Get creative about coupons, save yourself some money

If you are like most people, then you’re probably trying to find the best deals that businesses have to offer.

Whether it’s a matter of going to multiple gas stations to find the cheapest gas, or shopping at different retail stores to seek out discounts or clearance items, everyone has one goal in mind, and that is to save a buck. The economy has taken its toll on many individuals, but those who maintain a positive attitude can find ways to live a stress-free financial life.

Anyone who reads the newspaper generally opens it up to the section that interests them the most. Some skip right to the sports page, while others head to Arts and Entertainment. However, one part of the paper that many people gravitate to immediately is the coupon section.

You can find great deals on many items that you will need and use on a regular basis, and also find information about upcoming sales. Yet in order to choose a coupon that can be of use to you, certain information must be taken into account. What items are being discounted? What percent or dollar amount will you save off the item? Where can you use the coupon? And when does the coupon expire?

All these questions should be taken into account when trying to find the best bargains.

OR, KICK THE COUPONS!

Coupons can help, but that is not the only way you can save money. Here are some tips from Julia Scott, who shares strategies, coupons, and inspiration about saving on everyday expenses on her money saving blog, BargainBabe.com.

Become a freezer diva. Grab your freezer bags and fire up your best packing skills. Bread, meat, liquids, fruit, stews, soups, and many other food products freeze extremely well. The trick is to wrap everything tightly to avoid freezer burn. Keep a list handy of everything in your fridge so you don’t lose track.

Buy a whole bird. Aim to pay well under a dollar per pound. You should ask the butcher to cut your chicken into eight pieces for you. The price per pound is a lot lower and you’ll get smaller pieces. Butchers are often happy to do this, although the best time to ask is when the meat counter is slow.

Go ethnic. If you have never set a foot in an ethnic grocery store, you may be missing out. Staple items like oil, flour, and rice can be found for a fraction of the price you will see at a major chain. Produce prices often are significantly cheaper, too.

Earn gas rewards. Many chain grocery stores offer fuel perks programs that can net you dollars off each gallon of gas you buy.

Go to an auction. AuctionZip.com and Craigslist have listings for auctions that tell you the contents to be sold, including groceries. Make sure to check the local auction rules so you know which rules to play by. When you are there, check the “sell by,” “use by” and “best by” dates on each item so you know how quickly you need to eat or freeze an item. Auctions can go quite late so bring a cooler to stash perishables that you win.

 

Buy generic. If you abhor coupon clipping, the next best thing is buying store brands, which cost as much as 60 percent less. If you’re an ice cream fan, head to Target for Archer Farms chocolate ice cream. It beats out every other chocolate ice cream in ShopSmart tests, even Haagen Dazs.

Eat in-season produce. Check the seasonal fruits and veggies list at FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org so you’ll know what to look for. Fruits that are in season are almost always cheaper because the supply is greater.

Seek out stale bread. The about-toexpire bread rack is usually randomly placed nowhere near the bakery or bread aisle. If you find it, you’ll be rewarded. Artisan loafs on the day old bread rack sometimes go for 99 cents and you can sometimes find a six-pack of day-old deli bagels for $2. Cut them in half that night and stash them in the freezer. Just make sure to eat the bread within 24 hours or freeze it to avoid a mold takeover.

Look high or low. Manufacturers pay to get their products placed at eye level, which can boost prices. However, items on the top and bottom shelf are often just as good for a little bit less. Your knees will ache, but it will pay off at the register.

Watch Al Sunshine’s “Money Watch” reports Monday-Friday beginning at noon. You may find Al’s blog at cbs4.com/4yourmoney. CBS MONEY WATCH Al Sunshine

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