - oops!) ...

... gift cards ... 

... occasional coupons ...


(Wow - that was a long intro, eh? Sorry about that.) (Disclaimer - there's more stuff in my wallet to make it that full, but I just didn't photograph it.)

Reward Programs are another way I save money.  The ONLY of the programs that you see cards for that cost me money are AAA (which, if you use it for discounts when you shop, IS a reward program), and the Picture People Portrait Card.  ALL OTHERS WERE FREE.  I think it's a complete waste of my Aaron's hard earned money for me to PAY for a reward program that may or may NOT even pay for itself.

I think the grocery store cards are self-explanatory, so I won't discuss those.  So are the punch cards for customer loyalty (like Cold Stone - we got those punched on our Valentine date! *smile*).  If you look at the photo, you'll notice that I really don't have THAT many stores represented.  These are the stores I frequent the most (except for Target, Kohls, Walgreens, and the Dollar Tree - none of them have such cards). Most of my online shopping is done through Amazon (with an Amazon Prime subscription - AMAZING deal if you shop there a lot - FREE 2 day shipping on most items, and it only costs $70something a whole year.  You can ship to ANY address, not just your own, so go in on the cost and "split" it with some of your family.  They give you the money, and you order their stuff for them.). I do a lot of other online shopping these days too - I don't have the physical energy these days to do all my shopping in stores while dragging two kids with me.

Let's discuss HALLMARK Crown Rewards.  Whether or not this is a rewarding program for you depends most likely on where you currently buy your cards.  If it's at the dollar store, then this won't help you any.  But if you buy them at the grocery store, then it'd mean an extra errand, but they cost the same at the Hallmark store.  You earn points based on cash spent in the store and on number of cards purchased.  So, I bought my 75% off Christmas cards there in January - and that one purchase ALONE got me 1/3 the way to a reward certificate.  Several times a year they mail me a flyer (coupon?) for buy one roll of wrapping paper, get one (or sometimes get TWO) free.  That still makes it cost more than the dollar store, but thrills me giddy!  So, I might buy 9 rolls in one shot, and there is another 1/3 the way toward a reward certificate, and I haven't bought any birthday-type cards for anyone yet.  I think in 2009, I earned $35 in reward certificates alone at Hallmark.

Next - STAPLES Rewards.  Generally you receive 10% back for ink/toner & paper purchases, along with photocopying.  BUT - several times a year (like this past January), they offer 20% back.  So, in January I purchased what should be enough ink for 4-6 months for our printing needs, and received 20% back (mailed to me as a gift certificate to the store).  I also recycle my used ink/toner cartridges there for $3 each.  It's possible to buy generic ink/toner online for cheaper, but none of the ones I've found seem to actually print as many pages as the "real brand" ones do for the various printers we've owned through the years.  In 2009, I believe I earned about $150 in staples rewards and ink cartridge recycling. (Some of you fellow left-brainers out there are doing that math right now and thinking "Goodness, that's a LOT of money spent at Staples! - It's not really, not all of the purchases were for our household - other people know that we have the card, and didn't want to get one themselves, and just asked me to buy theirs for them.  Yippee for me!)

And then, there's PNC Points.  Our checking account is at PNC.  If at a store, we select "credit" rather than "debit" for our check card, we earn points.  Points can also be earned by having your account associated with direct deposit, getting your statement online (rather than through the mail), and paying bills online. We've probably been enrolled in the program for 3 years now, and have earned around $400 in gift cards.  Do you need to read that number again? $400.  PNC - paid - me - four - hundred - dollars - just - for - shopping!  BOOYA!  (Some of those gift cards in the photo are from our PNC Points!)

That's just a sampling of a couple of the reward programs in which I participate.  I just did a quick calculation (based solely on memory), and I think in 2008 I saved / earned about $450 from reward programs (most of 2009 consisted of a "spending freeze" while we saved up money to relocate).  And that's NOT counting CVS, Walgreens (which I didn't frequent until 2010), OR grocery shopping (or free gas from grocery shopping).  And many of the punch cards I've had have been filled already - that's why that photo had so few.  So - perhaps this helps answer some of the questions I've gotten as to HOW it's possible that I purchased THIS PICTURE for a mere $13 out-of-pocket at Bed, Bath & Beyond (retail is $99).

My shopping life is mostly spent looking for good deals - on sale - with a coupon - hopefully a reward program - and a gift card!  Remember - the more you SAVE, the more you have to SPEND / INVEST elsewhere!

I am not really "frugal" - my mother and sister do a MUCH better job at being frugal than I do.  I just don't want to pay full price.  Why should I?  If I play my cards right I can live the lifestyle I want without paying through the nose for it.  (Isn't that a disgusting image?  It's soooo descriptive, though!)


Charity said...

Yay for PNC. We just got accounts there. And with our fuelperks we fill up one vehicle and a few large gas cans to maximize the large one-time discount. Then we fill the vehicles from the cans until they run out and we hopefully have another large % built up!

Nicole said...

Love PNC points! Just accumulated enough this last year to pay for my iPod Touch, and get two $100 visa gift cards with about 50,000 points to begin with to build upon this year!