When I'm clipping coupons at the kitchen table, my toddler often wanders over and asks for some "bills" of his own. I've tried correcting him, explaining that I'm clipping coupons, not bills. But after some thought, I've realized he's right.
Coupons are bills - dollar bills.
In just a bit, I'm going to tell you how I "cashed" in big time this weekend using coupons -- my spending money of choice -- at the mall.
Coupons are as good as cash. Better even, because they don't empty your wallet. If you're not using coupons, you're throwing away free money. In my book, not using coupons is akin to not maxing out your contributions to your 401(k) at work to qualify for matching funds from your employer.
If someone wants to give me "money," in the form of coupons, then I'm going to spend it.
Of course, I want to get the most out of my "money" whether it's the kind printed by the U.S. Mint or the kind printed by companies desperate for consumers like me to try their products.
I've blogged before about the Grocery Game, which takes the guesswork out of couponing at the grocery store. The Grocery Game tells you when to buy certain products at rock-bottom prices by combining coupons with store sales. (To sign up for a $1 four-week trial, visit the Grocery Game and use referral email address amyjoyn(at)bellsouth(dot)net.)
You can apply the same gaming philosophy to shopping elsewhere, too. Particularly in this economic climate, retailers are being quite generous with their "free money" -- coupons -- and we as consumers can cash in.
Case in point, JCPenney just sent out $10 to customers on its mailing list. Didn't get yours? Well, sign up for JCP Rewards and get on the mailing list because the retailer frequently sends out these high-value coupons. And lots of times, there's no purchase requirement beyond the coupon value. That means the coupon is good for $10 off a $10 purchase.
My husband and I both got a coupon, so we headed to the mall last weekend to spend our $20.
What did we buy?
- 2 polo shirts for our son
- 1 T-shirt for our son
- 1 pair of soccer shorts for our son
But wait, there's more...
I had some more coupons burning a hole in my pocket, notably a card I got in the mail from Victoria's Secret for a free pair of panties PLUS $10 off my total purchase.
Initially, I just planned to grab the free panties and skedaddle, but then I spotted a super sale -- 75 percent clearance on all Victoria 's Secret makeup. I scooped up a lipstick, 2 lip glosses and an eyeliner pencil. Had I bought everything at full price, I would have paid $53.50. But with my coupon, I paid just $1.60 for everything. That is one sweet deal.
Want to get your own Victoria's Secret cash (coupons) in the mail? Sign up for the store's mailing list online and also become a fan on Facebook. To parrot another company's slogan, membership has it rewards. (Also, be sure to check out Freebies4Mom for Heather's post about how she maximizes her savings when shopping at Victoria's Secret.)
By this time, my husband had nearly dropped from all the shopping, but I still had another stop to make: Sephora.
Thanks to fellow blogger Erin at Coupon Cravings, I had a coupon for a free sample of Fekkai Hair Care at Sephora. (The coupon is still available) I cashed that in and also used some of my Sephora BeautyInsider Points to get a deluxe sample of Juice Beauty sensitive skin peel so I can give myself a facial at home. Total out of pocket: $0. (And I got my eyes done, too.)
If you want to get frequent freebies from Sephora, including coupons you can cash in for products, become a Beauty Insider. And after you do that, sashay over to Coupon Cravings to find out how you can get six free music downloads from Sephora, as well. (The freebies keep on coming!)
A quick trip to the grocery store netted even more freebies, as I cashed in three coupons for free candy from Mars, earned through the company's Real Chocolate Act promotion, available every Friday through September to the first 250,000 people who sign up each week. (You'll notice that one packet of M&Ms is missing from the photo. Blame it on my hungry husband's sweet tooth!) I also got a free package of Oscar Meyer hotdogs, thanks to a Kraft promotion I signed up for last month.
Money spent? Not one red cent, just four coupons, as good as cash where I shop. Normally, the purchase would have set me back around $5.50
We called our shopping trip quits with a trip to the drive-through at a local diner. Of course, I had a coupon from my Attractions Dining Guide, good for a free menu item. So, we paid just $6.08 for our dinner - two vegetable plates (macaroni is a vegetable in the South!) and two drinks.
All in all, I'd say it was a pretty productive shopping trip. We "bought" about $93 in merchandise and food using coupons but paid just $11.90 in real money.
That's an 87 percent savings. As my mother-in-law would say, "You can't get that kind of return on the stock market." Her words are particularly true in today's rollercoaster economy.
It seems that guy in the crazy question mark suit was right. You can get free money.
You'll find it in your newspaper every Sunday, in your email inbox and in your mailbox. It's up to you to spend it wisely.