Open Mic 2/27/14

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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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    • JoAnna says

      We went through Center Point. We were happy with sales person, choices, install and they offered no interest for a year.

    • says


      Be sure and check out Action Heating and Air www.
      763-780-0844 That is who I call if I need anything. They are the best.

      • ChelleN says

        Definitely go through Center Point. Even if you want to look elsewhere get a price quote from center point first so you don’t get ripped off first. We learned our lesson.

      • Sarah says

        I second Standard Heating and Air. They were reasonable and very personable. We used them 3 or 4 years ago to replace our furnace and air.

    • zteve says

      The cheapest and best company is Southside Heating and Air. I used this company and they will be half the cost of centerpoint and standard heating and air. Southside Heating and Air does great work and they are a family business without alot of overhead. (952) 884-2453

      • steve says

        The cheapest and best company is Southside Heating and Air. I used this company and they will be half the cost of centerpoint and standard heating and air. Southside Heating and Air does great work and they are a family business without alot of overhead. (952) 884-2453

  1. Chanda says

    We are looking for a housecleaner (or cleaning company) to come clean our home every other week or so. Does anybody have any recommendations? We are looking for someone who is trustworthy and at a reasonable price.

  2. Debbie says

    My husband and I are in the market to buy new glasses this year. We live in the St. Cloud area. Our insurance pays for the lens as well as $120 towards frames so looking for suggestions of where to get the most bang for our buck.

    • Mary says

      Do not go to Penneys. Not a huge selection plus we had a bad experience. First my daughter received the wrong frames because the wrong label was on the frames she chose. Then after they reordered the frames, it took 32 days to get them in. After ten days I was calling once a week.

      I will not go back there again. It’s not worth it even though her glasses were only $65 total.

    • Susan says

      I have always been happy with Pearle Vision in St. Cloud. They are very helpful and you receive your glasses super fast! I thought their prices were very reasonable. They run many different sales during the year.

      I have also heard Shopko has reasonable prices on glasses. However, I have not had any experience with them.

      • Allison says

        I buy my own frame then send them in online go get the lens. reasonable and a lot cheaper for more features. You can use your old frames or any frames you want. They will take any frame, even rimless. There use to be sales $39 frames that was at the convention center this year. I stocked up on frames and go online to get the lens. I have a high prescription (-12.00), so I need high index. I can get my glasses total less than $150.

    • Rene S says

      Do you have a Costco nearby? DH had gotten a quote on just new lenses (keeping his frames) at Lenscrafters, and then got an estimate at Costco. They were $100 cheaper! He had very good service and it worked out great.

      • lori says

        Almost all sellers use the same company, Luxottica Group, for frames. They also use a division of Luxottica for lenses.

        I’d love to find a place that didn’t use Luxottica for lenses. I have found their lenses to be inferior, cracking quickly after purchase. And yes, they will remake them, but they are remaking them with the same inferior workmanship. After having lenses remade at Target 4 times in 6 months, they finally agreed to return my money because they could not get them made correctly.

        I am wearing glasses that are almost 11 years old. Eventually I will need to get them replaced and don’t know where to go, either.

  3. Christine says

    Does anyone have any tricks for purchasing produce at Aldi? I purchased some blackberries and strawberries on Sunday and they were already starting to get moldy yesterday. I purchased apples there a few weeks ago and had a lot of soft spots and ended up throwing out about half of the apples (I cut out the soft spots, but thats a lot). They may be cheaper, but if I throw out over half the product it’s more expensive.

    • helperlady says

      Be sure to tell the Aldi store. This is not their usual. I have had no problems with produce. They are usually riper than some but if you use them soon, no problem.

    • ella says

      I have worked with produce, so am very picky and look over the produce carefully before I decide. I pass over items if they don’t look fresh, even if it’s something on my list. I always check the undersides of clear berry or grape boxes to see how fruit on bottom is holding up, and look for any with bruising or soft spots or mold- I avoid those. I often pass on buying berries at Aldi, but at other times they are great. When I get them home I move half the berries to another container if I’m not using them immediately to reduce how much weight is on the bottom berries, and refrigerate. With apples I check for bruising, color, ripeness. If apples aren’t the best I make apple crisp, sauce or pie. In cold weather I take a cooler and put produce in it when loading in car to prevent freezing. I’ve had trouble with Aldi sweet potatoes getting sunken soft spots, and they are often smaller, so usually don’t buy them there. Sometimes the potatoes have a greenish cast or spots, and I avoid those. Sometimes the onions are been bruised and those won’t keep very long, if I find a bruised one when I get home I use it first. I’ve seen these issues in produce sections in other grocery stores, so it’s not just Aldi. One thing nice about Aldi produce is that most of it is pre-packaged so it isn’t getting handled or sneezed on while on the shelf, and the prices are much lower. If you are unhappy with your purchase you can take it back to Aldi for a refund.

      • Rene S says

        I’ve had good luck with Aldi’s produce, but like helper lady says, report it or return it to the store. They have a great return policy. Also, berries in general do not last very long, just a few days. I’ve been using the BluApple system (packets designed to absorb the gasses produced by fruit and veggies) and it really makes a difference. You can find them at Amazon, but probably other places too.

    • Therese S. says


      Save your receipt and bring back the food to Aldi. They will refund you the purchase price. They have great customer service when it comes to returns. (at least I find this to be true)

  4. BG says

    Does anyone know if Cub will be offering their freezer deal again this year? We just bought a cow and could use the extra freezer space. Thanks!

  5. mary says

    Hi all! It looks like I’ll be needing to replace my dishwasher in the near future. Does anyone have advice on the best place to purchase a new or used one? Also, any price point recommendations? TIA :)

    • Christine says

      I would recommend Lowes. I purchased my dishwasher a few years ago, but I have replaced all my major appliances over the last 3 years and found Lowes to be the nicest. They have a larger selection than Menards, but not as big as Sears or Warner Stellion. I have tried to find items at Appliance Smart and was never able to get anyone to help me. Maybe because I look so young and most don’t think I’m actually there to purchase. I would warn against Sears, I just purchased a stove from them, and they were unwilling to price match to Best Buy, and didn’t offer free delivery of haul away of the old one. I used Lowes for my Washing Machine purchase, and they delivered within a week, on a Saturday, plus hauled away the old one for no charge.

    • ella says

      I second Lowes for appliances. We bought an LG washer/dryer pair last summer, based on Consumer Reports reviews. Lowes price matched a Menards online price for us, plus offered a gift card deal if we bought 2 or more appliances. Free delivery and take away, but they charge extra for installation, hoses, etc. There were good deals especially before Memorial Day and 4th of July- if you figure out what you want and have the time to wait for a sale.

    • Korene says

      Nine years later, I’m still super happy about my dishwasher purchase! We bought it from Menards. They had free delivery and at the time, but we gave it away on instead. We did a lot of comparison before we purchased and were happy with the service there.

  6. says

    Hi! I’m pregnant with my 3rd, but it’s been a long time since I had a newborn. We have the big things – crib, highchair, carseat – but I gave away all of my baby clothes and baby care items. I’m feeling very overwhelmed at the thought of buying everything again (bottles, pacifiers, blankets, sheets, etc.). Where do you find the best deals: Target, Babies R Us, Amazon…? Other than throwing myself a baby shower, any suggestions or tips that helped you bring home a newborn on a tight budget?

    • ChelleN says

      Target has mega clearance on baby items right now. Check out the bulk item section and baby section. I saw wipes for under $6 for 448 count (normally $12) and diapers were at 50% off as well at my Target. I shop the clearance sections for clothes and garage sales. Some people might point you to Craigslist, thrift stores, and JBF sales. Ask your friends. Sometimes others are downsizing! I buy a lot of my stuff off my sister. I get name brand expensive items for garage sale prices. :) Think about what you REALLY need for each size. Don’t over do it. That way you won’t spend a fortune. Also I shop end of season sales for the next year. Saves a bundle!

      • Bouboo says

        I am not sure when your baby is due or where you live but here is a website to check out…….The munchkin market sales ( at the state fairgrounds, Blaine, wash county fairgrounds, duluth, rochester, Mankato) are coming up in March/April and well worth it for the newborn clothes and items you had…. but got rid of. That includes strollers, bottles, pacifiers, blankets, sheets, diapers, etc. I have been going for three years and always feel that the quality is great because they go through all the items before they are put up for sale so you do not get zippers that don’t work or stained items or toys missing parts.

    • lori says

      I think you are supposed to replace a car seat if it is over 5 years old. Something about the manufacturing process changing to make them safer?

    • M says

      First, congratulations! :) I suggest checking second-hand stores for baby clothes and check for clothes your child can wear over multiple seasons. Once you can kind of gauge how fast your child grows into clothes you can determine what size they will wear in a year and buy clothes for then too (example, my daughter usually wears one size up from the stage she’s at right now so I scooped up amazing quality summer clothes for her recently that were super cheap!)
      For other items, Target and WalMart were my go-to places. Get on Target’s mailing list and they will send you baby coupons, then watch for sales. Another place I do recommend is Buy Buy Baby. They are affiliated with Bed, Bath & Beyond. They don’t run “sales” (same as BB&B) but they accept the 20% off coupons and the $5 off $15.00 coupons. I like them because they offer a wider variety than what you find at Target and WalMart. If you don’t have a Buy Buy Baby in your area you can order online at then have it shipped to your house or to your local BB&B and pick it up there.

      • mary says

        Congrats on the new addition! Are you into garage sales at all? If you have never gone for baby clothes you may be surprised! If you hit the young family neighborhoods, you can really score great deals on all things baby related. In fact I’ve gotten so spoiled on my price points, .25-.50 on onesies, $1 for sleepers, outfits 1.50-2…brands like Carter’s, and Koala Baby, Circo. Check out Craiglist starting in April and look for neighborhood/community garage sales. Also, I second Target for great deals. And also, if you haven’t yet, sign up for the babies r us mailing list/text. They had an a-mazing clearance blast sale in mid Jan. All clearance was $4 plus with a text coupon I could take an extra 20% off…I found super nice pieces, fao schwartz holiday dresses,fur vests, cable knit leggings, fleece sleepers, hoodies, etc! Good luck and have fun! My favorite part of getting ready for baby is obviously the shopping;)

    • Sonya says

      Make sure you look at they post weekly prices for amazon and Target as well as other stores for diapers and wipes.

    • Marne says

      Karen, We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Christmas Day night. The room was very nice – 2 TV’s, 2 Queen sized beds, large bathroom, larger fridge, sink, coffee pot, etc. and the pool was fun for the kids to play in as well. The staff was also friendly!

  7. Alicia says

    I desperately need an Otterbox for my iPhone 4…all the deals have been for the 5…any suggestions where I can find one for a reasonable price?

  8. Sasha says

    Has anyone purchased a travel or hotel deal from I’ve seen some things that look tempting (e.g., $44 for $500 toward a hotel stay), but they seem rather too good to be true, so I’ve never bought one.

      • Sasha says

        Thanks John and Jo. My instincts said there had to be a catch (or many of them), and I do see that there are plenty of complaints out there. Confusingly, many people say that they have a BBB rating of D-, but the BBB website now shows an A- rating? Anyway, I was curious if anyone here had personal experience with it. A few years ago, I bought a 50% off deal for a local chocolates store, and that worked fine.

  9. Korene says

    Best place to get tickets for Nickolodeon Universe? My daughter would like to take two friends (and her sister) there for her birthday at the end of March. Does anyone know if there is a coupon for tickets in the Entertainment book? Do most people do the unlimited wrist band instead of purchasing separately? (I’ve never been there before). When would be a weekend time that the lines are the shortest?


  10. Carol says

    I just bought a Costco membership. Can anyone tell me the best things to buy there? I am overwhelmed at figuring out what is a good deal and what is just BIG. Thanks!!

    • mikey says

      We”ve had membership at Costco for a few years now. We get eyeglass there as well as some electronics. Their customer service is great. I have also ordered checks from costco and we bought our homeowners and auto insurance thru them after shopping around. Costco is known for their meats, which I didn’t know. We love their roasted chickens in the meat dept. They are much bigger than at the regular grocery store and super moist. I buy beef stew meat as well as 10# bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from there. I may pay a little more for the chicken but it’s good. I find their block and shredded cheese prices to be good as well. If you take allergy meds, we find their own brand much cheaper and just as good as name brand. You have to know your prices as some things are cheaper elsewhere on sale, with coupons. Sometimes the milk is cheaper at costco, but that varies. They are great about returns if you get something that’s not what you expected. I steer clear of clothing and most roulette items as I can usually do better with a sale elsewhere. You will get coupon books from them as well with some good deals. Again, it helps to know your prices. Enjoy!

    • ella says

      I also just got a Costco membership, after years of couponing. Will continue to coupon, but with a lot of family to buy for, this I hope will add some efficiency to my shopping time. Stores are not far off my routes so will also buy gas there. I’m hoping I can help family members purchase glasses there, but not sure how that works.

      A relative has had a membership for awhile, and she likes their meats, dairy, baking supplies, auto tires, auto batteries.

      I’ve been looking at suggestions for what to buy there (and what to avoid) and ran across this site:

    • M says

      We’ve been getting ground beef (organic!), cheese, bread, and produce (I find their selection of bananas is always pretty good). If you’re having a get together they are a good spot to get dips like guacamole, big containers of salsa, tortilla chips, etc. Definitely check out their baking items; I buy big containers of spices that I commonly use. I haven’t bought clothes for myself but I did pick up some Carter’s fleece sleepers for my daughter at the beginning of fall; I looked around and saw their price at Costco was cheaper than when Carter’s was running their 50% off sale. I get various vitamins/supplements, print pictures there and I know people that have gotten good quality household items/appliances there too. Have fun!

      • Sara says

        A couple of things not mentioned yet are Tazo Chai Tea 7.40ish for three cartons. This is what Starbucks uses and it costs over $5.00 a cup there. This has saved me a ton of money over the past year making it at home or work rather than stopping for a coffee on my way. I also find corn chips and pita chips are cheaper. They also have tasty dips that are much cheaper than to make your self. Jalapeno articoke dip is always a hit at parties.

    • Rene S says

      I save a lot of money by buying my OTC drugs and vitamins/supplements there. Even with using coupons at other stores, I can’t come close to Costco’s prices.

      • tag says

        If you love fruit, Costco often has organic produce for really, really good prices.

        Also, Graduation/Confirmation cakes are yummy.

  11. lori says

    I have to take large doses of calcium and I get it at Costco. Best price anywhere for calcium citrate, which is what I have to take.

    We also get a lot of Kleenex and paper towels there, they have coupons in the mailers quite often. And the gas can sometimes be a great deal, depending on the neighborhood. When I lived south of the river, Costco in Burnsville was almost always the cheapest gas. Now I’m in the west part of the metro and the Costco near me isn’t that great. The store isn’t as nice, either.

  12. ella says

    I’ve also recently noticed quite a range in gas prices depending on which side of Twin Cities- Costco gas in Maplewood and Woodbury is more expensive than other Costcos when I’ve checked Twin City Gas Prices online.

  13. Laura says

    My husband and I are talking about whitening our teeth. Anyone have advice for us? Dentist vs. at home kits, good at home kits or kits to avoid, best prices, where to purchase? So many choices…aaahhh!

    • Sarah says

      If you haven’t tried it, before spending money, try swishing with hydrogen peroxide like mouthwash. It’s the active ingredient in most whiteners and much less expensive. I did it daily for a while and it made a difference.

  14. JoAnna says

    Received email from Holiday today. Through March 26 show you My Cub Rewards card and receive a 20 oz Holiday Pantry water or any size coffee, or fountain drink for $0.59 (limit 2).

    • says

      Woohoo! Thanks, JoAnna! Looks like I’m getting cheap coffee for the next month. :) Holiday is my closest gas station and I’m there at least three times a week to get coffee, milk, etc.

  15. mikey says

    Probably a little late for this post, but I’ll try anyway. Looking at the Herberger’s ad and they have the Kitchenaid 6 qt 600 series stand mixer on sale for $247.27 with the coupon through today. Is this a good price for this size mixer? I know a good price on the 4.5 qt but not this one. Any input? Thanks much.

    • Christine says

      I have the Pro 600 and I highly recommend it over the other Kitchen-Aid mixers. I bake a lot of bread and use my mixer for it all the time, works like a charm. I paid about a little less through Kohls a few years ago, plus I got Kohls Cash back. Not a bad price though.

  16. Deb says

    Has anyone in the Twin Cities used prepaid cell service from Boost or Virgin Mobile. My college-age son is looking for something that would give him good data access, but doesn’t make many calls. He will be upgrading from a Tracfone. Comments/Ideas?

  17. Katie says

    Hi All!

    Does anyone know if the Happenings book has Dave & Buster’s coupons in it this year? I’m contemplating buying one, hoping they’re in there, but I’d like to be sure first. :)


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