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Friday, November 25, 2011

dot cuts back {online shopping + coupons}

Happy Black Friday!  Today, we have the last guest post in our 'dot cuts back series' with Alli from FergusonFinds to tell us her tips for online shopping and finding great online coupons.  I think this post is perfect timing to get ready for Cyber Monday!

When I started reading Beth's dot cuts back series, I emailed her right away about writing a segment; but first, let me start by introducing myself and then I'll explain why I'm so passionate about cutting back!

I'm Alli and I blog over at FergusonFinds about life as a newlywed couple living on one salary in a very affluent community while my husband, Tommy, finishes his two year graduate assistantship and MBA.

I love to shop but having only one source of income, I've had to get creative to stay within our budget. I've learned a lot in the last year and a half and am confident God has challenged me with this journey so I'll be a better steward of our finances someday when Tommy is working full time.

So, without further adieu ... here's four ways I shop til' I drop on a very limited budget.

Cash Back Websites

Using a website like Ebates or Shop at Home to earn cash back on all your online purchases is a must. You'll earn a percentage of your purchase (the exact percentage depends on the store) just by using the cash back site website as the starting point for your purchase.

For example, making a purchase at Target? Visit Ebates, search for Target, click the link to Target and a new window will open and redirect you to Target. The window will start with a cash back ticket. Like the window says, there's "Nothing more for you to do. It's that simple!" When you reach a certain amount in your account, Ebates or Shop at Home will mail you a check or deposit it directly into your bank account.

I use Ebates but I have a close friend that prefers Shop at Home. Take a peek at each site and decide what works best for you, or if you're diving head-first into saving money, make an account on each site and check both when you're about to make a purchase. Sometimes the cash back percentage at particular website varies by which cash back site you're using.

Another great thing about using a cash back site is they typically provide you with a rundown of promotions and coupon codes currently valid for the site you're about to purchase from. It's a great way to double check you're getting the best deal on your online purchase. For example, below is a screenshot of Ebates' Target coupon codes that you otherwise wouldn't have known about it if you were shopping straight from Target's website.

That makes for a great transition into my next category ...

Online Coupon Codes

If you don't see a coupon code on your cash back website, you can also check "Cents"able Momma's online coupon database. Click here to visit the database.

Like a true sleuth, if you have no luck on your cash back site or in an online coupon codes database, Google it. Just open a new tab in your browser and Google the store. Google phrases like “Target promo codes” “Target discount code” and “online Target coupon code” until you find an offer that will work. It never hurts to try a code, you never know what will work. Your transaction won’t be cancelled by using an invalid code.

Recently I ordered a rug from Target, I not only received 3% cash back but also had two coupon codes added to my purchase, one from Ebates and one by Googling the phrases above.

Store Credit Cards

I love using my store credit cards; I have two that I use regularly (Ann Taylor LOFT and Gap).  This may sound irresponsible, but just hear me out.  Many store credit cards have great rewards and special shopping days where cardholders can earn double or triple rewards on their purchases. Having a store card makes you eligible for additional discounts and promotions during a store's regular sale. Plus, you’re more likely to receive mailbox coupons from the store if you're a store cardholder. Store cardholders also receive significant savings for a birthday, free tailoring and more.

Having store credit cards can be tricky. I am not a believer in credit card debt, and it can be easy to get lost in your finances if you have multiple store credit cards. If you do decide to use store credit cards, remember this: many stores allow you to pay their store credit card with a debit card, in store. You can make your purchase, reap the store card benefits AND pay the store card off, all in the same transaction. If you can do that, I say "go for it" when it comes to a store credit card.

Printable Coupons

If you’re shopping in-store don’t assume just because it wasn’t sent to your mailbox or email inbox that a coupon isn't available. There are many blogs that post weekend restaurant and retail coupons regularly as well as keep a running list of both categories on their websites.

My favorite is Surviving the Stores, this deal-savvy blogger providers her readers with a restaurant and retail coupon round up almost every other day. Click here to view the most recent roundup. Also available through Surviving the Stores are restaurant and retail coupon databases.

Again, Googling never hurts. I recently purchased a camera from Best Buy. The coupon I used saved me $130 and isn't available via Surviving the Store's database. I found it from Googling phrases like “Best Buy printable coupon” “Best Buy discount coupon” and “Best Buy coupon print.”

I printed two versions of the offer when I went to purchase my camera. Since both versions were valid, I shared one with the couple who was in line behind me and purchasing the same camera. They were amazed I had such a good coupon but I was amazed they didn't have a coupon. I knew the camera should come with a free memory card even though it wasn't ringing up with one, but they didn't. I also knew the camera was $100 less online than it was in store and that Best Buy will price match, but they didn't. It was heartbreaking to see such an uninformed consumer purchasing such a large item.

And this is a great place to end my cutting back advice!  If you're going to spend money -- do your research.  Find a way to save money on the items you do purchase and cutting back won't seem like such a burden, but rather a blessing and a lesson in managing and mastering the resources God had given you. 

Best of luck, please follow my blog, FergusonFinds (I try to run down my deals in detail when I score a really great one) or email me at alliferguson {at} me {dot} com if you have any questions or are looking for any other savvy shopping resources. I'd love to hear from you!

P.S. One of my favorite posts on FergusonFinds is my Birthday Deals Summary.  I had an amazing 24th birthday because I was able to use so many freebies (including a $20 off a $20 purchase at Vera Bradley).  Even if your birthday isn't for a few months, this is a great post to check out now, as it's important to sign up for your birthday freebies early.


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