Though most of us like to save money, the hard-working lifestyle of a couponer is not for everyone. Finding and clipping coupons is time consuming enough; add the time it takes to organize and store them, arrange a formula in which to use them, and couponing becomes an involved process for which many of us don’t have the time or patience.
What’s more, misuse of coupons leads to overspending, which is especially frustrating when they’re supposed to be saving money! The good news is that couponing is not the only way to save money every time you shop. Check out these 12 savvy tips for saving when you hate couponing!
1. Sign up for rewards programs. Any store or restaurant you frequent presents an opportunity to effortlessly earn discounts in the form of a loyalty program. It only takes a few moments to sign up and as points accumulate, you’ll earn freebies or credits without even clipping a coupon. Most major grocery stores offer lower prices for club members while also allowing you to accrue points towards fuel discounts. In retail stores, points usually add up to free coupons or shopping credit, and restaurant rewards often score you free food! For a bit more insight, The Balance maps out 22 of the best rewards programs from brands, restaurants and retailers.
2. Buy generic. One of the easiest ways to save on grocery items without spending hours clipping coupons is to buy generic brands. Typically, generic labels are 15 to 30-percent less than name brands, and 67 percent of consumers surveyed by Nielsen found generic alternatives perfectly suitable in quality. Opting for Target’s Up & Up or Walmart’s Equate label with frequently-bought items like cereal and paper towels could mean significant savings week after week. If you’re still not sure, do a side-by-side comparison of ingredient labels to determine if the off-brand is comparable to your favorite name-brand product.
3. Use cash-back programs. What if you could make money every time you purchase something? Cash-back programs allow you to earn money when you shop through specific websites or apps. Popular for grocery shopping, Ibotta is a rebate app that rewards you with cash back on select brand purchases. You simply upload receipts and get cash distributed to your account. Ebates and other cash-back sites give you cash bonuses or gift cards just for shopping through their portal. Though you don’t have to use coupons to reap the benefits of cashback sites, many also offer promo codes to use on top of their rebate offers.
4. Shop sales. Seasonal, weekend or semi-annual sales are a great way to save money on clothes, electronics and everything in between. For example, Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret offer semi-annual sales with deals up to 70-percent off. The discounts typically result in more savings than you’ll find from their regular coupon offers. Instead of buying seasonal items when they first debut on retail floors, wait two or more months when they hit the sales cycles for the best savings. If you’re the daring type, shopping on Black Friday will also score you major deals that most coupons can’t compete with.
5. Don’t waste food. It’s estimated the United States wastes 30 to 40 percent of its food supply every year. Poor meal planning is the primary cause of food spoilage, highlighting the importance of consuming what you buy before you stock up again. Huge portions at restaurants also play a role in food waste, which is why it’s important to be conscious of how much you order. Cut down on your weekly food waste and grocery bills by challenging yourself to use what you have with the help of tools like SuperCook. If you do go out to eat, opt for smaller portions offered by appetizers or take home what you don’t eat for leftovers.
6. Buy discount gift cards. Purchasing discounted gift cards to stores or restaurants is a clever way to get more for less. Gift card exchange sites like Cardpool and Gift Card Granny offer discounted plastic and digital gift cards at a percentage off their face value. In some cases, the savings can be as high as 35 percent. You can find discount gift cards for everything from grocery store chains to department stores to your favorite eateries, making it easy to save every time you buy.
7. Follow savings blogs and coupon experts. One of the best ways to find deals is to let someone else do the work for you! Follow coupon blogs like The Krazy Coupon Lady to learn about the latest and greatest deals and how to stack discounts. You can also check out Coupon Sherpa and download their app to search directly for stores you’re visiting and instantly see available offers. And, since most stores now accept mobile coupons, no scissors are required!
10. Use text alerts. Want to know exactly when your favorite store is having a sale or releases a new discount? Signing up for text alerts allows the deals to come to you. Bed, Bath & Beyond and Subway are among merchants that frequently offer text coupons users might not find elsewhere. Though it’s convenient to have deals delivered to your phone, make sure your phone service plan allows for texting without charging any overages.
11. Follow brands on social media. If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your Twitter or Facebook feed, put it to use! Following favorite stores on social media is an excellent way to keep on top of the latest sales and discounts. Similarly, signing up for email newsletter lists will also get you deals or sale updates. Be cautious, however: if you’re an impulse spender, this could cause more harm than good to your finances.
12. Subscribe and save. Signing up for recurring delivery on items you use regularly adds up to major savings, especially through Jet or Amazon. Items like laundry soap, diapers and toothpaste can all be delivered up to 15-percent off, plus hundreds of items also ship for free. Pet stores like Petco and Petsmart also offer a 20-percent subscription discount on select supplies and offer free delivery.