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Frugal living tip #48. December 2, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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3 comments

Silence Dogood here. This week’s Frugal Living Tip is about clipping coupons. Well, not exactly. Luddites that we are, here at Hawk’s Haven I still clip coupons from the circulars in our local paper. (My beloved mama, who despised coupon-clipping as a massive waste of time, must be turning in her grave.) But this week, the paper featured an interesting story on getting the most from e-coupons. (Read the whole story, “A new generation of penny pinchers” by Carolyn Bigda, online at www.themorningcall.com.)

According to the article, the two big online coupon sites are Coupons.com and Shortcut.com. In order to print the e-coupons, you have to download free software from each site. (Gads.) But apparently plenty of people are: In the first five months of 2009, consumers saved $300 million using Coupons.com coupons.

Now, however, Coupons.com has launched a user-friendly feature that is sensible to the point of being awesome. I quote: “There’s nothing worse than clipping coupons and later forgetting to use them at the store. [Well, I could think of a few worse things.—Silence] So Coupons.com has recently launched a feature allowing you to load coupons from its site onto your store loyalty card. At checkout, simply swipe the card and the coupons automatically get deducted from your bill.” The bad news is that, at this point, only Safeway-owned stores are honoring the card coupons, and not all brands are included. (Besides Safeway, stores accepting the card coupons include Dominick’s and Tom Thumb, none of which are in our area.) The good news is that Coupons.com expects other chains and manufacturers to jump on the bandwagon.

Given the price of printer ink, I think this is a great innovation. No printouts, no downloaded software, no hassle. But I ask myself, how do you remember which coupons you’ve put on your card? Back to the good old grocery list. And yes, of course I hand-write mine.

But you can always create a custom printout grocery list like my friend Delilah does. She lists all the staples she and Chaz (and their dog Dukie) eat each week and puts check boxes next to each item, then adds blank lines at the end of the list for non-standard items. By grouping a bunch of these lists on a standard 8-by-10-inch grid, she can print out a page of them, cut them apart, and then check off the items she needs that week and add any extras, keeping the additional lists to use later. Great idea!

However you make up your list, if you’re lucky enough to be able to use the card-coupon option, I’d suggest putting an asterisk next to any items you’re planning to use the invisible coupons for. Then you won’t forget to pick up the items and also won’t forget what coupons you’ve put on the card. (Make sure you note next to the item if you have to buy a certain number or size for the coupon to be valid.)

The article listed another resource I’d never heard of. If you use coupons, you probably try, as I do, to combine them with store sales for maximum savings. But if you’re not sure what’s going to be on sale, apparently there are online sites that actually list coupon/sales matches at specific stores. Check out CommonsenseWithMoney.com, DealSeekingMom.com, and Hip2Save.com. Whoa, who’d’a thunk?! I guess you really can find practically everything on the internet if you just know where to look.

One last piece of advice. The article quoted an “expert” as saying that you’ll get the most from your coupons if you buy in advance, i.e., before you’re desperate for something and have to rush out and buy it no matter how much it costs. So true. Last week, I was frantic. I’d run out of soy and tamari sauce and was planning to make my marvelous, rich Mushroom-Cashew Stroganoff, which calls for one or the other, for guests. Yikes!!! I wasn’t looking forward to paying full price for what was probably an inferior soy sauce because I lacked the time and money to buy high-end tamari or a superior aged soy sauce. Fortunately, my next-door neighbor came to my rescue and leant me her soy sauce. And then this morning I found a bottle of extremely high-quality soy sauce lurking in my liquor cabinet. Whew! But yes, buying before the need arises is a great money-saving strategy that lets you combine coupons and sales and buy at your convenience, when the price is right.

If, like my mama, you feel that clipping and using coupons is a ridiculous waste of time in comparison to the money saved, I’d like to end with a quote from our hero and blog mentor, Benjamin Franklin: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  Combining coupons and store sales, it always cheers me up at checkout to hear the cashier tell me I’ve saved a fourth, a third, or even a half of my grocery bill. That’s one pretty penny!

            ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

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