It’s a milestone month. March 2019 not only marks the 60th anniversary of Barbie’s debut, but, oh, the sixth anniversary of Shopportunist. I’m certainly no global icon, but like the career-flitting fashionista, I aim to inspire folks. To save money, that is.
I bagged the gig because I incessantly bragged about frugal purchases, free flights and better-than-free bottles of ketchup. My editor figured she might as well get something out of me other than bluster. So, the journey began. I’ve offered tips and touched upon everything from printing coupons to painting kitchen cabinets. Nearly 300 columns and thousands of blog posts later I can say with all sincerity, I’ve loved delivering the deals. But, I’ve also learned a lot. Before I started couponing, Catalina was just an island off the coast of California. Suddenly, it was also a register-spawning coupon. The best part, though? The community. This path to savings has been paved with help from so many frugal-minded folks in the Capital Region.
I’m not going anywhere, but some of the means to pocketing more pennies proved to have an end. I figured it was a good time to break down those penny-pinching ploys I’ve ditched and those I’ve kept in my money-saving arsenal, along with some fun blog fodder.
Saving strategies that stuck:
Cashback websites. Cash-back sites link to retailers’ e-commerce stores via a shopping portal and let you earn back a percentage of the money you spend. ShopAtHome.com, Ebates.com, TopCashBack.com and BeFrugal.com are among the slew of sites willing to pay you to shop online. The saving strategy for you is simple. First, register with a site. It’s free to do so and, if not, stay away. Then, select from a list of the site’s preferred and affiliated merchants. Lastly, shop. Your purchase will be tracked and you’ll receive a percentage of the sale back in cash, typically anywhere from 1 to 30 percent.
Target Cartwheel. There are myriad ways to hit the money-saving mark at Target but Cartwheel is probably the most effortless (probably why I’m such a fan). Cartwheel is where you’ll find percentage and dollar-off coupons that can be used in-store. It can be accessed via the mobile app. You’ll add the offers you want to your personal Cartwheel account and redeem the Cartwheel discounts at checkout. To date, I’ve saved $600.65 by using Cartwheel.
Birthday freebies. Businesses here in the Capital Region and across the country are eager to lavish birthday guys and gals with a windfall of freebies, from meals and makeup. I’m more than happy to oblige on behalf of myself and family. I won’t let a special day go by without bagging something for nothing, whether it’s dozens of chicken wings or a gargantuan glass of beer.
Airline credit card perks. I’m a penny-pincher with a passion for travel, so I always have and continue to prowl, collect and cash in credit card perks to save on airline tickets. I don’t rack up miles by flying around the world or frivolously swiping my credit card. I favor airline mile credit cards that offer big sign-up bonuses. Most credit card providers bestow bonus points to new applicants who meet a minimum spending requirement. Sometimes, you’ll bank enough for up to three round-trip domestic air tickets. That’s how I fly (for free).
Disney deals. Some prefer vacationing at the beach, others set off on historic adventures. At this stage in life, with two young children, I’ll take Cinderella’s castle over Windsor Castle. I’m a full-fledged Disney dork. I’m also cheap. But, with a lot of pre-planning a trip to Disney World is memory-making money well spent, at least I think so. There are plenty of ways to save, from purchasing discount gift cards at Target or BJ’s Wholesale club and applying them to a hotel stay to ordering groceries and having them delivered to your resort upon arrival. I love sharing tips (*almost*) as much as taking trips.
Savings tactics that are toast:
Consistent couponing at supermarkets. Couponing requires some serious commitment. I still clip, but far more casually. The coupons I use, almost exclusively store coupons, come from newspaper inserts or are digital e-coupons that I can load directly to each stores’ virtual loyalty program. Most of the money savers I hand over to a cashier are good toward personal care products — shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. The coupons in my forgotten accordion file most likely expired 18 months ago. Maybe longer.
Carefree shopping at Kohl’s. Don’t get me wrong, there are some seriously great ways to save at Kohl’s and I’m a sucker for deep discounts like 30 percent off an entire purchase. But, in order to take advantage of the primo perks, I had to use a store credit card. There’s ultimately no saving when you’re hit with high interest.
Triple coupons. This one ain’t on me. I wish local supermarkets still treated consummate couponers to this paramount promotion, but they don’t. It’s been a couple of years since ShopRite and Price Chopper provoked a frugal frenzy in couponing circles with promises of triple-dipping on manufacturer clippings. A flurry of deals would fill my newsfeed and eventually my cart. I miss those days.
The 52 week money-saving challenge. At the turn of 2014 I vowed to take part in this trendy savings tactic. The concept was simple enough. At the start of the year savers would stuff $1 into a jar. Each week you’d tack on a dollar. By year’s end you’d have nearly $1,400 saved. I even had a cute vintage Ball jar set aside on my countertop. I think I collected $14 before I caved and a used it to buy a bottle of wine.
Beer rebates. Once, only once, did I stumble upon a tearpad of beer rebates. These mystical mail-in coupons are considered the Holy Grail of money-savers. They are distributed by beer companies and found (if you’re lucky) on tear pads affixed to beer displays in grocery stores. You buy the adult beverage, along with commonly purchased items, like meat, produce and seafood. You mail in a rebate with a monetary value that can be anywhere from $2 to $20. Because of certain state liquor laws — New York’s included — the purchase of beer is not required to take advantage of the savings, so no need to go on a bender to save $4 on fruit. Trouble is, there are rebate hoarders that skulk around and scoop up the savings so you stand a better chance of stumbling upon a leprechaun.
Top five blog posts (ever):
Amazon: Get $5 for downloading the Amazon App
Today Show: Jill’s Steals and Deals American Girl Doll sale
National Coffee Day deals
Going rate for graduation cash gift?
Start times for online Black Friday sales
Most sought after deals on the Shopportunist blog:
Halloween food deals
Free and cheap summer movies
$1 Old Navy flip-flops
Bargains on bags of mulch
Triple coupon promotions