Some women clearly have the genius-shopper gene: They feed their families for pennies, swoop up beautiful clothes for half off an already quadruple discount, and their shopping radar leads them to the one item at the flea market that's worth 10 times the asking price. Some of them are such wise buyers that they've made a career out of it. Read, learn and save as they share their wealth of knowledge. Photo credit: Sandy Maranesi; Hair & Makeup by: Scott Wiseman; John Cizmas
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Speciality: Saving on toiletries
When a member of her church introduced this stay-at-home mom to clipping coupons, she not only started racking up the savings, but she found that many drugstore items could be hers entirely for free. She ended up with a plentiful stockpile and began donating the excess to the needy. "I pay about 20% of what I used to at the drugstore," Leanette says. For her best tips, turn the page. Photo credit: Sandy Maranesi; Hair & Makeup by: Scott Wiseman
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Zone in "If you try to find the best deals at every store in your area, you'll go crazy," Leanette says. Instead, join the loyalty program at a couple of stores so you can focus exclusively on their sales.
Bookmark a local coupon blogger Usually the blogger has already sussed out good deals in your area, so check the site before you head out to shop. "These blogs will save you time," she says. Type "coupon blog" and your zip code into a search engine.
Read the fine print "A coupon's picture is usually of the manufacturer's most expensive product or one the company is promoting," Leanette points out. "If it says, Save on any product, you can use it for a less expensive item. If it doesn't specify a size or have an exclusion, you can use it for a trial- or travel-size item-and often get it free."
Speciality: Saving at the grocery store
You know you're a good couponer when your own mother asks you to teach her how you do it. Yoly's Spanish-speaking mom's request led her to start the Spanish-language coupon blog Cuponeando.net, and now Yoly helps others find their own clip-and-save groove by regularly appearing on television to explain how she came to spend some 60% less than she used to on groceries. Photo credit: John Cizmas
Learn predictable sales Some sales happen at the same time every year, says Yoly. Do an Internet search for "monthly sales cycles" and up will pop sites (for groceries and everything else) listing locations and dates for sales. "Mid-September to mid-October has lots of Hispanic Heritage Month events, for example, when there will be deals on products like tortillas and salsas," she says.
Plan your attack Your biggest scores will come from combining coupons with weekly or monthly specials, but how do you know when specific items will be marked down? "If the coupon is for a new product, it will probably be on sale when the coupon comes out. If not, it may go on sale toward the coupon's expiration date," says Yoly. Keep your coupons in order by date and carry them with you to the store.
Plan menus around sales and coupons "Protein is usually the most expensive part of a meal, so begin by checking what meat is on sale," says Yoly. If pork or chicken is marked down, and especially if you can also use a coupon, buy it and build your meal around that.
Speciality: Saving on kids' stuff
After she had her first child three years ago, Marybeth Hamilton realized that with a little strategizing-and by resisting the urge to keep up with the Jones's bab-she could secure big savings for her little people. Photo credit: Sandy Maranesi
Work the presale sales "The best time to buy gear new is in the weeks before a big 'Baby Days' sale," says BabySavers.com blogger Marybeth, now a mom of two. Six to eight weeks before those events, the stores clear the shelves for new models. "That's how I got a $225 Peg Perego stroller for 90% off at Target. It was $22.50!" Target's baby sales are usually the last week of January and the first week of September, she says. Ask your local store for exact dates.
Never buy books full price "There are so many kids' books floating around, you can find great ones for under $1," says Marybeth. Yard sales and school fundraisers are excellent sources.
Be brand-flexible "Popular brand items for kids' sundries go on sale at almost every store every week, so if you're willing to switch among them you can pay a lot less."
Know your limits For items that come in multiples, such as diapers or wipes, "calculate the cost per piece and set a limit for what you'll pay." The going rate in Marybeth's area is between 18¢ and 22¢ per diaper and 2¢ per wipe. "Use that information to determine if a sale is a true deal."
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Punta Gorda, FL
Speciality: Saving online
With shopping centers 20 minutes away and two kids to pack into the car, the blogger behind LivingWellSpendingLess.com doesn't relish hitting the stores. "Luckily, you can find some great deals online, if you know how to look," says Ruth. Photo credit: Sandy Maranesi
Filter out temptation On sites like Amazon, use the filter function to set a price range, and ask to see only items that are deeply discounted. That way, "if it's not within your budget, you never have to see it," Ruth says.
Put in the time Patience equals savings, says Ruth, whose pricey Ralph Lauren Home desk cost her just $75. "I searched Craigslist for nearby cities each day for nearly three months until the perfect one appeared. It would have cost thousands at retail. I still get a little thrill every time I look at it."
New Waterford, OH
Speciality: Saving at yard and rummage sales
"My 13-year-old has an entire Hollister wardrobe, but I don't think she's ever set foot in one of their stores," says Kymberly, who writes about her yard sale obsession in Life Out Loud. "In most cases, I paid $1 or less. I asked her if it bothered her having secondhand clothes. She said, 'No. I have so much more stuff this way!'" Photo credit: Sandy Maranesi
Have a goal "Good thrift or yard sale shopping is like any other kind-you need a plan," Kymberly says. "I keep a list of things my family wants or needs, and if I don't see any of them, I move on."
Start with a scan When you arrive, take in the big picture. "You don't want to be so focused on the napkin ring in front of you that someone else spots the $350 Kohler sink for $15." Also, look at stuff that's on the ground. "It's amazing what people miss because they keep their eyes at table level," she says.
Anticipate your needs "A friend with three boys buys every well-priced backpack she finds. That way when they inevitably rip the straps off or blow out the zipper, she doesn't have to run to the store," she says.
Salt Lake City, UT
Speciality: Making the most out of Catalinas
Stores in the Beehive State have lots of restrictions and double couponing is limited. So Jessica, who writes UtahDealDiva.com, mostly saves with Catalinas, which are the coupons that print along with, behind or at the bottom of your receipt. (The name refers to the marketing company that started the practice.) Photo credit: Sandy Maranesi
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Examine all printouts "Some give dollars off your next purchase with no product requirements-it's like a grocery gift card! At my local Kroger, I take home an entirely free item once a month with a Catalina," says Jessica.
Check before you leave the house Even though a Catalina says manufacturer's coupon on it, a particular store might not be participating in the promotion. Call the store or check your local couponing blog to see if the Catalina works where you intend to shop. This will save you time and money: You won't be tempted to pay full price just because you made the trip.
Get them rolling Some Catalinas trigger another Catalina, which is called rolling. "It's like the coupon that keeps on giving," says Jessica. Not all stores feature this option, so pay attention to where you've had success and shop at that location.
These websites help Jessica and the rest of our heroines score the best deals ever.
· IHearttheMart.com spotlights what's on sale at Walmart, as well as which competitors' sales the store will match and which coupons it will honor.
· TotallyTarget.com covers the best deals at Target, and includes rebate information and coupons you can print out.
· CamelCamelCamel.com tracks prices on Amazon. You can also sign up for an email alert if an item's price drops to an amount you're comfortable paying.
· CouponNetwork.com has printable manufacturer coupons for major grocery brands. You can even register the stores you frequent most often to hear about specials that are specific to that location.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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