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The Depends Dilemma: Why I Buy Items I Won’t Use (Guest Post)

Should you buy items you don’t need or can’t use if it will save you money in the long-run? Kimberlee sent me the following guest post on why she does just that and I thought it might be a good start to a great discussion. I appreciate her honesty and I think she provides some interesting food for thought. Read her post and then I’d love to have you chime in with your thoughts. – Crystal

Guest Post by Kimberlee at The Peaceful Mom

Question: Why did I buy the Depends at CVS this week if I won’t use them?

Answer: They are part of my overall plan to save money.

(If you are unfamiliar with the CVS customer rewards program, Extra Care, you can read more about it here.)

I use this program for several reasons:

1. To Make Money to Purchase Other Items

My daughter has severe eczema and we have found that a CVS-brand ointment is the best product for her to use. I bought the Depends for $6.99, but I used a $2 off coupon so my net expenditure was $4.99 plus tax. I then received $6.99 in ECBs, thereby making an extra $2 to spend on the ointment or special body wash.

2. To “Roll” My Extra Care Bucks

Extra Care Bucks have an expiration date. So as not to lose them, I occasionally buy something I won’t use, but will give me “fresh” Extra Care Bucks in return.  I strive to buy only things which will give me the same or a greater amount of ECBs so that I spend as little cash as possible out of pocket.

3. To Donate

Even though we have quite the stockpile of toothpaste, when I can get free toothpaste (almost every week at CVS!), I do. Why? Because I can give them to friends who don’t coupon or donate them to our church’s homeless ministry. Body wash is another item that I can regularly purchase free (by combining sales, coupons and ECBs) and is a welcome donation at any battered women’s or homeless shelter.

So even if I won’t use the Depends, they will go to a good home and I made a little extra money to buy my daughter’s expensive necessities. I think that is a win-win scenario.

Kimberlee is the wife of one very patient husband and the homeschooling mom of four hilarious children ages 9-15.  She regularly feeds her family of six for less than $450 a month and in her “spare” time she enjoys writing, planting things, and getting free stuff from CVS.  You can visit her at ThePeacefulMom.com.

What do you think? Do you buy products you know you won’t use? Why or why not?

I understand we may have differing opinions and I welcome friendly discussion, even when there’s a need to agree to disagree. However, as always, any comments which are attacking, demeaning or mean-spirited will be deleted.

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  1. Erica Gores says

    I spoke with the manager at my local CVS. She said that ECB don’t actually expire. She said they are simply treated like a cash payment and that she doesn’t even understand why they have an expiration date on them. That was good to learn, because I have sometimes found some that have expired and THROWN THEM AWAY. Man, that was like throwing away real money.

    • CVS Employee says

      @Erica Gores, Extracare bucks are like “CVS cash,” but they have an expiration date on them for a reason. Perhaps that store (and possibly district) follows the “TAKE THEM WHENEVER” policy, but not all stores do. And the only EC bucks that can be reset (if you lose them, they expire, etc.) are quarterly bucks. And we can only do that once for you. Please make sure that you know that just because one store does something does NOT mean other stores follow that same guideline.

  2. Sarah B says

    I’m kind of new into couponing, so I’m still figuring out what is good for me and my family.
    I did buy fixodent once because it was a money maker. When I got home I had no idea what to do with it and decided that’s something I won’t do again. I realized I don’t need to get things even if I’m going to earn $1 on it! I do still have to pay tax on the things I buy, and that doesn’t seem like very much, but honestly with my tiny budget it makes a difference!
    I did buy the depends this week though. I had ECBs I wanted to roll, plus a $4/$20 coupon that the $6.99 helped me use plus I used the $2 coupon, and I got to use my green bag tag. :) This week it seemed like a good idea, but maybe next week it won’t be.

  3. Erin says

    I usually don’t buy things I don’t need, because I don’t want to find the space for them, since I will probably forget to donate. However, I completely support the idea of getting an item and donating it, so kudos to all of you who do!

  4. says

    Oh dear, dare I comment…..Let me start out by saying that there are 6 of us in our family, 3 teenagers and one 12 year old and then us two adults, well sometimes we act like adults!

    If there is a sale, and I have a coupon I am buying it whether we will eat it or not.; use it or not; ever tried it or not and here is why:

    If I can “buy” something for free or almost free—we can learn to like it.
    For example a couple weeks ago I got a great deal on Yoplus yogurt for 25 cents for a 4 pack. http://tinyurl.com/35dpswm
    All 6 of us had tried it before and really did not care for it. But I went ahead and bought 5 (4) packs (paid $1.25 for 5 packs) and used it for smoothies—everyone here loves smoothies.

    Banana Breakfast Smoothie:
    1 Banana, sliced
    1 cup skim milk
    3/4 cup yogurt, I just used 2 yogurt cups (from above)
    1/4 pineapple Juice
    1/2 TBLS Honey
    *Put in Blender, blend all together, add as much ice as you would like—then enjoy

  5. Laura W. says

    I agree too. Yesterday I purchased the Depends (i am only 32 so don’t use them myself yet!!) but then I took them the same day to a local nursing home. I asked a nurse if I could donate them and she was VERY happy to take them telling me that most of their residents wear them and obviously they are quite expensive. So yes, I do buy things that I have no use for — but it usually makes the day of someone who does need it. Win-win I think.

  6. Julie says

    I just wanted to add that donations don’t always have to go to a shelter or pantry. Families who receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) may have a need for those hygiene products. SNAP benefits can be used only for food items, not for soap, cleaning products, over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, toilet tissue, and so on.

    • Dinamarie says

      I agree is they are on food stamps they don’t make much money and could really use all the help they can get. Belive me I was there. I would also teach them of the bargains so that they could do it for themsleves so that they could also benefit well after so that they could feel selfsufficient and there not getting a free hand out.

  7. says

    I don’t buy anything we ourselves cannot use. I am concerned that many things that are donated may go to waste. That just uses resources unnecessarily. My rule is if we can’t use it, I won’t buy it – no matter how much money it saves me.

  8. Karen says

    Most of the time I will not buy a product if I’m not going to use it. The exception is when I know for sure I will donate the unused items. For example, I recently used coupons to score three free deoderants which we do use. But our food pantry also gives out hygience items with the food each week. I volunteer there so I know they will be used. Otherwise I’m cluttering my home, and I would rather give my unused coupons to someone who may use them. Another reason is I get frustrated sometimes when after putting in hours each week studying sales, checking my favorite blogs for the best deals, clipping, etc. to get to the grocery store and see an empty space for an item which I will definitely use. I applaud those of you who are donating, but please don’t get 20 items of something you don’t need, and then I or someone else must do without. By the way, I will always request a raincheck, but I have had coupons expire before the product was restocked.

  9. Jessica Timm says

    Right now, I have stockpile of personal care items to last our family a year! I simply cannot pass up something free though! I am starting a donation stockpile now!

  10. Tara says

    I am still considering doing this deal myself, but I ran into the problem, when I was working the CVS system in earnest, that I got overwhelmed by all the stuff – I am single and have a small living area. To keep the coupon momentum going and keep your ECBs fresh, you have to buy alot of stuff.

    I gave away 90% of items to friends, neighbors, co-workers and people in need and I still had more than I could use. At one point, I had $75 outstanding ECBs and nothing I really “needed” to spend them on. I “blew” those dollars on Christmas gifts and took a year-and-a-half hiatus from CVS and still had plenty of toothpaste, tampons and shampoo to last me a long time. Since my hiatus, CVS no longer sends me those great coupons like they used to. :(

  11. says

    I only buy thing I don’t need or will never use myself if I can get it for free out of pocket. If I wont use it, someone will. I have a large tote bag right now that is getting very full of things that my family wont use. Once that bag is as full as it can get, I will take it to a shelter or something. I have everything from instant coffee to razors, patiently waiting to go to a loving home 😀
    I don’t shop at CVS enogh to “work the system” like alot of people do. I think I may start though 😉

  12. celeste says

    I know lots of you are donating to church. A suggestion from someone who lives overseas is to make a basket up for them when missionaries come home-or extra to take back with them. You can even check to see what they might need (a family w/ small children might need diapers or children’s tylenol). My husband is a chaplain at a bi-lingual school in central america. We can’t get coupon deals here. My Mom is stockpiling some things for the brief time we will be home this summer and to send back with us as toiletries are very expensive here. And school supplies will go on sale just before we return. Missionaries appreciate you thinking of them as they have lots of extra expenses on furlough,and often they are still maintaining a home overseas while living in the US for a while. We won’t be around long enough to collect a lot of coupons and we don’t have a home-town anymore where we know how to shop a particular store. (Honestly the selection can be quite overwhelming). Our church has a food pantry that’s been a great blessing. Saving on my groceries helps with all the gas money we’re having to spend while home visiting churches. Many people aren’t able to give a monthly dollar gift, but they can help out with a few grocery items. It’s an extra way to give that costs little beside your time but is so appreciated by those who receive it.

  13. says

    I also agree 100%. When I was hard-core couponing (I’ve slacked recently, but still couponing), I donated TONS of items to local charities. I don’t have the money to do it otherwise. I was thrilled that I could roll my ECBs and help out some local charities at the same time. And they were thrilled to receive the items.

  14. Samantha N says

    If there is something that I can get for “free” with a coupon out of the paper/printed off-line I will get it to donate it, if I am going to that store already. Otherwise I have found that even though I am staying home to spend time with my child I end up spending more time couponing and running around to stores. It’s like addicting, and I’ve had to control it. The coupon/free high

    I agree that there have been items that I have really wanted/needed to buy but they are out, and not sure but it could be because people got it just to get it. It does also concern me about the possibility that company’s may not be as willing to do coupon deals in the future because of negligent use of coupons. I am glad to see that so many are donating though!

  15. Erin says

    I do buy things I don’t need and want, but it can get burdensome because it is wasteful. No, I do not throw perfectly good products away. I donate to Goodwill, my aunt’s nursing home, my neighbor’s school, etc. We’d like to think that all our donations make it into the hands of someone who wants or needs it, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Our strange little castoffs are likely strange to the vast majority of the population. (Powergel bursts? Diet spray? Glade candle tins?) As others have said more eloquently than I, money and food are the donations that are truly needed. Lately, purchasing items for which I have no use (and/or are of questionable interest to the general public) has been depressing me, so I think I’m going to take a little break from buying such items.

  16. kim says

    I’m cautious about buying items for free that I know I don’t need with the intention of donating them, even though I do think donating them is a good idea. When I lost my job last year I made a stronger effort to coupon and to pick up the things my family needed for a a good price. I only had two sets of coupons to work with, mine and my mom’s, so I wasn’t stockpiling beyond 2 items. I was extremely frustrated to go to cvs or Rite Aid and find that the items I needed were all out of stock. I asked the store clerk at cvs who said that early Sunday morning they have a group of people, usually the same ones who come in and buy up all the deals with their coupons and what they don’t use they donate, isn’t that awesome? I was just about in tears because my family needed these things as well, however we were not a homeless shelter etc and I only wanted one or two items. I make an effort now to only get what I really need, because someone else out there needs it as well.

    • Michelle says

      @kim, Sorry that was the case. I do shop for charities, but make an effort not to raid the shelves. Just remember at CVS and Rite Aid they will give rainchecks so you can get the item next time you come in.

    • Erin says

      @kim, This is exactly why I hate coupon buying/selling on ebay. I don’t know why people feel the need to be so excessive. I never buy more than one or two of an item, yet I have plenty for my family *and* to donate.

  17. Bethany says

    One Depends product that everyone with babies can use is their Boost Pads. They’re flow-thru with no moisture barrier, and work GREAT as a diaper double for overnight!

  18. Traci says

    I buy free and even cheap items all the time! My children go to a Catholic school that does a lot of donation drives throughout the year – food drives, the veteran’s home, the battered women’s shelter, and a shelter for pregnant women. Even if the items aren’t 100% free, I know that by buying it – the money I spent goes further than if I had donated the equivalent in cash. I have often picked up baby items like pacifiers, outfits or bottles when they were 75% or more off because I can either use it as part of a baby gift or donate it to the shelter.

    Knowing I have a place I can send virtually anything, it’s hard not to pick it up! But, I don’t go crazy… I have one drawer in a filing cabinet that I keep all these items until donated. I don’t do a huge amount of stockpiling, but if I pick up 2-3 of a brand of soap or deodorant that we end up not liking, I know I can pass the extras along to someplace they will be used and appreciated.

  19. Lori says

    I do not for many of the same reasons mentioned, but I am surprised that only one person admitted to reselling. I have been to many a yard sale (and kids resales) where these items were being resold.

  20. says

    I WILL buy an item we don’t need to “make” money – but I have a few personal guidelines:

    1. I can’t go out of my way to get it (waste gas/time) tracking down items just to make a few bucks.

    2. It has to be a TRUE money maker – this means when I add in the tax I have to pay, am I really *making* money?

    3. It cannot be an item that people need for their health. Sounds weird, but I have a problem with clearing out all of the diabetic meters (even for donations) when there are those that NEED these – maybe they don’t qualify for assistance & wouldn’t go any where for donations, but they would like to use their coupons on these needed items.

    That said – I’m all about getting free food & toiletries (even if it’s not our family’s favorite) so that I have something to give to the Boy Scouts when they come knocking!

  21. says

    Besides providing for my family, stockpiling at Walgreens and CVS allows me to refill the mission closet at church without taking money out of my family’s mouth. I’ve been able to teach the ladies at church how to do the same thing. We are “blessed to be a blessing” to others!

    • gwenn says

      @Julie,I do this as well. I have a ministry that my daughter and I started called Save More Give More. We get all the great deals for a month and the set up a table after church for people to take the items if they need them. Many in our church, as in many others, have those that are struggling to get by so we offer the items to them. It has blessed many and I love doing it. We also have a small box on the table if they want to give a donation to the church building fund. Some really want to pay for it and this is there way of helping.

  22. says

    No, I don’t buy things I don’t need for savings in other areas. While I can understand why people would do that, I feel like it ends up being a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” situation for me.

    My husband and I have a VERY restricted budget thanks to him being in Law School (which is how I found you Crystal! Thanks for your inspiration!) and we have decided its better for us to focus on simple living, moderate couponing, envelope system-ing, and very careful planing to make our dollars S-T-R-E-T-C-H!!! Frankly, there is nothing at CVS that we would use so that we could get ECBs. By cutting back, we have figured out exactly how much shampoo, deoderant, razors, soap we need and buy that, maybe a bit more if it a good deal. We cloth diaper, I make my own laundry soap, and household cleaners for enviromental reasons with the added benefit of saving an extra $20-30 in our budget every month!
    We used to live right across the street to a CVS (before law school) and it was the WORST thing for our budget and waistlines! We bought so many crackers, cereals, etc. for and with ECBs. Within 2 months of school we had lost a combined 25 lbs and cut our budget in half!

    I just don’t feel like it right for me to buy things I don’t need, unless I have someone specific I can give it to. Then it’s not buying something you don’t need, it’s meeting the specific need of another!

  23. ann says

    I like the comments about “all things in moderation”. I think it is a great thought to donate items that we get for free from stores, but we also need to not look at it like WE are donating it. It is the store and the manufacturer that is donating it because WE paid nothing for it and sometimes they actually “pay” us to take that item. That being said, most large companies already have large philanthropic departments that take care of donations of products and funds. Coupons are intended and created by manufacturers to create loyalty to their products by offering them at a lower price so you will be willing to purchase them again. Remember, big business must be making a profit in order to produce a coupon.

    I live in Utah. Many of the Albertson’s in Utah just went out of business. I asked one of the managers helping in the takeover, why they were going under. He said that one of the factors was couponing abuse. Too many couponing families were not shopping in moderation. They would look for the great deals or free deals (many items that are intended for elderly shoppers) and come first thing in the morning and clear shelves. Regular shoppers would come in expecting an advertised deal (not intending to even use a coupon) only to find the shelves cleared out. And guess what happens next? The non-coupon shoppers, who are the ones that pay full price and make a profit for the store, start shopping somewhere else where they have a better chance at finding an item that is advertised. And when a store doesn’t make a profit, they can’t stay in business.
    I am all for couponing and even stocking up our own pantries. But we need to all be good stewards and realize that our extreme desires to get free stuff, or cheap stuff, sometimes ends up backfiring on us.

  24. Carol says

    I do buy things that I won’t use, if it’s free or makes money, in order to donate it……..but only if there is an ample supply on the shelf.
    I hate going to Walgreens, because there is another couponer that goes to the Walgreens near me, and by Monday morning, every week, the store is cleaned out of the RR deals!! It’s crazy.
    If I want a deal on something that I do use, I have to make sure to get there Sunday, right after church. I’ve seen her at CVS, too, but she can clear out the shelves because of the limits, so I have much better luck at CVS.

    I totally understand wanting to donate; but if it’s not something we definitely use, or need within the next six months or so, I think we need to leave some on the shelves for people who need it, and have a limited budget. A lot of people are in the “not on public assistance, but on a severely limited budget” category, so we need to be considerate.

    I love doing this, because it’s a way to be able to increase our giving, without having to generate more income. We already tithe, and support missionaries (and do missionary work ourselves), so there just isn’t one more dime I can give. But I still wanted to find a way to be able to increase what we give, and this is it!
    I brought $300. worth of personal care items to our local food pantry last week, and the net cost to me was nothing! ( And they were ecstatic to receive all of the tampons, pads, etc.! There’s always a desperate need for those things.)
    As a home school mom, this is the best way I can find to be extra generous, without having a job generating extra money. Yes, it’s a sacrifice of a few hours each week, but worth it to me :).

  25. CVS Employee says

    I work at CVS for Customer Relations, and although it is “corporate policy” to not accept expired CVS coupons, MANY store managers tell the employees to accept them. Some SMs won’t accept them at all, some will accept them if they’re 3 or 7 days expired, and my local store will accept them no matter HOW expired they are.
    I’d recommend checking with your store manager to see if they will accept them. But keep in mind, if they all of a sudden change the policy or if you go to another store, there’s no recourse — calling us at corporate will only get you an apology!

  26. says

    I don’t buy deals that I can’t use. Honestly, I just can’t be bothered. It would clutter up my home until I’m ready to take them somewhere. Now I will shop ahead on grocery items for my youth group when stuff is on sale. We had a retreat planned for a few weeks after Super Bowl Sunday. SBS is traditionally when soft drinks and chips are marked WAY down, so I bought with thoughts toward that. I’ll also buy things for the local food pantry that I know they need. But no, I do not buy Depends or glucose monitors or diapers or whatever. I prefer to leave those things on the shelves for those who actually need them.

    I’ve been very frustrated at times by selfish couponers who clean out the shelves just because it’s a deal. My most frustrating moment was when Target had some deal last year on tuna. I think it came out to being something like 19 or 29 cents a can. I went because my cat with kidney disease needs to drink as much as possible, and the “juice” from the cans that we otherwise drain off is a great treat and motivator for him, but it’s expensive to open tuna cans just for that. The rabid couponers had cleaned out the shelves completely by the time I got there shortly after the sale had started.

    So, with that in mind, I leave behind what I don’t need. If people are donating things to organizations that actually need and want the sale items, then that’s great. But I do have to question just how many charities are begging for glucose monitors.

  27. Dsperin says

    If I won’t use it, then I don’t buy it (or coupon it–whatever). Even for donating–I just don’t do it. In fact, if my stockpile is decent enough, I won’t even head out for most deals (for instance, I haven’t been to Walgreens in ages because I stocked so well in the middle of winter).

  28. Leigh Jack says

    I too often buy things that we are completely stockpiled on or that we may not need. My husband never asked me why he just rolled his eyes when I would bring home strange things. One day, he learned the usefulness of my shopping. He is an Officer in the Army and occassionally has soldiers that are having a hard time or can’t buy this or that. Well, he also has soldiers that are deployed and may not be able to find a “specific” brand of face wash or soap. My large inventory makes it easy to send care packages to soldiers in the Middle East and to help families in need. It brings me GREAT accomplishment and joy to know that I have helped someone and made their day a little better.

  29. says

    I posted about something similar to this, but a little different, here: http://steppinoutonfaith.blogspot.com/2010/04/coupon-guilt.html

    I am a new blog and haven’t built up much of a following (although I am thankful for what I have), so I really never got any feedback. It is about using codes off of products you didn’t purchase to score coupons. The particular deal ended up being a money maker. I would LOVE to hear what some of you ladies have to say about that:)

  30. says

    I do buy items I don’t need if I can get it free or to “roll” ECB’s or RR. I will limit myself to usually 1 of those items, though. Other’s may need it, so I won’t stock up unless I can use the item. There is an exception, if there are a lot of the item left on the shelf near the end of a sale I will purchase more do donate.

  31. says

    I just posted this on “The Peaceful Mom”s site, but I think it’s a great idea. I just realized the other day that these things that I could be getting for free or practically nothing, to roll register rewards (or extra care bucks) could help out others in need. Just wish I had a CVS closer 😛

  32. Krystal says

    I tried CVSing and now do not. My reason is because of the other woman in our area cleaning the shelves by using questionable or selfish ethics. The come in at heaven knows what time, with a handful of CVS cards and make one transaction after another. The managers are frustrated and told me that they can’t make them stop until corprate changes the sale policies. He also told me that he has seen people come in and take all there was of each sale item. I think it’s great to donate and get a good deal on what you do give away. But is it realy right (Christ like) to behave in the way I just described? Some of you may say that this is only a few people and it doesn’t happen that often. After trying more that one store and running into frustrated managers I think it is a big problem. The nail in the coffin for giving up on CVSing was that some of the CVS staff has showed me irritation as soon as they see that I came in for deals. No matter how nice I was (and no I didn’t walk out with a pile of free stuff) they thought me as selfish as the the other CVSers. If that was thier impression of me, and I often couldn’t find the sales (@ 8am), then it isn’t worth it.

  33. says

    I am still new to CVS-ing, but I did the Depends deal this week. I have a wonderful friend who needs them for her daughter. I made $2 and was able to bless my friend. Can’t beat that.

  34. Jessica says

    I generally don’t buy items I don’t need, because we only have Walgreens here and it becomes a hassle, doing multiple trips to roll over RRs when there is a line, because then I won’t ask for multiple transactions.

    But they are opening a CVS RIGHT across the street from Walgreens, and I think it is a common misconception people run “all over town” to save 50 cents. Both the Walgreens and CVS are walking distance from my house, I can leave the kids with my husband and be in and out in both of them in probably 30 minutes I figure. I also have 3 grocery stores within a mile, and a SuperTarget a few miles down the road. So I am not wasting gas or time, like many people think.

  35. Alaine says

    I generally don’t buy items I won’t use just because of the time and effort it takes to print the coupons, go to the store, etc. I can understand doing so if it is a money maker and the items are being donated, but I’m afraid I won’t ever get around to donating it (that takes more time, and that’s a precious commodity for me!) It’s gotten to the point that my stockpile is large enough that I won’t buy things I have mass quantities of (i.e. toothpaste!) even if it is free until my stockpile starts to get smaller. I don’t need more than 12 tubes of toothpaste, so I might as well leave it on the shelf for someone who does! The same goes for when an item is free after coupons – I’ll generally just buy one or two, but not go out of my way to get extra coupons and buy large quantities. It’s so disappointing when I go to the store and the free item I’m looking for is out of stock, so I try not to be greedy and only buy what we really need.

  36. Kristy says

    My rule has long been that if it something I don’t need, or something that I am already fully stocked on, I will only buy it free if I have a good home for it.

    A few years ago a number of friends were evacuated during the fires in San Diego County. Buy using this method I was able to help a friend almost completely stock her pantry at no cost to me, just my time. We have taken boxes to families who need a little help asking them to “just help me clear/sort out my stock pile would you?”

    Like all things, this is an area where we just need to use our common sense! :-)

  37. Stacie says

    what a great idea! i hadn’t thought about it that way. i always see coupons for products i won’t use and i don’t clip them. but if i could make money off them to buy the things i will use…hmmmm. makes sense to me! i may start trying them. the trick for me is not to spend to much energy or effort figuring out which are the regular money maker items.

  38. Michelle says

    I do this all of the time. In fact did this several times this week at rite aid. I had several transactions with nivea bodywash and covergirl make-up which were free after coupons to get my total up to $25 and then used a $5 off $25 coupon. I did this several times and got organic toothpaste, bodywash, soap, and shampoo for free except for tax. I then took the items I didn’t need to the local feed pantry. The bodywash and other personal care items are in great need, because often there clients can get food stamps but these don’t cover any non-food items. The make-up they use for their make over days which they do once a month to give many of there clients a polished professional look so they are ready for interviews. I definitely see it as a win win situation. My family gets the products they prefer for almost nothing and the stuff I buy that we don’t need goes to someone who could really use it.

  39. Mary says

    I think it’s great that we are discussing not buying too much, donating what you can’t use, etc. – BUT – this conversation assumes that we are all making a living wage and have more in our lives than we need.

    Seven years ago I was making nearly $60k a year. I had just bought a house, had money to spare…bought a $400 lawn mower, for peet’s sake. Life was good!

    Jump to March, 2004 – I am laid off with nearly 90% of my department. I am now surviving on unemployment of $360 (untaxed, I have to save out money to pay income tax…) per week. Luckily, I knew it was coming so I had paid off most of my credit card debt, had a 401k worth $45k…I was sitting good. I used my good credit to get a small business loan and opened a consignment store. Go, me – it’s the American dream. I lived very frugally for the next five years, couponing, etc, trying to make a go of the shop. Last September, the bottom fell out in our town. Businesses are closing everywhere – unemployment in my county is now at 15%. I have credit card debt, a business loan, etc. and my business tanks. I’m now losing my house, 2 different distracted drivers totaled my (fully paid off) car twice last year so I’m even out reliable transpo. Can my life get any more complicated?

    I hit a point where I couldn’t even afford toothpaste or shampoo! I mentioned at my sister’s one day that I was out of toothpaste and she gave me a tube. That’s when I discovered extreme couponing.

    Seriously, it saved me – and now I’m doing what I can to educate others – including my family and friends – on how to get the stuff they need without spending a fortune. I’m also giving my extras to people in need, just the way my sister did for me.

    So, no, I don’t feel guilty about having 20 bottles of body wash. I keep two – that’s enough for me for a couple of months til it’s a good deal again. I make sure people who NEED it get the rest. I’m still deeply in debt, working to pay it all off, and still searching for that decent paying job again (right now I’m making $9/hour and I don’t get near 40 hours per week yet) so I can get back on my feet. Doing what it takes, paying back those that have helped me, and paying it forward when I can.

    Nothin’ wrong with that, in my opinion.

  40. AM says

    As at least 2 people here have noted, in the long run it’s much cheaper to buy exactly what you need and nothing else. Cloth diapers and non-disposable products go a long way to completely avoiding needing CVS or anything else from large chain stores. (There are even adult sized cloth diapers.)

    If you are saving money and time, you have both to give to the charity of your choice, who can then spend it on precisely what they need. (Does a women’s shelter need hundreds of tubes of toothpaste, etc???)

    Having some relatives who shop as a hobby or impulse, the idea of shopping and giving to charity appears to feed a questionable habit, rather than cure it. I never walked away with the impression that they were charitable or generous for shopping for that reason. Rather, I felt the “charity” reason was simply a way to justify their habit. And if you think it about, giving away stuff that cost you nothing to get is neither generous nor true charity.

    I dunno, I think giving money and time is much better than even 5 minutes spent at CVS. Most charities need those more than stuff that they give away free with coupons.

  41. says

    Please consider sending some of your extras to the service men and women. http://www.anysoldier.com is one site among many where you can fine someone to donate things to. Of course the mailing costs.
    They especially need wipes as many have no bathing facilities when out in the desert and these may be their only way to clean up. toothpaste etc is always appreciated.

  42. Darla says

    I do buy pet food that I do not use. I donate it to the SPCA for the homeless animals that they are trying to find homes for. Sometimes I do buy other items that I cannot use but not too often as I find that it takes me a while to buy and keep track of the items that I buy for my family. If I end up with extra items or items that I do not use I will donate them to a charity that will use them.

    • gwenn says

      I do the same with the pet food. These shelters have a hard enough time keeping their doors open so I try to help by giving them food. As far as other items if you want a faith based ministry to donate to or fill a box yourself check out Operation Christmas Child at http://www.samaritanspurse.org.

  43. says

    I don’t really buy anything my family will not use. I might pick up a few extra items of something if I know it will be used by my sister-in-law and her family (she has three kids of her own) if I have the coupons where I can get it for free or something, but overall…I just don’t believe in picking up a whole bunch of stuff to donate because then you are taking those items away from someone who might just be trying to get by.

    I gave up on Walgreens for this reason. If you don’t hit Walgreens by Monday morning when sales come out, the odds of a RR item being in stock…not good at all. And when you live in a state where inventory is 5 weeks out…once a store is out…they are out for quite a while. That and I found the Register Rewards system to be one heck of a racket and I just don’t have time to deal with it (but that’s just me :).

    That being said I will still be donating free cereal samples (a load of them) that I’ve gotten in the mail, some extra boxes of cereal that I got for free through different things (high value coupons from Vocalpoint combined with sales anyone?) and some canned goods I got dented and so forth to the Postal Food Drive tommorrow. Could I use the cereal and stuff I’m donating? Well…yeah. But, I don’t NEED it and still have enough to last my family till the next sale, so I’m just going to do it.

  44. says

    I have tried over and over to explain this to the cashiers and managers at my CVS. They think I’m hilarious, but, no, I’m just being frugal. Thanks for explaining this to others. Hopefully it will be a help to someone.

  45. Cathi Carpenter says

    I totally agree..!!! I do buy plenty of stuff that A) I’ll never use and/or B) have so much of I just don’t need THAT much…so…that’s what my church’s St. Vincent DePaul Pantry is for. I donate ALOT of over flow and things like Depends and Glucose Meters…I know someone, somewhere needs it. And if I have been blessed with the ability and stamina to do this crazy coupon thing then the very least I can do is give back.

  46. says

    Yes and no. I fill Christmas shoeboxes each year, and I like to send care packages to overseas soldiers. So if there is something I know will fit with one of those things that is free or a MM I will buy it to donate. I do not, however, buy any and every item that is free or a MM just because I can. I’ve never bought Depends or glucose meters for example. I keep it pretty simple compared to some because that is what works for me. I don’t make multiple transactions in a week for the same items. I only get one paper a week with Q’s and don’t purchase any. I don’t have multiple drug store reward accounts. I don’t clear shelves. I buy what I think my family, or someone I personally know, will eventually use, and if we end up with too much (which is surprisingly easy to do even without doing multiples each week), I will give some away, donate some, or put some in our garage sale boxes.

    • says

      @Kimberly Bowen, Oh I forgot to say why that works for me. I guess, for me, it boils down to 3 things. 1. I don’t want to spend the time figuring out deals for items I know I won’t use. 2. I don’t want to waste space in my house on storing things I know I won’t use. and 3. My stores are small here with a small stock and I don’t feel comfortable buying something I know I won’t use when someone else might be wanting to buy it. My time, space, and comfort, are worth more than the few dollars I might make each week if I did buy the items I don’t want.

  47. Cathi Carpenter says

    I have to respond again, I have just re-read AM’s response.

    Well…let me tell you…. in this day … with the economy we are in …. whom has excess cash sitting around? And frankly as a working mom…. I work TWO jobs in addition to the best and hardest job as a wife and mother…. WHOM has TIME… EXTRA TIME? And quite frankly, I would rather GIVE items that can be used…no matter what it is…. Depends, toothpaste etc. than give cash. Let’s face it…no matter how much we like to believe in the goodness of people…. cash in hand suddenly can go “missing” … get “misplaced”…. or how about people that decide, “well, sure I’d like to buy some toothpaste and t.p…..but I’d much RATHER have ice cream, beer and cheetos!” So, don’t you think that supplying the supplies is better??? And to say that giving something that doesn’t cost anything isn’t generous or charity?????

    Well…haven’t you heard????? IT IS THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS? And quite frankly…. you’re talking out of two ends here, sister…. you want to give of time….. Do you think that shopping, errands, driving, clipping coupons, reading blogs, etc….well…. I must be doing something wrong because ALL of that takes…hmmmmmmmmmm… say it with me coupon gals…. T I M E.

    And as for “feeding a habit”…well….maybe we all have a bit of one….but don’t you think that doing “it” this way is waaaaaaaaaaay more healthy, and can be generous, thank just racking up $$$$$ on good old Visa?

    • Erin says

      commenting on AM;s post also
      @Cathi Carpenter,
      I agree. Again i was able to bless a homeless soldier with personal care items and I didnt have then in my basement ot feed my “habit.” I had them there for the EXACT reason. I dont have a lot of money to donate as we are a family of 5 on one income. If I can use my TIME cutting coupons and shopping to BLESS a person in need then I am giving of my time, talent, and money. We do pay tax on everything you know??? It takes me lots of time to match up deals and cut coupons. I do not clear shelves and I dont do this excessively.

      But PLEASE do not put down people for DONATING items. Yes. some womesn shelters may need hundreds of tubes of toothpaste. What is the difference with a person donatin money to a womens shelter and the shelter purchasing toothpaste with cash, or me purchasing toothpaste with a coupon and paying tax and donating that item to the shelter thus saving them money which they can then go and use on something else? explain that. THERE is no need to put down my donating toothpaste because you donate money. I am pretty sure that God doesnt specify exactly how to give int he bible and how one persons donations trump another

  48. says

    A little know fact–food banks will take non-food items and redistribute them too!

    Another great place not mentioned to donate food and non-food –Salvation Army! They give items out every day! From people that have gone through house fires, homelessness, natural disasters, you name it!

  49. says

    Call me goofy, but here is my twisted morality.

    1. I will buy absolutely anything that is free after and specials, rebates, etc. When you calculate it, you are making and incredible hourly wage to buy something and maybe spend 2 minutes sending in the rebate.

    2. I always follow the store’s policy in regard to limits, single accounts, one per household, etc.

    3. I save a ton of time and money getting free mailing labels at vistaprint. They say “PLEASE SEND REBATE TO:” then my name and address. Menards and many others actually prefer labels because they prevent errors due to lousy handwriting like mine. For those that don’t, I print in the info in the miniscule space they provide AND put a sticker near it. My experience is that it really reduces “lost” rebates.

    4. I donate when there is need. For example, yes, I had over 100 tubes of toothpaste free, but when the local homeless shelter sent out a list of needs, they couldn’t believe how “generous” I was. Please…I am not generous, really. I shopped. Big woop…hardly as much effort as trying to live as a person with no home. Sharing is good.

    5. But for everything else, especially Walgreens, CVS, and Menards, I buy absolutely everything that is free. Then, I sell these things at my garage sale. The customer gets in incredible price they could never find in a retail store, I get 100% profit on each item, and everyone’s happy. I take some of the proceeds to “fund” my need for the original purchase “roll” of the next season’s items, and the rest is donated to wonderful cancer charities like Relay for Life, Scott Hamilton Cares, and www. bluefaery. org

    I am an educator with three kids. Rebating and coupon clipping takes about 30 minutes of planning each Sunday, and I run the errands when I am already taking the kids to a practice or whatever – never as a sole trip. I am also a mystery shopper, so I usually get free items or make money on overages, plus get the fee for the mystery shop, plus write off the mileage as a business-related expense.

    Finally, I am TOTALLY involved with Upromise. Every store, every item, etc. It’s free money for college and it really adds up. Getting a participating product free, then making money using a coupon, then selling it at a garage sale for 100% profit, and then knowing that on that item 16 cents went into my kids’ tax-free college fund for nothing makes me a happy man.

    That said, if all of us here took the Reiss Motivational Profile, I assure you we would all be off the scale on the “saving” factor. lol

    Finally, in the end, this is my hobby. I enjoy it, and it benefits my family. I know of other hobbies that detract from family and family time, or habits that are so harmful for families. Call me a rebate and coupon addict…I take it as a compliment!

    Regards to all of you. – The Rebate King

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