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Are You Really Saving?

by Tara Kuczykowski on March 13, 2009 · 8 comments

The following is a guest post from Courtney at The Discount Heroes.

bar-codePhoto by Zeafonso

I remember when I first saw a coupon insert in the newspaper. I immediately viewed it as junk to throw out. I thought it was just extra weight to make your paper cost more. It wasn't till I became a stay at home mom and living off one income that made too much for government assistance but not enough to pay for what we really needed that I needed to find a quick alternative.

A friend directed me to the ways of couponing via blogging sites (yes, Deal Seeking Mom was one of them). Thanks to one of the money saving blogs, I got my hands on Stephanie Nelson's book, Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom. I had to give those newspaper inserts a second look.

I educated myself on the value of coupons and how to use them effectively, and suddenly those coupon inserts became a life-saver. I later started clipping Internet coupons and requesting coupons from our favorite brands. I had no idea back then that a coupon could even get you free stuff! Now I have an entire bathroom cabinet of free stuff! Some freebies have even made it into our pantry and freezer.

There's quite a few tips I've learned along the way of transaction disasters and failures. There are easy things you can do to make sure you're maximizing the value of your coupons and really saving with coupons.

1. Realize sometimes the value of a coupon doesn't beat the store brand price. If you're cool with eating store brand, don't be afraid to buy them just because you have a stack of coupons to redeem. It's about saving money on things you love - not saving money because you have a coupon in hand for something else. If it's not cheaper with a coupon, don't buy it (but many times, when paired with a sale, it does become cheaper).

2. Beware of the big sales. While you've been dreaming of that side-by-side washer and dryer in pink, just because it's on sale doesn't mean you should buy them (even with a coupon). Always check your budget and if the funds aren't there, don't pretend that they are. I admit we once opted to eat grilled cheese for a whole week to afford something we didn't really need during a big sale. Please, don't do that. The Discount Heroes post deals daily but do not recommend taking advantage of all of them unless they are completely free. Those deals are there to help out when it's something you're already looking for.

3. Beware of "free with purchase" coupons. While we do post them on our site, beware of the "free with purchase" coupons. You're spending out of pocket for something you may already have at home or could seriously deep down just live without. Were you in need of buying that clearance item to get the other free item, or are you buying it because you have a coupon? Is the extra weight you gain from eating all of that free food you have coupons for at Arby's, Auntie Ann's, Jack in the Box, Jamba Juice, etc., really worth getting out for when you could just stay home and eat a little more healthy with things you already have on hand? You may want the free food because you're "too lazy" to make it yourself. I have news for ya - fast food doesn't energize you either. While those free with purchase coupons look really good, you have to stop and ask yourself if you really need it.

4. If it's not something you would normally buy, don't buy it. You might like it. This happened a lot with me and clearance items. I would get a fantastic deal on a clearance item - like soap - only to find out that the store is no longer going to carry that item. Then I end up wanting to buy it at regular price at a different store.

5. Have your coupon and know what you want. Consider that 30% off coupon for Borders for example. Have a book in mind when you walk in. Get it and get out! Don't know what you want? Hand your credit cards to your husband and browse online for your book of choice. Most places that put out high discount coupons like that do so when there are other sales going on in the store. If you avoid walking around the store, you'll be less tempted to buy other items and spend more money that you weren't planning to spend.

While this is very valuable information, I didn't spend any money at all to learn this - aside from learning from falling into temptation by these very things.

I recently teamed up with another awesome mom, Alicia, who co-writes for our site: The Discount Heroes. If it weren't for someone introducing Alicia and me to the world of couponing and all the resources out there, we would be in real financial trouble.

Alicia and I want to pass all of this information to you. Helping others improve their financial situation is our passion and so we created the site as a source to host this information. We've been there and we know what it's like trying to live on less than you make - and even to lose a job. We even recently started teaching local classes for free to extend a face to face opportunity to learn more and have questions answered.  

If you are interested in learning more about coupons, there is a huge supply of information out there and people willing to help you. Some people charge for this information, but The Discount Heroes do not. It is not only free to view the deals we post online, but it is also free to take one of our local coupon classes. We want to meet you where you are - no matter what your financial situation looks like. We are dedicated to helping you save and make it through this rough economy and beyond. We are not financial experts by any means, but we have learned a ton about it from personal experience and hearing other people's stories.

To learn more about couponing and ways to save or to attend a free class in the Tulsa, OK area, visit www.thediscountheroes.com today!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erin March 13, 2009 at 10:31 am

That's great that you are from Oklahoma! I live in Edmond, just north of Oklahoma City, and I am so excited to see fellow Oklahomans online and helping out! Keep up the great work!!

Erin´s last blog post..Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic Coupon!

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2 Ruth Ann March 13, 2009 at 10:59 am

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but I disagree with #4.
There are a lot of toiletry and healthcare items that I normally wouldn't buy at full price, or, in some cases, at even moderately discounted prices. However, at highly discounted prices or getting the item for free, I have no problem buying them. High end hair care and toothpaste are the two big ones that come to mind. I need to buy hair care and toothpaste anyway, why not buy the really nice stuff when I can get a great deal? When those are gone, if I haven't hit another sale, I go back to the more affordable items until they do go on sale.
I am, sometimes, tempted to buy the higer end products at higher prices. But it is very rare that I give into the temptation. If I averaged the cost of those few purchases in with the items that I get free I'm fairly certain I would still be coming out ahead. And I get to use nicer products in the meantime.

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3 Jen March 13, 2009 at 11:40 am

Thank you so much for all your hard work helping stay at home moms like me to save money. The efforts and work you do are much appreciated.

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4 Coco March 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

All of your points are so RIGHT.

I need to have your tip #2 embedded in my brain. Whenever I go to outlet stores, I get sucked right into buying things I really do not need (or want for that matter) just because they are 75% off regular price.... - a really bad habit.

I also agree with #4. While getting free or almost free stuff is great, my husband & I gained weight since I started couoponing - mostly because of all the wonderful free or almost free chocolates and snacks we are getting. Before couponing, we only bought snacks on special occasions - now we are hooked....

Coco´s last blog post..Honolulu Festival; March 13-15

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5 Amy March 13, 2009 at 6:19 pm

What wonderful points! Definitely things we all need to keep in mind. After all, the whole point of this is to save money, right?

And, I am from Oklahoma, too! I-35 runs right through my little town. We are twenty minutes north of the Texas/Oklahoma border. :)

I will be checking out your site.

Amy´s last blog post..New site - BzzAgent

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6 Terra March 13, 2009 at 8:50 pm

This post was FANTASTIC. I am new to the coupon gig and totally enjoyed this post, shaking my head up and down and side to side with the whole thing. Thank you.

Terra´s last blog post..Rainbows in Heaven

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7 Sam March 14, 2009 at 7:52 am

Hi Courtney. Great points! I want to also stress to stock up on items that rarely go on sale and that you use often, generic or brand name, as long as it won't expire by the time you use it. There have been instances when I needed an item, but there were no sales that week or did not have a coupon. As long as you keep a supply at home, you can take advantage of the sales when they happen.

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8 Betsy Bargain March 14, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Thanks for reminding us that just because it's on sale, or we have a coupon, we shouldn't buy it unless we really need it! I think we all get caught up in the pursuit of a good deal and end up with things we d0n't need sometimes.

Betsy Bargain´s last blog post..Good, Cheap Food, And That's No Crock!

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