Last Thursday, we set out on an evening of shopping. There were three stops (plus dinner) that we needed to make for various reasons. We knew exactly where we needed to go and what we needed to buy, so beforehand, I was able to make a list and a budgeted amount.
Seemed pretty straightforward. However, things started taking a peculiar turn and kept going from there. Luckily, savings karma was on our side.
Here was a quick recap of our shopping night.
First stop – Babies R Us. At our baby shower for Baby Beagle, which was held nearly a year ago, we received a baby gate that we had registered for. Our intent was to install it at the top of our stairway. Well, that was one of those gifts that went into the basement for awhile. We didn't need it before Baby Beagle came along, and even during the first few months, Baby Beagle wasn't moving around on his own, so it wasn't necessary. However, he's now quickly mastered the art of crawling, so it was time to pull the gate out and install it.
Except that we registered for the wrong kind. The kind we asked for was a pressure mounted gate, which uses tension to stick between two walls. This is good for sealing off a room, but because it's only tension holding it in place, it is considered unsafe for the top of stairs, since babies (or adults) could press it hard enough or run into it and knock it loose. We realized that we needed a gate that mounted into the wall.
Since so much time had passed, we were unsure if they would exchange the item at all, and if they did, how much we would get back. We took it up to the desk, and….no problem! They gave us full credit even though the gift givers may have used a 20% coupon. I was expecting a refund of about $48 if we got one at all, but we got $60. We picked out a new gate for $60, but had a 20% off coupon of our own, so we ended up spending $12 less than I had thought. Awesome!
Unexpected money in our pocket so far: $12
Second stop – Olgas. With all the running around, we knew dinner at home was not an option. My wife found a coupon for buy-one-get-one free at Olga's, so we stopped at one that was along the way. Between our two Olga sandwiches and a basket of Olga's snackers, I had estimated we would pay about $14.
Imagine our delight when the waitress came back with a bill for $9. The reason that we got the buy-one-get-one in the first place was that my wife had signed up for a free Olgas rewards card last time she was there. With the card, you get ‘free money to spend' after making so many purchases. At the time, they also had a promo where they pre-loaded $5 of credit onto the card. She had forgotten all about it, but when they ran our card to validate the coupon, the credit took the five bucks off our bill.
Unexpected money in our pocket so far: $17
Third stop – Costco. After the Olga's suprirse, I actually commented that we were two-for-two in coming up with register bills that were lower than anticipated, and wondered if we could duplicate that at our other two stops.
So, with our bellies full (including Baby Beagle who got fed his baby food, some cucumbers, and a torn up Olga Snacker), we headed off to Costco.
We didn't need much, but we identified six items that we purchase regularly that had coupons in this month's coupon book. A seventh item was a package of formula for Baby Beagle.
I had wanted a ballpark figure of what we'd be spending, so earlier in the day, I had Googled ‘Costco' withbeing the actual item I was looking for. Most times, it led me to the Costco web site where the business members prices of the exact item I looked for came up. I figured that to be the same prices I'd pay in the store, so I calculated what we'd be spending. I had figured our bill to be $94.
When we started going around to collect our items, I happily discovered that, for whatever reason, the website prices were higher. So, we got all of the items I had on this list for $81, saving us $13 more dollars versus what I had expected to spend. We were now officially on a roll!
Unexpected money in our pocket so far: $30
Fourth (and final) stop – Buy Buy Baby. It's getting time where Baby Beagle will not fit in his baby carrier for much longer. He's allowed to stay in there until he reaches either 30 pounds or 30 inches. He's probably a month or so away from hitting one or the other, so we've been doing our research and had decided on buying a Britax convertible car seat. Britax is normally rated among the safest in car seats.
Babies R Us had been running a special where if you took in an ‘old' item from a list of normally expensive items, they would give you 25% off a new item. The list included things like car seats, high chairs, etc. The extra 5% over using one of their 20% coupons that we get in the mail made it worth our while.
But, of course, they didn't have the exact car seat we wanted, whereas Buy Buy Baby did. For those of you who may not know, Bed Bath and Beyond has gotten into the baby store business, and Buy Buy Baby is their creation. They're only in select markets, and luckily the Detroit market is one. The stores are laid out in the same ‘square' model as Bed Bath and Beyond, and what makes it really nice is that they accept their own coupons, coupons of their competitors (i.e. Babies R Us) and, since they're a Bed Bath and Beyond subsidiary, they take those coupons too!
Since they take competitors coupons, they would match the 25% off that Babies R Us was offering, but they also wanted us to bring in an old item.
My parents had my old car seat, manufactured in 1974. It was nothing like what they have now, and was in a box about half the size. And, my dad told me that, at the time, it was a top of the line car seat, also rated high by Consumers Reports back then! We took it in, and I was extremely amused to see the curiosity of many of the employees, who wanted to see what a car seat from 1974 looked like. It became quite a discussion piece!
Well, we went back to the car seats, and looked for the seat that we wanted. We wanted one that was $320 but was ‘fully loaded'. We saw that there was the one we wanted, but also one that had the exact same pattern for $260. We flagged down a clerk and asked what the difference was. There were two slight differences. The first is that the more expensive one ‘clicked' when you pulled it tight. We are always very fastidious about making sure our baby is snug, so this was not a ‘must have' feature. The second difference was a plastic bumper on the outside of the seat. This, as it was explained to us, was not for the protection of the child, but for passengers that might be next to the seat. The bumpers gave an extra cushion from the passenger running into the framing of the car seat.
My wife and I talked it over and noted that we have passengers in the back on a very, very rare basis. We're talking once every couple of weeks at most. This will increase when we have more kids, but then they'll be in car seats of their own, so the risk of them hitting against this is minimal.
Because this didn't directly affect the safety of the child (we even double-checked to make sure that the structure of the seat was not different and this was confirmed) and the chances of a passenger being affected are so slight, we went with the $260 seat. That's a $60 difference which translated into $45 when you backed out the 25% savings voucher that we got with the ‘trade-in'.
Add that to the $30 we avoided paying so far, and the total unexpected money in our pocket was $75!
That's not chump change! By this time, everybody (including Baby Beagle) had had it, and since we had everything off our list, we headed home with a car packed full of stuff and a little extra money in our bank account!
Yes, it's true that we had to ‘spend to save', but in case we saved the money on items that we had intended to purchase anyways and that we needed! There was not a single instance where we ‘added' an item or upgraded an item, spending more along the way, in order to save money. Nope, this was money that went directly into our pockets that we'd been planning on spending.
It seemed almost karma-like that we were able to save money in every single location. If that's the case, I'll take that karma anytime!