My friend Rodney crowned me “The Coupon Queen” long before couponing became extreme. I shrugged off the title then and still do. I learned the art from my mom, who says that I’ve surpassed her when it comes to the ways and quantity in which I use coupons. She’s hinted that her daughter is obsessed. Last year I came across the most deals and free items ever. My guess is that the lagging economy has created an environment ideal for bargain seekers.

One day it hit me: someone else could use what I found no value in. I started collecting coupons for products that I don’t use so I could “buy” necessities for a nearby charity. Most of these food, beauty and household products are free or less than $1 but worth much more.

A coworker who sees coupons in her Sunday paper asked for tips to start using them. She said she knows she can save but thinks it's complicated. I explained that she has to think of them as money. If she saw a dollar or even a quarter on the ground would she pick it up? I would. Even finding a nickel brightens my day! Coupons are like money that other people step over.

Despite what those around me think, even I don’t maximize coupons’ potential. They helped ease the financial shock of an $11,000 pay cut. They’re my failsafe, along with sales, but not the only way I save. Every day I'll post deals I come across and tips that you can find in the archives. Meanwhile, consider exploring these other cost-cutting ideas:

Reap rebates: Rodney, a real estate broker, still tells the story of how I received a rebate on my home. Most rebates won't garner hundreds of dollars in savings. Still, these discounts surpass coupon values and usually reduce prices to nearly free. Some even bypass postage by allowing electronic submissions. Pay attention to packaging and sales ads for offers. Submit forms asap to avoid missing deadlines.

Reward yourself: For every item or service possible, I charge transactions on a reward credit card that pays 1% to 5% back in the form of cash or giftcards. When I'm ordering online, I check to see if the merchant is listed on MyPoints or Memolink (email me for a referral link). They issue points for each transaction, redeemable as gift cards rewards. I also print grocery coupons not available from the Sunday paper through the MyPoints portal to receive 10 points per redemption.

Do or make it yourself: Fixing a running toilet cost me less than $20. My plumber charges $169 for the same repair. Sure, it took me longer to complete the task. However, the satisfaction of doing it myself proved priceless. Now, I at least try to tackle minor issues that pop up instead of automatically calling a service provider. When I thought about starting a garden, I delved into research. Even pots and other basics seemed costly not to mention advanced options like raised beds, composters and rain barrels. So I set out to craft some items myself and did so successfully. Believe me, I'm not mechanically inclined or crafty. If I can do it, just imagine what you can make!

Ask for what you want: One valuable lesson I learned from my friend Latysia is to ask for what you want. All the other party can say is "no." I've had service provider give discounts or extend warranties simply because I asked. I never automatically pay a late fee without requesting it waived first. I've gotten items I needed for free because I asked around and found someone willing to part ways with what they considered clutter. Contacting manufactures of products you use regularly can lead to high-value coupons, samples and freebies. Try it yourself.

Take inventory: There's a reason why retailers take inventory. They're trying to increase revenue by analyzing stock levels. Is your closet so packed that you forget parts of your wardrobe exist? Do you throw away food because it's beyond expired? I'm guilty of these and other crimes though through persistence I'm on the road to redemption. "Shopping" at home helps curb spending and waste.

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"Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like."

-Will Rogers


  1. How do you make pancake mix from scratch?

  2. Any recipe could become a mix if you omit the liquid ingredients. Store in an airtight container. You could also make the batter the night before then bring it to room temperature before cooking. I usually add cinnamon to my mix. See this basic recipe from Martha Stewart: