To Everything There Is A Season

A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven

A blog about raising a young family and keeping Christ at the center of it.

The Cyrs

The Cyrs
Photo Credit: Rachel Dewhurst

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Time to Shop at Home

If you are like me you find it difficult to get to the store, whatever your reasons are. We all have busy schedules making it difficult to find the time to get our shopping done and some of us find it challenging to shop with young children in tow. If I can go shopping alone I'm always so grateful, not because the kids misbehave but because shopping without them is faster! 

In this season with little ones if I take all my kids with me shopping I do not have room left in my cart for the things I need so it is really out of necessity that I leave some home, which means I have to wait until Ben is home from work or go on weekends. Right now with school and extra activities our evenings are pretty booked and we usually have something going on during the weekends making it difficult to fit in a shopping trip...or two or three. So because of this and also because we do not live a convenient distance from stores I have learned how to use online shopping to my advantage and I thought I'd share with you.

First it's all about free shipping! I have to drive such a distance to get to most stores (have I mentioned I live in the woods!) that sometimes even if I have to pay shipping it's still cheaper than the gas I would spend to get to the store BUT I'm always keeping an eye out for free shipping offers. Before I get to that though I want to introduce you to something called Mr.Rebates. If you click on the link it will take you to their website. If you open up a FREE account with them (and you might list me as your referring person!) you can earn rebates from your online shopping purchases. Before you shop at a store online, first go to the Mr.Rebates website and see if the store you are purchasing from offers a rebate. If so, it will come up in the search bar. Clicking on the store name will bring you to the store's site. Now when you make your purchase you will earn a rebate. Because I do this I receive a $20 or so rebate check about every 3 months (the amount depends on how much shopping you do). You also earn a rebate from anyone you refer...when they make purchases. 

So now here are some places that I have found to be of great benefit to me in regards to making online purchases: 

1. AMAZON: About 6 months ago we decided to purchase an Amazon Prime membership. They recently raised the price of the membership so we paid a little less when we subscribed but currently it is $99/year for a membership. You can add up to 4 people to your membership and I know several people who split the cost of the membership with some of their family members making it very cost effective. With a Prime membership you receive free 2-day shipping on most items and from what I have noticed if it's not a prime item it is an "add-on item" allowing you to have it shipped for free with an order of $25 or more. Because all our family lives away from us we have to ship gifts at birthday's and Christmas so we are saving a ton just on the free shipping. Because it is difficult to get to the store though we have found that we are doing the majority of our shopping on Amazon. If you know your prices then this can really work to your benefit. Shortly after having Emma it was so impossible to get to the store and I ran out of deodorant. I looked on Amazon and the price for the one I use was the same as Walmart, plus it was a prime item so I was able to have it shipped directly to my house, it arrived in 2-days and I paid no more than I would have if I'd gone to Walmart. A Walmart trip would no doubt have ended up being a $100 trip...who can get out of there or Target without spending way more than you intended?! 
On top of receiving free shipping you also have access to Prime Instant Video, which is included with your membership allowing you access to tons of free movies & TV shows. We stream it through our Smart TV but you can also stream it through a computer, iPad, etc. We do not subscribe to any kind of cable plan so the only "tv" we have is video streaming or DVD's we own. Previously we used Netflix but everything we watched on Netflix we had access to on Amazon with our membership so we canceled our Netflix subscription (which was about $10/month give or take). Basically, cancelling our Netflix membership pretty much paid for our Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Prime also allows you to rent movies at a very reasonable price where with Netflix the only way we had access to the movies and tv that were not included with the instant streaming membership was to pay the extra fee each month to receive the DVD's in the mail, which we did not do.
Another really great thing about Amazon is the lending library. My kids do a lot of reading, especially Noah. For his birthday this year we got him a Kindle (not the tablet kind) so he could store books there and save space! It is much cheaper to purchase books for his kindle and because we have a Prime membership he is allowed to borrow books for free. Amazon also offers lots of books for free...most of the classics like Tom Sawyer, Wizard of Oz, etc. Noah read for free after downloading it from Amazon onto his Kindle. If you have an iPad, as I do, you can download the Kindle app and buy books as well as download free books when they are offered. The only thing you can't do is borrow books from the lending library. 
There is so much more I could say about Amazon. Many people have told me they purchase their diapers here. While I agree their prices for name-brand diapers is competitive, it's still not a better deal than what we get at BJ's so we don't buy our diapers here. BUT...if by chance we were to run out and a BJ's trip isn't in the near future I would definitely come to Amazon to purchase them because the price is good and they ship for free. Take some time to go to their website if you are not familiar with it and do some research for yourself!

2. WALMART: If you shop at Walmart at all then you can pretty much get anything you buy in the store online...and much, much more! If you spend $50 you receive free shipping. I used to buy my infant formula at BJ's but Emma needed a special formula, which BJ's doesn't offer in the generic brand. We have been buying all our formula through Walmart and it ships free to the house with a $50 purchase...a price not hard to meet when you are buying formula! We also buy all our cereal at Walmart. We buy the huge Malt-O-Meal bags and those are available online. Those are my main items but when I'm ready to restock my supply of them there are usually a few other things I'm in need of, like printer ink for example, that I can add to my order...and it all arrives at my doorstep...for free. I've saved the gas it would have taken me to get there and I definitely save money because I didn't get distracted by all those other things that I "just have to have!". Walmart is evil that way! 

3. GYMBOREE, Old Navy & OTHER RELATED STORES: I don't have to buy the kids a ton of clothes because we do receive hand-me-downs from time to time, mostly for the boys as well as from generous family members who buy them stuff. I don't get a lot of girl clothes so I find I have to buy most of Jena's clothes. As kids get older though it is harder to have clothes to hand down as they wear through their clothes more. My preference really is to shop at second-hand stores for their clothes but we don't live close by to any so it's not convenient at all right now to shop at them. I'm not guaranteed I'll find what I need so it could end up being a waste of time (that I don't have much of) and gas! When I do have to fill in holes in their wardrobe my go-to store is Old Navy because you can purchase from the 3 stores (ON, GAP, Banana Republic) and combine your shipping, which is free if you spend $50 or more. It is actually very hard right now to find a clothing store that doesn't offer free shipping for meeting some spending limit. Old Navy always seems to have a pretty good sale going on and their prices for jeans and dress pants are very competitive and the quality has held up for us. I purchase most of my own clothes from ON and GAP as well because they offer Tall sizes online only. 
One thing I always buy brand new for the kids is an Easter outfit. It's the one time of year I splurge a little on their clothing. This year I got a steal of a deal. Gymboree (a store I do not shop at often because I find their prices too much as I love their clothes) had all the girls dresses on sale plus they were offering "Gymbucks". For every $50 your spent you received $25 Gymbucks to spend at a later date. After getting the 3 girls dresses and the four boys ties and socks (all coordinating of course!) my total was $101 (which by itself is a great deal...that's outfits for 7 kids!) but I got $50 in gymbucks to spend later. This works out really great because Jena is going to need some summer clothes so I will spend the $50 on things she needs. Keep an eye out for these kinds of deals because they can really work to your benefit...and yes, I did get free shipping!

4. Oriental Trading: We do a lot of crafts here. We teach Good News Club, have a Sunday School class we teach as well as VBS some years and kids who like doing crafts. I always have a lot of activities and supplies on hand here at home and for our SS classroom. Oriental trading has an awesome selection of supplies and craft kits along with birthday party supplies all for a great price. They have everything! From time to time I go to their website and check out the clearance section. This is where I purchase the majority of my crafts and activities for our classes as well as to have on hand for school vacations for my own kids to do. The only thing with Oriental trading is the shipping is high and they don't always offer good deals on free shipping. I will not make a purchase from them unless I have a coupon code for free shipping and it has to be on orders of $50 or more. So when I do have a coupon and am placing an order I try to think as far ahead into the future and think about what I will need. I order from here only a couple times a year and try to make the most of my coupon when I do. 

5. LLBean: Around the holiday's and possibly other times throughout the year LLBean offer's $10 cash back on every $50 you spend. I really love LLBean. Not only do they have a lifetime warranty on all their products, the quality is superb. I like to purchase the kids outerwear from here and we also own a few pairs of their children's snowshoes. I have not been disappointed at all with anything we've purchased or with their return policy, which we have had to use from time to time. Their customer service is unbeatable and while a trip to the store is a real adventure for the kids, I take advantage of the free shipping (on all orders, no min) and the cash back promotion. Its also a great place to purchase gifts.  

There you have it! This is my list of stores that have helped me with my shopping and that I feel I benefit a great deal from. While I love being able to get out of the house (usually winding up at the grocery store!) now and then I am very thankful to be able to do the majority of my shopping from the comfort of my own home at basically the same price that I would if I was shopping in the store. Shopping this way has not only saved us traveling time but time spend in the store as well. We save money on fuel and unnecessary spending on those items we never knew we needed until we saw it in the store. I am also spared the effort and at times aggravation of bundling up the kids in this never-ending winter to go out shopping! 

I'm sure there are a lot of other great places for online shopping that I am not aware of. Please feel free to share! 

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