Monday, February 2, 2015

How I Saved Over $27,000 Last Year

Special Guest Blogger: Syndi Knowlton, Rett mom and couponing expert

Being a special needs parent comes with a hefty price tag.  Co-payments for appointments, dozens of medications, home modifications…. And trying to maintain gainful employment to afford it all is more stress than we need.  Take all of that stress and times it by 3 and you have my little family.  All of my children have major medical issues.  We were faced with two options:  work an insane number of hours to cover the monthly bills or live intentionally below the poverty line.  I knew I was capable of working.  I also knew I could be craftier about the way I spent money.  That’s when I turned to couponing.  In the beginning, it was slow going, but as I learned the tips and tricks, I have cut it down to less than 2 hours per week (including the trip to the store). I was asked to share some of what I have learned.  If you have questions along this path, feel free to email me at

Point #1

There is predictability in most things you purchase for your home.  I am attaching a list here to see a more complete list.  A lot of it is common sense.  Think of January.  We all make New Year’s Resolutions.  Many of them include losing weight and getting healthier.  This is a great time to purchase your exercise equipment and stock up on vitamins.  You are also half way through the winter.  Many stores will offer great deals on winter clothing.  Try to plan purchases you might make each year around when the sales are to save a lot of money.

Point #2

You can order just the Sunday newspaper in many cities.  Most newspapers have a couponers special and you can get a steal on up to 4 papers delivered for a low cost.  The rule of thumb is you want one paper for each person in your home.  I am allowed to purchase 4 and I pay just $20 a year for delivery each Sunday.  You can coupon without getting any deliveries. 

Point #3

You can even coupon some without having a printer!  Many stores have their own online coupons.  Kroger chains have a Fresh Value Card.  Log in to your account and add coupons to your card before you head to the store.  There are smart phone apps that also do couponing, but it saves up your savings and you can cash them out for cash or gift cards.  Some examples of the apps to coupon in a rebate format are:

Checkout 51 –  go to Scan your items and receipts and you earn money without using coupons.  This can be redeemed for Paypal funds when you reach $20.  New items added on Thursday.
Receipt Hog – go to Scan your receipt, save for Paypal funds.  You can redeem at $5.  You now can scan all stores, not just grocery stores.
iBotta –  go to  Scan your receipt and items to gain Paypal funds or a few gift cards.  Also certain restaurants and movie theaters etc have money back in this app.
JingIt – go to  They offer small rebates on your every day staples: Milk, bread, eggs, etc
Snap – go to  This is an app from Groupon that also redeems rebates.

If you share these links with your friends, you build a larger money saving team and in some applications, work towards big bonuses.

Point #4

You can print a lot of the same coupons that would come in the Sunday paper.  Here are a few of my favorite sites: – this has more obscure coupons on this site and you can donate a portion of the coupons you use to a charity – digital coupons to use with your card.  Every Friday they have a free coupon.  This gives you coupons for almost every store (not groceries) to instant savings and online coupons listed.  Deals both online and in stores

Also, register with your favorite brands.  They often have coupons for their products on their own websites.

Point #5

Now you know where to get the coupons, and rebates.  The next step is to coordinate the sales with your coupons to get more bang for your buck.  My go-to site for what sales are at most stores and what coupons to match with the sales can be found at

Select your state and the store you want to shop at.  It will show you everything on sale that day.  If you notice the far left column, it reads Stock Up scale.  This is a classic rating system to help you know if this is the bargain of the week or if it’s just "ok."  Even the money you save on a basic coupon is still savings.  If you are wanting to only get the great deals, on the upper right side of your screen you will see a button that says Shrink.  This cuts out the fluff.

There are oodles of websites for price matching.  Certain stores (including WalMart) will price match but only within a limited area.  For example, I live in Utah.  I know that most produce is grown in California and shipped here.  I can’t find an amazing price in California and have them give me the same deal.  Ask your friends what price matching sites they use locally to ensure you are getting the correct data.

I want to stay on WalMart for just a moment as it is mostly universal for our families.  Walmart is one of a few stores that will actually give you cash back.  For example, Ladies Speed Stick, the smaller stick, is $.89 at my local WalMart.  If I had a coupon worth $1, Walmart would actually give me the $.11 back.  They apply it towards the rest of the purchase but if that were the only thing you were purchasing, they will hand you $.11 minus the tax for the item.  Other stores typically zero out anything you would receive back if the coupon is worth more than the item.

I am sure many of you are aware of WalMart’s Savings Catcher program.  At the bottom of all receipts at Walmart, there is a code you can enter either on their website or your smart phone app.  This will then go search all local stores and if a lower price is found, you will be offered a gift card to use for future purchases.  They have a promotion going on right now.  If you go to the kiosks where they have gift cards for sale, grab an American Express BlueBird card.  This is a card you can preload money on to.  Now until the end of February, the usual $4.95 fee for the card is waived.  Also, if you run the Savings Catcher program, you can have the difference of the lower price added to this card and they will DOUBLE the money back.  The refund from Walmart that goes on this card can only be used at Walmart.

Point #6

Buy smaller quantities / volume!  Stores like BJs, Costco and Sam’s Club are great for buying in bulk.  On average, you are saving 15% off retail for the same quantity at your local store.  I no longer shop at these stores because I do much better with coupons.  Let me give you an example:

I have a coupon for $.50 off French’s Mustard.  If I buy the largest bottle, I am spending $1.83.  After the coupon, I am spending $1.33.  If I use the same coupon and apply it to the smallest bottle, the bottle is priced at $.99.  After the coupon, it’s just $.49.  If you take the ounces in the large bottle and divide it by the price, and do the same with the smaller bottle, you are getting your quantity cheaper.  This is where multiple coupons are great to have.

Point #7

Watch the information on your coupons and your stores coupon policy.  I always print and take a copy of the store’s policy with me before I go.  They can be found on most stores’ websites.  If I am not sure about the policy, stop and ask at customer service before you shop.  Some stores limit the number of identical coupons that may be used at one time.  Many coupons also limit similar transactions to 4 in one day. 

Point #8

A quick shout out for Kroger brand stores.  If you are a Kroger’s shopper, you know that there are points for every sale that can be used towards money off the cost of gas up to $1 off per gallon of gas.  I fill all of my prescriptions here as well to boost points for cheaper gas. 

They have a lesser known program that can save your family a lot of money.  I have a son, 15, with Autism.  He has a terrible habit of losing and/or destroying small electronic devices.  He is higher functioning though and wants to be like his friends.  I also like being able to know where he is.  Kroger owns a cell phone line called iwireless.  You can get non smart phones from as little as $4.99.  The same points you accrue to get cheaper gas, you can also use to pay for your cell phone bill!  It is not a one or the other!  My son never uses his phone.  I have just a 100 minute or text plan that is $10 a month.  When his bill is due, I log in to iwireless and use my points to prepay for the next month of service!  I haven’t paid for his cell phone usage in 2 years and if he destroys a phone, it’s maybe $10 for a new one.  Pretty slick deal!  They do also have smart phone unlimited plans as well and their service runs on the Sprint network.

Last little nugget

Some of you reading have Food Assistance Programs.  If you use coupons, you do have to pay for the tax on the coupons.  However, it is usually far less than the money you would save by using the coupon.  If the tax was $.06 and you are saving $1, it’s still saving you $.94.  It can help you build up a food storage quickly!

Some stores offer double coupon days.  This adds another level to your savings.  Many stores also have store coupons.  You can stack a store coupon on top of a manufacturer’s coupon for extra savings.  All of the apps I mentioned in Point #3 can be added on top of these. 

Written by: Syndi Knowlton, Rett mom - Thank you Syndi for all of your, help, advice and expertise!