Saturday, June 27, 2009

Coupon & Trade Abbreviations

Advertising media use abbreviations (short forms of words) to save time typing. The most commonly used coupon related terms are listed below for you to refer to.

B0G0 or B1G1 = Buy One, Get One Free (this refers to a product which is purchased and a second product is given to the consumer (purchaser of the product) for no cost. Occasionally you will be responsible for the tax on the free item, read the fine print on the coupon or advertisement for details. Smart coupon tip: use a coupon to purchase your item (the one that must be purchased for the promotion) to save even more money!)

B2G1 = Buy Two, Get One Free (this refers to a product which is purchased in a multiple of two in order to receive one at no additional cost to the consumer). Occasionally you will be responsible for the tax on the free item, read the fine print on the coupon or advertisement for details. Smart coupon tip: use a coupon to purchase the items (one coupon for each item= 2 coupons total) to save even more money!)

B3G1 = Buy Three, Get One Free (this refers to a product which is purchased in a multiple of three in order to receive a fourth item in the promotion for no additional cost to the consumer). Occasionally you will be responsible for the tax on the free item, read the fine print on the coupon or advertisement for details. Smart coupon tip: use a coupon to purchase each item = 3 coupons, one per item which must be purchased for the promotion, to save more money!)

FPC = A coupon that allows you to obtain a for product free. (this term refers to a coupon or certificate which is allows the consumer to obtain a product at no cost, however taxes may apply depending on the coupon~ read the fine print on the coupon for each transaction. Smart coupon tip: use an FPC when you are short on cash, when the item is not on sale and you need the item.)

GC = Gift Card (or Gift Certificate) (this is any denomination, any store used in some trades, for RAOK gifts)

HV = High Value (this is a coupon which is considered a higher value during redemption, usually for several dollars off the consumer's product. An example would be: $4 off Carnation Instant Breakfast versus the $1 off coupon. A $4 off coupon is harder to locate and holds a higher discounted value at the checkout).

MIR = Mail In Rebate (this term refers to a form or promotion which requires the consumer to mail something (usually the receipt and UPC) as proof of purchase to the company, in order to receive a rebate back from the manufacturer. These are usually one per envelope and some have per household limitations. Smart coupon tip: purchase the items for the promotion when they are on sale to save more money, use coupons as well and only buy items that you typically purchase and consume. You aren't saving money if you are spending it on items which you don't use.

Peelie = A coupon that is attached directly onto the product and is 'peeled off.' (this type of coupon is sometime used with other coupons in store (if you have your own coupon and a peelie is also attached, sometimes the stores (even in Ontario) will redeem both types of coupons in one transaction). Smart coupon tip: etiquette would be not peeling off additional peelie coupons when you aren't purchasing that product, we all love our coupons but please leave the peelie's on the products when you aren't buying them!)

POP = Proof of Purchase (a proof of purchase could be the UPC on product (the bar code), a receipt, or specially marked area of a product's packaging. Any of which a manufacterer may require to complete a rebate promotion or for a refund, etc).

RAOK = Random Act of Kindness (this is when a person sends a gift to another person which is unexpected (not related to a birthday or other life event) and it is something completely random. 

SCOP = Scanning Code of Practice (this is the voluntary code which stores can 'opt-in' (participate) in order to give their consumers an assurance that their scanning procedures are accurate for each item. For more on the code click here: SCOP: Abiding by a Code. )

Stamps = Canadian, unused postage stamps. (these are sometimes traded for coupons. The stamps must be Canadian, new (never used) and the current minimum postage rate per stamp. Stamps are sold individually, and in sets or books with varying multiples at postal outlets, some pharmacies and corner stores.)

Tear-pad = A pad of coupons. (this is usually on the shelf or display where you tear a coupon off. Search for tear-pads hanging off of shelving, freezer doors and pop-up cardboard displays located in the middle of aisles)

UPC = Universal Product Code (this is the bar code located on nearly all consumer related packaging. This code consists of numbers and a series of black lines with various widths. The numbers can vary from a short sequence to longer 12 digit codes.)

WUB = When You Buy (this term refers to the consumer "you" purchasing an item. An example would be: Save $10 WUB 3 Oil of Olay products. In order to complete the sale promotion and save $10, you are required to purchase (WUB) 3 products. Smart coupon tip: purchase the items on sale and use coupons for each item. If you can purchase two of the items (as in the example) with a coupon/on sale, and the third in the transaction completes the promotional sale you will save more than $10 (as in the example).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Choo Choo! Coupon Train


A coupon train is basically an envelope of coupons which is sent to a list of 'passengers' or 'riders' (people who have coupons which want to participate).

The train is first advertised (on my website Coupon Train area to show we're taking passengers).

A conductor (the person responsible for organizing, initiating and monitoring the train) asks for people to participate with the upcoming train 'ride.'

The conductor adds coupons to the envelope and the list of passengers and addresses is usually also included.

The first passenger receives the train and follows whatever 'rules' the conductor has established during the initial advertising of the train. (for example: no coupons, no coupons under a specific value, etc).

The first passenger removes the coupons which they them self, will personally use. It is not generally acceptable to take coupons for other trades.

After removing the coupons from the envelope, the passenger totals the value of coupons selected. (This is a dollar and cents total, plus any additional special value coupons like B0G0, FPC, etc.)

From the passenger's personal coupon collection, they select coupons to add into the train envelope. This total is primarily based upon the total which they have removed, including B0G0, FPC, etc. The passenger has the option to add more coupons to the train above the amount they removed.

Optionally, the passenger may add coupons for other passengers either as "RAOK" or as a wish list addition.

A "RAOK" is when a passenger/conductor adds coupons for other train participants as a Random Act Of Kindness. This type of addition does not count towards the value of the train or what the passenger has added to the train as the replacement value which they removed. These are a GIFT for the intended people on board; they are not replaced by their value when the receiver of the RAOK gets the train.

A "wish list" type of addition is when a passenger/conductor adds to the train a coupon (or more) for a specific person because it is a coupon which that person desires (by means of a wish list). This coupon (or coupons) is added to the train with the person's name on it, in hopes that it will be taken out by the person 'wishing' for it. Occasionally, a person has a wish that is very easily filled and the recipient just can't use more of that coupon, and has the option to take it or leave it in the train. When you receive a wish, you replace it's value just as you would with the remainder of the train.

The train is sent to the next person on the list (usually a passenger list is included onboard the train) and information is sent to the conductor.

What A Conductor Likes To Know

Each conductor is different in what information they ask you to update them with in regards to their train. I have found that many conductors generally ask for the following about their train:

When you received the train (this is the date you got it in the mail).

When you sent the train to the next passenger (this is the date you dropped it in the mail box).

How much you removed from the train (this is the total value you took out, NOT each specific coupon) Plus: any speciality value coupons like B0G0's etc.

How much you replaced in the train (this is the total value you put in the envelope to replace what you took out, NOT each specific coupon) Plus: any speciality value coupons like B0G0's etc.

Any expired or near expiry coupons need to be mentioned to the conductor and a decision will be made if near expiry coupons will have enough time to travel to the next person on the list or not.

You are NOT responsible for replacing the value of the expired coupons, but telling the conductor is important.

Role of a Respected Passenger

A good passenger will be someone with a collection of coupons with reasonable expiry dates and values to add to the train.

A respectful passenger is someone who follows any rules or guidelines, themes, etc. which the conductor has established prior to the train boarding.

A responsible passenger is someone who gets the train weighed and mailed in a reasonable amount of time (usually 48 hours maximum).

If you have questions ask the conductor, it is their train and their job to make sure you understand how it works and what is acceptable to them.

A Great Conductor

A conductor's role is to inititate, supervise, stay informed and keep passengers up to date and knowledgable about the train's rules, location, etc.

Each conductor is different; each conductor's train is unique. Even with two identical trains leaving on the same day to the same list of people, the train will never really be the same for very long.

Who Can Start A Coupon Train?
Anyone could start one. Basically you don't need any special training  for being a conductor, you don't even really need to have been a passenger before on another train. What you do need is coupons, lots of coupons.

The Recipe Box!

The Recipe Box is up and running! I am getting recipes added, if you have something you would like to see on here, leave me a comment. No guarantees if I have the recipe you are looking for, but I will post it if I do!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coupons Unite!

Organizing coupons to find what you need efficiently is really important when you are looking to save both time and money shopping.

Early on in coupon collecting a baggie, an envelope or even a buck-store accordion style coupon holder may suffice however the more coupons that are collected and the more involved in swapping a trader becomes, organization is the major key to sanity and shopping trips which run smoothly.

List for organizing:
  • sleeves for inserting coupons into (I used CD/DVD sheets, other coupon collectors use hockey trading card sleeves) I went with what I had.
  • binder
  • scissors
  • high lighter
  • pen

Alternatives to organizing your coupon binder:

Arrange coupons:
  • according to the store you shop most regularly (aisle by aisle)
  • by their food group (bread/cereal, dairy, meat/alternatives, veg/fruit, snacks, etc)
  • by alphabetically order
  • with expiration dates (order of first expiry)
Click on the photograph to see it larger:

Freezer section holds ice cream, frozen treats, fruits, fries, fish, etc.

Pantry section shown: cereal, juice, flour, soup, etc.

Coupons are folded to fit more easily into pockets, with picture of product facing outwards in most situations.

In the grocery cart, place your purse under your binder in the upper seat (if not being used by a child) and your binder should lay flat near your hands, easy for flipping from page to page.

Each time you find an item in store that you have a coupon for on your grocery list, remove it from it's section and place it in the front of your binder in a pocket, extra sleeve compartment, an envelope taped to the inside of your binder cover, etc. This way, when you are at the check out, you will have all the coupons ready to hand the cashier and you can be watching the scanner as they ring in your purchases (this is important to ensure price accuracy and for picking up on the occasional "SCOP" (Voluntary Scanning Code of Practice).

As you are touring the store, you will probably find more coupons to add to your binder.

Unless you are using the coupon on 'that' shopping trip, don't get into filing your coupons right then. That wastes your time in the store and can get you side tracked.

Your focus is shopping, picking up sales, cashing in on good deals and clearance bins, finding coupons and getting the savings at the checkout. Save organizing for when you're at home, until then place any coupons you find in a baggie or pocket in your binder.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Coupon Collection & Trade Initiation

The Hunter Gatherer

One of the most frequently asked questions I hear, is "Where do you get all these coupons?" My response has become pretty much a stock answer, "I usually trade them online and find them in stores."

In order to better enjoy a shopping trip, which to some may seem like a bore or work, I have my soon to be eleven year old son be a hunter and gatherer of coupons for me. He really enjoys finding the ones which he thinks I have missed (on lower shelves or way up high).

The biggest chore for him is trying to carry his new found booty. The bounty of coupons can be somewhat more than his hands can hold at times. With more excitement then you'd probably expect from a preteen boy, he brings stacks of paper to me in another aisle where I continue to shop. The young coupon-hunter holding his plunder with much happiness, shows me ones that he feels are "better," "higher value" or "people are so going to want to trade you for this one mom!" Off he goes to conquer the rest of the aisles in the store. The limit of coupons, (per item) is reasonable and he generally respects the limits I've set for taking coupons in stores. One skill, I just really have to get him checking the dates on the coupon before he brings it to me, unpopular items or coupon pads that are really out of date tend to be forgotten for months beyond expiry.

Just where do we find the coupons in stores?
Coupon pads hang from shelving in aisles of the stores, window displays in the freezer and dairy sections may have a suction-cup display with coupons on a pad, laying on shelving/between items and attached to the physical container or item which you are purchasing (a peel off label sometimes called a "peelie").

Another place to find coupons 'in store' are at the cashier/check outs for special promotions there may be coupons which are only redeemable at that particular location.

Stores and pharmacies like to promote their stores by offering a calender near the turn of a new year. These calenders sometimes have coupons in them and it's worth asking if the store has any calenders left when you are shopping again. One local pharmacy was giving out calenders well into May of 2009, (not many customers need a calender for 2009 by then), so it's just for the coupon savvy shoppers at that point to ask for a few extra.

The cashier's would load me up with 3-5 calenders per shopping trip (which is good for the store too; the coupons are getting used and the store knows that they can order a certain number of calenders the following year for distribution). When the Pharmacy-store recycled the last box of calenders, the one cashier said she thought of me when she saw the manager take them all away; she wanted to ask for them, but didn't know how to contact me, (I'll be sure to give her my email for next time a coupon stack is about to go to waste in the recycle bin!)

Local 'free' newspapers have inserts "Smart Source," "BrandSaver" and "Red Plum" are three that come to mind. Magazine subscriptions play host to several varieties of advertising media including coupons and mail-in-rebates (MIR). Coupons are also found inside and printed on packages of consumer goods (like food, beverages, clothing, etc).

Manufacturers place contact information on most packaging, making it easier to request coupons (and even samples) from companies. A politely worded email or handwritten letter also go a long way with some companies because many reward customer loyalty and sincerity with coupons.

Swap then Shop!

Trading coupons with coupon-collecting friends is a great thing to offset your stash; but just how do you meet other coupon-collectors? Internet groups are the best suggestion.  Membership should be free to groups and have at least one active moderator. There are a few groups, I am working on making a simple website to use for this purpose.  In the meanwhile, I would recommend advertising on Kijiji or talking to your co-workers, mom's groups, or other people you interact with.

Top 10 Check-List for Initiating a trade

1. Message the person you would like to propose a trade with after you have read over their available trade list and wish list.  (you may have to ask if anyone on Kijiji or other online communities have wishlists).

2. List the coupons you are interested in (totalling them up is a nice thing to do, but not required) and propose a trade either from your trade list or your personal coupon stash, which matches as closely as possible to items on their wish list (totalling them up is a nice thing here as well, but not required by all traders).

3. The person you are proposing a trade with, will contact you (usually it doesn't take too long) and accept, modify or decline your propsol. NEVER take it personally if you are turned down or asked to modify a trade. It's not about you personally, it's about coupons and the value each of us places on them.

4. Assuming an agreement is reached, you exchange addresses for the coupons to be sent.

5. Have your envelope weighed at the post office to ensure correct postage.

6. Send your envelope.

7. Message your trade partner to let them know that you sent your side of the trade.

8. Message your trade partner to let them know that their side of the trade arrived.

9. Start the car, you have coupons to use and savings are in your future!

What happens when a trade goes wrong?

The trade never shows up, the trader stops communication, the trade envelope is not what you traded for?  Before jumping to conclusions to take the matter to a moderator of the website (if you are using a forum style online community).  If you are trading on Kijiji, you may have made the trade in person, so you could just refuse the trade or ask for it to be modified.   Be fair, honest and remain mature about the circumstance. Give the person on the other end of the trade, the same benefit of the doubt that you would appreciate.

How long should I wait until a trade is declared MIA?

A missing trade is something none of us appreciate, but at some point it can happen.

Factors to keep in mind when calculating the length of time that an envelope "should" take to arrive: day of the week, time of year/season, strikes and holidays.

For example, if an envelope is mailed on a Thursday, you have to consider what time does the mail LEAVE that mail box. If it's picked up on Friday and travels that day, then sits for two days on the weekend, you have gone from Thursday to Monday, (5 days) with only two days the mail was physically moving towards it's destination. Add in there, a holiday (like Easter) where you have mailed it on Thursday, it sits in the mailbox Friday through to Tuesday, it won't start moving until Tuesday (out of six days, the mail didn't move until Tuesday, so one day in six that it really moved anywhere!).

Honesty: The Best Policy

Basically, be honest about when you send your end of the trade and report when the trade was received on your end. Have patience with the mail system, because as much as a trader would like to instantly have the mail arrive in your hands, it's not going to happen.

I usually would consider a trade missing after about fourteen working days (these are days that the Canada Post is physically moving my mail, not holidays or weekends.) I would contact my trade partner and inquire about the trade, verify when it was sent (things happen and being realistic is reasonable) and keep an open dialogue with your trade partner. This type of event is not a common occurrence and really needs to be discussed between partners. I can't stress enough honesty, patience and maturity when dealing with trades. It's easy to blow things out of proportion, keep a cool head and a favourable outcome is much more likely.

Abiding by a Code

The Code

It's just so frustrating to get home and read over your receipt and find you have been overcharged by your favourite retailer. This isn't the first time and you just feel like the scanners and price never match up with each other.

Within Canada with The Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code, "the code" or sometimes referred to as "the SCOP" (Scanning Code of Practice) protects consumers from overcharges at the checkout. A voluntary code which came into affect in about 2007, allows a retailer the opportunity to correct the scanning error and by giving the consumer the product or $10 off, whichever comes first, shows the store's commitment to customer relations.

Do all retailers take part in this code? No. Many do, but a few choose not to.

Is it the law for retailers to take part in the code? No. It is voluntary practice.

Click here to see a short Marketplace Video about the code.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sale + Coupon = Big Savings!

Many thousands of coupons are flooding the market at any given time with an honest attempt to influence your purchase of a particular product. But when is using a coupon a good deal and when is it just a waste of money?
In your household you know what you regularally purchase and what are considered treats. You also know about new products on the market through advertising with any number of strategically placed promotions in a variety of media forms. You see the new laundry detergent marketed as "2x the cleaning power," or the "candies now with no artificial colours!" Something to grab your attention and get you thinking about the advertisement song (jingle) or the well built model showing the latest car or clothing designs.
So when is it a good deal to use a coupon?
I would suggest that the best time to use a coupon, is during a sale. If I know of a promotion within the timeline of the expiry of the coupon, then I would use it at the sale. This keeps more money in my pocket, through both the sale price and the coupon redemption. If the product is not on sale or is something that rarely goes on sale, then I would use the coupon to save money on the purchase.
Another good time to use a coupon is to try a new product, the advertisements are ringing through your head as you enter the grocery store and picking up that 'special' item to 'try it' is on your mind. You didn't need to write it down on your list, because the jingle has played in your head for a week now leading up to this moment. This is definately the time to use a coupon because you aren't sure if you'd like the product and paying full price would seem wasteful to you in the end if you didn't like it; you will remind yourself that, "well at least I used a coupon and didn't pay full price."
What could be considered an unwise use of coupons?
If I were to make purchases outside of what I normally buy for my household, 'just because it was a good deal,' is not wise use of the money that it took to complete the purchase. For example, if shaving lotion for ladies were on clearance and I had a coupon for the item, purchasing this is a waste if I don't have a reason to own it because I'm allergic to it.
I have heard and seen people talk about their stock piles of treasures which cost next to nothing and if it's something they normally buy, getting for a great deal is wonderful bargain shopping! When I hear of other people who buy the products to donate to shelters and food banks, I think that is just fantastic; both sharing and saving themselves money all in the same purchase. I totally applaud that. Excessive shopping and hoarding, however in some individuals can be a serious mental problem with real life effects. If you feel you're needing some help because your shopping has turned into excess, hoarding or obsession; I encourage you to contact your medical professional. There is strength in asking for help when you need it.
Coupon Usage Tips:
How to use more than one coupon during a sale and save even more!
Kellogg's Brand Cereals were on sale for $2.99 a box.
Raisin Bran $2.99 (sale price) - $2.00 coupon (back of cereal boxes) = 99c
Special K $2.99 (sale price) - $1.50 coupon = $1.49
99c + $1.49 = $2.48
$2.48 - $2.00 coupon (WUB 2 Kellogg's Cereal coupon) = 48c for 2 boxes!

Take advantage of the sale + coupon = greater savings.
Use individual coupons + "WUB*" more than one product coupons, for the same purchase.
*WUB= when you buy

Here's how you do it... (unless you have a cashier, which I have never had... that doesn't understand this)...I give them one box of cereal and one coupon. I give them the next box and that coupon. At the end of the order (or after they have rung it in anytime after the coupons are rung in) I give them the WUB 2 get $2 off coupon.
Here is what I say... I am very pleasant and never assume that they know what to do, or not to do with a coupon, I just say hi, how are you and start ringing in groceries... then I say, I have a coupon for that box of cereal. They scan the cereal and enter the coupon (some set them aside for the end, but most ring in as we go when we do it one at a time).
Then when they go to scan the second cereal box, I say "oh I have a coupon for that as well!"
When that is rung in, I hand them another coupon and say, "I get a bonus today, because I bought two boxes of cereal, I get another coupon off!" and the cashier looked at the coupon, smiled and said, "well yes you do!" That was it, just that simple. Twenty-four cents for a box of cereal, now to find a coupon to have milk with it!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Balancing on a Shoestring

  • Living on a limited income means stretching every dollar as far as it possibly can. Buying sales, using coupons, looking for the best deals, comparison shopping for quality & quantity and when it comes down to it in the end, going without when it means keeping head above water.

    Just how is a mother to stretch each dollar to cover every need? Focusing on what is truly important [needs] and things that we can live without [wants] and learning to balance a budget held together with a shoestring.

    Just Where Are You Coming From?

    Only experience and prioritizing my life mentally, financially and spiritually have I come to a place which gives me any sort of confidence in my life raising my son independently. Through the school of hard-knocks I have earned my 'undergraduate degree in financial planning' for my family. I don't know everything about the numbers-game and don't propose that everyone will agree with all of my ideas. I only know what has worked with reasonable success and what has failed abysmally for me personally.

    How Do I Get Started?

    Preparing a budget for yourself, if you're a student about to leave home for the first time, a single mom finding her way with mouths to feed, a sole provider for a family at home or a wealthy businessman; if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. Simple as that. A budget keeps a country and it's inhabitants happy or keeps them mired in poverty; but everyone needs a budget.

    Put together your list of monthly expenses, things you truthfully 'have to have' that doesn't include the coffee at Tim Horton's or things like that. This is the basic necessities of survival, (although I can hear the Tim Horton lovers saying "What? I have to get a coffee into me to get going in the morning!") bare with me for a moment. Get back to basics: shelter, clothing, food, heat/cooling, hydro, transportation.

    Your list will include a handful of very basic necessities which most of us have. Now write down what you 'must' pay for each of these necessary expenses. A total for rent or mortgage, heating/cooling, hydro, water/sewer, garbage, clothing, food, transportation, etc. Next to each you should have a total dollar figure per month (basing this on a month because rent payments are typically per month).

    Now make a second list of things that you like to have/do, for example: fitness club membership, TV cable/satellite service, Internet, Tim Horton's (or any other) coffee trips, fast food, recreational activities like: renting movies/games, going to the theatre, etc.

    Beside each write what you honestly spend on each one per month. Keep in mind that that can of pop in the machine that cost a buck, adds up if you do it every day! Be honest with the numbers, even if you are afraid to see what you are really spending. If you aren't sure what you spend, that's a big red flag that you have the potential for a serious pit fall financially.

    On the top of your paper write your total income in a month (this is from any and all sources). Subtract your total for NEEDS which you calculated above. With the remainder, (if any), subtract your total from your WANTS list above.

    Prioritizing your budget can be done by taking the list of NEEDS and focusing on what you must have within that grouping. Start by asking yourself questions like:

    What options do I have for size of housing?

    Is a one bedroom apartment compared to a bachelor or sharing a two bedroom really the best financial option for me, right now?

    How close am I able to live to my work or educational institution and other necessities (groceries, pharmacy, etc)?

    Can I walk, ride a bike, take public transit or car pool, instead of having a personal vehicle for the time being to save money?

    Am I using the heating/cooling systems in my home efficiently to prevent drafts and unwanted heat/cooling loss?

    What other cost saving techniques could I use to make sure my bills are as low as possible?
    Do I shut the lights off when I leave a room, etc.?

    Do I purchase frozen or ready made meals to save time or because I don't know how to cook healthy tasteful meals?

    Am I choosing the best foods, or just the most convenient at the time to prepare?

    Do I buy clothing at malls and high end stores all of the time, or can I try alternatives to paying high prices without sacrificing style and quality?

    Am I recycling or just throwing everything in the garbage? (Costing more money because you pay for the garbage to be removed by the bag.)

    Am I resourceful when it comes to using water or do I waste it?

Considering your cost of living (your absolute basic needs), looking at what you spend per month and what income there is to pay all of these expenses is very important and a wise habit for anyone wanting to feel like they are not swallowed up in debt.

What about [Student] Credit Cards?

Traditionally in your first year of post-secondary education, credit card companies will start tempting you with offers. Is it wise to give in to this card being offered to you at a low monthly fee or with great reward incentives? Only you can decide, but before you sign over your personal information allowing yourself to have the option of "instant gratification" with some fast cash, weigh out a few things on paper first, your own person honesty will keep you from making a decision which you can end up regretting. Ask yourself questions like:

  • At this point in time, although I could really use the money, where will I get the money to pay off this card when the bill comes in?

  • What is my primary purpose for having a credit card, right now (versus waiting until I graduate, or waiting until next semester, etc). What is my driving motivation for having a credit card in my possession?

  • What will I be like in a month or six months down the road, with one more payment to make monthly on my budget and can I really honestly afford it?

  • The instant gratification of having an "extra" $500 bucks sure looks good right about now, but that money isn't mine to keep and I have to pay it back with interest, do I really want to do that?

  • Could I pick up some spare work or sell something instead, if I really needed a few bucks right now?

Cold Hard Cash vs Cold Hard Reality

If I am in debt now, a credit card will help me get out of debt. No it won't. You are basically paying one debt (or several small ones) WITH another debt. You aren't getting ahead, and now you have interest to pay! Many people do this, called debt consolidation and although it can be a quick fix in the short term for some people; it can be a major down fall for other's.

"There are many benefits to Debt consolidation loans in Ontario Canada as it allows you to pay back all your loans much quicker, but if you are not careful, you can just as easily be much worse off in the longer term if you are unable to pay back your Debt consolidation loan. You may end up accumulating even more debt. It is imperative that the Debt consolidation loan is within your realistic means and income and you are committed to eliminating you Debt and making you repayments on time." [a]

For more information about Student Credit card warning signs of use, the checklist found HERE will be helpful.

Gaining Self-Confidence: Priceless

Weighing out the facts, if after all you have read about having a Student Credit card has led you to feel that you still should have one, then consider trying a pre paid card first. Test yourself, without affecting your own credit with a company or bank. If you succeed honestly and keep replacing money on your card faithfully and responsibly, then consider applying for a credit card in the future. The benefit will definately outway the hardship you will feel if you become mired in debt. Keeping your pre-paid card topped up will give you the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that no 'quick fix' can provide because this is long term building your confidence in yourself. Building confidence in yourself is a much better reward than even the best platium card with rewards on the market! That truly is, priceless!

Cite your source:

[a] Debt Consolidation Loans Ontario Canada, subsection (e)

The Questions Newbies Ask

New-to-coupon-use people (affectionately referred to as "Newbies") ask great questions and comments about their experiences. I really like to mentor Newbies because of their enthusiasm to learn.

This spring I hosted an online contest open to members of on online forum-style community specifically to Newbies only. The requirement for the contest entry was to include something they'd learnt and something they hoped to learn on while using the website/forum  with regards to coupon use.

The selection which follows, are the questions (and answers) which they Newbies posted. The replies (Mentor) were posted by one other member or myself.

Newbie: How to resist the good deals for stuff that I don't need so that I won't end up with buying things that I have no use for - or worse, become a certifiable shopaholic.

Mentor: Practice, practice, practice! Take the coupons that you plan to use, in the store with your shopping list and flyer. Keep focused and remember the prize at the end of the shopping trip is to watch the savings pile up from your coupons! Don't give in to temptation when it's something you don't "normally" buy "just because" you have a coupon for it. (trying something on sale/with a coupon is one thing, good shopping for sure) but buying a case of something you don't use, just because you get it for cheap... well...? You could donate it to a food bank, woman's shelter if you have a 'fall of the wagon' with your coupons. Try to remain focused on your goal of saving (not spending) money.

Newbie: One think I'd like to learn is how to organize myself - so I can remember to get the paper when the coupon flyer's are out, storing my coupons and remembering to use them and finding the sales - lol! Also organize myself with my contest entries as well - always have a hard time remembering if I've entered or not and I could end up disqualifying myself if only one entry is acceptable. Yikes!

Mentor: I look through the flyer's online usually on Thursdays. If I happen to see any good deals I then check to see if I have a coupon for it as well. I take all my coupons with me shopping, but put the ones I will use for sure that day in a separate envelope. As for the contests, I'm not the greatest on the computer, many folks bookmark each contest and put them in categories as daily, weekly, or one time entry. For me I do it the old fashioned way. I always thank the person who posted the contest, so when I return to SC [], I look for my check makers. That way I know if I entered the one timers already, and know which dailies to do.

Newbie: I would love to learn how coupon trains work.

Mentor: Coupon train: basically it is a group of people who send their address to one "conductor" and they have a "train" (envelope) of coupons sent to their address. The "passenger" removes what coupons they will personally use, calculate the value they have removed from the train, and replace that value (or more if you like), address the envelope to the next "rider" on the train and then you contact the conductor with your information (when you received the train, sent it out, took out/put in, or any info that the conductor asks you for).

Newbie: I want to keep learning that it is okay to use coupons, to not be embarassed by "holding up the line" and to be able to organize my coupons properly!

Mentor: Never be embarrassed because you want to save $$. I don't like to hold lines up either, so I try to put the products I have coupons for at the end and hand the coupons to the cashier as she rings in each product, that way there is no searching for them afterwards. For organizing my coupons, I put them in envelopes, beauty, food, cleaning, FPC's etc. I also take an extra one [envelope] with the coupons I plan to use for sure that day shopping. [alternatively, the owner of this blog uses a binder format, the mentor who answered this on my behalf was using a different organizational method]

Newbie: The thing I need to learn is to become better at sorting/using coupons prior to expiry and standing up for my money when a sales clerk says a coupon is no good and I know it is.

Mentor: To try and get organized you can use a file folder or recipe box holder with the dividers. You can sort them many different ways, but you could try by the month of expiry. If you have a problem with a cashier not wanting to accept a coupon, ask for the manager. If that dosen't work, send your concerns to the company itself, the one you got the coupon from and the one that refused to accept it.

Newbie: Hey came across your post, just learning and hoping for some good tips about trading.

Mentor: Trading tips... sure I can give you some. Check ratings (yes, even though the person may be new you can trade with them, but good to check, just in case). I trade with newbies and allow them on trains all the time. Some members, do not. [this refers to online communities where trade ratings or scores are left for each member as they trade]

Always be fair and reasonable with your offering (when you propose a trade). Don't offer something that is not going to benefit the other person (more likely to have them say "yes" to a trade proposal if you have something on THEIR wishlist that you can offer them)

On the other hand, don't be taken advantage of. If a member offers you a stack of say $50 in coupons and wants a $10 GC for Tim Hortons, you really should weigh out the benefit of that trade for you. (I offer $100 + in coupons to get a newbie started for $5 GC to like Subway or something, but that's a small amount and the person getting $100+ in coupons, even if they use 1/3 to 1/2 of them personally and trade the rest; I have regained the $5 GC (gift card) and it covers my shipping (which is usually about $2 (or even more)... so I don't do things to "make a profit."

Ask, (for help). Offer, (what coupons you are willing to trade) and try to keep your tradelist up to date (this benefits you and others). Be reasonable, flexible, honest and friendly. Prompt, and follow through with trade ratings and "thank you, the envie (envelope) arrived", etc.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

You Trader!

Coupons have long been in circulation for basic marketing purposes for over 120 years. Historically, the Coca-Cola Company in 1887, incorporated with Asa Candler as a partner, is credited with significantly changing the business with his unique advertising methods. Complimentary coupons for Coca-Cola were mailed and distributed in magazines giving away a phenomenal 8.5 million free drinks between 1894 to 1913. By 1895 through this marketing method, every state in the US was serving Coca-Cola.

In 1909 C.W. Post used coupons to aid in the sale of his breakfast cereal, a penny coupon per box. Within the US today, about 3 billion dollars in transactions are made because of coupons. [a]

With the birth of the Internet, coupon availability and access has grown. Online coupon codes, printable coupons and access to manufacturer addresses for requesting coupons, have become much simpler.

So how does one collect coupons? Coupons can be found in grocery store aisles hanging from coupon pads, a fridge or freezer magnet may hold a pad of coupons in some sections of the store, laying on top of display shelves, a point of sale cardboard display in the middle an aisle, at the checkout, in a flyer, store promotion calender, counter display (like a pamphlet holder with a coupon in the pamphlet) and directly on merchandise. Coupon clipping from magazines and newspapers became very popular during the Great Depression, in order to save as much money as possible. "By 1957, the first-ever clearing house devoted entire to the redemption of coupons was created (it was called the Nielsen Coupon Clearing House at the time and then it’s name was eventually changed to the Manufacturers Coupon Control Center or MC3). This marked the beginning of the era of the coupon as a crucial part of the world of business. By 1965, more than half of the people in the United States reported that they were coupon clippers."[b]

Where do trades for coupons take place? Trading for coupons has become quite fun with the Internet being a major source of coupon~users coming together online. In person trading and local groups, also make coupon trades more personal and interesting to meet other people. An exceptional website is one which allows members to access several options for finding a variety of resources and methods of obtaining coupons. Forums, discussions, online up to the minute coupon database, access to hundreds of freebies, where to enter contests, product and store reviews, weekly flyer's for stores coast to coast, sales promotions in a small town to a blowout clearance in a major city the information gets posted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Regular contests for members of the online community are a great participation incentive (not that we need one!)

Questions about trading coupons are frequently sent to me and I encourage "newbies" to ask anything and everything. In an article to follow, I'll be outlining the major and minor thoughts and questions new-to-coupon-use people frequently ask. If you are new to coupon use and have a question, please feel free to send me a message. I will do my best to answer your question or find someone who knows the answer for you.

A Penny Saved

Coupons are a way of life in our household budget. Trading and using them are important for our regular purchases in order to keep our family finances under management.

Working with "newbie" coupon users has really allowed me to understand the people that don't come from cost~cutting households. Some "newbies" are surfacing in desperate need of coupon~using mentors during the difficult economic times.

 To me, saving money is even more important than earning it. Saving money which I have already in my bank account makes more sense than trying to earn more to replace what I've spent because I didn't use wisdom with my purchases. There are times when a purchase has to be made without a coupon or sale, that just happens. The more that can be stretched out of one dollar, the better.

Coupons just make sense when it comes to smart shopping and taking care of my family budget.