Confessions of a Failed Couponer: How to Save Without the Hassle of Clipping Coupons

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I want to coupon. Really, I do. I read the articles of how I could get a swimming pool’s worth of mustard for 5 cents and I want to be that person.  But, I just can’t. The last time I printed off paper coupons, my 8-month old chewed them up before we made it to the store. Couponer fail.
But, you know what I can do? I can find sales. And, I like the internet. There are a dozen ways of saving money, especially for big purchases. Here’s a few that I’ve found useful:

  • Groupon/Living Social: By pre-purchasing an item, service, or vacation through Groupon or Living Social you can often save 50% or more. The only downside is that there’s often a timeframe or you lose the discount. I can vouch for returns with Groupon – if there is a problem (the restaurant is now out of business, the terms for the service were vague and not what was expected, etc.) they are GREAT with refunds.
  • In-store Credit: Some stores will give gift cards as benefits for shopping in their store (usually $5 for every $25 or $50 spent). Some stores that participate in this trend are Kohl’s and Best Buy. Many grocery stores like Meijer and Kroger don’t give store credit, but give discounts on gasoline instead.
  • Ebates: When you shop online, start at Ebates first! By clicking to your online store through their site, you can get cash back for your purchases. There are dozens of stores that participate including mega-stores like Amazon.
  • Sales: It goes without saying, but shop when there are sales. Yes, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the big ones. But watch for other sales, department store merchandise seems to be on sale as often as it is full price. Don’t buy it if it’s not on sale or clearance.
  • Gift Cards: If you know you frequent a certain store, or will be making a big purchase at a particular store, it may be worthwhile to purchase gift cards from that store to purchase items. Particularly around the holidays, there are promotions where you buy $50 in gift cards and receive a bonus of a $5 or $10 card free. That’s 10%-20% off if you know you’ll be spending $60, for a big ticket Christmas present.
  • Credit/Debit Card promotions: I’m not advocating opening credit cards every time you want a promotional discount. But, every once in a while, this may be an acceptable option. The real focus here is to make the most of the cards you have. Many credit cards offer a points-based system that you can use for gift cards, cash back, or putting toward your card balance. Most often it’s a 1% system, though for certain purchases, it can be up to 5% on some cards like Chase Rewards. You may also want to check out options for your debit card. At my bank, I was able to sign up for rewards points on my debit card (no credit needed!). It had a $4 monthly fee for the service, but I got a $2 deduction for having automatic deposits and another $2 deduction for getting paperless statements – making it a free service!

So let’s put real-world numbers to this. Last month, I purchased a car seat. I did my research to know what I wanted. I knew it was going to be about $300.
Original price including tax and shipping at Kohl’ $338

  • Ebates rebate of 6%:  $18
  • Kohl’s Cash (OK, so it’s not actually cash back, but it bought us other needed school clothes):  $55
  • Kohl’s Yes2You Cash (a second, stackable incentives program):  $15
  • Credit Card points:  $3
  • Free shipping for orders over $75:  $15

Final actual cost of product:  $232
I call, saving 31% and $100 a pretty good deal for a half hour of work while never leaving my desk chair or having to rescue soggy coupons from my infant, a Savvy Discount Shopper Success!

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