Household 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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Stockpiling 101!
What I stockpile with a complete list!

Here is a picture of my stockpiling cabinets and shelves in my garage! Readers ask…readers receive! I like to keep things simple! So, here it is….my stockpile!

    

That is the extent of my stockpile…like I said, I keep it simple! Of course I have a few things in my kitchen and bathroom, but those pictures above pretty much sum it up! Obviously, I am not an “EXTREME Couponer” (LOL) and I’ve never tried to be. I was around before that big “BOOM” of people. I know what works for me as a full-time working mommy and that’s what I do. When I was infatuated with coupons three years ago, it was a different story, but let me tell you….I threw away TONS of food! Crazy!

Here is a list of what I currently stockpile, simply because I use it the MOST (that’s what you should stockpile too…what you use the MOST!):

  1. Laundry Soap
  2. Fabric Softener
  3. Bleach
  4. Paper Towels, Toilet Paper & Tissue
  5. Foil, Plastic Wrap & Baggies
  6. Antibacterial Wipes
  7. Air Freshners
  8. Personal Care Items: Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, Toothpaste, Mouth Wash, Dental Floss, Tampons, Pantiliners, etc.)
  9. Cleaning Supplies
  10. Drinks (Water, Soda, Juice, etc.)
  11. Dog Food
  12. Cereal
  13. Tea
  14. Gum
  15. Snacks (For my kiddos school parties and sporting events)
  16. Canned Food (Fruit, Veggies, etc.)
  17. Condiments (Ketchup, Mustard, Steak Sauce, Seasonings, etc.)

I hope this has helped you! Check out my other Household Saving Tips to help you get started or to learn more on saving on everyday living essentials! It’s a lot easier than you may think!

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How to save on Paper Towels!

One of the ways I cut back on my household expenses is by not using paper towels! I have recently switched from using paper towels to clean mirrors, wipe down counters, appliances, clean my bathroom, etc. to using Microfiber Cleaning Cloths! They leave things streak-free and lint-free! They are AMAZING at picking up even the littlest crumb. I got this 36 count pack for $22.75 from Amazon and I love them!

Since I use these over and over, I use the specific colors for a particular purpose in my house. I just don’t like the idea of using the bathroom ones later in the kitchen even though I wash them. Maybe a little weird, but that’s how I feel about it. Here is the way I use mine:

  • Yellow: To clean with furniture polish (because I use Pledge and the bottle is yellow, so it’s easy for me to remember).
  • Blue: To clean the bathrooms (because the word “bathroom” begins with a “B”).
  • Green: To clean the kitchen counters and appliances (because that was simply the last color, haha).

These end up costing just $.66 per cloth and you can use them OVER and OVER and OVER (did I say OVER?) again! Compared to the cost of paper towels (an average of $1.80 per roll) this is a bargain, not to mention it’s better for the environment.

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5 Ways to Cut Your Air Conditioning Costs!

It’s MONEY MONDAY with Savings Gal! Temperatures are rising as summer approaches, but that doesn’t mean that your air conditioning bill has to. There are several ways to keep cool this summer without “sweating” over that energy bill!

Since the US Department of Energy reports that over half of a household’s energy usage goes towards heating and cooling, it’s important to take a look at saving money in these areas anyway. Here is a list of 5 ways to cut your air conditioning costs during those warm spring and summer months.

  1. Set That Thermostat!
    Set your air conditioning thermostat as high as possible without making you too uncomfortable. When you are gone during the day for work or other activities, set your thermostat higher than normal. If you have a programable thermostat, this is very easy to do because you can set it for different temperatures for different times during the day and even for different times each day of the week. According to Geoff Goodwin (the division vice president of Emerson, the country’s largest provider of heating and cooling systems) programmable thermostats can save consumers up to 30 percent on their household energy costs (about $250-$300 per year).
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    *If you have a programable thermostat and aren’t sure how to operate it, check out the Energy Star Website for their video on Thermostat Operating Instructions.

  2. Close Those Blinds and Drapes!
    During the day when the sun is out, close those blinds and drapes. Anything that keeps the sun out of your house will help your air conditioning unit maintain a cooler temperature inside your house. The less you use your air conditioner, the less greenhouse effect you have on this earth and the less you contribute to global warming.
  3. Turn on Those Fans!
    Turning on a ceiling fan or other circulating fans in the room you are in will cool you down using the wind chill factor. According to the US Department of Energy, if your air conditioner is on, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.
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    *Remember to turn your fans off when you leave a room because fans cool people, not rooms.
  4. Keep That Oven Off!
    On really hot days, try to avoid using your oven. The oven heats up your house even more and causes your air conditioner to kick on more frequently. Instead use the stove, microwave, an outdoor grill, or a slow cooker to cook your meals.
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    *Slow cookers are energy-sippers compared to most other cooking methods like a traditional oven, stove-top, or toaster oven. Slow cookers use just 100 watts of electricity, which means that if you use it once a week for eight hours at a time, it’ll only cost you about TWENTY CENTS a month in electricity! Now that’s FRUGALICIOUS!
  5. Clean Those Filters!
    Cleaning your air conditioner filter can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by as much as 15%. Clogged and dirty air filters block the normal air flow to your air conditioner, which causes the air conditioner to work harder.
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    *If you need help locating your air conditioner unit filter, check out the US Department of Energy’s Air Conditioner Filters Maintenance article.
*There are other things you can do to keep your home cool during those hot summer months like opening your windows at night when it’s cool outside and closing them in the morning before it gets warm so you trap the cool air inside your house, get your AC serviced, etc. Just make sure you do some, if not all of them so you are not throwing money away each month and sweating that bill.
~Savings Gal~
Because there is more than one way to save!

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