Category: Coupons

How to Easily Maximize Coupon Savings

Many items, including food and clothing, can strain a budget. As a result, many shoppers make it their mission to save money on their purchases, and coupons can be a great way to do just that.

According to a 2014 survey from the discount coupon site RetailMeNot, 96 percent of respondents regularly use coupons. In fact, Hawk Incentives, another deal resource, found that 40 percent of coupon users feel smarter when taking advantage of a deal. While there are some people who use coupons periodically, an entirely different type of shopper has mastered the art of maximizing coupon savings. Learning how to follow such shoppers’ lead can save consumers substantial sums of money.

• Look for deals in your local newspaper. Begin by perusing newspaper inserts from local papers and match up the circulars to the stores you frequently visit. Pick the best deals you can find for products you actually use. You will not be saving money if you clip and utilize coupons but end up buying items that you don’t need and/or won’t use.

• See if you can stack coupons. Some stores will enable you to use both a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon at the same time. This is called stacking. Shop at stores that allow stacking to get better deals, particularly on food.

• Use discount code sites. Regularly check sites and apps like RetailMeNot for codes for favorite retailers. This is easily done before you head to the check-out line. Popular stores frequently run deals, and you may not realize there is a discount even if you’re in the store already. Oftentimes codes can be scanned directly from your phone. Other apps and resources enable you to load offers directly to a store rewards card. Investigate these possibilities for more savings.

• Automatically update your shopping cart. When making purchases online, utilize a plug-in site like Honey, which automatically scans its database of usable discount codes for the retailer you’re using. See if there are any applicable codes that can earn you a discount on the spot. If not, Honey will tell you that you have the best price.

• Sign up for mailing lists. While you may not want to inundate your inbox with spam, retailer newsletters and mailing lists will inform you about discounts and sales others may not know about. If you’re concerned about your email program getting flooded, designate a filter that will group these promotions into a separate folder.

• Keep coupons close. Coupons are only good if they’re available for use. Have a holder for print coupons or store digital coupons in a folder on your phone that can be easily accessed.

With these strategies in mind, consumers can increase their coupon savings considerably.

Guide to End-of-Summer Sales

The end of summer is marked by mixed feelings. Come the end of summer, vacations may be coming to an end as children ready themselves for a new school year. But shoppers know the end of summer is an ideal time to find great deals on an array of items. Although back-to-school sales flood the marketplace this time of year, plenty of other sales take place in the final weeks of summer — and consumers can save substantial amounts of money if they know where to look.

Outdoor furniture

As stores clear out their seasonal items, shoppers can score big deals on patio sets and other outdoor furniture. Retailers need to make room for snowblowers, rakes, shovels, and holiday merchandise, so shoppers are bound to find discounted tables, chairs, fire pits, umbrellas, and chaise lounges. Individuals can use this opportunity to update worn-out patio furniture and other seasonal items they can store over the winter.

Camping/hiking equipment

Only the most devoted campers camp out when the temperatures begin to dip, so consumers can use this opportunity to grab camping equipment before it’s gone for another season. Tents, flashlights, cooking gear, backpacks, outdoor recreational items, such as kayaks or fishing tackle, water bladders, and heaters may be available at steep discounts.

Grills

Backyard barbecues are a staple of summer. If your barbecue or outdoor cooking equipment experienced heavy use throughout the summer, now is a great time to shop sales on grills and outdoor cooking gear.

Travel

Consumer Reports says that prices tend to drop on airfare, hotels and theme parks after Labor Day. Deals on luggage also can be had once summer travel season ends. Tuesdays are a great day to book airline tickets because they tend to be cheaper on Tuesday than other days of the week. Travelers can use this information to their advantage, booking trips to destinations that have super weather throughout the fall, such as Hawaii or the Mediterranean. Caribbean destinations also are good choices, though travelers should consider travel insurance to protect against hurricane-related cancellations.

Vehicles

Many dealerships tend to begin discounting cars when new models begin to debut in August and September. The longer a dealership holds on to a vehicle, the more money it tends to lose. Prospective car buyers may be able to negotiate a good deal this time of year, ultimately walking away with a brand new vehicle with a solid warranty. It’s not unheard of to receive a discount of 15 percent or more on previous year models.

Spa treatments

Many spas have begun discounting massages and facials at the end of summer, according to the International Spa Association. Shoppers can use this opportunity to try out new spas and save some money in the process. In addition to these discounts, bathing suits, summer clothing, lawn and garden equipment, and pool/spa items may be discounted come the fall.

How to Save Money on Vacation

“Travel can be expensive, but savings are possible when travelers know where to look.”

Going on vacation often means throwing a little caution to the wind and indulging here and there on purchases or experiences a person wouldn’t normally make at home. According to a 2015 CBS News poll, the average American is entitled to 16 days of paid leave each year, and the average Canadian worker 19 days. Such time off is an opportunity to fit lots of fun into a relatively short period of time. Frugal travelers may want to be sure they’re spending their hard-earned money in the smartest ways. Traveling without breaking the bank enables the average person to take more vacations and continue to make invaluable memories. Here are some suggestions on making a getaway, whether it involves lots of traveling or staying close to home, more affordable.

Be flexible.

Travelers who are flexible in their departure dates and times can usually find great rates because they have the ability to shop price instead of date. Various airline websites and travel discount services show the average flight prices across several days. Frugal fliers can select the lowest price. The same can be true when booking hotels and other vacation components.

Pack light.

Many airlines now charge extra for baggage fees — especially for suitcases that exceed the weight limit — so don’t bring along unnecessary items. Hotels typically provide toiletries for free, so save space and money by removing such items from your luggage. Chances are if you didn’t pack an item, you can still find an affordable alternative at your destination.

Use coupons.

Coupons aren’t only for getting cents off your favorite brand of tissue at the supermarket. Coupons and discount codes are available for just about any purchase — even vacations. Check all travel websites to see if there are any deals to be had. Don’t overlook discounts related to your membership in clubs such as AAA or AARP or those linked to your alumni or military organization. According to RetailMeNot, having a social media account can help, too. Travel deal sites and airlines may post about flash sales.

Plan meals.

Look into economical restaurants before departing. Know where you’ll be eating and when, including packing a lunch or enjoying a hotel-provided breakfast. Enjoying a big lunch can be more frugal than indulging on dinner.

Rent small.

If renting a car, choose the smallest model that will fit your needs. In addition, there’s no need to pay for a large room that you don’t plan to spend much time in, so resist the temptation to book large hotel rooms.

Consider public transportation.

Investigate the public transportation options at your destination. Such options may not be as convenient as taxis, but they may be more economical.

Book based on currency.

Stay abreast of currency exchange rates. Such rates can make a big difference in choosing a destination, particularly if your money will be worth more internationally. Also, try booking a vacation through the local country’s version of the same travel site.

Skip tourist hotspots.

Talk to the locals to find out where to get the best deals. Try local foods, brews and more for a cost savings. Travel can be expensive, but savings are possible when travelers know where to look.

Coupon Tips for Deal-Seekers

Although many people will not go to extremes when using coupons, when used wisely, such discounts can help save a good deal of money.

Coupons can help people, and parents in particular, save substantial amounts of money. While television shows have documented the efforts of people who take coupon usage to the extreme, many shoppers simply want to earn modest savings on their grocery bills, recognizing that saving a few dollars here or there can add up to significant savings over time.

But even if you have no desire to spend hours on end hunting down the best deals, there are some ways to make the best use of coupons without taking up much of your time.

Understand stores’ coupon policies
Begin by researching if stores you frequent have restrictions on coupon usage. Some stores will double the value of coupons and others will not. Stores may set limits on the number of coupons one register can process or how many coupons a particular shopper can use at one time. It may be possible to use two different coupons for the same item, provided one is a manufacturer’s coupon and the other is store-based. The more you know about the coupon policies at your favorite stores, the more likely you are to use those policies to your advantage.

Get Organized
Using coupons effectively requires some organization. Develop a system for categorizing coupons by type or expiration date, which should ensure you don’t miss out on discounts because you lost coupons of they have expired.

Subscribe to several newspapers and coupon websites
Newspapers and store circulars are still great resources for coupons, so subscribe to your local newspaper, which likely still includes inserts advertising the latest sales and coupons. You also can subscribe to coupon websites, many of which are free and deliver coupons to subscribers’ email inboxes on a daily or weekly basis.

Consider a coupon-clipping service
A coupon service will clip coupons for you and send them to you for a fee. This enables you to collect coupons from various regions where coupon values may be higher than where you live.

Join a store loyalty program
Those cards supermarkets and other stores scan at checkout do more than just track your purchases. They typically entitle members to discounts that other shoppers are not privy to. These discounts come off the bill automatically, saving you time and money. Furthermore, being part of a store loyalty program may entitle you to emails or other advertisements on special sales not open to the general public.

Learn how to stack coupons with store sales
Many blogs tell you which stores are running sales and how they compare to coupons in recent newspapers and circulars. This enables you to not only get the sale price on a particular item but also earn the coupon discount. This is a good way to save even more money.

Get to know the standard prices of products
The only way to know if a coupon is a good deal is to be familiar with the going rate of the products you buy on a regular basis. When visiting the grocery store, make a note of how much your favorite items cost at full price. This way you will know when a sale is truly a sale.

Be prepared to stock up
Some of the best deals to be had involve buy one get one free, deals which are often referred to as “BOGO” or “B1G1.” When such deals can be combined with a coupon, the savings are substantial. Set aside a rack or area of the home for stockpiling your BOGO purchases.

Don’t forget about paperless coupons.
Paperless coupons, or ecoupons, are often linked to store loyalty programs. Many ecoupon services require shoppers to sign up online and provide some basic information about themselves. When you go to check out at the store, you will swipe your customer card and any available ecoupons will automatically be deducted from your purchase. Ecoupons are usually redeemed at face value and cannot be doubled or shared.

Try competitors’ coupons, too
Some stores will honor coupons from their competition. If one supermarket is offering a particular BOGO deal, clip the coupon and bring it to your local store to see if they will match the discount.

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How to Stretch Family Clothing Budgets

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience unlike any other. As new parents soon find out, children are expensive, and moms and dads are often eager to find ways to save money without sacrificing the quality of care their kids receive.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the cost of nurturing a child to age 18, when adjusted for cost of living, has increased by $40,000 since 1960. While the cost of raising a child depends on a wide range of factors, including geography, being a parent in the 21st century requires a more significant financial commitment than it did in decades past.

Clothing is a considerable expense for growing families. Children grow out of clothes rather quickly, and parents often find themselves on the hunt for new clothing to accommodate their growing children. Parents can expect to spend in the range of $1,500 to $2,000 per year on children’s clothing, and a 2010 study from researchers at North Dakota State University found that the average American household spends about 3.8 percent of their income on clothing. Cutting clothing costs can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. The following are a few ways to curb spending.


* Shop end of season. Take advantage of end-of-season clothing close-outs to replenish wardrobes. Think ahead to what sizes children will be wearing next year and purchase accordingly. Some stores offer discounts that can be as high as 80 percent off the original price in an effort to clear out last year’s inventory and make room for new arrivals. Use an empty closet or set up storage containers marked with clothing sizes to keep clothing organized. When the kids grow into a new size, you will already have a closet full of new clothes ready to go.

* Consider consignment stores. Shopping at consignment and thrift stores can be a great way to supplement a child’s wardrobe without breaking the bank. Consignment shops and donation centers often have extensive inventories, and many items found in such stores are in excellent condition. It’s not uncommon to find popular brand name merchandise and some designer or couture finds at consignment shops. When shopping at donation stores, shoppers are not only finding affordable clothing, but also are helping to give back to the community through their purchases.

* Organize a clothing swap. Organizing a clothing swap can be a great way to save money and make friends by getting to know other parents. Chances are there are many other parents looking for ways to cut expenses. Children who grow out of clothing can pass down these items to other people. A clothing exchange is a way to socialize, recycle and save money in the process.

* Sign up for customer loyalty programs. In a typical loyalty program, a stores offers discounts to loyal customers. These discounts may include percentages off of everyday purchases or special “private” sale days that aren’t available to the general public. Shoppers also can speak to store employees to find out when retailers traditionally mark down clothing or offer specialized promotions. Establishing a good rapport with store employees can be a great way to learn about upcoming sales before your fellow customers.

Clothing expenses for children continue to rise. But cost-conscious parents can corral their clothing expenses in various ways.

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How to Save on School Supplies

Back to school season can be as expensive for parents as it is exciting for students. Once the initial letdown of the end of summer vacation wears off, many kids are excited to return to school, where they can see their friends, study their favorite subjects and participate in extracurricular activities.

Parents of school-aged youngsters may share in that excitement while also knowing that back to school season can stretch their budgets. One of the ways to salvage those budgets is to save on school supplies. Fortunately, there are several ways parents can do just that.

· Be patient. Shopping early can save shoppers money in many instances, but parents may benefit by exercising patience when it comes to buying school supplies for their children. Teachers often give students lists of supplies they will need for each class, and parents who wait to receive such lists can avoid spending money on items their kids won’t need. Even if you wait it out, you may be able to get a head start, as some teachers may post supply lists on school websites, while others might email lists to parents before back to school season hits full swing.

· Take inventory. If you have more than one child, chances are you already have lots of school supplies around the house. Dust off kids’ backpacks and study areas from last school year to determine which supplies you need to buy and which you already have. Going forward, encourage kids to store their supplies in a predetermined area once the school year ends, as this will make next year’s inventory that much easier to examine and assess.

· Spend more now to save later. While inexpensive supplies can be hard to resist, such items likely won’t withstand the test of time, forcing you to spend time and money each year buying replacement supplies. Paying more now for certain items, including stronger backpacks and more highly rated calculators, may end up saving you money in the long run, even if the initial pill is somewhat tough to swallow.

· Use technology to your advantage. Department stores and businesses that sell school supplies, such as pharmacies and office stores, may or may not discount too many items once back to school season hits full swing. But savvy parents can still find deals by using technology to their advantage when shopping for school supplies. Download apps like RetailMeNot to your smartphone and enable its updates so your phone essentially notifies you of any discounts the moment you walk into a given store. If you don’t receive any updates, search for discounts via the app or the Internet as you shop. Chances are strong that there are deals to be had, even if you don’t learn of the deals until you arrive at the store.

School supplies can be expensive, but parents can employ several strategies to save on school supplies now and in the future.


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Creative Ways to Cut College Costs

The cost of college tuition continues to increase, and college graduates are feeling the burn of that trend when the time comes to begin repaying their student loans.

According to an analysis from higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Cappex, an online resource for students seeking college scholarships, members of the class of 2016 will graduate with an average student loan debt of just over $37,000. That projection, which was based on federal student loan data and variables including tuition inflation, would be an all-time high. Things are not much better in Canada, where the 2015 Graduating Student Survey by the Canadian University Survey Consortium estimated the average member of the class of 2015 graduated with $27,000 in debt.

Though many prospective college students are beginning to question if college degrees are worth taking on the kind of debt many students must take on to continue their educations after high school, statistics still indicate that college graduates have far greater lifetime earning potential than men and women who enter the professional arena with only high school diplomas.

So what can prospective college students do to avoid graduating without tens of thousands of dollars in debt? The answer might not be so difficult.

· Apply to tuition-free schools. Many students and parents might be surprised to learn that there are several tuition-free schools. Admittance to these schools is competitive, but students considering equally competitive, high-tuition alternatives might make strong candidates for admission to tuition-free schools.

· Apply to fixed-tuition schools. If tuition-free schools are not an option, students can save money by applying for admittance to fixed-tuition schools. Such schools guarantee that the tuition students pay in their freshman year will not increase during the ensuing three years. (Note: Tuition may increase if a student needs a fifth year of schooling.) That can lead to considerable savings, as many schools’ tuitions increase dramatically in just four years.

· Begin at a two-year college. Two-year colleges typically charge considerably lower tuitions than four-year colleges and universities. Students who want to save money may benefit by enrolling in a two-year college out of high school and getting all of their prerequisite courses out of the way at a more budget-friendly cost. When considering this option, make sure credits at the two-year college fully transfer to the four-year school students hope to enroll in after earning their associate’s degrees.

· Remain in-state for undergraduate degrees. In-state tuition at public universities remains a considerable bargain over out-of-state tuition or tuition at private universities. Students planning to do postgraduate work might benefit by enrolling in in-state public universities and saving their money to finance their postgraduate educations. Students who hope to attend a public university in a state that borders their home state may be eligible for a border waiver, which grants them in-state tuition even though they attended high school outside of the state.

Attending college has never been more expensive, but students and their parents can explore various options that can help reduce the cost of college tuition.


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Budget-Friendly Family Vacation Trips

Family vacations provide wonderful opportunities for families to bond and make lasting memories. But such opportunities do not come without a price, and that price is oftentimes very steep.

According to the 2015 TripBarometer study from popular travel website TripAdvisor, travelers across the globe are open to spending more on travel in 2016 than they have in the past. The study, conducted on behalf of TripAdvisor by the independent research firm Ipsos, analyzed more than 44,000 responses from travelers and hoteliers across the globe. Thirty-three percent of respondents plan to spend more on travel in 2016 than they did in 2015, while 31 percent admitted that they plan to spend more on travel because it’s important for their health and well-being.

Those figures are good news for the travel industry, but travelers, especially parents who plan to vacation with their children, should expect to encounter rising room rates when planning their trips. That’s because nearly half of all hoteliers surveyed indicated their intentions to increase room rates in 2016. While that might scare off some budget-conscious travelers, parents should know there are ways to cut the costs of family vacations.

· Consider alternative accommodations. Families accustomed to staying in hotels while on vacation may be able to save by exploring some budget-friendly alternatives to hotels. Vacation rental properties, which may include private homes or condominiums, may charge less per day than four- or five-star hotels in the same city. Before booking accommodations, parents should explore all lodging options, including online bed and breakfast websites that may showcase private homes that boast lower nightly rates than large hotel chains.

· Book through a travel agency. Many travelers now book their own vacations through popular do-it-yourself travel websites such as Orbitz, but going it alone may not be the most cost-effective approach for families. Many travel agency representatives are accustomed to working with travelers who are on a budget and building vacations that include all the sights their clients want to see for the amount they’re willing to spend. Travel agency representatives typically have considerable connections in the countries they specialize in, and those connections can produce memorable experiences at lower costs than travelers would likely pay booking the trips on their own. In addition, many travel agencies include the cost of admissions to various sights in their packages, making it easier for travelers to budget for their trips.

· Scour discount websites for deals. E-commerce marketplaces such as Groupon aren’t just for date nights at home. Such websites and services also provide domestic and international travel deals. Families can book entire trips through such websites, many times at considerable discounts, or scour the sites for deals on sightseeing opportunities in the cities where they will be vacationing.

· Plan to cook. Meals can quickly consume travelers’ budgets. The Consumer Expenditure Survey released in 2015 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that food and alcohol can take up about 16 percent of the budget for international travelers, and 27 percent for domestic travelers. Such estimates seem low and might reflect the difficulty surveyors had distinguishing between travelers who visited friends and family, and subsequently spent little on food, and travelers who had to purchase all of their vacation meals. Families can cut meal costs by planning to do some of their own cooking. Rental properties and extended stay hotels are typically equipped with full kitchens, which can help parents save money without sacrificing the quality of their vacations.

Families looking forward to their next vacations can implement several strategies to make those trips affordable. FP165052

3 Ways Families Can Reduce Everyday Expenses

The costs of raising a family can be considerable. In its 2014 “Expenditures on Children by Families” report, the United States Department of Agriculture estimated that parents in middle-income households with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend $245,000 raising a child up to age 18. While estimates regarding the cost of raising children in Canada are widely varied depending on the source of the approximations, it’s fair to assume that raising children in Canada can be costly as well.

Thanks to the costs of food, housing, childcare and education, many parents find themselves looking for ways to trim their everyday expenses and create more room in their budgets. Fortunately, such cost-cutting can be done without forcing parents to alter their lifestyles dramatically.

1. Consume less energy.

Reducing energy consumption does not mean parents and their children will spend their nights in darkened homes illuminated only by candlelight. Technology has made it easier than ever before to cut energy costs around the house. If you don’t already have one, install a programmable thermostat at home so you are not paying to heat or cool your home while no one is there. Though their price tag might be higher than traditional light bulbs, energy-efficient lightbulbs also can cut costs, as they consume considerably less energy without reducing light output and last far longer than traditional bulbs. Parents can also reduce the temperature on their water heaters. Manufacturers may set water heater temperatures as high as 140 F, and it requires considerable standby heat to keep waters at that temperature. Lowering your water heater temperature to 120 F won’t make showers any less enjoyable, but you might notice considerable energy savings over the course of the year.

2. Conduct an entertainment audit.

Home entertainment options have expanded considerably in the 21st century. Many families still pay for cable or satellite packages, but they’re now also paying for streaming subscriptions to services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Audit your entertainment consumption, determining whether your household relies more on cable/satellite service or streaming subscriptions. Consider reducing your cable/satellite package to the basic plan, if not cutting the cord entirely. If your family is less reliant on streaming subscriptions, cancel those subscriptions to save money. If you rely on both equally, consider cutting one for a month to see if you can live without it. With so many entertainment options available, chances are you won’t even notice the missing service.

3. Become a smarter food shopper.

Frequent trips to the grocery store waste gas, add unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle and increase the chances you will make impulse purchases. Try to get all of your grocery shopping done in one weekly trip, using a list so you are less likely to make impulse purchases. Make the most of sales by buying sale items with longer shelf lives, such as cereals, in bulk.

Saving more money is a goal for many families. While saving more often means making sacrifices, those sacrifices do not always necessitate drastic lifestyle changes. FP165051

Valentine’s Night Out Planning Pointers

Many couples go out for a night on the town in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Romance typically prevails on such nights, but there’s more to planning Valentine’s Day dates than just roses and chocolate. The following are a few tips to make sure this year’s Valentine’s Day date night goes off without a hitch.

· Make a dinner reservation. Restaurants fill up on Valentine’s Day, so make a reservation no matter how frequently you may patronize the place you want to go to. Nothing derails a dinner date more quickly than being told there are no tables available.

· Cancel the reservation if you must. If plans change and you cannot make it, be respectful of the restaurant and call to cancel your reservation. No-shows cost restaurants substantial amounts of money, especially on popular dining out nights like Valentine’s Day.

· Arrange for transportation. If you plan to open a bottle of wine or make a champagne toast while out on the town, arrange for a car service to pick you up after dinner or use public transportation. Drinking and driving is dangerous, and local law enforcement may even have checkpoints set up to protect residents from drivers who might have celebrated a bit too much.

· Bring cash. Few restaurants remain cash-only, but bring cash with you anyway just in case your card won’t swipe correctly. You don’t want to embarrass your date by leaving the restaurant to go get some cash, so prepare for this in advance.

· Review the menu. If you or your date has special dietary needs, peruse a restaurant’s menu before making a reservation so you know there’s something for both of you. If Valentine’s Day is a first date, ask your date in advance if he or she has any food allergies or dietary restrictions.


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