Monday, June 27, 2011

Saving the Moola: Practicalities of Couponing and Giving

Couponing has emerged as this century's latest craze. With the economy in the tank (but dare I say, rising ever so slowly back to a decent place?) and shoppers trying to find every way to make every penny stretch a bit further, couponing is hot. And with TLC's Extreme Couponing to inspire and motivate (or so I hear), most every shopper I know is getting into couponing or already in the midst of it.

But, couponing is not necessarily the best bet for saving money. Let me say this first - anything that is absolutely free is a great deal, and even if you don't use the product, you should get it. And I'm not talking about an item being free after Register Rewards or UPCs or ExtraCare bucks (although if you have already put out the money on an earlier shopping trip to that particular drug store, thus making the item technically free and you want the item, go bananas). But I'm talking about a truly free item. Occassionally, an item will be free after coupons and sale prices alone. That is the best kind of free.

Coupons can also help lower a grocery bill if you are adamant about using a particular brand. If you own a Gillette ProFusion razor and that is the razor you always use, a coupon for razor blades is a great way to save on money, especially when coupled with the item being on sale.

Here's my warning, though: store brands will usually always be cheaper than name-brand items, even with a coupon. I urge all of you to create a price book and discover for yourself what the prices are of items you typically buy, so you can determine if a sale, or a coupon, is a good deal and you should stock up.

I received a free sample of Purex with Zout laundry detergent, which naturally also came with a coupon. I happily used the free detergent and went to Target last week to stock up on some beauty supply items (all with coupons as I am not usually a fan of store-brand beauty-type items). I took along my Purex coupon to see what the price was for this item (we've made our own homemade laundry detergent for the past few years so I am not in the know of what laundry detergent costs anymore). I was shocked to see the only-size bottle was $4.99 and it was only good for about 35 loads. Our homemade laundry detergent is also good for about 35 loads and costs about $2 to make. So for $4, with a coupon, I could have manufactured laundry detergent. No thanks, I'll make my own and save half off! But I did leave my coupon in front of the Purex in case a customer who didn't know the benefits of making one's own laundry soap wanted to buy Purex.

I'm not against couponing and encourage all of you to save all the coupons that ever come your way because you never know - a coupon coupled with a sale price may make the item free, and that's always a good deal.

So why should you pick up all the free items you can? Because even if you have no need for that item, someone in this world does. This past weekend, I printed a coupon to Petco for two free cans of cat food. Preston does not eat "normal" canned cat food, but the item was free, and I can think of about, oh I don't know, a gazillion or so cats in the world who would appreciate canned food. We're going to take the cans to the local Humane Society to donate them to cats who truly need the food.

And thus, our charity stockpile is born. I really can't stress this enough - if you have the abilities and personality to coupon like crazy, you should consider donating a part of your stockpile to homeless shelters, battered women's shelters, animal shelters, rescue relief organizations - whatever hits your heart the hardest.

If, in the midst of couponing, you're able to score yourself some wonderful deals and help others less fortunate, that is the definition of practical. Happy couponing!

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