Category Archives: Basics

8.5% Discount on Everything? Shop Online.

No one likes spending more money than they have to – so why pay state sales tax?  It’s an instant discount that can save you a significant amount of money on big-ticket items. Here’s how it works:

B&M (Brick and Mortar) retailers charge a state sales tax, which varies from state to state, wherever they have physical stores. No B&M? Usually, that means no sales tax.  New York is home to a fantastic electronics retailer, J&R – they have very good prices on electronics and will price match most competitors.  But the best thing about them is that they do not have any physical stores in Texas, where I live now.  That means I can order from their website and not be charged sales tax when they ship to my house here.  I’m in the market for a new laptop, and when I do finally make that $1,100 purchase, I will definitely not be shelling out another $93 for sales tax.  Combine that with cash back from any of the Ebates-type websites (currently around 4%) and that is really a deal.

For stores like Target and Walmart, who have B&M stores everywhere, shopping online will not help you avoid sales tax.  In some cases, states are forcing online retailers (like California is trying to do with Amazon) to collect sales tax, but that is mostly the exception and not the rule.  And websites like Drugstore.com, Buy.com and others with no storefronts at all?  All tax-free!

 

Cash Back Websites

I’ve always been a big proponent of cash back websites like Ebates – go there before you shop online, and get a percentage of what you spend back – my next check should be about $100.  The major cash back players are:

BUT – I just found out about Evreward– a site that lets you compare the cash back amounts that you will get at each site. I ordered some stuff from Sports Authority last week and I checked Evreward beforehand.  They listed cash back amounts at Big Crumbs (2.4%), Ebates (6%), and Mr. Rebates (5%), along with a bunch of other credit card rewards comparisons, but failed to list Fat Wallet.

It also lists credit card cash back amounts, like for Citi Thank You points, ShopDiscover and all of the others.  This is a pretty useful tool that I will be using in the future.

…and an update. 

Just came accross an even better site: CashbackHolic.  Instead of Evreward’s handful of cashback sites to look through, CashbackHolic has dozens.  To be fair, some of the amounts were off (they had Bloomingdale’s cash back at Bank of America listed at 5% – the actual value was 3%) and some of the cash back sites were pretty obscure – but it just replaced Evreward as my go-to cash back info source.

Quick Start Savings Part II: The Stockpile

After you get a handle on your current financial state, you need a stockpile.  A stockpile is a hoarder-esque cabinet of every non-perishable good you would possiblt need.  I currently have a years supply of:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body Wash / Soap
  • Deoderant
  • Toilet Paper
  • Napkins
  • Detergent
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Tissues
  • You get where I’m going with this…

The key to a stockpile is to find free stuff and buy a ton of it.  A few months ago CVS had a fantastic deal on Tide detergent – each 42 load bottle cost me around 30 cents after Extra Bucks and manufacturer coupons. I bought 15 bottles, which will probably last me a while. Most of my cleaning supplies were bought at Target – their prices, combined with Target store coupons and manufacturer coupons made them free.

Food is a little trickier due to expiration dates.  One of my staples is diet soda, which only lasts a few months (regular soda lasts much longer).  Cereal is pretty hard to find for free, but if you stack coupons it can be as little as $1 per box. Check out local saving blogs and national blogs to find out what’s free (or very cheap) each week.

To start a stockpile, you need to start clipping coupons, which can be found in a variety of places:

  • Sunday Paper (my #1 choice) – you can buy the paper for $2 at the store, or you can get it delivered for about 50 cents a week – I recommend getting multiple subscriptions.
  • Junk Mail – that stuff you throw away contains coupons – look for the Red Plum and SmartSource inserts, money mailers, etc.
  • Dedicated coupon websites like coupons.com
  • Manufacturer websites
  • Store websites

Ask your friends and neighbors to keep an eye out for coupons, and keep all of your coupons in a binder, sorted by category. Click here for more information on making your binder.

Quick Start Savings Part I: Current Financial Status

Faced with a financial crisis, be it unemployment, looming medical bills or any event that will radically alter your standard of living, you need a quick start plan to get into a savings routine.  This is happening to more than a few prople right now, and here is the plan I’m proposing.

Part 1. Current Financial Status: What is going on with your money right now?

  • Get a mint.com account – load all of your credit cards, bank accounts, etc, and go through the last few months of uploaded expenses.  Where are you spending your money?
  • Figure out the bare minimum amount of money you need to survive. This includes:
    • Mortgage
    • Insurance
    • Utilities
    • Car Payment
    • Cell Phone and/or Internet
    • $100/month for food
    • Medication and other vital expenses
  • Look at your savings (if you have any) and figure out how many months you can get by spending money on just the necessities.

However long that is, it’s time to start cutting back on your expenses. Some easy places to save a ton of money are:

You can save money on your mortgage and utilities, but those are more complex, and will be discussed later. Next, you need to start building your stockpile.

Getting Started

For people looking to get into couponing, here is what you need to prepare:

A Coupon Binder

This is where you’re going to keep all of your coupons, organized by category.  For information about what goes into a coupon binder, click here.

Deal Email Address

Being aware of the latest and greatest deals means getting a large number of emails.  Keep them separate from your regular emails by opening another Gmail or Yahoo account, like LaurensCouponEmails@yahoo.com.

Deal Facebook Page

There are great deals on Facebook that come from liking a company’s page, but they usually require access to your wall.  Unless you want your wall flooded with messages about how you like wheat thins, get a separate account for your coupons.

Twitter

Sales and deals can be gone in a matter of minutes.  Having a Twitter account on your smartphone and following the tweets of companies and deal sites will let you know what’s happening in real time.

Bookmarked Pages

There are a few sites you should go to every day, so bookmark them on your browser. The basic ones are Slickdeals, Free Stuff Times, and Retail Me Not.

Tagged

Upcoming Couponing Class

Hi guys,

For those of you planning on attending the upcoming couponing class, here are the materials you need to bring with you:

  • 1 Binder
  • 1 Sturdy Envelope or Pocket (for the car)
  • 1 Set of Dividers (20 ct)
  • 2 Sets of Baseball Card Holders
  • 1 Pair of Scissors

At home:

  • Subscription to Houston Chronicle (Sunday only)
  • Computer and Printer

Most of this stuff you can get at Staples or Target, but the Baseball Card Holders you will be more likely to find at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s.