Friday, March 29, 2013

Saving Money While Living Well Part One: Coupons Rare, But Not Forgotten

The way this series on the blog came about is actually somewhat amusing, so first you get to read a boring introduction.  Hey, it's my blog and I'm allowed to be boring, so there!

When I ran a coupon blog, which honestly seems an eternity ago now, I was one of many coupon blogs to choose from, even in Alaska.  So, when I decided to stop doing the coupon blogging "thing" I didn't feel overly bad about it, as there were other blogs to take my place.  Or, so I thought.  I didn't realize that just about all of the coupon blogs that existed right along with mine would give up on coupons right about the same time when I had no choice but to with the various allergies and issues my family had.

So, suddenly, it seemed, there was a void and everyone from random people to local media were doing everything in their power that I should be the one to fill it.  And the "fill this void" voice was persistent.

I, at first, was amused, then irritated when people would write to me asking me to do this blog series or that on coupons, help to write an article for a local paper on coupons, do an interview on Extreme Savings in Alaska, run this or that coupon class, etc.  I got to the point of rolling my eyes and asking out loud to my kids in a frustrated tone, "Do these people even VISIT my blog anymore?"  My daughter's reply?  "What's a blog, Mommy?"  Kids will make you laugh and put things in perspective don't they? 

And then, there came a point in the last couple of months, where I realized that it didn't matter if people visited my blog or not to realize that my blog didn't really even REPRESENT much that coupons stood for anymore.  The truth of the matter was that while the messenger might legitimately deserve a written "beating" for not realizing that my coupon blogging days were long gone, the message that got through was that there were people out there desperate to save money any way they could.  Especially those with allergies and other things to contend with in their household who were desperate to save money when they suddenly realized that the products that they once loved to buy were no longer available to them.

So, folks, this series of blog posts is for you.  Some of it might make you roll your eyes and say, "Well duh, like everyone knows that!" but I hope that some of it might be found useful to those of you out there trying to save money in a global economy where things keep getting more expensive.  And all the while I'm going to try and give you tips that will not only help you save money, but also will help you to maybe be a bit healthier.  These are things I have done personally and have found help me after coupons became a rare thing to find that I could use indeed.

So, lesson one is:
Coupons Might Be Rare, But They Are Still There 

Yes, I know, after giving this soapbox talk about not being able to use coupons I'd start off with coupons, but keep an open mind and see where it leads kay?

I readily acknowledge the fact that coupons for allergy friendly foods are hard to find.  But, do these tips and maybe you'll score some monetary savings!

1.  Write to Companies That You Like, Or That You Don't
So, you tried a salad blend that was newly out on the market a couple of weeks ago and it blew your mind how good it is.  You bought a product that you normally buy only to find that the product didn't live up to the quality you had come to expect.  Both of these cases are GREAT opportunities to write to a company and tell them so.

When you are a pleased with a product a company loves to hear it, especially a new product, as they want feedback to let them know how they are doing.  And in the opposite end of things, writing to companies that you use constantly to complain about a problem is equally as important as it lets them know that there is a quality control problem.  If you do complain about a product be sure to keep the packaging and then write the company so they know what plant it came from if possible, to help get reprimands written to the right people/factory.

How does writing to companies benefit you?   Here's a good example.  Recently I wrote to a company and complained that a product that I'd bought for years for my son had recently "shrunk" (that is the package and price remained the same, but the amount available in said package had gone down).  As a result I'd had to buy another box of said product to make sure I had enough to share with my son's class.  The company not only sent me a coupon for a free product to apologize (although I noticed that they didn't have much to say about the shrinking of the product), but they sent me four coupons for free products so I'd have enough to buy "a new product experience" that I might enjoy.

I wrote to Earthbound Farms a while back to let them know how much I enjoyed their lettuce and how well it kept in the fridge (it was amazing how long it kept for before even getting wilty!).  They sent me four free product coupons and a couple of really nice high value coupons that I could use at later dates as well as well as a cool write up on the company and how it was founded (always a neat read).

So, if you have a good, or bad, experience, write to a company and let them know.  Even if they don't send you anything in return, it still makes your voice heard, which is worth something as well.

It is recommended that you write to companies of products that you use regularly about once every six months, even if it is just to request coupons.  
2.  Subscribe, Subscribe, Subscribe!
One of the best possible tips I've found for finding deals that have nothing to do with the printed coupon is to subscribe to your favorite businesses or products.  You can do this through Facebook, Twitter or some other feed, but I definitely recommend you do it, even if it's just subscribing to their newsletter or for deals when they post them to e-mail.

I subscribe to all kinds of different products and services.  I subscribe to restaurants, my local butcher shops, toy brands, food products I use, local thrift stores, you name it.  And it does pay off.  I have ordered a lot of herbs when I found out that a favorite herb of mine was on sale 50% off online.  And be sure, when you do subscribe, to see if there is anything cool birthday related you can get from your favorite businesses.  I get a 5.00 giftcard sent to me on my birthday via e-mail from a couple of different outfits, and it's great to use when you know it's there and there are different businesses where you can get a free tanning session or even a free cup of joe on your birthday, so be sure to check into websites for your favorite businesses and see what might come about from it.

I also subscribe to my local stores in e-mail so I can get the weekly ad delivered to my inbox.  This gives me the opportunity to figure out what cool things are going on sale when.  A big one for me is the things that are going on sale on 5.00 Fridays at Carrs (our local Safeway affiliate).  I was able to get HUGE container of wonderful looking strawberries on sale last Friday for 5.00.  You just never know what is going to be on sale, so be sure to look at your local sales ads, even if you don't "shop the coupon bargains".

3.  Get Paid For Helping a Company With Marketing:  Rewards Cards Pay Off!

And yes, I consider rewards cards to be glorified coupons.

My son is on an allergy treatment plan in which he has to take an allergy medicine every day for a year to see if we can desensitize his system to his various environmental allergies.  As he uses a teaspoon of said medicine a day, this could get pretty darn expensive.  But, I go to Walgreens and get the generic of said drug and when it is on sale for 2000 points (or more) I stock up on said medicine.  Using my rewards card this way pays off, as it has gotten me 10.00 back in credits in the last six months.  Which, in turn, helps to pay for his medicine.

I pick up dishes that I think are pretty when they are on clearance at Target and I use my Redcard to get even more money off of them.  I also save money on Pull-Ups, which pays off because it's like having a coupon for said Pull-Ups without having to worry about actually having a coupon for said Pull-Ups.  It definitely makes it cost effective for me to get certain things there.  I consider the Redcard to be Target's way of voluntarily having you sign up for a Rewards program.  They make the plan optional, but for helping them with their target marketing techniques (which is what all Rewards cards are made for) they pay you 5% off on your purchases to do that.  I can get behind it, especially when I bought an I-Pad and immediately saved 35.00 on it just by paying with the Redcard (take that Apple and not ever doing discounts on your products *bwahahahahaha!!!*).

4.  Always Check for Time Sensitive Deals!
Remember when you are on Amazon or any other online store to check out and see if they have any coupon codes or online coupons you can use that particular day.  Or in Amazon's case check their coupon book for what coupons are available during that month.  I've gotten REALLY cheap coffee, tea, t-shirts, etc on a particular day just by checking out their front page and actually READING it instead of just heading directly to the shop area of the site.  It's amazing what savings you can get during say Coffee Day and so forth.

For instance, I'm waiting with great anticipation for Autism Awareness Month (April) because Apple is notoriously generous with free autism apps during that month. So, keep your eyes and ears open.

I, like many others I know, don't have time to sit at a computer and wait for some giveaway on Facebook for a certain amount of free product, but you still never know what types of deals you might find that are open for a certain period of time, so always be sure to check.

And there you go folks.  My "coupon tips" for saving money, even in Alaska, to help fit your busy, and (in some cases) allergy laden lifestyles.  Hope you might have found some of the tips useful!

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