- Cut down on prescription costs. Medications don't necessarily cost the same at every pharmacy. Big box stores like Costco and BJs have discounted pharmacy services that don't require membership. If you are uninsured or don't have enough to cover your prescription costs, ask your doctor about samples or coupons (many drug companies hand these out, especially for new drugs), or check to see if you qualify for prescription assistance.
- Put coupons on your card. Many grocery stores post coupons on their websites. Sign up for an account using your store rewards card number, select the coupons you want to use, and when you check out at the brick and mortar store, the coupons will be applied when the cashier scans your card. Kroger is a major retailer that uses this system that also lets you accumulate points to save on gas.
- Put coupons on your smartphone. If your keychain is getting crowded with store savings cards, there are apps to lighten the load. With an app like Cardstar, simply select the store from a list and enter your card number and redeem those digital coupons by having the cashier scan the card barcode from your smartphone's screen. To go beyond what the store offers, there are many coupon apps available. Be aware that some store scanners don't do a good job of reading barcodes on phones, so you may end up being more of an inconvenience to the people behind you in line than that shopper with the sack full of crumbled paper coupons.
- Sign up for Amazon's Subscribe & Save. With discounts on Amazon's listed prices off of a long list of popular household items and free scheduled delivery, it's a no-brainer…except that you will need to use your brain when there is a need to change the schedule date or anything else about your order. Bonus: Save on gas and avoid impulse purchases (who can pass up a ShamWow and the latest Enquirer?) Fresh Direct and Peapod offer similar services.
- Time your T.P. purchases. Most major grocery chains discount paper goods up to 40% around the 1st and 15th of each month. Time it right--you don't want to run out on the 2nd or 16th!
- Make your own cleaning products. Makers of kitchen and bathroom cleaning sprays now brag that their products contain lemon or vinegar, and there is good reason to brag: Those two common household items have excellent cleaning and disinfecting properties. So why pay $6.99 for a bottle of water, vinegar, and blue coloring when you can make it yourself? A simple search for DIY cleaning products will save you money and keep even your most germ phobic guests happy.
- Be persistent. Discount clothing stores like Marshall's and TJ Maxx are excellent places for finding genuine brand-name goods at deep discounts. If you don't see what you like, find out when new shipments come in and shop on those days, before the other savvy shoppers grab up all the good stuff.
- Skimp only when necessary. For many essentials, a discount is always a good thing. There are some things in life, though, that should not be compromised. For example, getting the grain-heavy store-brand dog food will save you money at the grocery store, but it could cost you much more in veterinary bills. The cheapest toilet paper might seem like a bargain at checkout, but once your family starts complaining, you'll wish you'd spent those extra few dollars. Fresh produce that is grown locally and in-season is more nutritious than produce that has been treated with chemicals so that it merely survives shipping. Above all, don't cut back on your health and mortgage insurance; the money you put into those bills is always well-spent.
About the Guest Author
Al Natanagara is a writer, journalist, and blogger whose career includes stints with ZDNet, CNet, CBS, LexisNexis, and law enforcement. He is a husband and father who can't bring himself to pay full price for anything.
(image credit: Stock.xchng user ba1969)