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The Coupon Queen Rules Tips to Save on Groceries, Cleaners, and Toiletries
I remember the very first time my eyes locked onto it. In my seven-year-old mind I didn't realize it at the time, but this was love at first sight. Who would have thought that a little piece of paper would one day open the door to a literal, million-dollar life? There was something magical about the script, the numbers, and the pretty picture. It was as if I'd found out the king and queen of Genovia were at the same hospital as my parents when I was born and that I was switched at birth. It was as if the royals took home the wrong baby and I was a princess who went to live with mere commoners. No wonder it was hard for me to keep my room clean. I was destined to have servants! No wonder I didn't like shopping at K-Mart. I was to have a personal seamstress design my clothes! Yes, even as a child, I had the sense that a mere piece of paper could take my common destiny and turn me into a privileged blue blood instead.
What was this precious paper you ask? The paper I fell in love with that day was—a coupon.
Coupons made me feel like a queen and ushered in a million-dollar life. I'm such a numbers person that I actually came up with the million dollar mark. Coupon clipping helped my prince and I get out of $40,000 in consumer debt when we first got married. If we only paid the minimum of $600 per month on that debt (at 18 percent APR), then it would have cost $360,000 and taken 50 years of "indentured servitude" to pay off the credit card companies. Also, by using coupons I saved an average of $8,000 per year for twenty years, which is the equivalent of $13,500 earned on the economy if I were to work outside the home and pay social security, state, and federal taxes. By investing only a portion of that savings each year ($6,000) in an 8 percent mutual fund, we would earn a total of $133,520 after ten years of investing and $280,000 after twenty years of investing! Furthermore, the "Savings Queen" mentality transferred to our children and their desire to pay for college, debt free, with scholarships and work-study programs. Our oldest son, Daniel, garnered a scholarship to the University of Texas at Arlington that is equal to $62,000, and our next son, Philip, just received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy worth $380,000. Add the numbers.
Then, as icing on the cake, my financial habits led to books that expanded on the idea of saving. This led to speaking opportunities and more writing. These led to freelance consumer education spokesperson work for firms like Mastercard, Visa, and Washington Mutual. This brought my coupon-inspired savings lifestyle up to the million dollar mark, and all because at the age of seven, I saw a twenty-cent coupon for a package of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and it changed my life.
But I'm not alone. By learning how to save money in stores for groceries, toiletries, and cleaners, you can also begin your journey to a million dollar life as you also apply the savings tips from other sections in this book and train your children to do the same! The only true failure would be to never start. Here are some tips to save money in the store, whether you're destined to be a Savings Queen or not. If you apply a few of these tips, you could save up to 50 percent and if you apply most of them, you could cut your food bill by as much as 80 percent. Here are some of the best tips to transform you from a coupon commoner to a Coupon Queen.
TIP OF THE DAY: #1 THE LIST: Research indicates if you shop with a list and stick to it, you are likely to spend as much as 30 percent less than listless (pun intended) shoppers. The exception would be when you can get items for pennies (or free) that are not on your list—get these anyway!
TIP OF THE DAY: IMPULSE "Buy-Buy" GUYS: Using a list has a second benefit: researchers show that the typical consumer spends almost $100 per hour while shopping in a discount department store, grocery store, or discount club. In other words, the more time you have to window-shop, the more money you'll spend. Just think, spending thirty minutes more in a store can cost you $50! So get in and get out of there as quickly as possible and say bye-bye to impulse buys.
TIP OF THE DAY: STORE DIRECTORY: Make your list according to aisle order and you'll save even more time and money. By shopping according to aisle order, you won't become a grocery nomad—wandering back and forth while you look for that last item on your list. Go to the customer service desk at the store you frequent and ask them for a map of the store. These are usually called an aisle order chart, store directory, or store map.(ADVANCED)
TIP OF THE DAY: PRICE COMPING: Many stores, including Wal-Mart Superstores, will match competitors' sale prices. Check and see which stores do this in your area, note the store and sale price on your list, bring those sales circulars with you, and then ask the checker for the lowest price. This tip takes only minutes and saved our family over $3,500 last year because it can also apply to anything in the store (electronics, household goods, etc.). It also saves time and gas.
TIP OF THE DAY: BEYOND COMPING: As you are taking advantage of price comping (see previous tip), take it a bit further by making sure you comp the store brand as well. For example, if Safeway offers a sale on their brand bread for only $.49 a loaf, you can substitute the store brand at the price comping store (Wal-Mart would have the Great Value or Sams brands). Sometimes, when these items are on sale in the circular for such a good price, they are gone from the original grocer's shelves, but they are still available (with a wider selection) at the price comping store.
Another advantage has to do with the price comping "limit" per customer. For example, the sale circular may say "limit two per customer," and while you go to the original store and get your two items, you can also get an additional two items at the next store, the store that is price comping those sales. (ADVANCED)
TIP OF THE DAY: TUNE OUT AND CASH IN: Watch fewer television commercials. A recent consumer report indicated that couch potatoes are far more likely to overspend at the store for each one minute commercial they watch due to the marketing effects of this medium—to the tune of an average of $260 per hour! Keep in mind that this dollar figure includes everything from Starbursts and diet Coke to a new car or luxury item.
TIP OF THE DAY: SAVINGS 101: Buy products when they are on sale. This may sound elementary and it is, but you'd be surprised at how many people do not take advantage of sales. They're "too busy" to shop the sales, or when something goes on sale, they think, Well, I still have some of that at home, I don't need it now. Get the sale ads in your weekly paper and make your list according to what is on sale. Be sure and put your list in aisle order and save the sale ads for your price comping trips.
TIP OF THE DAY: SALE AWARENESS: Don't give in to "impulse buying" for sales. If the discount is only 10 percent, then think twice about giving in to the urge to buy the product simply because it's on sale. The exception would be if the item is needed immediately—in that case, you can be grateful for the fact you've saved 10 percent rather than nothing!
TIP OF THE DAY: LOSS LEADERS: Shop the loss leaders. These are items in the sale circular that the store is selling for less than their cost in order to get the consumer into the store. If you come in to buy the $.99 chicken breasts, then chances are good you'll go ahead and pick up another thirty to forty items you "need" while you're in the store.
TIP OF THE DAY: MANUFACTURERS' COUPONS: Use manufacturers' coupons. These are found in a free-standing insert (or FSI) booklet in your Sunday paper. They are also found in magazines, newspapers, product boxes, and mailbox circulars. By organizing these and combining them with other savings factors, a family could save as much as our family did last year—over $13,000. An average family of seven spends $16,000 per year and our family spent only $3,000—and it all began with a manufacturer's coupon!
TIP OF THE DAY: BUY BRANDS BUT ... Don't be brand specific. One of the most common misconceptions is that buying the generic brand will save more money than buying a major brand—that's not true! If a shopper buys a major brand on sale and with a coupon or other savings factor, they will repeatedly save more than buying generic.
TIP OF THE DAY: DOUBLE (OR TRIPLE) THE SAVINGS: Go to a double or triple coupon store. These stores will double the face value of your coupon up to fifty cents or one dollar and they will triple from $.33 to $.50 (depending upon the region and the store). Be aware of the limitations these stores may have in order to maximize your savings. For example, I found Uncle Ben's rice for $1.69 and I had a double coupon worth $.50. This means I would pay $.69 for the rice. But I waited for it to go on sale for $1.09 (another savings factor) and only paid nine cents per box! For a full list of stores that double coupons, go to the links page at www.elliekay.com.
TIP OF THE DAY: #13 LIVE BEYOND THE LIMIT: If a store has limitations on the sales or use of coupons, then organize your coupons to get the best value each time you run to the store for milk, a newspaper, or coffee (we have a Starbucks in our Vons). For example, if the double coupon policy will only double one coupon per like item, and you can get that item for free or pennies, then paper clip all these freebie coupons together and place them in an envelope in your purse. Each time you run to the store for some unexpected essential (we even have a pharmacy in our store and dry cleaning as well), then use those extra coupons and cash in on the double coupon savings. There's nothing illegal or immoral in making those essential, little trips worth more.
The exception would be if the ad specifies that the sale item is limited to "one item per family" (for example, a coupon for a free turkey during the Thanksgiving sales). In that case, it's important to limit the purchase to only one. (ADVANCE)
TIP OF THE DAY: ONLINE SAVINGS-ESPECIALLY ON ORGANIC: Visit the money savings links at www.elliekay.com on a regular basis. For example, at www.valuepage.com, there's a link for the coupon directory at www.couponDirectory.com. The customer enters her zip code and the site will provide a list of participating stores.
For organic, you can get many USDA-certified staples at www.SunOrganic.com, or you may want to try specialized online grocers. Diamond organics (www.diamondOrganics.com) ships perishables by FedEx, which can be costly but delivery fees are waived on "sampler" boxes. Companies such as Urban Organic (www.urbanorganic.com) and Door to Door Organics (www.doortodoororganics.com) can make weekly deliveries in certain areas.
Organic food is expensive because it's labor-intensive to produce and sell, and without pesticides, farmers lose crops more easily. So, why not head to an organic farm? Local Harvest offers a list of them at www.LocalHarvest.org/organic-farms.
TIP OF THE DAY: STORE CARDS: Use a store card or "clipless coupon." Some stores offer a discount card that provides additional discounts on selected products. In most cases, about a month after registration, the system will be in place to enter a phone number to access the discount card, and the customer doesn't need to have the actual card with her. Savings on these cards range from 10 percent to 50 percent.
These cards will also track purchases and provide critical marketing information to the store for marketing analysis. Some consumers do not want their actual information (address, name, email address) linked to these cards, so they have the option of getting a card without listing private information. Ask your store manager about this latter option.
TIP OF THE DAY: STORE CARDS LINKED TO DEBIT CARDS: These store cards should never ask for personal information such as social security numbers. However, some store systems will automatically link to a debit card if the consumer provides this information and expresses a desire for the convenience of having all the information available in one swipe of the card. The customer will still need to access a PIN number. But the consumer needs to also be aware that in this case a swipe of the card will actually access checking account information. Consumers should use extreme caution if they decide to link their debit card to the store card as it has the potential, despite security devices, to compromise checking account information. They might also want to change their PIN number every couple of months. (ADVANCED)
TIP OF THE DAY: ELECTRONIC COUPONS: Use manufacturers' electronic coupons. These are available on the shelves in the stores and are ejected from an electronic dispenser (kids love 'em!). But keep in mind that most of these have a notice along the top that states: May not be doubled. So if you don't have a coupon and plan to buy that item, then use the electronic coupon. But if you already have a manufacturer's coupon and the double value of that will be greater than the face value of the electronic coupon, then don't use it; just take it, file it in your coupon box for use at a later time.
TIP OF THE DAY: STORE COUPONS: A true store coupon is one that is issued by the store and not the manufacturer. Consumers can tell if it's a true store coupon by the redemption address in the coupon's fine print. If it has the manufacturer's name, then it is an in-ad manufacturer's coupon. It's important to read the fine print. If it has the store's name and address in the fine print or if there is no address and only the store's name, then it is a genuine store coupon. This will be a critical point in the ability to layer savings factors while using a store coupon.
TIP OF THE DAY: PRICE STORE COUPONS: These are usually store coupons, but sometimes they are manufacturers' coupons. These coupons will give the shopper a product for a specific price and sometimes free. For example, I used a store price coupon last week for Colgate toothpaste, which gave me a price of $.99 (a savings of $2.00 off the regular price).
TIP OF THE DAY: #20 COMBINE COUPONS: A consumer cannot ever combine two manufacturers' coupons on one item—such as a regular manufacturer's coupon and an electronic coupon. But you can combine a manufacturer's coupon and a genuine store coupon (see Store Coupon tip) for big savings. For example, CVS Drug Stores offered a price store coupon for Secret deodorant for $1.19 and I had a manufacturer's coupon for $1 off, so I got my fave deodorant for only $.19. That's a "secret" that I can't keep to myself!
TIP OF THE DAY: INSTANT COUPONS: Look for product instant coupons. Sometimes products will have a "Use This Coupon Now" coupon attached that you can tear off and use immediately. Keep in mind that these are always a form of a manufacturer's coupon.
TIP OF THE DAY: PRODUCT PACKAGING: Look inside the product for more manufacturers' coupons, special offers, or rebates. Sometimes there will be a coupon inside the box for cents off the next purchase or for a rebate or another special offer. I got Kellogg's cereal bowls for a couple of box tops and $2 postage and handling—these were quality bowls that the kids used for several years.
TIP OF THE DAY: ASSEMBLE A COUPON BOX: Buy a plastic shoe-sized box that has a secure snap-on lid as a central place to store all these coupons. Purchase alphabetical tabs, a highlighter, scissors, pen, and paper (for lists), and you'll have coupon box fit for a Queen!
TIP OF THE DAY: ORGANIZE COUPONS: Try using an alphabetical approach to organize your coupons rather than a category system. It is more efficient and easier to maintain when you file coupons by the name that is most prominent on the coupon. I've had hundreds of families who have made this switch and testify that it saves time. Highlight expiration dates!
TIP OF THE DAY: PULL EXPIRED COUPONS: Read through your coupons each month. To keep coupons organized and up-to-date, at the end of each month you will want to sit down with a cup of coffee, some chocolate, and perhaps a new DVD release. While doing this, go through all these coupons, take out the expired ones, and make sure any wayward coupons are re-filed in their proper place.
Excerpted from A Tip A Day With Ellie Kay by Ellie Kay, Julie Ieron. Copyright © 2008 Ellie Kay. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted October 20, 2008
I have read most of the Ellie Kay books and I noticed a lot of the same tips in this book. For those who have read her other books, just take note that you will see some of the same things. I thought that were a lot of great new tips in there to learn from. I would definitely recommend for beginner savers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.