Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prepare To Defend Yourself Against Possible Reverse Coupon Fraud

I think it is high time for all of us to fight back against the stores denying us the use of our legitimate coupons so I am asking everyone to "Prepare To Defend Yourself Against Possible Reverse Coupon Fraud"!   We each need to stand up for our "Consumer Rights" or no one will.

So today I am going to go on a rant against what I perceive as either an intentional attempt to deny consumers the full use of legitimate store and/or manufacturers coupons or denial as a result of store employee ignorance about coupons and/or store policy. 

From what I have been reading and hearing lately there are a lot of you that are fed up with the hassles of using coupons when you go shopping.  I feel as though the stores think that just because there are some "fake or fraudulent" coupons floating around out there that every customer that uses coupons is a potential criminal and is looked upon with disdain.

I can not tell you how many times I have gotten into, let's call them "discussions", with store cashiers, front-end managers, customer service managers and store managers over using a perfectly legitimate store or manufacturers coupon, but it happens far too often for my liking.

Have you every had two or more store employees get into a huddle and whisper to each other about your coupon(s)?  It makes me want to say "Excuse me, but can someone please tell me what the problem is here?"

First, look up and print out the store policy on the use of coupons and carry it with you when you go shopping.  We should not have to carry around "their" corporate policy, but oftentimes the cashiers have no clue what they are doing or misinterpret what they have either read or heard and having that document will normally set them straight.

Have you ever had a cashier scan a coupon, but it did not register or did not register in the correct amount?  I have had many cashiers either throw the coupon away or just put it in their coupon drawer without every telling me that there was an issue.  I have to keep track of how many coupons I had and how much each was worth and then check my register receipt before I leave the store.  I have actually caught the cashier doing this as the items were being rung up and stopped them right there and resolved the issue.  Make sure you watch not only the prices being rung up, but watch and make sure all your coupons ring up or you know why they didn't.

Have you ever had a problem with a coupon scanning and the cashier tells you that it is store policy that they only accept coupons that scan and that they can not enter the coupon by hand.  That is not always true and you need to challenge the cashier and get the manager involved.  I have coupons that failed to scan, but after having the cashier rescan, sometimes up to five times before the scanner will pickup the bar code.  Sometimes the scanners on the register do not work for whatever reason (dirty, scratched glass, etc), but the hand-held scanner will work or vice versa.  Sometimes I have had to go to another register or go to the customer service desk to get the issue resolved.

Have you every had an issue with the cashier not wanting to accept Internet coupons?  I had one instance where the front-end manager at a grocery store got involved after the cashier told me that she couldn't accept the coupon because it was a copy.   The front-end manager agreed with the cashier and told me that the only Internet coupons that they could accept were originals.  When I asked how they could tell that the Internet coupons were copies the front-end manager said "look at these coupons, you see some are in black and white and some are in color?  Well the ones in black and white are copies!".  I tried to explain that all of them would have been black and white if I had remembered to change my printer setting to print in black only to save on colored ink.  I could see that my explanation had missed it's point and asked for the store manager (who I know) and the decision to not accept the coupons was quickly reversed - "...but only this time, Sir".

Later after things calmed down a bit and I thought the front-end manager had time to digest my comments I approached her on the way out of the store and told her another way of determining if the coupons are copies is too look for the unique code number printed on the coupons.  Since then I have not had a problem at this particular store with my Internet coupons.  I know your thinking, yes, but they could have still been copied and you'd be right, but they shouldn't scan no matter how many times you try.  Did you know that each coupon that is printed out has a unique identifier that identifies who printed out the coupon, where it was printed out, when it was printed out so it can be tracked?

Now here is a coupon quiz question for all of you:

"What is the difference between trial size and travel size products?" 

You can find the answer to the quiz question below, but first think about what your response would be if the cashier told you that you could not use that coupon for $1 Off on that deodorant stick that was on sale for $0.97 because the coupon excludes using it on "trial size" and this little container is "trial size".  Even if you picked it out a bin in the "travel size" aisle.  Are you going to accept that argument?

I spend a lot of time, put in a fair amount of effort, not to mention my hard earned money to acquire the coupons and I want to use every one of them fully.  It would really be nice if I could do it without all the hassles, but that will probably never happen, but I can tell you one thing - "I will be prepared to defend myself".

Until next time.  So long and may the force be with you.



Trial Size - Smaller than usual size of a package. A trial-size package of a product may be used as a sample to be given away or may be sold at a low price to attract prospective customers.  Think of all the freebies you get in the mail that sometimes make you wonder why you even bothered asking for them in the first place. 

Travel Size - think of what the TSA allows you take on-board the airplane.  Containers containing 3 ounces of product or less.  Like the products you see in all those little bins conveniently located in the - "travel size section".

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Don't Throw Away Those Expired Coupons!

I have been blogging about ways that I have found to save money and today I want to change gears slightly and talk about how we can help our men and women in uniform save money.  You can really make a difference in the lives of so many in such a simple way.

Did you know that the military families can use expired coupons in the military PX/BX and commissary stores?  If you did then you're an exception as most American's who would like to show their support for our troops don't know of this very simple method.  So do not throw away expired coupons!  They're still good overseas for up to six months after the expiration date.  I would like to thank the manufacturers for offering this to our military overseas as it makes a big difference in their standard of living.

Every few weeks I go through my coupons and sort out the ones that have expired (not more than two months past expiration date) and the coupons that I likely will not use and put them in a plastic zip lock bag until I get enough to stuff into a USPS Express Mail envelope.  I have found that using the USPS Express Mail envelope is the cheapest way to mail them since it ends up costing only $4.95 no matter how many I pack into the envelope.  If that is a little too much for your budget then think about sending some via regular USPS mail and spend as little as 44 cents, plus the cost of the envelope and your time.

This would be great thing for a group of you to do or as a church sponsored activity or a school project as a way of showing our fighting men and women that we are thinking about them and their families.  You can not possibly imagine how good it makes them feel to know that they are supported and not forgotten.  Believe me I know first hand.

Now where to mail your coupons:

You can choose to send your coupons to a co-op that collects and then forwards the coupons to the community centers overseas.  Here is a link to a good article on the process:  "Expired Coupons Help Military Families".  There are a number of organizations that you can find on the Internet that coordinate the processing distribution of expired coupons to the military or have helpful resources that you can use. 

Or if you prefer you can send them directly to the bases overseas yourself.  One of my favorite sites is run by fellow blogger Michelle Jones; check out her web page on expired coupons at GrocerySavingTips.com  where she also lists some bases that you can send coupons too.  If possible it is a good idea to contact whoever you're sending coupons too and make sure they need what you're sending them.  You certainly don't want to send them and not have them used because they have too many already.  A quick advance note to the base would be one way of making a preliminary inquiry and first contact.  Once you've established contact you can adopt a base and help to keep them supplied with coupons.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Never Pay Retail!

Today I want to talk about something my dear Mother taught me out of necessity, but it makes sense for most of us and that is "never pay retail". 

If you can't find it on sale, on the discount rack or on clearance then ask yourself.  Do I really need this right now?  If  you just wait awhile the urge to buy it will either pass or you can find it on sale later and feel good about waiting and getting a bargain.  Ask yourself another question.  Do I really need to buy this item new or would second hand work just as well?

There are a number of frugal or thrifty ways to find what you need or want at a bargain without paying full retail.  That leads us to a number of shopping options.

Garage Sailing:

Garage sales or yard sales are the first ways of saving that come to my mind.  I love "garage sailing" and have a tough time not diverting from my intended purpose whenever I see a garage sale sign.  Many times I don't buy, but it's a great way to meet people and every once in awhile there is a real gem.  My Momma always said "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Ok it wasn't my Momma, it was Forrest's, but mine could have said the same thing.

Seriously though I have been to garage sales where I thought I had mistakenly driven up to a wholesale distributor's warehouse.  Some of these folks make a regular living by selling many of the products you would find in regular retail stores from their homes.  I don't want to be an accomplice after the fact and am assuming that it is not stolen property and that they have a permit to have the sale.  I enjoy spontaneity and will just drive around a neighborhood looking for garage sale signs, but some are more purposeful and look them up in the local paper and map them out before starting their run.

Thrift Stores:

The next way that comes to mind is second hand stores or thrift stores.  Since I live in a large metropolitan area I have a large number and variety of thrift stores that I can choose from.  Buying from a thrift store oftentimes is a way for me to both get a great bargain as well as supporting a local charity.  There is nothing wrong with a business making money, but I try to do all my thrift shopping at non-profit stores that give back to the community.  When I make donations food, clothing and household items I do the same thing.

One of the best online resources that I have found for everything thrift is TheThriftShopper.com which bills itself appropriately as the one-stop destination for all your thrift shopping needs.  There is a great search engine that you can use to find the thrift stores in your area.  I found a number of thrift stores that I wasn't previously aware of by using the search tool.  The search tool also offers information and rating about each store.  This site also offers a forum where you can join a community of thrifty shoppers and get the low-down on the stores in your area.  I highly recommend this site as your first destination before going thrifting.

On-line Thrift Stores:

Why not save your time and gas money and do your thrift shopping virtually?  Not everyone lives in a target rich environment like those of us in metropolitan areas, but that doesn't have to mean you can't shop at a thrift store.  Ever heard of eBay.com?  I can remember my first tentative venture of shopping on the Internet and the trepidations that come with trying something new and unknown for the first time, but I quickly got over my fear and got the hang of it.  Many of the items are available to be purchased without bidding using the "Buy Now" option or if you're a gambler you can place a bid on the item.  You'll have to open a PayPal.com account so you can pay for the items you purchase or win.

Another favorite on-line store of mine for finding terrific bargains is Half.com which is an eBay company.  This is where I buy my Movie DVD's, Music CD's, Video Games and books.  I first found this store when I was a struggling college student looking to buy my text books on the cheap.  What I really like about this site is that you can find many of the items brand new, but pay only a fraction of the price. 

Some of the brick-n-mortar thrift stores have their on-line counterparts such as ShopGoodWill.com with the proceeds from the auctions going to enhance the mission-driven services provided by Goodwill Industries.  There are so many on-line thrift stores one never has to leave the comfort of their home.  There are many items I buy on-line all the time, but personally I just can not buy clothes without trying them on in the store to make sure they fit and that I like the way they look on me. 

While this is certainly not the "be all, end all" of thrifty shopping advice, it is a good start for you.  Let me hear from you about your ways of not paying retail.

Until next we meet.  I bid you a fond farewell!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Get the Best Restaurant Deals

It may seem counter intuitive to think that a blog named Penny-Pincher's Pal would offer advice on how to save money by dining out, but I think we all need to take a break from our frugal ways and just enjoy what life has to offer us and that includes not having to cook occasionally.

I am not going to talk about how to save money by going to fancy 5 star restaurants, although I have been to my share over the years and some of them are fabulous, this article will focus on the average casual dining restaurant where most of us would go for lunch or dinner in a T-shirt and shorts.

I don't mean to be too regional specific since some of the places I frequent may not be found where you live, but the principles we'll discuss will remain the same.  A couple of our favorites are Red Lobster for seafood, Chili's for a little TexMex fix, Applebee's and TGI Friday's for an eclectic mix.

First, make a list of the restaurants you go too and the ones you'd like to go too.  Then get on the Internet and find their websites and sign up for their customer loyalty program.  Just about all the restaurants have some type of club you can join and get emails with discount coupons and specials.  Personally,  I belong to every one imaginable in the area where I live.  Right now Chili's is offering the best email coupon deals.  We get so many email offers we could never take advantage of all of them.

When I go on vacation I look for local restaurants unique to my destination and sign up for their club in time to get coupons timed to my vacation.  Also, when traveling you will want to send an email to the local Chamber of Commerce or Travel Bureau and get them to send you coupon books.

Another idea for both local and travel destination savings on restaurant meals is the Entertainment Book which includes hundreds of coupons for local eateries.  I sometimes buy the books at regular price around the holiday season to give as gifts, but I will wait for them to go on sale later in the year to buy a couple for myself.  Most recently I bought several books for $5 each and free shipping and after using just a couple of coupons they pay for themselves.

When thinking about discounts keep gift cards in mind.  Many of my favorite restaurants sell gift cards and every year they offer bonuses around the fall holiday season.  I will buy them as gifts for my friends and family and keep the bonus certificates for myself.  I normally buy $100 or $200 in gift cards and get $20 to $40 in gift certificates.  That is a better return on your money than what you'll get at the bank or the stock market.

Last, but not least is Restaurant.com which bills itself as a community match maker, matching you up with your favorite restaurant.  They sell restaurant certificates at steep discounts that offer a terrific bargain that you can use at the member restaurants.  I don't normally venture very far when I go out for a quick meal so the choices in my immediate area are somewhat limited, but you can check out their website and use your zip code to look up restaurants that are available in your area.

Now let's talk for a moment about what to do if things don't turn out as planned, the service is lousy, the food is not up to par, or whatever else may have not gone well at no fault of your own.  I am not suggesting that you complain just for the sake of complaining so you can get a discount or a freebie, but if things are not up to par then you need to be vocal and tell the restaurant manager.  Personally, I prefer to wait until I get back home and can think things through and then shoot the home office an email.  The restaurant's corporate office for the most part genuinely appreciates hearing from their customers and want to make things right so you'll come back and visit them again.  I can not think of a single incidence where I have given feedback on my dining experience and did not get the full value of my meal and more back in the form of a gift card or gift certificates.

Another pointer:  Pass on the expensive soda, tea, coffee and just drink water and get a wedge of lemon if you want to kick it up a notch.  It amazes me that anyone who thinks of themselves as frugal would let down their guard when they go out and pay a couple of bucks for colored, sugary water.  Stick the money in your pocket or give your server a little more for their good work.  Skip the dessert and appetizers too unless of course you got a coupon for a free dessert or appetizer in your email and then you can split an entree with your partner.  Bringing a new meaning to the saying that two can eat as cheaply as one.

In a future post I will tell you about some other ways I use to get free restaurant and department store gift cards.

Here's to hoping you have a wonderful day.  Cheers!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

How to Make Money Being Green

Today I want to talk to you about how to make money being green and help the environment at the same time.

Here are only a couple of the ways that I found and I am looking forward to hearing from you on the ways you have found.

First there is the CVS GreenBag Tag Program - tag your reusable bag and get $1 ExtraBuck every 4th visit!

The GreenBag Tag cost $0.99 and you'll earn that back after just 4 visits.  Your $1 Extra Buck prints on your receipt on every fourth visit. To earn Extra Bucks for a transaction in-store, your ExtraCare card, Green Bag Tag, and reusable bag must be presented with purchase at checkout.  Limit of one Green Bag Tag use/scan per day per household.  Every fourth purchase your Extra Bucks reward will print at the bottom of your cash register receipt as a $1 coupon good for your next purchase.  Extra Bucks can be used until the expiration date shown on the coupon.  Also, don't forget to scan your ExtraCard card at the scanner as soon as you get in the store for in-store discount offers.

Second is the RecycleBank  program where it pays to be green.  You can earn points for rewards by helping to make a positive impact on the environment. 

Go to http://www.recyclebank.com/ and sign-up and then become part of the eBay Green Team and earn 50 points (see web site for details).

The RecycleBank has also teamed up with CVS to offer a BOGO deal on the CVS GreenBag Tag for just 25 RecycleBank points.  So with your free 50 points for joining the eBay Green Team you can get 4 GreenBag Tags and give them as gifts to help spread the word.

Here are another 15 Free RecycleBank Points to help build your account.  Go to http://www.recyclebank.com/ and sign-up and then go to http;//www.recyclebank.com/code/submit and enter the code - for "Select Points Partner" select "RecycleBank Insiders" from the drop down list and enter code: COUPKATARINA15

That is just two great ways of making money by going Green.  I look forward to hearing about the ways you have found on how to make money while doing something positive for the environment.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Penny-Pincher's Pal Inaugural Launch

Hello, please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Steven Fitzgerald.  I retired originally from the US Army and more recently from the Information Technology field after having worked with two of the largest corporations in America.  I have been married to the same beautiful woman for the past 35 years, am the father of three, grandfather of four, and more. 

Today marks a new chapter in my life.  I am starting this blog at age 58 after a recent bout with tongue cancer that almost took my life as a way of giving back some of what I have learned about personal finance and responsibility over my life time and how I coped with early retirement.

In these hard economic times it is more important than ever to find ways of saving money in every way possible and if you can make a little extra money to supplement your income then all the better.  Since I am no longer able to work a traditional 9-5 job it is very gratifying for me to be able to do both from the comfort of my home.  I have spent many hours looking for something that I could do from home that would be fulfilling and rewarding and I have cobbled together a number of activities that fill that need.

I think that everyone who finds themselves in a similar situation comes up with their own unique way of dealing with their situation and I hope that you will enjoy posting your stories, comments, methods and hints on how to save money and make money from the comfort of your home with me and with my readers.

All I ask of you is that you be respectful of one another in your comments.  Thank you

Welcome to Penny- Pincher's Pal!


September 2, 2010