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Christine Luken: Confessions of a ‘coupon queen’ — here’s how to save money without coupons

Shopping cart with goods

Shopping cart with goods

I have a confession to make: I used to be a diehard coupon queen. Every week, I’d buy four Sunday papers and spend time clipping and organizing them in my gigantic coupon binder. I’d scour the store ads and match up coupons with the sale items. I bought items in bulk and had an impressive stockpile in my basement.

I did save a ton of money, but it was very time-consuming. I thought when I became self-employed and was able to make my own schedule, I’d have more time to coupon. Boy, was I wrong! Long story short, I ditched my coupon binder and now have just a small envelope of paper coupons that I keep in my car.

I do love to save money, so I’m still looking for great deals and there are ways to save that do not involve paper coupons. So if you can’t be bothered with the hassle of cutting, sorting, and organizing coupons, but you still want to save money, this one’s for you. Here’s how to do it:

One of the best ways to get a discount is to just ask for one! I’m not talking about hard-core, used-car-salesman negotiating here. It’s as easy as asking, “Is this your best price on this sweater?” or “Are there any discounts or specials going on today?”

If you like to haggle and you’re not opposed to gently used items, there are deals galore to be found at Craig’s List, E-Bay, yard sales, thrift shops, and consignment stores. I have purchased clothing, books, jewelry, and other items with huge discounts that looked brand new!

If you prefer new, you can glean some awesome treasures in the clearance section of your favorite stores. Some retailers specifically exclude clearance items from their coupons, so you’re not leaving any money on the table.

Another way to save without coupons is by utilizing store loyalty programs. The cashier scans your loyalty card or pulls up your account with your phone number and you automatically earn discounts or free items.

I frequently earn free coffee and sandwiches from Panera, gift cards from Staples, and fuel discounts from Kroger. With some loyalty programs, you can visit the store’s website and load electronic coupons to your account. I usually do right before I head into the store and even sometimes while I’m in line waiting to check out!

Shop retailers who don’t accept coupons. Stores like Aldi, Sam’s, and Costco don’t accept manufacturer’s coupons, but they generally have great prices. Many products are their house brands, but don’t let that deter you. Most of the food and other products I’ve purchased at Aldi and Costco are of the same quality as the name brand, without the hefty price tag. These stores also offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t like their house brand. Be sure to comparison shop, because not everything is a great deal at warehouse clubs.

Use money saving and money earning apps when shopping. Apps like ShopKick and Ibotta allow you to earn rewards and even cash for groceries, clothes, cosmetics, and other things that your family needs. The Cartwheel app allows me to scan items and check for special discounts, which will come off my order at the checkout. The cashier just scans the barcode from my phone, plus I get an additional 5% for using my Target debit card. Double score!

So whether you are a crazy coupon lady or can’t be bothered to go buy a Sunday paper, I think we can all agree that paying less for things we want or need is a good thing. How do you save money without coupons?


Christine Luken is the Financial Lifeguard and a veteran Meal Planner. She helps individuals, families, and entrepreneurs design a financial road map to help them arrive at their Preferred Financial Destination.  You can find Christine’s blogs, podcasts, and videos on her Financial Life Guard site and her Meal Planning Monday blog.

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One Comment

  1. Brenda Payne says:

    Target also has good ‘spend/buy X and get a gift card’ promotions. I do this throughout the year, accumulate the gift cards and use them during the holiday season. It helps with extras.

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