There are lots of ways to save money – and most of them are mechanisms that we take very much for granted. But how do we seek out deals and whether or not those deals are actually worth the few pennies they might save?
We already know that one of the best ways to save money is to order something online instead of shopping for it in a local store. Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful, the cost of shipping stuff to you will usually more than make up the difference for what you saved on the sticker price of an item. One of the best ways to save money is to shop online and use a coupon code.
Coupon codes are easy to find—there are entire sites, like Couponshoebox.com, that are built around sharing the discount and coupon codes offered up (sometimes barely publicly) by web vendors. For example, if you are interested in options trading, you can apply an Optionshouse promo code to start a stock trading account and receive some bonus offers. You can also search the site for things like deals on Netflix or a gift from a children’s store for your kid. Before you click “pay now” on your shopping cart, check a promo code warehouse to help you save even more money (a simple Google search can yield dozens of results).
When Groupon first rolled out everybody went nuts buying up all of the deals and offers they could. It didn’t take long before people figured out that, if they weren’t careful, they were literally throwing money at site simply for offering them deals. That said—if you take some time to actually search through these sites and only buy the deals you know that you will actually use and not the deals you think or hope you’ll use (hint: check for deals that are expiring soon because they’ve usually been given extra discounts), they can be a great place for savings.
Coupons are a particularly troublesome money saver. This is because most of the time they don’t save you very much money at all—even when you only use them on things you want and use regularly. The trick to coupons is to only use coupons printed by manufacturers. Store coupons look like better deals but they are typically only on items that have recently been marked up or that the store is having trouble moving off of the shelves. Go directly to brand and manufacturer’s sites for the best deals and coupons.
Store programs can actually be pretty great. You sign up for a card at Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, wherever. Every time you shop, you swipe your card. The system tracks what you buy and spits out coupons for the things you buy the most—and the deals are usually pretty great. These programs will also track how much you spend and give you points. You can trade in these points for things like gas discounts, free coffees from in store coffee shops, etc.
Some stores, like Fred Meyer, will send you a gift card based on your point value for a sales quarter ($1=1 point. 785 points=$7.85 gift card). The only drawback is that you have to be okay with sharing your information with the store. Some people aren’t too keen on that.
Really, the difference between a good deal and a scam is often time—your time. If you take real time to seek out and research the discounts and deals you find, you can save a lot of money. It’s when you take something at face value that you start to get in trouble.