I spent a week taking advantage of every deal I could uncover. Read on to find out what I learned -- and how you can make the most of your own clipping and clicking.
By (undercover) Editor for TheNest.com
As soon as I get the assignment, my mind flashes to my mom cutting coupons at the kitchen table. I panic -- not only because I don't own a kitchen table (I live in New York City, so I barely have a kitchen), but also because saving a few cents has never seemed worth the effort. But whatever, it's on. I decide to take the lazy...er...smart route and make the deals come to me by signing up for email alerts from the stores I frequent. And voila -- my BlackBerry starts buzzing right away. Here's what one savings slacker learned from seven days of coupon craziness.
Lesson #1: Sales aren't just for swag
I wake up to a message from LifeBooker.com, a site with spa and salon sales. I click the link and find a spa offering 20 percent off massages (dropping the price from $100 to $80). I also go to Groupon.com, which has great daily deals based on the number of people who sign up, and see an $80 facial for half off. Um, spa day, anyone? I had no idea, but there are actually tons of deals online for everything from yoga and haircuts to happy hours and more.
AMOUNT SAVED: $60 (or -$120 depending on how you look at it. I guess I didn't exactly need a massage and a facial).
Lesson #2: Over-ordering rots your budget
On day three of my little experiment, my email alerts me (bright and early too -- remind me to turn my ringer off before bed) that Fresh Direct is offering free delivery. I enter my address online and find out that this drops my bill by $15. Solid. To make the most of the deal, I order more food than usual, including a full pound of coffee marked down from $7.39 to $5.99 and wild shrimp for $10.99 to $5 cheaper than the original price. (I also try a coupon code from RetailMeNot.com, but it's a bust.). Of course, I don't actually cook the shrimp and instead meet my friends out for sushi. But hey, at least I check out local sale site TheDealMap.com before I go and find 10 percent off at Masamoto (the place where we're headed), which saves me $1.65.
AMOUNT SAVED: $23.05, although all that raw shrimp went bad in my fridge while I was out eating...raw fish. Ironic?
Lesson #3: Buying online is not always a bargain
I'm heading to London for a few days, which means one thing: new clothes. I practically swoon when Banana Republic sends me an email about a 20 percent off sale. It takes two seconds for me to copy the code, click on the site and find a cute silk dress for $98. I then convince myself that it's going to be a rainy mess in London, so it's completely fine to order a $150 trench too. In the end, I save $50 by giving the code EXTRA20...but the online purchase also means an extra $20.31 for tax and shipping. Next time, I'm just going to the store instead (and maybe not ordering on impulse).
AMOUNT SAVED: $29.69
Lesson #4: Coupons can cost you
I do a search on Twitter and find tweeters posting discount codes on, well, pretty much everything. I start following a user called Cheaptweet (Twitter.com/cheaptweet) and see a link to a coupon for $1 off a Jamba Juice smoothie. I print it out and take it with me, despite the fact that I'm in the mood for coffee. After downing my $5 berry drink (not counting the discount), I'm still jonesing for caffeine, so I stop into S-bucks and order a cafe mocha for $4.35. Ahh, that's better.
AMOUNT SAVED: -$4
Lesson #5: Saving on things you need is...saving
As the week goes on, I realize it's time to get a bit (fine...a lot) more practical with my coupon clipping. So I search the blogosphere and hit up a few sites run by regular people like you and me (okay, not me, I'm a total weirdo...but like you) who just happen to dig savvy shopping. I get unnaturally excited (no, really, I do a little dance in my lime green ergonomic desk chair) when I click on Printable-Coupons.Blogspot.com and find discounts on things I actually need. "Need?" you ask. "What now, a dire lip gloss sale? An I'll-die-without-it cocktail ring?" Oh, you're just so funny. Actually, this time around I print off coupons for laundry detergent ($1 off Tide To Go!) and shampoo ($2 off Dove!). There's also a coupon for 30 percent off an entire purchase from Saks Fifth Avenue (gasp!), but I manage to resist the lure of peep-toe heels and cute summer tops.
AMOUNT SAVED: $3 (and I'll definitely be back for more)
Lesson #6: Never turn down free toilet paper
I have a dirty secret. Despite the fact that there's a Duane Reade pharmacy on just about every corner in NYC, I've put off searching for the store's points card that I signed up for more than a year ago only to lose shortly thereafter. Totally ridiculous -- the card is free, saves money and takes up minimal wallet space. So today, before I leave to buy my drugstore essentials, I do some recon work in my apartment and find the little blue card way in the back of my junk drawer, next to a half-empty box of nails and a grape Tootsie Pop. When I get me and my basket to the checkout counter at the store, I learn that my old card was actually packed with points -- which results in a free four-pack of quilted TP (and then some). Not bad.
AMOUNT SAVED: $5
Here's the thing: It's hard to say how much I really saved since a lot of what I purchased (trench, shrimp, massage...), I only bought because I had a coupon. Still, adding up the things I would have spent money on even without a discount, I did save a good chunk of change. My advice: Sign up for grocery and drugstore (and maybe a favorite clothing store) alerts, but stop there.
Photo: Shutterstock / The Nest
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