Posted in Frugal Living

On a Treasure Hunt- Part 2

I’m back.  I know you were waiting for me more anxiously than you were waiting to see if Jon Snow was still alive. Well, here I am, and with a lot less bloodshed.
Years ago, almost every single coupon available was in the newspaper. Well, newspapers are closing all over the place, and that includes the coupon inserts. The internet has taken over. Here are the ways to get deals, coupons, and rebates online and with your smartphone.

Load to Card Coupons

Before I go any further with electronic savings, I am going to assume everyone here has their local store loyalty card. Or even more than one. It’s a good thing to go ahead and get cards for each of the stores in your area, even those you don’t go to that often. That way, when you do end up unexpectedly going, you have a card to get the store deals. Many stores have sales which are only available to those with a loyalty card.
In addition to sales, most stores use their cards for exclusive “load to card” coupons. Giant’s program is called MyGiant and Safeway has Just4U. Once the store knows what kinds of products you buy, it wants you to continue and the competitors want you to try their brand instead. It’s kind of like Catalinas. You just need to log onto the store’s website or app and register your store card. Then you can go to the coupon section and click on the deals you want. The discounts will be taken off at the cash register. What makes these discounts especially great is that the discount is completely automatic, meaning you can use paper coupons (both manufacturer and store) in addition to these deals. Also, I have noticed lately, at least in Giant’s case, that the “load to card” deals are often for products that have coupons available on coupons.com. That is making makes it easy to save big.
And don’t forget, many rebate and points programs can and will use your store card to keep track of point earnings. Since you can often register more than one card with each site, it is another reason to get cards from any store you might possibly use. You will earn points without even trying.
Also, a lot of grocery stores use the cards to participate in some sort of gasoline rewards programs. With your groceries, you might get so many cents off a gallon.  Special deals might get you extra points, so if you get a lot of points, wait until your tank is almost empty to fill and get the most use of that deal.

Websites

The first thing you need to do in getting online coupons is to go to your favorite free email program and make yourself a new email. Yahoo, Gmail, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Make yourself an email address that you will only use for couponing and deal making. Use your name or initials and the word coupons if you want something easy to remember, or just make anything up, it really doesn’t matter. That way, you can sign up for coupons, newsletters, samples, and sweepstakes and your real email inbox is kept clutter free, just check this one when you have some time.
Now that you have a magical couponing email, it’s time to create a magical couponing Facebook page. Use the email to create a couponing Facebook. Don’t use it to like your friends or even link it to your regular one. Just use it to like products. Check your news feed for this one once in a while. Sometimes a product will offer a printable coupon to the people who like them, or even a free sample of a new product.
Now you want to hit those coupon websites. The most famous and oldest of these is Coupons.com. There’s also SmartSource.com and Save.com which used to be red plum. These are simply the websites for the newspaper insert companies but they have additional coupons online. Just click the ones you want, make sure your printer is on, and hit print. Viola, coupons galore.
When you first “click clip” these and hit print, it will prompt you to download a program. Provided you are on the sites listed, it is perfectly safe. (Never download a program from an email, no matter what the deal the subject line promises) The program will add a mark to prevent photocopying and keep track of how many coupons you print. The sites have a limit. For instance, Coupons.com only allows 2 prints per computer. Let me stress, each COMPUTER has the limit. People often have access to more than one computer. Ask your friends or the co-worker next to you if you can borrow his computer for a minute or two.
Now, don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s websites. Here again, your couponing email will come in handy, since a lot of them require you to sign up for a newsletter. But they will also allow you access to exclusive coupons for specific products. If the company has released a new product or even simply a new flavor, you might find more coupons than usual since the company wants you to try it.

Blogs

Many people coupon, and many of them blog about it. Obviously you know this, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.
There are many other blogs, and the great thing about these is that not only can you enjoy learning about coupons but you also can find out about deals that you may not know about. You can socialize with other couponers and learn new money saving tricks.  You also can find coupon databases. Databases make it easy to search to see if there’s a coupon for a particular product. They will tell you if one is available and where you will find it. There are so many couponing and thrift blogs, look around and find ones that most appeal to you.

Apps

Whether Android or Iphone, if you type coupons into an app store search bar, you will get a lot of results.  My personal favorites include Ibotta, Saving Star, RetailMeNot and Checkout51. There are many more available, and you may like others better. Some, like Target Carwheel are store specific, but most are not. A lot of them work similarly.  With some you search for a store or product and it will pop up a barcode for the cashier to scan or (if shopping online) a promo code to type in the box at checkout. But many work in a “rebate” way.

The greatest thing about these rebate apps is that they are  completely separately from paper, or even load to card coupons. They are rebates, and you get them even if you got them item free with coupons. Most stores nowadays won’t let you get money back with coupons, but if it’s free and you use a rebate app on top of that, it’s still getting something for nothing.  This is the most common way to “get paid” to take something out of the store.
With a rebate app, you select the product you want before you buy it. Either during shopping trip planning, or while at the store before you get to the register.  After you get home you prove to the app you actually bought the item, usually by taking a picture of your receipt. When the rebate clears, it is added to your account. When you want to cash out, you can either receive a paper check, or allow the money to be deposited in a PayPal account.

Points programs

It’s not just grocery stores that have loyalty cards anymore. Restaurants, coffee shops, and other places have them too. If you go the same place often for a breakfast bagel and coffee, see if they have a points card. Starbucks and Caribou do, and many others as well. My couponing group meetups are often at Panera Bread, so you bet I signed up for their rewards, and have already gotten a couple of free sandwiches.
Always look for points programs, Plenti covers many different retailers to combine points, pet lovers have Purina Perks, there is Similac Strong Moms for new moms, and many others. I love Kellogg’s Family Rewards. You get points for what you were going to buy anyway, and can get some cool stuff to cash in the points for. Why waste it?
My last birthday, I had a ball getting free stuff. A pancake breakfast at IHOP, ice cream at Baskin Robbins, a free cookie from a place in the mall, A&W root beer, pretzel, ….I just realized why I gained a couple pounds on my birthday. Oh, well. The point is, if a place offers a birthday club, it doesn’t hurt to sign up. Just use your couponing email, and make sure to check it more often during your birthday month.

If you’re couponing, you probably like getting stuff for free. Use your couponing email to sign up for sites like Freebies.com, Freebiefrenzy.com etc. These sites will let you know what samples or promotional giveaways are available. Besides samples, I’ve gotten promotional items like a tote bag, mugs, mouse pads, sewing kit and more. A lot of these sites also list current sweepstakes. This is why you have that couponing email, go ahead and enter, you have nothing to lose.

And that boys and girls, concludes my lesson. Hopefully you use these and last weeks’ tips to start finding coupons and starting your own collection. See you in a few days! Happy Couponing!
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