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RSSSuper-Couponing Tips By Jill Cataldo
The latest tips and advice in couponing and all money-saving pursuits from renowned coupon expert Jill Cataldo.
A few weeks ago, I asked readers to share their best savings tips. Oh, did you deliver. My inbox has been overflowing with ideas. One reader, Dana, sent such a lengthy list that I had to edit it to share in this week's column! Here are some of Dana's tips:
— Take water with you in the car. Don't buy drinks on the road.
— Only buy from websites when they offer free shipping.
If you've been reading my column for any length of time, I'd imagine you have a pretty accurate mental picture of who I am. I shop with coupons, I watch what I spend and I'm frugal. (With a family of five, I have to be!) Yet, a question has been on the minds of several of my readers lately: Exactly how frugal am I?
I know you couponers get a lot of things for free, but let me ask you this: Are you wasteful? Do you think, "Hey, this shampoo was free, so I'll toss it out as soon as I can't get any more out of the bottle?" Then, grab a new one? Or do you try to stretch things?
While this column undoubtedly appeals to shoppers (especially those trying to stretch their dollars to the fullest!), it also appeals to retailers and cashiers, too. I enjoy hearing the cashiers’ perspectives on what they’re seeing from the other side of the checkout lanes. Here are two interesting emails from eagle-eyed cashiers:
Just a quick note to remind readers that making of the most of the common coupon also means redeeming coupons legally.
Last week, I discussed product returns and some of the seemingly strange policies retailers have regarding items for return. My readers continue to share their often-entertaining and sometimes strange tales from the return department:
I bought a large ride-on toy for my child's birthday, and the toy broke before it was a year old. When I contacted the toy company about getting this toy repaired or replaced, they said they would ship a new one provided I use a permanent marker to write a three-digit number all over the item! I needed to document that I did this by taking pictures of the (now defaced) toy, and once I emailed the photographs to the company, they indeed sent a new one. Isn't this crazy?
Coupon doubling, the practice of a store scanning coupons at twice the value, is a popular promotion in some areas. While scanning a 50-cent coupon and receiving a $1 discount is attractive to consumers, it isn’t quite as attractive to retailers. Who pays for the doubled value of that coupon? In most cases, the store does. With stores operating on tight profit margins and facing increasing operating costs, many large chains have phased out or begun phasing out coupon doubling. Other retailers restrict doubles to certain days of the week or transactions over a certain dollar amount.
In my experience, doubling depends on a lot of factors. Certain parts of the country tend to have more stores that double coupons than others do, and market areas considered to be “affluent” (whether we agree with that term or not!) tend not to offer as many double coupon promotions. In some regions, retailers double coupons simply because a competitor store in the area is also doubling coupons — they’ve decided to “play along” and double coupons, too, so they don’t lose market share to their competitor.
My readers continue to share their questions and observations on coupon doubling:
My readers have been sharing some of their favorite money-saving tips recently, and it’s always fun to see how folks are spending and saving!
Why are greeting cards so expensive? I think the price has been creeping up every year, and the last time I bought one for a friend’s birthday, many of them were $3.99, $4.99 and more! If no one says anything, I feel like they will just keep going up and up. I can’t stomach paying that much for cardboard, but I find the free electronic greeting cards a bit impersonal. I go to the dollar store now, which has a wonderful selection of cards for $1 each. Sometimes they have sales where the cards are 2-for-$1 or 3-for-$1.
Each week when I peek into my email inbox, I’ll see reader questions like these:
“Any tips on how to get coupon inserts? I’m new and missing the last few weeks of inserts.”
“I need more coupon inserts than what comes in my paper. How can I get a bunch more?”
With summer vacation season in full swing, I’d like to devote some column space to talking about travel and vacation savings. One of the benefits of my being so devoted to couponing is being able to save or spend the money we’ve saved in other areas of life. We love to travel, and our family’s vacations are always planned with a budget in mind. Whether we’re camping in tents at a local conservation area or flying to one of the coasts, I’m always looking for the most economical ways for our family to see the world and make memories together.
When I was a child, my family took a lot of road trips. Getting to our destination took several days filled with long drives, stops at roadside attractions and educational experiences. (I’ve long joked that my Dad couldn’t drive us anywhere without stopping to tour a cave or a power dam. We always had to see at least one educational spot on every trip!)
I first flew on an airplane at age 14 (I’m 40 now) and I remember that first plane trip being a grand adventure. We were traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, and one of the reasons we flew was to save several days’ drive time. After that trip, though, we returned to driving around the country for our vacations.
We think about coupons in relation to groceries quite often, but do you use coupons when shopping for clothing? Clothing coupons are out there, and I use them as often as I can find them. Major department stores, such as Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Macy’s, often send out high-value coupons to their shopper base. It seems that nearly every week, I receive an attractive offer from one retailer or another, and they’re usually high-value offers, too. Coupons like $10 off a $25 purchase, 25 percent off an entire purchase or $10 off a purchase of $10 or more (my favorite!) are great motivators to encourage me to make a special trip to the store.
In addition to coupons I receive directly from retailers, I also look for promotional loyalty cash opportunities, where reaching a spending threshold triggers another reward for a future trip. These promotions, often advertised as a “Spend $50, Get $10 for your next shopping trip” sale become even more attractive when paired with coupons.
I’ve long said that I have clothes shopping down to a science – when I go to a department store, I’m typically armed with the best, highest-value coupons available at that time. Most clothing coupons do not exclude clearance items, so I’ll head to the clearance racks and look for items that are already at bargain prices.
Last week, I featured emails from readers who professed to be in favor of food and beverage product shrinkage for various reasons. While many of us are dismayed when we see less ounces in a package of frequently purchased foods, others felt it helped them maintain portion control or consume less product.
There’s one product, though, which very few readers want to see downsized – toilet paper. Recently a reader complained to his favorite bath tissue brand that the rolls had gotten smaller. The brand replied with an unintentionally humorous email, which read in part:
“We added some fibers back into each sheet – so you have more fibers per square inch in the center ‘performance zone’ where you need them most to get the job done. The reduced width improves the flushability because being slightly narrower allows the tissue to clear the bowl and drain lines more easily.”
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