Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life.
If you truly value your time, couponing and playing the drugstore game is not for you. Some people say it only takes a few minutes to clip coupons and scour drugstore ads for the best deals but it can really add up. To effectively save, you need to scour the weekly ads, try to take advantage of the best sales and keep track of your drugstore rewards (CVS Extra Bucks, Rite Aid UP Rewards, etc..). I’ll start with my best “simple living” tips for those who really don’t want to spend time clipping coupons but want/need to save money:
- Go generic. Unless you have very good coupons, generics are generally cheaper. From my experience, there is a wide range of good, generic products out there. While I tend to be more brand-loyal on foods and toothpaste, I’ve gotten generic paper towels, diapers, hand sanitizers, OTC medications, hand soap, etc.. Among generics there are variations in quality. I like Target generics for household goods and I found a few good generic food items from Vons and Fresh & Easy.
- Try Amazon.com / Subscribe & Save. Amazon has a great program called Amazon Mom that offers great deals plus free shipping on diapers, wipes and other baby products. Membership costs $79/year but is free for the first three months and then up to one year if you make qualifying purchases, not difficult to do if kids are going through diapers and wipes. Even if you don’t have kids, check out their “Subscribe & Save” items. Deals are not always the best but I’ve a bundle on imported coffee, Brita water filters and assorted household items. UPDATE: Amazon Mom changed their program in late 2011/2012 and now the deals are not so great.
- Buy household goods, cleaning supplies, lotions and cosmetics at Walmart, Target or Costco. Unless there is a sale plus coupons, you’ll generally get better prices at these stores than at supermarkets or the drug stores.
Now if you are determined to get free toothpaste and want to use your time for couponing, here are some tips. I’m not the best at couponing because I don’t roll over my rewards over and over and I don’t want to hoard items but I have learned a thing or two over the years:
- Go to couponing websites like Couponmom.com instead of looking through individual store’s weekly ads. It’s easier to check out deals this way and you can search for a specific item.
- Use online coupons. There are a lot of reputable sites for downloading and printing coupons even if you don’t get the Sunday papers. Plus on Couponmom.com, they list print-able coupons next to the sale items, making things even easier.
- Stick to one drugstore for rewards. For a time, I tried going to CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid but now I generally stick to Rite Aid because it’s conveniently located near my house and work. It’s easier to accumulate reward points at one store and not have to track deals.
- Bring ads to Walmart; They match prices. Rather than run to a drugstore for an advertised sale item that is often out of stock, bring that ad to Walmart. They will match the sale price and you don’t have to waste time/gas driving.
Plus, a last word on drugstore “etiquette”: Try not to clear the shelves of advertised sale items. There’s nothing illegal about it but it’s really unfair to other shoppers. Even if you give it away to friends & family, it’s not fair to those who do take the time to seek out deals.
Is couponing and the “drugstore game” the antithesis of simple living? If you do play the drugstore game and have additional tips, please share!