Updated: 9/8/2010 9:00 AM ET|
Free toothpaste for life!
Here are some basic tips to get you started:
- Search online for printable coupons, at sites like A Full Cup, Deal Seeking Mom or Hot Coupon World, or by typing the name of a product plus "coupon" into a search engine. If you're not a My Points member, consider signing up and earning points for every coupon you print and redeem; you can save points for drugstore gift cards.
- When possible, "stack" coupons -- that is, combine a store's in-ad coupon with a manufacturer coupon. (Not every store allows this.)
- Ask whether your store accepts a competitor's coupon. Then, if possible, stack that coupon with a manufacturer coupon.
- If it's a particularly good week for Sunday-ad coupons, buy two newspapers. (Some dollar stores sell them at less than cost.) Or ask relatives, friends or co-workers to save you their coupon sections.
- Don't throw away those coupon sections when you're done snipping. Paper-clip them together, write the date on the front, and save them in a big envelope or file folder. "You don't know what's going to go on sale a few weeks from now. Don't cherry-pick the coupons," CouponMom's Nelson cautions.
- Check clearance bins. Sarah M. found six-packs of protein drinks being remaindered for $2.50 each; the packages had peel-off $2 coupons. She bought eight packages for 50 cents each -- and because she used Extra Care Bucks, she didn't pay anything at all.
- Store cheap treats at work. Those protein drinks and other food items that Sarah M. gets for free keep her from buying snacks at the office.
- Two CVS-specific tips: Pay attention to expiration dates so that the Extra Care Bucks don't expire. Scan your card in the store's coupon machine each time you shop.
- Don't overdo it, and choose stores that are near your home or workplace so that shopping doesn't take hours out of your day.
Remember: RIC doesn't have to be time-consuming. Laura N. estimates she spends two to three hours a week on scanning ads, clipping coupons and shopping. In return, she gets at least $150 worth of products for free each month. Her car gets paid off quicker, too.
Amiyrah M. is a busy woman -- a full-time mother to a preschooler, student, personal-finance blogger, member of the National Guard -- but RIC is a priority for her. Visiting four stores for the best RIC deals means getting all her family's needs -- food, baby items, toiletries, and cat food and litter -- for a little less than $240 a month.
It also means money in the bank. Initially, Amiyrah's husband thought the RIC idea was "silly." She told him that for one year she would put whatever she saved into a bank account.
"I did that for a whole year. Last December, I had more $6,300 in the account," Amiyrah said recently.
"It becomes your hobby. Some people knit. I like to hound," she says. "And I end up paying myself to do my hobby."
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