Sunday, March 31, 2013

Are Coupons Really the Only Way to Improve Your Shopping Budget?

There are very few people round these days who are not in need of a few tricks to make their monthly food budget stretch a little further. Money is tight for most people and the cost of food seems to be on a never ending increase. This has led to the explosion of 'couponing' – the art of clipping discount coupons and special offers in order to reduce your spend – which has given rise to books, websites and even television shows explaining how best to approach couponing, but are coupons really the only way that you can improve your shopping budget? Let's compare a few of the alternatives. 

The Basic Problem With Couponing 

Couponing involves collecting discount coupons and offers in order to save money, but it is a time consuming process. While clipping coupons can be a great way to save money, it also comes with the danger of creating an obsession. A large number of coupon clippers report having feelings of anxiety when they miss out on a deal because the store has sold out or because the relevant coupon has expired. It can be a vicious cycle if you become trapped in it, so it makes sense to look for alternatives to couponing. I'm not saying give it up, just that you could supplement it with alternative options. 

Changing The Way You Shop 

One easy way to stretch that shopping budget without coupons is to adjust your shopping habits. If you switch to generic brands you can trim up to an average of up to 25% off of your shopping budget. There will always be some things that just don't taste good, but you can switch to generic brands on lots of things like pasta, sugar and so on. You can also save a great deal by making a grocery list and sticking to it rigidly. 

Saving Money With A Reward Card 

Another great alternative to couponing is to use reward cards. So long as you use your credit card with care it can be a great way to save some money. Look out for a reward card that offers cash back on grocery purchases, or anything that you will purchase regularly, like fuel. With these rewards you can earn back a small percentage of whatever you spend and if you pay of the bill in full at the end of the month you will not even have to pay interest. Just be sure to keep the money aside in your bank account to cover whatever you spend. 

Other reward cards will allow you to earn points rather than cash back. This allows you to save points up over time and trade them in for vouchers, gifts and other items. Vouchers can be used to cover grocery shopping, or you could trade your rewards in to get gifts for family birthdays thus saving some additional cash. 

Couponing is a good way to stretch your shopping budget, but as I have shown it is not the only way. These are just a few of the many alternatives that you could use instead of or alongside clipping coupons. 

Tim Baker is a writer who loves travelling around the world spending as little as possible using his avios credit card and by taking advantage of shopping and travel rewards.

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