Max Out Your Shopping Dollars And Shop Smarter

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Couponing has a powerful lure. Years ago, my interest sparked by reality TV shows, I decided to try “extreme couponing” in order to score free groceries.

Free? Hardly. It did not work out that way. I did save money – maybe 40% or 50% or more off of my total tab. But it took hours of meticulous planning (with spreadsheets and coupon binders) in order to make a grocery store run. Trips that once took 30-60 minutes were taking 2.5 to 3 hours. (Takes time to read and reread all the fine print. I need to buy how many to get the savings? What color? What flavor?)

And then checkout would be a nightmare. The scowls and dirty looks of shoppers behind me. The terrified cashier who needed my emotional coaching in order to get through the mountain of paper deals.

I still clip the occasional coupon, but my extreme couponing days are done. For most people, it’s not worth the time and energy. But there are other ways you can still score mega deals when you shop in-store or online.

1. Buy What You Need, Not What’s Featured on Special

Don’t buy items just because there’s a coupon for it. A $2.50 coupon can look attractive, but why save $2.50 on something you don’t need?

Make your grocery list first, then look for coupon deals after.

Similarly, don’t buy that pair of jeans or an extra shirt just because it’s on sale. If you truly need it, know when you will wear it and that it will get multiple uses (and you have a place to store it), by all means, go ahead and buy it if it’s a good deal.

2. Get Free Coupons NOT from the Sunday Paper

There are plenty of places where you can get free, printable coupons. The same kind that come in the Sunday paper, but here you can clip only the ones that you want to use and there isn’t extra trash or recycling to deal with after.

Online coupon sites like Coupon Cabin or InboxDollars are a great way to find free, printable grocery coupons.

As an added perk, on the InboxDollars you can get paid for every coupon you print, up to 25-cents a day.

If you’re not a member of InboxDollars, it’s very quick and free to sign up, and you’ll get a $5 cash bonus to get started.

If all you do is print coupons every day, you can make $100 free each year. On top of that, you’ll earn 10-cents for each coupon you redeem in store. And you’ll also get the featured coupon discount savings, too.

Other Sources for Free Coupons:

  • In-store paper coupons. Make sure you grab a flier or circular in-store. They are usually by the shopping carts.

  • Double-check your spam. As in the spam, your mail carrier brings.

  • Check your email spam, too. You don’t have to read all of your messages. Just do a keyword search for terms like “coupon” or “sale” or the name of the retailer you’re going to shop.

  • Look at the packaging of items in-stores. Often I’ll find sticker coupons on products for around $1.00 or more off.

  • You can also find coupon dispensers for manufacturer discounts on store shelves next to featured products.

4. Stack Coupons with Other Sales and Loyalty Program Rewards

From Kroger to Target, it seems that every supermarket chain has its own reward program to retain loyal customers.

I, for example, love using the Target Circle app. It features a number of different deals every week that you can get an extra 5% to 50% discount on. The clerk just scans my app barcode for a completely paperless transaction.

I also use additional rewards apps to save even more money.  By scanning my receipts and getting cash back rebates from receipt apps Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Fetch Rewards, I earn an additional couple hundred dollars a year.

For many of these apps, there’s no purchase required to earn. Sometimes you can get points or perks just for checking into stores or scanning the barcodes of certain products on the shelves.

5. Look for Online Coupons and Promo Codes

Don’t forget to look for online coupons and promo codes. These are usually only for online website purchases, but you can ask to use these coupon codes in-store. In-store prices do not always match online prices, and stores are generally happy to honor. Additionally, you may be able to make an online purchase and get the online savings and then pick up your order at the store.

Shopping and deals sites like Swagbucks are a wealth of promo codes, digital coupons, and other savings. For example, right now, you can find savings of up to $200 or more with their wide-ranging top deals this month:

  • Increased coupon rewards for RedBubble coupons, Lowes coupons, and NordVPN coupons.

  • Increased cashback shopping rewards for The Home Depot, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, and Macy’s

  • Exclusive Amazon deals: earn rewards for purchasing select Amazon products and services, including Prime Video, Audible, Doorway Cameras, Echos, and Fire Tablets.

6. Earn Cash Back for Shopping

Cashback rebates can range from 1% to 35% or more, and thousands of different online retailers participate. Swagbucks, MyPoints, ShopAtHome, and Rakuten, are just four of many sources for earning cashback for shopping. Before making your next purchase, check out these deals sites first to see how you can max out your savings.

I’ve made purchases online at Walmart and Target (scoring 1.5% cashback) and then went to the store to pick them up curbside. (Most grocery items are not eligible for cashback bonuses, but there are plenty of other goods I bought that did qualify, including pet food, baby goods, and cleaning supplies.)

1.5% might not sound like a lot, but if you’re making a large purchase and you can get $5 free, take it. Why would you throw away free money?

Final Thoughts on Extreme Savings

These are six great and free tips that you can use to easily save money without hacking up the Sunday paper coupons circular.

Try out a tip or two, and see how it goes. Then gradually try out more. Pretty soon, all of these money-saving (and earning) hacks will be second nature.

For more great money tips, check out these ideas to help you save an extra $100 every month.