Food Savings

Coupon Ethics: The Rules of Couponing!
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As a couponer, it is really important to understand how to use coupons ethically! If people use coupons unethically, then it ruins it for the rest of us! Of course I don’t want that to happen since we all benefit greatly from the use of coupons, right?
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The complete responsibility of correct coupon usage falls on the consumer, not the store employee or manufacturer of the coupon. Because of this, you want to make sure you’re following the rules, so here are the basic guidelines for using coupons.
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Read the Fine Print:
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  • Make sure you are purchasing the size, quantity, type, etc. that the coupon intends for you to purchase.
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  • Often, you will see the phrase “Limit one coupon per purchase.” Some retailers unfortunately tend to interpret this phrase wrong and think that it means you can only use one coupon on your entire transaction. This phrase, when properly interpreted, basically means that you can use one manufacturer coupon for each item you purchase. If you have a $1.00 manufacturer coupon for a box of waffles, you can only use one coupon. You can’t stack coupons and attempt to use two $1.00 manufacturer coupons on one box of waffles. If you wish to redeem both coupons, you will have to buy two boxes of waffles. Some stores (like Target) will allow you to stack one manufacturer coupon with one store coupon and that is OK.
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Check the Expiration Date:

  • Most stores will not accept coupons past their expiration date simply because they will not be reimbursed by the manufacturer!

Be Aware of Counterfeit Coupons:

  • Recently someone emailed me a PDF file of a FREE 1 lb. box of Velveeta Cheese and they wanted to know if it was real. That coupon was a scan of a 20-year-old coupon with no expiration date. Using that coupon would mean you were committing coupon fraud! The stores that people used that coupon at will NOT get reimbursed a dime from the manufacturer since it was not a legit coupon! You can read more about that coupon HERE. See a complete list of counterfeit coupons that the CIC has tracked and identified as fraudulent.
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  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Be cautious of any coupon in PDF version. If it is in PDF file call the manufacturer or store to verify that it is legit. I realize some PDFcoupons are legit and can be found directly on the manufacturer’s website, just make sure it is so you don’t unintentionally find yourself committing coupon fraud.
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Photocopying Coupons:

  • It is illegal to photocopy ANY coupon! It is because of people photocopying Internet printable coupons that some stores will not accept them. Each Internet coupon has a unique serial number in the upper right hand corner. The manufacturer will NOT reimburse a store that has accepted more than one coupon with the same number. Once the coupon has been redeemedit is no longer valid!
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Returning an Item:

  • If you return an item that you purchased with a coupon, that coupon must be taken off your return amount. It is not ethical to return an item to make the money off it. Believe me the stores catch on to this and then that just causes them to scrutinize every coupon and to buckle down on their return policy! I just spoke to Target Customer Relations about their coupon policy and they mentioned that they are aware of people doing this and are coming up with a policy to prevent it from happening. I will talk about this more in my Target Coupon Policy post!

Coupons can be a great tool for savvy consumers like us, but only if they are redeemed properly. I hope you will take into consideration these tips concerning correct coupon usage in mind the next time you head to the grocery store! Happy Saving!

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Couponing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Couponing!
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This is a basic beginner’s guide to couponing to help you get started on saving your family money and expanding your budget. I know it can seem overwhelming when you first start couponing. I’m not going to lie, it really can be at times! Believe me, there are times I take a break from it because I…well….just NEED ONE! Over time it does, however, get easier. But like with anything, the time invested is worth the reward! You will see a difference in the amount of money you are spending and soon will question why you never couponed before! I know I have many times!

Here is an outline of what I think is the most useful way to organize and make coupons most effective for you!
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Get Some Coupons! You can get coupons from a variety of places including:
  • Online: There are many online websites that allow you to print coupons for free just by signing up. Signing up is free too! Here is a comprehensive list of websites that offer printable coupons.

  • Sunday Newspaper: The most cost effective way of accumulating coupons is by having the Sunday paper delivered right to your house. The nice thing about that is you can decide to only have the Sunday paper delivered. I personally get the L.A. Times because they have the largest amount of coupons in my area. Check your local area to see what is the best newspaper to order. A great place to order your newspaper is through Discount Newspapers.
  • All You Magazine: This magazine is considered the “Couponers Magazine” because it has anywhere between $20 and $50 in coupons per month! The only place to get it in store is at Wal Mart, but you will pay much more than getting an All You Magazine Subscription.
  • FREE Samples: I often post FREE Sample offers. These samples often come with high-value coupons, so sign up if the product interests you and you think you might like to buy it in the future. Here is a list of FREE Samples I have written about!
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Get Organized! There are a variety of ways you can organize your coupons including:

  • Using Envelopes: This is the method I used when I first got started. You would simply make an envelope for each of the categories you have coupons for (beauty products, baby products, pet food, laundry & dish, personal care, etc.) Then store the envelopes in a plastic tub or something you find that works best.

 

  •  Accordion File: This is part of the method I use now! You can purchase the small wallet-sized ones or the larger paper size one. The benefit of using a larger (paper size) is that youcan store your entire insert from the Sunday paper. I suggest filing the entire insert by date (so you will have a section in theaccordion file for each Sunday newspapers coupon inserts). I also suggest waiting to clip any coupon until you are ready to use it. This not only easier, but you are also not waisting time cutting coupons you never end up using.
  • Coupon Binder: This is the current method of organizing coupons that I use! In fact, I have the exact one pictured to your right. I bought it on Amazon, HERE. This is a great method if you are a heavy couponer and have a lot of coupons to organize. In my coupon binder I keep a small pair of scissors, pen, calculator, pad of paper, copies of store coupon policies, and a price book.

 

My price book is a simple list of things that I frequently buy with a price listed next to it that I think is good. That price reminds me of what is a reasonable amount to pay for that item. It keeps me from questioning weather I paid a good price or not.

I use plastic sheets that are made for trading cards (you can buy those at Wal-Mart) to store my coupons in. I separate the sheets with vinyl binder dividers that I have labeled for each category (ie. beauty supplies, pet food, teeth, laundry, etc.). Of course you will need to organize your binder the way that works best for you. I have seen them organized by expiration date and alphabetically too.

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Prepare to Shop! I recommend you making a list and sticking to it:

  • Check the Ads: Sit down with your local grocery ads and see what is on sale. Try and plan your meals for the week around what is on sale.
  • Coupon Match-Up: Obviously the best scenario is to get something on sale and use a coupon for it! Although this may not always be possible, try and match up your coupons to the items on sale in your ad so that you get the best bang for your buck!
  • Write a List: Writing a list and sticking to it will not only make your shopping trip a breeze, but it will also keep you from those compulsive buys (although I still have those every now and then…ok…maybe one per trip). I also recommend paper clippingthe coupons you are going to use to that list.
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Stockpile! There is no real secret to couponing, except for this one! Stockpiling simply means to buy a few extra of those things you use frequently when they are on sale for the cheapest price! This is how you do it:

  • Find a Place to Store: Designate a place, cabinet, etc. to store the extras you will buy. If you have a designated place, it will help keep you organized and keep you from being stressed out about where you will store your extras when you get home.
  • Find the Best Price: Each week when the ads come out, sit down with them and see if something you frequently buy is on sale and then see if there is a coupon that matches up to it. If there is, that’s the time to STOCKPILE t0 save money! It’s that simple!
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It’s important to have good Coupon Ethics too! We have seen in recent past how stores become more restrictive on coupon usage and policies when people do not follow rules and use coupons properly.

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10 Ways to Eat Out for Less!

It’s MONEY MONDAY with Savings Gal! Today’s topic is on eating out for less! Eating out can be a real treat and sometimes when you are busy or on-the-go, it’s a necessity. Here are 10 simple strategies that will help you eat out for less without that “side” of guilt!

  1. Use Restaurant Coupons!
    Lots of restaurants offer printable coupons when you sign-up for their emails or “like” them on Facebook and I post a lot of printable restaurant coupons here. If you know you are going to be eating out, just plan ahead and chose a place that has a printable restaurant coupon offer and go there. It’s kind of like how I told you to plan your meals around what is on sale in my Healthy Gal series.
  2. Go Where Kids Eat FREE!
    Often times there are restaurants that offer free kids meals with the purchase of an adult meal on specific day of the week or on a specific date with a coupon. Take advantage of these offers. If a family of 4 goes out to eat during a kids eat free offer, they will save an average of 33% off. Here is an example of why:
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    (2) Adult Entrees: $10.00 ea.
    (2) Kids Entrees: $5.00 ea.
    Subtotal: $30.00
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    Kids eat FREE: (-$10.00)
    Final Price: $20.00
    (33% Savings)
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    *Keep in mind that it’s courteous to tip on the pre-coupon price.
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  3.  Buy Discounted Restaurant Gift Cards or Certificates!
    A lot of sites offer discounted restaurant gift cards or certificates that you can purchase. Sites like Groupon have different restaurant offers every day with discounts as much as 80% off and Restaurant.com offers restaurant discounts in just about every city (you search by zip code) and you can get $10 certificates for $3 and $25 certificates for $10.
  4. Eat During Happy Hour!
    Almost every restaurant has a happy hour where they offer 50% off select appetizers and/or entrees. Some of these offers are only good if you sit in the bar area, but most bar areas have outlining tables that you can sit at even if you have your kids with you. Most of the time happy hour is early, so you avoid the crowd as well, which is nice!
  5. Drink Water!
    Drinks can really rake up the bill if you know what I mean! Usually they are around $2-$3 and that’s like 33% off the cost of an average meal ($10.00). Instead, try drinking water and even ask for lemon to flavor the water. It may take a wile for you to get use to, but it really does save a lot! If you are going to drink alcohol try going to dinner during happy hour where drinks are usually much less.
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  6.  Get Dessert Somewhere Else!
    If you must have that dessert, consider stopping somewhere on your way home that would cost much less than a restaurant. Usually restaurant desserts are pricy ($5-$10), plus you have to pay a tip on top of that. You can stop by McDonalds and get an ice cream sundae for around $1.00, or Wendy’s and get a frosty for $.99. Maybe you might even go to Rite Aid and get Thrifty ice cream and you’ll have leftovers for another night at home.
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  7.  Ask About Half Portions or Lunch Sizes!
    A lot of restaurants offer their lunch size or reduced portion sizes at dinner even if it’s not advertised on their menu. For example, I love the BJ’s personal pizza and salad lunch combo…my local BJ’s restaurant will allow me to get that same offer at dinner time for just $1.00 more, which by the way is way cheaper! My philosophy…it NEVER hurts to ask! All they can say is no!
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  8.  Share a Meal!
    If you usually do not finish your meal, you might want to consider sharing a meal with someone in your family or who you are going out to eat with. You would be surprised who will say yes to that. If you are doubting how hungry you are…share anyway. You can always order more food, but I can tell you from personal experience, you probably won’t and this will save you 50%!
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  9. Eat Somewhere that Doesn’t Require a Tip!
    There are a lot of restaurants that offer counter service, which don’t require a tip to dine there. Places like Chipotle, Pick Up Stix, Pat & Oscars, Panda Express and Panera are examples of these places. They still offer a restaurant style atmosphere, but you don’t have to tip like you would at a restaurant, therefore saving you 15-20%!
  10. Order Take Out!
    Lot’s of restaurants offer take out and even curb side pick-up! You may have to clean up the mess after you eat at home, but you will be saving the money on a tip, which can save an average of (15-20%).
*You can combine any of these ideas to save even more! For example when kids eat FREE at Chili’s, I go during happy hour, sit in the bar area, get free chips and salsa, drink water, share a meal and get two kids meals for FREE…my bill has been as low as $10.00 (BUT, of course I tip on what my total bill would cost). That’s a whole LOT of FRUGALICIOUS savings!
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~Savings Gal~
Because there is more than one way to save!

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