My parents used to call me a “wheeler-dealer”. I do love a good bargain and with a mother who has her black belt in shopping, it’s no wonder I grew up with a keen sense of how to find a deal! Since some friends have asked for tips, I thought I’d post a little overview here. Of course, the best way to take advantage of my skills is to take me shopping with you! As my friends know, I just may have a little deal in my coupon organizer.
Ah yes, an organizer. Having a system is the most important step. What good are deals/coupons/gift cards if you don’t have them handy or worse yet, forget you even have them? Personally, I used a small accordion file that fits in my purse and has different pockets for my types of coupons and gift cards.
In addition to that, I use Evernote on my phone (fantastic note taking app like a second brain) where I have lists of coupons, gift cards, and other reminders. I periodically go through my list and plan out usage. I also periodically clean out my file (great to do while waiting for a doctor’s appointment!) so everything is current.
Another way I use this is to make a list of what deals are in my Entertainment Book. (A great deal IF you use it. Also, support a school or nonprofit org selling these!). I go through mine and cut out coupons I’m likely to use and make a list of those as well as a list of restaurants that take the card. That way, when I’m dining out or considering restaurants, I can quickly sort out what I may use. The restaurant coupons get their own section in my small accordion file.
Another section is dedicated to store coupons such as Macys, JCPenney’s, etc. Then I’m never without those special offers. I also join loyalty programs and rewards clubs for special deals and discounts.
In person shopping, such as for blinds for my home, I always ask for a discount. I have been known to remind people that I’m in marketing and understand the power of word of mouth. While that is not necessary, it never hurts to ask if they have any special incentives or deals. They want your business.
One of my favorite types of shopping is online! If I’m considering a purchase on a retail site, there are two must-dos. First, check www.retailmenot.com to see if there is a discount. Second, join their email/newsletter list and wait a day or two. Often, companies will send an introductory offer to tempt you to seal the deal and make that first purchase. That extra percentage off really adds up!
Finally, I am an avid user of “groupon” and sites like them. I feel it’s important to have a strategy here. For example, I tend to avoid restaurants (unless I KNOW I eat there all the time like Coho Cafe) and massage services (where I feel like it’s unfair to the service provider unless you are looking for a long-term, ongoing therapist where you will pay full price). I love trying new activities (such as my speed reading course) or hotel/travel deals. Once you have a strategy, you can focus on items you will be more likely to use.
Use them early or risk expiration! My list helps remind me what I have and make plans to schedule in usage before expiration.
My favorite deal sites are Living Social, Amazon Local, and recently Google Deals, which let you customize based on your work/live/hangout locations and areas of interest. Many of these also have “instant deals” where you can use your mobile device to get use-it-now deals. I haven’t tried this yet but love the concept.
What don’t I do much of? Grocery coupons. I will always use my club cards but managing lots of 50-cent off coupons doesn’t feel worth my time. (Although watching Extreme Couponing can tempt me!). I also don’t recommend coupon site offers to friends, where you often get yours free if you get 3 friends to buy. Unless it’s a no-brainer (Amazon.com coupon), I don’t want to be sales-y with my friends.
Anyone else have other tips?! I’d love to hear them.