What separates the savvy shoppers from all the other full-price-paying slackers out there is simply a willingness to put in some extra effort, says Teresa Britton, founder of MomsWhoSave.
"When it comes to spending, money-saving moms will work a little to get a deal, whether it's buying from the scratch-n-dent store and fixing up a great piece of furniture, standing in line on Black Friday, or finding a coupon code," she adds.
Beyond that, penny pinchers know their budget, know how much they have to spend before they shop and always recognize the difference between a want and a necessity.
Teresa knows a thing or two about finding a good deal or two - she sorts through hundreds of them daily to share on her site - helping other families find much-needed savings. Here, she offers tips for saving money on everything from groceries to entertainment to prescription medicine. Read on to start saving.
Tell us about MomsWhoSave...when and why did you start your site?
I started MomsWhoSave in 2007. I had been working from home selling on eBay, so I could stay home with my kids. I also have a degree in mass communications and had worked in advertising. After using other deal sites, I decided to try to start my own. I bought my domain name for $5.99 and taught myself everything from there.
What sets your site apart from other deal-searching sites?
I get literally hundreds of deals sent to me every day by stores and sites, and I pick what I think are the ones my readers will want to see. There's not a computer doing the work or choosing the deals. I'm hand-selecting them and sending them to my social network followers, too.
I also love to help out people looking for deals individually. Pretty early on, I got started on Twitter. People often messaged me asking if I could find them a deal for a certain store or if there was a coupon for a certain item. I did, and still do, help people out with those requests. I've gotten some great "thank-yous," including some people who've told me I helped make their child's Christmas because of the great deals I've been able to find.
What are some bad habits moms who want to save money should ditch?
There are a few. One bad habit that will cost moms money is being brand loyal. For example, when you grocery shop, and you have brands that are the only ones you'll buy, you'll miss out on saving when others are on sale. Give a competing brand (including store brands) a try at least once. My kids eat many of the store-brand cereals and can't tell the difference, and we actually prefer one of our local grocery store's spaghetti sauces to any of the name brands!
Another bad habit is getting too comfortable. If you've had the same cell phone company or cable company (or any type of service) for a while, do a little comparison shopping. And, don't be afraid to look at prepaid phone plans, by the way. Did you know most of the prepaid phone companies run on the same networks as the "big" cell companies like AT&T and Sprint? They usually offer an unlimited text, calling and web plan at a much lower rate, and the service is the same.
Finally, I know lots of moms love a sale. I do! But you're not saving money if you buy something you don't really need. Don't get caught up in the excitement of a big sale - only make that purchase if it's something you really need.
What items do you think people would be surprised to find they can get great deals on?
People may be surprised to know how much they can save on prescription drugs. They can even get some drugs free. Doctors often don't know what kind of insurance you have, so they prescribe a medication to you without regard to the cost. If you let them know that your insurance coverage isn't good, they will often prescribe a similar, less expensive drug or a generic. At many stores, like Walgreen's and Walmart, generics are as low as $4.
If you're taking a very expensive drug (and some are very high even with insurance), check the website of the drug manufacturer. You may have to do a search by the drug name and look for a drug payment assistance program. They do exist for some drugs. There are drugs that are hundreds or thousands of dollars a month even with insurance, and the drug companies set aside money to help people cover the cost of co-pays. Unfortunately, not all doctors know about these programs, so they don't pass that information on, and these programs don't exist for all drugs.
Name the top five items you don't think anyone should ever pay full price for.
You should certainly never pay full price for groceries. Ideally, you want to look at your store's ad and find coupons for the items that are on sale. When you see the "extreme couponers" loading up on free things at the grocery store, that's how they do it. Those TV shows are an exaggeration, but when you combine a sale with a coupon, especially if your store doubles coupons, you can get things free or very inexpensively.
Don't pay full price for cable TV. There are always deals, and it's often true that when you say you're going to downgrade or cancel your service, they give you a better deal to stay. If they don't, you can switch to satellite's latest offer, or you can go cable-free and use Netflix or HuluPlus and an antenna, and probably get about the same number of channels for a lot less money!
Never buy clothes at full price. I always get clothes when they go on clearance as the new season's clothes come in. It's crazy that in July, the fall clothes are on display. There's still plenty of summer left, but I can get swimsuits and shorts at clearance prices.
If you rent Redbox movies, don't pay full-price - as inexpensive as it is. Go to their site to sign up for text alerts about free and buy one, get one free rentals.
Don't pay the full ticket price for a movie at the theater either. With popcorn and drinks, a movie night for a family of four is well over $50! See a matinee, which is always cheaper. Even better, check to see if your area has a discount theater that shows movies for $1-$3 after they've been out for a couple of weeks. Many cities have these, and how many movies do you reallyhave to see on opening weekend?
Why do you think it's important to today's moms to be savvier shoppers? What factors are contributing to the race to save?
I have always been frugal, always shopped the clearance racks, and always looked for coupon codes when I shop online, so this isn't new to me. I think since the economy took a turn for the worse, maybe people realized it can happen, and it could happen again. They were forced to look for bargains, and we'll see if it becomes something they stick with.
I also see more moms who want to be home with young children, so they're working part time or from home. They are trying to save money to make that choice work for them.
What tools or tips do you have for how moms can organize their coupons/deal codes so that they don't miss out on the savings?
Apps for saving are everywhere, especially grocery apps. These are really convenient, since some are linked to your store's savings cards. When your grocery store card is swiped, the savings come off. Others put your savings into a PayPal account. I let my readers know about these.
I have coupon codes for hundreds of online stores on my site, so you can look up whatever you need, whenever you need it. I hope that's convenient for my readers.
There are still paper coupons, of course, and printable coupons. I have a searchable database for those. I personally check the database whenever I go grocery shopping to see if there are coupons for anything on my list. It's worth a minute or two to save a few dollars.