Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Coupons

Ultimate car wash for $1 at all Bobby & Steve's locations today (9-28)

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: September 28, 2011 - 7:47 AM



Bobby & Steve's Auto World celebrates the re-opening of its 58th & Nicollet location by offering a $1 Ultimate automatic drive-through car wash, regularly $12.87, all day Wednesday, Sept. 28. The $1 car wash is good at all locations, including the 58th and Nicollet location, 35W and Washington Av. S.  in Minneapolis, two Bloomington locations, Eden Prairie and Columbia Heights. It is not available at the new Lino Lakes location. You need to go inside to pay for the car wash and get the code for the automated system or you'll be charged full price.



The Ultimate car wash is not a brushless system. It's an automated drive through.


You can also get a coupon for 15 cents off per gallon of gas at the 58th and Nicollet location, good through Saturday, Oct. 1.

Daily deals: Kitchen cleaning, Whole Foods, oil change and lawn care

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: September 13, 2011 - 9:05 AM


KGB Deals offers two hours of kitchen cleaning for $22 from Tim Doran House Cleaning. If you've purchased 2-4 hours of housekeeping from a daily deal site, you know that such a time allotment does not allow for oven or fridge cleaning. Here's your opportunity to get those chores someone else. (Note: this is for Minnetonka residents only.)


Living Social tempts the daily dealster who usually shops at Cub or Aldi but occasionally likes to see apples so shiny you can see your reflection, a deli stocked with something besides fried chicken and potato salad, and an organic produce selection that rivals the conventional. Get $20 worth of merchandise for 410 at Whole Paycheck, er Whole Foods. No $20 won't go far at Whole Foods but after shopping at Aldi, WF is like visiting a

greenhouse on a winter day. Try the 365 store brand and shop sale items to get the most for your money.


Why aren't there more oil changes and fewer spa treatments on the sites? Crowd Cut comes to your car's rescue with a deal for $12 or $15 in Apple Valley, Shakopee or Roseville.  The link takes you to the Roseville deal, but you can click on the other oil deals

on the Crowd Cut page.


Steals from the Star Tribune helps out the person with a modest-sized city yard of 2,000 square feet or less. For $35 you can get a core aeration and an organic fertilizer from Green Guardian. It's $91 for three weed applications, or $125 for complete lawn

renovation. Fall is the best time to repair  to a lawn.




Expired coupons? Redeem them at Cub or give them to military families

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: August 26, 2011 - 8:49 AM



For many years Cub Foods has accepted manufactuer coupons for up to 90 days past the expiration date. It's a nice service that Cub offers. I don't recall any other supermarkets with a similar policy, but I do hear from some of Cub's customers who occasionally tell me that X location only accepts expired coupons that are up to 60 days old or that X location no longer accepts expired coups. Usually that's just an untrained employee, not a real change. Keep in mind that the policy applies only to manufactuer coupons, not store coupons from Cub.


Another option for expired coupons is to give them to a military family. Coupons are accepted up to six months after expiration at military base commissaries or post exchanges.

If you don't know of a family in the military, you can also mail coupons directly to military bases around the world. Go to the Overseas Coupon Program site where addresses for nearly 20 bases around the world are listed. 

Here are some guidelines for mailing coupons, according to Stan Brown at

Coupons must be clipped and sorted into food and non-food stacks. You can even separate out product categories if you want, such as baby products.  Do not send full inserts. While the coupons do not need to be expired, try not to send any coupons that are more than two months expired. There is a lag time between when they actually arrive on base and are distributed.  This work is handled by volunteers, so the easier we can make this for them, the more likely we are to create successful savings.

Please do not send:
• Coupons that are ripped or have vital coupon information trimmed off - such as the expiration date, barcode, or redemption address.
• Store coupons.  If the coupon says, “redeemable only at Target”, for example, the military family will not be able to use it.
• Coupons for regional products.  This often includes products like milk, and regional produce growers.
• Food stamps
• Restaurant coupons

Please keep your stacks divided using different envelopes or zipper baggies. No rubber bands or paperclips.

An extra $100 per month saved for a military family can make a big difference in their budget during their time of service and sacrifice.

Note: Coupon "donations" are not tax deductible. If you have any other suggestions to make the military program run smoothly or have recent experience with Cub's policy, please comment.


Would you buy a daily deal coupon for Lasik surgery?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: June 21, 2011 - 9:43 AM

Do you trust your eyes to the lowest bidder?

Today's Crowdcut deal is Lasik surgery by Joffe Medicenter for $250 per eye, regularly $500. I've never seen a cheaper price on Lasik. It's an amazing phenomenon. Some opthalmologists are still charging about $2,000 per eye. Anyone considering Lasik might wonder if eye surgery is not the best time to economize, but they might also wonder if some opthalmologists take advantage of our fear and keep their prices high for "suckers who believe you always get what you pay for."



When I wrote about Lasik in 2001, Dr. Gary Schwartz at Associated Eye Care in St. Paul said that many people don't qualify for the lowest price surgery. Some clinics charge more for a higher refractive error correction, for example.

That's true at Joffe. After talking to a Joffe screener (1-877-895-6333) I found out that the majority of patients do not qualify for the $495 per eye price ($250 per eye with the coupon).A  stronger correction, a thinner cornea, larger pupils, astigmatism, or a combination of several of those factors bumps up the price to $950 per eye ($1,195 minus $495 coupn credit plus $250 for the Crowdcut deal). Still, that's a comparatively good deal since many clinics are charging twice that amount or more. (For the Crowdcut deal, you can buy two coupons, one for each eye.)

Another difference between Joffe and some higher-priced Lasik centers is that enhancements (further tweaks or adjustments if your eyes change) are covered for 12-18 months at Joffe. Some centers offer a lifetime period for enhancements. Joffe said that most people who need enhancements do them within one year.

If you buy the Crowdcut coupon and Joffe decides that you are not a good candidate for surgery, your money will be refunded, but if you back out for any other reason, refunds are not allowed.

The Joffe Medicenter uses Wavefront technology. According to Schwartz, ask the surgeon how many Lasik surgeries he/she has done in the last three years, but it's also important to ask how many surgeries the doctor has done with the machine(Wavefront) being used on you. The Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance said that at least 250 surgeries should have been done by the surgeon in the last 12 months.

Want  to read some reviews on Joffe? Look here. One more consideration: the surgery must be done by Dec. 22, 2011, so if you're planning on using flex spending dollars for 2012, you won't be able to.

For a list of 50 tough questions to ask your surgeon, check the Council's website.

The Crowdcut deal expires Wednesday. What's your opinion? Good deal or coupon for disaster?  

Are we (and our coupons) driving restaurants out of business?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: May 18, 2011 - 9:14 AM


In today's article about using coupons in restaurants, I wrote that more people are comfortable pulling out a coupon at the table, including holdouts such as men and young adults.



But after interviewing several restaurant owners, I wonder if consumers are aware  that restaurants lose money when people bring a coupon and buy enough only to satisfy the deal. Many restaurants are offering the daily deal only when customers take advantage of the deal never to return unless another deal is offered.

So why do so many restaurants offer the deals if they're a money-losing proposition? It's because they can't get loans, so they raise quick cash with a daily deal, said Dave Ostlund, publisher of the Twin Cities Food Finds Restaurant Guide.   

Conventional wisdom says that coupons are a way to get new customers. If customers likes it, they come back again without a coupon and everything evens out. But too many customers in this economy don't go back unless they have a coupon.

Some people are going to say that restaurants are to blame. They baited us with coupons and now we're eating out as if we're dining at Kohl's---we wait until it's on sale. If it's not on sale, we go somewhere else. 

If we start to see fewer restaurant deals out there, that's not necessarily a bad thing for the restaurant industry. Restaurateurs are not getting rich. I worry that we'll see more restaurants closing their doors after they dug themselves a hole filled with coupons.  

As someone loves to dine out, I plan to be more conscious of a restaurant's  bottom line as well as my own. If I use a coupon, I can order a drink or an appetizer too. And I can return to a favorite spot without a coupon too. 

Businesses have many repsonsibilities but I think consumers do too. For example, don't try to take something for next to nothing. Your thoughts?


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