Originally save represented only saving money. But as my personal lifestyle mission has evolved so has saving. Now I want to help you save time, resources and money with posts on this blog.
Content in the works. Stay tuned!
Content in the works. Stay tuned!
This area can make a large impact on what you can do with your family’s monthly budget. With planned saving, versus random saving, you’ll find dollars in your budget that never existed before!
I define planned saving as very rarely buying anything at full price. Random saving on the other hand, is the savings you get when something you already intended to purchase, is by chance, on sale too.
Here are my 12 detailed tips for planned saving. I hope they help you on your journey to saving money.
Tip #1 Read Ads
Get to know the regular retail prices at your local stores. Figure out where the products you use most are the least expensive. And even more important, get to know the lowest sale prices and track the cycle. If you can plan your shopping around lowest sales prices and stock up with enough to get you by until the next sales cycle, this will save you money without a ton of effort. In addition, if you can combine coupons with your lowest sale prices, you’ll be a saving maven and really making your money work for your budget. Also watch the produce prices. You’ll find that produce can be a big money-saver by knowing what to pay in your area throughout the different times of the year; you can plan your produce shopping around what’s on sale since you’ll know what a “good” price is. There are also certain times of the year that furniture, linens, electronics and school supplies go on sale. If you’re planning on making larger purchases, wait for the sale.
How I Accomplish this:
Sunday Ads: I try and read the ads every Sunday. Looking through the ads, circling the deals, comparing the deals to any coupons I have and working on a shopping list. I organize my coupons in my coupon binder by store so that I don’t forget to use them. If we have plans or are too busy Sunday, I do this on Monday or Tuesday mornings while I eat breakfast and have a cup of coffee before I get ready for work. That way I still have all week to make my trips to the store.
Wednesday Grocery Ads: I like to read through these Wednesday evening so I can combine any trips to the store with my already planned shopping for the week from my Sunday Ads. I’ll do the same process of circling deals, checking coupons and organizing by store in my coupon binder for any shopping I’ll be doing.
All totaled, this takes just over 1 hour of my time each week to read the Ads and work on my shopping list based on the deals for the week. This 1 hour saves my family at minimum of $100 per month based on the difference between regular prices and sale prices and knowing that I will be using coupons wherever possible. I’m sure some months it is even higher than that.
If you’re new to reading the ads and monitoring prices, start with your favorite store. Then start comparing other stores until you have 3-4 stores in your arsenal to make sure you can maximize your savings. If you don’t have time to make more than one stop each week and know that Wal-Mart carries a lot of the items the other stores do, bring your advertisements and have them price match.
Tip #2 Read Blogs
It is important to get to know your local prices by reading the ads as mentioned in tip #1. Blogs are where you can get the tip-off on great deals, coupons and scenarios at a variety of stores. I would suggest you find 2-4 different blogs, that are about deals or coupons, that you like and find the posts helpful and then check regularly for deals. Many blogs also have Facebook pages where they post even more deals. Make sure to Like your favorite blogs on Facebook to maximize your exposure to their deal posts. Finding at least one blog in your area or region is helpful to make sure you get the tip-off on local deals, and then the others you follow can be from anywhere around the country. If you don’t know how to start finding blogs to read, a few of my favorites are on the right sidebar. You’ll also find links on their blogs to many others. Explore a variety of them and then narrow down your top 4 to monitor for deals and coupons.
Tip #3 Facebook/Twitter (and other social media)
Friend, follow or just plain stalk (just kidding) your favorite companies on the social media sites you use most. Check out local and major retails and brands to see what kind of offers they are promoting. They often release special coupons or deals just for their customers that follow them or like them, etc. on social media sites.
Tip #4 Coupons
Coupons are just like money!! Clip them from the Sunday paper, print them on the Internet on major coupon sites, sign up for e-mail newsletters from your favorite companies (they often contain coupons you can print), watch for peelies (on products at the store), or blinkies (the little machines in the aisle at the store). Watch for coupons everywhere and cut them, organize them and most important: use them! Coupons are seriously like free money. When used in strategy with sales cycles these will take your savings to the next level.
Tip #5 Rebates
Companies and stores often count on the fact most people will forget to mail in the rebate or miss the rebate deadline,or worse: mail them on time but not with all the required information. Watch rebate offers from brands you use or stores you shop. My favorite stores for rebates are Rite Aid and Staples. Blogs are a great way to get a heads up on active rebates, as well as watching for peelies or signage in store. Stores that offer a lot of rebates will usually even have all the active rebates posted in a special section on their website, that includes details on all the specifics on the rebate. Products I’ve used rebates on to drastically reduce costs or even get them free are personal care products, furnace filters, office supplies, Brita pitchers, cat litter and more. Read rebate requirements thoroughly to make sure you follow all directions. I recommend running a rebate product on its own transaction and paying cash so that there is no other personal information on the receipt that you will be mailing in or submitting on line. Make copies of all receipts you have to mail in, along with any forms you will fill out. I file them in a rebate folder in my file cabinet. That way if the rebate doesn’t show up during the expected time in the mail, you have all the information you need to contact the company and follow up. Once the rebate arrives you can shred or recycle the copies you have saved.
Tip # 6 Store Cards (Rewards Programs/Discount Cards/Apps)
I cringe every time I am in line at the store and hear another customer say “No. I don’t have one.” when the cashier asks for their store card. Are you kidding me? You want to pay more for your items that you have too? You like spending more on your groceries instead of something fun? Oh wait, I’m guessing you are rich so it’s just a few dollars. Probably not. You probably don’t even know what you are missing out on. You probably think: it’s a hassle to sign up. Or maybe it’s the store you only go to “once and a while.” Well, unless you are in a store on vacation that you don’t have in your town, you should get every single freakin’ card you can. I take that back. If signing up saves you money at the store on vacation. Do that too!
Store cards are the key to special sale prices, rebates, exclusive coupons and more. Same goes for all the loyalty cards at the coffee shop (Starbucks!), the smoothie place and anywhere else that offers them. Sign up, use them and find out just how much free or discounted stuff you have been paying full-price for all this time. Give your spouse or companion the second card. Nag them to use it too if they go to the store. All those cards a hassle? Try the iPhone App CardStar to electronically store them all and sync with your spouse’s phone. Saving money is not hard. Instead of swiping your credit card, swipe your store card. Save money and pay with cash. Viola!
Many stores now also Apps for smart-phones to offer additional savings to the normal store card. Some stores who don’t have cards may also have Apps now. Be sure to do a search in whatever App store you have for your phone to make sure you aren’t missing out on any additional savings!
Tip #7 Catalinas (or Next Purchase Coupons)
No, I’m not talking about French salad dressing. Catalina is the company name of the business that handles most of the coupons that print out at the register after your transaction. These are mostly high-value coupons. These can be tricky. They are not well advertised, except via blogs. When you can combine catalinas with in-store sales and MFRC coupons, bam. It’s the savings trifecta. These are mostly considered MFRC coupons and only good at the store you got them from. They will be good to use on your next transaction, thus helping lower your overall out-of-pocket. Some stores have their own versions with special program names. Walgreens has Register Rewards (RR) and Rite Aid has +Up Rewards (+UP) which both work like catalinas. I like to try to buy things with catalinas that I can split into several transactions and roll the catalina from one in to the next. And if I am lucky I will take one home for the next trip. Yes, I am that person that is in front of you in line. I have my zippered, shoulder-strap coupon binder in the top of the cart. Yes you’ll see my phone/calculator out, hands-full of coupons in a specific order. Oh and don’t forget my grocery envelope that holds our weekly grocery money. I’ll even be asking if they got my reusable bag discount. Sure, it’s only five cents. But think about that for every bag, each week for a year at participating stores. It saves me enough for a couple of packs of diapers. Money in my pocket baby!
Note: If you are certain you purchased the right items to receive a catalina and did not, ask to speak with a manager. If it is a store program they can sometimes re-ring your order and fix it. Other times, they can give you the corporate or Catalina phone number to have the coupon sent to you at home. You’ll need your receipt info to be able to get it sent to you.
Tip #8 Subscribe and Save (Amazon.com)
This tip is pretty literal. No crazy names or abbreviations. Wait. I could make one: SAS. I hope that doesn’t also stand for something gross or inappropriate in texting land. I love Amazon.com. They offer many products like grocery, household and baby items that you can subscribe and save. By that I mean, you subscribe to order it every 2 months (or whatever you choose from the settings). Doing this can save you about 15%. If you’re buying baby related items, you need to also sign up for Amazon Mom. This can save you between 15-20% on your subscribe and save. So if you have things that you can’t combine coupons and sales for on a reliable basis for your needs at your local stores, this is the perfect option. (And if you’re doing Swagbucks I suggest redeeming your points for Amazon.com gift cards to even further your savings). Here’s the best part: there is no commitment. That’s right. I’m not a TV infomercial. I’m telling it like it is. Once your order ships, you can go back in your account and cancel at any time. I’ve done it and it works.
Tip #9 Living La Vida Local
Ok, enough Ricky Martin song references. I’m hoping you gathered that this tip is all about being local. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when you buy local you save money, get fresher product and help the environment. Farmer’s Markets, Produce Services and even working with local livestock farmers are all great options to help you buy local.
Not familiar with any of these? Time to do some googling. Or if you’re a Swaggernaut, let’s swagger baby. Search for Farmer’s Markets in your area. Round up the kids or a pal (or both) and make an adventure out of it. Go to several if you have more than one. Bring cash. And your own bags. I would. Get to know the vendors and find your favorites. Negotiate towards the end of the day if there is product left that needs to go. This is some of the freshest produce you’ll find. Unless you are growing your own.
Once you’ve tried out the Farmer’s Market, check out local produce services. Normally you can sign up for a weekly or bi-weekly service of a box of produce. I, of course, get an organic one. It saves me a lot of money compared to buying it all at the store. Plus I also get to try things I might not normally get. If you live in Washington, North Idaho or Alaska check out Full Circle Farm. If you decide to order, I’d love the referral mention: Nicole Skinner. It’s not required, but always appreciated. You can also try the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op. They serve several states and often have organic produce baskets available.
Next step is to find a local livestock farmer. Check out how they sell the meat. Can families go in on a whole cow together? Can you get several chickens? The point is you are looking for fresh, organic or at least all natural meat to nourish your family. This will probably be much less expensive than the same options as the store. And a lot fresher.
Tip #10 Daily Deal Sites
Unless you’re living under a rock or on a commune in the mountains, you’ve probably at least heard of Groupon. They were the first big daily deal site to get a wide public following. As Groupon’s popularity rose, so did a whole gaggle of other sites. In fact, I probably don’t even know half of them. I do have three or four I signed up for the daily deal emails. I’d suggest you find a few in your area and sign up for the emails. Groupon even has an app that makes it so easy to check out the daily deals.
Once you sign up here’s what to expect: crazy good discounts on things you are probably already buying! You’ll find discounts to online stores, the movies, spas, restaurants and more. Now, you can’t feasibly buy everything. Here’s what I do. I leave a small amount in the budget each month to have available for daily deals. You’re never going to know what’s coming up and this has been the best way for me to be able to snag a deal we can use without breaking the budget. If you don’t happen to find any deals you want that month, you can move the money to your grocery budget or roll it over to the next month.
Daily deal sites are so much fun. They are great for trying new things or places. And always the best for saving on what you love. In
addition to Groupon, I like Living Social, Plum District and Mamapedia. If you’re interested, please use these links to check them out and sign up. These are referral links and any referrals help cover the costs of this blog.
Tip #11 Cash Back Sites for Online Shopping
Cash Back. Often touted as a perk of evil credit card companies trying to lure you in. Or something you can do at the store when you use your debit card. I’m talking about neither of those. I’m talking about cash back in your pocket just for doing your normal shopping online. Here’s how it works. You sign in to your cash back site. ( I prefer Ebates). You click the link through to the site you want to shop; Target, for example. You get the specified percent of cash back on your purchase. Money is deposited to your paypal, bank or sent by mail on a scheduled basis (I get checks by mail quarterly). Added bonus? Sometimes there are special coupon codes on Ebates also. That’s two birds, one stone my friends. Coupons and money back. Who could ask for more…except for free. Use the Ebates links in this tip to go directly to the site and learn more (as with all my referral links they are optional but kindly help support the blog). Signing up takes less than a minute. I’m getting back around $20 per quarter on the stuff I need and buy anyways. $20 x4 quarters per year = $80. That’s enough for a nice spa treatment I wouldn’t otherwise get! Start saving for something special by using cash back for online shopping!
Tip #12 Swagbucks
If you read through all the tips, you’ll have noticed I mentioned this in Tip #8 Subscribe & Save. If you look at the bottom of the page you’ll see my Swagbucks widget. I’m not a Swagbucks expert, but from the little I do know I have been able to get more than $40 in Amazon.com gift cards in the last year. Not bad for very little effort! Go to Swagbucks by clicking the sign up in my widget at the bottom of the page. You can sign up in a jiffy. You’ll find all sorts of info on how to use Swagbucks. There is also a great article here from Money Saving Mom on how to get the most from Swagbucks. I personally use the Swagbucks search feature, tool bar, and purchase daily deals through them when available. If I have time I also read the blog and watch Swag TV. There are many other ways to earn points to redeem for prizes, it just depends on how much time you want to spend. They also have a generous referral program. It’s worth checking out and only a click away! Use the widget or any link in this tip.