RSSSuper-Couponing Tips By Jill Cataldo
The latest tips and advice in couponing and all money-saving pursuits from renowned coupon expert Jill Cataldo.
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.”
The topic of product shrinkage has long been popular with my readers, and it’s still the topic I receive the most mail about. Overwhelmingly, people state that they’d rather see the price of an item increase a bit versus seeing the product’s size decrease. And, most recently, I’ve received a few notes from readers who actually like product shrinkage:
I like the downsizing of products. Ironically, I have three kids, two of whom are teens and all of which are taller than me *sigh*. Because I tend to cook many small batches of multiple items, instead of really big batches of one or two things, I don’t need warehouse-sized packs of perishables.
Gift cards are enormously popular with consumers, as they’re an easy way to give another person a memorable night out at a restaurant or theater, or perhaps a shopping spree at a favorite store. It’s been a long time since I saw a paper gift certificate, that’s for sure, though I know some stores still issue them. Paper has largely been replaced by plastic due to convenience. Gift cards make it easy to use part of the balance at one time and the rest on another occasion. So, what are the downsides to gift cards?
I wanted to get your perspective on giving gift cards. I used to give these all the time until I got burned a few months ago! I bought a gift card for a popular store in our area, and I probably should have used it all at once, but I didn’t. Well, the store filed for bankruptcy and as part of their restructuring, they invalidated all of their gift cards that were out there. I am so disgusted about the money I lost and had no idea they could just declare my gift card void like that. It has turned me off from buying any future gift cards.
I always enjoy hearing from my column readers, and they’re very vocal about letting me know when they feel I’ve given a less-than-adequate piece of advice – or a good tip. Here are a few emails that appeared in my inbox recently:
Regarding your column today about reviewing sales receipts in the car before you leave the store – absolutely not! How many stories have you seen about women being carjacked and robbed doing something just like this? Both men and women need to get in the car, lock their door and leave. Check your receipts in the store. You blew it with this advice.
When I travel around the United States to teach my Super Couponing workshops, I rarely teach coupon doubling as a method that’s essential to saving with coupons. In my experience, the market areas that don’t offer coupon doubling outnumber the areas that do.
It’s quite possible to significantly cut your grocery bill in any area, whether your supermarket offers coupon doubling or not – I do this every week in Chicagoland, where I live. None of our major supermarkets offer coupon doubling, while a smaller chain will double five coupons on Wednesdays if you spend $25 in the store. (As you may have guessed, that isn’t exactly a coupon doubling policy that has me racing to that particular store each week!)
Coupon doubling tends to be very regional. Some areas of the country double coupons, while others never have and likely never will.
For many couponers, using a computer to print coupons has become second nature. Click, print and you’re on your way to savings, right? Almost … most coupon printing sites will ask you to install a software plugin to your browser. This plugin is easy to install. It simply prompts the user to agree to its installation and once it’s installed, you can print coupons with a single click. I love having access to a multitude of coupons each week from which to pick and choose offers.
However, some of my readers are hesitant to install a coupon-printing plugin in their browsers. Are their concerns unfounded?
Do low-value coupons, such as 25 cents off an item, irk you? Do you use them anyway? Why might a company offer such a low-value coupon? Imagine you are the person responsible for issuing coupons for your favorite product: would you offer higher dollar-value discounts or not? The answer might surprise you.
I enjoy your column and thoughts on saving money. As I was cutting coupons out of the paper, I came across a number that were for 25 cents off of items that are $3, $4 or $5 items. Can’t imagine why manufacturers even bother with the expense of printing such a small discount for a large item?”
In last week’s column, I discussed the value of following an online coupon blog. Coupon blogs help make the coupon shopping preparation process easier, as you can rely on the expertise of others to help match coupons to sales and create your shopping lists.
Keep in mind that there are good couponing communities and there are less reputable ones. A good blog will not present scenarios in which coupons for one product are used on another, and it won’t advocate unethical or fraudulent coupon usage.
Unfortunately, a new breed of coupon community has emerged online under the dubious title of “glitch” groups. These groups are devoted to exploiting errors in coupon scanning for the purposes of using a high-value coupon for one product on a different product – what they call “glitches.”
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