Category Archives: $5, $10 and $20 TIPS

Three Easy Ways to Get Started With Couponing

sale! sale! sale! - of "Shopping women" multiple series

Whether it’s fond memories of your grandmother clipping coupons or of when your best friend took you to dinner using one of those emailed daily deals, you’ve finally been hooked and want to try couponing yourself. Great! Coupons can be smart tools for trying new products and managing costs, but the world of couponing is wide and complicated. How are you going to begin?

Decide why you want to coupon

First, you need to decide why you want to use coupons. Is it because you want to try new things or spend less? This question is key, because the purpose of most daily deal-style coupons, for example, is to get shoppers to buy new products on impulse that they might not have otherwise purchased. Those types of coupons will actually make you spend more and save less.

Thankfully, other coupons help you to actually spend less by either encouraging you to buy more units now of a product that you would’ve bought anyway or by encouraging you to try alternative competing products that are similar to the product that you normally purchase. Product manufacturers offer shoppers the spend-less coupons in an effort to improve short-term sales and inventory levels or to coax shoppers away from their competitors. Knowing whether you want to win unexpected deals or decrease the costs of your regular purchases will help you determine your coupon strategy and which types of coupons you should use.

Choose the types of coupons you will use

Coupons can be found everywhere from the Sunday paper and circulars in your mailbox to coupon blogs and daily deal services and even to searchable online databases and coupon-finder smart phone apps. The printed coupons and the coupon databases tend to be very useful for finding substitutes or sales for your favorite, regularly-purchased products. Websites like Retail Me Not, Living Rich With Coupons and the Coupon Mom also tend to feature these spend-less coupons regularly. Meanwhile, daily deal services like GroupOn and Living Social—as well as coupon blogs like Money Saving Mom, For the Mommas and Deal Seeking Mom—often post coupons for items that you might not have purchased originally but may enjoy trying.

Pick your coupon strategy

Finally, you need to decide whether you will sit back watching for deals opportunistically or you will aggressively seek savings. If you are the opportunistic coupon tourist that seeks to enjoy new products and experiences cheaply, your first step should involve signing up for deal-finder services like GroupOn and Living Social. Once you’ve registered, each site will send you daily coupons to local businesses—usually restaurants, spas or entertainment venues. If you want to be the more aggressive coupon clipper, we recommend starting with a little research. Focus on learning how your favorite stores’ coupon policies work and then study how you can combine coupons from sites like Coupon Mom and Retail Me Not with the coupons your favorite stores offer through the mail or local newspaper. It’s also best to start small and get comfortable using coupons at just one or two of your favorite stores before you risk being overwhelmed by the variety of coupons and coupon policies available at the many stores around you.

Personally, we’d recommend reading the beginner’s guide and “Important Facts You Should Know Before Using Coupons” available on Cindy Liversey’s Living Rich with Coupons site. We’d also recommend Coupon Mom Stephanie Nelson’s excellent videos on how to get started with coupons. For those of you who want to save money on groceries, she has also produced an excellent article available on her How To Coupon page called “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with the Coupon Mom System.”

Are you learning to use coupons?

Share your experiences, missteps and victories in our Community Forum!

The $1 Million Turkey Sandwich


I know, I know – you’ve heard it before: If you’d just quit buying lunch out every day, you’d save a ton of money. And although you know it’s true, giving up your favorite deli sandwich or salad over a few dollars in savings here and there just doesn’t seem to be motivating you to stop. You like the convenience too much, and if you spend a few hundred dollars a year on it, so be it. You’ll find ways cut elsewhere.

We’ve done the math on what you’re actually spending, however, and have some surprising news for you: If you spend just $10 a day at lunch, over the course of a 35-year working career that amounts to $947,000. Yep, assuming average stock market returns, you could’ve had a cool million instead of that turkey sandwich.

Of course, we all have to eat lunch, so it’s not as if we could’ve saved all of those $10 per day — we would’ve had to pay something for lunch, somehow. Here’s how a few options stack up:

  • Buying a turkey sandwich and a drink at the likes of Jason’s Deli, Panera or Starbucks averages about $9-$10, including taxes. This is our standard assumption, which after 35 years would cost you about $1M.
  • Buying a turkey sandwich and a drink at a local grocery store (Publix, Whole Foods and Kroger offer them for about $2-$4 per sandwich) would average approximately half that – $5. This option earns you $500,000 over a career.
  • If you were to bring lunch from home every day (averaging a daily cost of about $2), you’d earn an extra approximately $750,000 over your career.

Of course, few of us have the discipline to stick to a regimented plan day in, day out over our entire working lives. It’s perhaps more realistic to think of subtle changes, such as choosing a cheaper option a few times per week. As an example, you could:

Pack a lunch from home a couple of days per week ( $2/day), eat at a lower-cost place twice per week ($5/day), and a higher-cost deli once ($10/day).

This would total $24/week, for a savings of $492,000. Half a million dollars. Repeat after me: “Half a million dollars.” Just for switching up your daily lunch a bit. Why haven’t we all done this yet?

Have you found easy ways to trim your daily lunch costs? If so, we’d love to hear them! Post them in the comments section below.









Need More Money? Surprise! You Already Have It

walletWhenever people think of saving money, they think in terms of restriction. “Oh, that’s a dollar less I’ll have toward buying what I want,” they’ll say. On the other hand, when they earn more money, they think in terms of additional freedom — how that extra dollar will allow them to buy more of what they want. What they’re failing to realize is that both saving a dollar and earning an extra one can have the same overall effect on your well-being and ability to access the things you really desire. Both can buy you the same freedom. So, why do people prefer to make more instead of saving more?

Let’s think of it in these terms: Say you want to buy a new car, but need $3500 toward a down payment. To get the money, you can either work harder(either longer hours or by asking for a raise/promotion), or you can cut back on your expenses to save the same amount of money. (The third — and incidentally, worst — way to get the extra $3500 is through a loan.)

What would happen under each of these scenarios?

For convenience’s sake, let’s say you make $20/hr, or about $800/week(that’s about 41K – close to the US average income). To make the extra $3500, you’d need to work an additional 175 hours that year.

Alternatively, you could save that $3500 by saving about $10/day. If you’re aggressive and put the money you’re saving in the stock market, you could even have hundreds of dollars more at the end of twelve months (providing, of course, that stock market returns are near historical averages – we all know down markets happen sometimes). Even if you’re risk-averse and prefer to just sock it away in a high-yield bank account or a 1-year CD, you’ll still have about $30 above what you’d need. And you didn’t have to work any harder for it — the money was there, in your pockets, all along.

The worst possible scenario, of course, involves you taking out a $3500 loan for the downpayment. Assuming a 10% interest rate and three-year repayment term, you’re going to pay close to $1000 more. Yep, that’s right. You’ll pay about $4500, instead of $3500 — all because you didn’t just cut back, instead.

Of course, we can’t always afford to save every dollar we need. Sometimes, we’ll have to forestall making important purchases or make do with less. But saving at least part of what you need makes a huge difference in your bottom line over time.

What’s the best possible scenario, you ask? A combination of 1 and 2: Work a little harder to make more dough PLUS save what you need for the car. If you cut back $10/day and put that money in a savings account for a year, you’ll have your $3500, plus an extra $30, or so. Add the extra $3530 you got from your raise or longer hours(remember, you’re earning interest on that money, too), and you’re up to nearly $3600 in savings PLUS you’ve got the original $3500 for your car.

How’s that for making cents?