Anyone eager to save money always looks at coupons as free money. After all, that is precisely what they are! I always discourage penny pinchers from looking at coupons as a discount. Instead, I explain that they are little, tiny windfalls of cash that can actually add up to loads of money. And this is particularly true if you are someone willing to do super couponing. Yet, as I have also said in the past, if you want to save big with coupons, you often have to dedicate serious time and energy to the endeavor. That brings me to the point of this article – learning how to save big and to save without coupons.
In the past, I have focused on ways to save with coupons strictly in terms of groceries and household items. Yet, coupons apply to almost everything. I get coupons in the mail for home security systems, car repair and upkeep, beauty visits, and all the rest. That means that I might have no way to save without coupons if I ignore the offers mailed or emailed to me…right?
No, actually, that’s the wrong way to view it.
Ways Everyone Can Save Without Coupons
Not long ago, I wrote about my long standing affection for and how the store makes an incredible array of methods for enjoying savings available. For instance, I looked at their proprietary app, their online subscription account, their unique RED cards which can be obtained as debit or credit options, and their coupons. Here’s the thing though: This list could apply to many other vendors.
Walmart has an app, online options, debit and credit accounts, coupons and other ways to save. Amazon.com also has a range of online options to help you save (including Pantry and Subscribe & Save), debit and credit accounts, and more. And lest we forget – loyalty programs are wonderful for providing ways to save without coupons, and almost every store you enter has one.
My point is that I think that one of the easiest ways to save without coupons is to take the time to look at the vendors you visit the most (in the real world and online) and assess them for the ways they might be offering you ways to save without coupons that you have yet to recognize.
I would use the following point by point list to determine how you might start to cut expenses at big box stores that include those above as well as home improvement stores, department stores, discount chains, and so on:
- Do they have an app? If so, am I using it?
- Do they have online discounts or options? If so, am I a registered user of the site?
- Do they have a newsletter or other online subscription that will alert me to sales, discount codes and so on? If so, did I submit my email?
- Do they have social media pages where they announce special offers to followers and/or subscribers? If so, am I following these options?
- Do they have a loyalty program and customer card? If so, am I an account holder who makes sure the card is swiped with each visit?
- Do they have proprietary or brand specific debit or credit options? If so, do I have at least one?
- Do they make coupons available to those registered for them online, via a loyalty program or in any other way? If so, am I using them?
Yes, it will take time to list the stores you use most, assess them for the different ways to save without coupons and take steps necessary to be sure you are making the most of each opportunity. But, you will quickly see savings add up. In fact, by doing an assessment of the places you shop, you might see that you are actually visiting too many locations for one or two items or discounts and can consolidate in order to start earning a lot more savings with one or two particular sites instead.
For instance, in my household, I typically veer more towards the CVS and Target programs as these are the places with the items I find I save the most on. I am also a big advocate of the convenience and savings that I enjoy with Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. Yet, that does not mean that I skip out on the opportunities afforded to me by Walmart, warehouse stores, and my local Ocean State Job Lot.
I am a shop around kind of person, and because of that alone, I often save without coupons. Yet, there are a few other steps I suggest you take.
Save Without Coupons on Groceries
When I wrote You, Your Groceries and Saving Money I made some common sense suggestions that always bear repeating, and which included:
- Avoiding intense brand dedication
In other words, if you want to save without coupons (and with them, too) it is best if you are not overly devoted to a specific brand. In fact, if you are okay with store brands, you are likely to always save money without coupons at all.
- Be a dedicated list maker
Impulse buying is one thing, and shopping with a list is great, but when I talk about list making, I also suggest a household inventory. Seriously, it sounds a bit nutty but it is a wonderful tool for avoiding clutter, expired or wasted items, and so on.
Here’s what I mean: We keep a list of everything we actually need and use inside places like the cleaning supplies cupboard, the bathroom pantry and even the kitchen cupboards. We also have a master list that I review from time to time. The benefits of these lists are remarkable both as shopping lists and for keeping expenses in check.
How? As I said, I use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save to cut costs pretty dramatically on many household items. On my master list, I just indicate where I get the products online and the frequency of delivery. I also note the unit price. Then, if I see a deal that beats the subscription price, I just cancel that month’s order and pick it up when I’m doing my regular shopping.
Knowing what’s in the cupboards is also helpful for not double or over buying and not having things that could expire just sitting there gathering dust. Of course, I also use meal planning as a major cost cutting tactic, too…
- Be a meal planner
I can save without coupons on groceries and pantry items far more easily when I plot out meals in advance. Now, I am an authentic foodie, and so it might seem that I can’t really save that much, but I do. This is because I consider the foods that are seasonal and, therefore, going to be cheaper at certain times per year.
As an example, I don’t make many meals that call for fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers or other summertime ingredients during the off seasons. However, when it is time for fresh garden produce, the meal plan includes those items at their peak (plus, it helps me determine when I should be planning to do some freezing, canning, and so on)
Yes, I have lists of favorite recipes and calendars that help me track when to expect big produce sales, canned food clearance events and all the rest. Doing this gets me the best per unit/pound pricing and lets me stock the shelves affordably.
So, without clipping anything, my lack of brand dedication on things like paper products, certain foods and canned goods, and so on helps me to keep a lot of money in the bank. Buying store brand items is always going to deliver the best price. Plus, my (somewhat) obsessive list making and meal planning has actually allowed me to accurately forecast how much I’ll be dropping on food and other grocery items on a weekly basis.
Are there other ways to save on grocery bills and larger expenses without looking around for coupons? Oh yes indeed there are!
Ebates, Ibotta and More
Again, some of my readers will know that I always urge them to consider heading to sites like Ebates and Ibotta if they want to cut costs. This is because the sites offer a number of ways to save on almost everything you might purchase.
Ebates, as an example, is a browser add-on that automatically informs you of any special deals a website might be making available, and it often gives you a cash back reward on purchases through the site. For example, I wanted to join Ancestry.com and get the DNA tests for a few family members as a holiday gift. The browser extension alerted me to the cash back I’d get if I used it as a portal and it got me a discount on the tests I purchased as gifts!
Once your cash back amounts hit a certain level, Ebates deposits the funds into the PayPal account you have linked to the site and that’s it. Money in your pocket for having shopped through the portal and discounted pricing – without a coupon. NOTE: Ebates does also have an area where you can explore coupon codes and discount offers, too.
No matter what it is you are going to buy, I strongly urge you first load an extension like Ebates. If you are not keen on adding things to your browser, you can also just visit a site like Smartsource or SavingStar. Each of them allows you to register your loyalty cards to their site and then simply pre-load their offers. You may have to scan your store receipt using their app, but with SavingStar, once you make the purchase, it knows and puts the cash back or discount savings into your account. You can transfer to PayPal or ask for a check.
I also love to see if Ibotta can yield me some savings. It is app that lets you look for the products you want to purchase (our household actually shopped for electronics through the portal along with a few everyday items). You do some simple tasks through the app (we watched a 30 second video) and the rewards are unlocked.
You load the rewards and go to the store where they apply (in our case it was Target) to make the purchase. Once purchased, we just needed to use the app to snap a photo of the receipt and the money we were due was put into our Ibotta account around two days later.
Of course, one of my other all-time favorite ways to save money without coupons is to use price adjustment options. Though many credit cards do offer this, they leave it up to you to do the work of figuring out if a price change occurred during the applicable period and apply for the cash back. However, price adjustment apps such as Slice and Paribus are great for doing all of the work for you.
They work when you download the apps, create an account, register an email address and then ask all vendors for emailed receipts rather than printed ones. The apps then scour your email accounts for receipts and track everything on them. If something qualifies for adjustment, the app does it all for you and you get the money back in your account!
Finally, one way to always save money (whether it is through cash back rewards, loyalty points, or discounts) is by using sites and apps like Ev’reward and PriceGrabber. They let me see where I can get the best cash back or the best rewards. When I combine purchases with my Ibotta account, I typically see 3% or more in returns and savings.
I should also note that sites like Ebates are now sending out debit and credit card offers. These give you higher percentages in cash back returns, sign on bonuses and more. I encourage you to explore those options if you want to always save without clipping a single coupon.