Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dog Ate My Deal

Once I completed gathering up 90 dental picks strewn across my dog's bed (cursing under my breath), I was able to laugh about the absurdity of what had just transpired. My dog ate my deal. Thankfully, she didn't really eat them, but she gnawed on a few and certainly made them unusable. At least it had been a freebie, but it got me thinking about all the lessons I've had to learn the hard way in my quest to Coupon for Charity. Hopefully, these Top 10 can save you some time, money, and aggravation.

1. Store your deals in a safe place promptly. If it's not your dog or cat, it could be your child who can't resist opening a package mommy just brought home from the store. I keep all mine in an inaccessible corner of the master bath.

2. Understand that "free" always comes with a price. I've been pleased with the volume of goods that I've gotten not only for free but that have "made me money." But the truth is it always costs you something, and you're the one paying the tax on all these products. So even though this week I saved a total of $47.14 at Walgreen's and CVS and walked away with $5ECB and $5RR to use another time, I was still out of pocket $12.37. Decide beforehand how much you're willing to spend to get the deals.

3. Write down your plan beforehand and estimate your costs. If you plan to do separate transactions to use your rewards the same day, make sure you have the plan well laid out. I also pull all the coupons I plan to use and have those in hand when I walk in the store. If you know what your totals should be, then you can catch any mistakes a clerk might make.

4. Watch the clerk carefully and double check your receipts before you leave the store. I've found numerous clerks get intimidated by B1G1 coupons. Maybe they don't know how to key in the amounts; so sometimes they just don't do it. Watch and listen for the beeps with each coupon and confront them about any mistakes before you go.

5. Leave your kids at home if possible. I inevitably make mistakes when I get distracted by my kids. I take them because I don't always have a choice, but given the option, I'd go alone.

6. Go on Sunday if you can. Some crafty couponers swoop in and snatch up deals early in the week. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the store to see all the deals are gone. If you can swing it, try to make your Walgreen's or CVS runs no later than Tuesday.

7. Remember the purpose. I use coupons for charity because it's a new way I've found to share my knowledge and skills. I love that someone who doesn't have the time or desire to shop the deals will benefit. And I can do this with little money out of my pocket.

8. Make your time a priority. I've spent more time on this in the beginning than I probably should, but I've always maximized running several errands at one time or only doing this when I need to kill some time in between school drop-offs. Make sure you're comfortable with the time you're spending.

9. See this as a puzzle to exercise your mind. To get the correct coupon to product ratio and find all the correct coupons can be exhausting. But if you look at it as a game that stretches your brain like a crossword puzzle, you'll see there are benefits beyond saving money.

10. Choose a charity that means something to you. Our MOMS Club has not yet voted on which group will get our goods first. This is your chance to reach out to organizations that mean something to YOU. Let this be an opportunity to connect with your community.

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