I was standing in line at the grocery store, reading the latest tabloid headlines on the Princess Kate baby bump watch, when I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation going on ahead of me.
“You know we have a coupon for these in our circular,” the cashier was informing a customer, a well-dressed woman of about 40 years old. He was gesturing to a pair of 12-packs of Diet Pepsi the woman had in her cart.
She shrugged him off. “Oh, that’s all right,” the woman replied nonchalantly. She leaned over the register in a semi-secretive fashion. “I really shouldn’t be drinking them anyway,” she confided.
I was blown away. The cashier was telling the woman she could save an extra $1 a case – $2 in all – on a purchase she already intended to make. And what did she have to do to receive the discount? Simply walk over to the store’s entrance and pick up the in-store circular containing the aforementioned coupons. Instead, she said no thank you, paid for her order, and walked out the door without a second glance.
I Don’t Pay Full Price
I have a rule when I go out shopping: I don’t pay retail prices. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m buying. At the grocery store, I always scour the weekly ads – online at the store’s website, where I can see all the weekly promotions, not just the ones included in the printed circular – as I formulate my shopping list; then, I match that list up with coupons I already have. It takes me, what, an extra 15 minutes a week? But, over the course of the last year, that simple organization tactic has shaved an average of $25 a week off my grocery bill.
I do the same thing when I need to fill up my gas tank. As soon as my low gas light flickers on, I immediately head to the web to check out which local stations have the lowest gas prices (my favorite site to do this is GasBuddy, although there are now plenty of apps for iPhone and Droid platforms that let you do the same). I can see which station in my neighborhood is beating out the others when it comes to price without burning fuel cruising the streets. (Extra bonus if my Discover Card is offering 5% cashback on gas station purchases that month.)
Any time a family member or a friend has a birthday, I use my ability to avoid paying full price to both of our benefits. I head to sites like Plastic Jungle or Cardpool to snag discount gift cards to department stores, restaurants, and hotel chains I know my friends frequent. For example, my mom has a serious thing for Gap jeans. When her birthday rolls around, I hit up Plastic Jungle, where I can get a Gap gift card at a 9% discount. The result? I can score a $50 gift card for just $45.50 – meaning I can use the $5 I saved to get her a discounted Starbucks gift card as well!
Coupon Sites & Daily Deals
The web – and smartphone apps – are chalk full of sites designed specifically to help you pay the lowest amount of money for the greatest amount of goods. There are daily deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Plum Deals, and Deal Chicken, all of which can offer you 40, 50, even 60 percent off a products and services in your area. Some of the daily deals they offer are simply gratuitous – I get that. I mean, who really needs 50% off 12 microdermabrasion treatments? But when my husband and I needed to get our carpets deep cleaned before an open house, we were able to pay $50 to have our first floor steam cleaned, instead of the full price of more than double that.
There are plenty of sites – and, again, apps – that help you find coupons as well. SmartSource and RedPlum, the two main coupon booklets you’ll find in your Sunday newspaper, also let you print out coupons on their websites. Other sites, like Retail Me Not, keep a catalog of coupons and special promotions – some uploaded by companies, some uploaded by fellow shoppers – to help you score discounts. All of these sites are absolutely free.
Why Pay Retail?
Even though it’s been several weeks since my encounter with the Diet Pepsi lady at the grocery store, I still can’t stop thinking about the episode. A 2011 survey found one-quarter of American adults are living paycheck to paycheck, meaning millions of us are looking for ways to cut costs and keep spending in line. It’s baffling to me that someone wouldn’t take advantage of an easy opportunity to save money.

Reader, how often to you pay full price, even when you know there’s a discount readily available? What are your reasons for eschewing coupons, daily deals, or other discount methods? Time? Convenience?


Libby Balke
Libby Balke