Your best savings/couponing hacks
March 25, 2015 9:52 AM   Subscribe

As a former couponing machine, I'm looking to learn some of the most current trends and easiest ways to get back into the savings and reward-earnings game. I'm NOT looking for general frugality or budgeting tips.

Some years ago (before grad school and baby), I knew all the tricks - I devoured personal finance blogs, clipped coupons, shopped to "match" coupons at multiple stores and stock up, played the CVS game, researched the best account sign-up bonuses and rewards programs, opened those high-interest online savings accounts that now collect .05% interest, earned MyPoints and did Pinecone surveys, actually used Entertainment book coupons, and hunted for local deals.

Now I have less time, less local shopping options, and am out-of-date on current couponing/savings trends. I know a lot of these things disappeared (high interest accounts and generous credit card rewards programs in particular). Plus now I'm more interested in buying more local, higher quality items (food and personal care) that may not have coupons. I live in a relatively rural area where most big-box chain stores are about an hour away.

So for people who are into this kind of stuff, what has the biggest bang for the buck? For example, favorite credit card rewards? Do you use some kind of online "points" program to earn rewards through online shopping? Best blogs? Is coupon clipping really worth the time? Favorite cell phone apps? Do you shop wholesale stores (BJ's is my only option). What about Aldi/Trader Joe's? Is Groupon a total mess or is it worth hunting for things? Do you think the "subscribe & save" online deals are worth it?

I'm still very frugal so I'm not looking for tips like turn down your thermostat, drive less, compare unit price, automate savings, make a budget, etc.

What else do people with very little time do to find savings in everyday consumerism?
posted by wannabecounselor to Work & Money (11 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I never followed through on doing it myself but a while back I found a service that matched coupons from recent circulars with cyclical weekly sales. So you'd just file the circulars by date, and then you'd get the service's newsletter that would tell you which coupon to clip to go to which store. Basically, you'd do "just in time" clipping as sales came up instead of clipping and organizing coupons in advance. IIRC, it was customized by region so after you set your profile up you'd get info specific to the newspapers and stores in your area.

The people running it apparently made their living figuring out how to optimize coupon/sale combos and selling the results of their expertise to thousands of couponers around the country. It seemed like a pretty clever and time-saving system (much more efficient than everyone reinventing the wheel and trying to work this stuff out for themselves every week) and very worth the small subscription fee for their customized weekly newsletter.

Unfortunately, despite digging through my email archives, I can't find the name of the service now. Maybe someone else knows what I'm talking about?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:09 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I LOVE this kind of thing. It's like a game to figure out ways to get a little extra money, but I don't have a ton of time to spend on everything.

For couponing, I use to match coupons with sales. It has grocery deals by state in addition to the big box, national it's free. It matches newspaper coupons along with printable online coupons.

For points systems, I still use MyPoints (but it seems to earn a lot less than it used to) and SwagBucks (I've earned quite a bit pretty quickly on here) [referral link and non referral link]. I included a referral and non-referral link in case referrals are a no-no here - I'm sorry, I can't remember right now.

I also have Ibotta on my iPhone, which gives you rebates for specific grocery items.

There are other apps that give you points for visiting stores, scanning receipts, just depends on how into it you want to be. I don't want to yammer on forever in case that's not the kind of thing you really want, but if you want more, feel free to PM me for a big list.

Reddit has a subreddit on SwagBucks, as well as one called r/beermoney, which covers lots of points programs.
posted by 3fluffies at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am writing from work, where a bunch of sites are blocked, but I highly recommend www.livingrichwithcoupons (which is blocked so sorry I can't link) and Krazy Coupon Lady. I usually check in on one of these sites before I go to the store so I can quickly scan what is on sale and print a few coupons. They do coupon match-ups based on stores. I have also found it very worthwhile to be loyal to a drugstore (in my case, Walgreens), because I can build up points quickly. I shop based on what's on sale and stock up on things that have points attached for the week (so, if my favorite shampoo has points, I'll buy a couple at a time). This strategy worked great when my kids needed diapers because the points added up very quickly!
For a while, I was bouncing around between stores trying to get the lowest prices all the time, but I found it to be a waste of time and energy. Now, I primarily shop at Walgreens and one local grocery store and I visit Aldi/TJs every two months or so just to stock up on particular items.
posted by katie at 10:20 AM on March 25, 2015

I use eBates when I'm shopping online anyways. So far it's netted me $7 cash and a $15 Target gift card, for one purchase. If you ask around your friends group, see if anyone else is already using it - 2 referrals nets you another $50 cash, so you might be able to help a friend out with that. (I am not fishing for referrals - you need my email address to do so, and I haven't given it out here :)). It's easy enough to start on their site and then go to wherever I'm going to shop.
posted by RogueTech at 10:48 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

The American Express Blue Cash Preferred card is a $75 annual fee but gets you 6% cash back on groceries with no caps. If you spend a decent amount on groceries, you can get a lot of cash back this way. For instance I only spend $150 a week on groceries but that's $7800 per year, which earns $468 back per year. After the annual fee that's still almost $400 per year, or $32.75 per month that you can save, by doing nothing except paying with your credit card. I am super-lazy so that works for me.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:01 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Besides Ebates, there's also Mr. Rebates and Extrabux. They all deal with mostly the same merchants, but they vary in who offers the best rebate when you shop from a given web site.
posted by wryly at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2015

I'll add that the AmEx Costco card has no annual fee - just the Costco membership fee - and has excellent rewards.
posted by bq at 3:22 PM on March 25, 2015

While the True Earnings card is indeed great -- I use it as my gas card to get 3% back on gas -- the relationship between Costco and Amex is ending in a year so I wouldn't advise getting that card at this point.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:46 PM on March 25, 2015

For credit cards, your best deal is to keep signing up for new cards with a "spend $1000 in 3 months, get $150 in points" deal, but it will eventually hit your credit rating. I use the 5% quarterly cash back deals that Discover and Chase Freedom have, and the Citi DoubleCash mastercard as a general card (2% back). I never pay an annual fee.

I go to to look for good deals on their frontpage, to search for deals on specific items, and to get advice on forums (such as finance). No banks offer good interest, so I mostly play the Chase game of open a checking/savings account, get $300, keep it for 6 months, close it, do it again 6 months later if they offer it. Your local bank may have special offers, ask them to tell you.

For ebates-type sites, tells you which one has the best rebate at a particular place online, if you like to have several of them.

For groceries, it's tough if you're in a rural area. Warehouse clubs are generally a bad deal because you buy crap in huge volume, at prices higher than grocery stores with coupons and sales. But if you have a large family, and no time, it might be good for you. Aldi and Trader Joe's are very good if you don't want to coupon or shop around, and pretty good quality, although some things at each store are great deals, and some are not. Your best bet is to find a local coupon blog that covers the stores you use (in Chicago, I like, and then glance at it before you go shopping.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 4:41 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

You should also check out the prices on Amazon Subscribe and Save, especially if you don't live in WA. If you order 5 items in a month, which is easy if you group items correctly, you get extra discounts.
posted by bq at 5:15 PM on March 25, 2015

I hate coupon mom because they make you print through an software program. That's idiotic and intrusive.

Otherwise, the quarterly cash back deals from Discover can actually add up when you happen to be hitting their featured category.

Definitely for excellent crowd sourced offers. Recently got a 42" LG TV for $215 via that.
posted by tremspeed at 2:12 PM on March 26, 2015

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