Feb 10 2008

My favorite ways to save money in Pittsburgh

Welcome, Post-Gazette readers! I’m writing this post anticipating some of you might have found me from an article in Sunday’s paper.

I’ve been a Pittsburgh resident for about eight months now. I still have a lot to learn about this city, but I’m starting to feel like I know my way around some areas.  I still have a lot to learn about saving money here. Here’s a few of my favorite places to save money here.

Free entertainment

  • The libraries here are fantastic. I like how one library card can be used at libraries throughout the county. I like the selection at Northland Public Library. But, if Northland doesn’t have a book, I can request an inter-library loan. A book at the Carnegie library can be sent to any library I choose for me to pick up. And, gotta love the amazing deals to be had at their book sales! The next sale at Northland is the first weekend of May. What library do you visit most?
  • There’s some lovely parks around here. North Park is beautiful, and offers plenty of paths to walk and explore. What parks do you suggest?
  • My husband and I like to go on drives around the area. Sure, we have to use gas to do that, but we don’t end up using much. We like to wander around and explore Pittsburgh and wherever else we might end up. Do you have areas you might recommend?
  • What are some other free things you like to do around town?

Paid entertainment

When I registered my car in Pennsylvania, I also joined AAA. With the AAA discount, I’ll be able to save money at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. I haven’t yet visited, but I hope to soon. Winter rates for adults are $8, but are $7 each with AAA. In the summer, tickets are $10, making the AAA discount even better.

My Entertainment Book will save a ton on area attractions. I like the buy one, get one rates for places such as the Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Mattress Factory, Children’s Museum (is it worth visiting if you don’t have kids? Please tell me!), and others.

We’re planning to use our book to save at area restaurants, and we’ve been itching to take a cruise on the Gateway Clipper. It’s pricey, but with buy one, get one off admission, it becomes a reasonable deal.

If you don’t yet have an Entertainment Book but are interested in one, please read my post about how to get yours for free (now through Feb. 14). If you sign up and create an Ebates account, and purchase your Entertainment Book through that portal, you’ll get a $16 rebate ($6 is from the Ent. Book; $5 for first-time Ebates customers, and $5 for double-signup bonus through Feb. 14). Pretty good, considering the Pittsburgh book costs only $15.

Some of my favorite places to shop here can be found throughout the country–these aren’t Pittsburgh-specific. I hope I always live in a city with a good Aldi, CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.

Favorite stores

  • Aldi is one of my favorite grocery stores. I used to shop at the Shaler location, but since the Aldi store near the Northway Mall (off of McKnight) opened in November, it’s become my store of choice. Click here to find an Aldi near you.
    • If you’ve never visited an Aldi before, check out this guide for first-time shoppers on the Aldi web site. be sure to bring a quarter to use as a deposit for your shopping cart, and your own bags. You can buy bags at the store in a pinch, but I prefer using boxes (you’ll see them at the bagging area), old plastic shopping bags, cloth shopping bags, or even a plastic laundry basket. This saves you money (store prices are lower) AND it’s good for the environment.
    • I’ve found the quality of the non-perishable and frozen items to be as good or better than items you’ll find in a regular grocery. Some produce items seem to spoil faster than at other stores, however. Aldi offers a double guarantee–if you don’t like an item, you’ll get your money back and they’ll replace the item, if you’d like.
    • Prices are sigifnicantly lower than you’ll find at Giant Eagle, Kuhn’s, or Shop n’ Save. Occasionally, with coupons, you might be able to save a little more on an item, but Aldi is consistently a cheap place to shop.
    • The store is small. My store has just five aisles. As a result, I’m in and out of there in 25 minutes or less. 
  • CVS is a store you won’t want to miss out on. I used to think it was just an overpriced drug store. And, it is, in many cases. However, CVS offers an incredible rebate program. I’ve only shopped at CVS since October, and I’ve already saved hundreds of dollars. Click here to find a CVS near you.
    • I have visited three CVS stores in Pittsburgh: The 24-hour store in Wexford on Perry Highway, the one in Allison Park off of Route 8, and the one in Bellevue. The Bellevue store seems to be popular among CVS bargain shoppers, as it often runs out of special sale items. However, I’ve found that the other two locations I’ve visited have a good stock of items.
    • To save a ton of money at CVS, you’ll need to sign up for an Extra Care Bucks card. Do this in the store. It’s easy and free. After you get that, register your card online so you’ll get a $4 off $20 purchase coupon.
    • Look at the CVS sales flier each week to see what items will earn you Extra Care Bucks. These bucks, or ECBs as some of us like to call them, print off at the end of your receipt when you buy certain products. You can use those ECBs like cash in the store. Use these ECBs to buy more products that will generate ECBs, and you’ll never have to pay for your toiletries again. Or, use the ECBs to buy things you need on your grocery list like milk or some non-perishable items.
    • Use store coupons (you’ll find them online) to save even more money at CVS.
  • Rite Aid also has some great deals. The system there is much easier to master than at CVS.
    • At the front of the store, you’ll see an ad booklet for the month. In there, you’ll see what products are free after rebate, and other products that generate rebates. Or, click here to see an online version.
    • Right now, if you transfer a prescription to Rite Aid, you’ll get a $30 gift card, plus an additional $10 from the store. Click here to print your coupon.
    • To save at Rite Aid, simply use manufacturer’s coupons from the Sunday newspaper, and combine them with store specials and rebates. To get your rebate check, you’ll enter your receipt information online. Or, you can mail that info in.
  • Walgreens offers deals through monthly rebates and register rewards. To find a Walgreens near you, click here.
    • Grab an "Easy Saver" booklet available at the front of the store. In that, you’ll find store coupons and a listing of rebate deals, including the rebate form.

Finally, thrift stores. I’ve only been to two around here, so far: Goodwill on McKnight, and Red, White, & Blue in Bellevue. I’d like to explore more. Which stores might you recommend?

What are some of your favorite places to save around town? I’d love to hear from you! Please post a comment below, or e-mail me, if you’d like.

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3 Responses to “My favorite ways to save money in Pittsburgh”

  1. Kacie, that was an EXCELLENT article! Way to go!

  2. The Library is an excellent suggestion. People often forget they can rent movies and video games. I don’t have a CD player in my car, but just realized that I could still check out books on CD and listen at the YMCA which is a double win for me.

    Thrift stores are great for far more than clothing. You can often find a bunch of greeting cards in a ziploc bag for a few dollars which is a great saver. Also, a great place for holiday decorations – a lot of people donate and buy all new on every few years. I keep my eyes open for “new” items that I can use for gifts. I hit the racks for months one year and gifted my Dad with 20 almost new golfing shirts one year when he took up the sport – I probably spent $20 total. There’s a great store in West Mifflin and a decent store on Babcock Boulevard where it seems a lot of ebay buyers shop.

    I also believe in going to matinees and then having a nice dinner where we can easily share an entree. For example, if we go to the movies in Squirrel Hill at the Manor (support local businesses), we’ll go over to the Pacific Ring for dinner. We split an entree (and still have leftovers) and one appetizer, plus just drink water (or tea if it comes with the meal) and end up with a relatively inexpensive evening on the town. This works really well in Asian restaurants where service is more family style.

    I hate to pay $2.00 and up for a glass of soda, even with one refill. I usually order water. I frequently eat at local restaurants. You can go downtown to Papa Js on a Saturday night, park for free on the street and be seated in minutes versus driving out to the suburban Italian chains and waiting for 45 minutes to an hour for dinner seating. I might spend a total of $5.00 more for two people, but we save well more than two hours of our time. Definitely worth it.

    Consider the various independent coffee houses all over the city when you are making lunch plans. You can often get a nice homemade meal in a comfy environment for the equivalent of a chair restaurant (or less). And if they get to know you, you often get to sample some goodies for free. :-)

    That’s all for now.

  3. Aldi also offers a great district manager training program. District manager trainees receive a full starting salary of $70K throughout the training year. http://www.aldiuscareers.com/DistMgr.aspx

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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