Saving Money Without Going "Extreme"
By: Christi Taylor
Have you seen TLC's reality show "Extreme Couponing"? On the show the ďextreme couponersĒ clip coupons for months, plan their elaborate grocery shopping trip, spend hours in the store gathering their items, and then end up with five or six grocery carts full of stuff in the checkout line. But then it all pays off when the final coupon is scanned and the $1000 worth of groceries costs the couponer only $2.37.
As a bargain shopper myself, it almost makes me want to try it. But then the cameras cut away to the personís house where all this stuff is stored. Every cabinet, closet, basement and room is packed with all this stuff. Who really needs 25 tubes of toothpaste or 20 boxes of Raisin Bran AT ONE TIME? Now if you were donating them to a Rescue Mission or some food bank, I would understand. But accumulating that much food and supplies all for yourself is hoarding. Besides, in my family of four, half of it would expire before we could use it anyway.
But there are other less extreme ways of bargain shopping and saving money. Here are a few of the secrets I use to stretch my ever-devaluing dollar a little further.
- Never pay retail. Wait a week or two, and it will go on sale.
- Buy off season. For children that means buying next year's summer clothes (the next size up) at the end of the summer and next year's winter clothes (the next size up) at the end of winter. But this can work for adults too. Stores are changing out their seasonal merchandise so early these days that swimsuits start going on clearance after the 4th of July. So you still have time to wear it during that same season.
- Shop clearance racks. When I walk in a store, I head straight for the clearance racks. Just this week (end of July) I bought my daughter a swimsuit off the clearance rack. It was marked down 50% with an additional 50% off all clearance items sale going on. So I bought a $28 swimsuit for $7. Also, know your favorite stores. Dillard's typically has a big clearance sale during the month of August and again during February to clear out all of their previous season's clothes. So that is the time to shop there. Many other stores have a clearance rack all year round.
- Shop holidays. Holidays are a great time to find additional sales at clothing stores, home improvement stores and furniture stores.
- Use coupons. Newspapers are a great place to find food and household item coupons. Direct mail shopper magazines are typically full of restaurant, car repair, carpet cleaning and a variety of other coupons for local businesses in your town. Use them. You will also want to get on the mailing list or email list of other stores you shop frequently. They send coupons daily or weekly. You can also check online couponing websites.
Donít forget to share coupons with your fellow couponing friends. For some reason (probably someoneís idea of a joke), I have ended up on the baby coupon mailing list again. This was great when my children were infants, but now they are 12 and 6. So I hardly need coupons for formula and diapers. So I take these to church and leave them on the nursery check-in counter for moms who do have infants to pick up. There are also other groups who get together and have coupon swapping parties.
- Check online. You can often find special deals online that aren't available in the stores.
- Capitalize on credit card benefits. I am not a big proponent of using credit cards, because of our tendency as Americans to accrue debt. I do, however, use Discover Card (and pay the full balance each month). And here is why: I accumulate 1-5% cash back on the purchases I make using my Discover Card. I can then use that cash back (free money) to purchase gift cards online to restaurants and stores that I frequent. On top of that Discover will give me an additional $5-10 worth of value free on that gift card. For example, I can get a $50 Carrabbaís gift card by only using $45 of my cash back money, or I can get a $50 gift card to Pier 1 Imports for only $40. They also offer a ShopDiscover plan, where you earn additional 5-20% cash back for going through the Discover website to purchase items at hundreds of online stores.
Hereís how it works for me. My kids go to a charter school, and we have to purchase their uniforms through Landís End. We donít have a Landís End in our town, so I have to purchase their clothes online. So I go to the Discover Card website and download gift cards (they call them ecertificates) to Landís End. Depending on how much I need to buy, I will either get a $50 card for $45 or $100 for $90. Remember this is free money (interest) that I earned just by using my Discover Card to buy gas, groceries, etc. Then I go to the ShopDiscover page of the website and access the Landís End website. Once I have placed my order (only when they have a sale going on and free shipping), I then use my ecertificates to pay for my order. Typically, my order is free. If not, any additional money I owe I use my Discover Card to pay for it and then receive 5% cash back on that amount.
- Combine sales with coupons. Keep your coupons with you, so when you find your favorite pair of jeans on sale, you can combine that with the 15-20% store coupon you have in your purse and get a really good deal. Always combine sales and coupons when you can.
- Consider yard sale shopping or finding a friend to swap hand-me-downs. It is amazing what you can find at garage sales. I have purchased a Tommy Hilfiger purse for $1. Iíve bought a practically new 16" Transformer bike for my son for $15. I've even redecorated my kid's bathroom for $8 Ė complete with shower curtain, rug, toothbrush holder, soap dispenser and trash can. And then there is the ultimate in savings Ė FREE! I love free hand-me-down clothes. Right now I am so blessed to have a friend who supplies me with all of her son's outgrown clothes Ė Children's Place, Dillards, Gap Ė nice clothes. I donít currently have a hand-me-down supplier for my daughter's clothes, but I try to pass on the blessing by handing her clothes down to another friend's daughter.
- Finally, sale or no sale, coupon or no coupon -- IF YOU DONíT NEED IT, DONíT BUY IT. I love my grandmother to death, but she would clip coupons for dog food and buy it Ė even though she didn't own a dog. Her intentions were to give it to someone who did have a dog, but that didn't typically happen. So remember, if you don't need it, don't buy it!
We are living in a new economy, and it is requiring that we all cut back on our spending. We donít have to be extreme about it (yet), but it is definitely wise to start finding ways to save on the things we really need -- and cut out the things we donít (but thatís a whole different story.)
Do you have some tips for saving money? Leave a note in the comment section below!