Time to Keep What’s Worth Saving?

“Bam. Bam. Bam!” That’s the sound of the police officer banging on my door. Our apartments didn’t have doorbells, so knocking, or in this case, banging, was the only way to announce oneself.

The sound of urgency in the banging startled me awake; especially since I didn’t know at the time it was a police officer at my door. It was the middle of the night and I’d only lived in that complex for a few months. As is my way, I spoke through the door, trying to verify who was there and why. Once I learned it was law enforcement, I opened the door to a female officer who was demanding that I exit the apartment right away. There was a car on fire right in front of my building, and they needed us to evacuate in case the fire got out of control and jumped to the building.

The officer wanted me to vacate immediately, but I refused to leave without going back into my bedroom to grab my purse and something to cover up with, and put on some shoes.

The car fire ended up being contained and we were allowed back into our apartments about an hour later.

As a child, I’d been through several real emergencies and only drills, especially when we  lived in Kansas. Whenever there was a tornado warning while we were home, we went down into our basement. I never had to worry about anything because my mom had taken care of everything. We had blankets, flashlights, candles and matches; snacks and water already in place. All we had to do was get downstairs, and then we’d listen to the transistor radio and wait for the all clear. Our basement was also the game room, so there were couches and chairs, and stuff to do as we waited it out.

As an adult, there have been plenty of potential emergencies — severe storms, flooding, ice storms. And watching things unfold on television, like the wildfires out west, and hurricanes in the south, made me start thinking, what if I only had moments to prepare to evacuate my home, what would I have the time to gather and what would be worth saving?

We don’t like to think about things like that; natural disasters or man-made catastrophes. But there’s a reason they call them “emergencies!” We don’t expect them or invite them, but you never know when something may happen. So when it does…how prepared are you for it?

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We have watched this play out in real time in the news. A forest fire gets out of control destroying everything in its path,. Mudslides, flash flooding, hurricanes heading straight for your community.

Or maybe it’s an unexpected doorbell ring from the police after a 911 phone call from a (possibly) mentally disturbed man, claiming to have sat on a bomb in his house.

That happened recently in a small community outside my town. The neighborhood was evacuated with no notice. Parents barely having the time to grab their children and leave. Fortunately, it was a false alarm, but what if it wasn’t. What if after you vacated, the block really did blow up, and everything in your home with it? 

So if you had only five minutes to load your car before having to escape out of town, aside from family members and pets, what would you put inside?

What if you only had 60 seconds? What would you grab?

Most people would panic, because most people don’t have a plan in place in case something happens. They are trying to make that decision at the time of the emergency, instead of being prepared for that decision in advance. Sadly, most of us want to live with the “what are the chances that will ever happen to me” syndrome. So when it happens to them, they exit the home with the clothes on their backs and little else.

I’m not suggesting in any way that anyone should risk their lives or those of their family going back into a home when flood waters at at the steps, a wildfire is in the backyard, or theirs the possibility of a bomb going off. What I am suggesting is this. Make a plan. Share that plan with your family. Be prepared to follow it.

Recently, part of New York City had a power outage that last over five hours. I watched as one family who was visiting the city was being interviewed. They were in good spirits, however, they had no way to reach two of their kids who were off touring apart from the rest of the family. Why? Because ever single family member left the hotel without taking a phone charger with them, and then from a full day’s use, had allowed their batteries to die! Certainly, as they left for the day, no one could have predicted the city would experience a blackout. But then, why would you plan a full day of touring, and not plan for how you would power your devices, even IF there wasn’t an emergency.

Firemen speaking at schools often encourage kids to go home and ask their parents to not only put together an escape plan for the family, in the event of a house fire, but to also practice it. I know one mother who discussed with her daughter about the plan, but never practiced it with her. I asked once why they had not physically gone through the steps of what to do when exiting the home. She really didn’t have an answer, though I chalked it up to being lazy, not wanting to be inconvenienced, and again, the old, “this is’t never going to happen to us,” mindset. But at least they had a plan, because many families do not.

So what can you stop and think about doing right now to prepare for that possible knock on the door or phone call? Make a list. Create a plan. Communicate with your family. If you live alone, decide which neighbor or friend you’re going to reach out to so they know what’s going on.

Here are a few other things.

  • Make a copy of important papers and documents and keep them somewhere safe, like a fireproof safe, or a safety deposit box away from your home. You can also scan the documents and email a copy to yourself that way if your computer gets destroyed, you can access them from any other computer.
  • I recommend also scanning your sentimental photos (family events like weddings, graduations, baby pictures). There are numerous cloud based services you can back your photos up to as well. The originals may get destroyed but at least you’ll have a saved copy. 
  • Always keep your car keys and purse or wallet somewhere you can find and grab quickly.
  • Keep cash at the ready. Remember, you can’t get to the ATM if the town loses electricity.
  • Know where your phone chargers are located.
  • Decide in advance what items you would pack if you have more time — like 5-10 minutes versus seconds to vacate. If you have a day or more notice, like an incoming hurricane, go ahead and pack the bags and leave by the door. Wouldn’t you’d rather spend time unpacking suitcases you didn’t need to flee with than fleeing your home without any extra clothes or shoes?
  • Keep an emergency bag of non-perishables, water, first-aid, and other emergency items somewhere you can grab on the way out the door. 
  • Watch the news and keep up with the weather report. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack your car if you’re leaving.
  • Keep gas in your car. Never park it in garage or driveway near empty.
  • Decide in advance how and where all family members will meet up or check in with each other in the event of an emergency.

No one wants to think that something tragic might happen to them. But every month, there’s some type of disaster or emergency somewhere, with news footage of someone talking about how they didn’t think this or that was going to happen. We can’t predict or in some cases can’t avoid many of the emergencies that might happen to us. But we can at least try to be prepared for them, if they do.

Why Don’t People Lock Their Doors?

It’s 2019. Is it really that hard? Do they even make cars anymore that don’t have an all–doors lock device on the driver’s side of the car? One click of a button on your way out the door, and your car is locked up.

So why do I keep hearing people complaining about their cars being broken in to and/or stolen. Technically, most of the thefts aren’t really “breaking into” anything. They’re simply opening the door that people leave unlock, and then rummaging through the glove compartment, under the seats, and maybe even the trunk. Week after week, I see a posting from someone on our Nextdoor app in my neighborhood area, who have either had their car ransacked, or someone who knows of someone else who did; or someone whose home security video camera captured people in the act of going through cars. I would say the majority of those who post actually admit to leaving their cars unlocked!

But why?

I think there are three kinds of people who leave their car doors unlocked on their house; whether it’s in their driveway or on the street. 

The Forgetful One! These are the people who either have so much on their minds, they forget the small stuff. Maybe they’re trying to get the groceries and the kids inside, and they forget to take care of that too. Or perhaps they really are just scatterbrains who don’t even think about locking the doors when they get out.

Then there’s the Lazy One! These are the people who are just too lazy to stop and lock their doors; as if pressing a button exerts so much energy out of you that you just can’t bring yourself to do it. They are the ones who get inside their apartment, remember that they didn’t lock the door, but are too lazy to go back outside to take care of it. They would rather take a chance that no one will break into it than to put their shoes back on, walk back outside and go lock their door.

And finally, the Arrogant One! They are the people who convince themselves that no one is going to break into their car; as if that’s a dare to anyone considering it. Despite the statistics, they actually believe that their neighborhood is so safe and crime-free, that “stuff like that” just doesn’t happen there.

In my hometown, the Metro Police statistics showed that in 2018, car thefts were up by 200 percent! The police statistics further report that the majority of the stolen vehicles not only had unlocked doors, but 60% of the stolen vehicles were left with the keys inside the car! In some cases, the car was literally left unlocked and running!

You have to know that you’re inviting someone to come in, go through your stuff, and take what they want!

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There was an artist who had their car stolen while they were unloading it for a show in town. The artist claimed they were only gone for a moment, but their definition of a “moment” was 20 minutes! What clock are they looking at when they think “it happened in the blink of an eye,” is the same thing as leaving your car unattended, unlocked, and with keys inside for 20 minutes? I can leave my house and drive to work in that amount of time!

I don’t know about you, but I work way too hard for the things I have to make it that easy for someone to steal my stuff; especially my car! But as if losing a car to theft isn’t bad enough, I’m even more surprised every time I hear about a home break-in where the homeowners either left a window or a door unlocked, or they didn’t have a security system.

I’ll be the first one to say that if someone really wants what you have inside, an alarm system isn’t going to keep them from breaking in. If that were the case, no banks, expensive art galleries, or gun shops would ever get burglarized. But it can slow them down; may make them rethink the risk, and notifies law enforcement when t happens. Over the past week, a popular entertainment news show that I watch reported that there has been a rise in the number of burglaries in Los Angeles. Every time I heard about another celebrity break-in, they did not appear to have an alarm system inter home. And I don’t get that. Certainly they can’t argue they don’t have the money to pay to secure their property? And especially for celebrities and sports figures who broadcast times when they’re out of town, either online, or simply by knowledge of a musician on tour or an athlete playing an away game! So not investing a few hundred dollars a month for a top of the line security alarm system just baffles me. Even for the rest of us, those who can afford a few less trips to Starbucks or the movie theater in order to pay for a system, there’s just no excuse not to have one. And when you do, ARM IT!

And I have visited multiple people who have alarm systems that they don’t actually arm. Others make jokes about their Smith & Wesson, or large German Shepherd. But you can’t use your gun on someone if you’re not even home when it happens. And the only thing your neighbor is going to think about your barking dog is about how annoying they are. Mostly, I think it goes back to the Arrogant One. They live in a false sense of security where if they think since no one’s broken in yet, then no one’s ever going to. Or back to the wrong belief that their neighborhood is rich enough, safe enough, that they don’t have to worry about stuff like that. Which brings me back to celebrities; some who even live in gated communities, who get robbed. How hard is it, really, to set up an alarm system for your home?

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Personally, I can think of a lot of things I would like to be doing with my money each month, other than paying for my alarm system. But for me, it’s worth the investment for the peace of mind when I’m at home, that if someone does try to break in, I’ll at least be alerted and able to take necessary steps. And also the peace of mind when I’m away, that if someone breaks in, the police are alerted (plus the best, noisy neighbor one could ask for), and hopefully get there before they get away. If nothing else than perhaps a preventive measure for the thief who can so easily break into someone else’s home with out having to worry about tripping an alarm and trying to get away.

Did you know that there are some insurance companies that won’t pay out a claim if they find out that you left your keys in the car, your car doors were unlocked; or for some, you own an alarm system that you didn’t have set when the burglary happened?

So, lock your doors people!

Being Prepared for the Aftershocks

Yesterday, on Independence Day, Southern California experienced a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. The USGS describes an Intensity 6 as being “Strong.” The epicenter of the quake was in Ridgecrest, CA, a small city described as a “desert town.” Fortunately, as of this writing there’s been no reported deaths, and the destructive damage was relatively low. Several people attribute that to the strengthening of the building codes in California, understanding that living there means being prepared for when, not if there will be another earthquake.

One of the things I also heard many emergency personnel and members of the media refer to was a reminder to everyone about the importance of having their “earthquake preparedness packs,” since there is an expectation of potential strong aftershocks. The contents of the earthquake packs aren’t that different from a general survival kit ready for any emergency — tornadoes, hurricanes, city-wide power outage, or even an economic downturn. It’s better to be adequately prepared for any kind of emergency, even if you never end up having one, than to not have anything, and then experience an emergency and not have the basic means to survive.

That reminder got me thinking about a post I’d made several years ago talking about the theme of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, and why everyone should have personal water buckets.

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Your water buckets are those things you use to catch the “rain” of blessings that you’ll need to sustain you, not for today, but be at the ready in the future. While you can’t know every possible scenario that could happen in your life, you can have a plan to prepare yourself for how to deal with most circumstances as they come.

Maybe it’s learning how to turn your hobby into an income stream for your family, or starting a second business for your retirement. Perhaps as a single adult, you take in a roommate so that you can put the extra funds away. Water buckets are basically ways to save money and resources today so that you have them to use later when you might unexpectedly need them.

If you’ve been through a divorce, and suddenly found yourself dealing with the shock of returning to just one income — perhaps your spouse carried you on their insurance, and now you’re having to pay for your own, along with the mortgage, and that new car that at the time seemed like a good idea — then you understand the concept of having the benefit of having something in those buckets.

Maybe you’re single, just lost your job, and now there’s no second income to fall back on; no one else to help pay those bills or provide for the health benefits that you just lost. 

Perhaps you still have your job, but with the cost of everything increasing, you’re just barely making enough to cover your monthly expenses. But then the brakes go out on your car — out of warranty, of course.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar in your life or someone you know, then you understand that life is full of surprises and unplanned stops in the middle of places you never imagined yourself ending up. And while we can’t control some of the circumstances that may happen to us, we can control how well prepared we are to take on those events when they happen.

Being prepared for life’s unexpected turns means being willing to create a plan now, so that you are where you need to be, have what you need to have, or are on your way to accomplishing steps to help you when a crisis enters your life.

So when it’s raining outside, the grass looks green, the flowers are colorful, and all the trees are thick with foliage, don’t worry about your neighbors or friends looking at you strangely because you’ve placed your water buckets outside the house to fill them up. Maybe they haven’t checked the forecast to know that there’s a drought coming. Be thankful that you’re going to be ready when it hits.

Connecting Life Together

I attended a Women’s Prayer Breakfast last weekend. It was nice, and much of what the speaker shared, I think, applies to many of us here; especially those going through an “adjustment to your new normal,” and maybe feeling a little daze or confused about life.

The theme was “Gospel Connections for Life Together,” and the focus was on the scripture verses, I Corinthians 12:14-26. But you could replace the word “Gospel” with several things: “Friends Connections for Life Together,” “Family,” “Community.”  The message would be the same. “We cannot make a connection by ourselves. We need other people.

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s not about you.
  • Recognize your rightful place
  • Move in love

The brief of it all is that if you want to make a connection (at your church; with family; friends, your community), you have to understand that everything’s not about you. You have to be willing to connect with other people and do life together, which means putting other people before yourself at times. You also have to recognize that you can’t play all the parts. You can’t do everything.

The Bible relates it to the different parts of the body: 

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable… But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other…”

I like to also think about it like the different parts of a beautiful orchestral work. We might all like the sound of the violin, but if we all played the same instrument, and the same parts, we’d miss the fullness of what the music was meant to be without the addition of the other string instruments, the beating of the drums and percussion, and the beauty of the woodwinds and horns. When all the instruments work together, playing their different parts, the orchestra is at its best; the music comes together the way the composer envisioned it.

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No matter how talented you are, you can’t do everything; nor should you. Because when you try, you are preventing someone else from using their own talents to contribute to the musical piece.

We ALL have a purpose. And we ALL need other people to live out that purpose; and to make a connection. How does that apply here?

Because many of you are struggling through some of life’s changes and challenges, but you have not reached out and connected with people who can help you. People at your church, your work, school, your civic organization, or just a friend. Perhaps pride or embarrassment keeps you from asking for help, so you just slip deeper into whatever area of problems you may be dealing with (financial challenges, family or work issues, relationships, etc.).

Others of you have the gifts and talents in various areas that can be useful to someone, but you’re holding them back, not willing to extend a helping hand to help pull someone through what may be a dark time for them.

Maybe you work in finances and can help someone get on a budget; or you’re good at investments and can help a friend learn how to grow their income. Maybe you’re incredible at couponing – have you thought about having your interested friends over for a little workshop to show them how they can start to save up to hundreds of dollars a month?

Are you good with cars? You could show women how to take care of theirs, and how to know if their mechanic is trying to rip them off. Or perhaps you’re a great homemaker who knows how to stretch a dollar and still make nutritionally great meals for your family for far less than eating out or ordering in! You got a garden that’s flourishing? How about sharing your vegetables and herbs with someone who can’t afford to buy farm fresh items. If it’s a flower garden; brighten someone’s day with an unexpected bouquet.

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I think you get the point.

Acknowledge your need for other people. Recognize your place (strengths/talents/gifts) in yourself and others. And then DO something! Help someone with your talents. And allow someone else to help you with theirs. But do it all in love.

 

Why You Should Peel Your Own Potatoes!

Have you ever noticed how much you’re paying for that small container of chopped watermelon compared to the cost of a whole one? If not, then you should stop and take note. Or how about that veggie tray, with the handful of cut carrots, celery, and the top of one broccoli? You’ll notice that you’re not just paying more for those items, but most of the time, you’re getting less.

You are basically being charged for your laziness!

Sure, we all like the convenience of saving a little time from having to peel and chop our fruits and/or vegetables. But an extra 50 cents here, and a dollar and fifty there, can start to add up to as much as ten dollars in one month; and start to grow to almost a hundred dollars or more in a year’s time!

Don’t believe me? Test it for yourself the next time you go shopping. Take your phone and capture the cost of that head or bunch of lettuce, and then go over to where they keep the bag of lettuce and take a snapshot of that. That’s where you’ll also find the bag of sliced bell peppers, snapped green beans, and chopped onions — conveniently located for the grab and go! And you’d be right, in terms of saving some time. But once you get home and pull up all of your comparison photos, write down how much money you would have spent purchasing the pre-packaged items, and what you would save purchasing the whole produce.

It’s amazing what our laziness is costing us. Like paying $2.49/lb for red onions that have already been peeled. Versus paying only 89 cents per pound for the same red onion that you go home and peel yourself. During my recent shopping spree, I picked up a head of lettuce for $1.49 versus the bag of the same type of lettuce for $2.99.

And it’s not just fruits and vegetables.

Peeled shrimp will cost you as much as two or three dollars more per pound than buying the shrimp with the shell. Unless they’re running a specific sale, a whole fryer chicken is much cheaper than the packaged one with separate pieces. The funny part is that you actually get more having the whole bird than just the cut up pieces.

And if you have a food processor, why don’t you chop your own nuts?!

The point is that you’re probably carelessly spending extra money each shopping trip, if you’re not taking the time to check prices, and stop going for what seems easier and convenient. Just like checking for sales, coupons, and discounts is important before you go shopping. So is making the effort to save money to buy the same product, unprepared or packaged, and not go for the pre-sliced/chopped/peeled ones.

Remember, the more money you save grocery shopping today, the more money you can put aside in your savings account for that raining day fund, or something fun you plan for yourself in your future.

Think about it.

Forget Paris. Focus on Your Own Fashion Week!

Two weeks ago, high temperatures where I live were in the 40s for several days; with low temperatures below freezing a couple of those days. Last weekend, my friends in Cleveland, OH experienced another epic spring snowfall, while many in the upper central plains continue even today with their cold temperatures. The calendar might say “spring” but the weather doesn’t always align with our hopeful schedule of the four seasons.

I learned a long time ago to dress for the weather not for the season. And with that, I have to say that shopping “out of season” is one of my favorite things to do. You see, retailers don’t care what the weather is doing outside. They will try to force you into dreaming of whatever comes next, inside, filing their stores with what they want to sell, rather than what you may need to buy. Autumn-colored clothes quickly follow the red, white and blue of July. Winter coats fill racks in September. Spring’s pastels are plastered everywhere in January. And the sleeveless tops of Summer make their debut before the Ides of March!

Because of retailing’s over-anxious, and sometimes obnoxious attempt at rushing each new season, they are equally motivated to get rid of the last season’s leftovers to make room. And fortunately for us bargain hunters, it can be a clothing gold mine of great finds; perfectly useful outfits with still weeks worth of wear to go. And for people like me, who’s more concerned with function than with what some fashion magazine tries to tell me is in or out at any given time, those bargain finds can last not just a few more weeks, but years after!

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Recently I went shopping to update my wardrobe, with great results. I got all five of these tops for only $32.00; and that’s with sales tax! No, I didn’t get them from a discount store. But I did get them at a tremendous discount. Their material is thin enough to wear comfortably, with or without a light jacket, through the next several weeks, but their “colors” are meant for Fall (which is when I will gladly take them back out of the closet and begin getting even more wear from them). So off to the sale rack they went!

All but one of the shirts was regularly priced well over that total of $32.00 spent. They actually had been repeatedly marked down over the weeks, and these were some still left. I happened to go into the store when they were having their “final” Final Sale! Everything on the sale rack, whose price ended in $.98 was further marked down to $9.98! Yes, that meant the $29.95 shirt was now less than ten dollars; the $34.95 one was also $9.98; as was the almost $60.00 one! Five shirts for less than the cost of what the higher one of them would have cost me alone — if I was the type who paid full prices for my clothes!

What drew me to that store, on that day, was the $25.00 off coupon I had off anything $50.00 or more. It was getting ready to expire. I had waited as long as I did to use it because I knew I would find some great deals in the transition of the seasons at the store. And so I did! With my total coming to just under $50.00 (a purposefully deceptive  practice by this particular store that I’ve just come to accept), I was forced to purchase one other thing; unfortunately a five dollar item to make up a difference of mere cents; but that’s no accident. I’m convinced the main retailer knows exactly what they’re doing when they run those coupons — you can never get right to $50.00; always will have to go over to use it!

It was still worth the trip and the cost to pay so little and get so much; not just for the sake of shopping, but to end up with clothes I have already worn, and will continue wearing, including later this year and most definitely into next and beyond.

My advice to other bargain shoppers who are looking for deals and wanting to maintain a budget?

  • Stop worry about what’s coming down the runway during Fashion Week. The fashion designers, sellers, and retailers are trying to make money convincing you that it’s not cool to wear “last season’s” stuff. In reality, unless you work in the fashion industry, your friends and coworkers are not keeping up with when or where you bought your clothes, or what’s suppose to be “in or out” for the average woman!
  • If you need to do some shopping, do it during a time, and with the retailers who offer you something in return (i.e. store cash dollars, coupons, reward points). They’re doing it to get you back into the store. But you’re doing it to take advantage of the savings on your next shopping trip.
  • If you can split your shopping needs up. Purchase half of what you need when those retailers are offering coupons (the old, spend $50 and get a $25 rewards coupon for your next visit). Then return to pick up the rest of your items using the coupon or points you earned the last time you were there. Four weeks ago, I bought two pairs of pants that I needed for a trip, which is what earned me that $25 coupon that was used to help buy those five tops later.
  • Sign up for the emailing lists of the retail outlets you visit the most. It might seem bothersome to start getting all their emails, but that’s the best way to keep up with when they’re having a major sale. Then choose that time period to do your shopping. Just be sure to confirm that the retailer will allow you to use that coupon on items marked down on sale. Another tricky thing you have to watch out for.
  • Never go shopping when you don’t need anything. But always remember that you can make purchases for the birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other special occasions of other people in your life; and still reap the benefit of bargain shopping and savings for yourself!

 

Make April Your Month of FREE

It’s the start of another week; the beginning of another month. April is here! I love this time of year for many reasons, but feeling like it’s the start of something fresh and new is one of the main reasons. I can tell myself, okay, now’s the time. Do this or that, but do something and stop putting it off! What do you have planned? What are you going to do with this new opportunity?

Recently I posted on my Catching Raindrops Facebook page about my March month of FREE. I listed a number of freebies I’d been rewarded with through various retailers and restaurants where I’m a member of their clubs or rewards programs — for free, of course. Because I don’t believe in paying to be a member of a program that then pretends to “pay” you back with freebies, when in reality you’re already paying for it.

So someone asked me where I’d gotten some of the items, and how I was able to get so much. I told her, from just going through my regular life. I believe that if you’re already shopping regularly at a particular grocery, and that store happens to have a program where you can automatically save money on your gas purchases, and receive points every time you buy groceries, or go to the pharmacy, or fill that gas tank — WHY WOULDN’T YOU WANT to sign up and get even MORE?

If you’re a frequent visitor at the same restaurants or shop at the same clothing store, or buy a lot of your make up from the same beauty products place, or your household goods from mostly the same place, and they’re offering you a customer loyalty card with discounts on purchases, and freebies for birthdays, and surprise gifts throughout the year….GET THE CARD!

I’ve posted about my freebies and savings many times before on that same Facebook page. But every time I do, I still have some followers asking me how I did it. I tell them the same thing…start joining these rewards programs. And if it’s a place that offers coupons on top of savings, take advantage of that as well! I love the convenience of Kroger’s digital coupons, their Friday Free downloads, and some of the weekend only specials they’ve been doing lately.

This past weekend, I was in line at a World Market, getting my free bottle of olive oil, when the woman behind me asked the cashier if the olive oil as free to everyone. She told her no, just for Rewards members. So I turned to her and said, but it’s free to join and you can do it today. And I proceeded to tell her about the birthday rewards and special gifts throughout the year; bragging on the bag of coffee I’d gotten a couple of months ago. She said her birthday was coming up in two weeks, and so I said “All the more reason to sign up today!” And so she did. You’re welcome #WorldMarket

There is no magic to it. But there are some rules I try to follow. 

  • Don’t get cards to places where you don’t already frequent.
  • Don’t make purchases on thing you don’t need just to drive up your points. You’ve already lost the benefit of the FREE!
  • Don’t drive across town to redeem a free reward. If you’re spending five dollars in gas just to pick up that five dollar bag of coffee, it wasn’t free!
  • Create a separate email address to use when you sign up. Then once a week check it. This will help eliminate your fear of them spamming your business or personal emails. I use an old AOL one I’ve had forever!
  • Never pay for the membership cards. Free should start with you not paying to be member.
  • Do be sure to include your birthday information, as most businesses with customer loyalty programs often start by giving you something on your birthday.
  • Remember that even when it’s something you don’t want, it might be the something someone else needs. Rather than ignore the freebies, I like to gather many of the free food items, take them to school, and give out to hungry and broke college students.

The main thing is to get started. And then remember to redeem the rewards! I hate it when I let a freebie expire because I wasn’t paying attention.