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Friday, February 25, 2011

Prudent Penny: Passive Couponing

This year, in response to rising prices, we'll be increasing the size of our garden. I'll concentrate on veggies I use most like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes, and those that store well like Brussels sprouts, soybeans and corn.

The other thing I'll do more of is stock up whenever I notice a loss-leader at the grocery store. It's a hard mindset to learn because storage space is usually at a premium and logic dictates not to buy something we won't use right away. But if I find toilet paper for pennies, I will make a place to store it.

But what makes a good buy? This is where price books come in handy. I have a fair recollection of what makes a good buy on any given product. But if you're still new at this, keep a little notebook and jot down the prices, sizes, and the store where you saw these products.

Price book illustration:


Unit Price

Also, bear in mind that some sales on staples are cyclical. They'll go back on sale about every 12-16 weeks, so if you do shop the sales, make sure you purchase in a 4-month quantity, so you won't have to pay full price in between sales.

Comparison shopping: Again, price books come in handy. Just because you shop a 'discount' store doesn't mean they'll have the lowest prices. Comparison shopping might seem like a lot of trouble at first, but once you set up your ledger, half your work is done.

I use Google a lot to do my comparisons on big ticket items, particularly electronics. Aside from using comparison sites like Pricegrabber or Shopzilla, I also use epionions and Amazon reviews to narrow my search too.

Coupons: Google to the rescue again. Since I no longer get a newspaper, I rely on digital coupons. 

Now here's the thing about coupons. They're time consuming and they're often for name brands of products I usually buy in generic. But partner that with your lowly price book and you'll start to notice a pattern. Coupons tend to appear a few weeks before these products go on sale. 

I have a long list of coupon sites that update daily. All of them feed through my Google Reader. It's passive couponing at its best. If I see something I need, want, or is very high dollar, I go to the site and print the coupon.

Many, many times, I get free products. In the past month, I've received pain relievers, cereal, shampoo, dog cookies and scads of year-long subscriptions to magazines. (Magazines like The Smithsonian, Taste Of Home, Organic Gardening, and Martha Stewart's Living.) And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

These products were all free. And they were either full-sized or generous samples. All I had to do was click on the link if it interested me. Otherwise, I deleted it.

I have scores of coupon and freebie sites I browse, but here are some of my favorites.

If you don't use a reader, put them on an RSS feed so you can get emailed updates. I get too much email which is why I use Google Reader, but use whatever is more convenient for you.

I apologize that these are geared for the states, but you'll find something similar for your regions if you do a little sleuthing with the keywords, 'coupons' or 'free samples' followed by your country's name. I tried it with Canada and the UK and both came up with lots of entries.

One word of caution: Many sites ask you to fill out a form in order to receive your freebie. I have an email address that I use specifically for this function. This way if they turn out to be spammers, they don't clog my regular channels of communication. FWIW, I've never been spammed, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Was this helpful? Are there any sites you use to save money? Please don't hesitate to share. I will update this post with a link back to you if you have more to add.

Has anyone made any "Great Buys" lately with or without coupons? Do tell.


Dru said...

Thanks for posting the links. I'm adding them to my google reader.

Joanne said...

I'm a coupon shopper too, using coupons I find for items I regularly buy. And yes, I do notice that the coupons coincide with advertised sales, making the price even lower. We buy only the weekend paper, not just for coupons, but they're one reason we do buy.

Jacqueline Howett said...

Thanks for sharing your list.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

have you read "Gardening when it counts"?
Twin and i are reading it right now and it seems like it would be right up your alley.
We just bought some seed cups so we'll be able to start seeds before the actual season starts (which is always late for us in MN).
Yay forethought!

Angelina Rain said...

Great post. My hubby is very wasteful, especially when it comes to food, so over the last few months I employed a new tactic. I will not go grocery shopping until ninety-five percent of the food is gone. It keeps the fridge from filling up with expired food and keeps our wallets fuller. It saves us about 100 dollars a week.

Mason Canyon said...

Great links. I especially like the idea of creating an e-mail just for this. Thanks. I would be interested to know how you got a year-long free subscription to Organic Gardening. Neat magazine.

Thoughts in Progress

Sherri said...

I'll have to check out those links...thanks. I never thought about using Google Reader for coupons! Awesome tip.

Ellie said...

I must admit I don't do anything like this and I'm hopeless at planning head. You've made me think about it though!

Live Out Loud said...

Cool Post.

We have always stocked up on sale-priced items. My Mom learned it from hers so to me, this was normal. But whenever people come over and look through our cabinets or in the back where we store all the pantry-items - they say it's like we have a grocery store in our house!
Like I said, to me, this is normal. It's pretty rare that we run out of staple foods or pay full price for them.
I'm not good with coupons but my sister is the coupon queen. I don't know there's anything she buys that she can't find a coupon for including classes and services - not just food or household physical items.
She is so organized!

I love this Post!!

Maria Zannini said...

Sorry it took me a while to get back to my own blog. That's kind of sad. LOL!

Dru: It is super easy reading them off the reader. If they're useful, I click, if not, I delete.

Joanne: I so miss getting the Sunday paper for more than just coupons, but it's gotten so expensive.

Jacqueline: Hope it helps. I swear by those sites.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I haven't read the book yet, but Solomon is a legend. I hope you'll email me when you finish and let me know what you thought of it. I've heard mixed reactions but I think that's due to the audience's expectations.

Angelina: Bad hubby. Bad. LOL. Every so often I have to remind my husband that my kitchen is not a restaurant. You get what you get. I like your plan.

Mason: Hi, sweetie. I hope Gum Drop is continuing to recover. Organic Gardening came like all my other subscriptions (and I have at least a dozen) all free. Just keep watching those links and eventually something will pop up that you like. OG has been my favorite magazine so far.

Maria Zannini said...

Sherri: You can do RSS too, but right now my inbox has over 6000 emails. The reader is much easier for me to regulate.

Ellie: Saving money is like a game to me. The more I save, the more I can spend on goodies like books. :) Though I've picked up quite a few free Kindle books this way too.

Live Out Loud: Welcome Jenny! I'm glad you could visit.

And guys, if you'd like to welcome a new author Jackie Burris is interviewing Jennifer Oberth on her web site.

Check it out if you get a chance.

Cate Masters said...

Great tips, Maria. Thanks for the links. I had no idea so many freebies were available. Being unemployed, I tend not to buy anything unless absolutely necessary. I hate shopping anyway, lol. But I love freebies. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: I hear you. I figure the more I save now, the more we'll have when Greg retires.

Marianne Arkins said...

DD recently added the term "loss leader" to her vocabulary :-)

We have a grocery store only minutes up the road from us whose prices are VERY expensive, but always have great loss leaders (but have limits: 10 per customer or whatever).

I go almost every day. It's a mile away and worth it to get my 10 spaghettis sauces for $1/ea, 10 canned veggies for $.50/ea, etc.

And I can't imagine doing what Angelina does -- getting close to running out of food would give me a nervous breakdown.

I'm growing a BUNCH of squash this year (I use it in everything, including Dakota's food), green beans (SO easy to process for freezing or canning), tomatoes (though I seldom have enough to can ... we really love them) and cucumbers (I finally ran out of the pickles I canned two years ago).

I can't wait to start gardening...

Thanks for the links, btw. I've added them to my reader!

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: You'll like them. It's very passive and unobtrusive. If you aren't interested, you just delete.

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Thanks for sharing this. I wonder if they are avaliable in Australia. I'll check them out. Sounds wonderful.

Suzanne :)