I love discounts and freebies. There, I said it. I will always look for one prior to a purchase or an outing. It doesn’t make me cheap, and it doesn’t mean I deprive myself. It does allow me to stretch my dollars significantly farther than others.
Getting the best deals and finding freebies means using and often combining multiple strategies. I’ve outlined my top 18 below. Eighteen! I know, right? I do these on auto pilot now and didn’t realize I used so many until I sat to write this. None of them are difficult and hopefully they will add to your money saving repertoire. Here goes:
1. Create a Separate Email Account: This may be obvious but if haven’t yet done so, set one up strictly for discount getting purposes. You’ll always be in the know and your personal account won’t be overwhelmed with discount spam.
2. Sign Up Like Crazy Online and In-Store: If your favorite store or brand has a rewards program or an email list to receive discounts, sign up. You may be surprised at the number of free swag and deep discount offers not available to the general public that come your way.
3. Check Regularly: If you’ve set up a discount getting email account, check it regularly. I check mine every day. It’s just part of my routine. One, it helps me keep it lean by deleting what I don’t want. But more importantly, it allows me to catch excellent deals that expire shortly. You may not want to check as often, but if you sign up with numerous sites you’ll want to check more than once a week or the sheer number of emails will be overwhelming.
4. Follow Great Blogs: …like Money Under the Cushions, right? Following just a few, or even several blogs can save you hundreds or more a year and help you score freebies. I consider myself savvy, but am always amazed at what others discover about saving and getting freebies.
5. Clip Online Coupons: Don’t be like me and waste time because you’re against installing the coupon program on your computer from the legitimate sites. I finally got over it and it’s helped me score tons of freebies and discounts. My favorite is Coupons.com. I love it so much I added to this site so everyone could have easy access. A few tips about clipping online coupons:
- Use More than One Computer: Most online coupon programs allow two prints per computer and then they ice you out. No amount of clearing cookies or refreshing one’s IP address (I’ve tried) will change it. So because I’m greedy and my husband and I are lucky enough to each have a computer, we get two more prints by using his.
- Mobile devices and tablets won’t work because they can’t accept the coupon installer. While you can use these devices to forward coupons to your computer via email, if you’ve already reached your two max, you can’t print more.
6. Check Facebook and Twitter: Coupons and discount codes can sometimes be found on a company’s Facebook or Twitter pages. Personally I don’t follow the companies because I don’t want my feed clogged up with their posts and tweets. But I do check their pages if I’m looking for a discount and can’t find one in other locations.
7. Don’t Pass Up Small Freebie Coupons that Come in the Mail: At least twice, often three times a month (more during my birthday month) I receive coupons in the mail that will make my purchase free. My favorite is J.C. Penney’s “take $10 off of a purchase of $10 or more.” That alone is $120 in free merchandise a year! Sure it doesn’t buy a lot at one time, but I’ll tell you what. Combined with what’s on sale I’ve built up my work out gear, and socks and underwear drawer for just about nothing!
8. Use Shopping Apps in Brick and Mortar Stores: I currently have 11 installed on my phone. Eleven! Me! One who hates installing anything. But I’ve saved hundreds by getting cash back through them. See my series here (coming soon).
9. Double Up for Double (or More) Discounts: Brad and I sign up for the same rewards and discount programs. More specifically, he has been signed up for all of my favorite stores and brands and I’ve made him sign up for those he favors as well. Doing this allows us to double up and get multiple deals and freebies. I will say that this mostly works with discount and freebie coupons sent via email. If one is sent by regular mail we usually only get one – probably because we share the same address. We each have our own PayPal account because cash back programs require an account in your name. Tip: The person who enjoys this the most should hold all of the rewards cards. I keep all of the rewards cards and hand him “his” card when we go shopping.
10. Use Cash Back Programs When Shopping Online: These sites “pay” you when you go to their site and click through to the store you want to shop at. How it works is they receive a commission anytime you click through from their site and purchase something. In return, the site shares its commission with you. It’s a win-win. Many times you can use coupons, but sometimes there aren’t any coupons and it’s the only way to save a little. Hey, some is better than none. My favorites are Ebates and Swagbucks because I find them to be the most reliable and have (mostly) the best cash back percentages.
11. Discount Gift Card It: Save even more by paying for your purchase with a discount gift card. My two favorite sites are GIftCardZen.com and GiftCards.com. There are others (Raise.com, CardPool.com to name a few), but I’ve only used Giftcardzen and GIftcards.com. I like them because there’s always been an excellent chance of finding e-gift cards or printable gift cards, which means I can get one on the spot for my amazing last minute deals.
12. Use a Points Bearing Credit Card: A typical rewards points credit card will give you 1% cash back that you can redeem for cash, gift cards, or to pay your balance. Use your credit card to pay for everything, and you’ll accrue a nice amount. But please, only do this if you pay your bill in full each month otherwise you’ll pay way more in interest than you’ll ever receive from their points program.
13. Get Free Gift Cards: Whether you get them for yourself or gift them to someone else, a few free gift cards here and there can really add up to significant savings. They’re not tremendously hard to get though patience, determination, and discipline are needed if you’re interested in getting free gift cards on a regular basis. The Bing Rewards program and Swagbucks are my two favorites, but there are many more.
14. When in Doubt Search it Out: Can’t find a coupon? Want to know if there is a better coupon? Google it. Or Bing it, Yahoo it, MSN it …whichever search engine you use. It only takes a second, but could yield significant savings.
15. Check eBay: If you don’t mind used, excuse me, “pre-owned,” check eBay. I’ve used this strategy to purchase items that just don’t seem to go on sale. eBay has gift cards too so search for a discounted one to save even more.
16. Stack. Stack. Stack: Be the ultimate savings machine by stacking as many money savings strategies as you can on top of each other at one time. My minimum stack includes waiting for a sale, using a coupon, using a discount gift card to pay for it, and accruing points by purchasing the discounted gift card with my credit card.
17. Be Ready to Act: Sometimes this is the hardest of all because the logic is backwards as I’m suggesting buying something when you’re not planning to do so. It’s rare, but occasionally an unbelievable deal still pops up now and again. If you really want it, you have to be ready to act at that moment, even if you hadn’t planned on it.
That’s what Brad and I did to save 84% on the cost of a new mattress. There was a 75% off clearance sale for three days. We needed a new mattress, but hadn’t planned on buying it then. As we had been eyeing a specific mattress and knew the price, we also knew the savings was awesome. So armed with a coupon and discount gift cards with an average savings of 29.8 percent off, we bought the mattress. It took some financial shifting to make it work, but saving hundreds of dollars on something we needed to buy anyway, and putting that money to work was worth it. Our backs are also thanking us!
18. If All Else Fails, Ask: Have you ever asked for a discount? I’ve asked sales associates for coupons. This works especially well if they receive a commission and are able to ring up your sale. You’d be amazed at what they have at their disposal. I’ve emailed companies asking for a discount that was sent to others, but not me. I’ve outright asked if a merchant can lower the price (or throw something extra in or give me free delivery). It all works. Not 100% of the time, but definitely enough to make it worth your while. I can talk a good game, but except when using email, it’s not easy for me to walk up to someone and ask for this. But I challenge myself to do it by thinking of the reward if successful and by repeating, “All they can say is no.”
Okay, so there you have it. My top 18 Ways to save and score freebies. There is one that I’ve neglected to mention. The “old school” method of clipping paper coupons. I haven’t forgotten about this, and while I do peruse the inserts and packs that come in the mail, I very rarely find anything anymore. But that’s just me, so… I’ve done the above for long enough now that they don’t feel novel and I’d love to learn about other methods people use to save. Please let me know or shoot me a message with your ideas.