April 11, 2012

Great Ideas to Save Money Today

This is a guest post from Kendal Perez. She gives actionable steps you can save money by using coupons and dollar store purchases. Part of a satisfying retirement is saving money for fun stuff. Kendal's ideas will help:

Even novice couponers know the best source for grocery-store discounts (the Sunday circular) and have the smarts to time their shopping trips around a sale. However, unless you're an extreme saver with surplus storage space for toothpaste and toilet paper, you may not be aware of many discounts crossing your path every day. Before you let another dime go down the drain, check this list of the most overlooked discounts and be sure to include them in your savings plan.

1. Receipt Coupons

I opt for self-checkout whenever possible to ensure swift service. That means grabbing the receipt on the way out and stuffing it in my bag, never to be seen again. Mistake! Not only is it good to review your receipt to ensure you weren't overcharged, but they're also a great source for discounts on groceries and local services.

2. Catalina Coupons

Similar to receipt coupons, Catalina coupons are usually printed from a small machine at the register. These coupons are triggered by your previous purchases, yielding useful discounts on products you typically buy. You can even use them at other grocery stores when they're offered by the manufacturer. For more information on Catalina coupons, consult this article from Savvygirl Living.

3. Customer Service Surveys

Readers of my blog already know I'm a fan of The Limited, but even I forget to take advantage of an easy resource for savings. Every time I'm handed a receipt, the cashier circles a phone number I can call to offer feedback on my shopping experience. In exchange for a few minutes of time they provide $10 off my next purchase of $50 or more. Lots of retailers have similar offers, so pay attention and make the call.

4. Mobile Coupons

Despite my best intentions, I'll often leave carefully clipped coupons on my kitchen counter and miss out on the discount I intended to score. Thankfully, my husband's smartphone gives me online access to deals via the Coupon Sherpa mobile app. This app allows me to search for retail and supermarket savings on-the-go, and I can also download grocery discounts directly to my loyalty card.

5. Peelies

It's always a bonus when something you intended to purchase comes with a peelie -- or a coupon adhered to the product for immediate use. However, these sticky gems do you no good if you fail to point them out to the cashier. To ensure savings, remove the coupon from the product before checkout and hand it to the cashier.

6. Status Discounts

Most seniors I know are pretty good about asking for discounts, but I often overlooked my savings potential as a student. Additionally, teachers and military personnel can score great deals from retailers, restaurants and even travel agencies. It never hurts to ask whether discounts are available for your particular status; just be ready to present the necessary proof.

7. Preferred Customer Offers

I get $10 in DSW Rewards every now and again, and my husband will score $10 in savings on his next Dick's Sporting Goods purchase. How do we land such great discounts? We accrue points via "preferred customer" programs that yield savings after a certain spending amount is reached. Since we frequent these retailers it makes sense (and cents!) to sign up for their free programs.

8. Sports Tickets

Like Catalina coupons, your ticket to last weekend's big game might have some local coupons on the back. Some people save sporting-event tickets for sentimentality, but everyone should glance at the back of their stubs before tossing them. More often than not you'll find discounts for local restaurants or retailers.

9. Magazines

If you're like me, the first thing you do before thumbing through the latest issue of your favorite magazine is remove the annoying subscription offers. As you tear them away, don't overlook potential coupons. I've found discounts and even free samples for makeup and other items in conjunction with the magazine's advertisements.

10. Recycling Programs

You're likely in the habit of recycling what you can, but did you know some retailers offer discounts for your efforts? I didn't either until recently, when a box of Kashi cereal prompted me to sign up for RecycleBank.com. By entering a code printed inside my cereal box, I earn points toward discounts on products I already buy.

Another way to save big bucks is to use dollars stores for part of your weekly listss. Dollar stores aren't just for the incredibly frugal. A recent Colliers International study shows dollar stores now outnumber national drugstore chains, according to Independent Retailer.

Despite obvious deals, some shoppers are still reticent to patronize these retailers because they lack confidence in product quality. Though I don't buy everything at my local Dollar Tree, there are several items I simply will not buy anywhere else. If you struggle to make the leap into dollar-store savings, consider these eight must-haves to get your feet wet:

A) Greeting Cards

This is my number-one dollar-store purchase. Never again will I pay upwards of $5 for a greeting card when I can find perfectly clever, poignant and practical cards for $1 or less at my local Dollar Tree. You can also find bulk thank-you cards and other decorative notes to maintain correspondence without breaking the bank.

B) Candy

I have a raging sweet tooth but can't bring myself to pay over $2 for something my waistline doesn't need. Thankfully -- or perhaps not, depending on how you look at it -- dollar stores have many name-brand goodies to curb my craving. It's also my go-to place for stocking up on provisions before the movies.

C) Party Supplies

Whether you're organizing a company party or kids' birthday bash, dollar stores have scores of party supplies to make your event a hit. Banners, balloons, confetti, gift bags and wrapping paper are just a sampling of the available inventory, and you can always find holiday-themed decor on the cheap. Even if you don't have a dollar store nearby, you can order online and find coupons for Dollar General at sites like CouponSherpa.com for additional savings.

D) Single Servings

Dollar stores are a great place to pick up single quantities of popular items. For example, a friend of mine recently purchased two wineglasses as the traditional set of six or eight was way more than she needed. She was able to get what she needed without compromising price or storage space. Score!

E) Hair Accessories

While some fashionistas may have reservations about getting their hair candy at a discount store, I can't stress enough how practical it is to load up on the basics for less. Most hair bands and bobby pins are created equal, so there's no reason to pay more for them than you have to. In fact, dollar stores sometimes carry the popular Goody brand of hair bling, so keep your eyes peeled.

F) School Supplies

Every school year seems to bring with it a more demanding list of required supplies. Thankfully, most educational essentials are as basic as you can get, allowing for incredible savings. Spiral-bound notebooks, three-ring binders, bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils -- you can find it all at the dollar store.

G) Kids' Toys

Children tire of toys faster than the speed of paychecks, so parents everywhere could use a practical outlet for keeping their kids entertained. Dollar stores dedicate an entire aisle to superhero swag and princess must-haves at unbeatable prices, so check them out before paying department-store prices.

H) Long Distance Travel Distractions

Though airport shops offer plenty of tempting snacks and magazines, the price of these items will quickly eat up your budget. Why pay over $3 for trail mix when you can pick some up at a dollar store for a third of the cost? In addition to thrifty snacks, you can find coloring books, Sudoku puzzles and other distractions to keep yourself inexpensively occupied during a long flight or car trip.

Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. She has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR and Home and Family Finance Radio. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.

For more information please contact Kendal Perez by email: kendal@hasslefreesavings.com.


  1. A timely post, Bob. We practice virtually everything that Kendal mentions, except for those things we have outgrown like kids toys, so I cannot say anything was earth-shattering. In addition to all her coupon tips I have noticed that more local newspapers are posting coupon sections in their editions (not the Sunday coupon supplements, but coupons printed on the standard pages). Most tend to be for independent stores and restaurants, the ones who cannot afford to put coupons in the larger weekly supplements. Have saved a lot of money on just those coupons for needed items over the last month or two.

    1. Coupons have diminished in our mail, but as you note, increased in the Wednesday paper that we receive. Most of what we buy are the store brands so national coupons are not very useful to us. But, Walmart price matches any price from any local store so all we have to do is check the weekly grocery ads and note who is selling milk or vegetables or meat for a particular price and that's what we pay.

  2. Another great source for discounts are sites like Groupon, TravelZoo and GoldStar. It's particularly useful for travel! Do a search of your intended destination one week, 30 days, and 60 days ahead of your departure and you should be able to score some great hotel, entertainment and restaurant deals at discounts of 50% or greater.

    We are heading to Las Vegas in June, and our entire trip was put together via discounted offers - hotel, meals and shows.

    1. Absolutely. Groupon and Living Social deals for travel are always at least 50% off, sometimes much more. For our trip to Oregon this summer I will certainly search those sites for deals.

      Las Vegas in June..pack plenty of light clothes and water bottles. Hot!

    2. Yes, it will be warm for sure! It will be our 30th Anniversary and we are celebrating by going to see "BeatleShow" and "Viva Elvis" - at 50% and 25% off respectively of course!

  3. Great article! I would like to add the savings cards for various stores like grocery stores and pharmacies. I have become a devoted user of my CVS card since I earned $9.00 of CVS bucks that could be used on anything in the store on my next purchase.

    1. The "loyalty" cards can help quite a bit. Some folks worry about the amount of data the stores collect about you whenever you use the card. Personally, I like to save the money and could care less if they know I prefer Dial soap!

      My dad uses his CVS card quite a bit for all his over-the-counter meds and vitamins.

  4. I discovered that a couple of gas stations in the neighborhood are linked to reward points I get at a couple of grocery stores. If I go to those gas stations, I get $.10 off every gallon. The coupons I get at checkout are often great, but I just as often forget to use them before they expire. So I have to be careful to look at the expiration date! Great tips!

    1. Local grocery stores do the same thing near us with their gas stations located right at the store. Depending on how much you spend at the store discounts up to 10 cents a gallon are available.

      Since the food prices at Safeway and Fry's are higher than at Walmart Super Centers I don't buy food from them. But, I use a loyalty card for their gas and get 3 cents off a gallon. No big deal, but filling up two cars saves me a few dollars. Why not? !

  5. Always enjoy posts about saving money. HOWEVER, I cannot let this one go by without commenting. Bob, I'm really surprised to see you bypass "true" grocery supermarkets in favor of Walmart. I'm not a Walmart hater but I am a grocery/food person. I do all of the cooking for my wife and me and did most of it through the years when our son was growing up. As an avid grocery shopper, I can tell you that in the long run, you really don't save much money by buying groceries at Walmart. I long ago decided to do most all of our grocery shopping at our nearby Publix, one of the best grocery store chains in the country. Why? They have the cleanest, most pleasant stores. They stock the freshest and best products. They pay their employees well and it shows in the customer service. Their motto is "Where Shopping is a Pleasure" and it is the truth. Are their prices higher? Yes, usually. But not always. AND, if you shop their regularly, they have wonderful weekly sales with lots of BOGO offers. They cycle those and I most always get pantry stock up items during those times and pay half price. (You don't have to buy two to get the sale price.) Over time (and I have documented it) I pay no more at a "real" supermarket than at Walmart. Walmart almost never has sales on food. Maybe they do offer price matching but there is something about have to "prove" to them a lower price somewhere else that doesn't sit well with me. But my biggest concern with shopping at Walmart is that if everyone did that, then there would be no other stores available. We would be just one big country full of gigantic Walmarts and at their mercy for what is available. In addition, I just have never been able to get past the strange feeling of buying fresh vegetables and meat along with underwear and socks on the same check out surface. Give it a try. Find a good quality grocery supermarket and take advantage of their sales.

    1. Sorry Bob. The above comment is mine (Don) not my wife. I mistakenly hit publish with her name instead of mine. :)

    2. Don, thank you for so clearly expressing your viewpoint. You are not alone in your belief in the real value of the type of store you frequent.

      I will add a few points of clarification to our food shopping habits:

      1) We will occasionally frequent farmer's markets. The produce is more expensive but we do like supporting local growers and often they carry items that we can't find at other stores.

      2) We shop at places like Safeway or Fry's (the two biggest chains in the Phoenix area) for specials. When they have BOGO on meats, for example, we will take advantage of those. But, overall, Safeway is 40% more expensive for us than Walmart, while Fry's is about 30% higher. Is their produce better? Sometimes, but not always.

      3) Stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts offer mostly organic and high quality produce and meats. But, at about a 60% premium over Walmart it just isn't in the budget.

      4) Phoenix is one of the most competitive grocery markets in the country, with 5 major chains, and a half dozen smaller players (Trader Joes, Fresh & Easy). To compete Walmart must offer excellent quality products, decent service, and convenience.

      5) While I understand your position on Walmart taking over, Phoenix is a good example of many chains doing well and holding their own against Walmart. Assuming the underwear is wrapped up and sealed, having that next to my lettuce doesn't bother me.

      60 We save at least a tank of gas a month by doing most of our shopping at one location. If we bought our food at Frys, our clothing at Target, our light bulbs at Home Depot, and our vitamins at Walgreens I know we would spend at least another $30 a month on gas.

      All the above being said, if our budget were not an issue, I would choose Fry's and Whole Foods instead of Walmart. But, that isn't the case.

      Thanks, Don. You've furthered our discussion with your thoughts. Thank you.

    3. Walmart is the only grocery in many rural areas of the Midwest. I appreciate their willingness to put local produce in their stores ( they do here).
      Besides that, buying underwear and groceries in the same place is not a new occurrence. It is very American and how the West worked until 100 or so years ago. One store sold everything.

      Thanks for the ideas Bob. I haven't checked my local(ish) Dollar store. I'll check it out.
      BTW-When I taught I bought educational supplies at Target-at 70% off- three weeks after school started. Target is a good distance, but that is where I get lots of seasonal things...several days/weeks after the season. :)

  6. I don't check out the Dollar stores (of which there are three different ones within a few miles of my home) nearly enough. For some of the items mentioned in this post there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. For food, not so much!

  7. Some good ideas, but I for one have sworn off coupons. I've found I buy too many things I don't want, and actually end up spending more money, not less. I DO carry my grocery store "club" card however (actually, three of them), which gets me most of the savings and doesn't seduce me into buying something I don't want just because I can get 10 - 15 cents off. Last time I went to the store I actually saved more than I spent -- I spent $47 but saved $55!

    1. Most coupons are for national brands that are always more expensive than store brands. Occasionally, though, there is no decent substitute. Then, we will use a coupon. Otherwise, no thanks.

      Our usual cashier at Walmart has become a friend. She knows the best price match deals every week and rings them up before we can even tell her. She is always looking out for us and seems genuinely glad to see us. That is customer service.

  8. Very timely post overall, I practice all of those things obviously. One thing I dont see suggested is moderate warehouse use (yes, even for couples-Ill have a post about that and my freezer update soon). In my area at least, the dollar store option is not a savings and the quality is not as good. I personally refuse to step into Walmart, but admittedly its a philosophical discussion (and because I am an extreme couponer-yes they come for meat and produce as well). I keep my grocery bill down. I do realize that for many especially in rural areas, Walmart is the only option they have.

    1. We have a Costco membership but rarely for food. Our refrigerator/freezer is just not big enough to handle the large sizes at Costco. We do buy most of our drugs there. While you don't need to be a member to use the pharmacy, Betty is without drug coverage so Costco offers her an additional discount over their already low prices.