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Coupon Basics: Combining and Maximizing

The first two articles in the Coupon basics series explained the different types of coupons and offered a rundown of the different values that these coupons can have. With that basic knowledge, and these pro tips, you can start combining deals to make the most of your coupon savings.

Couponing

More coupons mean more savings, so the first way to get the most for your money is to get your hands on as many coupons as possible. Subscribe to multiple newspapers, ask friends and family to save their coupons for you and scour the Internet for printable coupons. Be sure to sign up for free store savings clubs, membership cards and email or mailing lists so you can have coupons delivered right to you. If you’re concerned about spam, set up a second email account just for email lists and check it before you shop.

Next, get organized. Keep your coupons in one place, in a way that makes the most sense to you. Whether it’s a binder, a file folder or a series of plastic snack bags, you need to know what you have, what they’re good for and when they expire. Consult your coupons when making your shopping list, and then stick to the list as your thread through the aisles. With an organized arsenal and a plan of attack, you’ll be making the most effective use of your coupons and your shopping trip.

The easiest way to maximize your coupon savings is to combine them with in-store sales. If you’ve got a “$1 off” coupon for a $4 product, you’re looking at getting that product for $3. If the store has that $4 product on sale for $3 tomorrow, you could wait and get that same $4 product for just $2. Be sure to check store flyers and compare prices at the stores in your area to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal with your manufacturer coupons.

Many stores offer a double or triple coupon promotion for manufacturer coupons. While some stores will double, or even triple, coupons on a regular basis, others only offer the deal on certain days or in certain business hours. Additionally, most stores will only multiply coupons up to a certain maximum value, and may limit the number of identical coupons you can double. Be sure to check with your local store before you start calculating your double and triple coupon savings, and make sure your coupon is not labeled “do not double.”

Before using a coupon for a specific product, always look at the comparable products nearby. If you’re using coupons to pay $7 for a brand name product, and the store brand product with identical ingredients is regularly $6 anyway, you’re better off skipping the coupons and just getting the cheaper product.

If you’ve ever examined the fine print before, you’ve probably seen these two common warnings: “Cannot be combined with other offers” and “one coupon per person, per order.” Don’t be discouraged! If you’re unafraid to bring a friend or get back at the end of the line, you can get around these restrictions and save even more.

The most important thing to remember about couponing is that “saving” and “needing” aren’t synonymous. Just because you’ve got a coupon for a product, doesn’t mean that you need to buy it. Spending money on a product you don’t need or won’t use is a waste, no matter how good the deal. Save the money for something you can’t get on sale to make all that clipping and coordinating worthwhile. Happy Couponing!

Steal My ID by Identity Guard

In a new mock commercial by Identity Guard, which is featured below, they showcase an imaginary product called StealMyID.com, which helps people get their identity stolen. The video then asks if losing your identity is something you really want to do.

 

Steal My ID by Identity Guard
 

In the video it also mentions how all it takes is a name, and a social security number, to get access to some ones personal finances and in essence the ability to destroy their credit score. This brings up a good point in how important credit monitoring is, and how you should go over a credit card statement line by line to make sure that no one is using your account. Also it is important that your credit score is not harmed which can cause you to not get a loan for a new home, or even for a car payment. If you follow the video to the site www.stealmyid.com the site is also done up in a fake infomercialish way that while comical also further illustrates how important it is to not just give away your credit card information online. The site then leads you to http://www.identityguard.com which further discusses the problem with online identity theft as well as a launchpad for the purchase of their product line.

We are big fans of infogramics, especially when they teach a lessons and the Identity Guard site was full them, one of our favorites was this one, which has been reproduced below:

All in all a funny yet still informing commercial for a great product that actually works, so if you want to find out more watch the above video and check out StealMyID.com.

Smart Online Shopping, Part 2: Saving

If you’ve done any online shopping, you’ve probably noticed that the original item price rarely matched the checkout price. Check out these tips for saving between “add to cart” and “submit order.”

When you’re choosing items for your cart, pay attention to items that are specially marked and know what the website’s various symbols mean. Certain items may be marked as eligible for free or discounted shipping, or you may be able to save by ordering multiple items of a certain brand, line or style. If you don’t know what symbols to look for or you don’t notice the symbols at all, you may be missing out on savings without even realizing it.

You should also pay attention to the header and the sidebars throughout the website, as they often advertise upcoming sales. Online stores run sales and promotions as often as physical stores, if not more often, but the ads for these sales aren’t always delivered to your doorstep or played during commercial breaks. Unless you’re ordering on a strict deadline, simply waiting a few extra days for the start of an upcoming promotion could save you 10% or more on your order.

But the savings don’t stop once you’ve finished filling your cart and clicked “proceed to checkout.” There are still opportunities to save as you work your way toward submitting your order.

You can earn big savings if you’re not afraid to wait for your order. Vendors and delivery services know that last minute shoppers will opt for more expensive overnight shipping so don’t fall victim to the procrastination price hike. Choose standard shipping options rather than rush options, choose ground over air, and rely on the USPS instead of FedEx or UPS when doing so will save you cash.

If you’re lucky enough to be ordering from a company that has both an online shop and physical stores, you may be able to select an even cheaper shipping option: ship to store. Some stores allow you to send your order to the nearest physical store for a cheaper price, or for free, as long as you come to pick it up yourself. If there’s a store near you and you don’t mind a short drive, you could save big.

Now for the golden egg of online shopping tips: Always – I repeat, ALWAYS – search for a promo code. To do this, simply open a new tab in your browser and navigate to Google. Type in the name of the company or website, and the words “coupon code,” “promo code” or “savings code.” You will be given a list of websites containing various alphanumeric codes that you can enter at checkout for big savings. It’s free, it’s easy and it works almost every single time.

The most common coupon codes are for free shipping, and 5%, 10% or 15% off your order. Sometimes, the codes come with a stipulation that you spend a certain amount, or have purchased a certain brand of items. It doesn’t hurt to try entering the codes, either. If the code is expired, faulty or doesn’t apply to your order, the website will let you know and you can usually just try a different code. Keep trying until something works.

The only catch is that most websites will only let you use one code per order, so be sure to calculate the savings if there are multiple codes to choose from. While “10% Off” may be tempting, that “free shipping” code may work out to a larger savings in the long run. Or, if you’re just a few dollars off of being eligible for that “$5 off $50” code, maybe you can add on that extra item you were debating without feeling guilty.

If you time your purchases carefully, shop the sales, and aren’t afraid to try a few promo codes before you checkout, you can save big online with minimal effort.

Another way to save, if you’re not in a rush is to abandon your shopping cart. Many retailers respond by offering you a coupon, or a targeted online ad to try to get you to return to the store.

Check out the first article in this series at “Smart Online Shopping, Part 1: Security” for tips on a safe online shopping experience!

The Office, in Real Life

Paper is one of the most basic and essential features of an office. As mundane as it may be-(and they don’t call it a “plain” sheet of paper for nothing)-paper has had a resurgence in funny, thanks first to the hit show The Office. A new series of commercials from Domtar Paper (which has striking resemblance to Dunder Mifflin) exhibit exactly what would happen in a world where paper was strictly mediated.

Domtar Paper Logo

We actually found these episodes from Domtar to be more relevant than anything recently on The Office. These episodes all focus on what would happen if paper rationing was implemented into an office, with extreme chaos and hilarity ensuing.



We found a lot of truth in what these shorts show. All important documents from I9’s to W2’s are still signed and made on paper. As well nothing beats that feeling of high lighting notes on paper, or the simplicity of running off a dozens copies of your latest proposal. Paper it seems is still king when it comes to the office, and those who constantly try to say otherwise should take note.

This post is sponsored by Domtar Paper

Where to Find the Cheapest Cap and Gown?

When graduating from high school or college, one of the most commonly missed expenses is the cap and gown. Without one, you as a student would stick out like a sore thumb in the crowd of grads, and mom and dad wouldn’t be that happy with you in pictures. So it’s best to go ahead and be sure to have one on hand. But watch out, because a cap and gown can set you back around $100; if you shop around you can save a bundle.

cheapest cap and gown

With that said, there are many places to find a cap and gown cheaply these days.

Here are some options:

Buy Online: Try searching online for your school’s specific cap and gown (ie. “Boston University Cap and Gown”). This will give you the top result for your school and often the best place to buy it online.

Some of the best places to check out online are:

http://academicregalia.herffjones.com/index.cfm

http://www.gradgowns.com/

http://www.graduationsource.com/

http://www.willsieco.com/

Each of these offers some advantage, so try finding the one that has your school listed and or the correct color combination. Then select the one with the lowest price that can guarantee delivery in time for graduation.

From a Friend: Ask around! Often older friends who have already graduated will be happy to pawn off their old cap and gown on you. Be sure that the size fits all right. For girls, this isn’t as big of a problem, but for boys a gown made for a 6ft 4in person will look terrible on a boy who is only 5ft 11in.

From a Prior Student: Check with people outside of your friend zone who may still have their gown around and would be happy to let you borrow it.

From a Mobile Popup Store: Keep your eyes out for mobile cap and gown stores. These will start to appear on campus as graduation nears, and they sell the same outfit as your school’s brick and mortar bookstore, but they are often a lot cheaper. Depending on your situation, this is often the best place to pick up your outfit.

From Your School’s Bookstore: The last and most common option is simply to order it from your university bookstore. This allows you to easily pick it up so you know its on time. Also when ordering, they often measure you to guarantee it’s a good fit. However, be sure to order early to lock in discounts. Also, watch out for the often gimmicky bundles they try to sell you on, such as including “free printed graduation invitations” or offering that you pay more for other value adds. It’s often not worth it.

Lastly, be sure the cap and gown match your school’s appropriate colors. If possible, even call and check with online retailers to see that it matches. At my school, my college within my university had different colored tassels depending on your major. If you were part of any special groups or associations you also had to buy more tassels, so be sure to find ones that match so you aren’t the odd student out come graduation day.