Open Mic 2/7/13

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Open Mic is a post every Thursday that is a mini-version of a discussion board. You can leave a comment with whatever coupon, money-saving or debt reduction tips or questions you have and other readers chime in and answer.

When you leave a comment on this post, you’ll be able to choose whether you’d like to be emailed follow-up comments or not. Getting comments via email is a great way to stay connected without having to visit the site a bazillion times (although I don’t mind if you come a bazillion times).

As always, I look forward to hearing the voice of the Pocket Your Dollars community. Read through the Open Mic archives here.

Your turn: Leave a comment with your money-saving, coupon or debt reduction question, thought or suggestion.

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  1. Sidney says

    Good morning, Pocketeers!

    I'm wondering if anybody has suggestions for good vacation locations/ideas in southern Florida. We are headed there in about a month (got good deals on flights) but not sure what to do or where to stay/go once we get there. We do know that we'll be renting a car, so don't have to stay in one area. We are not interested in doing Disney or any of the other theme parks. There are three of us – husband, 20 month old daughter, and myself.

    Thanks for any advice/tips/suggestions you may have!

    • JoAnna says

      For your rental car check out Dollar Rental. We booked our rental car last July and then when I rechecked the price in Sept. it had dropped by over $100 and then the next week another $25. Each time I called them and they adjusted the price without any issues. We did visit Disney but stayed off property with a great hotel deal due to listening to Hilton's time share deal. It took about 90 minutes and they were not pushy at all. Worth looking into as I am guessing they have properties all over Florida.. Enjoy your trip!

    • Ruth W says

      Sanibel and Captiva Islands off of Fort Meyers are my favorite places in the world ! They are quite, family orientated and amazingly beautiful. You can find reasonable rates for condo/ resorts. The Sundial is a nice one.

  2. Dawn N says

    Has anyone tried to freeze potatoes uncooked? Trying some new recipes for my once a week/2 weeks cooking in a day. Freezer meals. Thanks

    • JoAnna says

      I just did a quick Google search and it sounds like it does not work to freeze them uncooked. Lots of sites discussed blanching them first.

      • Dawn N says

        Thanks that's what I thought. One site said you didn't have tyi but others do so wasn't sure. It's been a fun journey cooking this way. Learning

        • AP says

          I mash my potatoes and then freeze them in dollops on a cookie sheet. Then I transfer them into a large plastic bag and throw them in the freezer. Then like tonight I am making pork chops in the crock pot. I get out the bag and put as many dollops as we need into a bowl. Then I microwave them and just add a bit more milk and butter to revive them a bit. They are fast and delicious! I used these at Thanksgiving too…so nice to have it done in advance. When potatoes are on sale I buy bags of them and just have a day where I do this. They are also nice if you want to make potato soup! Have fun cooking.

    • scat says

      I have frozen sweet potatoes. I cut them in french fry size, soak them in cold water for about half an hour and coat them with a spiced oil. After they are frozen, I just spread them on a pan and cook them in the toaster over for about half an hour. I have also frozen mashed sweet potatoes that have the butter, cinnamon and sweetener already mixed in.I don't do it often because there is usually a coupon I can use to get already frozen sweet potatoes just as cheaply as if I started from scratch.

  3. JoAnna says

    Barnes and Noble 15% coupon was emailed to me today–watch you email account :) It is perfect timing since I am looking forward to seeing Carrie tonight at the Barnes and Noble book signing in Edina :)

  4. Sherry says

    Any word yet as to whether or not Rainbow will continue with unlimited Double Daze at least once a month going forward? I hope they do! It saves me so much time and hassle from having to figure separate transactions. The one cashier I talked to in Chaska said she preferred it as well because then they only do one larger transaction for you instead of several separate transactions. I think it's a win/win!

    • Jen A. says

      I agree! I want to add my comment because if/when people from Rainbow read this (as I'm sure they do! :) they'll see how much we Pocketeers love unlimed Double Daze!!! Would love to see it happen more often. I had stopped shoping at Rainbow for a while but started again when they started doing unlimted days – so it worked to get me back and I know it has for others too.

    • scat says

      I found unlimited coupon day to be much more relaxing since I didn't have to stress out over which coupons to use and I ended probably buying more just because the whole thing was more fun.

  5. D says

    Want to purchase some new casual dinnerware and looking for suggestions. I already have correlle ware, so am looking for a step up from that to serve for company, but not fine china. I am interested in either solid white/off-white, or something with a small/subtle design. Does anyone have any suggestions on names of casual dinnerware that they love? Thanks in advance for any ideas.

    • Sarah says

      Try going to JCPenney's. They have a couple of plain white sets that you can get for around $80 on sale for a set of 12 (?) I like it because it's great for everyday, but can dress it up too. I have small kids, so I just bought a couple white melamine sets and it looks like we aren't all mismatched…

      I've seen similar patterns at Bed, Bath and Beyond…

      • Laura says

        Piggybacking on the JCPenney suggestion, if you can wait a bit of time (maybe a week or so for the time it would take them to mail to you), you could further your purchase discount at JCP by purchasing a gift card at one of the gift card exchanges such as or They almost always have JCP cards available for 25% off discounts.

        An additional store suggestion is Ikea. I don't know if they still have them, but I bought my white set of dishes there several years ago for a reasonable price and I love them.

          • Emily says

            I absolutely love my Pfaltzgraff dishes. My mother has had her set for about 30 years and it's still beautiful. I have the Heritage pattern which sound just like what you might want. It's a tad on the pricey side, but well worth it! Also, when I just went to the site they had an option to sign up for their mailing and get 15% off your order. Also looks like through Monday you can get 40% off one item. Not sure if you can use those together.


    • Ruth says

      I don't know what types of patterns they have now, but we have loved our Mikasa Stone Craft. We've had it almost 12 years, used it every day, and only one big plate has a small chip in it.

    • Mary says

      I have a Fiesta set in ten different colors from Kohls. I bought the place settings gradually every time they a 30% code. Love my dishes.

  6. Mikey says

    Does anyone know of any good deals on phone cards these days? I used to get them at Sam's and Costco but I don't see any really good ones these days as I'm guessing people are all using cell phones. I'd love to get a phone card for a gift for someone but not if most of the fees are for each call placed and not actual minutes used. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • sue says

      My parents gave me two Walgreens PhoneCard Plus cards that are for domestic calls. They thought the minutes could be used in my pre-paid cell phone.

      Please email me at if you would like to purchase them from me at a substantially reduced rate.

    • Kathy says

      You could buy a Magic Jack for your long distance calls if you still want to use a regular phone and if you have a high speed internet connection. It is only 19.95 or 29.95 for the year.

  7. Mikey says

    Also looking for a good Vellux brand blanket for our bed. Ours is just plain worn out and shredding. I see the comments on the Amazon ones and they are not rated very highly. Looked all over at Rosedale the other day with no luck. Want this brand or a similar good quality one without spending a fortune on it. It's the perfect weight in winter and spring/fall.

    • Rene S says

      DH loves Vellux blankets, but sadly they are no longer "in fashion."I looked everywhere–from Penney's, Kohls, Target, Walmart, etc. I considered ordering one from Amazon but got lucky and found a nearly-new one at a thrift store. Wish I had more to suggest–perhaps you can find one at a thrift store or even craigslist (if you don't mind buying used).

  8. Sally says

    Does anyone know of someone who has used the electronic cigerette's as an alternitive to smoking or to quit. Anyone know if there's a deal out there? There's a new store in Forest Lake that sells them for approx. $80. TIA

    • says

      I see regularly deals on them via daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. We could try to include a few of those offers when we see them, if folks would be interested.

    • scat says

      I quit smoking about 20 years ago. I used raw veggies to chew the first couple of weeks and that along with the nicotine gum took care of the oral aspect of having a cigarette. I also prepared for it for about three weeks — looking forward to that first day of no cigarettes as a much desired goal of becoming a non-smoker. By the time that day was almost there, I just couldn't wait to get to it. Instead of a dreaded process of losing something (cigarettes), my head was looking forward to gaining something — freedom from cigarettes. It made all the difference. I also educated myself on what my body was going to do during withdrawal so there weren't any serious surprises. I seriously doubt that an $80 fake cigarette would have helped. I should also add that I cut down on the number of cigarettes I smoked daily for that three weeks. As I was getting to the end of that 3 week period, I was smoking maybe 3 or 4 and they were the really awful ones, Camel I think.

  9. mrl says

    Looking for some advice. We are replacing our kitchen countertops, tile back splash and sink. Although our house is 30 years old, and the cupboards are original, the cupboards are still in really, really good shape and look very nice (medium/dark stain).

    I am trying to decide on a countertop material. I know granite seems to be the in thing, but I'm wondering if it's too high end for our middle of the road subdivision. On the other hand, the price between granite and laminate doesn't seems to be that different, so maybe it's worth the extra cost??

    Also, looking for ideas on a back splash. Has anyone used the peel and stick glass tiles they sell at Menards. They come in a 2 foot X 2 foot square, but are made up of several small glass squares/rectangles. Wondering if these look nice on the wall, or if it'll look like "oh nice, you used peel and stick tile with a grantite countertop, what were you thinking."

    And finally, if you have any suggestions on where to buy materials (countertop, backspalsh), feel free to suggest. We live southeast of the Twin Cities, so are probably looking for recommendations more in the Rochester area.


  10. Emily says

    Hey just wanted to let everyone know that I printed out a Baby Registry at a Target store recently and on the last page was a coupon for $1 off two cards and another for I think it was $3 off Baby Einstein purchase. It's possible that a similar thing would happen if you print a wedding registry. If you don't know anyone with a registry, print a random one just for the coupons :)

  11. Kris says

    It is time for me to embrace technology and upgrade my cell phone. However, I am SO lost with all of the options out there….it's like a foreign language! I just want a nice smartphone with cheap dataplan – I will only be using it for email, text, talk. I've had a pay-as-you-go plan with a cheapie phone through T-Mobile until now. Does anyone know of any fantastic deals or could advise on which plan/company I should go with? Those I should avoid?

    • Heather says

      If you can wait until Valentine's Day next week I would check out the deals in store that day. I remember there being a few days of the year with the best deals being Valentine's Day and Black Friday.

      If you are looking to go into the stores informed I would check out Consumer Reports Magazine. I think it was Dec or Jan issue that had an update on plans and phones. I don't remember the details, but it did give a lot of information on coverage, customer service, cost, etc.

      One lesson I learned when I bought my plan through T mobile is that there are multiple plans and you need to understand the details of each to decide which gives you a better deal. Most companies now charge you either more for the phone or more for the plan.

      If you have a membership to Costco I know that most times we have gone to get a new plan in the last 10 years they have been significantly cheaper (either plans or phones). They also have a little better warrenty on the phones then the stores.

      I would also check for discounts through work, and compare the instore prices to what you found on their websites. In store often has different deals then on the website.

      Good luck!

      • Mikey says

        I second the Costco idea. That's usually where we get our replacement phones. We have Verizon. I don't have to go through the hassle of sending in paperwork, etc. for a refund. They don't usually mess with that stuff at Costco so I appreciate that. The selection at Costco is very limited, but I just have the cheapest regular flip phone I can get. They also throw in a car and wall charger and usually a case/holster of some sort at Costco. I don't think Verizon has totally free phones anymore, they are usually $30 to upgrade even if the phone is a "free" phone. Verizon changed that almost a year ago I think. We like our Verizon phones as we get coverage at our cabin when other family members have no service with their providers in that same area. If you work for a certain county or certain employers, ask about a discount. Even if it's 10%, it's still a discount.

  12. tami says

    Fort meyers beach and , the shell factory is a shells and gift shop and a small zoo. There also an orange place where they sell fruit with free samples and very good orange ice cream. Ford and edison museum/houses tour need at least 4-5 hours for that, this one costs more than the rest 20.00 + each. Also manatee park is a little park by an energy place that wild manatees swim at certain times for 1.00 each. Could look it up an seemif they would be there. This is all with 30min of fort meyers.

  13. BG says

    Has anyone been to the Waterpark at The Depot? It looks like admission is $20 a person. I haven't been able to locate any discounts, but I'm hoping some are out there somewhere. Also, I'm wondering how deep the water is. The pics online look like it might be just a few feet or similar to a splash pad. But I could be viewing it wrong.

  14. Cindy says

    I am wondering if you can use more then one "Target" coupon in a single transaction when it says one per person, per day?

  15. jennifer says

    I totally agree. I LOVE LOVE LOVE unlimited. I feel like I can't buy anything now as I saved SOOOOOOOOOOO much on the unlimited days. When ever someone hears about the next unlimited event please please please share. Much thanks!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE UNLIMITED DAYS!!! the transaction was smooth, cashier Lynne AWESOME, and customer service gal Dolly SUPER!!

    • Janna says

      There is a contact form on the Rainbow website. I used it to tell them how much I appreciated the unlimited double days, and mentioned that it enabled me to do more of my shopping at Rainbow instead of chasing around town for other deals.

      I encourage all unlimited double days fans to take a minute to do the same!

      • Jennifer says

        I agree with you Janna, I have also emailed Rainbow and told them how wonderful the unlimited days are. I hope more people email and mayeb Rainbow will get the hint that the store should offer unlimited days once a month. UNLIMITED DAYS ROCK!!

  16. scat says

    I did my kitchen about 5 years ago. I used granite tiles on the countertops and it was a lot cheaper than custom counters. They cost about $2 a square foot. I am still very happy with that decision. I had a professional do the floors and counter, but I did the walls myself. I was so happy with the way they turned out that I extended the til into the hallway and under the passthrough. There are so many gorgeous tiles around now. I used a combination of travertine, stainless steel and another natural rock on the walls. I used some of the glass tiles in strips between some of the tile sections. There are some wonderful tile showrooms here in st. paul that would help you decide how you like different tiles. The tile store on Fairview and CtyC in Roseville is my favorite place to look. It might be worth an afternoon to drive up and look. There are lots of places selling tiles but you really might get overwhelmed if you don't do some looking before you buy.

    The process is really pretty simple, so I wouldn't get too excited about self-adhesive tiles. Normally you just use an adhesive that you can get in a bucket already to go.

  17. ella says

    TJ Maxx, HomeGoods or Tuesday Morning might sell dish sets. You could look online and at department store displays to find a pattern/style you like and then wait for a sale/coupon offer or try to find that pattern/style offered less expensively elsewhere. Bed Bath and Beyond website has lots of white dinnerware in both casual and fine china.

  18. Katie says

    I did extensive research (I'm kind of a nerd like that…) to find a good phone upgrade deal right around black friday and was looking for the same thing- a legit smartphone with a basic plan. Pre-paid plans are by far the cheapest way to go for starters. Personally think that, even with employer discounts, Verizon is one of the most expensive carriers out there.

    As for the pre-paid companies, I have found Virgin mobile to be the best deal if you can swing the upfront cost of the phone. T-mobile is the next best, with great service and decent plans too, but the pre-paid phones they sell are WAY over priced for what they are, so that is where I think T-mobile falls short. Virgin has a smartphone plan that is $35/month for 300 min talk, with unlimited web and text. Their unlimited everything plan is $55.00/month. The android phones that they sell are pretty much current technology and are reasonably price for what they are. (If I was buying a phone today, I'd get the HTC Evo with out thinking twice. It is on sale on their website for $139.00 and that is a pretty great price for that particular phone).

    As for the physical phone itself, if you're looking to go to a "nice smartphone", Android or apple is about the only way to go, if for no other reason, because of the availability of apps that are actually useful. Apple is pretty spendy, but makes a very reliable product. Android has a lot more options for price and type of phone, however you need to be aware of what you're getting so you can get a phone that will last awhile before it is a dinosaur. Good things to look for in an android phone include the following: an operating system of at least 4.0 (it might be referred to as "icecream sandwich") and a processor speed of at least 1Ghz (if something says is a dual core processor, that's even better). Other specs won't affect the phone as much as how current the OS and what the processor speed is. 4G is another trendy thing you can look for, but in my understanding, it isn't super widely available, so it isn't a half to have. You can read reviews on specific phones on The reviews they have are pretty good, and they are done by people in the industry as well as regular users.

    That's my two cents. PS: It's worth shopping around too. The phone I ended up buying was the HTC one V, because I could get it for $99 on Black Friday (normally it was $199 at that time). It's been a pretty good phone, however, a month after I purchased it, the same store I bought it at on black friday had it on sale for $49.00. I missed the price match timeline by 3 days :( So price check as best you can- you might really find a good deal!! Good Luck. Hope that helps!!!

  19. Katie says

    If you are a dog or puppy owner in the St. Cloud area, the Tri-County Humane Society was donated a large amount of high quality, premium dog and puppy food recently. It is more than they will use by the expiration date, so they are selling it super cheap. ALL proceeds from the sale of this food will go back to helping the animals find homes. Prices are as follows:

    Innova Adult Dog Food:

    Large Bites 15# Bag: $8.25 + tax

    Large Bites 30# Bag: $13.25 + tax

    Small Bites 6# Bag: $4.50 + tax

    Large Breed 15# Bag: $8.25 + tax

    Iams Puppy Food 8# Bag: $3.00 + tax

    Given the level of discounts and because the product was donated, I don't believe they are accepting manufacture coupons for these products. You can call the shelter at 320-252-0896 for more details or find them on facebook.

  20. David says

    Stayed there a few years ago. Where the train feature is, the water is about knee deep. There's another pool that the water slide empties into, and as I recall it's about 4 or 5 ft deep and pretty small. I also remember the water being pretty cold for our son, who was about 4 years old at the time. Don't remember the price, as we got tickets included with the room.

  21. Kelly says

    My family is going to Florida in April. I'm looking for a reasonable($30 or under a day) and great DOGGY hotel for the week. Any suggestions in the Twin cities? We live in Minneapolis, but I'm willing to drive a ways for great service. Thanks:)

    • Ruth W says

      Woof Central in Richfield is new but they are great people. I believe their rates start at $35/ day

      Now Boarding by the airport is $30/ day and my friends have used them with good feedback

  22. Christine says

    I was on Groupon yesterday afternoon, and there was a deal out there. Can't remember any of the details. I had to scroll down quite a ways before I saw it.

  23. Christine says

    Try calling The Depot and asking about water depths. They will typically know, or put you in touch with someone that does. If you are in the area, stop in and ask them to see the pool area. Tell them you are looking to buy passes, but you wanted to make sure that everything they have is appropriate for your group. Also, they may offer you a discount while you are there.

  24. Allison says

    I am re-doing my second bathroom now. I found the process overwhelming when it comes to picking tiles. I would suggest you pick some colors you like and then find tiles to match. I bought from an online store, Floor and Decor, they are the best value for what I am looking for. Much less than the tile store. If you are in the twin cities make sure to stop at Building and Material Outlet
    They don't have any fancy tiles, but they are the best price for simple tiles. Mostly 12 x 12 in white, grays and beige 78 cents a square foot. In ceramic and porcelain. Good place to get grout too. They do have some counter tops too. They have an online auction you can browse for some great deals. There is a 12% cost add on for all purchases.

    I went to a seminar and they talked about those stick tiles. I don't know if it's the same one you are talking about. It's a fairly new product. The reason you would use it is because you don't have to wait for the mortar to dry before grouting. You stick and grout on the same day, rather than waiting. So if you are in a time constraint it's an option. The cost is about $19 a pack at Home Depot.

    I don't know how handy you are, but I did my own bathroom and tiled everything myself. Just be sure you keep up with the maintenance if you do go with a porous stone (i.e. marble, granite). You will have to seal it every six months, depending on what sealant you use. It can take up to eight hours in which you cannot use the surface (keep it dry). Just know that the smaller the tile, the more grouting you have to do and grout is porous and needs to be seal. If you don’t seal it then it will stain and you cannot get the stain out.

    Have you thought about using remnants? In Albertville they have a shop that can cut you what you want from remnants.

    Good luck!

  25. Darrick says

    My brother and sister in law used the peel n stick tiles and they turned out great, they liked that they didn't have to grout them.

  26. Amy says

    I bought new dishes at Ikea a year or two ago, I have been very happy with the quality and I thought the price was great too.

  27. Ramona says

    I have a great set of plain white dishes that I bought at Target a few years back. (Dinner and salad plates,

    and coffee mugs.) I bought three sets: two to use and one that stays in th basement to replace any broken pieces or when I need extra for guests. I know they weren't terribly expensive and have held up beautifully. The beauty of the white is that I can get all kinds of serving pieces anywhere.

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