Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saving Grace

It fascinates me how grace prepares us for things even before they happen. A couple of years ago, I decided to take a community education class or two to get out and learn new things.  I wanted to try yoga, so I signed up for that, and I noticed a couponing class that looked interesting. I didn't want to become an extreme couponer, but I wanted to learn how to save some money.

The class was excellent. I learned how to get organized, couponing policies, different types of coupons and how to get some good deals. Less than a month later, I lost my job. I really believe that the help we need is always there, we just need to quiet all the chatter circling our brain and notice. I am grateful for what I learned, and for the communities, websites and apps that are out there to help people save money. I wanted to share some of it with you because I know I'm not the only one out there who has had to work with reduced income, kids in college, car payments and more.

I don't spend hours and hours couponing, and I don't buy multiple papers. I also am not a mega-stockpiler (although admittedly, I do have a ridiculous amount of shampoo and conditioner right now).  I am the self-proclaimed Queen of Tiny Purchases! I buy when it makes sense, and when there are deals on items that I know I will use. I spend about an hour and a half every Sunday clipping, pulling out old coupons (you can donate expired coupons to the military to save them money too), looking at the deals on the savings apps I use, checking the savings blog I follow (it is written by the wonderful person who taught the couponing class!) and making a list of where I will shop that week.
My $0.27 purchase using one $3 Dollar General coupon!

I do have a coupon binder, it just helps keep me more organized than those small-sized organizers that I used to carry. I bought a cheap white binder, added some plastic sleeves (I found some at Walmart in the baseball card section just for couponing, but regular baseball card pages with compartments work the same), divider pages that I labeled with categories, and I'm ready to roll! (I also spiced it up with some inspirational stickers too!)

Here are some helpful sites, apps and rewards programs to save you money:
  1. Here is the blog I follow from Jennifer King. It is updated constantly with savings from stores such as Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and more: Spend Less Shop More
  2. Facebook has tons of couponing groups. Here's two I follow: Saving Pennies Nickels Dimes & Dollars and San Antonio Budget Grocery Examiner
  3. SavingStar app: Dowload the app and check it for deals. I usually check before I go shopping, because I can save on an item with the app, and also use a regular coupon in the store. After you buy your items, pull up the item on the app (example: $.75 off Hamburger Helper), scan the items and then submit the receipt by taking a picture of it. It's very easy and the app with guide you through the whole process. You can cash out your savings through your bank account, Paypal, donate to American Forests, or to a Upromise account. They also have a free Friday item, so make sure to check every week.
  4. Ibotta app: Similar to SavingStar, receive money back for purchasing items. They provide a list of available stores, and the items available for the extra discount. You shop, then click on the item and perform a very short task (watch a quick video, answer a survey, etc.), scan your items barcode and take a picture of the receipt. When you've accumulated $10 or more, you can cash out through Paypal, Venmo, or get a giftcard to BestBuy, Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Express, Aeropostale, Regal Cinemas or iTunes. This app also includes savings at restaurants, automotive, apparel and more.
  5. Walmart Savings Catcher app: If you are a regular Walmart shopper, this app is great. Just scan your receipt and they will look for other stores that are advertising lower prices on the items you bought. If they find anything, they will refund the difference in price to you. Then you can load the amount onto a Walmart e-card. You can keep adding to it or use it whenever you want.
  6. Shopkick app Shop in particular stores and get points for doing so. Redeem points for gift cards to Target, Starbucks, iTunes, Old Navy and many more.
  7. Jingit app Earn cash or gift cards by shopping in stores, redeeming offers or watching videos.
  8. Print coupons on your home printer to use in-store. They also have an app.
  9. Target Redcard: Get the Redcard debit card. It links right to your checking account, and it will save you 5% on every purchase when you use the card. And it's free! Also use the Target app and their Cartwheel app. Add the coupons to the cartwheel and show the barcode to the cashier to apply the discount. You can combine the cartwheel with Target and regular coupons too!
  10. Google: If you are an online shopper, this is a great help to finding the lowest price. It usually doesn't show Amazon, so check there too. If there is a particular item you want, do a price comparison by typing it in on Google search, and selecting "shopping" on the top bar of options. You can sort by "list" and if there is a list of stores, you can click on "total price" and sort by lowest to highest price. 
  11. Groupon: Shop local deals at a discounted rate as well as national items. You can pull up your favorite stores, restaurants and more for great deals.
  12. Living Social: Same concept as Groupon. Plus these sites give you fun, local ideas including skydiving, painting, wine tours and more.
  13. CVS ExtraCare Card Provides extra coupons in-store and online. Receive emails with extra discounts too. 
  14. Walgreens Balance Rewards Card Same as CVS, but you can also rack up points to use as cash towards future purchases.
  15. Offers online cash back shopping. Shop your favorite stores through them and they will send you a refund check (or through Paypal) 4 or more times a year.
  16. Brand sites: Make a list of your favorite items and check out their company sites. Many times they offer coupons just for signing up for their newsletters.
Feel free to post any questions you have, I will gladly answer. Would you like more couponing ideas? What categories: apparel, home decor, children's items, gifts, books, movies? Let me know and I will put together some thoughts and links for you in an upcoming blog!

In Gratitude,

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