Back to School: 6 Tips to Prevent Overspending

Back to School FlatBrokeCoed

These tips and tricks are the easiest and sometimes most effectual steps you can take to save you money, because overspending can hurt you many times more than simply not shopping sales.

1)   Clear out old school supplies and clothing and inventory your stuff.

Get rid of every broken crayon, pencil without an eraser, dried out marker, shirt with an irreparable hole in it, and sweater you’ll never wear again. Once you’ve purged your clutter, you can better gauge what you have versus what you need. Gone are the days of buying duplicate cardigans and mechanical pencil packs! You’ll know everything you have before you go shopping.

2)   Comparison shop from home.

Before you even walk through the door, you should know what you need from the store and about how much it should cost you. During the back to school season, retailers will make their brick-and-mortar store pricing available through their weekly ads in your local Sunday paper, or even right on their website. Compare competing ads before you go to make sure you’re getting a great price.

3)   Make a list and stick to it.

I’m sure you’ve heard this tidbit before, but it’s tried and true. Once you’ve cleared out your clutter, make a list of things you NEED (not simply what you want) and review it. Cut out anything you could do without. For instance, you have a nice pair of black leggings in your closet, but do you really need a grey pair? You’re probably fine.

Bring that list with you to the store and stick to it! This is the hardest part, as it requires some serious impulse control and discipline.

4)   Set a budget.

I know this sounds thoroughly tiresome at first glance, but would you rather know how much money you can spend without missing rent or would you rather have to sell your hair to make ends meet? Set a budget and tailor your list to it.

5)   Use a cash-only approach.

If you bring your shopping budget in cash, you can see exactly how much is leaving your hands and you’ll know precisely where you stand with your budget. And studies show that people who bring cash while shopping tend to spend less. Bonus!

6)   Don’t get suckered into end cap advertising or BOGO/ “twofer” deals.

Okay, this is a pretty big one, as these two combined can make your total at the cash register skyrocket.

An “end cap” is the end of an aisle in a store which has its own display. Consumers have a misconception that whatever items are on the end caps are on sale or are a good value. Oftentimes stores will put featured items that are not on sale (they may even jack the price up!) in this prime real estate simply because it’s so eye-catching (and of course, to capitalize on the aforementioned popular consumer misconception).

Also, don’t be afraid to NOT go for a BOGO deal if you only really need one item. I’ve worked in a retail store where t-shirts were $19.50 a piece or 2/$32. While the unit price does drop when you buy two, you just went from a $19.50 purchase to a $32.00 purchase because of the perceived savings. You’re not saving when your shopping total goes up.

Wrap-Up and Helpful Links

There’s already enough going on with your BTS preparations, why add debt-related stress? Be realistic with your money and your needs versus your wants. If you know there is going to be a big expenditure time (in this case, BTS shopping) start setting aside a few dollars a week so you’re not totally unprepared when August comes around.

Find out some more great overspending prevention tips here and here.

Do you have some great BTS budgeting or spending ideas? Lay ’em on me down in the comments!

‘Til next time, stay saving, my friends.

Signed,

FlatBrokeCoed

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Swagbucks- My Other Love

     !!DISCLAIMER!!– Just to let you all know, I am not in any way affiliated with or profiting from discussing Swagbucks or their services. I am just talking about a something I really like.

     Now, on to the Swag-fun! (I just made that up. I amaze me.)

What is it?

     Swagbucks is a website that offers points, called “swagbucks” for participating in their website’s functions. In case you’re curious, it is NOT a scam. Websites and blogs proclaiming Swagbucks as a scam either are not familiar with it or how it works or were at one point banned from Swagbucks.

How do you earn these “Swagbucks”?

     There are many, many, many ways to earn swagbucks (SBs for short). It all depends on how much effort and time you want to sink into it. There’s everything from passive to active earning, passive being my favorite. Here’s a small list of ways to earn SBs:

·         1 SB per day just for having their toolbar installed.

·         1 SB per day for answering the daily poll

·         Infinite SBs per day for using their search portal (I generally score 3x per day at 8-11 SB each)

·         Play games on swagbucks

·         Watch Swagbucks TV on the website or their mobile app

·         Complete surveys

·         Shop at your favorite websites through swagbucks.com, earning 3-15 swagbucks per dollar spent

·         PRINT COUPONS. You get 10 swagbucks per coupon redeemed that you print from them

·         Earn about 5 SBs for “swagcodes”, which are codes released through their on-site blog, Facebook page, or twitter feed several times a day. Enter them into the designated space on the swagbucks main page for easy SBs.

So what do swagbucks earn you?

There’s a whole redemption page full of things you can do with swagbucks. You can enter into “Swagstakes” which require a small swagbuck price for entrance. You can earn big prizes like an iPod Touch or a trip, or a large amount of swagbucks to put toward a bigger prize. There is also the namesake “Swag” like keurig machines, bread makers, everyday house and home items like personal care items and pet items, OR (and this is the most popular redemption route) GIFT CARDS.

Many people opt to accrue gift cards of varying denominations for their own purposes, or as free gifts. Two of the most popular gift cards are the $5 Amazon gift card for 450 SBs or the $25 PayPal gift card for 2,500 SBs. Amazon gift cards are popular because they are easy gifts, especially for people who have Kindles and PayPal gift cards can be transferred to cash straight to your PayPal account, then to your bank account. BOOM.

If I am passively earning (JUST doing internet searches) I average 20 SBs a day. That means 600 SBs a month or 7200 SBs a year, just by doing what I normally do anyway. That can get me $50 in my PayPal account or $80 in amazon gift cards, without any effort besides changing my search engine.

Pretty neat right?

SWAGBUCKS TIPS:

As I’ve said before, I am pretty passive with my SB earning.

If you don’t mind spending 15-20 minutes here and there, or even once or twice a week, you can get an extra 100+ swagbucks a week. That’s an extra amazon giftcard every month!

If you sign up for a new account, there is almost always a sign on bonus to get you started.

If you like online shopping, always make sure you do it through swagbucks so you can passively earn even more (usually about 5 SB per dollar spent)!

FORGET YOUR URL BAR AT THE TOP OF YOUR BROWSER. Just forget you even have it. Seriously. All of my saved favorites like Gmail or CNN or WordPress aren’t the URLs themselves. The bookmarks are SWAGSEARCHES for those websites. So by clicking my favorites, I am actually conducting swagsearches more often and increasing my chances of more swagbucks. Boss.

Install the toolbar. Just by having it, you’re getting 1 SB every day or an extra 365 SB a year passively, plus you can get alerts when there is a new swagcode available.

Do the daily poll. It’s easy, just do it.

I try to predominantly print my online coupons from Swagbucks. You don’t earn anything for printing them alone, but you earn 10 SB for EACH coupon you redeem. Sweet, right? You know how I love couponing, and now I’m killing 2 birds with one stone. Like a pimp.

Sounding good right about now? It should. 🙂

swagbucks.com/refer/Courtney1191 <- Go Here to sign up!

‘Til next time, stay saving, my friends.

FlatBrokeCoed

My nasty, dirty love affair with coupons <3

LET’S GET READY TO SAVE MONEY!!

Okay, if you haven’t heard about coupons or couponing before, you stink at being cash-strapped. I guess that’s why you’re here, right? So let’s get started!

Just to boil it down, couponing is gathering coupons from various sources to apply to products in a retail store.

For example, I specifically coupon for grocery and health/beauty goods, as those are my biggest expenses. They’re probably yours too. So why not save some money on them? I know the “coupon” brings to mind sweet little grannies leafing through the Sunday paper on their doily covered coffee table in an effort to “just” save 10 cents here and there. That’s not how couponers roll nowadays. Coupon sources, policies, and couponers themselves have evolved. Coupons can be a very useful and versatile tool to slash prices on your favorite goods and get them for a significantly cheaper dollar amount.

There are different levels of couponing. I’ve given them cute names: Opportunistic Couponer, Part-time Couponer, and Coupon-Crazies. Opportunistic Couponers will occasionally use coupons when they stumble upon them or for very specific products or stores. Part-timers are a little more consistent. They’ll clip coupons consistently but use them on a  relatively smaller scale, maybe for personal use or for their family. Coupon-crazies include everyone who makes couponing their full-time job, their life even, and let it take over their home. Coupon-crazies have major stockpiles. They’re easy to spot in the store. They keep coupons in a giant trapper keeper and often have helpers with them. I, myself, am a part-time couponer.

So how do you get coupons?

Coupon Sources:

1) Newspapers: Sunday newspapers almost always have either an insert of coupons from SmartSource, RedPlum, P&G (Proctor and Gamble) or some combination thereof. These often carry a variety of coupons across a wide selection of types of products. You may find that one local or regional paper offers more or better coupons in their inserts. I’ve often seen this myself. You can either solely buy the paper you feel has better coupons or do what I do: my household subscribes to our local paper and I pick up my regional paper when I have the time to. That way I get a good selection each Sunday.

2) Online: Coupon aggregator sites like CouponSuzy.com, CouponMom.com, or even Swagbucks.com list coupons from multiple sources that you can print for free. I like CouponMom.com’s coupon layout  http://www.couponmom.com/printable-coupons-242. If you’re a member of Swagbucks (I’ll go over that site in another post) then print out the coupons they offer! You get 10 Swagbucks for every coupon you redeem from them.

3) Retailer Websites: Sometimes going to a company’s or retailer’s website really pays off. Oftentimes at the VERY bottom of the page, you’ll see a link usually reading something like “Coupons” or “Promotions”  or “Offers”.  For instance, I love printing out coupons from Target.com. They are Target brand coupons which you can stack with manufacturer coupons for even more savings!

4) Your Favorite Company Directly: I’ve had a lot of success emailing a particular company or calling in to give constructive feedback or just telling them how much I like their products. Nearly every single time I’ve gotten high value coupons mailed to me from the company for taking time out of my day to contact them. If you just can’t find a coupon for a particular product you love, email the company! Be honest. Tell them you love their product but can’t always afford it/can no longer afford it and politely ask if they have any offers or coupons. I’ve had a 95% success rate this way. (What’s better than coupons? Free high-value coupons!)

Coupon Tips:

  • If you can, get multiple copies of each coupon. If you find a good sale on something you use, use multiple coupons on multiple items to stock up! For example, my local grocery store had a BOGO 50% St. Ives body lotions. I had 2 “$.50/1 St. Ives product” coupons. so I applied them and my grocery store doubles coupons up to a dollar. So I got the BOGO deal, and an extra $2 off on top of that!
  • READ YOUR STORE’S COUPON POLICY. See if your retailer offers doubling on coupons or even accepts coupons printed off the web. Also please make sure to look over the Details/Exclusions listed right there on the coupon. The Manufacturer tells you right there how the coupon will be honored at the store. Having worked in a national retail clothing chain, I can’t tell you how many people threw a fit at the register because they didn’t look to see how the coupon could be used, or even when it expired.
  • Only ever use a coupon with a sale price. That’s the only way you’ll get a truly great deal.
  • Consider stockpiling, even a little bit. Stockpiling is pretty much what it sounds like: making a reserve of the items you use most. For example, when my deodorant is on sale, I usually have multiple coupons so I’ll buy an extra one or two. I stockpile just enough to get me through to the next time the item is on sale. I don’t stockpile like CouponCrazies do. If you want to have your garage dedicated to rows and rows of body wash and toilet paper, then knock yourself out. But stockpile according to your lifestyle and the space you have.
  • Shop around your local stores and local chains to see who has consistently better prices. Don’t be afraid to have 2-3 stores or more in your couponing repertoire.
  • If you don’t know what makes a good deal, keep an eye on you favorite products in your local store. You’ll more than likely see that they go on sale in 6 to 8 week cycles.
  • Organize your coupons. Please. Nothing is more annoying to other shoppers than to wait behind someone who is clamoring to find the coupon they need from their envelope. Invest in good coupon caddy or even a binder. Organize by expiration date or by product category or even alphabetically, whatever works for you.

This may seem like a lot, and I suppose it is. My biggest tip is start out small. Start with one store and focus on a few key items you’d like to start saving on. If you want to stockpile, start small. You won’t get one of every item you want to stockpile every week. You’ll get 2-3 of an item or two one week and a few of a different product the next. Stockpiles can take a few weeks to get started but the payoff is great.

Keep it simple and stay organized!

Coupons can be an amazing way to cut your spending while keeping the brands you love! (It’s also a kind of thrill to say you got an item 75% off the retail price between a sale and a coupon. I’m a couponing bragger.) 🙂

Happy Couponing!!

Have a question, comment, or tip? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at flatbrokecoed@gmail.com.