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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A New Revenue Stream

In this economy, I think everybody's looking for ways to make more money. I think I may have figured out how to get rich quick, for real.

Allow me to set the scene:

Wednesday night, a townhouse in suburbia. The toddler is asleep in bed. The lovely wife is enjoying a glass of wine and some downtime, and the husband is in the kitchen making his lunch for the next day.

HUSBAND: Did we eat all the sub rolls?
WIFE: No, they're in the bread box on top of the toaster.
HUSBAND: I just looked. They're not there. Your mom and the boy must have eaten them.
WIFE: There were four left. There's no way they ate them all. Did you really look for them?
HUSBAND: Yes. They're not there. (Dejectedly) I'll just use regular bread.

WIFE sets down her wine glass and walks to the kitchen.

HUSBAND: I'm telling you, the sub rolls are gone. I'll give you $10 if you can find them.
WIFE: OK.

WIFE reaches into the bread box and immediately pulls out a plastic bag.

WIFE: Here they are. I want my $10.
HUSBAND: Those are hamburger buns.

WIFE points to the writing on the plastic bag. It clearly says HOAGIE ROLLS.

WIFE: (Speaks slowly and runs fingers along the words.) See, hoagie rolls. This is what you were looking for. I want my $10.
HUSBAND: Are you really going to make me pay you $10?
WIFE: Yes.
HUSBAND: (Walks goes to his wallet and pulls out a $5 bill and three ones.) I don't have $10. How about $5?
WIFE: I'll take it. But you still owe me $5.

WIFE walks back to the sofa and picks up her glass of wine.

WIFE: Pretty expensive sandwich, huh?

I really think I'm onto something here. I'm sure I could clear an extra couple hundred every week helping Bruce "find" things that aren't really lost. I'll be rich in no time!

Free Food at Dairy Queen for a Year

Recently, I posted about Dairy Queen's new Sweet Deals value menu and a contest they were running for bloggers.


Well, my entry, won the big prize. The judges deemed it the most creative of more than 250 entries. That writing degree has finally paid off!

My family will be enjoying free Dairy Queen Sweet Deals every week for a year!

This win was kismet. I come from a long line of ice cream fanatics.

A doctor once told my Grandpa Mills that he needed to cut out the sweets from his diet. Grandpa, who was in his 80s at the time and enjoyed a bowl of chocolate ice cream every day refused. "Doc, I've already given up sex. I'm not giving up ice cream." Well said.
At Grandpa's funeral, we all gathered around the graveside and reminisced while eating tiny cups of chocolate ice cream.

My 2 1/2-year-old son, Jackson, comes by his love of ice cream honestly. His Pop-Pop, his Bob-Bob, his Daddy and his Mama have never met a scoop they didn't like. And neither has Jackson, as you can see by this series of photos -- his first ever taste of ice cream.

On Monday, the weather was so nice that Jackson and I took a stroll to Dairy Queen for lunch. He thought it was such a treat to get to have a hotdog and an ice cream sandwich for lunch. He'll be thrilled to know that we get to go back again and again and again...

Because we now find ourselves ice cream rich, I think I'll make the rule that we have to walk to the DQ to cash in our gift certificates.

And don't worry, friends, for the next year, the ice cream's on me!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Restaurant gift certificates on the cheap

When I was a teenager, I was mortified if my parents pulled out a coupon to pay for a meal. But I've grown up and out of that phobia.

Having a coupon isn't a condition of eating out, but these days, we're looking to stretch our entertainment and food dollars as far as possible. So, we're always on the lookout for great coupons and freebies.

Last week, for example, my husband, son and I dined at Quiznos for $4 total (the cost of drinks and chips) thanks to the Million Subs Deal. And I've slipped a coupon for a free Arby's roastburger into my purse for some day soon. (I hadn't eaten Arby's for years, until I got pregnant with Jackson and then I craved their roast beef.)

There are a great many sources of restaurant coupon -- your Sunday newspaper, the Attractions Dining Guide, the Entertainment Book (see link on my sidebar), restaurant email newsletters and Restaurant.com.

Restaurant.com sells discounted gift certificates to restaurants. I've bought and used their certificates in the past, and have had great luck with them. And the best thing about Restaurant.com is that they offer great sales on a monthly basis, in addition to their already discounted rates.

At regular prices, a $25 restaurant gift certificate costs $10 on Restaurant.com; a $10 one is $3.

But I've never paid "full price" on Restaurant.com because the site is always offering additional discounts. Over the weekend, I purchased $105 worth of restaurant coupons for $7.80! You read that right. $7.80. It's not a typo.

At the end of every month, Restaurant.com has to move its inventory of gift certificates, so it offers rock-bottom discounts. I bought my gift certifcates for 80 percent off.

Here's what I got and what I paid for each:

$10 GC to Oakcrest Family Restaurant - Paid 60 cents
$25 GC to Zevely House - Paid $2
$10 GC to Asiago Italian Restaurant - Paid 60 cents
$25 GC to Solaris - Paid $2
$10 GC to Harrison's - Paid 60 cents
$25 GC to Giovanni's - Paid $2

At most of these restaurants, there's a minimum purchase and some other usage rules (usually that there must be two diners, alcohol is excluded and that no other coupons can be used to pay for the meal). With the gift certificates that I purchased, the minimum purchases range from $15 (Harrison's) to $50 (Giovanni's).

Even so, we're going to be getting a great bargain -- a $50 meal at Giovanni's, one of the best Italian restaurants in town, for $27. I'll take that any day. At the other upscale restaurants on my list - Solaris and Zevely House in Winston-Salem, my out of pocket will be just $12 if we stick to the coupon budget exactly.

I was so thrilled with the end-of-the-month bargains that I got at Restaurant.com in February that I logged back on in March to get a gift certificate to another restaurant that had been sold out. I paid $9 for a $25 gift certificate to Sweet Basil's, which is, in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in Greensboro. If you ever have the chance to try their carmelized onion and smoked gouda pimiento cheese sandwich, do it!

Why do restaurants allow their gift certificates to be sold for less than face value on Restaurant.com? Because it's a great advertising and marketing tool. You're not likely to find chain coupons on the Web site, but you will find a lot of great mom-and-pop eateries and locally owned upscale restaurants. These restaurant owners are hoping to lure you in with a great deal via Restaurant.com then capture your full-price return business. That tactic has certainly worked on me in the past, as I've discovered some great restaurants through Restaurant.com, both in my hometown and in vacation destinations.

I encourage you check out Restaurant.com, and make sure to sign up for the email newsletter. That way, you'll get notice of all the sales the site runs throughout the month. Please be aware that some popular restaurants sell out quickly, so if there's somewhere you want to try, buy that gift certificate early.

If you don't have a discount code in your email, access Restaurants.com through The Coupon Mom Web site, which offers an everday discount of 40 percent.

Before buying a gift certificate from Restaurant.com, make sure you read all the restrictions. Then, I recommend printing the certificate out and carrying it in your wallet with your cash. If you don't, you may forget to use it. (Most gift certificates expire a year after the purchase date.) If you change your mind after buying a Restaurant.com GC, you can return it within 90 days.

If you find a great restaurant through Restaurant.com, I'd love to hear about it. And please share with me your other strategies for saving cash when dining out.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Freebies from Aveda

You gotta love Aveda -- concerned about the environment and good to our pocketbooks, too.

I've found the company to be very generous with samples through online and in-store offers.

If you sign up for the Aveda Birthday Club, you will receive a postcard for a $25 free gift, either a Personal Blends Pure-Fume or Body Care Product. Once you signup, you'll also have the option of printing out a coupon for a free sample of Aveda Color Conserve hair treatment. The sample is available at participating Aveda stores. In Greensboro, you can redeem it at the Jade salon at the Shops at Friendly Center.

(Speaking of Friendly Center, through March 31, if you dine at Mimi's Cafe, you can get a free four-pack of muffins. And if you sign up for the Mimi's Cafe e-club newsletter, you'll receive a coupon for a free breakfast. And on your birthday, they will send you a $10 off $20 coupon -- or at least they did on my birthday in January.)

And if there's a man in your life, he can get a free sample from Aveda, too. Thanks to WalletPop for the freebie tip.

I've been thinking about checking out the Aveda Institute in Chapel Hill and partaking in some of the discounted services. I could use a little ohm and relaxation!

Finally, before you go into your local Aveda store to redeem your free coupons, collect all your unused plastic bottle caps from sodas, empty shampoo bottles, milk jugs, detergent bottles, etc. Aveda has begun collecting the caps for recycling. Most rigid plastic bottle caps aren't recycled because most community recycling centers don't accept #5 plastics. So recycle your bottle caps with Aveda.