5 Ways To REALLY Save Money When Shopping Online

'Tis the season for shopping and spending all of our hard-earned cash! Christmas is right around the corner and since most of us in education aren't raking in the big bucks, I thought I'd share some money-saving tips. On the world news tonight, they interviewed a "shopping expert" (Really? Can I have THAT job?) and his advice was really, well, pretty dumb if you ask me. Don't we all know to compare prices for big-ticket items and stick to our list? Sheesh!

Okay, so maybe the tips I'm about to share aren't earth shattering, but hopefully they'll be new to a few people. I pride myself on being a pretty savvy shopping and can usually score some pretty great deals with a little extra effort.

Register Before Shopping! What does that mean? Well on any site that you might decide to buy from, you should register with them first. That might mean signing up for their newsletter or sale notifications or just registering as a shopper instead of a "guest". Different sites call it different things. The reason you want to do this is because a lot of sites will send you coupons. Some of them will send you one immediately just for registering. I've gotten as much as 25% off an entire order just for registering on a site. Nice, huh? One side tip... give them a fake phone number just to make sure you don't get onto some kind of call list. 

Bookmark the site RetailMeNot... right now!  There are a lot of websites with coupon codes but I like this one the best. There are tons of stores listed and I've had really good luck finding current, valid codes. Users can leave comments about specific coupons to let you know if and when it worked or if there were any restrictions. 

Another site you should bookmark and visit often is SlickDeals. This one has coupons and SO much more. The forums are a treasure trove of information. People post deals they find so you can find them too. It makes shopping for the best price a lot easier. The main page on SlickDeals lists trending deals. They are updated constantly so you know when one expires. This is a great site to visit well ahead of your online shopping trip.

Shop with gift cards that you buy at a discount! There are quite a few websites that sell gift cards for less than face value. How this works is someone has a gift card they don't want. Maybe it was a gift or maybe it came from returning something without a receipt. So they go online and sell it to one of these sites for much less than it's worth. Then the site, turns around and sells the card to someone who does want it. You can really save a lot of money buying gift cards this way. For example, I just bought a $247 Macy's gift card for $219.  It came in my email a few minutes later and I used it on the Macy's website (combined with a coupon code and cash back, which I'll explain more later) to buy my parents' Christmas present .

The gift card sites I like the most are CardCash, CardPool, and Raise. There are others, but those are the ones I can recommend from experience.

One word...Ebates! If you aren't signed up yet, you need to hop to it! This is a free site that pays you cash back for shopping online. You just go to the site, find the store you want, and click their link. They earn advertising dollars which keeps them in business and you get a percentage of your purchases back in cash. They pay either through Paypal or by check. Right now, Ebates owes me $164 which I'll get in the next quarterly payout. I just bought a refurbished Macbook Pro from Apple last night (woo hoo!!!) and am getting $30 back. Not a lot, but still...it's $30, right? 

So when I first started using Ebates, I would forget to go to the site and click through. Then I'd be kicking myself for missing out on my cash. They have a solution for this now... a brower add-on. After you sign up, you can install the add-on. Then, whenever you visit a website that is affiliated with ebates, a bar will pop up for you to activate your cash back. Automated money saving...yes! 

You'll hear more about Ebates in a minute, but for now... go sign up!

My last tip is for when you aren't in a hurry to buy. If you've done all of the above and still aren't happy with the price, you can put the item in your shopping cart, start to check out (long enough to enter your email address but before paying) and then leave it. Don't worry... it's not like walking away from a cart full of groceries like a crazy person. No one will know, except the website. Why in the world would you do this? Because some sites will try to get you back, to pull the trigger on your purchase, by sending you a coupon. Now don't rely on this tip for saving a lot because the majority of websites don't do this. But if you're really on the fence about a purchase, this is something you could try while thinking it through.

So those are my best tips for shopping and saving online. I left out price comparison because I think most people do that already and that's where you should start. Remember...Google is your friend. If you want to know if these tips really work, let me share my shopping experience from Thursday...

I was stuffed full of turkey and stuck to my couch, so I decided to buy a Christmas present for a family member whose name I won't mention (in case they stalk my blog to find out what they're getting.) I knew what I wanted to buy, so I went to Google and typed it in to get a list of current prices. I found several sites that had this top-secret item on sale for $249. So here's what I did...

  1. I went to RetailMeNot to find codes and found one for 15% off and free shipping at Macy's (one of the stores on my list of possibilities).
  2. I went to CardCash and got the above mentioned $247 gift card for only $219.
  3. I went through Ebates which was giving 8% cash back at Macy's.
  4. I put the item in my cart and entered my coupon code which lowered the price to $211. My gift card covered the whole amount with a little left over for future shopping.
  5. Now I just wait for my $29 cash back from Ebates! 
  6. All in all, I saved about $57 on this one item, plus I still have $37 on my gift card. Awesome!
Do you have any other money saving tips? Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear them!


Cyber Monday Sale: What's On Your Wishlist?

Can you believe Thanksgiving is over already? This is my favorite time of year. I wish it could last forever! The leftovers are almost gone and I spent the day painting the dining room. Next on my to-do list is some shopping... NOT out in the craziness of the mall but right here on my couch. I already snagged a few awesome deals but I'm holding out for Cyber Monday. I'll be combining the online sales with coupon codes from retailmenot and ebates. What's better than getting cash back on your shopping?

Besides buying Christmas presents, I'll be doing some serious shopping on TpT. It's time for their annual after-Thanksgiving sale!

Everything will be on sale and I've got a wishlist a mile long. I'll show you one of my must-get resources in a minute. But first, I'm linking up with Ideas By Jivey. She's got an awesome giveaway going for some TpT gift certificates to help you with your shopping. You'll want to hop on over and enter to win!

So if you're looking for some ideas on how to spend one of those gift certificates. let me share a couple of the most wish listed items from my store. You can enter to win these too at the end of this post!

The number one most wishlisted item in my store (by nearly 500 people!) is my pack of Classroom Reward Coupons. It includes 25 different coupons in bright, colorful designs that kids love to earn. They are very motivating rewards that won't cost you, the teacher, anything! It's really amazing how hard students will work to sit at the teacher's desk or wear their slippers in class. Check them out...

Some teachers who have bought these have requested them in a larger format (like four different coupons per page) so they can create a catalog of rewards instead of passing the cards out. Cool idea!

The second most wishlisted item in my store is my Big Bundle of Task Cards. These are perfect for second and third grade. The pack includes nine individual sets with more than 200 task cards altogether. They include main idea, author's purpose, context clues, parts of speech, subject-verb agreement, prefixes and suffixes, variant vowels, plural spelling patterns, and grammar review.

If you don't use task cards very much, check out my post about Teaching With Task Cards for ideas and suggestions on how to use them in your classroom.

Now, what am I going to buy during the TpT sale? I have my eye on a lot of things but there's one that I absolutely MUST get...

This is a huge pack of close reading passages with comprehension questions. The lexiles are mostly in the mid 600s to mid 700s - perfect for my higher level reading groups. They need a lot more practice just answering text dependent questions and I think this pack is just what I need!

Now, on to my giveaway! If you would like to win my Classroom Reward Coupons and Big Bundle of Task Cards, you can enter the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

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Close Reading? Nah, Not Today!

As most of you know, I am a math teacher at heart. I just love teaching my students how to tackle a problem, fit all the pieces together, and make sense of numbers. When the math light goes on, it's a wonderful thing!

But alas, I must still teach reading. Not that I don't LOVE to read. A good book is actually one of my favorite things. What I do NOT love, however, is close reading. What?!! Did I just say that? Will the School Board Gods strike me down for uttering such blasphemy? Cover your eyes, don't look!

The main reason I dislike close reading is because my students dislike it. Our reading lessons used to be fun, full of personal connections and enjoying the author's words. Close reading often feels like pulling teeth. I fully understand the need to dive deep into the text but can't it be a little bit fun...sometimes? I'm really not sure where they got the idea that close reading means 3 separate reads of the same long, tedious text. Who really reads like that? Here's a great article on the effective use of close reading:

The big problem I'm seeing is that we spend so much time dissecting text and looking at minute details (like why the author's choice of this one word could change the course of history) that the children are forgetting the big ideas... main idea, theme, moral, and personally connecting to what you've read. Summarizing and retelling? Forget it.

So this week I've broken the shackles of close reading! That's right... I'm not doing it. I feel like a crazy rebel, a lunatic who escaped the loony bin. Instead, we are SUMMARIZING!

This is a skill my students really struggle with. They want to give every single detail or include minor points instead of the most important ones. I tried using index cards and post-its, telling them they could only write what would fit on the card. They just wrote really small. So today I gave them a graphic organizer with guiding questions along with a passage about the Puritans. I had them read it to themselves...once. Then we worked on answering the questions using phrases and words rather than complete sentences (as in taking notes). Finally, they used those notes to write a summary in paragraph form. Here is what we used...

You can download a copy for yourself HERE.

Guess what... Their summaries were beautiful. They got the main point of the text. They understood why the Puritans needed to leave England. Who cares that the text wasn't the most complex? Next time, I'll make it a little harder. Today reading wasn't something to moan and groan about. Today they felt successful. 
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


Stop, Swap, & Roll: Meet Techie Turtle Teacher

I'm so excited to be joining up with Melissa at Jungle Learners for her Stop, Swap, and Roll product review and giveaway! I got to try out an awesome new product and YOU get a chance to win it for your own classroom. So, let's get to it...

I was lucky enough to be paired up with Techie Turtle Teacher. She is an up and coming TpT author with some fantastic resources for the elementary crowd. 

I particularly like all of her math products (because math IS the best subject to teach). For our product swap, I chose Techie's 3-Digit Word Problem Task Cards. I picked the October version, but there are other seasonal themed sets in her store.

These task cards are perfect for second and third graders. The questions are easy to read but require some real mathematical thinking. All types of addition and subtraction problems are included, but I was especially happy to see plenty of comparative problems. Those are the ones my students need the most practice with.

Here is the description from Techie Turtle's store...

Students love task cards! This product is designed for second and third graders who are pros at solving word problems but need larger numbers.

These problems are themed around things that happen in October - Halloween, football, World Series, fire safety.

Product includes
-October word problem answer sheet
-12 3-digit addition/subtraction word problem task cards
-12 3-digit addition/subtraction word problems full page (same problems as task cards)
-answer key for word problems

Perfect to put around the room and have your students walk around to solve problems.

Your students can also play Scoot using these cards.

When you buy this resource, you get 12 individual task cards, a student recording sheet, an answer key, and then a full-page version of each card. I found this to be a very thoughtful addition to the pack because it made it so easy to review with the kids. I was able to project each card with the document camera and go over how to solve.

You can use task cards in a number of ways, Scoot being one of my favorites. But teaching a double class makes Scoot a noisy challenge, so I chose to use these cards as a math center instead. I set them out with a stack of recording sheets and had the kids bring their whiteboards to work on. Here they are in action:

These two girls worked together, taking turns with the pencil, and sharing their strategies. It was so nice to see them working so hard! My whole class really enjoyed these task cards. The story problems were interesting and relevant to them. I can see myself using these year after year!

I hope you've enjoyed this review and will take a few minutes to visit  Techie Turtle Teacher's Blog where you can see her review of one of my resources!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway below to win your own set of awesome task cards and then hop on over to Jungle Learners for more Stop, Swap, and Roll reviews and prizes!

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