Saving Money for the Person Who Doesn’t Have Time for Coupons

Author’s Note: This is the second article of a two part series this week on teaching you the skills to become a better shopper, for non-couponers and couponers alike. Check out the first article here.

Many of my readers are in the same spot as you; they like the idea of saving money, they think my articles are cute and funny, but they can’t seem to bring frugality into their own lives. Couponing takes too long, price shopping is just an added trip onto a growing errand list, and life has greater priorities then to spend time saving money.

If you are in this boat, here are some great tips to saving money that take little time, and will reap you great rewards by helping you to shop smarter, not harder (or longer).

  • Shop Clearance First, Not Last: Here’s a secret I have yet to share: whenever I enter a store (online or in person), I always shop the clearance section first, even if I am using a gift card. You would be amazed at the deals you can find without using any coupons. Some of my favorite finds include a picnic blanket for $7.99 (originally $50), a year’s supply of spray-on 50 SPF sunscreen for $6.00 (that is 7 bottles, which do not expire until 2012), salmon fillets at Randall’s for half the cost (manager’s special meats: you will need to cook or freeze them within two days to be safe), a $100 long wool coat for $39, etc. I even shop clearance racks first at discount stores such as Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Half-Priced Books.
  • Make Two Transactions: Thrown off by the Drugstore Game? Here’s how you can easily get in on the action. Every week drug stores offer free products for store credit. At CVS, you receive the product price in ExtraCare bucks, at Rite Aid you receive rebates after purchase, and at Walgreens you receive Register Rewards good to use on your next purchase. This means that when you need to purchase something from a drugstore—such as makeup, cold medicine, feminine products, etc.—pick up the weekly sales ad and first purchase the free product (or close-to-free). This way you will get a shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, or whatever else for free because you then immediately spend that reward on your next transaction, which is the purchase you were going to make anyway. No coupons involved. Here is an example from this week’s CVS ad (good through Saturday, May 22): Buy the Blade 5 razor system for $6.99, and get $6.99 in ExtraCare Bucks (register rewards). Use these right away to purchase whatever else you need. Or Walgreen’s ad (good through Saturday, May 22): Buy a Gillette Body Wash (10-18 oz) for $4.49, and receive $4.49 in register rewards (store credit). Use this right away to purchase whatever else you need.
  • Use Warren Buffett’s Advice…Well Sort of: Purchase when everyone else is not buying, and don’t buy when everyone else is buying. This is a good rule of thumb. Plan a trip or a wedding in the off season. Buy homes in the wintertime, when sales are down. Buy clothes out of season. Buy decorations after major holidays when they are reduced by 75%-90%.
  • Buy Bulk on Sale of Products You Use Most: There are certain products that we all use more of. For Paul and me, it’s coca-cola, mustard and Ziploc bags (we buy bulk meats to freeze, and also we both pack lunches everyday). For you it may be batteries and mayonnaise. Whatever your frequent products are, the next time they are on sale somewhere, buy many of them. Coca-Cola refrigerator packs run anywhere from $4.45 when they are at their peak in price, to $2.00 when I can find them at their best price. So I purchase 6-8 packs of them at the $2.00 price and then I won’t have to buy them again until the next great sale. That right there is a passive savings of $14.70-$19.60. Because of the amount of cokes we go through in a year, we’re talking a yearly savings of over $100. (Ah yes…an even greater savings would be to stop consuming them!)
  • Eat Out for Lunch Only: Instead of frequenting your favorite restaurant for dinners, think about eating there for Saturday lunch, or Sunday Brunch. The lunch menu is always cheaper than the dinner menu, and you could even bring some leftovers home for dinner (if there are any!).
  • Shop at Uncommon Locations for Your Product: Why do I purchase spices at Walgreens or CVS instead of the grocery store, a fish tank fluorescent tube light bulb at Home Depot, and bird seed at Kroger’s? Because by not purchasing them at the specialty store or the most common (and intuitive) location, I get a much better price.

10 comments… add one

  • finallygettingtoeven.com

    great ideas… while couponing for me is not so easy (small, small town..our local paper spends more time telling us about the Jones going to the Smiths for dinner and what was on the menu..then giving us useful content…like COUPONS)…anyway, even if we did have a plethera of coupons most of my purchases are store brands (being we also have no major grocery chains, just mom-pop operations)..
    but not to feel sorry for me…i can get great bargains enabling us to live and eat very cheaply. i too hit the clearance aisles the minute i walk through the door…for some strange reason i have these visions that if i don’t hurry and get there this second that the aisle is being wiped out at this very moment by a mob of hungry shoppers. (However most of the time this does not hold to be true, in fact i am at most 1 of 2 in the entire store.) Don’t you just love OCD tendancies.

    And loss leaders i too stock up heavily on.

    We do have a big lots and occasionaly they get shipments of Kashi cereal in and i am know affectionately as the ‘cereal queen’ to all the cashiers because i will buy 20+ boxes at a time.

    Funny that you think outside the box for other purchases…i do that too. I am always trying to figure out other ways to get items that are ‘less conventional’ than just going to the particular ‘specialty’ store and buying them.

  • I didn’t know that spices at Walgreens were cheaper than spices at Walmart…hmmm…

    This post was written for people like me…I’ll use a coupon if I have it, but most of the time, I’m just footloose and carefree. I do shop the clearance first (mostly because it’s cheaper, but also because I’m so short that the “irregular” sized clothes may actually fit me, lol). I also stock up when our staples are on sale.

    I loved the idea of buying the CVS “free” item and just buying the other thing you were going for as well. I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m going to CVS. Thanks!

  • BudgetingintheFunStuff: Thanks! Glad you learned something.

  • I like it…had no idea about the two transaction game in drugstores.

    I’m not a coupon guy (nor is my wife), but we always swipe our grocery store cards before buying….and it’s always shocking how much it reduces the bill. We’re talking 5-10% on average.

  • Car Negotiation Coach: Hello! I am glad to help. Do you know anything about the Drugstore Game? If you don’t like to coupon, it may not be for you–but check it out under my Topics section if you are interested. Thanks for the comment!

  • Jordan Edwards

    we use mixed nuts as bird seeds when we are feeding our pet birds~`”

  • Winding Machine 

    we always use sunflowers as our bird seed,;”

  • Glass Shelving ·

    bird seeds should be choosen so that they are 100% organic and does not contain genetically modified stuffs ~

  • Lynn Mc.

    I realize this post is from 2010 but I wanted to add another way to save on herb and spices at the supermarket. All supermarkets have a special rack for Mexican spices. I get my cumin, of course chili powder, oregano, rosemary and many other herbs and spices for 99 cents. I keep the empty bottles of spices and fill them with the less expensive. I can’t tell the difference in quality.

    • Amanda

      Great tip, Lynn! I’ve noticed that as well at our grocery store.

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