|Making the Best Out of Coupons|
In order to maximize how much your dollars will buy, one approach is to have several savings incentives for the same dollar. I will give several examples to get you thinking like I do.
Cash Back Credit Cards
Always use a cash back credit card. My card will pay me 1% of my purchases, although you may do better. If you spend $500 a month on food, that is a $60 annual savings with no effort. It adds up over time. Of course you must pay off the card in full each month, and you must find a card with no annual fee.
Store Incentive Card
Always use your grocery store or drugstore incentive card. Even if you are not purchasing an item on sale, the store tracks your sales and may reward you with incentives.
Check your Catalinas
As you purchase groceries; there is a printer at the store that may spit out coupons, often for a competitor's product. These coupons are called catalinas after the company that produces them. Sometimes you will get a dollar amount off on your next purchase of anything at the store. I can't tell you how many times I have found those dollars off coupons lying in the parking lot. Use them, they are like cash.
Be aware of sources of coupons. Magazines and newspapers are obvious. But you will also see coupons on company websites and Internet banner ads. Stores at which you have a rewards card may email you coupons, often for dollars off a purchase. You will also see them on tearpads in the store, or spitting out from a dispenser as you walk by. When you go shopping, make the rounds of all the aisles looking for coupons for future trips. I routinely do this and count a trip as especially successful if I have added to my coupon stash.
Study the Ads
You must study your store ads each week to see the best deals. Stores often have a small number of items on a good sale each week. There is a cycle to these sales. For example, I use a particular hair product that goes half price every six months at a particular drug store. When the sale comes, I buy six month's worth of the product.
Leverage for Ultimate Savings
The best savings come from multiple incentives. I try to make most of my purchases with three incentives or more, and I average about a 60% discount from full grocery and drugstore prices. For example, a purchase of a product on sale, bought with a cash-back card, and using a coupon is triple incentive. If you can combine that with a rebate, or stack a manufacture's coupon and a store coupon, and a dollars off store coupon that is even better. You can get a lot of free items that way, and I love to get free stuff.
Your Time is Valuable
Figure how much you want to save and balance your time invested. It is easy to go overboard, but there is a law of diminishing returns to bargains. I find that one or two hours a week is a reasonable investment for planning my purchases with an optimal benefit for the time spent.
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